Sunday, November 24, 2013

Libertarianism, Creativity and Silicon Valley

== Can Silicon Valley lead us to "exit" the nation state? =
SrinivasanIn this video, techno-utopian Balaji Srinivasan, the co-founder of Counsyl, a genetic company that does DNA testing, cites Silicon Valley’s disruptive effects on newspapers and the music industry and compares this to the creation of new nations out of the husks of older states. His talk about how to "exit" from the stifling world of "paper" politics and business -- centered in red tape-hampered cities like New York, Boston and Washington DC (and pay-entertainment-plexes like Hollywood) -- is certainly interesting and thought provoking.  Though perhaps not in exactly the ways that he intended.
No, I'll not counter Srinivasan with an offended rant, like this one.  I'll merely point out that Mr. Srinivasan weaves a smugly self-congratulatory fantasy that strokes the egos of his Silicon Valley audience, bestowing upon them a deeply flattering implicit destiny as fathers of whole nations!  How convenient.  It's called cheap-applause.
Alas, he does this without taking up his inherent burden of proof that:
- Western Enlightenment legacy nations are finished performing their historical function -- defending individuals and small enterprises from the predatory savagery that the powerful always (and I mean always) used to crush and eliminate competition from those below them.  It happened in 99% of generations across 6000 years.  Adam Smith knew, described, and denounced the oligarchic-monopolistic attractor state as our worst failure mode (often called feudalism). See: Pining for Feudalism as an antidote to Modernity.
enablerAnd in recommending counterbalancing forces, Adam Smith pretty much invented an entirely new role for the nation state, which had formerly been merely a power tool of oligarchy. It was his basic idea of the state as enabler of the individual that the American Founders implemented -- imperfectly, but well enough for the dream to stay alive and take root.
From the Founders' first act of radicalism -- the breakup and redistribution of British lordly estates -- to the populism of Jackson, to the shattering of slavery to the freedom of movement engendered by railroads… all the way to anti-trust enforcement and civil rights… there have been vastly more uses of government tools that removed shackles from average folk than those that today's libertarians obsess upon and denounce as limiting. And if they disagree? Fine… then show us how things were better under feudalism and tribalism.
Alas, the recent generation of libertarians -- like Mr. Srinivasan -- though blatantly sure of their erudition, clearly know nothing of any of this. They have never read Smith.  They actually believe that, without the legacy state that coddled them, they would bestride the freed-anarchic world like collossi! Like Howard Roark and John Galt. Instead of quickly becoming cannon fodder for lordly wars. Or eunuchs. Or nerd-flavored dog food.
==  And further burdens of proof … ==
- While implying that his goal is the romantic-transcendentalist dream of escaping obligations to any legacy state (in this case the USA, which he compares amid peals of derisive laughter to Microsoft -- (a severe calumny in Silicon Valley!) -- Mr. Srinivasan then describes a series of micro "exit" tactics that do not constitute "exit" from America at all!  All of his examples boil down to no more than exercises in the kind of freedom that Srinivasan and his peers already have, sheltered and nurtured and encouraged by the legacy nation that he -- like an ungrateful, neotenous teenager -- openly reviles.  A freedom to experiment that MADE Silicon Valley in the first place….
- … and that drew his parents and my grandparents and so many other immigrants to these continental shores, in the first place.  Um, what would Occam's Razor make of all this?
libertariansOh, don't get me wrong.  I am all in favor of experiments in decentralization! Along with ever-rising individual and small-endeavor autonomy! I said as much in critiquing and appraising (60% favorably) Peter Thiel's eagerness to create new nation-state entities at sea. (Alas, he got miffed that I - in a helpful spirit - pointed out some inconvenient complexities that would need solving. Sigh.)
As anyone can read in my main libertarianism tract, I too yearn for a gradual but steady movement toward the dreamt-of era that both libertarians and Karl Marx deemed their common goal -- a future wherein states and paternalistic institutions have withered to mere nubs because they are no longer needed, and because all children become skilled, capable and serenely sovereign adults, ready, should they choose, to creatively compete on a level playing field. The natural outcome -- ironically -- if you blend Adam Smith and Gandhi with Ben Franklin and John Muir.
Hey, I want all that too!  It is the distant goal of all of my endeavors.
