Saturday, December 05, 2015

Sci Fi Flicks - getting better and better? (Plus some coolness from space.)

My next science fiction posting will have plenty of news... about my new book...

...and about the twenty or so new film and TV projects that appear to be in the works, based on actual, first-rank novels by real, thoughtful authors like Clarke, Asimov, Scalzi, Stephenson, Leckie and more. But first...

Note that SyFy will premiere both Childhood's End and The Expanse on December 14. One of them at 8 pm and the other at 10 pm. Make it a viewing party with friends! (We mean to!) and from 9 to 10? You could either socialize during the break... or make it a science fiction marathon by inserting a viewing (on Amazon Prime) of The Man in the High Castle!

So until that next big SF posting...shall we make do with lesser but still cool news?

A new film 51 Degrees North confronts the main character with news that the world will end in less than three weeks when a series of asteroids will strike the Earth. However, a glimmer of hope remains in the form of a secret space station orbiting the Earth that can house up to 2,000 people. Hm. While apocalypse is getting really hackneyed, this one seems interesting… and a clear prequel to Neal Stephenson’s new novel Seveneves.

We got glimpses of the future of Artificial Intelligence in both Ex Machina and Chappiewritten and directed by Neill Blomkamp, who also did District 9 and Elysium)The audience identifies with the child-robot -- an overall concept which is possibly correct.  To be honest, I found Ex Machina to be truly I'm inferior in about a dozen ways. Alas.

Jennifer Phang's indie science fiction film Advantageous, a darling of 2015’s Sundance, came to Netflix Instant Streaming (and Amazon)….  As Arthur Chu put it: "We live in a renaissance of science fiction film and TV and "geek" culture in general -- the accelerating pace of technological change thanks to Moore's Law makes it hard to deny we're living in "the future," we're all part-machine-part-human for practical purposes now, no one can guess what element of science fiction is next to become science fact..." Actually about technological obsolescence...

By all means rent the film Predestination. It's a wonderful expansion upon Robert Heinlein's uber-classic story "All You Zombies."  The entire story is there, every single scene... though of course there are added layers and layers, to make it a movie.  None of those layers detract.  The compounded ironies are preserved and enhanced. The writing is solid. Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook are terrific. It is simply criminal that she was not nominated for Best Actress in the Academy Awards. Criminal. 

I deeply disliked the pretentious and misleading Alan Turing flick Imitation Game, though Benedict Cumberbatch was good as usual.  Breaking the Code was much better, and I saw it in London with Derek Jakoby!

Brin in espanol!  El Pais, the prestigious Spanish Language journal and site has posted a 4-minute interview with David Brin about our fantastic future.

Talk about sci fi. I describe this from many angles in stories...people who hope for resurrection via AI-tech, by recording as much as possible for the rest of their lives.

Running a little short, this time.  So let's tack on...

== ... some news from Space! ==


What does it look like when a black hole eats a star?  This embedded NASA video animation is way-cool! 

Some exoplanets have a bulk density higher than iron's. The authors assume that these worlds are the naked cores of jovian planets that have lost their outer layers, and that the extreme density results from the presence of degenerate matter. Under some circumstances the degenerate matter can survive for geological time scales; in others, decay of the degenerate matter will actually cause the planet to explode.

This video by Deep Space Industries describes plans for asteroid mining.  And here is one from Planetary Resources. And yes there are still those who believe in the Moon, as in this TED talk, though I am definitely in the asteroid camp... as are most scientists and folks serious about getting the riches we need, to make space sustainable.    

And finally, did I mention that 2015 was the best year for humanity’s exploration of space ever? So far?  Here’s a final taste of a great year in which we should have been proud, instead of boorishly angry ingrates all the time.  A video released by the New Horizons team shows the best closeups yet of Pluto’s bizarre and spectacularly varied surface. 


79 comments:

brian t said...

Speaking of apocalypses (apocalypti? apocalyodes?) - have you had a chance to see "You, Me & the Apocalypse"? What makes it different is that it's an Anglo-American co-production, and features Will & Grace's Megan Mulally as a Nazi jailbird and Rob Lowe as a Vatican priest. At one point, he's stuck in the passenger seat of a tiny car racing around the streets of Slough, Berkshire. Quite bonkers.

Jumper said...

I can't puzzle out the denser-than-iron exoplanet story; the article is walled off. Degenerate matter? I thought a neutron star would convert its entire mass to degenerate matter. Or am I wrong, or do they mean something else?

Jumper said...

http://www.nature.com/news/super-dense-celestial-bodies-could-be-a-new-kind-of-planet-1.12599
That's all we got.
I think they refer to high-pressure phases of matter. My limited understanding is that these revert quicker than posited, but then again I don't know.

Tony Fisk said...

I suspect the argument is that the cores retain enough gravity to maintain the degenerate phase.

Imitation Game way oversimplified the Enigma story, and put too much emphasis on Turing's work. V. Important, of course, but I think the dumb plods in RN Signals had alteady worked out the usefulness of German coded weather reports. I agree BC portrayed Turing's character well.

No mention of 'The Martian'?

dilbert dogbert said...

