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the column of lasting insignificance: July 6, 2013
by John Wilcock

“The successful cloning of human beings—whether for research or birth—is momentous. Even if the technique is used only in pursuit of biological knowledge and medical treatments, those will come at a very high ethical price of manufacturing human life for the purpose of harvesting it like a corn crop—that is for the purpose of destroying it.”
—Wesley J. Smith writing in the weekly Standard about “the ethical earthquake” of human cloning

MORE AND MORE skeptical opinions are expressing doubt concerning the cyber world in which we have all been engulfed. Even a casual reader these days can hardly miss the spate of stories about the isolated universe that our new masters, the techies, have created for themselves, becoming so in that they’re out of it. “Many see their social responsibility fulfilled by their business, not by social or political action” one young entrepreneur (quoted in the New Yorker) said of his colleagues. “It’s remarkably convenient that they can achieve all their goals just by doing their startup. They actually think that Facebook is going to be the panacea for many of the world’s problems. It isn’t cynicism—it’s arrogance and ignorance”.
    George Packer's story in the magazine paints a picture of an increasingly fenced-off community, its wealthy young entrepreneurs ferried in by private buses, their every need catered to within the corral, their unenlightenment exemplified by ignoring politics, and confining their reading to TechCrunch or VentureBeat, “They’re ignorant” said one observer, “because many of them don’t feel the need to educate themselves outside their little world, and they’re not rewarded for doing so”.
    Even for these pampered recluses there’s a price to be paid, for some an eventual spell in a residential internet-addiction center, Restart, just outside Seattle where cell phones, other electronic gadgets and caffeine are banned, and where Alcoholics Anonymous-type meetings are presumed to treat similar urges. Dr. Peter Whydon, a UC psychiatrist, calls the Internet “electronic cocaine” and claims it is “degrading the human mind” because brain scans have found changes similar to those of drug addicts. His colleague, Dr. Keith Ablow, goes further, predicting that Internet addiction will lead to “the greatest psychiatric epidemic of all time…causing a loss of reality and sense of self.”
    In his recent book, To Save Everything Click Here, Evgeny Morozov, a Russian-born visiting scholar at Stanford University, writes that “Technology amnesia and complete indifference to history remain the defining conditions of contemporary Internet debate”. In an earlier book, discussing the “dark side of Internet freedom” he emphasized the way its adherents viewed all political and social change through its prism while overlooking the opportunities it offered for the control of information and media manipulation. Reviewing the new volume, the Times Literary Supplement called it “the funniest and most savage criticism of cyber culture yet written”, adding that “the master planners of Silicon Valley and its satellites….enchanted by their faith…are blissfully oblivious of their destructive impact”.
    And the heads of tech companies usually seem to be beyond criticism. Writing in the Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin pointed out, unlike bank chiefs or oil magnates, the bosses of companies such as Apple, Facebook, or Google are widely regarded as being on the side of the angels. “Americans love their tech gurus” Kotkin wrote, as shown by the lavish tributes paid at the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs, a multi-billionaire who “didn’t believe in charity and whose company had more cash in hand than the US Treasury while doing everything in its power to evade taxes.”

PASSIVE LITTLE PLAYTHINGS of Silicon Valley and Wall Street is what Jaron Lanier calls the mindless lemmings who just can’t wait to throw their money at any stupid new project that the technology industry currently decides to peddle. “Stop offering yourself up on a platter…screwing yourselves over for their profit” the New York Post columnist advises, pointing out that naïve consumers are “sending all your data to companies in California so that they can sell behavioral models of you to whoever pays them the most to manipulate you”.

NETWORK TELEVISION PROGRAMMERS are thought of as smart, savvy people but it’s hard for the industry to recognize that they’re actually pretty dumb. With all the blank hours on the box when there’s often not a thing worth watching, the typical programming decision is to schedule a highly-rated show against some other top show in the misguided quest described as competition. The result, of course, is lower ratings for all concerned but offering opportunity for the winning network to boast of its “victory”. Many good shows disappear that way because the loser is judged not on its merit but the fact that it came in second. Brian Williams’ excellent Rock Center program, for example, has been given the heave-ho because NBC (after moving it around on several different nights) slotted it against two other excellent shows: CBS’ Blue Bloods and ABC’s 20-20. Idiots!