It would just be nice if winsome libertarian utopian transcendentalists like Mr. Srinivasan were to show even glimmering awareness of the historical struggles and innovations that led to him standing upon the convenient and lavish launching platform for his dreams.  I might then have more confidence in the credibility of his vision, and the plausibility of his design.
== Transparency Miscellany ==
Three years ago, the United Kingdom government established the so-called  "nudge unit" – also known as the Behavioural Insight Team -- to apply behavioral economics to alter people's habits without BigTransparencyregulation. Now it will take its first step to becoming a profit-making joint venture. The nudge unit has become an internationally recognized source of ideas on how to change voters' behavior without legislation, relying upon techniques drawn from psychology and advertising, as well as common sense.  It's not quite as Orwellian as it sounds… well, so they assure us.
As you surf, you are being tracked and that tracking data can become woven in a large web of connected sites. Now Mozilla has released a new add-on for its Firefox browser that will visualize this process as it happens, logging sites that are tracking you and how those entities are connected to other services/tools. I hope some of you will try it and report back to the comments community (below).
== Some redolent miscellany ==
And now, just because there is room, I'll slip in some controversial-politically redolent items I had stored up.
36% of Americans ages 18 to 31 who still live with their parents. That's the highest percentage in four decades, according to the Pew Research Institute.
Here's a wise rumination on the famous wager that Paul Ehrlich lost to Julian Simon, regarding commodities prices in the 1990s… but in fact over two extreme positions on managing our planet.  Two positions that have both proved to be simplistic and just as wrong as they were right.  This essay suggests that pragmatic concern, investment in science and a loose but urgent set of overall goals may be key to our progress toward being world-savers.
Now that the Boy Scouts have changed their policy to welcome openly gay scouts, a new faith-based attempt to create "Trail Scouts" - with a heavy base of religious teaching - is underway.  Go thou and do your thing, says this father of two Eagles.  You could have done nothing that would help to make the Boy Scouts healthier than by the gift of your loony absence.
== More Transparency news ==
Legislation introduced by Senator Al Franken would -- among other transparency measures -- eliminate the gag orders that prevent phone and Internet companies from divulging the number of orders they receive demanding customer data and the number of requests with which they comply.  This is exactly the kind of reform that is needed, increasing our powers of supervision, and there is need for much more, such as making the secret, star-chamber FISA court truly adversarial, with security-cleared but skeptical advocates appointed not just by the court itself, or the security services, but by outside groups, as well.
What these bills should not do is try to actually blind the NSA and other security services.  That is a futile and self-defeating direction that will only set up reassuring fig leaves, while chasing surveillance to go find even darker, more secret places from which to operate… a game of whack-a-mole that we cannot win.
Someone has to say "we care less about what you see than what you might DO with that knowledge, if you can get away with looking at us unsupervised.  We know we will be looked-at. Let's keep that activity in a known agency and fill that agency with our deputized "sousveillance" emissaries, who will look over your shoulders reminding you that you are watch-dogs, and not wolves.
== Ah-ooooooooh! ==
Politics-ZombiesReuters did a nice writeup on my young artist friend John Powers's hypothesis that zombie apocalypse films are all about our middle class fears of sinking into proletarian status… but also anticipation of the sense of liberation we might feel if that proletariate then rose up and wiped out the masters. Yes, even as zombies.  I have before and elsewhere made the point that zombies are the "prop-monsters." (Vampires are the aristocrats and lycanthrope-wolfmen are the mortgage-holding angst-ridden bourgeois, middle class monsters… or they were, before recent flicks betrayed the whole idea.)  Powers's variant on the theme is a bit too crypto-marxist for me to avow completely.  But the notion that we have mixed feelings about the zombie metaphor, and that we'll identify more and more with them if the oligarchic putch continues?  Yeah.  I guess that's right.
Oh, but lest you imagine I am one of those blinkered, dogmatic fools who casts his ire in just one direction, blind to the faults of any side but those he blames for everything…  here is just another reminder that the (far) left, too, can at times be jibbering loony.  School board calls peanut butter and jelly sandwiches "racist." Hey, dopes.
We are better than this left-right baloney. Just as transcendentalist silicon valley geeks need to be able to look down upon the foundation that their dreams were built upon.
Let's all incrementally grow up.


