Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rejection of Tomorrow

I keep seeing and hearing cynics sigh about how far we have "fallen." The disease is rampant, on both right and left. The striking thing to me is the inanity of cliches, like: "Isn't it a shame that our wisdom has not kept pace with technology?" This nonsense is spouted amid the greatest transformation of diversity, inclusion, acceptance, re-evaluation and tolerance in the history of our species! At no other time were so many hoary/awful assumptions - about race-gender and so on - pilloried by light and scrutiny! 

2001And if that is not ADVANCEMENT of our souls, I do not know what would be.

In pointing this out, I do not call for complacency. These trends - expanding our horizons of worry, exploration, concern, inclusion and so on - are the core essence of my life, in activism, science and science fiction. But it is important to note that this progress was not achieved by radical polemicists and cynics, who deny that we have already made great progress. 

It was propelled by science, which examined and demolished old taken-for-granted assumptions. It was propelled by millions who mixed idealism with pragmatism... the realization of the stupidity of wasting human potential by limiting options for women and minorities, for example. 

Some claim that we must let our wisdom catch up with advances in technology, suggesting that we would be better off if we slowed or suppressed changes in technology. I disagree -- I believe that technology has not yet caught up with our wisdom..

Indeed, there is no greater enemy of further progress than the cynics who declare that great progress HAS NOT ALREADY HAPPENED. 

Political correctness is not the driver of progress, but an unpleasant waste product of progress, unavoidable but to be navigated with high boots, while helping the best civilization in human history to get... and note this phrase... even-better.

See also my earlier posting: Who is worse? Those who think progress will be easy? Or those who deny progress at all?

==Future Primitive==
There are delightful moments when everything comes together: either you find a person who is right a lot and has expanded your horizons re: what’s possible… or you find the opposite extreme: a sublime rationalizer who induces stunned amazement at his universal wrongness, opening your eyes to the true diversity of the species we belong-to.
Here is an article  -- Why Do the Anarcho-Primitivists Want to Abolish Civilization -- about an anarcho-primitivist… once a confidant of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski… who makes statement after statement that is not only retro-nostalgic, but absolutely, provably and universally false.
George Dvorsky writes“Philosopher John Zerzan wants you to get rid of all your technology — your car, your mobile phone, your computer, your appliances — the whole lot. In his perfect world, you'd be stripped off all your technological creature comforts, reduced to a lifestyle that harkens back to when our hunter-gatherer ancestors romped around the African plains.”
Dvorsky does a good job leading Zerzan onto limb after limb, where Zerzan then saws them himself. Alas, George does not ask “what is the carrying capacity of the Earth in hunter gatherers?" That would have exposed Zeran’s prescription for what it is — a call for the death of billions.
And yes, as a LONG RANGE goal, convincing billions to have so few children that we equilibrate at a few hundred thousand, or a few millions, who superficially are hunter-gatherers but are augmented by science and background tools so that they avoid the true tormented and horrific life that our pre-agriculture ancestors *actually* lived? Well, that at least is something that could be argued, in a science fictional sort of way. (See the final episode of Battlestar Galactica). Wrongheaded, but nowhere near as much as Zeran.
Indeed, in my Brightness Reef Trilogy, I posit a strong reason why several galactic races might deliberately choose this path, diving into every-more primitive states in order to achieve a type of redemption. I do not refuse to contemplate such ideas! I just like them to be contemplated well and with sincere willingness to tradeoff reality-grounded ideas… not bizarrely reality-detached wish fantasies.

The important lesson here is that the crazy far right may be our biggest problem, today, with its campaign to restore the feudalism that oppressed 99% of our ancestors since agriculture. (There is a sub-movement on that side that openly seeks a return to lordship-rule). But retro-troglodytic-nostalgism also includes some who might be called “leftist,” who want the other kinds of oppression that preceded agriculture.
Both retro movements are crazy. Their common theme is rejection of tomorrow. But the enlightenment civilization that brought us science and wealth and education and positive sum games... and especially the much-smarter-than-us kids who might weigh the evidence better than we can -- is still the only way that humanity might choose to navigate the difficult path ahead.
==Denying Science==
Continuing re the march of the paranoids... In Stop Pretending That Liberals are Just As Anti-Science as Conservatives, Chris Mooney does service by cataloging in great detail the gone-mad American right’s War on Science. Here, he (on Mother Jones) attempts to prove that the American left is not “just as bad as the right” in reviling science. Mooney both succeeds and fails. On his side of the ledger...
(1) Yes, the crazy-wing of the left is smaller (though it include examples like Mr. Zeran), and...
(2) The flakiest types on the left have only picked a few topics, for example, GMOs and anti-vaccination. Most have not joined an across-the-board hatred of science, and...
(3) In each of those campaigns, there appear to be just as many conservatives.
Where Mooney stumbles is in trying to soft-pedal the blatant fact that America’s far-left does contain some anti-science tendencies. 

You can find one root source in the left’s bastion — several hundred university soft-studies departments, where mutant versions of that intellectual disease -- post-modernism -- still metastacize and thrive. Sure, that's a small sliver of American life, but an important one and a realm wherein their cult is just as horrifically loony and anti-future and conspiratorial as any corporate boardroom or Tea Party cult cell! If you have ever spent substantial time on campus, you know the lesson these infestations prove…
...that dogmatic bullies will gather, wherever they can get away with it. And then find rationalized incantations to justify their bullying.
(Especially irksome is the way so many (not all!) university literature and English departments have been reflexively hateful toward science fiction, the one branch of literature for which Americans should be most proud. This is starting to shift. But recent attempts to undermine a crown jewel — The University of California at Riverside’s Eaton SF Collection — serve as case in point.)
science-left-behindTwo books that delve further into this subject: The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney, as well as Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell (of the excellent science blogging site, Science 2.0)
Let me reiterate — there is no comparison of MAGNITUDE between the very-far-left’s little islands of cranky, highly specific, anti-future science hating… and the vastly, vastly larger and more deadly-to-us-all madness that has taken over the entire American right. Go ahead and read Chris Mooney’s article!
Just remember to keep a wary eye on your allies.


Lorraine said...

I assume your Glavers were intended to be the definitive statement on the subject of primitivists. said...

The very transparency that is the clear result of our advancement is the thing responsible for people's belief that we've "fallen". It's true that we have a lot of negativity all around us, some of which is driven by media making money with drama. But a lot comes from our increasingly clear vision, where we can see precisely what actually IS wrong with society or technology or whatever, so we talk about it. This is great for illuminating the dark corners where problems lie but it also makes it appear that the wheels are coming off the bus we're all riding in.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I am with Dr Brin on one level

The evidence is that we (humans) have been becoming better behaved
(Which overturns one of the great truths of my youth that mankind had not changed and we are all cavemen at heart and would never change)

But it does not appear to be directly related to the "enlightenment"

Pinker's - The Better Angels of our Nature

Is IMHO a very persuasive analysis of this shows a continuous trend from the very high levels of violence in Hunter/Gatherer groups through tribes, kingdoms, - and to us

There was an "upkick" in the 1960's - which Pinker ascribes to the loss of discipline in the hippy movement
But which I believe was more to do with lead in petrol

Prakash said...

To add to the left's danger quotient -

I think the number of people who have died due to demonisation of DDT is pretty high.

Number of people who have died due to the ozone hole scare, making refrigeration expensive, making remote healthcare more expensive is non-trivial.

Number of people who have died and will continue to die due to the left's opposition to nuclear power, the developing world's only hope for base load energy that is climate friendly, is high.

Number of people who have died and will continue to die due to the left's opposition to capitalism is a non-negligible number.

Number of people who will die due to the left's opposition of quarantining Ebola hit countries will definitely be non-zero in a year or so.

Daniel Duffy said...

I believe that we have a very bright future indeed. This could be big. Very, very big:

The famous Skunk Works at Lockheed Martin announced a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion. The Lockheed 100 MW compact fusion reactor would run on deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen). They will be about the size of a jet engine, and can fit on the back of a flatbed truck. Several thousand such units would provide all of America’s electrical needs.

