Universal Basic Income, Another Great Idea Going Wrong

I don’t think that basic income is ever going to work in America without a holistic approach.

rotten ecard about people on welfare

I think we disproved this in 2016, don’t you?

Graphics and mental models like this make my blood boil. Search “welfare funny” and you’ll find a slew of images like this. They get worse.

Oftentimes in society, we present one solution that “rationally” would lead to a decrease in undesired behavior. But the opposite happens. Why? Because it’s only rational to us from our perspective. And decisionmakers love to avoid speaking with and learning from the stakeholders that matter. For example, low income people do not buy fewer lotto tickets. Why? Because gambling and dreaming create addiction to dopamine. It’s really fucking hard to break a feedback loop in your brain…. a habit. Same with cigarettes. Let’s tax the hell out of cigarettes so poor people won’t be able to rationalize buying them. This doesn’t work either, as cigarettes are insanely addictive, often attached to strong memories and feedback loops, and worst of all, a habit. In fact, the skulls, crossbones, and horrific imagery on packs in other countries have been proven to have little effect on reducing smoking. And all we have is a written warning from the Surgeon General. Who the hell is a surgeon general?

What habits do you have that you’ve found impossible to break? Have you tried rationalizing it away? BE GRATEFUL if one of your habits isn’t smoking. Or eating fast food. Or buying lotto tickets. You may think that you had just as much of an opportunity to become a smoker as anyone else, but reality begs to differ. And Seattle, dear Seattle. We just voted in a soda tax. Let’s just get it over with and steal people’s houses and throw them in the streets. Cause in 2005, we made it legal nationally.

What I’ve described doesn’t do the systemic oppression monster justice. But it must do for now. It is worse than you or I can imagine.

picture of obama mocking him

The world’s laziest man, before the Presidency turned his hair gray and white.

This is a country of dichotomies and extremes, as reflected in American morality and our political parties. Why? Because there’s dopamine in having a stance, especially a staunch one. The result? We’re a country that runs on being right. But I digress.

In the case of basic income, we’d be swinging from one extreme to another. So, it’s no surprise that after treating people like they are undeserving of anything, including an education, we want to throw money at them without any tools. This is a great example of another “great experiment” that is doomed to succeed at increasing systemic oppression. You heard that right. You see, the desired outcome is not what you think. We’ll yet again be able to “prove” that certain humans are untrustworthy. We gave them a bunch of money, and they screwed it up, so they’re subhuman. Just like they did with welfare, social services, and nonprofit support (which, by the way, is another thing that’s being threatened by our current administration). It sounds crazy, but we’ve done stuff like this before.

another mean ecard making fun of poor people.

Do you know your daddy? Consider yourself lucky to not be one of the 17,200,000 children living without a father in 2016, almost 40% of whom live under the poverty line (US Census Bureau).

I’m sure we already have the answers on what specifically to do for the development and motivators. Unrelated but translatable pilots have been conducted all over the world. They just need to be combined into an experiment for testing, including structures that provide flexibility for adaptation to locales. This is the easy part. The hard part is making it reality.

Because at the moment, we aren’t even giving universal income a fair chance even in “rich” countries. In fact, our society and world sees universal basic income as a publicity stunt. How disgusting.

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Brainstorm Ideas of How to Save the World

The title is an example of a good idea. A worthwhile endeavor. A productive use of time. Full of potential.

Community-Based Solution to Poverty Theory

Don’t worry, this one’s very uplifting, even the poverty part.

There’s a theory of how to solve poverty locally. But it’s harder to do than it sounds cause it starts with kids. And it takes a while.

It’s a leverage point that works, which gives me hope.

For example, a community garden that all of the local public school kids go to (which is pretty much of all of them other than the few who go to charter schools, cause most folks can only afford public education). The kids get their parents excited about the garden, eating well, and learning. It takes a generation, but the neighborhood does much better. Not everyone’s an immediate convert, but it works eventually through slow, but viral growth.

Turns out, most instances of disadvantaged folks eating shitty food is because they literally don’t know how to cook. Eggs, toast, whatever. They’ve just never done it.

But in this case, it’s okay cause some community gardens come with kitchens. So the kids can learn how to prepare the stuff they grew for sale to support the garden. And cooking lessons in general. See where I’m going with this?

