Friday, January 16, 2015

Robert Heinlein and looking Beyond This Horizon

Robert A. Heinlein was a question-asker. And much less "political" in any classic terms, than most later critics would perceive and/or be willing to admit. Sure, he expressed countless political opinions!  But these often contradicted musings that he offered in other novels. While it's true he had a general "libertarian" bent, that leaning was in directions so diametrically different than today's dominant "libertarian cult" of selfish solipsism that I deem it likely he would have - by now - returned to the Party that he worked for, most of his life -- the Democratic Party.

But hold that thought.  In honor of the imminent release of Part Two of the Heinlein biography, I want to offer up some much more general observations about this truly remarkable character, who changed many lives and transformed science fiction forever.
heinlein-beyond-horizonFist-off: I consider Robert Heinlein’s most fascinating novel to be his prescriptive utopia Beyond This Horizon. (A "prescriptive utopia" is a tome wherein an author “prescribes” what he or she believes a better civilization would look like.) 

While Heinlein did opine about society in many books, from Starship Troopers to Glory Road, (and, as I said, in many cases each contradicting the other), it is in Beyond This Horizon that you’ll find him clearly stating ... This Is The Way I Think Things Ought To Be. And it turns out to be a fascinating, surprisingly nuanced view of our potential future.
Like most Heinlein novels, Beyond This Horizon divides pretty evenly into two parts -- one vigorous and active, followed by a lazily conversational part. It is only the second half of this book that I hold in high regard. Heinlein wrote the first half at behest of the famed editor of Astounding Magazine, John W. Campbell, who was then holding forth on one of his favorite themes . . . that “an armed society is a polite society.”
anecdotes-historyIn pushing this strange notion, Campbell was behaving very much like his arch-nemesis, Karl Marx. A few anecdotes and a good just-so story outweigh a hundred historical counter-examples. 

But no matter. Heinlein did as good a job of conveying Campbell’s weirdly counterfactual idea* in fiction as anyone could. So much so that the first half of Beyond This Horizon has been cited by state legislators in both Texas and Florida, proposing that all citizens go around armed! Naturally, this leads (paradoxically) to exactly what you'd expect, the opposite of Campbell's forecast, a wild shoot-em-up, in the first half of Beyond This Horizon.  An irony which RAH suddenly veers away from, at the midway point.
heinlein-star-beastThis division between halves is typical of Heinlein novels and it makes reading them an interesting, multi-phase experience. Generally, RAH was a master at starting his tales–in fact, I recommend that all neo writers study carefully the first few pages of any Heinlein book, for his spectacularly effective scene-setting and establishment of point-of-view. (The opening scene of The Star Beast is the best example of show-don’t-tell that anyone can find.) Alas, most of his novels reach a vigorous climax, concluding part one… and then peter out disappointingly in the last half, amid a morass of garrulous, often contradictory finger-wagging and speculative-blather.
This is where Beyond This Horizon reverses all expectations. Sure, part one is action and part two is talk, as usual. Only in this case, the action is tediously silly... and the talk-talk is riveting! In fact, this is where Robert Heinlein displays how broad his intellectual reach can take us.
Here - rather than in his novels Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Landwe see the clearest ever expression of his political philosophy, which is demonstrably neither “fascist” nor anywhere near as conservative as some simple-minded critics might have us think.


== Heinlein's Visions of the Future ==
heinlein-libertarianIndeed, Heinlein's famed libertarianism had limits, moderated and enriched by compassion, pragmatism and a profound faith that human beings can improve themselves, gradually, by their own diligence and goodwill. A libertarianism of the compassionately practical variety preached by Adam Smith and the American Founders, not by psychopathic lunatics like Murray Rothbard or Ayn Rand.
I was amazed by many other aspects of this wonderful book-within-a-book, especially by Heinlein’s startlingly simple suggestion for how to deal with the moral quandaries of genetic engineering — what’s now called the “Heinlein Solution” — allowing couples to select which naturally produced sperm and ova they want to combine into a child, but forbidding them to actually alter the natural human genome.
Consider the elegance of this proposed compromise. Thus, the resulting child, while “best” in many ways (free of any disease genes, etc), will still be one that the couple might have had naturally. Gradual human improvement, without any of the outrageously hubristic meddling that wise people rightfully fear. (No fashionable feathers or lizard tails, just kids who are the healthiest and smartest and strongest the parents might have had, anyway.) It is a notion so insightful that biologists 40 years later have only recently started to discuss what may turn out to be Heinlein’s principal source of fame, centuries from now.
When it comes to politics, his future society (in the prescriptive Beyond This Horizon) is, naturally, a descendant of the America Heinlein loved above all things. But it has evolved in two directions at once. Anything having to do with human creativity, ambition or enterprise is wildly competitive and nearly unregulated -- though with no feudal meddling, inherited status or presumptions based on race or gender or class. 

But where it comes to human needs, the situation is wholly socialistic! One character even says, in a shocked tone of voice: “Naturally, food and shelter and education are free! What kind of people do you take us for?”
Are you surprised? None of this fits into the dogma of Ayn Rand, whose followers have taken over the libertarian movement. If Robert Heinlein was a libertarian, it was clearly of a more subtle kind, less historically or anthropologically naive, more compassionate… and more interesting.
But here’s the crux. For the most part, with Robert Heinlein, you felt he wasn’t so much lecturing or preaching as offering to argue with you! His books let you fume and mutter and debate with this bright, cantankerous, truly American soul, long after his body expired. 

Indeed, this is why I seem to be far, far more forgiving of Paul Veerhoeven's Starship Troopers flick, than almost anyone else. Veerhoeven and screenwriter Edward Neumeier put more actual lines of dialogue from the book into characters' mouths than almost any other novelization you could name! The characters speak to every value that RAH (experimentally) mused in the novel... to which Veerhoeven answered with twists of irony and discomforting symbolism, as if saying to Heinlein "all right, sir, you get the words -- and the characters believe them all! But I still find it worrisome, and my camera will show a darker side."

To which I imagine RAH answering: "Fair enough... that is, if I had been around to offer a counter-rebuttal!

That's the part I wanted. And maybe I'll put it in a story. 
writer-science-fictionBut it is this joy in argument – in posing and chewing over thought experiments – that I want to conclude with.  It is the very soul of what it means to be a writer or reader of genuine science fiction.  For SF is supposed to be humanity's Department of Advanced Exploration, Thought Experimentation, and Argumentation About The Future!

(Amid a plague of simplistic dystopias and apocalypses that poke at no new failure modes but simply offer cheap, lazy ways to put cliched "chosen ones" in peril...that mission of sci fi appears to have been forgotten by all but a few, alas. One way to tell?  Is the hero(ine) a "chosen one"? Are the great masses of surrounding citizens nothing more than bleating-useless sheep?  See more on this.) 

That is why it's dismally unfair to take a true sci fi artist like Heinlein and dismiss him as all one-thing or another. The "fascist" appellation might feel good to you, when you compare Starship Troopers to Farnham's Freehold, but it it is stupidly simplistic when you contrast with Double Star and Stranger in a Strange Land

True science fiction seeks a positive sum game. The gedankenexperiment aims to probe a section of possibility space. The writer's next exploration may go to a completely different part of the frontier... beyond this horizon.

== Heinlein: In Dialogue with his century ==
Finally, for more about Heinlein, see the extensive new two-volume biography - from Tor Books - by William H. Patterson, Jr.:
Patterson (who lamentably passed away recently) is off-target or a bit clumsy in places. But he did us all a service by elucidating this uniquely American life.

To honor Heinlein's forward vision: Pay it forward! Consider supporting The Heinlein Society -- which provides scholarships to students, educational materials to schools, and books to the military.

=== ===

== addendum on guns as enforcers of a "polite society" ==

* The basic notion of Beyond This Horizon and even Campbell is that the best protection for freedom and rights must be rooted in the individual feeling confidently empowered to defend those rights herself or himself.  That notion underlies reciprocal accountability which is the underlying force within our enlightenment arenas... markets, democracy, science, courts and sports.  As I demonstrate in The Transparent Society.

But it is simple-minded to the extreme, to actually believe that can happen... via guns.  Just slapping arms on every hip will not make a "polite society"... not overnight.  We are still an impulsive, emotion-drenched species and far too many of us (indeed a whole lot of young males) respond to emotional challenge by grabbing up the nearest weapon. This experiment ran, in the Wild West, and the death rate was prodigious. 

