Some More Words on Pokemon

Note: This week I published my 500th blog post and I just wanted to think all the people who have read my work and provided support. I originally started this blog to track my cross-country bike ride in 2012, but it has evolved into so much more than that. It has become a diary, a place for me to talk about philosophy and the world around us, and a way to connect with people across the globe. Thank you for making this a wonderful project and putting up with the randomly long gaps in posts. You are wonderful and I love you.

 

It seems that Pokemon is changing the world, at least for now. I wonder if this is how people felt when Atari first came out and people were playing Pong. Sure, it was simple technology that we would hardly define as a real game, but it was the beginning of a revolution. Pong gave us Mario, which gave us NFL Blitz, which gave us World of Warcraft. I think Pokemon Go is similar. Whether it is truly “Augmented Reality” is up for debate, but it is starting to show the mainstream world how our life can be changed and we can move our fantasies out into the real world.

The coming years won’t be all smooth sailing, change is never smooth. There will be tragedies, deaths, and calls for political action to ban it. In fact, there already are people calling for Pokemon to be made illegal. There are people in this world who think the appropriate response is to send armed people after you and put you in a cage if you use this program, and considering many of the users are children I find that especially frightening.

Yes, some people are going to be negligent (they already have) and wreck their car, walk into traffic, or hurt/kill themselves. That always happens. Always. Should we ban cameras because someone might hurt themselves? How about stoves? Or all sports? Should any tool that could feasibly be misused be banned? It is a tragedy when someone dies, particularly to those close to that person, but the answer to tragedy isn’t the restriction of freedom for everyone else. We shouldn’t be trying to protect people from themselves. People should be free to play Pokemon Go, play football, work in coal mines, and climb mountains.

And yes, some people have already started to abuse the system for criminal purposes. But that is true of all technology going back to the first time our ancestors figured out they could use a rock to open a coconut or a stick to knock fruit out of trees. The world isn’t a 100% safe place, and I don’t think it should be. Danger and pain and suffering can be the path to growth and maturity. Besides, any calls for a completely safe world must restrict freedom to a level where we are little more than prisoners being coddled by Big Brother.

But, I don’t think it will get that bad. Technology always moves faster than the state and society, for the most part, is a loving place. This advancement is a move towards a more free and caring society. For too long people have bunkered themselves in their castles to chase the “American Dream” of an isolated existence in the suburbs. Things are changing though, people are getting out and walking to see their neighborhoods and I am excited for how the next generation will view the world and how this technology will shape that.

People are also starting to use Pokemon Go for positive things… which isn’t a surprise, the vast majority of people on this planet are really good and friendly. I’ve read articles about older Pokemon Goers (is that what they are called) setting up in places to protect younger users. Businesses near Pokestops are using the stops as a way to attract new customers and encourage people to buy from local shops. In Portland there is a “Pokemon Pub Crawl” using the app to get people together to meet and hang out. A group in Denver is using a Pokestop to attract customers and the proceeds are being donated to those in need. Animal Shelters are calling on people to volunteer to walk their dogs while playing Pokemon. People in neighborhoods are setting up snack stands at Pokestops to provide nurishment for the players.

Yes, some of those things are illegal, but that’s okay. The laws they break are bad ones and a little civil disobediance is a good thing. We need to remember that the government is not “the will of the people”, it is the opposite. Society and Government are opposing force, the former calls on cooperation and using your words to convince someone to change their actions, the latter calls on coercion and the use of force to change someone’s actions. Pokemon Go is a product that encourages society to grow and is one more small flame being lit against the paper tiger of government. It is one more blow against the state and will (hopefully) lead more people to turn to their neighbors and community for help instead of men with guns and cages.

Pokemon is Agorism… and that is a beautiful thing to me.

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People Rock!

We get warned by people, a lot. People in cities warn us about country folk. People in the country warn us about city folk. Suburban people warn us about everyone outside of their housing development. Violence happens everywhere. Well, except the place where we currently are. Everyone else is violent, but not here, people here are good. It is everyone else who is “crazy*”.

Often, people tell us to carry a gun or a knife or something. We have both of those things, including bear mace, but I’ve loaded the weapon less than 20 times in the last two years and kept it outside of the case even fewer times. Most of those times we were in areas with potentially dangerous wildlife like alligators or bears. The change of an attack is still miniscule, but I still feel more comfortable if I am ready.

I kind of understand everyone’s fear, particularly from people who haven’t spent a lot of time out of their hometowns. If you watch the news there is always someone committing an act of violence “out there”. Even fictional television shows encourage fear. Shows like Law & Order (and their seemingly hundreds of offshoots) come up with a case of rape, murder, and kidnapping every week. These crimes happen somewhere else and seem to reassure the general population that the only safe place is in their homes. Going outside is dangerous. Travelling is dangerous. Every mile you venture outside of your bubble your chances of being a victim is magnified tenfold.

Luckily, none of that has been our real experience. Despite all the warnings we have had an almost universally positive experience with everyone we have encountered. We really only had one personal experience that I would call bad, and it wasn’t a violent one, we were just accused of a crime by some people in North Dakota. Everyone else has been incredibly supportive. People offer us water, shelter, food, money, and weed all the time. When we use websites like Couchsurfing and Warmshowers (which do have varying levels of security) we are invited into stranger’s homes and often left there alone. Hell, the couple we are staying with now gave us a spare key after knowing us for less than three waking hours.

People are generally good. Out of thousands upon thousands of people we have encountered over the last two years of travelling none have gone out of their way to harm us. It would be easy to harm us too. We could be killed by a car on a lone road and nobody would be there to help us. We could have someone try to steal our bikes or equipment and we would be left alone without any support. But that hasn’t happened, we haven’t even felt like it is likely it would happen. Nearly all people on this planet want to go their whole lives without hurting another, cooperation is in our nature.

I do realize that there is an element of privilege in this. Anna and I are two white, relatively young, not completely unattractive, people who have access to showers, razors, and clean clothing. If we were a different race or much older or looked like unemployed transients it is possible that we would be open to more violence or, at the very least, being treated with less kindness. Though, overall, things are getting better. Violence is down. Crime is down. Prosperity is up. Opportunities are up. The improvement is not dispersed equally in the US (and definitely not in the world) but we are getting there, and I think we need to recognize that. Living in fear and seeing fellow humans as “the crazy other” is no way to live.

 

 

* As someone who has seem mental illness and has my own mental demons I hate when people use the word “crazy” when they mean “dangerous”. We could unpack this a lot. People who say this seem to be implying that in order to be violent you must have a mental illness, but that mental illness tends to be the sole problem of everyone else. The person talking is the only sane person in a sea of chaos, that is why we need things like the death penalty, police, the war on drugs, NSA surveillance, appeals to God as the foundation of morality, etc. We need these parental figures for everyone else, but not us. Blargh.

Coming Out

It seems that not a week goes by that a celebrity or someone with status comes out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Transgender individuals, in particular, seem to be all over the media. So, why is that? Are there more LGBT individuals now than there were in the past?

Probably not.

What I think is happening is as our society becomes more comfortable and accepting of people who don’t fit into conservative boxes, more people come out. Whether that is someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationships preference, people no longer feel the need to pretend as much.

Celebrities, being wealthy and surrounded by generally liberal people, are in the best position to come out and provide a safer society for others.They provide an example that it sexuality and gender are not binary, that human sexuality and gender is more complicated than that. I do hope that someday none of this will really matter, that everyone will just be treated as individuals, but we aren’t there yet.

In fact, I think it is important to recognize that we aren’t even close to that point. Yes, it is easier for rich celebrities and, generally white, wealthy people living on the coasts to fully express their gender and sexual orientation, but that isn’t the case for most people. People of color, youth, and individuals who live in conservative areas face very real danger of being discriminated against, assaulted, or even killed because of who they are. Things are getting better, but we have a long way to go.

I expect we will see much more of this, and probably new terminology popping up until the point it is impossible to keep track of what all the identities and orientations mean. And maybe, just maybe, that flood of individuals seeking a word that most accurately describes them will make us realize we should just treat each other as individuals and stop trying to classify each other. We should respect and love each other for being true to ourselves. Instead of people seeing me as Peter (cisgender, heteroerotic, sexually fluid, monogamish) they will simply see me as Peter.

