Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

What to do? There appears to be no end to your tragically misguided military exercise in Ukraine; the faltering economic prospects with sanctions; discontent and turmoil rising as jobs, work and food diminish.

Isolation has removed you from genuine understanding of the complex socio-economic challenges of your country. As President, you have become increasingly obsessed by assassination fears. This has caused you to evade any casual contacts and forces you to be self-blocked in your country retreat. This is evidenced by your total lack of empathy for the mothers of killed Russian soldiers, by your failure to recognize the millions of refugees, and your inability to offer help to the mass of oldsters homeless in devastated Ukraine .

It is natural for you to desire leaving this planet as a heroic President who did his absolute best for his nation. You are very proud of banning gay marriage and of enshrining the Russian language to become the form-makers. You can also be proud of just rattling your nuclear sabre, but never using it.

Fundamentally, you also wanted to promote the global standing of Russia which has plunged over the past weeks. So would your country not be better off without you? Possibly so. In the 20th century humanity could have flourished without dictators like Stalin in Russia or Hitler in Germany who thought they were indispensable. That should make you think.

The mass of Russians were guided by you out of difficulties at the turn of the millennium, but right now they are being pushed back into lower living standards because of your actions. You must be asking: “Would Russia be better without me?” The rational response must be: “Yes!”

How could you change this? Escaping on one of the great new super-yachts would just not be your style, but such a simple move could end the Ukraine war and, in turn, lead to the abandonment of the economic sanctions haunting your Russia and its inhabitants. Are you afraid that one of the leading Siloviki (that is the Russian Mafia) would take over? It would be a good thing for you to carefully consider your possible political inheritor.

Alas, if you stay, you may also face a war crimes tribunal for the brutal killings of civilians by the desperate but untrained Russian soldiers in the Ukraine War. For a President who desires playing a global role to become the most despised individual in Europe and North America is significant.

Yes. Suicide offers a strong ending. All it would take is a single powerful cyanide pill, like the one Goering swallowed at the closing of the Nuremburg trial seven decades ago. A billion people would cheer at such news even if the Chinese were instructed not to do so. It is also likely that the conflict in Ukraine would end with your successor. The sanctions would quickly wind down. The oligarchs would happily return to their super-yachts and Russia’s economy could gently rise again. Who knows, the ruble might even overtake the dollar.

Yes, Vladimir, suicide would be your best way of achieving immortality. Give it a try!



Let’s face it: The technologic/economic world we have created is threatening our very survival. Mental and physical pollution together with artificial intelligence, robots and ever increasing numbers of nuclear weapons are on a global rise.

The driving influence behind the extraordinary flow of scientific breakthroughs is a global economy based on money, greed, unequal profits, perpetual growth and uncontrolled technological advances. Creativity, spirituality and cooperation are limited. How can such off-kilter trends lead to anything but disaster?

What is the propeller of this situation? Money. As long as people work principally for money, the economic structure will be focused on competition, controlling costs, profits, corruption and novelty such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. No capable economist has come up with realistic resolutions to this threatening situation.

It is important to recognize that money has evolved in gradual stages from natural objects such as cowry shells, then into metal coins to circumvent the inconvenience of barter, from there into paper, followed by cheques and now into electronic signals that debit one account and credit another. That’s where credit cards come in. When priests were in power, temples issued money. When kings ruled, they had the sovereign right to coin money, and when nation states rose to the top in the 19th century, national currencies prevailed. Today we are at the edge of global money. While money is, in effect, no more than a token of symbolic information or social agreement which facilitates exchange, it has lost none of its mystique over the centuries. More than ever we tend to view money as having near magical powers on which both women and men rely to give them the gloss of significance and appeal. Money, more than talent, virtue or ability is generally regarded as a sign of social power and desirability.

This money world, alas, knows no limits. It has become itself a commodity for speculation. Currency and futures trading, as well as Bitcoin and other crytocurrencies, have overwhelmed most financial transactions. However large the profits today, more are demanded tomorrow. As such a complex system based on trust, rules and the law gradually loses its stability, another system of values and derivatives are most likely to replace it.

Work and jobs (employment) present related but different challenges. Work on ordinary tasks is being taken over by Robotic Process Automation (R.P.A.) at an ever faster rate. A common example of such take-overs is to be seen at the self-checkout machines in our grocery stores. Automation in white-collar work places will take over bit by bit: “We think any business process can be automated,” said Jason Kingdon the chief executive of Blue Prism, a robotic process automation company. According to the New York Times, Kingdon tells industry that between half and two-thirds of all the tasks currently being done in companies could be handed over to machines right now. 1

The McKinsey corporation, which had predicted before the pandemic that 37 million American workers would be displaced by automation by the end of this decade, now has raised this prediction to 45 million. Bloomberg recently headlined that “A Goldman Trading Desk That Once Had 500 People Is Down to Three.” This means that Goldman directors now recognize that robots can replace many of its top institutional traders. Robots definitely require less space, attention, expense, and use-up less emotional energy on the trading floor.

For corporate executives, many robotic automations are becoming compatible with their existing systems at a lower cost. They purport automation streamlines will “liberate workers” from dull and repetitive tasks and also “liberate” numbers of union protesters from their jobs. For these administrators, robots save time, expenses (such as water coolers) and even help the environment by cutting down on poisonous air-conditioners.

Education is also being transformed not so much by robots as by laptops, tablets, computers and apps powered by AI. All this information technology has been able to adjust many lessons to the abilities of students more quickly and exactly than might their struggling teachers. The coming robotic revolution in the classroom is already being prepared on the invasive internet with its Zooms, Tweets and smart-phones. Robots will be able to handle quizzes and grade results although mistakes and cheating may become more common. Expectations are that robots will gradually increase in numbers throughout the vast world of education.

What we are seeing is that little is currently being done to provide job training for the millions of workers who were displaced by the pandemic or who already had been forced out of work by automation. In President Biden’s $4 trillion dollars of programs to boost the US economy, no program was specifically earmarked to train the mass of those who were made jobless by technology. Moreover, we are now seeing how many personnel in the armed forces, such as those in the infantry, are being replaced by less fragile automation. Robots are not far away from the battlefield.

WHERE ARE WE HEADED when we face this march of the robots? Work and jobs have been essential to humans ever since we left the caves. We mostly embraced progress and practical advances ever since the “discovery” of the wheel. Now, some 15,000 or so years later, work and life have become interchangeable. Technology has passed on us its astounding advances … but where will this end? This is as bewildering as the notion that “… the margins of profitability in cloud computing are tightening with Google’s tilt at the AWS/Azure quasi-duopoly pushing down prices,” The Economist wrote a month ago.2

Biotechnology is certainly feeding guesswork for our planet. The launch of CRISPR gene editing is now at the level of what transistors once were to electronics. It has already entered into the field of endemic vaccines. It will soon be opening fantastic new biological potentialities such as transforming pigs into organ donors for human transplants or for editing the genes of defective babies.

Denials of such dangers are common on all fronts:  For example, the American electorate cannot accept that it has “the most expensive, least effective health care in the world and that the most vulnerable have been paying for that failure with their lives.”3 Nor can this electorate accept that “Tech giants” like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are competing over the privacy of data and the cookies of their customers. Denial is so widespread that there has been little federal or parliamentary legislation restricting the manifest intrusions, such as cookies, into the privacy of the users of their computers, mobiles and smartphones.

I sense that the invasion of digitally based techs is without any comprehensive plan. This is pushing dislocations in our economies, our lives and ultimately our very existence. Such deep challenges, augmented by the unpredictable changes in our environment, are mounting – as is their perpetual denial by the admirers of Donald Trump.

Political denials of the introduction of Universal Basic Incomes may be inevitable but our very existence may become ever less in demand in the years ahead. It is important that workers and their families will know that there will be a flexible safety net, like Basic Incomes, for them. I believe that our world needs to create a new global system much as the victors of WWII did in launching social welfare programs with widespread benefits to guard against poverty and to provide for education as well as national health care for the masses.

The economic expert, Mark Carney, in a recent article in the FT titled “A new dawn for globalization,” tried to tackle the mounting concerns about the longevity of our economies. What Carney superficially offers are four pillars of his new order: “resilience, solidarity, connectivity and sustainability.” Carney admits that “In too many places, globalization and breakthrough technologies mean low wages, insecure employment and widening inequality.” He cautions that: “As a society, we need to choose to be ‘digital by design’ leveraging new technologies to create new jobs and better communities — rather than ‘digital by default’, letting technology drive our choices.”4

Earlier in this century I proposed a detailed program for an alternative to capitalism which featured a cashless, highly technological credit card system. Dollars or Democracy (2004) was praised without receiving the desired attention of academic economists nor that of self-promoting politicians. My desire in this book was to present a more profound social and economic program to change our global economic structure. You may disagree with its basis but our planet desperately needs a broader and more creative approach … not robots.

A quick but deeper look at the word “work” that has had such an extraordinary evolution of meanings through the centuries, is important in showing how our economic and societal basics can change, can be brought up to date.

Manual work, or labor, in the Greek classical era had deep pejorative connotations. To Plato’s school “work” was opposite to thinking and much desired “contemplation.” To Aristotle, the very making and knowledge of material things was just for slaves and the servile.

For Judaism (and later on in Christianity) mankind was condemned to labor and hard work to expiate Adam’s original sin (Genesis). Goods or economic activity were absolutely insufficient for man’s salvation without God’s recognition.

A thousand years later, in the Middle Ages, the mechanical and the manual were brought together in worship by Catholics.

In the Renaissance which followed, the excellence of man was praised for his efficient and effective diligence both as a worker or as an artist. The great Leonardo da Vinci declared that “the works that the eye orders the hand to make are infinite.” This approach demanded a new and original perception of progress and civilization to rise irrespective of whether it was manual or intellectual.

Luther in his Protestant Revolution pushed “work” as a service to God. “For God is present in such matters and his spirit in the work” whether it is servile or the housemaid’s.

Calvinism went further by suggesting that our conduct for the greater glory of God would be rewarded by our success. The production of goods would be multiplied by the hands of the elect whose infinite production was in praise of God.

Francis Bacon was the thinker to whom we owe much of the fresh perspective that science and technology are the means of advancement of humans committed to labors that are persistently renewed yet never sufficient. Work became one of the reasons for living. The “mechanical arts” of the industrial revolution gained meaning and prestige from the positive results of the sciences.

Our new world came through the machines and the mechanical approach to work in the Industrial Revolution. Work became the necessity for all to make their own living. Employment became a demand of meaning for life for the masses.

With Karl Marx the economy became based on the productivity of labor which ultimately determine value and gave all goods most of their value. Utility was on the way to become one of the economy’s supreme values. However, he did consider the need for the greater economic equality for women. This had considerable impact in Russia after the 1917 Revolution.

Only in the 1970s, after a strike by women, did Iceland become the first nation to introduce employment equality of the sexes. Sweden may be the next to recognize pressure by its electorate.

I passionately believe that we must change the global direction of “work” which mostly ignores the unpaid labors of half of the world’s adults: females. Isn’t it overdue in the 21st century that we recognize the unpaid labor that is demanded of women? The variety is mostly focused on the home and the family:

  • Raising and educating children
  • Housekeeping and the well-being of the family
  • Shopping for food
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Nursing the aged and the ill

These categories are work intensive but not respected as paid “jobs.” National states make little compensation to women thus occupied – often full-time.5

In conclusion, I believe we must explore bold and imaginative alternatives which could open up new, more economically egalitarian, cooperative prospects for living, thinking and being. Our economics are treacherous and we must move society away from the competitive world of materialism (which Adam Smith warned of 200+ years ago) and towards a more responsible, spiritual, creative and community-oriented democratic existence. All human social systems are of a transitory nature. None are eternal or absolute, but evolve or adapt over time. The time for such genuine social, economic, and political international transformations has come. It is NOW!


1Kevin Roose, “The robots are coming” The New York Times, March 17, 2021.

2“Collusion and collisions,” The Economist, February 27, 2021, p.58

3Jeneen Interlandi, “Job-based health care, meets high unemployment,” The New York Times, July 7, 2020

4Carney was the governor of the Bank of England, and is now the special envoy of the World Bank on climate action and finance. He cautions that the global investment required over the next three decades in controlling our climates will be around $100 trillion!

5Zoe Williams, “Work till you drop?”, The Guardian, April 22, 2021


Until our 21st Century, the perspective in the western world had been that the truth was more powerful than lies. The defeat of Hitler in 1945 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 had been triumphs for truth. A shift came suddenly with the introduction of social media and the rapid rise of the Tea Party in the United States which, with its normalization of persistent lying, called into question the status of truth.

“Our ability to lie, but not necessarily our ability to tell the truth, belongs among the few obvious, demonstrable data that confirm human freedom,” wrote that outstanding thinker, Hannah Arendt, but “freedom is abused and perverted through mendacity.”1

Awareness of “the lie” arose with the very beginnings of human speech over 12,000 years ago. A more philosophical understanding of “the truth” began with the rising Greek civilization with Homer who, in the Iliad (c. 800 BC), chose to sing that “Zeus gives no aid to liars.” His Homeric impartiality then inspired the first great teller of facts, Herodotus, who became the father of history. Jewish considerations about truth and lying became evident around the time of King Solomon with the Proverbs in the Old Testament: “He that speaks the truth shows righteousness: but a false witness, deceit.” (chapter 12.17) and then “The lip of truth shall be established for eternity; but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” (chapter 12.19, c. 587 BC).

The exceptional advances of the great Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle turned the concept of truth into the central question of theoretical philosophy. This helped us to distinguish reality from appearance and true from false. I feel embarrassed to rush past the various fields of philosophy within Greek schools from which evolved logic as well as ethics and physics from their deep common root in the challenges of truth. The Sophists, for example, denied the Platonic doctrine in the possibility of a universal truth, while in Aristotle’s scholasticism truth consisted essentially in the agreement between thinking and being. Endless books have been written discussing these approaches, but I have to be simpler in this blog and more direct.

By the time of the Romans, Cicero advanced: “We give no credit to a liar even when he speaks the truth.” Later, after the Middle Ages, Martin Luther was to preach that “A liar is far worse and does greater mischief than a murderer on the highway; for a liar and false teacher deceives people, seduces souls, and destroys them.”2

The rise of science during the Renaissance established the importance of truth in the sciences. Hannah Arendt wrote late in her life that “Only with the rise of Puritan morality, coinciding with the rise of organized science (whose progress had to be assured on the firm ground of the absolute veracity and reliability of every scientist), were lies considered serious offences.”

Truth rarely has been regarded as offensive, although on many occasions people may have wanted to deny it. Facing the truth or accepting reality may present a difficult challenge. The truth has been expected of leaders and counted on for political stability but seldom has contributed to change. Although lies and deceit are often at the core of power, truth itself is at the basis of stability. This disparity explains the long conflict between the two in politics.

Truth also questions opinion as a way of establishing validity. “Seen from the viewpoint of politics, truth has a despotic character,” wrote Arendt. “It is therefore hated by tyrants, who rightly fear the competition of a coercive force they cannot monopolize, and it enjoys a rather precarious status.” Indeed, when it comes to public perception there are dividing lines between facts, opinion and interpretation. Indeed in politics, the latter two are often in conflict with factual truth which can then be regarded as apolitical.

Lies have always been seen as ready tools of eager politicians and demagogues. The audience of the liar is likely to be more persuaded by his fashioning of the facts than they are by the truth-teller with his cold statistics. The greater the popular response, the more likely that the successful liar will begin to believe his own fabrications. Such self-deception tends to create an illusion of truthfulness for the audience. Ultimately, as we have seen with Trump, the scope of the lies can be so vast that they are the making of an alternative reality. Trump was fully aware that his lies on Twitter, Fox News or Facebook had a much greater impact than the consequent media denials or fact checking. While there was a link between malice and real deception, his lies were also effective in installing fear.

The result of such campaigns was not only that the US was swept by a tsunami of misinformation, but also that it legitimized lying as an acceptable political expression. Significantly, the Republican Senators themselves became afraid of the truth. In his latest autobiography, A Promised Land, Obama was dismayed by the truth decay America is experiencing. This has led to such a distrust of institutions that nearly half the population no longer has an idea of what is true.

Until Hitler in the 1930s no one had ever thought that organized lying transmitted by radio could be such a powerful weapon against truth. 90 years later, television, mobiles and the social media had enhanced the distribution of lies and lying in an exponential fashion. At the same time falsehoods and fakes have multiplied with the rise of social extremes which in turn have divided the nation. With the assistance of a compliant right-wing media to spread misinformation, Trump worked to create a mental hemisphere for his admirers and supporters. Trump’s steady, daily flow of lies were effective in disconnecting an extensive minority who didn’t know any better. Trump also turned his opponents into “traitors”, socialists, and “scheming subversives.” Such verbal distortions were created to end political dialogue and polarize truth itself, but also were powerfully exposed by Michael Gerson of The Washington Post.3

For four years the American people were subjected to the blatant pathological liar that Trump actually was. Gerson kept track of the exceptional record of the flow of lies: More than 20,000 falsehoods in 48 months. However it is unlikely that Trump could have defined which were his creations and which had come from Fox News, Russian reports, Newsmax or other dubious sources like the gossip of his right-wing employees.

Psychologists and psychiatric experts had long claimed that Trump was subject to the personality disorder of a pathological liar. Such misfits struggle with anxiety. Their lies are a way of protecting themselves and may be utilized to gain status and manipulate others. They exhibit high levels of self-assurance that also help them to lie with verbal fluency. Combined with a high degree of narcissism, deceivers like Trump also tend to believe they had achieved high levels of mental perfection. This, combined with clever social deceptions and a steady flow of lies, enabled omitting any inconvenient truths.

The impact of such a 4-year term of lies and deceits by the President of the United States has had pernicious consequences. Lying promoted by the media has taken on epidemic proportions. Sadly, little has been done to combat this. Since then promoting the truth has yet to reduce lying, however I would like to see the popular reactions if the social media were to point out all the lies or prevarications. Well before he became President, the media gave Trump generous space and time because it increased their ratings and ultimately their profits. It also contributed mightily to bringing him to the highest office.

To halt this sinister flourish of the fake, the false and the untrue, I believe a governmental sanction should be placed on the intentional lie and the planned perversion of the truth. This could be advanced by the appointment of a small group of eminent and trusted figures who would evaluate and advise on the use and abuse of truth in business, the social media, and politics and also in the educational system. Furthermore if the social media directors and the television broadcasters denied time to liars, there might gradually be pressure on politicians to convert to telling the truth.

There was a time when people restricted their lies because they feared God’s reaction or its welcome by the Devil. Today the fear of Hell no longer exerts much power. Fear of shame reduced former generations from lying. Could that be resuscitated? Social embarrassment might be an effective way to stop the mendacious. For a start I might suggest exposing those repeatedly sowing lies or disinformation about vaccines.

In the social media, tags should follow all lies. Every written lie could be tagged with a ” ~ ” or serious deceit with a “ ~~ ” Every spoken lie could immediately be greeted with a “brrr….” Thus items of misinformation would be tagged across the board. Admittedly some 40% of Americans are exceptionally gullible and at the same time wedded in their admiration and belief in Trump. So it is going to be a difficult challenge to deprive them of the steady flow of fake news, lies, and political deception to which they have become accustomed. Strengthening the truth is one of the possible ways to liberate them from the narrow perspective of their long standing prejudices.

On the basis that they were unwilling to criticize their President for failing to admit the result of the 2020 elections, I suggest that all those Republicans in Congress now should be declared unfit for re-election. Theirs was, indeed, a slap in the face of the truth. As Arendt concluded: “Conceptually, we may call truth what we cannot change: metaphorically, it is the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us.”


1Hannah Arendt, “Between Past and Future,” The New Yorker, February 25, 1967.

2Martin Luther, Table Talk, 1569.

3Michael Gerson, “Trump is the King of Lies,” The Washington Post, July 23, 2020.


The emphasis everywhere on everything these days is speed. It has gone out of control. Be it the fake news or the masses of data to which we are exposed in these times of global Covid-19, I feel uneasy being fed high-speed dodgy algorithm skewed messages. I observe our younger generations being geared to speed: any visual information on TV or the internet lasting more than four seconds cannot be absorbed.
Yes. Technologically-driven life has turned increasingly unpleasant. Most new electric machines have complex control buttons whether it be on remote television, mobile phones, ovens, or even car direction systems. All of these have become ever more complicated and leave me increasingly grappling — particularly on my MacBook computer where passwords have me pulling my hair.

I now need to consult my handwritten list of over 40 passwords covering everything from Twitter to Firefox and Norton to PayPal. I must confess that I have been forced to use differing passwords ever since gangsters entered one of my older banking passwords. I suffered minor losses but wasted enormously exasperating  hours with irritatingly hyper-compartmentalized security bureaucrats. I feel the endless challenges and tests I must face daily in our high-speed tech-driven world are direct attacks on a civilized way of life. We are painfully experiencing a Runaway world.

It took our brains millennia to advance slowly and accommodate according to the environment. However, driven by capitalism, scientific advances — and the incredibly fast development of our technology — in only 200 years the world jumped from steam power to nuclear power. In less than 150 years we jumped from electric power to the internet and in less than two decades we moved from the telephone to the mobile. Now in under a decade two companies are advancing us to remote Zoom work. Such startling progress has been so rapid that our runaway technology has begun unbalancing us as human beings.

I see the unrelenting pace of change as Runaway, but feel the most alarming is the ever-increasing population now dominating the planet. This is followed by run-amuck Pollution whose many aspects threaten our life on Earth. Then comes Technology running the gauntlet swiftly innovated by Data and Algorithms. I continue with Money, as leader of the economic power of Runaways, including and concluding with Debt, Profit, Competition and Corporations all of which have become increasingly uncontrollable. So much has gotten out of control that I cannot cover all the aspects in one blog. What follows here are what I believe to be the most threatening.

I.      P O P U L A T I O N

This tops all our runaway problems. When I was born the global population was just over 2.3 billion. Today it has risen to a staggering 7.8 billion. This means we have multiplied over thrice the world’s inhabitants in one lifetime: an unacceptable development for this planet and we shall still increase this critical total by more than 81 million this year… and more in the years to come.

Thomas Russel Malthus wrote two centuries ago in his Principle of Population (1798):

“Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence only increases in an arithmetical ratio.”

This conclusion warned us BEWARE! We have done nothing to stop it. Plagues used to keep the global populations down and so did malaria and other diseases. The vaccines for Covid-19 will ultimately end this plague and barely affect our dire population numbers.

II.      P O L L U T I O N
This ever growing horde of people has led to the pollution of our air, water and soil.  In the 21st century we have at last come to recognize the threat of fatal  poisoning to our environment. A multitude of ecologists and writers have dealt  with the scope and challenge of this complex Runaway.  Automation and robots will steadily make both office work and manufacturing  far less polluting.(This may also lead to Runaway unemployment, but I will not get distracted here.) I will focus here on two polluting solids: Plastics and Cement.


Globally we have moved from producing about 1.7 million tons of plastics in 1950 to 390 million tons today, polluting the waterways, the rubbish dumps, the beaches and most importantly, our oceans. There are now 5.25 trillion macro- and micro-pieces of plastic in our oceans and it is now estimated that there are 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean, weighing up to 269,000 tons. Every day around 8 million new pieces of plastic makes their way into our seas.Tons of plastic pellets are likewise dumped into the oceans every day and untold amounts are then swallowed by birds, fish, whales and ultimately, even human beings.

Statistic on the totals of burning plastics are not available but these are also steadily poisoning the atmosphere. Only 9 percent of the total production of plastic is being recycled. Fortunately there are numerous ways to slow this particular Runaway down… but when?


This planet is becoming greyer with the spread of concrete every day. After water, concrete is the most widely produced material on this planet.  Enough concrete is poured every year to cover an entire surface the size of England. In other words cement is ruining the environment. The production of cement had risen from about 1,100 million metric  tons in 1990 to 4,000 million metric tons in 2020. That’s Runaway expansion in need of international control.

China is now pouring more cement every three years than the United States did over the entire 20th century.  Globally, concrete is now entombing enormous tracts of fertile soil. Runaway Japanese government-subsidized construction projects “have wreaked untold damage on mountains, rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, everywhere — and it goes on at a heightened pace. That is the reality of modern Japan and the numbers are staggering,” says the longtime author and resident of Japan, Alex Kerr.

III.      T E C H N O L O G Y

Technology has swept the world to the extent that we are now trapped by it.  From space tech satellites to logarithms which will soon enable corporations and governments to set up their targets and goals, technology will triumph. All machinery, is based on it. The efficiency and speed of technology make it most desired. The new “cognitive technologies” such as algorithms dominate our determination for the ever greater masses of data to which we are being subjected. Charles Dickens back in the 19th century satirized the utility maximizing machine in the person of Mr Gradgrind who hoped to “weigh and measure every parcel of human nature.”  Nowdays he would have included soul-searching. For example, somewhat perversely, logarithms have been used to expose whether a man is straight or gay on the basis of male portraits on TV dating sites.

Algorithms also are being used by politicians, corporations and governments to increase their power. The administrators in Washington DC and the bureaucrats in Whitehall have used their interpretations of logarithm data to emasculate the labor unions. However, the misinterpretation of data also has led to leaders like Trump and Johnson to make embarrassing turn-arounds.

In my introduction to Runaways, I gave some indication of the extent to which Technological Trauma is being caused by the ever faster changes in the use of  swiftly multiplying Apps.The overwhelming exposure to data is altering our perceptions which can seriously affect our thoughts. The datafications of everything in our national statistics, from our census bureaus to innumerable surveys by universities and the media, are at the basis of our economic systems which collect taxes, declare our debts, incomes, fines, and properties… all of which are then processed and stored.

IV    M O N E Y

Money is at the core of economics and has been one of the fastest of all the Runaways. Money now controls Washington, London and Paris and not the other way around. The value of money is also based on trust and we can all see that this is running away at high speed. The national debt of the United States of 27 trillion dollars is about to become greater than its national product. Money printing, which is now called “Quantitative Easing,” has given limitless space to the printing process. This kind of macroeconomic mismanagement as well as the introduction of virtual money in the creation of digital currencies, form an inevitable recipe for economic chaos. I had not predicted this particular economic trajectory in my book Dollars or Democracy (2004). Nor did I cover the money-laundering which has enmeshed our globe.

V    C O R P O R A T I O N S

The gigantic runaway tech corporations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have also begun to use their billions to enter into politics with bribes and favors. Profit is the single-minded desire of corporations. Even money-hungry banks are likely to run fast for whatever they need.

Big corporations do not operate with transparency. Not only do they hide mistakes but they avoid public scrutiny into suspect profits, hidden assets and dubious practices. With their freedom to move capital anywhere in the world, the multinationals have transformed tax avoidance into plain evasion of all responsibilities except to increase the profits.This focus on ever increasing profitability makes it difficult to justify to their shareholders putting funds into projects  which could create jobs rather than those which trim the number of employees.

Corporate competition knows no limits. No existing effective principles nor guides exist. By joining with profit, corporate competition is at the forefront of global destruction. The “free-market” with its greedy corporations has been able to run the capitalist states for over two hundred years. It’s time is about over.

VI    D E B T

Publius Syrus wrote around 50 BC that debt was “the slavery of the free,” and Thomas Jefferson some 1800 years later came to regard “public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.”1 Runaway economies all over the planet have seen extremely low interest rates which permit national economies to grow faster than their debt repayments. This eventually opens the doors to economic disasters which may  be one of the ultimate runaways just like the ever growing trillions of US debt. Perhaps quantum computing may come to the rescue with new ways of thinking which could overwhelm economics. That may be one of this world’s ultimate Runaways!

1Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Governor Plumer in 1816.

From Food Crisis to Famine?

Many people are wondering whether the world is headed towards widespread famines? Can the world continually feed billions of people without destroying the entire planet? Is global hunger for billions of people inevitable?

“Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness, and all the ugly distempers that make an ordered life impossible,” Woodrow Wilson declared on his address to Congress, November 11, 1918 marking the end of WWI. This speech was also given as a plague had broken out. Today an incompetent U.S President is not able to talk directly to the millions of the unemployed people whose families are continually hungry because they don’t have the money nor access to any of the nearby food charities such as Feeding America.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the US Department of Agriculture admitted that 37 million Americas were food insecure. A new charitable organization, Feeding America, is a network of more than 200 food banks which is trying to meet the demands of millions who have lost their jobs. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, was so impressed by what Feeding America is doing that he donated $100 million. This helps, but in the 10 weeks after March 1, 2020 Feeding America provided 1.3 billion meals to the hungry — many of whom had never before queued-up for charity.1

Maximo Torero, the chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, recently declared that the world’s food systems were under unprecedented threat, as the lockdowns for the pandemic disturbed the ability of millions to harvest, buy and sell food. He cautioned that “This is a very different food crisis than the ones we have seen.”

Globally, multiple millions of people are at risk of extreme poverty this coming winter, however the longer-term effects of the pandemic are frightening, as deep hunger in childhood can leave life-long scars. Already twenty percent of children on this globe are stunted by the age of five and as global poverty rates rise, so will their suffering.
Hunger can be extremely destructive. I know first hand because when I was nine years old our family was being held in a Moroccan detention camp and there was next to nothing to eat. Teeth began to rattle, hair to fall, large sores developed, and I was fighting a plague which had killed many children in the camp. I was close to the end when some fruits were ultimately found to save my life.

My next personal experience with famine was 15 years later when I landed in New Delhi in the midst of a famine. When I walked out of the empty garden of my hotel that first morning, there were no police nor guards and I was faced with a large scattering of ragged beggars holding out their skinny hands and shrieking for help. I thought I could go through them but instantly was blocked on my way by a dead man lying on the curb. To my horror, one of his skinny legs was stretched over another’s dead body. I had a few coins but I knew that this would offer little help to this crowd and I feared I might be stripped of everything on my body if I put my hand in my trousers. So I swiftly turned around and rushed back over the fly-covered dead and through the hotel’s gate. My memory goes back to the starving faces and bulging eyes of that famine of April 1956. I felt abashed then at not being able to help those beggars who were dying.

I spent the next two days in the hotel reading about famines in a book on India. Historically, this vast nation had been dependent on monsoon rains and for centuries lacked the means of transporting food to all parts of the country. In the great famine in Bengal 1769-70 more than ten million died. Although it had become a British colony, the London Parliament had no settled famine policy until 1866. Then the English did little to help except the introduction of railroads.

Today my equilibrium is challenged all the time by reportages on television and the internet focused on famines in Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan and others in Africa and the Middle East. The despair of the multiple scenes of young children starving are haunting. David Beasley, the head of he World Food Program, warned earlier this year that the danger of multiple famines of “Biblical proportions” were ahead of us. A quarter of Somalia’s 16 million people, for example, were currently facing famine because its crops had been swept away by floods and then ravaged by swarms of desert locusts leading to humanitarian disaster.

According to a report produced by the UN, more than 265 million people are currently being pushed to the edge of starvation, which doubles the number under threat before Covid-19. In an interview with The Guardian, Beasley said, “We are not talking about people going to bed hungry. We are talking about extreme conditions, emergency status — people literally marching to the brink of starvation. If we don’t get food to people, people will die.” The worst of the impact of the pandemic and ensuing recession are yet to be felt, warned Antonio Guterres the UN secretary general.

Globally, better social protections for the poor are needed, said Guterres, as the looming recession following the coronavirous pandemic may put basic nutrition beyond their reach. Dangerous deficiencies in our food systems, such as export controls and stockpiling, could assist in producing humanitarian disasters.2 80 per cent of this planet’s people have partly been fed by imports. Thousands of ships connect agricultural products across the seas. Planes, trains, and trucks then help in distribution. For example, Ukrainian wheat is milled into flour by Turkey, some of which is then turned into noodles in China. Such supply and demands of nourishment were mostly flexible in our 21st century. It is important to remember that only four or five countries now grow more rice than they eat.

Lockdowns, however, have been slowing harvests while millions of seasonal laborers are unable to work. At the same time food waste has reached unwelcome levels with farmers forced to dump such perishable produce as milk while some huge meat industry factories have been forced to close. The closure of restaurants and other markets also has resulted in some farmers letting their crops rot rather than pay for harvesting with unsettling consequences. All this has caused the price of basic foods to rise in many countries. Supply chains are also affected by lockdowns and it is difficult to get labor into the fields when they are sick or lacking travel facilities.

Food is also lost by fishermen ranging from Chinese to French who, in their giant freezing boats, throw back more than half of their catch as not saleable. Improved management of wild fish catches could boost returns and add 14 million new jobs according to this year’s World Economic Forum. Such possibilities are hard to accept when a third of humanity, over 3 billion children, women and men, cannot afford enough healthy food to eat, claimed Rashmi Mistry, head of Oxfam’s Grow Campaign. Commenting on the publication of a new UN Report of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, she pointed out that there are more than 60 million people hungry today than there were five years ago. Mistry insisted that more sustainable ways of feeding people must be found. This included prioritizing the needs of small-scale food producers and workers over the profits of the huge agri-food corporations.3

Globally, poverty and the lack of money are driving not only our speedily expanding pandemic but are also advancing hunger. Some experts are suggesting that artificially produced mass foods could slow down the advance of famines, but such artificial meals might change the very nature of the eaters. After all, we are what we eat. The lack of alternatives were considered by Homer 2,800 years ago in The Odyssey: simply that hunger was the worst form of death.

The UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) as it currently stands will be unable, because of national differences, to tackle the likely scale of forthcoming global famines. For example, it now fails to control the private operations of the huge fish freezing super-trawlers which are not only threatening the survival of special fish species but also are depriving millions of the hungry from the untold tons of fish being wasted in their gigantic net operations.

Given this difficult and tragic situation, I believe the food and its distribution should be brought under the control of a single truly powerful international organization and not by the capitalist corporations currently benefiting from the disasters I have been describing. Huge private operations like those of Unilever, Sysco, Nestle, Perdue, and Cargill ultimately should be brought together as collaborative cooperatives to create a truly Global FAO.4

Globally it will be our collective responsibility to transform the ways we deal with food, the ways it grows and is distributed. Money has never been good at bringing people together like food does. It is high time that we get our priorities right in the frightening crises we may soon be facing.

As long as Trump is President there is no possibility of serious global action. His prejudiced outlook is based on narrow nationalism very close to that once held by Hitler. So we must wait for Biden to take over and get the nations of the world together to tackle gigantic problems such as the environment or the horrors of hunger and famine which have been disregarded by Trump.

