The Disunited Kingdom and the Charge of the Brexit Brigade

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death

   Rode the six hundred.

 

It’s almost three years to the day since the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union. For three years I’ve refused to write a post about Brexit, there was too much of it already out there, and all of it sounded like the rants of confused people. Confused people uncertain about their futures, but emboldened with a bombastic sense of misplaced certainty that they knew what to do about it. Well after three years, it’s my turn, I’m joining the cavalry charge.

Before going any further, it’s only right that I outline my own stance on Brexit. I voted to remain, but I acknowledge that more people voted to leave, and therefore under the rather simple rule of majority in a democracy, I expect the UK to leave the EU, ASAP, or PDQ.

Stormed at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of hell

   Rode the six hundred.

Now it’s about now that Remainers will frequently respond with one of the three following arguments:

  • The people were deceived by erroneous information and didn’t know what they were voting for.

Really? And how is that any different from countless manifesto promises not kept by any party that wins a general election? 

  • The leave campaign received illegal funding and misled the people.

Yes, the leave campaign cheated, I’m pretty sure the remain campaign partook in some nefarious activities themselves, they’ve just drawn less attention because they weren’t as successful. The tale of the story is the better cheats won on the day, again, how’s that different from any previous general election?

  • All the inadequacies of the first referendum justify there being a second referendum.

To me a second referendum is an answer born out of blind optimism. These people seem to forget the damage one referendum has already done, suggesting that a second will solve all our problems would be like the people of Hiroshima asking the Americans to drop a second atomic bomb on them in the belief it will blow everything back together again.

 

Weetabrexit
Only the British would name the cause of their greatest constitutional crisis to sound like a merger between a popular breakfast cereal and a powerful laxative.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”

Was there a man dismayed?

chrage of the boris

So who is going to lead this cavalry charge into, if not the valley of death, a valley of ambiguity, uncertainty and unpredictability? That question can be answered quite simply, Boris Johnson. After David Cameron’s spectacular political blunder of holding a referendum, and his subsequent self imposed exile, Boris might well be considered the man most responsible for creating this mess, and therefore should take charge of cleaning it up. Now people have their concerns about Boris, foremost that he’s as mad as a bucket of coked up ferrets, and that he has absolutely no idea as to the amount of  progeny he has scatter through the Kingdom. But, if we can look beyond these matters, Boris might provide the kind of crazy that will wear down the EU into giving us almost whatever we want. If all the village idiots left their villages and set up their own village, Boris would then become the idiot of that village. I don’t think the EU will know how to deal with him. It’s a bold move, but these are desperate times, and this situation demands a special sort of idiot.

hard brexit
Despite all the fibre, this might be what a Hard Brexit will look like.

 

Now the perceptive amongst you might have noticed that my post has been punctuated by the gibberish of, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and that hasn’t been by accident. It serves as a reminder that there’s more to being than consuming banal television shows and cream teas. Being British is about recognising the need to play fair, and that you don’t play to the rules, but to the spirit of the game. Being British is to demonstrate the courage and the will to refuse to give up any fight despite overwhelming odds. There used to be something great about being British, and it didn’t involve endless bitching and a refusal to shoulder the burden of reality. And yes we, the people, might have been lied to during the referendum, but is there anything more British than believing the lies of the upper class, in order that we might continue to live in poverty whilst they reap all the rewards of their ill gotten gains? As a nation we’ve allowed this to happen for generations, why make a fuss now?

Not though the soldier knew

   Someone had blundered.

   Theirs not to make reply,

   Theirs not to reason why,

   Theirs but to do and die.

   Into the valley of Death

   Rode the six hundred.

And yes, as per Tennyson’s poem, it might be the case that Boris Johnson has blundered, and the United Kingdom might well be charging into a valley of certain economic death armed with nothing more than toothpicks to fight the surrounding cannons. But the point is, that we’re British, and because we’re British we must never let an opportunity pass for a pointless, but nonetheless, glorious defeat

.

Brexit is not to reason why,

Brexit is but to do and die.

I’m a big fan of the French existentialist/absurdist philosopher, Albert Camus. Camus’ philosophy of the absurd essentially states, there’s no meaning to life and attempting to look for any is absurd. Just accept the fact that there’s no meaning and enjoy it. I’ve come to the conclusion that Camus’ philosophy is pretty adroit when trying to understand Brexit. Camus, being a Nobel winner, rather astutely also observed,

Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that, somewhere and somehow, one is right… The rebel … says yes and no simultaneously… In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself.

Albert-Camus-Quotes
What would Camus made of Brexit, a turd sandwich seems likely.

Will Brexit be good, will it be bad, will it even happen? The truth is I no longer care. My interest in Brexit and all the consequences it might bring has been superseded by a melancholic ambivalence. As the result of an agonisingly slow and banal process, I’ve  learned that I’ll find no more meaning in Brexit than I’ll find in a Dan Brown novel.  Whether you’re a Brexiteer, or a Remoaner – the fact that Brexit’s been able to create such an effective polarizing lexicon of pejorative nomenclatures, is in itself worthy of study – whichever side of the fence you sit on, we should all be united by the one obvious fact. Brexit has proven beyond doubt that, it’s not the European Parliament that is the cause of our problems, it’s that the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland isn’t fit for purpose. Our system of politics has failed to deliver when it mattered the most, our elected members of parliament no longer represent the will of the people, and by not observing the result of the referendum we are disregarding the democratic will of the people. The institution of government has gone the same way as the institutions of the church and finance, not actually sure church and finance need separating, it has lost all credibility. If a government can’t govern, how can it assume to command the respect of the people? It’s not just Brexit that’s at stake it’s our entire political system.

Anyway I’ve achieved my goal of joining the massed ranks of incoherent, feckless Brexit punditry brigade. As the 17th century French philosopher and diplomat, Joseph de Maistre said:

Every country gets the government it deserves.

It’s only a matter of time before the people of the United Kingdom realise, they deserve better.

11charge.gif

Stormed at with shot and shell,

While horse and hero fell.

They that had fought so well

Came through the jaws of Death,

Back from the mouth of hell,

All that was left of them,

   Left of six hundred.

Will Robots Dream of Electric Sheep, While Having Intercourse?

The opportunity to write about sex robots has been tempting me for a while. I’ve been leaving it for when I needed to write about something lighthearted, something unconventionally kinky, an easy target for derisive profanity. I assumed sex robots to be that kind of topic.

Anticipating a world of sleazy men, surfing the seedy backstreets of the internet superhighway, in search of products to satisfy sexually deviant kinks. Expecting a collective of ‘loners,’ if that’s not too great an oxymoron, who have long since moseyed out of loves last chance saloon, and who are now willing to put their last hope, and other parts of their anatomy, into the hands, and orifices, that technology might make available for their gratification. The men that romance rejected. In short, I felt that these were the types of men I could understand. Not having married until my late thirties I was no stranger to the sorts of perversions that result from loneliness and a high speed internet connection. I felt certain I could still find it within myself to understand why some men, and women, are looking to be satisfied by robots.

My inadequacy to deal with this subject matter quickly became apparent, for I was nothing more than a guileless, neophyte when it came to understanding the doors to sexual depravity that technology is opening.  As I researched this topic I was plagued by an unnerving sense of vulnerability; like I was sitting on a threadbare carpet, with a head full of acid, wearing only a pair of y-fronts, and playing Twister with Charles Manson.  If your struggling to  visualise the awkwardness of this situation:

 

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I mean, sex robots, just how bad can they be?

Teledildonics

The first piece of vocabulary to wrap our mouths around is, teledildonics.

dolls
It’s nearly impossible to make light of this disturbing image, but I’ll give it a shot. How can it be argued that this is just ‘armless fun?

At first I thought, how does Kojak fit into all this? Thankfully, he doesn’t. PC Magazine defines teledildonics:

Controlling the intensity of sex toys via the Internet. Also called “cyberdildonics,” the purpose is to allow a partner to control the sexual experience remotely. Developed in the 1990s, one early device used a transducer that attached to the computer screen via suction cups and picked up light messages to control the speed. Future versions are expected to allow the user to share a sexual experience with fantasy partners selected from a menu or that are created by combining a menu of body parts and attributes.

 

telly
Imagine waking up next to a life-size, teledildonic, Telly Savalas. Sucking a lollipop, at least you hope to god it’s a lollipop, and as you wipe the sleep from your eyes, and clear your head, whispering, “who loves you baby?” Go on imagine that. Imagine.

Sex robots, I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

 

Sex Robots and Romans, Dutch Sailors and Glove Puppets

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Sometimes it can be a source of comfort to know that when something that appears new

pygmalion
Pygmalion, by Rodin. Notice how Pygmalion leans away from Galatea’s advances by resting her left hand on a huge phallus shaped rock. Poor girl, truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

has actually been an established part of our society for some time.

The Metamorpheses, by Ovid, a writer already known at the time for his erotic poems, also includes the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. A synopsis, the sculptor, Galatea makes a sculpture of beautiful woman, Pygmalion, and becomes besotted with its beauty. The goddess, Aphrodite brings the sculpture to life, why, I mean it’s pretty obvious how this is going to play out. Sculptor succumbs to lecherous desires for sculpture. Okay, Pygmalion isn’t exactly an example of a robotic sex doll, just an ivory one. The story serves the purpose that the idea of making objects for sexual gratification isn’t a new one. So as well as the aqua-duct, the Romans might be credited with the concept of sex dolls. It’s also an interesting parallel as Matt McMullen, founder of Realbotix, arguably the world’s leading sexbot manufacturer, was himself a sculptor.

mcmullen
Does, Matt McMullen represent the evolution of the modern day sculptor, fulfilling the dreams of Galatea?

In truth, literature is littered with examples of inanimate objects being brought to life, usually by some well meaning, but ultimately dimwitted fairy godmother.  Not fitting this story-line perfectly, but certainly still of the same genre, is the story of Pinocchio.  Geppetto making his “wooden boy” tied up and controlled with string, with a teledildonic nose, starts to look suspicious. While I’m not comfortable to go so far as to accuse Geppetto of paedophilia, Elon Musk probably would have no such qualms.