dsmccoy said...

I grew up in Santa Clara Valley before it was called Silicon Valley. My tech career there began with an internship at NASA/Ames, and I know a lot of people who went on to Silicon Valley jobs from there. The local ecosystem that made Silicon Valley possible was a complex mix of public and private sector, with much of the private sector dependent on government contracts. NASA/Ames, Air Force Satellite Test Center, Lockheed, IBM. Stanford was nearby, but not much farther was its public rival UC Berkeley, as well as lower tier educational institutions like San Jose State, Santa Clara U, and the gloriously flourishing California Community College system. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs planted their seeds in a field which was richly fertilized by many different segments of the public sector which came into a rare alignment in Santa Clara Valley. The private sector could never have made that happen alone.

LarryHart said...

Speaking of movies, as I was yesterday (and sorry for the off-topic but Dr Brin posts too fast), I just a few days ago saw the action flick called "Olympus Has Fallen".

Ok, it was good for what it was, and I understand all about turning off parts of the analytic brain to watch a film of this type (I really enjoyed "Air Force One", for example). But one essential plot point really took me out of the story.

Please, please, please tell me that if there is a real-life fail-safe system for aborting a nuclear missle already in flight, the real-life system would neutralize the detonator or some such, rather than pre-emptively initiating the nuclear blast.


Jonathan S. said...

Larry, having worked in nuclear war planning in the '80s, I can assure you with little fear of contradiction that there is no such system. Instead, the system is set up to where it's durn near impossible to launch a missile without very specific conditions having been met (the appropriate codes must be given to Command by the President, authenticated, then Command has to transmit codes to the launch sites, where they are again authenticated, then two highly-educated launch officers have to agree to simultaneously turn their launch keys, which starts a short countdown [which can still be aborted] before the birds actually take flight). I have no idea how it was depicted in that movie, but Oppenheimer knows I've seen enough stupid depictions, including completely automated launch sequences.

David Brin said...

dsmccoy yes, ingratitude is a churlish trait that we teach our kids to develop in industrial force, so they can be good T Cell critics instead of slavish soldier-drones. Alas, the trait has metastasized. When disloyalty is no longer a side effect of useful constructive criticism, but becomes the end, in itself, then we are in trouble.

LarryHart I saw Olympus. It is much much better than the contemporary White House Down. Though in fact WHD uses the plot device with the Speaker of the House that I expected in Olympus. Olympus BADLY needed a final plot meeting where I would have said "your scenario would only make sense if the GOAL was to make an angry United States spasm destroy North Korea. Because that is the only possible outcome from all the Mayhem. Making the Speaker a part of that plot would have repaired a flawed film.

The Cerberus thing was stupid. It could have worked as a deliberate distraction that the Korean invaders knew would not work (well) since their aim is simply (and effectively) to make America mad as hell,


locumranch said...

Perhaps Balaji Srinivasan doesn't like hierarchies either, or more precisely, dislikes the hierarchical giants like Microsoft which were created specifically to exclude young upstarts like him. Enter David as the voice of experience, the father figure from Cat Steven's 'Fathers & Sons', who equates youthfulness with weakness and folly.

This is David's blind spot: His experience. His hoary old age. His belief that civilization endures, or better yet, progresses in a near linear fashion, improving with age, instead of cycling from vigour to senescence like the human from the riddle of the Sphinx.

Ingratitude, indeed, is a churlish & youthful trait, but it is not a cancer. Cancer occurs when older cells grow without restraint, flush with the pretense of youth, not knowing when to retire, self-limit or exit with maturity. If we lead then youth will follow by example.


sociotard said...

"The Populism of Jackson" was what let him screw over the Cherokee and tell the Supreme Court that he didn't give three figs about judicial supremacy.

Also what let him act like shooting people was cool as long as they knew you were doing it and they were armed too.

Did you seriously try to make it sound like a good thing?

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

David, my son is an Eagle too and I am most proud of him. And I too am glad that loonies want to form their own scouting organization now that the BSA is allowing gay boys to join (maybe atheists too one day...). My son and I were the token libs in my son's troop, but we managed to remain friendly with the rest of the troop notwithstanding that. My son is also a vegetarian and had to prove he could hike better than the rest before they respected his vegetarian stance, but I give the guys and boys credit for leaving him alone after the first big hike when that occurred. We also deeply respected the rest of the troop and the Dads and Moms who were so helpful to my son as my son's Dad, meaning me, was really a hopeless wretch when it came to camping and such.

As for the Portland elementary school principal you cited at the end of your post, count me in as having a deep hostility toward the cultural left. Yup, you read that correct. The cultural left worries about trivialities way too much. They are the personification of the joke in Sinclair Lewis' great "Kingsblood Royal" book where he noted that some civil rights activists refused to use the word "denigrate" saying it was a racist word.