1“We’re going to have to confront food insecurity,” David Gelles, The New York Times, July 1, 2020

2“The tables not yet turned,” The Economist, May 9, 2020, pp 13-15

4“World Faces Worst Food Crisis,” Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, June 9, 2020

4See: Yorick Bumenfeld, Dollars or Democracy, (2004)

Smaller versus bigger

Over the past couple of months our mind-set has shifted dramatically. In March, the focus which had been on the economic globalization of five tech giants turned to the vicious plague launched by the microscopically small covid19. The widespread desire, which had been developing to examine how to switch from the ever larger, bigger or gigantic that range for buildings, cities, or corporations, may now focus on smaller more human units. Driven by fear, the larger vision escapes us. We shall be struggling to comprehend the scientific complexities of the tiny viruses that threaten us.

We may ponder over what is right, but we have no problem knowing what is wrong when it comes to big and small in economics, architecture and even in sports. While in our daily lives the small is understandable and often desirable, when it comes to the universal level, the big often seems as overwhelming as it is environmentally destructive. We seem incapable of limiting the rampant impositions of such international giants as Facebook, Apple, Kraft, Microsoft, Shell or Unilever.

I was therefore thrilled to open the New York Times in February to find this headline in the business section: “She wants to break up all the giants.” The article describes how an anti-trust activist, Sarah Miller, 37, struggles to rewire the American economy. This former aide at the US Treasury Department and then a deputy director of the Open Markets Institute, spent three years guiding a coalition of liberal groups in Silicon Valley to break up Facebook for violating anti-trust laws.

Miller’s aims to break up giant corporations like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple that are all monopolies seizing control of how billions of people communicate online and make billions of dollars a year from their often dangerous services. Miller and her associates believe these big tech monopolies are subverting democracy. Their platforms enable the spread of nefarious misinformation, profit from deceptive promotion of critical health supplies, and the collapse of local news sources.

I admire Miller’s efforts to introduce worker representation in all corporate administrations. Indeed, her latest organizations are bringing up-to-date Schumacher’s “small is beautiful” proposals. Earlier this year she took the lead at the American Economic Liberties Project to confront the corporate concentrations which were furthering global inequality. She told the New York Times: “If you look at meat processing, if you look at baby formula, if you look at pacemakers, everywhere you look you see markets that have been rolled up and monopolized.”1 In calling for reform of the anti-trust laws she also advocated “working with groups that look at work through a civil rights lens.”

From Miller’s perspective, while corporations claim to be engines of wealth creation, in truth they are engines of wealth extraction. Their bottom lines of profit are dependent on the enormous sums paid by the public’s tax payers for everything from health provisions to the costs of education, infrastructure, and national defense. At the American Economic Liberties Project, Miller and her associates are now focusing on proposed federal guidelines to evaluate mergers and abuses by national and global conglomerates. Their aims are not only to push the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department into action but also to alert voters on how the detrimental effects of the uncontrolled growth of corporate giants threaten democracy.

Barry Lynn, one of Miller’s top collaborators contends that the giant monopolies are squelching innovation and destabilizing financial and industrial systems. He has argued that the US anti-trust laws must be revived to recover true open markets and democratic freedoms. Lynn also is eager to expose the extensive violations of privacy by groups like Google and Facebook as well as their kinetic intrusions and invasive social advertising.

When Congress passed the CARES Act to protect those financially impacted by the coronavirus, the legislation also expanded unemployment insurance and created an emergency small business lending program. But this act also authorized the Federal Reserve to lend to large publicly traded corporations and financial institutions — in other words, it licensed bailouts for the giants and Wall Street. This extension of $4 trillion of credit was the equivalent of a $13,000 loan to every American, but that isn’t going primarily to workers, communities or small businesses. It may be used to bail out the large corporations, and high-risk investors with few significant restrictions and limited oversight, possibly including private equity funds.

The Fed has been buying assets on a frantic scale. It is committed to purchasing corporate debts and even high yield “junk bonds”. This has forestalled the anticipated cascade of bankruptcies in large firms. All of this increases the power corporate monopolies wield in the United States and pushes the eager monopolies to prey on the vulnerable small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat.

What is now needed from Washington is more aggressive oversight of the corporate giants, antitrust enforcement, much stronger financial regulation and the introduction of a more powerful administrative executive. What is now missing is a road map to a more humane program in which SMALL matters.

For the past 47 years I have enormously admired E.F. Schumacher’s book “small is beautiful a study of economics as if people mattered.” He saw the true nature of mankind being distorted by our pursuit of economic growth. He pushed for the break-up of the giant corporations and the introduction of worker representation across the board:

“The economics of gigantism and automation … is totally incapable of solving any of the real problems of today. An entirely new system of thought is needed, a system based on attention to people, and not primarily attention to goods …Industrial development only pays as large projects are invariably more economic than small ones … and capital intensive projects are invariably preferred against labor- intensive ones.”2

As machines do not make the mistakes which people do, the drive is for ever larger units.

If this was true then, how much more obvious this should this be now. Today the global economy is dominated by a few enormously rich financial speculators and investment groups as well as the dozen or so international mega-corporations that are able to manipulate prices and drive competitors from the market.

Over the past two decades of mergers and acquisitions the unaccountable corporations concentrated in the financial, technological and communication sectors have dominated the market to the extent that they are able to manipulate prices, drive out competitors, and corrupt democratic politics. Today in the US the launching of new companies is restricted by the powers of the Big Tech. The small businesses are likely to suffer in the post-pandemic era where there will be fewer low-wage jobs for millions of desperate job seekers.

The coming consolidations through mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances also means fewer jobs: The big swallowing the small. This also means fewer jobs as the enlarged units tend to cut jobs after combination. Because there will be fewer employers to hire or retain workers by the post-plague corporations, the pressure on the economy generally will be to lower wages. Large projects are generally more economic for corporations than multiple small ones. It is also true that giants like Microsoft and Apple have turned through agglomeration into groupings of smaller semi-autonomous units.

In my technology driven alternative, Dollars or Democracy, an economic revolution is led by workers introducing small, independent stakeholder-owned and community-based networks.3 As Schumacher wrote: “People can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small-scale units.”4 Yes. We must conceive and plan our evolution into an overall successful economy with sustainable growth and a more inclusive and equitable base. In sum: A life-serving planetary collective. A place where large and small mix harmoniously.

As John Ruskin cautioned us: ”He who can take no interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great.”5

1David McCabe, “She wants to break up all the giants,” The New York Times, February 13, 2020.

2E.F. Schumacher, small is beautiful, (1973) p.68

3Yorick Blumenfeld, Dollars or Democracy (2004)

4Schumacher, op.cit. p 67

5John Ruskin, Modern Painters, (1846)


As human beings we have a profound need for beliefs which can spur our spiritual awareness. Early in the 20th Century Freud proposed that the genesis of God had been driven by the pressures of our psychological demands and needs. However science, technology, the steady advances of astrophysics and our desires for rationality have overtaken much of the heritage of religions which had been a foundation of our beliefs.

Religion enabled us to resolve many of our fears and nightmares on a cosmic scale and to defy the oblivion which ultimately awaits us. The conceptualization of God some three millennia ago was powerful enough to overcome our fears of the unknown. Among our foremost thinkers in ancient Greece, Aristotle, tried intensely to expand on his belief that: “The Unmoved Mover is spiritual, immobile and eternal.” His profound efforts in no way affected the rise of the God of Judaism, then Christianity and ultimately Islam which attracted billions of believers over the centuries. Jews, Christians and Muslims developed remarkably similar conceptions of God — which also resembled previous constructions of the absolute.1

All our lives have a beginning and an end. We understand and accept the process. This has had an enormous impact on our perception of our existence as human beings. It also drives us to know more about the universe we inhabit although we have no idea how the universe was created and what its eventual end might be. Many now ask: Why should anything exist at all?

As thinking beings, we are desirous of more certainty about the un-definable spirit pervading the infinite of this universe. We try to penetrate the sequence of events surrounding the Big Bang some 13.7 billion light years ago. What kind of activity was behind the blank totality which preceded this moment of the unimaginable? What was there? No time. No space. No light. Perhaps a single nucleus? Probably some form of energy. Are the billions of galaxies, including the one which we inhabit, in the process of eternal expansion or are they ultimately headed towards the Big Crash? For us the fate of this Universe remains being guess-work.

Such deep mystery has engaged many of us and aroused our imaginations. It has led to the creation of God, angels, devils and multiple spirits since before the early days of Babylon. However, as the ancient ideas of God are steadily fading in popularity, our attention has gradually been shifting towards the universe rather than just the Earth we live in.

Religious believers have held that without the idea of God there is no absolute meaning, morality or truth. While existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre moved to describe the desolation caused by the God-shaped hole in our human consciousness, many believers insisted that religion is basically an expression of our inner sense that there is God.

