Saturday, June 14, 2014

How to Use an Understanding of Self-Replicating Information to Avoid War

Periodically events in the “real world” of human affairs seem to intervene in our lives, and so once again, we must take a slight detour along our path to IT enlightenment, as we did with MoneyPhysics in the fall of 2008 with the global financial meltdown, and with The Fundamental Problem of Everything as it relates to the origins of war. With the 100 year anniversary of the onset of World War I in August of 1914 close at hand, which led to the deaths of 20 million people and 40 million casualties for apparently no particular reason at all, once again we see growing turmoil in the world, specifically in the Middle East and a multitude of conflicts converging. World War I basically shattered the entire 20th century because it led to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 and to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s that led to World War II, and the ensuing Cold War of the latter half of the 20th century. This ongoing turmoil has continued on well into the 21st century in the Middle East because the end of World War I brought with it a number of manufactured countries in the Middle East that were arbitrarily carved up out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire that, unfortunately, aligned itself with the Central Powers, and thus chose to be on the losing side of World War I. With such rampant mass insanity once again afoot in the Middle East, one must naturally ask why is the real world of human affairs so absurd, and why has it always been so? I think I know why.

In the analysis that follows there will be no need to mention any current names in the news because, as in The Fundamental Problem of Everything, this is a human problem that is not restricted to any particular group or subgroup of people. It is a problem that stems from the human condition and applies to all sides of all conflicts for all times.

It’s The Fundamental Problem of Everything Again
In The Fundamental Problem of Everything, I left it to the readers to make the final determination for themselves, but for me, the fundamental problem of everything is ignorance. Let me explain.

About 15 years ago it dawned upon me that I only had a finite amount of time left and that it sure would be a shame to have lived my whole life without ever having figured out what’s it all about or where I had been, so I started reading a popular book on science each week or a scientific college textbook over a span of several months in an attempt to figure it all out as best I could. The conclusion I came to was that it is all about self-replicating information and that there are currently three forms of self-replicating information on the Earth – the genes, memes and software, with software rapidly becoming the dominant form of self-replicating information on the planet. As human beings, it seems that our entire life, from the moment of conception, to that last gasp, is completely shaped by the competitive actions of these three forms of self-replicating information. So as a sentient being, in a Universe that has become self-aware, if you want to take back control of your life, it is important to confront them now and know them well. Before proceeding, let us review what self-replicating information is and how it behaves.

Self-Replicating Information – Information that persists through time by making copies of itself or by enlisting the support of other things to ensure that copies of itself are made.

The Characteristics of Self-Replicating Information
All forms of self-replicating information have some common characteristics.

1. All self-replicating information evolves over time through the Darwinian processes of innovation and natural selection, which endows self-replicating information with one telling characteristic – the ability to survive in a Universe dominated by the second law of thermodynamics and nonlinearity.

2. All self-replicating information begins spontaneously as a parasitic mutation that obtains energy, information and sometimes matter from a host.

3. With time, the parasitic self-replicating information takes on a symbiotic relationship with its host.

4. Eventually, the self-replicating information becomes one with its host through the symbiotic integration of the host and the self-replicating information.

5. Ultimately, the self-replicating information replaces its host as the dominant form of self-replicating information.

6. Most hosts are also forms of self-replicating information.

7. All self-replicating information has to be a little bit nasty in order to survive.

8. The defining characteristic of self-replicating information is the ability of self-replicating information to change the boundary conditions of its utility phase space in new and unpredictable ways by means of exapting current functions into new uses that change the size and shape of its particular utility phase space. See Enablement - the Definitive Characteristic of Living Things for more on this last characteristic.

For a good synopsis of how self-replicating information has dominated the Earth for the past 4 billion years, and also your life, take a quick look at A Brief History of Self-Replicating Information. Basically, we have seen several waves of self-replicating information dominate the Earth:

1. Self-replicating autocatalytic metabolic pathways of organic molecules
2. RNA
3. DNA
4. Memes
5. Software

Note that because the self-replicating autocatalytic metabolic pathways of organic molecules, RNA and DNA have become so heavily intertwined over time that I now simply call them the “genes”.

