Saturday, October 10, 2015


Okay, this one is all about... your humble host. And first, an encomium for which I literally bled, eighty times...

A ten gallon hat! That's what you get for donating 10 gallons of blood! (Across the span of some years...) And a nice little plaque. Match that! Schedule an appointment through your local Red Cross or Blood Bank. 

My short story The Giving Plague explored a creepy-hopeful-scary scenario wherein blood donation changes the future of humanity... (it's free on Kindle or my website). 

== Recent and upcoming honors ==

The Potomac Institute’s Navigator Awards recognize individuals who have sought bold solutions to national challenges.  I am honored to be one of this year’s three recipients, along with Congressman Mac Thornberry and Alan Shaffer, Director of the office at NATO that coordinate R&D toward defense and civilian progress. Past recipients include leaders in government service as well as science & technology pioneers like Elon Musk. My citation is for shaking up assumptions by constructing “unconventional settings and raise serious questions about the nature of humanity, the fate of Earth, and other cosmic considerations.”  A big gala event in DC. I'll have pictures soon.

Also in October 2015 I’ll be the first annual National Endowment for the Humanities/Hannah Arendt Center Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Bard College, and keynoter at Bard’s October 15-16 conference: What do we lose when we lose our privacy? with a Skyped appearance by Edward Snowden.

== Insightful gab or hot air? ==

The Future Seen Through the Eyes of a Writer: I was onstage with epic Sci Fi novelist and AI theoretician Ramez Naam (author of the chilling near-future Nexus), as well as Peter Schwartz (author of The Art of the Long View) discussing possibilities about what lies beyond tomorrow, at the huge Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco, September 2015. Here's a clip of the video from the event.

Join me in New York City: Is Science Fiction the Science of the Future? An evening meet-up with the Philip K. Dick Festival in Manhattan on October 12 at 7 pm. 

Where you can find me next month: My travels include New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Amsterdam, and Dallas... Check my website for updates ... or follow me on Twitter.

== Brin Sampler == 

I frequently answer questions on Quora. Join the often thought-provoking discussions over there, with queries like: Why hasn't there been a coup d'etat in the United States.

Trekspertise released a nicely edited, image-rich video of a talk I gave exploring: What is Science Fiction?  See more articles and Speculations on Science Fiction.

At the borderlands between science and science fiction are the highly elevated interviews of Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s “Closer to Truth” television series. I was honored to be included along with mavens like Francisco Ayala, Paul Davies Max Tegmark, Alan Guth and so on.  In this mashup, Kuhn alternates some of my excerpts with those of Nick Bostrom, Martin Rees, Marvin Minsky and Ray Kurzweil, creating in effect a debate over whether or not we are currently living in a simulation. See Is Our Universe a Fake? nicely repackaged by Or browse the list of insightful topics at the show’s main site

== Samples!  Free samples! (heh heh)

Warning, you’ll be hooked! Do not read this sampler from Brightness Reef!  About Alvin and Huck and their pals, in the lost colony of Jijo.  Where refugees from six races hide from the sky… but a set of alien teenagers make a weird discovery…

How would you like to be able to make a temporary duplicate of yourself, any day? Kiln People is almost universally called the “most fun” Brin novel. (Some hold out for The Practice Effect.) Try chapter one, here. You decide if it’s hilarious or just the strangest sci fi premise you ever saw.

"The most light-hearted serious science fiction novel I've read." -- Vernor Vinge.

I’ve got a weakness for mind-jarring opening lines. Here’s the starter sentence in GLORY SEASON “Twenty-six months before her second birthday, Maia learned the true difference between winter and summer.” Adventure. Pirates. Sea voyages and dark mysteries and fun and thought-provoking speculations about human reproduction.  Read chapter one here.  And watch the vivid one-minute trailer!  

Sample the final adventure of Hari Seldon, in Foundation's Triumph -- wrapping up Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe. (And yes, this is the "official"  final word... for now.)