And when the kids do good in the world and come back, the place becomes somewhere they want to raise their family instead of fleeing.

By incorporating a positive community structure into a culture, the rest of the community can take care of itself. Meaning, the community ultimately gets out of poverty and improves on other cultural metrics.

If you ask, I can find a citation for this. I just don’t feel like combing through a bunch of HBS articles or whatever at the moment. I know, worst person ever.
cells from heather's research

Sidebar: Some cells with a nanoparticle uploaded into them (green). Notice how the NP doesn’t get into the nucleus! The big ole black holes. By the way, the green is also curcumin, which is all the rage in turmeric right now.

My Theory

When I look at microbes, I see a leverage point for how we can be happy, healthy, sustainable, and connected more easily. Did I mention microbes are safe, cheap, and viral (in a good way :-))?

We’ll see. But I’m pretty sure. I’ll hopefully post a systems diagram at some point, but it’s just one of those ones that have 9,000 reasons why it’s a good idea. Right now, I’m making a list.

bacteria on agar plates

1% of our gut microbes are culturable (easy-ish to study). A lot of work needs to be done!

Bad Theories

There are bad ideas on how to save the world. Like geoengineering.

I loathe people who go on about how amazing it is, especially to sound smart or interesting. Especially when they haven’t even looked into it themselves to see how bad of an idea it is. Or how it’s already being used. And how we kind of don’t have a halfway decent idea of how to stop it.

These people do harm by spreading a lie that we can be consumptive and inconsiderate with zero consequences because geoengineering, a drastically worse idea than just putting giant fans in space to shield us from the sun, is going to eliminate all consequences.

Just such a bad, bad idea.

All so they can feel smart or interesting.

If you’ve done this, now is your chance to stop. Just cause you’ve done the worst thing so far, doesn’t mean you can’t become the good guy now.

puppies being cute

You can do it!

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We Need Biology to Win

Biology will always beat machine. I don’t care what anyone says.

fist bump between man and machine

Robotap

Other than Kevin Kelly, who says that machines will be used for non-human functions. And that eventually, AI will be able to do anything a human can do. Including be creative, or whatever.

I agree, if we stay as constrained, bogged down, oppressed, and trapped as we are now. If we aren’t unleashed, through the power of genetics or whatever.

ayahuasca

Would you like permanent and ever-increasing enlightenment for everyone?

Fuck machines. And fuck AI. Cause biology will always be better.

batman robin machine biology

That’s more like it.

I think our energy would be better spent seeing the limits of DNA, assuming there even are limits. Plus other forms of life we can come up with. Because for god’s sake, get it out of your head that life has to be DNA, or even carbon-based.

But my real pickle with machines and AI is the final play of the assholes. Basically, one human tyrant or tyrant family gains control of all humanity through globally adopted AI and machines. And they either wipe everyone else out or who knows. If they wipe us out, the best case scenario would be through not-a-bad-way-to-go bioweapons.

Best case scenario.

Or we get our shit together, and fix our shit through the power of biology. Cause as much as I love Elon Musks’s commitment to preventing our fulfilling-our-worst-selves-scenario, he’s bringing mechanization and AI to us too quickly. Doesn’t he wonder if maybe, just maybe, all of this human capital management, empowerment, mindfulness, values, and so on needs a little longer to become pervasive? To make a widespread difference? Maybe helped with a little gene editing?

Anyway, if we get our shit together, we are the ancient race. We have intergalactic space travel not through a machine, but through biology. Because life experiences matter, space, and time differently than us. Even just the difference between us and a bumble bee.

bumblebee orchid

So cuuute. The bumblebee orchid. I want to huuuuuug it!!! <3333

I’m very aware that this whole “printing of organisms” thing is going to be quite a clusterfuck of ethics and what is life questions. But I have often wondered:

Would it be as bad for feed animals if we were able to make them not have feelings? Or consciousness? Assuming we’re going to eat them one way or another.

If Terminator were to happen, realistically, we’d be pretty easy to wipe out.

Is it a compliment or a disgrace of humanity to say, “If we were in a zombie apocalypse, I would do really well.” Should I be scared of this person or become really good friends with them?

I don’t see why certain superpowers wouldn’t be possible if we could do Bioshock-level stuff with genetics. I mean, at the very least, vampires would probably be easy to make.

