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The early through mid-1990s predecessor of this web site was an interactive electronic magazine named jrm&aFLUX, that exhibited many eerie similarities to the World Wide Web of today (circa 2004). It was a hyperlinked document, available online, displaying both text and graphics in a fully interactive environment, offering many ways end users could self-publish in the format themselves, as well as contact channels for many, many other resources external to and independent of the magazine and its publisher-- a description remarkably like that of a well done web site today!
Please click here to see the 'mission statement' for that precursor of today's web site. Below is the mission statement for jrm&aWebFLUX magazine today.
Certain elements of the original mission statement for the magazine still resonate in today's web version. The need for more and better ideas to improve the human condition has, if anything, increased significantly since the mid-1990s. Fortunately, the ramp up of the World Wide Web may be opening up that spigot in a big way now.
But the web is still young, geeky, and chaotic. And also expensive and hard to get, when you consider everything that's required to enable web access in a given location. Many nations still don't possess a suitable infrastructure of phone lines or other means to carry such data. And many world citizens still cannot even read, let alone operate and troubleshoot a computer system-- even if they could afford such a system in the first place.
So only a small fraction of humanity is currently online, as of mid 2004.
And what of those? How are average net users in the developed nations faring today?
Only so-so, for the most part. Partly because the internet is still incomplete, and disorganized to the point of at times total ineffectiveness in terms of satisfactory search results (even Google has not resolved the internet's search problem as yet).
There's also a massive, on-going attempt by governments and business to reshape the internet into something they can better censor and otherwise control, and therewith better keep the 'rabble' (voters/citizens/consumers) contained and muted-- or in their proper place, as certain among these groups see it. For example, big business is fearful of small business entrepreneurs, artists, and stars bypassing all the traditional middle-men, and thereby putting many mighty corporations out of business-- or at least making those corporations have to work harder, to make smaller profits, due to increased competition.
Of course, the very things which big business fears are what would spell enormous new opportunities for the rest of us-- the chance to start up our own successful businesses and make our own fortunes (or at least an independent living). So in this way are the goals and interests of big business and the 'man in the street' diverging dramatically today. Unfortunately, most citizens remain unaware of these issues and opportunities, thereby allowing big business and Big Brother to dominate the discussions in Congress and elsewhere as to what our world will be like tomorrow.
And thus one more possibility for reducing global poverty while increasing global competition and diversity is being brushed aside for the sake of the status quo.
Meanwhile, both business and governments also want to remake the net in a way that will better preserve their worst and most unethical secrets, practices, and plans, keeping such information out of the light, and out of the notice of the public, where it might otherwise lead to changes for the better in both sectors.
jrm&aWebFLUX magazine therefore strives to be a metaphorical 'lighthouse' on the shores of a stormy sea, helping guide the world away from certain dangers and towards safer harbors and possible new opportunities.
But what does this site do specifically to help solve the various problems listed above, as well as make the world in general a better place for us all? In How to live well on very, very little I offer practically a portal to web information which might be helpful to the poorest of the poor worldwide, for getting clean water, decent food, building homes, making a living, getting an education, and much, much more, all on much less than a shoestring-- practically a thread! Keep in mind that even in the poorest nations such info on the internet might be accessed and spread via aid workers from developed countries, or by a single internet station maintained by an entire village and run on solar power, or by a central radio station or school in a community, etc., etc., etc. Much of the info in that collection of pages can be implemented immediately with little or no help from outside parties, and using local resources literally as common as dirt and trash. I also try there to mainly list reference books which are many years (even decades) old, in order to increase the chance folks will be able to read them for free in public libraries, or find cheap used copies, either locally or on the net.
In my Dirt cheap PC and killer deals page and Clearinghouse of used Mac ware sources I do my best to help folks find the best possible bargains in computer hardware, software, and internet access, among other things-- as well as troubleshoot and repair same. In lots of user logs linked from those pages I document problems I've encountered myself and what worked (or didn't) about resolving them. I make sure to list sources of both new and used items, to increase the chances searchers will be able to locate something they can afford. I also list charities where rich folks can donate computer wares and poor folks and schools might get those same wares free or at lower-than-average costs.