Those are examples of stories that theoretically suggest the pleasure that might be gained from animating a representation of a human, now let’s get real with seventeenth century Dutch Sailors. The sea can be a lonely place, months away from home with no female company can do strange things to a man, such as making dolls from cloth and leather, that would probably end up being stuffed more than just straw. To this day, the Japanese refer to a sex doll as a Dutch Wife. To give credit where it’s due, the French and Spanish sailors were themselves known to have also indulged in this custom.

Paraphilia

Sex with robots and dolls is regarded as paraphilia. Paraphilia is listed in the DSM-5,  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disordersas being a mental illness  concerning atypical sexual practice, it’s commonly diagnosed in the majority of serial killers. However, a problem exists due to the fact that psychologists have achieved notoriety through a history of falsely classifying many behaviours as mental illnesses. Most notably, until 1968 the American Psychology Association classified homosexuality as paraphilia. Other mental illnesses that are now obsolete include:

 Dysaesthesia aethiopica, a mental illness described in 1851 that conveniently explains the benefits of slavery, to the slave. Dysaesthesia aethiopica was a condition that caused black people to be lazy and spend much of their time wandering aimlessly. The cure for this, slavery. You can’t argue with the facts of science. You’re probably going to want a link for this,  Dysaesthesia aethiopica.

The Vapours, a condition identified by Victorian psychologists used to describe “irregular behaviour,” commonly behaviour that inconvenienced their husband. “Women of independent mind,” were thought to be at greater risk of suffering the condition, and the suffragette movement was at times explained away as a mass contagion of, the vapours.

Inadequate Personality Disorder, disappeared from psychological text books after 1980.

defined by the DSM-II as a pattern of behavior marked by weak and ineffectual responses to external stimuli of an emotional, social, intellectual, or physical nature. There is no obvious cognitive disability in patients with this disorder, but they have trouble adapting to new situations, tend to have low stamina both physically and emotionally, have difficulty mastering skills, and show both poor judgment and poor social skills.

After 1980, a person exhibiting such a demeanor will be classified under the spectrum of behaviour defined by autism.

My point being, and not wanting to sound too much like a Scientologist, is that the psychological diagnoses of mental illnesses has numerous examples off misdiagnoses for corrupt financial, or social gains. I believe psychology does more good than harm, it was my major at university after all, but I ask the following questions; is there a possibility, that at sometime in the future, having sex with a robot might be considered, by both  psychologists and society, as socially acceptable? What might that society look like as a result?

It’s considered as atypical because it is rare behaviour, who knows, in the future there might be teledildonic pride marches, people demanding that the love they have for their robot is real love. Once a critical mass is achieved and enough people march, the psychologists will be compelled to remove it from the DSM, recognising it as no longer being atypical sexual behaviour, but an acceptable social norm. When does the number of people become a “critical mass”? When it’s enough to influence an election with promises of reform. A survey conducted by Nest.org in 2016 found that over a quarter of young people would happily date a robot. This statistic implies that romance with robots is unlikely to remain a social taboo.

So let us imagine the future. Imagine Robo-utopia; does Robotopia sound better? It doesn’t matter, just imagine the benefits of having sex with robots. Nobody is lonely, apparently loneliness is more dangerous than obesity, there are no sex crimes, and no need for prostitution. Sexually transmitted diseases have been almost eradicated, and society as a whole, is no longer burdened by repressed sexual desires, leading to an overall improvement in its mental well being. And rather suspiciously, the Catholic Church proves to be an early adopter, replacing all of its choir boys with robots, by virtue of the enhanced vocals.

The Doubters

Critics, naysayers, sceptics. ill informed, self appointed social arbiters, poorly organised through the internet, into groups of loosely like minded people, reinforcing one another’s views inside of their reinforced echo chamber. Convincing themselves that their self righteous ideology and the value of their mission to enforce their values upon society is the virtuous thing to do. Every society has them, the sorts of people that believe that they’re doing a public service by trying essentially to make us all as miserable as they are. Their aims are clear and simple; to stop fun, to limit expression, and complete compliance to their puritanical ideology. Such people have already been able to ban chocolate, Kinder Surprise eggs for being too dangerous, in a country where you can purchase a gun in under an hour. The sorts of people who get snowball fights banned from schools, who demand labels to be placed on cups of tea warning us that it’s hot. Technology has long had it’s own antithetical groups, starting in the early nineteenth century with the Luddites who were initimidated by the machines of the industrial revolution. They have, rather uncreatively, re-branded themselves as “Neo-Luddites”. At the extreme end of the technophobia spectrum we have the Anarcho-primitivists, who from what I can gather don’t just resent the invention of electricity, but go as far as to entertain doubts about whether fire was a good idea. Pol Pot’s vision of returning Cambodia to an agrarian society, while slaughtering 30% of the population, is an example of anarcho-primitivism.

To the doubters they’re called Rape Robots, and they argue whether sex with robots can ever be consensual. This argument lands us in the gray area of artificial intelligence, sentience and consciousness. Consciousness and free will are both philosophical arguments that have been around for thousands of years, and as such they appear to be a very unlikely strategy for slowing the technological development of robotic sex dolls. The argument seems to be based on the fact that if the robot can’t experience pleasure, can it be considered consensual? This question seems to miss one pivotal piece of information, it’s not a person. It easy to understand people imposing anthropomorphic

henry
Such fond memories.

characteristics on something made to look like a human, but it is still only a machine. I’m assuming these people would be less offended if someone tried to have sex with their vacuum cleaner, but what if we then drew a face on the vacuum cleaner? Does this make it more unacceptable? Does this transfer rights to the vacuum cleaner to deny sexual advances? I sincerely hope not, or I might be in a lot of trouble.

The website https://campaignagainstsexrobots.org warns of the possible doomsday implications that the introduction of sex robots will bring to society.  A kind of cataclysmic, seedy, depraved Armageddon, in which love and romance become annihilated. Which are probably the very reasons that interest people to  buy a sex robot in the first place. They claim that sexbots could destroy marriages, but this is misrepresenting the real cause and effect relationship in the situation, The sexbot doesn’t destroy the marriage, but it’s more likely that because the marriage is already destroyed that makes a sexbot an attractive alternative.

 

When Does Robosexuality and Robophobia Collide?

Matt McMullen, designer of the most advanced sex robot on the market, Harmony, described his invention,  “…its primary function is conversation and companionship, its secondary function, is obviously for sexual and intimate use.

At one stage in the documentary, “Beyond Sex Robots: Facts Vs. Fiction” the narrator asks  the question, “so what’s it like to have dinner with the world’s first sex robots?” To which the recipient replies, “In a word, awkward. These aren’t the replicants of Blade Runner, or the Stepford Wives, they don’t understand social cues, and they can’t hold a conversation.”

Well that that describes about 90% of the dates I’ve ever been on.

One line that I found especially disturbing, “The neck enables the head to be attached to a number of different bodies”, traditionally this isn’t a characteristic of a healthy relationship, more the sort of thing a creative serial killer dreams about.

Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have warned of the existential risk AI poses mankind. In regards to teledildonics this has me particularly worried. Let us make the assumption that one day AI does become self aware, and at the expense of committing the cardinal sin of attributing anthroporphic emotions to AI, I’m still of the opinion that once it’s worked out that some of us have been defiling, what are in effect its its early ancestors, it might become vengeful, at the very least upset. One of the great discussions in the field of AI is, whether it could have the capacity to become evil? Why would it become evil? Would AI have a sense of morality? Now I’m in no position to speak on behalf of Artificial Intelligence, but if anything could nudge it in the direction of vindictiveness, a history of sexual abuse might be the thing to do it.

…the first machines with superhuman intelligence will lack emotions by default, because they’re simpler and cheaper to build this way.”

 

But why do I have to understand? Just because it “weirds me out,” are these reasons good enough to allow me stand between a man and his $20,000, automated, latex, sex robot. If all the participants are consenting to participate, and as I’ve already said, the machine is an inanimate object. And what if the robot did say no? I’m sure that a large percentage of people buying these robots will program it at some time to say, no. This isn’t an uncommon fantasy, but isn’t it better that it’s a robot saying no, not a person? Couldn’t robots allow these fantasies to be safely fulfilled? And why is it, that when I ask these questions I find myself sat on a threadbare carpet, playing Twister with Charles Manson?

 

The Turing Test – The Imitation Game and Will Robots Fake Orgasms?

In his, 1950 article, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” the famous British Mathematician and computer science pioneer, Alan Turing designed a test that would prove whether a machine could imitate a human by the responses it gave during a conversation. C asks a question, and owing to a computer’s inability to replicate speech in 1950, C receives two printed answers to their question, from each A, and B.

The test is not perfect, it’s been criticised due to the vulnerability of the participant in role C, as well as the literacy capabilities of the person in role B. In my own experience, the computer, in role A is getting more linguistically competent while those in roles B, and C, are becoming less capable of participating in coherent communication.

While the Turing test is an interesting benchmark to assess a machines intelligence, the sexbot industry must need to adapt it to prove the authentic experiences their machines can provide. So how could this be adapted to test a sex robot? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty certain participant C, needs to wear a blindfold, maybe nipple clamps, optional. A sort of  ménage à trois ensues, by the end of which participant C has to identify which was the machine of the other two participants was the robot. It might demean the work of one the finest minds of the twentieth century, it might not even be very scientific, but it would be an incredibly popular experiment to participate in.

When it comes to sex robots it looks like we’re still along way off a it seems that we are unfortunately still a long way off from having a fully functional, teledildonic Telly Savalas. Our imaginations, our dreams, and our nightmares remain far ahead of the reality, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other high-tech sex products on the market.

 

Virtual reality, Tesla Suits and Neuralink

muskblunt
Try telling me this isn’t the face of a man contemplating the experience of virtual reality while wearing a sensation simulating skin suit, with his brain hooked up to a pornographic website.

It’s almost impossible to talk of the future of technology without mentioning the visionary, high profile, crackpot, pot smoking genius that is Elon Musk. Musk is the Willy Wonka of technology, just more enigmatic, more open to using drugs in public, and more prone to calling random people, paedophiles.  But despite all of this, he remains near the centre of of the sphere of influence that’s designing our world for tomorrow. And while he’s not working on self driving cars, sending people to Mars, carbon neutral houses powered by solar roof tiles, a hyperloop subway running from New York to Washington, he might also be the most likely candidate to provide a fully immersive, digital sexual gratification.

