Tag Archives: sci-fi

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Thanos #1

Every Wednesday, a new batch of comic books comes out to bring a badly-needed dose of awesome to a world that can never have too much. Not all of them are generic superhero comics. Not all of them are cheap kid-friendly comics full of talking animals and princesses, either. However, they all contribute to the overall awesome in their own unique way.

This week has more going for it than most. While new comics are certainly a joy to fans of superhero media, the upcoming release of “Avengers Endgame” is, by far, the bigger event. I would go so far as to argue that it’s the biggest event in the history of the superhero genre. However, that event wouldn’t be possible without the comics that birthed these iconic characters.

This week, one character is destined to stand out over everyone else and he’s definitely not a hero. He is Thanos, the Mad Titan who brings death, destruction, and wrath wherever he goes. He brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its knees in “Avengers Infinity War.” He’s done it more than a few times in the comics as well. However, “Thanos #1” dares to tell a different kind of story.

In this story, Thanos is still the death-loving, power-mad titan he’s always been. A good chunk of the narrative is spent reinforcing this in ways as brutal as anyone would expect of the Mad Titan. That brutality is important, but not just to Thanos. This story is more about Gamora than it is about him.

Thanos #1” isn’t just some extended flashback that reinforces how menacing Thanos is or why he’s one of Marvel’s greatest villains. This is Gamora telling her story about how she became the most dangerous woman in the universe under his guidance. It’s definitely a story worth telling and writer, Tini Howard, doesn’t gloss over the gruesome details.

Through Gamora, we see that Thanos isn’t just a cruel, mass murderer. He really is mad on many levels. There are times when he kills with a goal in mind. While that goal isn’t always logical, he does show that he knows how to employ tactics and he knows how to lead other killers into battle.

Then, there are the times when he just kills because he is not a stable mind. It doesn’t matter if it costs him valuable soldiers and crew members. He kills for the same reason other people collect Star Wars toys. He’s obsessed with it. In the same way some fans can never have too many Darth Vader action figures, Thanos can never have too much death.

Howard does plenty to flesh out this side of Thanos. By reinforcing the extent of Thanos’ madness, it makes Gamora’s role a lot more meaningful. That meaning is important because Thanos shows, time and again, that he’ll kill anyone and everyone without a second thought. Whether it’s an entire planet of pacifists or his own crew of murder-happy minions, he does not hesitate for a second when that murder itch strikes.

However, he does hesitate when he encounters Gamora. It’s not out of compassion or pity, either. Something about her stands out that sets her apart from the countless victims Thanos has killed throughout the cosmos. It’s not immediately apparent. It’s also substantially different than what we saw in “Avengers Infinity War,” but the underlying theme is the same.

It still carries dramatic weight and the artwork of Ariel Olivetti nicely captures that drama. Gamora, who narrates the story, doesn’t portray herself as an impressionable victim who was eager for a power-hungry madman to corrupt her. She was, by and large, just a young girl trying to escape a massacre with her family.

She didn’t come from a warrior culture. She didn’t have a violent streak in her. She was, by all accounts, just an ordinary alien woman who wanted to live peacefully in the only world she’d ever known. For her to become the most deadly woman in the universe, she had to be forced down that path and molded in the most brutal way possible.

It’s yet another testament to just how devious Thanos is, both in the comics and the movies. He’s not just capable of leading a team of murderers from one slaughter to another. He’s also capable of turning an otherwise innocent woman into one of the most deadly killers in the universe.

Thanos #1” is one of those comics that came out at the best possible time. Thanks to the events of “Avengers Infinity War” and the upcoming release of “Avengers Endgame,” the extent of Thanos’ villainy has become a major component of the superhero genre. He is the standard by which other villains are measured now and, like the movies, Gamora is part of that story.

Despite the differences between Thanos in the movies and Thanos in the comics, they share a common link through Gamora. She is an integral part of his journey, as a villain. She embodies just how much Thanos’ cruelty can shape and mold those around him. She is who she is because of Thanos and, as much as she hates it, he defines her.