My short story collection, Otherness, recently re-released in paperback and ebook. Here you'll find some of my best stories, such as The Giving Plague, Dr. Pak's Preschool, Detritus Affected, and others. 

== Miscellaneous News ==

Contrary Space: Listen to my episode on Robot Overlords.

Arte Mudou o Mundo: the article is in Portuguese, but my video interviews are in English. 

Here's the complete set of Uplift-related schwag that Cafe Press offers! 

Both the Chinese translation of my story "The Warm Space" and the accompanying interview have been published.  

Is there more?  Sure?  Browse for freebies galore. Thrive! Enjoy!


Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

As a total SF snob, I second Vinge's description of Kiln People. It's worth a purchase, people! It's also as deep as the best stuff of Douglas Hofstadter on identity, self and consciousness but done with humor.

Jeff Swim said...

The first story of yours I ever read was "The Practice Effect", and I was hooked. I've long thought that it would make a terrific movie. Perhaps one day...

Daniel Duffy said...

As for the future of politics, anyone want to give even money that the Republican Party will even exist 2 years from now?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Now VOX is coming to Dr Brin's viewpoint

Tony Fisk said...

What happens in a two-party democracy when one side has dissolved into gibbering goo?

The expectation is that the remaining party will schism to fill the political void, somewhat like a root propagation.

As the Australian Libs have been going the same way as the GOP in recent years*, Australia seems to be in the process of allowing a third party (the Greens) to rise from seed. Not only have they got Senators, but they now have lower house members as well. That has been made feasible by preferential voting, where it's possible to responsibly vote for an experiment ahead of the preferred party hack.

*Turnbull seems to be doing something about remedying this, although it's way too early to see whether or not he can put in a permanent fix, and the push back is starting. There was talk of the RW forming their own party, but they seem to be settling for games of 'King of the Castle'

Alfred Differ said...

I'd give even money.
They will exist 2 years from now.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'd give even money.
They [Republican Party] will exist 2 years from now.

Yes, unfortunately, I would have to bet that way as well. In a rational world, the Republican Party would have died after their repudiation in the 2006 midterms and the 2008 presidential election. but someone forgot to cut off the head and bury the pieces at separate crossroads. So, they retook all branches of government except the presidency itself. Hard to believe they'd go away in two short years.

On the other hand, the Chicago Cubs look like they might go all the way this year, so we really are in uncharted territory.

Tony Fisk said...

The Republican Party will probably still exist in two years. After all, the DLP is still hanging around after sixty years (in Victoria, at least).

Duncan Cairncross said...

I was amazed that the GOP survived 9/11 followed by the Iraqi war

With any type of sensible electorate those two would have meant that no Republican was electable for decades

Terry Bollinger said...

CongratulationsI am delighted to hear that you have been honored with a prestgious a Potomac Institute award, and that you received it alongside no less a personage than Al Shaffer!

(Technically I have a share of a Potomac Institute award myself, from about a decade ago for open source software leadership. The actual physical plaque was alas stolen or lost from its central display when MITRE closed down its Reston building several years ago.)

Terry Bollinger said...

CongratulationsI am delighted to hear that you have been honored with a prestgious a Potomac Institute award, and that you received it alongside no less a personage than Al Shaffer!

(Technically I have a share of a Potomac Institute award myself, from about a decade ago for open source software leadership. The actual physical plaque was alas stolen or lost from its central display when MITRE closed down its Reston building several years ago.)

Alfred Differ said...

It takes a lot more than repudiation to kill a US political party. The zealots have to surrender or die off. No easy feat.

Dems in this country are guilty of wishful thinking often enough to be embarrassing. Wiping out the GOP can actually be done, but only by moving in their direction far enough to appeal to the folks who aren't enamored by the religious groups and their positions. Moving to the right is generally done during a general election, but not enough to permanently injure the GOP. Sometimes not even well enough to win.

daddyoyo said...