"The CFR will avoid these issues by tackling plasma confinement in a radically different way. Instead of constraining the plasma within tubular rings, a series of superconducting coils will generate a new magnetic-field geometry in which the plasma is held within the broader confines of the entire reaction chamber. Superconducting magnets within the coils will generate a magnetic field around the outer border of the chamber. “So for us, instead of a bike tire expanding into air, we have something more like a tube that expands into an ever-stronger wall,” McGuire says. The system is therefore regulated by a self-tuning feedback mechanism, whereby the farther out the plasma goes, the stronger the magnetic field pushes back to contain it. The CFR is expected to have a beta limit ratio of one. “We should be able to go to 100% or beyond,” he adds."

"The Lockheed design “takes the good parts of a lot of designs.” It includes the high beta configuration, the use of magnetic field lines arranged into linear ring “cusps” to confine the plasma and “the engineering simplicity of an axisymmetric mirror,” he says. The “axisymmetric mirror” is created by positioning zones of high magnetic field near each end of the vessel so that they reflect a significant fraction of plasma particles escaping along the axis of the CFR. “We also have a recirculation that is very similar to a Polywell concept,” he adds, referring to another promising avenue of fusion power research. A Polywell fusion reactor uses electromagnets to generate a magnetic field that traps electrons, creating a negative voltage, which then attract positive ions. The resulting acceleration of the ions toward the negative center results in a collision and fusion."

They already have a working bench unit (announced last year) and plan on a full scale prototype in 5 years, going commercial in less than 10 years. They are not asking for investors, this development is internally funded. Personally, I've always been skeptical of nuclear fusion. As far as I was concerned, it was the energy of the future – and always would be. So how credible is this claim? As for credibility, this isn't some crank tinkering in his garage or some fly-by-night "company" looking for suckers to invest in their latest gizmo that defies the laws of physics.

This is Lockheed freakin' Martin!

They are the world's largest high tech aerospace contractor. Their Skunk Works is the outfit responsible for the U-2 spy plane, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 stealth fighter, F-22 Raptor, various spacecraft, etc. So let's entertain this as a serious possibility. And if it’s true, it changes everything.

Daniel Duffy said...


Politically, flooding the world economy with cheap mass produced fusion reactors will cause the collapse of corrupt oil oligarchies from Saudi Arabia, to Iran, to Nigeria, to Russia, to Texas. The Middle East will go back to what it was before the discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf - an unimportant wasteland of little strategic importance that is not worth fighting for. Without Saudi or Iranian funding terrorism will whither away and die.

Global warming ends, climate change is no longer a threat. Coal mining areas from Appalachia to the Ukraine die an economic death. Other fossil fuels remain useful only for making chemicals and plastics. The heat of a fusion reactor can desalinate sea water effectively turning whole deserts into gardens cheaply, and break down toxins in contaminated water to their basic atoms effectively eliminating toxic waste. Civilizations require two things, water and energy - we'll have cheap unlimited supplies of both. And that’s just for starters:

“It’s safe, it’s clean, and Lockheed is promising an operational unit by 2017 with assembly line production to follow, enabling everything from unlimited fresh water to engines that take spacecraft to Mars in one month instead of six.”

If this is true, the solar system and beyond just opened up to us, despotisms and corrupt oligarchies based on oil wealth will crumble into dust, and we can heal the planet.

And I can finally get a Delorean powered by Mr. Fusion - the one that can fly so “we don’t need roads” (time travel feature is optional).

Daniel Duffy said...


Rumor has it that this fusion breakthrough by Lockheed Martin is just part of a much bigger defense technology development – effective battlefield laser weapons. The laser as a direct energy weapon (instead of a means of guiding ordnance with pinpoint accuracy) has had some limited use. The air force has long had anti-missile lasers based on aircraft, the first navy ships will be getting anti-missile lasers this year, and the army is deploying lasers capable of shooting down drones, missiles and even artillery and mortar shells.

But in general lasers required a power plant that was too big and heavy for practical use on the battlefield.

Until now.

Imagine a future battle field where if a laser can see something it can be destroyed miles away at the speed of light along the line of sight. Soft skinned craft like satellites in orbit, manned aircraft, drones, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, artillery rounds and mortar shells are rendered obsolete – unless stealth technology can in effect make them invisible without adding to their weight (which is doubtful).

The laser tank (operating like Martian war machines from “War of the Worlds”) dominates the battlefield. Its heavy armor is no longer steel plate, but heat resistant ceramics (something too heavy to protect anything that flies through the air). At sea, aircraft carriers are scrapped as the only ships that can survive for long are submarines protected by the deep sea.

The poor bloody infantry gets incinerated whenever they expose themselves.

In fact warfare looks a lot like World War I with lasers forcing a stalemate and a return to trench warfare, armies separated by a no man’s land where lasers have melted the ground surface into glass.

Tony Fisk said...

Fusion powered lasers... coming soon to a Police Department near you.

Whilst we're on the topic of way out technological breakthroughs, space elevator cables made from squished benzene?

And one can only guess at the fatalities that will result from this left wing sentiment:
"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting." - Pope Francis, Nov 2013

Laurent Weppe said...

To be fair, "Isn't it a shame that our wisdom has not kept pace with technology?" doesn't necessary mean that wisdom didn't grow alongside technology: merely that it didn't grow as fast: the risk that a group of bullies may come to monopolize technology and especially the weaponry produced by it to bring forth the nightmare of a degenerate parasitic aristocracy keeping the rest of humankind in bondage by virtue of having superior automated firepower before the rest of society realizes what their endgame is remains very real.


"The flakiest types on the left have only picked a few topics, for example, GMOs and anti-vaccination"

Regarding opposition of GMOs, most left-wingers expressing animosity toward these are motivated by very rationally dread that it might lead to monopolies built upon patents allowing a handful of large companies to effectively hold agriculture -and therefore everyone- hostage, and that diminishing biodiversity by making everyone use the same seeds is dangerous in the long run, not that GMOs are the products of dark magic rituals meant to give you thyroid cancer.
Of course, being a lot less loud than "GMOs is poison" nutjobs, they get less coverage and are often ignored, when they're not proclaimed guilty by association.


Also from the comments:

"Number of people who have died due to the ozone hole scare, making refrigeration expensive, making remote healthcare more expensive is non-trivial. "

On the contrary: the ozone hole "scare" was a great civilizational success: the ozone layer was put on track to go back to its normal levels before its depletion led to catastrophic consequences for earth and sea vegetation.

Tacitus2 said...

Regards our wisdom lagging behind our technology I certainly see it in the one field I can discuss with a degree of authority, medicine.

For instance, our imaging technology is advancing so quickly that we can now see things we do not fully understand. A "magnetic" diagnosis of MS on MRI scan without symptoms is the classic case. We do not understand the current or future implications of "white matter changes" when we see them in an asymptomatic patient.

Various cancer screening issues are another good example. A promising test, a small scale study, some large scale wish fulfillment in response to a scary bogeyman. Sometimes a technology becomes "the standard of care" on very flawed data.

Admittedly there are realms of human endevour where we do not function with cold Spocklogic. Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, as they potentially impact Loved Ones we are not entirely Rational at times.


ZarPaulus said...

Battlestar Galactica was a bit schizophrenic on the whole "science is good or bad" front.

On the one hand well over 99% of humanity was wiped out by robots turning against their creators. Which is how they were able to revert to a hunter-gatherer state in the finale.

On the other the robots were suggested to have done it due to the militant monotheism meme they were infected with.

raito said...

If the neo-primitivists want to live that way, let'em. Does anyone see the hypocrisy of preaching that dogma across the internet? I wonder if he considers modern health care a 'necessary evil'...

I'm somewhat amused/apalled at the statement that egalitarianism was the norm though a million years of history.

As for wisdom vs. technology, I agree that both have advanced. I do find that technology has advanced more quickly.

