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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part Ten)

December 15, 2014

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 6.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Two)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: December 15, 2014

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2015

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 4,872

ISSN 2369-6885

Mr. Rick G. Rosner

ABSTRACT

Part ten of eleven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: difficult circumstances for women, international obligations to women based on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) with a focus on MDG 3, 4, and 5, thoughts of focus on the transhumanist future, recommended reading of Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, David Marusek, or Neal Stephenson; Dr. Rosalyn Yow quote, some observations about conditions for women; the history of men with two examples of Plato and John Stuart Mill, and reflection on history not treating most people well; female exemplars in history with multiple examples, daughter’s study of history, and personal Women’s Studies history; ethics in the global scale with multiple UN examples, collating them into a single question of How best to solve problems in civil society?”, and thinking about the future with becoming more informed as the remedy.

Keywords: Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, David Marusek, Dr. Rosalyn Yow, ethics, Giga Society, informational ethics, John Stuart Mill, Mega Society, Millennium Development Goals, Neal Stephenson, Plato, Rick G. Rosner, UN, writer.

94. Many, arguably most, women have greater difficulties than their male counterparts in equivalent circumstances.  Their welfare means our welfare – men and women (no need to enter the thorny, confused wasteland of arguments for social construction of gender rather than sex; one need not make a discipline out of truisms.). 

Net global wellbeing for women improves slowly, but appears to increase in pace over the years – millennia, centuries, and decades.  Far better in some countries; decent in some countries; and far worse, even regressing, in others.  Subjugation with denial of voting, driving, choice in marriage, choice in children, honour killings, and severe practices of infibulation, clitoridectomy, or excision among the varied, creative means of female genital mutilation based in socio-cultural or religious practices; objectification with popular media violence and sexuality, internet memes and content, fashion culture to some extent, even matters of personal preference such as forced dress or coerced attire, or stereotyping of attitudinal and behavioral stances. “All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks and permit us to stand upright on the ground which God intended us to occupy.” Sarah Moore Grimke said.

Everyone owes women.  International obligations and goals dictate straightforward statements such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations (UN) in addition to simple provision of first life.  MDG 3, 4, and 5 relate in direct accordance with this proclamation – in an international context mind you.  MDG 3 states everyone’s obligations, based on agreed upon goals, for promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. MDG 4 states everyone’s obligations for reduction of infant mortality rate. MDG 5 states everyone’s obligations towards improvement of maternal health.  All MDGs proclaim completion by 2015.  We do not appear to have sufficed in obligations up to the projected deadline of 2015 with respect to all of the MDGs in sum.

In addition to these provisions, we have the conditions set forth in the The International Bill of Rights for Women by The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of the United Nations Development Fund’s (UNDF) consideration and mandate of the “right of women to be free from discrimination and sets the core principles to protect this right.”  Where do you project the future of women in the next 5, 10, 25, 100 years, and further?  In general and particular terms such as the trends and the concomitant subtrends, what about the MDGs and numerous other proclaimed goals to assist women – especially in developing areas of the world?

Predicting gender relations beyond a century from now is somewhat easier than predicting the short-term. In the transhuman future, bodily form, including sex, will be changeable. People will take different forms. And when anyone can change sexes with relative ease, there will be less gender bias.

Let’s talk about the transhuman future (100 to 300 years from now) in general, at least as it’s presented in science fiction that doesn’t suck. Three main things are going on:

There’s pervasive networked computing. Everything has a computer in it, the computers all talk to each other, computing costs nothing, data flying everywhere. Structures are constantly being modified by swarms of AI builders. A lot of stuff happens very fast.

Your mind-space isn’t permanently anchored to your body. Consciousness will be mathematically characterized, so it’ll be transferrable, mergeable, generally mess-withable.

People choose their level of involvement in this swirling AI chaos. Most people won’t live at the frenzied pinnacle of tech – it’s too much. There are communities at all different levels of tech.

Also, horrible stuff old and new happens from time to time – bio-terror, nanotech trouble, economic imperialism, religious strife, etc.

For more about this kind of thing, read Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, David Marusek, or Neal Stephenson.

So, two hundred years from now, gender won’t be much of a limiting factor, except in weird throwback communities. In the meantime, idiots will continue to be idiots, but to a lesser extent the further we go into the future. No one who’s not a retard is standing up for the idea of men being the natural dominators of everything. If it seems like we’re not making progress towards gender equality, it may be because there’s a huge political/economic/media faction that draws money and power from the more unsavoury old-fashioned values, with its stance that anyone who’s concerned about racism or sexism is naïve and pursuing a hidden agenda to undermine American greatness.

