Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Sci Fi Invades Reality

Announcement for today only!  The ebook for Insistence of Vision, my third (and best) story collection is discounted to $1.99 for Kindle

Okay, I've been video'd a bit, lately. For example, the “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art to offer up something almost totally missing from our world discourse about the future — optimismTheir initial teaser-trailer features some of my blather. But the stars of this show are vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing. I don’t claim to know very much about where the project goes next, but it’s off to a great start! Neo is sponsored in part by Humanity+ and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I earlier offered up this posting: To Boldly Go: Star Trek at Fifty.  The Verge site, cribbed from it along with another baker’s dozen in “13 Science Fiction authors on how Star Trek influenced their lives," with thoughts from Allen Steele, Madeline Ashby, Becky Chambers, Elizabeth Bonesteel and others.


In this lavish and vivid short video (from X Prize Foundation)– with many sci fi flick-snippets in the background – I talk about why so many (not all) sci fi dystopias are turgid and lazy.

Elsewhere I offer a much more extended riff explaining why so many films and books slothfully assume the worst. It doesn't have to be this way! With a little work and creativity, a director and /or author can keep her protagonist in delightful jeopardy without insultingly assuming that all our institutions are automatically crap and all or neighbors sheep. 

Also... be sure to watch the episode Is Privacy Dead? of "Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole" discussing privacy in the future.  It's well-done and provocative... and I blather last.

== Sci Fi invades reality ==

Consider seven ways Science fiction predicted the future.  A short list and some are better than others. But he does list John Brunner’s classic 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar which forecast in 2010 a “President Obomi.” And see the innovations predicted by the visionary H.G. Wells, born 150 years ago.

An AI-made trailer: Fox Pictures asked IBM to set its brainiac series of computers – Watson – onto an artistic task – make a trailer for the new SciFi - horror flick “Morgan.” You can view the results. Coincidentally, I’ll be co-keynoting IBM’s big World of Watson convention in Las Vegas, October 26. 

My colleague author Hannu Rajaniemi (author of The Quantum Thief) is using brain scans to let the emotions of readers decide which way a story goes next.   Volunteers don the Epoc neural sensing headset, then read the story of Snow White, and the story would branch and change in different ways, depending on whether the volunteer showed more affinity for ‘life’ or ‘death’ imagery.  Rajaniemi comments, “I’m actually planning a near future, very biotech-driven story, focusing more on the unpredictable side effects of all these technologies.”  

People who read books lived an average of 23 months longer than those who did not. That makes me your Doctor....  you're welcome.  And I further prescribe...

A wonderful resource: Download or flip through archived issues of Weird Tales, dating back to the 1930s and 40s. And much more if you follow the embedded links ... and much, MUCH more if you follow the sidebar links at this site. You'll find older, but classic stories from Lovecraft, Bradbury, Hamilton, Sturgeon and others, along with those fantastic, evocative covers.

Amid the hoorow over possible (even likely) foreign interference in the U.S. elections, plus ‘bromance’ connections between one of the major U.S. nominees and a major eastern leader… have a chilling look at this! It is like an out-take from The Cool War – one of the creepiest of the great novels by Frederik Pohl.

The “Gerasimov doctrine,” formulated by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in 2013, proposes that modern conflicts are waged and won not with guns as much as through dirty tricks. This 'hybrid warfare' aims to destabilize the opponent's political system in order to weaken the enemy.   In The Cool War, adversaries who don’t dare risk open warfare engage in tit-for-tat , deniable sabotage… Oh, note, I have a character named Gerasimov, in Existence.   

== Science Fiction Book Roundup ==

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. This New York Times bestseller offers a tense, tightly wound thriller that explores the Many Worlds theory of quantum physics. Jason Dessen abandoned a high-profile research career to take up a quiet life with his wife and son, working as a physics professor at a small college. Mugged while out on an evening walk, he wakes up in a new thread of reality and sees where his life might have gone, the paths not taken. For in this world, he is an award-winning quantum physicist at a secret research facility, where he has discovered a way to superimpose quantum states … and he wants desperately to return to his old life. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one…

 Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds, offers a near-utopia set in a post-catastrophe future where Africa has become the reigning economic, political and technological superpower. Humans have established thriving colonies from the moon to Mars and Titan. An omnipresent surveillance system, the Mechanism, maintains peace throughout the system. The story follows the descendants of Eunice Akinya, who established a sprawling family mining empire that stretches to the asteroid and Kuiper belts. After her death, a historic artifact discovered on Luna sets Eunice’s grandchildren off on a journey through the solar system in search of answers that could affect the destiny of humanity. Reynolds, former scientist at the ESA, presents a believable vision for a future forged in space.

I keep an eye open for semi-pro works that rise above that level, and are worth noting.  Mother Moon, by Bob Goddard, doesn’t set the planet ablaze with style or characters or action… but it does relate a story you can care about, with some interesting ideas. About 250 scientists and engineers at an international lunar base use advanced, late-21st Century tech to exploit buried ice at the moon’s south pole, when word comes that a comet is streaking toward the Earth.  They must at-minimum race to become self-sufficient, since it might take a long time for Earth to recover launch capability. In an interesting device, Goddard alternates scenes set in 1504 aboard a sailing ship whose hometown is being persecuted by an inquisition.  All becomes clear.

With her novella, Murder in the Generative Kitchen, new author Meg Pontecorvo cooks up and dishes out for you not one, not two, but three original sci fi premises. Enjoy and digest them well.


A fun book for Young Adult readers: Mad Science Institute, by Sechin Tower, offers up a teenage girl genius who loves inventing robots and electronic devices. But Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck’s science projects have a way of going awry, setting off frequent explosions and the occasional fire. When she is admitted into the secretive Mechanical Science Institute (founded by Nikola Tesla), she uncovers a conspiracy of evildoers who want to subvert the institute’s science advances for nefarious purposes. Sophia teams up with her older cousin, Dean, to unravel these mysteries and prevent an imminent doomsday. For more YA, see my extensive list of suggested SF books for young adult readers. 

Teachers and parents! See a Science Fiction anthology for middle grade readers. Bring the stars to a new generation with diversity, representation & great stories!  SFWA has named the 2017 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide  anthology as a STAR project.  A followup to the successful 2016 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide.

Great news.  At long last, the audiobook for my second short story collection, Otherness, is now available at Audible.com - including The Giving Plague, Dr. Pak's Preschool, Detritus Affected, and more..... I worked pretty closely with the reader, veteran Hollywood actor Stephen Mendel and I can tell you, this is what you want for your commute, or those long sessions at the gym! Why not make your commute interstellar and your strides take you across fate and time?

