Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stuff Which Is Depressing Me Today

Okay, one thing has been watching people applaud Sam Harris for saying that soon computers will be able to tell us what is right and wrong. Right for whom? Wrong in what way? you might well ask immediately, and immediately you'd already be over Harris' head. But the really depressing part is that millions of people think that Harris is a genius.

Back in 1982 Donald Fagen, lead vocalist of Steely Dan, released a solo album entitled The Nightfly,

which was a big hit and still seems to be selling pretty briskly decades later, wow. One of the singles from The Nightfly was "I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)," an hilariously sarcastic satire of visions of a beautiful future, visions which made the rounds of American popular culture in the 1950's. The lyrics lampoon predictions of, among other things,

"Just machines to make big decisions/Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision"

Well, here we are 60 years past the starry-eyed mid-50's and an entire Jesus past Fagen lampooning some of that "simpler" time's silliest ideas. It's 2015. Millions of people oohing and ahhhing at Sam Harris seriously proposing some of the very same stuff, not to mention some cover versions of "I.G.Y." by gospel groups and such who appear to be playing it straight, force me to ask myself: How many people ever got that Fagen was joking? and: Are a bunch of morons eventually going to put morality computers in place and force everyone to live by their dictates?

Besides that bone-chilling dystopian nightmare, another thing that's got me down today is that a fake news story -- or perhaps a sincere but stupid and mistaken news story -- made the rounds, saying that millions of Saudis had rejected their faith and thrown their Korans into sewers, and that some people believed it and applauded it. Believed that millions of people could have that significant of a change in mind without their having been any sign of it in yesterday's news, and then applauded millions of books being (they thought) thrown into sewers.

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