Dumb beliefs that aren’t propped up by doctrine eventually fade away, and believing that men or any elite group is inherently superior is dumb, particularly now and into the future as any purportedly superior inherent abilities become less significant in relation to our augmented selves. Across the world, the best lazy, non-specifically targeted way to reduce gender bias is to open up the flow of information, serious and trivial (however you do that).

In the very short run, maybe the U.S. elects a female President. Doubt this will do that much to advance the cause of women, because Hillary Clinton has already been in the public eye for so long – she’s more a specific person than a representative of an entire gender. Is thinking that dumb? I dunno. I do know that her gender and who she is specifically will be cynically used against her. I hope that if elected, she’s less conciliatory and more willing to call out BS than our current President.

In the U.S., there’s currently some attention being paid to rape. Will the media attention to rape make rapey guys less rapey? I dunno. Will increased attention to rape in India reduce instances there? I dunno. A couple general trends may slowly reduce the overall occurrence of sexual coercion and violence. One trend is the increased flow of information and the reduction of privacy – cameras everywhere, everybody willing to talk about everything on social media, victims being more willing to report incidents, better understanding of what does and does not constitute consent. The other trend is the decreasing importance of sex. My baseline is the 70s, when I was hoping to lose my virginity. Sex was a huge deal because everything else sucked – food, TV, no video games, no internet – and people looked good – skinny from jogging and cocaine and food not yet being engineered to be super-irresistible. Today, everybody’s fat, and there’s a lot of other fun stuff to do besides sex.

I think that some forms of sexual misbehaviour – serial adultery, some workplace harassment – will be seen as increasingly old-school as more and more people will take care of their desire for sexual variety via the vast ocean of internet porn. Of course, sexual misbehaviour isn’t only about sex – it’s also about exercising creepy power or a perverse need to be caught and punished – so, unfortunately, that won’t entirely go away. During the past century, sexual behaviour has changed drastically – the types of sex that people regularly engage in, sex outside of marriage, tolerance for different sexual orientations, freely available pornography and sexual information, the decline in prostitution – you could say, cheesily, that sex is out of the closet. And sex that’s not secretive or taboo loses some of its power.

But I could be wrong. According to a 2007 study conducted at two U.S. public universities, one fifth of female college students studied suffered some degree of sexual assault.

95. Many, not all, women tend to have a hard time in science too. Improvements in welfare, access, and attainment continue. Rosalyn Yalow, Nobel Prize in Medicine for 1977, stated:

“We bequeath to you, the next generation, our knowledge but also our problems. While we still live, let us join hands, hearts and minds to work together for their solution so that your world will be better than ours and the world of your children even better.

We cannot expect in the immediate future that all women who seek it will achieve full equality of opportunity. But if women are to start moving towards that goal, we must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed; and we must feel a personal responsibility to ease the path for those who come afterwards. The world cannot afford the loss of the talents of half its people if we are to solve the many problems which beset us.

If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the earth, we must believe that each succeeding generation will be wiser than its progenitors. We transmit to you, the next generation, the total sum of our knowledge. Yours is the responsibility to use it, add to it, and transmit it to your children.

The failure of women to have reached positions of leadership has been due in large part to social and professional discrimination.

The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning you’re not old.”

Yalow’s “immediate future” exists here and now.

I observe some tendencies of form: some truth in women choosing non-STEM fields often to explain some of the number differential; decent truth in institutional barriers; a good deal to do with ineffectual programs of action; a great deal to do with lack of female mentors – male mentors appear less effective than women; a catch-22 of desire for more women at the top, need of more female mentors from the top for women at the bottom, but lack of female mentors at the top in proportion to the women at the bottom; some more to do with inflexible tenure-track, differential pay, no childcare on-site, tacit bias for men; and, something never said – too taboo, some small minority of men not liking women; or a variable by implication of the former or on its own, working with them. 

Narrowed from the prior question about the situation for women, with some of this in mind, what about the need for opening the arena for women in science more with continued technological and scientific comprehension in the 21st century to succeed in keeping apace with the rapidity of technological change, and scientific discovery and innovation? 