Gamora’s story is not a pleasant one, but “Thanos #1” proves that it’s worth telling. At a time when all things Marvel are fueled by all things Thanos, the timing couldn’t be better for such a story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jack's Quick Pick Comic

Why Designer Babies Are NOT The Same As Eugenics

david20catalano

As much as I celebrate advances in science and technology, I don’t deny there are instances where some advances it leads to unintended consequences. I’m sure the inventor of ski masks knows that all too well. In many cases, these missteps and mishaps are part of the ongoing challenge to use these advances responsibly. It’s akin to a maturation process that is often difficult, but still necessary.

In some cases, however, certain advances bring out some of humanity’s ugliest traits. Whether it’s a tool or an insight into the natural world, certain people who may or may not be malicious will use science to further a nefarious agenda. Of all the sciences that brought out the worst in humanity, eugenics is probably the most well-known.

The concept, itself, is not entirely abhorrent. If you look up the definition, this is what comes up.

The practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations to improve the population’s genetic composition.

On paper, that has some objective merit. The world is a chaotic, dangerous place that’s constantly changing. In some cases, humanity is causing that change. If we’re to survive on a planet in which 99 percent of the species that have ever lived have gone extinct, it makes sense to improve our collective genetics so that we’re best equipped to survive.

Unfortunately, the details surrounding eugenics were permanently tainted when it became the preferred excuse for atrocities by the Nazis. Even before that, it was a popular talking point among racists seeking to marginalize or outright exterminate the impact of certain minorities within a society. At one point, there were organizations dedicated to promoting eugenics through forced sterilization and miscegenation laws.

The legacy of eugenics is so ugly that it’s almost synonymous with some of the worst acts of bigotry ever committed. When people think of eugenics, they don’t think of advancing human biology to make it more robust. They imagine racist tyrants forcibly sterilizing undesirable minorities in the hopes that they eventually die out in a silent genocide.

There’s no question that this form of eugenics is abhorrent. The way it was practiced throughout the 20th century was a perversion of science and technology. We would be wise to remember that as we make bigger and bolder advancements in science, especially for those related to biotechnology.

It’s here where the ugly legacy of eugenics seems destined to clash with science once more. In late 2018, news broke of a groundbreaking advance in biotechnology when a scientist named He Jiankui announced that the first genetically modified humans had been born. I went out of my way to note why this is a huge deal in the history of our species, but it’s also sparking distressing concerns related to eugenics.

Thanks to gene-editing tools like CRISPR, it’s now possible to edit the human genome with the same ease as copying and pasting text from a website. That has sparked concerns that it will be used to purge certain undesirables from the human population, just as was attempted with eugenics.

Logistically, there’s no reason why tools like CRISPR couldn’t be used to edit the genome of every child before they’re born to ensure they look a certain way. Granted, it would require some fairly invasive policies, but that has never stopped ambitious governments in the past. As these tools are refined, it’ll only get easier to pursue the kinds of racist policies that deplorable bigots in the past once favored.

However, this is not a fair association, nor is it constructive in addressing the legitimate issues surrounding the use of CRISPR and so-called designer babies. Linking this technology to eugenics is akin to blaming every nuclear physicist for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s not just because the potential of this technology is so great. The intent behind it differs considerably with that of eugenics.

That intent shows in the specifics of the first two genetically modified children. These children were not born out of a desire for racial superiority. The modifications made to their genome was intended to make them more resistant to HIV/AIDS infection. That’s an objective good. Healthier babies who are more resistant to disease is a benefit to our species, as a whole.

In addition, this feat was achieved without sterilizing someone against their will or without the consent of the parents. While there were some legitimate ethical concerns, the underlying purpose has little to do with furthering racial goals and more to do with combating disease and suffering. This is where the difference between eugenics and designer babies at its most stark.

