World Wide Mind

I’ve only just begun reading Michael Chorost’s new book World Wide Mind: The coming integration of humanity, machines and the Internet, but I’m already struck by something wonderful that gave me chills.  From page 27:

A brain-to-brain communications technology would change all that. It would reveal some of a person’s “interior” to the collective…And if one saw groups moving in perfect synchrony to accomplish an object, unrehearsed, without orders, one might begin to believe that they have a consciousness independent of each individual’s objectives. If you knew where your friends were by using the same parts of your brain that track where your arms and legs are, and if you could coordinate your motion with them when needed, then your friends would feel like a part of your body.  You would remain an individual, but you would have a new status as an integral part of a group.

I had to put the book down right there and think for a minute because it was giving me chills, in a good way.

A lot of people have been discussing the differences between left and right brain lately, but most all of it in a very superficial way, i.e. left brain people are methodical, right brain people are artistic, etc.  But the real distinction between left and right brain functionality is how the different hemispheres either create boundaries between individual objects, or dissolve boundaries into a sea of existence.  In Jill Bolte Taylor’s incredibly famous speech at TED, she discusses the experiences that she has since she experience a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain.  Near the end of that video she delves into the immersive experience of the right brain, becoming one with everything.  Though, the Symphony of Science version of her speech has been stuck in my head for days, particularly when Jill says “and it explodes into this enormous collage.”

If this process of developing a technologically induced group mind does come to fruition, I see the potential for having massive amounts of reconnection with the right brain.  In our current state of mind, we are all individuals, we are all separate.  This is a product of our left brain putting everything and everyone into their own little boxes, with their own little labels.  The right brain puts all those labels and divisions aside, and unifies everything.

This could be wonderful, or absolutely horrifying.  It’ll probably be somewhere in between.  Though most science fiction tends to lean on the side of horrifying.  I could easily name several examples, though the most glaring one is from the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Throughout the course of the series about giant robots powered by children who fight angels, you start to discover that there is a deeper purpose to these fights.  NERV was created to further the Human Instrumentality Project, which ultimately sought to break down the Absolute Terror field that keeps all life separate from each other.  (Trust me, I’m not really giving anything away here).  The incredibly surreal finale End of Evangelion shows everyone’s individual physical bodies bursting into a golden primordial ooze, and flowing out across the world.  While this would not be the physical experience, it could be the mental experience.  Especially if this neurological tech has a deepening effect on the right brain experience of life.

Why The Public Library Should Always Remain Free

My voice is only one of hundreds who have already chimed in about this ridiculous piece of flame bait from The Atlantic on charging public library users a per item borrowing fee.  I’m sure that someone has already said what I’m going to say, probably in the epic comments thread, but I’m going to say it anyway.

Barry Greenfield’s piece suffers from one fundamental flaw: Capitalism.  Public Libraries, as all public institutions, are inherently experiments in Socialism.  We utilize public funds, to provide a resource that is unavailable to those who do not have the means to procure them, i.e. knowledge, education and culture via our shared literary heritage (and I include film and music in that definition of “literary”). Capitalizing on that access, even in the smallest way, is a barrier to access that should never be tolerated.

The philanthropic push by Andrew Carnegie was about creating opportunity for those who, like himself, lacked the ability to live the American Dream of social mobility.  The dream of the public library was, and still is, to provide public access to those things that provide the means to achieve social mobility.  Carnegie understood that to get ahead, one needed to be educated.  But access to schools and universities was extremely limited, and mostly reserved for an already wealthy elite, perpetuating a ruling class.  The main factor in this class divide was monetary.  Those who cannot afford to purchase books, cannot read them. The creation of the Free Public Library broke the monopoly on education for the American elite, and allowed those born into lower classes the ability to learn beyond their raising and the circumstances of their birth.   The Free Public Library still does this today, and here’s how.

Early Literacy

The area that the public library is most known for, is also the most crucial to the development of our society’s future.  The public library offers programs for parents and caregivers of very young children that expose them to human contact, expanding the language that they hear, and engaging them in complex social environments that prepare them to be ready to read and interact in a pre-K and Kindergarten school environment.  Children from birth to age two are developing the complex array of brain synapses that will enable them to learn when the are older, and research has shown that children who are engaged with books in a positive way at an early age become better readers, and ultimately better learners when in school.  Children between the ages of 3-5 are engaged in amassing a large amount of vocabulary so that when they encounter written words for the first time that they will be able to recognize them, because they will have heard them before.  Lap Time programs for infants and toddlers and Story Time programs for pre-school age children are exactly the right environment to build those skills. If you’re curious about the research check out Saroj Ghoting’s website on early literacy for children.

