Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Childhood's End and Remembering Arthur C. Clarke

Last night was the premiere of Childhood's End on SyFy. The reviewers haven't been kind  but I think it's been very faithful to the source novel. We'll be watching part two tonight.

December 16 would have been Arthur C. Clarke’s 98th birthday. Arthur (who called me a colleague and friend, despite our only having corresponded by mail) passed on in 2008, after ninety years of a life that could only have happened in the century and civilization that he helped to shape.

Clarke has long and deservedly been called one of the finest “hard” science fiction authors, for good reason. From the beginning of his career as a writer, he explored frontiers of human knowledge, pondering the implications of everything from cetacean intelligence to planetology. From the logic of John Von Neumann’s universal self-replicator to the possible motives of beings far in advance of ourselves.

And yet, what most intrigues me about Arthur’s work is something else – his ongoing fascination with human destiny – a term seemingly at odds with the scientific worldview.

True, a great many of his stories have focused on problem-solving, in the face of some intractable riddle. His characters, confronted with something mysterious, aren’t daunted. They gather resources, pool knowledge, argue, experiment, and then – often – transform the enigmatic into something that’s wondrously known. This part of the human adventure has always shown us at our best. Peeling away layers. Penetrating darkness. Looking back at the wizard, standing behind the curtain.

But there is another Arthur C. Clarke. The one who sent David Bowman through the monolith in his great classic, 2001. The author who gave us Childhood’s End. One who frets that we may not be wise enough to survive the next few generations of tense immaturity, let alone become worthy of joining more advanced communities of mind.

And so, we have a recurring theme of intervention – quasi-divine -- receiving outside help to achieve our potential. It was Clarke’s Law that a sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. What few have pointed out is how often he brought in Supertech/magic to save humanity from itself.

In this mix of both fizzing optimism and dour worry, Arthur always struck me as similar to two other giants, both Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, who also surveyed very wide horizons, from alluring to disquieting. Indeed, Isaac spent a very long span exploring extensively a topic beloved to Arthur, the notion of humanity needing guidance from supertech outsiders -- in his case robots -- leading to a similar conclusion.  That fractious individualism must give way to a more-mature level of unitary uber-mind. A conclusion that Isaac started to back away-from, in the years before he died, leaving hints that I wove into Foundation's Triumph.

In contrast, the other "BACH" authors -- Bradbury and Heinlein -- always believed that human beings -- as individuals and then arguing among ourselves -- can and will figure things out. (Side note: in EARTH I explore a different possibility, that humanity might be able to participate in higher levels of mind without losing individuality.)

What none of them ever did – and especially not Arthur – was give in to despair. The notion of change never lost its fascination. Clarke's works appear always to say, “what was will not always be, so get ready.” Yes, the past deserves honor – it got us here – but the future is what draws us forward. As it has always drawn Arthur C. Clarke.

Here’s Arthur Clarke on the challenges of predicting the future: 

“The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it will really happen.”

Indeed, Clarke’s Three Laws of prediction summarize his views on the future and our ability to look forward to tomorrow:

1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Today, Clarke's work is honored and remembered with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, founded by professor Sheldon Brown at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) -- where researchers investigate the underpinnings of creativity and imagination, key elements in how we will shape and create a bold future .... 

...one that would have made Arthur proud. 


118 comments:

aciddc said...

One of my favorite Clarke memories is reading his rule about elderly scientists not being able to tell if things are impossible, and then reading him follow up by saying that the one technology he does think is probably impossible is invisibility. And now, just a few decades after he said that, we are almost there on invisibility.

He's so right that even when he's wrong he's right.

Peter Norvig said...

I prefer the equivalent contrapositive form of Clarke's Law: any technology that is distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

David Brin said...

Peter terrific riff! And good remark by Aciddc.

Larry Sessions said...

Sorry he is gone. I had the honor to meet him and spend an afternoon and evening with him many years ago at his Sri Lanka home and club, and we corresponded by snail mail and email until shortly before his death. I missed the premiere of "Childhood's End," but I definitely catch it.

matthew said...

"The Fountains of Paradise" was one of the reasons I chose to become a metallurgist. I didn't catch "Childhood's End" last night; it is one of the few books that actively gave me nightmares after reading. I'll see it, but it has never been a favorite in the same way that TFOP or Imperial Earth were. Plus, his short stories. Always love his short ones.

Jumper said...

I'm with Matthew on the short stories. Tales from the White Hart always bring a smile.

Jumper said...

A very simple method for cracking hydrogen off CH4 producing only carbon powder and H2.
http://www.kit.edu/kit/english/pi_2015_139_crack-it-energy-from-a-fossil-fuel-without-carbon-di-oxide.php

Alfred Differ said...

Not to be too much of a sourpuss, but I was turned off of Clark while I was a teenager. My takeaway lesson always seemed to come back to “Humans can do great things, but Humanity needs to be saved from itself.” I’m a Cold War kid, so I understand the attraction, but my skepticism about god(s) always led me to connect being rescued to being saved. My willingness to suspend disbelief usually shattered on that part of the plot. They saved us? Why? Explanations that seemed inhuman (appropriate enough for science fiction) never really appealed to me.

His technical visions were wondrous, though. Loved them. Imagining us as a civilization with reach was inspiring.

LarryHart said...

I've mentioned before that at age 15, "Childhood's End" was the first actual sci-fi novel that I read, and I still have a soft spot for it to this day, almost exactly 40 years later.

I especially liked the little touches of verisimilitude, such as when the UN guy whose name I forget refers to a popular theory that the alien Karellen looks like a multi-legged insect, and the alien responds, "That cartoon in the Chicago Tribune. Yes, I saw it too."

Paul451 said...

Re: Childhood's End.

Haven't seen it (wrong continent), but the reviews seem positive. I thought the surprise over the appearance of the Overlords would be lost, since it's based on a well-known book, but judging by the reviews it still had the effect Clarke intended.

(Apparently the biggest criticisms are that it uses too many overused tropes... ...those which the original 60yr old story spawned.)

Alfred Differ,
"but I was turned off of Clark while I was a teenager. My takeaway lesson always seemed to come back to "Humans can do great things, but Humanity needs to be saved from itself.""

Que? Other than 2001 and Childhood's End, when does Clarke write about Humanity being saved by Others?

j-vt said...

Responding to Alfred Differ and the author: I am trying to recall any novels in which humanity needed some intervention to progress or to save itself, other than 2001 (and sequels) or Childhood's End. Most of the novels didn't feature any intelligence other than human. I look at my bookshelf and see Fountains of Paradise, Hammer of God, Songs of Distant Earth, Imperial Earth and Ghost from the Grand Banks, none of which have any type of non-human intelligence as far as I can recall. All show humanity well advanced beyond the present both technically and morally. One of the things I liked was that people in his futures were always quite similar to us in many ways, but had left our violence and cruelty behind. I also especially liked the epilogues in some of his books that were set thousands or millions of years in the future, with us as a star-traveling species (those epilogues did sometimes include alien intelligence).

Robert said...

I will not watch Childhood's End. While it is nice to homage one of the great science fiction authors... my feelings on that work are not positive ones. I consider it the destruction of humanity and the termination of its potential... out of fear. It would be as if in "The Day The Earth Stood Still" the aliens just destroyed the Earth rather than give us a chance to show if we could rise above our destructive nature.

Now, if we're talking a science fiction miniseries that deserves to be made... let's see the Foundation series be brought to the screen. Yes, it would need to be rewritten in some ways... dialogue tightened and the like... it would make for a far more fascinating tale. And a far more positive one for humanity.

Rob H.

Apatt Seriniyom said...

Such a beautiful article Mr. Brin. The nuances of what Clarke was doing is much clearer to me now. I often defend his prose style and characterization to naysayers, but this article will surely dispell all doubts to people who will listen.

Thank you so much!

Paul451 said...

Robert,
Your dislike for Childhood's End is because you projected onto the novel that the Overseers caused the uplift of the children, rather than merely acting as midwife for something out of their (and our) control. It's not meant to be a happy ending (given the unknown of the group-mind superintelligence) but you've turned it into something else.

Tony Fisk said...

I liked the way Clarke's Third Law was referred to when justifying the feats of petulant young Norse Gods in 'Thor'.

My corollary to it is: "Any magic sufficiently well described is indistinguishable from technology."

The Martian kind of missed a little homage to Clarke's short story "Special Delivery" where a traveller hitching a lift into Lunar orbit has to deal with a failed launch... (he could have jumped from the capsule, *then* tried the suit propulsion.)

Also wrong continent for 'Childhoods End' but I, for one, welcome Charles Dance as a suitably suave and diabolical alien overlord (The criticisms probably mimic those brought against Hamlet: so full of cliches! Did the producers decide to avoid the vast ships hovering over each city?).

I agree the tale itself is a tragic and depressing one, but it was not as simple as 'Aliens come to destroy Humanity.'

Neil Newman. said...

