Sunday, May 22, 2016

Futurespection: How do we get better?

The hot new journal, Evonomics just ran my appraisal of how Advertising is failing the Internet.   I explore how a real Web economy might replace the maelstrom of ads. Could simple micro-payments work, paying pennies for what you use? I’ve been working on this analysis for 3 years. A two-parter with major implications for your future online.

Today we'll wander a bit around a central question... can human beings and/or their civilization improve?


Of course, this is a premise of Futurespection -- a word that I just coined.  So let's launch this session with a piece on Gizmodo by George Dvorsky ranking the “20 Crucial Terms Every 21st-Century Futurist Should Know," including coveillance, eroom's law, the proactionary principle and more...

Okay so has progress occurred? Harvard professor Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature discusses how one could quantify the degree of human progress: “Most people agree that life is better than death, health better than disease, prosperity better than poverty, knowledge better than ignorance, peace better than war, safety better than violence, freedom better than coercion. That gives us a set of yardsticks by which we can measure whether progress has actually occurred.”

Backing this up, here's another optimist looking at the big picture. From The New York Times:  Is Humanity Getting Better?  "The world now is a thoroughly awful place, compared with what it should be. But not compared with what it was. Keeping both eyes open gives depth to our perception of our own time in history, and makes us better able to see where paths to more progress may be open," writes Leif Wenar.

== Criticism & positive reinforcement ==

A fascinating observation: educators have long opined that positive reinforcement is better than negative, Sometimes liberal types take this obvious truth to an extreme that gets downright silly, emphasizing feel-good praise-for-nothing and shiny trophies for attendance.  

Still, such PC absurdities aim in better directions than traditional methods that are still used all over the world, hammering kids with punishment for failure. Indeed, experts in animal training will tell you that negative reinforcement is iffy, at best. Creatures ranging from otters to dolphins to horses react much better to praise than to rebuke. Dolphins will throw tantrums when told they were wrong, much like a human 4 year old. Think Billy Mumy in that chilling Twilight Zone episode.

This provoked in me an interesting thought… that human beings may be exceptional in our ability to grit our teeth and accept “no!” as useful feedback. (Dogs, after 50,000 years of selection, can do it, too, though very grudgingly.) We hate criticism! And human leaders do everything they can to avoid it, which explains the horrid governance of most feudal societies. Yet, many of us are capable of clamping down and listening - actually listening - to unpleasant but useful feedback.

CITOKATE … Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error.

So. Are we all similarly capable of doing this?  Of course not. Indeed, I’ll wager it is related to positive-sum thinking, of which dogma-drinkers in both today’s far-left and entire-right are clearly incapable, helping to explain our current civil war. 

In order to benefit from useful criticism, you must first admit the sacred mantra of science: “I might be (at least partly) wrong.” And to be clear, even scientists, who are raised and disciplined to be able to recite that holy catechism have to struggle, daily, to live by it.

No, to me the miracle is that any of us can do this, at all!  Gritting teeth and paying real attention when someone else credibly rattles your favorite notion with: “No! You’re wrong and here’s proof!” 

Then adjusting to that critique, and adapting and improving till it all pays off with ideas, inventions, policies, attitudes that are better for the battering. 

It is the way to win. Let me reiterate: it is the way to win, over the long run. And we appear to be a species that is capable – if barely – of using this greatest of all delusion-piercing tools.

== Threats and worries == 

Some examples of "oops!" criticism?


The British medical journal The Lancet reports state-level data correlating gun-related deaths and 25 state-specific gun laws. 

Researchers identified three laws that were most strongly associated with reductions in overall gun-related mortality. These state measures were: laws requiring firearm identification through ballistic imprinting or microstamping, ammunition background checks, and universal background checks for all gun purchases. 

Federal implementation of all three laws would be projected to reduce the national mortality rate -- 10.1 per 100,000 people in 2010 -- to 0.16 per 100,000, the study says.   

Gadzooks. This is astonishing in several ways. First that such modest measures  have such large effects… I’d wager there’s also at least a small average psychological and social and cultural difference in the states that have such laws – a calmer mentality perhaps – that I wonder how you’d control-for. Still, what I find most astonishing is simply that these “Canadian” style measures would be so adequate to reduce the plague of firearm deaths by 80%.

Note that Canadians can still have firearms, and unregistered ones! None of the three laws in question inconvenience legal gun owners a scintilla or lead to registry or confiscation, even in theory. None of them lead to a “slippery slope.” In other words the absolutist, never-compromise-a-bit NRA mentality is exposed for what it is… both impractical and insane.

See elsewhere my own proposal for a positive sum, win-win way that gun rights believers could better protect those rights while treating personal weapons more like cars.  

== Transitioning thru technology ==


Speaking of cars... This article asks about self-driving cars and profound effects on the economy – for example “truck driver” is the most common lower-middle class job. And the first to be rendered obsolete. Worrisome. Except that Safety Backup Driver could wind up being the ideal job for painters and artists and novelists who want to work on solitary creative projects, only taking over from the auto-drive robot only at long intervals.


Speaking of drives... Gene drive is a molecular technique that slips a new gene into an organism and guarantees that it will be inherited by offspring and by subsequent generations, by destroying competitors of that gene. Thus, the new trait is “driven” through a population. Potential positive uses would be to push into mosquito populations a trigger for their immune systems destroy the malaria parasite.  Alas, all such techs are “dual use,” meaning they might be applied to malignant ends.

Speaking of malignant users... I’ve been talking about this sort of thing for years… how we absolutely rely upon the ratio of good tech users to evil ones steadily rising across time. This ratio can be measured and the good news is that it does indeed rise, in open societies where smart people both have access to information and in general feel vested - that they are better off with a functioning civilization than without one.  Heaven help us, if that confidence is shaken.

And. Speaking of faulty predictive coding... Virginia Postrel offers an interesting riff on why “wearables” will remain pretty much vaporware (vaporwear?) for a while yet. Oh, you’ll get all the keen stuff I showed you in Existence. After a while. 

Okay though. Speaking of cool things we want… jetpacks are just a little closer.  

And that, even all by itself, will make us better!


== Our genes speak == 


Are smarter people nicer? Here's an interesting article on IQ and strategic "cooperation" - why do subjects who score higher also behave much more cooperatively or generously in "prisoners' dilemma" type tests?  I think this author zeroes in a bit too much on the "IQ" aspect.  But the variety of test-games he describes is fascinating, as well as how the more strategic player generally winds up being warily and guardedly... "nicer."

Aging researchers found that by killing senescent (aging) cells, middle-aged mice lived 24-27 percent longer. The only drawback is that senescent cells are a part of wound healing, so any therapy that targeted aging cells would need to cease if the person needed to have an operation or was injured.

Epigenetics — the study of inheritable changes in gene expression not directly coded in our DNA — has resurrected the long despised Lamarckian notion of passing down acquired characteristics. Our life experiences may be passed on to our children and even further! Studies on survivors of trauma suggest stress may affect subsequent generations.  Now scientists think they’ve spotted the “how” of it. Your life experiences may be passed on to your children and your children’s children. Studies on survivors of traumatic events have suggested that exposure to stress may indeed have lasting effects on subsequent generations.  In future, people under stress may take a drug to inhibit the passing on of consequences.

Fascinating. Human jaws and teeth got small at least a million years before we had fire to tenderize meat, which is very hard to swallow raw.  Apparently though, simple stone slicing tools made a crucial difference.


What is the minimum number of genes that can control a fully functioning and self-replicating cellular organism?  Researchers at San Diego’s Venter Institute started with a very spare bacterium then started throwing away genes to see which ones qualified as absolutely essential.  They announced a single-celled organism that has just 473 genes — likely close to the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain its life.  They still don’t know what 200 or so of them do.  That’s next.  

And finally...

This fossil revealed a wonderful pre-insect life form that hauled its young around at the end of tethers, like kites of balloons… a first for sci fi!  

A story about a math problem on a standardized test should not inspire laughter and admiration and anger all at once. This one did. And while the father-author is at one level a hero, and a paladin for the rights of his exceptional whiz daughter… he’s also an arrogant prick. Ah well.  We need to have the kind of society that we do. Where this kind of tale is viewed as reinforcing our love of exceptional excellence and equilibrium disturbers. 

73 comments:

donzelion said...

@Duncan re "Three Cups of Tea" (v. "Three Cups of Deceit") - no one ever vindicated Greg Mortenson, but rather, the plaintiffs failed to prove under existing law that people who bought a nonfiction book that turned out to be fictional had a cause of action to recover.

To quote: ""Because of the defects in the RICO [Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations law, typically used against criminal gangs or syndicates] and common-law fraud, deceit, and contract claims, the district court was also correct to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims for unjust enrichment, injunctive relief, an accounting, class status, punitive damages, and damages against Penguin on a theory of principal liability."

This is a fair outcome. The remedy for a fraud of Morteson's sort is not to sue and take his money away, but to publish the truth and then let the funders decide what to do.