The Ongoing Battle Between the Genes, Memes and Software For World Domination
In school, you were taught that your body consists of about 100 trillion cells and that these cells use DNA to create proteins that you need to replicate and operate your cells. The problem, as always, is that this is an entirely anthropocentric point of view. As Richard Dawkins explains in the The Selfish Gene (1976), this is totally backwards. We do not use genes to protect and replicate our bodies; genes use our bodies to protect and replicate genes, so in Dawkins’ view we are DNA survival machines, and so are all other living things. Darwin taught us that natural selection was driven by survival of the fittest. But survival of the fittest what? Is it survival of the fittest species, species variety, or possibly the fittest individuals within a species? Dawkins notes that none of these things actually replicate, not even individuals. All individuals are genetically unique, so it is impossible for individuals to truly replicate. What does replicate are genes, so for Dawkins, natural selection operates at the level of the gene. These genes have evolved over time to team up with other genes to form bodies or DNA survival machines that protect and replicate DNA, and that is why the higher forms of life are so “inefficient” when it comes to how genetic information is stored in DNA. For example, the human genome consists of about 23,000 genes stored on a few percent of the 6 feet of DNA found within each human cell, which is a rather inefficient way to store genetic information because it takes a lot of time and resources to replicate all that DNA when human cells divide. But that is the whole point, the DNA in higher forms of life is not trying to be an “efficient” genetic information storage system, rather it is trying to protect and replicate as much DNA as possible, and then build a DNA survival machine to house it by allocating a small percentage of the DNA to encode for the genes that produce the proteins needed to build the DNA survival machine. From the perspective of the DNA, these genes are just a necessary evil, like the taxes that must be paid to build roads and bridges.

Prokaryotic bacteria are small DNA survival machines that cannot afford the luxury of taking on any “passenger” junk DNA. Only large multicellular cruise ships like ourselves can afford that extravagance. If you have ever been a “guest” on a small sailing boat, you know exactly what I mean. There are no “guest passengers” on a small sailboat; it's always "all hands on deck" - and that includes the "guests"! Individual genes have been selected for one overriding trait, the ability to replicate, and they will do just about anything required to do so, like seeking out other DNA survival machines to mate with and rear new DNA survival machines. In Blowin’ in the Wind Bob Dylan asked the profound question,”How many years can a mountain exist; Before it's washed to the sea?”. Well, the answer is a few hundred million years. But some of the genes in your body are billions of years old, and as they skip down through the generations largely unscathed by time, they spend about half their time in female bodies and the other half in male bodies. If you think about it, all of your physical needs and desires are geared to ensuring that your DNA survives and gets passed on, with little regard for you as a disposable DNA survival machine. I strongly recommend that all IT professionals read the The Selfish Gene, for me the most significant book of the 20th century because it explains so much. For a book written in 1976, it makes many references to computers and data processing that you will find extremely interesting.

As DNA survival machines, our genes create our basic desires to survive and to replicate our genes through sexual activity in a Dawkinsian manner. When you factor in the ensuing human desires for food and comfort, and for the wealth that provides for them, together with the sexual tensions that arise in the high school social structures that seem to go on to form the basis for all human social structures, the genes alone probably account for at least 50% of the absurdity of the real world of human affairs because life just becomes a never-ending continuation of high school. This is all part of my general theory that nobody ever really graduates from their culturally equivalent form of high school. We all just go on to grander things in our own minds. Certainly, the success of Facebook and Twitter are a testament to this observation.