Childhood's End... Its been a LONG time since i read that, and also, wrong continent, but i might do a quick sweep later, never know who's uploading. ;)

funnily enough, I just rewatched "Children of Men" last week, that obviously owes a LOT to Clarke's Childhood's End, intentionally or not. But the thing that struck me about C.E was its complete break with the Golden Age of Sci-Fi and its modernism - for the first time, from one of the Greats, the ending was not "and so Mankind soldiered on", but in fact (stop reading for spoilers!!)is as dead as a butterfly's caterpillar body - from the view of the caterpillar. Nearly always, 'we' were the Modernists, who could - sometimes sadly - wave goodbye to the 'archaic' and 'simple' cultures such as Amerindian or Oz Abo, stepping out upon the long voyage to the future. But in C.E., *we* were the ones being waved goodbye to.

it is not surprising so many found that uncomfortable (i did too as a young man), for it is always the 'Others' left slumped against the roadhouse with the bottle of whiskey, no hope, with the smooth 'Alphans' or 'social-workers' clucking about "bad genes that cannot handle alcohol" - rather than alcohol being the RESULT of the death-of-hope, not the cause.

and here Clarke put US - and not only *US*; but *US Sci-Fi readers*, the smartest of the smartest, in that very position of the drunken, hopeless, aboriginal.

it was, and remains, a tour-de-force, from a Master, and i very much look forward to it!

with High Castle, and Episode 7, and Childhood's End, we are spoiled recently!

Robert said...

You're wrong, Paul.

I disliked that the Overmind decided to "assimilate" humanity's children because they might turn into something destructive, rather than allow a potential equal to form on its own. The Overseers were just messengers and I feel for them - they've been brainwashed into feeling like they will never be able to be a part of their Master while they track down and "assimilate" other victims into the fold.

Humanity's future and potential was destroyed. It was not just childhood's end. It was humanity's end.

Rob H.

locumranch said...


What can one say about Arthur C. Clarke?

His early works revealed a combination of frontier can-do spirit (The Deep Range) & a deep-rooted spirituality (Nine Billion Names of God). Then, starting with "Childhood's End" (wherein dual-purpose aliens serve as both rescuer & destroyer and human rebirth springs from its apparent destruction), his works betray a growing fascination with the cyclic theme of Death & Rebirth which reaches its apotheosis in 'Songs of Distant Earth' (representing Karma), 'Fountains of Paradise' (representing Samsára) & 'The Last Theorem' (representing the Tibetan 'Wheel of Life'), as reflected by the author's personal journey towards Sri Lanka, Buddhism & (perhaps) paedophilia. Despite (or possibly because of) such allegations , Arthur C Clarke's literary works have withstood the test of time & proven (possibly) that the human spirit can effect its own rebirth by embracing (instead of rejecting) its mortal limitations.


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Bah said...

The Fountains of Paradise has the Starglider, and right at the end, thousands of years later its creators are making a visit, but they are not interventionist or transformative, well apart from the Starglider's departing remark about religion.

Tacitus2 said...

I wonder if opinions on Childhood's End vary based on whether you are a parent or not. I found it well written, insightful, a classic. Also disturbing and in the end depressing. To lose a child, particularly to have that loss right in front of you every day. It is in that sense more of a horror story.

I caught a few minutes of the first ep. Nice to see Colm Meany finding work. He has had a long and full career since, I assume, answering a TNG casting call for Transporter Tech Number three.

Tacitus

Catfish N. Cod said...

Tacitus, that right there is half of why I passionately dislike _Childhood's End_, despite finding it to be a tour de force. It's a horror story species-wide: not only your child, but *all children*, are without knowledge or consent becoming non-human. Not just post-human: the difference (to me) being that post-humans would be able to care more for their parents than the kids of Childhood's End do. They stop responding to people on the normal, physical plane-- where a post-human would be only adding capabilities, the children also have theirs taken away. They have no sense of even memory or nostalgia for their origins; no sentience that respected their past would do as the new segment of the Overmind did, and destroy their own birth-place.

We have only the Overseers' word, and the Overmind's via them, that this is all natural and that it would have happened anyway. And it doesn't matter: both groups of aliens, and eventually the Children as well, have so much power that our free will and independence are gone anyways. This is where the "Native American" portion of the story comes into play; but other stories made that analogy more pointedly and with more effect. (Our own host's SUNDIVER among them.)

A not always asked question, and one humanity was never asked in the story: which would you rather be? An Overmind, or an Overseer?

Marino said...

I've read CE so many years ago that it hurts (ah, the Italian translation on Urania magazine with the surrealistic cover art by Karen Thole, http://www.mondourania.com/urania/u461-480/urania467.htm) and maybe the traslator got something, the Italian title meant not "childhood's end" but "overseers of sunset", the sunset being the one of humankind)
But it looked like in part apocalyptic, Book of the Revelations-wise with Karellen being the Antichrist who brings us purely material achievements, in part painful the both poignant fates of humanity (yes, the butterfly flies away, but the caterpillar was still alive and regrets) and the Overseers, the forever midwives who'll never have a child of their own.
And it would be difficult to convey that using a TV movie.
Anyway, yes, developing into the Overmind (something resembling Theillard de Chardin's noosphere, btw) required the Overseers to lead us, forbid wars etc. etc. As if we would have been unable to do it by ourselves. Well, my politics sometimes shows:

No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
We want no condescending saviors
To rule us from their judgement hall

Quillon said...

"Tipped off about the story, the Sunday Mirror sent Mr Johnson to Colombo, where he extracted an confession from the author that he paid boys for sex. "I have never had the slightest interest in children – boys or girls. They should be treated in the same way. But once they have reached the age of puberty, then it is OK," Mr Clarke was quoted as saying in the Sunday Mirror. "If the kids enjoy it and don't mind it doesn't do any harm … there is a hysteria about the whole thing in the West."

Mr Clarke subsequently denied he was a paedophile, saying: "The allegations are wholly denied." But he never sued the Sunday Mirror and died aged 90 at his Sri Lanka home in 2008."
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/notw-editor-spiked-paedophilia-scoop-on-arthur-c-clarke-for-fear-of-murdoch-7920816.html

Adds an entirely different spin to the intentional use and destruction of children in Clarke's work, doesn't it?

raito said...

Tony Fisk,

If you're into the Norse Gods as technologists, there's always "A Yank At Valhalla", but Edmond Hamilton.

ElitistB said...

I've always thought the title "Childhood's End" to almost be ironic in nature. Humanity's children "grow up" against their will to become part of a hive mind, losing individuality and motivation on their own part to join this over-arching entity that doesn't seem to have much of a purpose itself beyond assimilating others.

And the Overseers, who retain such individuality, are distraught at how they will never lose their own capacity for self determination. Oh, what a horrible fate, to be able to enjoy the universe without fear.

Robert said...

On a brief political note, here's a brief article on how Obama isn't liberal enough written by a Libertarian I respect and admire greatly. In fact, I've tried to get Avens to come to this blog in the past - at least, before Dr. Brin took off the gloves and started showing disrespect for people he disagrees with.

That said, Avens did state one thing Dr. Brin has said several times: Obama is a Social Conservative. Hell, (and this is my thought, not what Avens said) I'd be willing to say that if he'd been a white Protestant named Barry O'Bama, he'd have been the perfect Republican candidate - at least, before the Republicans went off the rails.

He's also been quite apt at adjusting to the direction of the political winds, much like Bill Clinton. Look at his positions on both gay marriage and marijuana as examples. But mostly he's been a Republican in Democratic clothing.

Anyway, definitely read Avens' article.

Rob H.

Jim Baca said...

Part one was weak, part two was great. And as for the hive mind, Fox News has already created it.

Jumper said...

I always took it that Clarke was getting at this, or trying to:
http://www.emersoncentral.com/oversoul.htm

Sir Arthur was known to hang out with various gay men of all stripes. Some of them were attracted to the younger males. There is simply no evidence Arthur Clarke was a pedophile.

David Brin said...

Note (again) that my Gaia uber-mind in EARTH was written in part as a rebuttal to the Overmind of Clarke's in CHILDHOOD'S END and in2001 and Asimov's Galaxia. And, indeed, the vast number of absurdly simplistic, monolithic AI entities we see in so much sci fo... and in so much religion.

Why would any advanced consciousness want to be like that? Absurdly narrow, prone to self-deception and error for lack of external criticism. And stunningly, unutterably boring.

And oppressively hateful to the human species, society and individuals that created them.

The Gaia mind in EARTH is eclectic, diverse and happy to contain contradiction "thoughts" (individually rambunctious people) the way we each maintain a community of contradictions.

Catfish N. Cod said...

The only Overmind of that generation and ilk that I found plausible was the one from Asimov's NEMESIS, near the end of his long career. The Overmind of Erythro is a species-wide, planet-wide single-mind, absurdly narrow, prone to self-deception and error, lacking external criticism, and stunningly boring.

As well it should be, for it was an Overmind of bacteria. The marvel was not that the bear danced well, but that it danced at all.

The spiritual successor of such was the Planetmind of Sid Meier's first attempt at an extraterrestrial CIVILIZATION sequel, ALPHA CENTAURI. The Planetmind's growth was both self-catalytic and an ecological over-reach, such that each attempt at an Overmind inadvertantly created an extinction event for the underlying ecosystem.

In both cases, the Overminds were shown to be crippled and lacking -- of peership, of context, of depth and richness; which were (of course!) supplied by the newly arrived humans.

It seemed to me that the Gaia of EARTH, the modified Galaxia-concept of FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH, and the ship at the end of HEAVEN'S REACH each tried to develop what an Overmind designed from the start to have individuals could be...

locumranch said...



Like many who have confronted their own mortality, Clarke (post-Polio) most certainly became a 'youth-lover', at least in the technical Latin sense, and I prefer to believe that he sought out only the metaphorical 'rejuvenation' associated with Eastern Mysticism & the Karmic Cycle instead of the direct, distastefully physical & vampiric path.

Even so, the 'Childhood's End' storyline (wherein Mature Alien Overseers of monstrous appearance envy, give non-reciprocal affection to, extend their aegis over and spy-on a few lithesome, clean-limbed & carefree youths, resulting in an equally monstrous loss of innocence and disastrous universal consequences) is given a more sinister cast by the mere suggestion of paedophilia, so much so that it evokes Nabokov's 'Lolita' in both plot & content, especially when you compare Clarke's description of the post-change children (calculating, emotionally blunted, amoral & narcissistic) with Nabokov's description of Lolita's post-affair personality.

Thankfully, Humbert Humbert is not around to give us his take on Uplift.


Best

matthew said...

Off subject, I LOL'ed at the Rand Paul last night at the debate - "If you're looking to start World War III, then there is your candidate."

Um, Rand, to ~50% of the Republican primary voters starting WWIII is a feature, not a bug. Probably not the best attack line.

Stephen Fleming said...

I always thought Clarke was far better with short stories (and non-fiction essays) than with novels. "The Star" can still make me cry, 40 years after first reading it. And it's one of the standard pieces of SF that I give to people who "don't like SF."

LarryHart said...

Catfish N Cod:

A not always asked question, and one humanity was never asked in the story: which would you rather be? An Overmind, or an Overseer?


I haven't seen the tv version, but the term in the book was "Overlords". And I thought it did ask the question, in a way. The Overlords were a genetic dead end who were never going to evolve into the Overmind, and they seemed to consider that a personal tragedy, offset only somewhat by their role in assisting other species.

Tacitus2:

I wonder if opinions on Childhood's End vary based on whether you are a parent or not. I found it well written, insightful, a classic. Also disturbing and in the end depressing. To lose a child, particularly to have that loss right in front of you every day. It is in that sense more of a horror story.


A similar theme was explored, although much less seriously, in Vonnegut's early novel "The Sirens of Titan" in which it is implied that all of human history was engineered for the purpose of delivering a replacement spaceship part to a stranded alien. It is simultaneously humorous and chilling to imagine something of that sort being the true meaning of life.

I see the novel as a kind of allegory for what happens when real-life children grow up and fly the next. And the Overlords were tragic in their own way--always a bridesmaid but never a bride, as it were. Or always a nursemaid, but never a parent.

I think Catfish and some others here are taking the premise of the book too personally. The point of the book is not "Look! Humanity is doomed." It is more like "If it were turned out that humanity was doomed (in this particular manner), how would that all unfold?"

Paul451 said...

Re: GOP Debate

It reinforced my perception that Trump is not cleverly crafting a persona designed to appeal to the Republican base, but genuinely believes the rightwing meme-sphere and is simply saying what he and the base have been trained to believe.

His cleverness is only in being able to "double down" on his statements and beliefs, which is why the Trump's support from that core 20% base won't fade. Most true believers get twisted in knots when they aren't protected in the bubble of like-minded believers, and most righwing candidates merely invoke the memes by using code-speak that they can deny when challenged. The rightwing base dislikes that. Trump generally doesn't walk it back, he just tunnels deeper. (He did see news reports of Muslims celebrating on the roofs of buildings in New Jersey, if the footage doesn't exist, it's because of a liberal media conspiracy.)

Cruz's persona, otoh, is entirely crafted. If you've ever seen him in committee, you'll know what a devious, twisty, manipulative bastard he his.

Tacitus2,
"Colm Meany [...] had a long and full career since, I assume, answering a TNG casting call for Transporter Tech Number three."

IIRC he was a generic non-speaking bridge crew member (not even number 3), in his first appearance in the pilot. Then later came back as an unnamed transporter officer, somewhere in the third season he became "transporter chief". Apparently Meaney never signed a contract with the show, he liked being hired per-episode for his appearances. His first actual series contract with the producers was in DS9.

LarryHart said...

Stephen Fleming:

I always thought Clarke was far better with short stories (and non-fiction essays) than with novels. "The Star" can still make me cry, 40 years after first reading it. And it's one of the standard pieces of SF that I give to people who "don't like SF."


I don't know, I think I could say the same thing about one of his novels, "Imperial Earth". It took me three readings before I got what had happened at the very end, and now I still tear up on a re-read. Not to mention the protagonist pining for Calindy hits way too close to home.

David Brin said...

Overall, it was kinda bloated and meh. Alas.

Captain Nerd said...

I prefer the corollary to his third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

Tony Fisk said...

'It' being Imperial Earth*, or the Serial under discussion?

Personally, I think Clarke's work started to decline after Rendezvous with Rama, although Fountains was still v. good, and Ghost of the Grand Banks quite acceptable. His account of the laying of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable is definitely worth hunting down, as well.

Unfortunately, his collaborations with Gentry Lee were not well received. Basically, I felt Lee's style was just not Clarke's. I haven't tried the Clarke-Baxter collaboration.

*Agreed that IE is padded. Haven't re-read it in forty years, though I do keep meaning to re-read Duncan's Quincentennial speech.

KevinC said...

Carryover from the previous thread:

Dr. Brin wrote:

I have to say that purely logically, the closer Trump gets to either being nominated or running a third party bid, the more I fear for his life. There are ruthless men with unlimited funds who will stop at nothing. Transforming him from a huge headache into a martyr would appeal to such men.

Goodness, I hope not! The SMORP's think they're having a hard time riding herd on their radical base now? If they martyr Trump, they'll either have a shooting war on their (our) hands, or they'll get a general on a horse next time 'round (or maybe both). And if this surveillance state we're building actually paid its freight for once, and they got caught in the act, they wouldn't be able to blame it on Blue America. It'd be the end of the Republican Party's coalition.

I hope they're not that insane. Trump is all about "the Art of the Deal." They'd be better off to make a deal with him, or destroy him by political means. Let him have the nomination, then lose to Hillary or Bernie and become the Republican Ralph Nader ("We'd have won if it wasn't for him!"). Republicans don't need a Presidency as long as they have Congress. They can just continue to monkeywrench government and say, "See? We told you that government doesn't work!" Meanwhile, Blue America is stuck trying to meet them halfway to Cloud Cuckoo Land, and the country continues to drift toward a right-wing Pyramid Society. As long as they control the Overton Window, they win; they just get the Democrats to enact their plans (see Obamacare).

Marino said...

about Overminds in SF, aside Gaia in Earth, the best one in escaping the Frankestein/Skynet cliché is the Webmind in R. Sawyer's WWW trilogy. A point the Webmind makes in her?/its? ("her" as I'm still using Italian gender, "mind" in Italian is feminine) speech to the UN is that she evolved in the digital world, free of the constraints of physically scarce resources, where everything is a common or public good (non-rivalrous and non-excludible), in the meaning of the Elinor Ostrom's theory of commons that let her won a Nobel prize for Economics.
In the last trilogy novel a part of the Webmind becomes "evil" when severed from the free flow of information by the Great Firewall of China until the Webmind becomes whole again by breaking the firewall. Good object lesson in openess


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWW_Trilogy

Tim H. said...

Saw parts 1& 2 of Childhood's End yesterday, found the story still recognizable, in spite of Hollywood's general aversion to subtlety. The story is not one I find all that tragic, unless empty cocoons and discarded shells of cicada nymphs are tragic. I found Imperial Earth a bit padded, but enjoyable, with some authors one doesn't mind staying longer in the world they crafted.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Larry: The Overlords (I'll use the original term) think their non-ascension is a tragedy. I'm not at all sure I agree. And my point is that there is more than one possible future for a species, and none of them get a choice in the matter. That's more of a tragedy to me than the actual events. Like James T. Kirk, I don't believe in no-win scenarios.

Marino: I've never completely liked the "digital world is post-scarcity" idea. There's still scarcity online, it's just much less and differently aligned. There's processor time, lightspeed delays, memory, the limitations on the Interface to Reality outside. They're just *far less constraining* than the prior limits.