Sure, if we did this, we would become more polite!  After a thousand years of blazing away at each other, the courteous and slow-to-anger would have lots more kids, passing on those traits! But till then? Sorry, our accountability arenas -- markets, democracy, science, courts and sports -- use more subtle means. But not all is loast for Campbell and Heinlein!  Because we can do this!  We can go around "armed" and hold each other instantly accountable and enforce politeness...

...with cameras.  It is happening already. The violent (even cops) and bullies and even the noxiously rude are getting comeuppance... only with this major difference from guns: that the quickest draw doesn't win. And if you "shoot" unfairly, there is a later chance to apologize.  

Try doing that with a pistola, Tex. 

Oh... see my rational suggestion of an actual, feasible compromise on gun laws.  Won't happen, of course.  Too much crazy. And RAH has joined Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave.

234 comments:

1 – 200 of 234   Newer›   Newest»
Zen Cosmos said...

When having to cull my SF library due to a move to a small apt., I kept most of the Heinlein...And having read your take I find myself in almost complete agreement with the theses. Good job. Maybe if/when it comes out in trade pb I'll buy the bio.

Alfred Differ said...

I'd be inclined to extend the Heinlein solution slightly. If someone wants to engineer their child, they should be able to use their own naturally occurring cells or splice in parts from the natural options available from other people. If I want my children to be more lactose tolerant than I am, no one should be able to say 'no' to me and my child's mother.

I'm of the opinion that my genetic code is mine, but I'll accept limitations on what I can do with it if there is more than 90% support for the limits from everyone else in society.

Louis Shalako said...

I always enjoyed Robert A. Heinlein, although I read perhaps them more superficially than you obviously did.

But he also had characters living month to month, and buying air, water, and the right to exist or be put out the airlock. (Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.) Did I ever think this was his actual view of life?

Not necessarily. Not in such simple terms.

Treebeard said...

“True science fiction seeks a positive sum game”? It sounds like you have somewhat of a Soviet mentality about science fiction: it must serve the Revolution, be ideologically useful, etc. -- which makes it propaganda as much as art. That may explain why science fiction has little staying power compared to good “fantasy”. In a century or two, I think it’s likely that people will still enjoy Lord of the Rings, Robert E. Howard and even H.P. Lovecraft (and maybe even Dune and Star Wars), but Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and David Brin…not so much. Like Soviet culture, science fiction that strives to be “relevant,” “realistic,” “rational,” “progressive” and “socially useful” quickly becomes obsolete and is swept into the dustbin of history, while “irrelevant,” “irrational” fantasies that touch on timeless and powerful themes endure.

I think it has something to do with human psychology and the nature of powerful artistic creation, which wells up from the unconscious as a kind of revelation, rather than as a rational exercise in “thought experimentation," and hits the reader at the same level. Science fiction as you conceive it is barely art as far as I’m concerned; you might as well write be writing non-fictional futurism and political screeds. And the new breed of leftist science fiction writers strikes me as being even worse in this regard: overtly Stalinist, with an aggressive political agenda but little or no artistic merit. Undoubtedly they will fade even faster than the old dead white men, and their failed propaganda project will look as absurd as Bolshevik cosmism in a few decades.

By the way, what’s wrong with lizard tails? If we’re going to be masters of the universe and take control of our evolution, why insist on breeding only people that “we might have had anyway”? It seems like an arbitrary and petty kind of moralism, in a universe made of atoms and a void that behave in ways we can understand and control. If our post-traditionalist, Faustian civilization has any creed, surely it is “ad homo superior, ad astra”, or perhaps, “the Borg or bust!” I don’t see how the Heinlein Solution is any more defensible than banning abortion or in vitro fertilization.

Oakden said...

I have never read so many insults to Heinlein as in your piece - you outdo Alexis Panshin.

You are an author. Why don't you write your books and stop trying to rewrite Heinlein's?

Donald Gisselbeck said...

The other problem with the "armed society" is that survival would require ever growing skill with firearms. I certainly have better things to do than practice several hours a day with guns. Most armchair warriors seem to have no appreciation for the amount of practice practical shooting needs.

David Brin said...

Oakden, thank you for overstating your case and proving you skimmed with intention to rage. I am quite confident that RAH would hang with me and argue and buy the next round... and that would agree with me that you, sir, are a flaming loonie.

David Brin said...

Any of you have ideas for potential XPrize contests?

David Brin said...

For a raving screed that disagrees with me:

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118048/william-pattersons-robert-heinlein-biography-hagiography

But note I was mild in discussing the biographer, Patterson, who was decidedly a right winger and used his book to tilt Heinlein that way.

Paul451 said...

In case anyone hasn't seen it.

SpaceX released the crashlanding video:

Via Vine, via Parabolic arc.

locumranch said...


'Revolt in 2100' was perhaps Heinlein's most prophetic work, presaging the inevitable rise of the Nanny State, religious idealism (indistinguishable from today's PC intolerance), the loss of constitutional protections (mediated by omnisurveillance, hate speech laws & Homeland-based thuggery) and, most importantly, the criminalisation of the male sexual drive, followed by the inevitability of justifiable revolution.

Next was 'Starship Troopers' which described the Achilles Heel of democracy, the 'Buy In', also known as the difference between the citizen and the civilian, wherein the citizen accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic, of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life, through which he EARNS his democratic chops & the right to vote, while the civilian does not, because (in the words of Thomas Jefferson) "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Our course, the current crop of pink-shirted fascists will tell you otherwise. They will insist that weakness is strength and freedom is slavery; they will tell you that the least productive are the most fit to rule; they will sing hosannas to the sheepish glory of victimhood; they will free the Eloi weak at the expense of the Moorlock strong; and they will defend their liberties at the expense of your own.

And then we, the brutish citizens and citizen labourers, will rise up, justifiably so, and devour our effeminate oppressors, grinding their bones to make our bread, unto the nth generation, in order to teach them that 'empowerment' (aka 'strength gifted to you by others') is no strength at all, and there will much rejoicing.


Best

Tom Crowl said...

Heinlein was a thinker... so obviously often self-contradictory. But I believe his core attitude may be seen in this quote...

From "This I Believe" which he wrote in 1952 for Edward R. Murrow radio show:

"I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown — in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability … and goodness … .of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth — but that we will always make it … survive … endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure — will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage — and his noble essential decency.
This I believe with all my heart."

I don't quite share the same degree of optimism but a bit of it once-in-a-while is nice to see.

Daniel Duffy said...

The whole problem with the "libertarian" or "socialist" labeling is that it is too simplistically one dimensional. Instead of two ends of a spectrum, political definitions should be at least four quadrants of a square defined by two axis or even 8 corners of a cube.

For the quadrant map you would have one axis in favor of either more (puritan) or less (libertine) government interference promoting traditional morality.

The other axis would be defined by more (regulator) or less (laissez faire) government interference regulating markets.

These morality/market (or bedroom/business) axes define the four quadrants.

Libertine/Regulators = classic Democrats
Puritan/Laissez Faire = classic Republicans

(It's odd - and a bit hypocritical -that "conservative" means more government interference in terms of morality but less government interference in terms of markets.)

Libertine/Laissez Faire = Libertarian
Puritan/Regulators = Tea Party

This last one is important since the Tea party is emerging as a true right wing populist movement, something relative new in American politics. Traditionally, American populist movements have belonged to the Left and represented an extreme corner of the classic Democrat quadrant.

But listening to Right Wing talk radio as I do when travelling through the boondocks clearly indicates a shift over the past year within the Tea Party against Wall Street and and establishment Republicans. This is just one manifestation of the internal GOP power struggle as The Tea Party has turned on the money interests that controlled them.

For now their differences have been papered over because of their joint hatred of Obama. But when he leaves office, look for the GOP to split in two.

Daniel Duffy said...

locumranch said:

"'Revolt in 2100' was perhaps Heinlein's most prophetic work, presaging the inevitable rise of the Nanny State, religious idealism (indistinguishable from today's PC intolerance), the loss of constitutional protections (mediated by omnisurveillance, hate speech laws & Homeland-based thuggery) and, most importantly, the criminalisation of the male sexual drive, followed by the inevitability of justifiable revolution."

Could you possibly be more wrong?

The dictatorship described in "revolt in 2100" was not a left wing PC tyranny but a RIGHT WING THEOCRACY established by backwoods preacher turned president Nehemiah Scudder.

You need to read Heinlein's "If This Goes On" for more history on Scudder. The novels are warnings about what happens when the Religious right takes power in America - and an exposure of Fundy idiocy and hypocrisy.

Also read "Stranger in a Strange Land" to see his contempt for organized religion.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, in the next year or two you should go to the science fiction convention Arisia in Boston, Mass. and hold a couple panels in which you discuss Heinlein in these terms. I think it would be rather interesting, and might even shake things up a bit. (Though you'll likely walk away shaking your head at the excessive leftist tendencies of some of the speakers... though you've long warned of the insanity of the Far Left.)

