Thursday, May 19, 2016

Transparency: The battle is far from over

First... I have two political pieces on the hot new site American News X. One is about the most harmful pundit in America, silken-tongued George F. Will, who finally admits that something has gone wrong with a movement that will nominate fellows like Trump or Cruz. Nothing about the warning signs, of course, like a 20 year outright war on science, and every other knowledge profession in American life. Except fact-averse opinionated "commentators." Glory days for that profession!

My second piece on American News X appraises the diagnosis made by Dilbert creator Scott Adams that Americans are so stupid they will all fall for Donald Trump's emotional manipulations and make him president. Half-right, Scott. But fortunately just half.

Veering from the absurd to the sublime, here’s Thomas Jefferson explaining why information is a potential public good: 

 ‘He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space  ... and like the air in which we breathe ... incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.’ 


Yes... well... that's how reasonable citizens do it.  May we start remembering.


== Can we learn to look-back? ==


The Ethics of Intimate Surveillance: An insightful and informative article by John Danaher about how transparency is affecting intimacy, that cites both me and Steve Mann for our work on Sousveillance.  And yet, this article manages to evade the core question: Is it possible to create positive sum conditions, wherein individuals, relationships and society all gain the benefits of light, without many disadvantages?  

Or will we be stuck in zero-sum war-gaming of all against all? Alas, nearly every pundit who attempts to theorize in this field appears to implicitly assume the latter.  Or else the question never occurs to them.

The core point that Steve Mann and I have pushed is to consider the words Reciprocal Accountability.  It may be hopeless (utterly) to deny surveillance powers to the mighty. But their ability to harm us with what they know about us can be limited by sousveillance that keeps their palpable, consequential or real world actions accountable. 

Cell-phone cams have not improved citizen power by blinding the state. They have  improved citizen power by empowering us to look back - at least at power-minions on the street - doing far more good for civil liberties than marches or protests.

Likewise with lateral transparency or co-veillance. The worst and most harmful online behaviors tend to be those wherein the perpetrator can act anonymously. These behaviors moderate when trolls can be "followed home," or when the victims can tell their moms.

Do we then lose the virtues and advantages of anonymity online? The reflex is to assume so, but that is just silly and unimaginative.  One can envision services that rent you pseudonyms, temporary identities that will be used to protect core identity... unless you use the pseudonym to wreak harm on others, in which case back-tracking and accountability can apply. Preservation of reciprocal accountability does not have to mean living under a perpetual glare. If you assume that, it's a sure sign of zero-sum thinking.

This is where "intimacy" comes in. If we are human, we will want some space and leeway. We also want safety from harm and the ability to tell pushy neighbors "MYOB!" Or Mind Your Own Business.

The most difficult quandary I have faced in this issue is not how to stymie would be Big Brothers... for that, transparency and sousveillance are the only things that can possibly work. By comparison, "encryption" is a transcendentalist religion of stunning technological myopia and romanticism.  No, the question I have wrestled with is this: "Suppose transparency does eliminate Big Brothers. Won't we then face a completely legal and open oppression by majority rules? By 51% bullying 'little brothers'? Judgmental gossips and nosy busybodies enforcing conformity?"

It may surprise you -- given my authorship of The Transparent Society -- that I admit a decent future cannot be accomplished by transparency and coveillance, alone!  Transparency and accountability can protect you from most harms, yes even tyrants, but not the harm of nosy busybodies and prurient voyeurs who act within the bounds of law.  And we do not want the law to impede most vision.

This is where we need add one element.  A social element.  A general and rising consensus that people should leave each other alone, when no actual harm is afoot. 

A consensus that eccentricities and embarrassments (teenage photos posted back when you were rash and stupid) are not held against you, over time. That there is a sin worse than any quirk or stupid posting or awkward sex-selfie... the sin of gossipy bullying.

The good news? We are clearly heading in that direction. Every year, young people - and many older ones, too - make clear their intention to live in a society of forgiveness for harmless stupidities... while becoming less tolerant of harmful judgmentalists.

The bad news: this battle is far from won. It struggles uphill against ten thousand years of conformity pressures and zero-sum reflex.  And there are major nations on Earth, today, whose leaders want to leverage those ancient reflexes to enforce conformity and obedience. 

But those millennia are our greatest ally, in this revolution of light. We can look back on their darkness and say: "Not that. We tried that. It's no good."


== (non) Hollywood does transparency ==

* A new, Indie film takes on some ideas I’ve been pushing for quite some time… for example that the proliferation of cameras is unstoppable.  And that public agencies need to get citizen involvement and supervision, or the social contract will collapse.  “FOR ALL EYES ALWAYS” takes these concepts and blends them with “reality television” in interesting directions:

In a time of widespread distrust of our government, the CIA creates a fully transparent reality tv show to win back the faith of the American public. Audiences go undercover on black ops missions around the globe and see real world effects from the narrative the showrunners create. As the first season unfolds, we wonder – how much is real and how much is propaganda? Our charismatic host “Swamp Fox” leads us down the rabbit hole the showrunners write for him, and it becomes impossible to distinguish fact from fiction as the lines blur between reality, television, and movies in an age when everything is on camera.”

Writer of the film, Rob Bralver comments: “The film takes place in a world in which there is no longer such a thing as secrets. Everyone, from the most secretive of government agencies to the smallest individual, lives transparently — whether deliberately or by being exposed. In such a world, how can we expect our intelligence professionals to operate effectively and influence events as they have in the past?”  Huh. Interesting. At least it seems so from the vivid web site.  I look forward to seeing the film, some time

== We are in the future - tidbits from next week ==

Trying out Virtual Reality at UCSD

* Longtime colleague Kevin Kelly takes us on a detailed tour of the varied (and many) endeavors in Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality that are looming at us from companies like Magic Leap, Occulus, Microsoft, Apple and many others.  Kevin’s fascinating account introduces the innovators who will change everything, as much as they were changed by the arrival of the computer monitor, then the laptop, the web browser and the cell-phone.-

* An interesting study of Wikipedia, whose perfect record of all transactions offers up a cornucopia of data for web anthropology/sociology.

* Using a little play-dough and dental mold, you can clone someone’s fingerprint and fool a modern phone. “As hacks go, it ranks just a little harder than steaming open a letter.” Other methods include 3D printing a fake from just an image.  Which brings home a point I made in The Transparent Society (1997). “unlike a passcode, you can’t change your fingerprint, so a single credential theft creates a lifetime vulnerability. What looks like a security upgrade turns out to be something much more complex.”


* An amazing, almost Kafa-esque story about how one company’s carelessness has created aggravation for scads of innocent people. A service that associates Internet IP addresses with real world locations has a default answer for those IPs it can’t figure out.  A default location in the geographic center of the US… or the center of any state in question.  And hence, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default US coordinate. “If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000.” Which leads to one little farmhouse in Kansas and a world of trouble.  Others on the top default list have had police raids, death threats.  A Monty Python-level problem that can only be (and now is) solved by transparency.

Because of good investigative journalism, the company has scurried to fix the problem and shift the default locations to the very middle of large lakes.  And Nessie is getting perturbed by strange calls in the night.

* And now... SkySafe has developed technology that will allow institutional users to disable drones flying in areas that are off-limits, or those in accessible areas that may be flying dangerously. The technology leverages radio waves to override the instructions from a drone owner's remote control unit, thus taking control of the airborne device. And so it begins.  The arms race.

Finally. Some of us have tried hard to portray these future possibilities, going back to 1980s cyberpunks. Vernor Vinge took things to new levels of possibility and plausibility in Rainbows End… as I tried to do, in Existence. We are in for interesting times.


74 comments:

donzelion said...

Oh, Deuxglass's version is just too cool to let it go - midichlorion droids built by Luke (who inherited technological gifts along with Force powers from daddy). I see him in close contact with the shade of Christopher Lee (now Darth Whateverious) to 'help' him. And then add in a 'cure' (just in case the droids get out of hand). All done in his first six months on the temple steps. He's spent the last 19.5 years trying to figure out which is the 'light' side and which is the 'dark' side (and which he prefers to do, regardless of sides). Tres cool.

"Side pick you must!" chides Yoda shade.
"No, Luke, I lied about your Daddy, and I hid out on a desert planet rather than fight, even though I'm a knight and all that, because um, we're important because look at this stentorian voice of authority I project!" responds Obi-Wan shade. "The fortune cookie will be with you always."
"No, Luke, I'm your Daddy," responds Anakin-shade. "Unleash the droids. They'll bring chaos to the First Order, and it'll all be balanced again. And bad folks will die. I love you, my Son. Let's rule the galaxy. By the way, my daughter's still hot, isn't she? I hear she's single now..."

