No Need for Modesty

     Modesty is only arrogance by stealth.
     Lawyers are going to save the world.
     If that sounds like an odd thing for me to say, it’s because it’s an odd thing for me to say.
     But I’m beginning to think it might be true.
     This will take some explaining.
     The quote above is from a book called “The Long Earth,” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, that I’ve been reading lately. I don’t know if it’s original to that book or not but I really liked it. I’ve now decided to start sounding modest every now and then even though I’m not.
     I’m not reviewing the book here but I recommend it because it poses some fascinating philosophical questions.
     One is: What is technology for?
     The obvious answer is Facebook and easy access to porn but what if you don’t need technology to survive? What if there were plenty of berries and root vegetables and hapless easy-to-catch game about and there was enough space and shelter for everyone to live comfortably?
     We wouldn’t need technology for agriculture or wars to take over other people’s spaces. What would be the point?
     Technology is necessary because we have limited resources and a hugely expanding population.
     Don’t be impatient – I’ll get to the lawyer part.
     So we invent more nifty stuff, produce more, give ourselves iPhones, and feel smug (or modest).
     The odd thing about it, though, is that while we automate processes to make things for more people, more people lose their jobs to automation and have no money to spend on those things.
     So technology is now producing things for people who aren’t allowed to have them. We get richer and poorer collectively at the same time.
     In the past, I’ve often thought the immense amounts of time, effort and money spent on sports and entertainment and gaming and my comic book collection were being horribly wasted. All those vast resources should be going into curing diseases and feeding people.
     But should they?
     I now see their value. We need to be able to pay people to do unimportant stuff because we don’t need them to do important stuff being done by computers and robots. That way they can enjoy the fruits of the computer and robot labor.
     So what we need is more and more trivia to occupy us.
     This is where the genius of lawyers comes in.
     Consider the U. S. tax code.
     I know it hurts but consider it just for a moment. Much of this country’s population makes its living interpreting tax law and accounting for it.
     We need insanely complicated and arguably ambiguous rules for people to argue about and get paid for arguing. Without them, millions would go hungry.
     The rationale holds for regulations, contracts, wills, marriages, mortgages, and just about anything else an imaginative lawyer can devise.
     So if you’re a lawyer and you think you’ve been wasting your life, you’re wrong. You’re contributing to the welfare of us all.
     But feel free to be modest about it.
     
     QUESTION OF THE WEEK. This week’s item to ponder comes from my favorite lawsuit of the week: a complaint against Lloyd’s of London by a company that owns “master footage” of psychic Walter Mercado.
     The plaintiff wants to establish that 1,000-plus hours of Mercado on tape that were stolen from a truck stop are worth $50 million.
     No, the value of 1,000 hours of a guy making predictions on Spanish-language television isn’t my question.
     And – because I know you’re demanding it in your heads – let’s get the required joke out of the way.
     He should have seen this coming.
     Now let’s be serious. The really fascinating question here is: What are the thieves going to do with 1,092 hours of a psychic/astrologer on tape?
     If you see anyone doing unusually well at the racetrack, you may want to alert the authorities.

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