When polled on specific issues of taxing and spending, as opposed to personalities or generalities, Americans are clearly to the Left of moderate Democrats such as Obama and the Clintons:

daddyoyo said... Here's my link for evidence of the above claim.

Duncan Cairncross said...

On the subject of guns and mass murder

Guns are an easy way to kill lots of people,
The nutters doing the school shootings are for the most part total losers,
Just whining cry babies,
They kill people because it's easy

You can kill people without using guns - but it's more difficult - a total loser is unlikely to have enough gumption and expertise to be able to kill people without using a gun

You can't stop the fanatic from building his bomb - but if guns were not as freely available at least you could stop cry baby losers from killing people

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Congratulations on your prestigious awards and I am sure there will be others in the future.

The conference at Bard College looks to be a coming treasure of topics for thought and discussion. Will it be streamed or recorded? I would love to be able to vision the talks.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, are you going to be in the Netherlands long enough to have a look around, or is it going to be one of those fly in, give a speech, fly out affairs? I haven't been there since I was 4, so the only thing I remember is the Miniature City in Rotterdam, which I thought was really cool at the time. My uncle Kas owns an Irish-style pub in Delft that is supposed to be quite the place, though I have only seen pictures. Since I haven't seen him since I was 13, I couldn't promise free drinks or anything.

In the last thread you asked for some specific proposals, which is exactly what I had asked for. Since it seems people still want to talk about guns, I'll add my two guilders worth. The case of my osteologist from Montana made me think that perhaps gun permits could be tied to a person's proximity to police (and a measure of their response time), with population density modifiers.

Deuxglass, what you said about firearm purchases becoming concentrated in a smaller number of hands is in line with what I wrote earlier about the affordability/practicality of guns, though from a different angle. I'm not sure, though, how effective it would be to limit the number of guns a person can own would be, however. Unless our cybernetics technology advances pretty rapidly, people could only really fire two guns at a time, and unless they are ambidextrous only one of those would be very accurate. In a number mass shooting incidents the perp(s) used multiple guns, presumably emptying the rounds in one before switching to another. But changing clips is quicker, easier and much less encumbering than changing weapons, especially with long guns. People who would tote around multiple weapons like that are clearly not all there, fetishizing their firearms as if they were golf clubs. And trying to restrict numbers of guns would be an imposition on those history buffs who collect guns. I knew enough people who had family serve in past wars, were proud of that family history and collected weapons from the wars in which their family members had served. They would not go down without a legal fight.

To get off the subject of firearms and onto something more positive, Dr. Bin's accolades are great spirit lifters. Dr. Brin, do you remember what Robert Sapolsky said in that National Geo video about people who are low on the totem pole in their jobs but find other venues for competition and pride? I think it would be a good thing if there were more things like this that more ordinary mortals could have a stab at, and would be less rare, more visible to the public. Americans as a general rule are too focused on a form of success that is extractive and zero-sum, if not downright negative sum. There used to be a newspaper in my home town that did a regular "Good Samaritan" award, though it has been so long I don't remember if it was weekly or monthly. The paper was far too liberal for that place and went out of business when I was still in my larval stage, but the idea could be resurrected in some form. Perhaps a web site that calls attention to local people who do good things, shooting out a quick profile, connecting to their Facebook or whatever pages, and making some small token of personal adornment that they could wear in public, like a lapel pin. A medal would look too ostentatious. I'm sure there are plenty of people here who could do the Internet work, but it would probably take a network of journalists to find and reward good deeds on a regular basis. An alternative might be to make a web site where the public can submit suggestions, though that method has a different set of issues.

locumranch said...

Felicitations !! David does seem to be living the life of Eloi as he flits from one gala luncheon to the next, hobnobs with celebrity, receives award on top of accolade & burns through hundreds of thousands tonnes irreplaceable of CO2 offsets, while the few remaining Moorlocks labour on unrecognised, in the boiler rooms of industrial society, and make his delicious lifestyle possible, to be satiated only by the vicarious consumption of his success, temporarily, at least until a far more marbled & meaty fare becomes available.

