Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Thinking About it

The rapidly tiring fad of the day is that we’re all going to collectively meet our end from nuclear war, asteroids, global warming, a pandemic, financial collapse, bad diet, a nuclear meltdown, acid rain, cancer, an ice age, violent crime, toxins, an old age home, aliens or any number of other immediate “threats” that are use to continually scare us into passivity.  This month it’s, ummm, errr, …., don’t know, I forget.

Ironically, the real threat to humanity seems to come directly from us. Most people, most of the time are walking around doing things, making choices, interacting, but they have their brains completely shut off. They’re over-whelmed by the exponentially increasing complexity of our societies, and in response to this, they’ve decided that trying to get anything done -- anything at all, even if it is stupid -- is far better than having to sort out the underlying problems. It’s full speed ahead, right over the cliff.

Of course, this shallow depth and complete loss of reason or responsibility simply makes the underlying problems worse. In response to the failure of existing rules, politicians simply create more stupid rules. In response to people loosing faith in the major media, the journalists turn to even more outrageous stories. In response to lawsuit lotteries, we just get more and more weasel disclaimers and less people willing to stand up to admit the truth. In response to the “cause of the day” most believers just spout propaganda, without even trying to understand the real issues.

The farther down we dig, the more people just shut off their brains and try not to think about the brewing insanity. Eventually our rampant loss of intelligence will just overwhelm us, and everything will collapse around it. We’ll just be wandering around in a daze saying “I thought you were going to take care of that!”.

And don’t think that we’re going to be saved from this horrific fate by some unknown “smart people”. It seems as if intelligence is inversely proportional to thoughtfulness. That is, the longer someone has spent trying to fill their brains with very deep knowledge about a very deep subject, the more likely they seem to just shutdown their thinking with regard to everything else. We get experts that know everything about a tiny slice of our collective knowledge, but nearly nothing else. A room full of super-bright specialists talking about general issues has a phenomenally low collective intelligence (thus the failure of most committees).

Our biggest impending threat is that even though we are an intelligent species (barely), we aren’t utilizing our one and only advantage. We’re all just cruising through life, with only some minuscule percentage of our population ever thinking hard about stuff, and they’re only thinking about the stuff that is fun to think about. Everything else is getting intentionally ignored (and is only going to get worse).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Platitudes are just poor advice wrapped in a sugary coating. Easy to generate, easy to digest, yet impossible to utilize.

For every opinion, right or wrong, smart or stupid, sane or crazy, there is at least one person holding on to it.

The only problem we can’t collectively solve is ourselves.

Human intelligence is clearly more advanced than a dog’s, but less than it ought to be, and far less than we believe it is.

We’re only as smart as our average behavior; whatever spikes we get are quickly leveled by our other moments.

Self-centered people often miss the fact that their misery is caused by their obsession.

The shallower we go, the faster things will fall apart.

A good example is far more noble than just giving in to the norm; they are their own reward and they are worth far more than any pile of stuff, even if the world hasn’t noticed yet.

Faith is blindly following people based on their word, science is blindly following people based on their interpretation of limited observations.

We invent technology decades before we know how to use it, and we use it decades before we realize that we shouldn’t have.

It is questionable whether or not our limited intelligence is significant enough for us to out evolve all of the perils of which it has made us aware.

An average person will look at their successes and infer that they are smarter than most people, whereas an intelligent person will look at their failures and infer that they are human.

Wisdom is knowing when to end a blog post. Foolishness is adding another sentence.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Religion is, and should always be, a personal issue. What draws us forward through our lives is between us and how we see the world around us. Extremist, from any religion or organization, seek to cap our diversity and replace it with their own limited perspectives. But people must span the full spectrum of possible beliefs, it is central to our nature, to our intelligence. Uniformity allows control, and control allows domination.

Intrinsically we all seek answers. We must. We need answers to explain our lives, and those of the people around us. We need answers to explain the world and why it never matches our expectations. Different people need different answers; no answer, no matter how detailed or how heavily backed by experimental evidence could ever possibly explain everything to everybody.