Has anyone done the back story of the Star Trek and Star Wars movies? The one where the laws of physics are unbreakable and faster than light travel is impossible? Where the star ships are really just AI machines bound to earth that provide mankind a way to absorb its restless energy? It is a future where economic scarcity, in most things, has been overcome. Locational scarcity is still a problem as all the world can not all decide to go to Cancun for Spring Break. The world is a huge holodeck.

Paul451 said...

David,
I've noticed in the last couple of posts, the initial paragraph or two has been in a different font than the rest. (Along with an insert or two, further down.)

Re: 51° North
A secret space-station that can house 2000 people? Uh, no.

"the accelerating pace of technological change thanks to Moore's Law"

Has anyone written SF on the premise that Moore's Law finally reaches it's end? Where computer power plateaus. It's kind of the necessary assumption behind any far-future SF that isn't post-Singularity, but I'm curious whether anyone has expressly addressed it as their "What If"?

Brian T,
"Speaking of apocalypses (apocalypti? apocalyodes?)"

Apocalypse is from the Greek "apokálypsis", so the plural, ironically enough, would be Apocalypses. (Only you'd pronounce it -sees.)

locumranch said...



As stated in the original scifi film 'Rollerball', “The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort", and so it is with increased social complexity because reciprocal accountability (even with the aid of transparency & diversity-approving memes) CANNOT be "extended indefinitely" any more than an army's supply line can be extended indefinitely across unsecured territory.

Again, this is not a matter of optimism, diversity or meme-propagation. It is a matter of individual 'buy-in' wherein the individual 'sees' him (or her) self reflected back from, accepts individual responsibility for, identifies with & exerts individual 'ownership' in the collective, the problem being that individual responsibility & personal accountability cannot be owned by, shared to, or evenly distributed across a greater collective; hence, corporate collectivism serves as a shield against liability, responsibility & morality.

This, too, is true of 'Elysium', 'Oblivion', ''Surrogates', 'Repo Men', 'Blade Runner', 'THX 1138' and (perhaps) 'AI' wherein individuality is subsumed into an irresponsible, indifferent & largely amoral collective devoid of either individual responsibility or moral 'buy-in', all of which are the inevitable byproducts of runaway complexity.

"All politics are local", stated Tip O'Neill, arguing (in so many words) that collectivised government must appeal to the simple, mundane & everyday concerns of those individuals who perpetuate the office, for it is these simple uncomplicated issues, rather than big and intangible ideas, that voters care most about.

Aside from being anti-democratic, complexity is a prison of our own creation: Simplify, simplify, simplify.


Best

David Brin said...

I cite actual examples. Huge ones. Natural ecosystems. The human organism. Vastly complex and synergized to benefit from that healthy complexity. But clinging to a nostrum, he'll turn to moviesas his "examples"... largely misinterpreting even those.

"Simplify" an ecosystem and a human body and you make them less healthy. Simplify a human society and you get stupid, stupid, utterly stoooopid feudalism.

It's been tried. A lot.

Paul SB said...

You can take this quite a bit further than just to make living systems less healthy. This is an old argument used by evolution deniers. They claim that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics absolutely proves that God must exist because nature does not allow complexity to form naturally. Of course, the argument is spurious, as living systems behave in ways that cannot be completely understood in terms of classical physics, but I image that our host has more than enough knowledge of physics to know this.

However, the idea of simplifying living systems reminded me of Greg Bear's novel "Vitals" in which someone tries to make humans as simple as possible - without mitochondria. The result is pretty sad and not really human. It's not really possible, either, but that's a different issue.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Just for funsies, has anyone posited a planet made of degenerate matter might be... Krypton? It would explain Kryptonian strength to some degree, and also an exploding planet, when the degenerate matter finally destabilized :D

TheMadLibrarian

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

As stated in the original scifi film 'Rollerball', “The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort", and so it is with increased social complexity because reciprocal accountability (even with the aid of transparency & diversity-approving memes) CANNOT be "extended indefinitely" any more than an army's supply line can be extended indefinitely across unsecured territory.


I'm surprised you don't mention "The Hunger Games" more often. Seems that would be right up your alley.

Paul SB said...

Mad Librarian,

If Pixar ever made that "Finding Dory" movie they have been talking about, would it be set on a world made of Ellen Degeneres matter?

Douglas Fenton said...

The star could have stripped away outer layers of a brown dwarf leaving the core containing electron degenerate matter. The smallest star known is 2MASS J05233822-1403022 and is smaller than Jupiter and is at the limit where fusion can occur. Even without fusion, the core would contain a lot of electron degenerate matter. It would be interesting to see how common planets like this are. They should be very rare since you need just the right combination of factors for them to exist.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/06/11/the_brown_dwarf_limit_astronomers_have_found_the_smallest_star_known.html

Paul SB said...

Douglas, cool little article about a little enigma. I thought that the competing forces of mass/gravity and fusion/thermal expansion were enough to explain how you could get a tiny little Type M smaller than a Brown Dwarf. Unfortunately the article doesn't really explain degenerate matter. I teach astronomy most years, but at the high school level we don't go into quantum mechanics. Do you know of a good summary of degenerate matter?

Douglas Fenton said...

