Everything is fine. Until it's not. Then you're fucked.
Unless you've been thinking deeply about what it means to live a life of characterbefore the bad thing happens.
3 x Insights to help squeegie your perspective (1 minute version):
1. Unless we begin to think ethically and morally when designing our robots, Artificial Intelligence will destroy us way more thoroughly than nuclear war, global warming and the usual human tomfoolery put together. You have to read this fascinating long-form explanation of what AI is.
2.Economists believe in full employment. Americans think that work builds character. But what if jobs aren’t working anymore? Read "Fuck Work."
3. Generosity is a fundamental pillar of Character, but the art of giving is multi-faceted. Mattress Mack's readiness to help during the Harvey floods is a terrific inspiration to help you reflect on the readiness of your own giving tree.Watch Mack in action.
4. Bonus Insight: In times of trouble, this is What Grace sounds like.
3 x Insights (longer version if you have more time and want depth)
1. I don't mean to frighten you but you really have to read this brilliant introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI) written by Tim Urban over atwaitbutwhy.com. All 2017 citizens need to know this shit. I do not exaggerate. That's because what will matter more than anything for our collective future is whether we'll be able to think ethically and morally when programming robots that will become waaaay smarter than we are––are already smarter than us: see poker, chess, go, jeapoardy, etc. Thinking ethically and morally is also a very good idea even without the robot apocalypse, by the way.
The transformation of our own consciousness––learning how to care for ourselves as one organism rather than as a stand-alone part among 7.5 billion other separate stand-alone parts–– is the most important task we need to focus on now if we're going to quit being absolute self-destructive dicks to each other while the robots get smarter and smarter. For a species as staggeringly creative as we are––landing a man on the moon, inventing underwater boats that swim faster than sharks, discovering quarks and neutrinos and gravitational waves––we sure have ignored ethically grounded consciousness for way too long. And intelligence without spirit, heart, care and love will literally kill us all in the end. So this work of building character and squeezing our generosity and morality muscles needs to get going again for real or we're all gonna get got.
2. Fuck Work. Ever since the industrial revolution, just thinking of work makes our innards queasy. It's why we invented the concept of "the weekend" and why the artificial concept of "Monday" makes way too many people deeply despondent. But now that the information age has sprouted, and the network age is upon us, finding and keeping a job is an idea that you really ought to examine if you have any aspiration of living a fulfilling life.
Professor James Livingston writes:
"So this Great Recession of ours – don’t kid yourself, it ain’t over – is a moral crisis as well as an economic catastrophe. You might even say it’s a spiritual impasse, because it makes us ask what social scaffolding other than work will permit the construction of character – or whether character itself is something we must aspire to. But that is why it’s also an intellectual opportunity: it forces us to imagine a world in which the job no longer builds our character, determines our incomes or dominates our daily lives.
What comes after work? What would you do without your job as the external discipline that organizes your waking life – as the social imperative that gets you up and on your way to the factory, the office, the store, the warehouse, the restaurant, wherever you work and, no matter how much you hate it, keeps you coming back? What would you do if you didn’t have to work to receive an income?
And what would society and civilization be like if we didn’t have to ‘earn’ a living – if leisure was not our choice but our lot? Would we hang out at the local Starbucks, laptops open? Or volunteer to teach children in less-developed places, such as Mississippi? Or smoke weed and watch reality TV all day?
I’m not proposing a fancy thought experiment here. By now these are practical questions because there aren’t enough jobs. So it’s time we asked even more practical questions. How do you make a living without a job – can you receive income without working for it? Is it possible, to begin with and then, the hard part, is it ethical? If you were raised to believe that work is the index of your value to society – as most of us were – would it feel like cheating to get something for nothing?
Character can be created on the job only when we can see that there’s an intelligible, justifiable relation between past effort, learned skills and present reward. When I see that your income is completely out of proportion to your production of real value, of durable goods the rest of us can use and appreciate (and by ‘durable’ I don’t mean just material things), I begin to doubt that character is a consequence of hard work.
When I see, for example, that you’re making millions by laundering drug-cartel money (HSBC), or pushing bad paper on mutual fund managers (AIG, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Citibank), or preying on low-income borrowers (Bank of America), or buying votes in Congress (all of the above) – just business as usual on Wall Street – while I’m barely making ends meet from the earnings of my full-time job, I realize that my participation in the labour market is irrational. I know that building my character through work is stupid because crime pays. I might as well become a gangster like you."
3. Mattress Mack to the rescue during Harvey hurricane floods. Generosity is a fundamental pillar of Character, but the art of giving is multi-faceted. When you give, do you expect something in return? Do you sometimes give from obligation? Are there times when giving is not helpful? Even with something like generosity, we always need to pay attention to the source of our actions. Why are we doing what we're doing? Pay attention to your answer without manipulation: what voices do you hear when you give? What do they want you to know? What are they afraid of?
Mattress Mack spoke about using his business as a safe haven with no hesitation:"We're doing this because we are part of the community." Out of a non-calculating responsiveness, humor is not far to follow, even in the most daunting circumstances. When a flood survivor, Aaron Rodgriguez, starts talking about Mack's generosity and his own uncertain next steps, Mack jumps on screen, puts an arm around him, and says "The next step is that I'm going to try and hire him."
Money and time are not the only forms generosity comes in: humor and lightness is also one of the most valuable things we can ever give to others.
Bonus Wisdom Pin-up: