Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Odd Items From The (Possible) Future

I have a number of coherent essays almost ready, but first let’s clear the decks with some interesting miscellany!

--Waste on a Vast Scale--

About $360 million spent by the United States on combat support and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan ended up in enemy hands. The U.S. military said the money was handed down by contractors to "the Taliban, criminals and local power brokers with ties to both."  The military awarded at least 20 companies about $1 billion worth of contracts and suspended seven contractors it said lacked "integrity and business ethics."

The Post reports: “I think we've finally got our arms around this thing," said a senior military officer who was authorized to discuss the matter only on the condition of anonymity. The new contracts, the official said, were the result of a year's worth of "intelligence work and asking the right questions. We're now starting to take action." Congressional investigators determined last year that much of the transport and security money went to the Taliban and Afghan warlords as part of a protection racket to ensure the safe arrival of the convoys, conclusions that were confirmed this spring by military and intelligence inquiries.

Oh, but this pales next to the $12 Billion (with a “B”) dollars in raw cash (!) that Cheney and Rumsfeld sent to Iraq (21 Hercules cargo planes loaded with shrink-wrapped cash) -- which simply disappeared… not only from our possession or our books, but from the memories of those who should be outraged.

---Privacy and Paranoia---

Minority Report in real life? Here’s a news item that leads into a tiny, mini-rant about Steven Spielberg’s cool movie from a few years ago.  Should we put the masses of data as our disposal to better use than predicting what movie people would like? Risk assessment tools have had some success in predicting rates of recidivism, and are used by parole boards. But should people be penalized for actual crimes committed – or the statistical likelihood of committing more crimes?

I have a world of respect for Steven Spielberg, whose deep-seated gratitude toward civilization shines in every film. I found Minority Report logical and very well-done.  I loved especially that this film did not portray a tyranny!  The people weren't afraid of the government. It was theirs to command... though they were consenting to things you and I would find creepy!

One thing about Minority Report, though. Spielberg does commit one huge "idiot plot" assumption. I can see where he had to, for plot reasons. But still, it is huge. In such a world, the punishment for "almost sorta woulda" committing a crime would not be more severe than actually doing it!  It would be a year at a psychiatric evaluation resort... not the cryogenic equivalent of an instant, no-appeal and no-trial death sentence!

Ah well… here’s a must-see: the pilot episode of "The Lone Gunman", an X-Files spinoff which aired  March 4, 2001, on FOX, is eerily predictive of 9/11. Portrays the (remote control) hijacking of a passenger aircraft by a hostile faction in the U.S Government, who attempt to fly it into one of the twin towers! Says the creepy informer: "smack a fully loaded 727 into New York and you'll find a dozen tin-pot dictators all over the world just clamoring to take responsibility, and begging to be smart-bombed."

-- Art Imitating Reality? Or dreams imitating the last 4000 years? –

Inspired by Ayn Rand, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, along with Patri Friedman and others, are helping fund the Seasteading Institute's plans to establish a floating 'start-up country' off the coast of San Francisco -- built on oil-rig like platforms in international waters. Here residents will be able to live by Libertarian ideals, free of regulation, laws, and the welfare state. I’ll be weighing in on this, later.

My next novel features "Shoresteading" - a different thing, entirely. More about this soon!

-- Transparency Alert --

Apple patents an application that could disable your camera if it thinks you are recording something you don't have permission to.

New targets for Cyberattacks: hackers now hijack cell phones through text-message malware that turns your phone into a botnet. Other potential targets: smart utility meters at home, car computers, GPS receivers, as well as social network spoofing. One protection has always been that most creative people find innovation more interesting than crime. ‘Watch out for these cyberattacks that can turn smartphones into texting botnets, shut off electricity, jam GPS signals and more.”

--At the Intersection of Science and Society--

Does power propel sexual aggressiveness, helping to explain the seemingly endless flow of political and celebrity sex scandals?  Science is investigating.  One recent study had heterosexual students sitting next to a student of the opposite sex. Researcher Maner found that when he gave students a brief feeling of power, "they were more likely to start flirting with the stranger sitting next to them. Men and women alike.”

One reason to get a tongue piercing: it can be fitted with a magnetic stud that allows paralyzed individuals to control their wheelchair by tongue movements.

Smart Contact lenses will diagnose disease, analyze health statistics, deliver drugs and more.

The Talk-o-Meter gives a graphical output of each person's contributions to the conversation. Hm...wonder where I would rank?

-- Technology --

A robot that can run like a human: Designed by the University of Michigan, Robot Mabel is the world's fastest robot with knees, reaching nearly 7 miles per hour.

Very cool! Mini helicopter robots hover mid-air, playing ping pong.

Haptic displays, infinitely configurable virtual keyboards may replace standard keyboards on laptops.

How to make an impression in the business world: Augmented Reality Business Cards with 3D Avatars, spinning cubes, pop-up resumes.

-- Science News --

Outdoing Arecibo, China aims to build the largest radio telescope in the world. They’ve broken ground on FAST, the Five-hundred meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, in a natural depression in Guizhou province. Expected to be operational in 2016, FAST will be able to scan larger sections of the sky than Arecibo and deeper into space/time. Part ot the worldwide Square Km Array. It may also join in the search for extraterrestrial life, even as SETI faces shut downs….And now donors are helping reboot California's Allen Array for SETI.

Diagnostic tattoo. A miniature diagnostic device with the mechanical properties of skin was developed by engineers at the University of Illinois. It can be mounted directly to the wrist or anywhere on the human body for EMG and other measurements. The circuit almost becomes part of the skin as it bends, wrinkles, and stretches.

Ketchup spill? This amazing weird invention picks up viscous materials.

New Nanometal changes from hard to soft at the flip of a switch.

Fascinating progress in antimatter confinement, possibly leading to actual spectroscopic studies of anti-hydrogen.

Could releasing a cloud of tungsten dust help solve the problem of space debris?

Cool picture of a shooting star... seen from the International Space Station.

-- Just for Fun --

How people in science see each other: How do technicians view undergrads, post-docs and professors -- and how do they see each other?

What makes things funny? An ancient question. The Five 5 Leading Theories for Why We Laugh—and the Jokes That Prove Them Wrong.

Goodnight internet. A bedtime story for you and your laptop

129 comments:

John Kurman said...

Anti-hydrogen: I have a $1 bet concerning the AEGIS experiment at CERN. I'm betting the anti-hydrogen beam falls up. I intend to collect my dollar sometime in November.

Blight said...

Rather than a 100 year starship plan , DARPA should be working on a 10 year plan to improve our economy. (Really, you can't have an effective military or a space program if your country is economically compromised.) Here's my recommendation: Instead of the federal reserve shoveling free money to banks, DARPA should be given 300 billion off balance sheet (dark) to generate 21st century infrastructure and jobs. Since this blog is about odd items from the (possible) future, consider this a comment from one who is observing a very unpromising present.

Blight said...

By the way, I think that our present congress should participate in the making of Idiocracy 2, which unfortunately we are living in.

sociotard said...

I wonder if Peter Thiel knows how similar his plan sounds to the video game BioShock. If he built it underwater it'd be a dead ringer.

I do like the idea of experimental governments, even if I don't think an 'Ayn Rand' themed city would be much fun. It reminds me of that 'charter city' idea.
http://www.chartercities.org/

sociotard said...

Hold on. He only gave 1.25 million. John F. Kerry's yacht cost $7 million.

So, underfunded, this project will be as relevant as Sealand

JohnSerenity said...

I wish someone would do the floating Island thing like the Millennial Project/ Living Universe Foundation. I'm still inspired by that work

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Inspired by Ayn Rand, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, along with Patri Friedman and others, are helping fund the Seasteading Institute's plans to establish a floating 'start-up country' off the coast of San Francisco -- built on oil-rig like platforms in international waters. Here residents will be able to live by Libertarian ideals, free of regulation, laws, and the welfare state.


Oh, man, did several things go through my head at once on this one.

First of all, despite the fact that these are rich people instead of poor people, the first imgage that came to mind was "Sea State".

Next, good on them if they think they can pull off a real-life test of Libertarian anti-government principles. I happen to think that the first time they're occupied by an invasion force, or suffer a natural disaster like a typhoon, or manage to screw up their own infrastucture through incompetence and arrogance, they'll be insisting that the US Armed Forces bail them out. Randroids are very good at the first part of their oath--the part about swearing never to live for the sake of another. The second part--never asking another to live for THEIR sake--they're a little less ideological about.

I'll admit I'm wrong if they prove otherwise.

Finally, I couldn't help think that if this thing really takes off, it could be a bigger win-win situation than the May 21 Raputre might have been. Let the rest of us believers in a mutually-beneficial society finally get a chance to work without the Randroids gumming up the works.

matthew said...

A friend of mine was the sound editor for Lone Gunman. Her embroidered crew jacket is *the* best geek-luring charm I've ever seen. Double takes and pure envy.

sociotard said...

A fun read about a twitter campaign to force the Montreal police to deal with David Mabus, an internet troll (who had the potential to actually turn dangerous)
http://skeptools.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/case-study-notorious-spammer-brought-down-twitter-tumblr-social-media-mabus/

Rob said...

Google "The Atlantis Project" sometime. Same idea of floating Libertarian colonies; the guy behind it went as far as drafting a constitution for his island nation and so forth, but he couldn't get the funding, mostly because (according to him) the natural audience for such a thing wouldn't get organized behind him.

The best way to avoid SMS botnets is to block all texting. Honestly, the prices companies charge for texting is beyond "profitable" and into "regulatory capture".

rewinn said...

"...free of regulation, laws, and the welfare state..."
It sounds very much like Kuwait or one of the oil-rich Emirites or the Shenzhen Economic Zone or the Northern Marianas Islands; if you're a member of the upper crust of those states you really don't have to worry about oppressive government regulations and all that. They import workers to do the dirty work, and workers who complain are lucky to escape with their lives. Because, you know, to whom are they going to complain except the employees of the upper crust?
The part that doesn't make sense about Libertairan Oil Platform Nations is that if they have enough wealth to be self-sustaining, then they have enough wealth to buy a government. The oil platform is unnecessary.

sgs said...

Re the "protection money" going to the Taliban -- hey, the idea is for the convoys to get through. If you can buy them off, it's probably a lot cheaper and easier than shooting them.

While we're at it, why don't we simply buy their entire opium crop?

"Flour is cheaper than gunpowder" -- Brigham Young

Jacob said...

"Should we put the masses of data as our disposal to better use than predicting what movie people would like? Risk assessment tools have had some success in predicting rates of recidivism, and are used by parole boards. But should people be penalized for actual crimes committed – or the statistical likelihood of committing more crimes?"

Yes, we should but very carefully. It's a Fear vs Freedom thing. The whole driving force behind putting people in jail is due to society believing criminals cannot fit in. Either you believe that prison 'should' rehabilitate people for society -or- you believe that prison is protecting society from that criminal. It seems to silly not to examine people we are going to release to determine if they have a chance of playing nice.

Personally, I'd prefer we use exile to incarceration. That is, if we can find a society where the 'crime' is considered acceptable behavior. Consider should extremists ever be able to create laws, I would rather they removed me from their society rather than imprisonment, canning, or capitol punishment. Exile also meshes well with denying a return to society. It isn't quite as harsh to spend a year in Denmark as it is in Jail. A fair degree of freedom to the individual is had with lower risk to society.

anagory said...

Blight: Economic redevelopment should not be a top-secret project. But that level of commitment, yes.

LarryHart said...

To whoever it was (on this list) who got me reading "Quantum Vibe":

http://www.quantumvibe.com/strip?page=174

Given the visual depiction of Nicole's mother, I'm really beginning to wonder if the artist is inspired by Nichelle Nicols from Star Trek. I've gotten a bit of an "Uhura" vibe off of the protagonist all along, but the mother looks even more like her.

LarryHart said...

Jacob:

Exile also meshes well with denying a return to society. It isn't quite as harsh to spend a year in Denmark as it is in Jail. A fair degree of freedom to the individual is had with lower risk to society.


I'd expect to see much resistance from the authoritarian side of the aisle.

To people like you and me, questions such as "How to best rehabilitate an inmate" or "How to segregate the misfit from the rest of society" are problems to be solved. To people of an entirely different mindset, though, the point of prison is to BE MEAN TO prisoners. It's not enough to separate rule-violators from yourself for your own safety--the perp must be punished. After all, "How else can regular people be expected to follow rules unless the alternative is horrible?"

Blight said...

Anagory, you note that economic development should not be a top secret project. In previous years I'd agree, but we presently have a dysfunctional political system being controlled by no-taxes,deficit-cut zealots. Consequently, they need to be by-passed. A healthy economy is a number one priority for national security. Full employment should be our secret Manhattan project. As Napoleon noted early in his career, "Give the tools to those who can use them." and then promptly shot some grape shot at the rebelling crowds. America needs similar imaginative thinking and real action.

Robert said...

@LarryHart: It's deliberate. The author notes below the comic specify that the character looks "familiar" when she's first introduced. Considering that we've seen several transhumans in the comic, I could easily see her parents choosing to custom-design a daughter that resembled a character from a quaint science fiction television show from several hundred years back. And hey, what's the harm?

Though to be honest, I didn't notice that with the daughter initially. And it's refreshing to have a primary protagonist who isn't a white-skinned classic beauty (though if I remember correctly, Nicole Shea in Clairmont's "First Flight" was half-Hispanic).

--------

Interestingly, Macleans had an opinion article that the U.S. suffers from "too much democracy" and that we need a more Authoritarian government - basically that there is a lack of ability for reform in our political system and that this will ultimately drag down this country.

-------

There was a fascinating article in New Scientist on the detrimental environmental effects that too much Green Energy can cause - basically that while we as a species could theoretically extract up to 70 terawatts of energy globally, the end result in precipitation change, turbulence, and altered solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface would be comparable to doubling atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. And the study is being taken seriously.

Basically it states that Green Energy is not without cost, and that we need to focus more on solar energy to avoid excessive environmental effects.

Rob H.

ell said...

Okay, Matthew, post a picture of the sound editor's jacket!

As for the floating libertarian nation -- where do I start? Starting and running any project requires cooperation, and a lot of these fiercely independent types are not big on cooperation. Contrary to what Donne wrote, they believe each man is an island. There would have to be a series of platforms in the sea, each with an individual aboard. Then they'll need treaties among the floating nations, and boom, you've got government! What happens if another member of the island group doesn't honor the rules? (Rules, what rules? Maybe, don't block a passageway between islands? I can if I want to -- I'm sovereign!) If they expect guns to keep the peace, they'd better have a good hospital aboard.

One good part of the individual islands idea is that it is easier to secede from the group -- or exile a problem member -- if the island can weigh anchor and go away.

Libertarians must never have gone to sea. A boat is a very authoritarian place. The captain rules, no exceptions. Plus maintenance at sea is time consuming. Paint it or it will rot or rust and you'll sink.

I assume they'll need seaplanes to ferry in supplies from the mainland that they can't (or can't be bothered to) manufacture. And a diet of nothing but seafood will become tiresome, unless they can import dirt. (Remember the movie Waterworld?) I suppose chickens and sheep can be kept aboard, although cattle might be a problem.

If the mainland treats them as a foreign nation, there will be customs to pass and tariffs to pay on goods when trading with the mainland. If the mainland doesn't treat them as a foreign nation, then they become a territory (or state) with taxes to pay! (And in the mainland's currency.) If they think they can manage a war with the mainland (ha-ha), they should try eluding the IRS.

David Brin said...

http://io9.com/5823610/first-footage-from-ridley-scotts-prometheus-made-our-space-helmets-explode

http://io9.com/5823610/first-footage-
from-ridley-scotts-prometheus-made
-our-space-helmets-explode

Paul said...

Tea party are on increasingly the nose with voters. NYT poll (via Stupid Evil Bastard.) And voters increasingly touchy about Dominionists.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/opinion/crashing-the-tea-party.html

Ian said...

"The part that doesn't make sense about Libertairan Oil Platform Nations is that if they have enough wealth to be self-sustaining, then they have enough wealth to buy a government. The oil platform is unnecessary."

They could all move to Kiribati.

Since most of them are climate change skeptics, they should regard it as a bargain.

Paul said...

MRO image of a crater on Mars with a cave/skylight at the centre. V.v.cool spot for a visit.

http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/images/2011/details/cut/ESP_023531_1840.jpg

(masto: Illegal pressurised habitat built inside a skylight formation by break-away Libertarian colonists.)

AMusingFool said...

I actually found that first quote quite disturbing. The "authorized to speak on condition of anonymity" is amazingly dishonest, at its root.

I do like the idea of sending all the Objectivists away; I wonder what they'll actually think of a society where it's taken as a given that all are not created equal.

I suspect they'll find it a lot less of a paradise than they think.

Tim H. said...

Depending on the size of the cave underneath, an interesting place for a habitat? Roof, seal and pressurize, after the areologists have their way, of course.
"entshat", it happened in Fangorn.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

I don't know any of the people at the Seasteading Institute; but I doubt that, after intensively studying some of the silly mistakes made in past decades by other "new country" efforts, that they are going to now blindly expend great effort toward repeating those mistakes.

Here are some quotes from the legal research documents at the seasteading.org web site. They are in quite stark contrast to the comments that have been made about it on this blog and other places:

"Why not simply view the ocean as a blank slate upon which to inscribe brand new, more ideal, laws? The short answer is that the ocean is not a blank state as far as international law is concerned. And the introduction of completely new, untested laws could be too jarring and counterproductive for these fledgling communities. Never mind that the rest of the world would likely resist any such efforts initially."

"We at The Seasteading Institute believe we have to approach things with humility. Indeed, humility is part and parcel to the seasteading strategy. Much of the law has the wisdom of ages packaged into it. Good laws often follow the lessons of real human interaction—contrived as a means to avoid costly, even deadly, conflicts. A lot of experimentation in human relationships goes into this process. We will return to this idea later in our discussion of lex mercatoria, a set of evolved laws settled on by traders over hundreds of years to mitigate conflict and facilitate exchange. These legal norms become tested over time by real people interacting in real ways. In this way, the law itself becomes an emergent phenomenon. Thus, in any seasteading strategy, we have to look at what is given. What wisdom can we borrow from the past? What sorts of laws are already in place and being used? Which institutions around the world are an impediment to human flourishing and which laws and institutions provide the foundations for prosperity?"

Regarding the unfounded allegations that they do not believe in climate change, a recent section of the Seastead Institute blog discusses the possibilities for rescuing the island nation of Kiribati from being submerged due to climate change. This makes it look like dealing with climate change is a significant part of their efforts.

It just took me a few minutes at the Seasteading Institute web site to find this information. I don't know why people would want to make them out to be crackpots until they actually read some information about them.

David Smelser said...

ell wrote:"..Libertarians must never have gone to sea. A boat is a very authoritarian place. The captain rules, no exceptions."

For an interesting look at democracy and markets at see, read
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson.
The first chapter can be read at:
http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8850.html

ell said...

In actual practice, an oil-platform nation will have some rules: Who will be allowed to join them? This new enterprise may be limited to a group of friends (sounds like an anti-freedom cooperation group there). If it is open to all, can anyone show up and append to the platform? What about building codes? You don't want any ragtag addition throwing the platform off balance. What about sewage? Garbage? Other dumping? Someone will have to survey the ocean currents to determine where to put waste matter.

This platform is similar to a condominium, and homeowners' association (HOA) horror stories are plentiful. (Locally, a judge (!) punched a woman HOA president in the mouth. She evicted (!) him and seized his condo through some legal maneuver.)

sociotard said...

And in the category of "science articles that overstate how relevant something is, but are still fun to read":

IBM Produces Working Prototypes Of A Brain On A Chip -- And Gets It To Play Pong

Tacitus2 said...

I guess prognostications fall under the category of "The (Possible) Future.

Sounds like Khadaffi is packing his bags and getting ready to bail out. In advance I shall say, good riddance and good job by the Western Powers.

And if you are interested in an earlier chapter of Western intervention in Libya....

The Treaty of Ouchy
at my non serious site
Detritus of Empire

Tacitus

rewinn said...

"...I don't know why people would want to make them out to be crackpots until they actually read some information about them."

If that's an actual question, you'll have to be a bit more specific about accusations of crackpottery. Most, if not all, of the criticisms here have been rather specific as to the flaws inherent in building a nation on an ocean.

The one exception may be the reference to global warming, but that is understandable, since many libertarians are also deniers - not all, of course (take the host of this blog for example), but enough to make the snark reasonable. Of libertarians currently in positions of responsibility,
Ron Paul has denounced global warming as a hoax
Rand Paul, in contrast, says its a scam.

The urge to start anew and build Zion in the wilderness is an ancient one. Some times it works, some times it doesn't; for every Jonestown there may be a Salt Lake City. Traditionally they are constructed in places that are a bit marginal, since established societies already have grabbed the best spots; but what distinguishes those from OilPlatformLand in a way that makes it seem "crackpot" (if you insist) is that the soil of Utah wasn't actively trying to kill off the Mormons.

The sea is not a natural living place for human beings; she suffers our presence but with any slip, she kills us. If we want to perform an experiment in political economy, it's much simpler to pick a location that can't simply tip over, blow up and kill you. At the least, a cruise ship rather than an oil platform would seem more prudent, since it can get out of the way of megastorms.

I'm all in favor of experiments, and if rich people want to blow their dough rediscovering human nature, hey, it's better than another land war in Asia. However we are getting a lot more data on constructing human relationships (laws, contracts and whatnot) in virtual space; there's a huge literature developing around voluntarily relationships in WoW guilds, for example.

Considerations such as the above makes one ponder what the actual agenda of the enterprise may be. It also prompts speculation that a suitably skanky organization could invent a nation consists of a garbage scow, and assert the sovereign right to dump waste in international waters. This sort of thing happens even now, but land-based nations have reason to participate responsibly in the international community. A landless "nation" can be imagined whose entire purpose is to be irresponsible - and if it really were a sovereign state, what remedy would the rest of the world have?

rewinn said...

P.S. "The Treaty of Ouchy" ... the punchlines just write themselves!

Robert said...

Considering the number of Firefly fans here, I thought I'd include a link to my Facebook page in which several of us are dissecting an ultra-feminist's interpretation of Firefly as anti-women and Josh Whedon as a woman-hater. So far, all of the people responding to this have gone "WTF?" on her perspective. One friend went so far as to say "she's gone so far to the Left she's gone Right." (Or words to that effect.)

That specific FB discussion is set to public, I believe. So people shouldn't have a hard time viewing it or the livejournal page I linked from.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=139683886123200&id=100000473410384

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?
story_fbid=139683886123200&id=100000473410384

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Jerry Emanuelson:

I don't know why people would want to make them out to be crackpots until they actually read some information about them.


Well, our esteemed host started the paragraph off with "Insipired by Ayn Rand...", which pretty much had me assuming crackpottery in whatever followed.

Corey said...

@Robert:

"I thought I'd include a link to my Facebook page in which several of us are dissecting an ultra-feminist's interpretation of Firefly as anti-women and Josh Whedon as a woman-hater."

Oh wow, just wow.

I'm sorry, Robert, but I just can't help myself here.




I've seen overly dramatic expressions of points of view before; James Hanson (an otherwise good scientist) claiming that Obama had "four years so save the Earth [from global warming]" comes to mind off-hand. This, however, takes the cake.

It's my experience that such loud-mouthed bluster usually does nothing but damage the credibility of the points of view such people represent, and I'm not going to lie, I think my otherwise generally high view of feminists is possibly going to permanently tinged, singlehandidly, by this tirade, especially because it's just so far off base.



The double-standards here are just astounding. Basically, if you look at this essay, the entire thesis is basically that when women are not being treated as vastly superior to men by Joss Whedon, that's discrimination again women.


Take Inara for example. She is basically a societally accepted whore; I won't sugar-coat that fact. Her crew-mates, however, are a rag-tag group of petty thieves and smugglers. On it's face, it might sound like neither group warrants much respect, but note how she has no problem with the men of the show being less than respectable members of society. It's just that somehow, when a woman becomes equally unrespectable Joss Whedon is suddenly "a woman hater".