Paul SB,

I am not an expert on degenerate matter but I have over the years looked at it. There are many articles explaining it very well. You can look up electron degeneracy and move to neutron degeneracy. There are very many on the web. Your students will be understand it easily if they can grasp the Pauli exclusion principle. This page explains the concept in relation to matter under pressure very well.

http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~infocom/The%20Website/pressure.html

Paul SB said...

Thanks! Even as sleepy as I am, it was a pretty comprehensible explanation. I saved the site in my favorites in case I teach Earth Science again in future years.

Helpful hominids here!

Tacitus2 said...

Well that's an interesting question. Does a simplified society have to be stupid?

A variety of possible exceptions occur to me, none of which I know well enough to rule on.

A kibbutz. An Amish community. A monastery.

All modern day examples naturally have the very useful and complex infrastructure of the modern world. Amish buggies on nicely paved roads for instance.

But monasteries gives me pause. Sure, more complex than the surrounding peasant hovels. But much less so than the Royal Court. The monks had self sustaining communities that made damn good bread and cheese, while maintaining scholarship that was for a darkened age, non paraliel.

Is it easier to be happy in a scenic village versus mid town Manhattan? Superficial matters aside, are the inhabitants of the more complex society actually smarter?

Hmmmm. things to ponder.

Tacitus

locumranch said...


The degree of self-blindness expressed here is astounding:

First, we have what our host calls 'democracy' which is (in truth) a pernicious form of EU & US Federalism that allows foreign states, cantons & nations to impose anti-democratic edicts on smaller local democratically-elected governments through simple majority while simultaneously forbidding local independence through dissociation, and then we have a real democracy composed of smaller balkanised democratically-elected local governments arranged in a loose 'Confederacy' which our host calls "stoooopid feudalism".

Which system is more akin to Feudalism, pray tell?

EU & US Federalists who override local sovereignty, borders & democratic will in order to force Refugee Quotas, dysfunctional bureaucracy & one-size-fits-all social policies on involuntary participants?

Or, a Confederation of balkanised smaller governments which respects their respective sovereign borders, regional differences, lifestyle choices & local democratic will?


Second, we have a group of pseudo-scientists who like to confer magical properties on certifiable unknowns like ´Dark Matter' and (now) Degenerate Matter because both forms of matter have to be really really special since we cannot see dark with our limited imaging techniques & what we do not understand we call degenerate.

Along with a distinct lack of self-awareness, this seems to be a recurrent progressive theme: What they do not understand, they term degenerate, and they seem to understand so little, including themselves.


Best
_____

Really good reference, Douglas, which seems to argue that degenerate matter may just be regular (non-magical) matter severely compressed. As in science, magic, idealism & wishful thinking has no place in reasoned discourse.

Jumper said...

Huh? Going flippo so early? Or were you up all night on meth? "Degenerate" is not an epithet in this case, nutball.
Thanks for the article, Douglas. I knew of neutron stars but electron degeneracy was new to me.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Which system is more akin to Feudalism, pray tell?"

And then he goes on to compare the UE and USA to the Holy Roman Empire.
True, in the HRE, for many centuries, the imperial diet was pretty much powerless to impose its will on the Empire's vassal: no pesky elected official to breath down the barons' necks, here.

David Brin said...

Tacitus. Islands of apparent simplicity are possible within either a simple context (a dark age or A Canticle for Liebowitz)… or else within the context of a macro, protecting and nurturing complex society. What does not make sense is to romanticize. Many monasteries were feudal tyrants who savagely bullied their tenant farmers, making fine wine and cheeses off the sweat of serfs.

As for locum. Okay now the strawmanning is back. And it’s a pile of doozies. Unable to defend the wretched treasonous-evil Confederacy (with a capital C) which is the recurring vile cancer that keeps erupting in America’s heart, without a single redeeming quality… he swerves and declares that I am attacking “confederacy” with small “c” as a general concept for devolution of much authority to more local levels.

True, that localization can be used by nasty locals to free them up to persecute local minorities. We must pass through a layering phase when the larger society prevents that ancient shit.

Otoh should people be allowed to form local sovereignties to negotiate with each other fairly to solve problems that are none of the nation’s business? Sure! That was the brilliance de Tocqueville wrote about in Democracy in America. As usual, locum is unable to parse the possibility that such a layered effect is exactly how you get healthy complexity. He cannot see it because it is positive sum.

That riff about “degenerate” matter is proof that he’s tipped off the deep end, again. Well, the cogency was welcome but it could not last. Anyone who finds the unHoly unRoman unEmpire admirable at any level is....

locumranch said...



If a Racist is someone who HATES & discriminates against all things Race, then it follows that this may be a HATE site:

Jumper appears to be a Punist because he HATES & discriminates against all things Pun;
David appears to be a Feudalist because he HATES & discriminates against all things Feudal; and
I could be either a Futilist or (even) a Progressivist because I hate & discriminate against all things Futile & most things Progressive.

Now, wait, I may be somewhat confused:

Is a Sexist someone who HATES or LOVES sexism & all things sexual?

Is a Specist someone who LOVES or HATES all things speciate?