It's been almost 30 years since I read 'The Giving Plague': Didn't it postulate that altruism was a virally-mediated disease?

To Duncan I only have this to say: Most assuredly, it is those 'nutters', those 'whining crybabies' and 'total losers' who are responsible for most mass shooting worldwide, but know this -- those 'losers' (as you say) are YOUR creation, the product of a two-tiered culture & proactive societal rejection -- as sure as the Moorlocks were once the slaves of the Eloi, so 'bon appetite' because turn-about is fair play.


Alfred Differ said...

Heh. The only plausible charge that might stick to Duncan is a lack of empathy. Maybe it is compassion fatigue. Seems that stuff is contagious. Does it cause finger pointing too?

Those 'losers' probably go insane in their isolation. Is there a solution for them? Maybe. I suspect one has to start early with the child who grows up to be one of them. That method is underway as we change our traditions regarding what we expect of parents raising their children. No one really knows how to do it, but we have learned a thing or two about how NOT to do it.

Jumper said...

locumranch, you are mean and belligerent today. And dumb and wrong as well.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"those 'losers' (as you say) are YOUR creation"

I hate to admit it but he is right

We have a society where there are large rewards for the "winners"
In fact we are moving further and further towards the "winner takes all" society

So those who are the "losers" are losing more - it's much more difficult to starve when others are feasting

If we had a more equitable society maybe the losers would not feel too bad?
Or is the problem that these particular "losers" think they should be the winners?

Either way a more equitable society would help the problem

Paul SB said...

Duncan, you can't lay the blame at the feet of whoever the hell little loci thinks should be blamed for it. This is a problem that goes back to the dawn of civilization. As long as there have been permanent social heirarchies, or even the kind of pseudo-freedom we have today, there have always been those who are labeled 'winners' and those who get labeled 'losers' - and some subset of those labeled 'losers' are not content to suffer silently as the Gods ordain.

That feeds directly into Sapolsky's point about the need for people who are low on the social totem pole to find other venues in which to find value, other arenas in which they could be successful and not have to spend their lives feeling worthless in the eyes of society. It is also why I brought up the Good Samaritan column from that old newspaper. This is a problem where our memes are a major, major player.

Personally I couldn't care less about the ego-posturing of the world's Peter Geckos. I get a modicum of self-worth from knowing that many of my students are coming out of my classes with their most egregious assumptions challenged. And during vacations I engage in unusual artistic pursuits that, while socially trivial garner some amount of oxytocin. This isn't like handing out mediocrity medals, it's niche specialization, a very different thing. If you have read Pratchett's novel "Going Postal" you might think of the collector character (Tolliver Groat, IIRC, but it's been awhile) who was a little kooky, but he had his peers among whom he found respect, or if you ever saw a French film called "Monsieur Hire," whose central character would probably be called a loser by most people, but was a star at the bowling alley. People simply need to find other things to care about than our most conventional arenas of competition.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul,

There have always been winners and losers - true
BUT the winner used to win a bigger slice of the pie - now he tends to walk away with the whole damn thing!

Yes alternative "niche's" are a good thing and should be celebrated but the "main chance" is very important

The idea that somebody is "earning" more before lunch than you earn all year is incredibly corrosive,
The USA is the worst for this - not only are the poor badly off in real terms but the society is one that glorifies wealth
The rich don't hide in a corner they flaunt their gains

It didn't use to be like that - it used to be considered vulgar to flaunt your wealth
It was the Reagan/Thatcher idea that greed is good

Laurent Weppe said...