It gets even worse than that, though. Inara is educated, sophisticated, highly skilled at just about everything, and highly respected by society, and so a far more respectable character than, say, Jayne Cobb, who's basically just a brainless oaf and petty criminal. Our "feminist" here doesn't have a problem with Jayne. When a guy is unrespectable, it's not an issue. It's just when a woman does something that could be considered unrespectably, even if far less than Jayne's occupation, suddenly it's anti-female discrimination.


Lest I be tempted to stop ranting about Inara's character, let me continue. Inara is, in many ways, the most empowered woman on the show. She's a whore who's occupation fails to stop her from attaining considerable station in society, and who apologizes for nothing, even when Mal criticizes her for it. "allecto" doesn't even get the nature of her job right, however. She is not "used" by her clients; she picks them, and she wields considerable power over them. As we see, in the episode Shindig, when one of her clients does try to use his status as a powerful male to strong-arm her, she "blacklists" him, so that no companion will ever see him again, because, her station in society is apparently above his in many ways, and she quickly demonstrates that her profession of being "used" actually gives her full control over basically every male she ever professionally interacts with.


If this writer is going to criticize the show, she could at least get the story right.

Corey said...

Then let's go to Zoe. Now, let me just get this straight for moment: Because Zoe takes commands from a male superior IN THE MILITARY, suddenly that discrimination again women? Let's just examine the double standard here: If it was a woman in charge, and the men taking orders, at best allecto wouldn't complain, and at worst, she'd praise it as "a positive example of woman empowerment" (ten bucks says she'd do the latter). Now, of course since EVERY military with participation from both genders will have some woman somewhere being subordinate to some man, that means that by allecto's reasoning, every military, ever, is misogynist.

And if that reductio ad absurdum doesn't show just how bad this person's reasoning is, then pointing out that Zoe is effectively second in command of Serenity should. Jayne tried to take over once in the pilot, but after that, the role falls to Zoe anytime Mal isn't around (as we see in War Stories, and occasionally elsewhere). So Zoe is most definitely not subordinate to men in general. She is, in fact, in de-facto command of every man on Serenity except for Mal.


Then we move to Kaylee. I don't have much to say here, because allecto's entire argument against Kaylee's character is a one-off, tongue-in-cheek comment. Now, if, say, Zoe, had said the exact same thing about, say, Jayne, this person would have absolutely no problem, but because it's something to latch onto, allecto turns it into a mountainous disgrace for women everywhere.



This entire rant, were it not by a feminist, is the kind of thing I'd expect to be featured prominently on Fox News, or the Hot Air blog. The logic is that bad, and the facts that downright wrong.

Robert said...

No worries. I already dissected the article and everyone who commented on my Facebook page (including a couple of empowered women, though I'm not sure if they're feminists or not) basically felt she was talking out her derriere.

One thing to note, she specifically attacked only the episodes that were written by Josh Whedon. I suspect this was primarily so she could rip at Whedon rather than because she couldn't straw-man the rest of the episodes.

The truly sad thing is she locked her LJ so that only approved asskissing comments got through. So you only see those people who agree with her for the most part on the LJ, which gives a truly distorted look at feminism. In fact, a cynical part of me almost wonders if the person isn't a feminist but is instead trying to make feminists look bad. Because could a feminist truly be that... well, nothing I say here would come across politely so I'll just let you insert whatever work you wish after the ellipses.

Rob H.

Brendan said...

@Robert

Just one word in Allecto's defence; she probably locked comments because the post is four years old rather than dissent(by the way, I couldn't find a way to comment on your FB post - probably since we aren't "friends").

You can pretty much write off everything she says(unfortunately) since she is part of the looney fringe(I read a lot of feminist lit belonging to a female sociology friend and our joint conclusion is anyone who identifies herself as a Radical Lesbian Feminist(and yes they Capitalise) has her head so far up her arse she shits through her mouth).

Another indication of her insanity is later in the comments she states that"'sex' between men and women, in the contemporary 'sex-positive', pornographic, male-supremacist culture, is rape"

Ignore her and forget her. She isn't worth bothering about.

Robert said...

To be honest? I never noticed the post-date. I got the link from someone else's Facebook link and found the article interesting and flawed. It is an interesting glimpse into the madness of the Left... which is perhaps refreshing after all the madness of the Right we've seen of late (to the point Carl Rove has become a voice of reason for the Republican Party).

Rob H.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Regarding Seasteading and Crackpottery:

There are lots of moderate libertarians around, including me. Lots of us are very anti-dogmatic and anti-ideological. I believe in global warming, which I first heard about from a Bell Science Series film as a child in the late 1950s. I have never seen any writings about libertarian philosophy or about basic free-market economics that discussed global warming at all. (I do believe that general economic prosperity is a prerequisite to alleviating the global warming problem.)

Randroid is a term that I first heard back in the late 1960s when other libertarians were discussing this psychological aberration. Most libertarians have always been very aware of this problem.

From the statements made by the Steadsteading Institute in the popular press, they apparently want to be viewed as crackpots so that the public will not take them seriously until their plans much more highly developed. By being viewed as crackpots, people will tend to leave them alone. This is a very legitimate strategy, and I see that it seems to be working extremely well. Even most very intelligent people seem to derive most of their information from searching their own prejudices rather than doing something as simple as visiting the seasteading.org web site while they are already on the internet. I apologize to the people at the Seasteading Institute if my statements tend to distance them from their desired image of being crackpots.

rewinn said...

In re madness on the Left and Right (and saluting moderate Libertarians who are embarrassed by Randroids):
Let us take some comfort in knowing that, regardless of our differences in experiences, in preferences, in economic, political or religious beliefs, there is one thing that we have in common ... one thing that unites us all: we each of us know of people who claim to agree with us but who we really wish would join the other side.

"Take My Extremists ... Please!"

Ilithi Dragon said...

I had to double-check to make sure that that LJ post wasn't by one of my former roommates. It wasn't, but I could have believed that it was. This woman was so fanatical that, when I mentioned in a passing conversation in the livingroom that somehow got onto the subject of abortion (one of many of her favored rant subjects) that 'the other side' aka the pro-life side had some valid points to their position (for the record, I have no set position on abortion, and facepalm at both extremes), she went into a ten-minute tirade insulting my character and threatening to upset my financial stability by moving out. While she was already two months behind on rent. I laughed and walked away at that point.

Speaking of insane leftists and people my former roommate resembled, I recently finished reading Earth over the weekend (the best book I've read in a long time. It was so good... we went to our camp along the susquehanna this weekend and everyone else went down Friday night while I stayed to go down Saturday Morning. It's 1:30 in the afternoon, everything's packed and ready to go, and I'm standing in the middle of the livingroom with my nose in the book). The ultimate villain in the book, Daisy, bore a disturbing resemblance to my former roommate. She didn't come from high money, but she came from a deeply religious and conservative background, which held a similar disconnect from reality and a belief in their own superiority to all others (just for religious reasons instead of financial status reasons) that was imparted to my former roommate. She was ultimately no different than her ultra-conservative mother, just clinging to a different set of chants and mantras to support the illusion that she had rejected most everything that her mother represented.

LarryHart said...

rewinn stole a bit of my thunder by mentioning "Earth". I also have been in the middle of my third reading of that novel this summer. Brin novels are some of my favorite summer reading, and I hope to have a new one available for next year. :)

This time through, I noticed how much of the focus is on comparing and contrasting the twin concepts of competition and cooperation, how the two seem to be opposites, but also work in tandem toward progress of entire systems.

It seems to me that the twin concepts of "conservative" and "liberal" perform the same function in advancing a society--albeit in "invisible hand" form rather than as conscious goals of either side of the aisle.

The fittest species for survival must be well-adapeted to the CURRENT environment, and ALSO be well-prepared to adapt to CHANGE. Likewise in social systems, the traditionally-conservative voice is the one reminding everyone not to overturn too quickly those behaviors molded successfully over generations, while the traditionally-liberal voice is the one who reminds us that there are often newer and better ways of doing things than the rut we've been stuck in (willfully or not) since our forefathers' time.

Both have their place in a healthy society. 1960s-conservatives were the party of "law-and-order" while 1960s-liberals were the party "do your own thing." Today, it's almost the diametric opposite (at least the way conservatives present the two sides), with conservatives distrusting government and liberals using it. Both sides always claim to be for "freedom" and both sides claim the other is for punishing deviation from its collective version of purity, but WHOSE freedom and what SORT of deviation are left somewhat vague.

"Freedom" is really a conflation of many different things. Libertarians profess a desire for individuals to do as they will WITHIN a system, but they do acknowledge the necessity OF a system of rules which is adjudicated by courts and enforced by an executive, both of which then require some sort of soverign power over the individuals.

"Freedom" to act WITHIN the rules of the game is a very different thing from "freedom" to SET the rules of the game. Traditional conservatives are for the former, but modern day Republicans have lumped the latter into the same category with catastrophic results. Conservatives have always been leery of letting the masses set the rules, believing that a natural elite is better suited to do so, but until very recently, the argument was always couched in terms of the elite knowing better how the real world works, and thus how the societal rules should work. Only very recently has it morphed into the Randian view that the wealthy and powerful deserve to use their wealth and power however they wish--even to subvert the political process in their own favor. The oligarchs (and oligarchists) who push that meme are right-wing, but not "conservative" in any traditional sense, and only by a sort of intellectual fraud do they get to be the dominant influence in the "conservative" political party.

But as Dr Brin points out--an organism is harmed by overzealous growth (cancer) as well as by lack of differentiation among cells. Randism is as much a blight on society as Communism is.

LarryHart said...

One more thing--a bit tangential to my last post.

My sister-in-law is the Alex P Keaton of my wife's family--a conservative in a family of social liberals (though economic conservatives all). I had a converstation with her during a recent visit where she admitted that hard-working people need help during the recession, but she had no truck with people "too lazy to work".

This time, it really got me thinking about what underlies that way of thinking. In a society where necessity dictates that people must spend many hours doing physical toil, it makes sense to have a "No work, no eat" mentaility. Lazy people are living off of the hard work of OTHERS.

In our present society, however, it seems that labor is almost completely devalued. The problem isn't a lack of willing workers, but a lack of jobs for the willing workers to perform. It seems to me that we should be almost at the point where people are FREED from the necessity of working for their right to live. "Lazy" people or retired people or people with non-economic pursuits are no longer living off the toil of OTHERS, but off of the low-hanging fruits of self-sustaining systems and automation.

So what, in this context, does it MEAN for the traditional conservative to complain about people for whom no job opportunities are available as "too lazy to work"?

What she seemed to be saying (between the lines) was that people earn their living only if they have a boss who is empowered to take their job away from them. It's almost the opposite of the freedom-based meme that America is supposed to be founded on, but after much reflection, I think that's really what's going on there. If people are on government welfare or Social Security and Medicare, then they are entitled to services which cannot be withheld by a powerful overlord. "How dare they?"

In typical "Freedom is Slavery" fashion, today's conservatives turn that around and pretend that Social Security and Medicare and the like make you enthralled TO the government--that the GOVERNMENT will threaten to withhold those benefits on a whim, and that only a private employer can be trusted to pay fairly for services rendered. But that's not how the government works (at least not in America), and that's not how private employers work either.

So I ask you, the next time you hear a complaint about people "too lazy to work", to listen hard and see if you can hear the echo of a complaint about people "Too uppity to submit to the whims of their betters." Cause that's sure what I'm hearing.

sociotard said...

The rebels have taken Tripoli! Gadhaffi's regime has ended. (he escaped)

Now the hard part can begin.

sociotard said...

My conservative friends are accusing Obama of retaliating against S&P for the ratings thing. Since the investigation began before S&P cut the credit rating, I think they are getting the chicken/egg relationship backwards.

US Inquiry said to focus on S&P ratings

anagory said...

LarryHart: Willingness to work no longer cuts it; you also have to be willing (and able) to sell yourself. To the extent that the market economy is a meritocracy, it is a meritocracy of salesmanship.

