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How I dropped Out of Society Into a Fourth Social Class

There are three social classes in America. I have chosen to be in none of them. This is not a choice normally available to people. Let me explain a little bit why I dropped out and how I’m basically classless now.

First, let me define the three classes.

There is a worker class who produces material goods. Then, secondly, there is a capitalist class who creates an organization to collect the surplus value of the workers after paying the workers. The market decides what the workers get paid. In America, we rely on the market to balance many things, and worker wages is one of these things. However, when only a single class (the capitalist class) competes in the market for workers, it is difficult for the workers to receive full value for the product of their work whose labor surplus is inevitably skimmed for profit by the capitalist class. What capitalists are competing for in “the market” is this labor surplus. However, competition for this surplus never causes the surplus to go to zero, otherwise, the capitalist has no incentive to start the company at all. Thus, by the very nature of the system of capitalism, it is guaranteed that the worker class can never receive the full total of their labors, for by nature, the capitalist must be incentivized by equity in order to risk his capital to receive the surplus.
The worker’s only choice is which capitalist they choose to skim their profits. Occasionally, workers may band together in a start-up company in hopes that their skills and labor allow them to become elevated to the capitalist class themselves. Ironically, such a gamble requires selling a significant share of their labor to the capitalist class in the form of equity to angel investors, venture capitalists, or Wall Street investors.

Aside from the worker class and the capitalist class, there is one other class that I am not a part of. That class is the incarcerated class. That is the class you fall into by design if you choose not to be a worker for the capitalist class. As a person who has chosen not to be in any of those three classes, I am constantly in danger of falling into the incarcerated class due the laws which rig it that way.

An example of a law which would put me into the incarcerated class is the law which bans sleeping in vehicles. Although you can eat in your vehicle or do just about anything else in your vehicle, many cities have outlawed sleeping in your vehicle because they don’t want homeless people living in their cars.

Our society purposely doesn’t want homeless people because they fall into a non-category of peoples who have rejected the rat-race of being a worker who has her surplus value skimmed by profiteering capitalists. Once you have decided you don’t need a home, then you certainly don’t need a job and thus you don’t need to enter the job market for various capitalists to choose how to exploit you. This is very bad for a society of capitalists. So, it is discouraged. And one way it is discouraged is to arrest you and fine you so that you remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and incarceration so that you will want to join the worker class to escape your spiraling predicament.

I have to be very careful while skirting the fringes of society not to accidentally fall into the incarcerated class. Once one tendril of poverty has grabbed you, it won’t let go until you are trapped in the incarcerated class. So far, I have managed to avoid it with previous wealth accumulated when I was a worker and by continually disguising myself as a “decent” worker class citizen.

Worker class people are afforded certain privileges in society that we take for granted, and I know how to act and present myself as a worker having been one myself for decades. Fortunately, many well-to-do technologists look poverty-stricken and disheveled; so a crazy homeless van dweller, a wealthy start-up app creator, and a math professor at Berkeley are indistinguishable to a police officer.
It is this guise of normalcy which affords my safety in society. It is not the laws which protect me. It is the disheveled appearance of my fellow Silicon Valley workers which affords me the most security.

Let me make this clear. It is not the laws which make me safe from imprisonment and harassment from police. It is my old CodeWarrior and OpenGL t-shirts from 10 years ago that allow me a disguise to slip past laws intended for homeless people. These old clothes are mostly still stored in my storage area. Ten years ago, I could not have known that they would serve me as a uniform of the worker class that I dropped out of and be as valuable as a literal license to participate in society.

There have been many times I have been told to move or threatened with a ticket or various anti-homeless measures that I have been able to thwart by convincing the police that I was “programming” or “visiting someone” in my obviously expensive van and then hastily moving away. I have had the privilege of select enforcement of the law because of the privilege or illusion of wealth, I am not ashamed to admit. I am truly sorry for the treatment that less wealthy citizens would receive due to these laws, but that is not something I am prepared to go to jail for and fight a civil liberties battle over at this point. Such a move would certainly put me into the incarceration class for good. And these laws will remain precisely because no one who is ever put into that legal position could afford to fight those laws.

One of the “solutions” to the homeless problem is to put people to work. I see this as problematic for various reasons. For one, some people may have chosen to drop out of the rigged game of workers and capitalists. I know that we in the worker class believe in the stigma of being homeless as being mentally ill or having substance abuse problems. I don’t know enough about the topic to determine whether this stigma is one of causation or correlation or whether the stigma serves more as a warning to the worker class to not become homeless and to keep maintaining a steady pace on the treadmill for their capitalist of choice.

For me, I tried to get out of the worker class by starting my own company and joining many various start ups. I didn’t quite succeed. I’m not sure I have what it takes to be a capitalist anyway. So, now, I’m adrift neither here nor there.

What I want to do is just create stories and experiences for people to enjoy using the skills that I’ve learned over a couple of decades. I think I can do that without spiraling into the incarcerated class.
But I’ve also chosen to do that without attempting to join the capitalist class or to beg them for help. This is not really a rational thing to do because what I would like to do requires resources beyond what I can muster myself.

And so, things are going slow. That’s okay. I don’t care about deadlines, and I don’t care about milestones, and I don’t care about making money. I’ll let things sort out on its own. Maybe I’ll make money, but I’m certainly not counting on it. And if I don’t count on it, I think I can properly enjoy the process of creating. I think the journey of creation is what matters to me now. Once I strip away all of the stress of starting a company that has to balance income with expenses and has to hit a market window and has to choose the right people, choose the right platform, and choose the right moment, I can truly enjoy what I always wanted to do when I first played Space Invaders in 1977 as a 7 year-old kid— to make his own game.