BRITBITS: Immigration has enhanced the view that homes are being built for new arrivals instead of for the homeless suggests Britain’s Planning Minister. “We are reverting, slowly but surely to the 19th century where the only people who could own their own homes were the professional classes on large incomes or the landed gentry.”…. The London Underground is considering a proposal to seek commercial sponsorship for various subway lines and stations such as the Vodafone Central Line to Heineken Holborn transferring to the Texaco Piccadilly Line to Knightsbridge Harrods…. A local pizza shop test-delivered two pepperoni pizzas via a small drone ….Television’s female presenters who get tossed out when they age have only themselves to blame, writes Carol Sarter in the Times, because when they got their jobs, they acquiesced all too willingly in the accepted wisdom that young women were not hired to present the news “but to decorate it”…. Three crooked banks—Barclay’s, UBS and Goldman Sachs—have been appointed to organize the privatization of Britain’s Royal Mail system creaming off $50 million for their work.

“The beautiful game is up. When Brazil is conditioned to hate the World Cup and its people traduce Pele as a traitor, football has lost its relevance and its reason. International sport may never be the same again…... It is hard to avoid the conclusion a tipping point has been reached…. Once major sports events become a focal point for social unrest and political, they are an embarrassment rather than an embellishment to a nation's image….The World Cup, like the Olympics, is collapsing under the weight of its pretensions.”
—Henry Sroka

POLYGAMY IS SPREADING in England among Muslim households at least partly due to the stubborn custom of men forced into marriages with cousins imported from “back home” with whom they have nothing in common. “For a man who has been in this difficult situation” says Khola Hasan of London’s Islamic Sharia Council, “polygamy is a good way of being happy and keeping the family happy”. The numbers of such people are huge, he maintains, endorsing a poll that revealed that almost 70% of men believed that British law should be changed to permit polygamy. His colleague, Mizan Raja, told the New Statesman: “Career women don’t want a fulltime husband. They don’t have time”. So couples live separately, a husband visiting his wife on a rota. The main obstacle to initial acceptance, said one satisfied wife, is jealousy and the initial sense of ownership. “But that’s something that you’ve got to use your wisdom to get past…It’s more important for me to have a father for my children….to have a helping hand when I need it”.

ONE OF THE FAKE NEWS columns that I wrote in my Penthouse column back in the ‘60s, pretended that a political party had been formed to pursue the aim of a joint presidency, held by a man and a woman (elected separately) who would work out their personal relationship while simultaneously solving the country’s problems. The thesis was that during their personal relationship they’d have to learn the valuable art of compromise. Now, here it is half a century later and there’s a new book, Two Presidents Are Better Than One, by David Orentlicher, who advocates a member of both parties reigning jointly in the White House, seeking compromise and “governing on behalf of the national interest”.

THE WILCOCK WEB:For all our political rancor, it turns out, what ultimately unites us is pot” wrote Bill Maher, in a 20-page marijuana spread in Rolling Stone. “Marijuana is bridging the red and blue divide and becoming a purple issue”….. Virgin Galactic hopes to start sending the first of its 560 paid-up ($200,000 each) passengers into space within a few months…Angry at US plans to tighten access, Mexico thinks that its citizens should be allowed to come and go across the border as they please…..The thousands of dollars that illegal immigrants pay smugglers to get them across the border would be better spent as a down payment to the US government for a temporary visa….“A witch on a broomstick should not fly above the limit” warns Swaziland’s Civil Aviation Authority which defines that limit as 150m above the ground….Women who can afford $1,200 shoes probably aren’t paying enough taxes….”At least the author is improving”, wrote the Telegraph’s Jake Kerridge, reviewing Dan Brown’s Inferno. “Where once he was abysmal, now he’s just very poor”… The LGBT movement will surely need to add P to its moniker if ambitious leaders of the Change Marriage movement continue their drive to legalize polygamy….If only the Los Angeles Times had figured out that Sam Zell was a crook when he bought the paper (using its own money instead of his) they wouldn’t now be having such tax troubles……As part of the new immigration measures, suggests Will Durst, “applicants must give up all rights to consort with a Kardashian”….“I was never possessive with my husband, or him with me” Shirley MacLaine, 70, told the Daily Telegraph’s Chrissey Iley who disclosed that the star’s lovers included Robert Mitchum, Yves Montand, Pierre Trudeau and Swedish prime minster Olof Palme…. Google Glass looks like “what happens when Silicon Valley spends too much time talking to itself” wrote Wired’s Marcus Wohlsen, describing the lame project as “too dorky to live”….. …“Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.”—Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832)

6/29/13

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