I don’t know what will draw more women into STEM fields. However, I think that more needs to be done to draw people of both genders into STEM. (A good step might be calling it “math-science” instead of STEM.) I grew up during the post-Sputnik push to educate Americans in science, followed by the laissez-faire 70s. Now we’re in the era of dumb politics, with large factions backing away from and urging skepticism about science. It shouldn’t take a cold war or a big regular war for the U.S. to be pro-science. If current trends persist, the US will be overtaken by China in terms of percentage of GDP spent on R&D within a decade. Does it matter to the future whether the United States becomes a backwater country? I think so. American politics is having a bad 21st century so far, but the best values America stands for will be important in tempering the more ominous aspects of the tech wave.

96. In the history of men, we have some exemplars, Plato’s philosophy culminated in the considerations of an ideal society appropriately given the appellation “Kallipolis,” or “Beautiful City.” Few did as much theorization for female opportunity and equality, likely hypothesizing only in light of limitations of power and influence, in the ancient world apart from Plato including the incorporation of equality for women in the philosophical foundations, theoretical institutional operations, and consideration of aptitude and character found in The Republic, there likely exists few, or none, other in ancient times paralleling such depth of female inclusion in society and procurement of education.  Bear in mind, he did not intend the discourse of work related to Kallipolis for the purpose of equality for women, but for creation of an ideal society and people with spores devoted to women in the society.  Just society equated to just individual; ideal society equated to ideal individual; society – in conceptual equivalence to Platonic Form or Idea of “ideal society” – paralleled the individual. Well-ordered society reflected well-ordered individual – man or woman.  Germinations from the dialogue on an ideal society in the seminal work The Republic became the seeds for partial, by the accepted canon of ethics today, female equality, most saliently found in the work The Republic.

We find little in the totality of literature contained within the canon of Western, and Eastern, traditions beyond Plato and the ancient Greeks until the explicit work by the bright light John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) – a utilitarian philosopher rooted in the ideas and work of Berkeley, Hume, and Locke – in the hefty essay On The Subjection of Women  (1869) – a probable fresh stirp outcropping from the writing of his wife Harriet Taylor Mill’s essay, The Enfranchisement of Women (1851), because the Mills – including some by their daughter Helen – co-authored On the Subjection of Women, where the opening paragraph considers the issue of male & female relations and social institutions from the discerning, acute, and perceptive gaze of the Mills in preparation of probably one of the most complete disquisitions on women and their status in society in their day – one can find these throughout the prolonged essay:

“The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able, the grounds of an opinion which I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social or political matters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life: That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.” [Mill, J.M. 1869]

Why little in the way of acknowledgement in history for women other than in some great few jewels?  How can men best assist women – and by implication everyone in sum – flourish?

History hasn’t been very nice to anybody. About 107 billion humans have ever lived, and the vast majority of these had miserable lives, regardless of sex. Global life expectancy didn’t reach 50 until the 1960s and didn’t reach 60 until about 1980. We live like kings and queens compared to people of a century ago, and we live wretched lives compared to people a century from now. Standards of liberty go roughly hand-in-hand with standards of living. As humanity has gained control over the world, larger segments of the population have gained some relief from misery. I expect the future to be richer, to have more life-improving tech, and to be more inclusive.

Regressive forces in politics want to maintain gender and racial hierarchies to some extent. These efforts often masquerade as equal treatment for all, when in fact, treatment isn’t equal. So people get pissed, and they protest, and they point out inequalities and hypocrisy. Bringing unfairness to the public’s attention seems to be the way to get things done. One sign of progress is that arguments for inherent inequality between genders or among races are increasingly unacceptable. And such arguments should be. I have a saying (which has failed to impress anyone) that the world’s smartest rabbit is still a rabbit. By figuring out how to overcome human limitations, we can figure out how to overcome individual limitations.

97. In the timeline of women, on setting examples, instances arise of historical female virtuosity in spite of different circumstances for women en masse, in the commemorated annals of geniuses such as Hypatia of Alexandria, Elizabeth Anscombe, Hannah Arendt, Margaret Atwood, Simone de Beauvoir, Hildegard von Bingen, Marie Curie, Lady Anne Conway, Sarah Margaret Fuller, Susan Haack, Ayn Rand, Dame Mary Warnock, Mary Wollstonecraft, Betty Friedan, Marilyn vos Savant (greatest living philosopher of the everyday – opining), Joanne Rowling (“J.K. Rowling”/”Robert Galbraith”), and innumerable others, one need not agree with their multitudinous productions, but ought to welcome the attainments as genuine supplements to the cerebral arsenal of the erudite world.