But beyond those single hours per week, parents and caregivers need to have access to the books that will engage their children.  The average picture book costs between $12.00 and $17.00.  No parent on their own would be able to provide the exposure to the wide variety of material needed to give their child an exceptionally deep vocabulary.  Most parents and caregivers will check out about 15 books per week from the public library.  That amount in sales would have cost them between $180.00 to $255.00.  Some of the more affluent parents I know are already shelling out thousands in day care.  There is no way they could afford to buy those books.  And children from families living in poverty can’t even come close to making up that difference.  To ask a parent to spend $10.00 a week in library books is to ask them if they are willing to make another sacrifice they can’t afford.  This will put their children at yet another disadvantage, this one a fundamentally developmental challenge.

Access to Educational Resources

School libraries around the country are being slashed as “budget drainers” (like music and art before them) and school librarians are being interrogated about their contribution to the educational process.  As more and more schools lose access to educational material, public libraries are pulling up the slack.  While we can’t provide an entire classroom with a set of textbooks, we can provide access to educational databases that students can use to supplement what few resources can be provided by their school.  These resources can also help educators who need to prepare their students to be ready to do online research and evaluate resources so that they are ready for college entrance exams and college itself.  The other important thing the public library does is provide low-filtered internet access to children.  Most public schools run software that will block legitimately invaluable websites like Wikipedia and Google, because of the potential for children to access harmful information.  The Public Library provides a much more open environment where children can explore the complexity of the internet with their parents, the librarian, their friends and on their own.  This gives them a richer media environment than any school can provide or pay for, and we provide this for free.

Adult Literacy

Beyond children, America is still grappling with adult populations who are functionally illiterate.  And in today’s text heavy, web centric society, illiteracy is even more detrimental than ever.  Adults who cannot read cannot apply for numerous government assistance programs, because most all of them are migrating online.  One of the most common uses of public computers is applying for jobs (many of them entry level), and filing for unemployment.  But public libraries have long been a home for adult literacy programs, both for those who have never learned to read and for those non-native speakers of English who need to learn the language to function in our society.  Paying for this kind of service is often times impossible, not to mention demoralizing to a person who already experiences shame for his/her problem.

Adult Basic Education

Another of the more common services we offer are adult basic education classes to help people pass the GED.  High School dropout rates are slowly decreasing, but still a major problem, especially among minority students.  Those who do not have a high school diploma or GED are at extreme economic disadvantage.  There is an ever widening salary gulf between those who have a high school diploma and those who have a Bachelor’s degree, and with degree inflation on the rise due to the extremities of the economy having a high school diploma or GED becomes more and more critical in order to get to the next step, college.  Public libraries have long been places for people to get access to the resources they need to educate themselves to pass the GED.  Good GED test prep books can cost between $20.00 and $30.00.  Not to mention special practice booklets to help students pass difficult parts of the exam.  Not only do we provide the resources, but many public libraries also provide courses to help students pass the GED as well.

Access to Technology

Just say “digital divide” and it feels like we’re back in the 90’s.  But the reality is that the digital divide is still as real and strong as ever.  With broadband costs on the rise and computer costs still a hurdle for many families, the internet may seem like a luxury item.  But as mentioned before, there are a host of reasons why people need to use the internet and they are only increasing.  One of the most common requests I have dealt with at the information desk has been to help an adult, who has never been online ever, fill out a job application on a web form.  And these jobs are not for like executive administrative assistant or CIO at a Fortune 500 company.  I’m talking about jobs for food service, grocery clerks, and janitors.  The world has so fundamentally changed that even the lowest paid position at a company requires at least a rudimentary level of tech savvy.  You have to have an email address, an electronic copy of a resume, and the skill to navigate numerous websites with radically different and unique forms.   Not to mention the tenacity to come and check your email on a daily basis to see if you’ve gotten a hit on a job lead.  Without this skill, people remain unemployed, and the U.S. economy keeps going down.

Public Meeting Spaces

One of the other extraordinarily valuable assets the public library offers is empty space for meetings. I cannot begin to tell you how important this is.  Meetings at the library have provided access to non-profits and start-up businesses to gather collaborators and investors, brought tutors to students, helped people to engage in civil debate and political organizing, space to adequately train volunteers, and more.  Many of these places need a space that they can access for free so they can get the leg up they need to help develop our society at a grassroots level.  Some public libraries charge for this, but many do not, again, because money is a barrier to access, stifling development and change.

Cultural Exploration

We live in a global society.  Anyone with half a mind to watch the nightly news knows that.  But not everyone is exposed to what it means to be a part of a global society.  Public Libraries provide access to language learning materials, books, music and films from other parts of the world, and programming that exposes people to cultures that they never would have known existed.  From indigenous American traditions to countries on the opposite side of the world.  People can delve into nearly any culture of the world, and via the internet, engage with that culture as well.  Most people today are more likely to know about the ripple effects of the U.S. housing bubble or the Greek economic collapse than they were just 20 years ago.  Access to the internet has made that possible.  Again, a service we provide for free.  As Seth Godin commented about a week ago some people only come to the library to borrow videos.  And that is absolutely true.  But the videos we offer range far and wide; from Madea Goes to Jail to Götterdämmerung to the entire set of Ken Burns’ The Civil War.  We reserve no judgment on what people choose to watch, just as we reserve no judgment on what they choose to read.  But some offerings can never be captured as a book, and must be experienced.  Providing access to cultural treasures in music and film is just as relevant as learning how to read.

I could go on and on and on about how bad of an idea this $.50 fee is, but you get the picture.  The fact of the matter is that public libraries are free and public for a reason; because our society believes that social mobility is gained by access to education, and that barriers to access keep our population impoverished.  The free public library is the only resource available to our residents that can provide this.  We pay for it via our taxes because we believe in its mission to help those who cannot afford to help themselves.  We believe that when we have a well educated, self-motivated, and more affluent society, everyone wins.  There are many things that should never be monetized, and the free public library is one of them.

Yes it’s Socialist, and no, that’s not a bad word.

Copyright Musings

This week I’ve had copyright law on the brain.  Nancy Sims, librarian and copyright lawyer was interviewed for a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education on some things folks need to know about copyright law but don’t. But mostly this is on my mind because I was poking around through Andy Woodworth’s blog over on WordPress and found this vehement post against CD ripping at libraries.  This came from a longer debate that was raging on another library listserve that I just didn’t bother to read, because if it ran anything like the comments in the post then I didn’t want to bother.  Lots of people weighed in on different sides of the debate: yes, we should allow people to rip CDs but only their own; no, we shouldn’t allow anyone to rip CDs because they could be infringing copyright.  blah blah blah.

Andy, I’m sorry, but I’m not with you on this one.  And here’s why.

First off, we’re not the copyright police.  We’re often lucky that we have enough staff to open the doors, much less monitor what’s going on at people’s public computers.  No one is going to sit there any monitor patron behavior to find out if they’re illegally ripping CDs.  It’s just not going to happen.  If you actually have the time to monitor all of the activities in a computer lab you are doing your job wrong.  There are people who are the copyright police and those are the folks who hold those copyrights.  If they want to visit every public library in the United States I dare them to do so.  When our public computers log out after each session, whatever content may have been put on that machine is erased.  There is no transaction history logged.  It’s as if no one was ever there.  Which makes this issue unenforceable and untraceable.

Secondly, we offer legitimate services that for all intents and purposes approximate the same practice.  With certain downloadable media, there is no real way to monitor the DRM status of materials downloaded to an external device, be it desktop, laptop, MP3 player or iPod.  They just trust that you will delete that content from your drive when the time period has expired.  Let’s be real about this.  Who is really going to do that?  When someone discovers that their content hasn’t been wiped off their machine, they’re just going to keep it, cause really, why not?  Now you tell me, what is the difference between allowing the person who downloads an MP3 via a legitimate file sharing service that we operate, and the person who rips a Library CD?  The only difference is the legal arrangement for these different formats, and the fact that they differ at all is totally stupid.

But lets get to the more important question here.  Because this isn’t about the legality of ripping CDs at all.  This is about the state of current copyright law and rights enforcement in an era where supply has basically become infinite and demand can always be met at a moment’s notice.

This whole situation really blew things out of the water with Napster. Does anyone remember Napster?  Oh, wait, it still exists…  Just as a recap, this was one of the file sharing services that exploded in 1999, and became so amazingly popular (especially on college campuses) that the RIAA sued them for massive amounts of copyright infringement, and won, leading to the eventual shutdown and sale of the service (or really it’s name) to BMG, and then having it shuffled off to one lower level retailer after another.  Did that stop file sharing?  No.  After Napster there was Grokster, Kazaa, Limewire, etc. etc. etc. It’s just never really going to stop.

In eBook land let’s talk about the Harper Collins fiasco that came out earlier this year.  Harper Collins basically said that they would only provide an eBook DRM license allowing public libraries to share an eBook 26 times before they would kill that eBook.  This led to some hilarious YouTube videos where librarians examined the number of times physical copies of books were checked out (upwards of 40 checkouts and still in good condition on a shelf) and that some Harper Collins books even had lifetime guarantees on them.  It was a laughable moment.  Why?  Why would you treat an eBook worse than you would a physical book?  It makes no sense.  Especially since the DRM on those items from our vendor restrict the number of times it can be “checked out” for download at any given time.

Then there are television shows and movies.  I’m just going to link to this cartoon to explain my opinion on that. Oh, but let me include this video from the IT Crowd as well.  But let me just make one comment here about air time and web time.  The internet makes the original air date, the date of air for the entire world.  Over the latest memorial day weekend BBC America did not air the new episode of Doctor Who, which means that they are now out of lock stop with BBC1, where Doctor Who airs in Britain.  Yes, Memorial Day is a big holiday in the U.S., but given that people have DVRs and that Doctor Who fans in the U.S. are absolutely rabid about this show does anyone think it would make a difference?  No.  Because the lead up to this last Saturday’s mid-season finale was so intense that I will guarantee you that damn near everyone who watches Doctor Who in America went and downloaded that content from somewhere.  Will they watch it again on BBC America.  Absolutely.  But they’re going to watch it as fast as they can, because they can’t get it fast enough.

The RIAA & MPAA have been trying to pull downloadable content off the web, and sue people for millions of dollars for years.  And they’ve gotten away with it so far.  But the reality is that file sharing sites crop up all the time. And no matter how many times people pull them down, they will continue to come up again and again.  There are so many places to go that it’s impossible to even begin to try to fight it unless you have the money of these lobbyists or the backing of a federal agency.

But again, we’re asking the wrong question.  It’s not, how can I crack down on things that are violating my copyright, but  how can I profit in an era where everything is available practically all the time?  How do I change my business model to take advantage of this new behavior that is on the web?

Let’s start with CDs, since that’s where this conversation began.  Just ignore ripping CDs.  People share CDs and rip them all the time.  There is nothing that’s ever going to stop that.  We fought that battle when it came to audio cassette tapes.  Thankfully the music industry has finally gotten to the point where they can provide content online through things like iTunes or Amazon MP3 so that people can legitimately download their content for a reasonable price.  But people are still downloading music and sharing music over file sharing websites.  But then there are some bands who just give their content away for free through sites like Magnatune and Jamendo.  Before that bands were putting their tracks on MySpace and DMusic.  It’s a way to get your name out there, to spread your content and promote yourself.  Even megastars are exploring new methods of content delivery like Amanda Palmer and Radiohead giving people the option to download their music through their website at a price that they name (including nothing), and Lady Gaga releasing her new album on Amazon MP3 for $.99 and demand being so crazy that it crashed Amazon’s servers DDOS style. These are forward thinking bands.  They understand the internet and are experimenting with different sales and delivery methods, and it’s working.

Over in eBook land we have similar things going on.  Cory Doctorow has been releasing his books for free in eBook format for a long time, but he has had to negotiate and wrangle with his publishers to make that happen.  And sales of physical printed copies, as well as sales of eBooks are still good.  Seth Godin in an interview at BoingBoing discussed his new eBook venture, where they will be giving away free copies of eBooks via his publishing imprint, and selling physical copies.  And this is not just a route for famous people either.  Amanda Hocking has become the poster child for new media success, by making millions selling her books for $.99 on Kindle.

Movies and television are slowly getting there through sites like Netflix and Hulu.  Through Netflix people were able to watch the series Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its companion piece Spartacus: Gods of the Arena on the same air date.  Hulu gives you the content the day following broadcast, with commercials at certain intervals with a limited number of back episodes.  Though the Hulu Plus the low monthly fee service gives you access to a much broader backlog of shows.  These are not perfect by any means, but they are still legitimate methods of content delivery that are changing the way we deal with television and films on the internet.

We are at a point where we need to rethink the value of existing copyright laws, experiment with these new delivery methods, and find a place where artists and authors can prosper through the new media.  We are wasting our time with enforcing a system that was developed centuries ago to protect the value of a supply line.  The supply line no longer exists.  The value is on the value of the content, not the physical or virtual product.  People will pay for content that is delivered in a timely fashion at a price that makes sense to them, and when it exceeds realistic expectations they will turn to pirated media.  This is not a devaluing of an artist’s work, it is a recalibration of the market to meet a new publishing medium.  Publishers, broadcasters and other content providers need to find a way to make their content available to people legitimately or face media piracy.  If they cannot step up and deliver their content to eager users, others will do so for them and then they lose.

As a librarian am I going to show someone how to download something from a bit-torrent client?  Even if bit torrent sites weren’t blocked by our firewall, I probably wouldn’t.  I would, however, have a conversation with them about legitimate download sites, like Overdrive, and how they work.  Am I going to show someone how to rip a CD?  Absolutely, because that is a skill that is a part of every day life now.  There is no reason why I cannot instruct someone on how to convert their content to a new medium for their own personal enjoyment and turn around to load that on their phone, mp3 player, or iPod.  It is a technical skill, agnostic of the legality of the content being used for the process. It’s like teaching someone how to build a website, fill out a web based job application, create a blog, establish an email address or get on Facebook.  It’s yet another skill that we need to have in order to live in our society.  By not teaching someone who comes to the library about it we create a knowledge divide between people who have home computers and those who don’t.  People want to get media, we want to provide media.  We need to figure out how to make it happen and not how to create another digital divide.

Is the Robot Uprising a “New Myth?”

I ran across this article on NPR today, as people are pondering what it means to have a robot contestant on Jeopardy! and how that taps into what appears to be a “new myth” of the Robot Uprising.  I sat there thinking, this isn’t a new myth?  It’s composite pieces of several mythologies woven together in a way that taps into our modern sensibilities and fears.  Let’s take a look at some of the pieces and see what happens.


Crafted Objects Awakening

If you think about it, all of mythology is about things that were crafted gaining a life of their own.  The story of Genesis is that all of humanity was formed out of clay and God breathed life into us.  Hesiod tells the same in the story of Deucalion throwing stones over his shoulder and humans springing up.  But the most direct correlation to a human crafted object awakening is the myth of the Golem.  The Golem builds directly onto the Genesis myth, and takes it a step further where a human creator fashions new life from clay.  The creature is activated, and moves around, and may even look like a human being.  But he is nothing but dust in the end, as are we all.  There is really very little difference between a Golem, Pinocchio, and a Terminator.  They are all crafted beings who awaken and have plans of their own.

Machines Lead Us To Our Demise

The father of invention, Daedalus, is the prime example of how machines can both save and destroy us.  We only have to look to the tragic death of Icarus to realize that. But let’s start with an invention that started the tragedy in the first place: The Bull Suit.  Queen Pasiphae was enamoured of a particular bull in her husband’s stable.  Being the kind of woman she was she asked Daedalus to craft a mechanism by which the Bull would be able to mate with her. He did, she did, and blam she got pregnant with the Minotaur.  So King Minos, shamed and abhorred asked Daedalus to craft an unbeatable maze to put the creature in so that no one would ever see the shame that his wife had brought on them.  So Daedalus crafted the labyrinth.  And Minos, for good measure, decided that, since Daedalus and his son Icarus were both in the know about the horror that was the Minotaur, the best course of action would be to throw them into the labyrinth first and block the only escape.  Daedalus, being crafty, gathered up all of the feathers from the birds that the Minotaur had been eating and some wax, from who knows where and made some kickass wings.  So Daedalus and Icarus flew out of the Labyrinth, but Icarus, taken with the experience of flying just kept going higher and higher until the sun began to melt his wings and he fell, unable to control his descent, and crashed into the Icarian Sea.