I know that Marvel Universe’s X-Men have a real dilemma around their relationship with humans. But both the pro and anti-human mutants are pretty cavalier when it comes to humans dying, especially because of their being completely nutty with power. Like, Magneto murdered probably hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in Apocalypse. And Xavier’s all like, Cheerio. I hope we can be friends, and I’ll see you when I see you.

What’s the fastest-growing lifeform in the world? I bet we could double, triple, even quadruple that with genetics.

If I wanted to be richer than god, I’d use genetics to cure male pattern baldness.

I’m pretty sure that there’s a bacterial composition that would make it so you could eat almost all day long and never gain weight. I want to figure it out, patent it, and throw away the key. Like big pharma has with so many cancer-curing, diabetes-curing, and other-curing therapies. Except in this case, I want to help save the world (versus destroy it from eating itself to death). Problem is, bacterial compositions are not really patentable. I guess I’ll just have to do the second step, which is to make the opposite – the bacterial composition for someone to be able to live off of a cup of rice. Or whatever.

Can we make things like a machine version of a hummingbird’s wings? Like, how pervasive is biomimicry, really?

Coders are always talking about code health and simplifying the code. We know that our DNA has a lot of junk. But it probably also has a lot of dormant stuff, genes that aren’t turned on. What if we have a bunch of genes that got turned off for various reasons, and all we have to do is turn them on? Maybe this is where we could start. And then maybe next, we can work on simplifying our code and removing the junk or repetition to, for example, reduce opportunities for error that result in genetic disease.

Can we modify our brains so that we can also communicate with animals?

Will plants be able to be sentient?

Will all of our buildings be made out of weird grown materials? Can it just all be made out of plant-like material?

Genetics, man. Genetics.

leonardo da vinci drawing of robot

That’s some leonardo da vinci terminator shit.

I believe that giving people control over their own genetics is the ultimate way for us to empower ourselves, and the quickest way to save as many people as possible. And for the world to become sustainable. Including our relationship with it.

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I have to remain hopeful

This post will seem super petty because it starts with a conversation between me and a boy. Bear with me.

God Dammit, Grit

As someone who has recently taken it upon herself to have grit, for some god awful reason, I thought that dating would be a great way to start.

God Dammit, Tinder

Lesson #1: How you communicate on Tinder and with people from Tinder is not the way to communicate in real life.

It’s too raw, assertive, and, since I’m a woman (having just seen Sheryl Sandberg speak an hour ago), demanding.

Hollaaaaa. Fyi im parking at your house wed morning. Can you give me a ride at 8?

It’s how I used to text my old roommate Sue, after I’d moved out. She lives 17 minutes away from the airport. Thor lives 7.

For those of you who don’t know, Thor is someone who I’d been crushing on. We had great time together. I wanted to be friends and see what happened.

thor with short hair

After not hearing back for a day, I assumed that he was a) dead b) super busy with the company or c) didn’t care. I know, I know. All assumptions.

Regardless, I sent another text. Just to, you know, be overly communicative.

Eeeeeither way im just gonna awkwardly park at your house. Sorry dude.

To me, this was an homage of him calling me awkward the first time we hung out, when I was dropping him off at the light rail. And trying to sound casual, like we were friends when I really, really liked him. D’oh.

It probably didn’t help that I’d spent the last week learning how to be “Tinder witty”, dish out puns, and had just spent five minutes practicing this with someone on Tinder. Let me give you an example. The following is the written portion of my profile.

Former biotech entrepreneur. Current philosopher and sustainability mba. Allergic to cats and cigs. In Ballard.

Big fan of human smell, 9:30am movies, courageous satire, and well-designed bathrooms. Plus, the microbes in your shit. I mean, that’s where you are right now, right? Speaking of shit, let’s talk some. I have lots to learn. Looking for someone who’s insatiably curious and smiles a lot.

It has received a very positive response and has saved both sides much time with the weeding out process.

God Dammit, Assumptions

In the past, Thor had joked about how numerous cars park at his house all of the time, and I had mistakenly assumed that it was a casual thing. He responded

Are you?

I mistakenly assumed that we were back to talking the way we had been.

Am I what? Sorry? Parking? Awkward?

I was dead wrong.

Parking. I’m not feeling very inclined to let you after the way you “asked.”

This really stung. I was declarative, and my guess (because that’s all I have at the moment), is that I came across as demanding.