But my point in even raising that story is to challenge Dr. Brin's views about Saudi support of madrassahs. He is correct: many Saudis have supported schools, and many of those schools (esp. in Saudi Arabia) turned out a number of bombers. He interprets this as evidence of a grand design on their part. I interpret it differently: I see a royal screwup, and one not all that different from centuries of royal screwups by feudal lords. Saudis screwed up in their school financing plans, the same way Americans screwed up with Mortenson.

My approach applies to all intelligence: we can choose to interpret any fact about human behavior as evidence they are "super-sophisticated" and acting through some plan - or we can assume they're just as messed up as we are. The latter is usually a better approach, but it's seldom a 'useful' approach for certain political intentions. In the 1980s, CIA analysts noted a huge surge in agricultural waste in the Soviet Union. Some suggested, "if this was happening here, it would mean that there's a glaring problem with maintenance, distribution, and delivery." Others interpreted it as, "They have so much excess capacity they're destroying the excess intentionally until the invasion proceeds - thus, they're only months from invading Europe, and we need stealth bombers and tactical nukes to repulse them." The latter view was convenient (where are those districts that produce such weapons located? how do they vote?). It was also inaccurate. The geniuses behind that analysis also discovered the WMD buildup in Iraq...but were a small fraction of the intelligence community by that stage (but not at the top of it).

And others are just as fraught to 'useful fictions' as we are. Indeed, for most, the lack of transparency renders their adoption of 'useful myths' opaque, brittle, and unchanging. But we have options to do better.

donzelion said...

@LarryHart - re the claimed contradiction between Evangelicals embracing Trump -

It's not that choosing a "winner" over a "Christian" is a contradiction, so much as a problem of identity v. outcome.

Typically, people relate to a "champion" differently depending on a context: for a sports team, no one cares if the champion looks like them, because the champion still brings an emotional/psychological pride to a city or group that has some 'claim' upon that champion.

But in other contexts, a "champion" must reflect the characteristics of the community (or psychological needs of a community) that is being championed - e.g., there will never be a Jewish Pope, nor will there ever be a rock star who plays music no one listens to.

When Evangelicals condemn Muslims, or other sects or groups, they're thinking in the latter sort of reasoning (e.g., to the extent they still believe Obama is a Muslim, they are actually rejecting that he has any legitimate claim of leadership over them). When they embrace Trump, they're thinking with the former sort of reasoning.

I find it intriguing - and ultimately, a contradiction between "I am these principles" and "I want this person defending my principles" - identity v. utility - always arises. The nature of that contradiction, and process of its resolution, is the same as the one that resulted in several of the worst incidents in history.

donzelion said...

@David Burns - "it was media laziness." (rather than complicity)

I tend to agree with you - "laziness" and the news cycle process itself are a better account than "complicity." HOWEVER, media folks are quite smart, and very hard working. I find it quite probable that they decided that even though 20-30s are a desirable demographic, this specific demographic - advocating for minimum wage increases, etc. - was not likely to buy Mercedes Benz, would not be swayed by Wal-Mart ads, would be critical and resistant to most advertisers.

Trump is an easier "sale" - not because he's any good at all - but because the people who will gravitate toward Trump will also be more easily swayed to buy products. And hence, Trump gets 10-20x the coverage that Sanders gets, even though he's never drawn crowds that were significantly larger than what Sanders has been drawing.

David Brin said...

For donzel and all: Kosovo: "Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists." And "mosques built here with Saudi government money are blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression."

Do any of you actually swallow the Fox-News line that the Saudi R'oil House (Fox partners and investors) opposes Isis/Al-Qaeda extremism? ISIS has bought or reprinted thousands of standard Saudi textbooks to indoctrinate youth in the territories they control. The same textbooks and many of the same teachers who molded Osama Bin Laded and the Al-Qaeda and ISIS leaderships and that petro-dollars still ship to thousands of radicalizing madrassas all over the muslim world.

"Americans were welcomed as liberators after leading months of NATO bombing in 1999 that spawned an independent Kosovo." Now? "“They spent a lot of money to promote it through different programs mainly with young, vulnerable people, and they brought in a lot of Wahhabi and Salafi literature. They brought these people closer to radical political Islam, which resulted in their radicalization.”

Is it any wonder that the (partly) Saudi-controlled American right has sabotaged moves toward efficiency research and energy independence - and science, in general - for 30 years? But that effort could only harm us - and the planet - for so long, before non-confederate scientific ingenuity came to the rescue. We are weaning ourselves off the carbon teat. And our future is the stars -- not nostalgia for caliphate.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/world/europe/how-the-saudis-turned-kosovo-into-fertile-ground-for-isis.html?_r=0

David Brin said...

The "royal screwup" theory has its appeal, in that yes, in waging war upon the West and America, they have royally screwed up. The question is intentionally and I have occam's razor on my side. A relentlessly pursued policy for 50 years, implemented by over a thousand princes who - by all accounts from Oxford and Cambridge -- are actually very bright and fiercely determined.

They know a clock it ticking. If American cultural influence is not staunched, their poor and their middle classes and the shiites and especially their women will slip out of control. Their belief that they can use money to turn the American mobs against science and pragmatism and negotiated politics is aimed at reducing our sway in the world. And the plan is/was as well grounded as Trump's Svengali hypnotism. In fact, they are the same campaign affecting the same demographic... only TRump has masterfully hijacked the narrative.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - and finally, to the post of today. First, thank you. I'm also a contrarian, and I nitpick at the one area of strong disagreement I find with you, because there's so much else I find that is shared, despite completely different approaches. But really, I'm here to learn, and try to find (or join, or build, or contribute what I can to) 'my tribe' - and all that nitpicking gets tedious.

That said, didn't we discuss that math problem story before?

It's a slightly reworded version of a similar meme that had been posted a couple months ago, primarily to attack the common core. The earlier version claimed that this person's daughter was the only one who got the problem right that year on a nationwide exam - and that earlier version was easily repudiated, since there's no such thing as a nationwide exam on the 'common core' (and the various private firms publishing such tests that could be utilized as such are not referred to at all). But the rest of the story is the the same (perhaps the fabricator of the story was reading such criticisms...and produced a new iteration - or perhaps the anti-common core faction, which includes far too many anti-vaccers for my taste - developed their own variation).

So you're actually disseminating a 'descendant' meme - or a mutation of the whiz-kid meme - with some fabrications removed (haven't parsed to evaluate new fabrications inserted).

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - hmmm...let's try this a different way.

"And our future is the stars -- not nostalgia for caliphate."

Agreed. Vehemently so. The only disagreement is over the means.

The way I see it, a significant number of people self-harm with literal razor blades, while a smaller number get hurt by Occam's own. The vast majority of those engaged in self-harm do not turn toward "other harm" - a minute fraction turns suicidal, and a fraction of a fraction turns to nihilistic destruction - but the self-harm isn't about imposing anything on anyone else (except maybe a plea for attention). The trick isn't to take away the razors, or to attack them - but to first try to understand the underlying orientation. That understanding is not easy, and requires pushing away the instinct to judge, and embracing an instinct to connect - which takes time.

First, there's no reason to believe that Saudis studying at Oxford/Cambridge (and Stanford, Harvard, and even UCSD) received instruction that was any different from what we received from our own background. There's no reason to believe that they were brainwashed into a special truth that overrode our own educational backgrounds. To believe in a 50+ year plan, despite all the reversals and flips in view, despite the various educational traditions of its purported exponents - we have to posit that such a plan can exist, and can override the benefits of a classical liberal education, and can include extremes of mendacity we do not ourselves possess.

Against that possibility of such a cult - my belief is that errors happen. We commit them. They commit them too. We both reap unintended consequences.

You can apply Occam how you like, one area that does merit some exploration (again, the facts I know I cannot share, but some day, someone had better come forward) - carbon usage.

In the early 80s, the Big Three in Detroit were getting crushed by Japanese and European imports. By the end of the 80s, they'd identified gas guzzling SUVs as the means of saving their companies. They made that identification largely because during that decade, Middle Eastern markets were buying those gas guzzlers (as were some Americans) - and that these gas guzzlers could be made profitably even as health costs pushed pension funds onto the brink. So to some extent - yes, the Saudis did indeed have a hand in 'fighting' against American enhancements to fuel efficiency (but really, it was Big Three manufacturers with limited imagination - they lost money on every car they made, but earned a profit on SUVs and trucks - when liberals argued that they ought to try hybrids or electrics, that threatened their bottom line given where the patents fell).

Then, for some reason in 2003, Saudis turned to Japan and Germany (and Korea). Instead of buying Crown Vics, they bought Lexus taxis. Instead of buying GMACs and Jeeps, they bought BMW and Mercedes (and Toyota and Korean) SUVs. What happened in 2003? The Saudis said, "No" to this Iraq War, and Bush Jr. said "Go to hell."