Eugenics, historically speaking, was almost always pursued with a racial agenda. It never stopped at just treating disease. Its advocates sought more than just health. They sought superiority. That’s not how the emerging technology surrounding CRISPR is being used. It’s following a similar path to that of in-vitro fertilization, which was subject to plenty of controversy as well.

Like any technology, there are going to be legitimate concerns mixed in with the doomsayers. With CRISPR and designer babies, the concerns will be greater because the stakes will be higher. We’re not just talking about a technology that will reduce the risk of inherited diseases. This technology could fundamentally change the human race in a very literal sense.

Designer babies, much like their in vitro counterparts, will be part of that change. Regardless of how someone feels about endowing a baby with the genetics of Tom Brady and Stephen Hawking, the potential for good is just too vast. Thousands of people die every year because of diseases that are written into their genes. This technology, if properly refined, could render such suffering a distant memory.

Hesitating with this technology because of potential links to eugenics will only prolong this suffering. In the same way countless individuals wouldn’t be alive without in-vitro fertilization, there are countless people who aren’t alive now because this technology wasn’t available to help them.

Treating diseases and ensuring the health of the next generation is a common good that eugenics corrupted with racist ideology. It attempted to do that by using science and technology to more effectively oppress their chosen enemies. That is radically different than editing the genes of a child so they don’t succumb to certain diseases.

That’s not to say there aren’t risks. At some point, someone will try to abuse this technology and it’s likely that person will have unpopular views on eugenics. There will also be a point where this technology isn’t just used to treat diseases. It will also be used to implement traits and abilities within people that aren’t possible by natural means.

The look of a baby who never has to worry about genetic diseases.

The merits and ethics of such genetic tampering are definitely worth discussing, but references to eugenics will only serve to derail that discussion for all the wrong reasons. Like it or not, humans will need to keep adapting and growing in our chaotic world. If we ever hope to outlast our planet and even our sun, we can’t be bound by genetic constraints or outdated attitudes.

That makes developing genetics technology all the more vital. Eugenics was a bad ideology that hijacked a lot of good science. Whatever your opinion may be on designer babies and improving the human genome, the technology is here. Children born of this technology have arrived. The benefits are vast, provided we have the right approach.

Leave a comment

Filed under futurism, human nature, sexuality, technology

When Aliens Invade The Best, Worst, And Most Likely Scenario

alien_invasion_600

It’s a common, but appealing theme in science fiction. One day, we think we’re alone in the universe. The next, aliens invade and our species is never the same. Whether it sparks a war for survival like in “Independence Day” or leads to a new era of inter-stellar cooperation like in “Mass Effect,” it’s a profound moment. It may be the one case in which our collective imagination is too limited to appreciate the implications.

The concept of first contact is daunting enough. Just discovering extraterrestrial life in the universe would be groundbreaking. Making contact with it would be downright overwhelming for our species. It might be the closest thing human beings ever get to a true religious experience, making contact with another species from the stars.

An invasion, however, carries with it a special kind of impact, albeit a traumatic kind. Science fiction tells all sorts of stories about it, but chances are that the real-world possibilities don’t come close to the fantasy we all envision. Whether it’s triumph after a stirring speech from President Whitmore or doom at the hands of Martian invaders, the truth probably somewhere in between.

I’ve argued before that the human race isn’t ready for contact with aliens, but we’re close. I also believe that if extraterrestrial aliens ever do arrive, they won’t be hostile invaders. If they’re advanced enough to travel the vast distance of the cosmos, then they’re advanced enough to not need anything here on Earth. There’s abundant water, minerals, and rare elements throughout space that are fare easier to obtain.

However, that all assumes that an extraterrestrial species would act in accord with incentives that most humans understand. That could be a flawed assumption. If an extraterrestrial species is truly alien, then their thoughts, feelings, and motivations could be alien too. It’s not impossible that a species would evolve to be inherently hostile to any other sentient life.

