Friday, October 21, 2005

Looking Toward Tomorrow: Best Future-Oriented Books and Blogs

I have been asked by an international newsletter to cite books and blogs I liked in the last year. It's a good tradition so I'll post a draft list below. Comments are welcome, plus your own suggestions. Some are very relevant to our task here. Some of these recommend nonfiction books are featured in reviews I've re-posted on my website.

==Future-Oriented Books==

Will the first decade of the 21st Century be known as the time when our Scientific Age came to a whimpering end? The one trait shared by anti modernists of both left and right appears to be disdain for our ability to learn and do bold new things.

Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, explores (a bit one-sidedly) how partisanship can explain much of this collapse of confidence. See also my review of The Republican War on Science.

CollapseWhen it comes to Earth's future, we tend to be offered two simplistic choices, either guilt-ridden pessimism or a pollyanna faith in market forces. Too much planning or too little. Jared Diamond's new book, COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, makes one thing clear. No society ever succeeded using the prescriptions we hear touted from today's Left OR Right. But history does offer some alternatives.  See my review of Collapse on my website.

Two books that tout assertive problem solving are:

--The Past and Future of America's Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Power Cycles of Growth by Robert D. Atkinson and ....

KurzweilSingularityCover--Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

The first, by Atkinson, explores measures that could allow us to play our roles better in the world economy, taking advantage of technological innovation to accelerate economic growth.

The latter pursues the bold concept of the Singularity, and Ray Kurzweil's argument that our scientific competence and technologically-empowered creativity will soon skyrocket, propelling humanity into an entirely new age. I don't entirely agree ... but boy, what a vivid ride!

radical-evolutionTaking up where Kurzweil leaves off... Joel Garreau's Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing our Minds, our 
Bodies -- and what it means to be Human sheds light on the notion that most scares the nostalgists and romantics... that we may soon pick up creation's tools and start altering, even enhancing, our bodies and our minds.

 This is the stuff that Francis Fukayama writes about with dread in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution.

(Both concepts fed archetypes into my alternate history graphic novel The Life Eaters.)

Still highly relevant is The Progress Paradox: How Things Get Better While People Feel Worse. Gregg Easterbrook suggests we may be better than we think... and we really need to realize it. Those who spread either complacency or gloom aren't helping. What we need is confidence and a sense that our efforts can matter. See my review of The Progress Paradox on my website.

111917
Like so many authors with an axe to grind, Kevin Philips makes a wonderfully erudite case in Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, that civilizations are always endangered when elites reach heights of unaccountability. We who grew up under the threat of communism tend to forget that 99% of past cultures saw their freedoms cauterized by cabals of church and aristocracy, historically far worse enemies of markets that socialism ever has been. And yet, read Philips with a healthy "Yes, but..." He neglects to mention the marvel of 1950s and 1960s America, when wealth burgeoned while wealth disparities plummeted. If we could do it then...

Nobel Laureate Douglass North, in his recent book Understanding the Process of Economic Change, acknowledges that we just don’t know understand the process of economic change. But we have learned that important "institutions" are not just formal ones such as banking laws and tariffs, but also "social norms and cognitive styles". North argues that economic change depends largely on "adaptive efficiency," a society's effectiveness in creating institutions that are productive, stable, fair, and broadly accepted--and, importantly, flexible enough to be changed or replaced in response to political and economic feedback. Thus the sort of property rights reforms proposed by Hernando de-Soto in The Mystery of Capital may not work until systems of accountability are in place first, backed by a sober populace insistent upon enforcing them.

9780815728658In The Coming Democracy: New Rules for Running a New World, Ann Florini dares to raise a long-neglected question -- how will Planet Earth be governed during the next century and beyond? Some say this is just the latest in a series of imperial ages -- Pax Americana. Even if itis the 'best' pax, should we count on its beneficial hegemony lasting forever? Or might it be wise to start using that great influence while it lasts, to lead in designing Whatever Comes Next (WCN)? Florini's discussion is narrow and Sometimes flawed, but at least it starts the conversation.

For forward-looking fiction, see my list of Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.

==Best Future-oriented Blogs==

--Ray Kurzweil's Accelerating Intelligence blog tracks the latest news on future technologies...and our progress toward the Singularity.

--The IEET: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies tracks which technological developments are likely to have the greatest impact on human societies in the 21st century.

--Futurity.org provides news updates on recent developments in science and technology that affect our near future.

worldchanging
--WorldChanging  edited by Jamais Cascio and Alex Steffen is so good, so extensive and far-reaching, that it is departing the blogosphere and becoming a highly influential Netzine. One of the most interesting places on the Web. See also their insightful book WorldChanging: A User's Guide to the 21st Century.