When I'm teaching, I often end up with mid-level students who struggle. It's not so much that they think that they're great, it's more that they see better how great they could be, and lose their path to it. And sometimes they think I'm being odd because I can describe things way off in the distance of greatness that they can't see.

I explain it this way:

You can only see as far ahead as you have come already. The beginner can't see anything -- they must be led forward. The master can see so far ahead that what he sees looks like magic. In between, you'll hot a point where you can see many steps ahead, and want to get there. But you have to remember that the only was to get there is one step at a time. There's no jumping ahead.

So I'm actually pleased that there's discontent with the current level of wisdom. It may mean that we're seeing further ahead and want to get there. But we need to be careful that we don't fall into the intermediate student's despair. And also careful that we don't get derailed on our way.

Ed Seedhouse said...

I have always mainly feared mostly those who try to make reality conform with their beliefs, instead of changing their beliefs to reflect the available evidence. I call them "Ideologues" but I'm not entirely sure if that's the precise canonical meaning of the word.

In any event I worry about what I call ideologues whether they are nominally "left" or "right". It just so happens that the ones on the "right" are in the ascendance right now so I often come across as a "left winger" to my friends and vote for, and even work to elect,the "left wing" party in my country.

But that doesn't mean that left wing ideologues aren't just as dangerous or at lease potentially dangerous as the right wing kind.

We have to deal with the problems of the day after all, but that shouldn't make us ignore potential dangers from other directions.

I see the main danger as coming from those of any persuasion who confuse their ideas about reality with reality itself. Science is the most successful way discovered so far for telling the difference and thus those of either persuasion become real dangers precisely when they attempt to suppress it.

matthew said...

Prakash, please back up your two final statements with some data, if you would.

Alleging that the left's opposition to capitalism has cost lives requires some data to back up the assertion. Or at least qualification of what you mean.

Your final statement is the most puzzling - if we quarantine the nations where Ebola is currently spreading (r>2) then we end up with the death of millions and Ebola as a frequent guest planetwide, IMO. What must be done is the opposite of quarantine - a dramatic medical effort to stop the spread of the disease now, while there is the potential for stopping. Or do you think the choice is between millions dead and billions dead? Lifeboat rules?

Prakash said...


The best demonstration of capitalism vs socialism is north korea vs south korea or china before reforms and after. The difference is dramatic. The number of people whose lives would have been saved if India had gone for capitalist reforms earlier is huge, atleast in 10's of millions, and the number of children who would not be stunted atleast 100 million.

About Ebola, any medically imposed quarantine can have exceptions for aid workers and health care workers. But there has to be a general quarantine in place. Are you serious about this question?

mk045 said...

My first impression of the "how far we've fallen" complaint is not that we've fallen in reality, but perhaps fallen short of our hopes and expectations. It's the whole "where's my flying car" complaint. Not a Stones fan (please forgive), but they got it right when they said, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need." Still even small disappointments and misreads are bitter pills to swallow, and often keep us from seeing the massive progress we've made, usually in areas where not expected.

The other thought was in response to "Some claim that we must let our wisdom catch up with advances in technology." This is a flavor of "things were better back when", since it implies we were more wise in the past than we're going to be in the future. It's just negative nostalgia. On the other hand, there is a real concern. Progress happens at such a thin cutting edge, no one person can have the specialized knowledge to understand even a fraction of this progress. By extension, so few have the perspective to really contribute on discussions of what we should/should-not do, and clearly those few do not number among our policymakers. You have to trust other people, often who you don't know or even know of, on just about any topic outside your own specialty. How much more terrifying is it for those that don't have a specialty, and don't/can't effectively participate in those discussions? So much really is beyond your control or even understanding; or anybody's for that matter. That level of trust is not easy or comfortable to achieve.

locumranch said...

Every few generations, some doltish historian declares ‘The End of History’, judging the situational present to be so stupendous, superior, desirable & unbeatable that the present must necessarily last forever, never to be relegated to historical obscurity or supplanted by an indefinite future. Ironically, David makes a very similar pronouncement, judging the situational present to be so stupendous, superior, desirable & the very pinnacle of human achievement, so much so that he assumes the this marvelous present will extend itself seamlessly into the human tomorrow, never to be relegated to the historical dustbin or replaced by an unforeseen future.

Underlying this Mythos of the Eternal Present is the preordained concept of Progress – this presumption of gradual, seamless and unidirectional movement toward some arbitrary idea of Perfection – a type of creeping ‘incrementalism’ and cultural bias that has corrupted every aspect of modern life as everything that now exists (or has existed) is now believed to ‘progress’ in an incremental , quantitative and non-abrupt fashion:

Evolution no longer occurs in ‘fits & starts’ as originally conceived but is now believed to be gradual and continuous; people are no longer said to pass away precipitously but are now said to decline in accordance with as yet unidentified predisposing factors; students no longer graduate from academia but are expected to matriculate for all eternity; children are said to transition to adulthood though adolescence (an artificial category) instead of being declared ‘Legal Adults’ at the age of majority as once practiced; and even the previously well-accepted ‘abrupt’ climate change model has been replaced by a slow and insidious one.

Unfortunately, the Non-Quantitative World just does not work that way. Change, especially QUALITATIVE change, is necessarily abrupt and non-continuous, regardless of the presence or absence of incremental and/or predisposing factors. Change either happens or does not happen because it is a Qualitative All-Or-None judgment by definition: Either a woman is pregnant or she is not pregnant; either an individual possesses unfettered freedom or they are not free; and, either a person has innate rights or they do not have innate rights. And, like all the other qualitative examples, Perfection (being either present or absent) is NOT amenable to the application of Incrementalism.

That the human race has made great technical & scientific strides over the centuries is indisputable; however, the jury is still out ... way out ... as to whether these technical & scientific improvements represent PROGRESS or merely a scenic detour on the way to some preordained, magical or random human destiny.


Alex Tolley said...

There is a certain absurdity in claiming that growth in wisdom has matched or exceeded technology. Neither can be quantified and there are arguments about even the shape of growth of either these "quantities" and certainly there is no graph that you can draw with empirically quantified units in either idea.

There has also been the problem of comparing apples and oranges, regarding human nature and human culture. Pinker's computation of reduced violence could be due to some fundamental change in human nature (I doubt it), changes in culture (socialization norms) and even institutions (more policing, more punishment, etc).

It certainly seems if our "wisdom" is increasing, if only because science is investigating issues that are embedded in what we might call wisdom. We are also exposed to more points of view than ever before and able to interact with those points of view that will temper our tribalist behaviors (although we have also seen intolerant behaviors strengthened too - not just religious, or political, but also nationalist).

The real questions are will our behaviors result in a better or worse world as technology improves and the two edges of its sword become sharper. For example, autonomous robots could be a huge boon for many people in society, yet could also be unrestrained killers of civilians in military or policing actions. I'm not seeing a lot of "wisdom" being used in this case, even where it should be being accumulated in military drone strikes. So far we have avoided a hot global conflict for 60 years, which is good and a tribute to wisdom. Every month that goes by that we don't have Dr. Brin's "year ending in 14 as a major turning point" I am happy, even as we get small indications of national frictions.

So yes things are getting better, albeit with some major offsetting issues, such as rising global inequality that shows no signs of reversal yet (and paradoxically the lack of war may be strengthening that trend).

Alex Tolley said...

@locum - the current civilization we have is the first to become truly scientific, industrial and global. Therefore it could be argued that history does not provide the appropriate examples to indicate our future (i.e. inevitable decline and fall). I'm not saying that is the case, just that we should be careful, because this time it really could be different. We make be struck down by warfare, pandemics and even asteroid strikes, but we may not, and for the first time in history might even create extra terrestrial colonies to continue our civilization and evolve its forms. I don't see this as triumphalism, nor reaching an "end of history" as described by Fukuyama. Finally, while the western Roman empire fell in the 5th c, and we lost some technologies, new western civilization was built that exceeded Rome's a millennium later, yet also built on Roman civilization, e.g. Roman Law.