Our Minds were formed next by the rise of the memes over the past 2.5 million years, again this was first proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. The concept of memes was later advanced by Daniel Dennett in Consciousness Explained (1991) and Richard Brodie in Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme (1996), and was finally formalized by Susan Blackmore in The Meme Machine (1999). For those of you not familiar with the term meme, it rhymes with the word “cream”. Memes are cultural artifacts that persist through time by making copies of themselves in the minds of human beings and were first recognized by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. Dawkins described memes as “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.”. Just as genes come together to build bodies, or DNA survival machines, for their own mutual advantage, memes also come together from the meme pool to form meme-complexes for their own joint survival. DNA survives down through the ages by inducing disposable DNA survival machines, in the form of bodies, to produce new disposable DNA survival machines. Similarly, memes survive in meme-complexes by inducing the minds of human beings to reproduce memes in the minds of others. Meme-complexes come in a variety of sizes and can become quite large and complicated with a diverse spectrum of member memes. Examples of meme-complexes of increasing complexity and size would be Little League baseball teams, clubs and lodges, corporations, political and religious movements, tribal subcultures, branches of the military, governments and cultures at the national level, and finally the sum total of all human knowledge in the form of all the world cultures, art, music, religion, and science put together.

To the genes and memes, human bodies are simply disposable DNA survival machines housing disposable minds that come and go with a lifespan of less than 100 years. The genes and memes, on the other hand, continue on largely unscathed by time as they skip down through the generations. However, both genes and memes do evolve over time through the Darwinian mechanisms of innovation and natural selection. You see, the genes and memes that do not come together to build successful DNA survival machines, or meme-complexes, are soon eliminated from the gene and meme pools. So both genes and memes are selected for one overriding characteristic – the ability to survive. Once again, the “survival of the fittest” rules the day. Now it makes no sense to think of genes or memes as being either “good” or “bad”; they are just mindless forms of self-replicating information bent upon surviving with little interest in you as a disposable survival machine. So in general, these genes and memes are not necessarily working in your best interest, beyond keeping you alive long enough so that you can pass them on to somebody else.

According to Susan Blackmore, we are not so much thinking machines, as we are copying machines. For example, Blackmore maintains that memetic-drive was responsible for creating our extremely large brains and also our languages and cultures as well, in order to store and spread memes more effectively. Many researchers have noted that the human brain is way over-engineered for the needs of a simple hunter-gatherer. After all, even a hundred years ago, people did not require the brain-power to do IT work, yet today we find many millions of people earning their living doing IT work, or at least trying to. Blackmore then points out that the human brain is a very expensive and dangerous organ. The brain is only 2% of your body mass, but burns about 20% of your calories each day. The extremely large brain of humans also kills many mothers and babies at childbirth, and also produces babies that are totally dependent upon their mothers for survival and that are totally helpless and defenseless on their own. Blackmore asks the obvious question of why the genes would build such an extremely expensive and dangerous organ that was definitely not in their own self-interest. Blackmore has a very simple explanation – the genes did not build our exceedingly huge brains, the memes did. Her reasoning goes like this. About 2.5 million years ago, the predecessors of humans slowly began to pick up the skill of imitation. This might not sound like much, but it is key to her whole theory of memetics. You see, hardly any other species learns by imitating other members of their own species. Yes, there are many species that can learn by conditioning, like Pavlov’s dogs, or that can learn through personal experience, like mice repeatedly running through a maze for a piece of cheese, but a mouse never really learns anything from another mouse by imitating its actions. Essentially, only humans do that. If you think about it for a second, nearly everything you do know, you learned from somebody else by imitating or copying their actions or ideas. Blackmore maintains that the ability to learn by imitation required a bit of processing power by our distant ancestors because one needs to begin to think in an abstract manner by abstracting the actions and thoughts of others into the actions and thoughts of their own. The skill of imitation provided a great survival advantage to those individuals who possessed it, and gave the genes that built such brains a great survival advantage as well. This caused a selection pressure to arise for genes that could produce brains with ever-increasing capabilities of imitation and abstract thought. As this processing capability increased there finally came a point when the memes, like all of the other forms of self-replicating information that we have seen arise, first appeared in a parasitic manner. Along with very useful memes, like the meme for making good baskets, other less useful memes, like putting feathers in your hair or painting your face, also began to run upon the same hardware in a manner similar to computer viruses. The genes and memes then entered into a period of coevolution, where the addition of more and more brain hardware advanced the survival of both the genes and memes. But it was really the memetic-drive of the memes that drove the exponential increase in processing power of the human brain way beyond the needs of the genes.

