How the machines took control
In science fiction stories – be they told in books, movies, or digitally – the machines are required to develop intelligence before they try to take over and threaten humanity.
In reality, the machines of today are doing a good job of killing humans even though they remain, despite their sophistication, largely as dumb as shit,
The problem, it would seem, is not with the machines, but with the humans who employ them. Humans have allowed machines, most notably motor vehicles, to take over their lives, and now humans are paying the price.
Forget the nearly 43,000 people killed in motor vehicle collisions last year, the greatest number since 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Ignore the reports of surging “road rage” deaths and the rise in stress and anger associated with driving.
These are only the 10 percent of an iceberg that shows above the surface when the real issue is with the 90 percent that lurks beneath the surface.
A major meta-analysis scheduled for publication next month in Preventive Medicine Reports reports finding that from January 2020 through April 2022, sedentary Americans – those of the why-walk-when-you-can-drive school – largely bore the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They were far, far more likely to end up seriously ill or dead than the physically active – the minority of people who still walk, hike, cycle and run.
The study found a “dose–response relationship between physical activity (PA) and the risk of severe illness and mortality related to COVID-19” that reduced both severe infections and death in the active, and said the reduction was directly tied to “exercise-based immunity.”
The physically active had a 59 percent lower risk of dying from Covid-19 and a 46 percent lower risk of severe illness, according to the study.
Think about this. As this is written, the Worldometer death tracker reports 1,154,353 Americans dead of Covid-19.
If the latest research is to be believed – and there is no reason to disbelieve it because it tracks well with a lot of other research now emerging on the link between physical fitness, natural immunity and health – 681,068 of them could still be alive if only they hadn’t sold out to the ease and convenience of the machines.
It’s a lot about driving
In one way or another, motor vehicles are implicated in the deaths of a lot of people, but it’s not really the fault of the machines.
They didn’t plot this out. They didn’t scheme to kill humans. Humans did this to themselves.
We can blame politicians and the huge bureaucracy created to make it ever easier and faster to get around in motor vehicles. We can blame urban planners who zoned shops, restaurants and bars out of neighborhoods. We can blame our natural yearning for comfort.
Mainly, though, we can blame human ignorance in long overlooking the way the species evolved over the past 315,000 years, and then human sloth in refusing to do anything when the evidence began to pile up to show that for our species exercise is a form of medicine.
Humans did not evolve to sit around. Humans evolved to move. When they sit around too much they start to rust like machinery left sitting out in the weather.
“Whereas great strides have been made in reducing the environmental factors influencing disease, such as through vaccinations, hygiene and safety regulations, little has been done to target behavioral factors such as physical inactivity,” Dr. Robert Sallis, a former president of the American College of Sports Medicine wrote in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2009.
“It is tragic that so little has been done to address the one major factor affecting our health and longevity that is almost entirely under our control. At this point in time, I believe physical inactivity has become the greatest public health problem of our time and finding a way to get patients more active is absolutely critical to improving health and longevity in the 21st century.”
Fourteen years later, we have Dr. James Sawalla Guseh and Dr.Jose F. Figueroa lamenting in JAMA (formerly the Journal of the American Medical Association) that if Americans could be convinced to “achieve at least 8,000 steps in just one or two days per week,” they would be healthier and live substantially longer.
“In an era where physical inactivity is a widespread epidemic, new and simpler approaches to physical activity guidance, such as step-based goals, may be more attractive and motivating for the public,” they wrote.
Eight thousand steps is around the equivalent of walking three and half to four miles depending on your stride length.
These days, the Mayo Clinic estimates “the average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles.”
How many steps Americans were taking on a daily basis before the automobile took over their lives is hard to determine because the Fitbit and other step-counting “smart watches” didn’t come into existence until the 21st century.
Doing the old locomotion
But the Amish people still live largely without automobiles, and a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Community Health in 2012 documented them walking an average of nearly 11,500 steps per day.
