Admit Migrants; Deport Conservatives

It seems to me….

As legal residents, immigrants would contribute more in taxes, spend more at our businesses, start companies of their own and create more jobs. Immigration is not a problem for us to solve but an opportunity for America to seize.” ~ Jose Andres[1].

The Republican Party has increasingly embraced those with antipathy for our democracy and those values that have sustained us from the time of our nation’s founding. As it has raced over the extremist precipice, radicals have claimed it as home: the Tea Party, Libertarians, Christian fundamentalists, Neo-Fascists, the Alt Right, white supremacists, citizen militias…. It now embraces the science deniers and others rejecting proven or well-established facts. Frequently it now is the migrant who more typifies and represents the values and aspirations associated with alleged U.S. exceptionalism.

The most common impression of a terrorist since 9/11 has been a Moslem jihadist. It now is apparent that is wrong: since 9/11 conservative white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for about three times as many attacks in the U.S. as other terrorists.

Rightwing terrorism is a problem throughout the world but especially so here in the U.S. due to the massive number of civilian-owned firearms, a tradition of free speech protecting even despicable ideologies, and laws preventing confrontation with disaggregate cyberspace movements by law enforcement agencies. Conservative extremists have been responsible for 73 percent of domestic mass shooting attacks[2].

While the FBI has repeatedly warned about the increasing domestic terrorist threat, offices intended to coordinate inter-agency response have not been receptively received by the current White House administration and consequently defunded even though eco-terrorists have been considered a top risk for years. Trump’s rhetoric and actions mirrors, validates, and even inspires the far-right[3] not only through his words but by having gutted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office on violent extremism through budget reductions.

Conservatives now oppose everything that might seem new, different, or suggested by Democrats – they have diligently earned their reputation as the party of “NO!”. To once again become advocates of national advancement, conservatives would need to abandon their blind devotion to laissez-faire economics and prioritize pragmatic productivity policies. To be totally fair, many Democrats have also largely given up on productivity growth seeing it primarily as something that only helps the top 1.0 percent.

Throughout U.S. history, many U.S. citizens have felt threatened by the arrival of new cultures with those most recently arrived being a target of racism, marginalization, and violence. They – the Irish, Italians, Poles, Czechs… – have all eventually been fully accepted and integrated.  Discrimination toward the newly arrived is never warranted.

In fact, it is immigration that now fuels our economy having driven two-thirds of U.S. economic growth since 2011. When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise the GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of native Americans. It’s a phenomenon dubbed the “immigration surplus”, and while a smaller share of additional GDP accrues to natives, typically 0.2 to 0.4 percent, it still amounts to $36 to $72 billion per year.

Conservatives fail to understand why more is not done to deport undocumented immigrants. Perhaps the single most important reason is that immigration is highly profitable for both employers and the U.S. government. One reason there are so many undocumented immigrants is that it’s so difficult to obtain authorization to immigrate; there are 4 million people on immigration waiting lists. They even are required to wait unacceptable lengths at border crossings just to request asylum necessitating illegal entry. Almost 150 million more would leave their country of origin and move to the U.S. if able.

The U.S. has succeeded, and achieved its present position of global dominance, because it has always been good at importing the talent it needs[4]. For every tech worker admitted, five U.S. jobs are created. Immigrants or their children founded 43 percent of the 2017 Fortune 500 companies which employed more than 12 million people worldwide in 2016. Today they employ half a million Americans.

Those who have found shelter in the U.S. have made immeasurable contributions to all aspects of U.S. society, providing labor and economic energy, spurring innovation, adding to the nation’s cultural diversity and culinary flavors, and making significant accomplishments in the arts, literature, and science. The rise in high-skilled immigration, a pronounced trend since the 1990s, has been linked to innovation, specifically to higher patenting rates among immigrants. Greater innovation among immigrants appears to also boost it among natives.

The strength of the U.S. higher education system attracts many of the world’s most promising students, particularly for graduate school. In 2013, 39 percent of all U.S. PhDs in STEM fields were awarded to international students.

In 2016, all six American Nobel Prize laureates in economics and sciences were immigrants; immigrants are heavily overrepresented in U.S. Nobel laureates in chemistry, medicine, and physics receiving 40 percent of U.S. Nobel prizes (31 of 78 prizes) while making up only 13.5 percent of the population[5] of those affiliated with U.S. universities.

There are significant spillover effects into the private sector. One of four U.S. tech companies established from 1995 to 2005 had an immigrant founder, CEO, president, or chief technology officer. Of the 25 biggest public Fortune 500 companies valued at over $1 billion, 60 percent were founded by immigrants or their children including U.S. icons such as Apple (Steve Jobs, son of a Syrian immigrant), Budweiser (Adolphus Busch came from Germany), Google (Sergey Brin came from Russia at the age of 6), and McDonald’s (Richard and Maurice McDonald were from Ireland). A recent National Foundation for American Policy study found they start a quarter of all new businesses that, on average, created 760 new jobs.

Although immigrants help the economy overall, the benefit is largely in certain industries. Immigrants with advanced degrees gravitate toward scientific and technical jobs that do not require high personal communication skills. Innovation is key to retaining our stature as a leading nation and immigrants innovate more than natives partly resulting from being heavily concentrated in STEM occupations where there is considerable R&D and entrepreneurial activity. By one analysis about 71 percent of Silicon Valley tech workers are immigrants including 42 percent of computer software developers.

Immigrants, in general, have less education than the average American and less likely to have graduated from high school than people born in the U.S. but that’s improving – incongruously, they also are much more likely to be college graduates[6]. 50 percent of immigrants 25 and older have completed high school compared to 81 percent of native-born adults. Almost half (47 percent) of immigrants ages 25 and older who arrived in the U.S. during the past five years have a college degree compared to only 31.6 percent of native-born counterparts.

Immigrant workers are overrepresented among college professors, engineers, mathematicians, nurses, dentists, and in other professional fields. 45 percent of medical scientists are foreign born. A number of influential social scientists in the U.S. also were refugees from conflicts in Europe and elsewhere.

Healthcare is another industry that could be seriously affected by restrictive immigration policies: the American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that 25 percent of physicians practicing in the U.S. were born in another country. Many foreign-born physicians accept jobs where there are insufficient U.S.-born doctors willing to practice, either in primary care or general practice, especially in rural and underserved areas of the country.

Critics have claimed that immigrants take jobs from native-born workers, lower wages, and drain too much tax money because of social services. For the most part, however, the jobs immigrants take are those most citizens refuse to take; they also are more willing to frequently relocate for seasonal labor. As immigrants typically have either very little or considerably more education than those native born, there usually is very little competition for low-end or entry-level jobs as U.S.-born who typically having more education act in supervisory positions. As a result of more restrictive immigration, produce and other agricultural items are allowed to decay in fields due to a lack of seasonal farm workers for those jobs where U.S. workers are unavailable.

As the number of elderly increases, the ratio of retired people to workers is expected to dramatically increase in the coming decades that will result in significant changes to the Security System (i.e., benefits). The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. A TFR of 2.08 is considered the “replacement level” in the U.S. necessary to prevent population decline: it currently is only 1.72. The only viable alternative to remedying this is for the U.S. to welcome more immigrants, particularly younger immigrants, so that in the coming decades, they and their descendants will contribute to the tax base. Immigrants, with their children and younger relatives, result in a younger workforce that can slow or even reverse increases of this very important ratio.

