The Robot and the Helot: Neither Side Gets It

I read a story today about a Canadian study that found living in close proximity to heavy traffic bad for your health.  The toxic emissions and stirred dust were not the only suspected culprits.  Interestingly, noise was believed to be a major factor in (for instance) the relatively high incidence of dementia among those dwelling less than 70 meters from traffic arteries.  Now, 70 meters is about the length of a football field!  Many of us live much closer than that to constant roar and rumble.  It’s a sad discovery… or a disquieting theory, if you prefer; but it also makes me smile.  I’m not amused because an inner sadist rules my tastes, but only because I’ve been warning people about this sort of thing all my life–admittedly, on the basis of mere intuition.  I never had a study behind me before.  And there also appears to be no corroborative study behind this one.  Why not?

Well, because it’s just junk science, some would say.  The academics are at it again, trying to drum up alarm against the innovative, high-tech free market that has driven unimaginable economic growth around the planet for two centuries and virtually eradicated poverty in First World societies.  Or… it might also be that the corporations and their government mouthpieces responsible for most grants to academic researchers would never hear of anyone cracking the lid on such a Pandora’s Box–not on their dime!

Conservatives–or people who style themselves conservative–need to get their act together.  Driving peace and quiet out of our communities was never a conservative undertaking: it was always definitively subversive to the established, traditional way of life.  To argue that mankind must adapt to the fits and belches of mechanization, even though machines were supposed to improve life for mankind, is to be a marketplace progressive–an advocate of any product or sales strategy that produces material wealth.  This vector is soon (as in about three decades) going to lead us straight to the point where we fuse with robotic technology.  Would anyone like to explain to me how such a trajectory may be described as conservative?

But the other side appears to be just as clueless.  I recently finished watching a Netflix documentary titled Killswitch about the all-too-effective efforts of big government and its private-sector cronies to suppress the free and open circulation of information.  The case is quintessentially libertarian; and, except for the side of it which pertains narrowly to national security (e.g., keeping a secret nuclear deterrent under wraps so that bad guys won’t labor on developing the next generation of horror), I’m entirely on board with the argument.  But why does every free-speech champion in the flick believe that more government offers an answer?  Just because suppression often begins in a private-sector, mega-corporation lust to maximize profits doesn’t mean that the public sector is our savior by default.  On the contrary, the hard fact that government hacks are always up for sale is what confers upon businesses the power to suppress.

I don’t know what the ultimate answer might be, or if it exists… perhaps some genuine and informed kind of populism: but its thrust must be to insist that regulators back off rather than that they pile on with more “well-intended” regulation.

The documentary’s blindness to this most basic of facts made me want to chuck my TV out into one of those busy streets around my house.  I could claim dementia as my defense.

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Author: nilnoviblog

I hold a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (Latin/Greek) but have not navigated academe very successfully for the past thirty years. This is owed partly to my non-PC place of origin (Texas), but probably more to my conviction--along with the ancients--that human nature is immutable, and my further conviction--along with Stoics and true Christians-- that we have a natural calling to surmount our nature. Or maybe I just don't play office politics well. I'm much looking forward to impending retirement, when I can tend to my orchards and perhaps market the secrets of Dead Ball hitting that I've excavated. No, there's nothing new (nil novi) under the sun... but what a huge amount has been forgotten, in baseball and elsewhere!

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