Sunday, June 16, 2013

Crime, Punishment and Belief

It just occurred to me, the whole concept of the death penalty works if the condemned - and the accused, the potential perpetrators - believe in an afterlife of eternal damnation, believe that the human judge on this side mirrors the eventual judgement they will receive and the following punishment. 

If you believe that what you are doing is wrong, wrong enough to warrant an eternity of the lake of fire, and the lake of fire exists and is waiting, and you will be caught, and when you are hung, God will send you to hell to forever burn... you will be deterred. You'll think twice. 

If you think you won't be caught - 
If caught, you think you can evade punishment - 
If punished, the punishment is too light - especially if the roof and regular meals of prison looks attractive compared to whatever brutal hell you are already living in - 
If the maximum punishment is given, you don't believe in God or hell - 
Or if you believe his judgement will be different from society's - 

The the entire concept of punishment to act as a deterrent to crime breaks down. It becomes an escape, a start-over. A reward. An irritant. Fame and glamour. Not the stuff that will ever stop crime. 

What's an acceptable alternative? 
Honestly, I don't know. It's not that easy. For the victim of the crimes, it's easy to like increasing brutality, barbaric punishments. Taliban-esque. Make the immediate, visible results of a crime seen to all, the thieves without hands to make other thieves think a thousand times. But this will make societies increasingly brutal. The chances of an innocent caught in the machine. It also needs a enforcement and judicial system that's fast, efficient, and accurate. 

Maybe humanity's just too big to govern effectively now. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Drugs are a necessity... a socio-evolutionary regulator. 

Think about it. 
In any given situation, if one person gains a slight advantage over others, he will attempt to further that advantage. Like wishing for three more wishes as your third wish.
And if he has an advantage already, he will succeed. The gap widens.
Over time, one person will have all the resources, while the rest have none.
As a result, this person will have the capability to continue to hold all the resources, while the rest continue to starve.
And what happens when you have no resources? You can't have kids. Either you can't afford them, or raise them properly, or save them in dire situations.
Genetic diversity of a society starts to become completely skewed towards the one guy. Or girl, it doesn't matter.

And this is not a good thing. 

But, if there were something else that becomes accessible as a result of having all (or a lot of) resources - like money - something expensive, hard to get, but that would make you feel good, that you desire - you would try to get it. And you would succeed.

Something that others couldn't take away from them, and they could stop them if they tried. 

Something like...  a gateway drug. That leads to the harder, more dangerous stuff.

The resourceless, the impoverished, can't afford it. Only they can.

And once they're addicted, it eats away all their resources and kills them.
Balance is restored.

If you have nothing, it's just a waiting game. The person who has everything also has, inevitably, something that will destroy him.
Fast cars. Alcohol. Venereal disease. Drugs. Thrill-chasing. Fights. 

All you have to do is make sure it doesn't get you as well, accidentally.

Self-control is the greatest weapon you have, the hardest to manage and the easiest to use. 
Everything else is working with the universe to make sure genes continue to proliferate. You, the self, the consciousness, the mind inside that meat bag whose sole purpose is to act as a life-supporting vehicle for your genetic code, is an accidental, happy, short-lived coincidence. 

Enjoy it. 
Don't throw it away. 
Don't be a pawn of the Universe, a statistic, a variable like trillions of others in the great dance of life, a cog in a machine. 
Be yourself.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Do you really want to live forever?

Thought Experiment. 
Medical science finally gets telomere-repairing gene therapy right, and we all can now live till age 500+, in perfectly healthy bodies. What happens to the world?

Step One: Population Bomb. Natural death rate will fall to zero, and given that everyone's fit and healthy, and likely to remain so for a long time, children being born will go through the roof. And their children. And their children. For over 20 generations, and let's not forget the original parents are still breeding. Exponentially explosive growth doesn't remotely cover it, this shit is nuclear. 
"They won't be that stupid", you say? Maybe the countries and populations with easy, affordable access to birth control won't, but that's only the upper layers of first-world countries and the very narrow upper layers of the rest, or in other words, around 1-5% of the population. For the rest, it's literally bang, and boom. 

Step Two: Resources Vanish. In less than a generation, we'll be hellishly overcrowded. It's not just a case of people having 1-2 kids in their prime; their prime is now nearly infinite. They can keep earning for decades, they think, so it;s a new generation every few years. Jobs, education, space, food, and water become scarcer and scarcer. 

Step Three: Economies of Scale. With family sizes exploding, and each generation competing with forefathers and ancestors for the same place in the sun, the individual family unit will be too inefficient; there'll be a movement into joint families, then commune-style setups. 

Step Four: Total War. With the economies of scale in place, each community or extended family unit is an effective, organized force, with its own supply chains and specialist systems. What used to be bad blood and feuds, will have the potential to become all-out battles, especially if the prize is twice the living space and resources up for grabs. And with that many people around, human life will look cheap. 

Step Five. The Recession. As life becomes more and more brutal - and we're still talking about a time maybe a hundred years ahead - people will start realizing that a controlled approach is the only way this will work. And since children are no longer the means for you to control your resources and wealth over time - you can do it yourself - they'll lose all meaning and just take on nuisance value. Infanticide, indoctrination, slavery. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world...
The more developed countries will see the spectre of a population bomb sweeping out from Africa, Asia and consuming everything in its path. If they can hold themselves together for even a generation, the enemy will have starved himself into a non-threat, and in two generations, will be a collapsed, shattered economy - ripe for the plucking. Then will begin the real horror of systematic invasions, genocides, exterminations. They might be holding themselves together, but they're still bursting at the seams, and the need the oil, water, farmland. 

A first thought that comes to mind is that ecology will be devastated, but that may not happen. Societies crumbling under the weight of their populations will have access barely to an industrial-age technology, while the more developed will be forced into long-term, ecologically sustainable green tech - after all, they're still going to be around, so anything that turns bad in 50, 100 years will not be wanted. And nations that are sparsely populated but technologically developed will have a huge headstart in this. As long as they can repel the raiders. 
Don;t confuse this with eco-friendliness, though. If there's something that can be harvested with no long-term impact - thought it might wipe out entire species - it will happen. 

So there's likely to be a massive expansion into oceans, space, and underground, to open up new areas for expansion and maintain a technological edge, at least in the first world... and then a few centuries of fighting to keep those from falling into the hands of the starving millions. 

And this is something straight from Larry Niven - with a longer life, will people be more careful? Take fewer risks? Or will the ravaged world they now live in, allow the luxury of a low-risk life? 

Preservation through Overtaxation
Given the catastrophic fallout, the drug is not likely to be available easily. Very restricted, very high-priced. So obtained only by the very few - who then continue to hang tightly to their positions of wealth and power. 
Very strong urge to build long-lasting structures to maintain the status quo. Strong opposition to any kind of systemic change. 
Extend this to political power positions, and you see not just Dictator-for-life, but for several of his subject's lifetimes. Within a lifetime, revolutions will become impossible, and he will become a living god within his indestructible castle. 

So will begin the era of assassinations, political games, and power plays between the long-lived players. 

Who else will have access? The ones who took it illegally. It's going to be a very, very expensive drug. And the criminal syndicates and families will become unshakeable. 

End result - 
Warlords, tyrants, politicos, and kingpins - and merchant princes - living in a unchanging, stagnant world, full of ignorant serfs, assassins, starving slaves, destroyed biodiversity...