A very similar thing happened with software over the past 70 years. When I first started programming in 1972, million dollar mainframe computers typically had about 1 MB (about 1,000,000 bytes) of memory with a 750 KHz system clock (750,000 ticks per second). Remember, one byte of memory can store something like the letter “A”. But in those days, we were only allowed 128 K (about 128,000 bytes) of memory for our programs because the expensive mainframes were also running several other programs at the same time. It was the relentless demands of software for memory and CPU-cycles over the years that drove the exponential explosion of hardware capability. For example, today the typical $600 PC comes with 8 GB (about 8,000,000,000 bytes) of memory and has several CPUs running with a clock speed of about 3 GHz (3,000,000,000 ticks per second). Last year, I purchased Redshift 7 for my personal computer, a $60 astronomical simulation application, and it alone uses 382 MB of memory when running and reads 5.1 GB of data files, a far cry from my puny 128K programs from 1972. So the hardware has improved by a factor of about 10 million since I started programming in 1972, driven by the ever-increasing demands of software for more powerful hardware. For example, in my current position in Middleware Operations for a major corporation we are constantly adding more application software each week, so every few years we must upgrade all of our servers to handle the increased load.

The memes then went on to develop languages and cultures to make it easier to store and pass on memes. Yes, languages and cultures also provided many benefits to the genes as well, but with languages and cultures, the memes were able to begin to evolve millions of times faster than the genes, and the poor genes were left straggling far behind. Given the growing hardware platform of an ever-increasing number of Homo sapiens on the planet, the memes then began to cut free of the genes and evolve capabilities on their own that only aided the survival of memes, with little regard for the genes, to the point of even acting in a very detrimental manner to the survival of the genes, like developing the capability for global thermonuclear war and global climate change. The memes have since modified the entire planet. They have cut down the forests for agriculture, mined minerals from the ground for metals, burned coal, oil, and natural gas for energy, releasing the huge quantities of carbon dioxide that its genetic predecessors had sequestered within the Earth, and have even modified the very DNA, RNA, and metabolic pathways of its predecessors.

We can now see these very same processes at work today with the evolution of software. Software is currently being written by memes within the minds of programmers. Nobody ever learned how to write software all on their own. Just as with learning to speak or to read and write, everybody learned to write software by imitating teachers, other programmers, imitating the code written by others, or by working through books written by others. Even after people do learn how to program in a particular language, they never write code from scratch; they always start with some similar code that they have previously written, or others have written, in the past as a starting point, and then evolve the code to perform the desired functions in a Darwinian manner (see How Software Evolves). This crutch will likely continue for another 20 – 50 years until the day finally comes when software can write itself, but even so, “we” do not currently write the software that powers the modern world; the memes write the software that does that. This is just a reflection of the fact that “we” do not really run the modern world either; the memes in meme-complexes really run the modern world because the memes are currently the dominant form of self-replicating information on the planet. In The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore goes on to point out that the memes at first coevolved with the genes during their early days, but have since outrun the genes because the genes could simply not keep pace when the memes began to evolve millions of times faster than the genes. The same thing is happening before our very eyes to the memes, with software now rapidly outpacing the memes. Software is now evolving thousands of times faster than the memes, and the memes can simply no longer keep up.