== SF Announcements ==

The Raw Science Film Festival is open for submission! The festival honors films on science and technology worldwide. The film festival partners are Explore MarsSpace Tourism Society Canada, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Categories include fiction and non-fiction for both students and professionals. Cash prizes are awarded. Animations and infographics are welcomed. The film screening and awards ceremony takes place on Saturday, December 10, 2016 on the Fox Studios lot inside the historic Zanuck Theater. The deadline for film festival submission is November 9, 2016. Raw Science Film Festival proudly accepts entries via FilmFreeway.com, the world’s best online submission platform. FilmFreeway offers free HD online screeners, unlimited video storage, digital press kits, and more.  

The 2017 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop will be held June 25 - August 5, 2017 on the campus of UC San Diego, in partnership with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. 2017 Clarion instructors will be Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Andrea Hairston, C.C. Finlay, & Rae Carson. 

See bios at the Clarion site. Established in 1968, the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction. The list of distinguished Clarion alumni includes Ed Bryant, Octavia Butler, Bob Crais, Cory Doctorow, George Alec Effinger, Nalo Hopkinson, James Patrick Kelly, Vonda McIntyre, Kim Stanley Robinson, Martha Soukup, Kelly Link, Bruce Sterling, and many others. 

85 comments:

Robert said...

I've a quick question. If you had an Earth-sized moon orbiting a gas giant like Saturn (I say Saturn because its magnetic field is much less massive than Jupiter's, even if it extends out a good distance) close enough so its orbital period was 24 hours, it would likely be tidally locked with one side facing the gas giant.

However, would the tidal lock result in the largest land mass (continent) being closest to the gas giant? Or would the side that faces the gas giant be ocean? (I also wonder how the magnetic fields of the gas giant and the planet-sized moon would interact. Though that's more of a side thought.)

I could see water being drawn toward the gas giant as part of tidal forces (with the star the gas giant orbits being a lesser source of tides). But I could also see volcanism and the like being more likely toward the gas giant side, resulting in continents on that side.

Just some idle curiosity. I've not been able to find anything online that quite answers my speculation, thus my turning to a more intellectual community.

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Robert,
I may be wrong here, not being a planetary geologist, but I would think the distribution of continents in such a case would depend a lot on when the satellite became tidally locked. If it became tidally locked while the surface was still liquid, then the gravity of the jovian would affect the shape of the surface, but if the surface cooled down before the orbit became locked, then the gravity of the jovian would only affect those components that remained liquid or gaseous (atmosphere, oceans, perhaps subterranean liquids). That would be my guess, anyway.

Paul SB said...

A.F. Rey (from the last thread),

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I had read a bit about bisexual behavior among dolphins, but hadn't seen anything on exclusively homosexual behavior. You might interpret this as militating against what I wrote about human brain structure, but then, you could also interpret this as a suggestion that some other animals may have evolved a similar system of brain architecture. As I understand it, dolphin brains are oddly shaped, but the actual structures are very similar in terms of both function and placement.

The article spoke of dolphin "bachelor groups" but I didn't see anything about homo- or bisexuality among females. Do you know if this has been observed (I'm asking for a friend! ;] )?

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I think the "Once a thing is seen, it can't be un-seen" line predates our aardvark buddy. I have heard it said to be an old English proverb, which likely means that nobody knows when or where it really originated.

As far as religion goes, I wasn't really going to go into any theological detail. I lost my patience for that a long time ago. I was mostly interested in making the observation that religions behave much like any other human social groups. Donzelion wrote:

"There are many admirable and enduring ideas within 'Christianity' (and all monotheistic faiths), but few of those ideas seem to have penetrated into modern exponents of the faith."

and there were a couple thoughts there I wanted to respond to. One is that if you judge today by the people you actually know, versus the past based on what was written about it, you are likely to get a somewhat distorted picture. In an ancient civ class we learned about the transition from polytheism in the Roman Empire to the adoption of Christianity as the official state religion, and one thing that happened early on was that a whole lot of people converted once they knew the Emperor had. Most of these converts were not very genuine, and swarms of them was part of what drove the earliest monastic orders. So it seems to me that Sturgeon's Law applies as much to religion as it does to literature, the arts, or whatever.

Another thing is that Christians seem quite obsessed with warning about the evils of polytheism, when there just aren't a whole lot of polytheists left in the world. When was the last time someone knocked on your door peddling "The Golden Ass"? Hinduism is the only really polytheistic world religion left, and all the Hindus I know emphasize that all their gods are really just different incarnations of one god (Brahma). But if you look at polytheism sociologically, it is actually quite interesting, and in some ways more compatible with democratic ideals. In times and places where there were many gods, if you were unhappy with one, you could pray and make sacrifice to a different one. Zeus pisses you off? Join the cult of Apollo! Or Athena, or Artemis! It provides more social/political flexibility than having one big, angry god who commands all. This should make it obvious why polytheism hasn't really lasted. Monotheism is much too politically useful to dictators, as Emperor Constantine the Great surmised. But even in monotheism we have retained some vestiges of those older, polytheistic times. The Trinity is an obvious one, as are all the cults of saints, the Virgin Mary and so forth.

I have to pick up my daughter from school, but I'll be back later, I'm sure.

Jumper said...

God is a symbolic silverback primate we pretend about so we can be free of real ones.

LarryHart said...

Watching the first 10 minutes of the VP debate.

Pence keeps going on about how badly the economy is doing so badly under Obama and since 2009, and that Hillary wants to continue those "disaterous" policies. Why can't Kaine or any Democratic operative drive home the point that the policies of the Republican congress is what hobbles the recovery, and that those disastrous policies are the ones Trump and Pence want to continue.

Is that really so hard?

Robert said...

I would think any planetary (and I consider moons to be planetary) body would have to have a solid crust at least before it could become tidally locked. The distribution of water is of course an important question, as is the planetary atmosphere (and for that matter the type of sun this gas giant/moon system orbited) - for instance, the gas giant would need to be in a closer orbit to a K-class star (orange dwarf) or M-class star (red dwarf) compared to F- and O-class (yellow-white and white stars) in order for water to remain liquid - even allowing for tidal heating.

A large moon (Mars-sized or larger) would likely disrupt any rings, however, so you'd probably not have a ring system like with Saturn.

It is the presence of enough water for a planetary ocean that throws confusion into the mix. Would continents be uplifted facing the gas giant? Or would water be drawn tidally there with continents ringing a central ocean?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

No scientific credentials here, but applying common sense...if the continents have solidified, would they be moved at all by tidal forces? I can see how oceans might be drawn toward the planet-facing side, but wouldn't the water simply rise (or fall on the opposite side) against the existing continents. I don't see how or why the continents would move to make way for oceans.

Then again, continents aren't completely solidly anchored, but do slide along the planet's crust. So there's that to contend with.

Tony Fisk said...

@Robert: I don't think there would be any tendency to lock on a continental side. A couple of added points to consider:
1. the crustal elements are an insignificant part of the overall Earth's composition (thinner than an eggshell comparatively)
2. 'land tides' are a thing (we just don't notice them wrt sea tides)
3. continents are relatively light compared with what they're floating on.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "I’ll be co-keynoting IBM’s big World of Watson convention in Las Vegas, October 26."

