Friday, August 03, 2007

Non-Political Marvels!

After overdosing on myself, on Wes Clark Jr's "Young Turks" Air America show (watch for the podcast next week!) -- I feel like dousing the political lamp for a time.

First off, in case you all thought “Brin will never write sci fi again...” See a review of my new short-novel SKY HORIZON. A “YA book for all ages, in the Robert Heinlein tradition.” Order a copy and wallow in the good old days, when your favorite author actually wrote, now and then.

The Globalist is an online magazine on the global economy,politics and culture. You can subscribe to a weekly digest. Generally, I find about a third of the articles on-target. But this week’s set is especially cogent and interesting. The articles are brief and - on this occasion - every single one of them is worth a look.

Example: “It is a major paradox: The global image of the United States has never been lower — but the global earnings of U.S. multinationals have never been higher.”

Also... the plight of island Tuvalu amid global warming and redefinition of the middle class.

The first baby created from an egg matured in the lab, frozen, thawed and then fertilised, has been born. Until now it was not known whether eggs obtained in this way could survive thawing to be fertilized. The findings hold particular hope for patients with cancer-related fertility problems.

In an exercise, Princeton students had to come up with a plausible strategy for keeping the 2050 greenhouse gas emissions level equal to today's. Coming up with seven politically feasible strategies is no simple matter.

Rice University researchers want to use the human skeleton to transmit commands reliably and securely to wearable gadgets and medical implants, using frequency-shift-keyed, low-power acoustic waves. (A Brin forecast!)

Los Angeles' driest year in 130 years of record-keeping has just gone onto the books. The nation's second-largest city is missing nearly a foot of rain for the year counted from July 1 to June 30. Just 3.21 inches have fallen downtown in those 12 months, closer to Death Valley's numbers than the normal average of 15.14 inches. And it's much the same all over the West, from the measly snow pack and fire-scarred Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada to Utah/Arizona's shrinking Lake Powell.

process information differently, says Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto Business School. "They have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their head two opposing ideas at once, and creatively resolve the tension between those two idehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but... (Dang! I thought I was simply crazy... or “contrary”...)

Ah, but that implies "successful leader" means being successful at perceiving ways for the thing you lead to become successful. It says nothing about "successful usurpers."

Tangible display makes 3D images touchable

Issued by the National Academy of Sciences and sponsored by the space agency, the 116-page report reviews current research into what life is and what it needs to survive, as well as the way life might differ on other worlds. Our investigation made clear that life is possible in forms different than those on Earth," said committee chair John Baross, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, Seattle.

In recent weeks a steady stream of scientific reports from increasingly prestigious sources have all reinforced the same news: the Arctic ice is disappearing three times faster than the worst case scenarios used in the models.

The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual "nodes" to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR.Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a "synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information", according to a concept paper for the project. "SWS provides an environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP)," the paper reads, so that military leaders can "develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviors of adversaries, neutrals, and partners".

Alas... we all know about “gigo” which can slay the best-laid plans. In fact, the greatest wisdom that you can bring to guesstimating the behavior of enemies is this...

“Do not assume that your foes are cowards, who will back down in the face of a slap that would turn YOU into a hero.”

It was the assumption that past adversaries made, e.g. with Pearl Harbor, Ft. Sumter, the Somme, and so on till 9/11. It is the most commonly performed act of self-delusional wish-following, pursued out of pure reflex by almost every national elite, since the beginning of time. And it may soon be pursued by dopes who want to send in a few dozen fighter bombers to “indimidate Iran into backing down.”

Riiiiiiight. Some aerial pinpricks will accomplish what Saddam could not, by slaughtering a couple of million of them?

Oh, I am all in favor of advanced modeling. But again, watch your assumptions when you program that thing. People are ornery. Make that rule number one.


MIT biochemists have identified a molecular mechanism behind fear, and successfully cured it in mice by inhibiting a kinase called Cdk5

Would you give up your immortality to ensure the success of a posthuman world?


The in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has topped 1,000, a stark reminder of the risks run by civilians working with the military in roles previously held by soldiers. Deaths and injuries among the growing ranks of civilians working in war zones are tracked on the basis of claims under an insurance policy, the Defense Base Act, which all U.S. contracting companies and subcontractors must take out for the civilians they employ outside the United States. Contrary to common perceptions, the majority of civilian contractors in the war zones are not Americans; foreigners have done most of the dying as the U.S. accelerated outsourcing functions previously performed by soldiers.