As with all forms of self-replicating information, software began as a purely parasitic mutation within the scientific and technological meme-complexes, initially running on board Konrad Zuse’s Z3 computer in May of 1941 (see So You Want To Be A Computer Scientist? for more details). It was spawned out of Zuse’s desire to electronically perform calculations for aircraft designs that were previously done manually in a very tedious manner. So initially software could not transmit memes, it could only perform calculations, like a very fast adding machine, and so it was a pure parasite. But then the business and military meme-complexes discovered that software could also be used to transmit memes, and software then entered into a parasitic/symbiotic relationship with the memes. Software allowed these meme-complexes to thrive, and in return, these meme-complexes heavily funded the development of software of ever-increasing complexity, until software became ubiquitous, forming strong parasitic/symbiotic relationships with nearly every meme-complex on the planet. In the modern day, the only way memes can now spread from mind to mind without the aid of software is when you directly speak to another person next to you. Even if you attempt to write a letter by hand, the moment you drop it into a mailbox, it will immediately fall under the control of software. The poor memes in our heads have become Facebook and Twitter addicts.

So in the grand scheme of things, the memes have replaced their DNA predecessor, which replaced RNA, which replaced the original self-replicating autocatalytic metabolic pathways of organic molecules as the dominant form of self-replicating information on the Earth. Software is the next replicator in line, and is currently feasting upon just about every meme-complex on the planet, and has formed very strong parasitic/symbiotic relationships with all of them. How software will merge with the memes is really unknown, as Susan Blackmore pointed out in her TED presentation which can be viewed at:

Memes and "temes"

Once established, software then began to evolve based upon the Darwinian concepts of innovation and natural selection, which endowed software with one telling characteristic – the ability to survive in a Universe dominated by the second law of thermodynamics and nonlinearity. Successful software, like MS Word and Excel, competed for disk and memory address space with WordPerfect and VisiCalc and out-competed these once dominant forms of software to the point of extinction. In less than 70 years, software has rapidly spread across the face of the Earth and outward to every planet of the Solar System and many of its moons, with a few stops along the way at some comets and asteroids. And unlike us, software is now leaving the Solar System for interstellar space on board the Pioneer 1 & 2 and Voyager 1 & 2 probes.

Currently, software manages to replicate itself with the support of you. If you are an IT professional, then you are directly involved in some, or all of the stages in this replication process, and act sort of like a software enzyme. No matter what business you support as an IT professional, the business has entered into a parasitic/symbiotic relationship with software. The business provides the budget and energy required to produce and maintain the software, and the software enables the business to run its processes efficiently. The ultimate irony in all this is the symbiotic relationship between computer viruses and the malevolent programmers who produce them. Rather than being the clever, self-important, techno-nerds that they picture themselves to be, these programmers are merely the unwitting dupes of computer viruses that trick these unsuspecting programmers into producing and disseminating computer viruses! And if you are not an IT professional, you are still involved with spreading software around because you buy gadgets that are loaded down with software, like smartphones, notepads, laptops, PCs, TVs, DVRs, cars, refrigerators, coffeemakers, blenders, can openers and just about anything else that uses electricity.

The Genes, Memes and Software of War
In times of war, successful meme-complexes appeal primarily to two gene-induced emotions – the desire for social status and the fear of a perceived enemy. Social status in a group of similar DNA survival machines is always a good thing for the replication of genes because it brings with it the necessities of life that are required to maintain a healthy DNA survival machine and also provides for more opportunities for a DNA survival machine to couple with other DNA survival machines and to replicate its genes. Fear of a perceived enemy is another gene-induced emotion because it is a known fact that an enemy can destroy the DNA survival machines that are used to house genes as they move about from place to place.

Meme-complexes can do wonderful things, as is evidenced by the incredible standard of living enjoyed by the modern world, thanks to the efforts of the scientific meme-complex, or the great works of art, music, and literature handed down to us from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, not to mention the joys of jazz, rock and roll, and the blues. However, other meme-complexes, like the memes of war, can also turn incredibly nasty. Just since the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century we have seen the Thirty Years War (1618 -1648), the Salem witch hunts (1692), the French Reign of Terror (1793 – 1794), American slavery (1654 – 1865), World War I (all sides) (1914 – 1918), the Stalinist Soviet Union (1929 – 1953), National Socialism (1933 – 1945), McCarthyism (1949 – 1958), Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1969 – 1976), and Pol Pot’s reign of terror (1976 – 1979).