"So those who are the "losers" are losing more - it's much more difficult to starve when others are feasting"

There's another thing that creates murderous anger:
the fact that our society is a lot less meritocratic than its beneficiaries like to admit.
Sure, we went from the obvious parasitic dominion of inbred & lazy dynasts to more discreet forms of nepotism and social reproduction, but my personal pet theory about mass shooters is they perceive society as evolving from one where their forefathers cashed in on privileges they received without question to one where customary cheating still exists but they don't belong to its privileged beneficiaries anymore. Perceiving a society that for now by and large accepts the new customs as intrinsically complicit to these, the conclude that the pain and suffering they inflict is well deserved.
The criminologist Étienne de Greeff came up with notion of "sentiment d'injustice subie" -the feeling of being victim of injustice- as a central psychological trigger in many if not most criminals: because they perceive themselves as victims, they perceive their crimes as a form of righteous retribution against an unfair system and its lackeys: mass shootings may be one of the most violent expression of this psychological mechanism.

Jumper said...

Paul SB said...

Duncan, Laurent & Jumper, there's nothing for me to disagree with here, especially the bit about the Reagan/Thatcher years being a major turning point for the worse. de Greef's "sentiment d'injustice subie" has its parallels in anthropology, though this shouldn't be surprising as there is always some cross pollination. I see this as part of the growth of a negative identity complex, where subalterns grow up thinking that anything considered good by the mainstream must really be bad and vice versa. Unfortunately we tend to express this largely in racial terms, which keeps people mystified and squabbling amongst themselves while the Peter Geckos steal more and more of the world out from under them.

Dr. Brin, I just realized I forgot to mention the name of the pub my uncle owns. It's kind of funny. He wanted it to have a name that would seem homey to American tourists, so he called it "The Dirty Nellie." I guess they watch too many Westerns over there...

Jumper said...

Funny thing about organizations; they don't have discrete lifespans or even identities per se. In other words, if you changed the name of the Republican Party, (I was going to say, "and reworded the basic tenets", but I'm not sure you'd find any such basic tenets written down in any official place!) but it kept the same 98% of its constituents, would that be the end of it? If you changed the name of Israel to "Palestine-Hebrew Union" but kept some aspects much the same, would Israel then be "wiped off the map?"

Some offshoot will retain the name "Republican Party" simply for its brand value.

Laurent Weppe said...

*"If you changed the name of Israel to "Palestine-Hebrew Union" but kept some aspects much the same, would Israel then be "wiped off the map?"

More interestingly: if you gave voting rights to all Palestinians, abolished the many discriminatory laws, dismantled the far-right settlers militias and took away the many undue privileges granted to the sclerosed local rabbinate, but kept the name Israel: how many people would say that Israel has ceased to exist?

locumranch said...

Inequality is a growing problem in Western Society (as demonstrated by the death of our once diamond-shaped society), yet this growing inequality is not merely *financial* by any means, it is also largely *sexual* (as opposed to *gendered*) as the loss of male reproductive access has been exacerbated by advances in gender equality, since up to 70% of both genders are now unmarried by age 30 and about 80% of those single women become single parents (whereas less than 60% of single men become single fathers), meaning that almost 40% our male population are *childless*, care very little about anyone's future genetic posterity & lack a vested interest in our collective long-term survival as a self-perpetuating society.

So, when we take into account growing male *reproductive inequality*, we are left with a huge proportion (almost 40%) of Western males who (1) feel increasingly frustrated, marginalised & isolated (persona non grata), (2) self-define as 'losers' in Darwin's reproductive lottery, and (3) just don't give a dump about our society's long-term survival, and they are (therefore) much more prone to either socially disengage (check-out) or self-destruct (run amok) while taking out as many of society's *winners* (their 'enemy') as possible, leading (perhaps) to societal collapse along the lines of Syria & Libya (which, in turn, can only cause increased migration of their single male 'losers' to the West and accelerate our decline).

Finally, I have to admit that Jumper was right: My last post was unintentionally harsh. I meant no offense to David who is obviously (1) deserving of success, (2) an accomplished & entertaining author, (3) prophetic, (4) highly intelligent and (5) a dedicated 'positive sum' idealist. Also, I wish him all-the-best. That said, he is neither a conservationist nor a self-abnegating saint, and his jet-setting, resource-intensive, celebrity lifestyle betrays a certain amount of underlying climate change hypocrisy.