IMPERIAL EARTH was a terrific novella that should not have been expanded into a novel. The rest were recycled ideas (raising the Titanic, anyone? Pentominos??) that should have stayed as separate projects. However, Clarke could every once in a while recycle something and make it snap. The Clarke/Baxter novel SUNSTORM mashed together 2001 and modern stop-the-apocalypse movies, and the result was slightly banal yet tons of fun.

Tacitus2 said...

Not a political thread, but soon time for an Onward from our host.

Anybody up for a 2016 Political Predictive Registry before 2015 goes "Onward". I have in mind a point system for scope and audacity of predictions. Our overseas friends would be quite welcome to participate, sometimes I think their media gives a more accurate view of our politics...

No monetary prize for a win, perhaps the privilege of appending a suffix to your forum name for a year?

Interested?

Tacitus CPR (Chief Pundit and Raconteur)
sorry, just trying the crown on for size.

KB said...

I was always stuck on how Imperial Earth was published in 1975, but Clarke has characters communicate via Telex. That seems like a tremendous failure of imagination, given what other authors were doing around the same time. The book reminded me of most of Joe Haldeman's stuff, where he's got a phenomenal talent at setting, but none at all for endings.

sociotard said...

Wow, Nasa got more money than Obama even asked for. Good for them.

http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/16/10289030/nasa-budget-increase-2016-congress-funding

Marino said...

KB:
in Weber's Honorverse novels the main news channel (aside 3D video) is fax, and the analog to Associated Press or Reuters is something like United or Associated Fax and the first novel was published in 1992.
To be honest, the net in Brunner's Shockwave Rider (where btw, "laser printers" work by burning the paper...) o even in Brin's himself Earth has very little with the way WWW evolved after the http protocol.
And IIRC when Clarke wrote IE, the only network public system in developement was the text based French Minitel, so he extrapolated from that. Short term near future predictions are iffy...

catfish:
true, but Sawyer's Webmind stressed that she was "satiable", not driven by hunger for resources (the way an AI evolved from online stock trade systems would be according dr. Brin)

David Brin said...

Um... if I might point out that when I wrote EARTH in 1988 the Web and browsers were fantasies by a few of us who remembered Hypercard. I think showing web pages in my novel was pretty darn prescient. But maybe I am biased.

Tacitus I like your point system but modify it with the ODDS a person gives for the suggested future path...

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Anybody up for a 2016 Political Predictive Registry before 2015 goes "Onward". I have in mind a point system for scope and audacity of predictions.


I'm up for it, but not clear on what you have in mind. I can't make a clear prediction on the Republican side right now, but I'm thinking that Hillary formerly-Rodham Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States.

Please elaborate.

Tacitus2 said...

Oh, I was thinking of certain categories having higher point values than others. Picking the Dem Pres nominee seems like a less daunting call than the Republican one for instance. I would also use a system that I hate on Pub Trivia nights, wrong guesses get you negative points. 'Cause spending a lot of time worrying about things that do not come to pass is a waste of our precious energies.

And I would put in a single Blue Sky category where every entrant gets to make a really wild pick with no negative points for being wrong. You would of course have to be the first person who makes a given outlandish yet prescient call to collect the well earned points.

I have your email somewhere if you'd like a more developed version.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

KB:

I was always stuck on how Imperial Earth was published in 1975, but Clarke has characters communicate via Telex.


That reminds me, IIRC, "Childhood's End" was set in the then-future time of 1975, but by sheer coincidence, that was when I read it in high school.

matthew said...

I love the idea of a little forecasting of the 2016 elections. I'm still participating in the Good Judgement Forecasting experiment, now changed to a commercial model. Seems to have lost a good bit of it's vim and vigor now that IARPA is no longer sponsoring the tournament (but certainly monitoring results).

How do we want to set up our "experiment?" Everyone post predictions in a thread? A google doc spreadsheet?

I'm interested in the outcomes of various citizen initiatives as well as election results for candidates. Could we add a section for forecasting those outcomes as well?

We could even add a category for end of civilization date to satisfy our ent,,,

matthew said...

I wouldn't call CRC the Dem nominee just yet. Bernie is within 10% of her in most statewide (early states) and national polls. Obama was farther behind her at this point in 2008.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Marino: This is my point -- that a digital Overmind of any type tends to be written as having a "personality" defined by its programming (frequently its initial seed programming). An AI Overmind driven by HFT algorithms devours without limit -- as Dr. Brin speculates and Charlie Stross describes in ACCELERANDO. One devised by the DOD may act to protect but is still power-obsessed -- such as Ring in the Daniel Keys Moran CONTINUING TIME sequence. And one originating from the information-wants-to-be-free algorithms of the Web and the core of open-source, hippie, and technocratic programmers that developed it... will act like Sawyer's Webmind.

The satiety comes from "within" the code, not from some fundamental nature of the environment.

Dr. Brin: I remember enough of the state of the art at the time that *I* was impressed. In fact there are features from your interfaces I still wish would get implemented...

Robert said...

Dr. Brin doesn't want to contemplate Clinton not winning because of his long-term fanboying of the Clintons, including his statements that none of the Clinton staff were convicted of crimes despite the Shrub looking into every cookie jar so to smear the Clinton name further.

Nevermind the fact that Clinton is considered untrustworthy by the majority of voters and has a significant number of people with a negative impression of her... while Sanders has a long and proven track record on his beliefs which helps improve his trustworthiness.

Here's a little fun game for Brin to play: In the event that Bernie Sanders defeats Clinton... who should his running mate be?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@matthew and Robert,

If I could appoint a president from among the current candidates it would be Bernie. But I think too many general election voters would be dissuaded by the "socialist" label, and we might end up with President Cruz or President Rubio or (God help us) President Trump instead. For that reason, I'd prefer that Hillary be the nominee, even if she's not my first choice as actual President.

Bernie being in the race forces Hillary to take more Bernie-like positions than she otherwise would. For now, that's good enough for me. I think it helps Hillary, even though she might not see it that way.

The nomination process (for both parties) should be about deciding on a platform that one's party believes it can win on in November. Instead, it's become more of a beauty contest, as if the nomination itself is the prize. The whole thing reminds me of my dorm back in college when each floor picked a t-shirt design from among several options, and then had the winning design actually printed up for people to buy and wear. My floor voted for "We're Allen 2 North- so F*** Off!" (only without the asterisks). So everyone had a fun time voting for the outrageous slogan, but when it came time to order t-shirts, no one wanted to actually buy one. The primary system is currently operating like that.

raito said...

I always figured it was PLATO instead of Minitel or Hypercard.

LarryHart said...

...oh, and when I said Hillary would be our next president, I was making a prediction, not an endorsement. Although I don't mind the thought of her being president. I don't love her or hate her, and she's certainly better than any Republican. But that's all beside the point, which is I think she will win, whether I like that or not.

Robert said...

Back in 2008 there were people who said the same exact thing about a Black presidential candidate. Too many general election voters would be dissuaded by his race. And yet... he's been president for 7 years now and won two elections - by a goodly amount each time.

As for the socialism label... there is a counter to that. "You're against socialism? So you're against Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare? You're against the national highway system? These are all socialist policies."

Fear of change gives us candidates like Bush and Clinton.

Rob H.

matthew said...

Bernie is the first "serious" presidential candidate in my lifetime with policies that I agree with >90% of the time. Even Teddy Kennedy or Jessie Jackson was not as close to my preference.

If you look back at my comments here before Obama was elected, you'll see that I described him as a moderate Republican in 2007. And even then, I supported him over Clinton, who I see as a fairly typical centrist conservative with some opportunistic liberal social policies.

I am not unusual in my desire for someone closer to my own political leanings. I'm tired of a "liberal" party that does not govern liberally. I'm tired of our political system being first and last a vehicle for corporations to get whatever they want.

If Sanders gets the nomination, he will win handily. If Clinton gets the nomination it's a toss-up, IMO.

David Brin said...

I figure Bernie's best VP choice would be similar to Hillary's. Someone a lot like Julian Castro.

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/about/principal_staff/secretary_castro

What matters is to shatter the Fox-Confederacy-Saudi-undead thing that has hijacked the GOP. Congress needs to again become a locus of adult negotiation.

Alfred Differ said...

@Tacitus2: If you use a point system, consider giving people an allotment they can spend purchasing positions. The payoffs associated with those positions should return something to their 'wallet'. The person with the most at the end wins the title.

To make it work, we should also be able to sell positions and adjust the payoffs according to our preferences BEFORE the sale/allotment of points. If I sell position X for odds Y, I get X points from someone else immediately, but I have to be prepared to payoff X*Y if I sold a position that becomes a winner for the other guy.

I'm not suggesting a lot of coding and a website. This stuff could be managed on a spreadsheet for a small community. Someone just has to be the bookmaker.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding Overminds, I think we are being a little silly in our belief that we will be able to anticipate their motivations from their seed stock. How many goldfish can grok why we went to the Moon? How long would one have to study to learn it?