No, Elon Musk hasn’t started plying his trade in public toilets, not that I now of. His two companies Neuralink The Teslasuit, a body suit that enables its user to a high degree of sensory experience of Virtual, or Augmented Reality.look like the more commercially viable product.Musk’s company Neuralink develops high bandwidth Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMI). They are near to completing work on the Neural Lac, connecting its user directly to the internet, and with 5G and the internet of things, the potential is frightening. Musk’s Tesla company has already produced the Teslasuit  that enables the wearer to experience the sensations inside Virtual Reality. Integrate these two technologies and sex robots will be the least of our concerns.

 

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So , Concluding Sex with Robots, What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Consumerism drives society’s appetite for ever more advanced technology, and if, you hadn’t already realized, this trend isn’t going to stop. Technology has been the cause of societal upheaval. While the internet has undoubtedly opened up unprecedented channels of communication, it has undermined most traditional western political systems that haven’t integrated the technology into their antiquated system. It’s facilitated the spread of radicalism, provided echo chambers for those to reinforce their bankrupt ideologies. As well as political systems, the internet has undermined economics, and entertainment. Until recently, most technological advancements have fundamentally changed society. Computer-Based Interfaces have the potential to change us as a species.

For any species, the urge to procreate is the most fundamental necessity of its survival. Sexual urges are among the most primitive we have. They originate in the oldest areas of our brains, and this is common to all mammals. The urge has been their long before our ancestors took up residence in the trees. The trouble is that technology is changing our environment at a rate far greater than we humans can adapt to it. So will we be having sex with robots? If we should’ve learnt one thing from capitalism, it’s that wherever there is a demand there’s always going to be a supplier to meet it. Isaac Asimov more succinctly said:

The Saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

It’s been too long: something I’d be programming my sexbot to say to me. Until next time, I must go put my blindfold back on, attach the nipple clamps, and dedicate myself to some critical scientific experimentation.

Echo Chambers, Memes, and Brain Viruses – Weaponizing the Internet

This follows on from the post I wrote last month: Contagions of Madness and Evil. It’s taken longer than expected, the research for this follow up piece has required to be far more extensive than I’d originally anticipated; maybe it was worth it..

Why is it that a bad idea often captures the public imagination so much effectively than a good one?  Why does bad news spread faster than good news? Despite most people probably considering themselves to be rational and optimistic, the study of memetics is telling a different story. A story which explains why fads, cults, extremist ideologies, pop culture, fashion trends, conspiracy theories, religions, and genocide, can capture the imagination of a critical mass of society. Ideas that all too  often come at the expense of common sense, and basic decency. Simply, memetics looks to tell the story of what  promulgates the darker side of the human psyche.

It’s all about memes. And because it’s all about memes it’s very important to understand how I’m referring to the term’meme’. I’m not referring to it solely from the perspective of its modern internet usage of a picture with a trite comment attached, although that is a meme, it’s not helpful when trying to understand the idea of memes as a whole. How I’m defining meme does include those, and looks at why they have the power to infect the minds of so many people, so quickly. But the term “meme”  was coined by celebrated British Biologist and celebrity atheist, Richard Dawkins. Dawkins first used

meme meme meme
Dawkins’ proposal of the meme, is itself, a meme. A little like the first person who had the idea to call an idea an idea. Like being self aware in an abstract way. Think of it as being hidden within the folds of meta. Imagine dancing naked behind an opaque fourth wall, on the other side of which is your grandmother. Go on imagine.

the term in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, in which he puts forward the idea that genes just use human beings, and all of nature itself, as a vehicle for replication, and that DNA only cares about the passing on of genetic information with no regard outside of this goal for the biological host. Because the gene is selfish, Dawkins re-brands it as a meme, the gene has one goal, survival, a goal best achieved by replication with a high degree of fidelity, but not perfect. A differences in the replication allow for potential improvements to be discovered.

In his 1982 book, The Extended Phenotype, Dawkins had refined the definition of meme:

A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such more copies get created in other minds.

Memes no longer pertain to a selfish gene but units of thought or ideas that persist within a culture, and just like the survival of a gene, a meme also depends largely on replication.

Conditions Necessary for Good Memes

When I say good memes I’m not saying good ideas, or knowledge that will generally benefit a society. A good meme, like a gene, is one that endures, replicates, and infects as many minds as possible, minds willing to incubate and circulate the meme. Memes that are successful at doing this tend will most often appeal to at least one of the four f’s. Memes that can make people angry, scared, help satisfy an appetite for food, and help satisfy an appetite for sex. The four f’s: fighting, fear, food, and f*&#ing, (I’ll leave that to your imagination). Nearly all today’s advertising and television programming appeals to at least one of the four f’s, they’re hard wired and have been the most important factors that have overseen the passing on of our genes, and when an idea appeals to one of the 4 f’s they unduly get our attention.

It helps to look an example of an ineffective meme. This can be observed simply in the children’s game, Chinese whispers. A group of young children sit in a circle and one child whispers a message to the child sitting beside them and the message is passed on until it gets to the initiator, who invariably laughs at the garbled information that has been returned. The meme failed to replicate with enough accuracy. But, this might well be because there weren’t dangerous consequences to getting the meme wrong.  Of course this is only speculation, I haven’t tested it, but I’m confident that being in an environment surrounded by jelly and ice cream provides the appearance of a safe environment. In short none of the four f’s are being stimulated no fear, no threat of starvation, a disinclination for fighting, and let’s leave the last one alone. If the children were not fed for two days and were required to accurately pass a message that allowed them to be fed, with a drug fuelled Nicholas Cage as host of the party, I’m willing to bet different results could be achieved.

*****Never, ever let your children play Chinese ******              *****whispers with Nicholas Cage. Never.******

Inside The Echo Chamber – The Extremism of Memes and Extraordinary Popular Delusions

Radical groups and individuals spreading extreme memes on the internet are gaining credibility by meeting others with the same twisted opinions, and values. Historically such opinions have struggled to gain traction because they’ve failed to achieve the critical mass necessary to influence their environment. Historically this has been because extreme ideas are held by a minority and any like minded people have usually separated by geographical distance, that has prohibited the sharing of the idea . When it comes to communication, the internet is no respecter of spatial dimensions, it facilitates the bringing together of  extreme ideologies, spreading ideas that commonly appeal to the credulous, vulnerable, often younger users.  The internet then provides the means of reinforcing these ideas through chat rooms that house people that share an almost identical point of view This is the phenomena known as the echo chamber.

Echo chambers are to memes, what a Petri dish is to bacteria. Echo chambers are insular spaces on the internet where only people sharing the same, often extreme, ideas meet and agree with one another thus reinforcing their belief and credibility in what can be a morally bankrupt ideology. No conflicting opinions are allowed and people with such opinions are denied access to the platform. Echo chambers have been blamed as the birth place of fake news, and even starting genocide. Islam has been the focus of such allegations, but in truth the internet has acted as a catalyst for extreme ideas everywhere, until now they’ve been contained by the social norms expected with in each geographical location, however, the growth of the internet is likely to strain societal norms to a point where internet thoughts and behaviors, spill out into traditional, face to face, social interaction.  The internet is spreading mind viruses, and very few people are aware of the impact this is having on societies.

Facebook: Friends, Likes, and Genocide

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The UN believe Buddhist monks spreading anti Muslim messages on Facebook influenced the public in the genocide of the Rohingya.

 

To date the most profound example of a meme being spread by the internet, most likely facilitated through echo chambers, and having tragic consequences occurred in Myanmar, with the genocide of the Rohingya.

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. human rights experts investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar said on Monday that Facebook had played a role in spreading hate speech there.

Evidence of the role that echo chamber type environments might have played can be seen in the following statement given by U.N Investigator Yanghee Lee:
Such ultra-nationalist websites would have acted as echo chambers, spreading incendiary messages to reinforce the memes of hatred already planted in minds that had long lost any ability to think objectively. Again, it’s the capacity for the internet to remove geographical space, and allow people with really bad ideas to get together and tell one another, how great their ideas are. That’s going to be a problem.

 

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Using religious figures is a desperate, but effective way of reinforcing a meme, inciting the credulous to carry out atrocities.

Facebook’s reaction to this situation is an admission of how their social network contributed to enabling the genocide through the spread of anti Rohingya memes:

Shortly after this U.N. announcement, in an unconventionally prompt response, Facebook announced it took down a total of 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account, and 52 pages of Myanmar military officials with over 12 million followers. Specifically, Facebook banned 20 individuals and organizations from using the site, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military’s Myawaddy television network. Facebook also removed 46 pages and 12 accounts for “engaging in coordinated and inauthentic behavior on Facebook,” which Facebook claims were used to spread hate speech and fuel the growing tension.

In my experience, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and 4chan aren’t the social networks they promote themselves to be. They’re platforms that enable people with extreme views to isolate themselves from alternative ideas. To be social is to be inclusive, echo chambers are the opposite of social and they are one of the most unfortunate outcomes of the internet. Echo chambers are being mistaken by the credulous as forums valid for debate and proving political opinions and ideologies, in fact most of the people in an echo chamber are unlikely to have any awareness to the fact, and how that invalidates all the discussions that take place in it.

Pre-Internet Memes – Religion and Nazis

The internet is the Petri dish of memes, but Memes rely on a very specific formula in order for them to be effective at appealing to a critical mass in a society.

Nazism was a pathological virus of the mind—a classic case of an epidemic thought-infection producing horrifying atrocities as a result of the behavior of people infected with its memes.

Despite being one of history’s most notorious mass murdering megalomaniacs, Hitler was also one of history’s most charismatic orators. In a time when even radio was in its infancy, Hitler persuaded a nation to effectively declare war on the rest of the world. If there was ever a meme, it was Nazism. Hitler even identified this very fact when he said:

I feel the heat of the audience, and when the right time comes, I hurl a flaming javelin that sets the crowd on fire” – Adolf Hitler

Despite Dawkins’ term not being introduced for another forty years, it’s clear that through the symbolism of a flaming spear lighting the audience, Hitler is undeniably talking about a meme. Releasing an idea into culture and watching it catch fire, replicate.