David Brin said...

sociotard, you neglect that the HORIZONS of the enlightenment experiment were never commensurate with its ideals. Expanding those horizons was important and each generation did that. For example, in Jackson's time, the horizons of inclusion expanded to encompass white males who happened to be scots or irish.

The huge anti-oligarchy moves of that era took place in the "western" states of Kentucky etc where legislatures elected by poor white settlers frequently nullified bank debt and foreclosures in ways that we might today call mob rule. But it often prevented major land grabs, too.

Learn to take things in the context of each time! They had a long way to come. But each generation did move forward.

As for Locum, he has clearly taken some meds and is now more coherent. Still, I answered him at the end of the last thread and have no intention to waste further time, today.

sociotard said...

I don't care if Jackson was Scotch-Irish. He ignored the supreme court! He violated that separation of powers that our nation depends on to be free. That trumps any expanding inclusiveness that he may have heralded.

If the SC had declared obamacare unconstitutional, and Obama had ignored the decision, I would be screaming for his impeachment and called him the worst president in 100 years, and to hell with any consideration of his race signaling expanding horizons in the United States.

David Brin said...

Sociotard, I share your spite toward Jackson personally. I wrote a screenplay about the Trail of Tears in which he was the central villain. Still, the Jacksonian Era was the step forward by one more group that expanded the horizon … before the big leap of the 1860s.

Oh, And locus I apologize and retract the "meds" thing. You remain welcome here.

LarryHart said...

Johnathan S:

I have no idea how it was depicted in that movie, but Oppenheimer knows I've seen enough stupid depictions, including completely automated launch sequences

The movie ("Olympus Has Fallen") depicted terrorists gaining control of the White House so that they could access a system for aborting a launched nuclear missile. The thing is, the method for aborting the nuclear strike before it reaches its intended target apparently involved pre-emptively setting off the nuclear explosion in flight. Because what the terrorists decided to do didn't even involve launching the missiles. They were going to use the abort system to ignite all of the American nuclear arsenal in their silos, thus "opening the gates of Hell" in the US heartland.

This goes beyond a bad movie plot. It presupposes a fail-safe system that would (for example) avoid a strike on Moscow by nuking Chicago instead, or wherever the missile happened to be at the time the "oops, we didn't mean it" was triggered.

And Dr Brin echoed my thought during the movie--that in real life, we'd have probably nuked North Korea into melted slag somewhere in the first hour of the film (whether or not that would have been a good idea, or even solved anything).

Strangely enough, the only reason I was interested in the movie at all was because I mistakenly thought that the president in the film (when I saw trailers) was Harrison Ford, and wondered if it might actually be a sequel to "Air Force One".

David Brin said...

To be fair, the Cerberus system would not have to ignite the warheads fully, rather, an UNEVEN implosion would smash and ruin the warhead without an actual nuclear detonation. See it depicted in the under-rated Clooney film PEACEKEEPER. That turns a major nuke into a nastily little "dirty bomb" and the resulting mess is hard to clean up, but not a catastrophe.

Still Olympus could only have made sense if the demands to withdraw from Korea and the attack on Cerberus were all smoke screen, to empower the Speaker of the House to become a president-of-vengeance who reduced Pyonyang to slag.

The cool thing about that premise is that you did not even need Morgan Freeman to be in cahoots! Just a predictable, simpleminded hawk (like Boehner). Instead of arresting him, you have him stare and blink. "What?"

It also would explain how so many killers got on the Korean premier's guard detail. They aren' N Koreans after all, just pretending to be.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart I saw Olympus. It is much much better than the contemporary White House Down. Though in fact WHD uses the plot device with the Speaker of the House that I expected in Olympus.

I don't know what you were particularly expecting, but I can guess. I also believed Morgan Friedman would turn out to be in on the plot. While watching this on video, I told my daughter what my late father would have said to me after his first appearance, which was "They didn't hire Morgan Friedman to do a bit role there--he's going to be important to the plot."

Olympus BADLY needed a final plot meeting where I would have said "your scenario would only make sense if the GOAL was to make an angry United States spasm destroy North Korea.

I'm a squishy-liberal war-dove, and yet ***I*** was rooting for an enraged speaker (as Acting President) to melt North Korea into slag if only out of spite. In real life, I'd have a hard time believing that would not happen.