Alex Tolley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Prakash, in the case of North Korea and South Korea we are not seeing Marx against Smith as much as old fashioned oriental despotism vs. Friedric List. List was a German economis who was quite impressed by what Alexander Hamilton had set in America, and wanted to import it to Germany. He said that private enterprise was OK, up to a point, and government control as OK, up to a point. His theories turned GErmany from an agricultural backwater into a industrial potency that two world wars could not destroy. He is very much read in Asia, where as a rule, following his prescriptions led to prosperity.

Evelyn Fledrich said...

I believe we must reduce our dependency on centralized production of goods necessary for basic survival. The current situation is playing into the hands of the wealthy, as money has become a tool for acquiring these, that is almost without alternative. If the only way to opt out of a corrupt system is to die, then that gives those on the top of the hierarchy a straight road towards becoming feudal lords.

Sure, there is a possibility for revolution, but that is becoming less and less realizable, as automation of the system of centralized and interconnected factories increases. Successful development of self-driving cars/trucks/ships is a major part of establishing that infrastructure, which is why corporate backed advocates are pushing this idea so much I believe.

But in the end, this is a race between decentralized (solar cells, small wind turbines, 3D-printing, backyard food production) and centralized technologies AND regulations (banning off-grid living etc.). It may be too early to tell which branch will become the stronger one, though I'd much prefer to live in a society where cooperation is voluntary, not something enforced from above.

A.F. Rey said...

I think the number of people who have died due to demonisation of DDT is pretty high.

I don't know exactly how you believe that DDT ban has contributed to people dying, but if it is because of people contracting malaria, that appears to be an overblown accusation.

As is outlined by this site bebunking Lord Monckton's assertions, DDT is not as effective in fighting malaria as some claim. (Pay special attention to #4, "DDT has never been banned for use to control malaria.") In fact, the widespread use of DDT as an argicultural pesticide may have actually increased the rate of malaria transmission in some cases because of DDT resistant mosquitos, as cited in the Wikipedia page.

"Pretty high" is an ambigous number, but I have a feeling it is still higher than it actually was.

A.F. Rey said...

Blast. The HTML tags didn't work like I thought they would.

Site debunking Lord Mockton:

Wikipedia page:

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking of Marx, here's an interesting article on what Marx can teach us in 2014 (about capitalism):

sociotard said...

Dr. Brin, could you please, in a blog post and not just the comment section, weigh in on the privacy/transparency issues involved in GamerGate?

A woman had to be escorted by police to a safe location because a troll sent rape/murder threats on twitter, with her address and phone number.

How can this situation be made reciprocally transparent? Publish the perps address and phone? What I mean, is, I'd love it if, in your response, you don't just say "this requires reciprocity", but actually put on your scifi author hat and speculate what that reciprocal transparency would look like.

Oh, and if it is not too personal: You have some fame and like to provoke people on occasion. How often do you get death threats? With your address?

mk045 said...

@sociotard I second that motion. That story touches on a number of issues that Dr. Brin visits and revisits, but this specific example of online harassment is a slightly different vector.

locumranch said...

Looking back at my post, I realize that my comments about the difference between technology & technologic progress were less than concrete.

A good example would be refrigeration which is quite handy for food preservation. That said, this is an old technology that started 4000 years old with the 'Ice House' concept which was updated with a vapor compressor about 100 years ago.

Though handy, this is a virtual dead end, a progress-free technology, that should be abandoned in favour of food irradiation (a 50 year old technology) that has given us ridiculously long shelf-lives on fruits, vegies, meats & dairy, making refrigeration for food preservation a regressively anachronistic process.

Technology is just as anti-progressive as it is progressive: It encumbers us, holding us back even when it drives us forward.


David Brin said...


alanmimms you speak truth but ignore the other side. We see more problems and thus solve more of them. We see the pain of others — now worldwide and unobstructed by language — and we act to reduce that pain… which makes the residuum of pain harder to bear! And so we never stop criticizing.

This is 90% healthy. It is the ONLY process that might save the world and our kids. But the ironies abound. And the remaining 10% of absolute refusal to admit the existence of PAST progress is deeply, deeply sick. It discourages further progresss, rather than helping.

Prakash, I agree with you that simplistic purism re DDT, Ozone chemicals and nukes showed how lefty absolutism is not good. But you are nibbling at the edges. Without any doubt the GENERAL trend toward liberal reform has been spectacularly good for humanity and the world. And those who have resisted the trend the hardest have been parasitical oligarchs who are pretty darned close to evil.

I like having birds around. DDT should have been used only in malaria zones. And the Ozone transition was a spectacular success. You need to get away from Fox.

Daniel… I will believe fusion when I see it. But I hope to see it!

And yes, the west needs those lasers to stay far enough ahead to keep all adversaries un-tempted by old ways of thinking.

Tony, Pope Francis has a good heart. He is not alone in conflating “free market” with the actual ENEMIES of “free market”… the world’s oligarchs.

Laurent W… no one fights feudal style oligarchy harder than I do.

ZarPaulus I was disappointed in BG’s failure to pay off on the monotheism thread

raito: “So I'm actually pleased that there's discontent with the current level of wisdom.” Of course! I merely poke at what I see to be the OVER-relied-upon truism. Today, “we’re all hopeless!” is the common theme, so I attack that. If it were “We’re so great!” I would be screeching in the streets that we’re not.

Mr. Seedhouse. There are crazies on the far left. But they are very much (at present) NOT just as dangerous as the staggering treason we see in the re-ignited Confederacy, which is striving to destroy the American experiment and re-install feudal-oligarchic rule.

Again Prakash, you serve up a dichotomy of capitalism vs socialism. What malarkey. Real, flat-fair market competitive capitalism is a top VICTIM of the conniving monopolistic oligarchy that now dominates the American right.

Liberals are not leftists, they are the true heirs of Adam Smith. And today's conservatives are not defenders of flat-fair competitive markets. They are tools of a truly noxious attempted oligarchic putsch.

Locum is back in cogent mode. I could argue much, but would just rather welcome him back.

David Brin said...

Sociotard I do not want to jinx this... but in fact I seem to have less trouble with trolls and other such stuff than ANY of my peers. And that includes nice old ladies.

I truly have no explanation. Look at me... impudent, poking in ALL directions, even -- especially -- in friendly ones. I cannot account for it... though I am grateful.

(Once, a fan claimed to have great cyber powers and to "guard my back." I truly 99% am sure it was just friendly bluster. But... who knows?"

I will comment on the other matter in a posting.

Meanwhile... are ALL of you doing SOMETHING to help in this election? I was just speaking in Kansas!

Alex Tolley said...

@locumranch a progress-free technology, that should be abandoned in favour of food irradiation

And how would irradiation work to keep ice cream frozen? :)
Sure refrigeration is a technology that is mature, with only a solid state upgrade likely, but I don't see your point. Most kitchen appliances are fairly mature except for some exotic tools, like liquid nitrogen dispensers. (I'm not expecting 3D food printers to be very important, and food replicators are a non-starter). All that means is that the consumer technology looks at other directions to change. You are old enough to recognize the huge improvement in telephony, from fixed landlines to mobiles. We may be reaching a limit in voice communications, but the smart phone as portable computer appliance is still rapidly evolving.

Obviously you have some other yardstick to look at appliance developments.

Ed Seedhouse said...

Prakesh: "Number of people who will die due to the left's opposition of quarantining Ebola hit countries will definitely be non-zero in a year or so."

If you want to rid your house of carpenter ants, do you keep your door closed and swat all the ants you see, or do you find the nest and destroy it?

What you are suggesting seems to me to be doing the former, when what we need to do is the latter.

The "nest" for Ebola is in West Africa and if we leave it alone and think we can somehow isolate ourselves from the whole world, we will end up in a far worse situation than if we provide the support needed to clean up the nest of this infection.

Oh and, of course, the course you advocate is precisely the "big government" that you so fear. How are you going to man every airport and check every plane? Will the "private sector" be able to do that?