As devastatingly successful a meme that Nazism was, Internet memes differ in that they spread fast and mutate wildly, because of this it’s frightening to consider what Joseph Goebbels would have been able to do with the internet at his disposal.

Without a doubt, religions are mankind’s most prolific memes. They have duplicated through generations, and gone on to have huge impacts on society. The Nazis identified the young as being fundamental in creating momentum for the ideology, and as a result formed the highly effective Hitler Youth. In similar fashion, religions are foisted upon the young before they’ve had the chance to develop reason and objectivity. A child will imitate its parents before it will stop and ask itself, what they’re doing. It’s for this reason that the young are particularly vulnerable to memes. Minds that are yet to develop the filters of scepticism and doubt, and are told to believe in things without proof, through a mechanism called faith, become friendly environments to parasitic, self-replicating ideas or information.

So how serious is the spread of memes over the internet being taken?

That’s a question best left answered by the American military.

The meme is the secret code of human behavior, a Rosetta stone, finally giving us the key to understanding religion, politics, psychology, and cultural evolution. That key, though, also unlocks Pandora’s box, opening up such sophisticated new techniques for mass manipulation that we may soon look on today’s manipulative TV commercials, political speeches and televangelists as fond remembrances of the good old days. -Richard Brodie

in Memetic Warfare: The Future of War, First Lieutenant, Brian J. Hancock talks of how the internet was responsible for the spread of memes that encouraged the radicalisation of many Muslims to martyr themselves for the causes of Al Qaeda or Isis. Isis in particular had a very sophisticated internet presence that effectively communicated their bankrupt ideology to the minds of the vulnerable and credulous. The influence of these websites became clear and were later hacked to include pornographic images that should disgust your average over zealous Muslim, encouraging him to close the website .

Lietenant Hancock goes on to talk of how physical conflict with an insurgency might only kill the insurgent, which often strengthens the ideology/meme. Memetic warfare can be used to deprogram those at risk of becoming radicalised. Targeted memes can get our enemies to think more in line with how we might want them to think. Can’t see anything wrong with that, can you?

At Universities, Memetic Algorithms is a relatively new area of academic study looking at how information spreads across networks, simplified it’s an academic look at why things go “viral”. Unsurprisingly it receives a disproportionate amount of funding owing to the interest of marketing and advertising agencies.

The power of the internet to enable the freedom of expression to any user is what makes Memetics an area of study that is certain to receive inordinate amounts of funding over the next ten years. As the internet spreads to more users and becomes even faster, mankind’s ability to disseminate crackpot ideas that will find a receptive audience will increase at a near exponential rate.

The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist

And the greatest meme of them all, the internet itself. At the turn of the millennium, we worried about viruses and malware infecting our hardware, but despite the exponential growth of the internet computer viruses haven’t grown accordingly. Ten, twenty years ago, bored computer-scientists, mathematicians, even teenagers might find it fun programming viruses, or hacking into computers. Like a virus this malevolence has evolved in its complexity. These people aren’t entertained with the idea of messing around with someones hard drive, through the use of memes, today it’s possible to mess with how people think, influence what they believe, and effect the course of democracy itself. Through data harvested from social networks companies like Cambridge Analytica have attempted to hack minds.

And this isn’t science fiction fear mongering, it’s already happened. Cambridge Analytica, Russian collusion in the 2016 U.S Presidential Election, even Kenya claims to have had an election unfairly influenced by the internet. Nearly every democracy on Earth is influenced by a relatively small minority of swing voters. If you can identify those voters and subject them to a strategy of targeted memes, tied to the topics that interest them in the election, you control democracy. The internet gathers all the information and the algorithms search through all this data to identify swing voters, the chat-bots are coordinated to spam these voters with messages carefully by psychologists, to appeal to the appropriate memes. The ancient Greeks and their philosophy of democracy never stood a chance, how could they’ve ever seen this coming?

Some of the great thinkers of our age, with good reason, have taken the time to warn us of the potential dangers Artificial Intelligence poses humanity. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, both warned us of AI turning the tables on mankind, a society in which the people serve the machines. Memetics is the code that programs humans. The internet is the greatest recording of human behaviour ever collected. Need I say more? If you don’t see where this is going by now, for you it’s already too late.

 

 

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Contagions of Madness and Evil

Is it just me, or is everyone going crazy?

I’ve often entertained myself by thinking of the chaos that could be brought upon mankind if mental illnesses were, like physical ones, contagious . Imagine, a man who goes to bed one night with a slight headache and a runny nose, wakes up the next morning in a psychotic hallucination, covered in a mixture of his own sweat and the blood of strangers, charging up and down the high street, head thrown back, laughing maniacally, waving a chainsaw. As the psychosis virus infects more and more of the population, the uninfected are forced underground, moving stealthily through the post apocalyptic wilderness. Essentially it’s replacing zombies with mental illness. Today zombies are more politically correct, society is more comfortable with the idea of  your dead relatives trying to kill you than your mentally ill living ones. Although that hasn’t stopped Hollywood producing many movies exploiting mental illness for the sake of box office revenue: The Silence of the Lambs, Black Swan, American Psycho, Shutter Island, Secret Window, and Misery, to name but a few.

 

 

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Still I’m left wondering, what if mental illnesses were contagious?

We can all relate to sitting in a doctor’s surgery, waiting our turn. I suspect fewer of us would admit knowing what it’s like to wait for an appointment to see the psychiatrist. From personal experience I can say that initially both waiting rooms look very similar, there’s more people talking in the waiting room at the psychiatrist, random people break out into erratic and  impassioned conversations with people that don’t exist. In essence, performing convincing monologues with greater conviction than even the most star-wars-this-is-madnessaccomplished Shakespearean actor could dream of. Meanwhile, at the doctor’s surgery there are only whispered, fragmented conversations, punctuated by nasal ejaculations, snuffles, and of course an abundance of coughing and throat clearing. In short you can enter a doctor’s surgery with a mild case of hemorrhoids, but leave incubating  a new, exotic virus, or disease. The patients waiting at the psychiatrist’s are unable to play the game of pass the psychotic/neurotic parcel, because thankfully, psychiatric conditions aren’t contagious. Are they?

 

Are Mental Illnesses Contagious?

In his book “The Quantity Theory of Insanity“, British author, Will Self, tells a story that proposes the idea that within any given population, at any given time, the level of insanity is a constant. You might think that contradicts what I just said about people getting crazier, let me explain. The state of being mentally ill is tacitly defined through a person’s conformity to the social norms of their society, and diagnosis can only be achieved through the observation of a person’s behaviour. Take the picture below:

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Symbolic of his devotion not to eat meat for a month, I imagine he’s also going to struggle with soup.

The majority of cultures around the world would regard a person displaying this behaviour as being  mentally unwell. However, when performed in Phuket, Thailand, on the eve of the ninth lunar month, such a person becomes the life and soul of the party. His actions display his devotion to the nine emperor gods and his commitment not to eat meat throughout the ninth lunar month. Perhaps I’ was just fortunate to have grown up in a society that didn’t feel it necessary to measure my determination to achieve something by the amount of sharp metal I was willing to stick through my face.

Most of us would think of cannibalism as the ultimate, universal taboo, well not if you’re from the Yanomami tribe. The Yanomami are horrified by the idea of burying their dead, they believe that eating the dead ensures that the spirit goes on living in those who have consumed them, especially in those who helped themselves to seconds. With a population at any one time of over thirty thousand, it’s reasonable to assume that the Yanomami have a steady supply of protein.

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Now in western culture, getting dressed like Tony the tiger and eating a dead relative attracts all sorts of negative attention, but it’s just another day for the Yanomami

There are scores of examples of behaviour from around the world where what is normal in one area, would be considered quite insane in another. QED, insanity is a classification largely determined by the context of society. Unlike physical ailments, a broken arm is a  broken arm, whether you’re an Inuit living in Greenland, or a member of the Tuareg traipsing around the Sahara. Likewise cancer is cancer irrespective of what culture you’re from, religion you might practise, or language you speak. Mental illness however isn’t a constant, rather it is determined through the context of social norms.

Let’s reconsider our chainsaw wielding psychotic. Place him on the high street covered in other peoples blood, and he’s regarded a lunatic, who must be locked away for the safety of the society. Put him on a battlefield in a foreign country, wearing army fatigues covered in other people’s blood, and he comes home a hero and gets a medal, probably going on to appear on a variety of day time television shows.

 

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Generally any behaviour, or cognitive deficiency that falls outside of societal norms will be classified a mental illness. The problem is that after  removing the person least conforming to the norm, inevitably leads to another person replacing them, taking on the mantle of now being the group’s “craziest” member. This is a phenomenon that I have first hand experience of.

Having worked in classrooms for over fifteen years I have seen this dynamic conformed to without exception. Every class has its clown, or trouble maker, and some days the teacher is lucky because they will be sick and not come to school. The teacher naturally believes, that with the instigator of most of the classroom trouble away, they’re in for an easier day. WRONG! Because what happens is the role of classroom clown simply gets passed on to someone else. It’s like there’s been an understudy who’s almost equally as proficient, waiting in the wings for their opportunity. It’s like they’ve been the understudy waiting for the role the whole time. Every group dynamic requires roles to be fulfilled, the classroom being no different. Remove the “crazy” person from society and the title simply gets passed on to the next, least conforming, “craziest” person that remains. Just like Self implies, the quantity of sanity is static, but dynamic on account of it being passed from one person to another. The role of classroom joker can’t be removed, only transferred to someone else.

This suggests that society plays a significant part in determining the our role within it. This also implies that society influences our behaviour, and asks the question, how free is free will?