Our solar system is traveling in a different direction to the rest of the Milky Way, scientists say. The magnetic field ihttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifn interstellar space is propelling our solar system along at a 60-90˚ angle to the rest of the galaxy. That's happening because the part of the interstellar magnetic field that comes closest to our system is not parallel to the spiraling arms of the galaxy, as it appears to be elsewhere.


And here’s some wisdom from a very smart guy (I happen to know)...

More soon...

9 comments:

Catfish N. Cod said...

The defense of the military reaches the ears of the MSM!

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1649845,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Mikey Weinstein is a very specific kind of gadfly. When he believes that church and state are intermingling in the military, he goes in with a sting. On Friday, he hit a bullseye when the Inspector General's office of the Department of Defense released a report concluding that a former Pentagon chaplain and several generals inappropriately loaned the prestige of their positions — and that of the Pentagon and the U.S. government — to make a fundraising film for a non-governmental evangelical group, the so-called Christian Embassy. The report identified Christian Embassy as affiliated with the group Campus Crusade for Christ...

The report also criticized four generals and two colonels who appeared in the film, saying they "improperly endorsed and participated with a non-Federal entity while in uniform." It observed that "their remarks conferred approval of and support to Christian Embassy, and the remarks of some officers implied they spoke for a group of senior military leaders rather than just for themselves."

In the course of defending himself to the Inspector General's office, one of the generals asserted his belief that the Christian Embassy had become a "quasi-federal entity." This seems to support assertions by Weinstein that there is real confusion in high ranks of the military regarding armed service's secular status...

For some years now, Weinstein, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former lawyer in the Reagan White House, has been on a kind of anti-crusade: to prove what he regards as the illegally close relationship between parts of the military and evangelical Christian groups. Weinstein was deeply involved the 2005 Air Force investigation of the Air Force Academy, outside Colorado Springs, CO.


Weinstein notes that the battle is far from over, of course, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

Andrew said...

As we lament the Fermi paradox, Fox News reports on the first governmental disclosure of information & viedos of UFOs.

An alien presence effecting global peace & cooperation is an old sci-fi meme (e.g. Childhood's End, Independence Day), but personally, I'd find it embarrassing if that's what it took...

David Brin said...

Blogger sometimes garbles your posts/ Here's the correct version of a paragraph above.


http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6923&m=15453

Successful leaders process information differently, says Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto Business School. "They have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their head two opposing ideas at once, and creatively resolve the tension between those two ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but... (Dang! I thought I was simply crazy... or “contrary”...)

---


Dig it. Here’s what one listener wrote in, after hearing me on Wes Clark’s “The Young Turks” radio show, on Air America: http://www.theyoungturks.com/story/2007/8/4/41720/84324

Blush. My group mind is small, but very smart. ;-)

--------

Has anyone seen an article about “the future” in FORTUNE or FORBES recently? They asked me some questions. I really have no idea if they ever quoted me, though.

Question: Which events of the last ten years surprised you most?

My reply: My biggest surprise was to see America swept by a major, society-wide case of Alvin Toffler's future shock, when that "2" arrived in the millennium column. I didn’t see it at first, because, back at the century-turn, it seemed that folks were taking the milestone in stride. And yet, masked beneath layers of surface bravado, people seem to have developed a jittery alienation toward concepts like “the future,” or the inevitability of change. One casualty: the assertive, pragmatic approach to negotiation and human-wrought progress that used to be mother's milk to this civilization.

Just to be clear and evenhanded, let me say that this trauma appears to have struck all ends of the so-called "political spectrum," from anti-science on the right to anti-engineering on the left. In fact, it has some similarities to past crises of confidence. With earlier surges of romanticism.

Fortunately, I also see early signs of recovery. This very article in Forbes is part of a recent upswing of interest in tomorrow. In turning our attention forward, yet again.

As for predictions of mine that went wrong? Well, I certainly expected that, by now, online tools for conversation, work, collaboration and discourse would have become far more useful, sophisticated and effective than they are right now. I know I’m pretty well alone here, but all the glossy avatars and video and social nets conceal a trivialization of interaction, dragging it down to the level of single-sentence grunts, flirtation and ROFL, at a time when we need discussion and argument to be more effective than ever.