On area worth looking into is ROSS, a project that was the runner up in the 'what should we use Watson for" contest, that essentially creates an AI 'legal researcher' (and sets the path toward 'robo-lawyers'). Why is that relevant? Between 75-90% of the claims handled by courts in America feature one or both claimants (plaintiff or defendant) unrepresented. The vast majority of the country cannot afford lawyers. The vast majority of lawyers cannot work for $20/hr to serve these people. There is nowhere close to enough money to cover these people: UNLESS an AI steps forth to be their champion, they will be taken advantage of by wealthy, powerful institutionalized interests.

I do not think anyone has thought of AI that way. Lawyers are certainly terrified of that notion (especially the lousy mill-shop lawyers, who are about the best that most people can afford). But in terms of justice, this is a movement that makes things possible for people in serious need who are otherwise falling through the cracks.

And nobody thinks of AI as the "people's champion." Except...well, maybe you. Sometimes. ;-)

Paul SB said...

Rob,

We are talking about two gravity fields, that of the satellite itself, and that of the jovian it orbits. Another factor would have to be how quickly that magma cools, which depends on a couple factors (at least). A terrestrial satellite the size of Mars would cool down a lot faster than one the size of Earth, which is exactly why Mars shows very little evidence of tectonic activity today. But faster than Earth might still be a couple billion years, during which the gravity of the jovian could cause some uplift, maybe enough to create enough bulge to make any surface liquid to flow to the other side of the planet. There's also the question of the density of the mantle material itself. A lighter, more felsic composition would be affected more than a magic, iron/magnesium composition. However, it is just as likely that vulcanism would produce a bulge in some completely random spot (like Olympus Mons). So either scenario you describe seems plausible, but vulcanism could trump both quite easily.

But like I said, I’m not really an expert here. I suspect that either our host or my other brother Paul (451) will know more than I do. I teach 9th grade earth & space science, which demands more of a background in education than in astronomy or geology.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"Why can't Kaine or any Democratic operative drive home the point that the policies of the Republican congress is what hobbles the recovery, and that those disastrous policies are the ones Trump and Pence want to continue.

Is that really so hard?"

Could they be that incompetent, are they deliberately trying to throw the race, or could it be that they are just infected with some rigidly locked mindset that makes them always focus on the same thing and miss the obvious?

donzelion said...

Robert / Paul SB: I would think there'd be too many variables to answer the question directly. Assuming an Earth-sized planet that formed 'just like Earth' (but as a moon around a Jovian), assuming no other satellites crashed into Earth (difficult assumption, as the Jovian's gravity well should attract a large number of other bodies), assuming plate tectonics operated 'just like they do now' (but with the new gravity well in place), assuming core heat identical to what Earth has...all those assumptions, I'd guess that it's quite plausible that all the continents would migrate toward the side facing the Jovian, simply since continental crust is lighter than oceanic crust and 'floats' a little higher. But gosh, there's so many assumptions that I suspect even a planetary geologist would hesitate to offer a conclusive answer.

The astronomy course I last took (5-8 years ago, care of The Teaching Company) argued that "no other body in the solar system experiences plate tectonics" - but I believe that is no longer consensus. So this is an area that is probably subject to a lot of debate and study among geologists, and not subject to certainty in the models.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

God is a symbolic silverback primate we pretend about so we can be free of real ones.
- We make gods in our own image, right? No surprise that a petty dictator would invent a god that is just like him, one who gives supernatural justification for his petty, bullying ways. And of course, a dictator only wants there to be one god, the god that supports the dictator.

With polytheism you can pick a different god. How about Athena, Goddess of Wisdom? In the Judgement of Paris thing she may have stomped off in a huff when Paris chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful (in her callipygian aspect maybe?), but Athena didn't exact some horrible revenge, unlike Artemis. Plus she has that cute pet owl! I would be tempted by callipygian Aphrodite, too, except that I would expect her to be petty and vicious if she ever got bored with you, and I imagine I would bore her pretty quickly. Athena is more an egghead goddess.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "There are many admirable and enduring ideas within 'Christianity' (and all monotheistic faiths), but few of those ideas seem to have penetrated into modern exponents of the faith."

I'm guilty of the cliched notion that all belief systems that endure have some degree of 'truth' that is worth considering. In a Sci-Fi forum, religious persons are all-too-easily treated with disdain (just like Plato). The attorney in me wants to leap to (almost) everyone's defense.

I wouldn't judge ancient Christians against modern Christians (indeed, Peter and Paul had some really tough judgments about other Christians from the very beginning - so disputes and falling short is hardly novel). But Christianity is truly an odd outlier among the monotheistic sects: both Judaism and Islam have comprehensive legal and political instruction; Christianity lacks such principles (until Constantine, and until Eastern Christians turned to the Greeks for guidance on political theory - creating a novel twist on Plato/Aristotle). "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" doesn't really tell Caesar himself what to do (it does suggest someone who evades taxes is disobeying).

"Christians seem quite obsessed with warning about the evils of polytheism"
I think they've adjusted the critique somewhat, and displace 'Zeus et. al.' with Mammon/Greed (Pluto), Aphrodite/Lust, Bacchus/Sodomy-Debauchery, etc. Worshiping a 'Golden Calf' might refer to the 'gold' itself, to fertility rites associated with paganism (rather than traditional views of marriage), or any number of other meanings.

"But if you look at polytheism sociologically, it is actually quite interesting, and in some ways more compatible with democratic ideals."
I have never studied Indian polytheism, though I have taken some courses on the Greeks (and strongly endorse Elizabeth Vandiver's offerings at the Teaching Company). Polytheism lasted for millennia - so I'd offer the deference that "there's something intriguing and important there" to polytheism that I would to Christianity, Plato, and Aristotle.

"Monotheism is much too politically useful to dictators, as Emperor Constantine the Great surmised."
Yet we've had longer history of polytheistic tyrants than we have had of monotheistic tyrants (the latter, a scarce two thousand years, in the seven thousand years of history), and over much of the breadth of the Earth (depending on whether one defines Buddhists as 'polytheists,' 'monotheists,' or 'atheists' - each of which could be applied to specific incarnations, none of which is really helpful in understanding Buddhism). Monotheism rejects the elevation of the dictator into godhood (a la Gilgamesh/Caesar/Pharoah): as a mere mortal, the dictator is subject to God's judgment (and that of the religious authorities - though they will usually align with that side which best advances their own agenda - including the balance between local feudal authorities and distant central authorities).

Alfred Differ said...

A terra-sized moon in orbit around a Saturn sized world with a 1 day orbital period would be roughly where Mimas is right now. Tidal locking would probably be quick, but the process itself would keep the 'moon' quite warm inside and it takes quite a while for a world out size to cool off.

If we posit a moon that large, are we also supposed to assume it is a Terran world with high metal content too? If so, you also have to deal with radioactive decay heating the interior over a very long duration.