Without answers we search, and when we search we fail to thrive. Answers quell our inner longings and allow us to concentrate on the world around us. Answers are necessary. They bring inner peace.

There is nothing wrong with people providing answers, so long as they do not abuse their position of power and trust. The answers do not have to be the absolute truth, since we know no absolutes or certainties about anything in this world. We model, we guess, but our knowledge is only ever as strong as the brief instance in which we exist. Truth means nothing; if the answers satisfy then that is all that matters.

So it should never come down to “our beliefs are more likely to be correct than yours”, since it does not matter in one’s life, or in the world around us.

All we need to agree on, is that whatever answers we choose to listen to, to follow, are ours alone. That we don’t need and don’t want to force these upon everyone else. They must find their own way, their own worldview, their own answers. Religion then, is whatever meaning we lack -- that space inside of us -- for which we must find something to fill it. Organized or not, old or new, it is a personal issue. A private struggle. A choice we all have to make. But is should never be confused with the abuse of power or extremism, since they are things that people seek to do to us from the outside, not what we need from the inside. Religion is a personal issue, and should be seen as such.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Livable City

When I was young the downtown core of Toronto has few people living there. It was expensive and there were very few houses and condos. That changed when Ontario introduced the Rent Registry. The idea was for the province to regulate how much rent landlords could charge. The effect of this regulation was that the price for condo rentals decreased dramatically. The lower price point brought in more people, which in turn created more demand for condos. The result was a boom, as more and more people moved downtown. It turned the burnt out core into a vibrant and interesting place to live. As more and more middle class people flocked in, they populated the streets and bars. The streets turned from desolation to lively and active neighborhoods.

The lesson here is that increasing the numbers of middle class living in the downtown causes the entire area to be more attractive. It blossoms. If you chase them away, the core will go back to desolation outside of the 9 to 5 business hours. It was unfortunate that the Rent Registry was ultimately disbanded. The role of a good government is insure fair play wherever possible. Over-sight like the registry helps to counter-balance people’s inherent greedy nature to take advantage of over-demand or an economic boom. Everyone wants to make money but some will always to willing to push that too far.

In 1998 Ontario introduced Market Value Assessment. The idea was to peg property taxes to the value of the house, so that as the value increases, the home-owner pays more in tax. It was a reaction to the realization that some of the older households were paying way less in taxes. While one can sympathise with the goal, the legislation was crafted in a way that the property taxes where continually increasing in sync with the real estate market. It is unfortunate because we’ve entered into a period of speculation where house prices are grossly over-valued. Once it became commonly known that property was artificially increasing too fast, more and more people jumped in to continue the bubble. Speculation is over-valuing our properties.

Ultimately this means that while this situation continues, the taxes will sky-rocket. The dangerous side-effect is that it will force more and more low income people to sell their houses, further driving up the costs. It is a cycle. Sadly, left unchecked this situation will reverse the gains made by the introduction of the Rent Registry. House prices downtown are already beyond the reach of most middle-class and it will get worse. If you drive out the middle class from the downtown core, the streets will have less people, the criminals will move back in. When the bubble bursts, the rich will abandon their houses, and the core will once again descend into darkness.

There is a way around this. Market Value Assessment was intended to fairly distribute the property taxes. That worked as expected, but as it continues to grow out of control the side-effect is disastrous. If instead we pegged any taxes for recently sold houses to MVA, but left the growth for existing households at a more reasonable fixed rate, such as the cost of inflation, we could keep the middle-class exodus from occurring. So, if you buy a house, the property tax will increase dramatically, but if you continue to live there is will grow reasonably.

Of course this means that the new people will pay more in taxes than their neighbors. This isn’t really that unfair because they’ve also paid considerably more for their house if the neighborhood is getting better. Eventually the high prices will reduce demand. At this point the price starts to go down, the reduced tax burden will induce more people to move in. Potentially the new people could end up paying less in taxes, if the neighborhood has seriously declined. The demand for the neighborhoods will always ebb and flow, but that instability shouldn’t drive existing residents out.