--The Futurist, from the World Future Society, explores how social, economic and technologic developments are shaping the world...and the future.

--George Dvorsky's Sentient Developments comments on the impacts of cutting edge science and technology.

--The Foresight Institute provides information on recent developments in nanotechnology.

--Paleofuture, by Matt Novak, takes a look at the future that never was...

--Open the Future: Jamais Cascio explores futurism, foresight, big ideas and transformative technologies.

--Institute for the Future Blog comments on future-oriented books, as well as citizen involvement, policies and politics that impact our future.

--Next Big Future explores potentially disruptive science and technology advances.

--Innovation Watch looks at trends in innovation, and how disruptive change will affect industry.

--Considerably more radical, but entertaining, is Armageddon Buffet: An online journal of end-of-the-world fiction and commentary.

=====     =====     =====

GlobalI will shortly begin a new series... a draft of my 11,000 word article for a new book on GLOBAL CATASTROPHIC RISK, edited by Nick Bostrom. This piece should be a bit more apolitical than some recent posts.

Rob Perkins has been kind enough to set up a mirror site for http://www.davidbrin.com/ so that people in Asia and Australia can get easier access. (Rob, does it refresh automatically? I don't want this to be a chore.) It is http://brinmirror.parasiticmeme.com If you feel like it, check it out. I am concerned that the "Guestbook" and "email brin" feature may not work, so if your last name starts with S-Z feel free to experiment with those features. If I DON'T reply, please email me separately at davidbrin@sbcglobal.net and let me know it failed.

Gary Nunn has kindly taken this to the next level, setting up http://www.davidbrin.net which should call up http://brinmirror.parasiticmeme.com automatically. Unfortunately, nothing I can do will get this to happen on my Mac (OS 9.2) Any suggestions? I especially hope that the ID description up top will say "mirror for http://www.davidbrin.com/ "

35 comments:

fpoole said...

David, if those forms are in PHP I might be able to retool them if they don't work. :)

fpoole dot 451 at gmail dot com

loosetwig said...

Along the same lines and growing in popularity is the blog/webzine/podcast called EscapePod (http://www.escapepod.info).

The talented voices at EscapePod take sci-fi/fantasy shorts selected from a growing range of amateur and accomplished authors and read them aloud (for download). These audio posts are usually quite polished; they are perfect for taking in some engaging intelligent fiction while busily working.

On the off chance that you might consider submitting something here, here are the guidelines.
http://www.escapepod.info/guidelines/.

And no, I am not affiliated in any way with the makers of EscapePod.

Rob Perkins said...

@fpoole

The forms are "mailto"; they depend on client side browser-mail program interaction, which means that 99.9% of us should be able to get it to work.

I don't know about the main site, but the mirror host is definitely capable of PHP pages, and the provider doesn't object to originating mails through the server. As long as we don't overdo it.

@David

Those new iBooks are truly sublime computers. I took the plunge this year after a fifteen-year mac-free hiatus, and have been gushing about it since. And, they've solved all the dicey Mac-on-the-Internet troubles. As an upgrade to OS 9.6, I love it.

But to answer your question, it's not a chore, and it's set to refresh the mirror every Sunday morning.

HarCohen said...

"In The Coming Democracy: New Rules for Running a New World, Ann Florini dares to raise a long-neglected question -- how will Planet Earth be governed during the next century and beyond? Some say this is just the latest in a series of imperial ages -- Pax Americana. Even if itis the 'best' pax, should we count on its beneficial hegemony lasting forever? Or might it be wise to start using that great influence while it lasts, to lead in designing Whatever Comes Next (WCN)? Florini's discussion is narrow and Sometimes flawed, but at least it starts the conversation."

In the course of a thread on another site I received a remark that Bin Laden would be remembered alongside of Hitler and Mussolini.

I find that patently ridiculous. The most he can hope for in the long run is to be on the level of the anarchists of the early twentieth century. Better communications and better arms gave him better results.

It occurred to me in the process that we have been recreating the period 1848 - 1945 since 1948. Which perhaps makes Iraq our new colonial Phillipines (Kuwait being our Spanish-American War).

Or perhaps this is the new Boxer Rebellion and we can only look forward to more upheaval in the Middle East, the collapse of governments and the establishment of more warlords.

If Florini is saying anything along similar lines, I'll have to read her book.

In any case, I don't think Bin Laden has a chance to be anything greater than a Marshal Tito and he probably lost that opportunity in Afghanistan.

David Brin said...

The depressing parallels with a century ago are indeed disturbing. Especially since the 100th anniversary with 1914 looms ahead.

Then there is 2028 and Heinlein's predicted arrival of Nehemia Scunner, Prophet of the Lord.