I would expect continents to form, but probably smaller ones like we used to have. After locking sets in, he motion in the mantle driving plate motion changes a great deal.

One thing to remember about the locking process, though, is that angular momentum is traded between rotation and revolution. If the 'moon' is slowed, it must also move out. There isn't a lot of room between the outer ring limit at Saturn and where Mimas is now, so that means the hypothetical moon has to start very close to the Roche limit or maybe inside. If one assumes it is metallic, maybe it holds together, but that just means there is more momentum to transfer.

As for tides, the rocks move much like the ocean does. For bodies that size, one should never assume they are rigid. They simply aren't until one considers degenerate matter.

Alfred Differ said...

I've known a couple of Protestants who argued the Catholics were polytheists. Does that count? Heh. Seriously, though, they sounded like they were making the 'No True Scotsman' argument, so I didn't take them seriously.

Regarding the adjusted critique, the one I'm most familiar with involves accusations of having faith in Science, Progress, or People. People who throw that at me are usually making a Commandment #1 statement about something I do they don't like. It doesn't happen often anymore, but the proponents have had a hard time accepting that faith is an identity structure to which one is loyal if one is faithful. We all have shared loyalties that can be in conflict at times. Commandment #1 establishes priority for them as far as I can tell.

As for the persistence of belief systems, I suspect that loyalty is rewarded... in this world. It would explain a lot.

Jumper said...

Why a one-day orbit?

Robert said...

Because if the moon in question is tidally locked, its day-and-night cycle is based off of its orbit around the gas giant. Of course, on the side facing the gas giant, night would still be fairly bright with reflected light from the gas giant, but there'd still be something of a night cycle.

For instance, if we ever got to the point technologically that we'd decided to migrate the Earth out to Jovian orbit as in a couple billion years our current orbit would likely be... unlivable even with solar shades, over time Jupiter would try to tidally lock the Earth. To keep a 24-hour day, you'd want to remain in an orbit where it takes 24 hours to orbit Jupiter and allow tidal locking to happen.

Several science fiction stories utilizing planets orbiting red stars have used the gas giant/moon system, such as Nemesis from Isaac Asimov. And for that matter, "Return of the Jedi" though that system probably wasn't thought out too well. ;)

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Between 75-90% of the claims handled by courts in America feature one or both claimants (plaintiff or defendant) unrepresented. The vast majority of the country cannot afford lawyers. The vast majority of lawyers cannot work for $20/hr to serve these people. There is nowhere close to enough money to cover these people: UNLESS an AI steps forth to be their champion, they will be taken advantage of by wealthy, powerful institutionalized interests.


Like Donald Trump's contractors, you mean? :)

But do robo-lawyers really have to be AI? Back in his 1953 novel "Player Piano", Kurt Vonnegut posited a future in which lawyers were replace by machines which did no more than take the facts of the case as input and spit out a judgement. I realize the real thing would have to be more complex, but does it rise to the level of artificial intelligence?

LarryHart said...

sorry, that was donzelion with the AI comment, only talking to Dr Brin.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" doesn't really tell Caesar himself what to do


I never thought of it this way before, but "Render unto Caesar" speaks to a sort of analogue of federalism. Some things fall under the jurisdiction of the secular government, and God doesn't interfere (or bother Himself) in such matters. Just as some things fall under the jurisdiction of state government in America, and the federal government (in theory) doesn't interfere in such matters.


(it does suggest someone who evades taxes is disobeying).


But "smart" about it. :)

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Could they [Democratic politicians] be that incompetent, are they deliberately trying to throw the race, or could it be that they are just infected with some rigidly locked mindset that makes them always focus on the same thing and miss the obvious?


Most viewers seem locked in the mindset that the direction of the country belongs to the president. So if you think it's been "disastrous", you don't want to continue with President Obama's agenda (as "Crooked Hillary" would), and you should elect Republicans instead for a new direction.

Ignoring the fact that the past several years have been "disastrous" to the extent that Republicans obstruct the president at every turn. Thus, sweeping them out for a Democratic majority would be changing direction, and electing Republicans is actually more of the same. No matter which side you actually agree with, the dynamic being asserted is ass-backwards.

I'm reminded of a practical joke I once heard tell of, in which you swap the controls on a couple's dual-temperature electric blanket. So when (presumably) she gets cold, she turns up the heat, which actually turns up his heat instead. So then he's hot and he turns down the heat, which makes her colder. Hilarity ensues! So much of recent American politics seems to be operating in just such a manner.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I've known a couple of Protestants who argued the Catholics were polytheists. Does that count? Heh. Seriously, though, they sounded like they were making the 'No True Scotsman' argument, so I didn't take them seriously.


In my college years (1970s-80s) the quad preachers said that. Sometimes, they seemed to mean that "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" was polytheistic, but they also seemed to mean that Catholics worship Mary and the Saints on a par with Jesus.

Anonymous said...

The so-called hoorow over the foreign interference in U.S. elections is most deeply and richly deserved; first, the needless complexity of technology is an easy target; far simpler would be paper ballots cast and counted by hand. But with Americans goo-goo for the needless complexity of technology and needlessly speedy results, well, expect hacked voting machines. Second, the U.S. has been quite busy over the last century or so with its manifest destiny to poke at bears with sticks and topple whomever isn't strong enough to resist such meddling (insert the very long list of victims of the American Empire here--and how is Hondouras doing, after the support offered there by Hillary in 2009, hmm?). Thus, there is by now hardly an empty set of foes who would love to see America hurt or weakened. The plea of the ever-blinkered optimist--"but but we're the good guys!" won't stop the hackers and won't heal the gunboat Iran-democracy-killing diplomacy.

plato's rant said...

I, Plato have done more for philosophy with my little pinky in one week than David Brin has done in his entire life. Dig it my one little story about a cave is more insightful and more important than all the writing that Brin has done in his entire life. I am the giant on who's shoulders all subsequent western philosophers stand.

(note* this rant may not be in the right place and should not be taken too seriously)

LarryHart said...

(credit Monty Python):

Mr Plato, I put it to you that you have been dead for over 2000 years.


That is correct.


Aha. He fell for my little trap.

Plato's rant said...

Yes it is true that I have been dead for thousands of years, but yet I still have pip squeaks biting at my ankles
Do they not know that that I am the UR philosopher, I might even say that all other philosophers are but a pale imitation of my ideal.

I think that they need to get back on their meds for even thinking about disagreeing with me.

Tim H. said...

Something to keep in mind about the current campaign is the sensibilities of wealthy donors must be catered to, or all of that money will go to your opponents. If Bernie had won the nomination the GOP attack ads would be intense, as a neo-Rooseveltian would be a suitable stand-in for Satan for some...

Alfred Differ said...

Heh.

Mr Plato needs to be reminded his world held about 100 million humans mostly living near the subsistence line. Ours supports 70x more with over 80% above the subsistence line. Obviously we are doing something right.