Not 11,500 on a couple of days per week, but 11,500 on a daily basis. Or somewhere close to as many steps in two days – 23,000 – as the average American takes in a week – 21,000 to 28,000.
“(The) higher levels of physical activity warrants further investigation as one factor potentially contributing to lower cancer incidence rates documented among the Amish,” the researchers added.
An 8,000-step-day, just once or twice per week, is now being talked about because of a peer-reviewed study newly published in JAMA that reported that people taking 8,000 steps one or two days per week have a significantly greater chance of being alive 10 years from now than those who don’t.
The study looked only at all-cause and cardiovascular-disease (CVD) mortality and not Covid-19 mortality, which appears to be even more influenced by fitness than CVD, which remains the nation’s number one killer.
Cancer is number two, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with Covid-19 number three and declining, apparently due to the SARS-CoV-2 evolving into a less virulent form of its original self, vaccines that help reduce severe illness if not the chance of getting infected, and better anti-viral drugs to aid those who do get infected.
There is no sign it is due to Americans getting any fitter. A March 20 “research letter” published in JAMA reported that the “All of Us Research Program” that in 2018 began tracking a group of people who wear their FitBits at least 10 days per month found the pandemic had them walking even less – not more.
“We found a statistically significant decline in daily step counts that persisted even after most COVID-19-related restrictions were relaxed, suggesting COVID-19 affected long-term behavioral choices,” it was reported. “Currently, it is unknown whether this reduction is steps is clinically meaningful over time…(but) our prior work in the AOU cohort suggests that modestly lower step counts over a long period could have a substantial contribution to long-term disease risk.”
The study didn’t say whether the participants noticed their decline in exercise, but it’s likely they didn’t.
This is what happens when machines come to rule our lives even though we don’t think about them. Many, if not most, Americans now engage in little to no daily exercise because they don’t need to do so given they can use some sort of motorized transportation to move them almost anywhere.
And the focus in the personal lives of most of them is not on getting fit but on getting to the next place they have to be as fast as they can in a motor vehicle.
If you doubt what the machines have done to us, go back and watch this video of pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages and early automobiles sharing the streets of Chicago 100 years ago in a way that would today result in absolute, total carnage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UBX3YGXf8k
City speed limits then were generally 20mph with speeds reduce to 10 mph in school zones. School zone speeds have now doubled to 20 and are often ignored by drivers who feel anything under 30 mph is painfully slow.
Admittedly, none of this is particuarly new news.
The relationship between exercise and health has long been known.
Researchers involved with the famed and now 75-year-old Framingham Heart Study recognized early on that “greater routine physical activity (PA) is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk and improved longevity,” as a 2021 recounting in the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal put it.
“PA promotes cardiovascular health partly through positive effects on clinical CVD risk factors (e.g. weight, blood pressure, dysglycemia, and blood cholesterol). However, the physiological and metabolic benefits of PA extend beyond its impact on standard risk factors with favorable effects on multiple organ systems including the heart and vasculature, brain, muscle, bones, and kidneys.”
Unfortunately, much of the American medical industry, which has become highly profitable by selling services rather than health, couldn’t care less.
The history of CVD in the U.S. tracks nicely with the rise of the automobile, the machine that radically altered the way in which Americans moved about.
“Coronary heart disease rose from relative obscurity in the late 19th century to take a devastating toll in the 20th,” Dr. David Jones and Jeremey Greene observed in the American Journal of Public Health in 2013. “By 1960 it killed one-third of all Americans, striking down men – most visibly – from every rank of society.”
The Framingham Study did help identify risk factors for CVD and American doctors, doing what they do best in handing out medicines, helped to drive down CVD deaths starting in the 1970s.
Heart disease deaths declined steadily from then until 2020, but have again began to climb upward, according to the American Heart Association.