I only need to get back a fraction of the value of work that I put into my own game to make it worth my while. After all, I’m only getting paid a fraction of my value by any capitalist that’s making a profit anyway. So, for now, I’m not going to worry about what that fraction is going to be. I must accept that that fraction is exactly zero and go on doing what I want to do anyway. It’s not worth worrying about at this point. I’m too far from completion on any of the projects to even think that far ahead anyway.

And so I’m hoping there is a fourth social class in America that joins me. Perhaps there will be enough wealth from an automated and nearly workerless society that a fourth social class can emerge and can simply create art, literature, and entertainment while sustaining themselves with occasional gifts or purchases from the worker and capitalist classes.

This class, like me, will leverage the skills gained from years in the worker class to create novel things that could never be commercially successful enough for the capitalist class to want to exploit.

There are many small things too specific and niche and weird to ever be mass market and thus never be commercially viable to a capitalist class. Such things can be created by a mature post-worker artisan class simply because artisans love to create things and such crafts were not allowed to even be attempted when under the yoke of a capitalist.

And so that’s what I’m going to be doing— sometimes. I hope I can succeed, not so much to make money, but as to serve as an example to others that it is possible to be done. If freedom affords you this luxury, I hope you can take it as I have. I don’t think you have to be brave or anything to do this.

You have to realize that being in the worker class is merely a more comfy kind of incarcerated class. I think Fight Club touched on this a little bit. But you don’t have to be violent or disruptive to break free of the seeming stranglehold of the worker class. The prison is an illusion.

You can live just fine and be happy with less. You can be happy with your relationships without your things. It’s a matter of elevating your most important values to the top of the priority list and then shedding the rest. Once you’re accustomed to not dealing with the rest anyway, it becomes easy to focus on only the necessities.

It’s simpler and less complicated and more fun to focus only on what matters to you, even if it’s trivial or not understood by others. In fact, not being understood by others is what makes it special and enjoyable to you and only you. People might ask, “won’t you get tired of it?” I don’t think you can ever get tired of being a kid every day. Besides, if you miss any aspects of worker society, you can always put on a uniform and blend in and experience a taste every now and again.

Now, granted, I have built myself a bit of a cushion in finances in order to do this, and not everyone will have the same flexibility. But I think the fundamental concept is sound. We are really much more wealthy and capable than we think we are. We’re under an illusion that running out of money will result in homelessness or mental illness or substance abuse as if all of the latter were one thing.

I’m amazed at people who grow up poor but wind up having a huge number of kids anyway. Well, if they can do , then anybody who works in tech in Silicon Valley can also. People working tech jobs in Silicon Valley have a tremendous amount of wealth compared to people in other parts of the United States and other parts of the world. Yet, they’re always comparing themselves with each other and their neighbors which makes them feel poor.

So rather than bemoaning that you can’t buy a house in Silicon Valley, be grateful that you can do things that many people in the world cannot even begin to comprehend, like spending $5 for a cup of coffee and then not even finishing it.

Because wealth is relative like this, I have chosen to focus on how wealthy I am compared to the rest of America even though I’m not working, and to change my perspective on life to appreciate the luxuries that that wealth affords me. And what it really affords me is time. I can have time to do the things that I want to do without worrying about spiraling down into the incarcerated class. I see the danger in that for those who are closer to poverty. Perhaps I am skirting a bit close to the edge of poverty, but I have chosen to not be afraid of it and to be confident in my ability to stay out of the trap of poverty.

So, maybe for this part, you do have to be a little brave. If you or your family has fought hard to come out of poverty, I can see how this part would be scary. However, if you’ve made it into the worker class and saved up some money, have confidence in yourself that you can re-enter the worker class at some level if you so choose. It may be at a lower level than you were accustomed to, but just accept that that was part of the cost for chasing your dreams and experiencing real freedom in your life.

I understand. You don’t want to lose your place on the ladder. You’ve worked very hard to get to that rung and you don’t want to lose it, so you grip tightly. I get that. But don’t cling to the ladder just for the sake of the ladder’s position itself. Remember that you got to that rung for some reason. What was that reason? Do you still remember? You had something else you wanted to do and climbing that ladder was the way to achieve it. It’s not too late to try to achieve it. Even though you haven’t reached the top of the ladder, maybe you’ve reached a high enough rung that you can simply let go and try and achieve the original goal you had in mind. Climbing the ladder certainly wasn’t your only goal until you got onto the first rung, right? The ladder was meant to lead somewhere. Maybe you don’t need to climb the rest of the ladder to get there right now. That’s what is worth considering.

 

Lament of the Rhetorician

Many of you may not know what rhetorician means. Many of you may not know what “trolling” means or what mansplaining means or what “literally” means. Mansplaining has drifted in meaning into something like this. But it’s original meaning was perfect and useful. This article laments the loss of this word, like a rare beautiful bird that flew too briefly in our language ecosystem.

Many people literally don’t know what literally means. They literally misuse it every time they use the word.

See what I did there? What I did was be a rhetorician which according to the link to dictionary.com, means “A person given to verbal extravagance” which has a negative connotation. Do we have a word for someone who uses language and rhetoric precisely and expertly. We do, and that word is “rhetorician”. However, that word is also used to mean “a person given to verbal extravagance.” These are important distinctions in meaning and connotation in a single word. The true rhetorician would lament the conflation of these two meanings into a single word for she could not deliver her precise meaning whether to insult or not to insult without using other words that may not exist.