Almost all economists agree that immigration raises GDP and stimulates business development by increasing the supply of workers and entrepreneurs. There is some disagreement about the net fiscal impact of first-generation migrants as they tend to be less educated and earn lower wages than the native population, therefore tending to contribute less in taxes. While this is disputed, there is no doubt about the contribution that immigrant families make over the longer term.

Educated or professional immigrants are in high demand and there never can be sufficient available to meet current needs. Present U.S. immigration policies seem directly intended to force prospective employers to offshore various aspects of their operations. It is estimated that there were an estimated 3 million more STEM jobs than qualified workers available to fill them and that number will increase by 13 percent between 2017 and 2027[7]. There are approximates 20,000 unfilled available position for computer science graduates but U.S. colleges and universities only graduate a total of about 5,000 a year. By restricting qualified non-U.S. graduates from accepting employment following completion of their studies, employers are forced to offshore well-paying development.

Innovation is key to maintaining our position of world leadership. Any non-citizen receiving an advanced degree from a U.S. university should automatically receive a Green Card stapled to their degree certificate.

Immigrants also make use of fewer financial assistance program benefits than citizens. Almost half or 3.4 million pay Social Security payroll taxes (FICA) even though they are not eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement. Around $2 billion a year in Medicaid funding goes to hospitals who must care for anyone who shows up at the emergency room. About 15.5 percent of undocumented immigrants benefit from Medicaid which is fairly similar to the 16.1 percent of native-born Americans who use the program. Only 9.1 percent of undocumented immigrants use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (previously called food stamps) compared to 11.6 percent of native-born.

Conservatives oppose all progress; their primary mantra is “cut taxes” limiting functionality or improvement while advocating military action against anyone disagreeing with us. Perhaps the major reason for admitting migrants and deporting conservatives is that migrants are much more open to new ideas. Psychologists use the concept of rigidity to characterize people. Personal rigidity, a characteristic of many conservatives, is where someone tends to believe there is only one acceptable approach to a problem. If conservatives continue to oppose all meaningful reform, the best policy would be to deport them and replace them with immigrants.

It is important that our country be considered not only as it is today but, even more importantly, what its potential is for it to become tomorrow. Conservatives tend to primarily only consider the past neglecting all of its imperfections. Yes, admittedly much still needs to be improved but that never can happen by attempting to turn back the clock or to freeze everything as it is today. Not all progress is beneficial – some is totally innocuous and some long-range effects must be considered with a jaundiced prospective. But it is unacceptable to simply bar the gates to progress as many conservatives advocate.

It should be obvious that it is the conservatives who represent an existential threat to our country and it is migrants who should be welcomed. But if conservatives were deported, who would take them? Given their obvious animosity toward our country, seemingly total opposition to change or improvement, and extreme conservative beliefs, the area where they possibly would be most compatible would be the Middle East with whom they would share many similar values.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] José Ramón Andrés Puerta is a Spanish-American chef who owns numerous restaurants around the U.S. He also is the founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.

[2] Gun Violence and Mass Shootings, ADL, https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/table-talk/gun-violence-mass-shootings, August 2019.

[3] Bergengruen, Vera, and W.J. Hennigan. What Does A Terrorist Look Like, Time, https://time.com/magazine/us/5647302/august-19th-2019-vol-194-no-6-u-s/, 19 August 2019, pp22-27.

[4] Mehta, Suketu. We Do Not Come To America Empty-Handed, Time, http://time.com/5594365/america-immigration-future-economic-growth/, 23 May 2019, pp38-39.

[5] Census American Community Survey.

[6] Weissmann, Jordan. Cool Fact: Immigrants Are Way More Likely To Have A College Degree Than People Born In The U.S., Slate, https://slate.com/business/2015/09/how-educated-are-immigrants-they-re-way-more-likely-to-have-a-college-degree-than-people-born-in-america.html, 29 September 2015.

[7] Randstad North America estimate.

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Misunderstanding Higher Education

It seems to me….

The value of a collage education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” ~ Albert Einstein[1].

Students, and some parents, question why they should go to college when very little of what they learn will ever be of use later in life. Much of the math, history, science, literature, and other material seems totally irrelevant in the real world and very few people ever use even a small portion of what they learned while the rest is quickly forgotten. Those without a college education are frequently unable to appreciate the intent or fundamental reason for an education as those without normally do not understand, or even miss, what they do not have.

Why do the majority of students continue to attend a physical college or university when as much could be learned at a virtual on-line university? Socialization – it is the first prolonged opportunity for most students to be on their own away from home and parents. To collectively participate in extracurricular activities. To form new friendships and acquaintances with others sharing similar or complimentary interests. To try or explore what is new or different. In some disciplines, to have access to equipment or resources not otherwise available. Living with other students can be as valuable an experience as the subject material itself.

The vast majority of Americans see value in higher education – whether they graduated from college or not. Most say a college degree is important, if not essential, in helping a young person succeed in the world; college graduates themselves say their degree helped them grow and develop the skills they needed for the workplace. 31 percent of adults say a college education is essential and an additional 60 percent say it is important but not essential. However, a far higher percent says a good work ethic (89 percent), the ability to get along with people (85 percent), and work skills learned on the job (75 percent) are essential for a young person to succeed.

Between 2015 and 2018, the share of Americans saying they had either a great or considerable amount of confidence in higher education dropped from 57 percent to 48 percent, and the falloff was greater among Republicans (from 56 percent to 39 percent) than among Democrats (68 percent to 62 percent). Majorities of Republicans (77 percent) and Democrats (92 percent) say high tuition costs are a major reason why they believe colleges and universities are headed in the wrong direction. Roughly eight-in-ten Republicans (79 percent) say professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom is a major reason why the higher education system is headed in the wrong direction (only 17 percent of Democrats say the same).

Only 16 percent say a four-year degree from a college or university prepares someone very well for a well-paying job in today’s economy, while 51 percent say it prepares them somewhat well. Community colleges get even fewer positive marks: 12 percent say a two-year degree from these colleges prepares someone very well for a job, and 46 percent say it prepares them somewhat well.

A majority of Republicans (58 percent) say colleges should teach specific skills and knowledge that can be used in the workplace, while only 28 percent say it should be to help an individual grow personally and intellectually. Democrats are more evenly divided on this: 43 percent say the main purpose of college should be developing skills and knowledge, while roughly the same share (42 percent) point to personal and intellectual growth.

Relative to predicting a student’s future success, a college degree serves as an indication of ability. The more prestigious the school, the greater the indication of relative capability. Granted much of this is predicated on the more prominent school’s ability to be more selective in enrolling the most qualified students.

There traditionally have been three tiers of colleges/universities. The top tier is comprised of the “elite” schools: the MITs, Stanfords, Harvards…. The second-tier is the vast majority of schools. The third tier, the Devries…, are essentially little more than trade/vocational schools. Where the third-tier prepared students for specific job categories, the top tier attempts to provide a general education with specific areas of specialization but the primary emphasis is teaching students how to think. The middle tier falls somewhere between the other two. Regardless of general opinion, it is very obvious which tier hiring managers believe provides the greatest value.