What if I’d been a man and said,

Bro, early flight Wednesday. Gonna use one of your million parking spaces. Can you give me a ride?

This is an homage to the Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In fireside chat I’d just attended. Not that it describes me. But you know, her.

sheryl sandberg time magazine cover

It’s Sheryl Sandberg time! 

I’m not a man. I’m a woman, and therefore seen as bossy, demanding, and aggressive. I’m extremely easy to dislike.

And in response, I cowered and became a shell. I called him and left a message. All of this stuff came up, and I word vomited apology texts. While everything I said was true, none of it was authentic. It all came from a place of fear, regret, and self-loathing.

A wise person once told me that if you pour your heart out to a guy and he doesn’t respond, then he’s just trash. While I think that’s drastic because no one’s trash, I do feel like I experienced something like this. It could be a maturity issue. But that’s not the lesson to learn here. Because I couldn’t have predicted his reaction (or trigger?) and frankly, his being upset with me was inevitable as I do tend to overshare. Can you imagine if I’d just watched an episode of Veep and then texted him? Selina Meyer is my most amazing/horrible of spirit animals.

selina meyer quote

Dying laughing right now.

God Dammit, Rationalizations

He rationalizes, whether consciously or subconsciously, his reaction. My guess (again, cause that’s all I have) is that it has something to do with what he would consider basic etiquette. The last time I experienced such a reaction was by an ex who got extremely mad when I wanted to get gas and go through a car wash while we were out and about running errands and grabbing food. To this day, I don’t understand why getting gas and a car wash is any different from going to the store. In fact, car washes are one of my favorite experiences, and I take video of almost every one I go through one. This is also the same guy who body shamed me and screamed at me in Hawaii in front of all our friends for looking so fat in a swimsuit.

Along with these rationalizations, I can rationalize why I had said I was just going to park at his house. It seems like such a small thing to me, but that’s just me. This was inevitable. I’ve cut people off hundreds of times for much less.

People are weird and unpredictable, myself included. Regardless, I feel sad and disappointed. It will pass.

God Dammit, Growth

When I was younger, I dated at 100% all of the time. I loathed people who were like, “sometimes you just want to Netflix and chill.” This was before “Netflix and chill” meant sexy time. I thought that only idiots (or introverts, sorry introverts) went to the movies on dates. What was the point of spending time together if you’re not going to talk or engage?

But now that I’m older, I know that there’s a lot more to any relationship than flirting, wit, and being interesting. I learned this from the dark side of Tinder, or more broadly, dating. And obviously networking. And of course, living in Seattle with its freeze.

Movies are about shared experience. But even more, context matters. So do depth, connection, vulnerability, and authenticity. I want it all. But this time, I’m looking for balance, which I think can be achieved by having it all.

I’ve (mostly) taken a hiatus from dating for the last year and a half in the interest of learning more about myself, and how I can be in a relationship. Or even around a man that I like.

I’m sad, because I really liked Thor and thought that he was a really good guy, good at communication and listening, and stuck up for himself and his beliefs (perhaps that’s why we’re in such a pickle here).

But I truly feel loss because he was the first person I’d met in a long time who was as curious about me as I was about him. And he was one of the first people I’d met who had deep expertise about topics I didn’t, but wanted to. I actually daydreamed at some point about him giving me readings for before we hung out. Just so we could have a healthy conversation/debate. What the fuck is that? (awesome)

But then it just died, and there was nothing I could do about it. And instead of just letting it die, I tried to push my way into his parking spot and it totally backfired.

Fortunately, this whole Tinder thing seems to be digging the other curious folks out of the Seattle jungle. There’s plenty of bad and horribleness along with Tinder, but I feel grittier every day. At the very least, I’m learning how to manage my expectations, assumptions, and curiosity.

Lord knows, I need grit and balance for this next business to be the bomb diggity.

God Dammit, Lessons

  1. How you communicate on Tinder and with people from Tinder is not the way to communicate in real life.
  2. Assumptions will be the death of you; nothing kills like assumptions. Always assume good intent.
  3. A big part of grit is cutting losses and moving on as quickly as possible; let it die.
  4. Even though it wasn’t my intent in this conversation, generally speaking, I am intolerant. I’ve cut three people off in the last two months for fibbing, flaking, and projecting. I got a taste of my own medicine today and it SUCKED. There’s a huge opportunity here.
  5. Rationalization doesn’t matter. Curiosity, context, depth, connection, vulnerability, and authenticity matter. Having difficult conversations matters. And fun. I want it all.

