Saturday, September 16, 2017

Perspectives from Science Fiction: Hugos and other marvels

Best of the year in science fiction & fantasy: Congratulations to the many fine winners of the 2017 Hugo Award -- especially N. K. Jemison for best novel (The Obelisk Gate), sequel to her award-winning novel The Fifth Season, Seanan McGuire for best novella (Every Heart a Doorway), Ursula Vernon for best novelette (The Tomato Thief), Amal El-Mohtar for best short story (Seasons of Glass and Iron). 

Let’s settle one thing: I defend an author's right to win a best novel Hugo for a sequel to a novel that won a Hugo! Um... I'd be a hypocrite to do otherwise! ;-) 

Oh and also, let’s celebrate that science fiction has always – and yes always, ever since it was founded by our revered grandmother of SF, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) – been the genre of literature most welcoming to bold ideas about human and non-human diversity, and brashly exploratory authors. Yes, SF was always “better than its times” when it came to such things, though every decade deserved the reproof of later decades, for its own myopic misdeeds. Leaving our self-critical movement always looking for the next cause for self-improvement!

So what are we doing now, that will cause later generations of brave questioners and boundary-pushers to reprove? What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next, when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity? I think I know what it will be! (Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences? And I include people as good as you envision yourself to be. Discuss in comments, below.)

Still, let's get back to the latest generation of marvelous new authors. Two impressive ones to watch, in my opinion?  

Ada Palmer, author of the dense and intellectually rich thought experiments Too Like The Lightning and its sequel Seven Surrenders And Sue Burke, who impressed me with her novel Semiosis, a less-dense and quicker-moving, episodic tale about humans colonizing a planet and awakening dormant super-intelligent plant life.

== SF'nal methods applied! ==

Prototyping a better tomorrow: An extensive article by Kevin Bankston on “science fiction prototyping” reveals how many companies, NGOs and agencies are now building up their suites of consultants who are expert at crafting SF “what-if” scenarios. Examples include the 64 writers and creators assembled by the XPrize Foundation.

For example, Bankston writes, “Mozilla commissioned stories from big-name writers like Cory Doctorow, Hannu Rajaniemi, and Daniel Suarez for its conference on the future of the open internet, while the Data and Society Research Institute similarly used science fiction as a scenarios tool for driving a conference discussion, which ultimately led to a published set of four stories about the future of A.I. and automation. 

A new online community and content portal called Scout is explicitly focused on using science fiction to understand the present and plan for tomorrow. Ari popper's endeavor SciFutures contracts with companies to build imaginative scenarios, on-demand. And Future Tense on Slate is publishing original science fiction by Emily St. John Mandel and Paulo Bacigalupi "accompanied by expert commentary to help readers grapple with new technologies.”

Another good example that's available for free download: Stories in the Stratosphere, a collection of near-future stories collected ASU: Center for Science and Imagination, edited by Ed Finn – with stories by Karl Schroeder, Brenda Cooper, plus one I collaborated on with Tobias Buckell. “Each story presents a snapshot of a possible future where the stratosphere is a key space for solving problems, exploring opportunities or playing out conflicts unfolding on the Earth’s surface.” It was sponsored by one of the new strato-balloon companies - World View - founded by Pluto pioneer Alan Stern.

== The harder, bigger questions ==

Is it possible to portray a human civilization that is post-singularity?  Of course it’s easy, if the advanced machines are malevolent toward our descendants, who scramble for survival like rats underfoot, as portrayed in Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series and many works of cyberpunk. Assume all that and the plot-peril comes easily. The story almost writes itself. (See this secret decrypted.) 

But what if the coming singularity goes better than expected? Might we find the wondrously desired “soft landing” when humanity and our creations learn to prosper together? Iain Banks - in his Culture Novels - proposed that bio-humans and their civilization would be cherished, guided and cared-for by super-AI minds — machines of loving grace — who thereupon incorporate the best of us into their matrices, in order to “stay human-based.” They also find important work for those men and women who feel ambitious, adventurous and creative.

And yes, it’s much harder to portray a positive post-singularity humanity. How do you depict descendants who happen also to be (in effect) omniscient gods?  I made my own efforts to take on this challenge in tales like “Stones of Significance” and "Reality Check." But how much easier (and lazier) it is to throw your characters into hardscrabble peril, dodging the stomping heels of meanie skynets and terminators?

Still, you can find positive post-singularity stories in the oddest places. By Cordwainer Smith, for example, or Philip José Farmer, or Roger Zelazny… 

... and by my former teacher, Ursula LeGuin, who presents us with a future humanity that has the leisure and instrumentalities and passion to study the languages of animals — even ants — for the sake of vastly expanded empathy and art. 
Go read “The Author of the Acacia Seeds And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics,” (from Le Guin's collection, The Compass Rose) and tell me how the trio of little vignettes can be set anywhere/when other than in a fine posterity that’s spectacularly wealthier and also richer in “otherness” than even our own. These are tasty little tales, in their own right.  But it is the author’s implicit confidence in humanity that I find most endearing… that we will keep expanding our circles of inclusion and eagerly spending our new plenty on frenetically, eagerly getting to know.

Ah, but will there be others to know, as we embark on a perilous journey into the Anthropocene, a new geological era — crafted (for worse (or better) by man — we know we’re causing a wave of extinctions that will certainly match that of the late Pleistocene, and conceivably the dire one at the end of the Cretaceous? There are even those speaking of Permian levels of annihilation, in which case you can be sure that humanity will end amid the rubble and heat and poisoned atmosphere, the effluents of our woefully incomplete sapience.

In both Earth and Existence I took a balanced view, that we still have a chance to steer this vessel. After all, suppose you had been around in the 1980s and were asked to bet on the number of surviving whale species, in 2017. Who would have wagered that all of them would still be around, and rising in numbers?

As a 50 year Sierra Club and Greenpeace member, I know we must agitate and spread awareness of the dark potential costs of human negligence. I am beating drums and knocking heads!  And yet…

…and yet, as Captain Kirk said, there remain “possibilities.”  

Hence see this book Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction - on “The sixth mass genesis? New species are coming into existence faster than ever thanks to humans.”  And yes, there is a danger that this argument may be misused by the enemies of the Earth, of civilization and of our children.  Those rationalizing haters of science and responsibility abound.

And yet… for those of you who can nurse complex thoughts and nuance, there is grist here for some pondering.

== News and Updates == 

In Seat 14C: The XPrize Foundation – in collaboration with ANA Airlines – has issued on online anthology based on a fun conceit.  A dozen top science fiction authors were asked to write stories about passengers aboard ANA flight 008, landing in San Francisco of the year 2037, two decades later than they expected to arrive.  Stories by Kevin Anderson, James Morrow, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Gregory Benford, Bruce Sterling and many other luminaries. Way-fun stuff.  Not much consistency except… here’s your monthly dose of optimism!

Speaking of XPrize… they FB-posted a well-produced video of me explaining the concept of the self-preventing prophecy, and how we gird ourselves through science fiction to face tomorrow's perils. 

While we're at it, here are more Ted-style talks about our future!

(1) The “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art with optimism. They feature my blather about peering into the future. Vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing.

(2) Video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson congress in Las Vegas, October 2016. A punchy tour of big perspectives on Intelligence, as well as both artificial and human augmentation.

(3) At the Smithsonian - "Will we diversify into many types of humanity?"


Okay, I'm almost done with this Science Fiction roundup... but hold on...

Last chance to get The Practice Effect on Kindle for only $1.99!

== Alternate Worlds Abound! ==

HBO’s new parallel world sci fi show called “Confederate” seems a timely, provocative riff on our re-ignited American Civil War.  “The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”  I'll comment more on this, later. But note that I have long said we're in phase 8 of the American Civil War...

... and so here's your costume for Halloween. I mean it. Demand may exceed supply, so act now!

Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States.

And finally.... Aw… RIP Gonzilla! 

160 comments:

Bruce Golden said...

I've never heard of Semoisis by Sue Burke. It sounds a lot like my novel Evergreen. I'm going to have find it and read it.

Marino said...

Re:sci-fi, what about the late Jerry Pournelle? Sorry if I am too much harsh, de mortuis nihil nisi bonum and all, but that egregious piece of climate denialism, Fallen Angels? Or the outspoken feudalism in Oath of fealty? (Ok, I liked the Motie novels...)

Steven Hammond said...

@ David Brin said:

Oh and also, let’s celebrate that science fiction has always – and yes always, ever since it was founded by our revered grandmother of SF, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) – been the genre of literature most welcoming to bold ideas about human and non-human diversity, and brashly exploratory authors.

Totally agree with that, David, but media changes and I think graphic novels/ comics will become more and more important as we move forward as THE media for SF and new ideas. Webcomics, particularly.

I'm following "Stay Silent, Stand Still", a webcomic by a very talented young woman from Finland. It's a post-apocalyptic story that is, for once, NOT feudalistic. Not a lot of SF in the story but some. I came across the comic while searching for a story outside the feudalistic death-cult stories I'd been watching such as Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad (very feudalistic, BTW).


I forget who here is a fan of the Saga comics...? (Larry Hart, Maybe?) I've read the first volume of that and need to order the second. I got into comics/grahic novels as I've been a fan of Neil Gaimon (not SF, but always good) and had to read Sandman comics after exhausting his other works. Totally changed my world. So much that can be portrayed in one image in a comic that would take pages to convey in words, but more abstract ideas may not be as easy to illustrate, so there's a trade-off.

I've read quite few other comics since which branched off from Sandman, including Lucifer, Hellblazer (the spin off of Constantine from Swamp Thing) , Swamp Thing and League of Extraordinary Gentleman, also by Alan Moore--who is incredibly talented and likely insane... ;) My favorite comic/graphic novel may be Unwritten by Mike Carey which is very post-modern and... well it's not especially SF, but really fun and uses some old stories (Melville, Kipling) very well. The use of Harry Potter as a stepping off point in also effective and I'm surprised JK Rowling didn't sue.

David Brin said...

Pournelle, like Poul Anderson and sometimes (not always) Robert Heinlein, fell for the notion that resisting the blatant threat and evil of communism required going in the opposite direction IDEOLOGICALLY, which simplistically meant heading to the right.

Which meant tacitly supporting the great man vs the masses. The most extreme pushers of this demigod notion were L Ron Hubbard and AE Van Vogt. The dominant promoter of Surrender to the Chosen One today is Orson Scott Card.

Jerry, Poul and RAH had this moderated by extreme loyalty to the notion of an egalitarian America. Heinlein would veer away from the right at regular intervals. So would Poul. But Jerry was highly political and hence vested huge mental association with the Republican Party. He was honest about his pain over the direction that movement took, in recent years. But he did whjat nearly all sane republicans have done... kept hallucinating equivalent madness among democrats, when there was almost nothing there.

David Brin said...

I await comment on - "What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next, when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity? I think I know what it will be! (Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences? And I include people as good as you envision yourself to be. Discuss in comments, below.)"

locumranch said...



Congrats to David for today's walk-on on BBC World News with his brief comments on Nuclear War in Science Fiction & its relation to Climate Change.

But, as far as Science Fiction being founded by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley goes, this remains a matter of some debate since her 'Frankenstein' is more or less a knock-off the 'Golem of Chelm' folktale (1640) and, temporarily speaking, the Brothers Grimm published their otherworldly 'Fairy Tales' 6 years before Shelly's 'Frankenstein', Thomas Mann published his speculative 'Utopia' in 1516, Lucian published his fantastic 'True History' in 300 AD and Plato published his 'Republic' in 300 BC.

Of course, I understand why the politically correct forces of progress wish to claim the 'Founder of Science Fiction' title for a woman, as it reinforces the gynocentric narrative of feminine primacy, even though women -- who now earn almost 70% of ALL university level degrees -- earn less than 10% of all university level STEM degrees, because reality now appears to be 'sexist'.


Best
_____

"What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity? Well, the answer really depends on the 'we' who gets the 'upper hand', doesn't it?? I find it infinitely fascinating that the pre-2016 politically correct forces of progress could trumpet 'demographic replacement' as a triumph of egalitarian diversity without criticism, yet matthew saw fit to denounce me as vile racist for my use of the very same politically correct term. Yes, indeed. It all depends on the subjective definition of the term 'we'.

David Brin said...

Any links to the BBC interview? If we damp down the hysterical paranoia... he makes a couple of points worth pondering.

locumranch said...


David's comments (with Catherine Asaro) were brief, I'm sad to say, and the link below does not include his take on 'fear of climate change' :

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05g73mg

Best

Zepp Jamieson said...

Personally, I wish you had followed up on Startide Rising. That book had a real interesting premise that a good writer could have expanded on.


Seriously, sequels seem to do better in SF than in other media.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Seriously, sequels seem to do better in SF than in other media.


Isn't that because sci-fi novels essentially invent a whole new world or culture, and it's almost a shame to waste it all on just one story?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post and then again here:

Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences? And I include people as good as you envision yourself to be.


Doubtless there will be a "Well, duh!" moment when you tell us what you had in mind. I'm having trouble discerning it, though. The possibility that came to mind--which I'm not confident is yours--is publicly spreading communicable disease.

Ok, another just occurred to me right now, which has a better shot at being what you're after. Gossip.


Greg Hullender said...

@Zepp Did you read Brightness Reef and the following two novels? They continue the story from Startide Rising.

@David Brin
I like to say that the biggest mistake most of us make is that we never entertain the possibility that we might be wrong. Whenever any argument starts to get heated, there ought to be a social convention that someone calls a timeout and then each participant has to offer thoughts on his/her points of doubt. That is, answer the question, "How could I be wrong about this?" If you can't do that, then you have to drop out of the discussion.

Obviously that's a little too simple (what if the discussion is about whether 2+2=4) but I think it's in the right direction.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Greg asked, "@Zepp Did you read Brightness Reef and the following two novels? They continue the story from Startide Rising"

Oddly enough, I did. I was being facetious.

Steven Hammond said...

@Get Hullemder said:
I like to say that the biggest mistake most of us make is that we never entertain the possibility that we might be wrong. Whenever any argument starts to get heated, there ought to be a social convention that someone calls a timeout and then each participant has to offer thoughts on his/her points of doubt. That is, answer the question, "How could I be wrong about this?" If you can't do that, then you have to drop out of the discussion.

YES!
Acknowledging uncertainty is the hallmark of science (though sometimes ignored) and we, as humans, ought to acknowledge that same uncertainty in our conversations. Unfortunately, Idealogical zealots, are loth to acknowledge any uncertainty and see any uncertainty in others as a sign that their verbal combatant doesn't know what they're talking about or is double-minded and thus feels vindicated. It's somewhat of a different languag, I suppose, and treacherous row to hoe..










)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Talking about Jerry Pournelle - and RAH

Their worldviews were set by two HUGE factors that have simply evaporated

(1) - obviously - the fall of the USSR

(2) - less obvious but possibly more important - Lead in Petrol

The decision to put lead in petrol was a disaster - this was almost certainly the reason that violent crime went from less than 200/100,000 in 1960 to about 700/100,000 in 1993

This means that during their adult lives civil society was measurably becoming more horrible - more crime, more murder

As a result the sort of effects that Dr Brin talks about - the "Four Way Stop" - were irrelevant

They could look at society and see a steadily increasingly violent society - which would "obviously" need more and more control to make it even remotely livable

After we eliminated the lead we still have the brain damaged citizens - but older citizens commit less crime anyway

So we can go back to the world of "The Better Angels"

The corner turned in 1993 - but it was probably 2005 before it was obviously a definite long term change - RAH was long gone

Jerry Pournelle would have been over 70 and had already written most of his books

The Great Man v The Masses - becomes a different question when you can see "The Masses" becoming more and more violent and masty

More than tripling the violent crime rate in 30 years!! - if that had continued ......

Treebeard said...

Who are these mysterious "reformers" telling us what habits we must break? The Illuminati? Invisible Governors? Angels? Demons? Aliens? When do we get the upper hand on these tyrants and the cultural conformity they like to call "Progress"? Also, is the Singularity before or after the Rapture? The Revolution? The Apocalypse?

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

I forget who here is a fan of the Saga comics...? (Larry Hart, Maybe?)


I have become a fan, but that was at the suggestion of someone else on this list. I don't remember who that was.


I've read the first volume of that and need to order the second


You need to order the next six volumes! Or borrow them, if you're lucky enough to live near a library like the one in my town. And if you like the writer (Brian K Vaughan), you might seek out his older works, "Y: The Last Man" and "Ex-Machina".


David Brin said...

"Tyrants of conformity"? There it goes again! The homage to our enlightenment... that these lickspittle apologists for feudalism do not defend it on its own terms. Instead, they attack the enlightenment by accusing us of crimes in OUR terms!

We who have created the least conformist, most individualist, most freely diverse and welcoming-of-eccentricity culture that the world has ever seen... and with almost all of the actual facts backing every position that we take and almost no facts supporting the troglodytes... WE are the ones repressing eccentricity and enforcing conformity!

It would be one thing if they openly and fairly tried to gather actual evidence that feudalism should be given another run, despite 6000 years of horrible failure. They can't. There is none. So they must resort to tricks like this, whining:

"You enlightenment bullies are repressing my diversity and right to be eccentric and individualist... by marching lockstep with other confed-nazis and crushing anyone who doesn't look and believe like us! Your preventing that is oppression!!!!"

Utterly pathetic. But mewl and moan and thrash and roll around on the ground kicking and screaming like toddlers. We know that if you win you will kill us. If we win, you'll continue to be coddled. Because we're strong.

Treebeard said...

Nah I don't divide the world into progressive do-gooders and feudal evil-doers, it's not integral to my religion. I'd rather be an Apache anyway. The tyranny I'm talking about is like a smiley face on a boot or flowers on a grave. After it stomps and buries people who didn't want its progress, its court authors write books about how much greater, gooder, more glorious and god-like liberal civilization is than anything that came before, and how savage and evil everything that stood in its way was.

Treebeard said...

In other words, it's an old story in a new guise.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Larry,
"It occurred to me yesterday that we should air-drop millions of I-Phones into Pyongyang with dedicated "pen pals" from South Korea ready to talk to them."

Not the iPhone, and Pyongyang is probably too tightly controlled. But I've wondered about this idea for years. Airdrop subversive devices throughout the country, a few times a year. (Presumably via stealth bombers.)

A modular device with a solar panel and a wind-up generator, networked to a satellite system via a dedicated crypto system. It would provide communication, obviously, but also links to purpose-crafted Korean-language news, *pedias and educational resources (including how to fix, modify, repurpose the device itself), and a crypto-nonymous way to exchange information within NK (most harmless, socialising in ways not Officially Approved, gossiping, minor black-market trading, etc, but allowing free, uncensored anti-government communications.) Include lessons on how to avoid being targeted by the government, not just regarding the device, but general tips for living under that system. (I'm sure everyone can see how innately subversive that is?)

If some people don't want to use it? Okay, pull it apart and the pieces are easily turned into other useful devices by any moderately killed craftsman. (Unlike any Apple product.) Just the power systems -- the solar panel, the crank-generator, and the battery -- would be invaluable. Ideally even the packaging, even the parachute would be valuable. (Cloth, water-tight containers, etc.) It will therefore be too useful, too valuable to turn in to authorities even if you don't use it for its intended purpose. And once you have a culture of hiding the airdops, the temptation to use it for its original purpose will be overwhelming.

Note that the device doesn't have to be compact, fast, hi-res, or particularly clever, it can seem archaic to us. It also doesn't have to be able to touch the internet at large. It doesn't even have to work as a phone, just store'n'forward audio messages would be enough, along with written communications. Cheap, mass-produced, hell Chinese-made. The basic design could probably be commercially viable in many parts of the world. (That's what happened with the British wind-up radio.)

As a side benefit, the crypto is obviously man-in-the-middled by the creators, US intelligence (sharing with Korean intelligence because of the need for massed language translation), allowing access to a ridiculous amount of information about NK military and government operations. And, in my version but doubtful in reality, the device's wiki would be open about that. Indeed it would be honest about everything. That's the buy-in. "We tell you the truth." (In that light, maybe even share the intel with the Chinese as a gesture of good faith.)

David Brin said...

LarryHart Got it. Gossip is the one evil thing that even good and well-meaning people do, for reasons of social bonding and alliance building that go back to when we picked fleas off each other. It is a hard habit to break! I was never much of a gossip, but when I realized how stunningly unfair and harmful it can be - and how much we take it for granted - I vowed to try, choosing instead to either confront folks directly or at least talk about them in venues where they can easily find (and possibly refute) what I said about them.

Of course gossip is slippery, but it fundamentally avoids the matter of “I might be wrong.”

It mentally sways the person you are sharing information with. Even if what you say sounds far-fetched, they react with “He’s exaggerating, sure. But there must be some fire under the smoke.” Some gossip is just informative. But when it becomes a concerted campaign to HARM the person being talked about, then you have a pure and despicable evil.

Yet, there’s no campaign against it! Which is my point. If we make progress on the evils we are currently fighting… racism, sexism, tribalism, throwing away talent because of prejudice… then a time may come when this terrible habit may be the next major cause.

Duncan, you’ll recall I played a role in getting the lead out of gasoline!

David Brin said...

In other words, the ent confirms every single thing I said about him, without showing the slightest sign of comprehension, curiosity or irony.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

I remember now! -
and I wonder if despite all of the other very important things that you have done that will actually be the most important overall

The more I look at it the more damage that lead in petrol has done!

I just looked at the homicide rate in the USA if you blame the higher levels from the 1960's on on lead then it works out as an additional 470,000 deaths up until year 2000

Or more Americans than were killed in WW2

Tony Fisk said...

In "How Green Was My Valley", Richard Llewellyn reserved a special Welsh tongue lashing for gossips.

Soft post-singularities? I'm going to nominate the storyline for the game "Horizon Zero Dawn", which follows the adventures of a young tribal woman as she learns to hunt small game and... robotic dinosaurs!!?? The world it depicts is idyllic now (and *gloriously* rendered) but the Fall was clearly catastrophic. Just how catastrophic is what the story explores, but it's not just evil AIs.

The Rynosseros series appear to be at least two singulrities along. No wonder some people took to time travelling future Earths via cryogenic suspension

Laurence said...

"Oh and also, let’s celebrate that science fiction has always – and yes always, ever since it was founded by our revered grandmother of SF, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley)"

I...gulp...agree with Locumranch on this one. Not sure about his examples and obviously science fiction is hard to define but going by the simplest definition - fiction that pertains to science - New Atlantis by Francis Bacon is a very straightforward example of sci-fi. Then there's Kepler's Somnium and Voltaire's Micromegas. The Blazing World is a possible candidate for the first work of science fiction written by a woman. (Albeit not very well written!)

"Yet, there’s no campaign against it! Which is my point. If we make progress on the evils we are currently fighting… racism, sexism, tribalism, throwing away talent because of prejudice… then a time may come when this terrible habit may be the next major cause"

It's an old cause that seems to have dropped out of fashion. Consider Buddhism's proscription of "right speech" or the Baha'i faith's strict ban on gossip.

David Brin said...

There has got to be a way to corner guys like this into making a bet on it! Better yet, go to his followers and offer pet-care contracts... we'll take care of your pets after you rapture. But pay in advance!

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2017/09/15/biblical-prophecy-claims-world-will-end-on-sept-23-christian-numerologists-claim.html

Paul451 said...

So naturally in the comment before David's, I refer to gossip as "mostly harmless". Timing.

--

Larry/Zepp,
Re: SF sequels.

There's a difference between sequels and stories set in the same universe. (The first Uplift trilogy is an example of the latter, the second trilogy of the former.)

--

Duncan,
Re: Lead in petrol.

I'm reminded of Niven/Pournelle's sequel to Legacy of Heorot (where colonists coming out of cryo-sleep had mild brain damage. In the sequel their children didn't.)

[Third book in the series is a not-sequel set in the same universe.]

--

Loco,
"Of course, I understand why the politically correct forces of progress wish to claim the 'Founder of Science Fiction' title for a woman, as it reinforces the gynocentric narrative of feminine primacy"

It's actually guys like you who seem obsessed. The mere mention of a woman and you start foaming at the mouth and screaming about, without any self-awareness, political correctness.

--

Treebeard,
"Nah I don't divide the world into progressive do-gooders and feudal evil-doers"

Actually you do nothing but. Just with the good/evil reversed.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul451

And the third book - Destiny's World had brain damage caused by a mineral deficiency

Theresa williams said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LarryHart said...

@Paul451,

Point taken that I was using "sequel" interchangeably with "new story in the same milieu" (not sure what the exactly-correct word is there, but only us sci-fi/comics geeks would say "same universe".)

But going that route, I think a trilogy is different from a sequel as well. The second Uplift trilogy is really one long book with some covers intruding in the middle. I'm trying to think of a good example of a sequel that isn't like that--"Perelandra" to "Out of the Silent Planet" perhaps. The later "Dune" books to the original as well. The original "Foundation" trilogy as well, if I didn't know much of those were originally published as short stories.

Legitimate question: Where does the Lord of the Rings trilogy fall on this spectrum?

Tim Wolter said...

Gossip.

That seems a bit subjective. We all discuss the news of the day and we all put our spin on it. I'm not making it out to be a good thing mind you. But neither do I paint it as evil.

My initial answer is "Lowered Expectations".

I'm working with several student robotics ventures these days and the subject of discussion - I hope not of gossip - was what should we encourage young people to do with their lives. It's the old college/tech school/other debate.

I don't actually know any evil people. Indifferent people tend to be just that on this kind of question.

But I see plenty of good people passionate about it. Everyone should go to college ('cause we want our baristas to be well rounded). Or nobody should ('cause you can make better money as a plumber).

You can of course scale this up to the higher level of policy and cultural stuff. Everyone gets a participation ribbon, rendering the award meaningless. Your preferred victim group gets a free pass on assorted attitudes and behaviours.

High standards. Consistent standards. Realistic standards. Three good concepts that are to some extent in conflict with each other.

But I do think that good people who expect less of others do ill to them.

T.Wolter/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

There has got to be a way to corner guys like this into making a bet on it! Better yet, go to his followers and offer pet-care contracts... we'll take care of your pets after you rapture. But pay in advance!

They'll weasel out of the bet by saying there's no mechanism for them to collect if they're right. In fact, it would make more sense for us to be required to pay them first, and for us to have to take them at their word that they'll pay off if they're wrong. And I wouldn't take that bet.

But, I wish the Rapture really would happen one of these times. And that the ones who believe they are saved really are the ones who go away. I'm not even wishing anyone ill; it's a win-win situation for all. They get heaven, and we get a virtual utopia on earth.


http://www.foxnews.com/science/2017/09/15/biblical-prophecy-claims-world-will-end-on-sept-23-christian-numerologists-claim.html


I thought "foxnews.com/science" was the punchline. :)

LarryHart said...

@Paul451 again on sequels,
Maybe it would be helpful to state a working definition of "sequel", because I'm not sure I know what criteria you use to distinguish "sequel" from merely "set in the same universe". Unless you actually did mean that a sequel really is something like the later books in the second Uplift trilogy--continuations of the first book in the set. To me, that's a different thing (though not the opposite thing).

The more I think about it, the more I'm concluding that the distinction between multi-book stories, sequels, and stories set in the same fictional setting are concepts on a spectrum (with overlap between the definitions) rather than discrete concepts.

I'm thinking of the "Kindle County" books that Scott Turow wrote after the famous "Presumed Innocent". They're separate stories about separate characters whose plots don't depend upon the previous books. But aside from being in the "same universe", the characters overlap, with a minor character in one book being the protagonist of another. Does that count as "sequels"? They really have more in common with discrete episodes from a series, like James Bond or Perry Mason stories. Except that those have the same protagonist and same supporting characters each time.

Faulkner would probably be a better example of crossing the lines. I admit I was never able to force myself to read much of his, but I understand that his separate novels had re-appearances by many of the same characters, and that there are unstated plotlines one can discern if one is observant enough.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Saga: I'm a fan. I love the goofy, surreal, yet brilliant universe Vaughn and Staple have created.
SSSS: My wife is a huge fan. I need to restart it as I had trouble early on distinquishing the characters. I love the artwork otherwise.
I've mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating: Unsounded, by Ashley Cope. World every bit as brilliant and goofy as Saga's, with amazing world-building and splendid characters.
Best comeback comic: Bloom Country. The world has changed, and Berkeley Breathed has grown.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"There has got to be a way to corner guys like this into making a bet on it! Better yet, go to his followers and offer pet-care contracts... we'll take care of your pets after you rapture. But pay in advance!"

A couple in (I think) Indiana beat you to it, and have been making money hand over fist offering exactly that. Their contract stipulates that they will remain atheist and Jewish and thus will never be raptured.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

A couple in (I think) Indiana beat you to it, and have been making money hand over fist offering exactly that. Their contract stipulates that they will remain atheist and Jewish and thus will never be raptured.


That sounds like the plot of "The Producers". They can sell assurances of services that would take many more than 24 hours in a day to fulfil, and as long as the Rapture never happens, they're golden. If it ever does come, though...

Zepp Jamieson said...

They're still golden. The owners of the pets can't sue on account of they've all gone to heaven, and the pets can't complain.

LarryHart said...

On Gossip...

That's a topic that Dave Sim actually put into his "Cerebus" writing, and probably would have done even more with had he not gone off onto the tangent of anti-feminism. While researching for the extended story arc called "Mothers and Daughters", Dave coined the phrase "Gossip cleaves," which he meant in both senses of the word. It binds together those who share the gossip, and it cuts betrayer from betrayed when the gossip is discovered. Dave envisioned a whole underground economy in the female realm that revolved around gossip as a kind of currency.

I have no doubt one of Hillary's undoings in the election was gossip.

I can't immediately think of a good gossipy scene from Hamilton, but here's a bit from Lin-Manuel Miranda's earlier musical, "In the Heights". The setup is that there is obvious but unacknowledged attraction between (male) Usnavi and (female) Vanessa. The female cast at the hair salon are asking each other for gossip. "No me diga" is essentially "I don't know" in Spanish, so that phrase is used in two different meanings here:


Carla:
A little off the top.

Daniela:
A little off the side.

Nina:
A little bit of news you've heard around the barrio.

Ensemble:
Tell me something I don't know.

Daniela:
Bu-eno.
You didn’t hear it from me.
But some little birdie told me,
Usnavi had sex with Yolanda!

Ensemble:
No me diga!

Vanessa:
Ay, no! He’d never go out with a skank like that.
Please tell me you’re joking.

Daniela:
-- Okay.
Just wanted to see what you’d say.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson:

The owners of the pets can't sue on account of they've all gone to heaven, and the pets can't complain.


Their lawyers might be Jewish, though. :)

Laurence said...

Aditional to my point on gossip above: it seems to be an exemption to the general trend of WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrial Rich and Democratic) morality outlined by Jonathan Haidt. Generally speaking WEIRD morality emphasises direct harm over obedience to authority, sanctity and loyalty. However, "traditional" morality typically treats gossip more harshly than WEIRD morality, despite gossip being directly harmful in many instances.

Steven Hammond said...

LarryHart said regarding Saga: You need to order the next six volumes! Or borrow them, if you're lucky enough to live near a library like the one in my town. And if you like the writer (Brian K Vaughan), you might seek out his older works, "Y: The Last Man" and "Ex-Machina".

Just ordered Saga Book 2. (I actually read Book1, not Vol 1) :)

Zepp Jamieson said:

SSSS: My wife is a huge fan. I need to restart it as I had trouble early on distinquishing the characters. I love the artwork otherwise.
I've mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating: Unsounded, by Ashley Cope. World every bit as brilliant and goofy as Saga's, with amazing world-building and splendid characters.
Best comeback comic: Bloom Country. The world has changed, and Berkeley Breathed has grown.


I love SSSS, but the long prologue with characters that aren't in the main story was a little disorienting. It got better and better as I got into it, though, and the artwork is just breath-taking at times. I'll have to check-out Unsounded! Sounds excellent!

donzelion said...

Re Dr. Brin's challenge: "What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next, when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity?"

"Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences?"
Perhaps our children will look at our propensity to judge "good and evil" and be frustrated: 'how was that habit of thought helpful?' Why were we so obsessed with judging X, Y, and Z, and so negligent about fixing A, B, and C? Why were we so susceptible to the circus shows and games of politicians and divisive figures?

Perhaps they'll look at our use of social media as childish: "It's not a tool to present 'one word' judgments on like/dislike - it's a tool to get stuff (silly stuff, serious stuff, but STUFF) done." They'll look at our simplistic 'like/dislike' duality as the product of pathetically limited imaginations, and see our attention as too easily manipulated by the circus (as if they'll be any more sophisticated in reality...but they'll perceive themselves as more sophisticated because that's the arrogance of youth).

donzelion said...

Laurence: Jonathan Swift is probably just as important a godfather of science fiction as Shelley. His tale modifies the Norse/Greek tradition of the epic journey; Frankenstein modifies the Faust tale. Both ask meaningful questions about the role of science in establishing our humanity. And if dystopian visions are science fiction, then the utopian visions to which they respond, starting with Thomas More, likewise fall within that purview.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I wish the Rapture really would happen one of these times. And that the ones who believe they are saved really are the ones who go away. I'm not even wishing anyone ill; it's a win-win situation for all. They get heaven, and we get a virtual utopia on earth."

Nah, when the good ones who are religious go away, the bad ones take their place - just as religious, not nearly as righteous.

Imagine: Saint Donald the Gropester and the Great Church Casino of Christ! Play these Christ-certified slot machines and see if you get your salvation! Portions of the money you pay go to stopping babykillers and ensuring freedom to be politically incorrect and finance bullhorns to shout how evil the smarty-pants set it - therefore, Jesus approves!

Zepp: re suing on behalf of pets
Gosh, I wonder if I'd be violating sacred legal canons by offering my services to defend your pets should you be raptured? Setting up a contingent trust/guardianship with a very narrow contingency wouldn't be so hard...could probably use a chat-bot to arrange all the documents.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I can't immediately think of a good gossipy scene from Hamilton..."

"We have the check stubs from separate accounts"
"Almost a thousand dollars paid in separate amounts..."

Actually, there's a lot of gossip in Hamilton, some having wonderful effects (the Schuyler sisters gossiping about Alexander), some tragic effects. He was a master gossip himself, just tended to gossip about rather important subjects.

donzelion said...

Tim Wolter: "I don't actually know any evil people. Indifferent people tend to be just that on this kind of question."

You may know one or two, but they're happily rare and haven't had opportunity or cause to show their malice to you. You'll find fewer of them hanging out with children trying to help them find their way: that doesn't seem to be a calling anymore that lends itself toward malignancy (though occasionally, even there...but that'll be one or two over the course of a career most often, and then a larger pool of indifference enabling them).

Indifference will never be 'evil.' There's gotta be something parasitic, exploitative, and ACTIVE to cross the line, at least in my book. Evil chooses to do harm (for the sake of self benefit of some kind - sadism, narcissism, wild despair/rage, etc.). Indifference may permit that, but may also rise to restrain that.

LarryHart said...

on science fiction...

A digression to begin: In "Understanding Comics", Scott McCloud asserted that what the movie as an art form does with time, the comic as an art form does with space. He argued that the defining characteristic of the comics form is juxtaposition of panels, and that what happens (mentally) between panels is often as important as what is seen on the page.

In doing so, he made clear that he didn't consider single-panel gags like "The Family Circus" or "The Far Side" to be comics, although he conceded that those strips do employ much of the same "grammar" of images, word balloons, speed lines, and such that comics do. I don't entirely accept that argument, but I do understand the distinction he was making.

In an analogous manner, isn't much of science-fiction really not so much science-fiction as something else using much of the same grammar as science-fiction? I'm thinking of the original "Foundation" trilogy as an example. It's set in an imagined future in which humanity populates the entire galaxy, and they have science-y ray guns and hyperdrive and miniature atomic motors--many if not most of the sci-fi trappings of the era. But the stories aren't about the science in the sense that they don't simply follow logically the implications of a particular set of scientific advances. The stories themselves are not much different (science wise) from "Star Wars"--that is to say, cowboy stories or WWII dogfights set in space. Thematically, the trilogy owes more to "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" than it does to any actual science.

"Frankenstein" is science fiction in that, while it's a kind of retelling of the Golem legend, it posits a scientific premise for getting there, and thereby cautions about the possible downsides of science itself. "2001" posits a scientific event in humanity's past and the conclusion that such a thing might lead to. I'd count "War of the Worlds" as sci-fi for taking a trope like "invasion from another society" and imagining it from the perspective of another species from another world altogether. I'd even accept a case for "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", not because it scientifically explains the time travel itself (it doesn't), but because the rest of the story is all about the effect the traveler creates by introducing present-day technology into the past. The "1632" series is sci-fi for much the same reason.

Asimov's robot stories certainly seem to be true sci-fi, but I'm wondering if his Foundation stores--the first books that come to mind when I think "sci-fi"--actually count, or if they are more accurately described as something like boys' adventure stories using sci-fi tropes. If it is to be counted as sci-fi, I'd say that is because of the "science" of psychohistory itself. The ray-guns, spaceships, and planets by themselves are not enough.

locumranch said...


Larry_H & Paul451 struggle to reinvent the wheel by parachuting Rube Goldberg disinformation complexities into North Korea, even though Radio Free Europe served the very same cold war purpose (very cheaply) from 1949 to 1995 yet, typically & hypocritically, they take offense when a modern Russia returned the favour during the 2016 US presidential election via Facebook in a radio-free manner.

Our very own Tacitus, Tim_W provides the voice of reason with his "Lowered Expectations" mantra, then doubts the courage of his convictions as he retreats into the unilateral WEIRD by suggesting that "good people who expect less of others do ill to them", whereas cyclic truth suggests that most "good people of who expect less of others" have had ill done to them by others & vice versa.

And, Treebeard:

You are too harsh. These weirds really believe they can 'level-up' in this life, once they meet some arbitrary requirements established by some Reformer in the Sky, as if reality was a staircase, a hierarchy, a secondary school or a child-friendly video game wherein we are all flawed innocents who can be saved & ascend through hard work, monthly payments, a 'can-do' positive mental attitude & the best of intentions.

They think that they can keep all the GOOD aspects of Sex, Gender, Race, Tribe & Nation while simultaneously repressing all of the associated BAD 'isms' and, even though they insist on intellectual conformity & the repression of human eccentricity, they imagine that they're liberating the human psyche from historical oppression with motivational exercise, CQI, periodic performance evaluations & grandiose mission statements.

They need to Lower Expectations, most assuredly, but they are as little children who are not yet prepared to repudiate a just, all knowing & all surveilling Father Christmas parent-in-the-sky, so they create their own out of CCTV, mistaking information for just parentage instead power, even though 'information is power' and absolute power creates corruption & injustice.


Best
____
That's David's transparency argument in a nutcase, is it not? That the power of perfect information, if balanced from above & below, must equal a 'fair/flat/open playing field' & perfect justice, rather than the mere POWER to do ill or good, depending on inclination.

Daniel Duffy said...

There is historical precedence for a Black America.

Read "The Soul of Battle" by Hanson. Interesting insights (which I don't completely agree with) about how ideologically motivated democratic armies have defeated so-called elite warrior societies and their armies - so long as they are led by a visionary leader whose views may actually contradict the values of the democratic society he serves. The examples studied are:

Epaminondas' Thebans crushing Sparta
Sherman's Army of the West gutting the Confederacy
Patton's Third Army and its contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany

In each case, an army of motivated "yeomen" defeated a supposedly elite/aristocratic warrior opponent - said opponent collapsing like a house of cards. IMHO the author's examples are subject to criticism and his definition of a yeoman army could very well include Cromwell's Puritan New Model Army or the French armies of the revolutionary (pre
Napoleon) era.

Be that as it may, I was struck by what happened after the defeat of Sparta, with the freeing of their Helot serfs and their refounding (with Theban assistance) of their now heavily fortified poli of Messenia. This act helped ensure that Sparta would never rise again. Something similar (but far from identical) happened after W.W.II with the Jewish
victims of the Nazis founding the state of Israel.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion and @Tim Wolter on evil,

Even those who others consider evil rarely exist as cackling monsters who revel in their own evil-ness. They believe they are justified or excused or deserving or some explanation that salves their behavior in their own minds.

Which is why I've lately been amazed (in a bad way) to see groups like ISIS or Boku Haram whose own promotional material revels in portraying themselves as cartoon super-villains.

Jumper said...

I was going to guess "shaking hands" as a nasty habit. I try not to. There's a popular radio star around here who rails about it, so most locals have heard about this. I used to like it; heck I still do but between bouts of pneumonia and some ripped out tendons in my arm the thrill of going mano a mano with a new friend is not what it used to be...

I see gossip as value-neutral. It can be designed to injure, or neutral, or even praise for someone who is not there at the time their name arises in conversation. To me the injurious type seems cowardly, reflecting that the teller has no honor. Never insult someone behind their back if you aren't willing to say it to their face. I would bet that you'll never be rid of gossip, though. It's probably hard wired into our chattering simian brains.

LarryHart said...

On Gossip, again...

What makes gossip bad is that the gossip-er intentionally harms someone else in order to curry favor with the ones they gossip to. It involves a betrayal--a benefit at the expense of someone who hasn't consented to the transaction.

I'm wondering if there's a way to engage in behavior which has much the same social benefit as gossip without the harm.

As an example, I just came across this old post of mine on another site discussing "Star Wars" after the prequel trilogy had completed:

I assume that [Princess Leia's greeting to Obi-Wan] "You fought with my father in the Clone Wars" was a reference to Bail Organa, but it's quite the ironic statement given what we've seen since then.


I can tell that I meant that as something people would react to in a kind of "Hey, that's funny in a way I never considered before!" manner. That I'd get a kind of social credit for sharing that with the group. The desire prompting such a post has much in common with the desire to gain favor by sharing juicy gossip. It just doesn't hurt anyone else, which also probably makes it less attractive to a subset of humanity.

The bit I posted above from "In the Heights" with the girls in the salon hungry for "something I don't know" to alleviate the boredom suggests that milder forms of gossip which go heavier on the human interest and lighter on the harm are possible. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with this, except to suggest that it might be possible to encourage a more positive-sum version of gossip and stigmatize the other zero-sum version.

Jumper said...

As usual. locum is full of shit and indulging in straw-manning. There is a big difference between recommending a best path forward, and promising rose gardens and Utopias. His recommended path seems to be (he will never state it baldly; it's that cowardice thing again) rancor, pessimism and doom. Apparently he thinks (see above as to why this is uncertain) anyone who rejects rancor, pessimism and doom is some kind of sucker.

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

As usual. locum is full of shit and indulging in straw-manning.


I was going to respond directly, but figured loc would just brush off my interpretation as hopelessly naive. However, I do think it worth pointing out that the impetus behind "Radio Free Europe" is the propaganda value inherent in facts and truth. "Show them our reality, and they'll understand that their own leadership is lying to them--the difference will be obvious." This is not the same thing that Russians did in the 2016 election, which was "Lie to them, and they might fall for it long enough to do what we want them to." Might I even say that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing?

That said, the Russians aren't the villains in the 2016 scenario--I'm pissed at the American politicians who are ok with subverting democracy when it helps them personally, and at American voters who were (and many still are) gullible enough to be useful idiots. I don't mind that Russia is happy with the result as much as I mind the harm done by our own citizens to our own country.

David Brin said...

Hand shaking is not very clean. I've taken to half the time grabbing the other guy's forearm (don't do it with women) the way the Romans did, then using it as an excuse for an amusing riff about "Roman style" - both more manly and more sanitary! The other half the time, I just make a mental tickler to wash up, soon.

Wisdom from Tim/Tacitus. Still. I answer the meme that college is a waste, here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJTo9qXAcnc

Yipe! There actually are “after the rapture pet care” sites! They cover a whole range. This one (http://aftertherapturepetcare.com/) is hosted by (they assert) rapture believing evangelists whose apparent sincerity is only exceeded by their stunning hypocrisy. They guarantee that their volunteers are unbelievers who won’t be saved… and who will nevertheless sign up to do this – without any vetting or listing of those ‘volunteers’ by location or any guarantee they actually exist. Never mind that. The trusting folks who register (for a $10 fee, kept by the organizers) can then dismiss all worries from their minds, content that some damned-but-generous atheist or Jew will slog across the apocalypse, with blood pouring from his or her eyes, to care for your cat (when there will be vastly more urgent calls for compassion, nearby), for zero compensation. Never mind that you prayed daily for Armageddon to bring this suffering to anyone not exactly like you. Rest assured that these vetted martyr-saints will handle everything for Fluffy, while dodging seven-eyed scorpions and Beasts and lion-horses…

…as stunningly depicted in this fabulous, terrifying/hilarious web comic by Patrick Farley. http://www.electricsheepcomix.com/apocamon/ But… wait… what did I just call those volunteers? Could that mean what it seems to mean?

Possibly less of a scam are sites created BY the non-saved, who treat it as a business venture that can be enforced and supervised by the rapture-saved folks Jewish (and presumably left-behind) lawyers. Here’s a news report from the 2012 frenzy.
http://www.postrapturepetcare.com/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/rapture-pet-care-hoax_n_1372547.html
www.npr.org/2012/03/25/.../was-promise-of-pet-care-after-the-rapture-a-hoax

LarryHart said...

I think there will be much tribulation following any Rapture when millions of people who presumed they'd be among the disappeared realize they're still here.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

That pets-after-Rapture site you link to above seemed sincere enough (or at least faked sincerity well enough) until I reached the very bottom of their FAQ page. Yes, they think their own followers are easy marks.


God loves my pets, so I expect my dog to be raptured with me or to die when I’m raptured. So why would I register them?

It’s true God loves all animals, but there is nothing Biblical about pets being raptured or dying at the Rapture. There is plenty in the Bible about God putting animals in our care, though. You have a responsibility, as a good steward of your pets, to ensure your pet is taken care of if something happens to you, such as death or rapture. That is how God loves your pets – by putting them into your care and expecting you to take care of them. Expecting God to deal with your responsibility at death or the Rapture is no different than waiting for God to feed your pets. And registering your pets is only $10, so why not do it, just in case?

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

http://www.electricsheepcomix.com/apocamon/

That's just a contents page, right? Which specific comic were you linking to?

Paul SB said...

Treebeard,

Just a suggestion, but how about you provide the readers of this forum with something specific. Exactly how are "liberals" violating your rights, restricting your freedoms, compelling you to do things you don't want to do? If all you do is snipe from somewhere under Pseudonym Bridge and speak in vague generalities, you will never get anything out of discussion, because there is no actual discussion. But if you bring a list of grievances for people to read, they can discuss them. You might find that some will agree with you in unexpected ways. They might learn something from you, and you might learn something from them. But just spitting names and vague accusations is a fool's game with no ending.

Paul SB said...

Gossip,

Being one of those who would call him Tim, I agree that we cannot assume that gossip is 100% bad. We have to distinguish malicious gossip that is intended to harm from gossip that serves other social/psychological purposes, like simple venting of feelings, forming social connections, expressing and examining shared values, and any number of other things that go on when people gossip. I have no doubt that gossip has been a fundamental fact of human life since at least 40K y.a.Likely the only way to eliminate gossip entirely would be to fundamentally alter humans at the genetic level, and not to many people would be happy with the results, because there is no gene for gossip. Gossip is simply a consequence of more general purpose genes that make chemicals involved in social behavior. Without them humans would become something more like lizards and less like mammals.

But I would also suggest that malicious gossip, as much as I despise it, may not be the biggest thing we need to work on in terms of liberating the species from its troglodyte past (and to some extent, present). Things like racism, sexism, religion and ethno-nationalism are all specific instances of a more general aspect of human cognition. Because of Scalar Stress we tend to put people into boxes and assume that everyone who is in the same box is essentially alike. This is obviously the problem with the aforementioned isms, and is something that we can consciously try to stop ourselves from doing. When I run into somebody who is dressed ghetto, for instance, it's only natural that I experience a twinge of fear. I know from personal experience that ghetto is as much a fashion as it is a marker of criminal intent, same with tattoos, which in my generation were assumed to only be worn by criminals and sailors. Tattoos themselves were seen as immoral simply because they were associated with immoral people, but these days you're hard-pressed to find a person between the ages of 15 and 25 who does not have tattoos, ear plugs and bizarre chunks of metal piercing various body parts.

Paul SB said...

Gossip con't:

We can become cognizant of this kind of thing, and stop ourselves when we hear our inner thoughts go for the cheap, easy trick of assuming we know all we need to know about an individual just by seeing how they are dressed, or knowing a surname, or a gendered given name, place of origin, etc. What I see as an even bigger problem is our blindness to change. We assume that if we see a characteristic in a person, that they will always be the same, no matter what. In our minds there is always a core of a person that always is, always was and always will be. The leopard never changes its spots (never mind that humans are not leopards, and most don't have a lot of spots to change anyway). Reality is much more situational, context is everything. You take a perfectly ordinary Joe or Josephine Average, put them in a uniform and make them into concentration camp guards and they will very quickly become very different people. Take those same Averages and thrust them into the world of high-brow dog breeding competitions and they become different people yet again. The consistency we think we see in people comes mostly from the consistency of the environments in which we see them.

This was a lesson I learned in my years as a school teacher. As hard as kids tried to piss me off, I never really got mad at them or came to hate them, because I knew that in a few years they would be very different people. Growth is where change becomes most obvious, but even the elderly change, and everyone in between. This doesn't mean you should automatically entrust a convicted thief with the combination to your safe, but we should also not permanently condemn a person for past mistakes under the false assumption tat they are incapable of change. Heaven and Hell are both predicated on this assumption, though ironically we have another, related folk idea that does allow for change - Purgatory. But all those isms, like racism and sexism, lose a lot of their strength if we get that people are not timeless, unchanging realities.

There is a radio show I heard a couple years ago that addresses this topic. I think it's worth an hour of your time, especially if you find yourself trapped on the highway. Sure you can keep listening to those old '70s hits you would never admit to liking in public and can only indulge in while alone in your vehicle, but face it, you've heard every one a million times. Try something different for a change.

Paul SB said...

I apparently forgot to add in the url for that radio show"

http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/482836315/the-personality-myth

Dr. Brin,

Have you read Joan Vinge's "The Snow Queen?" It's a Hugo winner from back in the '70s with three sequels. I've only read the first two in the series, but I thought this might be a case of somewhat more optimistic - or at least more realistic - SF. It could be interpreted as a dystopia because it takes place in a polity comprising a handful of worlds that have been pulling themselves back up to interstellar life a millennium after the collapse of a previous interstellar empire. But then, there are very competent characters who move their worlds in positive directions. A manipulative exploiter is supplanted and replaced by a person who truly wants to lift her people up out of their backward existence, for instance. Improvement happens in spite of the human frailties of the characters (and the second book has a clever use of AI that I hadn't seen before).

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

We have to distinguish malicious gossip that is intended to harm from gossip that serves other social/psychological purposes...


I agree, but it's more of a continuum than a clear distinction. Gossip often isn't intended to do harm--or at least that's not the primary intent--but the social value gained is at the expense of someone else whose confidence you are betraying. The betrayal may not be the reason for gossiping, but it is harm nonetheless.

Bill_in_the Middle said...

I believe you meant Thomas More not Thomas Mann.

locumranch said...


Jumper states 'There is a big difference between recommending a best path forward, and promising rose gardens and Utopias", even though the 'best path forward" (as well as the promise of utopia) presume the foreknowledge & informational superiority of a teleology.

That's my whole point: There is NO SUCH THING as "the best path forward" without the impossible assumption of foreknowledge, especially when suckers like Jumper manufacture an inhuman Better Angels hypothesis in order to reject predictions that accept rancor, pessimism and doom as human givens.

Then, there's Larry_H who (quite naively) thinks that western media conventions reflect "our reality; facts and truth" wherein everyone is beautiful, rich, successful, never works, has non-stop intercourse, lives in a mansion, hobnobs with celebrities & drives expensive cars, just like in 90210, Dynasty & the Kardashians.

It is also no wonder that he & those like him, after being fed on a steady diet of MSNBC & mainstream media pap, believe that almost everyone of consequence is either pro-abortion, a gay, a minority, a progressive, a feminist or a progressive pro-abortion gay minority feminist, an assumption that once meant that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in to win the 2016 President Election. Ha.

It's all Confirmation Bias, the same type that led Bush/Cheney to assume that Iraq would welcome US forces as 'liberators', that empowers women & minorities to dismiss most modern white males as rapists, slave owners & supremacists, and that makes David insist that 'Pax Americana' makes the USA into a global saviour.

The Great Reformer in Sky says "Ha".


Best
____
Thanks, Bill. You are correct: I was referring to More's 'Utopia', not Mann's 'Magic Mountain'.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Then, there's Larry_H who (quite naively) thinks that western media conventions reflect "our reality; facts and truth" wherein everyone is beautiful, rich, successful, never works, has non-stop intercourse, lives in a mansion, hobnobs with celebrities & drives expensive cars, just like in 90210, Dynasty & the Kardashians.


That's not what I meant and you know it.


It is also no wonder that he & those like him, after being fed on a steady diet of MSNBC & mainstream media pap, believe that almost everyone of consequence is either pro-abortion, a gay, a minority, a progressive, a feminist or a progressive pro-abortion gay minority feminist,


You're just guessing, and badly too.


an assumption that once meant that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in to win the 2016 President Election. Ha.


I'll cop to that, but only because I didn't understand how many of my fellow Americans are assholes. I stand corrected.


Twominds said...

@Larry Hart 5:52 AM

Legitimate question: Where does the Lord of the Rings trilogy fall on this spectrum?

Tolkien didn't want to split the Lord of the Rings into a trilogy, he felt his big story felt apart in two parts, The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings. His publisher decided otherwise.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: "Their lawyers might be Jewish, though. :)"

Won't help. Most of the SC are Roman Catholic.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Steve Hammond wrote: " I'll have to check-out Unsounded! Sounds excellent! "

The artwork is wonderful, and at points exceeds Mina's. I'm not sure if the back volumes are on line right now: she got hacked two weeks ago and was going to restore last week from her central Florida home.

LarryHart said...

I missed these posts earlier...

donzelion:

"I wish the Rapture really would happen one of these times. And that the ones who believe they are saved really are the ones who go away. I'm not even wishing anyone ill; it's a win-win situation for all. They get heaven, and we get a virtual utopia on earth."

Nah, when the good ones who are religious go away, the bad ones take their place - just as religious, not nearly as righteous.


But at least for the moment, we'd have a Democratic majority in both houses of congress and a 4-0 majority on the Supreme Court.


Actually, there's a lot of gossip in Hamilton, some having wonderful effects (the Schuyler sisters gossiping about Alexander), some tragic effects. He was a master gossip himself, just tended to gossip about rather important subjects.


Yes, I should have thought of the Reynolds Pamphlet, but then Hamilton really precipitated that gossip himself. From what I've read, the real-life duel with Aaron Burr that killed him might have been on account of a bit of gossip against Burr that Hamilton was engaging in. But that's not in the musical.

LarryHart said...

...Gossip is the proximate cause for all three duels in the musical as well, although the climactic one isn't presented that way in the play. Charles Lee is challenged for gossiping about George Washington, and Phillip Hamilton defends his father's honor from gossip.

donzelion said...

"at least for the moment, we'd have a Democratic majority in both houses of congress"
You're assuming there are more Reps than Dems who'd be raptured. Faulty assumption. They did vote for Trump after all...

In terms of the musical, they're rather dismissive of Madison in my view. Yes, Hamilton wrote more Federalist papers; but we still read and study Madison's part. How they drifted apart and the rupture between them probably influenced Jefferson and Adams as they considered their own reconciliation.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

Madison is played as Jefferson's obsequious sidekick. Not really the way I think of the man. But then, as my brother pointed out, we don't typically of Thomas Jefferson as a cackling villain either.

When I first heard the soundtrack, my head spin when Madison went from writing The Federalist Papers along with Hamilton in the last song of Act I to lamenting that "We are involved in a struggle for our nation's very soul" in the first song of Act II. But then, Angelica goes from


My dearest Alexander,
You must get through to Jefferson.
Sit down with him and compromise.
Don't stop till you agree.


to


I know you're very busy.
I know your work's important.
But I'm crossing the ocean, and I just can't wait.


in the course of a few lines.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"at least for the moment, we'd have a Democratic majority in both houses of congress"

You're assuming there are more Reps than Dems who'd be raptured. Faulty assumption. They did vote for Trump after all...


You're playing a different game than I am, considering your own values as to who gets raptured. I'm taking them at their word that the ones who most vociferously presume that they will be among the chosen are correct, and pointing out that I'd be fine with the result. I'm imagining the rapture as our version of the B-Ark (I'm not going to try to spell that full name) removing the troublesome obstructionists and thereby saving democracy.

Paul451 said...

Golgafrincham

Google for the win.

--

PaulSB,
"It could be interpreted as a dystopia because it takes place in a polity comprising a handful of worlds that have been pulling themselves back up to interstellar life a millennium after the collapse of a previous interstellar empire. But then, there are very competent characters who move their worlds in positive directions."

You said that to someone who wrote The Postman.

--

Loco,
"yet, typically & hypocritically, they take offense when a modern Russia returned the favour during the 2016 US presidential election via Facebook in a radio-free manner."

How is it hypocritical? I'd expect North Korea to take offence to my plan. They'd be stupid not to. Only an idiot would allow a foreign power, deeply ideologically opposed to the very foundation of your own nation's systems of governance, free reign to undermine your nation.

Paul451 said...

Larry,
Re: The Rapture taking them what lust most after the Rapture.

The problem is, the other half of the Rapture is the coming of hell to Earth.

Their fantasy isn't just to be chosen, they have to defecate over everyone left behind or it doesn't count.

LarryHart said...

@Paul451,

Well, in that case, it's a lose-win.

Even better!

Paul SB said...

Larry,

You're right about there being a continuum, and thus it would be hard to draw lines. But much of the time there isn't even an intention to gain anything by the people gossiping - it's just a social glue that gives them something to talk about, or else they would have nothing to say to each other. This is especially so in small communities where very little happens for people to talk about except for each other's personal business. You live in a small town and pretty soon everyone knows the pattern on your underwear because you are the only new thing they have seen in a long time.

Paul 451,

The fact that Dr. Brin wrote "The Postman" is exactly why I thought he might appreciate "The Snow Queen." It isn't new by far, but it is up his alley.

Paul SB said...

The Rapture:

Donzelion got this one down. The whole point is not just to claim superiority for members of the Jesus Club, it's to gloat over all the misery they want to cause for all those who are not in their club. It is simple childishness, and yet it is shared by so many supposed adults who can't se it for what it is. That's the problem with gods - they don't illuminate so much as blind.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB ,

I'm just giving back on the Rapture. If they want to gloat over the misery of the left-behind, I'm gloating back over the opposite-of-misery that I imagine life without Christianists to be.

locumranch said...


I can't tell if Paul451 is describing the Rapture (Biblical) of Revelations or the Rapture (Nerd) of Singularity when he says "Their fantasy isn't just to be chosen, they have to defecate over everyone left behind or it doesn't count", because crapping all over various conservatives & luddites is something that most social progressives do, crowing about imminent conservative extinction, so convinced are they that they've pulled 'a better way' (de novo) from their arses that repudiates thousands of years of human evolution & society and, in the sense that destiny is a human construct, I'm beginning to suspect the Jean-Paul Sartre was correct when he quipped that "Hell is Other People".

LarryHart said...

@locumranch,


Nine out of ten shoppers can't tell the difference between Whizzo butter and a dead crab.

"I can't tell the difference between Whizzo butter and this dead crab!"



I can't tell if you are describing Paul451 or your own self when you say "Their fantasy isn't just to be chosen, they have to defecate over everyone left behind or it doesn't count", because crapping all over various urban progressives is something that most social conservatives do, crowing about imminent urban extinction, ...

The real answer, though, what you describe from the left is a hope that a particular identity-subgroup (for example, white racists, or for an example on the other side, leftists with no sense of humor) would become enlightened enough to voluntarily change their ways. Yes, it is technically a desire for a sub-group to go away, but not for the people in that subgroup to be violently exterminated. I get that you equate "enlightenment" in full scare quotes with extermination. You're simply wrong about that. I'm sorry for oppressing you by saying so. No, I'm not.


I'm beginning to suspect the Jean-Paul Sartre was correct when he quipped that "Hell is Other People".


Yeah, isn't it though. Some other people, in any case.


raito said...

Dr. Brin,

Thanks, as always for the literary pointers. I've probably said it before, but I have had a bit of a time moving my sf reading habits forward in time. Reading Heinlein juveniles to my children hasn't really helped that.

As far as Shelley goes, I don't think that anyone is going to disagree that there was sci-fi prior to Frankenstein. But that doesn't make any of those previous works genitive. Not that I necessarily agree that Frankenstein was, you understand (I might choose Verne, for example). The parent of the genre would be that work/author that caused further works by unrelated persons to come into existance.

Re: conformity

Regardless of how individualist or diverse our current culture is, it does force conformity in any number of ways. Try to get along without any money, for example.

Re: gossip

Well, at least you're consistent, right? Removal of the negative effects of gossip requires transparency, doesn't it?

I might have said employment, as it tends to end up inherently unequal. And as odd as it may sound, I think that the feudal (in one sense) model could work in many circumstances. By this, I mean replacing employment with contracts between equals. But I haven't thought much further along those lines.

Re: Radio Free Europe

An excellent example. But I'm a bit sceptical that everything said on RFE was truth. Propaganda is at leat half advertising... Then again, part of the broadcast nature would be that those on our own side could hear it, and would know which parts were true. Not as true with Russian election propaganda. Which takes us to transparency again, doesn't it?

Paul SB,

First you rail a bit against putting people in boxes, then you resign those between 15 and 25 to their own box.

Also, plese consider that in my experience, people don't change all that much. Sure, they're behavior may change depending on circumstances, but for me that's not quite the same thing as change. The people from my youth who I run into today haven't changed fundamentally from the way they were 40 years ago. Not a one, regardless of good, bad, or anything else. I think that it's possible, but in my experience, very, very unlikely. It's a bit frustrating that people are so resistant to change.

And the other problem with Gods is people. People who cannot actually comprehend omnipotence. People who will tell you that it's God's will when it's something they want you to do, and quite certain God doesn't want you to do whatever they don't want, while prattling about the unknowable 'plan'.

raito said...

I almost forgot...

Since webcomics came up:
https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2017/09/18/dropping-science

occam's comic said...

I would say that the story of Icarus is a science fiction story that incredibly enough predates the scientific method by more than a thousand years.

LarryHart said...

@raito,

On Radio Free Europe, exactly! It's not that every bit of pro-Western propaganda will be true, but it will win in the plausibility and verifiability contests over what their governments tell them about us. By making the comparison, they are somewhat forced to notice that they're being lied to on their own side. That's not what Russian propaganda in 2016 did at all. Almost the opposite thing.

On people changing, I've noticed two times of life when (some) people really do change. When they become young adults and rebel against their parents' preconceived notions, and when they get old enough to feel their mortality as a real thing.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Zepp Jamieson is the one who mentioned selling them the rope anyway as history shows they are more likely to hang themselves. I recognize some truth in that and am generally supportive, but I’d be more inclined to point out that the beauty of a free, flat, fair market is that money isn’t the only consideration in trade. Humans trading with each other do what humans do and NOT what prudence optimizing algorithms would do. If you suspect the other guy is going to use the rope to hang you, at a minimum, the price you demand will change. Since everything traded is itself a resource, it’s possible you’ll just use the rope yourself to hang them first.

Trade is voluntary by definition, but locumranch is actually being reasonable when he recognizes that some trades are arranged in such a way that one can’t reasonably walk away. Opium was forced upon China, so I don’t consider that a form of trade, however it wasn’t forced upon some of their people, thus it was a form of trade. This finer distinction has caused some economists to coin new terms. For example, Munger used ‘euvoluntary trade’ to describe the kind of trade where both partners can reasonably walk away from trading. Someone dying of thirst in the desert can’t walk away from a seller of water when they first meet, but CAN after they’ve acquired enough water to survive the trek back to civilization. The first water bottle traded might be voluntary, but only the second, third, and fourth can be euvoluntary.

Locumranch’s trade views are relatively easy to knock down, though. He confuses confiscation with trade. If I reasonably believe I face a threat of force if I don’t exchange A for B, then I am not trading A for B. I am being coerced to exchange A for B. Just avoid the use of the word ‘trade’ and it’s much simpler to see what is going on. English speakers use it WAY to broadly and confuse themselves in the process. Trade is not coercive. Adopting that view helps one more easily see the parts of our lives that ARE coercive.

Alfred Differ said...

The link to the replica blue kepi says it is out of stock at the moment. Anyone looking to buy one, though, can probably look around if they are willing to pay a bit more. Lots of small shops supply the re-enactment folks. Some sell direct from their own sites and others pitch their stuff through Amazon.

Just make sure you get the right color. 8)

TheMadLibrarian said...

After being utterly disgusted by the illogic, hopelessness, and willful ignorance surrounding Y2K, DH and several of our friends decided to take some of the doomsday preppers at their word: "Believe that the world is about to catastrophically end? We will buy your nonessential goods from you at twenty cents on the dollar, like jewelry; you can then put that funding into getting ready for the Apocalypse. No backsies!" The problem we ran into is that either the things the people wanted to sell were relatively worthless (you might value that handcrafted set of dishes, but I don't), or they didn't want to put their money where their mouth was. No one wanted to sell their car, house, or other valuables at a steep discount.

LarryHart said...

@TheMadLibrarian,

Compartmentalization rules the day in situations like that.

It's like the guy in "Watchmen" with the "End is Nigh" sign who insists to the newsdealer that the world will end today, but then makes sure is copy of "New Frontiersman" is reserved for the following week.

That leads to yet another punchline the next day when the news headline is that Dr Manhattan has left earth, and the Russians are massing on the Afghan border. The news dealer chides that "The world didn't end yesterday," to which the other guy replies, "Are you sure?"

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Zepp Jamieson is the one who mentioned selling them the rope anyway as history shows they are more likely to hang themselves [emphasis mine]. I recognize some truth in that and am generally supportive, ...


I do too. I was just taking issue with that being what Lenin said.

...different...opposite...


David Brin said...

Walmart has union Kepis cheap. I just ordered 4. If enough of us order, they may sense a trend and stock up!

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Adult-Civil-War-Blue-Yankee-Soldier-Officer-Costume-Kepi-Hat/27726257?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=565&adid=22222222227018796819&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=65037210249&wl4=pla-110690795289&wl5=9031293&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=112343739&wl11=online&wl12=27726257&wl13=&veh=sem

Or just "blue kepi walmart."

Heck give gray ones to your gopper friends!
Affably make it official.

LarryHart said...

Do they sell gray ones with "Make America Great Again" on them?

Or maybe, "I want my country back! You know, the one I left intentionally?"

LarryHart said...

occam's comic:

I would say that the story of Icarus is a science fiction story that incredibly enough predates the scientific method by more than a thousand years.


Good point. It's a story involving a technological solution to a problem. And it's even mentioned in "Hamilton". :)

Should science fiction really be called tech-fiction? The technology aspect seems to have at least as much to do with the genre as scientific method does.

A comics writer named Steven Grant once claimed that "Singing in the Rain" is really a science-fiction story, as it is about the social effects of a technological advance (sound in movies).

locumranch said...


The 1984 Summer Olympics coincided with the beginning of "Perestroika” & "Glasnost” and, after allowing commercial Olympic TV programming to the rebroadcast inside the Iron Curtain, the USSR accelerated its collapse by exposing its citizenry to unrealistic commercial representations of western wealth, WEIRDness, false consciousness & sexual promiscuity.

Convincing the East that that the West was literally 'paved with gold & sex' was a massive propaganda coup for the West, but it was short-lived, lasting LESS than 15 years, mostly because the average western citizen (the 99%) was slowly waking up & realising that the so-called American Dream was a massive LIE that (in the words of George Carlin) "you had to be asleep to believe".

So, as the average EU & US citizen began to 'opt-out' (after realising that they had been sold into corporate wage slavery under false pretenses), the now Global Corporatocracy threw open its national borders in order to reduce labour costs even further and recruit an army of credulous wage slave immigrants in a manner tantamount to a Declaration of War on first world labourers; hence the rise of nativist movements at home & abroad that scapegoat cheap foreign labour.

Now, as various nativist movements DEMAND economic protection, we teeter on a precipice which can only end in one of two ways, EITHER the Establishment will concede to the protectionist demands of native labour (which they can't do because of global economic interdependency), OR the Establishment will face open rebellion, economic disruption & tumbrels that will make the Weimar Transition seem like a picnic by comparison.

The time for the polite lies of 'politics as usual' has past because most first worlders (who have been lied to so consistently) no longer believe the truth when they hear it, even on topics like climate change, and they are doubly upset (1) over being 'lied to' by their established political representatives and (2) by the fact that they can no longer believe the political establishment even when it tells the truth.

Get those foreign-made Walmart Blue Kepis while they last because this hat will serve as an identifier & tell the average nativist who to stand against the wall when the revolution comes. And, don't be surprised when your many friends of convenience smell blood in the water & repudiate you, too, like so many looters during a hurricane.


Best
_____

When faced with such a crisis of credulity, it's LOL hilarious that Trump the Liar may be our best last hope to prevent the coming deluge, the billion dollar question being what actions are you & your establishment handlers doing to make his reassuringly comfy lies come true???

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "I mean it as stated [that Bannon's goal is to cause a Putin triumph in Tehran]. Given Russia's demographic collapse, Moscow cannot conquer the world. It WILL be either English or Chinese spoken world wide by 2100 and I believe Bannon wants it to be English."

Mercer's funding for Bannon-verse is well-documented. Putin's? Show me some evidence, and I'll take a look. More likely, Putin's operatives made use of what dissemination vehicles they found available. Coinciding disdain for the Clintons is not the same as causality (says the lawyer to the scientist).

Locum: "Get those foreign-made Walmart Blue Kepis while they last because this hat will serve as an identifier & tell the average nativist who to stand against the wall when the revolution comes."
Let them try. They'll discover they're just the same sad, lonely fringe of rabid wolves they've always been. You're far better with our lot than with that set - the 'average nativist' flees rather than fights, moving from California to Idaho, Kansas, or other outskirts. They never 'stood their ground' and actually held valuable territory in America - they fled elsewhere to escape debts and failed efforts. They squatted in squalor, took what no one else wanted, and if anyone did want it and stood their ground, the nativists screamed for help, begging the blue kepis to come and rescue them from the 'savages' (with the most threatening savage almost always consisting of another nativist).

donzelion said...

Alfred: "some trades are arranged in such a way that one can’t reasonably walk away."

IIRC, Veblen distinguished 'industry' (making good stuff folks wanted) from 'business' (trapping people so they must buy that stuff regardless of quality). As a product of the late 19th century, he was deeply concerned by trusts and the monopolies they created.

So was Adam Smith, as I recall:

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

(Of course, Smith then goes on to claim regulations make this problem worse, rather than better, as pointed out in this post, which duly chastises a pundit for taking one sentence and skipping the next three. Pity that the chastiser hypocritically repeats the same error, overlooking the 5th sentence in that paragraph, where Smith implies fairly clearly that incorporation itself should be banned among traders.)

LarryHart said...

locumranch delivers wheat from the chaff:

The time for the polite lies of 'politics as usual' has past because most first worlders (who have been lied to so consistently) no longer believe the truth when they hear it, even on topics like climate change, and they are doubly upset (1) over being 'lied to' by their established political representatives and (2) by the fact that they can no longer believe the political establishment even when it tells the truth.


Seriously, that's a cogent point.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | Veblen WAS a product of the 19th century, so I'm not overly enthusiastic about using his language and viewpoints. People of the era held some rather wacky views of history and ethics with few exceptions in my not so humble opinion. Seriously. Engineers instead of proletariats? Businessmen being displaced by them? Pfft. His opinion that proletariats would emulate their former masters is probably on target, but like everyone else of the era, he missed that the bourgeoisie as a whole was divided against itself enough that no one was successfully running away with things in the sense that the nobility had in previous centuries. Robber barons were VERY rich and powerful, but the peasantry was vanishing into the middle and the places that avoided formalizing nobility were exploding.

Smith, of course, took the perspective of a virtue ethics philosopher. Spotting the cheaters is so much easier that way. I’m not convinced that he was right about banning incorporation among traders. Though. I am more inclined to grant ways to pierce that veil when those traders cheat, but otherwise limit their liability in order to get them to take reasonable risks. People who don’t have skin in the game shouldn’t be protected much. Those who do will try hard to protect themselves. You know the types. 8)

David Brin said...

The rest was just more zero-sum hallucinatory drivel. But Locumranch give us the honest, straight deal when he says:

“Get those foreign-made Walmart Blue Kepis while they last because this hat will serve as an identifier & tell the average nativist who to stand against the wall when the revolution comes.”

Yep, we know that about you and your confederate/nazi/romantic cult. Our very lives are at stake. You will kill us all, when and if you get the chance, and without trial, because trials pose inconvenient things like “facts.” Just straight up against the wall. Except me. I’ll be drawn and quartered and burned. I am egotistic enough to expect that.

You know what to expect when we win though. Amnesties and full rights and Marshall Plans and newfangled toys and medicine. You think your ferocious hate gives you an advantage over our moderate reasonableness. But you really need to heed that quotation from Sam Houston. Print it out. Post it up to remind you what to really expect from us.

==

Donzelion, your excuse-making for Putin is… disturbing.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

You remember correctly about Veblen's distinction between industry, which manufactures things of value to society, and business, which attempts to extract things of value from society. His distrust of monopoly, trust and the robber barons they facilitate was certainly a product of the end of the 19th Century, but it is also a lesson in civics that too many people have forgotten, allowing the propaganda of the Cold War to sweep those concerns under the table (except in the minds of many urban peasants). I would not go too far with characterizing Veblen's thinking as 19th C, though. This same distinction has been made by many societies throughout history. For example, in Medieval Japan the merchants were considered the lowest class of human life because they profit from the labor of farmers and artisans. This distinction is found all over human hostory. One problem with this distinction, however, is that manufacturers do not simply manufacture for the good of society - there is a necessary relationship between manufacturing and business that distributes the products of manufacturing through society.

Alfred,

IMHO no single person, however wise or whatever century they hail from, should be taken as the final word on anything. I started my college years as a history major and we were trained to see the words people wrote in the context of the century and geography in which they were formed. As far as I can tell, cultural anthropologists are about the only people who are willing to do this regarding people with whom they share both time and geography - it's the point of the cross-cultural method. There is no reason to think that a 19th C. thinker had any less grasp of reality than an 18th C. thinker. If anything the accumulation of knowledge over time should suggest that the more recent thinker might be better informed, but /might/ is a very heavy qualifier.

The peasantry started vanishing into the middle class even before the Gilded Age, but that trend did not really take off until the end of WW 2, when the proliferation of factories spurred on by the war made a context in which a whole lot more people could get a living wage, and the G.I. Bill opened higher education to more of the populace. Before then it was a pretty slow trickle.

Paul SB said...

Raito,

I'm not sure if I should mea culpa on this one. Sure I am probably a victim of my own observer effects, seeing more tattoos and piercings than are actually there - fair enough. But if you look at it objectively I have no doubt that both of these phenomena are much more common among young adults today than they were in the past few generations. I should probably search for some hard statistics, though. Either way, the box thing doesn't mean that you can never say anything about any group of people, only that you have to accept that your generalizations are only general, not applicable to all.

As far as people changing, there have been studies that shoot down your observer biases. The one that really got a lot of attention was a Harvard study done in 2013 that was published in Science, but the original article is behind a pay wall. There are plenty of summaries out there, though. Here's one:

https://www.boston.com/news/science/2013/01/03/is-the-person-you-are-today-the-real-final-you-harvard-study-says-youll-change-more-than-you-think

You should know not to start out a bold statement with "In my experience ..." Dr. Brin, if no one else, will chastise you for anecdoting (okay, that's not really a word, but you get the idea). The fact is that we don't notice changes, especially when they happen slowly and we are in constant contact with the people whose personality stability we are using as examples. When a lot of time passes, then it is easier. I have a friend who I have known since 7th Grade but fell out of touch with after college. In those days he ridiculed vegetarians, but when I encountered him again more recently he had become a Vegan (what that has to do with people who come from a planet around Vega I'll never know!)

But even then, the "leopard doesn't change its spots" is a meme that carries a lot of weight in our country. We are reckoned fools if we believe that someone has changed, because people so commonly try to weasel their way out of consequences by claiming to have changed. This creates a cultural blind spot in ourselves that is easy to miss, and invites skepticism even when proven beyond shadow of a doubt just by daily life. That's one of the problems with conscious thought - we decide what reality is and mould our memories to match it rather than just seeing the reality that's in front of us.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "I would not go too far with characterizing Veblen's thinking as 19th C, though."

I hadn't meant to go so far, only his analysis fixated upon the world of the 'Long Depression,' while Keynes/Friedman focused on the world of the 'Great Depression.'

That said, even had I intended to go so far, it would have been consistent with my refrain that we need to look closer at the 19th century to understand the 21st. The political norms Trump & Co. represent fit far more closely with 1872 than 1932. The 'Long Depression' is the era during which Americans mostly minimal gains yet robber barons made out like bandits, largely on account of their connections and control. We mythologize the 'rugged Westerner' - romanticize and fantasize the 'Native' for good or ill - and avoid the imperialism, the frenetic greed and gleeful exploitation inherent in the system that emerged in that era.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Dr. Brin, if no one else, will chastise you for anecdoting (okay, that's not really a word, but you get the idea).


In the English language, "Any noun can be verbed."

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The 'Long Depression' is the era during which Americans mostly minimal gains yet robber barons made out like bandits, largely on account of their connections and control.


I used to post this here a lot, but it's been awhile, and it's appropriate...

From Kurt Vonnegut's novel "God Bless You Mr. Rosewater" published in 1964:

When the United States of America, which was meant to be a Utopia for all, was less than a century old, Noah Rosewater and a few men like him demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited. This oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who loved expensive things, and by the feeling that the continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone.

Noah, and a few like him perceived that the continent was in fact finite, and that venal office-holders, legislators in particular, could be persuaded to toss great hunks of it up for grabs, and to toss them in such a way as to have them land where Noah and his kind were standing.

Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus, the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.

E. pluribis unum was surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasures that have been deined the many. An even more instructive motto, in the light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters might be: Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"Any noun can be versed." - I love it!

I have to say that I object to Vonnegut's use of the term /Utopia/ here. If he said Eutopia I would have been cool with it, but /Utopia/ is such a stereotype of foolish longing it's best avoided like the right-wing PC it has become. And I wonder if our host would suggest that Vonnegut was going zero-sum there. However, I get the sentiment.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | There is no reason to think that a 19th C. thinker had any less grasp of reality than an 18th C. thinker.

I'm afraid there is. Sometimes we thinkers go down a rabbit hole and take a while getting back to the surface to try again.

If anything the accumulation of knowledge over time should suggest that the more recent thinker might be better informed, but /might/ is a very heavy qualifier.

I think economics is one of those fields where people jumped into the rabbit hole and then a bunch more followed them in there. 19th century writers had astonishingly bad history on which they were basing arguments and millions have died and suffered as a result. We got back near the surface a little after WWII when historians began to approach their field a little different and economic historians started accumulating giant piles of data.

I suspect you are wrong about the start time for the peasantry vanishing, but we might be using different definitions. Population in Europe began to expand at an unexpected rate before industrialization (Malthus). The textile mills were not staffed with peasants. Leave the fields for urban life and you aren't a peasant anymore.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I might have been confusing you with Alfred, who was dismissing the 19th C. When the days start getting noticeably shorter my short-term memory goes to crap - well, more so than usual, anyway. Apart from that, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

It's funny what happens when people look at today's events and try to fit them into their understanding by comparing them to some historic era. So often the popular imagination is so limited that they rarely come up with anything that goes back before the days of their grandparents. I remember when the Shrub invaded Iraq and the few people who were willing to come out against the war started drawing comparisons to Vietnam. They should have been looking further back for an apt comparison - The Peloponnesian War. Your 1872 date sits well with me, though if anyone has there suggestions I would be happy to entertain them.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH:"In the English language, "Any noun can be verbed.""

To quote the famed comic page sage Calvin, "Verbing weirds language."

raito said...

Paul SB,

I think it's much better to say 'In my experience' than 'It is so.' Doing so admits to a less-than-perfect data set.

Regardless, I was not speaking exclusively of people with whom I've been in regular contact.

While I appreciate your effort in trying to help me (because I really would rather that people DID change), I'm not sure your reference is any good for this. It's a very different thing to ask peole about their opinions of their own change vs. observable changes in their actions and words.

Also, elsewhere you are factually wrong about your characterization of merchants as the 'lowest class of human life' in Japan. While it's so that they were lowest of the standard classes, that classification only considers those considered human (or from another perspective, the lowest profession). Look up 'burakumin' or 'eta' for a view of what the Japanese version of Untouchables are.

You may be incorrect that merchant were near the bottom because they profited from others work, though it may also just be a matter of interpretation. I was always taught that they were on the bottom because they did not produce anything of their own (which is why farmers and craftsmen weren't looked down upon for selling their own wares).

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

but /Utopia/ is such a stereotype of foolish longing it's best avoided like the right-wing PC it has become.


You are such a schoolmarm sometimes.

Vonnegut wrote this in 1964. You can't expect him to have argued with locumranch about it. "Utopia" was an allusion that everyone understood in that context, and still would if they weren't willfully trying not to.

The most he's guilty of there is poetic license, describing a longing for an America which could have been but never actually came into being. One might almost refer to it as a "no where" if there was some kind of clever word in a dead language that meant that.

Paul SB said...

Raito,

True about the eta. Have you ever seen Kurosawa Akira's movie "The Lower Depths?" It takes place in a little eta village. On the status of merchants, isn't "don't produce anything" and "profit from other people's labor" the same thing?

Did you listen to the radio program I linked to in my original post? It's worth pondering. Context is everything, and what a person is in one context can radically change in another. You see people as being the same over long periods of time largely because their context is not changing a whole lot. Someone born at the bottom of the middle class is highly unlikely to live any other way than how they did growing up. The major difference is working for a living rather than going to school while their parents work for a living. Same thing happens at all strata of society. Now if you know a person who was born rich but went bankrupt, or someone who came from humble origins and became wealthy and prominent, you see some real changes. I have examples of both in my family to draw upon. But of course, data is always better than anecdote. I would bet we will see more as time goes on. But I can't insist I am right and you are wrong, I can only argue the case.

Anecdote is to Data as Knife is the Gun.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"You are such a schoolmarm sometimes. "
- You were expecting...?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Stupid scientists are too busy inventing "global warming" to notice that Earth-sized planet that going to hit us tomorrow!

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/09/the-rapture-starts-on-saturday-as-planet-nibiru-collides-with-earth-according-to-christian-numerologist/

Twominds said...

LarryHart said...


In the English language, "Any noun can be verbed."


OK, but how do we noun? ;-)

Twominds said...

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, a perspective on climate debate I haven't often heard is how the climate deniers would bind the nation to energy tech that's passed it's sell by date. Progress will happen somewhere, I think it'd be advantageous for The United States if a lot of it happened here.


5:45 PM
Zepp Jamieson said...

Tim H wrote: the climate deniers would bind the nation to energy tech that's passed it's sell by date.


News just came out today that Mike Flynn, the former NSC advisor and apparent agent of numerous foreign nations, tried to broker a deal to sell the Saudis 16 nuclear power plants. It's not immediately apparent why Saudi Arabia would NEED 16 nuclear power plants--they have sunshine and wind in abundance, and are rumoured to have some small amounts of oil. Now, if Flynn was doing this deal on behalf of Trump associates, that would be pretty skeezy and possibly illegal. But he was doing it on behalf of the Russians.

There's a boatload of implications, but I mention it because the Trump administration still admires power sources that, as you say, are "past their sell-by date."


This discussion in the last thread caught my attention. The basic assumption seems to be that nuclear power is outdated. I think and hope that's not the case.

Most interest in nuclear power is from the emerging economies: for instance Argentina is seriously looking into it.

16 reactors for Saudi Arabia seems a lot, depending on the power per unit. I speculate they want to sell electricity in their regio, in addition to the oil they can still sell to the world. Solar might be enough for themselves, but without megawatt scale storage, that's not in the picture yet, it can't power an industrial society on it's own.

Europe and the USA aren't on the ball with this, France should push for that order, or the USA, but we let Russia run with it. I'd rather see Russian nuclear in the world than no nuclear, but I really would prefer it came from a source that I trust better.

I have more to say on this subject, but I find that early in the morning, I don't write easily, and I want this in the thread before the next 'onward' call. So if there are people here who want to discuss about this subject, let's do so.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Two Minds

I like nuclear power! - the worries about radiation and waste are massively overstated

BUT Nuclear was a good idea whose time has come - and gone

The issue is that the unholy trinity of Solar, Wind and Storage are now cheaper than Nuclear

We can easily generate power by wind/solar cheaper than Nuclear - until recently the problem with intermittent added too much to the cost

But with the battery Gigafactories going up that drops the cost of storage -
https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/07/all-the-details-on-teslas-giant-australian-batteryt/

You can argue that at current costs Nuclear is cheaper - BUT everybody arguing that seems to use ten year old costings for solar/wind and storage
Which is especially bad because any Nuclear power plant will take at least a decade to build so we need to compare the costs of something that is growing more expensive with something that is steadily dropping in cost

Incidentally a solar power plant is only about the same size as a nuclear plant
But you can do other things with the land as well - under the panels

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Not one of Vonnegut's that I've read; just did 'Sirens of Titan' earlier this year and keep finding new works keeping the queue at a steadily growing rate. Is that a recommendation, or a cool quote? ;-)

donzelion said...

Duncan: A caveat re nuclear - my understanding is that "cheap" nuclear (using 40+ year old safety standards and designs, albeit with a few tweaks) is about half the cost of "expensive" (safer) nuclear (looking through bids for nuclear plant construction, that very much the range). I should think that would apply to the time to construction as well, though everything would depend on the site in question.

The biggest "advantage" though, as I've suggested before for solar/wind, may be that it is significantly more labor intensive per gigawatt (at least on the reports I'd seen - again, I think we had this discussion last year, you qualified that this wasn't always the case, and I couldn't find updated sources to back up my numbers). In high labor cost countries, that's a serious 'problem' - but always seemed to me that given a large pool of competent personnel, it would be significantly more productive to have a large share of folks cleaning/replacing mirrors and panels, than digging holes and filling them in.

Jonathan Sills said...

Man, I knew there were people who were hating on the new Star Trek series even before it aired, but calling for the destruction of the world the day before it premieres? A little over the top, no?

Jumper said...

My siblings changed from dirt poor farm people into a new bunch. But that was because of the Great Depression. The grandparents were educated and owned businesses. As soon as times improved so did their lives. I mention this because change is not simple. I don't know.

I have observed a model of personal change: people who change their first names. It's always fun to watch. Old friends and family resist mightily! New acquaintances have no problem, of course. I say this is a model because something similar occurs when people change personality traits: this disrupts the maps of those around, who resist rearranging the familiar models they have. Ironically those who love them may yet retard their growth.

Jumper said...

A lot of nuclear power for desalinization used to be an exciting concept. I don't have to point out that solar provides the power cheaper if that's what they want it for.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

Vonnegut would get my highest recommendation--right up there with Dr Brin!

Short stories as well as novels. Some of the "novels" are really non-fiction, but those are good too.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion again,

Kurt Vonnegut was a member of the (I think it's called) National Humanist Society along with Isaac Asimov. And the term fits. He's the best exemplar of a true "humanist" I can think of, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. Not merely an euphamism for "atheist", although he was that too, but a sincere advocate of doing good by the human race.



Paul SB said...

Two minds,

"OK, but how do we noun? ;-)"
- /Run/ is normally a verb, but if you go for a run you have just nouned /run/. Given the literacy typical of this list, I think most of us noun the verb /read/ quite a lot. Keep nouning and verbing, neologism is fun.

Solar, wind & nuclear power:

Cost is king, of course, but fear is mighty, too. As long as people hear the word /nuclear/ and think Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and nuclear war, a lot of people will be chilly to nuclear. Even if the dangers from waste are overstated, I would prefer to milk solar and wind, as well as various sorts of tidal generation, for all they are worth. One of the reasons is because of how long it takes to get a reactor on line. In the intervening years who knows what might happen, especially when we have clever engineers and chemists constantly improving energy technologies. Think of it as a bit like high-velocity money, and Donzelion's thoughts on labor are apropos to the economy in that sense. A lot of relatively quick renewable energy projects can inject a lot of high-velocity money into the economy in the form of high-paying technical and mid-range maintenance jobs. And if the neighborhood where you built your sun farm goes bust and everyone moves away, you can pack up your panels, take down your heliostat towers and truck the parts somewhere else. That's not going to happen with nuclear.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

Your example of name changes can be used to illustrate an important neurological point about change in general. We are creatures of habit precisely because of how our brains learn, laying down myelin sheaths over circuits that we use most frequently. That tends to make us do the same things and think the same thoughts over and over again - a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Changing takes some effort, or else a consistent change in environment. People who knew you as Fred only have to see your face, hear your voice or notice some affectation of yours, like the big, red clown nose you wear every Tuesday, for the Fred pathway to be activated. If you decide you are tired of being Fred and want to called Jake instead, people who know you will still have the Fred circuit activated automatically, and have to go to some effort to demyelinate the old circuit and myelinated up the new one. This makes it hard to change, but it also makes it easy to ignore change and pretend that it isn't happening.

Jonathan,

Maybe if they came up with a better name for the new show, people wouldn't be trying to destroy the world to prevent it.

Zepp Jamieson said...

TwoMinds wrote: The basic assumption seems to be that nuclear power is outdated. I think and hope that's not the case.

I think nuclear power as we know it is not a viable way forward. Even with immense government subsidies, it is immensely expensive, and that's not even factoring in the externalized costs (disposal, meltdowns, etc). I do maintain hope that someone will develop a commercially viable thorium plant, and some day we may yet see fusion. But breeder reactors are a dangerous relic.

(One SF story I saw had much of Europe uninhabitable because a plague killed off 90% of the population, and with nobody to run the plants, they all had containment failures--5,000 years earlier.)

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

You are such a schoolmarm sometimes. "
- You were expecting...?


I was indeed. :)

(And not in the way that Eliza's expecting.)

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

We are creatures of habit precisely because of how our brains learn, laying down myelin sheaths over circuits that we use most frequently.


Maybe you have the technical knowledge to either confirm or debunk a pet theory of mine. It's common wisdom that old married couples grow to resemble each other, or that pet owners and their pets grow to resemble each other. I've theorized that what's really going on is that the observers who know the couple or the owner/pet pair eventually develop a single mental pathway that identifies the set. To ridiculously illustrate, if your brain goes "Brangelina!" whenever you see either Brad Pitt OR Angelina Joile, then in some weird manner, they "resemble each other" to you.

Like Herman Cain, I don't have facts to back this up. Maybe you do?

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

One SF story I saw had much of Europe uninhabitable because a plague killed off 90% of the population, and with nobody to run the plants, they all had containment failures--5,000 years earlier.)


The young'uns won't understand, but for people of a certain age, nuclear power is psychologically entwined with Cold War fears about nuclear annihilation.

Isaac Asmiov's early pre-Foundation novels involving Trantor have an implicit background assumption that Earth has long been radioactive and uninhabitable. I don't think a nuclear exchange is ever mentioned explicitly, but his readers in the 1950s would have understood the assumption that nuclear destruction was inevitable between "now" and the distant future of the novels. When he revisited that milieu in the 1980s, even with the Cold War still alive, he already had to fudge to explain the radiation a different way because the inevitability of war no longer seemed so certain.

The 1960 movie of "The Time Machine" posited a WWIII nuclear exchange, and had the reflex of going underground at the sound of air-raid sirens be what caused the far-future Eloi to go underground for the Morlocks to feed on. It's been many years since I read the original novel, but I don't think "air raid sirens" would have been in use yet when Wells wrote the book. It was a movie image only, and a product of the world of 1960.

Alfred Differ said...

On the status of merchants, isn't "don't produce anything" and "profit from other people's labor" the same thing?

On my list of humanity's biggest blunders goes the notion that merchants don't produce anything. It is essentially the belief that trade is a zero sum game and it shows up in many cultures. Even a peasant farmer could be considered more virtuous as their prudence had a point.

Big Mistake that Enlightenment era evidence demonstrates. My beef with certain 19th century thinkers is they were treasonous to the Enlightenment.

donzelion said...

Zepp/TwoMinds: "The basic assumption seems to be that nuclear power is outdated. I think and hope that's not the case."

Perhaps 'nuclear power' is 'post-dated' - as in, it's probably a highly appropriate form of energy use that we are not, at our current social levels of organization, quite ready to utilize effectively. Neither the capitalist mode (putting Homer Simpson in charge of plant safety) nor the Soviet mode resulted in safety. Perhaps we just need a different mode of social organization before this energy source can be exploited.

While we deliberately RAISED the cost for nuclear - through safety measures, permitting/inspection protocols - we lowered costs for other energy through hidden subsidies (dumping the costs of black lung disease on the coal miners themselves reduced the cost of coal power). These sorts of subsidies and incentives are malleable though: what is 'non-feasible' in one era (or even 'outmoded') can become quite feasible given a few tweaks. Dutch windmills of 200 years ago aren't very useful today, but we have many more tricks at our disposal now.

Can one imagine a conversation between two AI's, one tasked with nuclear plant security, safety, stability - approaching the entire world from the vantage of 'how best to make safe' - and another tasked with financial operations, approaching from the vantage of 'how to make lucrative'? I could see them disagreeing on a whole list of 'what is important' types of questions.

A.F. Rey said...

Walmart has union Kepis cheap. I just ordered 4. If enough of us order, they may sense a trend and stock up!

Maybe order a Union Flag to go with them? :)

https://www.amazon.com/Civil-Star-Union-Flag-Feet/dp/B00GM31C4C

It's a little big, but after Halloween, you could hang in on your garage door as some on the "other" side are apt to do. ;)

LarryHart said...

An interesting site showing (among other things) the historical electoral vote maps back to the beginning.

https://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/

One bit of interest is to watch California. We now think of California as a completely reliable blue state, and it has been since Bill Clinton's first election in 1992. Before that, not so much. In fact, prior to 1992, you have to go back to Lyndon Johnson's landslide against Barry Goldwater to find California voting Democratic, and that was a year when every state except for a few confederates voted Dem. Before that, California went Republican until you get back to Harry Truman in 1948 and then the Depression/WWII elections when almost the whole country voted for FDR. Before that, it's a mixed bag, but more Red than Blue.

I tend to forget that California gave us Nixon and Reagan. Even in fiction, the movie "Seven Days In May" has one Senator in on the coup plot, and he's from California. I gather that at the time, that fact would have felt right.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "On my list of humanity's biggest blunders goes the notion that merchants don't produce anything."

One could start with Smith (18th century) and Wealth of Nations for this view (and not just the sections I quoted). Yes, regulating the traders is typically counterproductive - but permitting traders to incorporate in the first place is also a form of regulation (and in Smith's view, possibly the worst form of regulation of all). Smith was many things, but hardly a 'zero sum' thinker.

"My beef with certain 19th century thinkers is they were treasonous to the Enlightenment."
A view Dr. Brin appears to share, and doubtless, there'd be some overlap in our lists of 19th century 'traitor thinkers.'

Yet 'thinking' itself is seldom traitorous to a civilization. It can cross that line when the thoughts advance parasitism. Humans are excellent predators and unsurpassed farmers; we are not evolutionarily predisposed to parasitism, and can only achieve parasitic arrangements through usurping/corrupting social organization. We do so quite often (oligarchy) - and the Opium Trade, slave trade, as well as most of colonialism/imperialism are outgrowths of that sort of parasitism. America's immigration system, designed to create 'citizens' and 'second class' non-citizens, is similarly parasitic, and our health care system...

LarryHart said...

Illinois follows a similar pattern to California too. In fact, "As goes Illinois, so goes California" holds as a truism all the way back to 1920, with one notable exception. In 1960, California went for home-stater Nixon while Illinois, thanks to Mayor Daley, elected JFK.

Except for that, the correlation is solid for most of the 20th Century and all of the 21st.

Jim Baca said...

frankly, as I enter mid 70s I am pretty much out of time to read serial novels. Just give me one good book at a time.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "We now think of California as a completely reliable blue state..."

Of course, we also think of Illinois as a pretty blue state, but the Chicago School certainly wasn't. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Earl Warren are also expressions of 'California red' (as were Nixon and Reagan), and even Nixon signed off on creating the EPA. And once you step beneath the statewide level (where San Fran has immensely out sized power), you'll discover LA 'blue' is a different hue entirely.

One unique factor of California has been our public higher ed investments: the triple whammy of (nearly free) community colleges, excellent (quite inexpensive) state universities intended for educating workers (the California State University system), alongside true research institutions (the University of California system) - all running in parallel to, and dramatically enhancing the competitiveness of, the private institutions.