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Oh, Deuxglass's version is just too cool to let it go - midichlorion droids built by Luke"

Statement: You meatbags have become obsolete.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - Strangely, I'm feeling dialogical today. Beats diabolical, but the image that pops to mind is a scene of George Will and Ben Stein sitting in a cafe:

"I built my whole career with this party, and now look at the proto-Nazi they chose!"
"Yeah, Hillary's a real piece of work, but Trump? Gag. I think I'll give a non-endorsement endorsement. How's 'America can do better than cyanide v. arsenic?' sound?"
"Needs work. But like the principle. Solid anti-government plank, no matter what happens in November."
"Yeah. I miss Bill (Safire), he was better at this than either of us. And Murdoch wouldn't have dared mess with him at the Wall Street Journal. Now look what they've become."
"Well, he did vote for Bill Clinton, didn't he?"
"Yeah, but that was only because Bush (Senior) thought he could push Israel around and needed to be punished. He figured things out soon enough."
"You meet Rubin lately? What's her take on the Bezos-Trump kerfuffle?"
"Oh, she likes Jeff. Bezos leaves them alone. You know, Trump's not totally wrong about the Washington Post being a giant tax shelter."
"Just like Buffett."
"Why change what works?"
"Indeed, well-said, pal. Now if only those damn primary voters could figure that out...but whatever, we'll have Bloomberg and Bezos on our side in 2020, and Adelson'll come along too once they figure out how to shift that oil debt."
"Oil debt? Adelson? What?"
"Not his debt. Until the war starts with Iran, oil's gonna stay below $50, and that's squeezing the whole financial arbitrage through Vegas. If Goldman is getting squeezed on one side of the balance sheet, they don't have liquidity to move cash for the billionaires in New York and the billionaires in Texas to link with the billionaires in Beijing."
"Well, they could always just go back to cocaine..."

And on...

sociotard said...

Speaking of Augmented Reality, here's a short film showing how awful that would be.

[a href="https://vimeo.com/166807261"]https://vimeo.com/166807261[/a]

sociotard said...

oop forgot which format to use

https://vimeo.com/166807261

donzelion said...

@Laurent - HK for the win!

Tony Fisk said...

Droid midichlorians? I always thought R2-D2 had been working on a simulation... maybe he was shut down in TFA for an intense systems level test?

One of Obi Wan's little lies/continuity lapses was that he didn't recognise R2 in 'New Hope'. Rather than say 'Hello, little friend' he could have said 'You? Ah! Of course it would be.' Easy to see six movies later...

Arms race. If the US Army aren't encrypting *their* drone channels I will be somewhat astonished.

LarryHart said...

donzelion in the previous post:

Herbert's treatment is may, in some sense, parallel the Star Wars mythos, albeit out of sequence -
Dune I, the 'false but well-meaning messiah' wrapped in a kickass coming-of-age tale
Dune II, the 'false but well-meaning messiah confronting the price of actual messianism'
Dune III, the process of messianism is ugly wrapped in a weak-ass coming-of-age tale, and Dune IV - the actuality is tedious, so who would actually want it in the first place?

I thought they grew progressively less interesting, and stopped with God Emperor, so perhaps I missed something.


No, you nailed it.

Even before I read your full post, I was going to say that Dune and "Star Wars" have in common the fact that the original book/movie was an exceptional action/adventure thriller, and then the rest of the saga decided to be about something that was much less interesting. Readers of Dave Sim (hi, Paul) might understand that I see in both cases an example of "a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead, as it were."

David Brin said...

Sociotard thanks for linking terrific short film satirizing augmented reality. And yes, though I am optimistic in many ways – see my depictions in EXISTENCE – I fully believe these downsides will happen. https://vimeo.com/166807261

Unknown said...

I've never thought through a comparative Campbellian look at the Messiah-heroes Cerebus and Muad-dib, but but I can spot 2 differences - ( 1) Paul didn't get to be Pope, 2) Cerebus didn't have kids - and 1 similarity: both were basically weapons of a female organization.

My money's on the aadvark in a fight, by the way.

Paul SB said...

From the original post: "Alas, nearly every pundit who attempts to theorize in this field appears to implicitly assume the latter. Or else the question never occurs to them."

I suspect it is mostly the latter. It's the nature of culture in that it constrain the possibility space of our thoughts, channels them in specific directions. Most people have a vague notion of what a zero-sum game is, and behave as if everything were zero sum. But positive & negative sums are just things that few people talk about, so it just doesn't cross their minds. Make more noise, Dr. Brin - if you can.

Unknown - I'm not a huge fan of old Joe Campbell, but I would throw my money in with you on that one. Not so sure about weapons of a female organization, though.

Larry, doesn't that reverse alchemy line apply to most of the film industry, anyway? It's rare to see a movie based on a novel or even a short story that gets it right - too many commercial considerations when you are spending millions (as if the publication industry weren't bad enough).

Deuxglass said...

It is so obvious. Luke’s technological prowess is evident in the first episode back in 1977. He gets R2-D2 to cough up a highly encrypted message from Princess Lea to Obi-Wan Kenobi using just a frigging SCREWDRIVER for God’s sake! Do you know anybody who can come close to that? In “The Empire Strikes Back”, Luke’s X-wing spends several months underwater in a swamp yet he has no problem fixing it up well enough for interstellar travel. I know that they have super advanced materials but still that is quite an accomplishment for someone not trained in X-wing maintenance and without access to spare parts.

Let’s look at R2-D2 and C-3PO who are both heads and shoulders above any other droid in the galaxy. C-3PO was built by Anakin when he was a kid so that is understandable and R2-D2 met Anakin on Tatooine so it is reasonable to assume that Anakin rebuilt R2-D2 in his spare time. One thing about these two droids is that they are incredibly lucky but is it just luck or maybe something else? At the beginning of the first Star Wars, when the Storm Troopers and the rebel soldiers were fighting over control of Princess Lea’s ship, R2-D2 and C-3PO walked through a corridor firefight without getting hit by not even one bolt! What are the odds of that happening? What I think is that Anakin, whose blood is chock-full of midichlorions, accidentally transfered some to the droids where they formed a very primitive link to the droids’ electronic brains giving them some limited access to the Force. That could explain why they were always at the right place at the right time. Luke suspected this which is why he had a particular interest in them and after withdrawing to the first Jedi Temple started to work on perfecting the midichlorion-droid brain interface.

Deuxglass said...

Just one more observation I have to make. If R2-D2 and C-3PO do have a touch of the force, in my memory I not recall any Jedi, Light or Dark, feeling their presence. This could mean that a droid- midichlorion interface could be quasi-undetectable by a biological-midichlorion Jedi. The Jedi droid would be stealthy in that case and perfect for black-Ops work. This allows for some interesting scenarios.

raito said...

Let's start with the Jedi stuff...

I've never been shy of my disdain for Joe Campbell's mystique. Not his research -- he's right about the structure of a lot of myths. But I believe that chosen one stories are inherently destructive. Why? Because the chosen one isn't you, whatever adolescent fantasy you have in your head. Using his mystique (which Star Wars does aplenty) says >you< can't be the hero. >You< have no power over how things are. >You< are an underling. I have trouble finding a more depressing message.

As far as the Sith/Jedi thing goes, I have my theories. So you have Palpatine, a Sith, who keeps getting apprentices who keep getting killed. Then he gets killed. So where does this Snoke guy come from, and why would anyone think he's a master. I won't accept the idea that he was some secret apprentice to the Emperor. If it's not in the films somewhere, it doesn't exist. In my opinion, how you get Sith is by having untrained sensitives. If you have no training, you take the path of least resistance when training yourself (mostly, there's rare cases where I've seen that be false). And that path leads where you might think.

For all the idiocy that's the Jedi Order, they have at least one mission that's not stupid. And that's to keep the Dark Side at bay. They aren't effective at it, but at least they try. This explains why Qui-gon wants to teach Anakin. Anakin is a sensitive, and he'll figure out how to use it one way or another. Much better to try to teach him well than to let that happen. Or they try to find the ones who are not redeemable, and kill them. Which is second best. Luke at least tries to get Vader back (however much I greatly dislike the 80's trend of taking monumental bad guys and making them good in the end).

And I'll reiterate my notion that Lucas screwed the pooch in the prequels by telling the wrong story. Jedi and clones vs. Sith and droids? When it could have been Jedi and droids vs. Sith and clones deciding whether it's better to have a million of your best guy or having everyone at the height of their possibilities? What we got was shallow and tasteless.