Sheryl Sandberg ended her talk quite perfectly.

I have to remain hopeful.

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Does Verbal Satire Work?

Finding Truth in Opposites

I’ve been finding amusement in opposites, perhaps to cope with America’s political climate. And experimenting with the role of satire in mitigating it.

sweatpants joke

For example, while under the influence of an Italian spliff, the Italian who rolled it introduced himself to a newcomer of the circle. The young girl, in Southern twang, responded, “I’m from Georgia.” Right as she said it, I spontaneously laughed. I laughed at the dichotomy of Italy meets Georgia. They are both extremely charming accents, but have such contrasting personalities and appeal. But when she immediately said that my laugh hurt her feelings, I got so confronted that I couldn’t explain myself until the moment to do so had passed.

This past weekend at school, I also joked a lot. Many times, it had no inkling of truth to it. A favorite was when right before dinnertime, we found out that it was also a networking happy hour – after which we had to go back to class. I joked about coming back to class drunk, even though I had no intention of drinking as I hold a strong value to be as close to 100% as I can be for class. I even asked an administrator why they scheduled it that way. She said, “because having you sit in class for six hours nonstop seemed cruel.” And I jokingly responded, “So is having someone go to happy hour and then back to class drunk.”

Now, in all honesty, I love school. Whenever I mention that I’m sad that it’s about to be over or that I can’t wait to go, my Lyft drivers are so confused. “Hahaha no one loves school.” And the saddest part wouldn’t be suffering while drunk in class. It would have been not remembering or participating to my fullest extent. That would have been the suffering.

But I digress. The jokes have been a reflection of my grappling with opposites. In my mind, they’re verbal satire. But if most people assume that all jokes have an inkling of truth to them, or that they are the truth masquerading as a joke, was I just a big fat liar all weekend?

And what the hell’s so funny about opposites anyway?

Finding Truth in Jokes

Turns out there’s a phrase for this, verbal irony.

Verbal Irony is when words express something contrary to truth or someone says the opposite of what they really feel or mean. Verbal irony is often sarcastic.

I was extremely sarcastic this past weekend, and teased my classmates relentlessly. And for the first time in my life, I dished it and could take it. It felt good, and light, and I bonded even more with some folks.

While I certainly engaged in verbal irony, I still believe that there is something to verbal satire.

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

The greatest challenge with engaging in real-time satire with people you know and love (or don’t) is not being mean-spirited or hurtful. When the Georgia girl was hurt, I failed. In my defense, I was also under the influence of drugs.

Finding Truth in Justice

Which has me wonder about liability and responsibility. In class this weekend, we had one of the world’s experts on corruption lead a module. Many companies that engage in unethical practices claim that “everyone’s doing it.” Bribery is a great example, which has been held up in court.

Let’s pretend for a minute that “everyone’s doing it” is SO POWERFUL, that it excuses “bad” or “unethical” behavior.

Dr. Zimbardo has studied what happens when “everyone’s doing it.” The impacts disappear and the behavior becomes acceptable with both the engager in unethical behavior, and especially if there is a victim of it.

What about if I find my significant other in bed with another lover, a form of ultimate betrayal, and I murder them? Crimes of passion are permissible in Europe, the US, and other parts of the world. Is society (and the courts) telling me that peer pressure in corporations is as strong as scorned love? Or that my mirror neurons are so powerful in a workplace setting, that I am helpless when it comes to mimicking unethical behavior?

What if I’m drunk and hit someone with my car? In this case, I am held liable in most of the world. I should have had some inkling BEFORE I’d drank too much that I should stop. Or I should have had the foresight and wisdom to prevent it. I should have had the intrinsic moral character to not get behind the wheel when I knew I was under the influence.

I was going to put these three phenomena into a hierarchy, but it proved embarrassingly difficult. If we just looked at the sheer number of incidences or humans involved, my guess is that most frequent to least would look something like:

  1. Drunk driving deaths/accidents
  2. Corporate corruption
  3. Murder of passion

What I found impossible was ranking these in terms of global impact. What I WANT to say is the worst is corporate corruption. But the reality is, I have no idea. Do you?

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