Paul said...

Ilithi Dragon,
"She was ultimately no different than her ultra-conservative mother, just clinging to a different set of chants and mantras"

Relates to David's "addicted to outrage" thesis. Suggests there's a genetic component. I was hoping it was viral/parasitic, and thus curable.

LarryHart,
"the next time you hear a complaint about people "too lazy to work", to listen hard and see if you can hear the echo of a complaint about people "Too uppity to submit to the whims of their betters." Cause that's sure what I'm hearing."

That's extremely insightful.

(I wonder if there's also a subconscious sense that people who don't have to obey the rules of a workplace also don't have to obey the rules of their society, and will drift further from society's values. Hence the association in the cliched insult, "get a haircut and get a real job".)

sociotard,
(And I really "heard it here first", so thank you.)

This will futher embolden the rebels in Syria. NATO is going to have to quickly consider whether they will assist the rebels in Syria via air-attacks. And if not, loudly publicise that fact. Otherwise, you'll get another southern Iraq betrayal.

Tacitus2 said...

Probably the wrong time to make specific threats and ultimata regards Syria. NATO (the non US part) is pretty much out of smart munitions, and the Syrian air defense system is more robust than the Libyans were.

Let events unfold. Dictators and their immediate palace guard read the news too. Lets see....Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, soon M. Quadaffi and H. Mubarack....

If you rule by the application of fear and force you learn to understand the consequences. If you rule by bluff you learn to see what happens when it is called.

We have in the past erred by being too quick to intervene in too many spots. Let events unfold. I feel badly for brave people who die for their cause in Syria and elsewhere. But that is how it always has been and shall be. Getting rid of your dictator is mostly your own task, you can't call in airstrikes like you would call for a pizza delivery.

Tacitus

Paul said...

Tacitus2.
"Probably the wrong time to make specific threats and ultimata regards Syria."

You read what I wrote backwards. If NATO is not going to militarily help the Syrian rebels, they need to make sure those rebels know they aren't getting help. If they don't, there is a risk of a situation similar to Bush Sr and Iraq v1.0

David Brin said...

Back exhausted from the Reno Worldcon. And now Ghaddafi is gonna force me to spend time on revising my "war in the 21st Century" essay, comparing the two "democratic" wars to the two GOP ones.

One can argue the S&P downgraded the US BECAUSE they wanted to be able to claim that their prosecution is "revenge."

Tacitus, yes, attention must turn to Syria. But especially to making Lybia function. If the Algerians can be armtwisted into reforming more, then all of N. Africa will be out of the tyranny business. Note tho... Assad is terrified of Turkey becoming a lot more active.

Paul said: "If NATO is not going to militarily help the Syrian rebels, they need to make sure those rebels know they aren't getting help. If they don't, there is a risk of a situation similar to Bush Sr and Iraq v1.0"

Absolutely. Worst stain on our honor. My biggest reason for hating Bush Sr.

Tacitus2 said...

Paul

You had two points on Syria, I was only responding to the first.
Sure, if we have backchannel ways to tell the Syrian rebels we are not coming we must use them. But public pronouncements to this effect would only serve to reassure a regime that must be considering whether their days are numbered.

Remember, there have been a few despots in recent times who have negotiated an endgame that does not end up in prison or on the gibbet. (Shah, Marcos, Amin to mention a few...although comfortable exile can be prison-lite).

David as C in C you make decisions and live with them. Inaction can cost lives as surely as action. Clinton to give one example, has expressed regret over Western inaction in Rwanda and the butchery that ensued. I would not like to be the man, or woman, who has to live with those spectres.

Tacitus

Paul said...

Tacitus2,
"You had two points on Syria"

I did? I'll try not to let that happen in the future.

(tordiss: Turtle or relative dromedaries in sub-space.)

LarryHart said...

anagory:

LarryHart: Willingness to work no longer cuts it; you also have to be willing (and able) to sell yourself. To the extent that the market economy is a meritocracy, it is a meritocracy of salesmanship.


I think I'm agreeing with you there. And I think you're agreeing with me that it SHOULDN'T have to be that way.

So I'll just add that in addition to the "sell yourself" thing, it's also the case that "willing to work" now means "willing to grab a piece of the pie before someone else gets it". Rich people especially, the ones who insist they worked hard for what they have like to ignore that part of the equation--that it is impossible for everybody to enrich themselves just by working hard. You have to keep working HARDER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE to grab what THEY want. The moral equivalent of war.

David Brin said...

D
Tacitus said: "avid as C in C you make decisions and live with them. Inaction can cost lives as surely as action. Clinton to give one example, has expressed regret over Western inaction in Rwanda and the butchery that ensued. I would not like to be the man, or woman, who has to live with those spectres."

Sorry, doesn't wash. Bush wasn't torn between several vexing and contrary needs. Victory was in our hands. Schwarzkopff BEGGED to continue just 24 hours, against negligible opposition, to liberate Basra and the other southern Shiite Arab cities where people were rebelling AT OUR DIRECT URGING and because of Bush's personal promise that "we're on our way!"

And he over-ruled his military commanders, and betrayed our friends and stained our honor... and refused even to enforce a freaking No Fly Zone as we were doing for the Kurds at that very moment... in fact he ordered our commanders to say to Saddam's surprised generals "go ahead and fly your attack helicopters straight into Basra. We don't mind a bit."

There is only one conceivable explanation for such a monstrous act... orders from Riyadh. Family sponsors who did not want a shiite Arab entity on their doorstep. Tacitus, please don't contort excuses for the inexcusable.

Comparing this to Clinton is like comparing the tens of millions of dollars of "fuzzy" book keeping that so enraged the Right over the Oil For Food program... to the TWELVE BILLION $ IN CASH that Bush Jr "misplaced" in Iraq... and deciding the latter's not worth any attention at all.

David Brin said...

BTW... we would have been welcomed with kisses and flowers... Instead, Rummy and Cheney put the Iraqis through 12 years of utter hell befor we finally came... and Rummy's blithe assurance we'd get "kisses & flowers" was like his promise to listen to our generals.

The man was a tool of the caleefate. they all were. And their movement remains so.

TwinBeam said...

Larry Hart - please stop. My eyes are hurting from rolling so much.

Perhaps if you actually read some of Rand's works instead of just parroting criticisms of other antioids, you'd make fewer mistakes.

E.g. - Some of Rand's most detestable villains in her fiction (as well as her non-fiction) were rich people who used their wealth to influence the political process in their favor.

And regarding your claim that "Randroids" tend to be hypocritics who only live up to the half their oaths you believe benefits them - please tell us how you know this. Or does it simply feel right because you find it pleasingly insulting to a group whose beliefs annoy or outrage you?

Of the 3 or 4 dedicated Rand followers I've known well enough to form an opinion, all seemed to be live consistent with their beliefs, within the limits imposed by a society generally in conflict with those beliefs. None of them were tax dodgers just because they regard taxation as theft. None were living on government entitlements - and I know at least 2 of them were taking great pains to independently arrange for their own retirement, despite having to tithe into the Social Security system.

Robert said...

Canadian politician and Opposition Leader Jack Layton passed away due to an aggressive cancer. I'ts a real shame... he upended Canadian politics and I was hoping to see what he could do during the next election cycle... perhaps even force the Conservatives out of power. I just hope his political party is able to maintain the direction he started them in... and continue to forge the party into a viable and effective alternative to the Liberals or Conservatives.

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Jack+Layton+dead+family+side/5288307/story.html

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/
Jack+Layton+dead+family+side/5288307/story.html

Rob H.

David Brin said...

TwinBeam you are right that Rand's villains were classic oligarchs... as opposed to the rambunctious upstart oligarchs she favored. As a refugee from Soviet worker-caste romanticism, she relegated the bourgeoisie and proletariat irrelevancy of cattle. Like the deltas and epsilons in BRAVE NEW WORLD.

What she studiously avoided discussing was what would keep Dagny and Galt from becoming just like the oligarch villains, once they had full freedom from any or all accountability or competition. What? Were they members of a different species? When the rabble started steaming with resentment, would they use the same dastardly distraction propaganda methods their enemies used, in Fountainhead and AS?

Above all, why no kids? The core human endeavor, never undergone by ANY Randian protagonist! Why?

Obviously, because the instant an heir appears,, she and he followers must admit they've simply changed feudal lords.

David Brin said...

Guys quick question, anyone know how to reach the famed author and consultant Temple Grandin? Any ideas?

Jacob said...

I'd like to touch on Social Security briefly as TwinBeam mentioned a prolific, unfortunate, and intended misunderstanding. Social Security isn't something you pay into to get a government based retirement program. However, it is both advertised and used as one. Social Security is what the name implies: security or a social safety net. It was designed for the elderly, widows, orphans, and unemployed. Note that these people got benefits immediately without paying into the system. Taxes were not collected to be later distributed to the same individuals (like traditional retirement saving).

The benefit we, as individuals, get from Social Security is immediate not something for the future. We don't have to deal with the elderly, widows, orphans, or the poor begging in the streets. It is true we have panhandlers, but it is nothing like the experience of nations that don't have social safety nets. There is also economic stimulation based on giving buying power to people who may (should) not be as capable of working in the free market.

It is advertised as something you'll get one day. That is mainly an gimmick to make the program more acceptable. To be fair, the Social Security Trust fund (founded a mere 4 years after the actual program) would suggest otherwise. The Trust fund has elements of investment similar to a retirement fund. However, at no point has the Social Security Trust Fund had enough money to pay on its promises. Today, it is largely a vehicle for accounting practices.

If at some point, future generations decide to end Social Security, we need to respect that. It is their right to organize government as they see fit. Any money left in the Social Security Trust fund should be paid out as per the existing Social Security Plan at that time. I doubt it would last long. Most likely we wouldn't see a complete end of Social Security, but a downshift in benefits paid. In our present time, the portion of wages in real value is increasing compared to the past. Future generations may decide that the advantages of having all aspects of the existing Social Security don't justify the costs.

It should also be noted that change on this issue isn't likely. While future generations have the right, voting clot is disproportionally in the hands of those that benefit from the system remaining active. Unless we see a shift in voting turnout, I don't expect much movement outside of a major government/society disruption.

-------

So as to the original TwinBeam reference. Respectable Rand followers should not consider it a system they tithe into without benefit. Everyone is getting the benefit right now. They, and everyone, should be making plans for their own retirement. Not because Social Security is going to fail, but because a democracy could choose to end it.

I approve of Social Security. I think it should be streamlined more towards its safety net aspects than as a retirement vehicle.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@Doc Brin:
Whitepages.com

No, seriously. It lists the phone number and address of one Temple Grandin, President, Grandin Livestock Systems, freely available through a simple search with no charge or registration required. I'm not sure how well whitepages.com correlates with phone book services, but I wouldn't be surprised if Grandin was listed in her local phone book. I can't say anything for the reliability of that contact information, since I don't really use whitepages.com myself.

Honestly, I'm not sure whether to be amazed or disturbed by the ease at which such contact information can be acquired on the internet these days... Though most likely I'll probably just shrug and marvel at how accurately Earth depicted such things... Though about 30 years ahead of schedule.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Thank you, TwinBeam, for bringing some sanity back into the discussion. LarryHart's statement that "Randism is as much a blight on society as Communism is." is the most insulting and libelous comment that I have ever read on an internet blog. It reminded me why I have not posted here before, and why I probably won't ever again. LarryHart's statement is especially jarring coming in the middle of a discussion on the importance of moderation.

Followers of Ayn Rand have generally tried to maintain lives of great personal integrity and tolerance. Ironically, this has often been at great personal sacrifice. Because Rand did not understand that knowledge and certainty are mutually exclusive, a very small but obnoxious minority of her followers succumbed to a rigid psychological aberration that other students of Rand named Randroidism.

Followers of Communism, on the other hand, had more than a hundred years to make numerous tries at variations of their philosophy. The result was the slaughter and death by starvation of countless tens of millions of innocent humans. I spent several decades living at the target end of their nuclear weapons, built and controlled by Communists, which were very nearly fired in a few instances. The Communist-led nuclear standoff nearly became a civilization-halting war that would have set back human civilization by more than a century as we recovered from the nuclear ruins.