In How to make real money and How small-time web sites can make it financially on the internet I offer up information for how folks might enter self-employment or start up small businesses themselves of various sorts, based largely on the internet and computers. Other possibilities specifically tailored for developing countries are also presented in live well on very, very little.
Of course, such information is only as good as its credibility and accessibility. In regards to credibility, I typically offer a multitude of mainstream references supporting the info I post online, wherever possible. I strive to include functioning URLs with these references too, so that folks can refer to the sources themselves for extra detail, or to verify the accuracy of my own interpretation of the content-- though of course not all URLs remain viable into perpetuity, and references to decades old hard copy books by their nature rarely have web sites to which I can refer readers. In those cases I try to enable readers with alternative means to track down source material, via pages like First aid for broken links, available via link itself near the top of most site pages.
So far as accessibility is concerned, I maintain a web site services page which offers multiple resources for translation of my pages into foreign languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Norwegian, Arabic, and others. I provide a local site search, and direct links to Google's cache of my site for back up. I also maintain two separate domains and hosts for added site access redundancy (though current search engine policies prohibit me from using one domain to mirror the other for contingency outage purposes). Though several of these efforts depend on third parties to function and so are subject to disruption or cessation without warning, while they work the content I offer may be at least as accessible to most world citizens as content provided by many much more substantial entities than I, such as national governments and multinational corporations. And I'm ever on the lookout for ways I can easily and cheaply expand and deepen my site's accessibility still more.
But again, content is key here. Folks who've visited any of these pages regularly over past years know I work hard to update and expand them with new and useful information as I get the chance.
Of course, I also have a soft spot for the eerie or strange-but-true (or possible) items I've run across in the course of my more conventional investigations-- and have written up some of those on-site as well, for a mix of entertainment and educational purposes. For instance, I found out years ago that lots of kids really liked a write up I did about extremophiles (real life microbes with Superman-like hardiness). So eventually I assembled a page about the wildest possibilities regarding such stuff. You'll find other such 'edutainment' pages sprinkled about the site too ('man does not live by bread alone', and all that). But I try to make sure to clearly caution readers about such mixes of fact and fantasy on those pages, so as to avoid confusion or misinformation.
Though this site is primarily the work of a single individual circa mid 2004, I do get suggestions, encouragement, constructive criticism, and more from readers around the world. I do my best to integrate reader feedback with my own experience and research, and clearly present the results on this site.
I'm not much of a politico. So far as personal opinions go, I've considered both the Republican and Democratic parties of my native USA to be conceptually and ideologically bankrupt for decades now. The last Presidential candidate I liked at all was Republican John McCain. Previous to him, it was Democrat Bill Clinton. When faced with a choice between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000, I ached for an alternative. But of course, US politics is so corrupt these days there's no way voters are going to get any candidates which aren't living deep in the pockets of wealthy and powerful special interests. A truly independent and heroic person willing to tackle the real problems of the nation can't even get a major party nomination, much less be elected. And even if by some miracle they did, they'd face rock-solid opposition from the rest of the establishment to any real reforms. Sadly, our entire system today seems specifically built to allow maximum corruption with a minimum of accountability-- primarily by making the links between the crimes and the payoffs so complex and circuitous sheer boredom will put laymen off the track soon enough, and serious investigators will find it requires massive resources to disassemble the web of deceit-- much like how breaking a powerful encryption code requires huge processing power. In other words, if you're rich enough in America today (and hire the right people) you can do pretty much whatever you wish, with only a tiny statistical chance of even getting caught, much less punished.
So circa 2004 America sadly appears to be descending into a level of anarchy very similar to that of modern dictatorships, or monarchies from centuries past, where those with sufficient wealth and/or brute force rule everyone else, and the masses ultimately come to consist mainly of powerless peasants (to see more on these matters please refer to The enormous hidden costs to society of 'right-wing' political governance, America's crisis in governance, 2001-2004, More references regarding the Bush Presidency as perhaps the worst ever in US history, and The astonishing decline of America).
I suggest Americans revisit the history of the Roman Empire, and how its heart degenerated into the state we know today as Italy. Don't get me wrong: in many ways modern Italy is a vast, vast improvement over the final decades of the old Roman Empire, especially when you compare the modern state's excesses to those of the Empire's in its worst moments. But would anyone want to hold up today's Italy as an example of modern democracy and capitalism at its best? It's doubtful. 
My point? I see the American Empire headed the way of the Roman Empire-- and that's if America is lucky.
I expect many parallels between Rome's decline from superpower to also-ran European state, and America's own fall from grace, in the decades ahead. 
I only hope America can end up like modern Italy. For the alternatives may be much, much worse. Many of those alternatives involve a new world war essentially initiated by the USA-- which it loses, in every way that matters (indeed, it may be no one will qualify as a winner after such a war).
Obviously it will soon be time for another state or group to take the reins of world leadership, as America collapses like the 'empty bag' written about by Benjamin Franklin some centuries ago (and yes, Franklin is one of the historic figures I admire most).
Will the new leader be the European Union? China? Japan? All these are among the leading candidates circa 2004. But none appear to possess a significant lead in such an enterprise. This makes me wonder if the new leader will be an unexpected state. Perhaps one which doesn't even yet exist. Maybe an unanticipated federation of countries will suddenly come to the fore in a moment of world crisis. Perhaps it'll be a new grouping of Pacific Rim states. Or Asian countries. Maybe some portions of the new entity will actually be former parts of no longer viable unions, such as a defunct USA, Russia, China, or India.
There's some scientific basis for the idea that various of today's large states-- including the USA-- may fall apart in the decades ahead. For instance, the average lifespan of a given civilization today may be no more than 305 years, according to Michael Shermer . If 1776 is regarded as the actual beginning of the USA, then America is already 226 years old. If you instead choose 1492 as its birthdate, then it's 510-- and way overdue for collapse. There's many arguable historical birth dates for America between these two extremes. Pick your favorite and compare to the average span for your own perspective on America's likely longevity. There's also actual movements within the USA today for succession from the union ala the Civil War, and similar rebellious acts against the federal authority (especially since the passage of the worrisome USA Patriot Act).
Of course, whatever happens to America is of little consequence compared to the fate of the entire human race. And this too looks to be at high risk in coming decades. Even if America herself were to do everything right, the next five decades would still be terribly dangerous for us all. Unfortunately, as of mid 2004 it appears America will only increase the risks for everyone, rather than mitigating them. That's one reason for the volatility and largely sideways movement of world financial markets since 9-11-01.
I was already seriously concerned about the decades ahead when I began writing the timeline around 1989-1990. But events took a drastic turn for the worse as the American leadership panicked and over-reacted to the events of 9-11-01 (and that assessment gives them the benefit of a doubt as to self-serving ulterior motives). Now it appears certain events which I originally expected to play out over centuries may well occur in mere decades. This is very, very bad news. For just about everyone (including we Americans).
You see, the present generation and next of humanity will apparently find themselves living in perhaps the most dangerous times mankind has ever faced. The last time we came anywhere close to such danger was around 70,000 years ago, when a super volcanic eruption caused such climatic change on Earth as to nearly wipe us out. At the worst moment during that crisis there may have been as few as 15,000-40,000 human beings alive, world-wide. Note this is devastation on a level comparable to fiction written by horror novelists like Stephen King, in his book The Stand.
We almost didn't make it, back 70,000 years ago.
But now, we may be in still worse danger. For our whole global economy and technological base has become intimately intertwined, losing its previous protective measures of diversity and redundancy at a rapid pace, and become heavily dependent on a substantial, prosperous, and growing human population for its underpinnings. All factors which could easily contribute to an eventual collapse of the global economy and modern human society, should human numbers merely level off (and worse if they decline). And even if the population continues to grow, if average living standards for world citizens stagnate or decline, that too could trigger a collapse.
So are there risks of stagnating or falling living standards, or even declines of population numbers themselves? Most assuredly so.
There's a substantial and growing risk of massive death rates (or widespread infertility causing falling birth rates) culling our population at one or more points in coming decades. Not merely from war, bioterror, or industrial pollution effects, but natural plagues and casual genetic manipulation as well. For example, in places like China and India families often prefer male children over females. Modern medicine allows parents to determine sex before birth and even change it in some cases, or simply abort females in favor of males. This is creating a disparity in sexual populations which could lead to substantial reproduction problems down the road.
But even if we somehow avoid population declines sufficient to substantially hurt global economic growth and innovation, too much growth in numbers (the opposite extreme) poses the risks of catastrophic shortages, if such growth outstrips that of productivity improvements in the creation or extraction and processing of the raw resources required to sustain us.
And yet the world is presently engaged in reducing the potential rates of innovation in economic and technological matters, rather than raising them. Why? Primarily to appease big business interests, and preserve their profits against possible new competition with small business and individual entrepreneurs down the road. And secondarily to satisfy age-old government wishes to expand their powers in the areas of censorship, secrecy, and control over civil liberties and dissent.
And so living standards of average world citizens are under pressure to plateau and even decline in the decades ahead-- thereby generating the other nightmare scenario for the world economy, even if the population numbers themselves don't cause problems.
Then there's the general corporate war cry for liberalized trade rules and increasing global competition worldwide with little or no regulation whatsoever. Never mind the fact that totally unregulated trade usually puts weaker countries at a distinct and locked-in disadvantage compared to stronger nations. What may be more important is that unrestrained global trade can weaken or kill diversity and redundancy in cultures and technologies-- and thereby weaken humanity as a whole. For the more dependent we are on ever fewer ways of doing things, the more vulnerable we are if and when something goes awry among those channels.
For example, let's say for purely economic reasons a handful of super factories on a certain coast of Japan become the exclusive suppliers of microprocessors for 99% of the world's PCs. They're so efficient PC prices plunge and all other chip makers go out of business. The world enjoys dirt cheap PCs for several years, and everyone raves about how great deregulation, free trade, and global competition are. Then the other shoe drops. Massive earthquakes and tsunamis wipe out the Japanese factories overnight. It'll take years to rebuild their capacity. No alternative suppliers exist, having gone bankrupt and been liquidated. A high tech world economy heavily dependent on a steady supply of microprocessors to build everything from PCs to automobiles to smart homes to jet fighters suddenly tumbles into the abyss, with production in many industries coming to a standstill. Massive layoffs are announced, the stock market crashes, the world plunges into a depression-- and the financial effects of the depression possibly dry up funding for new construction, drastically lengthening the time it'll take to rebuild the Japanese factories...
Scary, huh? But a similar scenario could be written about many other goods besides microprocessors. And it wouldn't have to be a natural disaster which triggered the collapse. Terrorist actions could do so. War. Even excessive stock market speculation or government or investment institution corruption alone could do it.
The less diverse humanity and its works become, the more vulnerable to collapse and extinction we'll be.
Now, we are increasingly at risk due to short-sightedness in government and business policies, natural and man-made disasters, war, and a multitude of other threats. I believe we've entered a roughly 600 year long gauntlet of social, technological, and economic challenges which apparently overwhelm most technological civilizations and drive them into extinction or permanent primitivism.
On what histories of technological civilizations am I basing this on? Partly our own. But of course there's precious little data there to go on-- since we only somewhat recently achieved such status ourselves (for my purposes here I consider us to have only reached this status around 1900).
So much of my conclusions is drawn from research into the likely histories of technological civilizations throughout our own galaxy. That's right. Alien civilizations. Folks we've never seen, and maybe never will. So how in hell could I have researched that subject, you ask? Especially in any quality which would allow me to make a reasonable conclusion about our own future in this regard? See for yourself in my study The rise and fall of star faring civilizations in our own galaxy.
So we may well be nearing our end as a technological civilization. It appears most everyone else collapsed or went extinct at around this same stage in development, give or take a few centuries (or decades).
It appears very unlikely we can avoid this disaster. So far as we know today, not a single other civilization has ever managed to dodge this particular bullet. Even ones possibly much superior to our own in many ways.
But we've got to try. If nothing else, it'd just be a shame for such potential as ours to go to waste. Look at our children. Think what they (and our grandchildren) could do if mankind manages to survive and prosper and make a real leap into space. The raw mineral and energy wealth waiting to be exploited just in our own solar system is mind-boggling in scale. Finally, after all of humanity's tumultuous history, there would be so much wealth available poverty and deprivation would simply be impossible and unjustifiable. Technology advances too could bring about similar results all on their own. But both these sources of future wealth must be nurtured in various ways today to suitably ripen. And above all we must survive long enough to realize them.