Forgive me if I doubt that!

Ed Seedhouse said...

Mr Brin: "There are crazies on the far left. But they are very much (at present) NOT just as dangerous as the staggering treason we see in the re-ignited Confederacy, which is striving to destroy the American experiment and re-install feudal-oligarchic rule."

I agree, and it is much the same though, perhaps, not quiet so bad where I live, which is in Canada. Not being among the millionaires I can't do much about your elections except watch in puzzlement and sometimes despair. I do work for my favoured party in elections up here, to the extent that I am able.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Laurent W… no one fights feudal style oligarchy harder than I do."

My post was not much about your own stance than about the fact that a great many people who fear that new technologies may become the next generation of oligarchs' favorite toys are not obscurantist luddites and don't deserve to be put in the same bag than the anti-vaxxers.


"Pope Francis has a good heart. He is not alone in conflating “free market” with the actual ENEMIES of “free market”… the world’s oligarchs."

The problem is that the plutocrats claim loudly that no one loves and defends the free market with more passion than themselves.
And given their enormous clout and access, they are, like it or not, today's free markets' ideologues in chief, regardless of being impostors.

It doesn't matter what one thinks about the virtues or faults of the free markets: if the de facto grand clerics of capitalism are dishonest Tartuffes who don't believe in their own gospel and merely use it to further entrench their already enormous privileges, then there is a sodding problem with (or at least within) capitalism

Anonymous said...

About how past times were "nicer" and we have not advanced enough, it is interesting to read Jo Graham "Black ships" where the refugees are astonished that cities in Egypt are now walled, and that children, when they see a boat come by, instead of running to hide, stay there, watching the boat. They think that those people must be easy prey for pirates. Until they meet the Egyptian army.

Makes you understand why they were willing to put up with the rule of Pharaoh...

Anonymous said...

Ed, one of the treatments for Ebola is giving serum from recovering patients (they tried that in Argentina with a different disease).

So, isolation does not work. Treagment and obtaining more and more serum as more patients recover seem more sensible.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Meanwhile... are ALL of you doing SOMETHING to help in this election? I was just speaking in Kansas!

Well, what were you hearing in return there?

LarryHart said...


Makes you understand why they were willing to put up with the rule of Pharaoh...

The Old Testamant account of Pharaoh's rise to power in Genesis is fascinating. Pharaoh wasn't an all-powerful ruler by force of arms at the beginning of the Joseph (and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) story. Rather the people essentially sold themselves to Pharaoh in exchange for food during the famine years.

Not at all what I was expecting when I read it, but in many ways, it seems torn from today's headlines.

LarryHart said...


You're right that the "end of history" meme is overused, but it isn't always about being too good to ever be changed. The O'Brien character in Orwell's "1984" spoke of the system as being everlasting, as he could imagine no outside or internal force being sufficient to change it.

It's a comment about stability rather than a value judgement.

daddyoyo said...

510I met John Zerzan once about 30 years ago when he was visiting a housemate of mine in SF who knew him from Eugene. I have to say, in the brief and frustrating argument I had with him, he seemed as much of a glassy eyed true believer as the Jehovah's Witnesses that come to my door and a lot less pleasant.

Jim Satterfield said...

It was interesting to come across this post and the comments following it. Today I was just thinking how much the current crop of Republicans reminds me of what I read about the beliefs of much of the "educated" class of Medieval Times and continuing in no small part through the Renaissance until the Enlightenment. They did believe that they were fallen from the heights of wisdom that were the philosophers of ancient Greece. While they certainly had lost a great deal of knowledge as they regained what had been saved, especially in the East, they then imbued it with so much authority that few actually questioned that received knowledge. In modern American society Biblical literalists who reject evolution, geology, and astrophysics seem to me to have done the same with their "knowledge" received from the Bible.

Jim Satterfield said...

There's a meme spreading through the anti-science right wing that I think is what Prakash is referring to about the ozone hole. Basically they call it a myth, just as they deny the reality of climate change. Weather Underground had an interesting article on this.

Jim Satterfield said...

This piece by Andy Borowitz about the potential "dreadful" result of the Ebola scare seems appropriate to link to here.

Jared Frick said...

I would agree things are getting better - and especially socially. Whereas kids in my own generation (80s) softpedaled things like racism and sexism, the kids today are far superior. The immiseration the anarcho-primitivist says surrounds us is more a product of commercial marketing than normal keep-up-with-the-joneses social competition we have always observed, including in the archaeological record (The Creation of Inequality, Flannery). Surely stress and anxiety and depression and poor quality sleep would be an aspect of a future HG human society as they run from predators, fail to catch prey and observe their children and families perishing of easily beaten microbes and other accidents.

David Brin said...

In Orwell’s book the masters know they are destroying the Earth, but their method keeps THEM on top and that’s all that matters.

EBOLA - the big news I keep waiting for is the simplest: ARE SURVIVORS THENCEFORTH FULLY IMMUNE? It is the biggest and most important thing! If the answer is 100% yes, then we have thousands of survivors in West Africa who should be recruited into the front lines. They would be able to care for new victims efficiently and should be commensurately rewarded. At minimum they can donate plasma for some of the new treatments.

Why are news media ignoring this crucial factor? If survivors are fully immune, then this disease will be inherently limited and the main factor controlling any outbreak will be cultural… whether people in a region understand a survivor’s obligation and step forward.

Prakash said...

@Jim Satterfeld

I don't believe the ozone hole was a non-issue. The concern is that the utilitarian calculus was not done for this. Freon refrigerators were CHEAP. The current lot, mandated by the law are NOT.
AS the costs of TV's and mobiles reduces, the cost of refrigerators is still very high, atleast in India. You may think the price is worth it, but those who lost out on immunization due to this extra cost may not.

@anonymous, @david

You disagree with the NK example, fine. That is why i presented the examples of India, a place where leftism has caused great suffering. You are free to put blinders on your eyes, but don't for a second think that leftism did not cause great human misery, or will not continue to cause it by opposition to capitalism, nuclear power and growth in general.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Freon refrigerators were CHEAP. The current lot, mandated by the law are NOT."

So the gas used now costs - $10 for enough to fill a fridge???
(And that is the "retail" price - not the cost in bulk)

That is what a 1% increase in cost??

If (and I'm not sure they have) fridge prices have gone up the change in refrigerant is not to blame

Some modern refrigerants do operate at higher pressures but if you know any engineering at all you will understand that that will not cause an increase in manufacturing costs

As far as India is concerned
Do you have any evidence that "leftism" has caused problems?
The simple comparison would be China
Started from a "lower" level,
Has overtaken India
China is of course well known as a hotbed of capitalism

Paul Shen-Brown said...

I haven't had a chance to check the blog for a few days, and now it's all aflutter - mostly debunking a truly misinformed right-winger, which is always a good exercise.

Though there are a lot of things I could comment on in the responses, I would like to go back to something in Dr. Brin's original post. He mentioned enclaves of postmodernists in America's universities, which is something I had personal experience with.

Postmodernism actually began as a reasonable critique not so much of science itself, but of entrenchment within the scientific establishment, where authority sometimes takes the place of evidence and reasoned argument. It is a little like feminism, though, in that there are reasonable postmodernists and then there are the flaming extremists who reject everything, to the point of becoming utterly nihilistic.

As an undergrad I had never even heard of the movement, but in grad school it became a huge issue. We had only one professor who was a postmodernist, and she was pretty unpopular with both the students and the other staff, but at times she had good points. What became clear after a couple years was that the extreme version of postmodernism was lunatic but lunatic but well established, and the conflict between them and the "modernists" had become utterly futile. It was sounding a lot like arguments between the political left and right, or what Thomas Kuhn called having incommensurable paradigms.