Can left and right truly be a useful grounds for discussion that will evade this trap?

Elsewhere, I have grown increasingly caustic toward conservatives who refuse to recognize their duty.

Market Conservatism is not the same thing as Social and Aristocratic Conservatism. It is the opposite. In fact, it is very similar to Market Liberalism.

When Market Conservatives realise this, will they do what the smart nobles did in 1789? Will they cross the tennis court?

So far, they show no sign of comprehending that it is their turn to do what patriotic and modernist liberals did, in 1947. Getting them to wake up must be our first and top priority.

That event could save us. Merely defeating the Right, next election, by a measley 5%, will not end the culture war. A rising up of decent conservatives might.

Ben Tilly said...

I would suggest that you list, under best blogs, http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/. ;-)

Don Quijote said...


That event could save us. Merely defeating the Right, next election, by a measley 5%, will not end the culture war. A rising up of decent conservatives might.


Don't hold your breath. Decent Conservative is an oxymoron on par with Military intelligence or Business Ethics.

~ 35 % of this country wants to go back to the good old days ( as they imagine them ) when women knew their place, when N*ggers could be lynched and when the working class knew it's place and it's position.

Anonymous said...

Don Quijote:

"Decent Conservative is an oxymoron . . ."

I'll say to you what I'd say to someone who wrote something like "Intelligent liberal is an oxymoron" or "Patriotic Democrat is an oxymoron":

You are being sloppy, unfair, and not helpful.

Specifically, you're attributing to Conservatives as a whole the worst aspects of the fringes of the far right.

This is the same sort of labeling that Talk Radio cranks use to diss everyone to the left of Joe Lieberman. Don't fall to their level.

Stefan

Anonymous said...

Some good blogs:

Science Daily has a wide variety of short articles on science and technology. They are a bit higher level than those you'll find in mainstream magazines:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/

For a daily dose of the eclectic, check out Boing-Boing. There's strange news items, cyber-rights stuff, tech news, pointers to books and movies, and more:

http://boingboing.net/

MAKE magazine has a nice blog with pointers to interesting "DIY" projects:

http://makezine.com/

Kevin Kelly compiles Cool Tools, which has reviews of intersting books and tools. This is a direct descendent of the Whole Earth Catalog:

http://www.kk.org/cooltools/

Stefan

Rob Perkins said...

Ah, Joe Lieberman. Of all the contenders for Kerry's spot, he was my pick.

Pity, really, that the system of primaries in the U.S. is so slanted against guyslikehim.

Rob Perkins said...

If I had to make a prediction about the trends toward Nehemiah Scudder-ism, I'd say that it

a) will probably be upon us between 2025 and 2050 and
b) it will not be an evangelical christian-based theocratic tyranny. I think it's coming in different clothes, because those people are being watched far too closely.

Tony Fisk said...

My contribution to blogs of note:
http://www.groklaw.net

Initially set up as a watchdog dutifully following (and commenting on) the progress of SCO's attempts to claim ownership of Unix and Linux, it now routinely points out any attempts to carve slices of Intellectual Property from the commons. Kleptocrats indeed!

@Rob: well, you relieve my mind! I thought Scudder's ascension was in 2012!

@David: Humour someone not that well versed in American politics: what was it that the liberals actually did in '47? Have the conservatives ever done something similar?

Don Quijote said...


You are being sloppy, unfair, and not helpful.

Specifically, you're attributing to Conservatives as a whole the worst aspects of the fringes of the far right.


No I am not being unfair, just accurate...

I have just spent the last four years watching conservatives throw away any and every principle they have ever claimed to have in support of GW Bush.

Balanced Budgets - out the window.
Peace - out the window.
Prosperity - out of the window.
Geneva Convention - out of the window.
6 th Amendment - out the window.
Small Goverment - out the window.

and the list goes on and on and on...

The Republican party, the pro-war, pro-torture, pro-poverty, anti-work is and has been getting all of it's support from conservatives.

So who am I suppose to believe you, or my lying eyes?

Palliard said...

The depressing parallels with a century ago are indeed disturbing.

A relevant essay by OSC:

Fanatic Terrorism from the Past

jomama said...

When it comes to Earth's future, we tend to be offered two simplistic choices, either guilt-ridden pessimism or a pollyanna faith in market forces. Too much planning or too little.

You will, of course, post here when you get just the right mix I hope.

[/sarcasm]

David Brin said...

Don Quijote please read http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html carefully. It is about the poison that is destroying our civilization. Self-righteous indignation is the great immaturity and the thing about it is that each indignation junky is very comfy-assured that he or she is totally RIGHT to feel the way they do, turning all members of the other side into strawman caricatures. Paying no attention to subtleties and differences among them.