In the '90s, Bush Sr. could call King Fahd and tell him, "Hey King, they're gonna shut down a 737 plant in XYZ state, and lose 10,000 jobs. Could you guys help out by buying a couple dozen aircraft to save that plant?" And the Saudis would play along (begrudgingly). But that is not "control" - nor is it friendship or loyalty. It's just a transaction, with a number of other pieces in play.

Jared Frick said...

I teach. I would love to get a kid as clever as the one who recognized 9^9^9. Kids like that are rare. I recognize I am not a perfect teacher and hope the kids get it when I make a mistake for them and show them how to correct it.

Jared Frick said...

I teach. I would love to get a kid as clever as the one who recognized 9^9^9. Kids like that are rare. I recognize I am not a perfect teacher and hope the kids get it when I make a mistake for them and show them how to correct it.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "For donzel and all: Kosovo"

Saudi money is not the root cause of the rise of Salafism in Kosovo and Bosnia: it merely greased things along: people seldom know about it, but during the 80s, as the soviet bloc deteriorated, the Saudis tried to bribe their way into Balkans' mosques, and back then the Yugoslav Muslims politely told them to go spend their money elsewhere.

Things changed because of the wars: not only were many mosques destroyed alongside homes and infrastructures -which itself made the local population much less cautious about relief money's origins-, but given the massive amount of people either killed, raped, or forcefully displaced, it also made the locals much more receptive to the wahabbist preachers' call for dissociation from their non-muslim neighbors.

***

* "Do any of you actually swallow the Fox-News line that the Saudi R'oil House (Fox partners and investors) opposes Isis/Al-Qaeda extremism?"

Of course they do! If Daesh triumphs, it won't take long until the self-proclaimed Caliphate do to them what the Abbasid did to the Umayyads.

David Brin said...

Oh, an added item. Want an example of "spin"? See an article that begins: "Just days after one of their rockets was badly damaged on landing, SpaceX says it plans to launch another mission --"

Say... whaaaaaaaaa? In a very strict sense, I guess it's true.

http://www.whas11.com/tech/musk-oversees-spacex-launch-tesla-model-3-project/209366636

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys

On another forum I posted a comment about Heinlein and I'm getting a LOT of comments about Heinlein being a misogynist

I have never thought of Heinlein in that way - to me his treatment of women in his books was if anything a bit advanced for his time
But sensitivity is not my forte -
Can anybody else enlighten me on this?

David Brin said...

Heinlein definitely thought of himself as an enlightened fellow who believed in and preached opportunity for women. His portrayals of "spunky" female characters are definitely cringeworthy today, for many of the same reasons that they seemed groundbreaking, back when published. His heroines are brash and demand respect, yet they speak in ways that RAH clearly thought to reflect an underpinning of gender differences that he deemed to be inherent. Indeed, at the time, very few feminist leaders disagreed.

I find it silly and self-destructive not to judge a person and his/her work in historical context. Shall we ignore that Jefferson had slaves and that Lincoln said racist things he had heard all his life? No, but overall, the only proper metric is "did this person try hard to be better than the times, and to push things forward quite a bit?"

Purist sanctimony junkies hate that standard for two reasons. First, it denies them the richly luscious high of raving that Lincoln was a bad person and Heinlein a "misogynist." But even more for a second reason: because by that standard, most of THEM are lame, pathetically self-righteous losers who do active harm to the overall cause of tolerance and progress.

All I can do is try hard to be better than my times... and to push things forward and upward enough so that the next generations' reforms can build upon ours.. If that happens, I know I'll be judged harshly by some and indulgently by others - the ones who matter and are getting things done and who aren't useless ninnies - who will say of me, "well, we're better off - a bit- because he lived and worked and fought and tried."

Jumper said...

Snopes on the "3 nines" guy.
http://www.snopes.com/common-core-ed-trice-999/

Jumper said...

I did have a friend who got mad at a teacher for telling her son there were three states of matter, mentioning plasma. On hearing this I agreed but mentioned the answer isn't "four" either. So I had to explain.

Paul451 said...

From the end of the last thread:

Paul SB,
"Duncan, just out of curiosity, what is the origin of the name Cairncross? Does it refer to a profession, like Smith, Miller, Cartwright, etc?"

A bit of googling suggests it's a location-surname. (Location-surnames seem to be more common in Scotland than profession-surnames.)

"Cairncross" is one of dozens of anglicised misspellings of Crynecross, so "People from the village of Crynecross." As to what that means... "Cross" in a village-name always means "crossing" or "crossroads", and "Cryne" apparently means "bent" or "hooked".

So, "People from the village near the hooked-crossing."

"If it refers to a trade, it sounds like it would be a mortician's name, which might be another disincentive to use it."

"Cross" is also a misspelling of "corse", which is an archaic form of "corpse". So "Cairncross" could mean "Bent-Corpse".

Or "People who aren't very good morticians"?

(Of course, Duncan's version of the name may have simply come from a place with a pile of rocks near a cross-roads.)

--

As for me, "451" is the supposed temperature, in Fahrenheit, at which paper spontaneously combusts. It is a fictional profession, but not mine. For me it's just a memorable number, and more readily available as a user-name than my real name (or "4").

--

Re: Shouting down "All lives matter" counter-protester.

I thought everyone knew, but the "All lives matter" meme is a racist dog-whistle created and spread by the usual suspects, Fox, Breibart, Kock's twitter-monkeys, etc, to slur the "Black lives matter" movement, to pretend that the BLM protesters were saying that only black lives matter (rather than the actual meaning "...as well".) When someone shouts "all lives matter" at BLM activists, they are saying "Shut up, you uppity niggers, you don't have any right to speak".

---

Jumper,
Re: The comment that brought up the whole names sub-thread.

I vote against changing your name here. I for one would keep forgetting that the new name is you.

Tacitus2 said...

"Most people agree that life is better than death, health better than disease, prosperity better than poverty, knowledge better than ignorance, peace better than war, safety better than violence, freedom better than coercion. That gives us a set of yardsticks by which we can measure whether progress has actually occurred.”

Regards progress I would add some caveats.

Poverty can spur ambition, a striving that prosperity sometimes dulls.
War is perhaps the single most effective catalyst to technological advance.
Death is a constant and advances in health should be measured in years of good quality life.

I don't wish to go Full Darwin but an idyllic world would be a stagnant one.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Caircross would seem, at first, to stand for a cross atop a cairn.

Paul451 said...

David,
According to surname-origin websites, the spelling and interpretation Cairn and Cross post-dates the other spellings and meanings by a couple of centuries.

Duncan,
Re: Heinlein's misogyny.

There's a creepy-old-man vibe in a few of his works, such as Door Into Summer. And especially in the latter "fat" novels, like NotB. [According to legend (and Asimov) written on a typewriter as a single draft, without notes or corrections.]

donzelion,
"but because the people who will gravitate toward Trump will also be more easily swayed to buy products. And hence, Trump gets 10-20x the coverage that Sanders gets"

So Trump is the equivalent of the deliberate misspellings and bizarre grammar in Nigerian Prince email scams? A way of carving out the most gullible.

Re: Occam's conspiracy
"First, there's no reason to believe that Saudis studying at Oxford/Cambridge (and Stanford, Harvard, and even UCSD) received instruction that was any different from what we received from our own background. There's no reason to believe that they were brainwashed into a special truth that overrode our own educational backgrounds. To believe in a 50+ year plan, despite all the reversals and flips in view, despite the various educational traditions of its purported exponents - we have to posit that such a plan can exist, and can override the benefits of a classical liberal education, and can include extremes of mendacity we do not ourselves possess."

Except that people like Osama Bin Laden himself meets your description, yet was easily radicalised upon his return. Why is it so strange to think that many amongst the similar young privileged Saudi men would be similarly convinced of the evil of the west when the returned to precisely the same part of the world? The only difference is suggesting that many are smarter/cowardly enough to fight the west from within their privilege, rather than reject it as Bin Laden did.

And it's not to suggest a single vast conspiracy, but merely a shared assumption and desire, leading to a roughly common direction in action.

Deuxglass said...

Duncan Cairncross,

People assume that an author from the 1950’s must be misogynist. In their minds they have to be more advanced than him because they live in the 21st century. When you read any author, if you dig enough you can always find something that supports your own preconceived notions whether or not that was the intention of the author and with one who has been dead for a long time it is much easier because he is not there to refute your ideas. If Heinlein was misogynist or not I don’t care one bit. I enjoyed his books and wouldn’t reject a good author just because he was not politically correct by the measures of our century.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Thanks guys
I had always supposed the cross on a cairn was the source of my name

Now I must think about cross-roads and crooked crosses

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Jetpacks

The original rocket pack can only have a flight time in the seconds - that old rocket equation!

So you need to use the air (I will ignore the water jet ones) as your reaction mass

As your intake/outlet goes down in size your energy requirements go up
The Martin Jet Pack looks like a feasible one man flying machine
The JB9 is a LOT smaller so it will need a LOT more power

4 liters/minute of jet fuel is just about enough to feed a 1,400Hp motor
Sounds about right

100mph while burning 4 liters/minute is 0.41miles/liter or about 0.1 Miles per gallon

Howard Brazee said...