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

I suspect that if RAH had lived a full century, in light of the events he missed, there might've been interesting conversations on economics with Virginia, if not a complete reevaluation of his conservative position. The angle his mind might've given to progressive economics might've been refreshing.

Howard Brazee said...

Even selecting the "natural" genes to create your optimal child leads us to asking what definitions we have for "optimal".

There is no "optimal" for everything we wish to be. As in the very best basketball player and the very best football player have different characteristics. And the best physicist, the best physician, and the best entrepreneur have different characteristics (which can be broken down further).

A.F. Rey said...

Next was 'Starship Troopers' which described the Achilles Heel of democracy, the 'Buy In', also known as the difference between the citizen and the civilian, wherein the citizen accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic, of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life, through which he EARNS his democratic chops & the right to vote, while the civilian does not, because (in the words of Thomas Jefferson) "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

I recall reading somewhere that public service earned a person a right to a voting members of society in Starship Troopers, but it was not limited to military service. Other types of prescribed public service sufficed. So while such a member would be expected to defend his society with his life, he did not have to demonstrate it on the battlefield.

And then we, the brutish citizens and citizen labourers, will rise up, justifiably so, and devour our effeminate oppressors, grinding their bones to make our bread, unto the nth generation, in order to teach them that 'empowerment' (aka 'strength gifted to you by others') is no strength at all, and there will much rejoicing.

Here you make the common error of all bullies that the victims are, and will always be, helpless. That they are weak and ineffective and, if the strong just would stand up and take what is their right, the victims would crumble like paper tigers. It's been the prediction used to start "short" wars from time in memoriam.

And since time in memoriam, such bullies have discovered that their victims are not the pushovers they expected, often to their demise. :)

The example of Dr. Brin's children should be sufficient to dissuade you of that fantasy.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Our course, the current crop of pink-shirted fascists will tell you otherwise. They will insist that weakness is strength and freedom is slavery; they will tell you that the least productive are the most fit to rule; they will sing hosannas to the sheepish glory of victimhood; they will free the Eloi weak at the expense of the Moorlock strong; and they will defend their liberties at the expense of your own.


As our friend Tacitus2 noticed, I've been amazed lately at how often you post something I agree with so much...except for the implied blame directed at "the Blue State agenda", whereas it seems to me that Red Staters take the lead in legislating such outcomes and in voting for the congresscritters who so legislate.


And then we, the brutish citizens and citizen labourers, will rise up, justifiably so, and devour our effeminate oppressors, grinding their bones to make our bread, unto the nth generation, in order to teach them that 'empowerment' (aka 'strength gifted to you by others') is no strength at all, and there will much rejoicing.


If you haven't yet seen the two "Hunger Games" sequels, you really should. I know they're aimed more at my teenaged daughter's generation, but I can't wait to see how it all concludes.

That said, while the revolutionaries in those films are able to bring force to bear on their oppressors, they do not do so easily or without horrific cost at the hands of the militarized police.

And, the armed forces of oppression that "we" will inevitably face in your scenario above is--again--more a creature of the Red Staters. For example, real-life protests against the police killing of Michael Brown occur in New York, Chicago, Boston, etc., while the more local voters of Missouri seem to be on the side of police militarization.

While I agree that it is a fatal mistake to assume the populace at large is weak and helpless, it would also be a mistake to presume that the forces of the status quo are weak and helpless, "feminized" as you believe them to be.

LarryHart said...

Louis Shalako:

But he also had characters living month to month, and buying air, water, and the right to exist or be put out the airlock. (Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.) Did I ever think this was his actual view of life?


Be careful, because that's where we're headed in real life.

Note that it probably does make sense for people to have to earn their right to air in a situation where air is in very limited supply and requires much maintenance. Through much of human history, the same was true of food and energy. In a first world industrialized economy where "lack of available jobs" is more the case than "lack of workers to perform necessary tasks", I think we need to find a better way to distribute the abundant means of survival. But I'm not so naive as to claim it has always been thus.

John MacEnulty said...

RAH has always been my favorite author for exactly the reasons you put forth. I've always considered him more a of a philosopher, and tend to look at his stories in that fashion.

Whether or not I agreed with what he put forth in his books, it always made me think for a bit.

David Brin said...

Daniel D your effort at a 3D axis is a good one, but in the end it fails. Democrats (not leftists) regulate in large measure in order to intervene toward a flat-open-fair playing field where laissez faire can work! Adam Smith AND F. Hayek wanted the maximum number of empowered competitors and you can only get that by intervening to maximize the output of poor kids who had enough food/education/health/opportunity.

Likewise regulations that break up concentrations of wealth and market power are absolutely essential. If you don’t “regulate” like that, markets are destroyed by owner-oligarch-cheaters, as shown by ALL of human history.

Hence “regulators” is extremely, extremely misleading. The “laissez faire” wing you describe in fact despises competition and strives to re-install feudalism. I described this paradox here, in one of my earliest blogs:

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/allocation-vs-markets-ancient-struggle.html

BTW see my own analysis of 3D political models and why nearly all of them tendentiously fail... and I offer my own:

http://www.tinyurl.com/polimodels

David Brin said...

Lordy lordy. Till now, locum has masked his mundane political colors remarkably well, under a cloud of homogeneously isotropic and ecumenical cynicism. But the “pink-booted Nazi thing pilloried him onto the hoary left-right axis.

NOT that I don’t think there are “pink-booted Nazis." They do exist and - indeed - have done me more personal harm than oligarchs have. But they are for the most part exaggerated preeners mostly polluting a few thousand university soft studies departments and far, far less effective than their vastly-more-sane liberal allies.

Meanwhile, to ignore the great enemy of freedom across 6000 years in favor of a pack of ineffectual PC police yammerers who don’t even control a political party is… well… foolish.

Tom Crowl… elsewhere RAH also declared that he believed (as I do) that the American Experiment was the vanguard to humanity’s boldest effort to rise to a better level. While I am less fervent in jingoist phrasing, I do see history looking back at us and (with a squint) seeing exactly that.

locumranch said...


By calling me to task about the the content of Revolt in 2100's theocracy, Danny_D raises the issue of modern psychiatry which currently judges a delusional belief on the basis of its form rather than its content, giving us the First-rank Symptoms of Schneider:

(1) Auditory hallucinations;
(2) Ideas of reference;
(3) Though insertion, withdrawal & broadcasting; and
(4) Somatic hallucinations and the the conviction that one's thoughts are subject to external control.

It is from this perspective that we understand that similarity between current progressive dogma and Nehemiah Scudder's (arguably right-wing) theocracy:

(1) Our delusion of gender equality;
(2) Our conviction of primacy;
(3) Our belief that our issue-specific thought processes are (or should be) self-evident to external observers;
(4) The idea that our actions serve some divine purpose greater than ourselves.

We then understand that the PC progressive argument is no more rational than that of Nehemiah Scudder: Both make unsupportable conclusions about dubious beliefs; both are convinced of their inherent rightness; both expect the rest of the world to arrive at the identical conclusion (or die); and both claim divine justification.

Both are THEOCRACIES, the only difference between the two being content: Heaven for the former and NextGen Star Trek for the later wherein both float around in the heavens, experience the purity of genderlessness, commune with the divine and exist in a state of unprecedented comfort and sybaritic bliss ...

Not to forget that one wears 'rank insignia' while the other wears wings, and plays a tricorder while the other a harp.

Big diff.


Best
____

A nod to AF Rey, btw, for numbering me among the 'bullies' when (in truth) I am of the Eloi (the self-aware kind who knows that he lives on borrowed time); to Larry_H, also, who makes the classic error of the Intelligentsia and glories in the sleeping-giant that is the Status Quo, who (upon waking) will consume us (bones and) all; and, to David, who uses the 'Nazi' word which I do not, recommending only the recent book "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg in response.

Jumper said...

What a load of manure. locum, you're throwing out the horseshit faster than it can be debunked. Your so-called "modern" psychiatry guy Schneider is ancient history; you're straw-manning all progressives, you are claiming that arguments have beliefs (they have points or use assumptions) and your obvious women problems are both TMI and indicate a need which likely won't be satisfied here.

A.F. Rey said...

A nod to AF Rey, btw, for numbering me among the 'bullies' when (in truth) I am of the Eloi (the self-aware kind who knows that he lives on borrowed time)...

Well, locumranch, you are the one who included yourself, when you wrote "we, the brutish citizens and citizen labourerswill rise up, justifiably so, and devour..."