The goal for a livable city is to attract and keep as many middle-class people as possible living in it’s core to prevent it from becoming desolate. Driving them out is counter-productive. We’ve actually seen this in practice, but it seems as if our over-lords are not really paying attention.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Protesting can be a good thing. It can be an effective means to draw attention to a viable, yet ignored alternative. Once the status quo gets entrenched, sometimes the only real way to change it -- to progress -- is by applying pressure on the leadership.

The suffragette movement did this effectively in the early 20th century when they held mass protests in order to force governments to allow women to vote. That positive change seems so obvious now that I can barely imagine a world were women don't have equal rights (although sadly, there are still backwards strongholds on the planet where this is true). Protesting was necessary, and protesting was effective.

The Vietnam war, the pro-choice movement, Gandhi's Indian independence; there are many great examples where protests were necessary and were effective in promoting change. In all of these cases the outcomes enhanced our civilized nature, we improved our societies with viable, positive alternatives.

Given that, protesting can also be a bad thing. It has become an increasingly popular way to draw attention to an issue. It has become a fad.

When the issue is choosing an alternative, protesting is positive. But if the issue is simply something that people don't like, with no viable alternatives, then the protests are negative. They are just people gathering to vent their own personal frustrations.

There are lots of things that are wrong with our world, some major, many minor. Some of the craziness of our modern life is ultimately the evolutionary state of our systems as they have progressed. They are what they are because we are still on the path of creating something better. Hopefully they will grow and change with time, but they evolved into place for historic reasons. Capitalism is one of those systems. It is ugly, crude and often brings out the worst in people, but still for all of its flaws we have no real viable alternatives. We can't go back and we haven't grown intellectually enough to go forward.

Protesting Capitalism is negative unless there is a proposal for a viable alternative. Sure people can draw attention to the fact that they don't like it, and that there are ugly side effects, but so what? What can you do if there is nothing to change it to? We can't just abandon the last couple of hundred years of progress because parts of the system aren't pretty, aren't fair. A protest against Capitalism is a significant amount of mis-directed energy that could have been better spent on something positive, something productive.

The big changes in the world that so many of today's protesters admire and want to emulate have come because there was something reasonable to change to. If we really want to change the world, fix its problems, then the first thing we need to do is understand the pros and cons of what exists now. It is not until you know the full details, the ins and outs of both the positive and negative aspects that you can propose an alternative.

Just asking for change without providing a viable new direction is whining. It is pointless. It is destructive.

Once the status quo is understood we can move forward with newer, better approaches, being wary of course to really factor in the irrationality of most human behavior. The systems we have, the ones that mostly work and last, aren't pretty black and white simplifications precisely because our own human interactions are very complex and take place on many different levels. Human behavior is messy and spills out like oil into all of the crevices of possibility, which makes any workable system notably flexible and complex. It can never be clean and simple.

With a reasonable alternative, not just wishful thinking, there is a possibility of convincing the masses to change. Once enough people believe, then at that point it is time for protesting. At that point it is time to try to convince the establishment to abandon the status quo and head in a new direction. But you only reach that time when there has been significant momentum in convincing people that there is something to change to. Most people have to want the change, and the change has to be positive.

Protesting can be a good thing. It can lead our societies to grow and to achieve new heights of civilization, but only when it is a force for positive action. A violent, stone throwing fest concocted because people are just angry that the world isn't pretty, or that they aren't personally in charge, is a bad thing. It is one of those things we could do without, hopefully grow beyond. Perhaps someone should protest against pointless negative protests?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Selling your Soul for Fake Friendships

Social Media. What?

How can a long series of trivially retarded conversations constitute "social"? How can splatting blurbs everywhere about the little and embarrassing things in your life be considered "connecting with people"? How can people pretending to read your drivel so that hopefully you'll read theirs be equated with "media"?

Seriously folks, these systems are fun, but they are merely entertainment. Once the next best things comes in, we will drop them like the brain-dead stupidity that they really are. After all, how much do you really need to know about people's status, particularly if you barely know them?

