Dico Lucidas - Taceo Nubilas

Wisdom is the sunlight of the soul

The Future

As Carl Gustav Jung observed more than eighty years ago, the only real danger that exists is the man himself, and we know nothing of man. It is pitiful how little we know about the man. For one, we are the origin of all common evil and could very well be sleepwalking into oblivion

I am most concerned for my grandchildren about the time we live in, although, without doubt, a time, with the greatest opportunities for mankind, because of communication. However, where most of us assume the future will more or less resemble the present, I know this is not necessarily so. In a long and eventful life, I have witnessed several periods and times of disequilibrium, and we are living in such a period today. Nevertheless, like Steven Pinker, the experimental psychologist recently wrote; “Progress is a historical fact. The numbers show that over the past seven decades humans have become (on average) longer-lived, healthier, safer, richer, freer, fairer, happier and smarter, not just in the west but worldwide. Progress is not, however, a natural force. The laws of the universe are indifferent to our wellbeing, with vastly more things that can go wrong than go right.” In fact, everyone should read Steven Pinker, a great thinker (https://stevenpinker.com/biocv).

Another important expert is Philip E. Tetlock, his book together with Dan Garner Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, could be one of the most important books since Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. 

It is not that I have become a cynic, I am a realist, the revelations of a catastrophic collapse in insect populations, jeopardising all terrestrial life, is another serious warning. Just read the new report from WWF, that two-third of all wild animals has perish in the last 50 years.

The natural world is in a “desperate” state, with global wildlife populations “in freefall” due to the impact of humans, according to one of the world’s most comprehensive examinations of biodiversity on our planet.

Wildlife charity WWF has said populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have collapsed by an extraordinary 68 per cent on average globally since 1970 – more than two thirds in less than 50 years.

The charity’s Living Planet Report 2020 paints a startlingly bleak picture of the rapid damage being wrought on Earth by modern civilisation, warning “nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before, and this catastrophic decline is showing no signs of slowing.”

The escalating disasters of climate breakdown and soil loss. The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is approaching a level not seen in 15m years and perhaps never previously experienced by a hominoid, according to the authors of a study.

At pre-lockdown rates of increase, within five years atmospheric CO2 will pass 427 parts per million, which was the probable peak of the mid-Pliocene warming period 3.3m years ago when temperatures were 3C to 4C hotter, and sea levels were 20 metres higher than today.

I have always been an optimist, and believe in humans ability to overcome even the worst, however, I get up and you read 12-16 articles about the end of the world, with all the ugly inequity and corruption, and then I am supposed to go into my studio and paint or go for a long walk with our dogs enjoying another beautiful day here in Madeira. Perhaps the wisdom of these months, with all the misery, not just the pandemic,  is in understanding the value of now, and the luxury of contemplating tomorrow. It’s OK to call off the day. “Why not give that to yourself?”

Humanity stands at a precipice

The moral philosopher Toby Ord set out in The Guardian his new book, The Precipice; we are much less adept at anticipating potential catastrophes that have no precedent in living memory. “Even when experts estimate a significant probability for an unprecedented event,” he writes, “we have great difficulty believing it until we see it. ”Our species could survive for millions of generations — enough time to end disease, poverty, and injustice; to reach new heights of flourishing. But this vast future is at risk. With the advent of nuclear weapons, humanity entered a new age, gaining the power to destroy ourselves without the wisdom to ensure we won’t. Since then, these dangers have only multiplied, from climate change to engineered pandemics and unaligned artificial intelligence. If we do not act fast to reach a place of safety, it may soon be too late.

Politic has become corrupt (it has always been)

The widespread sense that politics has become so corrupted that it can no longer respond to ordinary people’s needs and wishes, has provoked a demagogic backlash that in some countries begins to slide into fascism, already seen in many countries, Philippines, Turkey, Hungary, and Brazil.  Despite years of revelations about fake news, front groups, and micro-targeted ads on social media, it has been left to carry on and nothing has changed. All government and nearly all politicians are corrupt, lies, and produce fake news.

People do crazy things, I witnessed it first in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution, setting the country back to the middle ages, later we now have witnessed Brexit, where Bank of England’s economists has estimated the cost of Brexit to the British economy is running at £40bn a year, 4 years ago, no one would have predicted such waste and loss for nothing.

When I grew up, we believed that doctors and nurses “had a call” to serve mankind, I soon learned that this for most was totally untrue. Recently, one of my sons told me that he had never seen so much greed for money as he has seen among many doctors in Sweden, and he should know. I recall when we lived in Harley Street, our neighbour was a doctor occupying a 5 story house. His beautiful wife used to go up and down Harley Street, looking for people driving in large chauffeured cars. She was trying to (re) direct them to her husband’s practice. I told him that he should have a display window, showing the best offer of the month for a new kidney or a plastic surgery operation.

An American friend of mine, Woody Brock, already years ago said to me, God help you if you are really wealthy and ill in the USA, they are an object for maximum exploitation. Yes, we are often kept as a ransom of many professions.

Although I advised most of the executive board of Beecham (now part of SmithKline Beecham Pharma), back in the late sixties to early seventies, as to their personal financial and estate planning, I never really got close to their business and indeed their pharma.

I see now how the pharma industry works, having observed for years Glaxo making billions on a drug against stomach ulcers when it could be treated with just anti-antibiotic.

We have witnessed so many times in the last thousand years how a whole dynasty has been created on others’ misery, sufferings, and deaths. Recently, the Sackler family.

The Sackler family, a sprawling and now feuding transatlantic dynasty, is famous in cultural and academic circles for decades of generous philanthropy towards some of the world’s leading institutions, from Yale University to the Guggenheim Museum in the US and the Serpentine Gallery to the Royal Academy in Britain. But what’s less well known, though increasingly being exposed, is that much of their wealth comes from one product – OxyContin, the blockbuster prescription painkiller first launched in 1996. I still recall the discussion at the Royal Academy of Art, none considered where the money came from. To me there is no difference between this family and some Mexican and Colombian drug lords; the only thing is perception.

This pill is stronger than morphine and sparked the opioid crisis that’s now more than 100 people a day in America die and has spawned millions of addicts. It is estimated that the opioid crisis has caused more than two hundred thousand Americans died from overdoses related to OxyContin. There are many lawsuits alleging ongoing deception about the safety of OxyContin, which the company had previously misbranding in a 2007 criminal case. Everyone should read the New Yorker’s magazine’s article  The Family that Built an Empire on Pain.

Prosecutors believed Purdue was implicated in mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Yet the firm got a slap on the wrist read the latest: Why did the US justice department let Purdue off the hook for the opioid crisis?

Now coronavirus looks to be undoing the advances made against a drug epidemic that has claimed close to 600,000 lives in the US over the past two decades. Worse, it is also laying the ground for a long-term resurgence of addiction by exacerbating many of the conditions, including unemployment, low incomes, and isolation, that contributed to the rise of the opioid epidemic and “deaths of despair”.

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