Archive for January, 2010

Immortality in 20 Years

Or so. I was watching a program on the Science Channel recently called “Future Superhuman” and there was a doctor on there researching what is essentially a de-aging drug. In mice, it causes old mice literally become young again, and they said it caused similar reactions to every animal they’ve tested it on.

This is an extreme breakthrough. I may not have much interest in the “G” in GNR technologies (since “N” is going to help “R” is eventually replace “G”), but until we do upload and can live indefinitely as computer hardware instead of biological hardware, this is a significant step to be able live that long, particularly among older persons.

Also on the show was a researcher developing the basis of virtual space (i.e. directly stimulating the brain to create artificial perceptions), but we all already know the benefits of that.

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A New Government

At times I wonder whether our country is on the verge of a second revolution. There is widespread distrust and dislike of the government. The government itself is constantly seen as a huge bureaucracy mess, unable to respond to even the most basic issues in a timely manner (this is all a bit exaggerated, but what matters is public perception not the actual facts).

Of course there are a few differences between today and the time of the first revolution. For one, we can vote. Before, we had no say in the government that controlled our lives. Two, the current government is honestly a whole lot less oppressive than the British government was in the 18th century.

Still, it is still useful to imagine how the government could be improved to be effective. So, I propose two ideas that could potentially help. The first is to formalize the process of judicial review by the Supreme Court and make it a part of lawmaking. In short:

1. All bills proposed must be ratified by an independent panel to be constitutional. If they are not, the bill dies.

Basically, once a bill is passed by Congress, instead of going to the President it goes to this independent panel (which could be the Supreme Court, or another body), which is not subject to the will of Congress. This allows them to be objective and rule against legislation that is unconstitutional (i.e. stuff that the government has no business in doing) without worrying about their own job security. They cannot create legislation, only ratify or veto it (and no line-item vetos either). I think it would be best if this cannot be overruled by Congress, however they can modify the bill to make it constitutional again, which is then subject to another vote.

The second idea deals with term lengths. One of the problems, I think, the government has is that their relatively short terms mean they are unwilling to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. This is especially true of Presidents which are limited to two terms (plus another half if they happen to take over from a previous President after half a term has expired). If something is going to happen twenty years down the road, they may feel no real need to deal with it since they definitely won’t be in office then.

Of course, it’s also not a good idea to let a leader be in office for an indefinite period of time. It a very short road from that to a dictatorship, so let’s see if there’s a way to keep good leaders in their position, while retaining the ability to remove bad leaders (by public vote, not just impeachment and conviction which should obviously still be in effect). I think there is.

2. Terms are to be two years long, with an automatic term renewal should public opinion polls show a significant number of people favor the incumbent. If not, their seat is up for election, although they can still run and be reelected. Should they be removed, they are no longer eligible to hold that office.

Basically, an official public opinion poll is taken by an independent panel (perhaps the same on that votes on the constitutionality of bills) to determine how popular the incumbent is at regular intervals during their term. Perhaps this is done at six month intervals. If the polls during any interval show that too few people still approve of said office-holder, they must rerun and potentially lose their seat. I think that it should be relatively easy to trigger the re-election cycle, but not so easy as to have it happen every two years, which would tire votes. I think that the trigger should be set at 35-40% approval. They should still be able to rerun because maybe the person screwed early, but was able to fix it and the people still want them in.

Furthermore, there should still be a limit to the number of terms one can serve, even if the people approve. My best suggestion is a total of ten to fifteen terms (for a potential of twenty to thirty years in office). Furthermore, if a person is removed by popular vote, they should then be ineligible to hold the position again, no matter how long they served before.

If this system were in effect, we likely would have gotten rid of Bush in 2006, and save two years of lame-duckness.

Anyway, those are my ideas. It is possible to get them implemented by amending the constitution. Plus if I ever get around to writing my stories I can implement these ideas in any fictional government I set up.

Climate Change

Here’s an interesting video I found about global climate change. It doesn’t so much argue whether climate change is real as the possibly futures we can have depending on what we actually do. It’s pretty compelling stuff:

Of course, there is one small hole: if we do decide to act, we have to make sure what we actually do will help. Just because a scientist or an environmental group says something is good for the environment doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

For example, there’s a huge taboo today against nuclear power plants because of the radioactive waste they produce. In fact, there’s such a strong opposition to them, we end up building more coal-fired power plants which release tons and tons of carbon into the atmosphere, just so we don’t have to worry about the few pounds of radioactive waste  (and, in fact, fossil fuel power plants produce over a hundred times more radiation than nuclear plants anyway).

This behavior is completely bizarre. We should be shutting down fossil fuel plants and building nuclear plants as fast as possibly, but we don’t simply because nuclear power has this connotation of being “unenvironmental”.