This week's hula hoop is next week's landfill. Get ready to move on ....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mission Accomplished

Why do things, when it is so much easier to say that you've done them? After all, expending effort requires effort, while just talking about effort only requires a creative enough spin. A misappropriation of the truth, by just the smallest fraction.

When they are looking back on the start of the 21st Century the biggest thing they'll note is how we claimed -- so often -- so much more than we did. How we claimed -- so loudly -- so much more than we knew. How we just kept claiming everything, like a pathological liar stuck on 'repeat'.

I guess most people think that if they say it, then somehow that constitutes action, and if they say it often enough, it will somehow become the truth. We can talk about a virtual world, a digital utopia constructed cleanly inside of a machine, but when we come around to trying to re-create that alternative reality over top of our modern one we know that we have diverged too far from our center. Too far from what makes us tick. Too far from what makes us wake up in the morning, put on clothes and then withstand the pounding and scratching of our own pitiful existence.

The world then, has become full of people's resumes proudly proclaiming success after success accomplishing their missions. Great works of fiction, created by our greatest minds. Yet a sad testimony to a world drowning in its own stupid rules and asinine regulations. A world caught in a downward spiral. Proof that somewhere along the road, we dropped our wisdom and have not yet had the good sense to go back and look for it. A forgotten ability, lost in a forgetful world.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Everybody says they want change. Everybody says that they want to fix the problems. But once it comes down to something they've said, or something they need to change, or even something they can do something about, it is suddenly an issue. Suddenly something to be avoided. Something wrong.

We proud creatures seem to be gifted at talking about stuff, but acting on it is another matter completely. We will talk. We will say. But we won't move.

Intelligence, that odd beast, is not with us often enough. We float mindlessly through life. Wisdom, particularity when defined to be an understanding of when not to get pedantically caught up in nothingness, is a rare commodity. Thinking, then, is not something most people are actively involved in. In fact, they try very hard NOT to think about things. To avoid those things for which they don't like, or don't want or are just too confusing to them in some vague way. We are a society of willingly blind fools. One that just keeps hoping, beyond all reason, that somehow, in some-way, it will all work out.

And thus we don't get change. We don't get fixes. We don't get better. We just get the near-perfectly shallow existence that we traded our lives for. A chance to fill up our rec. rooms with another pile of plastic products. Stuff of unnecessary and unexceptionable quality. Junk, by any other name. It is our stuff. What we own, what we wear, what we use, and ever more increasingly, what we think. We are evaporating. Disappearing slowly, beneath a sea of mindless slaves that must always do what they are told. Hollowed out shells that no longer no why. That no longer care why. They seem -- at the surface at least -- perfectly content with just fiddling around with another stupid gadget, instead of finding real meaning or purpose in their lives. And so it goes.

Everybody says they want change.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I found the following Toronto Star article very depressing:

but, not just because of the usual story about the incompetence that we are constantly greeted with by our Ontario institutions.

Any one whose has spent time in Toronto knows that we are surrounded by a vast array of bumbling bureaucrats. That they somehow manage to take the simplest things and turn them into laughable jokes, with ease. You'd be laughing if you were so busy getting frustrated with it all.

Ontario specializes in having our employees turn off their brains. In that way, we get a large number of perfect automatons, able to quickly and efficiently screw up any task, large or small. More optimally, they do it while somehow managing to blame it all on upper management. It's a gift.

No doubt our artificially intelligent droids are happily entrenched in their own mindless misery. We're good at that, here too.

But this story goes beyond our usual hopelessness.

Way back, when we put in our driving laws, it was for the sole purpose of making sure that the 'weaker' drivers were at least able to work within the road system to a minimum standard. That is, we were already having problems with people who couldn't drive properly, and a testing system that was too lax.

So they made it harder to pass. They made it 'graduated' into two steps.

We might expect from these changes that someone whose was barely capable of driving would now be prevented from getting on the roads. That is after all, why they made things so complicated, why they created all of the annoying rules and process. Why they charged so much money to get tested.