And, if liking Puns just a little makes you Punish, does mean that the state of liking Puns just a little is (literally) Punishment?


Best ;)

David Brin said...

That was( slightly) cute.

David Brin said...

Okay, weird and offensive-lies can skirt next to awful truths. Today on Face The Nation, Donald Trump repeated the oft disproved rumor that "the wives and families of the 9/11 hijackers "absolutely knew what was happening" and were flown "back to Saudi Arabia" days before the attack." Read here the many ways that's just false... and yet... and yet we do know that AFTER the 9/11 attacks...

... Bush & Cheney ordered luxury charters at taxpayer expense, to fly every well-connected Saudi out of the US and away from possible FBI questioning, on the day when Americans themselves were forbidden to fly. One of literally hundreds of pro-Saudi actions. The irony that republicans make such a play for racist, anti-muslim xenophobia among working class tea partiers... when the Bush family has never denied blatantly being a cadet branch of the Saudi Royal House, and Saudis have been the biggest backers of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News.

As well as financing nearly all of the madras schools where young sunnis are radicalized against the west. Ask your crazy, teaparty uncle about this and watch what the cognitive dissonance does to his face. Blood pressure will rise till at last he points at some complete non-sequitur and yells: "squirrel!"

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/12/06/cbs-face-the-nation-lets-gop-frontrunner-donald/207267

Tony Fisk said...

Spiralling around topic (or that of last post):

Japanese space probe Atsutaki is currently attempting an orbital insertion to Venus
... using secondary thrusters. Wishing JSA luck.

Tony Fisk said...

I long ago concluded that many of Loco's riffs are concerned with the sound of words, mixed with a strict dictionary interpretation of their meaning. This can be used for comedic effect, but starts looking a little sparse when having a serious discussion.

That was( slightly) cute.

Worth a copy of 'Kiln People', at least (the atonement is to read it. ;-)

Tony Fisk said...

A-and... a little late, but it would appear we have a probe in orbit around Venus!

David Brin said...

That's Akatsuki -- but thanks Tony. kewl.

Paul SB said...

Funny thing, Jumper didn't have an adverse reaction to my Degeneres Matter pun...

I don't think I can claim to have any great skill in the art of punistry, given that this is considered a low form of humor. Maybe I've just had more practice. Way back in my college days I had friends come over to play cards 3-4 nights a week. The puns flew so thick I started to tax them - nickle, dime or quarter depending on groan volume. The proceeds went to chips & soda. Some times it amazes me I graduated...

Jon S. said...

"Just for funsies, has anyone posited a planet made of degenerate matter might be... Krypton? It would explain Kryptonian strength to some degree, and also an exploding planet, when the degenerate matter finally destabilized :D"

In his classic essay "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex", Larry Niven posited that Krypton may have been a cooling white dwarf star, given the strength of Kryptonians and the mass of Kryptonite that had fallen to Earth (this was written before Byrne's first reboot of the Superman legend in the mid-'80s, back when there was green K that killed Kryptonians, red K that made them crazy, gold K that made them permanently powerless, pink K that turned them flamboyantly camp-gay (really!)...).

Tony Fisk said...

Also white K, affecting plants only.
...Pink K!?? That's new to me. (Cue 'degenerate' references...)

Douglas Fenton said...

Everyone here is familiar with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics but comic strip XKCD points out how their order is important also. Have fun.

http://xkcd.com/1613/

Douglas Fenton said...

We have been evolving ever since the beginning of civilization in the direction that favors those individuals who thrive under a civilization and it is a continuing process. We are becoming predisposed by temperament to live in crowded conditions and in contact with many different types of people. Just about all countries and areas of the world today are “civilizations” with all the inherent characteristics that they possess. What used to be the exception has become the rule.

Most countries are highly urbanized now where people are in very close proximity and in constant contact with people who are different and so necessitate a population more tolerant and forgiving of dissimilarities than a simpler but more uniform culture. Those who can adapt thrive and multiply and those who can’t lose out in the gene reproduction race. In other words, those who can accept, adapt to, and like diversity do better than those who find this contact stressful. You could argue that one of the things that define being human now is starting to be a penchant for civilization over a peasant or tribal society. Look at all the medium and large cities in the world and you find wide varieties of groups and ideas more or less living in agreement. Even in cities that are mostly mono-ethnic do contain wide variations in ideas, thought and niches. Simpler societies have low tolerance for difference and even less for variations in thought.

Humans are evolving brains that can work better in more complex environments, work with different groups, tolerate more ambiguity and generally being able to socialize better than before. There is nostalgia for a simpler life but most humans today would feel constrained and very unhappy if forced to live that life. There are exceptions such as the Middle East for example but the overlying trend is firmly in place.

As an aside, since having a Democrat outlook conforms to this trend, I wonder if Democrats are outbreeding Republicans? That would be an interesting study to make.

Robert said...

"It is simply criminal that [Sarah Snook] was not nominated for Best Actress in the Academy Awards. Criminal."

Well, technically, she wouldn't have been eligible for the Academy Award for Best Actress until just this year, since Predestination didn't see a commercial release in the United States until January 2015. But with almost no studio campaign for her and zero media "buzz," she almost certainly won't be among the nominees announced on January 15, 2016. Alas...