Because that is the only possible outcome from all the Mayhem. Making the Speaker a part of that plot would have repaired a flawed film.

They even set up the fact that the speaker was a McCain-like war hawk. I wonder if the screenplay had originally been written that way, and was deliberatly toned down later.

I know that while watching the new "Hunger Games" film, I kept asking my daughter (who has read the books) things like "Where did she get that mocking-jay pendant in the first place?" And the answer was "Yeah, they didn't show that part in the movies."

The Cerberus thing was stupid. It could have worked as a deliberate distraction that the Korean invaders knew would not work (well) since their aim is simply (and effectively) to make America mad as hell,

Yeah, it might actually have worked better if there were more feints and counterfeints yet to see ("Wheels within wheels within wheels", as Dune would have it). At this point, all I want to know is that a real-life fail-safe system designed for the purpose depicted in the film would revolve around making the missiles inert nuclear-ly, rather than around preemptively igniting the nuclear explosion in flight.

John's Secret Identity™ said...

Ok, here's the comment I just posted on that PB&J article, in which pretty much everyone is missing the point...

I gotta say this whole "those crazy folks are saying peanut butter & jelly is racist" thing is a straw man.

The pb&j isn't the point. It wasn't even the racist part of the example. The racist part was the assumption/implication that all "those people" from wherever all eat the same thing (pitas, or whatever), or at least stating the question so as to imply that. It's basically an example of perpetuating racial/cultural stereotypes, and not being aware you're doing it unless you think about it.

Robert said...

Going off on a tangent (I've been here HOW long now? You know I do this) here's an interesting article on doctors refusing to treat terminal illnesses and dying with dignity instead. I have to wonder if this was urged in hospitals instead of the effort to extend life just by a few months or so if we'd see U.S. medical costs slashed by over half.

Of course, what's even scarier is the undercurrent mentioned here: a loathing of the "right to die with dignity" philosophy by some members of the medical profession. I mean, the nurse trying to get the doctor charged with murder because he turned off the life support despite this being the wish of both the patient prior to being admitted, and of his wife? That's just wrong.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of movies, two things came across my radar recently:

1. Gravity: remember Bullock's character despairingly trying to contact someone earthside, and only managing to get some weird foreign guy with a dog and a baby? Turns out Cuaron made a short showing the other side of that conversation (with translation from Greenland Inuit). I think it would have made a poignant lead-in to the main movie.

2. The Golden Compass was panned when it came out a few years ago, partly because of the last minute edit job which more or less amounted to censorship and burial to placate an irate Magisterium. Here's a site dedicated to restoring the cuts (including the final 25 minutes!)

David Brin said...

Will be mentioning the GRAVITY side filck soon.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

LarryHart/Rob H,

I did some hunting around on web and wiki and see that I was partly wrong. You will age slower at, say, sea-level compared to the top of a mountain, due to being deeper in the gravity well. I was right about that. But apparently objects/astronauts in low Earth orbit do indeed age more slowly that those on the ground. They experience less gravitational time dilation, but more in net due their velocity. But as you move away from Earth into higher orbits, eventually the reduced gravity and reducing orbital velocity result in less time-dilation than on Earth. (The cross over is about 3000km altitude for circular equatorial orbits. Time dilation there will be the same as on the ground. For non-circular, non-equatorial orbits, things apparently get more complex.)

So the ISS experiences more time dilation than you, experiencing 25 microseconds less time per day; the GPS constellation and GEO satellites experience about 40 microseconds more a day.

In summary:
Ground ages slower than Mountain
Ground ages faster than Airplane
Ground ages faster than ISS
Ground ages slower than GPS
Ground ages slower than GEO satellite
Ground ages slower than Moon/Mars' ground
Ground ages much much faster than Relativistic Rocket.

"The more you know"

Bruce Hammerson said...

This is human nature to who always want more and more.!!! I also to know is that a real-life fail-safe system designed for the purpose depicted in the film would revolve around making the missiles inert nuclear-ly,

Komatsu Parts

Tony Fisk said...

At least the last post looks like the thread was read. The link in the signoff is a giveaway, though.

(thought to ponder: at what point do we start apologising to spambots?)

Paul451 said...

Re: Libertarian Island Utopia.

The Seasteading Institute has a section title "Why are you Seasteading?", when a better question is "Why haven't you?"