I have long believed that our spiritual awakening could come through a profound shift in consciousness. Cosmic factors such as solar activity, x-rays, photons, and other galactic signals may well have an impact on our mental process. This involves the realization that we have outgrown the dominance of our experiences here on earth. This can be seen and felt by how unreal our world seems to be these days and by our consequent urges to change it.

We should consider that in Gnosis (which is the Greek word for knowledge) light defines our visionary faculty. That is, our very existence was basically made possible by light. According to our 21st Century cosmologists, light only came into being with the cooling of some galaxies a few million years after the Big Bang. Out of the prevalent hydrogen atoms of that time, colliding protons and electrons created electro magnetic radiation in the form of ‘photons‘ or light! Light is now recognized by us as being at the very basis of life on our planet. It has also become a crucial force in the complex operation of our eyes and brains.

There was no light, no space and no time before the Big Bang according to astrophysicists. One observation we can make is that there seems to have been no plan, no direction nor purpose for the billions of galaxies which have been created. They do not appear to us to fill any goal. The galaxies are separate and move apart without any visible conflict or direction. Most of the galactic stars appear to circle around their centered black hole which gradually absorbs them. The uniformity of the universal spread of these distributed galaxies appears to be the very first constraint in observable cosmology. No clusters of galaxies nor groupings have thus far been viewed.2

But why did such an incredible Big Bang take place? Was it an accident? Was it or could it have been intended? Could it have been tried as an enormous experiment? And what about the nature of the incredible masses of “black matter” as well as “black energy” which supposedly make up at least 80% of all the substance of the universe? We have not yet determined its composition.

As humans we can explain that we are composed of trillions of molecules that seem to have an overall purpose and direction: Life. Furthermore, our brains had the power to create an imaginary God to correspond to the earliest learnt sources of purpose and social structure. The projection of some kind of a towering father figure underlined our historic need since tribal days to have a belief in something greater than ourselves.

Yes, even in our capitalist era, spiritual values can soar above the material. The path of spiritual awakening can be broad and overwhelming. Admitting it demands embracing purpose and direction. My philosophic and artistic partner, the sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld, has maintained that “shared beauty can impart a sense of order and elevate the spirit.”3 This is the kind of belief which could be promoted to civilize the 21st Century. The creative arts are our best hope for meaning. I suggest it confirms the powerful vision promoted by Karen Armstrong.

In her extraordinary book, Karen concluded that “human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation; they will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning.” This will require a powerful shift in approach as well as in perception. Karen suggested that “The God of mystics might seem to present a possible alternative. The mystics long insisted that God is not an-Other Being; they have claimed that, as he does not really exist, it is better to call him Nothing.” Historically, mystics such as Sufis and Kabbalists suggested that their ultimate “is to be approached through the imagination and can be seen as a kind of art form, akin to the other great artistic symbols that have expressed the ineffable mystery, beauty and value of life… Mystics have used music, dancing, poetry fiction, stories, painting, sculpture and architecture to express this reality that goes beyond concepts.”4

In such creative beliefs, spiritual truth may be attained not by questioning, logic or rationality but through flashes of intuition, inspiration, insight and revelation, that is, The LIGHT.

Yes, light was the first phenomenon to spread throughout the Universe following the Big Bang and photons should be explored by us as a source of arousal. That’s next.

1Karen Armstrong, A History of God, (1993) p.46

2Jean Heidmann, L’Odyssee Cosmique (translation 1989) pp.18-63

3See images at

4Armstrong op.cit. p.454


In this increasingly disturbed planet there has been a mounting interest not only in the possibility of exploring Mars with robots but even to settle it with humans. Launching people into space has become the obsessive passion of the director of Tesla, Elon Musk. His SpaceX plan is to have a crewed mission going to Mars in this decade and Musk tweets about the opportunities of shipping a million people to Mars in his starships by 2050.

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s “career psychopath” adviser, who has nightmares about the disasters facing us on this planet, would like to avoid “the difficult problems of keeping humans alive for thousands of years on spaceships.” For this reason, Prof Stefan Collini writes that Cummings would like to explore outer space to find somewhere habitable in which humans could escape the destruction of their planet.1

As someone who no longer enjoys long distance global travel in contemporary jets, I find the prospect of weeks cramped in gravitation-free rockets a total nightmare. However, there are increasing numbers of scientists, writers, astronomers, cosmologists and true explorers who dream of even longer travels into our own Milky Way.

I confess I am absolutely staggered when faced with the estimate that this Galaxy holds some 100 billion stars and that this in turn is just one of billions of other galaxies in the universe. This makes our planet seem far smaller than a particle of sand in the Saharan desert. On the other hand, it makes life on other planets more likely. Even in the Milky Way a number of planets could have surface waters and an atmosphere made up of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. The synthesis and compounds of these elements could eventually interact to create primitive lifeforms which could then gradually evolve into more complex and increasingly advanced ones.

There is a widely discussed theory that life on this earth originated when spores, viruses, or even yeasts were dropped intentionally by unmanned rockets from advanced civilizations two or three billion years ago. This presumes that highly intelligent species developed much earlier in our gigantic Milky Way. I do consider global scientific efforts to identify our origins on this planet most worthwhile but extremely challenging.

The Nobel prize winning Swedish chemical physicist, Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927), believed that life did not start on its own on this Earth but was seeded with spores dropped into the atmosphere by unmanned rockets of more advanced civilizations. He called these microorganisms “panspermia” implying “seeds all over.” Forty years ago Francis Crick presented his theory of Directed Panspermia in his book, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (1981)2 which had the impact on readers — like myself — to ask whether we on this earth should try to infect other distant planets in the years to come in the hope of furthering new forms of life.

About four decades ago I had the privilege to talk to Francis at some length at his coastal home in La Jolla, California about his fascination with the use of asteroids, or even artificial ones, as transporters of our DNA lifeforms. Such contaminated deliveries could travel for endless centuries until they landed on some planet where primitive lifeforms, such as seaweeds, might evolve. But even his genius could not imagine any lifeforms that could transmit a record that would indicate human beings like us had once existed.

Crick gave an incisive explanation of why the microscopic organisms called Eukaryotes were the best “living” bacteria to take onboard rockets for eventual distribution on other planets.3 Billions of Eukaryotes could be packed into just a few cubic centimeters. Frozen alive most bacteria would survive until unfrozen for some 10,000 years. A single bacterium of the type that can live without oxygen, such as yeast, dropped into a prebiotic soup could infect an entire ocean of a presumably sterile exoplanet. These bacteria would also have a greater chance of survival than fully formed higher organisms. There were times when Francis made me wonder if our vast universe was truly ready for life.

Even though promoted by one of the greatest scientists, this Panspermia project was never accepted seriously by the “astroscientific” establishment. Distributing “Astrosperms” in our galaxy seemed both highly dubious and expensive. I also wondered whether human beings really wanted to spread such complex microscopic lifeforms as yeasts and viruses to other planets. Would the ultimate results, which would take a billion or more years, differ positively from the life which has evolved on this earth? If humans could be sent, that would be different, but trying to spread life to other galaxies, such as Andromeda which is a million light years away from our own galaxy, seems unimaginable.

At that earlier stage in my life I thought that the creation of more intelligent or cooperative life forms on other planets could be and should be an ultimate mission for us, the inhabitants of this earth. Lately, however, I come to see such an over-ambitious aim as a waste of our human capabilities. I now feel this would turn into an ultimate escape hatch from the challenge of improving our contentious species here on Earth.

I greatly admire the tremendous advances scientists have made during my lifetime in understanding the formation of life on Earth. However, the astronomers, cosmologists and physicists have not made equal advances in understanding the scope of this universe. We now speculate that more than 75% of material in the universe is composed of so-called “dark matter,” about which we know absolutely nothing. Evidence of its material existence is absent. Acknowledging such giant gaps does not help us to understand where this universe is headed or, indeed, whether there is more than one universe. Could there be a quantum universe? Were there any designs or inter-connections between the untold masses of galaxies? Major questions even float around as to where our Milky Way is headed in the billions of light years ahead? Einstein’s explanations of the junction between space and time did not help me. I find it almost impossible to grasp the incredibly large numbers involved when I can hardly acknowledge the fact that a single drop of water holds more than a thousand billion molecules!

Exploring the universe with telescopes on Earth, on the Moon, Mars and outer space is a pursuit that thrills astronomers, cosmologists as well as most curious human beings. After all, continuous search is what makes us human. I am fascinated by what the new giant telescopes are revealing: The Gran Telescopio Canarias has produced images of a galaxy 500 million light years away; The Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas has measured the incredible mass of a giant black hole in a galaxy some 220 million light years away. It was in 2009 using the Kepler space telescope that thousands of exoplanets, many of which were our size, were discovered. Kepler-22b, an exoplanet of our planet size was only 500 light years from our Earth and was orbiting within a possibly habitable distance from its star.4

Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz won the Nobel Prize last year for identifying the existence in 1995 of an exoplanet orbiting “star 51.” This exoplanet was 50 light years away but was orbiting a Sun-like star which in 1995 confirmed that there were other planetary systems similar to our own. However it turned out that this particular exoplanet was uninhabitably hot and the size of Jupiter.