LarryHart said...

Douglass Fenton:

Everyone here is familiar with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics but comic strip XKCD points out how their order is important also. Have fun.

http://xkcd.com/1613/


A while back, we had a discussion here about how there should be three "Laws of Corporatics" hard-wired into every corporate charter that roughly approximated Asimov's Laws. I allowed something of the current "maximize profit", but as the third law rather than the only law.

Yes, order is important.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Funny thing, Jumper didn't have an adverse reaction to my Degeneres Matter pun...


When Ellen Degeneres first "came out", I heard this old guy who called up a radio station and said "Ellen Degenerate" several times, as if he had just made it up and it was the funniest thing in the world.

Paul SB said...

Douglas, if you have the free time, check the archive. It was a fun little discussion. Our host actually started the thread with Larry's "Laws of Corporatics."

You bring up some interesting ideas above, but I have to go to work. I'll try to come back tonight of I have time.

Larry, I heard the "Ellen Degenerate" thing from church people a lot back in those days. In fact I only heard her name because of those people (even then I hardly watched TV). It's am easy joke to make, though the people I was hearing it from weren't joking, they were fuming.

Robert said...

To which when my late brother made that comment, I turned around and started calling her "Ellen de Generous." Though with my brother, I suspect it was just his trying to be witty and sardonic. He'd probably have broken with the Republicans over a decade ago (especially as he went blind as a complication to diabetes, and the more current breed of Republicans tend at times to be dismissive of those who require some form of assistance).

The odd thing is? When Ellen Degeneres first got her own TV shows, I didn't quite realize how true to that new nickname she'd prove.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Paul SB, I instantly recognized yours as a joke, albeit a real stinker. Give the quarter to Brin's tip jar.

Jon S. said...

Back before she came out, part of her standup routine involved a phone call to God.

"Hello, yes, this is Ellen DeGeneres... yes, I know, it does kind of sound like that..."

So I guess she beat them all to that gag. (And o Lord, now I've got "degenerate" and "beat" and "gag" all running around in my head. I think I need more coffee."

Douglas Fenton said...

Paul SB,

Thanks. I will look up that discussion.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I heard the "Ellen Degenerate" thing from church people a lot back in those days. In fact I only heard her name because of those people (even then I hardly watched TV). It's am easy joke to make, though the people I was hearing it from weren't joking, they were fuming.


Fundamentalist seem to really get into puns, as if the word-play is actual proof of something. When I was in college, the preachers on the University of Illinois quad used to talk about Jesus winning the battle of Armageddon with a "super cosmic ray gun". In 1980, they started claiming that one of the presidential candidates was actually God's "Ronald Ray-Gun". They weren't kidding either.

raito said...

You might >think< that more projects means a higher percentage of winners (and I mean winners in the sense that the readers here would acknowledge).

Then again, it's Hollywood we're dealing with.

I recall back in the before-time (around about when Titanic had come out) one of my 3D artists had a carton on his wall. The top panel was labelled: What Hollywood executives ought to learn about the success of Titanic. The executive in the panel was saying that if they'd just let those creative guys do their thing, everyone would make lots of money. The second panel was labelled: What Hollywood Executives will learn about the success of Titanic. That executive was saying Sinking Ships! We need more sinking ships!

The last time I was in a movie theater there were previews for maybe 5 sci-fi movies. The trailer for every single one of them ended the same. Same sound cadence (dum dum dum dum-dum). Same visual effects (still frame fading out while slightly pulling back, to be replaced by another full-brightness frame, rinse and repeat).

So I won't hold my breath. But I will open my eyes.

LarryHart said...

raito:

The top panel was labelled: What Hollywood executives ought to learn about the success of Titanic. The executive in the panel was saying that if they'd just let those creative guys do their thing, everyone would make lots of money. The second panel was labelled: What Hollywood Executives will learn about the success of Titanic. That executive was saying Sinking Ships! We need more sinking ships!


Pretty much the same thing could have been said for "Star Wars", 20 years earlier.

Greg Hullender said...

New book?

LarryHart said...

Douglass Fenton:

Thanks. I will look up that discussion.


If you're really interested:

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2015/01/three-laws-of-corporatics-world-war-of.html

LarryHart said...

...and the discussion keeps going in the comments section.

This was me explaining what I was trying to get at by stripping each "law" to its barest essence:

So in a quick nutshell:

1) Don't make us sorry we chartered you
2) Do what we chartered you for
3) Keep yourself viable

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: From the last thread you were trying to explain something using the Prisoner’s Dilemma game. You drew attention to the win/win scenario and then drew it away and argued as if the positive sum and win/win were the same thing. They aren’t. The win/win scenario is as you say, but positive sum games involving the Prisoner’s Dilemma require repeat play. The game changes a lot if both prisoners know they will be playing again and are REQUIRED to play again. Only one strategy makes sense when the game must be repeated. Any player that plays this strategy repeatedly builds a reputation and now we are in the positive sum world.

locumranch said...