Everybody is still banging rocks together, while bragging about the colors. Meanwhile, half of the tricks that human beings normally use, in real world conversation, have never even been tried online.

In EARTH, I forecast a near future when people are empowered by their tools to learn rapidly from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others. It could still happen.

David Brin said...

Quick queries:

Someone explain the diff tween a yuan and a renmibi!

Also, which American (ATT) phones can be used in China & Japan, simply by buying a chip from a street dealor?

Andrew said...

It looks like "renminbi" just means "the people's money," (so "a renminbi" is kind of a category error).

Yuan is the main unit of renminbi.

Daniele said...

My experience is that Yuan and "RMB" are interchangeable in conversation.

I don't know what band China uses, but any tri-band GSM phone should work. I've used various Motorola Razors.

Note that US phone companies lock their GSM phones to only accept branded SIM chips. So an AT&T phone will only accept AT&T SIMs. I've heard if you're a customer in good standing you can call and they'll give you a code to unlock the phone, but I've never done this. If you've bought an unlocked phone then no worries.

Mark said...

That's happening because the part of the interstellar magnetic field that comes closest to our system is not parallel to the spiraling arms of the galaxy, as it appears to be elsewhere.

Is this the first real evidence we live in a protected wildlife zone?

Zechariah said...

Could Diversity be a bad thing.

I generally put very little stock in "social science" myself. Still, it made for an interesting read, even with the skepticism filter on high.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin wrote: My biggest surprise was to see America swept by a major, society-wide case of Alvin Toffler's future shock, when that "2" arrived in the millennium column. I didn’t see it at first, because, back at the century-turn, it seemed that folks were taking the milestone in stride.

In 2000, people were comparing the "Year 2000" that they had been carrying in their heads their whole lives and comparing it to their real life. With the tech bubble at its peak, it didn't shape up too badly. Sure, we weren't taking vacations to the Moon yet, and no one had a hovercar, but most of the rest seemed on target. We had the miracle-tech of the Internet, Star Trek communicators called "cell phones", 500 channels (but nothing worth watching!), and we were the richest, most prosperous, most peaceful people in the history of the world. Cool!

This attitude remained through 2001 -- "Arthur C. Clarke's REAL Millenium", as everyone reminded each other. No monolith, of course, but it was like a second Jubilee Year (until 9/11).

Then 2002 hit. And in 2002 it finally caught up to everyone that they had dreamed of 2000 and 2001 so much that they didn't dream of 2010, or 2050, or 2100... that the millennium had so dominated our imagination that there was a wasteland of thought beyond.

Except, of course, for disaster movies. From 1970 on, popular predictions of the future split into two camps: the serious, which was universally dominated by social and environmental Jeremaid, and the silly, initiated by your old nemesis Lucas and expanded upon by Roddenberry's descent into utopianism.

Seriously optimistic visions of the future? That was for old folks watching reruns of "2001". Baby boomers and especially GenXers knwe what was coming -- what they were taught all their lives. The Bomb is going to get us all. (How many movies took that as a given?) Or else Malthus is. (It's made of people!) Or Mother Nature. (Tornado, earthquake, climate-changing tsunami...) Or a big rock falling out of the sky. (Unless Bruce Willis stops it.) And even if none of those get us, we'll screw ourselves over with our arrogance, moral ineptitude, and overarching greed. (Every book and movie ever written by Michael Chricton.)

The closest thing to a serious, optimistic future I've seen at the moviehouse was Minority Report. Yet while the world has advanced some, the story is still about a disastrous and dehumanizing technology! Still, it's much better than his other films, Blade Runner and Total Recall, which are the more run-of-the-mill dystopia that audiences have come to expect.

If you set a movie in the future, it can be serious or it can be optimistic; it can't be both. If it is a comedy in the Greek sense, it needs also e a comedy in the modern sense. (Perfect example; The Fifth Element.) You can't seriously expect us to believe society will turn our all right, do you? C'mon. We know better.

And yet the worm has started to turn. The Stargate franchise displayed humans using technology for good; Earth: Final Conflict and Babylon 5 suggested that humans could actually come up with valid moral arguments about future problems. The ship has started to turn, but boy is she slow to respond.

When people stop feeling the need to Fight the Future (as The X-Files put it), they'll start thinking about it again. And -- miracle of miracles! -- they might even like what they see.