No one can foresee how employment will change in the future. The primary justification for the stature bestowed on top tier institutions is that they prepare their graduates for tomorrow’s world rather than today’s. An education should prepare students for any eventuality.

Traditional students when just initially beginning college are often too immature to fully appreciate potential advantages of various majors frequently preferring the seemingly less difficult to what might be their better option. It always can be difficult to tell an 18-19-year-old anything. They frequently do not see the benefit of delayed gratification trading harder work necessary to obtain a more difficult undergraduate degree today for a career that will be more rewarding and beneficial later in life.

Now, additional specialty programs seem to be appearing at some institutions: the online, the certification, and other degrees with non-traditional emphasis. The primary focus is now on the expanding universe of micro-credentials that are primarily online and significantly lower in cost than standard degrees. The various certificates, micro-degrees and other assorted digital badges are far narrower in focus, either around specific skills or content objectives, and are designed to give a more granular view of learner competencies.

Colleges are not necessarily helpful in providing students adequate guidance frequently only emphasizing what percent of students complete their degree within six years. At some institutions, the matriculation rate is seemingly of more importance that subject mastery.

College curriculums have changed over the recent past with students today spending significantly less time on their academics, about ⅓ less, than students even 50-60 years ago. Additionally, grade inflation has reduced course standards creating opportunities for greater numbers of students. Admission standards at most colleges also are lower – and it shows.

College/university professors and lecturers are more highly educated in their specific discipling than most K-12 teachers but rarely have taken any classes specifically on how to teach – and it frequently is apparent. While a teaching certificate requirement for professors would be beneficial, it would severely limit the number of potential instructors. Since many professors could substantially increase their income by working in the corporate world, they teach as a personal preference and dedication, and their numbers would decline if also required to have a teaching certification. Unfortunately, all of us have had faculty who while perhaps excellent researchers, should never be permitted in the classroom.

While many professors are knowledgeable and very competent, others unfortunately are not. Many do not have any idea what is useful or needed in the “real” world outside of academia. Probably all professors, especially in science or engineering disciplines, should be required to have 3-5 years of actual work experience in their field prior to being permitted to teach.

Additionally, there are significant differences in how classes are taught. The most cost effective – but least beneficial – method of instruction yet developed is to pack possibly several hundred students into an auditorium for about 50 minutes to listen to a professor orate on some subject while the students supposedly take notes and teaching assistants grade assignments and exams. Many college/university level classes, especially lower level classes, are taught in large lecture halls where professors rarely know the names of more than a few of their students.

Many of the approximately 70 percent of Americans with only a limited education fail to understand the difference between political liberalism and what is considered a liberal education. There is considerable confusion among parents, students, the general public, and even board members about what the liberal arts are or what a liberal education means. Some policy makers consider a liberal education as unrelated to the workplace and therefore undeserving of public funding in times of tight state budgets.

To them, any reference to “liberal” suggests a political sense of liberal versus conservative[2]. The word “liberal” in “liberal arts” and “liberal education” does not refer to the opposite of conservative; it refers to “free”, the opposite of constrained, imprisoned, incarcerated, and subjugated. Derived from the Latin “liberalis”, a liberal education is a curriculum intended for free citizens.

Liberal arts therefore refers to a general education curriculum in multiple disciplines such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences; a liberal arts education can refer to overall studies in a general degree program along with more in-depth study in a specific major. Neither term generally refers to the professional, vocational, or technical curriculum. It is intended to provide broad knowledge and develop intellectual ability.

Those starting their first job today will likely change careers at least three to five times during their working years. The intent of higher education is to prepare someone for many fields in not only today’s workplace, but also that of the future. By emphasizing rational thought, the intent is to develop robust critical thinking and analytical skills, problem solving abilities, and a strong moral compass. A more integrated curriculum that combines the foundational concepts and habits of mind of the liberal arts and sciences with the skill sets more traditionally thought of as preprofessional or vocational will better prepare students for a more dynamic future.

Regardless of generally unfounded suspicion and attempts to constrain personal freedoms, university professors are equally entitled to their own personal beliefs and are selected based on their teaching ability rather than political orientation[3]. The vast majority are preoccupied attempting to cover course requisites rather than ever attempting to inject personal political beliefs into the curriculum and, nevertheless, would never consider doing so. Still, irrespective of these constraints, many faculty members bring talent, passion, imagination, humor, and empathy into their classrooms. Though many are also researchers creating knowledge, they bring changes to student’s lives.

A college or university education is extremely important but never can be appropriate for everyone. Other options, such as vocational schools need to become competitive academies that combine work-based training with rigorous coursework directly responding to employers’ needs.

Higher education faces a host of challenges in the future – controlling costs amid increased fiscal pressures, ensuring that graduates are prepared for the jobs of the future, adapting to changing technology and responding to the country’s changing demographics. The future of our country depends on them doing so.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics.

[2] Strauss, Valerie. What The ‘Liberal’ In ‘Liberal Arts’ Actually Means, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/02/what-the-liberal-in-liberal-arts-actually-means/, 2 April 2015.

[3] Parker, Kim. The Growing Partisan Divide In Views Of Higher Education, Pew Research Center, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/the-growing-partisan-divide-in-views-of-higher-education/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=efde61748d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_08_23_03_44&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-efde61748d-400092341, 19 August 2019.

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First The Moon – Then On To Mars

It seems to me….

My view is that we should go back to the Moon, build up the infrastructure to make flights there commonplace – be comfortable with it – then use that infrastructure to expand and go to Mars.” ~ Jim Lovell[1].

From a scientific perspective, human life on Mars could probably tell us more about the solar system’s past, as well as the history of our own planet, than we could ever learn from living on just one world. It would also be a phenomenal steppingstone in the conquest of exploring other worlds. Theoretically, we could use a human settlement on Mars as a template for future colonization missions, perhaps even to extrasolar systems. Mars could then, in the not too distant future, serve as a vital pit stop for interplanetary missions.

Scientists and engineers seem fairly certain that a human colony on the Red Planet is not only likely in the future, but inevitable.

Mars is our closest celestial body with the greatest potential for colonization but Mars would not be an easy place to live. From a biological standpoint, establishing a settlement on Mars would be of comparable difficulty to establishing one on the Moon. At a mass only a little more than 10 percent of Earth’s, and gravity only a bit more than ⅓ of our own, Mars is comparatively tiny, dry, and extremely cold, with the barest hint of an atmosphere composed almost entirely of CO2. Mars does have some water, in the form of ice, and possibly even some liquid saltwater.

Establishing even a small permanent outpost on Mars would require sending hundreds to thousands of tons of material to its surface. This would necessitate multiple launches, probably of the order from dozens to hundreds. Sending hundreds of tons of payload per rocket to other worlds from Earth requires an extremely high delta-v. As more weight is added to the spacecraft, fuel requirements increase exponentially. A lower delta-v could be achieved by launching a corresponding payload from the Moon which would require comparatively less fuel than from Earth.

Going into space results in a host of stress-like responses[2]. Many of these extend down into our genome as well as our immune system and gut microbiome. Human bodies are not well suited for micro-gravity; it results in changes to our circulatory system, makes us distended, and causes vision changes. Physical problems of long-term space flight include the stresses of microgravity, cosmic radiation, and “headward fluid shift” where blood and tissue fluid collect in the head. Body changes are in the eyes, carotid artery, DNA expression, and cognitive performance. The longer the duration spent in space, the more symptomatic upon return to Earth.