Alfred,

I agree completely about repeated play being a requirement for positive sum game, and therein lies the rub. Each player must be consistent, repeatedly, in order to guarantee further positive sum outcomes, even though such consistency necessitates an absence of personal choice (and/or freedom) analogous to being a prisoner who remains subject to some form of overriding external control. Ideality, collective interest & self-interests are not enough to maintain such consistency because (1) Ideality demands (often) that its adherents vote against self-interests, (2) collective interests (being subject to herd mentality & groupthink) are often best served in the longterm by those who appear to act against the collective, and (3) self-interests do not always serve the collective without some sort of external constraint.

Watching the international news? Modeling themselves after 'V from Vendetta', protesters in South Vietnam (perhaps THE most urban, white-collar & technological culture in the world) don Guy Fawkes masks to protest nothing in particular; Le Pen & the jackbooted National Front become THE most popular political party in France; Trump openly endorses US Isolationism; and Cruz suggests a nuclear first-strike on ISIS.

The Game is a-foot!!!


Best

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: The prisoners don't have to be perfectly consistent. In fact, the best strategy is the play a randomized one that favors the win/win scenario in each game. Multiply probability p(j) against strategy S(j) and sum them up. As long as the probabilities add to unity, you've got an unpredictable player in detail that is predictable at a macro level. Play with the rewards earned (punishments delivered) in each scenario and require repeat plays. Do that for awhile and each player will adjust their probabilities in such a way as to balance the risks and rewards and wind up with a strategy that discourages other players from choosing different probabilities than their own. No coordination is needed. The players wind up doing roughly the same thing for personal reasons.

What messes this up as you've pointed out is that individuals aren't actually the atomic players in these games. Humans DO engage in market behaviors as individuals, but we also aggregate into families, bands, tribes, religious groups, nations, and so on. That DOESN'T change the game, though. It changes the strategies to be played. What our host advocates here is a set of strategies that enables a positive sum outcome. That CAN be done even with all this complexity and the evidence for it is right in front of us. [Seven billion humans and growing toward a peak this century.]

Andy said...

What was wrong with Imitation Game?

And did you hear Russia wants to establish a permanent moon base?

Alfred Differ said...

@Douglas Fenton: One quibble to offer. There is only one civilization on Earth right now. For the first time in history, this is true because of the high degree of communication. Globalism started in the 15th century and was pretty much set by the 18th, but 'civilization' could still be described as plural. Today it is singular.

locumranch said...



Alfred,

I agree again, excepting that you still assume self-correcting, game-specific, rational player behaviour. You are old enough to remember old-style board games like Monopoly, so I also know (with a fair degree of certainty) that you have felt the impulse to violate the intent of the game by cheating (as in the bank makes me unlimited loans), playing-to-lose (as in I do not want to play anymore) or turning-over-the-board (as in If I lose, everybody loses). Ergo, you & David still assume some external force designed to prevent player irrationality & cheating, much in the same way that some sort of ill-defined external authority limits Prisoner Dilemma choice to only 1 of 3 options.

And, while a Global Culture (pop 3 billion) currently exists, it is in no way singular as it shares the globe with Muslim Feudal culture (pop 1.6 billion), a Hindi Caste system (pop 1.1 billion) & Chinese Hybrid communism (pop 1 billion), meaning that half the globe is either an indirect participant or a non-participant in the fossil-fuel driven Global Singularity. Then, there is the ever-present possibility of divorce and/or a climate change dependent death do us part.


Best

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

I instantly recognized yours as a joke, albeit a real stinker. Give the quarter to Brin's tip jar.

Will do.

Douglas Fenton said...

Alfred Differ,

There is one global civilization now but with many different variations, some of which can be quite different, but they all have the basic characteristics of high level of culture, science, industry, and government. What I wanted to underline is that, because of evolution, humans now have a natural tendency towards civilization and not the contrary. Those who could not adapt are no longer there. Living and prospering in a civilization requires much more social skills than does a peasant or tribal society and I propose that genetically, humans have been evolving toward more flexibility, tolerance, plasticity and openness. We have not just learned to be civilized but it is now in our genetic makeup to be civilized.

Douglas Fenton said...

Locum,

The Global Civilization is big enough to contain a Nihilistic and Pessimistic Subculture that can be found in individuals across all the variations of civilization.

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matthew said...

The first episode of The Expanse is pretty darn good. I've read the source material, though, so I'd be curious how the plot translated to non-readers. Any watchers that have not read the books?

matthew said...

Surprising exactly no one, the Saudis are accused to trying to sabotage the Paris Climate talks. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/08/saudi-arabia-accused-of-trying-to-wreck-the-paris-climate-deal

Doubtless Locum applauds the Saudi efforts to resist the "femitization" of the world.

locumranch said...


Douglas's thesis about evolution-driven civilisation, although interesting, seems to conflate civilisation with urbanisation & appears numerically unsupportable, especially when a vast legacy of sociological studies confirm that reproductive success (family size) appears inversely proportional to urbanisation, education, economic success & female employment, as evidenced by below replacement level reproduction in most of civilised urban west. That said, there is more to biological fitness & evolutionary success than a high rate of reproduction (for instance, urban dwellers tend to have more longevity, economic success, higher education levels & better health than rural dwellers) yet, even so, I would argue that the urban lifestyle represents more of a successful behavioral adaption rather than an evolution-worthy selection criteria.