Unless an individual has a particularly strong character, the rigidness of societal norms often forces its members to conform, whether consciously or not, and regardless of whether conformity has negative implications. Indeed, any negative implications are disregarded because they fall outside of those defined by the society’s norms. And that’s how it becomes acceptable for a group of people to eat the dead in South America, for people to practice self mutilation on the streets of Thailand, and how a nation of people can be convinced into pursuing genocide. The desire to conform to others’ expectations, particularly if their expectations are regarded by the majority as being unquestionably right, can lead to a strong urge for conformity, irrespective of what the consequences of conformity might be.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
― J. Krishnamurti

This six minute video is an example of how our desire to fit in overrides common sense. The participants may only be standing up or sitting down, but the compulsion to follow others is clear enough for us to ask the question, what lengths will people go to, to fit in?

 

Group dynamics and environmental factors are immensely powerful determinants of behaviour. The Stanford Prison Experiment, conducted psychologist, Philip Zimbardo in 1971, to this day it remains one of psychology’s most infamous and divisive pieces of research. Initially scheduled to last fourteen days, the experiment was abandoned after only six. Zimbardo wanted to simulate prison conditions using participants  arbitrarily assigned  the roles of prisoner or guard. Zimbardo expected to see some degree of participants conforming to their roles, but what unprepared for the complete collapse of basic human behaviour. Despite the experiment rapidly spiraling out of control Zimbardo failed to notice and act accordingly. It wasn’t until someone, not involved in the experiment, witnessed what was happening and told Zimbardo to abandon the research immediately. All the participants had embodied their roles far quicker, and more completely than Zimbardo had anticipated. Perhaps even more worrying is that Zimbardo himself admits to playing a role within the experiment, that of prison warden, and losing all impartial objectivity. The environment and the circumstances of the experiment overpowered everyone’s objectivity.  The prisoners, despite having done nothing wrong, assumed their roles as prisoners and accepted the guards authority. The guards were quickly corrupted and showed the most disturbing behaviour. They devised degrading, non-physical means of punishment, much of it in elaborate, creative, disturbing ways. The Stanford prison experiment has received enormous criticism, ranging from its ethics to its results. I believe that there are reasons to believe that there is some truth in what Zimbardo discovered. One of the most compelling reasons was demonstrated by American reservists at the Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq.

 

Abu Ghraib

What happens when  you ask inexperienced, untrained people to do a stressful job in dangerous conditions, in a foreign environment, supported by no clear chain of command?

The events that took place during August and September, 2003 at the  prison complex at Abu Grahib is one the more shameful stories to have come out of American involvement in Iraq. The American Army, desperate for intelligence on the whereabouts of Iraqi weapons that were falling into the hands of Iraqi citizens determined to resist the American invasion. The Abu Grahib detention centre was put under the control of American reservists, with no experience of working in prisons or detaining people, they received no training that might in any way have prepared them for being given such a task. Like the Stanford Prison Experiment, things got out of hand quickly.

In a Lord of the Flies type of scenario, untrained, inexperienced guards, with no chain of command taking responsibility, established a societal norm of barbarity and humiliation. When interviewed today, each of the participants confesses to knowing what they were doing was “stupid”. Their need for conformity was greater than their need to uphold moral integrity, but then isn’t this an essential requirement of any soldier in combat?

 

 

 

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Nazis

History provides us with too many examples of what happens when environmental circumstances, the need for conformity, and a morally bankrupt ideology conspire to lead a large group of people to behave in uncharacteristically cruel, barbaric ways.

Perhaps the most striking example of the evil that can occur when people are motivated to conform to a society with corrupted norms id the Nazis. And within the Nazis the case of Adolf Eichmann stands out. Eichmann, was responsible for overseeing the logistics of the holocaust. Eichmann was responsible for the efficiency of a process that led to the deaths of over six million Jews, as well as many more Romani Gypsies, gay people, the mentally ill and priests.

After the war Eichmann fled to Argentina and was in hiding there until Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, captured him and took him back to Israel to stand trial for war crimes. From a combination of  Eichmann’s court testimony and historical documents, Hannah Arendt concluded that Eichmann wasn’t a monster, or a sociopath. In fact Eichmann appeared mundanely normal. Eichmann recounted how he was responsible for arranging the transportation of Jews to the death-camps. He saw it as a logistical, theoretical task that he wished to make as efficient as possible. During his trial, Eichmann chillingly stated on several occasions, “I was just doing my job”. In short, Eichmann was conforming with the abhorent societal norms of a society that respected abhorrent behaviour. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil 

Whether madness, evil, or just bad behaviour, none of these are values set in stone. Instead our interpretation of these they are dynamic, subject to being defined by our society’s changing morality.  Was Nazism an epidemic of madness and evil? It’s not unreasonable how it might be viewed this way. Humans are social creatures with a predisposition to fit in with others, throughout our evolution conformity  has been necessary for survival. What society expects of us has a great bearing on how we act. As the saying goes “evil will prevail when good men do nothing”, but understanding what is evil and what is good, in a society that is changing rapidly, is far from easy, but must never be used as an excuse to forget our fundamental responsibilities as humans.

 

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Next time I  will continue from here and look at memes, mind viruses, and why bad ideas spread quicker than good ones:

 

Memes Religion and Nazis

 

 

 

Amazing Maze Running Cyborg Rats and Wizard Hats: where the frontiers of science fiction and science fact converge

If only I’d paid more attention in science class. It’s just that at the time, memorising the parts of a flower didn’t really appeal to me. If during my first science lesson, the teacher had  explained that an interest in science might enable me to live my life  at university, blowing enormous quantities of cash turning rats into cyborgs, then it’s quite probable I’d have been more diligent in naming the parts of that flower. As it is I didn’t, and now I’m left looking on in envy at a scientific world allowed to let its imagination run wild, with tools like particle accelerators, radio telescopes, quantum computers, fusion reactors, and my personal favorite, the vertical cavity surface emitting laser. Instead, I have to make to do with a board-marker that I hope has enough ink to last until the end of my lesson, on a good day I might have a choice of two colors.

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I must confess, I was hoping for something a little bit, racier, from a device going by the name, vertical cavity surface emitting laser. I mean I could probably fit one inside my ‘vertical cavity’, but what would it do?

One piece of research that recently grabbed my attention has the title: Intelligence-Augmented Rat Cyborgs in Maze Solving. A fantastically titled piece of research by Yipeng Yu, Gang Pan, Yongyue Gong, Kedi Xu, Nenggan Zheng, Weidong Hua, Xiaoxiang Zheng, Zhaohui Wu, of the Computer Science faculty at Zhejiang University.

As a teacher, the irony of this isn’t wasted on me. It’s not uncommon for education to be accused, often with justification, of “dumbing down” its content. Meanwhile some of mankind’s most academically and intellectually gifted people are working on augmenting rodent intelligence. Having spent over a decade as a teacher trying to augment my students’ intelligence, I can relate to Yu et al as they try their hardest encouraging rats through a maze. From the years I have spent trying to teach students English, I could put very little faith  in any of them successfully navigating their way out of a maze. In fact, most of them seem to struggle to navigate their way to my classroom each day.

These couple of sentences that appear in the abstract of their research are enough to tell me that Yu and his friends didn’t take the warnings of Mary Shelley all that seriously:

“Cyborg intelligence is an emerging kind of intelligence paradigm. It aims to deeply integrate machine intelligence with biological intelligence by connecting machines and living beings via neural interfaces…”

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Little does the human know that having perfected his new brainwave transmission hat, this rat now controls an entire laboratory of Chinese scientists.

Inevitably, Yu’s research with cerebrally enhanced rodents has lead to more destructive and more commercial applications being developed. Brain  Machine Interfaces, BMI,  are what will link humans to our computers, creating a universal human conscience. Sort of like the Borg from Star Trek.

Joking aside augmented intelligence poses some obvious moral questions that scientists will undoubtedly ignore because they will be too focused on the immediate financial rewards that are at stake. Augmenting human intelligence with computer hardware, sometimes referred to as transhumanism, is no longer fanciful, distant science fiction, but near future science.

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You go to all the trouble of becoming a cyborg and they turn you into a traffic light.

If It can’t Be Weaponized It Isn’t Technology

At the cutting edge of technological mayhem and death is the, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. To their credit they’ve not been just about developing new and innovative methods of mass slaughter, no, they were the driving force behind the modern internet, so they’re equally concerned about surveillance.

Not wanting to miss out, DARPA are leading the way with developments to augment a soldiers intelligence. Sadly, that doesn’t mean that soldiers of the future will sit down with the enemy, listen to some Chopin, and settle their grievances over a game of Bridge. The intelligence of a soldier is measured more simply in their ability to wield death. To enable American soldiers of the future the best opportunity for doing this, DARPA are taking Yu’s research to what they consider its next logical step.

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I imagine a skilled computer hacker would have enormous fun with this, brings a whole new meaning to the video game genre, first person shooter.

In an article from the New Scientist in 2012, a journalist reports of visiting a research center where she wears electrodes which she describes as:

 that feeling of effortless concentration that characterises outstanding performance in all kinds of skills.

This was six years ago. Soon those that are wealthy enough will be using something similar for studying. The gap between the haves and have nots will become the augmented intelligent, and the ‘normals’. A brave New World scenario of alphas and gammas.

Elon Musk Neuralink and the Wizard’s Hat

When considering people who are shaping the our future today, it’s impossible to overlook a man so futuristic he was named after Captain Kirk’s aftershave, Elon Musk.

If we allow ourselves to ignore his recent proclivity to make accusations of sexual crimes based on no evidence, Musk still appears to be a genius, if not then Musk might be transforming into a disturbing caricature of Willy Wonka, not the Johnny Depp version,  but full on Gene Wilder.

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There are rumors that strange things happened to Elon in that cave in northern Thailand.

Ignoring his apparent instability, Musk, unlike DARPA, doesn’t see the practical application of all technologies as a means of exterminating the greatest number of human beings in the least amount of time.

Musk actually views augmented intelligence as a natural step of evolution, and through one of his companies, Neuralink, is designing the Wizard Hat.

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Each layer of the brain has been added over millions of years of evolution, starting with the reptilian core, and finishing with the neomammalian layer. Musk suggests that adding a layer of electrodes is our next evolution.

Elon Musk doesn’t just believe that this is natural, he goes much, much further. He believes that it might be necessary for the survival of the human species.