“Most people agree that life is better than death, health better than disease, prosperity better than poverty, knowledge better than ignorance, peace better than war, safety better than violence, freedom better than coercion. That gives us a set of yardsticks by which we can measure whether progress has actually occurred.”

For whom? Me and my family? Me and my religious friends? Me and my class? Me and my race? Me and my country? Me and my species? Me and my mammalian order? All non-carnivorous life? All life except for disease? All life? Me and stuff I like?

The Kochs?

locumranch said...


If we define 'getting better' as 'progress' and 'progress' as 'forward motion', then we must assume either predestination or directionality in order to conclude that our cultural motion equals a progressive culture 'getting better'.

To Steven Pinker, this directionality is a forgone conclusion, as exemplified by his assumption that ANY life is 'better than death', ILL health is 'better than disease', FALSE prosperity is 'better than (proud) poverty', SOME knowledge is 'better than ignorance', ALL peace is 'better than war', safety is 'better than violence', and PARTIAL freedom is 'better than coercion'.

Unfortunately, these are self-contradictory Orwellian equivalencies as many of us know that a horrible life can be worse than death, ill-health is synonymous with disease, prosperity & poverty are not 'things' but mental states, 'some knowledge' equals ignorance, war may be preferable to peace at any cost, safety & violence are non-exclusive concepts, and the coerced freedom of behavioral conditioning is no freedom at all.

We may as well do the same for Climate Change:

"We've made great PROGRESS, folks. Our ability to pollute has never been BETTER; our CO2 Output keeps IMPROVING day to day; we're burning fossil fuels at an IMPRESSIVE rate; and, most likely, we'll surpass even our most OPTIMISTIC projections on Ocean Acidification," brags the Once-ler.


Best

Anonymous said...

The prominence of intellectual civil wars was noted some years ago by Spengler, something aging cultures do after their youthful aggressions—roflstomping the Mexicans, or the quite unapologetic take-over of the Hawaiians, for example. How's that fence going, and what did Toynbee say about empires who build fences?

Now, as for your quite aged culture and its cult-like worship of the car, will your self-steerage sofas also come with sippy cups and diaper changes? Or would a better option be to eliminate cars from cities? The motion sickness and utter lack of mobility would nix the suitability of car sitting for many artistic purposes (and would there be a free gym membership to help undo the damage from excess car sitting, and why wouldn't "all hail the algorithm" companies nix the steerage wheel?) and then there's the extreme cost, several orders of magnitude higher than walking everywhere you need to go. Plus damage to the biosphere; interesting that Pinker's list completely omits what is happening to various aquifers or to Lake Mead, among other such indicators.

gator said...

I can't get the gun law study link to load, but I am incredibly sceptical of those results.

2/3 of "gun deaths" in the US are suicide. None of the laws mentioned would affect suicide, so how could one of those laws reduce gun deaths by 80%?
Microstamping is now required in CA for new guns to come onto our roster of "safe" handguns. No manufacturer has a system that works, so no new guns can come onto the roster. I guess we in CA should see 80% fewer gun deaths than, say Arizona or Nevada. But that's not what you see. Microstamping is a stupid idea anyway, since any criminal could remove the imprint with a file or bit of sandpaper. They should be able to point at a clear difference between states like MA and CA vs. AZ and TX. There is no huge difference that is not explained by big cities and the economy.

Look up John Lott and "more guns, less crime." He, and others after him, have argued back and forth about the effect of guns laws on crime. The alleged effects are so small that one can argue about the effects. Anyone claiming some single law will have an 80% effect is insane. Gun crime is all about crime, and crime happens where people are poor and have little hope of advancement.

gator said...

Specific example: microstamping
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microstamping

CA has a law on the books that requires microstamping for semi-automatic handguns. BUT THERE ARE NO GUNS BEING SOLD THAT ACTUALLY IMPLEMENT THIS TECHNOLOGY.
And there are literally millions of handguns in CA without microstamping.

http://www.thelancet.com/action/showFullTextImages?pii=S0140-6736%2815%2901026-0
If the authors are doing some sort of regression using the fact that microstamping is a law in CA, then their conclusions will be fundamentally wrong. You cannot show microstamping will help because there is no jurisdiction in the US with microstamped firearms.

This is the same type of thing as anti-climate change people wittering on about "internal variation" and just playing statistical games. There are facts surrounding the analysis, and if you ignore the facts, no amount of fancy statistics will help you come to a correct conclusion.

donzelion said...

@Paul re Occam - "And it's not to suggest a single vast conspiracy,"

Ah, now that suggestion is precisely what I was responding to. If that is abandoned, then yes, there are many common patterns of behavior. Some love America, some despise America, some made their fortunes by assisting American companies, some lost fortunes the same way.

The biggest pattern is that Royals become very aware of hostility and distrust from Westerners that they otherwise wish they could interact with, or a purely transactional intention. In view of that hostility, some keep their distance from folks who could otherwise be friends - others express various sorts of contempt (You guys all think I'm arrogant? I'll show you arrogance!). It's not all that different from the rich in America.

But as for my fixation on this, in my experience, terrible actions in America often arose when people here perceived a "conspiracy." Native Americans were always conspiring to destroy Western civilization and needed to be pacified. Jewish refugees were believed to be plotting with Labor Unions and vast banks to take over our industries - so when they pleaded for shelter in 1938, we closed our doors to many thousands of them. Slaves were always believed to be plotting an uprising...and the end of slavery, conspiracy-minded Americans believed they were plotting to rape white women and take their jobs and prestige. Iraq War 2003 was possible because Americans believed Saddam and Osama bin Laden acted in tandem (they have a common pattern of hating America, so they must be united) - an Axis of Evil was believable, only because our populace was ignorant. And as far as that region is concerned, we still are.

donzelion said...

@Tacitus - I would caveat your caveats. ;-)

"Poverty can spur ambition, a striving that prosperity sometimes dulls."

But it does so far less often than having a house, an education, and enough food to eat. And the ambitions of the poor can include inventing wonderful new products, or peddling destructive products (drugs?) - ambition alone is no virtue. There are some exceptional individuals who emerge from abject poverty, but also rogues. The middle class is typically the source of striving that is actually socially constructive - people who grew up without fear of hunger or homelessness are far more likely to contribute to their community.

"War is perhaps the single most effective catalyst to technological advance."

Universities, and circles of people studying and overcoming problems in small teams of highly motivated people, are the real catalyst. The atom bomb was not discovered during WWII, nor was it discovered by soldiers. Rather, the underlying science came about decades earlier, and war drove the application of preexisting science toward achieving destruction. The shift in priorities during war often creates an appearance of "great advances" - but it's the scientists doing the science that ultimately causes technological advance, and most of them do it better when they're not worried about getting bombed.

"I don't wish to go Full Darwin but an idyllic world would be a stagnant one."
A world of people addicted to Soma, sitting about obediently, shallowly, as time passes - would indeed be stagnant. But certain struggles are better than others.

Or just compare the potboilers some authors are compelled to write, who are capable of good/great literature - but who need to keep warm in the winter so they'll write and sell the eighth sequel long after the story had been mined out, rather than create something new. We're better off when professionals do what they do out of passion for the profession, than out of a need to survive.

Anonymous said...

Here is something I posted in Facebook a while back about gun rights:

http://www.alternet.org/…/10-most-popular-and-wrong-argumen…

I guess I just don't get it anymore. No one hunts with an AR-15 and no one is worried about raiding parties of Native Americans, plus crime has never been lower (especially in places without high gun ownership). Are we worried about a Zombie Apocalypse when we will need to mow down the bloodthirsty hoards?

Actually I do get it: Guns are funner than hell! You get to aim, pull a trigger and blow stuff up! I have thoroughly enjoyed firing a number of rifles and handguns, both in the military and as a civilian. I even own a lever action hunting rifle that is ALWAYS unloaded. But we have come to a point where a 15th century technology, that was a 17th century necessity and became a 20th century replacement for the American Male's lost sense of masculinity, has now become a 21st century scourge of our public places.

We are rapidly entering an era of 3D printed drones, quantum computers and gene therapy. Is a gun really going to save you from a tyrannical government? Nope. Is it going to save you from a malevolent robot uprising? Haha, not even close. Is a gun going to save you from a nutjob white supremacist or Islamist? No, because if you are a responsible gun owner, your firearm should be well secured and you might as well just wait for the cops.

-AtomicZeppelinMan

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Native Americans were always conspiring to destroy Western civilization and needed to be pacified. Jewish refugees were believed to be plotting with Labor Unions and vast banks to take over our industries - so when they pleaded for shelter in 1938, we closed our doors to many thousands of them. Slaves were always believed to be plotting an uprising...and the end of slavery, conspiracy-minded Americans believed they were plotting to rape white women and take their jobs and prestige"

All the groups you describe were -and in some case still are- the downtrodden. The rich have always been utterly convinced that the poorest of the poor were plotting bloody revenge against them because they thought "If it was me who were oppressed, you bet I'd seek revenge"

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: (From last thread)
“How much longer can I go on being an atheist?” Another way to look at it is He doesn’t mind because your heart was in the right place. It doesn’t take but a fraction of a second to imagine the kind of person you’d become had you chosen NOT to jump in after the kid. I suspect every courageous character you’d ever read about (they get stuck in our heads) would have guilt-tripped you for ages.