It is what Carl Rove has relentlessly done to liberals, demonizing them as destroyers of the family and unpatriotic commies. Do you enjoy that?

You may be new to this blog, but a month or two ago we were discussing "modernism and its enemies." The real problem is not left-right. It is forward backward.

YES, the backwards junkies of the right are now vastly worse and more empowered than the backwards junkies of the left. So? WHat's the best way to deal with that problem? By HELPING Carl Rove? Because that's what you do when you say that ALL "conservatives" are like him. Even if that tactic works in the next election, and democrats win by a whopping 5%... that will mean we LOSE!

The only way out of this culture war is to get decent (yes!) American market conservatives to see that their FELLOW conservatives have gone insane. We won't achieve that with caricatures.

jomama, you too must be a newcomer. Old timers know darn well how to get the "right mix" of guilt-ridden pessimism or a pollyanna faith in market forces, through the give and take of an enlightenment process called pragmatic, problem-solving modernism.

Big C said...

Since David's latest post has encouraged a free-for-all collection of interesting links, I think this will be appropriate.

Check out Nicholas Carr's blog post from October 3 about the fervor surrounding "Web 2.0" and the future of the Internet. He kind of takes a contrarian view to David's vision of "The Age of Amateurs," rather dreading a future dominated by "The Cult of the Amateur." I surfed to this link from another site, and I don't know this guy from Adam, but the thesis of the post was interesting.

He makes the case that the economics of the Web may make groups of unskilled amateurs who provide free but low-quality services better competitors than skilled professionals who provide higher quality services. He illustrates this with how Wikipedia could potentially put commercial encyclopedias out of business despite the fact that a large portion of its articles are poorly written and factually inaccurate. He expresses fear of this trend because it could force skilled professionals out of their jobs and leave us with amateur low-quality output as the only alternative for many goods and services.

He sees this as a problem because he sees the proponents of "Web 2.0" (a phrase coined to mean the next generation services and features of the Web; see this Wikipedia article) as being downright romantic with the whole notion of the Web being a gateway to trancedence of the Human race and leading to the techno-rapture. He expresses concern that treating the Web as a path to religious salvation makes us unable to view it objectively, and see both its positive and negative effects.

I think David would agree with him on that point. To borrow the same argument David uses against those who idolize markets as saving the Human race, the Web is not a force of nature, but a complex machine we created. To get the maximum benefit out of this machine, it must be fine-tuned to maximize its positive effects and minimize its negative effects. We cannot fine-tune a machine if we (erroneously) believe it to already be perfect.

However, I do think we have less to fear than he thinks. True, new technology continually enables less skilled amateurs to produce lower-cost "good enough" goods and services of dubious quality, but that has not completely eliminated our need for skilled professionals in the past, and it won't now. Many professionals may lose their current niche, but they are in the best position to acquire new skills that will enable them to occupy new ones.

Charles

David Brin said...

I would go even farther. In my article on "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society's Benefit." http://www.davidbrin.com/disputationarticle1.html
I talk about why the web utopians are fools to expect the web to simply BECOME a sophisticated services and solutions arena.

The other four arenas developed countless techniques to ensure that competition would (1) test and cull bad products, allowing good stuff to rise and (2) not spill blood all over the floor.

I believe we need to encourage the age of amateurs at a time when the 20th Century's Professionalization of Everything is reaching its natural limits. But PART of that encouragement must be to provide tools of accountability that let amateurs sort themselves out by compteitive quality, as happens in markets and science.

This won't happen under the cult of opinion.

Mabus said...

Don, a word, please?

I'm one of those decent conservatives you so blithely dismiss. I don't know how many of us there are--perhaps not that many--but we do exist.

You bemoan conservative support for the administration--well, so do I, if perhaps not from the perspective everyone here would like. I've come to believe that many conservatives have written off the Democrats entirely, as so malevolent that any conservative, even an idiot (or loony, or evil person--whichever label you prefer) like Dubya, is preferable. This is not a particularly sane or productive perspective, though it is one I have some sympathy with all the same. I suspect it accounts for the vast majority of Bush-support. It will not last indefinitely, because even some religious apocalypts--such as one of the managers at my job, a full-out gun-nut survivalist--are realizing what a mess the current administration has made. The only question is what they will be able to bring themselves to do about it.

Mabus said...

For "conservative", in the phrase "so malevolent that any conservative, even an idiot", read "Republican". The two are by no means identical. Sorry--I'm in a bit of a hurry.

Anonymous said...

Was it not this blog where I read that the greatest event of the 20th century was the GI Bill?

Could not such another event occur?

Buckeye Girl

David Brin said...