And there are fears of a big rise in U.S. CVD deaths because of the country’s failure to promote among its rapidly aging population the behaviors that lead to “healthy aging without heart disease,” as in Japan, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
“We…need strategies that promote ideal cardiovascular health beginning in childhood, so that we can ensure healthy aging for all,” Dr. George A. Mensah, director of the Institute’s Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science says.
We’re not doing that now because the machines have made good parts of the nation unsafe for children.
Some urban neighborhoods are now found littered with signs pleading “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” in areas where 20 mph speed limits still exist, and people largely ingore the pleas.
Among the “real customer reviews” on a webpage for one company selling such signs, NB from Oregon writes, “Eyecatching but speeders don’t care. My street is a long straightaway and the residents at the end treat it like a raceway.”
Such behaviors are common and help feed a downward cycle of physical activity or an upward cycle of physical inactivity depending on how you want to look at it.
People in many places are afraid to get around in any way other than in a motor vehicle because they feel naked and exposed without that steel cage.
Some older Americans can remember when kids regularly played in the streets because it was safe to play in the streets. Nobody got run down because drivers weren’t in the hurry then that they are now.
Overtime, though, the machines changed that. The machines managed to convince people that if they didn’t get somewhere as fast as possible their precious time was being wasted.
Because of the danger this creates, the percentage of kids walking or biking to school fell from 48 percent in 1969, according to the website of SafeRoutesInfo.org, to 11 percent today, according to researchers from the Rutgers and Arizona State universities, who found that children who aren’t taught to get around on their own power at young ages tend to remain inactivity throughout their lives.
And we’re already at the point where “most kids don’t achieve the 60 minutes per day of physical activity that they’re recommended to get,” as Robin DeWeese, the lead author on that study observed. “Active commuting to school is one way to get more of that activity.”
But don’t expect drivers, schooled as they are by the machines, to go along with this. Public officials in the United Kingdom have been creating what they call “low traffic neighborhoods” (LTNs) to encourage walking and cycling and the blowback from motorists has been loud and aggressive.
“Britain’s LTN blackspots: Map reveals extent of road blocks across the country as locals set them on fire, vandalise and remove them in revolt – how many are in your area?” the Daily Mail headlined this week.
“…Vigilantes in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, last week torched a number of planters which were used to close roads just hours after they were installed,” the newspaper reported.
‘Footage shows the boxes completely destroyed, with locals online praising the ‘freedom fighters’ for acting against the low-traffic measures.”
The sense of entitlement spawned by the machines runs so deep that motorists don’t even recognize it as a sense of entitlement. They view driving as a right that comes with attainment of a certain age.
This is a widely held view in most of the civilized world which help explans how former South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg got off with a $1,000 fine after hitting a flashlight-carrying man on the shoulder of one of that state’s highways and leaving him to die on fall evening in 2022.
Some politicians in The Mount Rushmore State subsequently critized the sentence as too lenient, but an investigation by South Dakota Public Broadcasting concluded that “the attorney general did not receive lighter charges or punishment than other South Dakota drivers involved in comparable fatal accidents.”
Reporters discovered that unless a driver was drunk when a pedestrian was struck and killed, the driver got a slap on the wrist – if that.
Of 31 drivers charged with bad driving resulting in pedestrians behing struck and killed from 2016 through 2020, they reported, “none…served jail or prison time, and none paid a fine close to the
$1,000 imposed on the attorney general. None of them, including Ravnsborg, appear to have been arrested at the scene.”
Ravnsborg’s defense was that he thought he hit a deer. Others have used the same defense in which cases the bad driving is written off as an “accident.”
But even lamer excuses will work.
When a trucker “hit and killed a man using a wheelchair in a
crosswalk during the daytime, the driver was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian, which is a petty offense,” the South Dakota news organization reported.
“The prosecutor told SDPB he didn’t file a more serious charge because the trucker couldn’t see the pedestrian due to the height of his semi and an adjacent vehicle obstructing the view.”
