Author Archives: James R. Mitchener

About James R. Mitchener

I was born in Milton Keynes, England, but have jumped all over the world my entire life, living in America, Hong Kong, Singapore, and France, spending multiple stints in Hong Kong and America. Now, I'm a Content Developer, a Consultant, an SEO specialist, an Author, a TCK Public Speaker, and an inhabitant of Raleigh, North Carolina. This is not my home, but for now, it's where I live. Who knows how long I'll stay here, but it won't be forever. I'm James R. Mitchener, and I'm a Third Culture Kid. Connect with me on Google

The Human Quest for Knowledge

The exponential growth of human knowledge is going to be a REALLY big problem for our ongoing survival as a species.

Most people look at the rapid advancement of human knowledge and think nothing about it. For many, it’s hard to even remember what life was like before we had a smart phone, yet alone how far we’ve come since the discovery of the double helix in DNA. For many, knowledge, technological development, and the advancement of our understanding of the universe is just something that’s happening to other people.

And that is terrifying.

We are expanding our pool of knowledge to such a massive degree that we are crossing into that point where within the next couple of generations, our collective species-wide knowledge will have advanced so much that our children will make our existing knowledge obsolete before they even graduate high school. With so much new information entering the world at such an alarming rate, it really shouldn’t be surprising that our kids will be smarter in a period of 18 years than we were after 45-60 years of knowledge acquisition.

But how does this pose a problem? Technology and knowledge are great, right? They result in amazing things, like fully electric cars, wearable technology, the first instance of curing AIDs in a child! True. But they also led us to developing the nuclear bomb. They led us to chemical warfare. Germ warfare. They created tanks and planes and bullets and shrapnel.

Knowledge is a powerful thing, and humans are unpredictable creatures.

It’s not the knowledge that causes the problem. It’s us. Humanity as a whole has proven to be a very dangerous species. We fight wars at the expense of human life constantly, wars over insubstantial things, the most common of which in our history has been over religion or territory. Quite often both.

With the invention of the nuclear bomb, humanity was presented with its first chance to destroy itself. Mutually assured destruction has become the catalyst of protection. Our fear of wiping out ourselves is so great that, so far, we have agreed to not use the power that we possess. However, not everyone has that power. Not all countries possess those weapons. And not everyone is as terrified of death as others.

But if you think of how our species is evolving, if you truly sit back and watch the progress we are making as an entire global community on advancing our collective knowledge, we are generations away from discovering something so much more powerful than we could have ever imagined. The beauty of a nuclear bomb is that it isn’t easy to make. It takes a long time, with a lot of specialized resources, with a lot of very intelligent people, doing a lot of very specific things. The process is challenging. Enriching military grade uranium is really damn hard. Lucky for us.

Things won’t always be that difficult though. As we progress our knowledge, we also progress our understanding of ourselves, both our strengths and our weaknesses. One day, through genetic manipulation, self-replicating nano technology, or something beyond our current understanding, we are going to develop a technology that could effectively wipe out our species in a matter of minutes, and it will be so simple that our grand children will be able to create it in their middle school chemistry lab.

We’re talking about the human delete button.

And this, unfortunately, is where things become problematic for our species. When (and notice I did not say “if,” because humanity does not deal in ifs it seems, only whens) we reach that point that the understanding of the building blocks of our species are so fundamentally understood that children are experimenting with genetic manipulation in middle school science labs, every single person is going to possess incredible power. Every child will know, on a fundamental level, how to rewrite the genetic code of our species, know how to spread it, and know how essentially wipe our entire species off the planet. With that kind of knowledge, you have to ask yourself: Are we ready?

If we had that power now, would we be ready for it? I think it’s fairly easy to argue that we are not. Right now, we are caught up in a struggle between new knowledge and old beliefs. People cling to ancient teachings of archaic creation, and as more evidence is compiled in contradiction of those beliefs, the number of radical and/or militant believers increases.

As those numbers go up alongside our quest for knowledge, we are approaching the point where someone who does not believe in the vitality of the here and now will have the power to make a point. And that point could very easily destroy our entire species.