Buckeye Girl is cogent. The thing that made the biggest diff in American society, ever, was the aftermath of WWII. I happen to use George Marshall as my archetype, often calling him the greatest man of the 20th Century. But it was not he alone who -

- imposed gentle victory, winning friends and ending cyclical war with Japan/germany

- did Marshall Plan stuff

- reversed the mercantile trades patterns followed by all other "pax" empires (the single reason why the world now is one of substantial economic hope)

- stimulated the courageous shift of American liberalism into pragmatic reform, typified by the 1947 declaration of anathema vs communism

- sent several million working class vets to university for a burst of creativity unmatched in all of history

- brought DISPARITIES of wealth to their lowest ebb without doing any harm to markets or the incentive pull of achieving riches by delivering goods and services

These things so demolished any possibility of class warfare that even the thought still does not occur to americans, despite the fact that it was a major theme in most cultures. There was SOCIAL and RACIAL friction in the 60s-80s, but even that mostly gave way to new consensus progress, such that Condi Rice (shudder) may become the next GOP nominee. At very least Veep. With ease.

What would be the NEXT GI Bill? Something that would swiftly reverse the trend toward re-stratification in our society WHILE re-invigorating markets and startups and investment, WHILE restoring confidence in our institutions and in ourselves?

This is a great topic. I welcome your suggestions. Keep it simple.

Steve (not the blogger) said...

About Nicholas Carr's point regarding
Net 2.0"

An interesting point, but I think he misses something.

There is someone out there in the net who is absolutely obsessed with that thing (whatever it is) you are interested in. For me it was orbital mechanics. I wondered after reading sci-fi and loving space exploration how real space travel worked. And I came across Orbiter.

This is a free (though not open-source) space flight simulator that is beautiful. If you want to learn how to achieve orbit with the Space Shuttle and dock with the ISS, Orbiter is for you. A community member can easily create add-ons, and with a little work I was able to model a "realistic" NERVA-style Rolling Stone from the eponymous Heinlein novel, and based on his description in the book, put it at the right location on the Moon for a slingshot around Earth to Mars. I also made the Stanford Torus since I always wondered what it would look like to approach a 1km diameter wheel. I have to tell you that it is addicting, and no self-respecting author of sci-fi who lacks a really sound foundation in orbital mechanics should miss it. I catch all sorts of goofs in books and movies now that I wouldn't have before (none in Brin's, I swear!).

If you want to see just how bogus flying through an asteroid field or Star Wars type fighters, you might try Space Combat, a free, physics-based simulator that you can mess around in.

Another example is Celestia, the free galaxy-simulator for a gorgeous way to explore our galaxy.

My point is that there hasn't been a huge bite taken out of the market due to, say, free word processors or other MS-Office-type software, because the ones you pay for are really superior (for all their faults). But where there is excellence available for free on the web (Linux, Terragen, phpBB, etc.) people do adopt it.

One of the things I teach is the history of quality, and I consult in quality science. People figure out pretty quickly that poor quality for a low price, or even free, is more expensive over the long-term than high-quality at a fair price. I think that Web 2.0 will still appeal to those obsessives that the rest of us can tap for a few high-quality applications, and that the threat is overblown, particularly considering the rapid feedback possible via the web.

Nate said...

Mabus said:

I've come to believe that many Republicans have written off the Democrats entirely, as so malevolent that any Republican, even an idiot (or loony, or evil person--whichever label you prefer) like Dubya, is preferable.

Speaking from the liberal side of things, we've been forced to write the Republican party off as, well... so malevolent that even an incompetent campaigner re-fighting a war that ended before I was born is preferable to a Republican. (And triply preferable to Bush Jr.) I have to express honest confusion at what's so malevolent about the Democrats. (Who I've basically written off as pathetic, disorganized, and unwilling to fight.)

Seriously, there is no liberal party in the US. There's a few liberal Democrats, but most of the Democratic Party is pretty far to the "right".

Why do I think the Republicans are so malevolent? Well, I grew up in the 80s and 90s. My entire life, the Republicans have been pandering to religious fundamentalists, whose targets often included me and my friends, since I'm a gamer, a geek, and friends with many non-"mainstream" folks. But the final nails were the Bush years, with torture, death, lies, torture, war, and demonization of anyone who dared question the President. And the Republicans have stayed behind Bush through all this as he's trashed our American values. Even so-called "mavericks" like McCain.

Okay, sorry. Rant mode off.

Unfortunately, any links I would like to add have been covered by others already, but if I see any good ones, I'll post them here.

But on the GI Bill and stratification thing, I do have one thought. Universal health care.