Radiation is a particular concern during any long-term Earth-orbiting presence or for getting to places like Mars or asteroid targets. Our cells, especially our neurons, are not tolerant of the increased radiation environment in space. During stays of extended duration, hazards from solar and cosmic particle radiation increases significantly from the environment of low Earth orbit where Earth’s magnetic field offers substantial protection.

Traveling to Mars, an astronaut might be exposed to an average radiation dosage some 700 times that on Earth; during a fairly typical 6-month journey to Mars an astronaut might receive the equivalent of about 60 percent of a normal lifetime radiation exposure on Earth.

Finding the right shielding that can protect people is challenging as any space mission is limited by mass; more mass requires more fuel for propulsion. The problem is further complicated by the fact that improper radiation shielding could possibly make things worse. When very high energy cosmic particles impact a material, it could initiate a burst of slower but harmful radiation in the form of particles such as neutrons. While protected from the original cosmic radiation, attempting to block it would result in the energy being absorbed by the body rather than simply passing through.

A possible improvement is to include a layer of shielding material with a high hydrogen content, possibly a lithium compound such as lithium hydride, with a similar mass to the atomic nucleus to the damaging neutrons capable of absorbing energy in elastic nuclear collisions thus reducing secondary particle energy.

Any initial actual economic value of a Mars colony to Earth would be in the intellectual property that results from the vast amount of innovation that would result from humanity’s quest to conquer the new frontier itself. Challenge and necessity brought on by human expansion on Earth have spurred invention for hundreds of thousands of years, and that will continue as we move on into space.

In the far future, it might be desirable to terraform Mars so as to more easily function on the planet’s surface and to more readily serve as a second home for humanity. Terraforming is a process by which a planet’s biosphere is altered with technology in order to make it more suitable to human and Earth-based life. Terraforming an entire world would necessitate many factors about the planet’s atmosphere and surface be changed to accommodate such life. There are four main factors that would need to be addressed for this process to occur: atmospheric pressure, atmospheric content, temperature, and liquid water content.

Numerous treaties preclude government ownership of celestial bodies. Any other place we may one day choose, or need, to exploit is supposedly considered the property of ALL Earth governments and to be used for the betterment of all peoples. But this model is utopian at best, unrealistic in any regard, and therefore cannot hold in the long term.

If terraforming Mars is successful, Mars would be its own self-sustaining world completely independent of resources from Earth. No natural nor manmade phenomenon would then have the capability to stop the advancement of humanity outwards and towards the stars. At last, we would be an interplanetary species.

The universe is vast and demands our exploration. After an initial stop on the Moon, Mars would be the next in the potentially thousands of steps necessary in our endeavor to become an extraterrestrial species. One day, humanity will leap towards the stars in an attempt to learn and discover more about the universe and more about ourselves in the process. The universe is our neighborhood and it is time to open the front door and explore it.


That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] James Arthur Lovell Jr. is a former NASA astronaut, Naval Aviator, mechanical engineer, and retired Navy captain. He orbited the Moon on both Apollo 8 and 13.

[2] Scharf, Caleb. Deep-Space Shielding, Scientific American, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/life-unbounded/deep-space-shielding/, 5 June 2019.

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Deforestation

It seems to me….

Who owns this forest? Not the government, not the village, nor any of us. The real owners are those not yet born. We are merely custodians, entrusted with the privilege of taking only what we need while leaving the heritage intact for future generations.” ~ Dukku Chamaru Tofa[1].

The primary focus on climate change often is on fossil fuel use reduction and sustainable energy source development but deforestation and subsequent use of lands, especially in tropical regions, contributes more to climate change than previously realized[2].

Deforestation results from exploitation of natural resources by expanding populations, logging, agriculture, biofuel production, and wildfires. Use of fossil fuels is the primary source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions but tree removal from forested land has also contributed. Deforestation just from tropical areas results in the release of about 3.0 billion tons of CO2 a year[3] though that amount has been mounting significantly in recent years. Worldwide, ongoing loss of photosynthetic carbon sequestration is around 38 gigatons per annum at an increasing rate of 500 megatons every year[4].

Trees and other types of vegetation remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in their bodies as part of the photosynthesis process – a tree is comprised of about 50 percent carbon. Some carbon gets released back into the atmosphere through respiration but the net effect is massive carbon storage. U.S. forests absorb an estimated one million to three million tons of CO2 each year offsetting between 20 percent and 46 percent of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions[5]. When land is cleared for timber, agriculture, or other uses, there obviously are fewer trees to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Loss of forests contributes to as much as 30 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions each year rivaling emissions from the global transportation sector. Vehicle emissions account for about 14 percent of global carbon emissions but tropical rainforest deforestation alone adds more CO2, upwards of 15 percent, to the atmosphere – more than the sum total of cars and trucks on all the world’s roads[6]. Any realistic plan to sufficiently reduce global warming pollution in time to avoid extremely serious consequences must rely in part on preserving tropical forests.

At the time of the Roman Empire, 90 percent of the European continent was forested but Western Europe has now lost over 99 percent of its primary forest. It is only in relatively recent times that the tropical forests also have come under severe attack. On a global scale there was twice as much tropical forest at the turn of the 20th century as there is today and only around 700 million of the original 1.5 billion hectares (2.7 million of 5.8 million sq. miles) remain.

Forests cover 30.7 percent of the Earth’s surface and, in addition to providing food, security, and shelter, they are key to combating climate change, protecting biodiversity, and the homes of indigenous populations. Now, about 13 million hectares (50.2 thousand sq. miles) of forests are being lost every year while persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares (13.9 million sq. miles). Even though 15 percent of land is currently under protection, biodiversity remains at risk.

The U.S. was mostly deforested between 1630, at the start of European settlement, and 1907. Trees once covered an estimated 46 percent of the land area of what is now the U.S. versus 34 percent today[7].

When trees are lost due to deforestation, the result can be a drier climate and desertification or the transformation of a previously aboraceous area into desert. Though only a contributing rather than a primary cause of desertification and decline of biological diversity, deforestation is problematic for additional reasons other than greenhouse gas increases. Deforestation and desertification caused by human activities and climate change pose major challenges to sustainable development and have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the fight against poverty, especially in less-developed areas.

Desertification has played a significant role in human history contributing to the collapse of several large empires; such as Carthage, Greece, and the Roman Empire; as well as causing displacement of local populations. Historical evidence shows that the serious and extensive land deterioration occurring centuries ago in arid regions had three epicenters: the Mediterranean, the Mesopotamian Valley, and the Loess Plateau of China where populations were relatively dense.

Drylands occupy approximately 40–41 percent of the Earth’s land area, approximately 52 million sq. km (about 20 million sq. miles), which are home to more than 2 billion people. The percentage of true desert has increased in the last 125 years, from about 9 percent of the Earth’s surface to 14 percent. It has been estimated that some 10–20 percent of drylands are already degraded, the total area affected by desertification being between 6 and 12 million hectares (2.32–4.6 million sq. miles), that about 1–6 percent of the inhabitants of drylands live in desertified areas, and that a billion people are under threat from further desertification.