It’s not one pip squeak biting at your ankles. It is billions who aren’t starving under an idiotic, aristocratic rhetoric.

Plato's rant said...


BAH
Did you ever convince Socrates that he was wrong and needed to change how he thought? No of course you never did, But I did!

Did you teach Aristotle how to think? No you didn’t, you microscopic nit, But I did!

When you pathetic little winners are credited with laying the foundations of science and philosophy you can come up to my level and we will talk.

Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. “
Did he ever say that about your work? NO never!

And let me tell you that I did it all without computers, the internet or even libraries.
Try and top that!

Robert said...

Okay. Humanity walked on the surface of the Moon.

We have left the boundaries of this Earth and tread upon the surface of another. And we returned from there safely.

Nothing you ever did will ever compare to that.

Nothing.

Rob H.

plato's rant said...

Hrmmm
Let us think about that for a second or two, Could humanity go to the moon without science? No I don’t think so.

And who is credited with laying the foundations for science? Me

You want to take credit for the olive oil that comes from the tree I planted.

You modern people seem to have a bit of difficulty thinking logically.

Robert said...

Do you honestly think that humanity would not have learned science without Plato?

Then you are a fool.

There have been many wise and innovative men throughout the ages. Chinese philosophers were laying foundations for the scientific method without ever knowing that a man named Plato existed.

Many others likewise had innovations and moments of brilliance without ever needing what Plato "brought" the Western world.

Humanity would have walked on the Moon if Plato had never existed at all.

Thus Plato? Is less than nothing. He is but a meme that people trot out in a vain effort to claim others are lesser people.

Run along now. You have had your fun. But you are but a shadow, that brings nothing.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Dear Plato,

Your's are broad shoulders upon whom we stand. We thank you!

That does not mean you get to take credit for everything that happened in the last 2500 years.

Plato's rant said...

Sigh
The fact that you think an imaginary counterfactual trumps the actual contributions I have made shows me that shallow and illogical thought patterns are as common today as they were in my day.

LarryHart said...

Plato's rant:

You modern people seem to have a bit of difficulty thinking logically.


Let's see what happens in November. If we elect Donald Trump, you will have been proven correct.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Between 75-90% of the claims handled by courts in America feature one or both claimants (plaintiff or defendant) unrepresented."

If Trump was singling out targets to cheat, he'd logically prefer poor people who couldn't afford a lawyer to fight back. Statistically, for each claim actually brought against him, there are dozens of viable claims that were not brought but might have been if only the claimant could afford counsel. Since 3000+ claims have been brought, there may well be 30-45k claims that might have been brought if the unpaid contractor or employee could afford to take on a billionaire.

Consider what that means: if oligarchs pose a threat to a 'diamond-shaped' society, then the solution to that threat may only become viable if AI's step in to overcome the legal advantage that the wealthy already enjoy.

"But do robo-lawyers really have to be AI?"
I was proposing something for Dr. Brin's consideration about Dr. Watson specifically, because it's happening in the here-and-now. It's an angle that is seldom considered: how does one "do" justice given the fact that most people (with less than $50,000 in savings) cannot afford counsel?

The shift to a "robo-judge" (a la Player Piano) would require a reconsideration of what justice actually is. Thinking about AI as 'judge/jury/executioner' plays into widespread anxiety about AI and it's potential to "take over the world."

A lot of jurisdictions try to compel lawyers to operate as "Robin Hood" (charge and work for most clients, but offer occasional pro bono assistance to some poor clients, effectively taking time from the rich to give to the poor) - but 'Robin Hood' only succeeds if the entire system is corrupt beyond redemption. It's not working, and can never work (and the advocates of the 'pro bono' model KNOW that it will never work, which is why they endorse it, and fight against technology encroaching into the field).

But the shift to a "lawyer-bot" assumes that the institutions we have are "mostly good" but have serious gaps. Those gaps are better filled by using existing tools to meet the needs than by summoning forth mythological legends (Robin Hood, Atticus Finch) and trying to shape existing humans to fill those roles for the "non-wealthy."

Jonathan Sills said...

It could be argued that Platonic philosophy, and its concern with heavenly "ideals" that the "real" world is only poor shadows of, actually held back the adaptation of the scientific thought process by which all our accomplishments in the world have been made.

I submit to you, Plato, that in addition to having been dead for millennia, you were also exactly the wrong sort of influence on Greece, and on subsequent civilizations.

occam's comic said...

Ha
Maybe Plato's Rant should change their name to Plato's Trump.

Kind of braggadocious and rude (but amusing)

Tony Fisk said...

Aristotleans take note: Plato's gasbagging again!

donzelion said...

Jonathan: "It could be argued that Platonic philosophy, and its concern with heavenly "ideals" that the "real" world is only poor shadows of, actually held back the adaptation of the scientific thought process"

Precisely that has been argued, both here and in many other forums. But the desire to separate an 'ideal' from an 'expression' of that ideal is not so far from science itself: we cannot be satisfied with mere impressions, but must understand mechanisms behind those impressions.

Aristotle could be satisfied with a theory of movement that held "a quality of fallingness" drives masses to "seek their place" (and thus, the heavier the object, the more quickly it falls to the ground). Plato was not a systemic thinker, but if he had been, he would have challenged that: "OK, Aristotle, but look here, this big rock and this small rock both fall at the same speed, so that model cannot be accepted: something else is working upon these rocks, something we cannot see that applies force to them, and which force is probably more important than any specific rock itself."

And he'd have been right to make that assertion. Some unseen force really is at work on the rocks...actually, several unseen forces.

"I submit to you, Plato...you were also exactly the wrong sort of influence on Greece, and on subsequent civilizations."
But-for Plato's demand that the models be 'perfect' - we might well have accepted the Ptolemaic model for how the universe operates indefinitely. But Plato's approach fixates upon the evidence that breaks the predictive model: either the model is 'perfect' (and complete), or it is flawed and must be rejected and replaced with something else. Until it is perfect, we must keep working on the task of perfecting it.

What held back science was not Plato, but the dogmatic exponents of Plato, abusing his methodology to use it not for the purpose of driving further inquiry, but to abuse those who offered approaches to asking important questions (AHEM Mr. "rants").

Plato not ranting said...

Johnathan
One of the big things Socrates and I discussed is inferiority of writing compared to discussion as a means of learning.

The written word can not be argued with, you can not have open ended questions and answers with the written word. You can't convince a text that it is wrong, and worse than that you can't be sure that you aren't misunderstanding the text.

I learned from a great master and taught an amazing student, those are the great accomplishments of my life.

Alfred Differ said...

Pffft!

The foundation of science was laid down by other Greeks who expressed an insatiable need to challenge what is known to be true leaving us changing year after year what we consider to be true. Mr Plato did more harm to that rhetoric than he knows and through is students, steered science into a mire from which it took us centuries to extract ourselves.