I also suspect that’s precisely what our stories are for. They keep us aligned with our culture’s virtues. Now your story will be added to the mix. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@broader target: For those of you who do not like your names, you can still avoid anonymity with an alias/nickname that can be tied back to your name. For many years I’ve gone by my ‘unix’ name, so any encounters you have with ‘adiffer’ are likely to be me too. I had to curb that habit when I got married because her name is Amy and she adopted my family name. There aren’t many Differ’s around, though, and I have a decent idea who they are until I get to distant cousins, so I assume others can penetrate any masks I might use.

The last time I was tempted to hide involved a Second Life account. I had gone through a very recent conflagration involving an entrepreneurial effort leaving a wake of anger among my friends. My former business partner and I had overlapping circles of friends, so it was a messy time. I couldn’t quite bring myself to full anonymity, though, and used a partial name. Within two days of using the account I was exploring a place and someone there figured out who I was within seconds. She was one of the people who I thought (with evidence) would most likely side with my former partner. Instead, because she knew who I was, I got to talk to her over the next few months and demonstrate that I wasn’t a monster. That taught me that I’m not very good at hiding AND there is potential value in risk, so I don’t bother hiding anymore.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Uh, perhaps it's because we (at least, non-physicists who love science) WANT physicists to impose their views on us, while lawyers tend to do it with one hand in your pocket? ;-)

Heh. That’s a funny joke, but you might want to resist telling it to chemists, economists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers. No doubt there are many others too who might fail to see the humor. Lots of people do NOT want us imposing on them. Follow the money and you’ll find our hands in their pockets too. 8)

It’s your call obviously, but I doubt that hiding will protect you much from character assassination. My experience has been that the best defense is a robust community of people who know your character and like you enough to defend you. That won’t help much if something goes viral in a huge way, but against the smaller attacks I’ve seen it work. I know a small example involving a friend of mine and our host. I was reading one of the Uplift books, said something positive about the author to her, and she came back with a fairly strong, negative opinion of his ego. It sounded like she had first-hand experience or maybe second-hand. For a while, her view set mine. Then I ran into this site and the people who hung out here. Her view did not jibe, but as part of a wider context I could see what might have annoyed her or her friend. Authors must self-promote if they are to succeed, but not everyone can deal with that. There are numerous ways to be human on any one day, so a wide group knowing many of them can present a more loving image of a person than a would-be assassin can target. It takes work to build the community, but this place shows the value.

Jeff B. said...

Donzelion,

"But as for my fixation on this, in my experience, terrible actions in America often arose when people here perceived a "conspiracy."

You forgot the American War of Independence. The more I (re-)read my colonial history, the more convincing the case that the western side of the Atlantic completely misunderstood the motives for the post- Seven Years' War British actions. Some (like the Beards) have interpreted it as deliberate misrepresentation from economic motivations, but it really looks like Franklin, et al "drank the koolaid" and really thought the British were out to punish the colonies.

But is the U.S. really that unique in jumping to conspiracy theories?

donzelion said...

@Laurent - "All the groups you describe were -and in some case still are- the downtrodden."
Not the Jewish refugees on 1938. Some of them "evolved" into Israelis, Americans, or took on other nationalities ("evolved" is a hideous term used in this context, but the intent is to quash anyone who takes a lackadaisical view of the utility of war). Several million died. But they had been downtrodden for centuries, victims of conspiratorial thinking that justified all sorts of recurrent oppression. That's why I contest such thinking wherever I find it. Particularly in those who are demonstrably capable of far better.

There are lessons to be learned from the Jewish experience post-WWII - the way to challenge conspiracy thinking include direct, aggressive contest, and indirect, gentler non-rational contest (e.g., 1930s - 60s Hollywood - teach Americans about the beauty of an America they can love, which can make space for other people - Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfield, Jon Stewart, and many others defend Israel better than many a tank platoon - because they help Americans to love, or at least not be threatened by, Judaism).

"The rich have always been utterly convinced that the poorest of the poor were plotting bloody revenge against them..."
Hmmm, I'd say many of them were "wary" - rather than "convinced." In many instances, the 'solution' to that fear involved oppressing other minorities (again, Jewish refugees were long term targets), monopolizing police powers, limiting public education & literacy (gotta keep those folks from talking to each other), capturing/manipulating religious institutions, and in some cases, monopolizing staple needs (e.g., water-control). Energy squandered in preserving the existing order COULD have been deployed building a better one. But the Enlightenment was not powered by enlightened heroes, so much as by "lazy" figures saving their energy, who then turned that energy to new horizons.

E.g. - one Enlightenment figure in 1782 conjectured thus -

"...I therefore imagine that the internal parts [of the Earth] might be a fluid more dense, and of greater specific gravity than any of the solids we are acquainted with, which therefore might swim in or upon that fluid. Thus the surface of the Earth would be a shell, capable of being broken and disordered by the violent movements of the fluid on which it rested."

That figure was shrugged off as a silly old man, a Romantic scientific has-been. It would take another 180 years or so for Benjamin Franklin's conjecture to be proven to be accurate.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And while the father-author is at one level a hero, and a paladin for the rights of his exceptional whiz daughter… he’s also an arrogant prick.


I thought we already discussed that one here, and concluded that the story was almost certainly apocryphal. I could see him arguing into giving his daughter the better mark for an answer deemed to have merit. I can't see the organization marking everyone else's scores down post-facto. Also, his includion of the phrase "Common Core" as the enemy marks him as a right-wing shill.

Jeff B. said...

Laurent,

"All the groups you describe were -and in some case still are- the downtrodden."

I think it might be more accurate to say all these groups are the faceless "other". It's not always the rich propagating stories to divert attention from their misdeeds. During the colonial period, Native Americans were often mistreated, sure, but it was more complex. The 1st Plymouth colonists were charity cases for the Wampanoag, and valuable allies- and were very nearly wiped out when they pushed too hard against Metacom's ("King Philip's") people, as devastated by disease as they were. Same with Jamestown, where the Powhatan Renape almost wiped the colony out. Even in the late colonial period, the frontier was pretty vicious on both sides. There was much to fear, and many misunderstandings...

The colonists'/new nation's opinions of the various tribes were always suspicious, but a large part of it was more of the paranoia-based conspiracy theories centered on the colonial powers themselves. First France, then Britain, were suspected of inciting the Native Americans into hostility. Yes, there was some truth there, but they were incapable of seeing that they were fighting for their own reasons, their own homes and ways of life.

Perhaps later after the Civil War what you say would be true.

donzelion said...

@Larry - I could be wrong, but I think there were some subtle differences to this version of the 'math whiz' story, compared to the one we looked at a couple months ago - tweaks to make it slightly harder to expose as a fabrication. Yes, an anti-"common core" shill.

"And while the father-author is at one level a hero, and a paladin for the rights of his exceptional whiz daughter… he’s also an arrogant prick."

Wouldn't it be cool though to take this meme, apply an image of an African-American father/daughter - and THEN spread it among the right wing web? How quickly they'd reject it as a fraud (and how quickly they'd conclude that the African-American man looks like Obama, and thus, this is an arrogant story - and they should embrace "common core" rather than let Obama distort things for his daughters' benefit.) (If only reverse psychology actually worked that way...)

But then I think that using even a clip art model would result in an actual human being becoming a target - potentially yielding the same "default to central-Kansas" error Dr. Brin noted earlier. Just wouldn't be worth it.

Treebeard said...

The problem is there's no way to “win over the long run” because in the long run, we're all dead. Everything in the universe is doomed, apparently. So religion and mysticism that recognizes this will always appeal to many, who just can't find it in themselves to worship a doomed and fleeting material existence.

But let's not talk about all that. Much more exciting to talk about the latest virtual reality gadgets that provide even better illusions and distractions from reality.

donzelion said...

@Jeff B - "But as for my fixation on this, in my experience, terrible actions in America often arose when people here perceived a "conspiracy." - Jeff responds - "You forgot the American War of Independence."

Hmmm...an unusual case. There's a 'punitive argument' - but my view is that the British initially left the colonies alone ('benign neglect' - but mainly because it's hard to control property overseas in the 17th century, but much easier in the 18th century) - then tried to operate efficiently like any other property (as in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and India). Getting us to pay our own bills wasn't 'oppression' or even 'punishment' - so much as 'paternalism.' One does not normally "conspire" to maintain what one has (although sometimes, one does to avoid losing it). Franklin, et al., grasped implications of being a colonial subject - looked at Ireland as an example of what to expect - demanded better - and frightened British lords refused.

After our revolution, they changed tactics a bit with Canada and Australia, and explored other means of profiting from colonial empire (selling drugs to China, selling slaves, and abandoning both efforts for different reasons).