During the last century, significant decreases in the world’s biodiversity have increasingly occurred. There has been an estimated loss of 58 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity just since 1970[8] with the greatest loss occurring among tropical species. Humanity is outstripping the planet’s resources by 50 percent, essentially using the resources of one and a half Earths every year.

There are large-scale tree-planting campaigns in various locations around the world though none of comparable size in the U.S. While the current global leader in reforestation is China; e.g., in Yannan in the Shaanzi Province; the proposed Great Green Wall under the southern edge of the Sahara Desert extending across Africa could possibly exceed it if completed. Cutting deforestation rates by 50 percent over the next century would provide about 12 percent of the emissions reductions required to keep CO2 concentrations less than 450 parts per million, a goal the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[9] (IPCC) believes necessary to prevent further significant increases in global temperatures.

Evaluating possible long-term cumulative emission escalations resulting from the effects of deforestation is difficult without availability of adequate historical data over a sufficiently extended reference timeframe. Not being able to locate statistics showing the correlation between deforestation and atmospheric greenhouse gas increases, it is difficult to postulate anything other than the strictly hypothetical conclusion that if equivalent forested acreage that existed prior to the start of the industrial revolution still existed today, it would have been sufficient over that period to counteract subsequent increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Any such argument, however, is obviously not relevant given the current reality of deforestation.

Unfortunately, most original-growth forests are now gone and can never be restored to their former extent. Additional effort, though, is necessary to not only preserve what existing forested areas remain but to encourage restoration of additional areas.

It is saddening – depressing – to think about what we are doing to our planet. Rather than considering what we are leaving for future generations, we rape and plunder its resources, insatiably devouring everything like ravenous locusts. Without thought of conserving, we race to acquire as much as possible from the global commons. The Earth does not belong solely to our generation, its many assets are not unlimited.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Dukku Chamaru Tofa is an elder of the Gond Tribe in central India who upholds ancient traditions of nature conservation that are common to hunter-gatherers and shifting cultivators worldwide.

[2] Mahowald, Natalie M. et al. Are The Impacts Of Land Use On Warming Underestimated In Climate Policy?, IOP Science, https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa836d, 18 September 2017.

[3] Harris, Nancy, et al. Progress Toward A Consensus On Carbon Emissions From Tropical Deforestation, International Climate Negotiations, Policy Brief, Qatar, http://whrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/WI_WHRC_Policy_Brief_Forest_CarbonEmissions_finalreportReduced.pdf, December 2012.

[4] Casey, Timothy. Deforestation & Carbon Emission, Geologist, http://geologist-1011.net/net/deforestation/.

[5] Boucher, Doug. Restoring U.S. Forests By Mid-Century, Union of Concerned Scientists, https://blog.ucsusa.org/doug-boucher/restoring-u-s-forests-by-mid-century, 14 November 2016.

[6] World Carfree Network (WCN), https://www.worldcarfree.net/, 13 December 2017.

[7] U.S. Forest Facts And Historical Trends, U.S. Department of Agriculture, https://www.fia.fs.fed.us/library/brochures/docs/2000/ForestFactsMetric.pdf?te=1&nl=morning-briefing&emc=edit_NN_p_20190917&section=backStory?campaign_id=9&instance_id=12433&segment_id=17077&user_id=d1d751aa07a1849c5fcd620cd70f62a8&regi_id=67061316on=backStory, September 2001.

[8] Oerlemans, Natasja, et al. Living Planet Report 2016, World Wildlife Report, https://www.wnf.nl/custom/LPR_2016_fullreport/, 2016.

[9] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political, and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options.

Posted in Africa, Arid Areas, biodiversity, Carbon Dioxide, Carthage, Change, China, China, Climate, Climate Change, Climate Change Conference, CO2, CO₂, Deforestation, Desertification, Deserts, Ecology, Ecosystem, Environment, Europe, Extinctions, Farming, Fossil Fuels, Global Warming, Global Warming, Greece, Greenhouse, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change, Loess Plateau, Mediterranean, Natural Habitat, Photosynthesis, Roman Empire, Sahara Desert, Shaanzi Province, Transportation, Yannan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recession Anxieties

It seems to me….

Keynes’s contribution was not just to advocate spending government money in the middle of a recession. Every government had done that going back to the days of the Irish potato famine. What he gave to us was a way of thinking about the magnitude and the dimensions and so forth.” ~ Paul Samuelson[1].

The dominant mood in markets today, as it has been for much of the past decade, is not complacency but anxiety[2]. And it is deepening by the day.

A litany of headwinds – the trade war, Brexit, slowdowns in Europe and China – are having an effect on growth. Bond yields, the yield curve, inflation expectations, and Fed-rate predictions might seem boring but they can provide important indications about the economy.

Economic warning signals are flashing almost everywhere one looks. It is most evident in the astounding appetite for the safest of assets: government bonds. Growth has stalled in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico…. In Germany, where recent figures show that its economy to be shrinking, interest rates are negative all the way from overnight deposits to 30-year bonds. Investors who buy and hold bonds to maturity will have a guaranteed cash loss. In Switzerland, negative yields extend all the way to 50-year bonds. Even in indebted and crisis-prone Italy, a ten-year bond earns only 1.5 percent.

Investors buy government bonds because governments (normally) pay back their debts so those bonds are a safe bet. Those purchases push prices higher and when bond prices rise, the yields – or the fixed interest rates investors collect on their bond investments – fall. So, falling yields are to the economy what barometric pressure is to the weather: when they drop it’s often a sign that some kind of storm is coming.

Long-term yields on government bonds around the world have lately dropped to some of their lowest levels in recent years pushing long-term yields even lower than short-term yields. In an economically rational world, investors would demand higher interest rates on long-term bonds than they do for short-term ones as locking up their money for a longer period is usually riskier and investors are paid more for that risk. Today, in the U.S., a government bond that’s due in three months will pay a higher rate than a government bond that is due in 10 years. These occurrences, called inversions, are rare and they have grabbed Wall Street’s attention for one simple reason: they have preceded every recession over the last 60 years (although some of those downturns took up to two years to materialize).

Angst is also evident elsewhere. The safe-investment dollar is up against many other currencies. Gold is at a six-year high. Copper prices, a proxy for industrial health, are down sharply. Despite Iran’s seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf, oil prices have sunk to $60 a barrel. One of the primary influences on the world economy has to be the U.S.’s trade disputes with the rest of the world but especially with China. U.S. central bank officials have spotlighted the persistent weakness of inflation (more on this below) and the trade war as reasons for concern.

Manufacturing firms are wary and indices of business confidence are tumbling[3]. U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August 2019. Earnings growth estimates have come down drastically since last year. Analysts estimated in December 2018 that S&P 500 earnings growth would be around 7.6 percent in the coming year – that estimate is now around 2.3 percent.

An increasing number of people fear these strange signals portend a global recession. The probability of Great Britain withdrawing from the E.U. without an approved trade deal would strongly impact the British and, consequently, the U.S. as one of Britain’s primary trading partners. Until Brexit, Great Britain could be counted on to expedite trade and commerce across the Channel and veto anti-U.S. actions by other European countries, especially France.

China announced its industrial production is growing at its most sluggish pace since 2002. Investors fear that world finances are more closely resembling those in Japan laboring under a torpid economy struggling to vanquish deflation but prone to further losses.