Jumper said...

from Sir Thomas More in ‘A Man For All Seasons’ -

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Tom Crowl said...

David, I agree with the greatness of the American Experiment!

I also believe in the essence of free enterprise and entrepreneurship. (though I don't believe anyplace in this world can any longer be considered an external market)

Much of our problem with certain areas of the rest of the world (as I see it) arose because of our support for leaders in those countries who were good for our banks and businesses (and even our general population)... and good for themselves and their cronies... but not for the rest of their populations.

I believe a 'natural development' of civic culture was forestalled in many areas and is not even being encouraged here (and to paraphrase Henny Youngman... "Take this gerrymandering... Please!) I'm not looking to go back and blame our ancestors... Hell, I would've probably made the same deals with a House of Saud or a Central American "Great Leader"...

But now there's a price to be paid... the blowback is coming home. This doesn't justify these extremists but nobody should be surprised that when the lid on the pot inevitably gets loose that the pressure cooker is going to blow.

Unfortunately its only getting easier and easier for fewer and fewer to screw up more and more of this civilization.

We have far to large a portion of the global population that essentially believe in fairy tales and won't give them up... and have no experience of the requirements of self-government or the need for tolerance.

An Enlightenment-oriented population requires experience in self-government. And I believe elements of our financial sector with govt. assistance were able exploit both power and information imbalances during our imperialist phase which were criminogenic within those cultures. (this is a legacy problem for much of the Western World... not only the U.S. as global 'technical evolution equalizes but political consciousness does not.)

There are certainly counter-examples. But when I see the same kind of financial exploitation and wealth extraction growing here its way past time for redress and re-balance.

This is a reason why I believe that the model I propose (using the needs of the micropayment as the root for a collection of civic participation tools) should ultimately not be offered by any single government... nor owned in any narrow sense... but needs to find another model. And my hope would be that it could be designed in ways the abet development of healthy civic culture... (Disputation Arenas anybody?)

Place this utility above the browser (able to serve them all) and let's go. It's also a good business model.

Tom Crowl said...

You know I'm not too crazy about either side...

The 'Kumbayah Crowd' hate that I have a patent and I want to start a very "big business" (all seen as inherently evil)

And the 'Guns & Flags' crowd are sure I'm trying to enable the 'dross-at-the-bottom' to spread their chaos and they'll all lobby for a million dollars each and free drugs. But I don't think that how it would go at all.

And, of course I have no formal background in either government, banking, or the Internet industry which are the areas I feel need addressing most... So I'm easy to ignore and easily dismissed.

(which is why I'm especially grateful for the courtesy and respect you've shown)

P.S. I agree with Heinlein that some sort of ongoing civic participation should be a requirement of citizenship... though killing giant bugs might be more than is necessary.

Jumper said...

Since I view regulations as a pragmatic method of streamlining tort law, and haven't seen them as a method of controlling the ill effects of the formation of monopolies, I was hoping you could enlighten me on how you see their proper use in that regard, David.

While thinking about this, the idea of progressive taxation of corporations popped into my head. That one I'll have to ponder some more.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theonion.com/articles/new-climate-change-study-just-400-pages-of-scienti,37761/
New Climate Change Study Just 400 Pages Of Scientists Telling Americans To Read Previous Climate Change Studies

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy reading and re-reading Heinlein, but the number of characters he had speaking in favor of killing people born "defective", like me, eventually soured me to his work. It's a shame, because he was a good storyteller.

The Jefferson quote locumranch posted is spurious, according to http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/democracy-will-cease-to-exist-quotation

The slogan "an armed society is a polite one" seems to me to imply that it is proper to respond to rudeness with lethal force, something that I can't imagine anyone but a psychopath, like the character Hannibal Lecter, would agree with.

Jim Satterfield said...

I think Heinlein, if he had lived long enough to see it, when looking at economics would have found the ideas of Modern Monetary Theory interesting largely because it's one of the few new ideas in the field in many decades.

David Brin said...

Yeesh... back goin' "round the bend."

Tony Fisk said...

I wonder what would happen if someone invented a personal field generator that could stop a bullet cold*.
Would there be an arms race between higher velocity projectiles and more powerful generators? Would people become *less* polite? Would this fulfill Heinlein's criteria (which I believe he borrowed from Confucius) for a dying civilization?

I've always felt that Locum's basic problem is that he strives to out-contrary the resident contrarian.

*well.. warmish

Randy Winn said...

Beyond This Horizon handily disposes of the idea that angry armed men might overthrow our American government, so long as we have elections, by pointing out (in a typical RAH philosophical-discussion-under-fire) that revolutions need leaders, leaders like to stay alive, and effectual leaders run for public office instead of Harper's Ferry. Let the Morlocks grumble ...

... I am reminded, as MLK Day approaches, that Arkansas National Guard who enforced desegregation was probably filled with recruits who would have voted against it, but whose loyalty to the Constitution and the Commander-In-Chief prevented rebellion. Praise them!

--

As for "delusion of gender equality": legal equality is not a perception of any sort, delusory or otherwise; it is a rule of conduct. As such, it makes no assertions about factual equality; few if any assert that men and women are the same, merely that they merit the same rights. RAH's writing illustrate that principle: they generally champion legal equality while (outside of his juveniles) loudly trumpeting viva la difference!

Duncan Cairncross said...

I have just had to buy a new electronic copy of Beyond This Horizon as I could not find my old paperback
One of the most important parts IMHO was right at the start
A simple explanation that
The money supply should increase as the economy does
Which if you think of money in the economy as similar in function to blood in a body makes perfect sense
The other side of this is that the increase in money supply is normally added directly to the basic living stipend
(We could simply mail a cheque to all citizens)

Directly from the book
We call the system “finance” and the symbols “money”
The symbolic structure should bear a one to one relationship to the physical structure of production and consumption .
It’s my job to keep track of the actual growth of the physical processes and recommend to the policy board
changes in the symbol structure to match those in the physical structure

These two simple rules are the opposite of what we do
Money supply is NOT linked to the physical economy
The increase in money supply goes to those who hold assets (the 0.1%)

As far as the JUST “selecting the best of the available” for your children
I am in two minds about going beyond that
(1) You are selecting for somebody else – should you have that power?
(2) If there is something that is a definite plus that is not there naturally
Do you have the right NOT to select/add that feature?
Extended lifespan, Disease resistance, Extra intelligence
The idea of the “Control Natural” – people paid an extra “bonus” for NOT going down the most popular pathway is a good one

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

to Larry_H, also, who makes the classic error of the Intelligentsia and glories in the sleeping-giant that is the Status Quo, who (upon waking) will consume us (bones and) all;


You misunderstand. I don't think the forces of the status quo are sleeping at all. I'm just saying that if (a la John Lennon) you say you want a revolution, expect it to be costly in blood and treasure. If you think it's worth the cost, then go for it!


...
recommending only the recent book "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg in response


No, thanks. I waste enough time reading "Liberals are the root of all evil" columns by Jonah Goldberg in the newspaper without paying actual money for the privilege.

Trish Fraser said...

Many thanks for this reminder of one of my favourite writers - good to be reminded!

Stephen T. Crye said...

A snooze button for cats, who always wake at dawn and expect breakfast! I'm confident RAH would put up the $.

Stephen T. Crye said...

Thanks Mr. Brin. My fascination with RAH started when I picked up Have Spacesuit, Will Travel at age 13, back in 1969. Today my SF library has over 2000 volumes, including multiples of every Heinlein novel and short. More than any author with the possible exception of Niven, RAH'S are the ones I re-read most, and study as a template for the trilogy I am working on.

Although I would love the opportunity to argue with you about some of the conclusions you reached in your essay, we can agree on many things. He was a master, and had the power to captivate a reader from the first paragraph. His effortless mastery of 1st person was unparalleled, even when writing as female!

I recall weeping when Karen died in Farnham, sitting in my 7th grade English class, drawing the stares of my teacher and classmates.

So many of his characters are now part of me. When facing financial problems, I tell myself "money is the bugaboo of small minds." When I doubt my love for someone, I ask "is her happiness essential to mine?"

I can go on for hours like this, never consulting the 'net, his words are seared into my brain.

In conclusion, I challenge you to write something in the "hard" genre, at least a thousand years hence, with interstellar reach, in the 1st person, past tense, while keeping his style in mind. I will buy it.

Now, back to my task, my trilogy sits unfinished on my laptop. It's dedicated to him, and my cats.

Stephen T. Crye

Stephen T. Crye said...