Of course, at the same time, this is our evolutionary next step. We have to decide as a species if we are fit to survive with the knowledge that we have. Maybe we are. Maybe we aren’t. It’s all just natural selection, in the end.

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James R. Mitchener

Post by: James R. Mitchener

Arrested Development Has Achieved its Title

Well, the long anticipated wait for Arrested Development Season Four has finally come and gone! After seven years of patiently waiting, firmly believing the show was dead and buried, after false claim after false claim that it was coming back, after disappointment after disappointment and rewatching the same three seasons over and over, never seeming to get bored of the ingeniously crafted comedy that left you still discovering jokes 30 or 40 times through the series, the show has finally returned!

And with its arrival, the die-hard fans were greeted with their biggest disappointment of all: The show they loved was never brought back at all. In one of the greatest bait-and-switches in television history, in walked 15 episodes of a completely new show with familiar characters that seemed to have no relation to its glorious predecessor from seven years prior.

I know what you’re thinking: “But how? How could this have even happened? The show was so beautifully done, with such a fantastic cast, all of whom were present again in the continuation brought to us by Netflix! It doesn’t even seem possible that such a shortfall could have taken place with a team of comedians as symbiotic as the cast of Arrested Development!”

And you know what, you’re absolutely right. And it’s for every single reason that you believe it could never have failed that the entire attempt has fallen flat on its face.

It’s to be expected, with such a sizable gap in the story line, that there needs to be a catch-up period to bring us all up to speed. I mean, George Michael isn’t exactly the innocent little high school student he once was, so we’re going to need a little time-leap here to explain away the sudden changes in all the characters physical features. But it wasn’t the leap in time that broke it all down. It was the complete disconnect of the characters throughout their past seven years instead.

See, the reason Arrested development worked so well was because of the sympathetic nature of Michael towards a family that deserved no sympathy, one that always seemed at odds and yet coexisted in the same model home fighting to repair a company they all seemed so set on destroying. It was this endless struggle where one character tries to keep his relationship with his son strong while saving his family’s company that is being ripped apart by that same family at every turn that made seasons one through three of Arrested Development so beautiful.

Now, however, Michael doesn’t work for the Bluth company. He spends almost no time with his family at all. He owes money to Lucile 2, a wonderful support character from the first three seasons who now feels as though she has more air time in Season Four than the rest of the Bluth family combined. He doesn’t seem to care about George Michael, but instead is completely self involved. GOB plays an inconsequential role with Michael where he tries to sell houses. Buster is almost non-existent. Tobias and Lindsay have their own stories completely independent of everyone else, and I don’t think they ever even see Maeby. George Sr. and Oscar switch character roles entirely, and after my first watch-through, that either went unexplained or was so incredibly uninteresting I missed it entirely. Lucile is hardly the mastermind she once was, and it seems everyone just owes money to someone and doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.

The development, or lack there of, of each character was worsened by strengthening their disconnect from each-other by breaking each episode into a focus on a single character, a strategy that you’d think would have raised a red flag when the idiot brainstorming presented the idea, because the only way I can see that conversation going is like this: “Look, people love the characters in this show because of how well they work together to form jokes that build for seasons on end, right? So how about this–how about instead of bringing them together, we keep them apart so they are forced to rely on the jokes of the past instead of building deeper and more intricate relationships?” So, off Netflix went creating individual character episodes, ones that were so poorly pieced together that scenes were filmed on obvious green screens just to get two actors who obviously weren’t feeding off each other (the core of the original Arrested Development’s incredible humour being the actors abilities to feed off each other’s energy while performing), but instead acting into an abyss with no heart or soul.

Without providing any spoilers that would ruin the mentally exhausting experience of watching Season Four for those that didn’t power through it like I did, here’s the most upsetting part of all: Every problem here could be fixed next season if everything was built up to bringing the family back together again. And for a brief moment, it looks like that’s what’s happening. One by one, people reappear in the model home and cross paths for just a moment, and it looks like by the end of the season, everyone will be back together again to create something magical in Season Five. But instead, as the credits come dangerously close to absorbing the screen at the end of Season Four, it becomes apparent that Netflix may have let us down entirely by providing no opportunity to bring it all to a close. And sure enough, as the last seconds roll by, we are not provided with the family reunion we waited seven years for and watched 15 episodes of catch-up explanations regarding. Instead, we are left with a punch in the face.

So, I leave you, the excited Arrested Development fan, with this: I’m sorry. But you’re not going to like what you’re about to see. And unfortunately, by the time it’s all over, it’s too late to pull a GOB and slip yourself a roofie in a desperate attempt to make it all go away so you can go back to pretending Season Three was where your beloved show met its end.

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JM-003-72-condensed

Post by: James R. Mitchener

That Wasn’t a Debate, People!

Last night, I watched the Presidential debates between President Obama and Governor Romney. This is my first presidential election as an American citizen, so I felt oddly connected to the experience. I remember watching both of the last two presidential debates, so I was pretty excited to watch a debate between two intelligent figures with extremely powerful public presence. If I’m completely honest, I went into watching this debate without the slightest clue who I was going to vote for. I wanted to see how this played out, how confident each of them were in handling the issues presented to them by Jim Lehrer. After all, this was a Political Debate, which is always one of the most interesting to watch in my opinion.

So, there I sat, watching the debate and squinting my eyes trying to wrap my mind around what was happening before me. And then it ended, and I was frustrated and annoyed and generally unimpressed. But I brushed it off as a waste of an hour and a half in which no one told me a single thing about anything important and pretended I just got done watching a poor campaign advertisement for both candidates instead of something that confronted legitimate issues. That was all well-and-good until this morning rolled around and my twitter feed pushed article after article in my direction about how Governor Romney “dominated the debate, having an excellent stage presence and addressing Obama with direct questions that Obama failed to respond to while seeming disinterested and uninspired.”

And then my blood really began to boil. But not for why you’d think. See, I agree with part of that statement. Obama was certainly under-prepared  There were issues presented by Jim Lehrer that the President fumbled with and failed to answer with an even mildly appropriate degree. And that’s well and good to attack the President for. In fact, he should be attacked for that! How you show up to a Presidential debate without any knowledge of what type of questions are going to be asked is astounding to me. But there it is. He did terrible.

The rest of that statement, however, is insulting. It’s perpetuating this idea that Romney was amazing because he confronted Obama with issues the President couldn’t handle, that Romney was excited, active, personally engaging, and always on the attack instead of the defensive.

So now I feel as though I need to explain something to everyone, because most of you are probably reading that and thinking “yea, so what?” or “I don’t think that’s true at all.” Either way, you’re wrong. That’s not the issue here, and that’s not the point. The point is simple:

What we watched was a complete insult to the debate system in which we put two candidates together and force them to address issues that are relevant to the general public in a neutral forum. That was not a debate, and to say that there was a winner in that bickering match is insulting and degrading. What you should be saying is “I demand a real debate!” And why wasn’t there a debate? Because apparently, Governor Romney is so wrapped up in his “I can do a better job than that guy!” campaign drive that he never bothered to jump on Google and look up the proper etiquette for a debate, something President Obama seemed completely aware of and yet he was chastised for his adherence to the rules… well, his adherence for a little while at least.

So, for those of you that don’t know, let me explain how this works:

There are three people in a presidential debate. Candidate Blue, Candidate Red, and The Purple Moderator. They are set up like this:

Now, notice how they’re standing and who they’re facing. The candidates are tilted towards the moderator, not each other  The moderator can easily turn and face either of the candidates, but the candidates have to blatantly turn to face each other  This is intentional.

So, we have a coin toss to decide who gets to go first on the first question. Lucky Candidate Blue gets to go first. So, off goes Purple, asking a question.

Blue gets 2 minutes to respond to the question. Now, Blue is addressing the moderator. This is how a debate works. Red can look at Blue, watch his actions and behaviors, but Blue is talking Purple because Purple is the one asking the questions. Purple represents us as a people, so Blue is supposed to be talking to us. So off goes Blue responding, and he talks about his issues and why it’s important for his campaign. He talks about himself in reference to the question at hand.

2 minutes is up, but Blue has so much to say that he just won’t shut up. But he doesn’t get to dot hat, so Purple says “That’s enough, Blue! You’ve had your time!” and kills the debate. Shame, Blue. You knew you only had 2 minutes. This is your fault.

Now, Purple grants Red 60 seconds to respond to Blue’s comments about his policies, plans, and expectations based on the question. Red is now addressing Purple, even though he’s talking about Blue, he must act like Blue isn’t in the room. This isn’t about their personal opinions of each other  This is about issues Purple (representing the American Public) cares about. Blue watches Red, but Red continues to talk to Purple because Purple is the one with the question. Red doesn’t look at Blue. Red has nothing to say to Blue. Red is talking to us, represented by Purple.

60 seconds is up, but Red is making some excellent points that are relevant to us as listeners. Purple grants Red an additional 30 seconds. Red finishes out his 30 seconds, and Purple says “Your time is up, Red!” and that’s the end of his go.

Now, onto question two, where Red gets to go first this time, and we move on to other important questions. This time the roles are simply reversed where Red gets to talk about his plans and policies that will work with the given question  and Blue gets to poke holes in it.

That’s a productive debate.

So what happened?

Well, this happened:

Purple asks Blue a question.

Blue responds in his allotted 2 minutes.

Time’s up! But wait, Blue is still talking. So, Purple goes to cut him off. But oddly, Purple’s microphone is switched off and we can’t hear him except faintly through the candidates microphone. That’s funny… So, Blue keeps going, ignoring Purple.

+30 seconds, and we can still hear Purple being cut off while Blue keeps going. +45 and still going. We’re now at +60, and finally Blue stops. Red immediately jumps in, but instead of addressing the issues, he turns and directly attacks Blue.

60 seconds are up, and all Red has done is attack Blue instead of addressing the issues and responding to Blue’s statements. Purple tries to cut them off, but funnily enough, Red isn’t done being an ass and wants to seem authoritative. So, he ignores Purple, who oddly is in the same situation he was in before with his microphone cut off. Lucky Purple! He seems to be losing control fast, doesn’t he? Oh well. +90 seconds later, Red is done.

Now, Purple attempts to take control. But wait! Even though the question was over 90 seconds ago, Blue is now pissed because instead of them addressing issues, this became personal! “Screw the rules, I’m going again!” says Blue. Purple tries to stop him, but this isn’t about Purple anymore. This is about Red and Blue!

+120 seconds later, Blue is done and feels as though things are even. But no! Red has more to say! So off he goes. Purple meanwhile realizes he has no control, and sits there wondering what the two are even arguing about. What was the question to begin with? Neither Blue nor Red seem to know, and it’s starting to confuse Purple. Purple wonders if anyone watching this on TV even remembers what the question was. Oh well. Red has things to say about something unrelated! Let’s let him talk, because hey, who cares about the rules of the debate right? Who cares that the people actually need important information to vote with intelligence!

+180 seconds later, Red is done attacking Blue. And finally, Purple just shouts “Hey, idiots! We just spent 15 minutes on a two minute quesiton! What’s wrong with you people?!”

Both shut up and look at purple. “Did we do something wrong?” they wonder while Purple moves them onto Quesiton Two  over ten minutes behind schedule.

NOPE! We didn’t do anything wrong! Let’s do it again!!!

And that, my friends was the Presidential Debate last night. So please oh please, don’t sit here and tell me Romney won. Nobody won. It was an absolute disaster, it broke all the rules of a debate, and it was basically just two children standing in front of an entire nation fighting about things neither had any backing to prove.

It was insulting to the program, insulting to the presidency, and most of all, it was insulting to us as viewers who actually wanted to learn a thing or two about two men that one of whom will be running an entire country. And what did I learn?