With that in mind, I’d like to present a few potential scenarios on how an alien invasion would play out for humanity. I believe there are a few instances in which our species would survive and even be stronger. There are also a few in which our hopes of survival are effectively zero. I don’t claim that any of these are definitive. This is just my attempt to speculate on how an invasion would pan out for humanity.


Worst Case Scenario: Aliens See Humans As Cockroaches

This is the scenario that movies like “Independence Day” or “Predator” often utilize. The invading aliens are advanced, capable of technology that traverses interstellar space with ease. They arrive on Earth, seeing its resources as ripe for the taking. They invade, seeing humans as nothing more than annoying insects. They deal with them the same way we deal with ants.

While those movies often build stories around human beings finding a way to win the day, either by discovering a hidden weakness or somehow hacking alien computers, it’s doubtful that this is how it would play out. If an alien species is hostile and they have access to technology so advanced that it might as well be magic to lesser species, then we have no chance.

In this scenario, there’s nothing humanity can do to fight back. The President Whitmores of the world could give all the inspiring speeches they want. We wouldn’t have a chance against these creatures. We would be like mosquitoes trying to stop an oncoming nuclear missile. We wouldn’t have a chance and at most, we would just annoy the aliens.

In some cases, humanity could survive by simply avoiding the aliens and live underground in hopes that they’ll eventually leave. If the invaders are intent on turning Earth into a base or strip-mining it entirely, then that’s just delaying the inevitable.

In other cases, the invading aliens could see humanity as lab rats or pets. The only reason they would keep some humans alive would be as resources. On many levels, it would be even worse than slavery because the aliens wouldn’t even value anything we could do. They would just value our flesh the same way we might value a mineral.

One way or another, humans don’t survive this invasion. We either get wiped out with ease or turned into glorified pets for aliens. It’s the one alien contact scenario we would want to avoid and one that the late Stephen Hawking dreaded the most. While I think it’s unlikely that we’ll encounter intelligent aliens this hostile, I don’t deny that it’s still a frightening possibility.


Best Case Scenario: Inept And Incompetent Invaders

This is something a lot of common sci-fi tropes rely on. You have a race of aliens advanced enough to master inter-stellar travel, but incompetent enough to lose a war against a bunch of hairless apes who kill each other over what they think happens when they die. Essentially, any story in which humanity defeats invading aliens has to rely on this.

While there are plenty of absurdities inherent in those stories, it’s not impossible to imagine an invading alien race that’s incompetent. We assume that any advanced alien race that can travel across interstellar space has to be competent to some extent. However, just because they can travel across the stars doesn’t mean they’ll be effective invaders.

The best example of this, in my opinion, comes from a series of novels by Harry Turtledove entitled “Worldwar.” In the story, an alien race invades Earth in the middle of World War II. However, the aliens in this story aren’t some unkillable monstrosities like the Xenomorphs. They’re a race of reptilian creatures who just made some false assumptions.

In the novels, which I highly recommend, the aliens advance at a much slower pace than humanity. What takes us 100 years to produce technologically takes them 1,000. When they first observed Earth, we were in medieval times. They assumed that humans advanced at a similar rate and would be push-overs by the time their fleet arrived. They were dead wrong.

If humanity ever has to deal with an alien invasion, these are the kinds of invaders we should hope for. It’s not just that they make false assumptions and grossly underestimate other species. An invasion by inept aliens means humanity has a fighting chance.

While it may still make for a bloody and brutal war, like the one that unfolds in the “Worldwar” series, that war may ultimately unite the human race in ways that would not be possible in any other scenario. Former President Ronald Reagan even pointed this out in a famous speech to the UN and I think he’s right.

Humanity has never had a singular existential threat that would require every race, ethnic group, and nation to unite. For our entire history, we’ve never had to deal with an advanced species trying to wipe us out. Having that threat means we have to work together or die. No matter how much humans disagree over trivial things, survival tends to overrule petty grievances.