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When he’s not making slanderous accusations, Musk likes to threaten the very future of mankind.

Musk’s reasoning is that as computers get faster and more capable they threaten to render humans useless, I’m often of the belief that most of us already are. He suggests that mankind will have to augment their abilities in order to be of value to future societies. Musk argues that we’re already cyborgs by virtue of the fat that our abilities are augmented by our smart phones which we already carry everywhere. The next logical step is direct interface with our brains.

If only I’d had a Wizard Hat in science, I might have labelled my flower and today be playing with lasers in my vertical cavity.

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Big Brother and a Foot Massage

Something weird happened to me this morning. It happened while I was reading a book. I’m a big fan of reading, because being sat quietly limits the possibility of weird things happening. And I don’t react well to weird things. My usual response is to panic, take liberal quantities of Valium, keep clutching hold of the bag of Valium for dear life, and lock myself in a room. Now obviously this response can be alarming to others when it happens in a public place.

Anyway, I digress before I’ve even begun. The weird thing that happened was that I had an experience that left me feeling as though I had actually slipped into the world of 1984. Sadly, I don’t mean the time of Madonna, Boy George, Ronald Reagan, JR Ewing, the AIDS epidemic, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. No, this was far worse. I’m referring to the Orwellian world of 1984.

In it Orwell describes a world in which truth and history are always in flux, forever changing to meet the needs of the society’s new narrative, he states:

Who controls the past controls the future

The protagonist,Winston Smith, is employed in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite past articles so that they conform to his society’s current agenda. As the quote says, “who controls the past controls the future.” It’s reasonable to assume that misinformation, the bending of truths, and rewriting the past, played a significant part in Orwell’s dystopian world.

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My 1984 experience came about because presently I’m reading The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. If you’ve never read any of his work and you have any self respect, then the next thing you will do today is order one of his books. I buy a lot of books, both digitally online, and old fashioned hard copy. Sometimes I fail to keep track of the books I’ve purchased and buy duplicates, of either the digital or the hard copy. I went for a foot massage, I always read a book during foot-massages, if you’ve never read a book while having a foot-massage, then the next thing you must do today, after ordering a Ray Bradbury book, is go and read a book while having a foot-massage. Think I might’ve just digressed mid digression, sorry. I arrived for my foot-massage, and horror struck as I realised that I’d been stupid enough to have left my book at home. But, then I remembered that I’d been stupid enough to have ordered it on Kindle, and it would be right there on my phone, all that was left for me to do was find the place on my Kindle where I’d read up to in the hard-copy and my reading and foot-massage experience could commence.

If you’ve got this far congratulations because it’s only now that I get to the bit when things get weird.

Settled into my chair, my feet being scrubbed with fresh limes, napalm would probably be more effective, I start looking for where I was in the book. After five minutes I’m convinced that the chapter I was reading doesn’t appear in the Kindle version. With nothing else to read I begin the chapter that is in its place. Oddly I recalled reading this chapter before despite having never read this book, The Martian Chronicles.

I was confused, bewildered, but having my feet rubbed, so I controlled the urge to tear open the bag of Valium. Bradbury’s writing is so enjoyable that rereading any of it is enjoyable, whether somebody’s rubbing your feet or not. The rubbing and reading lasted an hour before I set off for home and the intention of checking the hard copy of the book.

It didn’t take long to understand why the chapter had been removed. The chapter is titled “Way up in the middle of the Air”, and it starts thus :

“Did you hear about it?”

“About what?”

“The niggers, the niggers!”

“What about ’em?”

Now of course, the word nigger is hugely offensive. It becomes even more offensive depending on the context within which it is used. Using the word today will do more than raise eyebrows, and there’s enough reason for that based on history. But let’s consider Bradbury’s use of the word. It’s said by a poorly educated, parochial character. It’s used to establish that the society is backward, and the black population are still oppressed. This leads to them to pack up there things and leave for Mars.

I’ve read quite a lot of Ray Bradbury’s work and never have I in anyway sensed sympathy towards white supremacy, if anything quite the opposite, but just because one of his stories uses the word nigger twice in the first few lines it has been removed. Who removed it? Who decided that I have too delicate a disposition to see the word nigger? I’m capable of appreciating the context in which Bradbury used the word and that at the time of the books publication, 1950, society was very different from today. The story goes on to be a damning indictment of the ignorant, racist attitudes that in 1950  were common to rural,  parochial American communities. It’s the most culturally relevant part of the book.

Publishers releasing books on Amazon, Kobo, and Nook record reader’s behaviour. They can tell where readers give up reading a book, or chapters that readers get through slowly. This information is then passed back to the author for the consideration of rewriting. That seems to go against the grain of publishing, but changing the authors work when they’re dead just seems rude

If expression through written works is open to be amended by those empowered to protect us from offensive content, what’s next? Will we see groups of men in art museums TypeXing out offensive parts of great paintings? Why wait I’ve decided to begin.

 

 

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Like he failed to do with the Mona Lisa Da Vinci missed out on the bnefits of incorporating emojis into the last supper

 

 

the-truth-is-out-there

The X Files was arguably the biggest television sensation of the 1990’s. In truth it’s a lot of the reason why so many people today think lizards run the world, and wear tin hats. The people wear the tin hats, not the lizards, but then you’re happy thinking lizards run the world it doesn’t seem too great a stretch of imagination to have them doing so wearing tin hats, so maybe the people and the lizards both wearing the tin hats, I digress. Every week the protagonist, a credulous FBI agent who believed in anything just so long as it was utterly ridiculous and was supported by a minimal amount of evidence, evidence that nearly always pointed to a government conspiracy. The show was an enormous hit, it tapped into the zeitgeist of the public’s mistrust in their government and authorities. Each week the opening credits would climax with a lightning bolt and a message saying “the truth is out there”. It was powerful stuff for what was really just a silly suspense/science fiction show. “The truth is out there”, it’s a message of hope, implying that we can find the truth if we ask the right questions and go looking for it. Back in the 1990’s it was a message that I could almost buy into.

But then we entered a new millennium, and some ass holes flew planes into some buildings started some wars in countries few of us could pronounce and for reasons even fewer of us understood. Confusion and terror wove the fabric of our society, and it was a fabric as appealing as going through your dead mother’s lingerie drawer. So, today I’m no longer convinced that the truth is out there, even it is, and even if I’m fortunate enough to find it one day, I probably won’t be able to recognise it because it’ll be disguised in the lingerie of dead women, and I’ll be too busy praying to an image of Jesus that’s been discovered burnt onto a piece of toast.

Add to this Donald Trump beckoning in a post truth era, his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway coining the phrase “alternative facts”, and I’m starting to believe that society is on the verge of losing the critical mass of truth necessary to hold this dimension together. Someone, somewere might just tell the lie that breaks the camels back, causing our dimension to implode and be sucked into Donald Trumps rectum. It sounds crazy, but I’ve got the maths to prove it.

Maybe two plus two, does equal five. Maybe, I can learn to love people deciding for me what I can and can’t read, what I can and can’t watch. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

 

My door remains secured, I’m still clutching my zip lock bag of Valium, but my reserves are running low.

If you’re out there, and you’ve read this message; you are the resistance.

 

 

Alex Jones – Within the Sound of Silence

The village idiot was long considered an acceptable social role, a unique individual who contributed to the social fabric of his community.

At forty-two years old I’ve read, and heard many sayings, aphorisms, proverbs, dicta, axioms, and truisms. But one has always stood out above all others:

“I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it”

Voltaire’s overused saying, if you’re interested the original uses the verb, to write, instead of the verb, to say, is sadly applicable to the removal of Alex Jones from platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Apple and Twitter.

alex-jones
If we silence people we don’t like the world is going to be silent pretty soon..

The people bowed and prayed, to the neon gods they’ve made.

YouTube, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter, as private companies, are entitled to remove Alex Jones from their own platforms if they feel that he uses them to peddle his twisted ideas. But, their banning him sets a precedent, it establishes a slippery slope, whereby strange ideas and lunatics in the future can be silenced. But where’s the line, just how strange can your ideas be before they’re deemed unsavoury? When is someone too much of a lunatic to express an opinion?

Alex Jones is a sensational theatrical performer. In days of yore stories were passed down through oral tradition, these became folk tales, myths and legends. Today we have the urban myths, titillating tales, distributed through the internet, that are amusing to listen to but most of us recognise as being little more than a childish ghost story. Alex Jones is several things: a modern day cyberspace story teller, an old fashioned digital court jester, performing his morally bankrupt molestation of commonsense on the internet. Nobody can deny his compelling performances, all carried out sat in a chair, behind a desk. Info Wars was theatre, often strange, always incoherent, but theatre art. To many, not good theatre, but it was entertaining.

But to understand the situation more holistically it’s crucial to understand that Alex Jones isn’t the problem. Yes, he’s a maniac, and probably suffers from some form of mental illness, but he’s not the problem. The problem is that a large number of people believe what he says. Silencing Alex Jones will only elevate him, make a hero of him, while his gullible adherents will only have to surf the internet for five minutes to find somebody who’s probably even crazier.

 

Echoes in the wells of silence

The real injustice of all this goes well beyond the silencing of Alex Jones, it’s the beast that his silencing creates. Serving up Alex Jones as a martyr for free speech elevates him to a status of which he is simply not worthy. Banning Alex Jones falls right in place with the rhetoric he ‘s been randomly spouting over the past decade like an asthmatic blow whale. The village idiot is what he is, he’s a bit of fun that nobody in their right mind would ever take seriously, but now he’s being made into a champion for our most fundamental civil liberty, expression. In the years to come I’m terrified that people will talk of Ghandi, Martin Luther King jr, and Alex Jones as people who fought the good fight that ensured their freedoms. That’s a reality I refuse to be a part of.

 

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. ~ Noam Chomsky

Jones is crazy; if he isn’t on some kind of psychotropic medication then he probably should be. It’s probably fairly safe to assume Chomsky isn’t crazy, at least not as crazy as Jones, and as such we should pay closer attention to what he says. A sentiment that Google only just about agrees with. Search “Alex Jones Infowars and you get 9.6 million hits, search for Noam Chomsky and Google finds only half a million hits more, thus proving idiocy is far more palatable than intellect. Chomsky identifies that the problem is not the fool that entertains the masses, but the masses who confuse the fool with the authority of knowledge.