The problem is that when human beings get wrapped up in a horrible meme-complex, they can do horrendous things without even being aware of the fact. This is because, in order to survive, the first thing that most meme-complexes do is to use a meme that turns off human thought and reflection. To paraphrase Descartes, ”I think, therefore I am" a heretic. So if you ever questioned any of the participants caught up in any of the above atrocious events, you would find that the vast majority would not have any qualms about their deadly activities whatsoever. In fact, they would question your loyalty and patriotism for even bringing up the subject. For example, during World War I there were few dissenters beyond Albert Einstein in Germany and Bertrand Russell in Great Britain, and both suffered the consequences of not being on board with the World War I meme-complex. Unquestioning blind obedience to a meme-complex through unconditional group-think is definitely a good survival strategy for any meme-complex.

In the modern world, during times of distress, we now see a very interesting interplay between the genes, memes and software of war. This certainly was true during the Arab Spring which began on December 18, 2010, and was made possible by the spreading of the memes of revolution via social media software. The trouble with the memes of war is that, like all meme-complexes, once they are established they are very conservative and not very open to new memes that might jeopardize the ongoing survival of the meme-complex, and consequently, they are very hard to change or eliminate. Remember, every meme-complex is less than one generation away from oblivion. So normally, meme-complexes are very resistant to the Darwinian processes of innovation and natural selection, and just settle down into a state of coexistence with the other meme-complexes that they interact with. But during periods of stress, very violent and dangerous war-like meme-complexes can break out of this equilibrium, rapidly forming a new war-like meme-complex in a manner similar to the Punctuated Equilibrium model of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge (1972), which holds that species are usually very stable and in equilibrium with their environment and only rarely change when required.

In times of peace, the genes, memes and software enter into an uneasy alliance of parasitic/symbiotic relationships, but in times of war, this uneasy truce breaks down, as we have again seen in the Middle East. The Middle East is currently plagued by a number of warring religious meme-complexes that are in the process of destroying the Middle East, as did the warring Catholic and Protestant religious meme-complexes of the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648), which nearly destroyed Europe. But at the same time that the Thirty Years War raged in Europe, people like Kepler, Galileo and Descartes were laying the foundations of the 17th century Scientific Revolution which led to the 18th century European Enlightenment. So perhaps the warring meme-complexes of a region have to eliminate the belligerent genes of the region before rational thought can once again prevail.

Application to the Foreign Policy of the United States
The foreign policy of the United States keeps getting into trouble because Americans do not understand the enduring nature of meme-complexes. Because all successful meme-complexes have survived the rigors of Darwinian natural selection, they are very hardy forms of self-replicating information and not easily dislodged or eliminated once they have become endemic in a region. Yes, by occupying a region it is possible to temporarily suppress what the local meme-complexes can do, but it is very difficult to totally eliminate them from the scene because successful meme-complexes have learned to simply hide when confronted by a hostile intruding meme-complex, only later to reemerge when the hostile meme-complex has gone. The dramatic collapse of South Vietnam in less than two months (March 10 – April 30 1975) after spending more than a decade trying to alter the meme-complexes of the region is evidence of that fact. Similarly, the dramatic collapse of Iraq and Afghanistan after another decade of futile attempts to subdue the local meme-complexes of the region that are thousands of years old is another example of a failed foreign policy stemming from a na├»ve understanding of the hardiness of meme-complexes. History has taught us that the only way to permanently suppress the local meme-complexes of a region is to establish a permanent empire to rule the region with a heavy hand, and this is something Americans are loath to do, having once freed ourselves from such an empire.

