This will be one of my splurges, posting a melange of miscellany for anyone to share, starting with an announcement that...
... four of my books are now released to Kindle! EARTH, The Uplift War, Otherness and The Practice Effect. In 2 weeks: Startide Rising and Heaven's Reach. (Kiln People and Foundation's Triumph were already available.)
Ethics and The Future. I've been honored to be named a fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). I was already a participant in the Center for Ethics, shared by UCSD, USD, and SDSU. Both institutions aim to foster science in the public interest by promoting awareness, understanding, and discussion of the ethical implications of new
developments in science and technology.
I've received permission from SKEPTIC Magazine to post two of my past articles as PDF files. Seeking a New Fulcrum was my careful appraisal of Psi or "psychic phenomena," starting with some basic physics and logic, but concluding that these powers are likely to be real... in the future, not in any mystified past.
The Dangers of First Contact discusses the modern fixation/assumption that advanced life forms will automatically be altruistic. Altruism is a fascinating and complex subject, in its own right! But the assumptions that currently guide the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) may be just as foolish and short-sighted as those held by Spanish conquistadors. We need open minds. Enjoy opening yours!;-)
Devin Murphy points out that the recent attempt by a terrorist to self-immolate aboard a US-bound airliner was foiled not by TSA regulations nor NSA surveillance nor official watchlists nor air marshals, but by the aggressive action of an alert passenger. Those agencies and bureaus which failed have reacted by declaring more regulations and claiming more power. Of course, this isyet another example of a phenomenon I predicted long ago... that civilization would depend ever-more upon the resilience of citizens, exactly as it did on 9/11, the Day That Professionalism Failed... or, far better, The Day of the Citizen. (See: The Value and empowerment of common citizens in an age of danger.)
I have spoken about this before dozens of gatherings of skilled members of the Protector Caste, who always nod their heads in sage individual agreement -- and then do nothing about the blatant deficit in our defense scheme -- the lack of any money or effort aimed toward enhancing citizen-level robustness.
Time after time, you have episodes like this one, in which the day is saved by amateurs... and the professionals thereupon go into a state of frenzied denial of the lesson. Instead we see a capering frenzy aimed at upping screenings and delaying flights and inconveniencing the very group that performed the heroic deed... almost as if citizens were the enemy, and not the fundamental ally and resource that’s needed in order to defend civilization.
So, shall we simply forge ahead ourselves? Both Vernor Vinge and I portray futures in which amateurs pool talents and resources to achieve wonders outseid of normal state-corporate channels. Devin Murphy points to the latest example. TechShop is a 15,000 square-foot membership-based Coop workshop in Menlo Park that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a creative and supportive community of like-minded people so you can build the things you have always wanted to make.
Will the future come, after all? What are the most significant things that happened over the last decade? Did the 2000s meet our expectations? What are the predictions for the next decade? Listen in to a podcast of a December 2009 interview on National Public Radio (NPR) with best- selling futurist novelists Vernor Vinge and David Brin.
Xmarks.com promises to sync all your "bookmark" pages for you among all the big search engines and to help find pages by topic. If you search "sci fi authors" my http://www.davidbrin.com site will come up as #2 - so thanks to all you perceptive lovers of the good stuff!
The Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop moved to UC San Diego, a few years ago, a terrific “save” of a precious institution in SF writing. Now, Clarion, which is always sliding along the edge of financial ruin, has been given a “challenge grant” by Amazon, which will match a dollar for any dollar that any of YOU happen to donate to this great cause. Here’s how. And tell them I sent you!
Some lovely sf’nal faux historiography, by someone with way too much time on his hands.
Eeek! Romance author Denise Rossettii has finally captured me with vividly accurate description in Gift of the Goddess “Huge, dark and enigmatic, Brin wears a tattoo of the holy dragon on his magnificent body. Years of erotic training have given him skills and stamina Anje cannot match. But it's the strength of his will that threatens to conquer her very soul...” Okay, okay, I admit it. She nailed it. That’s me, all right. I've been found out. Sigh.