I suspect V.Vinge is right at this level. Analogies will break when we try to comprehend them. Only a tiny sliver of what they do will translate into anything that makes sense to a human scale mind. If one is nice enough, it will explain what it wants by dumbing it down to analogies we can grasp. They won't be remotely human, though they should be able to simulate us.

The only high level analogy I think has a chance of holding across these scales is Uplift. If we demonstrate a desire to responsibly uplift our goldfishes, I suspect a tolerant Overmind would be able to successfully express its desire to pull us up too. No doubt I'd still freak out if one showed up and said so, but I might not see it as the destruction of humanity.

A.F. Rey said...

Sorry, Rob H., but it isn't being a Clinton fanboy that makes people think Hillary will win the nomination. She's in the strongest position for the nomination since 1980.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/hillary-clinton-is-the-most-establishment-approved-candidate-on-record/

It would probably take a major scandal at this point to displace her.

bigsteve said...

Since boyhood I have been a heavy reader of science fiction. Clark was one of my favorite authors. I have noted in my life that technical people usually read science fiction.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Did the producers decide to avoid the vast ships hovering over each city?


If anyone remembers the 1980s miniseries called "V", don't you think the Visitors' spaceships hovering above major cites was realizing the imagery of "Childhood's End"? I certainly did at the time.

Robert said...

Actually, it's not the political establishment that elects the president. It's the voters.

If Sanders starts winning state after state and gets enough of the vote that he should win the primary... and the establishment turns around and gives the primary to Hillary... then you could have a reincarnated Genghis Khan as the Republican candidate, promising to round up every Democrat around and put them to death, and Hillary would still lose.

Tacitus2 said...

Well, here's what I propose.
-----
The Registry opens when you post it. It closes the day before the Iowa caucuses begin. (I believe they are on 1 February). It would hardly seem a fair test of soothsaying to have actual real world data messing up the speculative aethers!

Who will be the Democratic presidential nominee? 1 point
Who will be the Democratic vice presidential nominee? 3 points

Who will be the Republican presidential nominee? 4 points
Who will be the Republican vice presidential nominee? 4 points

Will control of the House of Representatives change hands? 1 point
Will control of the Senate change hands? 1 point

Will any of the current candidates now considered “serious” (invited to at least one main televised debate) run as a third party candidate? 2 points

Irrespective of your picks for nominees, which party’s candidate wins the Presidential campaign? 2 points

Make your own long shot political prediction. No points off for being wrong but it has to be something that is not currently a common assumption and you must be the first entrant to make the call to get points. 2 points

Possible scores range from a glorious 20th Level Pundit with that many points, down to a lowly anti-sage with negative 18!

Posters should be cautioned against an excess of Wish Fulfillment, although a certain amount of same will inevitably creep in.
--------
For those who dare..

Tacitus

Jumper said...

I predict Bush as President.
I will do much to be wrong.
I predict Clinton nominated, and a bonehead choice for VP who will not help. "Has to be a Westerner" error.

LarryHart said...

meta-questions about the prediction thing...

Does one have to predict all answers at the same time? Presumably not, but just asking the question.

If one makes two separate predictions for the same question, which one counts? First? Last? Or is it a cumulative score?

I already predicted Hillary winning the presidency. Does that count, or do I have to do so again after the contest starts. And in either case, can I still make other predictions?

David Brin said...

I still prefer offering odds. I don't predict one thing, but rather a range of probabilities. That's not chicken, since offering a 1:4 wager that Paul Ryan will be the GOP nominee is actually pretty daring! Or 1:3 or better that ANY republican nominee will choose Ted Cruz as running mate. And that's why he so viciously attacks Rubio... the other prime VP candidate.

With Julian Castro prominent on the Demo-side (I give 1:5 odds and growing) we see the choice of a hispanic Demo VP as almost certain, if either Cruz or Rubio are on the GOP ticket.

I give at-best 1:3 edging toward 1:4 that Trump will be the nominee, only twice as high as any other candidate but Ryan. Because the SMORPS are desperate to stop him. Not so much because he is a train wreck... they ALL are! But because if he did win, he would not appoint Bush factotums into the 10,000 seats of Washington power. That is the disaster they fear most. A Trump presidency would utterly demolish their carefully erected Shadow Government into flinders, never to be rebuilt, even if they later win the presidency back.

I have to say that purely logically, the closer Donald Trump gets to either being nominated or running a third party bid, the more I fear for his life. There are ruthless men with unlimited funds who have far too much at stake and who might stop at nothing. Transforming him from a huge headache into a confederate martyr might appeal to such SMORPs.

Confronting this possibility, KevinC writes: “I hope they're not that insane. Trump is all about "the Art of the Deal." They'd be better off to make a deal with him, or destroy him by political means. Let him have the nomination, then lose to Hillary or Bernie and become the Republican Ralph Nader ("We'd have won if it wasn't for him!"). Republicans don't need a Presidency as long as they have Congress. They can just continue to monkeywrench government and say, "See? We told you that government doesn't work!" Meanwhile, Blue America is stuck trying to meet them halfway to Cloud Cuckoo Land.”

(The latter refers to the recent budget deal, in which Paul Ryan allowed the dems to get a few governance measures the nation needed, in exchange for yet another giant tax gift to the rich.)

To be clear, I do not much approve of The Donald. But I want him to live and keep entertaining us. There are few humans who have ever reminded us more extravagantly of some sides of what it is to be… American.

Paul451 said...

Tacitus2,
"Who will be the Democratic presidential nominee?" Hillary Clinton.

(Wish fulfilment: Sanders)

"Who will be the Democratic vice presidential nominee?" Julian Castro only if Rubio gets the Rep nom. Otherwise, if Clinton, someone dull and centrist and from a Southern or Midwest state. If Sanders, a young woman; probably Latino, probably from a Purple State.

"Who will be the Republican presidential nominee?" Trump.

(Wish fulfilment... Errr, no, that would get me put on the No Fly list.)

"Who will be the Republican vice presidential nominee?" If Trump, a woman not currently in politics.

(Wish fulfilment: Paul Ryan and Rand Paul. Coz it amuses me.)

"Will control of the House of Representatives change hands?" Nope.
"Will control of the Senate change hands?" Nope.

(Wish fulfilment: Oh god please yes.)

"Will any of the current candidates now considered "serious" run as a third party candidate?" Trump, if he get cheated at the convention. Otherwise, no.

"Irrespective of your picks for nominees, which party's candidate wins the Presidential campaign?" Democrats. Short of an "October Surprise" scandal (eg, Bill Clinton's alleged lovechild comes forward), I can't see the Republicans being able to put up anyone who can appeal to swing voters.

"Make your own long shot political prediction. No points off for being wrong but it has to be something that is not currently a common assumption and you must be the first entrant to make the call to get points." After Hillary wins, at least one Confederate state actually does secede.

(Although if Bill Clinton's alleged lovechild really does come forward, I insist on getting a point for that.)

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
"Bernie being in the race forces Hillary to take more Bernie-like positions than she otherwise would."

That's meaningless beyond the primaries. Once she gets the nomination, she can walk back anything she said. GWB ran as a moderate, a "Compassionate Conservative", and look at the people he put in power.

(Besides, by your logic, running against Trump/Cruz/etc in the major will force Clinton to adopt Trump/Cruz's policies.)

"If I could appoint a president from among the current candidates it would be Bernie. But I think too many general election voters would be dissuaded by the "socialist" label, and we might end up with President Cruz or President Rubio or (God help us) President Trump instead. For that reason, I'd prefer that Hillary be the nominee, even if she's not my first choice as actual President."

Repeating myself from previous threads, but my feeling is the opposite. Sanders is much more electable. "Hillary" is a much more harmful label than Sanders' "Socialist".

What Sanders says are things that most of the Republican base agrees with. I've heard rusted-on-Republicans say, "I don't know why he says he's a 'socialist', what he's saying is just..." He just plain doesn't make them angry. They won't be motivated to support any Republican candidate, just to spite him. At worst, they'll stay at home. Meanwhile, Sanders will inspire the Dem left, the youth vote, while not being crazy enough for the Dem moderates to stay home; and he'll win a good proportion of blue collar men in purple states. Hell, he might even flip the odd light-red state.

With Clinton, the hate is deep and pure and practised amongst both the Republican right, and the Democrat left.

Against one of the crazies, like Trump, Clinton would still win. Against Rubio, it's a toss up.

Aside: If either side cheats the popular nominee at the convention, that party will lose hard at every level of politics.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
"Back in 2008 there were people who said the same exact thing about a Black presidential candidate. Too many general election voters would be dissuaded by his race."

Not "people", it was a whisper campaign by the Clinton camp.

(Apparently the Birther conspiracy was also started by the same Clinton backroom. Although the tactic was learned from GWB's operatives in the 2000 primaries against McCain.)

Tacitus2 said...

Dem nominees Clinton and Cory Booker
Rep nominees Rubio and Kelly Ayotte
Neither chamber changes hands
No third party run of significance
Long shot: Trump effectively endorses Clinton/Booker
End result Clinton victory

How it all ends up.....both tickets have people light on experience. The world keeps getting harder to manage. It does not go very well.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Bernie being in the race forces Hillary to take more Bernie-like positions than she otherwise would."