But as the article clearly shows, all you need to do is spend 'more' money, and 'presto blamo', you've got your license. The G test, which should involve a highway, should really test people's ability. Doing it in some small town in northern Ontario tests almost nothing. Solves nothing.

Now, I was always one of those people that grew up believing that our society in Canada was not like those in the third-world. My naive view was that we have, and tolerate little corruption. Mostly we're a clean and organized society who have honor and decency in our interactions. We believe corruption is bad.

OK, after I bit I figured out how naive I was, but at least, mostly we're not out there paying off people left, right and center to get what we want or need. The chaos of the third world is not here. We'll at least that is what I hoped.

If we establish a set of rules to control driving, then we allow them to be subverted, all we are really doing is institutionalizing corruption.

That is, if you don't want to take your test in the 3rd world, you pay off some person in the Ministry to avoid it. In Toronto, instead you have to pay off the Ministry for the tests, the independent testing company, the driving instructors, and their company. It is one heck of a big payoff, but still a payoff.

All these parties are working in conjunction to collect 'funds' that help you avoid playing by the rules. It is corruption, pure and simple, even if we created a system to legitimize it.

Renaming something rotten, doesn't make it less so. If you don't like the rules, all you have to do is pay someone to avoid them.

Congratulations Ontario, into sinking right down to the depths of any good third world country. Real impressive.

If we not going to take our rules seriously, then I suggest we get rid of them. We claim freedom, but we are drowning in a sea of broken and poorly implemented rules. State sponsored, institutionalized corruption is an obvious result of our disorganization. Expect no less.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Learning Disorder

Most people begrudge learning.

They fight it, all the way from kindergarten right up to high-school. If they're destined for a higher education, they take the fight with them to their new institutions.

Fear, frustration and fatigue: learning to most people is to be tolerated -- barely -- but avoided whenever possible. There are moments with brief openings, possible opportunities, but beyond that is a high wall setup to protect oneself from outside forces. Outside information.

Later in life, long after the learning has ceased and the career has stagnated, what passes for debate is more often people just trying to validate what they know. They aren't open, they aren't interested, they aren't flexible. They aren't discussing. Instead they've locked themselves into their small subset of what they believe is the truth, and they'll just keep digging in farther.

Most people out of school don't want to learn new stuff. Perhaps, they don't mind a few trivialities, little fragments of infotainment, but anything and everything that might possibly cause them to reconsider their foundations is off limits. Hated, despised, feared. To be shouted down.

There are of course, some very few that keep learning their whole lives, but they are rare. Still, they're more aware than the rest of how precarious our knowledge rests on the edge of reason. We're awash in more mis-information than truth, more spin than reality, more lies than facts. In an age where we could know anything, but never really know the quality of that knowledge, getting stuck on the first set of facts through the door just seems like a bad lifetime choice. Flexibility is the only way to see through all of the organizations mis-representing themselves, and their efforts. All of the people out for their own interests. A bit of distance is required.

But, I guess it is embedded so deep into our being that each new shift in paradigm, culture, thinking or understanding still needs twenty to thirty years to really get rooted, precisely because that's how long it takes for one generation to cede the stage to the next. Only a real change in people will cause a real change in knowledge. Ideas are sticky.

Most people live their entire lives without realizing how wrong they are.

Friday, April 2, 2010

All the Good Ones

Selfish, greedy, cheap, 
rude, irritable, indifference,
slimy, smarmy, arrogant,
jerk, dirt-bag, creep,
sneak, hostile, nasty,
angry, mean, hateful,
jealous, vengeful, cruel,
heartless, soulless, merciless,
liar, thief, murderer,
brutal, killer, destroyer,
sadistic, tyrannical, and depraved.

Without them, who'd be left?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Into the Flow ...

We spill out,
like primordial ooze
into the cracks
and crevices of our differences.

In every direction we spread,
but our bulk stays together,
driven from one gorge to another
in time to an unseen beat.

Our brief moments of thought,
get locked into position,
like dogs caught fighting
over some insignificant morsel.