Most of these relate in the academic, philosophical, intellectual partition of discourse on the sexes, more exist in relation to the many types of sheer brave accomplishments and firsts for women: Élisabeth Thible (First woman to ride in hot air balloon), Sophie Blanchard (First woman to pilot hot air balloon), Raymonde de Laroche (First woman to receive pilot’s license), Lilian Bland (First woman to design, build, and fly an aircraft), Amelia Earhart (Not long after Charles Lindbergh – one could state Albert Read before either Lindbergh or Earhart, first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean), Sabiha Gökçen (First woman to fly fighter plane into combat), Jacqueline Cochran (First woman to break sound barrier), Jerrie Mock (First woman to fly solo around the world), Svetlana Savitskaya (First woman to walk in space), Eileen Collins (First female space shuttle pilot), and so on. Not enough time to enter into full listing and description – a compendium must suffice for now.

Even a single example, in depth, from this list of female bright lights in the human narrative, Marie Curie discoverer of the 88th element known as Radium, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911), having an element named after her: curium, and someone of potential for higher emotional impact based on the recent nature – relative to the timeline from Hypatia to the present – of the achievements by Curie.  Indeed, she lived concurrent with the most often quoted, and misquoted, of geniuses, Albert Einstein.  No introduction or explanation needed for his accomplishments of unification and foundational contributions to physics, cosmology, and insights into reality in general.  However, we do not hear much of Marie Curie off the top of our minds; even so, she may arise after some time to wonder and ponder on the cases of female genius.

When examining with thorough care the deep historical roots of the situation for women up to the modern era in the world of pedagogy, or even with a mild skim through a history text, within arguably the most important societal and cultural institution, outside of raw technological change, for the influence of individuals and collectives in society, Academia holds the most sway in refurbishing the old housing of society with new frameworks for understanding the world and the relation of human beings within, and to, that new apprehension of the world.  

Some modern days of recognition such as International Women’s Day, Women’s Equality Day, and Women’s History Month do some good in continual recognition from positive reflection on them.  As per the previous question, most history education tends to teach male exemplars in each field while lacking the representation of women in such fields of endeavour.  History would appear to work on the shoulders of men, European men.  No exemplars in proportion to men can set tacit tones through education for the youth and in turn the upcoming generation.  What could shift the focus, perspective, and conversation related to female exemplars in history? 

Compared to men, a much smaller fraction of women have been highly visible to history. Of course, the fraction of men who are visible to history is already tiny. The vast majority of the more than 100 billion humans who have ever lived have disappeared without a trace of individual presence and are remembered only as tiny constituents of plagues or wars or statistical trends. Now, of course, everyone produces an extensive individual digital record, and the recording of our lives will only grow more thorough. (But individuals may become invisible within a deluge of information rather than a trickle.)

History is usually learned from an event- and trend-based perspective – battles, leaders, dates, economic and demographic forces. But there’s another way – the slice-of-life approach – trying to reconstruct how people lived their daily lives and thought their daily thoughts. This puts the women back into history and provides a counter-narrative to the big events POV. Most of our lives are conducted around daily tasks, not historic events. When we see history on TV or in a movie, it’s usually people’s stories, not dry recitations of facts.

In Women’s Studies classes and by watching my daughter study history, I’ve learned that traditionally womanly arts are often assumed to be second-tier – mundane, decorative, part of the background – what Betty Draper does, to her frustration, as compared to what Don Draper does. And even as Mad Men points out this dynamic, it still screws over Betty, making her seem unpleasant compared to Don, whom we root for even as he wrecks his life.

We’re lucky to live in an era of increasingly immersive media that offers more opportunity to build complete worlds, including the worlds of the past. But even with this ability, virtual worlds can be shitty for women – for example, the Grand Theft Auto series is brutal to women. The video game industry remains biased towards traditionally male action stories because they’re fun, they sell, and they’re easier to make compelling. Eventually, video games and immersive entertainment will learn how to embrace more of human experience. The subtlety’s not there yet.

(My thinking about women’s issues isn’t ultra-sophisticated. But I took women’s studies in college and belonged to a pro-feminist group called 100 Men Against Violence Against Women. On the other hand, I wrote for The Man Show. (It wasn’t anti-women – it made fun of men’s attitudes about women – but was widely misunderstood because it tried to have it both ways – making fun of men and celebrating what men like. And the fifth season, after Adam and Jimmy and the other writers and I left, was pretty mean and misogynist.))