In the long run, that kind of unity might help the human race come together in a way we can’t imagine, given our current state of disunity. As bad as a war against alien invaders can be, it could bring out the best in us if we have a fighting chance. Unfortunately, that chance is contingent on the invaders being incompetent and I think that’s hoping for too much.


Most Likely Scenario: Aliens Invaders Are Indifferent To Humanity

Of all the invasion scenarios, both in fiction and those with a passing connection to reality, I think this is the most likely. Again, it assumes that invading aliens are competent enough to get what they want, regardless of whether or not the human race wants it. If their technology is sufficiently advanced, it won’t matter what humanity wants.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that aliens see humans as bugs that need exterminating. It’s far more likely that they’ll see humans the same way drivers see an ant hill on the side of a major highway. They’ll barely notice. They might not even realize we’re there and we, in turn, might be completely oblivious to them.

Even if Earth has some resource that invading aliens want, it makes more sense to just take it without humans noticing. That way they don’t have to fight a war. It’s not that they couldn’t win that war with ease. It would just be exceedingly inconvenient. It would be like blowing up a dam just to water your garden.

For all we know, this has already happened. There may have been multiple occasions where intelligent aliens have passed by our planet, dropped in, and taken some resources without anyone knowing. Given how humans have only existed on this planet for a small fraction of its history, it’s entirely possible that advanced aliens have already visited and determined there’s nothing worth seeing.

Even if they did arrive at a time when humans were present, they would be plenty advanced to either evade detection or fool anyone they came across. The human brain is easy to trick, especially if aliens have some sort of cloaking technology or can shape-shift like the Skrulls in Marvel Comics. Deceiving people, even in today’s connected world, wouldn’t be too tricky for them.

If the aliens just want something minor that doesn’t require exterminating all life on Earth, it makes more sense to just slip in and take it. The only reason invading aliens would ever be hostile in this scenario is if humans got in their way or created an obstacle, of sorts. In that case, it wouldn’t entirely be the fault of the aliens for attacking.

I think this is most likely because I believe, in our current form, humans haven’t done enough to really make themselves worthy of contact with intelligent aliens. Sure, we have a space program and we’ve created world-ending technology, but we haven’t shown an ability to affect much beyond our own planet. I think until that changes, any advanced alien civilization wouldn’t have much interest in us.

That’s still assumes a lot about the intentions of advanced alien life, which can certainly be wrong. However, until we actually meet alien life, we won’t know what to expect. There are plenty of possibilities in which such contact would benefit the human race immensely, but there are far more possibilities in which that event goes horribly wrong.

1 Comment

Filed under Aliens, human nature

How Might Aliens Make Love?

maxresdefault

There was a brief time in my life when I was really into UFOs, extraterrestrials, and alien conspiracies. I would watch movies like “Independence Day” and “Men In Black” as though they were secret documentaries attempting to send secret messages to those who would listen.

Needless to say, I quickly outgrew the notion that aliens were real and the government was covering them up. As soon as I learned about the well-documented history of government ineptitude and the inherent flaws in most conspiracy theories, I realized that if aliens really existed and were really on this planet, then the government would be too incompetent to keep it a secret.

While I still believe it’s very likely that there’s intelligent life in the universe, if only because of the math is so overwhelming, I don’t think they’ve visited Earth. I don’t think they’re abducting people and probing them. Anything involving abduction and probing is more likely to involve a college prank gone horribly wrong.

Even if aliens aren’t visiting or abducting this planet, I still find myself fascinated by the concept. It’s probably a byproduct of loving comic books and Star Wars as a kid and an adult. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve been more fascinated by the possibilities that may come with alien life.

It’s not just that aliens may look and behave radically different. Their entire notion of thought, identity, and being may be completely unlike anything humans can conceive of. We are, after all, limited by the perceptions of being a specific sub-species of primates that evolved only a few hundred thousand years ago. The fact that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old leaves plenty of time for alien life to evolve.

There are any number of courses that alien life could take, from simple bacteria to intelligent beings. Many people much smarter than I’ll ever be have imagined the possible forms life can take. I’m not going to try and speculate on the aesthetics. What does interest me, though, is how those same aliens might make love.