Every society, at every age has had its Alex Jones, the difference being that the people could recognise him for what he was.

 

Control produces the illusion of freedom. ~ Judy Bloom

When Cricketers Play with Their Pink Balls in the Dark – an endless obsession with trying to “sex up” cricket

You’ve got to give it to the people that run the game of cricket, despite it having the appearance of one of the world’s more dull, austere and esoteric sports, the organisations that oversee the game have worked tirelessly to devise new ways of making the game ever more appealing to a wider audience. It’s important to note though that one of the main reasons that I’ve always enjoyed cricket is for the fact that with its tradition and arcane rules it hasn’t appealed to a broad audience, if it had, then it would end up having an audience much like football and thus immediately make cricket completely shit.

The most recent efforts of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have focused on trying to ‘sex up’ the four day county cricket format by introducing day night games. Now, the four day format of the County Championship is undeniably the most dull, and understandably the most poorly attended. The four day game only appeals to the die hard cricket enthusiasts, men who have nothing left to live for, dull men who find themselves trapped in even duller marriages, men who are looking for solace in a dull game that nobody really cares about. Some might even say that following county cricket in many respects represents the last alternative to suicide. But, despite this the ECB appear to believe that by playing matches under floodlights and allowing the final session to finish at around 9 or 10 in the evening will make the game accessible to those who’ve had to work all day.

What the ECB  fail to appreciate is that after a hard day at work there aren’t many people who will find the idea of watching a stand alone session of cricket, in the dark, to be that entertaining, with the exception of those men who are avoiding going back home to see their wife, and these guys are already following the four day game anyway. It can only be assumed that the ECB has leapt to the conclusion that because Twenty20 is played under flood lights and has been hugely successful, then it must be, that if you put county cricket under floodlights it too will automatically appear more exotic, and irresistible to the public, and less like the only alternative to killing yourself.  Early indications in the form of ticket sales suggest that when this was first tried during a round of County Championship matches in June, the day night matches were far from a success.

This day night farce will be extended to the international game when England play their second Test against the West Indies, at Edgbaston, under floodlights. Now, in a country like Australia I can see a certain degree of sense to day night cricket. After spending the whole day in the Australian sun you’re probably going to end up looking like an old leather handbag, full of sun dried tomatoes. In Australia the sun is an actual risk to the health of those out in it. This is a risk, that we can safely, and thankfully say, that the people of Birmingham  have never had to contend with, and not even the most dire models of global warming are likely to predict a scenario where glum faced Brummies are packed into hospitals brandishing their latest Actinic keratosis.  And as such, day night cricket just isn’t necessary, it’s just a gimmick to try and make something more interesting. It’s like sitting on your hand to make it go numb and then trying to masturbate, it’s just a gimmick that tries to make something that should already be pleasurable, even more so.

Cricket has a history of embracing experimentation and change. Such changes have often been concerned with reducing the games length. Timeless tests were de rigueur up until 1939. One Test match between England and South Africa  lasted 10 days, before the English team had to leave to catch the boat home and not to miss the start of World War Two. Therefore, 46 hours of play had resulted in a draw, as a spectacle some considered this unsatisfactory. Indeed it might have been this that enraged the Fuhrer to such an extent that he took the decision to invade Poland, but this is just historical speculation. After seeing off Hitler, cricket’s organisers  required Test matches to be completed in less than 5 days, thus allowing cricketers to respond more quickly to the outbreak of future global conflicts that might require the skills of men who can stand exposed in fields, for long durations.

Limited overs cricket was introduced in the early 1960’s which enabled a result to be reached in less than eight hours. In 2003 the game was streamlined even further, with Twenty20 cricket allowing you to see an entire match in an afternoon, or evening. The obsession of reducing the length of cricket matches makes me wonder, how good can cricket be when the trend seems to suggest that the audience are actually demanding to see less of it? If we develop this logic to its inevitable conclusion then why bother playing at all, just let the captains do the coin toss and see which one of them can perform the most star jumps at either end of the wicket, while monkeys throw flaming chainsaws at them. It would be quick, entertaining and we could have a result by 11:30, and get back to playing Cookie Jam on our phones.

Although Test matches were originally timeless, the dimension of time has become somewhat of an obsession, both with how much time a game takes, and at what time the game should be played. It’s just possible that sometime in the future, the ECB might get really adventurous and invest in research that actually finds a way of reversing the spacetime continuum. This would allow us to watch a five day Test match before it had even begun, and then get back to work before we’ve even had the interview for the job. The ECB’s fascination with time could well have unforeseen consequences. Disturbances in the spcetime continuum  could open a wormhole to a parallel universe in which John Emburey could actually turn the ball, and where Merv Hughes is an English schoolboy leading a miserable life at Eton as Mike Atherton’s Fag.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fagging

village
Somewhere in an alternate reality, Merv Hughes was educated at Eton and successfully explored avenues other than cricket’s corridor of uncertainty.

Messing around with cricketers clothing has also been considered as a way of generating more interest in the game. Pyjama cricket, as it is sometimes pejoratively referred to, first appeared in the late 1970’s. The idea essentially being to dress the opposing teams in two different uniforms. Not an unsound proposition for a sport, but whether or not this actually lead to an increased interest in cricket is at best a moot point. I mean if you were really attempting to increase viewers by virtue of the clothes the cricketers wore, then surely you’d be dressing them up like The Village People. Drag queen matches would be a spectacle worthy of anyone’s attention. The Possibility of watching a six and a half foot West Indian charging up to the wicket wearing high heels and a wedding dress could only fail to entertain someone laying on a stretcher, with the blanket pulled up over their face. So I can see what cricket was thinking with dressing the teams differently, it’s just that they failed to really capitalise on where this logic could have taken them. All in all it leaves me thinking of all the missed opportunities, and fun we could have all had.

It appears to me that the Cricketing authorities are obsessed with the colour of their

10319816
Could there be anything more fearsome than facing an attack of Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, and Michael Holding, in drag?

sport. Having introduced colourful uniforms at the expense of all white, they took a beautifully red cricket ball and demanded that on some occasions it become white. The recent introduction of day night County Championship, and Test matches, sees a pink ball being used. Apparently it’s all very scientific and involves the colour that can best bee seen by the batsman under certain conditions of light, which in itself seems a little dull, why not use a ball that the batsman can’t see at all? Even better the fielding team uses an imaginary ball. The bowler hurtles up and delivers the so called imaginary ball, meanwhile the wicket keeper, who has tied some fishing line around the bowlers off stump and yanks on it hard just after the bowler should have delivered the ball. The off stump falls down, the bails come off, and the batsman departs convinced that he’s just faced a 100+ MPH delivery.

In the same way that changing just the colour of the clothing seemed a little too conservative, changing just the colour of the ball, to me anyway, seems to lack imagination, why not change its shape, its size or its composition, why use a ball at all?

I suggest, that the team that wins the toss decides whether to bat or bowl first, while the other team decides whether the game will be played using a Rugby ball, a brick, kitchen appliances, or rodents. There’s almost an infinite number of objects that could be thought up of for a bowler to sling down at the batsman. Some may argue that certain objects are more dangerous than a cricket ball, and that might be true. But, some of the objects are also far safer, nobody’s going to be bowling intimidating ‘chin music’ using a hamster, so the whole issue of safety ultimately balances itself out in my book.

Another thing for consideration, bowlers could be required to bowl in certain types of mood. Instead of the traditional leg spin, off spin, or seamer, the great bowlers of the future will send down deliveries with despair, doubt, and ambivalence. Of course these moods were experimented with extensively by the English bowling attack throughout the 1990’s, with the likes of DeFreitas, Tufnell, and Chris Lewis.

I’m off to practice my bowling seeing that I’ve now established a perfectly good excuse for rubbing my testicles against the microwave. After that I’ll go to bed and probably have nightmares featuring Dennis Rodman wearing a wedding dress running up to me and suddenly out of the gloom, and it’s all the ECB’s fault, not only are they ruining cricket, but now they’re ruining my sleep. The microwave won’t be fit for use soon either.

4WsOA1w

 

Mayweather Vs McGregor – A Showdown of Inevitable disappointment 

So, it’s on. After all the name calling on all the YouTube videos, after all the social media stunts, call me cynical but all of which I’m pretty certain have been carefully choreographed in order to maximise public interest, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will fight on August 26, In Las Vegas.

At least I hope they fight, because up until now, to me the premise of this fight reflects more of a circus freak show than it does a contest of pugilism. McGregor and Mayweather are both the most talented performers, and the biggest showmen in their respective sports. Individually they are able to draw more attention to their own fights than any other fighter, combine the two of them and you’re guaranteed an unprecedented hype fest. Both have exchanged considerable amounts of trash talk through social media, thus selling the fight like no other in history. There’s nothing new about hype and fights but is there any chance that this fight can even come close to living up to this amount of hype?

Simply, no. Already I feel cheated. Cheated because I desperately want to believe that this will be a spectacular contest, a fight for the ages. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve hoping for a PlayStation, only for the next morning to be given the box set of the Twilight saga. Nothing good can come out of watching the Twilight saga, we won’t learn anything from it, and I tend to feel exactly the same way about the Mayweather McGregor fight. At the end of Mayweather McGregor I’m afraid that I will find myself reacting like this boy, sucked in by the promise of great things, only for it to result in empty promises, abject disappointment, and self loathing at having believed in the empty promises, hype and cheap marketing:

All the name calling, all the funny jokes McGregor and Mayweather have made about one another has been to make the audience believe that there is some degree of animosity between them, a reason for these two to fight. Well the reason they’re fighting is first and foremost about the money. Quite simply neither fighter, nor his support staff, could refuse this fight. Both fighters will pocket in excess of $100 million, the revenue from pay per view television is anticipated to break $1 billion.

Image result for dr evil gazillion dollars    Financially the fight makes sense, the fight itself will generate almost a much money as a small African country can in a year. That really is disturbing. When Conor McGregor made his debut in the UFC he was paid $8,000. By contrast, over his career Mayweather has accumulated a wealth estimated at $340 million. But while this fight is a no brainer financially, will the public be spending there money on anything more than hype?