And on the the post itself:

Dr. Brin,

1. Who defines harm? We can't even do that today. Look at the state of torts. And it gets abused. A lot.

2. Renting pseudonyms won't work. If there's a backtrace, it will be used. And probably to harm (by my definition). I really can't figure out how you'd even propose this, given your apparent stance that you can't keep information hidden.

But you're right that there needs to be a social element. For me, that element is trust. Would you trust an anonymous source? You shouldn't. You should use that source to do your own research. Unfortunately, this might be in the same bucket as getting people to not respond to spam...

And yes, it's probable that true anonymity will be effectively impossible.

David Brin said...

raito, I doubt Lucas actually meant to make it bloody obvious that Yoda directly murders most of the Jedi after taking command of a clone army that he ordered and hid from the Republic... but Lucas makes no efforts to offer even a HINT at any other conceivable explanation. I am stunned to be a member of a species who can watch Ep II without drawing that loathsome conclusion.

Re pseudonym renting, the company has a huge interest in maintaining cred with its customers and will not reveal real IDs easily. In fact, not at all! The reputation dings that follow a pseudonym back to the rental company are dings! They are assertions that themselves are weighted according to the reputation of the complainer. And there is an automatic aversion to complaining too trivially, since THAT affects the complainer's rep.

And if the behavior passes a "harm" threshold above a certain point? Then dings pile up. If it passes a harm level that by consensus legislation violates a law, then more so.

Will it take years for such a system to become fluid and well-balanced? Sure. Does it contain the feedback elements that might make it work? Seems so.

Robert said...

Well. I kind of hate to say this... but Sanders is losing even the small amount of respect I had for him as a result of how he and his staff are treating disabled activists. His lack of inclusivity for disabled people in his campaign is worrisome. While he might talk about how disabled people need to get improved benefits, these are just words. His actions... in not working with disabled activists, is troublesome.

My brother went blind when he was 21. He then went to court several times forcing a local public college to go into compliance with the ADA... in what is one of the most liberal states in the United States. The problem is, Massachusetts seemed to have the opinion that you should give disabled people money and then shove them in the corner. Having them go to college, earn degrees, and make a living sounds like on paper... but paying for handicap accessibility? Oh hell no. That's not worth their while!

His fights with the Democrats of Massachusetts (he was Republican, though most definitely a RINO in this day and age) soured me on the liberals of New England... and thus while I might like what Sanders has been saying... his actions say something else. They remind me of the same refusal to act, to bring public institutions into ADA compliance that my brother faced in the 90s.

The irony is that the woman I dislike and will not vote for? Is earning my respect in that she has disabled individuals working her campaign and reaches out to people.

That said, I do see a place for Sanders in a theoretical Clinton Administration. Make him the Ambassador to Israel. ;)

Now let's just hope Clinton doesn't blow it.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

It's all a horrible circus. Most voters are clueless about what the job entails (and are similarly clueless about their senator's and representative's jobs.) I vote as an employer: I'm hiring them. At this time any other administration than the Democrats would cripple my country much worse than many bad fantasies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfJKlezW5EA

David Brin said...

Rob Sanders is too useful in the Senate. Tho I think he has a dem governor and could be replaced. Still, I judge his forte not to be at jobs requiring, shall we say, acres of tact.

Alfred Differ said...

@matthew: (from last thread)

None of you piss me off. Ever. I worry occasionally about pissing off some people here, but then I get over it. I benefit from you poking at my ideas no matter your emotional state while doing so. For that, I'm convinced I should return the favor.

If it helps any, I self-identify more as a classical liberal than as a libertarian. There IS a difference. I present libertarian arguments because there aren't many here who do. I'm not playing Devil's Advocate when I do, though, because I'm not that far away from them ideologically.

It's nice to know I get a category of my own. I feel so unique now. 8)

Robert said...

Yes, he is. Thus my using a ;) to imply I was in jest.

The reason I suggested "Ambassador to Israel" is that while he is pro-Israel, he isn't pro what the current ultraconservative government in Israel is doing. But there isn't anything the U.S. can really effectively do there. And to be honest... that's been the case for quite a few decades now.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding the main post, I’m feeling a little squishy about the so-called virtues of posting anonymously*online? What exactly are those virtues? I can see an argument for Prudence since our online content might produce the means that undo the ends we desire. Donzelion offered a reasonable explanation for hiding a bit based on possible, future risk of people thinking the content was intended as legal advice or as soliciting business. In that profession, such behavior is considered improper/immoral, thus it partial anonymity is a form of practical wisdom.

As for the other virtues, I just don’t see it. Temperance obviously suffers as does Courage. Where is Justice to be found in those who can hide from consequences? The transcendent virtues suffer worse. Where is Love in an inherently asymmetric exchange? Where is your Faith or Hope or whatever one wants to call such things involving our identities and our obligations to their past and future?

Singleton virtues easily become vices, so I’m not convinced that it IS practical wisdom (Prudent Behavior) to hide unless one’s liberty is at risk. If that risk exists, wouldn’t it be the prudent/courageous thing to act to eliminate it to avoid the risk of falling into vice instead?

*I’m not looking at ‘handles.‘ It is easy enough to establish aliases that don’t hide us from each other.

Alfred Differ said...

Transparency and accountability can protect you from most harms, yes even tyrants, but not the harm of nosy busybodies and prurient voyeurs who act within the bounds of law.

I’m not as concerned because the legislative bounds within which they would act are usually reflections of common law bounds. Once we start to tick people off in large enough numbers (>2% I suspect), sub-communities will form protecting a minority and making a mockery of the Rule of Law if we keep trying to enforce the legislation. That should cause an arms race, a negative sum sub-game, and attention from a large bloc of fence-sitters. It won’t be pretty when this happens, but we already have experience with these liberalization projects. I’m optimistic that after some teeth-gnashing, we will work things out and notice HOW we work things out.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - LOL, thanks for the hat tip. I'm under no delusion that someone who wanted to figure out my real identity would have any trouble finding me. But the fact that I do not throw that out there means by definition, I'm not selling anything (and actually, just looking to participate in something interesting). And lawyers do have a reputation for imposing their views, where I've nothing to impose (and mostly, just practicing and figuring out how to express the ones I have, while developing and learning views that I've yet to attain). Still -

"[is it] practical wisdom (Prudent Behavior) to hide unless one’s liberty is at risk [?]"
[rephrased as a question]

Yes - if and only if human beings are sheep, who will be eaten by wolves if they separate from the flock. And maybe all of us are sheep at times (e.g., in a scientific debate, the best I can do is try to follow along, while intellectual gladiators duel out matters I'm barely able to grasp), so that's ok - at times.

But the best protection from both tyrants and nosy busybodies (the tyranny of conformity) - as I see it - is individuals who stand up and say, "This is who I am, this is what I believe, I hear what You are saying, but here is my truth." At the end of the day, isn't that the key for dialogue - two or more specific individuals interacting, rather than sound bites screaming past one another?

locumranch said...



As encryption & privacy fade, Transparency will reveal itself to be a destructive 2-edged sword:

(1) Credit Card Fraud already accounts for the loss of almost $200 Billion in the USA alone; Credit/Debit, Paypal & Bitcoin are encryption-based systems; and, we can expect their total collapse if David's predictions about the futility of encryption prove correct;

(2) As our suspicions about Social Corruption are confirmed by vid after vid, the public will lose all faith in both their fellows & an examined establishment, much in the same way (only to a much greater extent) that Watergate caused widespread disillusionment;

(3) Evaluation will become transparent, leading to the collapse of the profit-driven economy, as fewer & fewer consumers will tolerate an 800% mark-up (or more) on consumer products that only cost fpennies to make & distribute (like Bread, priced at $4 when it's objective worth equals $ 0.58); and

(4) Assumptions of 'social altruism' will collapse under close scrutiny; Progressive Humanism will be revealed as a subjective, romantic & counterfactual fraud; and society will be forced to reorganise under Behaviorist precepts (dependent on observable, objective & quantifiable behavioral events).

Like unto the proverbial Gift Horse, we will find Society (that Old Diseased Nag) wanting when transparency forces us to count it's metaphorical teeth.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: As for imposing views, I’m not sure what distinguishes lawyers from physicists. My community is infamous for intrusive nosiness, construction of gross simplifications, and an insulting level of pontification regarding truths and theories from other fields of study. We impose often enough to have a reputation precede us when we show up at non-physics conferences. So, how do lawyers do it different such that they should self-police in ways we don’t? I’m asking because I honestly don’t see how you can impose anything here. You might come across as an imposing figure, but there is nothing immoral about that. 8)

But the best protection from both tyrants and nosy busybodies (the tyranny of conformity) - as I see it - is individuals who stand up and say, "This is who I am, this is what I believe, I hear what You are saying, but here is my truth." At the end of the day, isn't that the key for dialogue - two or more specific individuals interacting, rather than sound bites screaming past one another?