By that, I don’t just mean how they’ll reproduce. If any kind of life, alien or otherwise, is to survive in this universe, it has to reproduce somehow. Whether by sex, spores, or cloning, reproduction is a necessary constant. Being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m much more intrigued by the intricacies behind it.

Yes, humans use sex to reproduce, but it has other non-procreative functions. Humans aren’t the only ones who do it either. Like any product of nature, a trait or behavior has to be flexible in order to be viable. Logically, that should apply to aliens as much as it does to life on Earth.

Granted, that’s an assumption on the part of one human with an admitted love of romance. It’s still one that has a basis in logic, given what we understand about the biology of emotions. Those emotions help social animals like humans coordinate, adapt, survive, and thrive to the point where they can build space ships and contemplate life on other worlds.

If intelligent life does exist, then it’s entirely possible that alien life might follow a similar path. It might not be on the level of convergent evolution, but there’s a great deal of adaptive potential in a species’ ability to coordinate and connect with one another. Love might very well be the key, at least for certain alien species.

I’m not saying it’s impossible for an intelligent alien species to evolve without an emotional connection analogous to love, but I think it’s more likely that it would, if only because it has such strong adaptive potential. In order to realize that potential, though, an alien would have to have some way of expressing it, both physically and emotionally.

It’s that kind of alien passion that I find both interesting and alluring to some extent. Comic books, movies, and TV shows do plenty to show us how terrifying and sexy aliens can be. However, they rarely get into the intricacies of alien passion. If they do, it’s usually overly humanized or overly gruesome.

I suspect that if aliens do indeed feel some kind of love, they’re not going to express it in a way that’ll make for a sexy scene with Captain Kirk. Their idea of love may be so alien that it warrants a very alien way of expressing it. It may or may not have anything to do with reproduction, but it would likely be a key component of their social structure.

There are some examples of it in popular culture. I think “Avatar” did a good job of exploring alien love, using a kinky trick involving ponytails to express an intimate bond. It’s not the same as using genitals, but the intent is the same. It’s to forge an intimate, loving bond.

Another interesting manifestation of alien love comes from the pages of Spider-Man comics. I’ve mentioned the parasitic symbiotes before when discussing human enhancement, but there’s another interesting detail to their species that often gets overlooked. When a symbiote bonds with a host, like the Venom symbiote did with Spider-Man, it actually loves them in a strange, alien sort of way.

It’s not a love that’s entirely connected to sex or reproduction. From the perspective of the alien symbiote, the bonding process itself can produce a kind of love. Granted, it can be a very abusive love at times, but that nicely reflects the greater complexities of love. It’s not just that thing we see too much of in old John Hughes movies. It can be creative, destructive, and everything in between.

Where alien love gets really interesting, however, is when we start to imagine what happens to a species once it reaches a certain level of advancement. Specifically, what happens to a species when their technology becomes so advanced that they merge with it, transcending their biology and integrating with machinery? That sort of change is bound to affect a lot of things about a species, including how they express love.

We’re already seeing hints of that advancement with the human race. We’ve already developed a very close relationship with our technology, some more so than others. That relationship will likely grow closer as hacking our genetics mixes with internal implants like the kind Elon Musk wants to develop.

At some point, it’ll be necessary for an advanced species to adapt themselves to the harsh environments of space. There are just too many resources in space and too much room to explore. There are some in the field of searching for alien life who believe that if we do find another intelligent species, it’s likely they’ll be partially or entirely machine.

It may very well be the case that almost every advanced species goes through a process in which they merge with machines and transcend their biological limits. When that happens, and some believe it will happen to humans, what will happen to love? Will we or intelligent aliens still feel or express it?

I think it will, but it’ll be radically different than the love we know. That’s because simply being a cold, calculating machine has limits in the same way that being an irrationally emotional mess has limits too. A truly advanced species won’t sacrifice one for the other. They would find a way to perfect both.