That's meaningless beyond the primaries. Once she gets the nomination, she can walk back anything she said. GWB ran as a moderate, a "Compassionate Conservative", and look at the people he put in power.

(Besides, by your logic, running against Trump/Cruz/etc in the major will force Clinton to adopt Trump/Cruz's policies.)


I see your point, but it's not the mere running against another candidate that alters her positions. It is when she sees that those positions are actually popular. The more support Bernie gets, the more Hillary will go left, even if it is just out of expediency. What you say above about Republicans pulling the Democratic candidate to the right may have been true in the 1990s. I don't see it happening post W.


Repeating myself from previous threads, but my feeling is the opposite. Sanders is much more electable. "Hillary" is a much more harmful label than Sanders' "Socialist".


Again, I see your point, but I'm not sure you're reading the general public correctly. "Hillary" is poison to many voters who are going to vote Republican no matter who the Dem nominee is. "Socialist" is poison to mainstream America. It doesn't matter whether or not they support individual positions that one could argue are "socialist". Too many Americans equate "socialist" with something along the lines of Darth Vader.

I don't think mainstream America would vote for a self-proclaimed "fascist" either, which is why none of the actual fascists who are running for the GOP nomination are insane enough to call themselves that.

LarryHart said...

For the predictions registry, I'm going to re-iterate my prediction that Hillary Clinton is our next president.

I reserve the right to muse over the other categories and post any such predictions later, including the one about the Democratic nominee. No one said the predictions have to be logically consistent with each other (although if that becomes a rule, I will abide by it).

Laurent Weppe said...

* "That's meaningless beyond the primaries. Once she gets the nomination, she can walk back anything she said. GWB ran as a moderate, a "Compassionate Conservative", and look at the people he put in power."

Junior ran as a moderate, a "Compassionate Conservative" after the primaries, in order to mollify the moderate electorate, but during the early primaries, his greatest threat was not McCain but Steve Forbes and his flat tax platform.
In order to solidify his position, Junior therefore ran on a supply-sides voodoo platform, and the inept tax cuts policies he implemented once he cheated his way into the Oval stemmed from the bullshit he told during the republican primaries.

It's what is said after the primaries which is meaningless: there an elected official can indeed easily walk back from the thing s/he said to gain the lukewarm support of the barely politically engaged: the promise the candidates tell their core of supporters on the other hand, these bind them.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Off both the nominal and current topics:

"Beyond the Star Wars universe, our real-life robots are becoming markedly cuter by design, too, as the Verge reported last year. People tend to give the bots a break when they mess up—Aw, the little tyke, it’s still learning—and they also find them friendlier and more trustworthy, meaning they’re more willing to incorporate the robot into their lives."

Does this presage the Brin hypothesis that the solution to the Frankenstein problem is to raise robots *as* children?

Catfish N. Cod said...

Back on topic: how would we merge Dr. Brin's odds and Tacitus' point system? Perhaps Tacitus' points are the bids you pay in, and you get payout based on the odds? In other words, if Ryan is the nominee, Dr. Brin would get 4 points buyin * 4:1 odds = 16 point payout?

Jumper said...

You set off a cascade of thought, Catfish. I take Brin to mean that an AI would of necessity require a long period of learning, if only because actual interaction with human minds takes place on our time frame. So if the point is that not only AI researchers interact with this learning but average members of the public too, then probably the human-child visage would be of some use. Of course nowadays kids interact online. They even pretend to be older and wiser, using opaque avatars. In other words, a maturing AI would have to do some faking in order to be "normal" nowadays!
Signed, Lord Scary McDoom

locumranch said...



Arthur C. Clarke was a great writer but (most likely) a not-good human being, putting to lie the Pinkerian progressive rant that only good men & good women can do great things and proving additional support for the argument that it is humanity's greatest FLAWS that lead to the best & most ambitious of human accomplishment.

We see this same principle played out in politics: Carter was (by far) the most moral candidate but a terrible president; Obama has (repeatedly) show himself to be a decent human being but a so-so president; and Clinton & FDR were both very good presidents but deeply flawed human beings.

Ergo, My political predictions for 2016 are as follows:

Trump (as a driven & flawed personality) would only a poor Republican nominee but our best president; Rubio (as the most sincere Republican) would make a good nominee but a lousy prez; Cruz (as the least sincere Republican) would make a fair nominee but a less-good prez; Sanders (being the best Democratic person) would make a lousy & unlikely prez; and Clinton (being an optimised & programmed personality) would a poor to fair prez at best.


Best

Anonymous said...

Childhood? Given that most Americans now slump about in a suckled womb of car-sitting--what's their per-capita Carbon burn, again?--and are variously dull, glazed-eye'd or panic'd and surprised when some pedestrian appears as if by magic practically under their hood, childhood is a bit of a stretch. Preacher-man promised improvements to that experience of car-sitting must only enhance the womb-like experience, and will certainly not increase the quite necessary flow of blood to the brain (mine is quite high enough, given the Frogger-like experience of attempting to walk about this not so fair land). Perhaps by first progressing back to walking, we can then speak of childhood, and so forth?

matthew said...

OK, predictions:

1:3 Trump is the Republican nominee
1:3 Cruz is the Republican nominee

1:2 Rubio is the VP nom
1:4 Fioria is the VP nom

2:3 Clinton is the Democratic nom
1:3 Sanders is the Democratic nom (would have been higher, but DNC cutting his campaign off the database is a HUGE deal. Wasserman-Shultz is acting to ensure Hillary does not get a serious primary. This will fail, but will hurt Sanders.)

1:2 O'Malley is Dem VP if Clinton wins nom,
1:1 African American VP if Sanders wins nom (not Booker, though)

The House will not change hands.
The Senate will not change hands, unless Sanders is the candidate, in which case it will.

3:4 Trump will run as 3rd party candidate. The Republican establishment will perform some sort of "dirty trick" either in the primaries or at the convention that convinces him to run a 3 way. Much more likely to happen if polling shows a catastrophic Republican loss, that way the Republican establishment can blame Trump rather than the crap-storm that is their nominating process.

1:2 odds that Republicans caught in electoral cheating. 1:100 chance of jail time for a senior Republican party official caught ordering cheating.

2:3 Republican nominee becomes president. A terror event on US soil in the October before the election drives a 10 point change in polls.

If Dem becomes president, 1:4 chance of attempted coup by evangelical US military using launch codes as blackmail threat. Coup led within from within Air Force and abetted by Oathkeepers within regular Army and Marines. Navy stays loyal. Coup fails, but coup succeeds in using a nuke(s) on US soil.

LarryHart said...

My prediction for the long-shot political prediction:

Trump will be revealed to have been playing a part (in the manner of Colbert), and simply refusing to break character.

I'm not guessing at his motivation at this point, but I'm asserting that, rather than "saying what he really believes", he has been saying what he imagines the character he is playing must say in any given situation. That this will become common knowledge and accepted fact. I won't argue for points if it is just a matter of speculation.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

We see this same principle played out in politics: Carter was (by far) the most moral candidate but a terrible president; Obama has (repeatedly) show himself to be a decent human being but a so-so president; and Clinton & FDR were both very good presidents but deeply flawed human beings


I grew up when the earth was still cooling in the 1960s. Back then, America saw as a point of pride that we didn't have a king. We had a president, who was the administrative head of government, and that was a whole different thing. My idea of a good president is someone like Michael Dukakis. The very Un-specataularness which most people today would consider a minus is exactly what makes him a plus to me.

A so-so president is what I'm looking for. It's a feature, not a bug.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin says

>I have to say that purely logically, the closer Donald Trump gets to either being nominated or running a third party bid, the more I fear for his life. There are ruthless men with unlimited funds who have far too much at stake and who might stop at nothing. Transforming him from a huge headache into a confederate martyr might appeal to such SMORPs.

Al I have to say about that is that I find most Americans oddly naive on such notions. We have royalists and spooks in places of power in our country who will readily kill people, sabotage free elections, and generally do all manner of ruthless, undemocratic acts...

In other countries...

But somehow it's completely unthinkable that this same crowd would ever do some of the same things inside our borders.

No, no, no. It's only unthinkable to steal elections, undermine the effectiveness and representative-ness of representative government, to undermine the principle of equality under the law, and so forth, if we make damn sure it's unthinkable, by punishing the hell out of anybody who tries it.

We've done a lax job on that score for several decades now. Don't sufficiently punish Nixon, you get Bush. Don't punish Bush, you get Trump... Let that process go far enough and you get a Mussolini or similar...

David Brin said...

Tacituse predicted:
Dem nominees Clinton and Cory Booker
Rep nominees Rubio and Kelly Ayotte
Neither chamber changes hands
No third party run of significance

Sorry but this is wishing. You want Rubio because he is the only one in the top 6 who seems remotely sane. Remotely. Which utterly disqualifies him to be the nominee. Despite the fact that he is wholly acceptable to the SMORPS. They own him, top to bottom and will hand him a list of whom to appoint. But he does seem nice.