"But is the U.S. really that unique in jumping to conspiracy theories?"
No, we're not.

The Middle East is a "conspiracy endemic" zone - in part because most of the modern countries were created or are currently governed by "conspirators" in one form or another (or their heirs). We all do it, from time to time. But when we're familiar with the subject matter, and not threatened by it, we try to exclude the possibility of conspiracy and seek simpler explanations first, on the expectation that the conspirators cannot be so much smarter and more disciplined than we are that they "know" they'll be made good in time.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - LOL, telling chemists, economists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers that we want them to impose their views on us (as "chemists, economists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers") doesn't mean we want them to rule us, so much as to do their jobs well, and amaze us with the outcomes. Some day, perhaps, these areas will be explored without fear of want driving the explorers.

"I doubt that hiding will protect you much from character assassination."
A robust community of people is the best protection, but one doesn't always have that.

"It takes work to build the community, but this place shows the value."
Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

I thought everyone knew, but the "All lives matter" meme is a racist dog-whistle created and spread by the usual suspects, Fox, Breibart, Kock's twitter-monkeys, etc, to slur the "Black lives matter" movement, to pretend that the BLM protesters were saying that only black lives matter (rather than the actual meaning "...as well".) When someone shouts "all lives matter" at BLM activists, they are saying "Shut up, you uppity niggers, you don't have any right to speak".


That's pretty much what I was saying too, except that I tried to explain the thought processes of the BLM people and the thought processes of the ones to whom the "All lives matter" retort seems to make sense.

When the moderators at the Democratic Party debate put the question to the candidates, "'Black lives matter', or 'All lives matter'", I thought they were making a big mistake by framing it as a competition between the two notions, rather than a logical assertion that the one follows from the other. Had it been the Republican debate, I would have figured that misinterpretation to be intentional.

Jumper said...

I guess today is Opposite Day. For reactionaries. No it's not. "Opposite" means "the same," didn't you know?
So it goes for loco and the vegetable.

David Brin said...

Multi REPLIES!
“If we define 'getting better' as 'progress' and 'progress' as 'forward motion', then we must assume either predestination or directionality…”

There you have it. The mental problem, in a nutshell. You take the derisive conclusion that you want to reach, then assume that it is your enemy’s axiomatic assumption, at the beginning of your argument! It is the heart and soul of strawmanning.

This sentence - the starting point of his screed (above) -- is actually utter drivel nonsense. And I stopped reading

Likewise, anyone who - like anonymous - cites Spengler starts off dismissable as a certifiably a loony and not worth further time waste.

gator these aren’t my laws and your comments are appreciated. We need actual argument! Based on ever better scientific evidence… though note that red states BAN scientific studies of gun violence, as has the US Congress.

The gun lobby could negotiate ways to treat guns EXACTLY the way we treat cars, an extremely successful experiment in licensing most americans to use lethally dangerous devices mostly in great safety. The ONLY reply to this suggestion is the hoary “slippery slope to confiscation” one that I answer, decisively, here: http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

donzel I am fine with the notion that the R’oils have rationalizations and grievances, even though the rationalizations are drivel. Dig it, they have been spectacularly evil in ways that are even more proved than inciting US civil war. They were responsible for the pan Arab declaration after the 1948 war that Palestinian refugess shall be kept locked in camps, rather than being welcomed in other Arab lands, or being offered the identical number of homes that Jews had recently vacated when they were expelled from those lands.

This is historical record. Sure, many Palestinians would have stayed in the camps to be near their old homes, But we know from other diasporas like the Indian Pakistani population swap that most - a majority - would have re-settled! And got on with their lives. Keeping them locked in camps was not Israel’s doing. It was exactly and precisely a decision made in Riyadh. And NO rationalization suffices.

JeffB baloney. All the majority party in London had to do was re-apportion seats to make Parliament fair… and thus allocate seats to some of the biggest cities in the empire, like NY and Philadelphia. Had they done that and kept the taxes, voila, no revolution.

Short term political expediency for the benefit of corrupt and short-sighted legislators. Sound familiar?
——
ent: “The problem is there's no way to “win over the long run” because in the long run, we're all dead.”

Okay then the diagnosis is in. He is incapable of loyalty outside the solipsistic self. It is a common human syndrome, celebrated in nihilistic and existentialist philosophy. And indeed, it is primarily as puppets to evolved instinct that we - the majority - give fealty and devotion to future generations!

But we do. And we pity those who are unable to identify with humanity and future generations, at large.

Paul451 said...

Re: JB9 jetpack.

If it can do 100mph horizontally, it would be worth putting small optional wings on it. That lets you add lift, so the jets don't have to provide both forward thrust and lift. That should increase both top speed and range, while still allowing VTOL.

Donzelion,
Re: Occam's Saudi conspiracy,

Now you've interpreted too far the other way. I'm saying that the same radicalisation doctrine that created people like Osama Bin Laden are also creating a Saudi leadership that would work to actively undermine the US. Particularly as the older members of the royals and the powerful families die out and are replaced by Osama's generation and younger.

Paul SB said...

Looks like I'm a little late getting back here ... again.

Duncan, I didn't googoo your surname, as I figured I would get 1000s of answers, and since it's your name, you would be the most likely person to know. Perhaps you have older relatives who could shed some light.

Other people said much of what I thought on the anachronistic accusation of misogyny for Heinlein, but I had a different thought. You might consider how people are using that word today, or more to the point, what they accept as "proof" that a person is or was misogynistic. Just looking at the etymology, a misogynist is someone who hates women, someone who would want to restrict their freedom, limit their movement, etc. This is not the same as a womanizer, who is just seeking sexual gratification and/or social status, but I have found that many people today confound the two ideas. A womanizer most likely has little or no regard for women except as a display item, but do not necessarily feel that they are inferior or should be limited in any way, which is the impression I got of Heinlein.

Another confusion for some people is that there is an idea that male and female are exactly alike in all respects, so if you so much as mention any average differences that are not obvious anatomical ones, specifically differences in behavior, many will label you a misogynist. The science shows that there are ON AVERAGE small differences in brain structure, but there is no real justification to deny anyone rights, access to particular careers or channels of power based on the fact that men are more likely to be visual learners while women are more likely to be auditory learners. These can be useful facts if you are teaching algebra and geometry, but many women score higher on assessments of visual aptitude than some men, etc. The one who would deny women as a category rights is the true misogynist. Perhaps you should ask the people you are discussing Heinlein with for some clarification on how they are defining misogyny.

gator said...

@DavidBrin. I'm not really arguing about the laws, I'm arguing about the study. I can't criticize too strongly since I can't get a copy of the paper. But the description on the Nature website makes them sound like idiots. As there are no guns incorporating microstamping in the field. This sounds like someone who doesn't know the field. Which seems strange for a Nature paper. And no single law will ever have those large claimed effects. It's just super naive sounding. We already have states with restrictive laws and almost no laws. We're already doing the experiment. We've had an national assault weapon ban come into force, and then expire and go out of force. None of these things have (had) an unambiguous, measurable effect on gun crime.

I'm pro-research. I think it is stupid for the NRA and repubs to fight to limit research. But the first thing I would do would be to rescope. Why are you worried about gun violence, and not just violence? Why worried about gun deaths and not suicide? (Most gun deaths are suicides!) Maybe other things that go at the root cause of violence will be more effective overall than focusing on gun control.

Curious about your reference to cars... Yes cars are lethal, but not on purpose. Guns are lethal by purpose. Not sure how to get around that. :)

Jumper said...

On Heinlein, I suspect he observed women generally more submissive and placid (lucky him) and assumed it was biological.
My own thought is hormones matter, much as other drugs affect personality. Brain structures, not so much, except for years of operation under the same "drugs." All with lots of social conformity pressures atop these other factors.
Paternalistic? Heinlein is guilty. Misogynistic? Hardly.

On different note, who's the author who recently has written on how so many metrics worldwide have improved? My memory is not helping and I have a depressed / hypnotized friend who needs some evidence.

locumranch said...


If you postulate that Progress (forward motion) represents an Unqualified Good despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, then every day is Opposite Day:

(1) Progress (forward motion) is 'Good';
(2) CO2-mediated climate change is 'Progress'.
(3) Ergo, Climate Change is 'Good'.

Of course, the above argument makes absolutely no logical sense because proposition (1) represents a subjective value judgment rather than a statement of material equivalency; however, this rather poor excuse for an argument is no more illogical than much of subjective value judgment moralizing that (often) passes for rational discourse.

In order to benefit from THIS useful criticism, you must first admit the sacred mantra of science: “I might be (at least partly) wrong.” And to be clear, even scientists, who are raised and disciplined to be able to recite that holy catechism have to struggle, daily, to live by it.

And, by admitting that you might "be (at least partially) wrong", I mean that you must admit that Progress may have devastating consequences to those who can & cannot adapt to it and, in this sense, it may not be an unqualified, unadulterated or even a basic 'good'.