But on a positive note, a paper had been published just shortly before I graduated that was making quite a stir. It was called "The Scientific Nature of Postprocessualism" (the term used in archaeology). I'll paste in a link for anyone curious. The article was essentially an attempt to return postmodernism to its original core of criticisms of the establishment and rescue it from the extremists, which in some ways was an attempt to return science to the older negativist traditions of Newton & Bacon and away from the possitivism of Karl Popper.

I have been out of school for more than a decade, so I don't know how things have gone, but at the time I got the impression that the days of the extremists were numbered. The one postie professor complained bitterly that the students seemed to be creating some sort of neo-positivism that includes some of the critiques in postmodernism, but really returns to scientific discourse.

I'm sure this all sounds really academic, but I see a parallel here to what Dr. Brin has been saying about the right wing. Those that have power in the political establishment are not working for the good of the nation, certainly not for the good of humanity. They are working for their own personal enrichment. They justify their personal power with a slew of propaganda, misinformation and outright lies. But because they dominate the discourse, they have huge power to form and mold public opinion. Of course, the lefties do the same thing, and commit the same fallacies, but there are some important differences, especially in terms of which side is more willing to work with the facts, rather than deny the facts and claim that everything they don't want to hear is a hoax.

here's that link, if anyone is curious.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin:

About Ebola survivors, the Argentines use serum from survivors of a local hemorrhagic fever to treat new cases successfully. The use of the same technique is still anecdotal but has promise. They should get on it, PRONTO>

Jumper said...

I get a lot out of postmodern criticism but I knew they didn't grasp the real revolutions of Ed Lorenz, John Nash, and Mandelbrot etc.

Adriana 11 said...

Yes, Larry Hart. Pharaoh, with all his prerrogatives and exploitation provided two invaluable services to the population: safety from violence from neighborin tribes - or villages (in Black Ships you see how a small community goes off to raid a neighbor, and when it comes back it finds that it has been raided), and insurance against famine. Both were invaluable in those days.

Adriana 11 said...

Jim Satterfield, the original view of "Classical" antiquity as a Golden Age was, at its beginning very much based in fact. The collapse of the Roman empire brought a lot of misery and people did yearn for "the good old days" Same as people in the Balkans yearn for the good old days of Tito when you were not killig each other on a daily basis. But as time passed, and advances were made, it became sillier and sillier.

No one how knows the incredible technological explosion that happened in the Middle Ages can feel nostalgic for Ancien time.

(By the way, people who do wax indignant about serfs completely forget about classical age slaves, who are basically invisible... and many of whom as the Roman Empire collapsed ended up as serfs, improving their condition in many ways)

Tim H. said...

Prakash, concerning refrigerants, cynical folk said the freon ban had at least as much to do with the expiration of patents as the ozone hole, but the change is done and I don't believe the new refrigerants are that large a percentage of manufacturing costs. Non-chlorinated refrigerants have been around long enough that patents should be expiring soon. Would not be surprised if some of the extra cost you're seeing is in better insulation, also wouldn't be shocked to find out a business-critter is padding a profit margin and blaming new standards.

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David Brin said...

Prakash, no one is asking you to alter your politics at the level of personality. Your own version of Suspicion of Authority (SoA) is aimed at faults and misbehaviors of the “left” and that’s fine! As I frequently point out, there is much to criticize at that extreme. And criticism is the antidote to error.

But it is quite another thing to have a fused political spine (FPS). And inability to turn your head. To ONLY be able to see Orwellian threats from one direction. Worse, to be unable to admit they can come also from your own side. We have far too much FPS today!

Sure there are anecdotes of lefty fault. But the STATISTICS of outcomes from periods of GOP rule are so devastatingly worse than they are from periods of democratic administration, that FPS that fetishes on lefty anecdotes only… never admitting that the American right has gone insane… is simply delusional.

Your refrigerator anecdote, for example, is a concocted right-wing rant that is simply untrue. Rates around the world of families with electricity and fridges have been climbing steeply for decades and continue to climb.

Meanwhile, you use such incantations to divert your attention from the fact that the American right — the New Confederacy — has become the most savagely anti-science, Know Nothing movement in the history of the republic.

What I yearn for is that the right’s current loony fever will pass, conservatives will go back to negotiating (and loving/listening-to science) and that folks like you can get on with criticizing the left in a spirit of sanity…

…and not utter hypocrisy. Because that is the word to desccribe those who ignore the Confederacy, while professing belief in America.

Anonymous said...

The freon/ozone-hole story as given ignores the cost -- however that might conceivably be calculated -- of having sunlight become a deadly poison.

Anonymous said...

@A.F. Rey said...
""I think the number of people who have died due to demonisation of DDT is pretty high."
I don't know exactly how you believe that DDT ban has contributed to people dying, but if it is because of people contracting malaria, that appears to be an overblown accusation."

Overblown? The opposite is the case:

Here's a list of a few more leftist "achievements", their magnitude proven with overwhelming evidence:

@David Brin
"I like having birds around. DDT should have been used only in malaria zones."

And because you like 'having birds around', you defend, here, the killing of tens of millions of humans in exchange for a slightly better chance of bird eggs surviving.

"And the Ozone that means you're automatically right transition was a spectacular success. You need to get away from Fox."

Spectacular success, eh?
Here you go:
But you used snark, and, in your world, that obviously means you're automatically right. Lol.

No wonder you view the greens as normal, up-standing members of society. As opposed to the nut-cases they are. You're one of them.

Adriana11 said...

Prakesh: It is not a question that "having birds around" is nice. Birds do an estimable job of keeping pests down and spreading seeds.

You might be as foolish as the Chinese communists who decided to wipe out the sparrows, and then had to deal with locusts.

On the other hand, remember, birds are warm blooded vertebrates, quite close to us, and something that is poisonous to them, it will be poisonous to us. From what I learned, DDT interferes with calcium deposits in eggshells. Now, calcium deposits is how bones form. Do you want to see what accumulated DDT in the mothers do to their unborn children?

Mosquitoes? No problem. They build up immunity quickly. We do not have their quick turnaround time. We will NOT build up immunity.

David Brin said...

Okay guys, we tried. But we have a fused-spine noxious troll here, incapable of reason and fully illustrating the traits of his cult.

I'm done with him.

A.F. Rey said...

Overblown? The opposite is the case:

I don't see how that article backs up your rebuttal.

The suggested uses of DDT are currently quite legal (per U.S. law,) and are in fact advocated by many. In fact, as my links documented, using DDT for mosquito control has never been illegal per U.S. law.

So, precisely, how did "tens of millions" of people die because of the ban of DDT for agricultural uses?

David Brin said...

A.F. Rey it's all the narrative, to them.

A.F. Rey said...

Yeah, I know. I just hope that, if they try to justify the narrative, they will look closely for the facts behind the narrative and discover those facts are lacking.

Hope springs eternal, and all that.

Jumper said...

Gawd, I too read that and find zero written about the human life lost to DDT restrictions. Anyone who wastes our time like that is a dishonest creeptard.

Anonymous said...

As for the anti-nuclear left, I think again there is a range of concerns; and only some of that is based on ignorance of science. Thanks to Fukushima I have moved from moderate booster to an opponent.

I started working on embedded systems, and from there went into computer security at a company that made fault tolerant computers. From my time security guarding at GE's Nuclear Energy Business Operation, I remember marveling at the complexity of the hardware and processes intended to provide safety. But it was not until decades later with Fukushima that I really put this complexity together with the knowledge picked up making reliable solutions that included both tech and designing processes tolerant of human fallibility (such as cryptographic key ceremonies). True one of my relatives had been complaining for years about shoddy operations at the nuclear power plants his company sold replacement gear to (common to find a bunch of new alarms going off when a new system was installed, almost always because the old system was not catching them, or the alarms had been inappropriately disabled some distant time in the past).

