Sarah Hoyt has yet another interesting post over at her place. As usual, she makes me think and it ties into much off the research I’ve been doing for my current book series. Go read it for the full Sarah effect, but the gist of her post is that the same stick of disruption whacking is doing the same to every facet of human activity. She’s right, but that is not the scary part.
The Good News is There is No Good News
The part that should terrify everyone is we are just entering the disruption. Worse, we don’t know which direction it will travel. Will the technologies Sarah mentioned fundamentally transform human society and, possibly, supplant it? That’s certainly a possibility and for those who assume that forward progress in technology is an immutable fact, a given. In fact, it is the dominant position.
That position, though, involves considerable pain. One example: once the disruption is in full bloom, we will have surplus population relative to the work needed. Automation will replace nearly every repetitive job in every industry. Not just manufacturing, but every industry. I can’t think of a single one that won’t be impacted. What do we do with the extra people? The usual human method of shedding population involves violence in large quantities.
An aside for those how think they’re in a bullet-proof industry. You’re not. If it involves routine processes, you are replaceable, whether that process is physical or mental. The current crop of robots have already transformed manufacturing. Almost no one will dispute that. But what of a medical diagnosis? An AI is already in development to function as a primary care practitioner and the long-term prognosis for the medical field is machine-based. The law? We already have computers to do taxes (poorly in the case of Timothy Geithner) and wills.
Maybe you build houses? Safe as it gets, right? Meet the future.
Even with the automation in manufacturing, they’re still on the edge of innovation. What happens when every home has a 3D printer and uses open-source plans to make most of their household possessions? It’s reminiscent of Frederik Pohl’s excellent sci-fi story, The Midas Plague. Which, I was thrilled to see, is available for free.
(Sorry for the interruption. Love that story, so I took a break . . .)
The Bad News is Worse
That’s the future, as much as I can see and by definition limited, if technology remains ascendant. It’s not the only possibility, though. We have plenty examples from the past to see alternative paths, most of them wildly unpleasant.
We take our toys and the infrastructure that allows for them for granted. Those systems are relatively fragile and vulnerable to human neglect or sabotage. The Luddites haven’t taken to the streets yet, but they will. They may hamper innovation, bring it to a stop, or even manage to set it into retrograde. The latter is possible if the Luddites decide that the STEM fields should be subject to opinion and the same lack of rigor that the social sciences maintain. That’s the best case scenario for the disruption heading negative.
The next-worst case is deliberate sabotage, combined with totalitarian control of the population. For that scenario, the only useful technologies to survive will be those that enhance the state, the theocrat, or the monarch, depending on how the rulers choose to present themselves. North Korea is a prime example of what could become ordinary. A thoroughly ruthless dictatorship that uses tech to control the populace and prey on neighbors. Any deviation from orthodoxy will be detected and eradicated.
A common misconception is that such a thing could not happen here. Ludicrous. Look to the educational campuses and their rigid intolerance of competing views. They go so far as to spy on students, Soviet-style. The riots on the streets of Berkley, when both the police and the university were forewarned, provide another data point. There is a faction that would be pleased to the role of Supreme Leader.
A total collapse of human civilization would be my next-to-last worst case. Imagine all the ungovernable regions in the world without the aid they currently received and see how long human ‘decency’ holds. Starving people will not worry about niceties. They’ll love their neighbor – in a soup, or on a spit.
Worst case? We kill ourselves off and the roaches or AI-enabled-robots with Austrian accents take over.
Pick your scenario, make your plans, plan to be flexible, and know that it all can disappear in a blink.
On Monday, the NCAA, already embroiled in law suits that threaten its existence, took another definitive step toward irrelevance and eventual oblivion when it pulled seven championship events from North Carolina venues in response to HB2, the law that among a myriad of other things, prevents people with wangs from using the restrooms designated for those without.
This, to the NCAA, is the biggest problem that it faces in North Carolina, something so horrible that action must be taken.
Since no discussion is possible on transgender issues without declarative statements, let me make mine, right here, at the top. I. DON’T. CARE. If you are a transgendered person, do what you want, provided it does not impact or harm another person. That does not include using whatever restroom you want, though. You’re not the only person in there.