Interesting discussion of risk analysis of a potential CERN black hole, with more general applications to any low probability / high-impact risk.
In the 1970’s, members of The British Interplanetary Society completed a 5 year design study into an unmanned interstellar probe which was to engage in a fly-by of Barnard's star. The maximum theoretical speed of Daedalus was 12% of lightspeed, and the one way trip would take approximately 50 years. Now have a look at the next stage: 'Project Icarus: son of Daedalus - flying closer to another star'. There are some, it seems, who still yearn for tomorrow.
Terrific Halloween costume! I wonder where he got the idea!!!
Speaking of which... Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”. Ah, but would you believe that I - of all people - am cautious about taking this step. Indeed, I think it may be wrong for dolphins.
The vital Orbiting Carbon Observatory -- led by my friend, planetary atmospheres guy, David Crisp -- seems about to be resurrected after an earlier version crashed back to Earth in February when its launch vehicle failed. (BTW... Dave is one of dozens of atmospheric scientists who I know personally... not eighth-hand... who know for a fact that the climate is changing and that humanity is involved. Name the atmospheric scientist you know, personally, who disagrees.)
Ghostbusters, False Prophets, Phoney Psychics, and all Members of the Paranormal - Here Come PARAGATORS! (Somebody look into these guys and report back to us.)
What English sounds like to those who don't speak it. Hilarious sendup.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair, quoted by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. According to Tech-business guru Mark Anderson: “This has long been one of my favorite quotes; it explains about half of human behavior – and almost ALL of ExxonMobil’s.”
But Jared Diamond - author of COLLAPSE - disagrees. I have long considered Diamond both brilliant and dispeptic. But he is indisputably on-target, most of the time. Here, he shows how capitalism is perfectly compatible with the move toward sustainable practices... if the businessmen are genuinely smart.
Stewart Brand “splits” the Global Climate Change imbroglio into four groups, not two. “The calamatists and denialists are primarily political figures, with firm ideological loyalties, whereas the warners and skeptics are primarily scientists, guided by ever-changing evidence. That distinction between ideology and science not only helps clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the four stances, it can also be used to predict how they might respond to future climate developments.“
My cousin Andrew Stone helped create a report about the potential effects of truly unleashed entrepreneurialism, if problems of bad law and aristoicratic privilege are overcome in the Developing World.
By generating both biofuel oil and ethanol, tobacco has the potential to produce more energy per hectare than any other non-food crop.
“Much of the debate in the West about Islam views the religion as a monolith. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, who died on December 30, 2009, could not have disagreed more. In his view, there are two very different forms of Islam — one Wahhabi-inspired and the other humanitarian.” See a concise & fascinating list of these differences.
And an interesting piece suggesting that our “lost decade” is already behind us.
===== SCIENCE BIT =====
The magnetic north pole had moved little from the time scientists first located it in 1831. Then in 1904, the pole began shifting northeastward at a steady pace of about 9 miles (15 kilometers) a year. In 1989 it sped up again, and in 2007 scientists confirmed that the pole is now galloping toward Siberia at 34 to 37 miles (55 to 60 kilometers) a year. A rapidly shifting magnetic pole means that magnetic-field maps need to be updated more often to allow compass users to make the crucial adjustment from magnetic north to true North.
======= AND FINALLY ======
Satan's Garage Sale By Tom Cahill -- Not long ago, Satan happily realized there were enough politicians, banksters, and corportists in the world doing his work and that at long last, he could retire. So he decided to sell his collection of the tools of his nefarious trade. He invited the public to preview the tools in his garage the Friday night before the sale.
Murder, Theft, Corruption, Lying, Greed, Hypocrisy, Intolerance, Blasphemy, Vanity, Temptation-all had price tags that were reasonable to the mostly legislators, bankers, businessmen, attorneys, lobbyists et all attending the preview.
But one seemingly insignificant tool was priced way above all the rest combined. When the CEO of a large US investment firm asked Satan why, the Devil replied, "This one works when all others fail." The name on the price tag was "Discouragement."