Let me start with the market side of things. What's one of the biggest expenses for most large companies? Health care for their employees and former employees. We've witnessed the spectacle of companies dumping their pension plans on the government as part of bankruptcy. And when doing that, they usually ditch their retiree health plans too, which they'd promised the workers as part of their contract then. Current workers keep getting their benefits cut and/or deductibles raised, for the ones who're lucky enough to have health care. Like at GM.

Then there's places like Wal-Mart, that schedule people specifically to be .5 hours under full time, so they don't have to provide benefits. Which is another part of the puzzle.

But look at those numbers for GM. $5.6 billion. Billion, with a B. That's a big drain on the company coffers. Can make it hard to compete, or put money into research and design. If we had universal health care, that'd mostly be gone. (Mostly, because universal health care would likely be basic, companies would still have reason to offer better benefits as part of a salary package). Part of the costs could be paid for by levying a tax on the companies. I haven't done the math, but even if GM paid, say, $3 billion in tax for this, they'd still have an extra 2.some billion to play with.

Why have government do it? Three reasons. Scale is one of them. And the other is if the government did it for everyone, it would be a lifelong thing. Third, there would be no (well, less) profit motive. How much of the what Americans spend on health care every year ends up as profit for the health insurance companies? Health insurance companies have many reasons to try and avoid covering peple who're going to cost money. And they don't have much incentive to invest in preventative care, because the person could easily switch to a different plan, then their competitor benefits from the money they spent to keep the person healthier. With life-long coverage, that wouldn't happen. And risk would be spread among everyone, which is the point of insurance, to spread around risk.

The devil is, of course, in the details. And there'd be plenty of room to screw it up, both on the left and right. And forward and back and crossways too.

But there's things the market is good at, and things government is good at. I don't think the market works for health care, because of the forces I mentioned above, and the constant short-sighted urge for profit NOW on Wall Street. Our health care system is massively inefficent. Most of the rest of the industrialized world has universal health care, without utterly collapsing. It'd take the huge burden of health care off our companines, allowing them to compete better. It'd give people more ability to strike out with their own business instead of being tied down to a job just because of health care. Plus the other benefits of a healthy populace and the moral good of ensuring that people aren't dying of absolutely stupid things.

The biggest problem (rants about "socialized medicine! Communist!" aside) would be the cost. Especially with the hideous debt Bush Jr. is driving us further into every day.

Nate said...

Damn. Hit post instead of preview. Forgot my last sentence.

Universal health care wouldn't be the solution by itself, but I think it'd be part of the solution. And any solution is going to have to address health care costs somehow. That's one of the biggest squeezes on the middle class, who're too rich for Medicare, but not rich enough to pay for everything. Especially if they lose their job and with it, their insurance.

Steve (not the blogger) said...

Conservative crypto-racist/sexist's nightmare, 2008: Condi Rice for Prez, and Colin Powell for VP for the Republicans. Hillary Clinton for Prez for the Democrats. What would they do?

Next Marshall Bill for the US? Whew. Here are some thoughts:

-Dr. Brin's Inspectors General to clean up all sides in government

-Replace Federal Income Tax with a flat tax with no exceptions, no loopholes (I know there are problems with this - I think they may be less than what we have now).

-The "Invest in America" fund that allows anybody the funds to go to school anywhere as long as they maintain a "B" average. The grant transitions to a loan if they drop below a "B" but can transition back if they graduate with a "B" average or above. The idea being that if people could get the education they want, they would add proportionatly more to the tax base.

-Or, the "nuclear option." A rich idealist buys his/her own space/Moon colony with fellow idealists, and ditches the whole mess on Earth. Personally, this is one of the few ways I see of really colonizing space.

koreyel said...

RE World Changing blog:

"...that it is departing the blogosphere and becoming a highly influential Netzine."

Hmmm... the evolution of digital content?

And is the next step (hilariously) into a hard copy version of itself?

Mabus said...

nate said Why do I think the Republicans are so malevolent? Well, I grew up in the 80s and 90s. My entire life, the Republicans have been pandering to religious fundamentalists, whose targets often included me and my friends, since I'm a gamer, a geek, and friends with many non-"mainstream" folks. But the final nails were the Bush years, with torture, death, lies, torture, war, and demonization of anyone who dared question the President. And the Republicans have stayed behind Bush through all this as he's trashed our American values. Even so-called "mavericks" like McCain.

Well....um....as a gamer, a geek, and friend to non-mainstream folks (as many as I could find in my small town)...I'm kind of at a loss. I also grew up during the 80s and 90s, and I didn't think it was that bad. Because while I'm an economic pragmatist (admittedly with meritocratic tendencies that make me suspicious of some attacks on social class), I'm a social conservative. While I occasionally ran into a crazed book-burner (including my own father, once when I was in my early teens), I've never understood what liberals considered so awful about the rest of us.