I will freely admit Fukushima is something of a worst case. Many things had to go wrong at once, and it was an old technology (ironically the control systems were probably built in the very factory that I used to security guard). But I am positive almost nothing went wrong that had not been anticipated; it was more a failure of how humans build complex systems and the limitations of investing to prevent rare events (black swans). Getting feedback on how companies actually operate nuclear powerplants (and I am told that people working there are the cream of the power generation industry, Homer Simpson references aside); even the cost effective original dangers that thoughtful engineers did attempt to prevent go wrong because of long term operation decay. It is both human nature, and corporate culture to discount problems with a very small chance of occurring. Even granting strong government watchdogs (which I would hesitate to call the NRC, especially during the reign of vice-president Halliburton); the natural attitude is something like: We never had a problem with this in 20 years, and it takes several other things to go wrong before it becomes important, so why not simplify some of that complex upkeep.

The problem is of course, that when these rare events happen, they can be extremely deadly. Fukushima as it stands now, is a disaster that has shortened the life of many humans, caused a large amount of local disruptions, and probably contributed to a slight increase of mortality to several thousand square miles of ocean. But Fukushima is not "safe" yet, they are teetering on the edge of things becoming much worse. They have lost most of the safety systems, have little or no redundancy left, and the problems are so complex that it will take years to solve. Meanwhile the company and the government regulators continue to use the normal playbook of downplaying the chance of things going wrong.

And that does not even take into account anti-social companies (like Koch Enterprises) that specialize in generating short term profit at the expense of negative externalities to everyone else. So while I still believe in a theoretical world where we could design, build, and operate a safe nuclear power plant; I no longer believe that people, corporations, and governments as they exist in this world can safely do it. That some people reached this conclusion through feelings and intuition, does not mean that all who hold it are anti-science.

Anonymous said...

One clarification: I am by no means an expert in the field, but have tangent connections - beginning with work for several years as a security guard at General Electric's Nuclear Energy Business Operations in San Jose, CA). GE had not sold a plant for several years, and I was there as they were changing from a manufacturing factory into a engineer paperwork factory. The NRC was generating about 1,000 changes requests per year, and GE engineers were providing support to the various plant owners trying to deal with 3 new regulations per day. It was very impressive, wandering around the various test facilities doing night rounds. This was the Regan recession, jobs were scarce. I remember marveling that during nights and weekends the emergency response for the multi-hundred million dollar site was left in charge of a security guard supervisor who made about a dollar over minimum wage (less than the starting wages for the unionized janitors).

I was a CS student while security guarding at GE (contrary to stereotypes, only a couple of us security guards were actually going to college while working there). I remember having some discussions with some of the engineers, who seemed relatively diligent. But GE was a large bureaucratic company with privileged executives and poorly treated factory workers; and I decided early on that I would never work for them. They were run like a second wave company (re: Toffler's Third Wave), lacking anything like the HP Way and other practices then becoming common in Silicon Valley.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Jumper, it's been so long since I heard those names I can barely remember them - but yeah, it is clear that some of those posties were missing the point. WHat gets me is that so many of my fellows wanted to keep the postmodern label while rejecting the extremists who had sullied its name.

As to our little troll attack, this guy makes arguments like most of the people I grew up with. Be thankful you only have to deal with them on line and not in person. Where I came from, there were so many of these loonies that you could effectively be barred from employment or have people shoot out your windows at night.

I met my wife at a university in Colorado, where she was one of hundreds of students from a sister school in Taiwan that sent school teachers who wanted to move up to get a Master's in Education, with the expectation that they would return home. But when she came back from the summer married to an American, suddenly she stopped getting A's in her classes and she was the only one of the foreign exchange students to fail her comps, even though many others had English skills that were so poor they could barely write clear sentences, much less cogent essays. Once they saw that she was married to an American, some of those professors decide they could not allow her to get her degree and teach American kids. We had to go through a lot to get her degree conferred, with a lot of outside help. After that we moved to a much larger city, where the right-wing loonies were more balanced out by left-wing loonies, and more normal people who had some sense of duty. Although her English skills were lacking, she had no problem getting the teaching license she worked for at UC Denver.

Extremists like this form their own little righteous enclaves, insulated from reality, where they can do as they please and only hear what they want.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Anonymous
Re Fukushima

Given that it was such a disaster how much actual damage to the environment has it caused

As far as I can see the score is
Zero human deaths
About the same amount of radiation released as Japans coal fired plants release in one year

A bloody mess - yes
Should have been much better - yes

But overall much much less environmental or human damage than the fossil fueled power plant

Jim Satterfield said...

As far as DDT, Rachel Carson and malaria deaths are concerned I recommend some articles:

From Slate:

Scientific American:


Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Anonymous
Re Fukushima

Given that it was such a disaster how much actual damage to the environment has it caused

As far as I can see the score is
Zero human deaths
About the same amount of radiation released as Japans coal fired plants release in one year

A bloody mess - yes
Should have been much better - yes

But overall much much less environmental or human damage than the fossil fueled power plant

Duncan Cairncross said...

Bugger - it crashed and I double posted

Anyway re DDT
Here (Clean green NZ) there are farms that cannot be used because DDT was used decades ago and it is still present in the ground

DDT can and should be used for Malarial suppression
BUT it must be used carefully
We cannot go back to the days when it was poured into the environment

Anonymous said...

@A.F. Rey
""Overblown? The opposite is the case:"
I don't see how that article backs up your rebuttal.
The suggested uses of DDT are currently quite legal (per U.S. law,) and are in fact advocated by many. In fact, as my links documented, using DDT for mosquito control has never been illegal per U.S. law.
So, precisely, how did "tens of millions" of people die because of the ban of DDT for agricultural uses?"

You don't "see"? Really? Well, let's begin by reposting your affirmation I was responding to:
""I think the number of people who have died due to demonisation of DDT is pretty high."
I don't know exactly how you believe that DDT ban has contributed to people dying, but if it is because of people contracting malaria, that appears to be an overblown accusation."

So - now 'contracting malaria' has become 'for agricultural uses'.
No matter - the caused death and suffering is so immense, that your attempt to move the goal-posts is irrelevant.

If one actually reads the article ( ) one finds out how Carson's book and the subsequent green movement's advocacy raised substantial anxiety about DDT and led to bans in most of the world and to restrictions on other chemical pesticides; how the fears raised were based on gross misrepresentations and atrocious scholarship.
One finds that a study by the Harvard University Center for International Development estimated that a high incidence of malaria reduces economic growth by 1.3 percentage points each year. Compounded over the four decades since the first bans of DDT, that lost growth has made some of the world’s poorest countries an astonishing 40 percent poorer than had there been more effective mosquito control.
That TENS OF MILLIONS of human lives – mostly children in poor, tropical countries – have been traded for the possibility of slightly improved fertility in raptors.

But - don't take my or Henry I. Miller's words for it. Read up on the research the article mentions and is based on. Read up on my other posted links:

Instead of preaching about some pathetic regulations and assuming these cover up the immense death and suffering caused by the greens with only their advocacy for DDT ban (that's FAR from their only "achievement").

@David Brin
"Okay guys, we tried. But we have a fused-spine noxious troll here, incapable of reason and fully illustrating the traits of his cult.
I'm done with him."

I'm not surprised David Brin manages even in this posting a logical fallacy. A "troll" is someone who doesn't use arguments, but ad personams, insults, etc in order to support their side of the argument or just because.
In this case, my post is heavily based on scientific arguments (easily found in the links I posted). Unlike David Brin's posts - mere rhetorical polish meant to cover up unimaginable death and suffering.

As for my "insulting" him at the end, I make no apologies whatsoever - for, here, there is nothing to be sorry about or regret.
Such "insults" are both deserved (being the truth) and appropriate as reaction to someone who, in full knowledge of the facts, proselytizes; who, in support of his ideology, attempts to cover up the death of TENS OF MILLIONS. How little must he value human life.

Duncan Cairncross said...

You have not read any of those articles
Fact (1)
DDT persists and builds up
Fact (2)
DDT was being used by the gallon - just about everywhere

If we had continued along that path we would have had a catastrophic build up by now

Once we had a warning did some people overreact??
Possibly - even probably
But the fact that we still have farms contaminated with DDT over 40 years later means that it was a serious problem

What would have happened if we had continued to use vast amounts of DDT for mosquito suppression??