Nine or fifteen year-old girls should not be required to have biologically-identifiable men share restroom facilities, regardless of orientation. Your right to self-identity does not supersede their right to privacy. If, however, you have had surgery and taken the drugs to erase the outward physical differences, I’m back to ‘Who cares?’
Got a wang and don’t want to use the men’s room? In the text of HB2, it provides for single-occupancy bathrooms. Use them. If they are missing, demand they be built. That would be fair.
So great, that’s out of the way.
Please note that the NCAA is being somewhat inconsistent. Their pulling seven events from public venues but leaving in place events where a North Carolina university is the host. It’s one thing to posture – it’s a wholly different thing to interfere with the flow of Benjamins.
In that same vein, at the University of North Carolina, a cheating scandal that encompassed the best part of two DECADES is ever-so-quietly getting swept under the rug. Considered by many to be the largest case of academic fraud in history, UNC established fake courses, initially to keep basketball and football players eligible, and got caught. The fraud was so pervasive that the accrediation body, SACS, said this: “The investigative report clearly refutes the institution’s claims that the academic fraud was relegated to the unethical actions of two people.” In other words, it appears to be an institution-wide problem.
Brian C. Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, went so far as to suggest in the Chronicle of Higher Education, that UNC should lose their accreditation. Silliness. UNC is in the ‘too-big-to-fail’ group for SACS to punish with anything more than a finger wag and a sternly worded missive.
Since getting busted, the university has been fighting tooth and nail to avoid any form of punishment. Rashad McCants, a star on the 2005 basketball squad, released his transcript and told ESPN that he made the Dean’s List, despite never showing up for classes. He wasn’t alone. McCants challenged his teammates to do likewise – to date, none of the other starters on the 2005 championship team have done so. The classes were arranged by the staff for the athletics department and included the direct knowledge of at least one department Dean. Lack of Institutional Control is one of the biggest charges that can be filed against a member university. Implicated in the cheating were men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and football.
The initial notice of allegations also specifically noted the high use of the fake classes, some graded by a secretary, by basketball and football players. UNC had a ready response to this charge though – they included non-athletes, too. Yep, the defense is we didn’t just defraud athletes of an education, we inflicted it on frat boys, too, so it’s all good. The NCAA bobbed its head, practically apologized, and sent out an amended NOA removing the individual sports – except for women’s basketball, which looks to be the designated scapegoat.
Rashada McCants, a star in her own right on the UNC women’s team and sister of Rashad, disagreed with the assertion that a pretense of education is sufficient. She is suing the NCAA over her lack of education. The NCAA’s response was that it has no legal responsibility to ensure the academic integrity of courses, despite its proclamations on its website. This is, of course, exactly opposite the claims it makes in the O’Bannon case, where former UCLA stand-out Ed O’Bannon is fighting to get the revenue shared with athletes. In that case, the NCAA has argued that the education the students-athletes (no snickering, UNC fans) get is compensation enough.
As mentioned, UNC has battled the NCAA, effectively denying that the governing body has any right to comment, much less punish them, for the paper classes. Quoting from News & Observer, “UNC isn’t saying it didn’t happen. It’s saying that the system of phony classes happened within the university’s academic side and involved athletes as well as non-athletes and therefore presents an issue beyond the NCAA’s scope.” The rumblings from the NCAA suggest that, given the chance, they will cave. Penalizing UNC, after all, will hurt their cashflow.
As if hypocrisy is not enough, the UNC case points out a recurring problem in college athletics. Universities such as UNC prey on minorities. The larger portion of athletes in the fraudulent classes were African-American. Want to see institutional racism? Just head over to UNC and you can check out what it looks like in the modern era. (And based on the news breaking this morning, they will protect the athletes from scrutiny at the expense of women.)
So, into this quagmire of ugliness in North Carolina, the NCAA has decided that the single biggest issue deserving its attention is . . . bathrooms.
Not pervasive cheating. Not the inherent racism. Bathrooms.
These are the actions of a dying organization, seeking relevance. If it can’t have that, well, virtue signalling will have to do.