From where I sit, the Repubs talk a lot about doing the things people like me want, but they don't actually do them. That alone could make me bolt the party if I had anywhere to go, and experience suggests I'm not alone. Moreover, about Bush you and I are largely in agreement--although I came to my conclusions considerably later. (I honestly, but naively, believed at first that most Iraqis were fed up enough with Saddam that they would back us, and the reconstruction would go well.)

But while there's a place in the Republican party for socially-liberal economic conservatives, the reverse is not true of the Democrats, who apparently want nothing to do with my kind. I feel especially strange around here, since I agree with Brin that many of my fellow conservatives have gone nuts, but can't help thinking he'd count me among them. I'm even at a loss how to describe myself without triggering rants. So if I seem defensive--well, I think you get the idea.

Nate said...

Okay, first off, I should know better than to post so late/early. I get into rant mode easily then. Sorry.

mabus said:

"While I occasionally ran into a crazed book-burner (including my own father, once when I was in my early teens), I've never understood what liberals considered so awful about the rest of us."

Well, what do conservatives consider so awful about the rest of us liberals?

While the literal book burnings are fairly isolated, the rhetoric isn't. Rush Limbaugh. Ann Coulter. Bill O'Riley. Fox News. Andrew Sullivan (back before he realized "Torture? WTF!?!?!), Michael Savage. Much of AM radio. They literally and regularly bash their strawman caricatures of "liberals" and call us traitors, terrorists, fifth columnists, baby-killers, etc etc etc who're dragging the country to ruin. Including saying we should be rounded up and shot. They've been since the 90s. Along with Jerry Falwell and James Dobson and the other televangelists, who've been power-brokers in the Republican party for years. They're not just wacky extremists or random college professors. These are the people the Republican leadership has chosen to associate with. How many of them were invited the Republican Convention, and how many Republicans went "OMG! Michael Moore is fat! And also Darth Vader." when Jimmy Carter invited him?

So if I get a little defensive, I hope you can see why.

"But while there's a place in the Republican party for socially-liberal economic conservatives, the reverse is not true of the Democrats, who apparently want nothing to do with my kind."

Socially-conservative economic liberals, or socially-liberal economic conservatives? Because I'm not sure what you think is keeping either of them out of the Democratic party. (And hopefully we're defining "socially liberal/conservative" in terms of more than just abortion and gays. Though that seems to be the extent of things these days)

Because from where I stand, the Democrats are almost as conservative as the Republicans on sosial issues, and more fiscally sane, too. Though part of the second does have to be attrributed to the fact they're out of power, but still. There's not really room for me either, except on the fringes, as somebody whose vote they figure they can count on, since the alternative is people like Bush and DeLay. So they run "right" to appeal to "moderates" and end up looking like a party that doesn't even have principles they're willing to stand for. I mean, if the Democrats are running as "almost Republicans" why wouldn't people vote for the Republicans, and get the real thing?

Steve (not the blogger) said...

The following excerpts from the New Republic about the Republican party may be illustrative about why some Republicans are no longer comfortable in their party, and why Democrats fear the party.

Original (you may need to register, but it is free)

First, a recognition of the Romantic movement in the GOP...
"The Moose, as he likes to be called, is giddy about the conservative crack-up, and he thinks he has identified the fault line: 'This is intra-conservative warfare between the faith-based conservatives and the reality-based conservatives.' And, by 'faith,' he means not faith in God, but faith in Bush. In other words, the real split over Miers is between conservatives who worship Bush and those who worship conservatism. One camp believes in the infallibility of the president. The other camp believes the evidence before them. Fred Barnes and James Dobson are faith-based conservatives. Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer are reality-based conservatives. Hugh Hewitt is faith-based. Ramesh Ponnuru is reality-based."

On conservatives and poor management:
"'What a lot of conservatives have always believed is that at least we know how to make the trains run,' says a chastened Bartlett. 'It was jarring that the MBA president wasn't a good manager.'"

And about theocracy in the GOP:
"The demographics of the GOP also make a hard-right run tempting. Recently, pollster Tony Fabrizio has been asking Republican voters whether their most important goal 'is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens' or 'to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and the life of the unborn.' In his most recent survey, 34 percent of Republicans take the freedom position and 49 percent take the values position. 'Every time I've stratified out the Republican Party, we've come up with roughly 45 to 50 percent of the party that falls into the category of being theocrats,' he says. That's right, half of Republicans are Republicans not because they want to reduce the size of government but because of gay marriage and abortion."

Anonymous said...