They are doing more than interacting. They are defending virtues and in doing so, behaving like more complete human beings.
“This is who I am and what I believe” = Faith/Identity
“I hear what you are saying,” = Justice/Respect and Temperance
“but here is my Truth.” = This takes Courage
All we are missing is Love, Hope, and Prudence, but they emerge from the exchange of information. If I couldn’t give a damn about someone, it is unlikely I’d offer them my opinion, let alone listen to theirs. 8)

I won’t poke at your handle to find out who you are out of a respect for your preference to maintain the fig leaf, but I’ll admit that I don’t see the point. Behind your leaf you have demonstrated your knowledge and persuasion skills without imposing on anyone. If you were to drop the leaf and then someone got confused and leveled an accusation, I would think you’d be defended by everyone else. Maybe your field is more vicious than I know, though, so I’ll just smile in confusion and wonder why you perceive any risk.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch:
1} Regarding Credit Card fraud, David hasn’t suggested that we all go out into the streets and dance naked while thieves steal everything we own. Read his book and you’ll see him recognize the need to authenticate identities. There is room for encryption (using digital certificates to ‘sign’ transactions) and he says as much. He even points out how services could be offered to defend our identities, though he leaves the business plan development to others. 8)

2} Corruption? Ha! Against what standard? Measured by what evidence? Ha^2!

3} Huzzah! Bring it on. We will see whether you understand economics or not. Pfft! The phrase “objective worth” already spells your doom.

4} The virtues will continue to exist and be expressed by people no matter which silly 18th, 19th, or 20th century social theory you espouse. People will be what they want to be whether authentic or not.

David Brin said...

Locum’s list is well-expressed but weird, as usual. #1 is SOLVED by catching perps. #2 is opposite to true, as catching the corrupt will increase confidence, as has happened already. #3 only means the pricing will be determined more efficiently and capitalist competition become more healthy and vigorous. #4 is just dumb-ass cynicism, completely counter to what we have seen, which is spreading inclusion and empathy.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Larry, doesn't that reverse alchemy line apply to most of the film industry, anyway? It's rare to see a movie based on a novel or even a short story that gets it right -


Sure, but that doesn't apply to Dune or "Star Wars". I was comparing books to books and movies to movies.

locumranch said...



As usual, I am dumbfounded by the inherent inconsistencies of your transparency argument:

(1) You argue that secrecy & encryption are fool's errands, going so far as to note that even the most sophisticated fingerprint scanners can be defeated by 'playdoh', while simultaneously arguing that these features can be debugged by 'catching perps' & 'authenticating (easily counterfeited) identities';

(2) As in 'Watergate', corruption revelations lead to social disillusionment by historical precedent [http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/6c.html], whereas social confidence tends to spring from pretty reassuring lies along the lines of American Exceptionalism (rather than 'Amerifat Inequality'), an 'Inescapable Alcatraz' (rather than an Alcatraz that is easy to swim around) & how a formidable FBI 'always gets its Man' (rather than visualizing an ineffectually bureaucratic J. Edgar Hoover in drag).

Really, now: How many Ted Haggards do we need to see before we assume that most (if not all) evangelical anti-homosexual pastors are flaming hypocrites? And how many lying establishment politicians do we have to elect before we conclude that lying is the defining characteristic of said political establishment?

(3) By 'objective value', I mean evaluation based on a preponderance of empiric evidence. Psstt! You wouldn't spend $4/liter for Perrier once you learn that it is artificially carbonated, contaminated by benzene, LESS healthy than what comes from the average tap and, since the 1990s (at least), neither will anyone else.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/still-waters-run-deeper-the-perrier-predicament-salewise-it-has-lost-its-fizz-designwise-it-has-1367177.html

(4) Altruism & Selfishness are indistinguishable (depending on perspective). By stressing the potential value, perfectibility & goodness of human beings in a self-referential fashion, Humanism interprets human imperfections as proof of human perfectibility (a logical fallacy), rejects empiric evidence to the contrary (behaviorism) & reveals itself as an article of FAITH.

Humanism: A relativistic search for objective truth; a faith-based dogma that requires the rejection of established faith-based dogmas; an attempt to secure social harmony, fairness & justice for all through the judicious application of disharmonic discrimination & intolerance; and, an imperfect effort to transcend human imperfection by more imperfection (wherein the promised 'Singularity' is indistinguishable from Religious Rapture).


Best

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "I’m not sure what distinguishes lawyers from physicists."

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? ;-)

I’m asking because I honestly don’t see how you can impose anything here.
LOL, indeed. I could post an argument a hundred times, get ignored on all of them, and were it obnoxious enough, just get banned in the end. But the idea is more psychological, and self-training - again, one practices with the strongest minds one can find, and alas, I know few physicists, scientists, and science fiction authors, and participate in discussions with even fewer.

They are doing more than interacting [by engaging in open dialogue]. They are defending virtues and in doing so, behaving like more complete human beings.
Concur. Vehemently enough to post far too many messages, and read far too little. ;-)

If you were to drop the leaf and then someone got confused and leveled an accusation, I would think you’d be defended by everyone else.
As a younger man, I made an argument, taken out of context, motivated someone else to write a very nasty article in a newspaper about me - which haunts me professionally in America even now (all this happened in an early Google age - it never occurred to me that those discussions would ever become a permanent record). Bothers the crap out of me as it was all quite unfair - but we live in an era in which a quick Google search gives the illusion of reading a person's character.

And then I learned a bit more about the art of character assassination, and discovered this is all-too-common in my profession. I'd like to be able to say certain things without worrying that someone will whisper somewhere else that I've disclosed confidential information (I haven't, but gosh, I've actually been tempted to - I'd really like to tell the stories that will convince Dr. Brin that there's no "Saudi"-Murdoch link, but can't share them without client's consent - it's frustrating!) ;-)

donzelion said...

@Locum -

"(2) As our suspicions about Social Corruption are confirmed by vid after vid, the public will lose all faith in both their fellows & an examined establishment, much in the same way (only to a much greater extent) that Watergate caused widespread disillusionment"

For 30+ years, Republicans claimed they were the party of "accountability" - that the measure of accountability is paying off debts, honoring one's word (to wife, and others) - and that those who failed to be held accountable were "bad characters" (e.g., "Slick Willy"). Now, that's not exactly a politically consistent principle (e.g., blame the deficits they created on others who actually tried to alleviate them) - but any person who has gone bankrupt has deliberately used the law to avoid accountability. Republicans know this, and will apply that standard to anyone who seeks credit or trust - except not Donald Trump.

For some reason, despite proof of lousy business dealings, they think he's a genius businessman, and a trusted/strong leader. Enough to make him their champion.

The issue isn't disillusionment, but selective 'self-illusionment' - tied to moral judgment. ("It's OK if you're a Republican" - but if Obama runs the NSA, it's a treasonous affront to freedom - "It's not a sin if you're a Republican" - but if Trump sleeps around a bit, it's a mark of manly strength.)

In an era of 'self-illusionment' (or cognitive dissonance), those who sell the story that resolves the dissonance can lead people to do all manner of despicable things.
Example 1: Nazis, who united Jewish Communists with Jewish Capitalists into a horrific campaign.
Example 2: Slave traders, who united Christian concepts of salvation with economic incentive into another form of atrocity.

I can posit other illustrations, but as I see it, the result is too often genocide (from the most vile Romantics) and slavery (from the most vile Rationalists).

David Brin said...

See now here's what I mean by being mentally simply unable to perceive: "You argue that secrecy & encryption are fool's errands, going so far as to note that even the most sophisticated fingerprint scanners can be defeated by 'playdoh', while simultaneously arguing that these features can be debugged by 'catching perps' & 'authenticating (easily counterfeited) identities';"

Notice how he simply assumes that normal people will be visible and yet transparency will not apply to parasites and prdators. But... but... that's not transparency. But he is absolutely and irrevocably simply unable to parse it. There's something just not functioning, and while tragic it is actually rather instructive.

It just does not matter to him that others say: "that's not what those words mean." Sigh.