In our language in which the meaning of words is determined by the tyranny of the masses, we cannot be proud to be precise and accurate in our words and be called a rhetorician. We will also suffer the negative connotations of being a rhetorician. And thus, that is the lament of the rhetorician. Her very attention to detail and precision of language is mocked by those who cause the drift in meaning in the very word “rhetorician” itself.

I would like to be proud to be called a rhetorician or a liberal or socialist. But as a rhetorician, I must recognize that most people are not as precise in their usage of words as I am. And thus, they use the popular determined meanings of those words in whatever social circle they happen to be in. And in many circles, those words are insults and labels which are synonymous with other tribe. That’s all you need to know about the definition of the word. It means other tribe. It doesn’t mean liberal or socialist or even rhetorician. It simply means not us. The original meanings of those words are lost and replaced with the meaning of other tribe.

If that is what they mean, I propose that they simply use the words other tribe when they mean to denigrate by using a single word. Why dance around the meaning, when the true meaning in the context of the sentence and diatribe is “other tribe.” There is absolutely nothing in the person’s context which requires the actual meaning of liberal to be used. Thus, let’s just substitute all of that kind of speech with “other tribe” to clarify the meaning. And because I don’t want to unfairly target one group, let us just say that the words Republican and Democrat can also be replaced by the word “other tribe” with absolutely no loss in meaning.

So, this is the lament of the rhetorician. That because of the ease of written communication and the paucity of characters in formats such as Twitter, people use shortcuts and meaning drift of words to deliver their tribal inclusion or exclusion messages. And because of their incorrect usage, these connotations are stuck in people’s minds. People, especially politicians and polemicists, do this because it works. It is a language that signals that this is your tribe talking to you about the other tribe. These are keywords to signal for the choir to listen up because the pastor’s preaching has begun.

I lament this trend, not just because of its blatant appeal to tribal loyalties inherent in the language strategy, but because it legitimately dilutes and crowds out and eliminates the original meaning of the words and reduces the signal in actual discourse.

It becomes difficult to have a meaningful dialogue using the words liberal and Democrat and Republican when each word is rife with tribal connotation. Even saying Bernie and Hillary this election cycle is tinged with danger because of the connotations carried with each name.

And so, the thing that is important to the rhetorician, communicating meaning and discourse accurately and precisely is made difficult by the dilution of words.

And what makes it worse is that the dilution of these words due to their tribal connotations contributes further to the lack of communication between the tribes and accentuates differences rather than similarities between tribes. And furthermore, communication is made more difficult because there are no words to replace the meanings that were lost. Thus, the entire ecosystem of communication is forever damaged.

This is the lament of the rhetorician.

 

Non-Organic Facts: The New Reality

Mark 2016 as the year that fiction supplanted reality. It’s the year that Pokemon GO introduced the idea that physically doing something in the real world enables you to accomplish something in the virtual world. It introduces the idea that doing something in the real world which accomplishes nothing in the real world, but accomplishes and advances your virtual world status is a perfectly reasonable and socially acceptable way of spending your time.

Sometimes, you may also accomplish real world tasks while simultaneously playing Pokemon GO such as walking your dog, going for a walk, or simply shopping. But the idea that simply walking your dog has merit on its own without also advancing your status in a virtual world is now beginning to become an outdated concept. Simply walking your dog for its own sake of enjoyment will be an old person thing. This is culturally what’s happening. Doing things in the real world for its own sake for its own satisfaction will soon be incompatible with the rest of society. This is 2016. What will it be in 10 years? In 20? In 50? In 100?

Right now, in 2016, doing something in the virtual world has value and perhaps more value than doing something in the real world. Fiction is greater than reality. At some point, a virtual economy game will certainly supplant Pokemon GO as the augmented reality game of choice. Maybe within 10 years, we will see such a game that will be an extension to normal life as we now know it.

At some point in this development, we will begin to see activities online as being more valuable than doing things in the real world. You will prefer to walk a virtual dog than a real one. The virtual dog will provide the same benefits— companionship and virtual love— as a real dog without the messy poop and reliance on being fed. You will work online in the virtual world to generate virtual money to spend on your virtual things. You will create virtual things for other people. You are adding to the virtual economy by creating virtual dogs with clever virtual dog AI. Almost everyone will be doing this in the information age economy. As a side benefit, the virtual economy will be hooked into your real world economy so that you can trade what you’ve earned in the virtual world for real world money.

But you don’t really need that much real world money because you are sufficient in your tiny home with your only connection to your friends and family through your virtual world. Your virtual world endeavors sufficiently cover your expenses of keeping you fed and keeping a tiny home roof over your head.
You don’t participate in real life politics. That is for old people who pound a sign into their vast water-wasteful yards. You don’t run for office yourself. Your Pokemons and virtual dog would certainly starve if you spent so much time away from the virtual world to cultivate your campaign.

But you participate in politics online. You choose and select which communities you belong to. Because you can opt out and even remove people from these communities, you don’t have to learn to listen to other people’s ideas that differ from your own and your own carefully chosen friends. You never see the face of disagreement and learn from their point of view. All you see is text online that you disagree with and you can choose not to read it or you can choose a link that confirms you are correct.

It is 2016 and we are seeing fiction winning in politics. Does the truth matter anymore? What is the truth anyway? Politics is too far from me personally for me to experience it directly. So, I experience the truth through fiction written by people I agree with. If it’s something I disagree with, there is an immediate rebuttal by someone else I agree with. I can easily dismiss all ideas that do not match my world view. People see what they want to see. When I wrote “fiction winning in politics” above, you thought of a specific person. But I did not mention any person by name. I don’t want to belabor my point because I know you have the option to stop reading at any time if you don’t like what I’m saying. I’m just going to point out that I never mentioned a name, yet someone very specific probably popped into your head. Why is that?