That's obvious as well - the damn things would have developed immunity

So we would have traded adding massive amounts of a persistent poison to the environment for a couple of years malaria reduction

Not for anything like your "four decades"

The poor countries you reference would not have thanked you for contaminating their land to the extent that their crops would not have able to be sold anywhere

Anonymous said...

@Duncan Cairncross

What's obvious is that you have not even read the article I posted - let alone the more detailed book.
The concerns you mention are dealt with decisively and by using scientific studies, as opposed to alarmist anecdotes and insane dictums (that conveniently ignore the TENS OF MILLIONS of dead).

d said...

Hi Anonymous

We obviously beg to differ about DDT

Have you any more comments about why refrigerators are more expensive now that the refrigerant costs a tiny amount more?

Or is that based on the same sort of junk science as your DDT nonsense?

Jumper said...
Proves the "millions dead" statement using exact quotes from Malcolm Forbes article.

Anonymous said...

@d said
"Hi Anonymous
We obviously beg to differ about DDT
Have you any more comments about why refrigerators are more expensive now that the refrigerant costs a tiny amount more?
Or is that based on the same sort of junk science as your DDT nonsense?"

We're not talking about a painting here, on which one can have a legitimate subjective opinion.
We're talking about objective facts. And the objective facts - as fully proven by my links above - are that the greens used 'gross misinterpretations and garbage scholarship' (to the point where this could not have been unintentional) to further a murderous DDT removal agenda that killed TENS OF MILLIONS - most of them, children.

True believers who don't mind covering up a genocide (or attempting to), such as yourself, coming with dictums such as "junk science" and other notional crap over which they attempt to pour perfume changes nothing.

As for the ozone hole issue - the information I already posted on the issue is solidly supported by the scientific findings. And far more relevant than all the posts of you ideologues put together:

Tony Fisk said...

I'm not surprised David Brin manages even in this posting a logical fallacy. A "troll" is someone who doesn't use arguments, but ad personams, insults, etc in order to support their side of the argument or just because.

No. A troll is someone who comes to sneer. The dimmest ones barge in with insults and other noises to disrupt the narrative. More sophisticated types seek to ingratiate themselves with queries about opposing viewpoints and then pounce triumphantly as soon as they think they spot a weakness (such as when that query is answered in a manner they don't agree with) Links may be produced as unassailable proof, but the purpose is not to correct, but to belittle.

With regard to anon's links: Driessen has about the same level of credibility as Monckton.
Matt Ridley seems to have some academic gravitas, although his field is more in Zoology than atmospheric chemistry, and his libertarian views do not appear to have translated well to real life, if the fate of North Rock Bank under his chairmanship is any guide. Ridley's article that anon. cites appears to be little more than an opinion piece, to which he is welcome.

The real mark of a troll, though, is the spirit in which comments are made. When the real point of a link is to provide justification for insults, then the author is a true greenie of the scaled variety.

Anonymous said...

@Tony Fisk
"Driessen has about the same level of credibility as Monckton.
Matt Ridley seems to have some academic gravitas, although his field is more in Zoology than atmospheric chemistry, and his libertarian views do not appear to have translated well to real life, if the fate of North Rock Bank under his chairmanship is any guide. Ridley's article that anon. cites appears to be little more than an opinion piece, to which he is welcome."

I see you have no problems using ad personams in place of arguments yourself.
As said - feel free to read the wealth of scientific papers these articles are based on and name/link to.

As for your creative reinvention of the "troll" definition":

If you have a problem with someone telling you exactly what you are, as revealed by your posts, then don't post.
Here, you essentially object to someone putting a mirror in front of you so that you can accurately see your reflection. Consequently, you try to create, out of this air, artificial rules to prevent such unpleasant events. To this, the only answer can be 'Out of the question'.

Tony Fisk said...

@anon, I think you will find regulars here know what projection is, and can identify when it is being used.

Suetonius said...

Just as an aside to the 2001 article. If 0° to 1° of the elliptic is the first degree of Aries, wouldn't the zero year to the first year, be the first year of both the new century and the new millennium, etc.?

Paul Shen-Brown said...

In this little DDT debate, take a look at who is quoting what sources, and you will see what I mean about extremists forming enclaves.

Where does the actual science (rather than jingoistic rhetoric) stand on this issue? Science doesn't have a stance. Science is about reporting the facts and the best explanations for them available with the data at hand. It is up to people to make moral judgements and decide what course of action is best. There are strong arguments both for and against the use of this chemical. However, it is also quite clear that it cannot be safely used indiscriminately, as marketers and big business would prefer, in the pursuit of maximum profit. It will have to watched carefully and regulated. More data will help to clarify the calculus of when and under what circumstances it would be useful. But beware the Law of the Hammer. We may be losing the most important crop pollinator, the common honeybee, due to overuse of another pesticide.

As to trollish behavior, it is harder to make that argument with any credibility while hiding behind "Anonymous" - afraid to own your own words.

Dr. Brin had it right - there is little point carrying on a discussion with someone who is unwilling to be persuaded by anything. Here we see the Fallacy of Immaculate Perception in action.

Alex Tolley said...

Overview of DDT ban claims:
Wikipedia entry on DDT ban criticism

Mosquito resistance - genetics:
Genetic secret of mosquito resistance to DDT

Study on resistance rates:
Resistance to DDT and Pyrethroids and Increased kdr Mutation Frequency in An. gambiae after the Implementation of Permethrin-Treated Nets in Senegal
Biological evidence of resistance to DDT and pyrethroids was detected among An. gambiae mosquitoes in Dielmo (Senegal) within 24 months of community use of LLINs. Molecular identification of L1014F mutation indicated that target site resistance increased after the implementation of LLINs.

This last is worrying, as this was the "cheap" solution that was being pushed by the gates Foundation to eliminate malaria.

Current approaches are to release sterile male mosquitoes to reduce populations or to engineer males so that that the offspring cannot carry the disease. I think trials are starting in Latin America (Brazil?).

Overview of Mosquito Control Practices in California
We don't use DDT, but we do use a variety of approaches including insecticides. California is obviously not as bad as the tropics, nor do we have malaria as endemic (yet). Mosquitoes are far worse in Canada, but fortunately they are a nuisance, but not disease carrying AFAIK.
BTW, using "bug zappers" to kill mosquitoes is a terrible idea. Studies have shown that it kills far more beneficial and food insects than mosquitoes, reducing natural vector controls like bat and bird populations.

LarryHart said...

As someone who avoids right-wing talk like the plague (almost literally for the same reasons one would avoid the plague), it is sometimes instructive to get a whiff of what memes are "out there" in Murdoch-land. For example, until the 2012 elections, I was blissfully unaware that the social conservatives had already gone beyond the abortion issue into fierce opposition to contraception, or that contraception was even the least bit controversial in the 21st century, let alone partisan.

Likewise, I had no idea that DDT was a political issue in the 1960s, let alone that it still might be one in 2014.

Jumper said...

I think this "sauce for the goose" piece on Greenpeace illustrates the attitude about cherry picking we like to follow around here.

I apologize for Rickrolling earlier, but it's an illustration of the uselessness of linking to articles that lack the argument the commenter claims.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

BTW, using "bug zappers" to kill mosquitoes is a terrible idea. Studies have shown that it kills far more beneficial and food insects than mosquitoes, reducing natural vector controls like bat and bird populations.

As evidenced by the "Drill, baby, drill!" crowd, the fact that a means of killing misquitos would have destructive consequences to other creatures would be a feature, not a bug to them. Apparently, doing harm to the environment, to plants and animals, and even to people who can be thought of as "other" is not simply "regrettable collateral damage", but in fact, a positive good.

David Brin said...

re bug zappers... see how in EARTH I predicted models that would select which insects by wing-beat patterns and laser-zap them!

I'd be tempted to do that with trolls! ;-) But in fact, I am proud we have one of the oldest sites on the web and one that is completely un-moderated.