==

Donzel, if you have anecdotes about Saudis being friendly to Americans, what would that prove? In a pyramidal and utterly hierarchical society you do not need consensus from below. Indeed, by trying to build a romantic consensus nostalgia for the Ummayid dynasty, all the SA textbooks and teachers did was spoil the long range plan by causing impatient radicals like Osama and ISIS to jump the gun, prematurely, before America could be ruined by re-inciting civil war, wrecking the economy and destroying US political processes.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

For some reason, despite proof of lousy business dealings, they think he's [Trump] a genius businessman, and a trusted/strong leader. Enough to make him their champion.


It's the other way around. They think he's a champion (winner), and therefore want him to be their champion. So all else is forgiven.

How else could evangelicals in particular go for Trump in the primaries? It's not because they admire his personal Christian values. It's because they think he'll be forcefully successful in defending their personal Christian values.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Well. I kind of hate to say this... but Sanders is losing even the small amount of respect I had for him as a result of how he and his staff are treating disabled activists.


Remember, I voted for Bernie in the Illinois primary. But in the past few weeks, I'm becoming so disillusioned with the grumpy old man that I'm seriously starting to wonder if the corporate media are doing that to me intentionally.


The irony is that the woman I dislike and will not vote for? Is earning my respect


Welcome to my world.

LarryHart said...

...except for the "will not vote for" part.

Paul SB said...

Larry (you're up early for a Saturday morning), it's kind of everyone's world. Our information about candidates comes largely from media frenzy. Some elements of the media have obvious biases, but when a candidate first appears on the scene, most media businesses are just interested in earning advertising dollars off them, so they paint the picture in whatever light they think will grab the most eyeballs. He was 'Sweet Uncle Bernie' when they were trying to appeal to young voters looking for an 'outsider' champion, but now that it is obvious he doesn't have a chance, the picture is being painted differently. Now he's 'Grumpy Old Bernie' - activating a less positive stereotype. Then again, look at how media portrayals of Clinton and Trump have changed, too. The candidates are trying to spin it in their own favor, but the media have their own interests and make their own spin. And the average voter?

Mark Armstrong said...

Science Fiction reference wise, how 'bout Brunner's "Shockwave Rider?" Back in the day, the idea of a supposedly incorruptible anonymous telephone line to report guilty conscience or corruption seemed pretty powerful. (Electric skillet)

The current situation regarding Trump seems like a bald appeal to the conservative id through Trump's crazy lullaby crooning, incantation of myth (Benghazi! as shorthand of a vast myth of Democratic treason corruption and lying) and mob mentality. It's a Twilight Zone Episode. Embarrassing to see grown-ass people falling in on this nonsense.

David, thanks for the great presentation at the Humans to Mars Summit. You mentioned heading to the DMV (Washington DC area) in June, then July for Escape Velocity. What's going on in June?

Mark Armstrong said...

Oops, not Electric Skillet, Hearing Aid. Great book though.

Paul SB said...

As far as our little loci is concerned, in the last thread a couple people described his thinking as "alien" but I have to disagree. Nothing coming from his keyboard is inconsistent with a substantial subset of people I grew up with. And since I grew up on Planet Earth, surrounded by (more or less) human beings, gracing him with the alien label strikes my ears as far too legitimizing. He operates mainly through argument by assertion - basically say stuff and expect people to believe you just because you say it's true. This is pretty much the modus operandi of religion, which is an extremely common feature of hominid society. Then when someone questions an assertion, shout it back louder and posture threateningly. If that doesn't work, then look for superficial evidence that can be easily twisted to appear to logically support your truth contentions. While that suffices for most people, there will always be those heretics who don't buy the twisted logic, who dig deeper into the evidence, etc. Then again, there will also be those who simply come from a different tradition, with a different set of starting conditions (assumptions), who won't buy a pixel of it, though in most cases their logical/argumentative processes aren't any different.

Relatively small social communities tend to be conformity pressure cookers. People mostly conform as children, and those formative years create the baseline of starting conditions that play out in our minds for the rest of our lives. Even the smallest of human habitations, however, have their inconsistencies, and as children grow into adolescents many of them start to key into these inconsistencies. At the same time they are dealing with that more personal but universal inconsistency of a brain that is outgrowing both its body and its ascribed social roles. This turns many sweet children into raving monster teenanderthals. The more dull just become hooligans, while the smarter ones reach out for alternative philosophies. I knew plenty of people who went for extremist groups like the American Nazi Party or the KKK, on the one hand, joined weird cults, went "new age" or turned environmental/social justice extremist on the other hand. In each case, their own idiosyncratic experiences melded with and responded to those starting conditions. You have to look at each individual to analyze what assumptions got twisted by what inconsistencies, but in any case, the result is usually a mind that stubbornly clings to anger.

(I'm imagining here that Larry will make some comparison to Cereus and the tiny, isolated town the character grew up in, how being bullied by manly types turn him into manly stereotype, etc.)

Is it possible that the kind of extremism we are seeing in todays discourse is a result of mass communications giving voice to these small, pressure-cooker communities, where anger and extremism tend to fester?

Of course, as I have said before, I am a junior contributor here, so I have fewer years of absorbing the guy's screed. But where some see an alien mind, I see a very familiar pattern. Treebeard looks like pretty much the same story, though with some of his own idiosyncrasies that make him a little different from Locum. In neither case do I think they typify people of small communities - rather they are a subset or such.

Anonymous said...

Too much transparency must perforce lead to Kurzweil's colon camera number eighty four thousand two hundred and fifty three as the (inevitable!) growth of the camera continues apace. Jefferson no doubt had the exchange of other and perhaps more lofty ideas in mind, an easy mistake in a nation as yet unblessed with superfund sites and stroads. Yet, as Abdelrahman Munif notes in "Cities of Salt", "every man has a hole in his ass", so there is bound to be some disagreement—in that particular case, between the hopelessly backwards Bedouin and progress-minded Americans busy with their soon-to-be stroads and superfund sites.

Now, moving to safety from harm has a number of easy steps to take—turn off your lights at night, downscale your Interstates towards their minimum necessary evil, eliminate leaf blowers, minimize car-sitting, and only operate your sky screamers during, say, daylight hours—steps that would also cut your Carbon and associated resources burn. How about it?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Larry (you're up early for a Saturday morning),


Acutally, I was up very late on Friday night.

Anthony Morris said...

@Paul SB

I see much the same in locum's and Treebeard's writings. What's worse, is I sometimes see their points (ack) . Small communities tend to conform due to a relative lack of outside thought and that limits the ability to absorb other points of view later on for some. Much like the founder effect causes conformity among future generations in an isolated population (genetically speaking). As populations grow, they can gain more diversity through mutation but that new diversity is often overwhelmed by the majority genetic expression. Similarly, an individual's starting belief and behavioral systems tend to outweigh most new ideas even if they are one's own ideas let alone someone else's ideas. And once they find a community of like minds, they can become even more resistant to new ideas.

I was the outsider in my hometown. Most of the people I knew then that I still know now haven't really changed all that much. This election season has shown me that much. The old prejudices from which I used to hide have reared up since this season started. I had only recently come to similar conclusions in the last few months after reading some of my old books on ecology and evolution. It's good to see someone else has thought this.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The candidates are trying to spin it in their own favor, but the media have their own interests and make their own spin.


I realized in 2008 that the media has a vested interest in presenting the campaign as an exciting horse race between two contestants running too close to call! In the 2008 primaries, I noticed that every time Obama was getting ahead in the polls, all of a sudden the Reverend Wright thing came out, and Hillary surpassed him in popularity. Then, before she could get too far ahead, Obama became the media darling again. Basically, neither could get more than about 5% ahead of the other before the media turned on him/her.

So I specifically watched for the same behavior in the general election campaign, and sure enough. Around the time of the Democratic convention, Obama was way popular. Suddenly, McCain picked Sarah Palin who became the media darling. My old conservative buddy was sure McCain/Palin would keep going up in the polls, and I specifically warned him "Once he gets 5-10 percent ahead, the media will bring it back to parity." and I was right. The expectation on election night was such a squeaker that I still wasn't convince Obama had won, even after North Carolina and Pennsylvania were called.

locumranch said...


Perhaps the mental blind spot that I am 'unable to perceive' exists in a universal fashion for, while I insist that 'normal (rule obedient) people will be visible and transparency will not apply to parasites and pr(e)dators' (cheaters all), still others insist that such rules must, should & ought to apply to the 'rule disobedient'.

Engage in cognitive dissonance much?

(1) Cheating & rule breaking are givens in human society;
(2) More & better rules ought to eliminate rule breaking & cheating.
(3) See first assumption.

Assuming that he has practiced law as claimed, I suspect that Donzelion understands the key concept in question, that being that 'rule breaking' & 'rule obedience' are non-synonymous terms.