Ayn Rand's family had their family pharmacy seized by the Communists, and she subsequently spent times near starvation living under Communism. Many of her childhood neighbors in Russia disappeared in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. Other followers of Communism such as Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin slaughtered millions of innocent humans.

Neither Ayn Rand, nor the even most misguided of her followers, ever aspired to mass murder of any kind. For the most part, they have aspired to, and have usually attained, the highest levels of personal integrity.

With so many people like LarryHart in this country, is it any wonder that people who are sympathetic to some of Rand's ideas might want to bail out of this society and found something like the Seasteading Institute in hopes of achieving a more tolerant society?

Robert said...

@Jacob: Are you saying then that government bonds are not reliable and will default? Because the largest holder of government bonds is... Social Security. It has more than the Chinese. And so long as the U.S. government honors that debt, it can pay for social security.

Jacob said...

Hi Rob H.,

No, I believe in government bonds. I was saying the value of those bonds is not sufficient to meet the promises of of that Social Security letter you get in the mail. (Even if you just consider the subset of those currently receiving benefits.) It requires continued income in the form of the Social Security Income Tax in order to maintain. The letter is largely a projection based on the assumptions. The whole Social Security is failing scare is just a realization that some assumptions (population growth in particular were off). Adjustments can easily be made to keep it solvent.

The point of my post was to encourage people to realize that Social Security is a benefit you get today. Its also one that could disappear if that is the will of the people [unlikely].

Jonathan S. said...

Dr. Brin, Dr. Grandin also has a Facebook page (which I knew about because we have five "friends" in common). She's the first result if you type "temple grandin" into the Search field.

sociotard said...

Article on planet formation taht attepmts to explain why all the systems we see are 'weird' (relative to our own). Could also explain why life is rare.

http://www.space.com/12687-interstellar-crashes-habitable-alien-planets.html

David Brin said...

Alas, Jerry, there is a way in which Randism may prove as lethal to human hopes as communism ever was.

By diverting libertarianism down loony paths of illogic and complete ignorance of history, psychology or any other science, into raging snits of idignant solipsism... they have prevented the emergence of a libertarian movement rooted in Adam Smith, in pragmatic incrementalism, in practical politics and a sense of happy gratitude for living at this time of renaissance...

... and even for the nation that has fostered the emergence of ... libertarians.

This is no small crime. Libertarianism could have rescued conservatism from its present total raging insanity. Yes, Ron Paul is trying. And 1/3 of his message is right on. But people can sense the Randianism part of him and - properly creeped out - they retreat into the embrace of neocons, oligarchs and movement trogs.

It is a genuine crime.

If you truly are openminded, see: http://bit.ly/cBBgY8

David Brin said...

oh... the reason why this is as bad for humanity as communism? Simple. The American Experiment is teetering. If it fails, humanity may fail. And the current psychosis of conservatism may make it fail.

And a mature, grownup, scientific libertarianism might have been a big help.

LarryHart said...

TwinBeam:

Larry Hart - please stop. My eyes are hurting from rolling so much.


Well, if it hurts so much, maybe YOU should stop.


Perhaps if you actually read some of Rand's works instead of just parroting criticisms of other antioids, you'd make fewer mistakes.


If you'd stop trying to read your own prejudices into my motives, YOU'D make fewer mistakes.

I've read "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" twice each. Yes, actually went back for seconds. I've also read "We, The Living" and "Anthem" once.


E.g. - Some of Rand's most detestable villains in her fiction (as well as her non-fiction) were rich people who used their wealth to influence the political process in their favor.


And perhaps Rand herself would distinguish between heroes and villains by virtue of whether someone insists on others living for THEIR sake. Rand PAUL certainly doesn't make that distinction, though. According to his campaign rhetoric, we're supposed to live for the sake of rich people and corporations.

I will grant you that of all the points I'm making here, I'm probably defending this one the weakest, and not in a manner that is likely to convince someone who doesn't already agree with me.


And regarding your claim that "Randroids" tend to be hypocritics who only live up to the half their oaths you believe benefits them - please tell us how you know this. Or does it simply feel right because you find it pleasingly insulting to a group whose beliefs annoy or outrage you?


I'm tempted to go "I know you are but what am I?" on you here. Please explain how you know what I'M thinking, or why insulting someone whose beliefs annoy or outrage YOU is any better?

I'm going by Tea Party rhetoric, which pays homage to Ayn Rand to justify their anti-community policies. Yet they always manage to exempt themselves. They want the government to keep its hands off THEIR Medicare even as they want it elimnated for the next generation.


Of the 3 or 4 dedicated Rand followers I've known well enough to form an opinion, all seemed to be live consistent with their beliefs, within the limits imposed by a society generally in conflict with those beliefs...


Perhaps I'm being unfair to TRUE followers of Rand's ideology. But the majority of public rhetoric I hear invoking her name and theories seem to be coming from the likes of James Taggart and Elsworth M Toohey (who can apparently quote scripture for their own purposes).

The very fact that the far-right wing of the Republican Party pays homage to Rand seems weird to me. Rand would certainly piss off Democrats, but in her day she was hardly a Republican darling either. If nothing else, the fact that she's a militant atheist would seem to be a problem for them.

LarryHart said...

Jerry Emanuelson:

LarryHart's statement that "Randism is as much a blight on society as Communism is." is the most insulting and libelous comment that I have ever read on an internet blog.


Seriously?

"I've been to Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together."


It reminded me why I have not posted here before, and why I probably won't ever again.


What...because someone who is not the blog owner/moderator makes comments that rub you the wrong way?


LarryHart's statement is especially jarring coming in the middle of a discussion on the importance of moderation.


I was making a claim that too much individual selfishness is harmful, JUST AS is too much collectiveism. Dr Brin makes a similar point in "Earth", demonstrating that the former is analogous to cells growing out of control (cancer) while the latter is analogous to cells failing to differentiate into their separate functions. Neither is good for the functioning of the organism.

You may disagree with the specifics, but it eludes me how MY statement is a violation of "moderation" and your one-sided defense of the former is not.

LarryHart said...

Jerry Emanuelson continues:

Followers of Ayn Rand have generally tried to maintain lives of great personal integrity and tolerance. Ironically, this has often been at great personal sacrifice. Because Rand did not understand that knowledge and certainty are mutually exclusive, a very small but obnoxious minority of her followers succumbed to a rigid psychological aberration that other students of Rand named Randroidism.


If you want to assert that the Tea Party philosophy I'm condemning isn't TRUE Randism, I don't have a problem with that. I also don't see how it's relevant to the discussion of current events.


Followers of Communism, on the other hand, had more than a hundred years to make numerous tries at variations of their philosophy...


Whereas the followers of the "Whoever has the gold makes the rules" philosophy only had...what, six or seven thousand years to see how well THAT worked out.


Ayn Rand's family had their family pharmacy seized by the Communists, and she subsequently spent times near starvation living under Communism. Many of her childhood neighbors in Russia disappeared in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. Other followers of Communism such as Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin slaughtered millions of innocent humans.


I suppose it's a good thing that fascism (in the original Italian sense of the merging of corporate and state interests) and monarchy doesn't engage in such practices?

Look, no one here is denying that much evil has been done in the name of communism. As far as I can tell, no one here is ADVOCATING communism. But it's a mistake to treat communism as the root of ALL evil. For example, Osama Bin Laden was "invented" as an ally against communism.


Neither Ayn Rand, nor the even most misguided of her followers, ever aspired to mass murder of any kind.


What do you call the climax of "Atlas Shrugged"?


With so many people like LarryHart in this country,


I could only wish in my wildest wet-dreams! I can't even have a Democratic administration defending the policies I'd like to see. It's bad enough that progressive liberals are a despised minority in modern day America--don't try to make it sound as if we have power and influence.


is it any wonder that people who are sympathetic to some of Rand's ideas might want to bail out of this society and found something like the Seasteading Institute in hopes of achieving a more tolerant society?


My personal belief is that the end result would be a LESS tolerant society. But I'm not claiming infallibility here. You/they are welcome to prove me wrong. I also think that OUR society would benefit from the departure of such people, but again, I might be wrong.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

What she [Ayn Rand] studiously avoided discussing was what would keep Dagny and Galt from becoming just like the oligarch villains, once they had full freedom from any or all accountability or competition. What? Were they members of a different species? When the rabble started steaming with resentment, would they use the same dastardly distraction propaganda methods their enemies used, in Fountainhead and AS?


While I'm generally on your side about Ayn Rand, I do have a different take on this part of it.

Dagny and Hank Rearden and Howard Roark are "good guys". I believe their character is written as such that they WOULD be responsible with great power. (Not so sure about John Galt, though. He really does seem to think he's a different, better species of mutant).


Above all, why no kids? The core human endeavor, never undergone by ANY Randian protagonist! Why?

Obviously, because the instant an heir appears,, she and he followers must admit they've simply changed feudal lords.


What you mean is that the protagonists themselves have no kids. Dagny's and James Taggart's identity AS children (of particular parentage) is an important element of the book, as is Franciso D'Anconia's. So family lineage is not entirely absent from the novel.

My own take is that her protagonists don't have children because at heart, she's writing adolescent fiction, which generally doesn't pay much thought to the inevitibilty of mortality, and thus to the requirement for a next generation. I'd no more expect Dagny or Hank or Roark to have kids than I'd expect it of Spider-Man, James Bond, or Captain Kirk.

Robert said...

Except... wait a moment... Peter Parker did have a kid. Until they retconned the entire timeline that included young May Parker. Captain Kirk likewise had a son - his death in movie #3 continued to have repercussions into movie #6. And considering how much James Bond slept around, I wouldn't be surprised to find he had fathered a child as well. =^-^=

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

And I didn't realize I was so controversial. I actually came here this morning to post something specific from "Earth". I'm not quite sure it counts as a predictive hit, but it sure seems relevant in light of the "race to the bottom" that states and countries seem engaged in to show how oligarch-freiendly they are:


Even the poorest citizens of the poorest nations were protected by the Rio Charter, except those whose leaders had never signed, such as Southern Africa and Sea State. That gave them a queer freedom--to volunteer to be exploited at jobs animal rights groups would scream about if you assigned them to a pig.

Corey said...

@Larryhart

But Captain Kirk DID have a kid! :p


Anyways, one small quibble on Randians. I don't think they'd enjoy a less tolerant society. Intolerance isn't where the flaw in Randianism lies.


It lies in the belief altruism, which has been one of the fundamental driving forces in creating the success of modern society, is not only unnecessary, but actually undesirable, almost "evil", if you will, as also goes for any form of collectivism, which has nearly been our species' sole source of strength for the past 15,000 years (as opposed to the ~150,000 years prior to agrarian society, in which we accomplished little, and even THEN our social nature was one of our greatest survival tools; it was just a much less refined tool).


I mean, I suppose there's a lot of flaws in Randianism, but it's no secret that those are the big two, and I don't suppose much elaboration is needed on why, since the topic has been beaten to death repeatedly.

LarryHart said...

I said:

I'd no more expect Dagny or Hank or Roark to have kids than I'd expect it of Spider-Man, James Bond, or Captain Kirk.


To which Robert replied:


Except... wait a moment... Peter Parker did have a kid. Until they retconned the entire timeline that included young May Parker. Captain Kirk likewise had a son - his death in movie #3 continued to have repercussions into movie #6.


:)

I acutally thought of both of those things while I was writing. But they're both examples of the respective series getting long in the tooth and trying to be something OTHER than adolescent fiction.

I could have clarified "1960s Spider-Man" or "Captain Kirk in the original series".


And considering how much James Bond slept around, I wouldn't be surprised to find he had fathered a child as well.


He should have, but the stories don't indicate that he did. In this way, James Bond was the most appropriate example to compare to Rand. Her heroes are sexual titans, yet impotent without exception.

Robert said...