A species that advanced may not even have bodies with which to express love. They may become some collection of nanobots that shape-shift into whatever form is necessary for a given situation. Famed futurist, Ray Kurzweil, called it the human body 3.0. In a body like that, expressing love may involve more than just kissing or touching. It may simply involve the exchange of emotional data.

To some extent, that’s what love really is at its core. It’s an exchange of emotion between two or more individuals. The nature of that exchange is limited to how an individual expresses themselves. If their cognition is vastly enhanced by artificial intelligence and their bodies are infinitely malleable thanks to nanotechnology, then in theory, there are ways of expressing love that we humans literally cannot imagine.

Even if we can’t wrap our primate brains around it, it’s still an interesting/sexy idea to entertain. I believe that if humans ever discover advanced alien life, it will likely involve a species that has merged with its technology. There’s still a chance we may encounter aliens with biological forms like ours so there’s still hope for those with an alien fetish.

Whatever form aliens take, and regardless of whether or not they have sex appeal to us, I think it’s likely they’ll have some form of love that they express among one another. Whether or not they’ll express it with humans or other advanced species is hard to tell. One day, we may find out and if we can find a way to share in that love, then that bodes well for the universe, as a whole.

2 Comments

Filed under Aliens, human nature, philosophy, sex in society, sexuality

Universal Basic Income: A Sexy Idea For The Future?

Whenever a bold, ambitious new ideas comes along, there are sure to be skeptics and critics. It’s an unfortunate part of human nature. Our caveman brains get too comfortable with a situation, even if that situation is terrible and involves us shitting in a ditch. We’ll resist change at every turn until it becomes exceedingly inconvenient.

While I imagine there was plenty of resistance to those who introduced ideas like democracy, gender equality, and circumcision, some ideas make so much sense that people have to go out of their way to make excuses. Granted, they’ll still find those excuses. People are tragically adept at clinging to outdated ideas, even when they’ve been thoroughly debunked. Just look at creationists.

There’s no question that our current situation in the world has room for improvement. It’s true, although you’d never know it by watching Fox News for more than five minutes, that the human race is getting better. It’s also true that there’s still a lot of suffering.

According to GlobalIssues.org, there are over one billion people living in poverty. I’m not just talking about the kind of poverty that makes a Big Mac seem like a luxury either. According to UNICEF, around 21,000 children die a day because of poverty-related issues. I think most of us can agree that when children are dying, it’s a big freaking issue.

Even rich countries, like the United States, can’t escape the effects of poverty. According to the most recent census data, about 13.5 percent of the population, which amounts to approximately 43.1 million people, are living in poverty. For a country where people get rich for making a pet rock, that’s just inexcusable.

Poverty is a very serious, very unsexy issue. I could spend multiple posts whining and lamenting about the breadth of this problem. However, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know I find whining to be right up there with dry heaves, severe head trauma, and clown porn in terms of utterly unsexy wastes of time.

I’m not big on lamenting over problems. I like contemplating the solutions. The crazy creative side in me that comes up with sexy stories just loves to imagine bold new ways to solve overwhelming problems. Could there be such a solution to a problem as big as poverty? Well, there might be and it’s not just some crazy musing of an aspiring erotica/romance writer.

Ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I give you the Universal Basic Income. Like assless chaps, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the idea that the state shouldn’t waste time trying to distribute resources based on need, requiring a bureaucracy that makes the DMV look like a goddamn day spa. Instead, it should just provide a bare minimum cash payment to every citizen, regardless of wealth or need.

If that sounds too simple, then don’t bother bracing yourself. For once, it really is that simple. If you’re a legal citizen, you get a monthly cash payment. It’s not enough to help you afford a golden toilet seat, but it is enough to keep you from starving to death.

If it sounds familiar, it should. The United States has had something similar, but it’s reserved for those lucky enough to live beyond a certain age. It’s called Social Security and, by and large, it’s one of the most popular social programs the United States has ever created. Yes, it’s even more popular than programs that study the economic structures of World of Warcraft.