Much of this web site consists of my own efforts to stem the tide of disaster before it's too late. The timeline offers a somewhat optimistic but still plausible view of many issues and events likely to lie ahead of us (the optimism is necessary to show any future at all). Rise and fall details the reasons why I believe we and any other technological civilization face extreme risks during this stage of development. I write about the psychological/philosophical elements of the struggle in The war for our destiny. In Civilization's best defenses against war, terrorism, technological stagnation, and economic ruin I offer 'big picture' ideas for postponing Doomsday, suitable for implementation in mid-level to high level government and business policies. In How to live well on very, very little and How to protect yourself, family, and friends from biological and chemical attacks, and other health threats in the early 21st century I list low end ways individuals can care for themselves and their loved ones in the typical conditions of today and those expected of tomorrow.
Perhaps you can tell this site consumes a substantial chunk of my life today. And no, it doesn't pay well at all. I often must abandon the task completely for months at a time to take on various jobs to make ends meet. I worry that during such times I may miss the one article or idea which could make the difference in all this. From my experience of the last 15 years I know that some ideas or information pop up just once, briefly, and then disappear again for years-- even decades!-- into the depths of the world's knowledge stores-- and can be hard as heck to dig up again afterwards.
Heck, human history itself documents the likely discovery and subsequent loss of technologies as essential as electricity and similar breakthroughs, which often lay forgotten and unused for decades or centuries before being re-discovered again. Mankind may not be able to afford many more such horrendously expensive lost opportunities for development and progress.
Being an 'Old Computer Geezer' my time and finances are also increasingly constrained by various health and medical concerns. My eyesight is beginning to fail me, among other things, making the upkeep and expansion of this site ever more difficult, financially costly, and time consuming for me. To make matters worse, being an American means me and mine are "just one illness or accident away from complete financial collapse", according to Harvard law school professor Elizabeth Warren, co-author of a study published in Norton's Bankruptcy Adviser . Only the wealthy in America can truly feel safe and secure these days-- and even then, perhaps only briefly. Also like many of you, I have others too who depend on me for various things-- many of them children. So I'm pretty much in the same shape as lots of other average Americans. Which means this site exists solely as a result of whatever small surplus of time, money, love, and energy I can muster at a given moment. Thankfully I occasionally get some help from readers by way of donations or affiliate sales, or just plain encouragement. Thanks to all for your help. It's deeply appreciated.
Naturally I'd be more comfortable and better able to expand the scope and usefulness of this site if I had more resources at my command. So I'm hoping I can get the site to 'pay for itself' and even eventually enable me to make a living online. If successful, this should work out well for my site visitors too, as I share with them what I learn along the way-- thereby helping them to do the same. Thus, this site is an on-going experiment in low-end e-commerce too, among other things.
Could I be wrong about the threat facing us? Of course! No one's infallible, including me. Heck, I hope I am wrong. But the evidence seems compelling. And there's worse things anyone can do with their spare time, than trying to make the world a better and safer place, right?
Well, that's pretty much it. If you think I'm nuts, that's OK. Diversity in many aspects of human thought-- including opinions-- is the very type of thing which might protect us from Armageddon. We need more of it, not less.
Might this web site make a difference in the years and decades to come? Help improve the lives of a few folks here and there? Maybe even help humanity avoid some possible paths to Armageddon? I hope so. If you do too, I could sure use your help!
If you'd like to make a cash donation, or see suggestions for other ways you could help keep this site online, please click here. And thanks!
-- J.R. Mooneyham, July, 2004
2: The decline and fall of the American empire; Salon.com
3: Why ET Hasn't Called by Michael Shermer; Scientific American August 2002
4: US Study: Medical Bills Main Culprit In Bankruptcies by Araminta Wordsworth; www.commondreams.org; October 09, 2002; originally published by the National Post in Canada, April 27, 2000
5: One generation to save world, report warns; UK Guardian