I find it kind of pathetic that the Seasteaders haven't made a start yet. How long does it take to lease a modest sized passenger ship (and a someone's already donated a large ferry), register the ship under a suitably compliant flag-of-convenience nation, anchor the ship just barely in international waters off San Francisco, running a small ferry back and forth a few times a day for "residents" of the ship. That would allow them to test the waters economically, to see if there's a market; and legally, to see if the idea floats. (Puns intended.)

The fact that they haven't even attempted this basic first step even after someone donated a ship strikes me as evidence that there's not much more to this than mental masturbation.

Re: Relativity again. In Childhood's End.

Accelerating at 1g continuously will allow you to reach relativistic velocity in about 2 years subjective time. So assuming 50% acceleration, 50% deceleration, you can reach almost anywhere in the universe in 4 and a bit years (subjective time). Home again after 8 and a bit years travel. If Jan Rodricks travelled 80 plus lightyears to the Overlord's homeworld and back in just a few months subjective time, he must have been accelerating at well over 2g's continuously for the entire trip.

The spambot just copied parts from earlier in the thread, from Larry's comment, second from top. That's not an new method of defeating moderation/filters but I haven't seen it here before.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul451
Accelerating at 1g continuously will allow you to reach relativistic velocity in about 2 years subjective time

About 1 year isn't it?

To the Srinivasan presentation, was it not on this site I learned about
The Entrepreneurial State?

A very informative (if a bit turgid) explanation of where the creativity actually lies

Jerry Emanuelson said...

The intentional destruction of a nuclear warhead by single-point detonation that David wrote about actually happened during the Bluegill Prime attempted nuclear test of July 25, 1962. The missile engines had ignited, but the Thor missile had not yet left the launch pad when a critical valve stuck.

The Range Safety Officer immediately ordered a single-point destructive detonation of the 400 kiloton warhead. The warhead remains blew upward out of the tip of the missile. The missile subsequently burned and was destroyed on the launch pad.

There are videos of the Bluegill Prime disaster on the web. It was a nighttime launch, and you can very clearly see the thermonuclear warhead shooting out vertically from the tip of the missile.

It took nearly 3 months for radiation cleanup teams to clean up Johnston Island (which was the site of the launch pad) and the surrounding area, and to build new launch pads. It became the first practical "dirty bomb" experience for the United States.

They had to get the island cleaned up as quickly as possible because there were 4 remaining nuclear tests scheduled to be launched from Johnston Island. They ended up doing the remaining nuclear tests during the time period of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was not the optimal time for doing nuclear testing.

Earlier attempts at missile-launched nuclear tests, on June 2 and June 19, 1962, also had the warhead destroyed, apparently using the same method, after the missile developed problems in flight. In the case of the June 2 launch, they actually lost all tracking information, and didn't know exactly where the missile was. The destruction signal, however, worked fine. In the case of the June 19 launch, the missile was about 10 kilometers up when it developed problems. That warhead, also, was sent a command to destroy the warhead in flight. In these two June launches, the debris fell harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean, although some of it was recovered.

sociotard said...

Ah, so you were applying fair lauds to Jackson's era rather than to Jackson himself. I apologize for misunderstanding you.

Paul451 said...

Perhaps it was 1 year and change to reach high-9's, two years and change to stop, 4 years and change to come back. I was going from memory, it's been awhile since I've been able to do the maths.

I just remember how bizarre those asymptotic curves make things. You spend most of your time in the first tiny fraction of the trip. And cover most of your trip in the last tiny fraction of your subjective time.

And from outside the ship, you need a power source approaching infinity, from inside the ship, you just leave the engine running another day.

If we ever produce a propulsion system that can accelerate continuously, then we can reach anywhere in the universe in almost exactly the same amount of (subjective) time. (Up to the limit of our shielding. Which'll be a doozy.)

David Brin said...

Paul451 thanks for the relativistic breakdown which I previously had stored in notes somewhere.

Alas, you oversimplify the Seasteading thing, as I showed at: For the zealots to set us an actual (as opposed to dreamed-ideal_ seastead they would need cash flow. And all the fantasies for how to do that have proved ephemeral. Alaso, a few times a year the ship would have to shelter in harbor from storms. Lots of factors.

Jerry E. thanks for that history of failed IRBM nuke launches. Yipe!

mark said...