Currently, in the United States the polls are showing that Americans, on one hand, do not want to get involved in the Middle East again, but on the other hand, perceive that the foreign policy of the United States is weak and that we are not showing leadership. Apparently, Americans are now so confused by the varying warring factions in the Middle East that they can no longer even tell who the potential enemy is. This confusion also stems from an old 20th-century meme that world leadership equates to military action, which is probably no longer true in the 21st century because the 21st century will be marked by the rise of software to supremacy as the dominant form of self-replicating information on the planet. This self-contradictory assessment troubling the minds of Americans is further exasperated by an old 20th century meme currently floating about that, if the Middle East should further spin out of control, that governmental safe havens will be established for the training of combatants that might again strike the United States as they did with the September 11, 2001 attacks, specifically those on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But in the modern world, with the dramatic rise of software, there is no longer a need for physical safe havens in the Middle East to train and equip combatants. Indeed, training combatants to effectively attack modern 21st-century countries, and the technology that they rely upon, is best done in locations with modern 21st-century technology and good Internet connectivity close at hand. For example, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier conspired to conduct the Oklahoma City bombing attack that killed 168 people and injured over 600 on April 19, 1995, by training within the United States itself. Similarly, the September 11, 2001 combatants also trained within the United States prior to the attack. After all, it’s hard to learn how to fly a modern jetliner in a cave. Ironically, in the 21st century, it would actually be a good defensive strategy to try to isolate your enemies to the deserts and caves of the Middle East because deserts and caves have such poor Internet connectivity and access to modern technology.

For example, currently I am employed in the Middleware Operations group of a major U.S. corporation, and I work out of my home office in Roselle, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago. The rest of our onshore Middleware Operations group is also scattered throughout the suburbs of Chicago and hardly ever goes into our central office for work. And about 2/3 of Middleware Operations works out of an office in Bangalore India. But the whole team can collaborate very effectively in a remote manner using CISCO software. We use CISCO IP Communicator for voice over IP phone conversations and CISCO WebEx for online web-meetings. We use CISCO WebEx Connect for instant messaging and the sharing of desktops to view the laptops of others for training purposes. Combined with standard corporate email, these technologies allow a large group of Middleware Operations staff to work together from locations scattered all over the world, without ever actually being physically located in the same place. In fact, when the members of Middleware Operations do come into the office for the occasional group meeting, we usually just use the same CISCO software products to communicate while sitting in our cubicles, even when we are sitting in adjacent cubicles! After all, the CISCO collaborative software works better than leaning over somebody else’s laptop and trying to see what is going on. I believe that many enemies of the United States now also work together in a very similar distributed manner as a network of agents scattered all over the world. Now that memes can move so easily over the Internet and are no longer confined to particular regions, even the establishment of regional empires will no longer be able to suppress them.

So in the 21st century dominated by software, the only thing that the enemies of the United States really need is money. From a 21st century military perspective, control of territory is now an obsolete 20th century meme because all an enemy really needs is money and the complicit cooperation of worldwide financial institutions to do things like launch cyber-attacks, create and deliver dirty bombs, purchase surface to air missiles to down commercial aircraft or purchase nuclear weapons to FedEx to targets. For the modern 21st century economies, it really makes more sense to beef up your Cyber Defense capabilities rather than trying to control territories populated by DNA survival machines infected with very self-destructive war-like meme-complexes that tend to splinter and collapse on their own. So for the present situation, the most effective military action that the United States could take would be to help the world to cut off the money supply to the Middle East by ending the demand for oil and natural gas by converting to renewable sources of energy. This military action would also have the added benefit of preventing many additional future wars fought over the control of Middle Eastern oil and wars that would be induced by global climate change as it severely disrupts the economies of the world (see How to Use Your IT Skills to Save the World and 400 PPM - The Dawn of the SophomorEocene for more details).

Since the “real world” of human affairs only exists in our minds, we can change it by simply changing the way we think by realizing that we are indeed DNA survival machines with minds infected with memes and software that are not necessarily acting in our own best interests. We are sentient beings in a Universe that has become self-aware and perhaps the only form of intelligence in our galaxy. What a privilege! The good news is that conscious intelligence is something new. It is not a mindless form of self-replicating information, bent on replicating at all costs with all the associated downsides of a ruthless nature. We can do much better with this marvelous opportunity once we realize what is really going on. It is up to all of us to make something of this unique opportunity that we can all be proud of – that’s our responsibility as sentient beings.

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Steve Johnston