We, who can create,
long before we can understand,
and yet understand
so much less than we can know.

A species lost between
our origins and our destiny,
but hardly ready for
carrying our ultimate grace.

Hopeful and hopeless,
bright and dim,
foolish and foolhardy,
we keep traveling.

Never to forget,
that even in the darkest corners,
we still need to stop, to think
and to appreciate our essence.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


If it wasn't for an entire absence of clues, most people would be somewhat aware of their environment, their place in it and the upcoming events that are gradually building up to bowl them over. But instead, they are lost in themselves, stuck on what they don't know, as they blunder onto the highway only to end up as more fresh roadkill, in a society of people competing for unique and novel ways to be flattened.

That, it seems, is the ironic weakness of intelligence. It gives us just enough to think that we know more than we actually do; that we have more than we actually do; that we understand more than we actually do. And in this deception people get hopelessly caught flailing around like rapidly dying fish, flung out of the water while spasmodically trying to change things, convinced of their own rather doubtful superiority.

But the joke is that most of the people, most of the time, in most places, have switched into some held-back mode were what they barely know is not even close enough to what they think they know. And they lack any and all capacity to see themselves in any other way then just from the standard delusions that they've so carefully constructed around their lives in an attempt to hide from reality. Mostly we're not Einstein; we're not Brad Pitt; we're not Wayne Gretzky; we're just a troop of half-dead, half-hearted, half-crazy creatures that stumbled down from our perches way too recently to be coping with the normal types of insanity in which we are now all drowning. Welcome to our modern world. You only get it, if you know you don't.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trajectories and Scenes

Life presents itself as a series of moments grouped together by a collection of underlying similarities. Much like 'scenes' in a movie, our lives go from one set of these circumstances, to another. In each scene, the world passes us by as we fall into routine. In each scene, we fall into our being.

It is not the major scenes that are of interest, but rather the between times, as we move from one to another that hold the most significance. Within a scene we are frozen to our will, unable to recast ourselves, but between them we have those rare moments in life where we can change, where we can exert our free will. It is our choices in between that dictate our successes and failures.

For within a scene, we are more locked into ourselves than not. It is as if we were shot out of a canon and are on a defined trajectory headed deep into somewhere. Going nowhere fast. Initially we are given some options, but once out of the tube, the stage is set. Locked in. We, and our nature have committed ourselves to a specific course through life; a nearly unchangeable course for the length of the scene, however long that may be. We can't change, we can't veer, and all we can do is hold on and hope that a new scene change is headed our way sooner rather than later.

There are some who can change mid-scene, but they are a rare and peculiar breed,  often marginalized because of their lack of conformity. For the rest of us, we're born, go to grade school, high school, move out and possibly go to university, get our first real job, our first real love, our first long time work, then later our first bout of restlessness, and so on. Each new shift, forming at least one significant scene, each new trajectory either changing our course or following lockstep from the path of the last one. Quickly we become trapped in our lives, trapped in our habits, often missing the very moments that were set there to allow us to escape. To break the mold, to change our trajectory.

But it is not just individuals that pass through scenes and follow trajectories. Groups of all shapes and sizes are bound by the same cruel mechanics as well. From friends, to companies, to entire countries, collective beings get caught within their routine, only to follow an inevitable course in some fixed direction for as long as the scene refuses to change. The stage gets set, and the players get played.

If you understand how we are tied to our fates, it is easier to see and sense why the world moves in the way it does; why people move in the way they do. Even knowing the worse, most people are helpless to change their course, and are rarely in control of their own scenes. Most groups can't be any better, whether or not they know that their trajectory leads them into something undesirable. Once things are set in motion, once it gets going, it becomes all but impossible to change. And if the consequences are inevitable, the only way to avoid them is to force some type of dramatic scene change into the equation. Little changes, wishful thinking, these cannot alter the trajectory. If the scene remains the same, the path is bound to its course. What should happen, will happen. Where the trajectory leads is where life will take one. Breaking that is what separates the great from the rest of the pack.