I have a lens through which I see the world. It is a lens through which I am scornful because it is easy for people to sell me that scornful story for their own purposes. It works because I respond to it and others like me respond to it because it fits nicely in our world view.  It is much harder to sell me on a positive story that doesn’t match the world view shaped by those scornful stories. The only positive stories I hear are ones which support my side. But the opposing side cynically distorts my side’s story and so I am distrustful of anything they say.
My tribe is the correct tribe. The other tribe is not only wrong, but stupid. Their tribe lies. Our tribe tells the truth or at least tells it like it is. I know my side is the truth because of everything I’ve read from my friends who I’ve carefully chosen to add or remove based on how much they agree with me. My friends are good. I am good. My side is good. That’s all there is to it.

I love my tribe and my tribe loves me. The other tribe hates me and I hate the other tribe. Our tribe tells the truth about the other tribe, but they won’t listen. Instead, they keep passing these lies about our tribe. Why are they so hateful? Why are they such liars? It’s why I can never be friends with anyone in that other tribe. Because my tribe is the truth.

Reality is eroding away and being replaced by a new land mass. Our minds and our souls are reality. They exist and we seek like-minded souls to fill our lives. And these online people can become the majority and the whole and the entire in our lives because the internet allows us to transcend the limitations of time and space which prevented our ancient ancestors to form tribes with people on the other side of the continent. You may come to this post 10 years from now and welcome me into your tribe because you agree with what I’m now saying. I can connect with you who are from the future 10 years from now. This was not so easy back in the old days, but it is trivial now. I would have had to have been a great author to reach out beyond my immediate circle of friends at a particular time and place. But now, anyone can do it. We all travel through four dimensions trivially every day, like this post. Time and place are abstracted away from the message this post carries.

But now, we can form ideas and morals and judgements and even hatred of other tribes without ever having to meet or know anyone physically. First, we can choose our own neighbors through social media. And also, we can choose to enter various communities where we can meet like-minded people online.

These new land masses that are formed informally by social media and communities are rapidly changing as people friend and unfriend on social media due to polarizing opinions. Existing land masses get bigger and then fracture into smaller, more specific land masses. Then some of those land masses grow bigger over time, too.

Sometimes, these new land masses spill over into the real world. But because the virtual world is more real than the real world, that spill over doesn’t cause dramatic social change. Dramatic social change requires reality to be more real than fiction. And it isn’t. Reality doesn’t have a link to tell you that it is a lie perpetuated by that other tribe. Reality is inconvenient. You cannot unfriend reality. Therefore, reality sucks. And so, you unfriend reality anyway by going online which is your real reality anyway. Actual reality is not really reality, anyway. Reality is the inconvenient domain of your meat body, not your soul, not your spirit, not your humanity. Your true self is beautiful and shining and pure in its online form. Your physical self is just a container for your true soul which you reveal from time to time to your true friends. There are people who live in physical proximity to you, but they are not your true friends. They do not understand you in the same way. They are prejudiced and have had a different experience growing up which taints them. They cannot understand you.

You have carefully cultivated and collected your true friends as careful and precise as any good Pokemon trainer would. These are people who *get* you. They have suffered as you’ve suffered. They have experienced the same virtual experiences and same virtual arguments as you have and have agreed with you! They are indistinguishable from the real you in oh so many ways.

Mark 2016 as the year where various untruths have propelled candidates towards the presidency, yet no one gets up to do anything about it other than trade links back and forth to other articles online. Oh, I’m writing about it. Isn’t that enough? Here I am, pointing out that the other side lies. That should be enough, right? I mean, the other tribe must be *stupid* if they can’t see the truth laid bare before them. Right? I’ve done my part. I’ve shed light on the *truth*. I cut and paste a link. What else more can I possibly do?

It is 2016 and I’m guilty of consuming non-organic facts. I have consumed mostly processed facts because there is no fact labeling that will allow me to distinguish between genuine experiences and non-organic experiences that echo my world view.

It is 2016, and in this year, our poor old dog Gracie died. I miss the genuine experience of petting her and her joy at everything in life. However, sharing that with you is also a genuine experience even though it is not the same kind of experience as petting a dog. It is still real, however.

It is 2016, and the definition of reality is changing. This post is real. Fiction may become even more real as time goes on. It’s something we need to recognize as real. It is strange when fiction becomes reality. When the waters on the beach recede before a tsunami, you get the first sign that something is going to happen. 2016 is the year that the water first began to recede from the beach.

There is a different reality coming. The information age has yet to really have its impact felt on society and culture. We are still products of the industrial age. But the industrial age people are going away. We have exported the industrial age to other countries for cheap labor. We do information age work now. And information age work is a different new reality. It’s a reality propped up by fictions and infinite choices and communities.

What will happen? Who can say? All I can say is that things are very different. I can say that because I am both old and new. I am an old industrial age person who has worked in the new information age and consumed many non-organic experiences. Some could say I helped bring on the new fiction through technology. That would be a generous assessment of my contribution.

Maybe calling the new reality a fiction or lies is too harsh. Perhaps a more neutral term could be “non-organic experiences.” But perhaps that is just another fiction and another lie to hide the truth— that words and communities can form a new reality around you and that you can be forever tainted by those beliefs and ideas to the point where you are resistant against opposing views and ideas.
When I grew up in the 70’s, parents were very concerned about children creating fictional worlds and inhabiting them with fictional characters in role playing games. Perhaps, instinctively, they understood the danger of becoming addicted to non-reality and living in a world of non-organic experiences that eclipse any real experiences they could possibly have. Maybe those parents were a last hold out to reality against the incoming age of information and age of fiction. Maybe they saw reality differently as communism and fascism swept the real world only a few decades earlier. Perhaps they foresaw a dangerous echo chamber trap of media and imagination in a self-contained fictional bubble long before such a thing was possible with cable news networks and social media.

Maybe when we grow up in a post-industrial age filled with abundance, our concerns and stresses can be magnified by non-organic experiences and we call those experiences fun because we have never had to struggle against the real world constraints of war, hunger, and famine. Struggling and achieving something is fun. We can do that safely in the virtual world. It is fun to capture Pokemon and have them grow and evolve. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It is just as real a feeling as me reaching out to you through this blog entry.

I’m just pointing out that the world is changing. What you want to do with that information is up to you. How much importance you place on the real world versus the virtual world is also up to you.

For me, the virtual world is of utmost importance. It is my livelihood and my social connections and my entertainment. I suspect the same will be true of more and more people as time passes. I suspect some people will resist against this, just as any broad social change brought on by technology is resisted. But to what avail? We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, can we?

If we choose, we can have more organic experiences. I predict there will be more pet ownership in the next 50 years due to our reliance on the virtual world. Pets provide a wonderful organic experience. So, if you’re a stock market or business person, investing in pets as a consequence of virtual reality might be a smart thing to do.

America’s Technical Debt

If you are reading this and you know what “technical debt” means, then you already have a kind of privilege that most of America does not have. For those of you coming to this without knowing what “technical debt” means, I will briefly explain.

Technical debt is something akin to the programmer equivalent of “Honey, I’m busy right now. I’ll do the chores later, I promise.” Programmers do this kind of procrastination so often, that they came up with a term for it. That term is technical debt. Basically, it’s leaving some tough problem to fix later because immediate needs are more pressing.

It’s not as simple as the above explanation. In reality, there are often many good reasons to accumulate technical debt which you promise you’ll get to later, as soon as you find the time. Well, time and time again, we find that there just isn’t enough time to get to that technical debt. We are too busy taking care of the now to worry about the later.

One of the good reasons for technical debt is that there is an immediate thing that needs to be done and we can’t worry about the future because there will be no future for this company or product until this one thing I’m currently working on is done. Often times, the dreaded future never comes or comes in a form that is more manageable than originally believed. When it comes due, you simply pay the cost of the technical debt. You never know when it will come due. But in order to make progress, you must pay that technical debt off. And it’s always painful.

But once that expedient choice is made, the technical debt locks itself into the system immediately affecting all of your future progress and future decisions. But it’s tolerated because to even get to the point of considering the problems of the future would not have existed unless some technical debt was incurred at some point.

By this analogy, which will be more effective if you are an engineer or programmer who has experienced technical debt or have been asked to fix it, we look at America as a country with tremendous technical debt which is about to come due.

Let’s look at one instance of American technical debt which is not quite so politically charged right now so we can illustrate by analogy objectively and not be affected by the very system we live in which carries tremendous technical debt, and thus tremendous influence over our unconscious attitudes and biases because we inherently believe, as humans are wont to do, that whatever we are currently doing is correct and moral.

The first technical debt I would like to discuss is the free pass that the United States government gives to tobacco companies. If any other company made a product that is known to kill people as regularly as tobacco, we would collectively complain and have it stopped or reduced. In fact, that has happened, but the tobacco companies were able to get away with it for a very long time and still do. Have you ever wondered why?

Well, it’s not just because they’re a big corporation with a big lobby in Washington. Well, that is one reason, but the reason for their long-lasting influence over the course of 200+ years is because they have always been hugely influential on the USA from the time before there was even a USA.

In the days preceding the US’s independence from England, the fledgling colonies experimented with printing money. And largely this experiment with printing paper fiat money went about as well as you’d expect, which is not very well. There were counterfeits and inflation and each state had their own currency. It was a mess which is why we don’t have states printing their own money today. Yet, if they did do that, and it was a successful system, you can bet they’d still be doing it today and would be pressing for legislation to keep doing it forever. This is a fictional alternate history version of technical debt meant to illustrate how our past successes can impede our future progress.

And so, because of all of the bad money going around paying for individual states’ militias and taxes and whatnot, people regarded the printed money of the colonies as basically worthless. But the economy still had to keep working, so what did people do?

Well, they bundled up dried tobacco leaves and used it as currency! In this way, you didn’t have to rely on a state’s solvency to back its paper currency. You could, in a pinch, simply sell your tobacco. Bundles of tobacco were made into units of currency. So, a foreign nation such as France who would be quite wary of being paid in worthless Colonial paper currency could instead be paid in tobacco bundles. An average colonist could be paid with a slip of paper that was basically an IOU for some amount of tobacco! Tobacco was literally money!

And so, for a while, the entire tobacco industry propped up the US economy. If the US needed to buy weapons and cannons from France, they could pay in a currency that France would accept: bundles of tobacco leaves. Or they could convert tobacco leaves to gold themselves on the open market and pay in gold.

And so, the fledgling colonies incurred technical debt with the tobacco industry in this way. Without tobacco, there wouldn’t have even been a United States of America. So, that is a great debt that the Colonies and the new country of the United States of America owes to tobacco growers. But more importantly, the political influence that tobacco growers had on colony and US politics still remains very influential even though it is no longer as crucial to the US economy as it was in the early days.

The US has grown far beyond the economy of tobacco. We have largely fixed that technical debt. It was an important and influential backbone to American economy and society for a long time. But then, eventually, the time came to discard it along with all of its associated evils.

Part of that evil was the Civil War which pitted the agricultural slave-owning south with the industrial North. Well, the shape and future of the nation was decided in that war. We would shape the country in the model of the North and not the South. Not only that, but the South was not allowed to continue their course. This is part of fixing the technical debt of slavery and tobacco and an agricultural economic base. We abandoned that potential future because it was unethical and more importantly, not as economically viable as an industrial nation rather than an agricultural nation.

So far, so good. America is doing fairly well now. Certainly, the founding fathers and Abraham Lincoln could not have envisioned where we are today, communicating via global electronic network in a largely industrial society that is supported by mass produced agriculture that is greatly enhanced in productivity by industrial invention with immigrants from every corner of the world.

However, they also could not imagine the technical debt that we suffer today which is a problem left over from a legacy of a nation struggling for survival.

When a civilization arises from a nation built on slavery and wealthy landowners and wealthy industrialists, then is it any surprise that the foundational structure of that system favors the children and grandchildren of those people? Is it any wonder that the descendants of those people would regard former slaves and immigrants as undeserving upstarts who were trying to take away something that is rightfully theirs?

Is America really the land of the free? Or is that merely a misleading slogan like “The Patriot Act”? Perhaps the meaning behind “The Land of the Free” is that it is the Land of the Currently Free, meaning those who were free men by virtue of wealth and lands at the time of the Revolutionary War, not the land of the free-to-be-in-some-indeterminate-future.

Well, we are that indeterminate future today. We are those upstarts. And we have seen a different America that we like. We see the potential of a land of opportunity. A real land of opportunity, not just for the predestined inheritors of the Colonies, but for people who have immigrated here or whose ancestors have been brought here unwillingly, and for all who have yet to immigrate here and call it home and call themselves Americans. This is different than what America has been or ever was. This is an unintended consequence of immigration, of women’s suffrage, and civil rights. This is what happens when you have the kind of constitution where people can democratically decide how to change it. Small, incremental changes can have huge long lasting effects. But that class struggle is still there, the technical debt from the early days of the nation. If you are not in the image of the original colonists, then you are an outsider and a usurper. You are illegitimate to the claim to the prize that is America. That is the regressive, conservative sentiment. It is understandable. But is it wise?

This class division is America’s technical debt. It has been sitting there for a very long time since before there was even a country or constitution at all. It sits there as a fundamental structure of society, just as crusty as the old code in a program or app gets in the way of adapting it to new things.

American culture has changed, but the fundamental structure of American society as one that is for descendants of the original colonists has not changed. It is now okay to embrace multi-culturalism, but not okay to openly embrace racism and xenophobia. This pivot occurred after the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Going into the past beyond those cultural lines, those attitudes were more acceptable. Going forward, into the future, those attitudes are becoming less acceptable, although it seems that Trump is tapping into that ancient sentiment to gather votes.

Trump’s movement, to me, seems regressive. He not only does not want to fix the technical debt that America has accumulated into the structure of society such as institutional racism and institutional sexism, but wants to rewind the clock to a time when those were the prevailing attitudes and were both acceptable and morally correct. In essence, he wants to revert all of the code back to pre-civil rights movement and possibly back further, pre women’s suffrage and god forbid, pre-civil war.

The question is, if Trump’s movement succeeds in gathering not only voters but also changing the dominant sentiment on the future of America, then where does it end? If the white male inheritors of America “deserve” to inherit America before all others because of their ancestors’ sacrifice and hard work, then where does it end? Will he expel all people who were descendant from immigrants after the United States was formed? Will he revoke women’s right to vote because that’s what the founding fathers had wanted? Will he revert American society back to a point where not only was slavery legal, but also moral because the Bible is the absolute authority on morality and it’s not only condoned in the Bible, but there are also tons of pro-tips on slavery in the Bible.

Even if Trump is not willing to go that far, his ideas may spawn a future where someone takes his ideas further to regress the code further so that all of the technical debt that we’ve fixed so far is thrown away so that we return to a structure and system more similar to colonial times even though we are now in modern times. How would such an agricultural system work in a modern post-industrial information age society? Who knows? But I don’t think that the people who are seduced by Trump’s ideas care about the practicality. They care about the sentiment: This is “rightfully” ours and everyone else should GTFO.

But they are on the other side of history and progress, I hope. I hope that most of the people who have had this sentiment had died out long before crossing those important historic cultural lines. Like it or not, simply electing a biracial black man into office is crossing a cultural line. I think the Trump supporters instinctively understand what that means: Once you go black… you can’t go back… if I could borrow the crude perjorative phrase to elucidate their greatest racist fears come true. But they oh so desperately want to go back now. The odds are no longer stacked in their favor. And their misunderstanding that this means the odds are stacked against them means they will fight any and all attempts to rectify institutional racism and institutional sexism because they are also hurting, despite their inherent privilege over many others.

In other words, the current existing system that has inherited the technical debt of all of the original colonists still exists and still haunts us and prevents us from making changes to the source code. It still works, people say, so you can’t change it.

Well, some of us would like to build a structure or at least modify the existing structure so that it can last far into the future. And what we’re saying is that the old edifice and the old structures upon which this nation was built are not good and strong enough to last us very long into the future. So, some of us would like to fix that. Some of us, who are denigrated as not the true descendants and founders of this country, still feel strongly about the good of the future and are as invested in the success and future of this country because it is our home, too.

I think this is where movements such as #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter clash. It is this inherent disagreement about America’s technical debt. Does it exist? Should we fix it? Who should fix it? And who should own the source code after we fix it?

These issues arise in a regular tech company and the discussions and arguments get just as heated and just as political. Blame gets cast all around and communication breaks down. It’s both interesting and disheartening to see the examine same thing play out on the national stage. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. People are human, after all.

It’s just surprising to see my experience dealing with people in an office setting play out almost the exact same way in a real life political setting. I don’t know if this is a new thing due to social media collapsing all of our various communities into mono-cultured echo-chambered identities so that a group of people such as #blacklivesmatters becomes condensed into a single identity in the eyes of many others rather than remain the diverse group of individuals that they are.

But it’s interesting there are so many parallels with this class struggle as there are in an office that is struggling over how to fix technical debt.

Anyway, I thought I’d share that insight with my audience today.

And so, my conclusion is that America had incurred a lot of technical debt in its early revisions and we’re seeing some of those consequences continuing to play out today. Now, fixing technical debt is never an easy task and is certainly very technical and not fun at all. But it is something that we must do if we hope to make a foundation that is strong enough for us to rest our entire futures upon it.

If I had a more neutral term for #blacklivesmatter, I would go with #fixAmericasTechnicalDebt. I only make this recommendation because I find people having some trouble acknowledging that the societal structure has some problems and that we can all roll up our sleeves and be on the same side of the issue and get some work done together rather than fight against each other. Unfortunately, #blacklivesmatter has taken on a sort of exclusionary tone to some people who are not deeply listening to legitimate grievances that people may have about a certain issue which is only one of many illustrative issues of the problem of America’s technical debt. Of course, it’s not meant to be exclusionary, but that doesn’t matter. People are gonna hear what they want to hear. So, let’s change the conversation to be inclusive and unmistakably so. Let’s call it fixing America! We know America is old and we know what worked in the past doesn’t work in the future. Are you still walking around with a Nokia phone? Or a Palm Pre? No? Then, maybe some progress is not a terrible thing. So, maybe some things the founding fathers got wrong we can fix today! We fixed slavery! We can fix the legacy to slavery, too! Let’s do it! Those guys in the 1800s got nothing on us! We’re smarter and better than those guys for sure right? And we’re smart enough to not fight a civil war about it!

References:
Tobacco currency: http://archive.tobacco.org/History/colonialtobacco.html This link also describes why buying slaves was preferable to buying land when tobacco is your main cash crop. Tobacco wore out the land and so you had to move often. If you moved to a new rented land, you would bring your slaves with you. And so, tobacco and slavery went hand-in-hand in early colonial America.

I Endorse Hillary Clinton Because She is the Shittiest Candidate

I have this analogy when choosing a political candidate. If my toilet is broken, I’m going to hire a plumber. I’m going to hire someone who isn’t afraid to get dirty and deal with shit. Literally. I don’t care if that plumber is shit covered or smells like shit. I want the plumber that has tons of experience doing the job of unclogging shit.

The office of POTUS is a job like any other. Like a plumber. Shit’s gotta get done. Shit’s gotta move. And I don’t care how dirty the plumber gets or how dirty the plumber is. All I care about is that my broken toilet is fixed at the end of the job. I don’t care how likable the plumber is. I don’t care how rude the plumber is. I don’t care if the plumber made money off of rich people giving speeches about plumbing. None of those things matter at the end of the day if my toilet is still broken.

All I want is a plumber who can do the job.

And Hillary Clinton, by a wide wide margin, is the most shit-covered candidate there is or ever will be. And that is a good thing. Because all that shit says she’s got experience. She’s done things before. Sometimes, it goes well. Sometimes, it goes bad.

You know what a candidate who has no shit on him says to me? No experience. You don’t have a single fuck-up on your resume? You’re clean as a whistle? You’re not covered in shit because you got down in the muck to fix something? I don’t want you. You’re going to make mistakes. Everyone does. I want Hillary because she’s made her mistakes already. She’s learned from them. I don’t want your shiny, clean, plumber tools making mistakes when the first toilet they touch is my toilet.

There is big debate about Bernie versus Hillary going on right now. To me, it’s absolutely clear. I absolutely agree with Bernie on all of those ideal things. In an ideal world, yeah, it would be great if… <follow with any number of Bernie’s ideas>. We don’t live in an ideal world. We live in this world. It’s kinda shitty sometimes. It already has an immense plumbing structure known as the United States Government. It’s a massive bureaucratic, slow-moving, antagonistic beast of a thing. And someone’s gotta move the shit in it in some direction. My preference is that shit isn’t dumped on me. My second preference is that shit isn’t dumped on anybody else either. Yeah, it would be great if the plumbing of this nation worked differently. It would be great to overhaul huge parts of it. But what are you going to replace it with? And will it really be better than what already exists? Bernie is a plumbing architect, if there is a such a thing. He’s the theoretical physicist of plumbing. Well, it’s worse than that. Because theoretical physics is based on evidence. I’m not sure liberal political ideals can be converted into policy that improves the machinery of government for the better.

It’s an immense task to do that. And the people in the government and the citizens are not going to let that happen easily. The government is already obstructionist. How can an architect implement his design if the workers assigned to do that job are against it? He can’t. Thus, Bernie can’t. I’m sorry, but it’s just a practical thing. It’s not just politics. It’s common sense. If you got a plumber architect who had never done any plumbing before telling actual plumbers what to do, what do you think will happen? They will disagree and do their own thing anyway. That’s not leadership. Leadership requires changing the minds of all of the workers. And if that can’t happen, fire all of the workers and put new workers in place who will work with the new architect plumber.

That’s not going to happen. You know why? Only voters can fire those old plumbers. Look at Bernie’s base. Young people. Inexperienced people. You know what they are voting on? They are voting on ideals. They are not hiring a plumber. If they were hiring a plumber, you know they would do? They would hire a local plumber. They would vote for their local representatives. But you know what? I’ll bet you anything that TWO years from now, we won’t see them turn out to vote. We all know they only get excited about presidential elections. But when shit needs to get done, they don’t care. Because issues don’t affect them as much. They can afford to vote for an idealist architect because of their privilege. 

You know who can’t afford to vote on their ideals? People without privilege— Minorities. Black, Latino, Muslim, Mexican, and immigrants. Shit’s about to get real for them. They can’t afford to not care about this election. They desperately need a plumber to fix their shit. You can’t worry about ideals if you’re worried about getting killed by police, getting kicked out by the government, or getting stereotyped openly by a leading candidate for president. Rhetoric turns into action. And there is some seriously scary rhetoric out there. A whole ton of shit could be dumped by those other plumbers on perfectly good people. If I were one of those good people, I would be very careful about who I choose as my plumber.

All of the criticisms I see heaped onto Hillary are all positive traits of a good plumber. People keep throwing shit on her. But they’re not throwing shit that I care about— that’s she’s not a good plumber. They can’t throw that because they can’t. She’s the best plumber in the race.

Let’s compare who’s the shittiest.

Winner: Hillary Clinton

Nobody can compare to the shit-covering that is Hillary. She has shit from doing actual plumbing. But more than that, she has shit from other plumbers throwing shit at her hoping it will make her look bad and make her competitors look good. The other plumbers spent 8 hours throwing Benghazi shit all over Clinton. She sat and endured it.

Scandals. Clinton and scandals are synonymous. Email server, Benghazi, speaking fees, all of it. She’s a dirty shit-covered plumber. Except that shit isn’t even exclusive to her. It’s just part of the job of politician.

Speaking fees? I’d be jealous too if I had never had any real experience that people were willing to pay to listen to. How many of her detractors (i.e. shit-slingers) fit this category?

The email servers? She said to go ahead and release them! It only shows how hard she works to dedicate herself to her job of plumbing shit. All of the previous Secretaries of State did the exact same thing as she did. So why not throw shit at them, too? Because Hillary.

Benghazi? That’s part of the job of Secretary of State is to respond to terrorist acts. Yes, she was in a leadership position at that moment in time. Yes, she responded decisively. Were mistakes made that are now clear in hindsight? After 8 hours of scathing interrogation, the answer is— NOPE. If another terrorist attack occurs, who do you think would be best to respond to it? Someone like Hillary who has had to think about that moment over and over again and consider all of the alternatives? Or someone who has to go through it the first time? All of the Monday morning quarterbacks have offered their ideas of what she could have or should have done. Every opinion of every politician, pundit, expert, polemicist, and politician has been thrown at Hillary. No person is better qualified to know whether any of those could have been good ideas or not than Hillary Clinton. Who has thought about terrorist attack more than Hillary Clinton? Who has been forced to think about terrorist attack?

Loser: Marco Rubio

I’m just gonna throw Rubio in there as an example of someone who is squeaky clean because he’s done nothing. All he’s done is sit in a Senate office clicking yes or no on things that other people have written. He’s qualified only click yes or no to decide if he’s more Aragorn or Gandalf, not lead people, much less an entire government. When someone hasn’t done anything yet, we can’t throw any shit on him. He has no Benghazi because he was never in a position to lead people. He was never in a position to make mistakes that could be criticized. Does that mean he will never make mistakes once he’s in a position to do so? If that’s what you believe, then why do you look up “plumbers” and not “attorney” for someone to fix your plumbing? Maybe because you want someone who’s done it at least once in his lifetime?

Loser: Donald Trump

Trump, like Bernie, is running on ideals. They may not be the same ideals as yours or mine, but they are ideals nonetheless. So he’s a kind of plumber who has a fake solution to a fake problem because you don’t know anything about plumbing and his fake solution sounds exactly like what your solution would be. Trump knowing nothing about plumbing is his greatest strength because his solutions sound like common sense to other people who know nothing about plumbing.

Trump doesn’t care about fixing the plumbing. He just cares about getting hired as your plumber. He knows a lot about business, but business is a whole different machine than plumbing. Could that experience apply to plumbing? Maybe, but probably not. We are not voting for a dictator. We’re voting for someone to fulfill a government office.

Loser: Bernie Sanders

Bernie has the least shit on him. He’s been consistent throughout all the decades as a career politician. He hasn’t changed. But the world has changed. The world has changed enough so that suddenly, he’s somewhat of a viable candidate! But you know what is most damning about Bernie? That change happened without him. He had all of those years of fighting the good fight, but we have never heard of him until this election cycle. Why is that? Well, the answer is simple. He is not a plumber. He did not get shit done to move the country in a direction such that his ideas would get implemented. If he had shown such leadership, he would be considered mainstream instead of the outside position of the liberal ticket. He is the same as before which is the greatest mark against him. He has and always has been a voice for what’s right. But a voice shouting is not the same as muscle rolling up its sleeve and getting shit done.

Finally, a word on Hillary’s speaking fees as a sign of her selling out. This reminds me of the Chris Rock joke about Siegfried and Roy’s tiger going crazy. Tiger didn’t go crazy. Tiger went tiger. Politician didn’t get influenced. Politician went politician.