They’re both children, and I wouldn’t trust either of them to make decisions on my behalf when they can’t even behave like adults for one and half hours so I can learn just one piece of valuable information about the next four years of my life as an American citizen.

Never Trust a Writer

Never trust a writer.

We are gatherers of information, watchers of scenes and analyzers of our world. We pick up on the smallest details and store them away, like the colour of the grass the morning we met, the smell in the air the first time we shook hands, or the ding in the frame that sits on your desk. We see everything, and we remember it well.

We are tools of creativity, the developers of ideas, the builders of worlds of fiction built up even in the tales we tell that lie in truth. Everything is built, at least in some way, out of a lie. And with those lies, we manipulate everything we know to be true and feed it back to you in a way that you would be convinced that we are always, always right. We could stand beside you and watch the same show, with the same words, and convince you within seconds of viewing it that what you believe you saw was wrong, and what we saw was right, even though our memory is a lie.

We are situational manipulators, capable of taking the information we have acquired and using it to our advantage. We are self destructive, more willing to sacrifice ourselves than risk letting someone else cause us pain or frustration or heartache. We see the bus coming, and though you have no intention of throwing us into it, we would rather jump ourselves just to be certain that you are not given the opportunity.

We will break you, leading you into a conversation we know you’ll fail us on, and in doing so we’ll play with the worlds and the emotions and the stories, and we’ll build a beautiful house that appears to be so perfect and comfortable and warm, but one that cannot hold the weight of anything but our lies. And when you walk into it, it will crumble down upon you, letting us walk away making you think that it was your fault.

We will leave traps, running from problems by making you believe we are not paying attention or not listening or don’t care. But we know. We know that your favourite colour is green and that the one strand of hair you hate curls seven times before falling past your chin. We know that you painted your nails brown this morning, but changed it at noon to red, that you ate waffles for breakfast but told us you had cereal. We know because we are always watching, always listening, always paying attention. But we will build up lies and feed you spoon after spoon of intentionally wrong information because we know that in the end, you will hate us for something regardless.

We are liars, cheaters, and thieves, stealing your life and transcribing it on paper, painting it in a way you would never want it painted. And when you ask us why, we will tell you because it’s better that way, because what you are was never enough, and because the world would want you to be more.

We will put you on pedestal and hold you high, only to take away your dignity and watch you fall. We will lie to your face, telling you we love everything about when in truth we are only trying to avoid talking about your flaws. We will hate you for the things we never say, and hate you even more for the things that you make us say.

Never trust a writer. I will always, always lie.

Cameron’s Political Suicide

It appears that David Cameron has decided he doesn’t like being in government anymore, and is going to hammer that final nail into his political coffin in a decision that would not only secure his ejection at reelection, but might possibly result in an early ejection from his nice little location on Downing Street. Why? Because David Cameron decided today that it might be a good idea to kick it Chinese style and block Facebook, Twitter, and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) in England to prevent people communicating about the riots. I mean, it worked for the Chinese, it worked for the Egyptians, so why wouldn’t it work for England, right? Continue reading

The Zombie Education Plan: The Zombie Bio

The future of the human race is severely limited, or at least it is today. We exist on one planet and one planet alone, essentially trapped in a bubble in which our entire species resides. If something apocalyptic were to ever happen to our world, that would pretty much be the end of us as a species. Right now, there’s no scientifically possible way for us to prevent this. We can’t seed other planets, we can’t hop on a space ship and just move shop, and we can’t jump through time to avoid the disaster. We’re essentially screwed. Continue reading

My Immortality

I am immortal.

This is the power of argument and free thought, right here, in this simple fact. I am immortal. I state with absolute certainty that I am the only person on this planet that possesses the power of immortality. I know this because I have survived where others haven’t for 24 years, living longer than some, without ever once dying. I have been in situations that could have easily resulted in my death, and yet here I am, still alive and still immortal. Nothing can stop me, and the proof of that is nothing ever has. From the day that I was born until this very moment, I have continued to be alive, and so I must by all definitions of proof be immortal. Continue reading