And, Matthew, while correct in the assertion that I tend to disparage feminisation as both an undesirable & adverse side-effect of urban civilisation, fails to differentiate between Western & Eastern masculinity models wherein the Western model favours quiet strength, competence, individuation, standoffishness & tolerance based on minding-your-own-business and the Eastern-Arab model tends to assert itself by conformity, limited show-boating and the shaming & subjugation of others so that relative masculine weakness appears as strength when compared to the humiliation of others -- whereas I am a devotee of the Western masculinity model only.


Best

Paul451 said...

By "Western masculinity", naturally Locumranch invokes the Hollywood model of masculinity.

Andy,
"And did you hear Russia wants to establish a permanent moon base?"

Russia is always announcing things like that in military and aerospace. Observers know not to take it seriously until there's bent metal.

raito said...

Douglas Fenton,

I disagree with your assertion that living on a modern civilization requires more social skills than a peasant or tribal society.

In modern society, one only needs enough social skills to get and keep employment. For example, in my case, I deal with maybe 5 people in any sort of real capacity at my job. Sore, there's oodles of people around, but I don't have to deal with them other than in a very basic manner.

In a tribal society, one deals with most of the people in the tribe, and in a more intimate capacity. I recall some research showing that the primary use of time in (at least some) tribal societies was social. In a modern society, one can practically be a shut-in without anyone much noticing.

In short, in a modern society, if I'm a jerk at a grocery store, I can still buy groceries. In a tribal one, no one will give me food.

matthew said...

No, Locum, I see both models of masculinity as bogus. The Western model hides just as much macho bullshit as the Eastern one. I rejected both models many years ago and no doubt will live longer, happier, and more complete without either.

Plus, I can help save the planet without sacrificing my ideals. Win-win.

Anonymous said...

Out of immediate context here, but this hearkens back to suggestions often made by our host, the most recent not so long ago. And, well, there have been a few very recent comments here about what "civilization" and "masculinity" may or may not be, so perhaps this is a tiny bit in context after all.

Yesterday Scott Adams posted a blog entry titled "How to Stop that Hitler-like Deportation You Fear", which contained the following paragraphs:

"It turns out that American citizens have a legal right to own a defensive weapon. A lot of people already own one. I know many of my readers do. If the government comes into your neighborhood acting all Hitler-like, make sure you keep your weapon handy. (But please keep it locked so kids and crazy people can’t get to it.)

In most situations I would recommend not shooting first. But in this case it seems warranted. If you see bad people from the government in your neighborhood, make some noise and wake up the rest of the neighbors. Tell them to grab their weapons and meet you outside where the trouble is going down. Then start shooting, from all angles, and don’t stop.

If you don’t have a defensive weapon yet, and you don’t want to do your own research, I’ll show you a link to the one I own. It fits my hand well and does the job. Here’s what my weapon looks like: [link to several images of an iPhone]."

-- ToddR

Douglas Fenton said...

raito,

In a tribal society the only people you see and deal with are only those in your tribe and they all have the same basic mindset so it's just the same old thing over and over. In a modern civilization you have to deal with people with who have different mentalities and thoughts. To thrive you need more flexibility and better social skills or you will be stuck in a low job with remarkably less reproductive possibilities. If you are a jerk in a grocery store not many women will see you as good material.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Heh. You think you get to upset the board for the game of Life? Even suicide is a valid strategy. It’s rather dumb for individual play, but you aren’t the atomic player for some strategic decisions. Suicide bombers and social T-cells have their role to play.

This is a game you don’t get to avoid until you are dust. There is no board to tip over. If you think either of these is possible, you are looking at sub-games and missing the point David advocates. Civilization is a macro game. You are one part of a number of macro entities. How you play depends on a lot of things, but if you listen to David’s advice, you’ll play in such a way as to enable positive sum outcomes in the highest game. That doesn’t mean those outcomes WILL occur, but you’ll help make it POSSIBLE for them to occur.

A number of us point out that enough of us are already playing these strategies to matter. That’s how the pyramid shaped society turned into a diamond shaped one.

One thing else to point out. Don’t confuse cultures for civilizations. That WAS a decent correlation at the beginning of the industrial age, but by mid-20th century, it was no longer true. There is only one civilization on the planet now.

RFYork said...

I am holding my breath on Childhood's End. It has always been one of my all-time favorites. I think that, in many ways, it is Clarke's most elegiac work. Later in his life, Clarke rejected some of the themes in it saying he no longer believed in psi, but CE at least acknowledges the fundamental mysteries of our universe.

I always try to remember Einstein's famous aphorism, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."

I do worry that SyFy (don't you hate that name) won't do justice to it. It's easy to see how it could be sensationalized.

As for The Expanse, we can only hope. It's a great conspiracy themed series. It is also very cinematic.

Jumper said...

Civilization by definition means cities. If you are trying to talk about tribal ethics or something, use a different term.

Jumper said...

On the science of pseudo-profound bullshit:
http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15923a/jdm15923a.pdf

locumranch said...