When you consider Bond is a Double-Oh agent, undoubtedly any attempts at a paternity test to find him would come up blank. Though I must admit, it would make for an absolutely fascinating Bond movie... for an older Bond to be facing... his angry daughter (which would be a more interesting twist than a son) who is throwing the world into disarray to force a confrontation with the man who abandoned his mother (probably without even knowing she was pregnant) and was never there in his life.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

First of all, I know you're just having fun with this subject, as am I.


I must admit, it would make for an absolutely fascinating Bond movie... for an older Bond to be facing... his angry daughter (which would be a more interesting twist than a son) who is throwing the world into disarray to force a confrontation with the man who abandoned his mother (probably without even knowing she was pregnant) and was never there in his life.


I was a big fan of "Watchmen" when it came out, and of the prose novel "Superfolks" which anticipates both "Watchmen" and "The Incredibles". BUT...

The new cliche--putting superheroes or other cartoon characters (Yogi Bear, Smurfs) into real-world situations is getting as tired as any of the old cliches.

James Bond with a suddenly-appearing adult child would be interesting for one story, but she would ultimately have to go the route of Captain Kirk's suddenly-appearing adult child and die tragically. James Bond HAVING HAD a daughter is something the franchise could survive. James Bond WITH a daughter is not.

(I'm using language remeniscent of the truism "No one wants to write a novel, but everyone wants to HAVE WRITTEN a novel." Likewise, no adolescent fiction hero wants to HAVE a kid, but HAVING HAD one who is full-fledged as a fine young man or woman is permissible, as long as the character doesn't overshadow the original.)

And this is actually significant to the point I was making about adolescent fiction, itself tangential to the point Dr Brin was making about Ayn Rand characters not having progeny. Having a character suddently discover a heretorfore-unknown adult child (and then having that child die in one or two episodes) is NOT the same thing as having the character go through the nigh-universal human experience of rearing a new generation. Kirk's son was the worst of both worlds--the character aged past the expectaions of adolescent fiction 1960s Trek, but the son's arc wasn't wide enough to TRANSCDEND adolescent fiction.

The son isn't someone Kirk passes the torch to so that the torch will survive him. He's just a reason for Kirk to hate Klingons even more than before.

rewinn said...

Is it not ironic that this debate over whether Libertarianism or Communism may be more evil ... is being conducted, for the most part, using keyboards and monitors crafted in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone?

Rather than going to the expense and risk of Seasteading, the Chinese government decreed a Libertarian paradise with the predicted results: fantastic economic growth and worker pain. See Foxconn.

(To be fair, our United States runs a junior-league version in the Northern Marianas Island.)

Jacob said...

Hi LarryHart,

I understand your point about Bond with a daughter wouldn't work. However, whats your take on the current shift in style? I call the new Bond "Thug in a Suit." I don't think people would associate them without the common name and characters. To me it seems they aren't shy about fundamental changes.

rewinn said...

"Thug in a Suit."
...strikes me as more in keeping with the literary James Bond than the movie dandy with cute gadgets. For examples, see "Risico", "The Hildebrand Rarity" and the title story in the collection "For Your Eyes Only"

LarryHart said...

Jacob:

I understand your point about Bond with a daughter wouldn't work. However, whats your take on the current shift in style?


Not even interested enough to bother seeing them. Same with the lastest (non-Shatner Kirk) versions of Trek.

And I say this as a huge fan of the original Trek and of "The Next Generation". I also love me some Sean Connery Bond, and I used to think I liked Roger Moore Bond as well, but whenever I see one of those now, I find myself cringing.

Jacob said...

Hi rewinn,

I never read the books. Good for them if they are trying to be more accurate.

Hi LarryHart,

I find that most of the things I really enjoyed while I was younger simply doesn't hold up. There are only a few treasures like the Goonies out there.

I'll say this about the new Star Trek. It lays the groundwork for a cutthroat Federation. That is a series I'd enjoy watching. One with real (not cliche) shades of grey rather than the good vs evil stuff.

Robert said...

Actually, Bond having a daughter who survives the movie would work. However, it works only if the daughter REMAINS an antagonist. If she escapes (having taken a page out of the Evil Overlord Handbook, for instance - at least so far as it goes for escape plans and the like) and continues to despise her father, then she can continue to play an occasional role.

Further, she can even be played as a temporary ally - saving her father, for instance, from one of his enemies because she wants to kill him herself. (Even more amusing would be for them to fight their way out, and right when they're safe she immediately turns to shoot him and he's already ducking to safety.)

There would even be a reason for his not killing her: she is his daughter, and he does feel guilt once he realizes what happened.

The difficulty is to keep it from becoming cliched. Or to have her show up in every consecutive movie.

Rob H.

Corey said...

It's good to see that there's at least a few other people out there who understand what a dump the new "Trek" movie took on the entire franchise.

I mean, don't get me wrong, it was a great movie; the problem is just that it was a great Star Wars movie.

Rob said...

I thought it was the best homage to TOS Trek out there. It looked to me like a work of love, doing tribute to all the fun parts of Star Trek while leaving behind all the sanctimony, as well as a fine framework for the telling of rip-snorting adventure stories. Really, I think, what the series always needed was far fewer Perfect Vulcans... and that's what they gave us. :-)

I really enjoyed it.

Robert said...

Here's one Dr. Brin might find of interest:

NASA has finalized an agreement with Tor-Forge Books to work on "NASA Inspired Works of Fiction." These books will contain stories relating to current and future missions and operations.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/23/nasa_inspired_works_of_fiction/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/23/
nasa_inspired_works_of_fiction/

Corey said...

I would be highly surprised if Orci and Kurtzman put more than 4 minutes of thought into the plot of "NuTrek".

It showed from the very opening of the film, where the, after being hit by the Narada, the captain of the USS Kelvin says "fire all phasers", and you hear pew-pew-pew-pew-pew-pew-pew-pew, and then the very next line is asking the chief engineer for damage report, to which he replies "weapons are offline". Wait, you mean the weapons you were just shooting seven tenths of a second earlier? Then, we shoot to a scene of the Kelvin just DISHING out absurd volumes of fire.

I wish my electrical stuff worked that well when "offline".


I realize nitpicking is only so fair, but when the writers didn't bother to fix something that mind-numbingly obvious, it suddenly makes you realize why so much of the film is the way it is.



Bad writing and one giant borgified space tribble aside, it's basically little more than a shootem'up with a few nods to fans of the *actual* Star Trek franchise. I realize not every Trek film has to have the sort of social commentary that defines the entire franchise, but nothing about the film is in any way forward-looking, or about expanding horizons, or even exploration - No looking around the next star for that next amazing insight about the universe. It doesn't even qualify as science fiction, let alone Star Trek.

It's what Star Trek II/III would have been if all mention of the Genesis Device, and subsequent consequences, had been removed... well, almost. Because whereas Kahn was Badassery personified, in NuTrek we get... a glorified space trucker, who alternates between nearly drunken slurs of "hello Christopher, I'm Nero", and "IT HAPPENED! I SAW IT HAPPEN! IT DID HAPPEN! DON'T TELL ME IT DIDN'T HAPPEN! I KNOW IT HAPPENED!". I mean, even SHINZON made a more compelling villain than this guy!



Bottom line: To each his own, but there was nothing that I felt recommended this movie outside of generally good acting, and a lot of flashy special effects. That, however, is not the definition of Star Trek, imho. It's only alright as a summer action flick.

Rob said...

Oh, come on! It was *fun*, which is all I expected it to be. $8.50 well-spent, and they didn't ruin it with crappy 3D.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I enjoyed NuTrek as a flashy lightshow on an IMAX screen 40 feet in front of my face, but that's about it. Corey's right, aside from the names of the characters, and a shotgun smattering of references to classic Trek (credit where credit is due, Orcci and Kurtzman are really good at slipping in all sorts of little references and 'nods' - they just suck as writers), NuTrek wasn't Star Trek. It was a fun action flick, but that was it. The plot stupidity and science fails had me cringing through the entire movie. Like Kirk taking command. He is a third-year cadet in a 4-year academy program, who is on suspension, who sneaks on board a starship and when the Captain runs off to a negotiation trap and the XO relieves himself from command because he got a little pissy with a stowaway cadet deliberately getting in his face and being an ass, somehow that same cadet who just gross insubordinationed the XO into relieving himself is somehow put in command of the entire ship. Every other officer on that ship, and every other cadet on the ship for that matter, out-ranked him and would have and should have been bumped up to take command per proper chain of command, and hell, probably half the non-comms on the ship would have been better qualified to take command than Kirk at that time. Then you have the science fails, epitomized by the dumping of the warp core at the very end, to blow themselves out of the black hole because their engines at full power couldn't get them out. They literally did the equivalent of dropping their engine block and blowing it up behind them to go faster up a hill. Now, Trek has had its share of science and engineering goofs, but few have been as spectacular as that, and those science fails run rampant through the entire movie.

Now that is all fine if you don't care about science fiction or plot and just want to have a fun romp as a flashy action film. But, that's not Star Trek - Trek can have plenty of flashy action, it's just usually more plot and at least semi-sensical science along with it. As Corey said, the problem isn't that it's not a good movie, the problem is that it's a good Star Wars movie.

Oh, and see here for an ending that would have made NuTrek 1000% better and right on-par with the spirit of Star Trek, even with nothing else being changed.

sociotard said...

Did . . . did you guys watch the same Star Trek tv series I did? Because the science was always awful. It was at its best when it remembered that the technobable was just windowdressing. Scotty saying it would take half an hour to fix the *bablebable* was just an excuse to make Kirk bluff/negotiate/seduce/whatever to buy time. When they tried to 'make the engineer shine' and fix the problems with his technobable? Those were the worst episodes.

But yes, Kirk's getting command made no sense. Even when Pike was giving his recruitment speech: "You could have your own ship in five years!"

But by that standard, the whole 'Starfleet Academy' concept is stupid. All your crew get trained at the same school? One school couldn't meet the needs of the United States Navy, and the military that represents all life on a thousand worlds gets by on one school?

Jacob said...

I'm fairly sure that the only thing we need to do to fix American politics is to Reverse the Polarity on them.

sociotard said...

No, we also need a general public phase inversion, not to mention reroute power from the deflector grid to the auxilliary coupler array.

Ye k'nay change the laws of physics.

rewinn said...

@Jacob - it's not a question of the original Bond trying to be more realistic; rather, it's that the original Bond came before the Hollywood cartoons, and were written by a retired Commander in Naval Intelligence, the man who thought up Operation Mincemeat and a lot of other cool stuff based on taking the bad guy's secrets. He was the real deal.

About NuTrek - the climax rang entirely false because even a cadet jumped up to starship captain should have recognized that when the Big Bad's ship full of advanced technology is sinking into the Plot Hole, you are not bound to respect his wishes; your duty is to use tractors beams and transporters to steal every scrap of technology you can.

I *did* enjoy the introduction of many of the characters, Bones especially, but it would have been much more interesting to follow Kirk through a career as midshipman, lieutenant and commander. Horatio Hornblower has shown that these can be interesting stories. Leaping over all those youthful hijinx to the captaincy is the triumph of the accountants over the story.

What else to dislike about NuTrek? The Spacejumping Commando Team gave ONE GUY all the explosives and NOBODY took a gun, so when they reached the objective, they had to punch out the guards. Sulu's hinged sword was badly designed and his swordsmanship was awful - someone should tell him it's got a pointy end for a reason!
Checkoff is left in command of the Enterprise, but there's a problem with the transporter so ... why not? ... he abandons his post to run through the halls to push some switches! Hasn't Starfleet ever heard of Go2Meeting?????
Sure, Star Trek and too much of SF in general uses way too much technobabble ... but when done right, it can be technobabble in service to the story. Who really needs to know how Tricorders or Phasers works, when their story purposes are obvious and more-or-less consistent: you use Tricorders to learn stuff and phasers to break stuff. Technobabble doesn't have to be nonsense.

David Brin said...

Dagny was somebody's kid? Doesn't matter. Rand portrays her an an underdog, demanding the right to compete against established aristocrats. What matters is what happens after she triumphs. At which point her own kids become supremely dangerous and likely to be competition-destroyers, like the enemies their mom faced!