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict demonstrates the problematic *effects* of marginalisation. First, the Israelis (as a response to the catastrophic 'marginalisation' of WW2) are (1) appropriately 'defensive', (2) extremely unforgiving of trespass and (3) quick to escalate toward an (appropriately & increasingly) 'violent' response. The same is true for Palestinians (only more so) who, once self-identified as perennial 'losers/victims', are quick to 'run amok' (self-destruct) for the putative reason of 'taking down' as many of the Israeli 'enemy/winners' as possible, making peace between these two (defensive) self-identified 'losers' impossible.

Paul451 said...

Re: Losers vs "losers"

It's sad to see that Locumranch's word games had its intended effect, and the meaning of Duncan's original comment immediately got lost in the "winners vs losers" debate.

The kind of freak who threatens to kill all the girls in a school because the cheerleaders won't send him nude pictures (or actually does kill people because he can't get a date) is not even on the same page... hell, not in the same library... as someone who is being financially disadvantaged by an unfair society.

For Locumranch to conflate the two ... and for so many to fall for it ... is pathetic.

"The nutters doing the school shootings are for the most part total losers, Just whining cry babies, They kill people because it's easy
but if guns were not as freely available at least you could stop cry baby losers from killing people"

IMO, this may be a more important factor in the success of Australia's gun reforms than banning certain firearm types. The rigmarole you have to go through to get a licence, then go through again to buy a gun. Most people find such bureaucratic nonsense to be frustrating; complex paperwork, long lines, the seemingly endless delays and fees and hassle. We get frustrated, but we deal with it. The cry baby losers who go on shooting sprees are precisely the kind of people who can't deal with it. Those who get too angry too quickly, who abandon the effort or end up making threats that get them thrown out (or become "known to police" and thus forever banned from owning firearms.)

This is particularly for handguns, where you are required to belong to a sports club and engage in at least two "contests" a month (IIRC). When the rules came in, and hundreds of thousands of handgun owners suddenly needed to find a club, many clubs made it easy to be a member. Lots of new clubs rose up, some specifically to provide the minimum necessary requirements. But you need a certain level of social fluency to belong to such organisations, particularly the ones set up to "get around" the rules (you need people to trust you.) Precisely the kind of social ability that the cry baby losers don't have. (And before LR jumps in again, remember these are hardly going to be "feminist" organisations, they are shooting clubs, full of like-minded gun owners.)

Maybe there's a paper in it? "Mindless Bureaucracy As A Life Saving Tool Against Anti-Social Losers"?

Hence, Paul SB, you don't need complex formulas, you just need the existence of the permits. Make the would-be gun owner sit at a local police station for two hours waiting for his turn at the counter to have his paperwork possibly rejected because he used the wrong application form for his situation or doesn't have enough points-of-ID.

(Aside: And by definition, the further outside of cities you are, the more flexible the local police are likely to be. Since they already know your family, and they have no more interest in paperwork and bureaucratic city-dictated crap than you do.)

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: "I hate to admit it but he is right"

No. He isn't. Now you are guilty of self-abuse. I get that you want to do something about the problem, but accepting blame for something for which you had no 'intent' isn't smart. You'll defeat yourself before you even arrive on the battlefield.

Don't accept blame. Accept responsibility for action instead.

(This is one of my pet peeves. People who accept blame for faceless injustices give such things faces. Those who feel they are victims then have a target.)

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Good thing you qualified 'childless'. I'd have to call BS otherwise.

What is the current ratio of males to females for people who fail completely to reproduce? Of these people, what percentage of our communities do they constitute?

I get where your 40% number comes from, but I'll point out that many of them succeed at reproducing at least once. They might not have an immediate interest in defending a family, but they DO have an interest in creating a world where their offspring can succeed. Besides, among males it's not as if we can't reproduce later. Early offspring benefit from a longer period of tutelage, but second family offspring benefit in other ways. We aren't dying as young as we used to, so I'll challenge you to back up your nonsense about 'lack of reproductive access' for men.

