|How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This? is a Dream Machine Site|
The Dream Machine --- The Imagination of the World Wide Web
|Home||Current Column||Previous Columns||Other Sites||Libertarian||Feedback|
When Willy was working in the field of so-called Artificial Intelligence, the most frequent question he was asked is, "Do computers think?"
He always answered it with another question, "If they DON'T think, what IS it that they DO?"
This almost always brought up the immediate response of "Compute!" or "Calculate!" or even "Figure!" to which Willy responded, "But, aren't those just other words for thinking?"
The truth is that, by any definition of the word "think," computers certainly do it and do it well, accurately and rapidly. What computers do NOT do, however, is dream. They do not imagine, they do not create, they do not yearn for a better future. That is why, when we formed the Dream Machine over twenty years ago, we chose as our motto "COMPUTERS are meant to THINK, PEOPLE are meant to DREAM..."
This was eventually replaced by the more aggressive marketing slogan, "If we can't do it, then it can't be done!" and finally, in the Information Age, by "The Imagination of the Internet."
Of course, the dreaming we speak of above is not the kind that takes place while we sleep, but rather the kind that, as the title suggests, take place consciously and comes from the heart as in, "As a young woman, she dreamt of becoming an astronaut..."
As we near the end of the second millennium, predictions abound. But there are also dreams, some of them rather astonishing. for example, Minister Farakhan...the leader of the Black Muslim faith in this country who has often...and righteously...been labeled a religious bigot and racist...recently announced that, after a near-death experience, he had experienced an epiphany that led him to pronounce that in the coming millennium, it was time for all races and religions to come together in peace and harmony. Welcome aboard, Louis! It's about time...
Oprah for President? Why not? Do we really need to start off the new millennium with yet another alpha male at the helm of an aggressive imperialist regime seemingly determined to piss off everybody else in the civilized world with our arrogance and hubris? Isn't it time to replace the lawyers and liars in politics with a new...higher...class of individuals who yearn for peace and prosperity, not power? Who speak from the heart rather than from the testicles?
During the sixties, when hippies...albeit with sex, drugs and rock and roll aplenty...called for peace and love...they were met with derision by cynical oldsters who pronounced that "War has always been with us and it always will be!" As for love, "Business is business and love is SHIT!" was the by-word. Since then, business has done very well indeed. Love has fared somewhat worse and peace...at least in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe...has done very poorly. Yet the Irish and English have found ways to get together in Northern Ireland, Israel and Syria have finally sat down to talk and everywhere else, war weariness and the desire for a better life has stirred up long-dormant rustlings in the human soul.
Two thousand years ago, the J-Man laid down some simple but elegant rules for dealing with our fellow human beings. Christians and non-Christians alike have had a pretty sorry record of accomplishing those ends during the ensuing years, but now, at the very end of one era and the beginnings of another, some rays of light are beginning to shine on us, illuminating both our shallow failings and our fondest hopes.
There are other dreams that some are daring to imagine. After Donald Trump suggested that a one time tax levy on the wealth of the wealthiest people in our country could pay off our entire national debt, another dreamer opined that a one half of one percent wealth tax could provide a "grubstake" of $80,000 for each young person arriving at the age of twenty-one, to do with as he or she sees fit. These proposals are almost certainly politically impossible to implement...even the non-cynical can see that they entail a lot of wishful thinking...but it does address one of the most troubling aspects of free market capitalism...obvious to the casual observer since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Namely, wealth tends to accumulate in the hands of a relatively few people...the rich get richer and the poor get...well, if not poorer...at least relatively so. While we libertarians try to keep in mind that capitalism REQUIRES the accumulation of great wealth in order to function, the notion that the less fortunate should be living in cardboard boxes while some enjoy riches beyond the imagination of Pharaohs and Emperors seems somehow obscene. Is it too much to dream of an era where no one...in the entire world...goes hungry or is without shelter? We don't think so.
Gary Bauer, a very thoughtful and intelligent conservative, recently appeared on a talk show and discussed his opposition to a recent ruling in the state of Vermont that gay people should enjoy the same rights and protections as straight people. While Bauer could not find fault with the literal substance of the ruling, he pointed out that this was just another step in the direction of sanctioning gay marriage, the REAL agenda of gay rights groups. Furthermore, he noted that, if families headed by same sex partners are OK, why not those with two women AND a man, or three men? His careful and thoughtful analysis concluded that these rulings were the first step down the slippery slope of redefining the traditional family in all sorts of non-traditional ways.
To Gary we say, "So what?"
Except for his somewhat rigid and archaic "rules" on the subject...which boil down to "it just ain't right!"...what exactly is wrong with ANY of his suggested combinations? We see no evidence that the traditional family has proved more functional or more durable than gay families or even multiple parent families. Why would MORE parents be worse than FEWER? Our own experience in communes suggests that the main problem with such arrangements is societal censure, not structural, economic or moral problems. What Mr. Bauer sees as a plague on society we see as dreams well worth dreaming. The Beatles sang, during the sixties, "All you need is love." It was true then, and it still is!
In the intersection of all these dreams is freedom; the freedom to innovate, the freedom to strive, the freedom to love and be loved. War may not be forever with us, but STRUGGLE will be. That is what life is all about, no? As the wags say, "Life's a bitch...and then you die." Without freedom, this saying is an ominous threat. With freedom, it's nothing more than comic relief.
So, computers will increasingly do our thinking for us. That is, they will think of paying bills, repairing appliances, moving traffic on our freeways or goods from producer to consumer. Meanwhile, our minds, our very souls, will be freed up to dream those impossible dreams. We can hardly wait.
Talk to you later...
...the best independent ISP in the Twin Cities