I got pulled into reading this because I've been pondering experiments in governing. I am currently dismayed at the road "savage capitalism" has taken the country down and believe the checks and balances are askew... My observation is that the Tea Party is a beast that the GOP can't contain and needs to be muzzled. Libertarianism combined with totally open markets without ANY government restraint scares me about the same. This piece of the silicon technoaristos is a bit like the left's elite snobbery that the right complains about when referring to the left. How would on off-shore libertarian nation-state function? By consensus in membership? By signing a memorandum of understanding before joining? Pondering this...

Jerry Emanuelson said...

There is a huge disconnect between the way the term "libertarian" is tossed around in the media (as well as the way that many Libertarian Party activist use the word) and the motivation that moves many people toward libertarian ideas.

A major example of this occurred just today when the news broke that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially considers its citizens too stupid to understand our own DNA. The FDA is trying to shut down the 23andMe personal DNA testing service.

I am one of the half a million 23andMe customers, and I used the 23andMe DNA information to reverse my spinal osteoporosis, something that my father died of very slowly as his spine crumbled away. All of the techniques I used to reverse my osteoporosis were not approved by the FDA, and were generally not known by doctors. I have solid personal data, as well as many scientific studies, to show that these techniques (which so offend our tyrannical federal government) actually work.

This is not the first time that I have had to work around FDA interference. Government tyranny in trying shut down innovative companies like 23andMe is the reason that I am a staunch pragmatic libertarian. This is not an obscure political issue. It is happening today, November 25, and it is severely detrimental to the future health of individuals.

I've been saying for years that the first offshore libertarian community should be a hospital ship where people can go to receive FDA-prohibited medical testing and, if needed, treatment. FDA is the most dangerous of all government entities. The FDA role in medicine needs to be reduced to an advisory capacity.

Alfred Differ said...

Some people ARE too stupid to understand their own DNA. Unfortunately the FDA takes a 'ban all' approach too easily and makes it look like a 'permit only' system. What we need is something equivalent to the qualified investor concept from our financial markets to get around our need to protect the truly ignorant without harming the knowledgeable. That's tricky, though, because it's hard to measure knowledge is a medical world filled with woo-woo nonsense and no monetary measures to demonstrate competence.

Alfred Differ said...

Within the Libertarian party there are a group of people who advocate for totally open markets and no government. They are the 'anarchists.' There is also a group that advocates for something close, but admits we need some functions of government and we should keep them VERY small. They are the 'minarchists.'

The anarchists are vocal, but rare as far as I can tell. The minarchists are much more numerous and tend to pick on particular causes to fight so they might appear to be single-issue voters.

Neither group will consider David's notion that a better solution is to let the government perform its public safety role while growing the power of the People to look back and control government when it misbehaves. This is his 'worry about what they DO' idea. The minarchists simply don't believe that can be done and they point to history to demonstrate the public's short attention span and powerlessness. They miss the fact that the world is rapidly changing and the costs associated with our own empowerment are plummeting.

I joined up with the Libertarians about a year ago and advocate the growth of our power instead of limiting government. They look at me like a Martian who teleports in among them now and then, but they recognize my other ideals match theirs fairly well. It's a fun experience and my local group is adapting.

David Brin said...

JerryE medical tourism is big business and folks already fly in all directions. I am libertarian enough to find the FDA stifling and badly in need of a hosing. We need a middle ground of flashing AT-YOUR-OWN-RISK-YOU WERE-WARNED labels and I am deeply disappointed that the democrats (the only party that ever de-regulates) did not act on this.

I sent Gary Johnson money and pray that moderate pragmatists can take back the LP from the crazies who have hijacked it.

Fools who actually believe that government civil servants are the only possible threats to markets and liberty, when 6000 years points to another danger, far more prevalent and dangerous to liberty.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

An additional transitional step toward medical freedom that is badly needed is one proposed long ago by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw.

That is to allow any medicine to be sold by prescription, even those that the FDA had refused to approve; but you would give the FDA half of the label to state whatever warnings or other things that they wanted to say about the medicine. The other half of the label would be available to the maker or seller of the medicine.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I would move back from "medical freedom"
I prefer the system here where only those medicines that can be shown to provide a benefit (cost effectively) are "sponsored" by the Health Service
You can buy other medicines - but you pay full price - no tax dollars to subsidize
When I am going to buy medicine I don't want to have to fight my way past hundreds of quack treatments.