98. Ethics exists beyond issues of the sexes.  Issues of global concern.  Ongoing problems needing comprehensive solutions such as differing ethnic, ideological, linguistic, national, and religious groups converging on common goals for viable and long-term human relations in a globalized world scarce in resources without any land-based frontiers for further expansion and exploitation, UN international diplomatic resolutions for common initiatives such as humanitarian initiatives through General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), United Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Develop Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Human Populations Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT), Interagency Standing Committee (IASC), and issues of UN humanitarian thematic import such as demining, early warning and disaster detection, the merger of theories of the grandest magnitude (e.g., general and special relativity) and the most minute (e.g., quantum mechanics), medical issues such as Malaria, Cancer, and new outbreaks of Ebola, nuclear waste and fossil fuel emissions, severe practices of infibulation, clitoridectomy, or excision among the varied, creative means of female – and male – genital mutilation based in socio-cultural and religious practices, stabilization of human population growth prior to exceeding the planet’s present and future supportive capacity for humans, reduction of religious and national extremism, continuous efforts of conservation of cultural and biological diversity, energy production, distribution, and sustainability, economic sustainability, provision of basic necessities of clean water, food, and shelter, IAEA and other organizations’ work for reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear armaments, culture wars over certainty in ethics on no evidence (faith-based ethics) and lack of certainty in morality because of too much data while lacking a coherent framework for action (aforementioned bland multiculturalism transformed into prescription of cultural/ethical relativism), acidification of the oceans, problems of corruption, continued annexation of land, issues of international justice handled by such organs as the International Court of Justice, introduction of rapid acceleration of technological capabilities while adapting to the upheavals following in its wake, issues of drug and human trafficking, other serious problems of children and armed conflict including child soldiers, terrorist activity, education of new generations linked to new technological and informational access, smooth integration of national economies into a global economy for increased trade and prosperity, and the list appears endless – and growing.

If collated, they form one question: “How best to solve problems in civil society?

Main issue, all subordinate queries and comprehensive, coherent solutions require sacrifice.  You might ask, “Cui bono?”  (“Who benefits?”) Answer: all in sum.  Problem: few feel the need to sacrifice past the superficial.  Some Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram protestations to represent themselves as just people while not behaving in the real world as just people.  Hashtags and celebrity speeches help in outreach and advertisement, but we need long-term, pragmatic solutions to coincide with them more.  Nothing hyperbolic to disturb healthy human societies, but reasonable and relatively rapid transitions into sustainable solutions. You have stated positive trajectories by thinking about the future.  You talked of some, but not all. What about these collection of problems and the growing list?

I believe the best instrument of change is information. Informed people more readily disbelieve stupid shit. Widespread ignorance and distrust of well-substantiated facts are usually signs of somebody getting away with something.

We know society is trending in an egalitarian direction. Trends towards equality are in a race with technology remaking society. For me, the question becomes, “How many lives and generations will be spent in misery before social and tech trends make things better and/or weird?”

The happy possible eventual situation is that tech creates a utopia in which all people get what they want. The unhappy possible eventuality is that tech debunks the importance or centrality of humanity, and humans are afterthoughts – the stepchildren of the future – being taken care of but not really having their concerns addressed because their level of existence isn’t taken seriously by posthumans. (And of course there’s the possibility that AI gets out of hand, eats everything and craps out robots. Let’s try to avoid that.)

Tech will solve some huge problems. One of the biggest is the steadily growing population. People who have a shot at technical, earthly immortality (50 to 80 years from now) will reproduce less. When transferrable consciousness becomes commonplace (120 to 150 years from now), posthuman people may not reproduce at all (though traditional human enclaves will still spit out a steady stream of kids). The uncoupling of individual consciousness from the body it was born into solves a bunch of, perhaps most, current problems and anticipated problems – crowding, food, pollution, global warming – by allowing people to live in ways that leave less of a footprint. (Not that their choices will be made for purely ecological concerns. People will always follow their own interests, and posthuman people will choose a variety of non-fleshy containers (200 years from now) because virtual or semi-robotic containers will be cheaper, more convenient, more versatile and exciting.)

But our current problems will be largely replaced by fantastically weird problems. Virtual people will be subject to virtual attacks and virtual disease. Agglomerations of consciousness may become bad actors. People may sic nanotech swarms on each other. You can find all this stuff in good near-future science fiction. William Gibson’s new novel, The Peripheral, which takes place about 20 years and 90 years from now, can serve as a good, fun intro to the future. In it, some impossible stuff happens, but it’s the possible stuff that’s interesting and scary. There are websites devoted to the future in a very non-la-de-dah way. Look at http://io9.com/ and http://boingboing.net/ – they’re entertaining and informative.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “6.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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