Yet, for some reason, he goes off on a tangent about the US Republican party being liars, cheaters & rule breakers (which they undoubtedly are), the implication being that their US Democratic party opposition are their honest & rule obedient 'opposites' (which, most certainly, they are NOT), and arrives at a false conclusion about the current Republican candidate.

Donald owes his popularity, not to public 'self-illusionment', but to being the most successful & unapologetic Republican CHEATER, much in the same way that Hillary Clinton owes her heir apparent status to being the most duplicitous & grasping Democratic one.

A successful cheater is a beloved one.


Best

David Brin said...

MarkA howdy. I’ll be in DC for a NAASA NIAC meeting , also to give talks at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy OSTP and also an open-public talk for the Caltech Alumni Assoc:
http://events.alumni.caltech.edu/products/washington-dc-a-conversation-with-sci-fi-author-david-brin-bs-73

Locum's latest is much more cogent. I can tell when he takes his vitamins. He now admits that a "transparency" that exposes the weak while sheltering the exploiters is not, actually, transparency at all. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my prescription and is - indeed - the unfairness that I recommend fighting with sousveillance. This logical path is inaccessible to him. But at least he has walked to the edge of it.

Beacause fairness cannot happen perfectly - and I admit there will always be clever cheaters, no matter what accountability systems we set up - he concludes that making the attempt is futile and useless and that all cheaters operate at the same level and there's no point distinguishing among them.

Claptrap. Malarkey. Baloney.

We live better and safer and more liberty-rich lives because incremental steps of accountability manage to keep most corruption and cheating down below a dull roar.

Moreover although the "corruption" of Hillary Clinton has been inflated 99.9% by pure, never-proved allegation hot-air, I'll avow that she's likely not-totally pure. So? In office she WILL enact policies and push for laws that DECREASE overall cheating! That INCREASE overall light and accountability. That is pure fact. It is fact on fifty different levels and in a hundred ways.

I'll take that deal. If we all take it, then the ratchet will turn. The background level of cheating will be far lower and we can then start turning THAT level into one to yell about. And incrementally reform.

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

Anthony M., I like your Founder Effect analogy. Thinking about it in neurological terms, once most of the major circuits have been set in myelin during those formative years, they set baseline stimulation levels for the rest of a person's life. This is why children of depressed or stressed parents tend to suffer from the same maladies. It's not genetic, it's the mental encoding mechanism that has allowed humans to colonize nearly every terrestrial habitat on the planet. The brain responds and adapts to the conditions encountered in childhood, essentially on the assumption that the environment is not going to change a whole lot over a single lifetime. Think about the Dutch Hunger Winter results.

While I'm glad you get my point, I can't say I'm glad about the why. Growing up a social pariah might build character, but I can't think of too many more miserable ways to do that. :/

Paul SB said...

Larry, you may have made a really meaningful observation with what you noted about how the press manipulated the images of politicians during a campaign. The media isn't a single entity, so you aren't likely to find some kind of trust to bust Teddy Roosevelt style. Smart business people know what is good for business, and it is clear that competition is not. That's why prices on so many goods come out the same, even though they may be way more than "the market will bear" - and way beyond any reasonable notion of fair profit. No conspiracy is necessary. Unlike the assumptions that gird capitalism, competition simply doesn't happen 'inevitably' even when there are many players in the same market. If the gas station across the street raises the price by 10 cents, you could lower your price and siphon off their business, but many owners will simply jack up their prices, too.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "if you have anecdotes about Saudis being friendly to Americans, what would that prove?"

Agreed - I could share anecdotes about Saudis being friendly with Americans, but that would prove nothing. Rather, I'd tell a bit about how the Prince Waleed-FoxNews "alliance" actually operates, how and when the money moves, and a bit about what these public ties mean in the Saudi royal pecking order (though I cannot claim mastery over the details there - I wasn't privy to those secrets, but only the corporate links). Or how satellite dishes - deemed illegal in the country - came to dominate the skyscape in every city long before the law actually authorized installing them.

Parts are public (anyone think that Fox News alleging Prince Waleed was a terrorist financier during the 'Freedom Mosque' kerfuffle was an accident?). But I cannot fill in the blanks without violating confidentiality.

But that's just the Saudis. They are the best expression of your concerns about oligarchy generally - yet even that ancient system held possibilities. French oligarchs and British oligarchs despised one another. Romantic/Rationalists (Jefferson, Franklin) helped birth our country by recognizing and exploiting these nuances. Pure Rationalists (Adams, Hamilton) saw a transactional, distasteful relationship when they sought an alliance - the French shrugged them aside (or worse).

A streak of Romanticism enabled Jefferson and Franklin to BE friends, rather than merely appear friendly, which in turn ended the Revolution. 30 years later, when Americans tried to do it again on our own, the British ran roughshod over us (everywhere but New Orleans, anyway, itself a French colony that hadn't even been 'American' for a decade).

In a scientific discussion, I can offer little beyond curiosity and kudos (though it's more fun than a sports event) - but in other fields, esp. the Middle East, there are things I do know quite well, but alas, the best and most useful evidence I cannot share. But my point remains: only those who can perceive authentic friendship with another group can ever hope to unite with them against a tyrant (or the tyranny of banality).

Jumper said...

Alfred's proud not-anonymous point got me thinking about whether Jumper ought to become a real person. Actually a person who doesn't often refer to himself in third person. But I don't like my real name. I know people who have changed their names for show biz reasons. (This always freaks out their families, as supportive as they might be. Usually family won't use the new name.)

Of course women change their names at marriage. Among women artists and writers you find a lot who also dismiss the tradition of taking a husband's name when they marry. And among businesswomen as well. My point is we live in a society where people change their names. Or don't. Either is normal for many men and huge numbers of women.

As I said, I don't like my real name. No Peter Pendragon or James Throckmorton for me. I'm a Herb Schneider or at best a Norm Mueller.

An online persona allowed me to change my name without paying a court.

donzelion said...

@Paul & Larry re Trump - Paul SB's point re advertising revenue is surely accurate, BUT it's also intriguing: given the vast number of young people behind the Bernie campaign, why did Trump get 20x the coverage that Bernie did throughout the primaries?

Two theories:
(1) Media laziness. Trump's inane prattlings are 'media-ready' sound bite chunks. Wall with Mexico that the Mexicans will pay for? Megyn Kelly says mean things when she's menstruating (but it's all good - he still loves her). Meanwhile, Bernie keeps talking about the minimum wage. Who cares if he gets the same (or larger) turnout as Trump among the most lucrative advertising demographic (single, college-educated mostly white urban folks in their 20s-30s)? It's much harder to convert cogent arguments into air-worthy blurbs than contentious drivel.
(2) Media complicity. Sanders makes cogent arguments that annoy the folks who own the media (big corporations, and the advertisers who empower it, and the cable companies). The last of that set advertises to houses - their advertising demographic views as a winner others with real estate experience, rather than some 'post-hippy' who will never become a suburban/exurban figure, and all the other candidates on the Republican side are "yawn" insiders. To them, Trump looks like a "winner" - and thus, he's a product they can sell.

Larry's point that Christian Evangelicals perceived Trump as a "winner" and opted to make him THEIR "champion" is a fair flip. But it's fascinating that "winning" would become more important than their Christianity when choosing their champion - many of them, if asked, claim "God, faith, and country" - but they've just demonstrated that "winning" is a higher priority. The political allegiance thus becomes akin to a professional sports team - "we don't have to like black people, or Muslims, we want our team to be winners and will tolerate those folks somewhat" (mixed with a defensive, "I'm not a racist! I like black athletes too!").

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Of loci you wrote, "Beacause fairness cannot happen perfectly ... he concludes that making the attempt is futile and useless and that all cheaters operate at the same level and there's no point distinguishing among them.

Claptrap. Malarkey. Baloney."

Compromise is the language of the Devil is a phrase I heard more times than I could count growing up. I think some of that comes from the Abrahamic faiths, some maybe from all those mental disorders like OCD and schizophrenia that in the past made a person into a holy man, but the fear that drives the deep mistrust of all things government that is so fashionable today got a huge boost from Orwell and the dictatorships of his day. If you think about what I wrote about the contexts that form baseline levels of personality traits, it's not hard to see how fear perpetuates itself over generations. The older people get, the harder it becomes to shake off old patterns. A person like loci grew up in a time and place where paranoia was a dominant theme, and he's unlikely to ever see that these are not those times, and not all places are those places. Mundane, not alien at all.