THAT is the reason Rand never shows kids. Because she'd have to show spoiled brats who will INEVITABLY recapitulate the same dismal story of 4000 years.

But Captain Kirk DID have a kid! :p

One reason why I HATED ST#3! I refuse to admit it ever happened. During that era, the "Third movie in a series" always an universally betrayed the audience and betrayed everything cool and interesting about the great #2 in the series. (The exception, Back to the Future, doesn't count... it was all one movie.)

I agree that giving young NuKirk the Enterprise at the end was dumb and no organization would do that. Give him medals, sure. a shuttlecraft? why not? I also disliked the mass genocide of Vulcan. But there were tasty things? How will the presence of Spock and his knowledge change things?

Kirk is even MORE crazed and out of control than he was in the original timeline? Yipe.

Tacitus2 said...

Ah but we will of course continue to buy tix for NuTrek sequels. Why?
Because to swipe an overheated quote from An Officer and a Gentleman...

"I Got Nothin'! I Got Nowhere Else to Go!"

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

I *did* enjoy the introduction of many of the characters, Bones especially, but it would have been much more interesting to follow Kirk through a career as midshipman, lieutenant and commander. Horatio Hornblower has shown that these can be interesting stories. Leaping over all those youthful hijinx to the captaincy is the triumph of the accountants over the story.


Full disclosure: I have not seen NuTrek, nor do I have any desire to do so. Still, I can speak to the general concept of bad prequels. The same sort of general problem was exhibited in the series "Enterprise", which went back in time to the earliest versions of Starfleet Command and the first starship Enterprise.

I've noticed a trend among prequels to have the characters (either consciously or not) well aware of the inevitible events of the antecedent series. For example, in the original "Star Trek", the Enterprise was only "special" in the sense that it was the ship the story was following. To the characters THEMSELVES, the Enterprise was just one of many ships exploring deep space. OTOH, in the prequel "Enterprise", the viewers and characters alike all had a sense that the Enterprise was The Most Important Ship In History! Anything important in galactic history happened TO the Enterprise, and the rest of humanity were supporting characters in the Enterprise's story.

Likewise, from what I gather, Kirk in NuTrek is destined from the start to be Captain Kirk of TOS. Rather than see him gradually develop into the role, you see him spectaularly DISqualifying himself further and further from eligibility, while the invisible plot hand insures that DESPITE those plot elements, he takes on the captain's role anyway--for no better reason than "because it is written".

Readers of Marvel Comics in the past ten years or so may be aware of the "Ultimate" titles, which try to capture the spirit of the 1960s versions of characters like Spider-Man but without the actual continuity of the real titles. They are alternate-universe, blank slate versions of the stories and none of the events of the real Marvel titles actually "happened" to the Ultimate characters. I found that I was able to accept "Enterprise" much better once I convinced myself that it was "Ultimate Star Trek"--a brand new take on the story elements of TOS rather than the ACTUAL HISTORY that came before TOS. From what I understand of NuTrek, the film almost explicity admits that this is the case.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Ah but we will of course continue to buy tix for NuTrek sequels. Why?
Because to swipe an overheated quote from An Officer and a Gentleman...

"I Got Nothin'! I Got Nowhere Else to Go!"


No, we don't. Not all of us anyway. I'm really not tempted to spend my eight bucks on something I know will not satisfy any Trek urges.

If I really need to get me some Trek, I'll watch old episodes again. Just as I still get enormous pleasure from re-reading my 60s, 70s, and early 80s comic books, but I have no illusions that (most of) the ones being published today have anything in common with them.

Tacitus2 said...

Further comparing Officer and a Gentleman with Nu Trek...

Both have a headstrong trainee coming up through the ranks. But the Nu Federation lacks Lou Gosset Jr.

No, Kirk has to amazingly stand out as such a remarkably macho, confident, capable organism. He must be, to rise to Command of the Flagship midway through the first movie in the series.

Of course this infers that the rest of the Federation is populated by dithering eunuchs.

Sheesh, a stray scoutship of Klingons would have conquered the whole bunch of them long ago.

Did get McCoy right at least.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Dagny was somebody's kid?


The Taggart family, back several generations to the 1800s, built the Transcontinental Railroad from scratch. Just as the D'Anconia ancestor fled Spain in the 1500s to establish the Chilean copper mines.


Doesn't matter. Rand portrays her an an underdog, demanding the right to compete against established aristocrats. What matters is what happens after she triumphs. At which point her own kids become supremely dangerous and likely to be competition-destroyers, like the enemies their mom faced!

THAT is the reason Rand never shows kids. Because she'd have to show spoiled brats who will INEVITABLY recapitulate the same dismal story of 4000 years.


I'm not really disagreeing with you about Rand sidestepping the question of progeny by not having her characters HAVE any.

I'm simply asserting that where you see Rand "failing to show" what happens with Dagny's kids, Rand probably sincerely thought she was SOLVING the problem by not having Dagny have kids. Of course, this only works if Dagny (and Galt and the other heroes) are essentially immortal--that what happens after they shuffle off this mortal coil need not be considered. Hence my characterization of her fiction as adolescent fiction, which tends not to think that far ahead.


But Captain Kirk DID have a kid! :p

One reason why I HATED ST#3! I refuse to admit it ever happened.


Glad you threw in that second statement. See, when I threw out Spider-Man and Star Trek as examples of adolescent fiction that doesn't concern itself with such mundane human experiences as preparing the next generation, I was well aware that each of those main characters had in fact reproduced in later episodes.

BUT...

In both cases (Spider-Man and Star Trek), the storyline with the offspring took place during a time when the series was deliberately trying to TRANCEND its origins as adolescent fiction and to be more "adult" in the non-pornographic sense of the term. So my statement still stands as "I would no more expect Dagny or Roark to have kids than I'd expect it from Spider-Man or Captain Kirk during their respective series in the 1960s."

Furthermore, both attempts at transcending adolescent fiction fail. Spider-Man's daughter had to be retconned into non-existence because no one knew how to write Spider-Man stories that included his being a father to an infant. Kirk's son lived only long enough to make Papa proud and then to require vengeance for his tragic death.

I'm sorry, but when a protagonist discovers he's got a full-fledged adult child who he never knew existed, and then that son lasts five minutes, this is NOT the same thing as having the protagonist go through the human experience of preparing to pass the torch when it's his turn to shuffle off the mortal coil.


During that era, the "Third movie in a series" always an universally betrayed the audience and betrayed everything cool and interesting about the great #2 in the series.


My formerly-sane conservative buddy actually argued with me that "Godfather 3" fit well with the earlier two. I guess he wasn't ever as sane as I thought. ;)

I also non-fondly remember "Superman 3", so I can't really argue with you about third films in the various series. "Return of the Jedi" at least had the Han Solo rescue portion before it turned into a "third movie."

And nowadays, they seem to cut right to the chase, where the FIRST movie of a series betrays the concept right from the get-go.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin said: During that era, the "Third movie in a series" always an universally betrayed the audience and betrayed everything cool and interesting about the great #2 in the series.

I must admit some curiosity: where in your opinion did "Return of the Jedi" fail? Mind you, I'm referring to the original version, not the bastardized clonal bodies that appeared as Lucas embraced revisionism as a means of storytelling.

Return included several important elements: the confrontation between Luke and his father which led ultimately to Luke turning away from the Dark Side, his father's redemption (by tossing the old wrinkled coot down the exhaust shaft), and even the revelation of the Emperor's power and manipulations of Rebels and Imperials. While some elements (such as Ewoks) were trite and did little to contribute effectively to the movie, these were minor annoyances compared to the primary storytelling and plot.

Rob H.

Sith Master Sean said...

I just watched NuTrek for the first time yesterday and I have to agree that it was visually spectacular but it wasn't Star Trek -- Gene Roddenberry would be horrified to see his franchise turned into another CGI action series.

What really made Star Trek special was its big ideas, its literacy and its characters. Almost every episode of the original series and movies had some big Shakespearean theme and some little scene of Spock playing a harp or something. TOS wasn’t afraid to ask big questions, and the main characters were adults with fully developed personalities. For lack of a better word, Star Trek had soul. This movie was all flash and no substance, full of MTV kids running around with little thought or dignity. This was Star Trek for a post-literate, text messaging generation. Leonard Nimoy seemed totally out of place in this soulless new “Crack Trek” universe. And a NuSpock-Nuhuru romance? Give me a break!

This is the same thing that happened with Star Wars – the soul and message of the original movies was sacrificed to action, CGI animation and kiddy romance. Has Hollywood totally run out of ideas? It seems that the movie industry is run by bean counters and technicians now, not artists. They clearly have the technology to create very realistic science fiction worlds -- how about creating some brand new visions instead of recycling and butchering classic stories?

TwinBeam said...

David -
You've stated this theory about Rand and children and oligarchs before, but it is not supported by her work. As others have pointed out, she did address the "children of the rich" issue in Atlas, in portraying the way rich kids Dagny and her brother grew up.

But once again you apply the tactic of narrowing the discussion to an area where you can appear to be right:

"Dagny was somebody's kid? Doesn't matter." ... "What matters is what happens after she triumphs. At which point her own kids become supremely dangerous and likely to be competition-destroyers..." "THAT is the reason Rand never shows kids."

But that's absurd - it was her novel - if she had written children of Galt and Taggart into it, she would have shown them guiding those children to grow into independent minded creators.

Or perhaps she would have shown one of the children "going bad" despite the parents best efforts, to illustrate her view that how a child turns out is ultimately a matter of their own moral choices.

Oh but wait - that would be exactly what she did with Dagny and her brother and their rich parents! But for some reason, that doesn't count???

Why do you so badly need to believe (or at least want us to believe) that Rand was a hypocrite, that you have to ignore such obvious evidence?

Why not simply accept that she believed what she wrote, and criticize her beliefs?

Rob said...

Ayn Rand devoted less than a chapter to the role of parenting in an Objectivist paradise.

I don't know why any of you people expected more than a CGI adventure out of NuTrek. C'mon, guys, they had to make it with popular appeal in the first place! Wiping out 40 years of Geek Canon with a wink, a smile, and phasers on full was the best thing possible for Star Trek.

David, I disagree. The Vulcans were sock puppets, the only thing that made them real was Nimoy's acting skill. I mean, really, *Patrick Stuart* did a better Sarek than Mark Lenard! Sending them through the laundry like that makes it possible to tell better stories than they could with T'Pol or (shudder) Tuvok and all that canon baggage.

TOS needed a repudiation of Roddenberry; his attitudes about women were hollywood tokenism at its most appalling. *Listen* to some of the dialog discussions about women in those old eps, sometime. Brin did better Trek than Trek ever could with his Uplift books. There, I said it. It's also why the Uplift stories will never get made into a good movie, because (answering Larry Hart's rhetorical question) Hollywood really is out of ideas.

Trek = good start, but anachronistic now. Nutrek = clean slate. It could be good or bad depending on what they do. For thoughtful SF, I don't hold out a lot of hope, so the only hope that I hold is that they'll make a few fun shows. Meantime, if I want treatises on human responsibility I'll go read The Postman again.

LarryHart said...

Rob:

Brin did better Trek than Trek ever could with his Uplift books. There, I said it. It's also why the Uplift stories will never get made into a good movie, because (answering Larry Hart's rhetorical question) Hollywood really is out of ideas.


That wasn't MY rhetorical question above, but I WAS planning to answer it the same way you did.

Hollywood movies these days all seem to be either sequels, re-imagining of old movies, or re-imagining of mediocre television shows. I wonder if there is even a MECHANISM for a brand new creation. Ok, perhaps "Avatar" presents yet another category--big special-effects driven battle-fest. The individual story may be original, but the audience appeal is in its utter predictibility.

Remember several years ago when all the talk was about what a boon to the movie industry it would be when they released...the 2004 remake of "The Stepford Wives"? Seriously, that was what everyone was counting on to be a transformative event.


Trek = good start, but anachronistic now. Nutrek = clean slate. It could be good or bad depending on what they do.


I know I'm jaded, but my expectation is weighted heavily toward "bad".