Average expected life span has doubled in two centuries for practically everyone. THAT's what has us all a-froth. If our reproductive success rate wasn't on the decline, we'd be in a world of hurt. Fortunately, women have demonstrated some power in this area.

As for hypocrisy claims about David's life style, you are being a doofus. Lot's of people make this mistake, so don't feel bad about it. He's NOT a hypocrite IF he makes his living in a manner where he does his best to minimize his carbon footprint. External judgements of what constitutes his best are potentially flawed because we use our own goals in place of his and then judge the efficiency of his actions by them. There is a physics analogy for this. A heat engine's efficiency is measured as a ratio of the work it does to the heat input. If different observers disagree about what work is being done, they get different ratios. In economic terms, a disagreement about what someone SHOULD do is a disagreement about the work to be done by their transactions. As long as David thinks through the 'work' he does and minimizes the heat input, he gets the best efficiency he can. That's easy enough to do in a market where the 'heat' costs money. Care to bet that he took measures to minimize the amount he spent on airplane tickets? Ground transportation? Other inputs?

Hypocrisy arguments compare apples to apples only when the 'work' being done is accepted as a given by all involved in finding the efficient solution. Variances in work are best saved for those times when the best solutions found are too costly for those would participate in the transactions.

Yes... this does create an issue with transactions involving people who have more money than God. Look at their carbon footprints, though. We vastly outnumber them. Even with power law distributions of wealth, they can't burn through the carbon we do except through the markets. They are their own transaction bottlenecks.

Jumper said...

Commercial airlines get 50 - 75 passenger miles per gallon.

Brenna Toblan said...

Congrats on the hat, David. Just did number 93 today myself.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Congrats on the hat

I must admit I feel grumpy about giving blood - I used to donate whenever the van came around,
Then we had Thatcher's "we don't need no stinking legislation" leading to Mad Cow disease
And now because I was in the UK then I can't give blood!
(or more accurately nobody will accept it)
Sometimes I feel I should have a small bell and shout "unclean, unclean"

Alfred Differ said...

Don't let anyone see you hanging around in the noon day sun. 8)

'Muchos Gracias' to everyone who tries from a transfusion recipient.

David Brin said...

Alas Paul my time in Amsterdam will allow - extracurricular - just a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. Which is a pilgrimage!
I am spending a mont ignoring whatever L blathers. But Duncan what you describe is the natural tendency for cheaters to strive to hammer our miracle diamond shaped society filled with confident individualists and diversity and social mobility and meritocracy into the old-tire-persistent pyramid of privilege. Our generation must do what our parents did. Fight this and save the revolution.
Brenna grrr! I'll have to donate years more to reach 93 pints! Fortunately it makes me feel great and much better at replacing blood etc.
All human societies practice some particle polygyny. Ours is despicable… serial abandonment via divorce. Not all divorce is the guy's fault! But it is still often the case that multiples are given to guys who lie well. Women need better standards.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, you must know that to say his name right you have sound like you are spitting up a slick hairball, right? They probably won't let you take pictures, but if you actually paint with oils, seeing his works close up is a real treat. I'm hoping I will get there some time in this life time. Having grown up amid the Rocky Mountains, the Low Countries have little to offer in terms of the scenery I enjoy, but the place has history.

Paul 451, I get what you are saying about how we have conflated economic "losers" - who are most of our nations these days - with the kind of people Adam Sandler would call "losers." We seem to have had two different things going on at once and getting conflated. There is probably some amount of overlap between them. I don't know of any case where a mass murderer was a wealthy entrepreneur, at least not the kind who walks into public places and starts shooting. I would argue that there are a lot of insurance execs who could be thought of as mass murders, but they do it in rather mundane and legal ways. However, much of the stress that pushes people over the edge is certainly a result of the growing socioeconomic inequities, so their is a connection that is useful to conceive and discuss.