Sorry Jumper, Alfred & Matthew:

First, the term 'civilisation' refers to "the stage of human social development and organization (and/or culture) that is considered most advanced", meaning that urbanity & citification are NOT synonymous with 'civility' (whose etymology springs from the Latin root of 'citizen'), as in the case of any decentralised civilisation (ie. Agrarian), otherwise Alfred's 'global civilisation' must necessarily take the form of a single giant City State in order to exist.

Second, one can most certainly opt-out of the Civilisation Game if they so choose, despite it's non-magical 'macro' nature -- hence the term 'barbarian' -- otherwise civilisations would only rise but never fall, leaving you & David at a loss for words when the time came to explain both the threat of re-emergent feudalism (of which you both fear) and the 'mysterious' disappearance of that diamond-shaped society (of which you are both so proud).

And, third, the term 'masculinity' refers to " the properties characteristic of the male sex", "male gender or reproductive roles" or "the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for men", meaning that the existence of 'masculinity' represents an inarguable scientific & biological fact, incompatible with Matthew's politically-correct, overtly-feminised & uncivil ideology.

Unlike some of you, I can imagine a completely decentralised, non-urban & population-dispersed civilisation, made possible by an internet that eliminates the need for the citizenry to physically gather and 3D Printing technologies that will likewise eliminate the need for filthy industrial urban centers, much in the same way that Amazon has eliminated the need for brick & mortar shopping centers, which (in turn) would allow for countless uncivilised 'Savage Reservations', unregulated 'Free Market Zones' & wildlife preserves.

Best

David Brin said...

Fascinating. Like the Amish and so many other niche groups, he wants modern scientific-enlightenment-mixed progressive civilization to make a whole shopping list of goodies for him -- e.g. 3D miracle make-whatever-you-want devices -- so he can go off and snarls ingrate contempt at that same generous and tolerant and fantastically creative civilization.

Still, at last, after how many years (?) he has at least started describing what he actually wants.

Andy said...

Hey locumranch that was actually a pretty interesting post (not sure if I agree with all of it though)

Was curious, what does your name mean?

Andy said...

@David Brin Well if we do reach a point of technology where we have the ability to live in a much more decentralized way as locum desires, perhaps that would be a better model going forward, despite the necessity of the model in the past which created the technology.

And yeah, his posts have seemed different now. More prescriptive instead of annoyingly elaborate descriptive statements.

Jumper said...

No, civilization comes from Latin for "city."
"Filth" from manufacture is externalities. Elimination is possible and most efficient in large single point controls. One supposes the raw materials for desktop materials printing comes from "magic." locumranch's view of distributed civilization equals "suburbia." The most wasteful inefficient mode ever invented.

David Brin said...

"annoyingly elaborate descriptive statements" that wasn't the most annoying part. It was the strawmanning opposition to "my" positions that were chosen to not bear any relationship (except sometimes loathsome opposite-ness) to my own.

Anyway...

onward


onward

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: You are a fluent English speaker. Even more important for our purposes here, you are a fluent speaker of American English. You KNOW words have multiple meanings and many are undocumented by dictionaries even if you don’t think about it very often. What you might not know is the meaning of any single word IS the analogy web that comes to mind when people free-associate around the word. This works for phrases and idioms too. (We only write part of these webs in our dictionaries.) Civilization is a lot more than the latest, most advanced stage of human social development. Think about the term and listen to what pops into your head along with it. The meaning is the web of those things. By defining the term as a stage of development, you are trying to define away the insight. Maybe you do that purposely to avoid the insight. I don’t know.

Barbarians are playing the Civilization game. Real barbarians aren’t the ones who burn, rape, and pillage (in that order?). They are the ones who believe that their way is Right, yours can’t be (by definition) if it is different, and they are willing to fight to enforce their way. Americans are barbarians mostly. Spaniards were too when they came to the New World. People who start civilizations are barbarians. Get over the Hollywood, romanticized version of what a barbarian is and look at our history. The only overlap you’ll see is barbarians topple SOMEONE ELSE’S civilization in order to make room for their own. This happens when the original barbarians grow up and become civilized and then eventually decadent. Barbarians are good at killing off old, decadent structures and history shows this, but they do it to create their own.

Whether we choose to live in cities or not isn’t the defining trait of civilizations, but historically it HAS correlated well. (I get Jumper’s dictionary definition, but I think it avoids the value to be extracted here.) People are moving into cities today at quite a clip. Last time I checked it was about 1 million per week across the world. That’s a blip when measured against our growing billions, but markets aren’t linear things. Increasing city sizes also increases market node strength. More players means more specializations. Which strategies make sense changes with market strength and robustness. I too can imagine a civilization that is decentralized, non-urban and enabled by the internet, but that isn’t what I see happening. Instead, people are centralizing and benefiting from it. The internet enables this even better than a decentralization strategy. So does our natural social networking structure.

Alfred Differ said...

oops. Moving on.

David Brin said...

Alfred good stuff.

Now onward


onward

Christopher White said...

David, capturing some of the same ideas as Ex Machina is a lower budget but far superior film, The Machine (2013). Not perfect and could have used better character development, but still hands and shoulders above Ex Machina.