But it was his attitude about giants that did the most harm. We like to think our great thinkers stand on tall shoulders, but the evidence shows it is more like they stand upon bridges composed of ants. Science is more of a follower than a leader. It is the engineering ants who led the way to the Moon without realizing they led us there.

But it was his attitude about giants making social choices that did us the most harm. The evidence shows his giants are as fallible as the rest of us, thus groups following few decision makers can fail as a whole. That they fail at most often, though, is the detection of opportunity. One mind cannot spot everything useful that millions can see and act upon, but few will bother to record what got missed in our history.

donzelion said...

Plato (not ranting): congratulations on the name upgrade! Rants are despicable. Call me a hypocrite (as I do it frequently), but they cut off debate rather than contributing to it.

"Reading" is indeed worse than dialogue, IF AND ONLY IF the "reader" passively engages the material and strives to memorize it, or escape into it, rather than to apply and use it.

When a reader takes a written work as a reference for additional work (as some writers intend, and some readers opt to do), then a true dialogue occurs. One need not 'argue' with the written text, any more than one 'argues' with the words that have been spoken and remembered: one argues with the views (and at least in a written text, those views are not subject to memory's lapses). It is writing that makes it possible for one to engage in dialogue with the dead, because parts of their ideas live on. But more importantly, it is writing that makes it possible for the living to contribute ideas to other ideas, at least, ideas more complex than applause or deprecation.

donzelion said...

Alfred: Plato's challenges to "what is known to be true" were more far-reaching than just about any other Greek thinker. We must push past facile assumptions, and continuously strive - and once we strive far enough to realize that we don't know what we're talking about, we must relinquish our assumptions and return to respectful curiosity.

"Mr Plato did more harm to that rhetoric than he knows and through is students, steered science into a mire from which it took us centuries to extract ourselves."

Plato (through Socrates) critiqued people who 'knew the truth' and demonstrated their erroneous beliefs. The "cave" is not an assertion of "truth" but a model for thinking about how flawed our beliefs are, how unreliable, and how much work we have to do.

"But it was his attitude about giants making social choices that did us the most harm."
Ah, but a Platonic 'giant' asks gigantic questions: he does not offer answers as such. The 'wise' err. The 'crowd' errs. Since both are prone to error, neither can be relied upon to guide us to truth. Plato, literally, urges us to follow no one, and spend our time in contemplation as we try to reach truth, including both personal contemplation and social contemplation.

Aristotle, on the other hand, offers us dogmatic truth, in all it's comforting certainty. You are blaming Plato for Aristotle, where the one believed himself to be 'defeating' the arguments of the other, as though one idea 'killed' another idea (rather than contributing and changing each other through their interaction). This is why Aristotle eschewed 'dialogue' as a form: why bother asking questions, if one knows the answers and the other side is an idiot with nothing to offer? Plato, by contrast, believed every other person has immense things to offer (even if sometimes it takes a bit of skill to reach down into the intellect other people have and pull out treasures buried within).

Duncan Cairncross said...

Anonymous is an idiot
But from the mouths of idiots come the occasional pearls of wisdom

"far simpler would be paper ballots cast and counted by hand"

Yes - totally YES - simpler and much much more reliable

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"OK, Aristotle, but look here, this big rock and this small rock both fall at the same speed, so that model cannot be accepted: something else is working upon these rocks


In a vaccum, yes. But in the atmosphere, a big rock does fall faster than a small rock. A feather falls even slower. A helium baloon "falls" up.

Sure, we know what causes that now, but "heavy objects fall faster" wasn't a bad assumption with limited data.

(BTW, there's a James Blish story that starts off with the "historical" statement that gravity was discovered in 2018, having been postulated for millennia before).

Treebeard said...

Weird Tales huh? That's a nice site. I happen to be a huge fan of the genre, but I'm surprised our Enlightenment ideologist would like it, since the whole idea of the weird tale/horror genres is to poke into the dark, irrational places that the “light” of reason has not and maybe cannot reach. I wonder who will be better remembered in a century or two, H. P. Lovecraft or H. G. Wells?

Socrates? Plato? Good lord what tedious bores. I'm with Philip K. Dick that the pre-Socratics had a better handle on the nature of reality (or lack thereof), and it's been all downhill for Western philosophy for the past 2500 years.

To me there are two kinds of people: mystics and rationalists. The rationalist lives in a world of language and logical abstractions, and likes a society governed by many laws and complex ideology, whereas the mystic lives in a world of intuition and inner experience, and likes a simpler type of society ruled by things like kindred honor and an unwritten collective spirit. The former tend to dominate discourse and governments (like our lawyer friend donzelion here), being so verbose and good at ensaring others in their webs of words and abstractions. But periodically a powerful mystic comes along who promises to simplify things, cut through the webs of abstractions and bring a more visceral type of regime. The spielmeisters who dominate the propaganda apparatus vilify these types with vast torrents of words (“next Hitler” being a current favorite), but the mystics just shrug them off and soldier on. Which of course brings us back to the being toward which all events converge: Donald Trump, the great mystic Zen master “crazy wisdom” guru of our time.

LarryHart said...

@Treebeard,

For someone who dislikes words and abstractions, you sure use a lot of them. Just sayin'

donzelion said...

Duncan: "But from the mouths of idiots come the occasional pearls of wisdom" - "far simpler would be paper ballots cast and counted by hand" - Yes - totally YES - simpler and much much more reliable"

NOT AT ALL. No seriously, you couldn't possibly be more incorrect in that belief. Having helped operate an election in a city that's seen more than its share of corruption, a hand-count is easily the most unreliable, easily defrauded mechanism of voting and vote counting ever (close runner up: physical lever-driven devices). It's no accident that entire computer systems were constructed to rein in the corruption that plagued elections. HOWEVER, it's much harder to detect the fraud when it's isolated in a hand-count mechanism, which is why it persists so much (and attempts to rein it in are far more cumbersome than anyone who hasn't sat through the fights can understand).

Paul SB said...

Our new Platonist at least gets some points for creativity. How often do you wander into an on-line forum to find yourself conversing with the spirit of some figure from history? But the joke is getting old. If he wants to keep up the play acting (and he is getting the arrogance down well) he is going to need to put a little more work into it.

As far as the Plato vs. Aristotle thing goes, I won’t get too far into it except to say that Alfred was right about some earlier Greeks, like Thales, Aristarchus & Democritus, deserving some credit here. And as Robert pointed out, we can find deep-thinking people with worthy contributions in cultures all over the world. There’s no good reason to put Greeks or Romans (the aboriginal white folk) on a higher pedestal than others, except that few in the West know the names and contributions of the likes of Acharya Hemachandra or Wang Yangming.

And Donzelion, writing is far more important for the dialogue it creates with yourself. Writing allows us to silence the many voices inside and focus on just one, which allows us to clarify our thoughts. Samuel Johnson once said that he never wished to read the writing of a man who has written more than he has read, a sentiment I agree with. In a similar fashion, a person who talks frequently but rarely writes is someone I have little desire to converse with. They do not really even know what they think for the cacophony between their ears.