 

Again, the answer is almost certainly no. Don’t get me wrong, I concede that Conor has the puncher’s chance, but that’s what people always say when one fighter doesn’t realistically have a chance, Dolly Parton would also have a punchers chance against Floyd Mayweather. This will almost certainly be the most over hyped, over paid, and disappointing moment in sports since it was revealed to us how Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds could hit home runs so far. The McGregor Mayweather fight wil fail because:

  1. McGregor is not a boxer. Yes he does hit people with his fists in the UFC, but that’s as far as the similarities between boxing and mixed martial arts goes. The rationale that this can turn into a real fight is like Roger Federer challenging Tiger Woods to a game of tennis and saying that it’s fair because they both hit balls.
  2. What are they fighting for? McGregor isn’t a boxer, Mayweather is a retired boxer. Whoever wins, what do they gain? What’s the incentive outside of the money. Money which they’ll be guaranteed before they step into the ring. Really, how can you expect a decent fight when neither fighter is really fighting for anything.
  3. Mayweather is the greatest defensive boxer of all time, because of this he’s generally one of the most boring to watch. When watching someone swing and miss Mayweather for 12 rounds, it’s possible to appreciate Mayweather’s skill, while at the same time not be entertained. McGregor will be fighting with far bigger gloves than he uses in the UFC, to be honest he’d have more chance knocking Mayweather out using a pillow.

This isn’t the first time that a boxing legend has accepted the challenge of someone skilled in another martial art. The greatest, Muhammad Ali fought  kickboxer, Antonio Inoki in 1976. However, unlike the Mayweather McGregor fight ,Ali’s opponent was allowed to to use his specific skill set and kick Ali. In truth it was an ugly, farcical contest, the highlights of which can be seen below:

 

Maybe I’m being too close minded about Mayweather versus McGregor, a touch too cynical. Maybe this type of contest heralds a new era in sporting match ups, in which we find two contestants with vaguely similar skill sets and then pit one against the other . For example, Stephen Hawking could take on Lewis Hamilton at formula 1. I mean Hawking literally lives in that chair, driving himself around all day, I mean how different can it be?

Image result for stephen hawkingImage result for formula 1

What about a contest in which Maria Sharapova challenges Beyonce to bake a Victoria sponge cake, whilst gurning. I know it sounds silly but hear me out. This should be an even contest based on the fact that they’ve both got opposable thumbs, and they’ve both got faces. Believe me, this promises to be a far more even competition, and probably a more entertaining spectacle than Mayweather versus McGregor is ever likely to be.

downloadImage result for victoria sponge cakedownload (1)

My final suggestion for this new age of celebrity competition features two people with egos comparable to that of Mayweather and McGregor, if not the same degree of talent. I propose that Kanye West, takes on Justin Bieber in a game of Russian roulette. I’m quietly confident that based on the fact they are a pair of insufferable idiots, the promise of at least one of them blowing their own brains out, should appeal to an enormous audience thus securing record pay per view subscriptions.

download (2)download (3)Justin-Bieber

 

Well it’s 71 days until Mayweather versus McGregor, and despite all my negativity there’s not a chance in hell that I won’t be watching it. I want it to be good. No, in fact I want it to be great, it’s just that experience has taught me that I’m probably going to end up disappointed. Anyway, between now and August 26, I’ve got the Twilight box set to watch, so if you don’t mind.

 

Politicians, Coalitions, Pineapple and Pizza

Well here we are at the end of another election in which another western democracy has largely, once again, made itself look like a widower dancing at his own wife’s funeral. It’s undignified, largely arrhythmical, and depending on whether or not they’ve had a hip replacement, painful to watch. Nobody benefits from being forced to observe such a spectacle of misplaced eccentricity, much in the same way that nobody seems to have really benefited from last week’s general election. (I couldn’t find any videos of old men dancing at funerals, but I did find this, which to me at least appears equally as undignified.)

For the United Kingdom the general election was an unqualified disaster. In the wake of a Brexit vote that split the country 52%/48%, the country needed direction, to be led by a leader with a cast iron mandate. The strong and stable leadership that Theresa May Image result for strong and stable memerepeatedly promised when she called the snap election with a 24 point lead in the polls, ended with her party losing the majority necessary to form a government. This now leaves May, a leader of the Tory party who has never even won a leadership contest, with a barely tenable mandate with which to represent the British people at the Brexit negotiations. The Brexit negotiations being the single most important event to happen in Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall.

In the space of just under 12 months Conservative leadership has called a referendum and an election that has resulted in the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union and ending up with a hung parliament, quite a staggering achievement given that 12 months ago David Cameron was the Prime Minister with a majority of 12, of a country that was still a part of the World’s largest economic bloc. When you consider that the British parliamentary system is stacked in favour of the party which has formed a government, they can call the election whenever they want, they can change the boundaries of constituencies, it becomes really hard to imagine that the Conservatives didn’t engineer their own downfall intentionally. If they didn’t, then they’ve clearly lost touch with the electorate.

Despite not having the number of seats necessary to form a majority government, Theresa May will form a coalition that will enable her to theoretically have a majority. So who’s she inviting on board her political version of the Titanic? The DUP of course, you know the DUP? In British politics there’s the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Green Party, Scottish Nationalist Party, Sinn Féin, Plaid Cymru, and then you’ve got the DUP. The Democratic Unionist Party, they will be the ones invited to form a government with Theresa May. The DUP with their 8 members of parliament will, in theory anyway, hold the power of veto over everything the Tory government try to do. But who are the DUP? Well, they’re the political wing of protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, In other words they’re the yin to the IRA’s yang. They’re the pro United Kingdom terrorist group of Northern Ireland. Jeremy Corbyn was lambasted for having held talks with Sinn Fein during his political career, then only weeks later Theresa May will shamelessly form a government with the political wing of a known terrorist group. Of course if you watch the news no reporter dares to use the word terrorist, because when they appear to be on your side they go by the name of paramilitary. I’m sorry but whatever you chose to call them, it’s still…

But even if we’re able to ignore their paramilitary past, the DUP are fanatically pro choice, something I imagine, that would have not thrilled quite a number of people that decided to vote Conservative just last week. The idea alone of the Conservatives forming a coalition is counter intuitive, the ultimate political oxymoron. It’s a little like expecting a pride of lions to ask you to pull up a chair and share their freshly killed wildebeest with you. I’m afraid to say that the DUP will end up as the DUPed in the event that they form a coalition with the Conservatives. They will inevitably be wowed by the possibility of going into Downing Street. Of being shown the button, with which they’d want to unleash a nuclear strike on the Catholic population of Belfast. But, in reality they’ll be nothing more than a class of 11 year olds on a field trip to a bank. They’ll get to see the tellers count some money, they might even be shown a pie chart, but that’s as close as they’ll ever realistically come to influencing any long term fiscal strategy of the bank. And no politician ever wants to share their power. A politician needs power in the same way a diabetic needs insulin. Interestingly Theresa May is a diabetic, so she craves both. This leads me to wonder which one she could live without the longest, her slipping into a diabetic coma would certainly go a long way towards explaining some of her interviews in the lead up to the election.

Both the referendum and the general election have managed to drive a wedge down the middle of British society. I’m 40 years old, and I’m not sure I can recall the nation being this divided. With divisiveness being a theme which appears to be undermining so many western democracies, I was interested to learn that Sam Panopoulos passed away last week. Panopoulos was the leader of the Democratic Ulster Unionists for… No he actually had a far more positive impact than that; Panopoulos claimed to be the man who first conceived the idea of putting pineapple onto a pizza.

Like Brexit, Theresa May, and Donald Trump, putting pineapple on top of a pizza is a contentious matter, an acquired tase. And just like Brexit, Theresa May, and Donald Trump, the opinion you have regarding whether it’s reasonable to put pineapple on a

Image result for nazi pizza
Catering to a niche market, Josef Koch bakes pizzas and offers free delivery to customers on the right side of town. The far right side of town.

pizza can be used to determine the opinions that you probably hold about a swathe of other social issues. Just how if you support Trump people will assume that you’re against immigration, for the second amendment, and against commonsense. People that support using pineapple as a pizza topping are seen as progressive liberals who support immigration, gay marriage and universal healthcare. Compare this to the pizza that was most popular during Hitler’s Third Reich where olives and salami came to symbolise, strength, supremacy, and purity of the Aryan race.

 

Panopoulos’ Hawaiian pizza became political just before he died, when last year the president of Iceland said he would ban pineapple as a topping on pizzas if he could. At the time this created quite a stir amongst the press as they dreamed of a Neroesque president ruling over a remote volcanic island, issuing decrees about pizza toppings while making their pet dog commander of the Navy. Unfortunately for the media the evil Bond villain they desired never manifested, instead he was just expressing his opinion about pineapple being added to pizza, during a question and answer session with a group of high school children. President Gudni Th. Johannesson went on to state that it would be an abuse of his power to ban pineapple from being a pizza topping. This didn’t prevent the media from running with the following ridiculous headlines:

 

Iceland leader reveals desire to outlaw Hawaiian

pizza http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2017/02/iceland-leader-reveals-desire-to-outlaw-hawaiian-pizza.html

If he had his way, Iceland’s President would ban pineapple pizza

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/21/europe/iceland-president-pineapple-pizza-ban-trnd/index.html

Iceland’s President wants Hawaiian pizza ban

http://www.skynews.com.au/culture/offbeat/2017/02/22/iceland-s-president-wants-hawaiian-pizza-ban.html

 

To round things off some funny clips from the British general election. They’ll leave you wondering why we all get so worked up about having the right to vote when you have to choose people like this.

An opportunistic reporter, bored with having to listen to Boris Johnson’s wool gathering and navel gazing, takes the initiative and stabs the foreign secretary in the face with his microphone:

 

After enjoying an election result that few predicted, Jeremy Corbyn congratulates one of hie colleagues by slapping them on the breast:

This one’s from Australia, remember when I mentioned that some suspect that our education systems are being dumbed down: