I just returned from the annual Future in Review or FiRe Conference, in San Diego. A terrific gathering of technologists, venture capitalists, visionaries and explorers. A highlight was an onstage interview with Elon Musk (founder of PayPal) whose Falcon rocket may soon offer cheaper unmanned access to space and start beating the hell out of Lockheed and Boeing... and Burt Rutan, whose Spaceship One opened the way for commercial, private human access to sub-orbital space.
While chatting in the hall, I offered the following joke that they seemed to enjoy:
"Want to help Russia and America at the same time?
Send half our lawyers, freedom in both countries will go up.
Send half our business school grads and MBAs, both economies will skyrocket.
And send half of NASA's managers. America will get a great space program and Russia some good farm labor."
(Actually, I've been telling that one since 91. Don't get me started.)
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Norman Spinrad - often a ranting bad boy in the genre of science fiction - also happens to have one of its sharpest critical eyes. In a recent issue of ISAAC ASIMOV'S MAGAZINE, he offers the following quotables, relevant to our ongoing topic.
"Science fiction can envision not just technology and science beyond that presently existing in the universe of the reader, but cultures evolved beyond our own, and create a belief in the reader that such things are possible, indeed MUST demonstrate that they cohere with the realm of the possible in order to do so.
"And if we believe that something is possible and it really is, one can be moved to attempt to make it so. Thus science fiction is not only a visionary literature that can transcend the culture in which it is created but a transformational literature that can, and has from time to time, evolved those cultures onward."
This just came in from a reader. Some of you may have seen it already. An absolutely brilliant faux scientific talk about the process of resurrecting the lost subspecies of vampires. The callous, smug amorality is exactly how science can and often DOES go wrong. http://www.rifters.com/real/progress.htm . It is also gruesomely hilarious and eerily plausible.
And yes, it has a slight anti-modernist tinge. But not really! Satire, dire warnings and self-preventing prophecies are very much part of the process by which science tames its own arrogance and modern people have managed (so far, much of the time) to generate positive sum games... getting the good while preventing the worst or most obvious mistakes. Anyway, this thing is a hoot.
I was especially amused that one of you tried to make a case that democrats are the ones engaged in blatant attempts at election stealing nowadays. We should all re read that fellow's remarks. (1) in order to contemplate just how contorted logic can be used to set up weird points of view... and to see Limbaughism in action. (2) in order to stretch your OWN minds to see an alien point of view.
At one level, like many Limbaughisms, this one may contain a grain of truth. Events in San Diego and WA state show that democrats can hypocritically do some of the same things they criticize. (You all know that I do not shy away from skewering leftist hypocrisies.) At another level, of course, it is the coal mine calling a pencil black, Rush's standard technique. If even one of HUNDREDS of electoral allegations are true, the present administration is illegitimate. And on no level even imaginable can it claim to have a mandate.
Two out of ten thousand issues:
(1) Rush promised us indictments. Hunneds. Tousens. Milliuns of indictments, as soon as "honest men take over the filing cabinets" in DC. It would be an entertaining housecleaning as the "most corrupt administration in human history" (the Clintons) met justice in greater numbers than French aristos in tumbrels.
Only... a funny thing has happened on our way to the guillotines... The number of former Clinton officials indicted for actual malfeasance in office has been - after 5 years - ZERO!
It is the 1st time an 8 year administration has ever had ZERO indictable corruption revealed in its aftermath. This "black-is-white" reversal of expectation is not only deeply disappointing for those who want a good scandal-show... but is typical of Limbaughism. The railing incantations fill true believers with indignant wroth, so much so that they can evade any glimpse at actual facts. So much that they can convince themselves that a bunch of aristocrats who hold tightly to EVERY rein of government for their own enrichment, controlling nearly all media, are STILL UNDERDOGS. And honest ones, at that.
(2) Another of a million betrayals of this country that WILL be indicted someday -- my contention that this administration has overseen the steepest plummet in US military readiness in our lifetimes. I'll finish with one latest bit of supporting evidence.
Officers Plot Exit Strategy - By Mark Mazzetti
LA Times Staff Writer, May 22 2005
KILLEEN, Texas — Army Capts. Dave Fulton and Geoff Heiple spent 12 months dodging roadside bombs and rounding up insurgents along Baghdad's "highway of death" — the six miles of pavement linking downtown Baghdad to the capital city's airport. Two weeks after returning stateside to Ft. Hood, they ventured to a spartan conference room at the local Howard Johnson to find out about changing careers. Many young lieutenants and captains, key leaders in combat, are deciding against Army careers in light of the open-ended war on terrorism.