On Living in the Future

Here’s a couple of things I’ve ended up telling people over the past few months:

  • “Our vacuum cleaner isn’t working properly anymore. It needs a software upgrade.”
  • “Honey, I forgot the shopping list. Could you email it to my phone please?”

Statements which we make almost without pausing these days, but which only would have been everyday sentences this century, which would only have made sense (if at least only as lines from a science fiction story) only in the past decade or two, and which would have been nonsensical even when I was in high school.

I love living in the future. How about you?

World Philosophy Day

Apparently today is World Philosophy Day (or maybe yesterday was, or tomorrow will be… it all depends upon a host of epistomological questions which have been investigated for thousands of years but which have never been resolved). In honor of the event, BBC News Magazine has an article featuring four philosophical conundrums which will make your brain hurt. I, of course, answered them all quickly and earned a perfect score, but I won’t share my answers with you, because that would be cheating, and cheating is wrong… Or is it?

Now, one of my favorite philosophical conundrums is the “Omphalos Hypothesis“, otherwise known parodically as “Last Tuesdayism”. The notion here is that the world was created by a deity in its current form with all its information and fossils and geological formations and all at one point in the recent past. All evidence that the earth is older than, say, 4,000 years, was placed in situ by God at the event of the world’s creation. Some philosophers raise this to “next Tuesdayism” by saying that God may as well have created the world last Tuesday, and every evidence that the world is older than that, including our memories, were created at the same time.

Really, though, the hypothesis doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and is ultimately irrelevant. If the universe really is no older than a few days, the best approach to understanding it is still to approach it with the observable evidence on hand.

Just for the fun of it, though, I like to say that I actually adhere to “Next Tuesdayism”, the notion that the world and everything in it won’t actually be created until next Tuesday. That includes your memory of reading this hypothesis; you may think you’re experiencing it right now, but your only proof that you are doing so will be your future self reflecting upon the experience, even if that future self is only a few milliseconds away. So who’s to say that what you’re experiencing now isn’t just a memory that you reflect upon later? In short, can you disprove that we don’t yet exist if your only evidence for prior existence is your own memory thereof?

It is, again, one of those questions that ultimately irrelevant to our understanding of and approach to the world. I also used to ponder that reality might be changing all around us every few seconds, but we would never know, and the only reality we would ever be aware of experiencing is the one we are experiencing right now.

I also enjoy pondering issues of identity and the internal experience of self, but I won’t go into that here. I did write a story, “Trying to Stay Dead“, about these issues. Go read it and enjoy it. And have a happy World Philosophy Day.

More on prop 8 (I can't help myself)

Today, the California Supreme Court has agreed to take on three lawsuits challenging Proposition 8. Let’s hope they do the right thing, and overturn it. According to the article, “All three cases claim the ban abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group. They argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change.” This has been my own position all along, and the primary reason why I chose to oppose Proposition 8. Constitutions exist primarily to protect the rights of the minority against the whims of the majority.

A couple of random thoughts.

First, a number of folks who poured money into the “Yes on 8” campaign have complained loudly and vociferously that they are being “unfairly targeted and singled out” for their beliefs. I have to ask them, “Gee, what’s that like?” Seriously, I really can’t bring myself to feel sorry for these people. While I don’t think harassment or vandalism is acceptable, it’s still difficult for me to feel much sympathy. Gays have had to put up with this sort of thing for decades. Centuries, really.

Second, I’ve heard several say, in response to news of the court’s challenge to the ban, something like, “Proposition 8 has passed, it’s the law, deal with it.” I don’t think this is an appropriate response; after all, saying the same about interracial marriages or separate seats on the buses would not be appropriate. Besides, why wouldn’t these people just “deal with it” when the Supreme Court said that gay marriage was protected by the Constitution? They decided that they needed to respond to that, so other people are responding the other way.

Third, I can’t help wonder if the people who funded the “Yes on 8” campaign had anticipated the volume of the backlash that has erupted. Some gay activists have said that the passage of Prop 8 may have been the best thing possible for the gay rights movement. It really seems to have galvanized them.

Finally, I think same sex marriage is inevitable in this country. If the California Supreme Court does not overturn the ban, then it will take a few more years, but it will happen.

Proposition 8: The Aftermath

California, which voted overwhelming for Barack Obama and which passed Proposition 2 (requiring better living conditions for egg producing chickens) somehow also passed Proposition 8, which removes the right of same sex couples to marry in California. To my way of thinking, this is ludicrous. I’ve stated before, and I’ll state again, that in a democracy, you don’t get to vote on civil rights; otherwise, you don’t have a democracy. And Proposition 8 is an amendment to the state Constitution; and, honestly, a Constitution is not the place to define terms like “marriage” or whatever, but rather to protect the rights of the minority from the whims of the majority. Sometimes the people are foolish, and the courts end up stepping in to make sure this aspect of the Constitution is properly implemented (which is why interracial couples can get married anywhere in the country instead of just the 38 states where it was legal when Barack Obama was born).

Unsurprisingly, there has been serious backlash against the passage of Proposition 8. And equally unsurprisingly, the backlash has been targeted largely at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — the Mormons. The Mormon church — which has traditionally and historically always upheld the traditional notion of marriage as strictly between one man and one woman — poured a lot of money into the “Yes on 8” campaign. There are petitions to encourage the IRS to revoke the Mormon Church’s tax exempt status; I’m in favor of this, but what the church done is not, unfortunately, a violation of federal law, no matter how little business the church has in meddling in the affairs of California. The fact that the Prop 8 campaign utilized mostly fearmongering and blatant lies to move its message only makes me feel even more queasy. I try not to be prejudiced against any group, but I’m going to find it very hard, the next time Mormon missionaries arrive at my door, to not shout, “Get the hell away from my house!” at them.

There is also a movement to boycott Utah, the home of the Mormon church. I approve of this as well though I’m not sure how well it will go over. I’d personally also like to see a boycott of California, which was stupid enough to pass this particular bit of idiocy in the first place. This probably also won’t happen, though it would do my heart good to see, say, some major celebrities announce that they will no longer work in California because of this. This would certainly have an impact on California’s economy, and, in this case, that could only be a good thing. The state is probably already going to feel a financial impact from this anyway.

I think the most promising challenge to the passage of Proposition 8, though, is the legal challenge. In California, there are two methods for changing the state’s constitution; according to Article 18, Section 3 of the Constitution, the electors may amend the constitution by a majority vote, but there are questions as to whether this is the proper sort of procedure for such a major change to the Constitution. After all, this proposition effectively redefines the notion of equal rights in California, something which is guaranteed in the Constitution. It will be interesting to see how this goes. I’m not a lawyer, but I do think that the passage of Proposition 8 sets a very dangerous precedent.

We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully saner heads will prevail. There’s a protest rally at the State Capital right now. I dropped off Jennifer and I was going to go myself but there was literally no parking within a half mile. And since I was going to have to leave early anyway, I just headed on home. There were hundreds of people there even half an hour before the rally began; hopefully the turnout will be huge.

It will be interesting. The gay rights movement has had decades to work on creative and snarky means of civic action within the state. I can only hope that the state gets its collective head out of its collective ass and does the right thing.

(On another note, I read a very disturbing article suggesting that African Americans in California are being targeted as scapegoats for the passage of Proposition 8. While it’s true that minorities voted overwhelmingly in favor of the initiative, I think that targeting anyone as a scapegoat is misguided and counterproductive. So if you’re doing it, stop it right now, you bad person you.)