Thanks Mr. Brin. My fascination with RAH started when I picked up Have Spacesuit, Will Travel at age 13, back in 1969. Today my SF library has over 2000 volumes, including multiples of every Heinlein novel and short. More than any author with the possible exception of Niven, RAH'S are the ones I re-read most, and study as a template for the trilogy I am working on.

Although I would love the opportunity to argue with you about some of the conclusions you reached in your essay, we can agree on many things. He was a master, and had the power to captivate a reader from the first paragraph. His effortless mastery of 1st person was unparalleled, even when writing as female!

I recall weeping when Karen died in Farnham, sitting in my 7th grade English class, drawing the stares of my teacher and classmates.

So many of his characters are now part of me. When facing financial problems, I tell myself "money is the bugaboo of small minds." When I doubt my love for someone, I ask "is her happiness essential to mine?"

I can go on for hours like this, never consulting the 'net, his words are seared into my brain.

In conclusion, I challenge you to write something in the "hard" genre, at least a thousand years hence, with interstellar reach, in the 1st person, past tense, while keeping his style in mind. I will buy it.

Now, back to my task, my trilogy sits unfinished on my laptop. It's dedicated to him, and my cats.

Stephen T. Crye

Paul451 said...

I haven't seen anyone pick up on this:

David,
"Any of you have ideas for potential XPrize contests?"

The problem with X-Prizes is their singular nature. They are based on the old aviation prizes, such as the one-off Orteig Prize (which were based on previous automobile prizes, which were based on earlier steam-ship/train prizes, which were based on historic sail race/record prizes...)

But those aviation prizes were; A) for things which existed when the challenge was offered, the prize merely pushed their capabilities, and B) one of a group of prizes over a long history, successively pushing those boundaries further. Orteig's prize, for example, came only after a slew of other prizes for shorter distances.

X-Prizes want to copy the format of having a single headline prize, but do so in fields where the technology doesn't currently exist and in the absence of other prizes. Essentially they are trying to single-handedly create the entire development path in one go. But it doesn't work. The Ansari X-Prize was claimed after nine years, yes, but in the ten years since, there has been not a single manned sub-orbital space flight. Not even by the prize winners.

Prizes need to be repeated events. Incremental, iterative development rather than a single prize.

I look at the development path in the DARPA Grand Challenge (later Urban Challenge) for autonomous vehicles. In the first year, they repeatedly simplified the challenge, ended up giving everyone a detailed map of the course with specific GPS markings every hundred metres, and yet not one team finished the course, let alone within the allotted time. Many teams barely got to the first bend, I think the best team made it barely half way through the course. In the second year, DARPA reverted back to the more difficult original conditions and yet over 90% of the teams finished, and over half finished within the minimum qualifying time. A few years later they were doing the Urban Challenge, with city streets, lights, traffic, etc.

(A lesser comparison, the UK Robot Wars show came to Australia and in the first year the best Australian competitors got utterly wiped out by even the weakest British teams. The clever, with a decade of actual experience, versus the merely clever.)

I think the Ansari prize would have worked better as a biennial prize of $1 million for the best-of-breed, from 1996 (its establishment) to 2014, rather than a one-off for $10m. It doesn't matter if the first teams don't break 100km, or even 50km, because I suspect that by now not only would multiple teams be routinely flying above 100km, many teams would be flying passengers during their off-season. We'd start slower, but we'd quickly pull ahead.

Paul451 said...

Nonetheless, unless you want to propose an annual or biennial Deci-ansari-prize Prize (pleasepleaseplease) to whatever group has asked you to advise them (reading between the lines of your question), then here's a few things...

-- Mechanical pressure EVA suits. AKA Skinsuits --

NASA had a EVA-glove challenge which apparently produced useful ideas. And there's the photogenic "Biosuit". However, passive suits like the Biosuit can't be "pressurised" to a useful range because you have to put it on and take it off inside an atmosphere, that double-pressure would push the blood into your head and the air out your lungs before you got to the airlock. You need a way of actively countering the mechanical pressure while under an atmosphere, gradually letting the mechanical force increase as the external air pressure drops.

Multiple prizes, progressing to the next only after the previous has been won.

Year 1, Challenge 1: To demonstrate a simple straight cylinder made from electrically active material that works as a counter-pressure tube. It must be able to A) exert, while powered off, a uniform mechanical (elastic) force of a certain amount on a measuring cylinder over which it is placed; then B) on command, neutralise its own mechanical/elastic force on the measuring unit; then C) when the external atmospheric pressure is increased in the test box, automatically prevent that increased pressure from passing to the measuring unit, in addition to still neutralising its own mechanical/elastic pressure. (Ie, maintain constant pressure on the measuring cylinder under a variable external atmosphere, detected automagically, without human intervention.)

Challenge 2: Same as Prize 1, but with the testing device now having a single elbow joint, bending during testing. The counter-pressure tube must now provide constant pressure through all three test phases, even as the measuring cylinder changes not only shape, but volume (due to bending).

Challenge 3: As Challenge 2 but with two elbow joints and one rotating joint (like a shoulder or wrist joint) on the testing device.

Challenge 4: As Challenge 2 & 3 but miniaturised to finger-scale. Forces at the finger-tip are specifically measured (no rubbing, no pinching. Big problem in current suit gloves. Astronauts have reportedly had finger-nails fall out after long EVAs.)

Challenge 5: Full glove - forearm and hand. 1/4 atm (~3.5psi) pressure difference. Full range of motion testing.

Challenge 6: Full suit. 1/4 atm pressure difference. Full range of motion testing. (Suit must including a helmet, but the helmet needs to be gas pressurised, not mechanical. That makes the transition area interesting.)

Challenge 7: Full suit. Maintain 3.5psi pressure in a vacuum chamber. 24 hr duration test. (The materials most suited for skinsuits don't like being in a vacuum.) Full range of motion testing at the beginning and end of the 24hrs, followed by leak testing at 15psi gas inflation. (Although leaks aren't as big a deal with skinsuits, it's a quick and dirty test of material failure.)

Challenge 8: Full suit. Full 1 atm (15psi) in a full vacuum. Pressure cycled 20 times. 7 day cumulative vacuum duration. (Simulates repeated space walks.)

At that point, you should have a bunch of potential contractors for a new generation of space suit. 1atm, no pre-breathe, minimal maintenance. (Frankly by Challenge 5, NASA will likely be offering conventional contracts.)

Additional Challenge 0, 1.5, 2.5... To create the stupid testing devices for the main challenges.

Paul451 said...

cont.

-- Lunar regolith --

To build a machine/robot/factory, which can accept a standardised crude-simulation of lunar regolith and manufacture building blocks (literally, literally, and figuratively, respectively.)

Three classes:

Class A: Build a machine that accepts raw simu-lith from a hopper, combined with an additive of their choosing, and poo out a series of house-brick sized house-bricks. Bricks must each achieve a sufficient and consistent mechanical strength. Minimum qualifying run is ten bricks, one press at a time. (Ie, you can't use a ten-brick mould and do a single run. There must be ten distinct runs.) If multiple teams hit the first target, they get to clean and repair their machines, then they run for endurance, brick for brick, no repairs, until there's only one standing.

Class B: Same as Class A, except instead of using a binder, the machine must use a sintering method, such as concentrated solar heat or microwave RF.

Class C: In a vacuum chamber, the machines must separate approx 0.5 to 1% sharp iron dust from bulk simu-lith. Filings must be clean to an arbitrary level. Assessment is a combination-score for speed of processing, percent of metal extracted from simu-lith, percentage of simu-lith left in final metal dust. (Speed/efficiency/quality.)

Class D: In a vacuum chamber, given pure iron dust (no simu-lith, but the same stuff used in Class C), smelt or sinter three bulk shapes:- A 24-inch long, 1/2-inch wide rod with bolt-holes at each end. A bucket suitable for a digging machine. Multiple teeth of the type used on the saw of a cutting/ripping type machine. The latter are an ease shape, but must be hardened in some way, making them the most complex to process. Assessment criteria is the quality of the part. Shape accuracy, mechanical strength and, for the teeth only, wear resistance of the cutting face.

Paul451 said...

Example of the three shapes in the Lunar regolith Class D (posted separately coz of how blogger and links and long posts.)
Inanimate rod, we trust
Bucket, with which to dig
Individual teeth for this chain-digger (oh how many of these I helped to change out in my childhood. Oh how many thumbs I crushed.)

It should be possible to run this contest repeatedly over a number of years, letting teams learn from their own and each other's successes and mistakes, and generally get to learn their craft. If you are able to do an annual contest, then the Class D products can be varied from simple (basic ingots) to more and more complex.