Each machine in the story of Daedalus leads to further and further problems. However, it was the humans though who put them to use, and used them in twisted ways that brought about their misfortunes.  HAL is the perfect example of this.  HAL was meant to run the space station in 2001, but because it had a conflicting piece of programming it destroyed everyone aboard the ship except Dave.  The programmer thought that this was the right course of action, but he never unstood the consequences of what this might have done to the people aboard the ship.

Sarah Connor and Cassandra

Often times there are those who know that the robot uprising is coming.  The doomsayers and prophets, mad women who try in vain to tell people that they know disaster is around the corner, only to be dismissed by those who seem to know better.  The prime mythic example of this character is Cassandra.  Daughter of Priam and Hecuba, King and Queen of Troy, was beloved by Apollo.  Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy, as he did with many women through his temple at Delphi.  However, she did not return his love and became cursed.  She would always speak the truth, and no one would believe her.  Cassandra saw the coming destruction of Troy.  She knew that the Greeks would raze the city to the ground, and she tried to tell everyone.  Her own mother and father dismissed her thinking she was overcome with emotion and sent her away.  Even on the fateful evening when they brought the Horse into the gates of the city she wailed and cried and tried to stop them.  But all to know avail.  The Greeks poured through the city, murdering and pillaging the city to bring Helen back to Menelaus.  In the Robot Uprising myth Sarah Connor is our Cassandra.  In T2, we see that she has been committed to an asylum for trying to espouse these ridiculous fantasies about the killing machines from the future.  No one in their right mind would believe such a thing.  But the robots, like the Greeks, do come.  The psychiatrist who has been monitoring Sarah all these many years, who separated her from her son (the chosen one), comes face to face with a Terminator in his very hospital.

The Attack of the Other

This one is almost too easy.  Mythology is built on succession, often times from invasions of outsiders.  The Irish myths and legends talk of the Fir Bolg being invaded by the Tuatha de Danaan, then the Danaan being invaded by the Milesians.  Mircea Eliade in The Sacred and the Profane looked at how tribal societies develop mythologies of monsters outside the realm of the village.  The entire rest of the world becomes an unknown.  In contemporary society we see this othering in xenophobia toward foreign cultures, but the reality is that most of the rest of the world is basically a known quantity.  There are really only two areas where human minds can’t make sense: the far reaches of space, and the minds of artificial life forms.  Stories of alien invasions like War of the Worlds are tapping into the same vein as The Terminator.  This is a mind that we cannot understand.  All that we know is that it seeks to destroy us and our way of living.  Part of the insidiousness of the new Battlestar Galactica series was that the Cylons were nearly indistinguishable from humans.  In a world where you cannot distinguish The Other from your own people the threat is all the more dangerous (mythically speaking).

Robot Uprising as Class Warfare

The fear of the robot uprising is that a creature we have made decides that we must be destroyed.  More than anything this sounds to me like fear of a class struggle.  Robots, built to be servants to humans and do the work we have since decided no longer needs to be done with human hands, decide to rise up against their masters.  This is really the story of the slave revolt.  SkyNet is Spartacus, leading a long and bloody war against those who sought to oppress him or to casually end his life.  Spartacus, a trained gladiator, was an actual person, not a myth.  He led a slave revolt across the Roman Empire to quash the rule of the decadent Roman elite who would use people as property and sport.  These types of turnovers in society were extremely common.  The modern vestiges of slave revolts now are probably union strikes.

Though the story of the uprising also speaks to another mythic tendency, the overthrow of the Gods.  In the Theogony we learn about the different generations of the gods, from the primal forces, to the Titans, to the Olympians.  The children of each generation, rising up against the former generation and putting an end to barbaric practices.  When we create robots, in a sense we become Gods ourselves.  Our creations are stronger, smarter, more powerful than we could ever be.  We fear that we will be cut down like the Titans, and a new Olympus will rise in our place.

Utter Destruction

With the robot uprising comes the complete collapse of civilization.  Humanity is destroyed or hunted down to near extinction and the world becomes a desolate wasteland of metal and debris.  Annihilation myths are certainly nothing new.  The flood in Genesis, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Ragnarok, the ravage of war in the Revelation of John, the list goes on and on.  Humans have survived eons on this world, and as evolutionary being we have been working our way through all sorts of environmental and social hells.  But our biggest fear, the fear of death, is always there.  We know that we are mortal and we fear for ourselves being erased from existence.  Sometimes the myth is an asteroid creating a toxic cloud, somtimes it’s an ice age or a flood, and sometimes it is a hell of our own making.