A Universal Basic Income, or UBI for those who hate excessive syllables, just takes social security a step further. It ditches the whole age requirement, exotic math formulas, and bureaucracy components and just gives a simple, flat payment to everyone. It could come in the mail. It could be sent via PayPal. Even the government can’t screw that up too much.

If it sounds like the kind of radical idea that emerged from one of Bernie Sanders’ fever dreams, then settle down and drink some tea. This idea is actually older than 99 percent of all the nations that currently exist today. Like so many other crazy ideas, it emerged in different times under a different label.

Way back in 483 BC, a time when Bernie Sanders was still fighting for the rights of serfs and peasants, the ancient Athenians came up with something called a Citizens Dividend. It’s basically the same concept, saying that the state should pay its citizens for its use of communal property and various resources.

Sure, the Athenians didn’t adopt the idea and went back to warring with the Persians, but the concept didn’t end there. It re-emerged again through the works of an influential Founding Father by the name of Thomas Paine, a man Glen Beck goes out of his way to admire.

In his essay, “Agrarian Justice,” Paine argues for a citizens dividend wherein the wealth of some obscenely rich landowners would go to some of the poorer citizens to alleviate poverty. It wasn’t a universal income, but it was a method for raising the floor, so to speak, on the poorest citizens.

Again, it wasn’t adopted and for good reason. Rich landowners generally don’t like the idea of having the government take their money and give it to poor people. That has never sat well with super rich folk who need these poor people toiling in the fields so they can bathe in gold and concubines.

However, that might be changing because, unlike the days of Ancient Athens and Thomas Paine, technology is making it so we don’t need a massive underclass of peasants toiling in factories or in fields. Machines are rapidly becoming advanced to a point where even jobs such as trucking, mining, and ordering a Big Mac is destined to become automated.

Last year, the White House issued a report that stated that approximately 47 percent of the existing jobs will become automated in the next decade or so. That’s a lot of jobs that will leave a lot of people out of work with no money and nothing to do. That’s a recipe for disaster, as those enduring Greece’s recent economic troubles can attest.

The UBI could be a way to effectively bridge the gap between the era of making poor people work their asses off to prop up the rich and the era where machines do all the work so people can do more productive things with their time. That means more time for aspiring erotica/romance writers to write sexy stories. Isn’t that a future worth fighting for?

This isn’t just a matter of technology. This is basic economics. Machines don’t get tired, don’t take sick days, and until Skynet becomes active, they don’t unionize. Why else would Amazon be investing so heavily in using robots to operate its warehouses? At some point, you won’t be able to blame immigrants or minorities for taking your job. It’ll be a robot and you’re not going to win a fight with a robot.

So long as automation increases profits and efficiency, it’ll keep happening. Along the way, more and more people will struggle to find work. Sure, those who are well-educated and well-connected will find something to do, even if it means just getting grossly overpaid for speaking gigs. For everyone else, though, the options are limited.

The UBI could be the key to truly alleviating poverty on a mass scale while providing even more incentives to get machines to do the work that crushes one too many souls. It will require a rough transition. A UBI doesn’t exactly fit with the old “Protestant Work Ethic” that some people still go by, but like the Catholic Church’s position on masturbation, it might be one of those concepts we just shrug off.

A world where people don’t have to work to survive is a very different world, one that’s hard to imagine in an America that glorifies working yourself to death while those lazy Europeans enjoy things like paid vacation, maternity leave, and unlimited sick time. However, that image will eventually clash with trends in technology and our need to alleviate poverty to keep society from strangling itself.

This is a world I do hope to see in my lifetime. I may be old, gray, and shitting in bags by then, but I’d like to see what this world would inspire. Would not having to work as much or as hard mean more meaningful relationships? Would it mean more time for sex and intimacy? We can only hope. As always, though, an aspiring erotica/romance can come up with some pretty kinky fantasies.

10 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights