A Philosophical Orientation Toward Solving Our Collective Problems As a Species

 

Wisdom: The Most Important Virtue of Our Age? Part I

To know what the most important virtue of our age is we need to have at least a basic understanding of our age. Our era is becoming increasingly characterized by uncertainty. Fortunately or unfortunately, more than a cursory elucidation of our situation is beyond the scope of this essay. There are geopolitical, economic, technological and environmental trends worth mentioning. When the more philosophical portion of this  discourse arrives I will argue that the virtue of wisdom underlies the meaningfulness and efficacy of all other virtues, and this in broad strokes is primarily due to (1) the aforementioned instability in our surroundings ; (2) the relationship between the deontological and virtue; and (3) the nature of agency itself.  Whether uncertainty itself can provide an ethical foundation for us to elaborate on will be a separate question, and finally I speculate on where wisdom leads us in the context of a philosophy that is politically active and not doomed to irrelevance to and by the larger population.

The first broad trend is the mounting pressure for a global realignment of political power. The United States has enjoyed disproportionate wealth and power, relative to the size of its population and resources, especially since World War II. There is a very strong historical correlation between the rise of economic/productive strength and a following rise of political strength, followed by an equally strong historical correlation between the over-extension of military power to preserve its empire and the subsequent “passing of the torch” so to speak as a militarily top heavy economy sooner or later collapses and the empire’s power is eclipsed on the world stage[i]. All political realignments following the collapse of empires are major. The current case however has the potential to be much too “exciting” for those living through it. First, for the first time in history the empire in question, namely the United States, has had a truly global empire and nearly hegemonic military, political and cultural power. Second, and much more importantly, the U.S. military—the true third rail in American politics—has expressly pursued policies with the goal of preserving American power indefinitely through the development and use of the next generation of technological military advancement, euphemistically called “Full Spectrum Dominance,”[ii] including the use of untraceable laser weapons[iii]—already unofficially in use in places like Iraq[iv]—and the weaponization of space[v]. It’s entirely possible that if this power is not largely relinquished voluntarily[vi], like it was in Great Britain after WWII, that the potential for disaster will increase dramatically, at the expense of the safety of the population of the entire planet, not to mention of course the further deterioration of domestic freedom.[vii]

As the current economic crisis illustrates finance is an ongoing source of systemic instability. Below I quote the first, last, and a few middle paragraphs from the a financial news article called, “OTC Derivatives: Failed Banks or Failed Nations,” because it is very illustrative. I highly recommend reading the article in full.

 

Economic bubbles are not recognized by those inside of them, and the entire Western world has become quietly trapped inside the largest economic bubble in history. The global financial crisis that began in 2008 has been attributed to sub-prime mortgage lending and mortgage backed securities (MBSs), such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were revealed as toxic assets. While the root cause of the financial crisis is assumed to have been the residential real estate asset price bubble, the underlying systemic risk, and the primary reason for the “too big to fail” doctrine whereby governments were compelled to save financial institutions at any cost, lies in over the counter (OTC) derivatives. The suspension of the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) mark-to-market rule in 2009 preserved the value of bank balance sheets, i.e., of their mortgage portfolios, but what was of far greater importance was that it prevented triggering the conditions of thousands of OTC derivatives contracts, such as credit default swaps (CDS), that would have wiped out virtually all of the largest banking institutions in the world.

. . .

For taxpayers in Western countries, the multi-generational debts incurred have come in addition to loss of wealth in stock portfolios and asset values, along with other losses resulting from severe economic recession, such as loss of business revenues or insolvency, personal unemployment or bankruptcy, etc. The political consequences have yet to play out. The citizens of affected countries can find little comfort in the knowledge that the situation could have been worse when the root cause of the problem was and remains a massive economic bubble fueled by what has been revealed as reckless speculation, grossly out of proportion to real economic activity.

The colossal debts incurred by Western governments are only a fraction of a percent of the potential liabilities stemming from OTC derivatives that still exist in the global financial system. Warren Buffett recently said that “when the financial history of this decade is written, it will surely speak of the internet bubble of the late 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000s. But the US Treasury bond bubble of late 2008 may be regarded as almost as extraordinary.” US Treasury debt continues to grow as emergency measures continue well beyond their expected durations. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, said in a recent address that “It is unconscionable that the fate of the world economy should be so closely tied to the fortunes of a relatively small number of giant financial firms. If we achieve nothing else in the wake of the crisis, we must ensure that we never again face such a situation.”

Sadly, Mr. Bernanke’s point is moot. Two and a half years on, virtually nothing has been done in the aftermath of the global financial crisis to regulate OTC derivatives or to control the extreme risk they pose. With several US states and European countries now virtually bankrupt, the capacity of Western governments to bail out financial institutions has been exhausted. The risk of systemic failure is higher at present than before the crisis began in 2008, as there is now no backstop for the global financial system other than debt monetization, which would result in high inflation or hyperinflation. History may yet remember the global financial crisis that began in 2008 as a fateful choice between failed banks and failed nations.

. . .

Trading derivatives on regulated exchanges would be a major step forward, but it may no longer be enough. Economic bubbles are not recognized by those inside of them, the Congress of the United States being no exception. The $604.6 trillion derivatives bubble, which is equal to more than ten times world GDP, is a global issue. If existing OTC derivatives remain in place and there are no restrictions on what banks can trade derivatives, there is no actual or immediate reduction of systemic risk. Thus, the risks that led to the financial crisis in 2008 are likely to remain present in the global financial system for years to come. In fact, many banks have more CDS [credit default swap] risk now than in 2008. Passing a bank-approved version of the financial reform bill, while it may be portrayed as a political victory or serve to calm financial markets temporarily, is unlikely to prevent another global financial crisis.[viii]

 

The third trend is greater in scale than the first two.  This is the exponential rate at which technology is developing. However, this trend has also taken place in the context of reinforcing the first trend  through agencies like DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which continues to fund a significant portion of research and development, especially in the cross-disciplinary field of artificial intelligence. Among the technologies already developed are packs of robots designed to hunt down humans[ix]. Fortunately most trends in technology are less explicitly ominous. Ray Kurzweil wrote a book, titled, The Singularity Is Near, about the “singularity,” a borrowed term that originally described black holes in physics, to describe a point in time in the future beyond which absolutely nothing can be predicted, and the seemingly fantastical possibilities and dangers that the approaching technological explosion poses to the human species[x]—including the eventual possibility of uploading brains onto a non-biological substrate, and the dangers of “gray goo” or self-replicating nanobots (recently popularized in the Keanu Reeves film The Day the Earth Stood Still). It is also important to remind ourselves in the shorter term that technological development can put more power in the hands of individuals, possibly increasing risk by decreasing the threshold required to be reached before dangerous weapons are available. The other side of that coin is the ability to control more people from the very top. As a mini case study we can compare Nixon’s wiretapping scandal to the most recent Bush’s “wiretapping” of the entire country. (If you have time I recommend watching the TED talk by Juan Enriquez titled “Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis” for a quick overview of the accelerating pace of technology including examples from molecular, tissue, and robotic engineering that run the gamut from the already demonstrated capability of rebooting skin cells as stem cells to the creation of robotic flies the size of flies.) [xi]

The fourth trend is the environmental destruction of the planet. Much has already been said, so I will only mention as a reminder that even if global warming were magically halted this moment, the mass extinction occurring today that is contributing to the growing threat to Earth’s life-support systems[xii] from the loss of biodiversity and entire ecosystems would continue unabated.[xiii] The World Wildlife Fund “warns that the human race is plundering the planet at a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life. . . . The report, based on scientific data from across the world, reveals that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans over the past three decades.[xiv]

 

Wisdom: The Most Important Virtue of Our Age? Part II

To know what the most important virtue of our age is we need to have at least a basic understanding of our age. Our era is becoming increasingly characterized by uncertainty. Fortunately or unfortunately, more than a cursory elucidation of our situation is beyond the scope of this essay. There are geopolitical, economic, technological and environmental trends that I examine in a Part I, which in this limited time/space triage compelled me to create. Philosophically, I will argue that the virtue of wisdom underlies the meaningfulness and efficacy of all other virtues, and this in broad strokes is primarily due to (1) the aforementioned instability in our surroundings ; (2) the relationship between deontology and virtue; and (3) the nature of agency.  Whether uncertainty itself can provide an ethical foundation for us to elaborate on will be a separate question, and finally I speculate on where wisdom leads us in the context of a philosophy that is politically active and not doomed to irrelevance to and by the larger population.

I believe it was P.Z. Meyers who I heard say it first, but I have heard the intelligent design argument described as going something like this: “complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, therefore God—I mean an intelligent designer—exists. I am trying to make almost an inverse point. The world was not always the way it is now. Tomorrow is likely to be more different from today than today was from yesterday and what are we going to do about it? The sense of permanence we feel around us is as illusory as the permanence of the Roman empire.

Part I might have made it clear that it IS NOT an exaggeration to say that the fate of the planet is hanging on a thread, but for argument’s sake we can safely assume that we live in uncertain times. Even during the comparatively quaint time known as the cold war, the potential for the destruction of humanity and countless other species had already existed, evidenced by such fun/dire ideas like the doomsday clock. I emphasize these points to call attention to the fact that at the absolute minimum, the survival of morality (and therefore virtue of any kind) depends on the survival of agents capable of virtue, and at this stage we know of no other species with individuals quite as capable. Now what do we mean by virtue and what if any virtue is up to the task?

In studying Aristotle, we learn that the primary focus of virtue ethics is the character of the moral agent; neither the immediate consequences nor potential rules governing an act are emphasized. Virtue, like many other human traits and skills, is amenable to strengthening through repeated practice. Additionally, the virtuous life is one led in the rational and active pursuit of the strengthening of traits that allow and promote a healthy functioning with and within the community. Among the various virtues, I submit that “wisdom” is the most valuable virtue to strive for.

Aristotle explains that multiple ends exist and that therefore we should try to find a final end by finding an end that is an end in itself and not instrumental to other ends. Aristotle like many performing similar thought experiments concluded that the final end and thus highest good is happiness and that all other ends are seen as ends in themselves and as instrumental to happiness. Furthermore, he argues, as reason has been considered to be a uniquely human quality, reason is the function of human life. In order to attain excellence and thereby happiness, humans must excel at acting according to reason. It is worth emphasizing, however, that happiness according to  Aristotle’s thought can only be appreciated as a by-product of a virtuous life that we must aspire to directly.

Despite the strong intuitive appeal this portion of his argument has, and I do admit to the descriptive accuracy it seems to possess, I find it not only presumptuous but dangerous to value happiness supremely, even if only indirectly, because survival of the human community must be an overriding moral concern. To use an absurd hypothetical, if the entire human race simultaneously overdosed on heroin I am sure everyone would be incredibly euphoric right up until the moment that not a single human was left to experience anything at all. Even more prosaically attempting to maximize happiness does not seem to preclude dystopian visions like Huxley’s Brave New World.

Incidentally some recent psychological literature supports Aristotle’s claims that happiness can follow from virtue, as happiness, in psychobiological literature at least, is coming to be seen partly as an expression of the inner state of the health of an organism, in addition to the social transmission of emotions or their partially “viral” aspect. Another issue might be the relationship between the size of the human community under question and happiness and emotion. The community in Aristotle’s time was incredibly small compared the global community of our times, and the difficulty in successfully creating, supporting and functioning in this new global community is that much greater, requiring that much more judgment and that much more wisdom.

Aristotle also distinguishes between intellectual and moral virtue. The former is learned primarily from teaching and requires experience and time, the provision of which is supplied by laws in a just society. Moral virtue, on the other hand, is formed as previously noted through habituation (Aristotle 416)[xv]. Bad habits predict bad behavior, good habits good behavior, and both compound upon themselves.  He says, “Not by seeing frequently or hearing frequently do we acquire the sense of seeing or hearing, on the contrary, because we have the senses we make use of them. .  . . But the virtues we get by first practicing them, as we do in the arts” (Aristotle 421)[xvi]. Therefore without continual events over an extended time it is impossible to become virtuous, or excessively vicious or corrupt, for that matter. Moral inquiry under Aristotle then is not to “know what virtue is but how to become good” (Aristotle 417)[xvii]. Thus, a purely descriptive, and abstract intellectual understanding of virtue ethics is clearly inadequate because it is the construction of moral prescriptions that actually result in the increase of personal good that is the true goal. I admire Aristotle for following these arguments by saying that in ethical thought and reasoning exactitude is impossible and we can only know an approximation of the good, so moral reasoning must be considered more of an art than a science, and this leads him eventually to use notions of the mean between extremes. For example temperance lies between the “insensitive” person and the “licentious.” We should be especially wary of our natural bias in favor of our own pleasure and comfort. And as most people would intuitively expect the mean can vary by individual.

Wisdom, is not only the most important virtue, it is the virtue whence all other virtues derive their value. Consider William Frankena’s two favored virtues, justice and benevolence. Each derives its value from being used well (we all know examples of miscarriages of justice etc.), and wisdom provides the judgment necessary to keep the virtues meaningful, strong, and successful in the ultimate moral purpose of promoting the survival of our species. Good intentions alone are clearly inadequate in a physical world filled with misery, poverty, and injustice regardless of how glittering a jewel those intentions may have seemed to Kant. To hearken back to Samuel Johnson’s original quote, “Hell is paved with good intentions.” Wisdom is commonly defined as the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment. If ethics is about making choices, isn’t making the right/best choice we can the crux of the issue?

Despite the preeminence the virtue of wisdom requires and deserves, I strongly agree with Frankena’s assessment regarding the complementary nature of a humble deontology and virtues to drive, support, and reinforce positive moral growth from the level of the individual up.  He says, “I am inclined to think that principles without traits are impotent and traits without principles are blind” (467)[xviii] I said “humble” as opposed to “strict” deontology because I also agree with Frankena that, “Morality must recognize various sorts of excuses and extenuating circumstances” (468)[xix]. These include the possibilities of a certain duty requiring an extraordinary sacrifice, a required action being unclear, and similarly a moral agent being in the dark about relevant information.

Frankena again hits the proverbial nail on the head in the context of morality. “All it can really insist on, then, except in critical cases, is that we develop and manifest fixed dispositions to find out what the right thing is and to do it if possible. In this sense a person must “be this” rather than “do this.” But it must be remembered that “being” involves trying to “do.” “Being without doing, like faith without works, is dead” (Frankena 468)[xx].

W. D. Ross in his dissection of Kant’s stricter deontology is onto something when he says that all we can expect and hope for is, “fulfilling a higher duty after forming a considered opinion (never more)” (Ross 336)[xxi]. However, Nagel is also correct when he says, “We judge people for what they actually do or fail to do, not just for what they would have done if circumstances had been different” (384)[xxii]. Like Nagel, we have to come to grips with what we are morally judged for, and in my view, realize that wisdom is the best and most likely avenue in the effective effectuation of other virtues like benevolence and justice.

Most of these concerns revolve around the nature of agency itself and are thus tied to the extent to which modern neuroscience may or may not be indicating that consciousness itself and hence all of rationality might function in the brain as a special kind of sense perception of the world. I recommend Thomas Metzinger’s Graduate Council lecture at UC Berkeley for a quick overview of the self-model theory of subjectivity (available on youtube).[xxiii] This is the first paragraph of his book, Being No One:

“This is a book about consciousness, the phenomenal self, and the first-person perspective. Its main thesis is that no such things as selves exist in the world: Nobody ever was or had a self. All that ever existed were conscious self-models that could not be recognized as models. The phenomenal self is not a thing, but a process—and that subjective experience of being someone emerges if a conscious information-processing system operates under a transparent self-model. You are such a system right now, as you read these sentences. Because you cannot recognize your self-model as a model, it is transparent: you look right through it. You don’t see it. But you see with it. In other, more metaphorical, words, the central claim of this book is that as you read these lines you constantly confuse yourself with the content of the self-model currently activated by your brain.”[xxiv]

 

For example we are also naïve realists when perception is directed externally as well. We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our visual system. We do not see a tiger we see a representation of a tiger, and you could see that there would be an extra processing cost to holding these representations that would not be evolutionarily selected for, especially in cases like seeing a tiger.[xxv] This explains the research that increasingly is indicating the extraordinary extent to which seemingly conscious decisions have been made before subjects think they consciously made these decisions. This seems to indicate that many so-called conscious decisions are actually ­subconscious and our conscious awareness is only being informed of the decision. Interestingly this actually underscores the importance of virtue ethics as it has already since Aristotle recognized the importance of habits, and the work it requires to change them. It is not that consciousness has no meaningful role to play in a our behavior, but rather it seems to play a larger role the more reflection is reflected in any given behavior. For example its role in the choice to move to a different city, as opposed to realizing that you just scratched an itch.

Furthermore, these findings have interesting repercussions in the discussion of agency in general and in the context of freedom.[xxvi] It seems the true limits of our freedom are not external to our bodies,  as the determinism misperception implies, and therefore the autonomy of our human entity is not externally determined (only confined), but that it is consciousness itself that has been shown to be increasingly more limited than traditionally expected. All of this emphatically underscores the need to have the best judgments possible, in whatever limited fashion our existence provides. But how do we know that the correct choices are correct?

Something is correct if it is true. We can all agree that something is true when it is verified by evidence, the more redundancy the better. In general the narrower or smaller the claim the more easily we can assess its veracity. Inversely, the larger or broader the claim the less likely we will be able to garner all the necessary relevant facts that would be required to reach a firm conclusion. We might be able to get a general idea, but we are behooved to hold these claims tentatively and with much less certainty. Cosmology deals with this problem on a daily basis, for example. You might already notice that the false claims most likely to be carried around are the broadest, in some cases most fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality. Furthermore, claims that are beyond the reach of verification, metaphysical claims for example, are speculation. Therefore, if they are to be believed at all, they must be acknowledged as speculation without any pretense of certainty. One might sense a veiled criticism of religion here. Let me be more explicit. Revelation is an entirely unjustifiable foundation for belief. There are literally countless instances in which humanity has suffered because people “knew” they were right without a doubt and without the requirement of evidence (I am not just picking on religion, one party systems are just as guilty of falsely claiming a monopoly on the truth). But every holy war serves as an example of the results of belief on insufficient evidence because the only way to resolve disputes when evidence and reason are considered suspect is with force. It is absolutely not a coincidence that the dark ages were so markedly religious.

It is tragic that so many people have so little conception of the harm that this basic credulity has caused and continues to cause, and so little understanding of the benefits the world has reaped from the self-critical and self-correcting process known as science and the technology that it spawns. Within the past one hundred years the average lifespan in the U.S. has increased by 50%. Even further under the radar for most people are the positive social changes that have been wrought because of an improved understanding of the human species as religion continues to lose its grip on most of the western world. Better sexual health is an obvious example. Also, just hearing about the Stanley Milgram obedience to authority experiment makes people more likely to challenge what they are told.

I am partial to William Clifford’s summary, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence,” and think it provides a healthy dose of skepticism. Just as importantly, it eventually helps to illustrate the limits of knowledge. The danger is not only in having incorrect beliefs/opinions but also in the certainty with which these ideas are entertained. I imagine suicide bombers must feel pretty certain in their beliefs.

William James argues that rather than believe nothing he would rather be duped repeatedly in the hope each time that he’s been blessed with knowledge. I would argue that each time William James or anyone else really believes an incorrect belief, in doing so they make it less likely that they will be able to recognize a different hypothesis or theory that better aligns itself with the evidence. To make a computer analogy, religious belief is outdated software.[xxvii] The inconsistency with the external world is combated by mechanisms specifically evolved to banish conflicting facts or alternative views because in some cases they are considered “of the devil”. In fact, contrary to the James’s implication that beliefs often cycle, the opposite tendency is so strong that there is a saying in science that it progresses one death at a time. As the rate of technological development increases, wisdom becomes more salient and the ability to change our society to fit the world more important. To reiterate then one of the primary benefits of Clifford at James’ expense, it is not solely the content of belief that matters, but the rigidity with which it is held.

Dogma cannot provide a non-arbitrary foundation for ethics, but where does uncertainty get us? Uncertainty gets us all sorts of goodies, especially if we consider the question of values in general to be an empirical question of the proper way to treat each other according to the growing scientific knowledge about emotional health and wellbeing as  Sam Harris would argue. But even without immediately running to the data, accepted and acceptable uncertainty is breathing room. It is the space we need for an open and ongoing discussion about ethics, survival, and the human species. It is freedom from the shackles of our long history of various claims of absolute truth, spiritual and otherwise. Uncertainty is tentativity. If the best understanding of the world by our greatest minds is in constant revision shouldn’t our own understanding of the world be in constant revision? How often do you update your software?

What might “updated software,” so to speak, practically get us? To the extent that as a species some paths are more wise than others, one suggestion is wiki government. Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google in his advance praise for the eponymous book says, “The Internet has taught us that good ideas come from everywhere. Wiki Government translates that lesson for policy makers. With a compelling blend of high theory and practical know-how, Beth Noveck explains how political institutions can directly engage the public to solve complex problems and create a better democracy.” We can even have good reasons to expect what some of the results of better democracy would look like. We now know for example, and Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book The Spirit Level, make it abundantly clear, that inequality is at the root of most of our social problems, “On almost every index of quality of life, or wellness, or deprivation, there is a gradient showing a strong correlation between a country’s level of economic inequality and its social outcomes. Almost always, Japan and the Scandinavian countries are at the favourable “low” end, and almost always, the UK, the US and Portugal are at the unfavourable “high” end, with Canada, Australasia and continental European countries in between.”[xxviii] High inequality results in high numbers for social ills, and low inequality correspondingly leads to significantly fewer social problems. They do discuss in detail how social inequality can be linked to everything from obesity rates to teen pregnancy. However, they do not make any explicit connection between their findings and the degree of meaningful democracy a country possesses. It seems likely that Scandinavian countries are more democratic in general, and the U.S., some of you might have noticed, shows serious signs of having become a banana republic.

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.[xxix]

 

So the next step is taking back our country. For those of you in denial of the desperate need to do so consider,

50 million Americans are now living in poverty, which is the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world; 30 million Americans are in need of work; Five million American families foreclosed upon, 15 million expected by 2014; 50% of US children will now use a food stamp during childhood; Soaring budget deficits in states across the country and a record high national debt, with austerity measures on the way; [and] Record-breaking profits and bonuses for [the financial oligarchy].[xxx]

 

Elizabeth Warren of Harvard is warning us of the coming collapse of the American middle class. Two income families today have less money after fixed expenses than single income families did a generation ago. We all know families that have dealt with divorce, but we may not have realized that we know more families that have gone through bankruptcy.[xxxi]

 

American civic education requires a transformative breakthrough. Current US wars are unlawful to an Orwellian degree. The US economy is transferring unprecedented wealth of trillions of dollars every year to a financial elite within corporate cartels that have captured their government regulators. Civic education in both of these areas is crippled by colluding political and corporate propaganda.

These are factual claims easily verified as objective data, and substantiated by recognized experts within the Harvard community.[xxxii]

 

I am not sure how much hope of success we are justified in having in a short enough time frame to stave of the next great depression, especially considering that even Ralph Nader’s most recent book is titled Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. If that does not pan out, maybe some day super-intelligent robots will save us from ourselves, but of course we cannot count on either. It could be wise to remember that wisdom is a work in progress, but also to remember that sometimes, if we are going to value human life, wisdom requires action. This is where I think the practical wisdom of a living philosophy will lead us. Maybe as the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book Being Peace, “The most basic precept of all is to be aware of what we do, what we are, each minute. Every other precept will follow from that.”[xxxiii]

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Kennedy, Paul M. Rise and fall of the great powers economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York, NY: Random House, 1987. Print.

[iii] “US boasts of laser weapon’s ‘plausible deniability’ – tech – 12 August 2008 – New Scientist.” Science news and science jobs from New Scientist – New Scientist. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14520-us-boasts-of-laser-weapons-plausible-deniability.html&gt;.

[iv] “Star Wars In Iraq.” INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE. NEWS, COMMENTARY & INSIGHT. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13129.htm&gt;.

[v] “US plans new space weapons against China – Telegraph.” Telegraph.co.uk: news, business, sport, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1569339/US-plans-new-space-weapons-against-China.html&gt;.

[vi] “Chalmers Johnson: Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire.” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chalmers-johnson/three-good-reasons-to-liq_b_247758.html&gt;.

[vii] Johnson, Chalmers. Nemesis The Last Days of the American Republic (American Empire Project). New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007. Print.

[viii] “OTC Derivatives: Failed Banks or Failed Nations? — Seeking Alpha.” Stock Market News, Opinion & Analysis, Investing Ideas — Seeking Alpha. Web. 12 May 2010. <http://seekingalpha.com/article/204440-otc-derivatives-failed-banks-or-failed-nations&gt;.

[ix] “Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans – Short Sharp Science – New Scientist.” Science news and science jobs from New Scientist – New Scientist. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2008/10/packs-of-robots-will-hunt-down.html&gt;.

[x] Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking Adult, 2005. Print.

[xi] “Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis” Youtube. Web. 10 May. 2010.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNcLKbJs3xk&feature=channel&gt;

[xii] “The Prophet of Climate Change: James Lovelock : Rolling Stone.” Rolling Stone: Music News, Reviews, Photos, Videos, Interviews, Politics and More. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16956300/the_prophet_of_climate_change_james_lovelock&gt;.

[xiii] “YouTube – Perspectives on Ocean Science: Silent Ocean.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9uvyF58U0&gt;.

[xv] The Moral Life An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature. New York: Oxford UP, USA, 2006. Print.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Metzinger, Thomas. “Being No One.” Youtube. 02 October 2008. Web. 11 May. 2010

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mthDxnFXs9k&gt;

[xxiv] Metzinger, Thomas. Being No One: the Self-model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003. Print.

[xxv] Metzinger, Thomas. “Being No One.” Youtube. 02 October 2008. Web. 11 May. 2010

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mthDxnFXs9k&gt;

[xxvi] “Are Zombies Responsible? The Role of Consciousness in Moral Responsibility”

Neil Levy

Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics

University of Melbourne

nllevy@unimelb.edu.au

[xxvii] That religious belief may have been evolutionarily successful in a tribal world, does not mean it does not have very real and damaging consequences in a modern world that desperately needs to work together to solve problems, but is plagued by a social world unnecessarily splintered by the tribal mind.

[xxviii] “Review: The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett | Books | The Guardian.” Latest News, Comment and Reviews from the Guardian | Guardian.co.uk. Web. 12 May 2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/13/the-spirit-level&gt;.

[xxix] Johnson, Simon. “The Quiet Coup.” Atlantic Magazine. Web. 12 May. 2010

[xxx] “We, as a population, have been acting against our own interests and fighting amongst ourselves, while the Economic Elite, who control our society and media system, are left unquestioned and unchallenged, operating behind the scenes, beyond the spotlight, above the law, concentrating wealth and resources, at our expense, in unprecedented fashion.

Other than to create and control popular opinion and keep us politically passive, the mainstream media exists to keep people consuming and spending their hard-earned money. That is the bottom line.

Every time you turn on the TV, you have to realize that the entire mass media system is an elaborate psychological operation to keep you passive and make you feel secure in spending your money. That’s why TV pundits and talking heads are paid huge salaries; they are experts in duping us and playing us for fools. We are all being played. We aren’t free citizens; we are indebted wage slaves. That may sound much too harsh for a population that has been propagandized for hours a day, every day of our lives, but it is the truth. As the brilliant John Dewey said, “We live exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion that any people has ever experienced.”

Who needs reality when you have American Idol, Disneyland and celebrity sex scandals?

Until we can block out these distractions and face reality, our future and living standards will continue to spiral downward.

. . .

I know the game is rigged against us, but I also know that we ultimately have the power. We are 99% of the population. It’s just a matter of organizing together and exercising our will. It comes down to our ability to inform and inspire our family, friends and neighbors. It comes down to us overcoming our own passive unwillingness to STAND UP for our own rights, which is part of the reason we are in this crisis to begin with. We are at a point in American history where the stakes have never been higher. I wish we could just turn away and ignore it, but I know we can’t. Our very way of life is under attack. It is the very unfortunate reality of our current crisis.

Will we WAKE UP and acknowledge this, or will we continue to sleepwalk in ignorance to a slow death?”http://ampedstatus.com/the-financial-oligarchy-reigns-democracys-death-spiral-from-greece-to-the-united-states

[xxxi] Warren, Elizabeth. “The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class.” Youtube. The Graduate Council Lectures: The Jefferson Memorial Lectures, 31 Jan. 2008. Web. 13 May 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A&gt;.

[xxxii] Carl, Herman. “Open Proposal to US Higher Education: End Unlawful War, Oligarchy Economics with Education.” Examiner.com. 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 May 2010. <http://www.examiner.com/x-18425-LA-County-Nonpartisan-Examiner~y2010m4d28-Open-proposal-to-US-higher-education-End-unlawful-war-oligarchy-economics-with-education-1-of-4&gt;.

[xxxiii] Nhat, Hanh . Being Peace. Berkeley, Calif.: Parallax, 2005. Print.