Paul SB said...

Treebeard, in a really oversimplified way, there is a certain truth to what you say here. Humans have both elements built right into their brain architecture. No one is really all one or all the other. In some ways they are like two sides of the same coin, and it is a mistake to elevate either rover the other. What you have here is a false dichotomy, and you have chosen one side and straw-manned the other. One side is all about feeling and motivation, the other about the ways to get what those feelings desire. Both are abject failures on their own. It’s the same false duality we saw in the Vulcans of Star Trek, and in that Ancient Greek ideal of logic as the tamer of emotion. I can understand that when it seems like the pendulum has swung too far one way, the natural tendency is to overcompensate by swinging too far the other way. But that is as self-destructive as the previous swing. If you want to see things get better, calling for the primitive shaman who understood feelings and knew how to fool people is just trading one set of problems for another. And honestly, do you really see most people around you as emotionless, without any spirit? I see far too many people who react with a knee-jerk, then blame the government when they break their toes.

If you really think Dr. Brin is a blind rationalist with no spiritual side, you haven’t been reading him very carefully. If I had time I could pull out some good passages from the book I finished recently, but since I have it on CD in my car I can’t exactly thumb through and find juicy quotes.

As far as your assessment of the Donald, you, sir, have been completely duped by an obvious con-man. I know some people who would love to partner with you on a real estate venture, something about a bridge. When you overdo one side of a normal human personality to the exclusion of another, you fall into a kind of groupthink that makes you an easy mark for those who know the buzzwords and can say them with some convincing charisma.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

Where you wrote:

""Monotheism is much too politically useful to dictators, as Emperor Constantine the Great surmised."
Yet we've had longer history of polytheistic tyrants than we have had of monotheistic tyrants (the latter, a scarce two thousand years, in the seven thousand years of history), and over much of the breadth of the Earth"

I thought of what I wrote some months ago about seeing history as a trajectory, like a statistician, rather than as precedent, like a lawyer (sorry!). What you are seeing here is cultural evolution. Early empires were conglomerations of many different social groups, each of which would have develop their own traditions of supernatural beings. Early civilizations probably had no way of conceiving what seems so obvious to us today, that all these gods can't be real. The idea simply wasn't in the meme stream, at least until Akhenaten's attempted coup. Old Kingdom Egypt had half a dozen different creation myths (including one in which the world was a result of divine masturbation) and didn't seem to be bothered by the contradictions. But once you started getting people saying not that my gods are better than your gods, but that my gods are real and yours are just made up, you opened the door to divinity reduction. Monotheism is just a step along that trajectory, and empires or nations that adopted monotheism to justify their power began to replace those that did not. Too politically useful, but the idea had to originate in some specific place and at some specific time. It's just like a mutation. Sure, life existed entirely in the oceans for 2 billion years. Why didn't anyone just crawl out of the water before the Devonian Era? Because the mutations that made it possible hadn't happened yet. Monotheism is a mutant form of theism, and the mutation has thrived in an environment full of dictators. Now the environment has changed, there are more democracies than dictatorships, and theism is a vestigial trait that may do more harm than good in the new environment.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

I looked at both the Neo video and your one on the Idiot Plot. The Neo one looks like it could be really cool, if they don't blast the music so loud it makes the narration hard to hear.

NB: Verbosity Alert! This post is going to be kind of long and centers around an anecdote people may or may not find interesting. If you’re busy and looking for something else here, skip this one or save it for later. I like to tell stories because they often make points more effective than simply stating an opinion succinctly, but I do know I have a tendency to drone on and on sometimes.

Something you said in the other video reminded me of my experiences as a role-player ages ago, or at least a few years B.C. (before children). RPGs tend to be modeled after movies, and to a lesser extent books, so having a lot of action seems to be a major part of the picture. You mentioned in the video that dystopian sci-fi tends to try to produce large body counts very quickly.

Of course the reason for the massive death is to generate indignation and a sense that there are clear-cut heroes to root for and villains to despise. Pretty cardboard, of course, but I have always found that as a strategy for telling a story, too much death starts to lose its power. After the initial shock wears off, piling up the dead just makes people less moved by it. Did you ever see a rather silly movie called “Clue”? It was based on the board game and only really seemed to be an elaborate advertisement for it. By the end of the movie, as the bodies pile up, the surviving characters just shrug and look bored.

That friend who moved to Pennsylvania actually lived in the apartment under mine when I was in my junior year in college, and the guy would knock on my door almost every night because he was bored (as the Pet Shop Boys once sang – we were never being boring, so we were never feeling bored). He begged me to run a solo Star Trek campaign for him, regardless of how much homework I had. I agreed to do it, but my plan was to make it as frustrating as possible for him. So I had his character start out his first command, of the smallest ship in the fleet, a tiny patrol ship with a total crew of 4. To make it worse, since the guy was a major horn dog, I intended for the other three crew to all be gorgeous women, but all of them effectively untouchable. I decided to go with gay, since married people cheat often enough it would have been little deterrent. He tried anyway, but never got anywhere.

Paul SB said...

Cont.
The campaign centered around trying to discover and foil plans by an Andorian separatist group who thought they could instigate a war between the UFP & the Klingons, during which they would convince “their people” to secede from the Federation and regain their former glory. Later we decided to bring in more players, as the plot got more involved and it started to stretch credibility that this one tiny ship would happen to keep bumping into these terrorists. At one point the little boat pulled into the shuttle bay of a large frigate, where the separatists were trying to incite the Andorian crew to mutiny. When the it was becoming clear that the plot had been foiled, the ringleaders tried to escape by stealing that little ship, holding the helmsman & navigator at gunpoint. The players were all down in aux con as this was happening, so they didn’t know until the frigate was rocked by a powerful explosion. One of the players got the scanners going and detected a small debris field just outside the frigate’s shuttle bay. That gorgeous helmsman who had been frustrating my friend for so long had prevented the ringleaders from escaping by detonating a torpedo inside their little ship.

Up to this point they had seen a few small-scale terror attacks, and had managed to kill a couple of the bad guys, but none of the major players had died, the body count was small. When the players checked that scanner and put two and two together, I watched as their eyes went round, brows attempted to blast into orbit and their faces drained of blood. It was just a game, but they turned all pasty with shock and horror, the reaction so visceral for them it shocked me, the one who had planned it all. I never saw an action movie get that kind of a reaction from any of my fellow hominids, ever. If a writer or cinematographer wants death to play a role in a story, keeping it rare makes it so much more powerful than bombarding the moral sentiments of the audience with sheer volume.

I thought you did this very well in Glory Season. There was action, adventure, mortal danger, and a few deaths, but when characters died it was effective for the reader because there was never a blood bath.

Paul SB said...