Also admirable is NASA’s impressive exploratory efforts, like “Lisa” which is a Space-based observatory which will try to gather faint signals of gravitational waves in the cosmos. This kind of exploration will ultimately bring ever more insights into our vast universe.

Sweeping the entire sky with giant radio telescopes for signs of extraterrestrial life is becoming intense. The collaboration between VLA (New Mexico’s Very Large Array) and the Seti Institute which is funded by a senior Apple executive, John Giannandrea, will be using a dedicated supercomputer to cover any imaginable signals from Milky Way’s distant technologists. The Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (which also runs the VLA), is Tony Beasley who stated: ”Determining whether we are alone in the universe as technologically capable life is among the most compelling questions in science.”5

If we did receive some signals, besides saying “Hello!” or “SOS” there is little agreement about how we should respond to other Milky-Way “beings.” There is even disagreement whether such contact would be with “aliens” or with possible friends. Unless we ultimately do make contact, nothing of what has happened on our planet will remain. Indeed, over the next few billions of years, nothing will be left of the Moon, Venus, all the planets and the Sun itself. Astrophysics tells us that our Sun is gradually burning itself out and may ultimately explode to close its existence like most other stars.

Which is truly a reason to ask whether any of our concerns about the history or the after life of our planet are of consequence? It would appear that the future of our entire galaxy with all its billions of stars is also doomed. Speculation is that the giant “Black Hole” in the midst of the Milky Way might swallow most of the surrounding stars. There are also cosmologists who speculate that all of the galaxies will gradually disappear as they come together in one gigantic black hole. Then there are astronomers who believe all the galaxies are moving further apart …forever?

Whatever happens and how it happens is now irrelevant for those astounding scientists like Francis Crick, who have speculated in depth on possible ways to preserve our historical significance. The amazing evolution from our microscopic DNA origins billions of years ago to becoming the conquerors and destroyers of this planet is truly fantastic, but as far as we can tell ultimately our short existence will have been totally insignificant. FULL STOP!

1“Inside the mind of Dominic Cummings,” Stefan Olini, The Guardian, February 6, 2020

2Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (1981)

3op.cit. pp.124-128.

4Clarke, Madigan, and Melo, Our Place in the Universe, Bluesci Issue 47, Lent 2020, p.15

5Hannah Devlin, “Is anybody out there?” The Guardian, February 15, 2020


Like most human beings, I like to feel that I have control over things I do, like writing a blog or using my mobile. Over the past two relatively calm decades, my digital days were regular. These came to a totally unexpected end on the 1st of  December 2019. Opening my blog after breakfast, I found  a completely irrelevant commercial at the end of six short paragraphs followed by repetitions after the second six paragraphs: Two pictures of a mother holding a young child promoting “Girl Earns $987 per day. How to get paid without a job. Don’t Miss Out.” Nobody had asked me, consulted me, or even considered the impact this would have on my blog which focused on the challenges of contemporary poetry.

My first impulse was to contact Word on the internet.  Via Firefox I automatically sought to open my Yahoo account and pursue the offenders but: Whoaa!!! Firefox notified me that if I wanted to continue their service, I had simply to press my finger on AGREE which would endorse their new format. I could also press another spot with NOT or, further down, more information regarding the new policy agreement with OTHER. Desirous of more information on this, and reluctant to sign up to dubious agreements, I spent the entire morning reading the new legal provisos blocking my entry not only to Firefox but consequently also to Yahoo and Yahoo’s new American parent company Verizon. The latter with a 16 page draft which told me I could also visit at “Privacy Dashboard” for “Account Deletion Controls”!1 Trying to escape the very similar and in many ways overlapping requests, I tried to open Google and found myself once again blocked with almost identical “protective” choices. UNBELIEVABLE!

Although I have little internet training, I immediately realized that all these groups had come together to protect their financial resources from threatened billion dollar suits by the EU, the US, and other nations. l also noted that there were only minimal clauses to protect the security of the hundreds of millions of their users, such as myself. These groups obviously did not expect people like me would spend hours examining all their provisions. I found this entire process infuriating. My time, understanding (legal and linguistic), the infinite limitations, as well as my own financial security seemed violated. Each wanted my agreement to enter a new relationship which they claimed would not alter anything at all for me.  Incredible, but very much the changed spirit of our times.

I had entered Yahoo some twenty years ago, giving my name, address and date of birth. At most this took two minutes. I felt this was far easier than opening a bank account. There were no questions asked, no demands and no payments required by this modest membership group. Indeed Yahoo thrived with the millions who signed up in the first decade.  Yahoo also changed my life in many positive ways: I was soon writing letters (long emails) to friends across the globe. At no cost, I was also receiving innocent messages from neighbors across the street about the barking of my dog. Generally my Mac screen was free of commercials, political appeals, or intentionally false information. Looking back, this newborn facility was most welcome. Its spirit was truly utopian.

Social demands on me were free. Information on Wikipedia, Google, Yahoo and others flowed smoothly. Indeed, in this era I had no awareness of being watched or spied upon. I had no interest in joining the social media groups like Facebook. Even as Yahoo became vastly more popular, it did not become intrusive. At the beginning of my second decade, I became concerned that changes in its over-ambitious directorate could result in the introduction of advertisements — which I had come to loathe on the radio and television of the United States. I regarded a blank screen, free of propaganda of any kind, a blessing.

Now in December 2019, when talking on the phone to my elder son, Remy, whose career has been in television, I expressed my ire at what was happening and told him I was writing a blog on my revulsion at the tactics of Yahoo, Firefox, Verizon, Google and WordPress. He expressed bewilderment at my extreme reaction. Remy countered that I had known all along that my privacy had been abused not only by malware but also by political groups, advertisers and many — others including informers. True, I certainly had been aware of these invaders for some time and the Cambridge Analytica scandal had awakened me to the extent that users of the internet were now being spooked.

What had so profoundly shocked me now was that suddenly, without any warning, I was faced with an ultimatum by the groups whose services I had been using: Sign this agreement or our services for you will be terminated. Basically all their demands were being driven by threats to their profits — although this was camouflaged by their need to cover privacy issues being introduced by the European Union and new concerns in the US Congress.

I must make it clear that in my very first book, One Viewer, (1959), I strongly criticized how US radio and television had swiftly become dependent on parasitic commercials. On the other hand, I admired and supported the operation of the BBC and select radio news services in the US which operated on a not-for-profit basis. The way commercials polluted the public airwaves in the US aroused my revulsion. When I came to England in 1969 I was much relieved by the calm, non-sales operation of the BBC’s various channels. This has mercifully continued to the present time, but the commercial channels here have multiplied and in many ways are “corrupting” the  air-waves. I find the promotion of material products ranging from underwear to dishwater tablets distracting and ultimately, irritating.

I can understand that Google, Verizon, Yahoo, and Firefox are all deeply concerned about the threats of regulation. Google’s search engine now cranks out more than $10 billion in annual sales and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is the world’s 4th most valuable publicly listed company.2 It is not taxed on its enormous store of data (on you, me and more than 2 billion contacts) which is at the base of its profits. Google wants to retain its control of privacy online as do all the others profiting so profoundly from the internet.

The New York Times in “A guide to protecting your privacy online,” concludes: “You can’t stop all tracking unless you live in a dark cave, but you can fight back.” It argues that we must guard against our increasing inability to distinguish fact from fiction in the media. While, the media are pushing us towards a so-called ”free” superficiality, advertising has become the life blood of the media. However its applications can prove to be a form of leukemia. Tristan Harris, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, points out that “technology has outmatched our brains, diminishing our capacity to address the worlds most pressing challenges.” In his brilliant presentation Harris points out that this is because our brains are not wired for truth-seeking. Information that confirms our outlook makes us feel positive. Info that challenges our beliefs doesn’t. Our attention economy has consequently turned us into a culture maladapted for our survival.3

In One Viewer, sixty years ago, I wrote that television “should activate our common desire for self-improvement, rather than encourage the further acquisition of material possessions. It should not drug us with escapism.” The motivation of the media should be service to the public, not profit. Currently the prevailing accepted concept is that each commercial group is trying to improve its own commercial standing. If the profit motive were not so prevailing, it would be exercising a much more open, social, welcoming approach to the billions of humans than they are presently milking. It is this outcome which has perturbed me profoundly an leads me to protest so loudly against the sudden nasty and joint interjection by the new powerhouse internet corporations with their basically strangling demands. The truth is that I cannot passively accept being DIGITALLY ABUSED.

and why it took half a morning to read the text

1At Verizon “We serve our consumers, partners, advertisers and talent through our portfolio of digital platforms, products and services offered under our AOL, Yahoo and other brands.” Verizon Media works with partners who “may access your device to collect data for ad and content selection, delivery, measurement and personalization. You have the following choices about how these partners use your Data.”