Regarding a new GI Bill:

The original was a brilliant and savvy bit of foresight. It was, in many respects a crisis-driven move:

In addition to its benificent aspect -- rewarding service members for long and arduous service -- it also recognized that the industrial and military situation of the U.S. had been changed drastically by the war, and that it needed a large number of savvy, skilled people to run the retooled industrial base.

Now, the current administration is not foresightful or savvy. Its energy policy is aimed at continuing an unsustainable level of oil consumption. Its policy vis-a-vis global warming is to dispute its exists, and when pressed on the matter whine that the costs of change are to great. (Translated: The costs of change would be too great to their constituency in the fossil fuel industry.)

The current administration won't be here forever, however. We won't be able to ignore climate change much longer, either.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil while maintaining a decent standard of living and mobility is going to be tough, expensive, and painful. It is going to require a lot of work, both "brain" work and physical work. That could be an opportunity for a massive education effort along the lines of the GI Bill.

Stefan

HarCohen said...

The next best GI Bill?

I wonder if anything short of full blown, economical, fusion power is going to change the global dynamics playing out now.

I won't agree with universal health care being the 'next GI Bill'. It redistributes (reconcentrates) wealth but does not seem to actually increase wealth. And when I hear Wal-Mart is making plans to put medical offices of some sort in their stores, the matter of universal health care already seems to be at hand (he says with a shudder).

Higher education is in the process of transformation as online and distance learning institutions become more campus based and many colleges and universities extend their campuses geographically and into the web.

I am also of the belief that US institutions of higher education will become less relevant globally in the next generation, particularly in science and engineering. As time goes on, scientists and engineers we have outsourced abroad will inspire their children and the children of their friends to follow in their footsteps. They will create and staff their own institutions and we will become the Greek philosophers to the Roman engineers. Energy costs alone should drive things in this direction.

Perhaps the 'next GI Bill' will send a number of our children to study overseas so they can learn the latest in nanotechnology and energy production. I imagine medical institutions will hang on the longest.

Could the 'next GI Bill' be to teach all public school students Chinese?

Don Quijote said...

These things so demolished any possibility of class warfare that even the thought still does not occur to americans, despite the fact that it was a major theme in most cultures.

Mainly because TV has brainwashed people into believing that they are middle class despite the fact that they earn 30 Gs a year and are a pink-slip or one bad hospitalization away from bankrupcy. When is the last time you've seen a TV show that deals whith the realities of the working class in which the cast is predominently white besides "all in the family" & "Rose Ann"?

There was SOCIAL and RACIAL friction in the 60s-80s, but even that mostly gave way to new consensus progress, such that Condi Rice (shudder) may become the next GOP nominee. At very least Veep. With ease.

And there still is! what do you think the republican's policies have been doing to the bottom 60% of American Society for the last 30 years? median Wages hit their high point in the mid 70's and have been on a downward trend ever since.

Unfortunatly the Democrats have been unwilling to use Class Warfare as a political tool, if they don't start, they are going to keep losing.

coturnix said...

Wow, David. You don't really read blogs, do you. Just three - and one is not even a blog! You have to get up to speed, man. I can think of hundreds of good blogs, but here, from the top of my head, some blogs that are worth not just reading every day, but digging through the entire archives for gems from the past:

Orcinus
Legal Fiction
Slacktivist
Crooked Timber
Total Information Awareness
Echidne of the Snakes
Hullabaloo
Michael Berube
The Loom
Respectful Insolence
Mike The Mad Biologist
Leiter Reports
Pharyngula
Pam's House Blend
Blog on the Run
Lance Mannion
Thoughts From Kansas
Pandagon
Freiheit and Wiesen
Billmon
Shakespeare's Sister
Dr.Biobrain
Decembrist
Making Light
Brad DeLong
Obsidian Wings
Archy
Is That Legal
Ethels Frog
Frogs and Ravens
The Green Knight
...and many more. Follow the links to other blogs that these guys provide. I also regularly post links to interesting, less-well known blogs.

Or you can check out my blog, particularly this category. I have not yet reviewed Mooney's book, but I have reviewed Collapse, as well as this one.

And you have to learn to make links so people know when you link to them. Do you have a sitemeter? Blogging without a sitemeter is like a deaf man shouting - all talking, no listening. You cannot have a two-way conversation if you do not know who is responding to you.

Anonymous said...

"What would be the NEXT GI Bill? Something that would swiftly reverse the trend toward re-stratification in our society WHILE re-invigorating markets and startups and investment, WHILE restoring confidence in our institutions and in ourselves?"

Believe it or not, for a time I really thought that it would be the internet/open source movement that would bring free education to everyone.

Ah well.

(I also thought that it would take care of that "restratification" problem thought telecommuting/online anonymous identities.)

Jon