Limits

Like many of us, I’ve been reading the news and posts here about Orlando. Typing seems to be our therapy, and since I could use some myself, I guess I’ll do the same. People with kids appear to post more on this topic, and with an eight month old, I now get it. Max brings out the psychotically protective in me. This is long, but it’s my therapy. Feel free to “hide post.”

Shootings in the US continue to terrify and polarize, and I fear we’re trapped in another social amplifier. Is there any way to dampen the amplifier? Maybe a Martian attack could bring humans back onto the same team. But a peaceful, elegant solution seems elusive. Unfortunately, with our political environment and the media drumbeat, it’s hard to picture much changing.

Where do I land on the second amendment? Do I really have to take sides? I don’t particularly want a gun, but I have many friends who own them, and I have lived in places where I probably should have owned one… if only I wasn’t a sleepwalker.

graphOn guns, I’d rather think more broadly and work backwards, strangely, using what I call “social physics.” To me, the second amendment debate is not about freedom to arm oneself; it’s more about the word, freedom. I love calculus and “limits.” So let’s consider a few of our freedoms in their limits as the world’s population climbs toward 10 billion. (In calculus we often consider the limit of f(x) as x approaches zero or infinity.)

Back when our freedoms were first penned, they made sense and weren’t hard to embrace. If you wanted to speak loudly, or insanely, just head into the woods and do it freely… or stick around and risk getting kicked in the crotch. If you wanted to worship something crazy, just head back into the woods. There was plenty of room for any brand of nut from sea to shining sea. If you wanted to protect yourself, your family and your town, by all means. Get the biggest guns, and go build your castle in the woods. By most social measures in those early days you were relatively free.

Today, however, the crazy talking, religiously warped, fully armed commandos, have reached the other shining sea, and we’re all bumping into each other now much more in person and electronically. In the 17 or 1800s it could have taken weeks for anyone outside Orlando to hear of the massacre. Today someone deeply disturbed has rattled an entire country in seconds. Nowadays the chaos theory butterflies are having much more effect!

Just like water molecules being heated, people in years past could simply mosey elsewhere to avoid the heat. Today, however, the US is more of a closed container. As the heat rises, the pressure goes up. Short of forcibly lowering the population or eliminating air travel, phones and the internet, instead, I think we have to do a better job assessing:

Societal functionality as both population and freedoms approach infinity. Maybe abbreviate as: SF(p,f).
Start first with speech. The limit of SF(p,f) as our numbers increase, and we’re able to say, call, text, email, tweet, or fb post anything is a pretty horrible world. However, society already does place some intelligent bounds. We stop people from shouting “FIRE!” in crowded theaters. Hate speech gets spanked, or censored in many settings. While we focus mainly on content, what about volume? I’m not free to walk down the street blaring my music at 200 decibels either. So in fact, we have some free speech, but it’s not infinite.

Freedom of religion/worship sounds nice too, especially if you’re the one being persecuted. But in the limit, that freedom may include child abuse, rape, torture, murder. From my perspective, you’re free to believe whatever you like, but when your delusions bump into mine, that’s when we have a problem. The bumping today is increasing. It used to be a few well intentioned, nice people periodically knocking at my door to save me. Now entire news channels are alerting me to the looming “War on Christmas.” Who knew? We’re relatively free to worship, but within limits.

limitsThe contentious freedom to bear arms needs a similar limits analysis. I suspect very few of the founding fathers could have predicted how rapidly tech would accelerate in such a short time. Any tech, since the first stone hammer, is what I call an “action amplifier.” We humans strive to get more and more done with less and less work. Farmers built shovels, then horse drawn plows, then tractors, then “Farmbot” (Nice work Rory). Writers built brushes, pencils, pens, the printing press, typewriters, etc. To get around today, a person can flip some levers, flex their ankle, and roll or fly through the air without breaking a sweat. To kill (or protect) we’ve seen hatchets, sling shots, arrows, and today just twitching a finger can kill multiple people throughout a room.

By now those of you with full gun cabinets are growing steamy. I’m not coming for your guns. I only ask that you acknowledge there surely is a limit. When I can move my finger a millimeter to fire a heat seeking bullet, will that be acceptable? What if I could sit in my living room, program someone’s phone number into the gun, then fire a GPS guided bullet through my window that would find their phone? Would that be ok? Many buttock injuries. How about a thought triggered gun, putting the finger itself out of business? What about a nuclear tipped bullet that evaporates anything in a 2 meter radius? Surely a limit exists.

I don’t believe the weight rests entirely on the NRA, Obama or Trump, per se. They all make valid points. I don’t consider it to be number of guns or assault rifles themselves even. Until AI, people at their psychological limits will remain the culprits. I put the increase in shootings on a combination of dogma + instantaneous communication + accelerating tech + fear. Addressing the limits of our collective freedoms intelligently would be my preferred approach.

Ultimately, none of us are free. We’re tied to Earth by gravity. Physiologically, we need to breath, eat and poop or we croak. Our fragile bodies are stuck in a +/- 20 degree thermal comfort zone. If you’re standing at a certain spot, I can’t stand there at the same time. (Pauli exclusion principle applied to humans?) So freedom doesn’t exist. Degrees of freedom do. To me “land of the free” is deceptive. I’d prefer “land of the relatively and variably free, depending on our health, wealth, race, age, number of dependents, and setting on a given day”… but that’s hard to sing.

As our numbers increase our freedoms will likely decrease, unless we find a way to leave the planet. Freedom to speak, worship and arm to the teeth are all intertwined. I don’t want to strike any amendments, but I’d love to see them refined. If you say something hateful that can inflame an entire population (e.g. “deport Muslims”), there should be real repercussions. If your religion includes the sucking of retirement savings from little old ladies, or convincing fragile young brains to blow themselves up, there should be repercussions. If you choose to arm yourself, you have a heightened responsibility within your community. Failure with that responsibility should also have repercussions… that are actually enforced!

Lastly, if we as a country choose to fire weapons from here, that kill on the opposite side of the world, we shouldn’t be shocked when craziness lands back on our shores. That’s called resonance and we’re caught in an amplifier. Step one is to acknowledge it.

How is this Pre-R? Hard to say. Time to play with Max.

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