A recession so far remains a fear, not a reality. The world economy is still growing, albeit at a less healthy pace than in 2018. Its resilience rests on consumers, especially in the U.S.: jobs are plentiful; wages are picking up; credit is still easy; and cheaper oil means there is more money to spend. There also has been little sign of any heady exuberance that normally precedes a slump. The boards of public companies and the shareholders they ostensibly serve have played it safe. Businesses, in aggregate, are net savers. Investors have favored firms that generate cash without needing to splurge on fixed assets. This is apparent in the vastly contrasting fortunes of the U.S.’s vigorous stock market, dominated by capital-light Internet and services firms that throw off profits, whereas in Europe, banks and carmakers with factories have negative capital flow. Within Europe’s stock markets a defensive stock, such as Nestlé, is trading at a towering premium relative to an industrial one such as Daimler.

While at first glance the U.S. appears economically healthy, beneath that façade are numerous cracks. The U.S.’s stock market was up 19 percent by mid-2019 and its economy created 224,000 new jobs just in June 2019, more than twice as many as needed to keep up with the growth of the workforce. Despite these strengths, anxiety could turn to alarm and sluggish growth descend into recession. Around the world investors, businesses and central bankers are grappling with a startling fact: at the end of July 2019 the U.S. economy had been growing for 121 consecutive months, the longest run since records began in 1854. The U.S.’s decade-long expansion is the oldest on record and a downturn is historically overdue but with interest rates at extremely low levels and the national debt being extremely high, the capacity to fight an economic downturn is essentially depleted. The Fed, which usually cuts interest rates by about 5 percent in a recession, will have little room to maneuver and the government will be too indebted to enact necessary stimulus spending forcing a liquidity trap scenario.

Growth is slow but more stable as activity has shifted to services and intangible assets. The 2009 recession impacted U.S. manufacturing and construction with a decline of 1.9 million jobs lost within five years following its start accelerating the shift from a manufacturing nation to a service economy. As a result of new regulations and the recent memory of that crisis, there are few signs of wild mortgage lending, over-investment, or reckless financial firms. Inflation is remarkably subdued. These forces mean that a placid expansion can continue well beyond historical norms but also suggest the way it will eventually end will be different.

Productivity growth in advanced economies has been slowing for decades, the downturn following the 2009 financial crisis raised alarms. Now, ten years following recovery from that crisis, labor-productivity-growth rates remain near historic lows across many advanced economies. Productivity growth is crucial to increase wages and living standards and helps raise the purchasing power of consumers to grow demand for goods and services. Slowing labor productivity growth therefore heightens concerns at a time when aging economies depend on productivity gains to drive economic growth. Other contributing factors include labor inputs, human capital, physical capital, and technology.

Total factor productivity (TFP), also called multi-factor productivity, measures residual growth in total output of a firm, industry, or national economy that cannot be explained by the accumulation of traditional inputs such as labor and capital. TFP is an index of overall productivity of the economy which accounts for effects in total output growth relative to the growth in traditionally measured inputs of labor and capital. If all inputs are accounted for, then total TFP can be taken as a measure of an economy’s long-term technological change or technological dynamism.

Unfortunately, following a decade of strong growth, U.S. productivity has begun to slow primarily as a result of failure to adequately invest in the basic factors of productivity. Such low or negative growth is typically seen during recessions and unusual during economic expansions.

The U.S. gross federal debt to GDP ratio averaged 62.31 percent from 1940 until 2018 but shot up to 106.10 percent in 2018. A debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent is normally considered a prudent upper limit for developed countries and exceeding that limit could threaten fiscal sustainability.

The NAIRU (non-inflationary rate of unemployment) is the lowest level of unemployment that can exist in an economy before inflation begins to rise. If the actual unemployment rate is below the NAIRU level for several years, the inflation rate accelerates to match the rise in inflationary expectations; the NAIRU level therefore represents the lowest level at which the unemployment rate can fall before the rate of inflation starts to rise. The Federal Reserve uses statistical models to estimates that the NAIRU level should be somewhere between 5 to 6 percent unemployment. NAIRU plays a role in the Fed’s dual mandate objectives of achieving maximum employment and price stability.

With U.S. unemployment currently having been at or below 3.7 percent, well below the NAIRU, for quite some time, inflationary pressure is building increasing the possibility of difficult to control future rapid escalation. The U.S. economy is severely overheated heightening concerns.

The U.S.is currently experiencing a high level of economic inequality as indicated by a Gini coefficient of about 41.5. The last time the country saw this level of inequality was during World War I and the depression era.

Equality, like fairness, is an important value in most societies. Inequality can be a signal of lack of income mobility and opportunity – a reflection of persistent disadvantage for particular segments of the society. Widening inequality also has significant implications for growth and macroeconomic stability, it can concentrate political and decision-making power in the hands of a few, lead to a suboptimal use of human resources, cause investment-reducing political and economic instability, and raise crisis risk. Extreme wealth inequality breeds additional inequality and leads to a government controlled by a few, a plutocracy or oligarchy who then are able to make laws further favoring the wealthy.

Recessions used to be triggered by housing bubbles, price surges, or industrial busts. Now the concern should be about globally interconnected firms, a financial system addicted to cheap money, and a political system pushing extreme policies when political leaders feel living standards to not be rising with satisfactory rapidity.

The good news is that the trade war has so far had the most direct impact on manufacturing and commodity-related industries which now are a more moderate share of the overall economy. As of August, only 8.5 percent of American jobs were in manufacturing. The shift of the U.S. economy toward service industries over the last two generations may have left it better able to endure a global trade and manufacturing slowdown, particularly compared with export-reliant countries like China and Germany.

While an economic downturn is obviously going to occur within the relatively near future, it is not apparent when or what will be the primary cause. What is obvious is that little has been done to either prepare for it, lessen its impact, or speed recovery.

It has been remarked that “when America sneezes, the world catches cold[4]”. Perhaps Trump has done the world a favor by partially decoupling the U.S. economy from that of other nations but any downturn will still be worldwide.

World leaders have grossly mismanaged the global economy. Heads of state from Trump to Xi Jinping have squandered the real momentum that carried over from the world’s long, post-crash recovery. Trump’s trade war and Brexit may top the list of bad policies, but China’s protectionism and India’s ethno-nationalism haven’t helped either.

U.S. tariffs are halting investment. These problems are completely self-inflicted by major world leaders who have delivered almost universally poor economic stewardship.

The most powerful anti-recession stimulus available is freer trade. Few ideas have been as thoroughly tested throughout history as the notion that trade raises a country’s income and living standards, not to mention international cooperation and peace. U.S. leaders have understood this for decades – at least until now.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Paul Anthony Samuelson was an American economist and the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He has been called the “Father of Modern Economics” and many considered him to be the foremost academic economist of the 20th century.

[2] Beddoes, Zanny Minton. Markets Are Braced For A Global Downturn, The Economist, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/08/17/markets-are-braced-for-a-global-downturn?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/2019/08/15n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/na/294147/n, 17 August 2019.

[3] Beddoes, Zanny Minton. America’s Expansion Is Now The Longest On Record, The Economist, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/07/11/americas-expansion-is-now-the-longest-on-record?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/2019/07/11n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/na/269943/n, 11 July 2019.