Kelly Ayotte is entirely plausible... as TRUMP's running mate, because she fills a number of his gaps. A woman. A senator and hence filling some of the political DC-skill gap. Though that leaves one gap for Donald... his VP pick must be a visibly strong Christian. Because there's a wing of the crazy wing that is now a majority of the GOP. The truly sincere fundies love his politics but fret about his religiosity.

Ayotte is an utter impossibility with any other GOP nominee.

Corey Booker? Nonsense. It is the hispanics' "turn" -- Castro or some other attractive hispanic will add hugely to HC's campaign, especially since Cruz, Rubio and Bush are all utterly fluent spanish-speakers.

Tacitus dreams and dreams of the GOP giving him an excuse to stay loyal. Sorry, man. Those dreams are long dashed and the center right president you wanted all along is named Barack Obama.

===
"Pinkerian progressive rant that only good men & good women can do great things" Ah, the Strawman-maker is back! What a Michaelangelo of made-up sculpting! With a soupcon of barnyard bullshit mixed in. Find us one example of anyone who actually said that.

By his standards, a "good" president is one who would press the button so the resulting "collaps" would lead to great things! I wonder if he ever did actually read the book COLLAPSE?

No. No I don't wonder at all.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Tacitus dreams and dreams of the GOP giving him an excuse to stay loyal. Sorry, man. Those dreams are long dashed


That sort of argument is better left to the actual events to play out. IMHO, anyway.

David Brin said...

Matthew you sure are a bold one. Notice guys, how using odds unleashes a wider variety of fun predictive verve?

In fact, the Congress won't change hands by much till a conservative Supreme Justice resigns under a demo president. Then gerrymandering will topple within six months. At which point the Republican Party will have to decide -- wake up from the fever, moderate.... or die.

THAT is why the SMORPS are desperate. It is bigger even tan getting those 10,000 Bushite factotums re-appointed.

Tacitus2 said...

Be assured that no timid brow will wear the laurels of Pundifex Maximus.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

In fact, the Congress won't change hands by much till a conservative Supreme Justice resigns under a demo president. Then gerrymandering will topple within six months.


In the meantime, they're busy going the other way--trying to decide that "one person, one vote" means that congressional districts are divvied up by number of eligible voters (or perhaps registered voters--they haven't quite decided yet). Thus giving more Representatives and Electoral Votes to rural states.

Since the constitution itself mentions only number of persons, which at the time included women and children who were not voters, I'm not at all clear how they can even argue this point, but they seem about to rule as such anyway.

Unless, of course, the Rapture occurs soon, leaving us a 4-0 Democratic majority on the USSC. If I hadn't already made a long-shot prediction, I'd be tempted to give long odds on the Rapture occuring before the November election. :)

David Brin said...

The weirdest thing about the current court case over apportionment is that the Constitution is actually very clear that non-citizens get counted under the "3/8ths Rule." No mention is made of slavery. It is clear... though the background for the rule is stunningly evil. But is the background even relevant?

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

Yes, the Constitution includes "free persons", excludes "Indians not taxed", and then includes 3/5 of everyone else. No mention of eligible or registered or any other kinds of voters. The voters were the ones who got to do the choosing, but the representatives represent the entire population, not just the (landowning) voters.

I've heard that the 14th Amendment overrides this, but all that seems to do is get rid of the 3/5 compromise. It's everybody except the "Indians not taxed". No one ever suggested that women and children not be counted, let alone all of the free white people who were not landowners.

I guess the Supreme Court gets to make s### up now. If they rule that the sky is green or that pigs can fly, it's not as if there is any recourse.

Next, I suppose, corporations (as persons) become eligible voters?

Jumper said...

The theory that only eligible voters get representation means children and unregistered voters don't. Seems unfair to me. To say the least. Of course that's the most incredibly un-American thing I've heard yet.

Alfred Differ said...

The point system Tacitus2 is offering can be viewed as an odds system if the buy in is one point until you get to the negative numbers. A buy in is an ante but with an obligation to pay more if you lose. For example, getting the Dem VP right pays 3:1, but punishes -3:1 if you try and lose. In this system I would be tempted to avoid making predictions on anything where my confidence was weaker than 50/50.

So:
Dem Ticket = CLINTON \ (Decline to participate)
GOP Ticket = RUBIO \ (Decline to participate)
House changing hands: No
Senate changing hands: No
Third Party candidate from current list of debaters: No
Winning ticket: Dem
Long shot: GOP will not have a candidate win enough delegates to take the nomination on the first ballot.

Paul SB said...

It seems like old Arthur C. has gotten lost in the flurry of election predictions...

My daughter just showed me a web site for an organization that is trying to turn the old library in Ray Bradbury's home town into a Ray Bradbury museum. It might be worth checking out.

http://www.bradburycarnegie.org/

Alfred Differ said...

Under matthew’s approach, using a bucket of 100 points, I’d buy contracts as follows:
16 on Trump as GOP nominee. (I don’t think he will be, but 1:3 is worth taking.)
20 on Clinton as Dem nominee. (Seems likely. Take the money.)

I’d sell the following contracts:
8 on Cruz as GOP nominee. (He won’t get it, so I’ll take the 1:3 risk)
10 on Fiorina as GOP VP nominee. (She won’t get it, so I’ll take the 1:4 risk)

That commits all points on anything I have any confidence at picking.

David Brin said...

Fiorina is toast. She's now struggling to sell books and speaking gigs and maybe to get a cabinet post. And heaven help the constituents and civil servants in whatever agency she's given. All of the above holds for the undercard folks like Graham and yes Kasich and promises were made to get Walker and Jindal to drop out.

Paul451 said...

Re: Tacitus2's challenge.

I really don't think it's worth the complexity of assigning odds, and especially not worth trying to come up with tradable contracts.

We're not even playing for matchsticks here, don't overthink it.

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
Re: "Hillary" vs "Socialist"

I'm only going by the reactions I've seen from people on the left and right. There is real hatred for Clinton that doesn't exist for Sanders. On the left it's just the usual distrust of corporatist candidates that the Democrats put up. But on the right, it's a deep emotional reaction. They've been trained for decades that Hillary is the enemy. It's visceral. Hence if Clinton gets the nomination, the left will stay home or protest vote for a third party, while the right will be energised and unified behind any Republican candidate.

IMO, moderates don't understand that. People like David admire Clinton's intelligence and strength and so underestimate the deep, irrational hatred.

As for Sanders: While the right have also been trained to react to the word "socialism", it isn't personal. (Weirdly, "liberal" seems to get a stronger reaction. Sanders is subverting the tactics by adopting "socialist", leaves them nowhere to go.) The emotional reaction to the word socialist is offset by Sanders not being afraid of who he is. The right have been trained to value that (hell, we've all been trained by Hollywood to value that.) It's the same thing they admire about Trump. Or Putin. The result is that the turnout on the right will depend heavily on the Republican nominee, and looking at the current field, there's no-one who won't have a third of the Republican voters staying home.

I think Clinton can win, but it will be a tough (expensive) race and it will cost the Democrats many more lower races. So they have no chance of flipping the Senate, let alone the House, and will lose (or fail to regain) State and County level seats.

With Sanders, the left will be energised, the right base will be indifferent. That increases the chance of a clean-sweep result.

[The same issue will exist with Congress after the election. Republicans who work with Clinton will be despised by the base. But with Sanders, it will depend on the issue they are working on.]

Re: Trump playing a character.

Trump is just not that subtle. You can look at his entire career and see that. You haven't met guys like him in business?

David Brin said...

Paul451 There is very little "left like you describe and they will not go third party or sit on their hands. They know the next President may appoint four justices.

greg byshenk said...

David, I would agree that the "left" that "will stay home or protest vote for a third party" in the event of a Clinton nomination is small, it is something that can make a difference at the margins (see Nader).

The problem of Sanders being a 'socialist' may be overstated (I say 'may' advisedly, as I don't think that I have a good feel for US political currents these days). So far as I can tell (and that may not be far enough, I grant), Americans have been trained to hate the word 'socialist', but don't really seem to have a problem with socialist ideas. And Sanders seems to have a significant history of being able to present those ideas in a way that neutralizes the fear of the word. There's no way to know how that would translate to a national, media based campaign, but I don't see any strong basis for saying it can't.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi David
I am less sanguine about voters "sitting on their hands"
It takes quite an effort to vote on a working day - especially as there will probably be long lines at a lot of polling stations and I can see a lot of people going:
One vote won't make any difference
Both parties are the same anyway
So many people hate her - there must be some fire with all that smoke
And using that as an excuse not to bother voting

In addition the Dems need a big victory with the Repubs in charge of the voting machines a small victory can be easily reversed

Political addicts like most of us understand why this election is so important but most people will not be thinking about Supreme Court Justices

Laurent Weppe said...