Huxley might have looked at that system in the 1930s and seen 'Alphas/Betas/Deltas/Gammas' - but it's actually been more Apples, Googles, and Hollywood spectacles.

Jumper said...

It's been ages since I read Wells' Time Machine. Larry piqued my interest in the history of sirens and I found this:
http://blogs.creighton.edu/trh42834/2012/05/31/history-of-the-tornado-siren/
where we are reminded that church bells used to be the standard warning, of whirlwinds, approaching soldiers, and who knows what other warnings in Europe and England (when circus bears attack!?)

I expect in the original book Wells had bells signalling the Eloi to prepare to be eaten.

matthew said...

Andrew Sullivan, as usual, gets a couple of things right, and then falls into the "both sides do it" trap. Still worth a read.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/09/can-democracy-survive-tribalism.html

"When a party leader in a liberal democracy proposes a shift in direction, there is usually an internal debate. It can go on for years. When a tribal leader does so, the tribe immediately jumps on command. And so the Republicans went from free trade to protectionism, and from internationalism to nationalism, almost overnight. For decades, a defining foreign-policy concern for Republicans was suspicion of and hostility to the Soviet Union and Russia. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney called Moscow the No. 1 geopolitical enemy of the United States. And yet between 2014 and 2017, a period when Putin engaged in maximal provocation, occupying Crimea and moving troops into Ukraine, Republican approval of the authoritarian thug in the Kremlin leapt from 10 to 32 percent."

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

I know that California has its conservative places as well (like Orange County), and I was thinking strictly in terms of winner-take-all electoral votes. Historically, California's EVs went for Republicans more than Democrats.

Of course, the parties have morphed as well. In 1860, the Republicans were (literally) the party of Lincoln, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the old Confederacy were a reliably Democratic bloc.

In "The Grapes of Wrath", published in 1939, the thuggish California police were the ones hostile to the migrant workers, who got a certain modicum of relief from the federal government. How times have changed.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Dr. Brin has his marine corps colonel in SD (home of Camp Pendleton), and I'm gonna try to help a chemist in OC (whose district includes the Nixon Library). I'm finding Orange County to be exceptionally diverse. The county did vote blue last time around, but the elites here were also among Trump's biggest campaign cover (compare Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, which published endorsements of Trump on anti-socialist grounds, and many other Evangelicals here who are hard core Trump stalwarts).

I was shocked by how effective the Republican mailers here were - they showed a sophistication and expense utterly unlike anything I've encountered before (you'd never have known they came from Republicans either). We've had operatives come knocking with 'repeal the gas tax' petitions - who were actually trying to recall a local state senator (their story was completely deceptive).

"Historically, California's EVs went for Republicans more than Democrats."
Historically, half the Democratic politicians were Dixiecrats who built states so badly that their people left to find jobs and homes - often to California.

California is a land of contradictions: Earl Warren was the prime instigator of Japanese internment during WW2 - yet his legacy will always be the Warren Court civil rights reforms. Jerry Brown was an 'out of touch nutjob' hippy in the 1970s - who can now say this about our president:

“President Trump is the null hypothesis, which he’s proven...Everything he’s doing is … stupid and dangerous and silly. I mean, come on, really, calling the North Korean dictator ‘Rocket Man'? … He is accelerating the reversal through his own absurdity.”

I didn't know that I was capable of loving Brown a little bit more.


Paul SB said...

Larry,
Your little pet hypothesis sounds intriguing. It would be consistent with what we know about the behavior of neural networks, but I couldn't say I have any more solid evidence to support it. I'm not even sure how you would test it without doing a longitudinal study that would take much of a decade. If you could show people pictures of spouses or pet owners that they know personally while being scanned in an MRI or similar, then over several years see if the blood flow patterns begin to physically merge, that would do it.

Alfred,

The 19th C. was a bit of a reaction to the 18th C., so in a very important sense you are right. However, knowing the intellectual history of those two centuries, you can learn to take what is good from both and find that happy medium. I greatly prefer the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era in the most practical terms, but I find the music and arts of the Enlightenment somewhat dull compared to the music and art that followed it. Humans need practical things like medicines that actually work, as opposed to sham faith healers, but humans also have emotional needs that are not always satisfied by the strictly rational approach of the Enlightenment. I know I am talking to an engineer, here, but feelings need engineering, too.

Alfred Differ said...

My view of California's EV choices is that we've usually voted socially liberal. When the Dixiecrats were allied with Democrats, CA voted GOP. When the alliance flipped, CA voted Dem. The exception is Reagan and not Nixon.

Within California, it is best to think of us as a nation in our own right. Lots of variety. Last I checked our population was closing in on 40 million. Also, the last time I learned this stuff, the REAL triple whammy we have is an alliance of universities, private business, and government. It's a WWII carry-over. No one in their right mind would willingly screw it up as it has made us VERY rich.

Twominds said...

@donzelion

Perhaps 'nuclear power' is 'post-dated' - as in, it's probably a highly appropriate form of energy use that we are not, at our current social levels of organization, quite ready to utilize effectively. Neither the capitalist mode (putting Homer Simpson in charge of plant safety) nor the Soviet mode resulted in safety. Perhaps we just need a different mode of social organization before this energy source can be exploited.

It's late in the evening here (I seem to have time for this blog only at the fringes of the day) but I try a short answer. All the other comments will have to wait.

One is, even with our imperfect safety record, it still is the main power source that has least deaths. Lack of safety is more in perception than in reality.
Two, there are many types of reactors that have their safety based on having natural laws working for them, not engineered safety like the most common types now.

More later.

A.F. Rey said...

I expect in the original book Wells had bells signalling the Eloi to prepare to be eaten.

Alas, from what I recall of the novel (from reading it many, many years ago), there were no sirens or bells for the Eloi. I don't recall any scene where they went willingly to the Morlocks. In fact, the Time Traveler didn't even overthrow the Morlocks, but barely escaped himself, without Weena. :(

But I bet Wells would've loved the scene... :)

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB | I view the 18th century as a bit of a reaction to the 17th with its wars of religion. The sterility that bugs you (and me) about 18th century writers is, I suspect, an attempt to pull back from the insanity of the earlier era. The 30 year war killed an awful lot of people. And then there was the Inquisition. Ugh.

I was mostly reacting to Donzelion's mention of Veblen, though. There is good and bad in each century. The 19th gave us Darwin after all. Of all the achievements of Science, I put Darwin at the top. Bringing the idea that a system that looks designed might have many actors yet have no designer into our forebrains is huge. Our failure to see that in the past is #2 on my list of humanity's blunders. Trade is zero-sum is #1.

As for music, well... it did take a while for the piano to find its modern form. It's tough to express emotions on a harpsichord. Still... Mozart doesn't move you? 8)

Jumper said...

What I expect and what is so are often different. I am used to it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion | Smith was very far from thinking trade was zero-sum. I'd argue the opposite, in fact. He grokked the stupidity that was Mercantilism, but had to phrase things in terms of national wealth anyway.

The only ding I would give Smith was his avoidance of the virtues that were of a more transcendental nature. Wealth of Nations focused upon prudence as it was designed, but Moral Sentiments only treated Love in a half-way fashion and skipped mention of Hope and Faith. Given his times, though, I understand why.

Still, Smith is a good start. We know a few things now that he could not hope to have known. We have a mountain of historical data and we know trade as he knew it is MUCH more capable of enriching everyone. In a modern light, he could be accused of underestimating the impact of what he described. That would be unfair, though. They ALL* underestimated it.

*With one exception that I know of, but who would have believed such a thing. There isn't enough gold and silver in the world to make everyone rich. 8)

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Probably every century was in some way a reaction to the previous, just as every generation reacts to the previous. Certainly the brutality of not just the 30 Years' War (which gave us the very cinematic Hellburner of Antwerp, which I am surprised has never mad wit into a movie), but the endless carnage that started almost as soon as Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door of the church in Wittgenstein.

I would definitely put old Charlie D high on the list of great thinkers, too. But it will take more than genius to break humanity of the habit of thinking in zero sums.

Mozart was one of my best friends when I was a larva, though I listen to him much less today. For most of my adulthood I have had a trio of classical artists that top my most played list - Franz Liszt (one of the true pioneers of the piano, along with his buddy Fred Chopin - but Fred's tunes can be dreadfully melancholy), Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky. Bit of a mash-up, I know. I had a very good friend who was all about baroque, which is something I can take in short doses. He loved the mathematics of it, I think the constraints are too stifling. But when I'm in a really grey mood I go for Grieg, Sibelius and Rimsky-Khorsakov. Weird, huh?

donzelion said...

Alfred: "the REAL triple whammy we [Californians] have is an alliance of universities, private business, and government."

Ah, you might call that "the American way" (at least as of the 20th century). Many other states likewise ally universities, private business, and local government: none have our three-tiered public higher education system, or if they do, have invested a small fraction per capita in building it (hence, their public universities cost on average 2-4x what ours do).

The irony within the claim that universities are 'liberal' bastions is nearly as silly as the claim that a 'liberal media' actually exists. What, the private businesses that finance both universities AND media are suicidal or incompetent?

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB | I'm sure it will take at least another century to break us of the zero-sum belief. I AM optimistic, though. Too many people are leaving the squalor behind to put up with returning to it. Once they understand HOW they got out, humanity will never be the same again. THAT we got out is a good start.

I had a friend who felt I would appreciate Bach for the mathematics. My friend had a talent for the piano, but understood that what he could say about Chopin went right over my very untrained head. Turns out he was wrong, though. Bach is okay, but I prefer much more emotion in the music. Yah. I think like an engineer a lot, but that's not enough. My mother was an artist. Not surprisingly, so was/has been every woman in whom I've ever taken an interest. Anyone I've known with a strong talent for mathematics who is still sane also has a high demand for the arts... often music. I suspect their sanity is sustained by this appetite. For testing my level of sanity, though, I turn to Pink Floyd. Shine On. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion | I taught at the community college level for a while and at the UC level briefly. My wife came out of the State system. I completely agree with you that there is magic in what we've created there.

When some of my conservative friends argue that CA is too unfriendly to businesses and they are leaving as a result, my usual comeback involves some partial understanding that the costs of doing business are high here, but no one has an education system like ours. If they go, they lose a lot. Perhaps all business don't need to be close to educated labor, but I don't think that is a good move in terms of competition. Opportunities to create human capital is one heck of a good fringe benefit to offer employees and it might even pay back with innovations. My usual finish-up involves wishing them well in the backwoods. 8)

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "In "The Grapes of Wrath", published in 1939, the thuggish California police were the ones hostile to the migrant workers, who got a certain modicum of relief from the federal government. How times have changed."

Sometimes, maybe so...but thuggish police in rural California are still pretty hostile to migrant workers... some things change, others not so much. The beauty of our higher educational system is that there are a lot of folks here who are able to study, understand, and THEN criticize and improve. We screw up as bad as anyone, quite often, but with a lot of folks capable of understanding the screw up, we're pretty good about correcting it. That's probably a little less common elsewhere in America (the screw up gets hidden, touted as a triumph, and the touts are believed).

Perhaps the climate helps. "OK, we really screwed up this time. What did we do wrong? Alright, let's do better next time." Incremented millions of times, that is the secret sauce of Enlightenment.

Jonathan Sills said...

"Maybe if they came up with a better name for the new show, people wouldn't be trying to destroy the world to prevent it."

What's wrong with a name that can easily acronym to ST:D?

:D

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

Alas, from what I recall of the novel (from reading it many, many years ago), there were no sirens or bells for the Eloi. I don't recall any scene where they went willingly to the Morlocks. In fact, the Time Traveler didn't even overthrow the Morlocks, but barely escaped himself, without Weena. :(


I only read the book once, though I've seen the movie many times. I think you are right about both the Morlocks and the girl. IIRC, in the book, the Morlocks weren't particularly the antagonists, but simply one more adventure the unnamed Time Traveler had to get through on his way to the next one. And I don't think I noticed until I read about it afterwards that in the book, there is no backwards time travel. It's pretty much forward all the way down.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Still... Mozart doesn't move you? 8)


Ah, I'm reminded again of Tom Leherer's observation that, "It's a humbling thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for three years."

David Brin said...

Wow, you guys have fun here! I am proud!

onward

onward

Steven Hammond said...

Donzelion said:

One unique factor of California has been our public higher ed investments: the triple whammy of (nearly free) community colleges, excellent (quite inexpensive) state universities intended for educating workers (the California State University system), alongside true research institutions (the University of California system) - all running in parallel to, and dramatically enhancing the competitiveness of, the private institutions.

Huxley might have looked at that system in the 1930s and seen 'Alphas/Betas/Deltas/Gammas' - but it's actually been more Apples, Googles, and Hollywood spectacles.


Interesting to me as my son just started at Cal Poly, SLO studying biology (where our host's daughter graduated). He's not interested in medicine (can't blame him seeing the life of a practicing physician in his father...)

In an event, I hadn't spent much time in CA since the late 80s in SF when I came back to my parents during college breaks.

I went out to SLO for freshman orientation for my son, and was really rocked. Got to see a documentary about the kid who died of alcohol poisoning in 2008 along with a student produced film on the same theme. Also, noticed that many of the students involved in the orientation were involved with "Greek Life" and promoted it. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I felt that I'd stepped back in time. I'm here in MT and have this view of CA as a totally "blue" state and I go to CA and hear stories and see kids that are not much different than when I was at school in Colorado in the mid/late 80s.

I really got a Legally Blond vibe from the orientation watching the kids, to be honest. Of course Elle (in the movie) was totally awesome, but still. :)

My main point here is to suggest that maybe there is some remaining truth to all the SoCal and CenCal stereotypes. I am not suggesting this strongly, but I really expected to see something in the culture/ students resembling that of Seattle U where my two daughters had gone. Many things can explain that difference--not least of which is the cost I had to pay for them to go there.

My takeaway is that Cal Poly, SLO is far less liberal than I would expect and that (like the US as a whole) California is divided. Can we bridge those divisions? Thoughts on that are why I come here.