(An additional, high-school-level challenge would be to build R/C robots that can build 1/6th-mass version of the bricks into a little Lunar house that fits the robot.)

Paul451 said...

cont.
-- Lunar Tele-op Bot --

Teams build and remote control a simple electric wheeled rover via a 1 1/3 second delay each way. Challenge is a race over very, very, very bad terrain... at night, lit only by rover lights... the operator having only (delayed) video from the rover.

Weight classes. Also amenable to a high-school category.

-- Lava Cave Tele-op Bot --
Challenge: From a fixed base-station with power/comms, simulating a lander at an arbitrary safe distance from a jagged, unstable hole, opening up into a simulated lava tube with an unknown depth and layout, teams run a robot out to the lip of the cave, drop safely over the side, map the lava tube, relaying video back to the lander.

The Cave-bot would be live R/C'ed (via the base-station only) by the teams initially. But once the basic hardware works, you can add a delayed R/C to simulate a lunar mission, and autonomous to simulate a Mars/etc mission.

Would this be low-tech enough for a kids version? Smaller course, 1kg limit on the robot, say?

-- Magnetic plasma reentry shielding/deflectors ---

Nano-satellite sized magnetic plasma systems face a hot plasma stream. Plasma gets nastier each year. Latter rounds are dropped from sub-orbit and later orbit as micro-payloads on regular launches to face an increasingly hostile real launch. (Ejection at first stage staging gives you around 3km/s reentry speed. Orbit gives you full 7+km/s reentry.) Final challenge is BEO reentry speed (11+km/s) on a dedicated launch.

-- Cheap inflatable mirrors --

Class one: Comms dish, RF only. 10m diameter mirror.

Class two: RF, but suitable for radio telescopy. 100m mirror.

Class three: Optical dish for two-way laser-comms. 5m mirror, only needs to work at a single frequency (plus a bit of doppler.)

Class four: Optical, suitable for optical telescopy. 50m optically perfect mirror.

If you repeat the challenge (starting only with Class one in the first year), you'll allow teams to start small and get better.

Paul451 said...

And lastly (promise) if someone like DARPA is involved...

-- (actual) Robot (actual) Wars --

Annual live-fire contest for fully autonomous combat-drones. Multiple weight classes and multiple arenas: rough land, urban-ruins, sea, swamp, air-to-ground, and air-to-air.

Contest starts with one-on-one fight to the death qualifiers, then the winners go all-in. Guns only, no missiles. No other rules. Range-safety performed by CIWS guns and granade-launchers, because safety cut-offs never, ever work.

Oh and I get 1% of the TV rights.

(Hmmm, kid version? Drop the autonomy requirement. Dad's Glock duck-taped under a quad-copter, or shotgun on an R/C'ed go-cart?)

[I am not a robot, but I came close a couple of times.]

Paul Shen-Brown said...

I have to admit to having a mixed relationship to Robert Heinlein. It's not that I doubt he was a great writer, or that I did not enjoy his stories. He was fantastic and I loved his stories. I was introduced to Heinlein's writing by my 5th grade teacher, and I kept up a pretty solid diet of Heinlein novels all through college. My daughter has read my entire collection, with my encouragement. My wife even read a few when she was trying to improve her English skills, though the idiomatics are from a much older generation. I can't say I have read everything he wrote, but I read a pretty big chunk. Beyond This Horizon was, coincidentally, the last book I read by him. I have to admit, though, that I started getting tired of his themes. No matter how much you enjoy any one writer, you are better served getting some variety. But I still remember him fondly and take the occasional peek back at his stories.

The thing that sapped some of my enthusiasm for Heinlein was not his writing, though, but how I was perceived as a fan of Heinlein. Almost everyone who asked me what authors I read had a strong reaction to that name. They all assumed that being a fan of Heinlein made me a right-wing fascist. A handful snarled it at me, because they were left-wing loonies, and a much smaller handful were willing to discuss his work. The majority, though, were right-wing fascists and thought that being a Heinlein fan made me a possible recruit to their cause of lynching all the black people, sending the Mexicans back to Mexico, putting the women back in their place and gassing everyone who doesn't go to the same denomination of church they go to. I even ran into these people in supposedly liberal universities.

After awhile, I just stopped telling people that Heinlein was one of my favorite writers. It was as if I had to join RAH Anonymous. Anyone as smart as Heinlein is complex and their ideas are much more interesting than anyone else's simplistic labeling. Not only that, but the books he wrote in the 50's were in many ways different from what he was writing by the 80's. (Still, I don't get how anyone could read "Stranger in a Strange Land" and peg him for a fascist, nor read the Tagalog prayer at the end of "Starship Troopers" and think he was a racist - something that was left out of the Verhoeven movie.) Not only are people more complex than our stereotypes, they change as time goes by, though we dramatically underestimate how much we change as people. There has even been scientific research on this. I'll provide a link to one of the shorter summaries I have found.

http://news.sciencemag.org/2013/01/your-elusive-future-self

Thanks, Dr. Brin! Now I want to go back and "Heinlein out" again.

Later I'll get back on the topic of education. It's Finals week at my school, so I can't make any promises.

Jumper said...

Paul451, I wouldn't be surprised if some variant of this finds use in bonding lunar ceramics:
http://ceramics.org/ceramic-tech-today/electric-field-yields-triple-sintering-gain-improved-ceramic-properties-greater-speed-and-lower-temps

I proposed this in a question about metals to one of Conrad's former students who in turn mentioned it to one of his post-grads. Turns out more interesting in ceramics, Conrad's teams have found.

Su Elliott said...

I am still trying to interest my niece in reading RAH's juveniles which I grew up on myself. I can't overstate how well his books served me in encouraging me to test and question my preconceptions, construct and carry through raional arguments.

Not to mention they included some of the best and funniest dialogue writing I'd ever read. The courtroom scene in The Star Beast is one of my favorites and the lines "Objection! He's leading the witness" followed by the judge's tired "Never mind. Somebody has to." still make me giggle.

I never bought into the armed-society-as-polite-society idea, although it certainly made entertaining reading, as RAH did not suffer fools gladly and neither do it. But as many have pointed out, your ability to shoot is hardly the way to determine who wins an argument.

But I like the idea of using a camera rather than a gun. So many of us might modify our behavior if we could see ourselves through other's eyes and the camera provides a way to do this. What's hard about the camera is that it's so unforgiving. Once your follies have been posted on the interwebs, they're there forever and all your subsequent good deeds can't erase them. One thing I really wish they would add to Google searches is a clearly visible date stamp that lets you see what results are outdated and options to view in date order. This could let you see the arc of ideas on a subject and the arc of a person's life.

David Brin said...

Paul… a really well worked-out series of spacesuit milestones. I’ll take it to NIAC!

We are already funding regolith-building experiments…. and cave spelunking robot experiments. And cheap inflatable mirrors,

But the pell mell delay-nav race is cool, though. And I like the plasma re-entry shield. Though the robot wars thing… Um… I think NASA NIAC will give it a pass!

David Brin said...

Su Elliott the camera may not be forgiving… but it gives US a chance to be forgiving. A gun speaks and lives are irrevocably changes. A camera never forgets… but it gives the person you “shot” a chance to explain, to apologize, or to ask forgiveness… or to demand it from YOU for your quick-tempered quickness to shoot.

I never claimed transparency would solve our troubles. What it does is it gives us a chance to decide whether to be decent and free people. Without it, we have no chance at all.

David Brin said...

Stephen T. Crye thanks for your remarks. Though it’s a pity you require that I imitate a precise set of Heinleinesque prescriptions before you’ll “buy it.”

In fact, I have done all of the things on your demand list… and in many ways better than the master ever did. Which does not insult RAH, since I stand on his shoulders, as others will stand on mine. And as he would have wanted.

He would be the first to tell you where to take nostalgia and shove it. “Snap out of it! Treasure the things of youth. But also move forward. Onward.”

Paul Shen-Brown said...

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”


― Martin Luther King Jr.

I thought it might fit into this conversation here...

Tony Fisk said...

Wow! Paul451's being doing some thinking!

Since we're in RAH afficionado mode, I thought I'd point to Spider Robinson's 'Variable Star', which is based on an 8 page plot outline of Heinlein's. Elements of 'Time for the Stars' and 'Farmer in the Sky' are evident. It isn't Heinlein, but it captures his approach fairly well. Of particular interest is Robinson's account about how hard he had to bang his head against the wall to come up with a suitable ending (the outline lacked one)

David Brin said...

..." bang his head against the wall to come up with a suitable ending (the outline lacked one)"

Yep... that was Heinlein... and the reason why he and I would have been IDEAL collaborators!