[4] First used by Prussian diplomat Klemens Wenzel Furst von Metternich during the Napoleonic era in reference to France rather than the U.S.

Posted in Asia, Asia, Bonds, Brazil, Brexit, China, China, Daimler, Debt, Debt, Deficit, Deficit, Economic, economic growth, Economics, Economy, Employment, Europe, Europe, Factor Intensity, Federal Reserve, Federal Reserve, Financial, financial crisis, France, France, GDP, Germany, Germany, Gini Coefficient, Gini Coefficient, Gini Index, Globalization, Globalization, Great Britain, Great Britain, Gross Domestic Product, human capital, India, Inequality, Inequality, Iran, Iran, Italy, Italy, Japan, Japan, Jobs, Liquidity Crisis, Liquidity-Trap, Mexico, Mexico, Mexico, Michael Polanyi, NAIRU, National, Nestlé, Physical Capital, Post-Industrial, Productivity, Recession, Recession, Stimulus, Swizerland, Technology, Total Factor Productivity, Trade, Trump, Wages, Xi Jinping, Xi Jinping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pessimistic Healthcare Projections

It seems to me….

I am interested in getting people to use the healthcare system at the right time, getting them to see the doctor early enough, before a small health problem turns serious.” ~ Donna Shalala[1].

A study released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation[2] at the University of Washington projected that U.S. life expectancy is expected to drop the most of any high-income nation: from 43rd in 2016 to 64th in 2040 with a lifespan of 79.8 years. The top five health drivers that explain most of the future trajectory for premature mortality are high blood pressure, high body mass index, high blood sugar, tobacco use, and alcohol use. Spain is expected to have the longest life expectancy of any nation in the world by 2040 with an average lifespan expected to increase to 85.8 years.

Actuarial life expectancy tables predict the probability of someone dying by a certain age but deaths are occurring prior to what is generally anticipated. Life expectancy among less-educated U.S. Caucasians has been falling at rates reminiscent of the collapse of life expectancy in post-Communist Russia. Much of this decline has resulted from social and economic inequality and lack of opportunity even in those cases where the actual direct cause lies in self-destructive behavior such as overuse of prescription drugs, smoking, and obesity.

The U.S. professes to care about children at their youngest and most fragile stage in life but maternal deaths in the U.S. have been increasing making it now one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth[3]. For every 100,000 live births, 28 women die in childbirth or shortly thereafter compared with only 11 in Canada[4]. This ratio has more than doubled since 1990. Black women are three times as likely to die giving birth or shortly after birth as white women. Every year, more than 50,000 mothers are severely injured during or after childbirth and about 700 die as a result of hospitals and medical workers not always following proper safety procedures.

The overall death rate for children between ages 10 and 19 rose by 12 percent above the 2013 rate in large part because of a sizable increase in injury deaths, a category that includes deaths by suicide, homicide, and unintentional injuries or accidents[5]. Suicide rates, which dropped by 15 percent from 1999 to 2007, rose by 56 percent between 2007 and 2016. Homicide rates, which decreased by 35 percent between 2007 and 2014, climbed by 27 percent from 2014 to 2016. Firearms were involved in 87 percent of all homicides and 43 percent of all suicides among this age group. The data is based on recent studies that found significant increases in rates of depression and loneliness among young people.

Four of the diseases associated with obesity and smoking – diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke – cost $238 billion a year of which $134 billion is paid by Medicare/Medicaid. Costs primarily passed on to taxpayers.

Tobacco kills up to half of its regular users via cardiovascular disease, lung and other cancers, and respiratory illness[6].

71 percent of Americans are overweight; 40 percent are clinically obese. Excess body fat increases risk of serious health problems including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, respiratory problems, major cancers, and fertility problems. It is responsible for more early preventable deaths in the U.S. than smoking.

If those are not enough, the U.S. has an “opioid epidemic” sufficient to also impact life expectancy. It is difficult to understand given that in many countries in the world, including  most of Asia and Africa, anyone can buy all the opioids they want from any local pharmacy without a prescription. Opioid abuse as a mass epidemic should seemingly be a global phenomenon but opioid epidemics are not problematic anywhere but in the U.S. , especially not ones so vicious and widespread they result in national life expectancy reduction. The “opioid epidemic” , mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs ,  apparently is a social pathology unique to life in the U.S.

As a society, we have been taught that the right pill can supposedly cure every illness or malady and are constantly bombarded with advertising extolling the merits of the latest medication. Drug companies are equally entitled to Freedom of Speech and despite the deplorable extent of their direct appeal to customers inclined to self-medicate rather than accept educated medical advice, the Supreme Court probably would most likely be persuaded to support their right to advertise regardless of the damage it inflicted on society in general.

Concern over the rising number of opioid-related deaths has evoked national concern but lifestyle choices which result in far greater numbers of fatalities, though over a much longer length of time, do not. The “actual” causes of premature deaths in the U.S. frequently are not the maladies appearing on death certificates but the factors that caused those diseases. Death is inevitable but premature deaths can be largely prevented. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 900,000 lives could be saved every year by people making changes to their lifestyle[7].

Overt discrimination should never become an official institutionalized policy and I’m not actually advocating it but something does need to be done to stem the overall decline in life expectancy and the social and economic cost to society. However regrettable, perhaps the only way to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle is to increase discrimination against those choosing detrimental habits or activities such as smoking, obesity, or high-risk activities.

Admittedly, it is difficult for some people to lose weight or for an addict to quit smoking – these are medical problems and while medical insurance must be expanded to cover expanded weight reduction treatment and addiction, many of these problems result from life-style choices and individuals need to accept personal responsibility.

Hitting people in the wallet by charging more to fly, higher insurance costs, etc., might be enough to encourage many people to seek help. Just as laws require accident-preventive measures; e.g., vehicle seatbelts or helmets for motorcyclists; lifestyle-induced maladies increase costs for everyone, not just those directly affected. It is clear that what we currently are doing is not working. It is time to try something additional.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Donna Edna Shalala is an U.S. politician and academic serving as the Representative for Florida’s 27th Congressional district and previously as the 18th Secretary of Health and Human Services.

[2] How Healthy Will We Be In 2040?, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/how-healthy-will-we-be-2040?utm_source=Fareed%27s+Global+Briefing&utm_campaign=89e4abf730-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_10_18_07_39&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6f2e93382a-89e4abf730-85658801, 16 October 2018.

[3] Deadly Deliveries, USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/deadly-deliveries/2018/07/26/maternal-mortality-rates-preeclampsia-postpartum-hemorrhage-safety/546889002/, 26 July 2018.

[4] Lowrey, Annie. How America Treats Its Own Children, The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/how-america-treats-children/563306/?utm_source=Fareed%27s+Global+Briefing&utm_campaign=800854fec3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_06_21_07_40&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6f2e93382a-800854fec3-85658801, 21 June 2018.