Such decisions are not uncommon. The machines seem to have taught prosecutors and judges that there should be no expection of a need for driver to slow down and proceed cautiously when they can’t see what is in front of them.
This behavior on the part of the legal system make it easy to understand why the deaths of so-called “vulnerable road users” – pedestrians and cyclists – are on the upswing and why parents are now warned to keep their children away from roadways.
“Make some family rules about safe play, talk about them with your children and then stick to them – every time they are using bikes, trikes or scooters,” the Child Safety Hub warns. “It is important to reinforce these road safety messages:
- “Always play in the backyard
- “Don’t play in the driveway
- “Never follow your ball onto the road”
What kind of societies put the onus on children to protect themselves from the machines instead of demading the machine operators behave responsibly?
Well, how about societies in which the machines have so co-opted the political system that the main worry is about the operators of the machines and not the victims of the misuse of the machines.
The many ways in which the machines are now killing Americans sort of makes a joke of those “click-it-or-ticket” operations, the supposed lifesaving programs on which state and federal bureaucracies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars since the year 2000.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the program saves approximately 15,000 lives per year.
Who knows how many lives could have been saved if the message to Americans during the summer of 2020 had been to get out of their vehicles and start getting fit.
How about if instead of ordering Americans to wear masks, the government had instead taxed gasoline to the tune of a couple dollars per gallon to both raise money to pay for pandemic programs and encourage American to drive less?
By the time the third wave of the pandemic began in the late fall of 2020, researchers in the UK had already established that lack of fitness was a major contributor to the deaths of those infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The risk to the unfit was obvious to those researchers in June and publicly reported at MedRxiv in July.
The third wave of the pandemic began in the late November, and before it was over in the spring of 2021, Pew Research estimates 370,000 people had died – approximately 165,000 more than the 205,000 dead in the first two waves combined.
If even a third of those people – say 120,000 – had improved their fitness to a point that elevated them into the 59 percent protected from Covid death by simply being fit, almost 71,000 lives could have been saved.
That’s nearly five times as many as are claimed to be saved by Click-it-or-Ticket in a given year, but no no one ever bothered to clearly explain to Americans what they could do, other than wear a mask which was of negligible value, to significantly reduce their odds of death from Covid-19
If anything, the American government sent the exact opposite message by in 2021 dictacted that Navy Seals, among the fittest people in the country, get vaccinated or face discharges.
The age of the SEALs already put them in a low-risk group. As of this date, according to the CDC, fewer that 17,200 American males under the age of 40 have died from Covid-19.
Suicide deaths for males under 40 is close to that number every year, according to the CDC data. Given only that, and disregarding fitness, the SEALS were at greater risk for suicide than Covid-19.
The authorities could have used the SEALS as a teaching moment by dropping the order they get vaccinated and explaining that the decision had been made because of their high fitness levels and the fact one of the best protections – maybe the best protection – against Covid-19 is fitenss.
But no American politician – right or left – is going to tell Americans they need to get up of their butts and move to stay healthy. Not in a society where machine-spawned “motonormativity” now governs.
It’s a lot easier to make promises of “better health care,” ie. more hospitals and more medicine, and vaccines for everything, than to oppose the all-conquering machines.
The machines clearly are winning here; they have arrived at the point where they can kill us without even needing to think. They don’t need a science-fiction scenario to do us in.
Categories: Commentary, News, Politics
Fermi paradox explained. We do not see any alien civilizations in the universe because all intelligent life destroys itself. Or in other words as technology advances the power available to a single individual grows such that a single individual can destroy it’s entire species. C’est la vie.
I once read that car wrecks killed more draft age men during Vietnam than the Vietnam War. The 1960’s and early 1970’s were at the height of the Muscle Car Era and young, testosterone fueled, men were eager to put these cares through their paces. Coupled with alcohol, fast cars were a deadly combination.