"I'm only going by the reactions I've seen from people on the left and right. There is real hatred for Clinton that doesn't exist for Sanders."

They used to say that about Obama: Eastasia/Eurasia

greg byshenk said...

Laurent, they still do, and there still is real hatred for Obama. He managed to energize enough supporters to get out and vote to counteract it. I think the concern from some quarters is: "what is Clinton's plan for doing the same?"

Catfish N. Cod said...

Alfred: I don't see why you have to pay if you lose, for exactly the reason you give: it discourages participation. This is a prediction market game. Getting participation is the point. If we do odds, we should remove the penalties.

Tacitus, David:
Who will be the Democratic presidential nominee? 1 point
2:3 odds for Hillary Clinton
3:1 odds for Bernie Sanders

Who will be the Democratic vice presidential nominee? 3 points
IF Clinton nominated:
3:1 odds for Bernie Sanders. (Yes, seriously.)
4:1 odds for Julian Castro
5:1 odds for Deval Patrick
7:1 odds for Corey Booker

If Sanders is nominated I have no clue.

Who will be the Republican presidential nominee? 4 points
2:1 odds on Rubio
5:2 odds on Cruz
3:1 odds on Trump
7:1 odds on Bush. (They will nominate a loser before letting Trump destroy the party.)

Who will be the Republican vice presidential nominee? 4 points
2:1 on Kasich. (He's the Governor of freakin' Ohio.)
2:1 on Rubio (if not nominated)
3:1 on Fiorina. (Clinton-bashing.)

Will control of the House of Representatives change hands? 1 point
19:1 against the House turning over.

Will control of the Senate change hands? 1 point
3:1 against the Senate turning over.

Will any of the current candidates now considered “serious” (invited to at least one main televised debate) run as a third party candidate? 2 points
2:1 odds that Trump will third-party (and thus elect the Democrat).

Irrespective of your picks for nominees, which party’s candidate wins the Presidential campaign? 2 points
Democrats favored 5:4 at this time.

Make your own long shot political prediction. No points off for being wrong but it has to be something that is not currently a common assumption and you must be the first entrant to make the call to get points. 2 points

The United States will be under a carbon tax and/or cap-and-trade system within 15 years.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin does not understand the hatred against the Clintons.

I do. Because I still detest them. Dr. Brin may be correct with his arguments concerning them and I freely admit one reason I detest the Shrug as much as I do is that he made Clinton look good... but I still would not want them as neighbors or even living in the same State. I have no admiration for Bill Clinton and even less for Hillary. (Which may show you just how little I think of Bush seeing that he makes Clinton look good by comparison.)

If my vote was the deciding factor to allow a tie between Cruz and Clinton, I might very well allow Cruz to win. I do not want another four years of Clinton and I also know that any Republican, even with Republican control of the House and Senate, will not be able to do much damage.

Do you know what I see in 2018 if the Republicans win the House and Senate? Obamacare repealed. The EPA dismantled. Big recession that started with stock market crashes for the healthcare and energy industries and proved contagious. Illegal aliens rounded up... with a bunch of legal ones causing massive lawsuits... and the House and Senate falling into Democrat hands because the only people who vote Republican at that point would be diehard Republicans. It would likely trickle down to the State level as well (one area where Republicans are thriving).

Cruz would be a four-year President. If that. Trump would be as well, but he'd never get anything done because both Republicans and Democrats would stymie him every chance they got.

I do not want Clinton in the White House. I don't care about the Supreme Court if it means Clinton gets in, and doubt we'll see another Supreme replaced in the next five years anyway. Fortunately, I live in Massachusetts so I can vote Libertarian without the gloomsayers pointing fingers at me.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

See?

This is what I see on a number of left-leaning sites whenever a story about Hillary pops up. Ditto on RW sites.

It doesn't happen with stories about Sanders.

Paul451 said...

BTW, the left are disappointed with Obama, but the depth of hatred is as strong as it is against Hillary. They hold their nose and grudgingly voted for Obama in 2012, in order to vote against a Republican candidate like Romney, but they will not vote for Hillary.

Paul451 said...

Damnit, "isn't as strong".

A.F. Rey said...

I think you are way overestimating the hatred of Hillary by Democrats (although maybe not "the Left"). She is leading the polls in all electorate categories over Sanders, except for white liberals. And I believe a lot of Democrats have fond memories of the Clinton presidency.

I think you also underestimate the fear of the Republican nominee by the Left. It's one thing to have a tepid supporter who only gives lip service in the White House; it's another to have a rabid enemy. And which of the Republican nominees would the Left trust not to take the nation back 20-50 years? ;)

Rob H, the question is not whether you (and those you know) hate Hillary worse than Sanders. The question is whether any of you would vote for Sanders if he were running. If you would vote for the Libertarian candidate regardless, then it doesn't matter diddly if you like Sanders over Hillary. It's not going to change things.

Even if Sanders won the nomination, how long do you think it would take before the Republican nominee would get those Hillary haters believing that Sanders' socialism is just a code word for COMMUNISM? They already got a majority of them believing that Obama wants to confiscate their guns, even after 7 years of not doing it. What if a true communist was President...

I voted for Obama back in '08 because I thought Hillary had too much baggage. But the last 8 years have shown that the Republican attack machine will work on whoever the Democrat is in the White House. They aren't going to treat Sanders any differently than Obama. And although Hillary still has a lot of baggage (if not more by now), she's still better than any of the Republican bozos that are likely to be nominated.

Robert said...

Honestly? Given that a number of Republican voters have said "you know, Sanders makes sense..." I don't think the Republican attack engine would work well against him. However, there is one [racist] reason why Sanders would probably get along quite well with Republicans in Congress: He's an old white man.

If Republican voters are already connecting to him, if there is obvious issues between him and the Democratic Powers That Be (ie, the recent DNC fuckup - and yes, this is a fuckup by the DNC - banning Sanders from databases and also making sure the debates are not going to be heard by putting them on when there'll be a lot of competition for viewers' attention), and if he gets elected anyway, Republicans are going to say "this is an Independent who ran under the Democratic party. We can work with him."

And I think you are underestimating the hatred of Hillary. This DNC blowup? That's going to push the Left away from Clinton. It will push the younger voters who connected with Sanders away from Clinton. In short, it's going to cost Democrats their chance for the House and Senate because why vote for the party that screwed over their guy? They just won't vote.

Hillary will probably squeak off a win. But you could end up with a significant majority in the House and Senate for the Republicans as a result which would become supermajorities which ignore the Presidency in 2018... and could very well see her impeached and removed from office just for shits and giggles because if they have that supermajority, why not use it?

And yes, Republicans hate Hillary that much.

Rob H.

A.F. Rey said...

A lot of that seems to be relying on the goodwill of the Republican Party. I'm not sure that's such a good bet these days. :)

LarryHart said...

@Robert,

Wow! You really do hate the Clintons. To my way of thinking, that hatred is blinding you to political reality, because (I don't want to repeat your entire list here, but) I think you are wrong in just about all of your assertions.

How much more "damage" could Clinton do with a Republican congress than Obama was able to do? OTOH, President Cruz with a rubber stamp congress could do everything you actually enumerated, which would do tremendous damage to the country.

And so many Justices are getting up in years, that the next president will almost certainly determine the direction of the court for years to come. Republicans especially will probably appoint 30-year-old idealogues who we'll be stuck with until I die.


I don't care about the Supreme Court if it means Clinton gets in,


You don't think a Republican president or the Supreme Court can do more damage than Hillary can? Seriously???

matthew said...

I'll hold my nose and vote for Hillary if needed. But I'd rather have someone that I like and trust to make decisions for the good of the country. I trust Hillary to make decisions for the good of Hillary. Which happens, sometimes, to coincide with the good of the nation. But in a choice between the good of the nation and the good of Hillary, she choices herself every time.

She's still 100X better than the best of the Republican field.

The only candidate I trust to put the nation's interest over his own is Bernie. He's shown his integrity intelligence over and over. I'll trust his nominees to the Supremes. Ì trust him to watch over the bureucracy. I'll trust when it comes to trade agreements, and when it comes to oversight of our protector caste. I cannot say the same of any other candidate

Tacitus2 said...

Matthew

Interestingly although we have different ideological view points I agree with your first and third paragraphs wholeheartedly.

It would be refreshing to have two articulate candidates having an intelligent debate on the issues of the day from differing viewpoints.

Ah, but David often says I have my happy delusions and I appear to be making the case for that being true.

Cheers from the Western Half of Cheeseland

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Robert, hey man, don't hold back! But seriously, could you concisely list your reasons for hating the Clintons so?

Given that almost all US metrics of national health went up, across their tenure, the bureaucracy was rated at its most efficient ever, by J Powers. Not one Clinton official went to jail or was even indicted for malfeasance of office. (first time ever, after an 8 year term.) And so on...

Mind you, I did not want this situation. She is not my favorite. But still...

Please answer under the next posting, which is already up.

onward


onward