But more important than the relative solidification of one person's neural circuitry is what this says about humans in general. Once damage is done, once injustice is perpetrated on people, the damage carries on in the minds of not just the victims, but their children, their neighbors and everyone they communicate with. It becomes a huge negative-sum game, where the perpetrators might benefit in the short run, but they degrade their own social environments, which ultimately bites them back, too. But most aren't aware of these connections (I suspect J.P. Morgan got the idea, when he bailed out the S&L crisis, though on a much simpler level, given the science of his day). It takes a level of real courage to put aside generations of fear and try to embrace a better future. So many people, like loci, don't believe that better is possible. I agree that it's malarkey, but it's difficult malarkey for many people to overcome.

When I first saw someone say "all lives matter," then get shouted down but a crowd yelling "black lives matter" I have to admit I found that pretty offensive. They were essentially saying, your life doesn't matter, only black lives matter. But I can understand how, more than a century after slavery was outlawed, the same tired old ideas get perpetuated through the generations. It takes courage to try to break these patterns. I'm glad some of us are making the effort. I'm heartened by the number of sane voices I read here on your blog. You have attracted a (mostly) good crowd.

Paul SB said...

Jumper, I hear you! I was born with a pretty anonymous name, and swore I would take my wife's if I was ever lucky enough to find a female member of the human who would touch me with a 10-foot pole.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

@Paul & Larry re Trump -


Way off on a tangent, but I happen to be re-reading "Dune" for the nth time (where n is less than 10 but not much less), it occurs to me that someone is setting Beast Rabban over us to drive us to despair that we'll welcome Feyd-Rautha as a savior. Not sure which role Donald Trump is in, or who the man behind the curtain is. But like any good story, it explains a lot.

David Brin said...

donzel, their TOP project with all that money was to finance hundreds of Madrassas that use their top-secret textbooks to preach revanchist dreams, nostalgia, misogyny and hatred of the west. Textbooks that raised Osama and the Al Qaeda leadership. Textbooks that raised the ISIS leadership and that they find worthy and have approved and bought by the thousands for use in ISIS-controlled schools.

Your explanation of romanticism and revolution was poorly parsed and left me scratching my head about your point… except that your view of the War of 1812 is inaccurate. The effects of American commerce raiding on British banking interests was far more significant than the burning of muddy little Washington.

Ioan said...

I know this is off topic. I've been busy these past 2 weeks and haven't really been following the news. Just found out that Austria is likely to elect a far right President. Can someone please explain this to me?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Alfred and names

I am normally at the opposite end of the spectrum from Alfred - an outlier in the other direction

But I agree entirely about using your name - I would not talk to somebody on the street with a bag over his head - but on-line most people hide their names

As far as the points about "not liking your names"
My name has a certain "history"
When Scotland's first (and for hundreds of years only) Cardinal was murdered in St Andrews one of the knives was wielded by a Cairncross,

John Cairncross was the fifth man in the Cambridge Spy Ring
(Which annoyed my dad another John Cairncross)
In his memoirs - "I Regret Nothing!" - John claims some credit for the Soviet victory in the battle of Kursk

Then Poul Anderson had "The Cairncross" as the chief villain in one of his books

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - ever read or hear of "Three Cups of Tea" (you can skip it and look at Jon Krakauer's "Three Cups of Deceit" instead? In the most transparent society, replete with the most monitoring and government oversight of funding, a gent convinced Americans he was building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan (when I first read it - I was awestruck - how could he overcome obstacles so cheaply that had stymied us doing vaugely similar work in Afghanistan?). Turns out, almost all fraudulent. And that was in our own country.

It's not all that different for the Saudi efforts overseas. Lots of madrassahs. Some are nasty. For some reason, no one tells a donor 'hey, we're going to teach children to strap bombs on their backs!' Rather, they attract a very specific kind of teacher when they offer practically nothing in pay (and teachers will take any textbook handed for free - even one that's not even acceptable elsewhere). That goes into who writes them as well - make it too cheap, and the religious folks will crowd out the professionals who will look elsewhere to make a living.

But there's a US federal body monitoring those same text books. They report on progress and implementation. Their view is that Saudi has come a long way. They have.

It's not a plot or a master plan - just the folks who took on the task were feudal sycophants, appeasing the princes who didn't get the prestige ministries. That's why the last king made universities a priority, since education in general had gone so far away from serving so many in the hands of such lot seeking only to expand their own power. I know of no feudal system that ever had good public education -it's all true to type, not a plot.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

re - "Three Cups of Tea"
Was it fraudulent?
The court case asserting that it was was lost in 2013 and in 2011 the CAI released a comprehensive list of completed and ongoing projects

So was it fraudulent? or was it attacked for some other reason?

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Larry's point that Christian Evangelicals perceived Trump as a "winner" and opted to make him THEIR "champion" is a fair flip. But it's fascinating that "winning" would become more important than their Christianity when choosing their champion - many of them, if asked, claim "God, faith, and country" - but they've just demonstrated that "winning" is a higher priority.


I actually don't see that as a contradiction. You're saying they choose "winning" over "Christianity". Think instead that they want a president/champion who will protect the interests of Christians, and that forming an alliance with a "winner" is a better bet for picking such a champion than is finding the candidate who most agrees with them.

It's as if they're interviewing Trump and other candidates for the job of bodyguard. Who would you want most as your own bodyguard? Someone who agrees with you politically? Or the biggest mother....... you can find who seems loyal to you and knows how to kick @$$?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

When I first saw someone say "all lives matter," then get shouted down but a crowd yelling "black lives matter" I have to admit I found that pretty offensive. They were essentially saying, your life doesn't matter, only black lives matter


And see, I view it almost exactly opposite. "Black lives matter!" is a protest cry against the pervasive evidence that (specifically) black lives don't seem to matter. When someone retorts "All lives matter!", what they are saying is "Blacks don't have any special reason to assert 'mattering' more than anyone else does." They try to make it that blacks are claiming a special right, whereas I believe blacks are asserting their claim to the same rights everyone else enjoys."

When Hillary and Bernie were asked at one of the debates "'Black lives matter', or 'All lives matter'?", I thought that was a false choice. The real point is that black lives matter because all lives should matter. The protestors are pointing out that black lives are treated as if they don't matter as much as other lives. You can't turn that around to say that "All lives are treated as if they don't matter as much as other lives."

To me, the slogan "Black lives matter" is really saying, "Of course all lives matter. That includes black lives. Stop acting as if it doesn't."

Laurent Weppe said...

* "It's as if they're interviewing Trump and other candidates for the job of bodyguard. Who would you want most as your own bodyguard? Someone who agrees with you politically? Or the biggest mother....... you can find who seems loyal to you and knows how to kick @$$?"

If I, for one, were to employ a body guard, I'd start by avoiding hiring loud, aggressive, dick waving douchebags who're probably not one tenth as good in a fight as they pretend.

Paul SB said...

Laurent,

I wouldn't hire a bragging rabbit either (channeling Aesop here), but in Trump's case, I would be much more concerned that the bodyguard will turn on me the instant he gets a better offer from someone else. Bush/Cheney used their power to rob the taxpayer coffers for their own personal profit. They were con men, and far less obvious about it than Donald Dunk. That guy will take us to our collective cleaners, and go to the grave knowing he swindled an entire nation.

Larry, as I said, that was how I read it at first. On further reflection I reassessed and changed my mind. Though to be frank, I know a lot of minority people who are quite blatant about their racism, and I'm probably OCD enough to genuinely believe that two wrongs don't make a right.

And on evangelicals forming alliances, most of them are not well-enough endowed in the frontal lobe department to even make those connections. Some are quite devious, but most are corn-fed cattle, raised to be cogs and think that makes them God's chosen people with veto rights over everyone else's civil rights. Most people are pretty selective about what they see and hear, and even if their holy book tells them to love thy neighbor plain as day in black and white, they still feel the need to hate anyone and everyone. Someone like Trump appeals to them, in spite of his obvious breaks with theology, because of much older stereotypes about what is manly, which can mean defying the rules, however holy, if you are rich and cunning enough to get away with it.

David Burns said...

@donzelion, with regard to Trump, it was media laziness. If they were ever on his side, particularly in the beginning, they hid that conspiracy incredibly well. But he is a train wreck, and train wrecks get air time. They expected him to explode and be done, but he just kept exploding. As to Sanders, it could be complicity, but it is complicity with Clinton, not Trump.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I wouldn't hire a bragging rabbit either (channeling Aesop here), but in Trump's case, I would be much more concerned that the bodyguard will turn on me the instant he gets a better offer from someone else. Bush/Cheney used their power to rob the taxpayer coffers for their own personal profit. They were con men, and far less obvious about it than Donald Dunk. That guy will take us to our collective cleaners, and go to the grave knowing he swindled an entire nation.