Stephen T. Crye said...

Brin wrote:"Though it’s a pity you require that I imitate a precise set of Heinleinesque prescriptions before you’ll “buy it.”

But... but... I never said those conditions were a requirement. I just was hoping you would crank out something like what I described. I own many of your books. I enjoy your work, you have a unique style.

This sort of misunderstanding, so common on the internet, makes me sad. People take offense where none was offered, probably due to the lack of context and personal contact. Oh well. A trillion years from now none of this will matter.

Last night, after your essay reminded me it had been too long since I read any RAH, I pulled "Citizen of the Galaxy" off the shelf. Spellbound from the first sentence. And, the anti-slavery, help your fellow man theme was what I remember most about RAH. Still puzzled that so many regarded him as a right-wing fascist based on his books. His characters were almost always kind, compassionate and charitable.

Live long and profit,

Steve

David Brin said...

Oh for Pity's sake Stephen, you couldn't tell my tongue was firmly in cheek?

Jeez I guess we both blew that one. But we followed up! And so let me say you are a true... Citizen of the Galaxy...

Randy Winn said...

Isn't it perfectly okay to disagree with a lot of what the writer says, and still enjoy his stories?

P. S. I wish someone would make a movie out of "Double Star". With only insignificant changes to reflect our improved knowledge of Mars, wouldn't it be a cute little political thriller?

Paul Shen-Brown said...

I think the psychologists need a new one for their manual - Internet Hairpin Temper Disorder - IHTD for short.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Randy
I can't do that
If the writer (as opposed to one of his characters) is saying things that are flat out wrong then it makes it much more difficult for me to enjoy the story
Things like serious mistakes in orbital dynamics or other physical science are difficult to ignore

Then you get the characters doing silly things
The aliens in Independence Day for instance

Then you get to political differences
These are normally not as definitely wrong as the physics ones
But if a writer continues to talk nonsense then I will stop buying his books

Interestingly I have just been reading Chris Nuttall's books,
In one of them he has a fiercely libertarian main character - and I was thinking about biffing it and not buying any more
Further reading showed me that this character's views were really for effect and I will continue reading Chris's books



Stephen T. Crye said...

Perhaps it's my phone - it seems I can't reply directly to replies; they appear to go to the main thread.

To Brin: obviously I could not. In my defense (or at least by way of explanation), I'm never intentionally tounge-in-cheek in person, so I tend to not notice it in written form. My fail for sure, in these connected times! I innocently blunder along, never intending to accidentally offend.

As penance, I just ordered "Existence" in hardcover. ;-p

I fear that I have already said to much, but please feel no pity for me. I'm fine, having just returned from a splendid day-trek, off-trail, in the Organ Mountains Wilderness National Monument. My earlier reply was penned while siting on a boulder beside a desert stream under a crystalline blue sky. During my wandering I solved a nagging plot problem that had troubled me for weeks; it was a productive day!

David Brin said...

Fun day Stephen!

Hang around here. One of the oldest and best blogmunities on the planet.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I was sitting here thinking
RAH was damn good but there were/are better writers
Then I tried to list them
It was difficult!
I decided to list those that were
"As good as" (IMHO)
Charles Sheffield
Donald Kingsbury
L M Bujold
L Niven
J Varley
V Vinge
Our Host

There are others that write equally enjoyable books - but they are not as "deep"

Tony Fisk said...

Duncan, these things always tend to be a matter of taste, but it's interesting that your list omits Clarke and Asimov. Both 'deep' thinkers, although with styles that are distinct from Heinlein.

If you've got Varley, then why not Scalzi?

Tim H. said...

A thing I see in RAH's later books, the characters mostly realize "Your mileage may vary", the bed-hoppers were picky about who they chose and Lazarus Long seemed to be in love with all of them, even devoting decades exclusively to one woman. "Protean" may be the best word for Heinlein, he could be nearly anyone you needed him to be.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

I would add Ursula LeGuin to the list.

A.F. Rey said...

Things may not be as bad as they seem.

Of the 80 richest people in the world, 11 inherented their wealth, while another 19 inherented their wealth but made it grow into a tremedous fortune. "The remaining 50 names on the list, according to Forbes, are self-made billionaires."

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/meet-the-80-people-who-are-as-rich-as-half-the-world/

A nice percentage of entreprenuers.

Unfortunately, these 80 do control as much wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion people of the world, which makes them an extremely spikey top of the pyramid.

But at least they didn't inherit it all from their progenitors!

David Brin said...

AF Rey, it shows how fecund the post FDR era was, and how little capitalists have had to complain about. Fortunately, a fair number of the self-made billionaires have signed the Buffett pledge.

steve davidson said...

Thanks for this David. I've been beating the same drum for a while now (don't pin labels on someone who was dabbling in thought experiments) though far less eloquently than you just have.

Heinlein's fiction was an expression of the so-called Campbellian ideal SF (Heinlein's early work helped Campbell develop his theories of "what SF is".)

To put it in somewhat more modern parlance, good science fiction that meets all three primary requirements for the genre takes the form of an experimental model. Initial conditions are set forth, a variable is introduced and the consequences of the variable interacting with the conditions are then followed to their logical conclusion. Different variables produce different outcomes.

In regards to the armed society concept: I whole heartedly agree that the weapons we should be "armed" with are cameras. But I do still hold a fondness for substituting swords for guns. Swords are much more personal, much more intimate and they do not "go off" accidentally. Of course they take much more training to use effectively (which might actually be a virtue), and there are various other problems (like sitting in restaurants or crowded elevator cars), but they have the benefit of requiring thought prior to drawing and throughout the course of using them, as well as the benefit of being able to deliver less-than-lethal "instruction" in the hands of someone who is skilled in their use.

David Brin said...

Thanks Steve... but swords have disadvantages: 1- they are inherently sexist, notwhithstanding cos-play and vid-game heroines. 2- They are linked directly with 6000 years of feudalism. Look at OUTCOMES! Guys with swords banded together and ALWAYS used them to crush competition, to gang up and take away other men's women and wheat and swords.

I say this as a lifelong fencer!

Gator said...

"An armed society is a polite society" -- so what? Who believes a polite society should be our goal? I'd rather have a free society, an open society, a fair society, a compassionate society. Polite is nice, but rather down the list.

It is also quite possible to have a polite society without every citizen being armed. I've lived in Switzerland, where no one walks around armed, but everyone says "bon jour!" as you pass.

I personally enjoy both guns and swords, but I do not think carrying either every day will make me a better person.

Anonymous said...

The Pilot episode for The Man in the High Castle is available on Amazon....


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00RSI5EHQ/ref=dv_dp_ep1

A.F. Rey said...

Perhaps the solution is to give the guys who want them epees, and leave the guns to the police and the women. ;)

Jumper said...

Gentlemen used to carry walking sticks; canes; and not just for lameness. They were good for dealing with ruffians, dogs, and gangs of street urchins.

David Brin said...

onward

steve davidson said...

Jumper: I carry a walking stick (brass top) because I sometimes need it for balance; however, I had the option of having it customized to the proper length and chose to leave it the full 36" - for exactly the reason you've stated.

Naum said...

Something Else Like... Heinlein

Nobody’s writing official Heinlein sequels, but there are a pile of people who are self-identified as Heinlein influenced. There’s Spider Robinson, who was fortunate enough to write a book to Heinlein’s postumous outline, Variable Star. (I think they should have taken the outline and given it to a whole pile of people and let them all write different books based on it. I think that would have been fascinating.) There’s John Varley, who has a Heinlein sect building a starship on the moon in Steel Beach. Gregory Benford calls his novel Jupiter Project a Heinlein tribute. Charles Stross’s Saturn’s Children is directly influenced by Heinlein’s Friday.

Suetonius said...

Only locumranch could percieve the TNG Universe as "genderless", the first couple of seasons everyone was screwing all the time.

Robert J Frey said...

Your comment "A libertarianism of the compassionately practical variety preached by Adam Smith and the American Founders, not by psychopathic lunatics like Murray Rothbard or Ayn Rand." really hits the head of the nail. RAH sought a dialog with the readers, not lecture them. His work is often as much about what is wrong with a given social organization as what is right. And, perhaps, the realization that, though none of us has a perfect answer, there is the faith they can make progress on the problem.

John's Secret Identity™ said...

I've only just begun reading this article, so forgive me if this question is answered further in.

The question I have is: what is the correct pronunciation of 'Heinlein'?

And now back to reading...

Anonymous said...