Adulthood

A lot of things floating around the interweb right now has me thinking about adulthood, particularly the way our society transitions from teenager to adult. The current situation with Kesha (I LOVE YOU!), student loan debt, and the elevated divorce rate for young marriages have makes me think we might actually want to postpone when we see humans as full-fledged responsible adults, and I think postponing adulthood is a sign of progress and a good thing.

I’m sure some people see Millennials living at home and uncommitted to careers or family as a bad thing, but I think this is a positive cultural shift. As a society grows wealthier and a species starts to live longer, healthier lives, it is only natural that the periods of childhood lengthen as well. We certainly don’t want to reverse course and go back to the days when 14-year olds were expected to work in factories or fields, and marriages/births were common in the early teens. Hell, if you look at our sci-fi and fantasy books they are often filled with long-living species that consider 100 years old to still be youthful. That is the direction we are heading, and we need the legal system to start catching up to this shift. (Side note: having children is something I don’t think the legal system should get involved with prohibiting, but we do need to increase comprehensive sex education and access to birth control so that humans of all ages can have children when they want. This would involve parental involvement and a shift in our education system, and might be the toughest sell for many people, particularly those in more conservative areas of the country.)

Normally, I wouldn’t advocate legal changes (I am an anarchist, after all), but enforcing contracts is one of the things that our legal system is in charge of. If the legal system starts recognizing that a contract signed at the age of 18 is kind of signed by someone who cannot understand the full ramifications of the contract, then much of the world would be better off. After all, most institutions who sign contracts (banks, the military, etc.) are going to try and maximize profit, and in a system where the government enforces contracts they will pursue contracts with people as young as possible. If a bank knew that the courts would allow high interest rates and garnish the wages of a 14-year who defaulted on their loan then I am sure they would issue loans to 14-year olds.

Now, maximizing profit isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if that profit comes from contracts issued to people who are incapable of understanding or comprehending what they are signing then that is a problem. After all, the “18 is an adult” line that we draw is a social construct, and as a social construct it is malleable. As we continue to understand more about human growth, particularly brain growth, it is becoming clear that our decision making capabilities and cognitive functions are still in high development until years after 18.

I’m not proposing that we just push off all adult responsibilities until 24 or something. That will still be problematic because it will prevent people from moving towards adulthood and getting their lives started. Instead, I think we should treat late teens and early 20s as a period of training for adulthood. Our legal system should put some reasonable limitations on contracts. Maybe those limitations for 18-24 year olds could be something like this:

  • The maximum amount of debt a person can have is $10,000.
  • Business and marriage contracts automatically expire at the age of 24 years old or 4 years after signing, whichever is later.
  • Military enlistment limited to 2 year contracts for the regular military or 4 year contracts for the National Guard/Reserves
  • Unlimited alcohol and weed consumption allowed on private property or with parents. Limited allowed in public places. (Age 18-21)

One of the benefits of a society with advancing technology is our opportunities for more leisure and personal fulfillment at all ages. There is no reason that we must continue education and work patterns that were created during an industrial age, we are now an information age. The economy is increasingly based on information, service, and gigs. We shouldn’t be encouraging people under 24 to spend 12-16 years in school when they may not know what they want to do or what the world needs, then take out loans for homes and an education up to $500,000, then committing to a job for 30ish years that you may hate simply because you are trapped in debt, and hoping that someday your body and mind will still hold up so that you can spend the last decade or so retired and doing what you want. Instead, the time before 24 should be spent exploring places and interests, getting to know yourself and your relationship desires, and finding a lifestyle that you love (or going into a career/education with a better idea of the outcomes).

Our society is shifting, and adulthood is shifting with it. It would be nice if we started to appreciate this progress instead of mumbling about “kids back in my day *grumble* *grumble* *grumble*”

PS: All the numbers I suggest for age, length of contract, maximum dollar amount, etc. are kind of arbitrary and are not meant to be some sort of strict policy suggestion. I am also no legal expert and I have no idea if this type of shift would require legislation or if judges/juries could just start taking into account our social shift and knowledge about human development and start voiding contracts.