In my view, if "Star Trek" is too anachronistic to contiue, then let it stay in re-runs and fanfic, and start a NEW franchise that is up to date for the present day. Updating Trek for the 2010s seems like a bad idea the same way that creating a bold new "Dick and Jane" for modern sensibilites would be.


For thoughtful SF, I don't hold out a lot of hope, so the only hope that I hold is that they'll make a few fun shows. Meantime, if I want treatises on human responsibility I'll go read The Postman again.


And I recommend "Earth" and "Kiln People" if you get tired of the adventures of Gordon Krantz.

David Brin said...

My own quirky thing about spiderman. In ever flick, he saves New Yorkers... but there's always a moment when New Yorkers save him. Citizenship is a (minor) character in the films. I like that.

Robert, ROTJ was a betrayal, but no to the prodigious, relentless degree of the blithering-insane prequels. In fact, ROTJ could have been redeemed if they let me rewrite maybe fifty lines of dialogue and overdub them!

* The redemption of world-killer DV, just for saving his own son?

* Yoda was 100% wrong (as always) about the consequences of Luke leaving, half-trained, to save his friends, as Y was wrong about lying to Luke about his father and as he would later prove wrong about every single "wise" decision in the prequels... So what does he do when confronted? He "dies." And Luke falls for it!! Luke is an okay guy and I like him. But dumb as a stone.

* The "moral quandary" Luke faces re the emperor. "Yesssss, young Skywalker. Grab your saber and cut off my head! The galaxy and all your friends will be saved and joy abound! But YOU will become a BAD person!"

Huh? DUh, okay. Head is off. Now go take a sauna and decide to be a good person. A driveling INSANE moral lesson! You or I could write a better one (like the kind that protagonists face in the awful SAW movies) in 5 seconds.

* even the fun beginning sequence with Jabba is horrible in one respect. "Luke... THAT is your plan??????" You are spiritual guide and vice commander of the 2nd biggest military force in the galaxy, and you can't THREATEN Jabba?

Sure, the Empire arrives, chases off your pals, and then all the jumping about on the land yacht is the BACKUP PLAN! But as your MAIN plan? Counting on all the guards missing?

Well, I said he was dim.

LarryHart said...

Rob:

I don't know why any of you people expected more than a CGI adventure out of NuTrek. C'mon, guys, they had to make it with popular appeal in the first place! Wiping out 40 years of Geek Canon with a wink, a smile, and phasers on full was the best thing possible for Star Trek.


There's an old farmer's saying that I didn't get for many years when I heard it:

"When hog futures go up, pig futures go down."

What's good for the buyers isn't necessarily what's good for the pig.

It may well be that in order to launch a new Star Trek film, they had to update the franchise to the sensibilities of a wider audience than "50-something Star Trek fans." So be it. However, you should not be surprised if 50-something Star Trek fans fail to consider this development to be a positive one.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin, I only recently realized how long ago you were already including your ideas about oligarchists into your stories.

Even the Holnist VILLAINS of The Postman (some of the most three-dimensional villains I've ever read) thought they were realizing the True American Dream envisioned the late eighteenth century by taking the heredity out of feudalism.

From memory, but pretty close to verbatim, General Macklin explains to Gordon: "That's the TRUE American democracy. My own sons must kill to become Holnists, or else scratch dirt to support those who can."

David Brin said...

TwinBeam says: "But that's absurd - it was her novel - if she had written children of Galt and Taggart into it, she would have shown them guiding those children to grow into independent minded creators. "

Bah, that is ridiculous, sorry.

We are talking about THE great failure mode of all of human history. The tragic way that competition (which both Rand and I admire) is ALWAYS ruined by the eruption of oligarchy... as shown by how the science (about which Rand knew nothing, proudly) of genetics and biology makes us tend to strive to create competitive advantages for our offspring.

Moreover, every time it happened, those genes wove DEEPER into us.

How do you reconcile this problem? THE biggest problem of human nature? By recommending that Dagny might raise her children to resist the temptation a bit? Huh? That's gonna work? Preaching?

I don't call Rand a hypocrite. I call here cosmically stupid. She never confronts this, the great inherent internal conflict of humanity, at all.

Ever, in any way shape or form.

She idolizes the competitive phase........ and utterly ignores the phase that always follows... the phase of collusive cheating, consolidation and the use of wealth and power to prevent further competition.

The relentless pattern of endless thousands of years.

Face it. Adam Smith was vastly smarter than that really really bad writer, with her extreme over-reaction fixation on Bolsheviks and proud ignorance of science. Smith looked at real history, real human patterns, real people, and asked... "how can we ensure that competition, the greatest creative force in the universe, will thrive and endure DESPITE human cheating?"

Never, ever, ever does Rand address that. Ever.

===

Rob... trek evolved from what was extremely enlightened for its time, a show that HELPED to make us more enlightened and ready for better versions in The Next Generation. Sure, let's move on, but show me something that convey's optimism! The right hates the very idea of human progress and the left despises optimism that it actually can happen without chiding us to death.

David Brin said...

Yeah, the Holnists officially believe what Rand believed, that each generation should fight for its place.

But Rand knew Dagny's kids would NOT wind up having to compete from scratch. So she avoids the conflict by never having them have kids.

Enterik said...

Rather than go to all the trouble of creating a parasitic principality of the shores of the Peoples Republic of California, why don't they just move to Somalia? No rule of law and great cell phone service!

sociotard said...

Because Somalia has pirates.

Corey said...

"Rob... trek evolved from what was extremely enlightened for its time, a show that HELPED to make us more enlightened and ready for better versions in The Next Generation. Sure, let's move on, but show me something that convey's optimism! The right hates the very idea of human progress and the left despises optimism that it actually can happen without chiding us to death."

Optimism, regarding the universe with wonder, craving the expansion of one's horizons, all those wonderful things Trek was about.


I don't think for a second that the perfectly relevant underlying points of Star Trek, that have remained valid from its inception all the way to the end of the 90s, is somehow "obsolete" in 2009 and onward.


Take one of my personal favorites, Star Trek VI, for instance. The movie came out in the early 90s, in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, and that's exactly what the movie was about. The USSR was certainly bad, but at least you could wake up every morning and count on its existence not changing. It was a constant. Then, suddenly, it was gone; there was no war, it just vanished. The world suddenly had no constants, no certainty.

The anxiety over a sudden and massively changed reality is exactly what The Undiscovered Country was about, replacing the USSR with the Klingons. It was a film about embracing the future, and all its changes, and having a faith that tomorrow would be brighter than today.


If anything, I think the thesis of that movie is probably more relevant than is was in 1991, but society has forgotten how to be optimistic. In fact, society has forgotten how to do anything except submerse itself in self-loathing. If I asked a random set of people my age (early 20s), I bet 8 our of 10 of them would tell you that the human race would be better off not existing, and that western society was nothing but a failed dead end.

Trek may not fit that attitude very well, but I think that's the entire point.

Corey said...

"Because Somalia has pirates."

Don't you mean "rugged individuals" using their personal liberty and freedom of an oppressive state to seek opportunity and be successful?

Sounds like a GREAT place for these people!

:)

Rob said...

David, of course I know that about Trek. Roddenberry went as far as he could, etc. But since then Hollywood has gone no further.

I'm not sure the establishment Hollywood studios are up to the task of conveying optimism, if their modus operandi is cynical emotional manipulation.

(Did Babylon 5 convey optimism? Was it something akin to what you look for? What comes close that was released in the last 10 years?)

David Brin said...

liked the can-do values of Babylon 5. "Optimism" doesn't mean lack of drama. It means having faith we'll be up to the challenges. Us. We. Not OrsonScottCardian-Lucasian-Randian demigods. But us. Our civilization.

rewinn said...

Immersive gaming may be more important than Hollywood as a cultural expression of hopes and aspirations. Considering only the amount of time spent: an intense SF fan may see 1 new movie every week, totally about 100 hours of content, but play WoW or Farmville for 100 hours every month.
This is neither necessarily good nor necessarily bad, it just *is*. Looking past the explosions and gore, what this suggests is that we (as a whole) really enjoy challenges, and we really really enjoy forming teams to beat them. Movies have a hard time conveying comparable emotional experiences and intellectual challenges.
What a pity there is no Uplift Online!

TheMadLibrarian said...

YOu do realize that there is a MMORPG, Star Trek Online? Funny thing, the players are mostly arguing for a Next Gen version of the Federation which is working cooperatively with the Klingon Empire and moving towards detente with the Romulans.

TheMadLibrarian

Dentiest: the most dental of all!

Robert said...

You know... I bet that if Star Trek: Yet Another Generation was around, we'd see the Romulan Empire had collapsed and various captains of cloaked Romulan warships have branched off and become pirates... ;)

Rob H.

TwinBeam said...

DB: "I don't call Rand a hypocrite. I call here cosmically stupid. She never confronts this, the great inherent internal conflict of humanity, at all."

Well, of course you were calling her a hypocrite by claiming she saw this flaw but refused to write it into her novels lest it undermine her message.

Now you wish to retract that in favor of claiming she was too stupid to recognize the problem of the dynastic impulse? When half of the theme of Atlas Shrugged is that parasitic oligarchs hold civilization hostage to their continued wealth and power?

True, she saw the root problem for that and many other ills to be the altruism meme, rather than a biological imperative. But that's consistent with her conception of humans as starting out as a tabula rasa - hardly an uncommon or particularly stupid philosophical error.

Gordon B said...

With regard to NuTrek, I'm glad I'm not the only one who would be horribly disappointed if the writers of NuTrek 2 didn't address the galaxy-changing ramifications of having someone effectively from the future (of an alternate timeline granted- though major similarities would still exist) available to brief the Federation regarding all the threats/ potential conflicts they might encounter.

As much as I also had issues with the plot from the first NuTrek movie, it could potentially set up an interesting sequel. What if the antagonists from NuTrek 2 were a covert group of disgruntled Vulcans and other Federation citizens who wanted to restore the original timeline (or at least establish a timeline where Vulcan wasn't destroyed)?
There cause would certainly not be without merit, how many times have temporal shenanigans been pulled to save Earth? How would Kirk and crew justify interfering with these attempts? Is the loss of Vulcan/deaths of billions worth the potential benefit of having the original Spock's knowledge in the new timeline? How does one metaphysically make sense of ethical decision-making over different timelines?

I would love to see a scene where NuKirk gets called out for being ludicrously fortunate in the new timeline, hinting that perhaps there an element of self-promotion in his motivation to preserve the NuTrek timeline.

David Brin said...

Twinbeam... either she saw the relentless repetition of oligarchic cheating and deliberately evaded it... in which case she was a hypocrite...

...or she was a blithering idiot.

Frankly, it is hard to tell. Maybe it was a mix.

----

onward to a new posting.

anagory said...

"Because Somalia has pirates."

Atlas Shrugged also has pirates.

TwinBeam said...

"either she saw the relentless repetition of oligarchic cheating and deliberately evaded it... in which case she was a hypocrite...

...or she was a blithering idiot.
"

Or she observed it and examined it in such detail that you can't see the forest for the trees.

Her answer to the dynastic impulse was to encourage people to take up her brand of philosophy, so they would cease desiring power over others, and not tolerate others who demand power over them.

You can say that will never work - but that's quite different from not addressing the issue.

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Blight said...

At this site, I see numerous attempts to weave a solution out of old story lines. Yes, the oligarchs have us by the throat and Rand, their cheerleader, is an ignorant Cretan. If we want a new society, it needs to be grassroots. Someone needs to be building agriculturally based sanctuaries - ARKS - that begin making their own products and energy. Then these city states need to trade with the outside areas. Presently, corporations are buying up the farms - instead we need a new nonprofit that buys the land and begins building sanctuaries that will help fight our descent into fascism. We need to begin ranching humanity for fun and profit.

Blight said...

Presently rural areas are losing their population base. How about establishing sanctuaries which have trade based, barter economies in rural areas - or gutted Detroit. You would have to grow your own food, and education would be life long. You would learn skills in the coop machine shops. At my sanctuary in Montana, we are presently building and trading solar furnaces. We are also debating the merits of a possible eugenics program. A new society is only possible from the ground up - and must be free to engineer its own destiny.