Trump is a better con man than Bush/Cheney were. Once W was in office, he didn't care whether you were on board with him or not. He had is political capital, and he was going to spend it will-you-nill-you.

I get why someone earlier compared Trump to Asimov's "Mule" character. He has a way of making his followers think he's one of them, even as he's doing things they would never countenance in someone else. During and after a Trump presidency, his followers would not feel betrayed no matter how disappointed they were in reality. They'd find someone else to blame for their lack of results--Mexicans or Muslims, although Jews are always a handly scapegoat as well--and believe to their graves that Trump had surpassed St Reagan as "the greatest president ever."


I know a lot of minority people who are quite blatant about their racism, and I'm probably OCD enough to genuinely believe that two wrongs don't make a right.


If you're condemning the practice of shouting down speakers at rallies or taking over streets to prevent commerce, then I'm with you that the protestors are committing their own "wrong" which is not justified by wrongs committed against them.

If you're saying that it's "wrong" to speak of "Black Lives" as lacking "mattering" over other lives, then I disagree.


Someone like Trump appeals to them [Evangelicals], in spite of his obvious breaks with theology, because of much older stereotypes about what is manly, which can mean defying the rules, however holy, if you are rich and cunning enough to get away with it.


I don't think we're disagreeing on this, just saying different things. My old conservative internet buddy was not a believing Christian, but he always supported the Christian Republicans as representing the culture which had given our society enlightenment, technology, democracy--pretty much everything good. At the time, I coined the word "Christianist" to describe someone who believes in the superiority of Christianity, independent of whether the person is a practicing Christian himself.

With that in mind, people who believe that "America is a Christian nation" and who mean by that that Christians are entitled to rights that non-Christians don't enjoy because they are essentially second-class citizens of this "Christian nation" are Christianists, irrespective of the fact that this is hardly a true Christian philosophy. In the current political climate, campaigns and rallies for "Christian values" are really about "Chrisianist values". And the Evangelicals don't support Trump because they think he's a good Christian. They support him because he has asserted--and they believe him--that he will function as a good Christianist.

Paul SB said...

Larry, we aren't disagreeing about anything here. Your description of Trump supporters going to their graves with their belief in spite of the facts, and scapegoating to cover every negative outcome, equally describes Bush worshipers, Reaganites, and likely a slew of figures through all of human history. Humans have a strong tendency to stubbornly cling to their beliefs no matter how obvious it becomes that they are wrong. Admitting to error threatens a person's social status (unless you are in a culture that values maturity, a growth mindset and the ability to admit to mistakes and move on - something I don't see a whole lot of). This is one of the more anti-social consequences of evolving to be social animals over the last 8 million years or so.

As far as ethnic groups go, they're all equally human, so anyone who values human life would have to admit that all lives matter equally. If I saw two people drowning, my only consideration for who to save would be which one is closest to me. Of course it's a travesty that so many people still make those primitive, tribal distinctions.

I have heard people who consider themselves good Christians who justify a Trump vote by saying that we are all sinners, so if he has committed some sins that only means he's human. Of course these same people insist that anyone guilty of the sin of homosexuality must burn in hell for all eternity, without even a modicum of recognition of the contradiction.

LarryHart said...

David Burns:

As to Sanders, it could be complicity, but it is complicity with Clinton, not Trump.


Bear with me on a seeming-tangent. It will come back to the issue at hand.

Back when Oprah Winfrey was just first becoming a breakout celebrity, but was not yet as big as she became later on, an incident occured where Oprah vistited a high-end shopping destination in Chicago, and the store didn't treat it as a special occasion as they would have for (say) Madonna or Barbra Streisand or Nancy Reagan. They just treated Oprah as any other customer with enough money to spend at their emporium. This was presented by Oprah's people as an insult, with the implication that she wasn't given the deference due her as a celebrity because she is black.

At the time, I thought that was pretty petulant to be arguing that "I should be treated better than normal people are, and if I'm not, then I'm being insulted." Later on, I came to understand her point--not that she has a right to preferential treatment, but that white celebrities would have been given that preferential treatment. In the universe of "humans in general", she seemed to be arguing for special rights, but in the universe of "celebrities", there seemed to be discrimination against her. I'm not saying I'm on board with her, but I'm also not against her. I can see the from multiple sides. (In fact, I think the real problem there is that white celebrities get to lord it over the "little people", not that black celebrities did not, but that's off topic for now.)

Ok, back to the issue at hand. Bernie is arguing that the Democratic Party's nominating process is "rigged" in favor of members of the Democratic Party over independents. What he really seems to be saying is that if the Democratic Party was being fair to him, they would in fact rig their process in his favor rather than in Hillary's, and that the fact that they don't rig it in his favor is de-facto discrimination against him because he's not a Democrat.

I'm at the point now where I see this the same way I first reacted to Oprah. To me, the analogy falls apart because "black celebrities matter" at least as much as "all celebrities matter", but within the Democratic Party, I don't see it as an affront that "Democrats matter" more than outsiders do.

So with that in mind, can anyone here explain it from Bernie's side in a way that makes sense?

Paul SB said...

Duncan, just out of curiosity, what is the origin of the name Cairncross? Does it refer to a profession, like Smith, Miller, Cartwright, etc? If it refers to a trade, it sounds like it would be a mortician's name, which might be another disincentive to use it.

My mother is from Holland, and likes to say that the people of the Low Countries did not have a tradition of using surnames until Roman times. When the Roman tax collectors came along and demanded that everyone tell them their surnames, the locals often came up with very random things like "teakettle." Her own maiden name is just the number four. Perhaps that started with a fourth son who couldn't think of anything better....

Brown was common among farmers, as they spent so much time outdoors.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Her own maiden name is just the number four.


The inspiration for the character called Four in "Divergent"?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Your description of Trump supporters going to their graves with their belief in spite of the facts, and scapegoating to cover every negative outcome, equally describes Bush worshipers, Reaganites,


I don't think it applies quite so much to Bush. Maybe it did prior to 2005, but the twin catastrophes of Hurricane Katrina and the Terry Schiavo affair seemed to clue voters in to the incompetence of the Bush administration. In 2005, I remember hoping that voters could remember that revelation by the time the next elections rolled around more than a year later. Apparently, they did.

The evidence for my assertion that Bush doesn't reach Trump-level of con-manism is that he was toxic during all subsequent election campaigns, including this recent primary season. Jeb trotted him out in desperation, but there were no coattails there. And in previous election campaigns, no Republican wanted to touch W.

Just musing here, but since you (Paul) are conversant with "Cerebus", I have to say that the current election may reflect what I consider to be Dave Sim's most profound observation in the entire series: "Sometimes, you can get what you want, and still not be very happy."

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

If I saw two people drowning, my only consideration for who to save would be which one is closest to me.


I'd save the hot chick first. Sorry. :)

Just curious--have you ever had to actually save someone from drowning? I did once, when I was 16, and I am not trained in any way. A kid was stuck in water near a bridge by the Northwestern University campus, where the depth drops off quickly to 14 feet. I (foolishly) jumped into the water with my clothes on and swam out to where I could keep his head afloat, but could not make any headway in the X-Y plane. So now, we're both stuck there with my wet clothing dragging me down. Maybe the only reason I'm alive today is that, as if by some miracle, two people in a canoe came by, and I was able to make them realize that we were in trouble, so they helped the kid into the canoe. After that, I could swim back to shore.

I like to think that I passed a test of character there, both in attempting the rescue and in not abandoning the kid to save myself. But jumping in that water was also a foolish act on my part, the type that "God looks out for children and fools" applies to.

As Kurt Vonnegut would have it in "Hocus Pocus", How much longer can I go on being an atheist?

John's Secret Identity™ said...

Moving those default IP geolocations to the middle of bodies of water reminds of the fake registered-offender locator sites going around a while back, that would show a tease of a map of your area with locally registered sex offenders and probationers marked. If you took the time to reload the "sample" map you'd find the markers in different locations, and if you lived near a body of water you'd often find some of the markers scattered around in it.

Looking back, it seemed so stupid and lazy of them at the time, but now I realize that such scams make their initial trawls for victims intentionally obvious so as to only draw in the most gullible.

David Brin said...

LarryHart great story and great guy.

onward

onward

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB

The story that I have been told is that we came from a village that was known by the prominent "Cairn" and "Cross"

There is at least one village called "Cairncross" in Scotland,
Cairncross has a small museum with various artifacts from the past including a portable still - so that it can be shifted when the excise-man calls