Progress may even represent 'badness' to some, perspective-wise.


And, as for the suggestion that we could "treat guns EXACTLY the way we treat cars" because motor vehicle operator licensure is "an extremely successful experiment", this is a counterfactual assertion as up to 25% of US drivers involved in fatal accidents do NOT have valid licenses.

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/story?id=118913

Furthermore, US Firearms (numbered at 357 Million, accounting for less than 12,000 deaths/yr not counting suicide) have a much BETTER adjusted safety record than US Automobiles (numbering a paltry 253 Million, accounting for >32,000 deaths/yr), meaning that you'd be increasing your child's life expectancy if you gifted Junior an Uzi instead of a Driver's License on their Quinceanera.


Best
____

Dum dum dum!! How can you tell if you're moving forward, advancing or 'making progress' if you don't know where you're headed?

"Faster, faster", screamed the Progressive who was lost but making damn good time.

Paul SB said...

Jumper, I think it's Steven Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature" you are thinking of. And yes, hormones and culture also matter, but culture can affect both hormones and, to some extent, brain structures (and don't underestimate brain structures - size matters with neural real estate, because more size means more neurons devoted to a particular set of behaviors, pattern of memories, etc.) On top of that, brains influence the timing & release of hormones, though to an extent it goes both ways.

Jumper said...

Yes, the culture / hormone feedbacks are pretty fractal in their results. Can't ignore them.
Thanks for the Pinker remind.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Regards progress I would add some caveats.

Poverty can spur ambition, a striving that prosperity sometimes dulls.
War is perhaps the single most effective catalyst to technological advance.
Death is a constant and advances in health should be measured in years of good quality life.

I don't wish to go Full Darwin but an idyllic world would be a stagnant one.


While I don't personally subscribe to the "comfort and contentment are bad" meme that Dave Sim and (probably) locumranch would assert, still, I recognize where you're coming from.

A relevant line from "Dune" which I just came across:


He seemed too submissive to Paul, but then the Sardaukar had never been prepared for such happenings as this day. They'd never known anything but victory, which, Paul realized, could be a weakness in itself. He put that thought aside for later consideration in his own training program.


Or this one:


The Guild navigators, gifted with limited prescience, had made the fatal decision: they'd chosen always the clear safe course that leads ever downward into stagnation."

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: You are doing the Platonic Chain thing and demonstrating the obvious nonsense results. That has nothing to do with David’s point. The Pinker quote isn’t a chain. Rather it is a set of ordered pairs where the ordering agent is a human being at its most subjective. In a space of many, many directions along which we can choose our actions, these orderings suggest a desire to move on the part of the human agent. This dark, dank corner here where I am now is less desirable to me than that apparently shiny one over there. Hmm. The grass really IS greener in this new place, but looks even better over there. We don’t all necessarily agree on the global nature of this sense of order (Progress), but individually, we DO appear to have a local sense for it.

Is Humanity getting better? I’m inclined to say we are because I perceive an aggregate drift of our swarm in that multi-dimensional space. Something changed in the last couple centuries enriching practically every human on the planet. There is enough history to suggest people spend their riches feeding and educating their children, yet our riches are still piling up. Women can’t have babies fast enough it seems or choose not to have them. It doesn’t matter, though. Whether or not you see the global drift, the riches available to any single one of us improves our options to act for our personal embetterment. That means each of us can respond anecdotally to your skepticism based on our person knowledge. For example, I can say I AM BETTER OFF now than was my father at my age. I suspect many here can say the same thing.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re Misogyny and "women are different"

I was firmly convinced that the differences between men and women was cultural - any biological differences were too small to matter

Then I had a son and watched him interact with the other babies and toddlers

That destroyed my confidence in the "same" idea! - just one data point but I am no longer "certain" about the differences

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Gator

Re Guns and suicide

Most people who attempt suicide and fail seem to regret the idea and don't do it again,
But guns are efficient - suicide by gun is mostly fatal

If we look at suicide rates we see actual cultural differences - Japan for example

But if we compare the USA to similar countries the suicide rate in the USA is much higher - this is probably because guns are used in the USA and they do do what they are designed to do

From this it is a good guess that if you guys didn't have such easy access to guns your suicide rate would drop to something like the UK

from 12/100,000 to 6/100,000

saving about 18,000 lives a year

Alfred Differ said...

The more I think about CITOKATE the more I see it as a melding of the classic virtues of courage, temperance, hope, and prudence. It’s not young because there are many ways in which we can be wrong and have to face up to the consequences. In old times, plant your field at the wrong time and you might lose the crop and starve later. No doubt your family would point out the error to you as they picked the landscape clean of every bug they could find to eat. Craft a new whiz-bang to sell in a nearby village and misjudge their interest in it and you’ll have wasted your money, assets, and time. No doubt your family will point out the error when you leech off them on your path to recovery.

In our modern markets, we get to test our possible errors every day, so the need for courage is obvious. Hope should go without saying as we obviously wish not to be in error. The need for prudence is far older than our identity as humans. What mammal doesn’t understand prudence as the growth of practical knowledge, hmm? Temperance is the tricky one. Stifling our responses to criticism is difficult, but we’ve been doing it for a few thousand generations in our marketplaces, so it’s not like we don’t have SOME experience. All you have to do to learn is sell stuff to people you do not know, but you have to be able to bargain.

If I had to pick which one dominates, though, I’d pick Temperance. That makes CITOKATE a close synonym. As a market participant, I have to be prepared to face my erroneous conclusions about what will work because the other participants demonstrate a path toward Truth when prices are settled. If I ask for one price and fail to get it, I stand criticized and must adjust. As a scientist, there is no easy analogy for the price signal, yet the market is still there. We trade ideas, papers, and attention to grow our reputations. The failed trade offers are obvious to us and just as ego rattling. A rejection from a referee or conference peer is criticism and the temperate adjust.

Alfred Differ said...

I've learned to deal with the expanding definition of Misogyny much like the confusion around the word Equality. If we treat everyone in a manner that encourages equal opportunity, we don't have to sweat too much about unequal outcomes. Women ARE different, but it is a stupid thing to think we already know how to bias the field of opportunity in order to maximize a collective social outcome. Level the field and drop the effort to maximize a collective outcome since that is just as immoral as our old bias.

Yes, yes. Unequal outcomes have a way of creating unequal opportunities. I get it, but don't think for a moment I think anyone is bright enough to know how to prevent the problems that will arise. The best we can do is address them when they do. I contribute to this by making fun of misogynists in front of other people. CITOKATE again.

Duncan Cairncross said...

A wee question
Dr Brin has been talking about cell phone peer to peer systems - sounds like a great idea - hopefully some people on this forum will know about cell phones

I have been told that all cell phones since the analog ones went away have a GPS chip in them which is used when communicating with the towers

Is this true??

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

“How much longer can I go on being an atheist?” Another way to look at it is He doesn’t mind because your heart was in the right place. It doesn’t take but a fraction of a second to imagine the kind of person you’d become had you chosen NOT to jump in after the kid.


First of all, I do appreciate the compliment. I'm not sure you're conversant enough in Kurt Vonnegut to get the reference to "How much longer can I go on being an atheist?" That was a sort of catch phrase that the protagonist of "Hocus Pocus" would insert after any kind of coincidence. It was meant as ironic.


I suspect every courageous character you’d ever read about (they get stuck in our heads) would have guilt-tripped you for ages.


Yes, my character was formed by Marvel superheroes, back when the comics were good. :) But as an adult, I find myself identifying more with Vonnegut characters. The one that hit home recently was the protagonist of "Jailbird", when his old girlfriend told him that it's ok that he never had a heart, because he observed what people with hearts did and tried to emulate them. I was going, "Yeah, that's me."


I also suspect that’s precisely what our stories are for. They keep us aligned with our culture’s virtues. Now your story will be added to the mix. 8)


Yet another Vonnegut passage from his very first novel, "Player Piano" is appropriate here.


Here it was again, the most ancient of roadforks, one that Paul had faced before, in Kroner's study months ago. The choice of one course over another had nothing to do with machines, hierarchies, economics, love, age. It was a purely internal affair. Every child older than six knew the fork, and knew what the good guys did here, and what the bad guys did here. The fork was a familiar one in folk tales the world over, and the good guys and the bad guys, whether in chaps, breechclouts, serapes, leopard skins, or banker's gray pinstripes, all separated here.

Bad guys turned informer. Good guys didn't--no matter when, no matter what.

Kroner cleared his throat. "I said, 'Who's their leader, Paul?'"

"I am," said Paul, "And I wish to God I were a better one."

The instant he said it, he knew it was true, and knew what his father had known--what it was to belong and believe.

David Brin said...

gator, the parallel between guns and cars is actually VERY strong. Guns are not meant to kill but to give a plausible appearance of potency and deterrence. The law frowns very harshly on misusing guns to kill, as it does with cars. Moreover, every single aspect of law that makes cars better and safer and less lethally abused — insurance, registration, licensing etc — would work great with guns.