[5] Ducharme, Jamie. Deaths by Suicide and Firearms Are Rising Sharply Among Kids, Time, http://time.com/5296967/kids-injury-deaths-suicide/?utm_source=time.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief&utm_content=2018060212pm&xid=newsletter-brief&eminfo=%7b%22EMAIL%22%3a%22rlLoGrfqYePpxcyxABaDgg%3d%3d%22%2c%22BRAND%22%3a%22TD%22%2c%22CONTENT%22%3a%22Newsletter%22%2c%22UID%22%3a%22TD_TBR_CAE7A8B0-82A2-4681-8137-6DE76326BACB%22%2c%22SUBID%22%3a%2224166950%22%2c%22JOBID%22%3a%22761910%22%2c%22NEWSLETTER%22%3a%22THE_BRIEF%22%2c%22ZIP%22%3a%22960039319%22%2c%22COUNTRY%22%3a%22%22%7d, 1 June 2018.

[6] Hartung, Thomas. The Lessor Evil of E-Cigarettes, Scientific American, August 2016, p9.

[7] Up To 40 Percent Of Annual Deaths From Each Of Five Leading US Causes Are Preventable, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0501-preventable-deaths.html, 1 May 2014.

Posted in Addiction, Canada, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Chiildren, Childbirth, Childbirth, Death, Diabetes, Firearm, Health, Healthcare, Heart Disease, homicide, Hypertension, Life Expectancy, Malady, Medicaid, Medicare, Medicare, Minorities, Obesity, Opioids, Opioids, Premature Death, Race, Respiratory Illness, Russia, Smoking, Stroke, Suicide, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Limitations Of Technological Adaptation

It seems to me….

Technological change is never an isolated phenomenon. This revolution takes place inside a complex ecosystem which comprises business, governmental, and societal dimensions. To make a country fit for the new type of innovation-driven competition, the whole ecosystem has to be considered.” ~ Klaus Schwab[1].

Much of what we do – work, travel, consume, communicate…, is dependent upon technological innovation. But the constantly accelerating pace of technological change has opened a gap separating technology, globalization, environmental stress, and the ability of both people and governing systems to adapt to and manage them. Many people feel overwhelmed by the rapid social changes they are experiencing due to advancements in globalization and technology. Change resulting from immigration, trade, or digitization has exceeded the social response, both the learning and adapting, necessary to lessen the impact of those changes creating anxiety and backlash in many people.

We are driven by the lure of the shiny thing over the hill, that next new technology that’s bigger, better, and faster than what’s gone before. We reach for it without pausing to think of the ramifications of any changes that might result. And then we set it free without monitoring what it’s doing out there in the world, drawn on by the next big thing. There never seems to be sufficient consideration necessary to avoid the precipices we are creating with our house of cards increasingly dependent upon multiple layers of ever more precarious technology.

Many feel a loss of control but this dynamic will only continue to accelerate regardless of attempts to mitigate its flow. Only by redesigning society’s workplaces, political adjustment, and communities or by slowing the pace of change will it be possible for society to adjust to these changes. As the pace of change will only continue to accelerate, it is us that must adapt.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is prevalently demonstrated by the many occasionally disastrous unforeseen results of well-intentioned social and economic policies. While it is impossible to predict the effects of technological advances, it seems preferable to embrace these advances rather than attempting to hold back the overwhelming tide of combinatorial effects of exponential and digital innovation by attempting to “protect the past against the future”. Though politically challenging, only with national social policies providing lifetime cost-free education, training/retraining, and universal healthcare can the concern and alienation resulting from societal change be partially alleviated. Additionally, as technology becomes ever increasingly powerful (some might say invasive), human skills not taught in schools; e.g., cooperation, empathy, flexibility…; become more vital.

A technological inflection point around 2007 altered employment, manufacturing, social interaction, communication…; how we work and how we live. Computation not only became more powerful, it became pervasive. Everyone now walks around with a powerful networked computer in their pocket. Personal assistants (PAs) which handle the uninteresting, time-consuming aspects of daily life – scheduling appointments, making travel plans, or searching for information – will soon be available to everyone with a smartphone thanks to the emergence of an open artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem. The interconnection of the Internet, the Internet of Things (IoT), and one’s personal data, all instantly available almost anywhere via spoken conversations with a PA, could unlock higher productivity and better health for everyone.

The Internet revolutionized the dissemination of information and the ability of individuals to engage with each other. It simultaneously has unraveled basic prerequisites for the Rule of Law in democracy such as privacy, freedom of association, and government oversight.

AI, one of the areas advancing most rapidly, is growing both as a field of study and also as an economy. Developments have been revolutionary with advanced applications in speech recognition and response, image and facial identification, and robotics autonomy and flexibility in virtually every sector portending radical new disruptive social changes. This has created concern in economic, computing, and policy body communities about the potential impact on employment, types of work, and global competition.

Rather than making humans redundant, it will result in the amplification of human ingenuity in industries such as education, healthcare, and government. The argument that AI will replace humans assumes that humans are not learning, growing, adapting beings. Just because someone can now have a smartphone and a PC does not mean that they, as a human, are no longer relevant. They actually are more capable. They can communicate with more people. They can be more efficient. They can get more done.

All of this comes with a cost: technology enables malcontents to disrupt global processes. Similar to all past technological development, digital technology has the potential to be used beneficially or for disruption. It always has always been a double-edged sword – fire can keep us warm but it also could burn down our home.

Public sector tracking has become sufficiently pervasive that we have lost the ability to control knowledge of our activities or acquaintances. Surveillance camera digital recognition capabilities, in combination with public dissemination platforms such as Wikileaks, are able to jeopardize legitimate government functions such as international relations and law enforcement when used inappropriately.

We currently are experiencing the largest social transformation since the end of World War II. The amount of data we produce doubles every year: as much data was produced in 2016 as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors – 20 times more than the number of people on Earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours. Processing these extremely large quantities of data will fundamentally change the way in which our economy and society are organized.

One of the questions that always needs to be considered regarding any supposed innovation or advancement is “chi bono”, who benefits? People understandably are self-interested; their primary goal is to improve their own welfare. Society sets ethical boundaries on some actions; e.g., theft, fraud, nepotism, bribery, violence…; but there is little constraint on most other behaviors. Any development always has the potential for misuse regardless of the intended benefit.

There are those who motivated primarily by speculative fear advocate regulation of science or technology they do not understand or consider threatening. Care is required less public policy is permitted to interfere with life-enriching innovation. Attempts to constrain or limit research and development does not inhibit such activities in other countries resulting in the regulating nation becoming disadvantaged in those areas. While not pretending to have the answers to all that should be done, it is relatively easy to say what should not – government must increasingly take the lead in easing the transition to what has been termed the post-industrial era: cost-free education and training (retraining), increased research investment, an improved social safety net…. No one should ever attempt to stem the inexorable tides of progress.

The rate of change will continue to accelerate but how rapidly can society adjust to and adapt to that change? Change of the magnitude now being experienced has never occurred prior to now and people are becoming increasingly reluctant to accept the constant necessity to devote substantial portions of their lives to prepare for whatever will impact them within the next ever-shorter window of time. Increasing numbers of people are looking favorably back to when time passed more slowly, when life seemed more comfortable and their future more dependable. Many yearn for a time that never really was. That the past was never actually as good as when viewed romantically through rose-colored glasses is forgotten. Life, though slower in the past, was never as good as now regardless of all that still remains less than desirable. While it is best to accept the world as it is, all of us should always attempt to leave the world a bit better for having been here.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Klaus Martin Schwab is a German engineer and economist best known as the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

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