In the medieval period few but some of the nobility, monks in monasteries, and wealthy could read. Producing a book was an enormous, expensive undertaking costing in the range of 3-10 times the median bourgeoisie income- $150,000-500,000. So, yes, the few people who understood what you might be talking about when you mentioned something from Plato had read the same thing, probably from the same book, and believe it. A serf would touch it in awe, much as we watch amazed looking at a vista from the Hubble space telescope. It's mysterious, awesome, and beyond our understanding.

As far as Robert Heinlein, I believe him when he said he wrote what would sell. He also said "I am proud to be a human being.....(mankind) will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage — and his noble essential decency.". He was a philosopher in the sense that his books explored where honesty, insatiable curiosity, courage, and essential decency could go.

Our host is right, many of his books, and often the characters, drifted from a finely told story into long dialogs or internal meanderings about those human essentials.

I haven't encountered any other author who did a better job producing a riveting story that based on a premise that had half the readers gritting their teeth and thinking "that just ain't right". If he were writing today I'd expect a book with a radical islamist as the heroic character, with all the ridiculous beheadings, 72 virgins waiting with Allah, and the Caliph ruling in Tehran. And the story would be riveting and make sense(in a way) until is drifted off into rambling philosophizing.

Phil Cartier

Richard Stallman said...

In the "Wild West", towns had gun control.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/23/1112703/-De-mythologizing-the-Wild-West-gun-laws-were-actually-stricter-then-than-now?detail=emailclassic

psikeyhackr said...

Thanks for explaining to the simplistic that Heinlein wasn't simplistic.

I started reading SF at age 9. My first book was not by Heinlein and I am not sure what my first Heinlein story was, it may have been Door into Summer. But SF introduced me to ideas that I was not getting from any of my teachers or other adults. Good SF is not shallow and that is what so much SF has become these days, shallow entertainment.

Almost no discussion of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress mentions LogLan. It is an artificial language designed to be more logical. This leads to Heinlein's interest in the works of Alfred Korzybski. The Tyranny of Words by Stuart Chase presents the ideas in a more comprehensible manner but this relates to Artificial Intelligence in connecting symbols with reality. How much SF today does anything like that?

http://www.isegoria.net/2009/06/the-language-of-clear-thinking/

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Mike Lorrey said...

David,
Firstly, your claim in your later comments that the gun homicide rate in the "wild west" was prodigious is simply false. It was actually far lower than most of the US today, and most that did occur had far more to do with the border skirmishes of the low intensity warfare with native americans than with actual interactions between American citizens. While Roth's paper shows that the big cattle towns had very high homicide rates within city limits, he ignores the fact that those very same cattle towns had extremely strict gun control ordinances in place, contrary to the rest of the western territories, much like modern Chicago, which has the strictest gun control laws in the country, has the highest murder rate in the country. Roth cherry picks these few cattle towns (cherry picking seems common among gun controllers) which serve his selection bias, and then uses the fraudulent statistical practice of homogenization to extrapolate those same rates across the entire west.
Secondly, Campbell's belief that an armed society makes for a polite society is etymologically provable in the evolution of language. In the eras when there was no legal public dueling, cultures exhibited far more polite forms of speech, with thee's and thou's, mayhap, therefores, might you, please, thank you, etc. because giving offense was likely to get you into a duel. Rudeness, therefore, gets you a Darwin Award.

Mike Lorrey said...

Cont'd...
But it also applies to criminal behavior. Given that cherry picking is perfectly acceptable practice done by gun grabbers, I shall do likewise and compare the city of Lowell, MA with Nashua, NH. They are separated by only a few miles, but vastly by a state boundary between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. NH, with unlicensed open carry, shall-issue concealed carry, castle doctrine, stand your ground, legalized machine guns and silencers, and a high percentage of its populace licensed to carry concealed, has vastly lower crime rates than MA, which has no stand your ground or castle doctrine, no open carry, and a strict may-issue CCW process with high fees and extensive training requirements, as well as a legal duty to retreat. Nashua, with strongly similar demographics to Lowell, both being old New England mill towns with significant immigrant populations, has crime rates one third to one half lower, depending on category, than Lowell.
I hope I have sufficiently proven my case, but I sorta doubt you will accept the facts.
As for the rest of the book: I am at a loss to understand how there is ANY competitive drive to do ANYTHING in the culture of Beyond This Horizon if there isn't any danger of significant financial loss with failure, and possibility of reward with success.
Now, trying to fix Heinlein on a single ideology based on a single book written at one point in his life is simply dishonest. Published in 1942, this was the youthful Heinlein, barely 32 years old, only a few years out of his political interest in Upton Sinclair's socialist campaign, and just after his failed attempt at a novel in For Us, The Living, which portrayed a similarly naive socialist utopia. The Heinlein of 1942 was a naive veteran who was wholly bought into the New Deal big government petty fasco-socialism of Roosevelt and how militarization of anything seemed to be most efficient and productive. This is a far far different person from the wise curmudgeonly old man who wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, Revolt in 2100, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Number of the Beast, Friday, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. The elder Heinlein knew from experience how corrupt and corrupting government is, how counterproductive and liberty-castrating regulation of any kind is, how abusive bureaucrats and enforcement thugs can be. The young Heinlein of 1942 knew none of these things, he didn't even have any clue about the depths to which militarized governments could go in the Hitler's Holocaust, Stalins' purges and gulags, and Mao's cultural revolution. Those revelations were to come later in his life, and helped shape the old man of wisdom he became. Your attempt to fix his ideology to that of his naive youth is therefore factually unsupportable.

Mike Lorrey said...

As a final comment, to thoroughly demolish your claims that Heinlein was some sort of closet liberal, I give you this, from his later years:

"At the time I wrote Methuselah's Children
I was still politically quite naive and still had hopes
that various libertarian notions could be put over
by political processes..

It now seems to me that every time we manage to
establish one freedom, they take another away.

Maybe two.

And that seems to me
characteristic of a society as it gets older,
more crowded,
higher taxed,
and more laws...

I would say that my position
is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's:
That I would like to see government reduced
to no more than internal police and courts,
external armed forces-
with the other matters handeld otherwise.
I'm sick of the way the government sticks its nose
into everythint, now."

-Robert A Heinlein, The Dean of Science Fiction

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sangat menarik untuk kami lihat tampilan warna yang digunakan pada website ini, bagus sekali..

Cara Memulihkan Leher yang Bengkak said...

website ini salah satu website yang saya sukai yang pernah dikunjungi, tampilannya menarik,

Cara Meredakan Nyeri Ulu Hati said...

website yang benar-benar menarik untuk kami simak, terima kasih atas izin kunjungan kami ini,

Cara Meredakan Jari Tangan yang Kaku said...

sangat membantu sekali untuk kami karena dapat menambah pengetahuan dan wawasan,

Cara untuk Hilangkan Psoriasis said...

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Cara Memulihkan Pembuluh Darah Pecah said...

sebelumnya kami ingin ucapkan terima kasih untuk izin kunjungan kami disini, sukses selalu,

Cara Membantu Mengencerkan Darah Kental said...

kami minta izin untuk mengunjungi artikel di website ini, ingin menambah pengetahuan,

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Cara Mengeringkan Luka Operasi Caesar said...

mohon izin untuk dapat berkunjung di website ini, sekedar untuk menyimak informasinya,

Cara Menangani Pendarahan Lambung said...

penyajian informasi yang mengagumkan, sukses untuk artikel informasi yang disajikan ini,

Kez0223 said...

Thank you very much for sharing information through this article

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Kez0223 said...

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Gejala Hernia Dan Alternatif Cara Pengobatannya
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Gela Hernia Pada Pria Yang Wajib Diketahui Juga Diwaspadai

Cara Melegakan Sesak Akibat Asma said...

bagus sekali warna tampilan yang digunakan pada website ini, sangat cocok dan pas...

Cara Menangani Radang Sendi said...

sungguh benar-benar website yang berkualitas, sukses untuk website yang bagus ini...

Cara Menghilangkan Sesak Nafas said...

kami mengucapkan banyak terima kasih untuk izin kunjungan kami di website ini,

Cara Menyembuhkan Sakit Tenggorokan said...

tampilan warna yang cukup menarik untuk digunakan pada website ini, sangat bagus...

Cara Meluruhkan Batu Empedu said...

penyajian website yang sungguh bagus dengan tampilan yang seperti ini, sungguh berkualitas,

Cara Membantu Penyembuhan Patah Tulang said...

sebelumnya mohon izin dari kami untuk mengunjungi di website ini, terima kasih,

Cara Menghilangkan Keloid pada Kulit said...

kami ingin berbagi sedikit informasi di website ini khususnya informasi mengenai kesehatan,

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