“In some cases, you can review or edit your account information, including your marketing preferences, location data, mobile choices, advertising settings and search history, as well as account deletion controls by visiting Privacy Dashboard.
“Please note that if you withdraw your consent to the use or sharing of your information for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy, you may not  have access to all (or any) of our Services and we might not be able to provide you with all (or any) of the Services under this Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service

We may collect and combine information when you interact with Verizon Media Services

II Verizon Media may use device IDs, cookies and other signals, including information from third parties, to associate accounts and/or devices with you..iii. when you use our services to communicate with others or to post, upload, or store content (such as comments, photos, voice inputs, videos, emails, messaging services and attachments)

V For legal purposes. We may access, preserve and disclose information to investigate, prevent or take action in connection with  (1) legal processes, and legal and governmental agency requests (2) enforcements of the Terms  (3)claims that any content violates the rights of third parties ….(4-8)  This may include responding to lawful governmental requests.

IX a Verizon Media has technical, administrative and physical safeguards in place to help protect against unauthorized access, use, or disclosure of customer information that we collect or store.

c Verizon Media will retain our information only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy , for as long as your Verizon Media account is active or as needed to provide you with the services. If you no longer want Verizon Media to use your information to provide you with the Services, you can close your account and Verizon Media will delete the information it holds about you unless Verizon Media needs to retain and use your information to comply with our legal obligations to resolve disputes or to enforce our agreements.

XI Contractual necessity….“We  can’t provide you with our services without moving your data around the world….

XIII Changes. We may amend or update this Privacy Policy from time to time, so you should check it periodically. If we make changes of a material nature, we will provide you with appropriate notice before such changes take effect.

NB I  have added this compacted selection from the lengthy policy platform offered by Verizon as an example of what all the major groups like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are producing. This might explain to why I spent  such  a long time in trying to contact WordPress.

2 “Search he Result,” The Economist, December 7, 2019,  p.10

3 Tristan Harris, “Our brains are no match for our technology” The New York Times. December 12, 2019, Intl. Edition


Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
— Edgar Allen Poe

On a damp and autumnal afternoon with leaves falling, I remembered how important poetry had been for me years ago and had had such a strong impact on my appreciation of nature and the beauty of the seasons. This led me, after a while, to wonder: What poetry do we have today to counter the spiritual vacuum of our techno-scientific age?

I began to wonder whether contemporary poetry could change us, motivate us, awaken us, or even please us? In ancient Rome poetry addressed such basic questions as how did the earth come to be and what is it made of? For example, Lucretius (99-55 BC) in his epic poem, On the Nature of Things, challenged his Roman readers by focusing on the atom which is at the basis of science. Twenty centuries later, while romantic poets were beginning to write about nature’s wonderful landscapes, Erasmus Darwin, a doctor, wrote The Temple of Nature, a poem presenting a theory of evolution which began with micro-organisms and ended up with Man. This poem also tantalized readers with questions about the possible relationships between earth and stones as well as bees and clover.

Today environmental poetry tends to be more focused on the negative effects of human advances on this consumerist planet. In Earthlines, the American poet Jorie Graham, whom I have much admired, articulates that eco-poetry risks being viewed as moralistic and didactic. Readers feel they “know this information already, so why do they need it in a poem?” The point being that they “know it” but are not “feeling it.” In Jorie’s Sea Change and Place she leads readers to advance “feelingly” into “the deep future — seven to ten generations hence.”

Looking beyond eco-poetry, on Google I searched for more “optimistic poems.” There were a good number but the first I enjoyed was Robert Rittel’s, Melody of the Poet:

The melody of the poet for the soul to please,
with it chords of truth in spoken breeze.

However, most of the “New Optimistic Poetry” did not fill me with confident strokes of insight, hope, or future advances which could move me optimistically. Yes, there were poets struggling to give humanity hope — but primarily through being humorous or sometimes just adventurous. For example, there were few harmonious musical sounds in Dan Hoeweler’s A Binary Love Poem (2018).

Your sensuous 01011001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01110011 01100101 01101110 01110011 01110101 01101111 01110101 01110011 Logic 01001100 01101111 01100111 01101001 01100011 Your bright 01011001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01100010 01110010 01101001 01100111 0110100 01110100 Pixels 0101000001101001 01111000 01100101 01101100 01110011 Light up my 01001100 01101001 01100111 01101000 01110100 00100000 01110101 01110000 00100000 01101101 01111001 00001101 00001010 Heart…

Well, I didn’t follow that poem to the end. Next came the poet G. Lars’ Tubular Times to Decide (2019).

The boob tube
Has morphed into YouTube
A vast wasteland
A potential waste of all your time
Into a depthless trance of misery and crime.

I then searched further in for optimistic approaches to technological advances but found only one which I enjoyed by Poet Dane: Virtually Nothing (2019)

We’re watching each other
with electric, all-seeing eyes,
cameras in our phones, our laptops, homes…
how long before we have them
implanted in our heads?
A third eye?

Oh, where were the superconducting “transmons” I read about in The New York Times mixed in with spooky entanglement where what happens to one qubit affects measurement of the other?

This was bravely advanced in a long poem by Lori Henrique (which I have no permission to quote but which, I hope, will stimulate readers to find and read a full version.)

An abridged version of Heisenberg’s Aha!

An electron looks like a particle
and it also acts like a wave,
and once I began to accept this
that electron began to behave

This is called complementarity
when a concept that seems a disparity
is the very best way we can show
how a set of phenomena go

You can either know where the electron is
or where the electron and uncertainty
both exist, we must agree.
The future’s unpredictable
no matter how well is going —
but you can’t know both at the very same time
’cause the measuring affects what you’re knowing

Quite a few great physicists have turned to poetry to give them a respite from the demands of science. The great James Clerk Maxwell of electro-magnetic fame wrote:

I come from empyrean fires—
From microscopic spaces,
Where molecules with fierce desires,
Shiver in hot embraces.
The atoms clash, the spectra flash,
Projected on the screen,
The double D, magnesian B,
And Thallium’s living green.

The physicist Paul Dirac, when visiting my home years ago, questioned why I had so many poetry books in my library. Dirac had told J Robert Oppenheimer that “The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible.” Oppenheimer, who himself wrote some poetry, said he did so in order to express ideas for which there are no equations: “The deepest thing science and poetry share, perhaps, is the way they can tolerate uncertainty.”

In October 2019 the Lucy Cavendish College staged an event in which they paired eight scientists with eight poets and asked each pair to create a new work based on their academic theme: “Connections.” Then they had to follow with a proviso that “Poems can be of any kind — as long as they relate to research methodologies, outcomes or new research ideas — anything goes! The only stipulation is that it must be ‘connected’ to the theme.” This event was cross-disciplinary in all senses: science meeting art and creative writing. However in science any hypothesis must pass the test of “amenability to disproof,” but poetry never faces such a challenge.

The socio-philosopher Karl Popper once wrote that the poet needs to be in a state of uncertainty, not only working inclusively with ambiguity, but delighting in it. This was true in the case of the eight pairs cooperating in the Connections challenge. However the 8 poems they created have yet to be published. This leaves me wondering how far such an effort could ever go to handle emotions, beauty or the historical social impact of classical poetry? I shall await the results but in the meantime I have started to put together some techno-poetic pieces which I hope might make some of my readers smile. The tech expressions may cause some bewilderment but most are currently used by the science and technology reporters in The New York Times. The advances in their technological fields are so rapid that they have left poetry far behind!



Can the breakthrough electronic advances of G5,
With its post-quantum standards of cryptography, ever jive?
It’s with its Android giggle
Where mega hardware seizures begin to wiggle
That superconducting “transmons” they say
Will challenge quantum supremacy.

2          LOVE

How will binary love continue to slide
When between tech intrusions passionate circuits hide?
Can the yearning bonds of love survive on computers screens
When abrupt current changes disturb erotic dreams?
Overwhelmingly driven by quantum contradictions
Transgressive strip-search technology will push conflictions
With its existential threats to free loving tic-tocs.


Cryptocurrency,  invasive Androids and face scanners
Strangle the moral imagination of the planners
Wearing electrodes with algorithm ability
“Authentic selves” without social mobility
Are crushed by mystic quantum woks
Assisted by high tech and atomic clocks
For we are running out of time,
As time is running out on clucks
When even AI cannot explain the weirdness of quantum states
While operations become exponentially crucial for all dates.

As provocative as these three tech-obsessed efforts might seem, are these not predictive of the wretched times ahead?

Scott Aaronson, “Google’s quantum supremacy milestone,” The New York Times International Edition, November 1, 2019.

NB: I found this one of the most complex introductions to quantum computers that I have ever seen.