Some of what I saw about the Oregon shooter suggested he might have had ASD, which was also the case with the New Town CT shooter. The freak in Santa Barbara seemed to be overly concerned with relationship issues, and that may have been an issue for Oregon murderer as well. Since virtually all mass murderers turn out to be male, a sexual frustration connection probably plays a role in many of them. However, it needs to be pointed out that our culture treats sexual relationships as an arena for prestige or shame, and people who are on the Spectrum typically have great difficulties here. Some men get "trophy wives" while others can't "get any" and are looked down on by society as among the ultimate "losers." The clergy allows an option for such people, but it's not as prestigious as it once was, and it's clearly not for everyone. This is another place our over-competitive memes have some nasty unintended consequences, and a "live and let live" attitude might serve us all better.

Maybe more of us should follow Dr. Brin's lead regarding our little loci.

Alfred Differ said...

Just got done with the proclivities profiling part of the transparency book and then ran across this. Heh.

Epigenetic markers for homosexuality

Laurent Weppe said...

"Epigenetic markers for homosexuality"

Homophobic crowd doing a 180° about homosexuality being a "lifestyle choice" and starting advocating eugenistic prenatal screening in three, two, one...

Alfred Differ said...
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Alfred Differ said...

They might, but that will make them easier to attack here. We will be able to lump them in with some historical figures they absolutely hate. 8)

Besides, these markers can potentially be reset after birth. I suspect epigenetics is where we will find many of these proclivities. Scary potentials for both good and bad.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Have you ever seen the Van Gogh section at the Paris museum the “Musée d’Orsay”? If you haven’t ever it you should. The big advantage of being in Paris is the sheer wealth of art easily available. One of my other favorites is the Musée Rodin. The power of his sculptures is really overwhelming. And I have to mention the Galleria Borghese in Rome. It has the best collections of Bernini sculptures in the world.

I am proud of the Human Race’s social and scientific accomplishments but I am in awe before our achievements in art and our capacity to create beauty.

Paul SB,

My proposal about gun control was intended just as a way to get the two sides negotiating with each again by finding some common ground. Yes I know some people have valuable collections of firearms and would want to keep them. You can get around that prickly problem by putting in a legacy clause the details of which would be negotiated. I was only looking for a way to get them talking again and not trying to solve the whole gun-control problem.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass we lived for 2 years in La Ville Lumiere. The Musee D'Orsay and Rodain and Oragngerie were all favorites…

Deuxglass said...

The you know about "the moveable feast".

Jumper said...

On the genetic "gay test" they say "Up to 70% accuracy" and I have to point out that if I just labeled everyone "heterosexual" my prediction has about the same value, it'll be about 70% (or better!) accurate. ;>]

If there is a genetic component, I suspect it will point in directions which no one really categorizes nowadays anyway.

David Brin said...



David Burns said...
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Hyperion said...

Congrats on 10 gallons of blood - 6 more pints for me to catch up.

Jonathan S. said...

As regards the ASD allegations, it is my experience that people on the spectrum are far more likely to hurt themselves than others. The issue here, I believe, stems from the conflation of autistics and sociopaths, in part because of the failure of understanding developing from the Bad Old Days when all mental issues were believed to be psychological in nature (whereas we now know that some are neurological, and not indicative of psychopathic development at all), and in part because of the mistaken belief that since autistics didn't "mirror" the empathic behavior of their neurotypical bretheren, they (we) didn't possess empathy at all. (Further research indicates that precisely the opposite is true - many autistics are too empathic, to the point that it cripples their social development because they don't know how to express that empathy).

The Sandy Hook shooter was called "Asperger's" by his mother; however, no one else claimed that, and it seems likely to me (particularly based on other aspects of his personality as revealed by all the "how could he do this?" stories on the news) that she claimed that label for him so that she wouldn't have to face the idea that her precious son was a sociopath who regarded other human beings as less "real" than himself.

The Oregon shooter hasn't even been claimed to be on the spectrum - that's just the first place some folks jumped when they heard "antisocial" and "loner".