Locobranch was raving about hierarchies,
My immediate thought was that a hierarchy is needed to get anything large done,
Then I thought sideways - you -could- get a large project done by negotiation at each step and between each participant
BUT that would add an enormous additional cost to the project

So a hierarchy is a tool that enables you to reduce the "overhead" of negotiations
In a military or emergency situation that time overhead is even more expensive

From this I would advocate a hierarchy only when necessary – trying to operate without one can be unnecessarily expensive

However when it is not required to optimise negotiation in a project you should not use a hierarchy

Going full circle to talk about medicine
I would like the best possible advice about my medicine from trained professional people who do not financially benefit from that advice
I do like to be able to understand the reasoning and the data used BUT I don’t want to have to do that every time – especially not when I am ill!

locumranch said...

Except for a few small areas of overlap, libertarianism and progressivism are non-congruent political philosophies wherein the libertarian ideal attempts to maximize individual freedom and the progressive ideal tries to minimize individual risk.

Medicine provides an excellent example of this conflict. The FDA was created to protect the average citizen from quackery-based medical risk, yet some see this government-mandated for-the-people-by-the-people protection as an infringement on their personal freedom (as in the case of JerryE).

Specifically, the FDA not only interferes with JerryE's ability to cure himself through Brownian motion, but it also infringes on his freedom to fail, make mistakes & inflict irreparable harm upon himself with quackery even though he can't protect himself from patent medicines unless he eats them, too.

Freedom is a package deal, not an either-or choice as first supposed by Patrick Henry, so we should give JerryE his medicinal liberty because his death is coming soon, inevitably, as it will for all of us.


David Brin said...

Jerry E. Nice to have you around in this top, egghead blogmunity. I would not go quite as far as you. Half the population is not ready for compleat caveat emptor based on warnings and due diligence. It has been very relaxing to spend all my life being able to simply open and use or consume products thinking: "if it was bad for you, they wouldn't allow it," laving blithely vague who "they" are. Think about how relaxed that has made YOU over the years.

In time, we will all (1) become more educated and more libertarian-minded and (2) assisted by cyborg or assistant systems that scan and warn us of levels of risk. And watch, the paternalism will retract a bit, then.

Mind you, I think it should retract a bit NOW! The FDA is going way too far with 23&me.

Duncan, hierarchies get things done, but are lousy at (1) innovation and (2) finding policy errors: unless they encourage smaller sub units to compete (e.g. NASA's NIAC in which I am an advisor) … in time, we will be able to reformulate loose, dispersed cooperative creative teams, as portrayed in Vinge's RAINBOW'S END. Meanwhile, the grundgy and inefficient approach of politically negotiated allocation of coercively taxed but consensus/represented budgeted governmental effort has worked far better than any sausage-watcher could imagine and Libertarians are ungrateful and small minded wretches if they do not admit that.

Locum is, as usual, completely cockeyed wrong. Leftists may want to socialistically "equalize outcomes by state means" but classic Smithian liberals are much less sanguine about that goal. Rather, their sense of fairness makes them want to eliminate UNFAIR impediments to competitive success. That means using the state exactly as Adam Smith recommended, to uplift the poor so that their children can fairly compete with the children of the rich.

Liberals do not insist that no one be poor. They despise a child automatically inheriting parental social status as an impediment in case that child might be inherently a fine creator of cool new things. Prejudice… pre-judging an individual based upon their involuntary membership in some general caste (race, gender, class) is wrong not just as injustice but as WASTE of human potential.

Hence, a majority of liberal-progressive measures can be very well justified in Smithian terms and "libertarians" who oppose such measures - that equalize the STARTING BLOCKS for arena competition - are hypocrites undeserving of the "L" word.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi David
As a "lefty" I agree about equality of opportunity
I do not think that equality of outcome is either necessary - or a good thing

However as a Lefty I do think the outcome should NOT be on the "Winner Takes All" model

If a positive sum is obtained and society is richer by the activities of a group of people it is rarely appropriate that one of that group obtains 90% of the benefit

I think it would be difficult to show a totally unbiased observer that anybody "contributes" or has "abilities" greater than three times the human median

Somebody once said that it was easy to find somebody a bit better but impossible to find somebody twice as good.

I like the Swiss idea of limiting companies to paying their CEO's 12 times the lowest wage.

As far as the "freedom" of the company is concerned - a company is given certain rights (limited liability of the owners for instance) and as a result it has certain responsibilities
If a company wished to pay its CEO more - then maybe it could - but by losing some of its other rights

David Brin said...


Gina Pera said...

Incisive piece. Thank you, David Brin.