The only excuse not to compy this spectacularly effective method is the “slippery slope” argument. It is all they have and they deem it to be sufficient.

All locum can do is double down. Perhaps he is aware of the logical fallacies… especially DEFINING all terms to that they fit his needed conclusion… but I see no point in engaging this round’s feast of strawman circularity.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: My Vonnegut-foo is weak. My mother tried hard to get me to read science fiction earlier, but I was a science fact kid. Analog issues contained only a few pages that interested me, thus I lost out on all those formative stories until I began to self-correct as a late teen. It wasn’t the characters that got me to change, though. It was the scenes and tech. I’m a terribly slow learner in this regard, but I get it now. 8)

Your turn toward Vonnegut is probably a healthy thing. I have boxes full of Marvel’s material and most of it retells the same story if you squint a bit. The stories aren’t even all that long or complex. A mature human mind needs a huge library of characters, plots, and settings to develop beyond the hopes of our parents. I spent a number of years doing the dungeons and dragons thing and came away from it all with one very clear lesson. The players who came into a game with huge personal libraries already established were a whole lot more fun, while the illiterate youngsters were pathetic. I could see where I was on that scale and realized what I had to do.

Read, Imagine, Write.

donzelion said...

@Paul451 - "I'm saying that the same radicalisation doctrine that created people like Osama Bin Laden are also creating a Saudi leadership"
Hmmm...well, first off, Sayid Qutb's the source of that doctrine, an Egyptian regarded by the Saudis as a heretic. Ayman Zawahiri, a proponent of Qutb's, guided OBL's operational thoughts - and is enemy #1 to the Saudis. Both advocating eliminating the Saudi Royal family, which is regularly targeted for death by these groups. To suggest the "same radicalization doctrine" is at work is to miss some pretty profound differences (at least to them).

The sort of category error in suggesting "they're the same" is about as profound as suggesting that Hitler was really a Soviet agent sent to divide up Germany so the Russians could dominate Eastern Europe. One can re-read the historical record to assert "it was all the plan, all along" - but our basic familiarity with history suggests that's a silly notion. Most of us lack a similar familiarity with history in the Middle East, and hence, we regularly reach ridiculous conclusions.

All that said, look at the evidence of what the Saudi leadership is doing in America. Buying houses in Beverly Hills? Investing in Silicon Valley, taking stakes in a large number of U.S. companies, buying U.S. treasury bonds? Murdoch takes no orders from Prince Waleed (and his network called Prince Waleed a terrorist financier, publicly, numerous times). Educating their children here?

There is a conspiratorial interpretation behind every such action (e.g., the Caliphate will be launched from Beverly Hills and/or London) - but Occam weighs against such an interpretation when there's a simpler one: rich people, hiring the same sorts of advisers, reach the same sorts of strategies for what they do with their money. When they support charities, they do so without much attention to what the charities actually do. Sometimes, they make pretty big blunders.

The best evidence so far - textbooks and 1948 - have alternative stories as well. Have American K-12 schools ever produced politically incendiary textbooks? (Yes, regularly - and evolution is but one vector in those fights.) Has America ever made dishonorable decisions about foreign refugees? (Yes, 1938, and many other times.) Not a plot, just a political reality.

That said, the only evidence of a Saudi-Murdoch link I've seen cited here (which is hilariously far off) looks to Prince Waleed's stake in Fox News. It ignores comparable ownership of stakes in Citibank (by the same prince), as well as indirect stakes by others in Google, GE, Intel, Microsoft, Goldman, and many other companies. To apply that evidence consistently is to indict the entire corporate structure of America (of which, Saudis own between 2-8%). Either the vast conspiracy is much vaster than its proponents realized - or it doesn't exist. How would Occam weigh that?

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - I have no interest in defending the Saudi government, let alone rationalizing their decisions. My concern is improper conspiratorial thinking. Your analysis is to cogent to tolerate error, when it can be averted. That said -

"[Saudi Royals] were responsible for the pan Arab declaration after the 1948 war that Palestinian refugess shall be kept locked in camps..."

Indeed, they played a significant role. Read through the rest of the colonial history (applicable to every government in the region at that time - except theirs), and it wasn't an anti-West plan, so much as anti-British/French. They actually welcomed America (at first), as a more 'fair' arbiter than the colonial powers. That would change by '73, but up until then, the British and French militaries backed Israel, while the Americans shrugged it all aside as a sideshow to the "Soviet plot."

"Keeping them locked in camps was not Israel’s doing."
I never claimed it was. Reprehensible decisions in 1948 were made by a large number of players on all sides - short-sighted, yes, but not a plot against America.

Or rather, if it was a longstanding plot against America, then our military (which has been helping build the Saudi forces since Reagan) was either in on it, or duped. Our corporations (which were building them up since the '30s) was in on it, or duped. Our banks (which financed them since the '40s) were in on it, or duped. Our academics (who taught their leadership) were in on it, or duped. Either a fairly vast conspiracy has been at work by people you might otherwise like and respect - or a large number of very smart people read the facts differently from you and have concluded that there's no plot, just some really dumb (and in some cases, venal) decisions.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

I would have said the best evidence of a Saudi "link" was the events of 9-12

While there was a complete ban on Americans flying a large number of prominent Saudi nationals was flown out of the USA

Just Saudi's - nobody else - not Iranians or Afghani's or Russians ....

Jumper said...

I see radical Middle Eastern terrorists as having similar goals as American radicals but not having the awareness of their similarities. I'm pretty sure Beck, Limbaugh or Murdoch don't see it that way. Those outside both those bubbles see it clearly. I doubt daesh consider their gang as on the same team as the Florida Koran-burner preacher. We can see the resemblance though.

Duncan, that 9-12 bit may be an urban legend.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Jumper

I had heard it in context of the 911 investigation committee

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/September_11,_2001:_Evacuation_of_Saudi_Nationals

http://www.sptimes.com/2004/06/09/Tampabay/TIA_now_verifies_flig.shtml

Lots of people saying Saudi's were flown out while the no fly was in place - nobody seems to be denying it

Jumper said...

Thanks. I see from the last few paragraphs what was going on - except for the mystery about who exactly owned which plane. One supposes the CIA was involved. They do need their untraceable airplanes, don't they?

David Brin said...

That plus Bush Jr saying "I was justabout raised by Prince Bandie and pictures of him kissing the SA king on the mouth. And Bush Sr ordering Gen Schwarzkopff to betray the rebelling shiites in Basra, the act that MADE our present mess, just because the SA folks did not want to see a shiite arab entity, next door.

(They sure got one, eventually; I didn't say they were truly smart... just canny and bright enough to talk themselves into a story.)

David Brin said...

onward


onward

JAD said...

To bring up one of the precursors of Dr. Pinker, may I offer this quote from Eric Berne's book, _Sex in Human Loving_, © 1970, p. 187 (1971 paperback edition), "Sex and Ethics" section

"Somewhere there has to be a simple and sensible system of values, and I propose one that is not only simple, but that I think makes some sort of sense. Furthermore, it can be judged from one set of pretty reliable figures, so that different countries can be compared and barroom arguments settled with a wet thumb in the right book. It is based on the single idea that if anything in life is significant and worthwhile, it is the love between mother and child. It assumes that mothers (and fathers and uncles and grandparents too) want their babies to live. Although this is not always so, it is as hard a fact as anything that can be said about human desires.

The proposed ethical system is therefore based on one item which comes out of that. Here is my proposition. The goodness or badness of any society shall henceforth be judged by its infant mortality rate. If that is low, the society is good; if it is high, the society is bad. In between there are gray areas for those who don't like black and white. (The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of children under one year per 1,000 live births.) This mortality rate is really a matter of national management and is decided by the prejudices of each government and where it puts its money...

We consider the total infant mortality rate from all causes (disease, starvation, ignorance, and murder, whether in peace or war) in all the territories controlled by a government...

By using this approach, all problems of sexual ethics can be solved by asking only one question: which decision will result in fewer deaths among babies born alive? It is not a question of making babies; almost anybody can do that. The real test is to keep them going after their first cry, and that takes careful thought, good governing, and decent concern for things that count..."

Daniel McIntosh said...

The numbers for infant mortality are somewhat fuzzy, especially the government figures. Different governments use different descriptions of what constitutes a live birth. The UN data is probably about the best: the government numbers are modified by local spot checks, and the methodology remains constant over time. Or you can use the inequality-adjusted human development index (IHDI), a combination of infant mortality, average years of education, per-capita income, and the level of inequality in the economy (the average income in the US is a lot higher than the income most Americans make, for example). By the measure of the IHDI, the US came in 28th place, with a figure of 0.755 in 2014. This was a substantial relative drop (12 places) in the prior year. Norway remained at the top, with an IHDI of 0.891. If you remove the inequality factor, Norway remains number one, but the US moves up to 5th. I'm interested in seeing how 2015 turns out.

JAD said...

A recent discussion on infant mortality:
http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-u-s-is-failing-in-infant-mortality-starting-at-one-month-old/