Cont. some more...
There was a second reason I thought of this anecdote, which was mainly for Donzelion in the discussion of religion, though it applies to other realms of human life. When we started this game, it was just me and one other person, and I noticed very quickly that the guy behaved very differently than when we were together with a larger group (gaming or otherwise). In a larger group, it was very much about competition and constantly comparing each to the other. Bluster was more the norm. But when it was just the two of us, the quality of the conversation went way up. He was both logical and personable, able to talk about deep inner feelings, hopes and fears, real soul-affirming stuff. As soon as more people joined the game, that started to dwindle away. I even had his Andorian engineer comment on that at one point. Terry Pratchett once wrote that the IQ of a crowd is equal to the IQ of its dumbest member divided by the size of the crowd (IQ crowd = IQ min/n – Pratchett’s Law). You see this operating in human endeavors everywhere. Competition for status turns people into small-minded, petty fools the more people they are surrounded by. This is true whether it’s a club, a congregation, a party, a family or some sodality. There are those who rise above that tendency, those who retreat from it, but most take it as natural and ever get perverse pleasure from it.

To quote the Douglas Adams character I most often resemble: Life! Don’t talk to me about life! You can loathe it, you can tolerate it, but you can’t enjoy it!

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "In a similar fashion, a person who talks frequently but rarely writes is someone I have little desire to converse with."

Indeed, but we ought to meet at some point, seeing as how we're practically neighbors. I would not expect such a thing to impede writing. ;-)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
In this you are completely wrong most of the rest of the world uses paper ballots and we don't find any irregularities when we do the odd re-count
And some countries have an automatic audit re-count of random precincts

When I watch the US election returns I am simply amazed at the levels of crap you put up with
We normally end up with single digits of "unusable ballots" - you guys throw out thousands upon thousands of ballots

Paper - simple to use - surely even the Americans can do it!

Alfred Differ said...

Donzelion: Plato's challenges to "what is known to be true" were more far-reaching than just about any other Greek thinker.

Heh. True enough. I'm guilty of judging a past figure using modern standards, but that is part of the fun of this rant. Relative to his contemporaries, he was a big improvement. Relative to today's thinkers, he is a big step backward in many ways. He can be forgiven, I suppose, for the fact that he's been dead almost 2400 years. The world moved onward.

Giant ideas are important, but some of his turned out to be crap. Ideals? Really? Philosopher Kings? Seriously? Such men are supposed to avoid dogma how? A number of his ideas enabled a rhetoric that entrapped those who followed him upon a social engineering path. About 80 million dead in the last century alone. That number is disturbingly close the number of people alive in his day. It should give pause to his modern followers.

If it was Aristotle ranting, I'd have even more to say, but I'm mostly having fun. Except for Treebeard's confusion thinking all Enlightenment thinkers believed in the triumph of reason (not so the Scots), this reminds me of sports trash talk. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: Trump as a Zen master? Har! What he is good at is promoting his brand. He's QUITE good at it. I don't think he would understand “No Water, No Moon”, though.

Your mystic is selling you something many of us won't buy.


Regarding our host, if you read him a bit more carefully, you'll see him pitch the idea that rational thought is for the daytime while our irrational/romantic natures are for the darkness of night. Reason has its place, but cannot be expected completely to push aside our older nature. We've done some tremendous things through reason, but we wouldn't be human if we obliterated all using it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: Paper - simple to use - surely even the Americans can do it!

You live in a nice, civilized part of the world, but Donzelion's version is more accurate for the darker corners of our civilization.

...we don't find any irregularities...

Selection effect? In a nice part of the world, it would be unlikely. In the dark places, you betchya.

No doubt we will all wind up using some kind of block chain algorithm some day in order to rely on the notion that most of us don't want to cheat in order to catch those who try. Untraceable paper needs to go the way of the dodo.

Laurence said...

A wonderful resource: Download or flip through archived issues of Weird Tales, dating back to the 1930s and 40s. And much more if you follow the embedded links ... and much, MUCH more if you follow the sidebar links at this site. You'll find older, but classic stories from Lovecraft, Bradbury, Hamilton, Sturgeon and others, along with those fantastic, evocative covers

Not heard your take on Lovecraft, I wouldn't have had you down as a fan. Personally I can't get enough of all things eldrich, and am planing on writing an eco-theamed tribute to At the Mountains of Madness, just as soon as Iim finished dong the same with E.M Forster's The Machine Stops.

donzelion said...

Duncan: Ah, if you'll permit, I'll modify my statement to be, "paper ballots are the WORST sort of ballot system in America." Other countries have a number of advantages we don't which overcome the inherent problems.

If we had a nation-wide electoral system that verified identity, registry, party membership, address of residency, mortality (we do have some zombie voters), language, etc., it would make things easier. If we didn't have a primary/general election system (let alone special elections, run-offs, and others), that would also make things easier. And living in a smaller country (or permitting/forcing rural dwellers to take a day off from work to come to the polls) - that too would help. Better still, if we didn't have racists looking to bar individuals from casting votes for people they didn't like, that too would make things easier.

But even though you're right that most other countries use paper ballots (or a hybrid computerized/paper system), America has never had contested elections that resulted in violence as a result of disputes over the results - unlike Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, South Africa, Turkey, Iran...and many other countries.

"When I watch the US election returns I am simply amazed at the levels of crap you put up with...We normally end up with single digits of "unusable ballots" - you guys throw out thousands upon thousands of ballots"
Me too. But paper ballots are not the solution to the problem here.

donzelion said...

And I am re-reading what I just wrote - "America has never had contested elections that resulted in violence as a result of disputes over the results" - and thinking my prose is a result of one too many a shot too many of scotch. ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

Our Civil War doesn't count as such a dispute?

Heh. Maybe you mean something a tad smaller. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Yes. I was thinking of certain Ionians who washed ashore in such an inhospitable place that they produced a very mutant rhetoric. Insatiable SOA is the result with live with today, but it also gave us the Moon and one day might spread our civilization off this rock.

Plato gets too much credit and not enough criticism.

Jumper said...

Often a wheel-reinventor will propose a different voting system but, oops, forgets the secret ballot proviso. We have a history of needing that. It complicates verified voting but does not prevent it.

Jumper said...

The Republicans stormed a recount location and shut down the recount.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

One thing to be said about Plato, Aristotle and certain Ionians, is that none of them would have had a lot of influence if it had not been the policy of the Christian Church to defer to their ancient writings in any matters that were not directly addressed by the Bible. Ancient Greek city-states were much more competitive than the huge, monolithic entity that ran most of Western Civilization between the Late Roman Empire and the Protestant Reformation. They established that dominance, not the Greeks themselves, which makes the Church at least as responsible for the retardation of science and progress as Plato's Ideals themselves (a notion that meshes well Christian doctrine). The Age of Reason didn't happen until a couple centuries after the hegemony of a single church had been broken (unintentionally) by Martin Luther. If a person had thoughts that would get them tortured, raped and executed by the Holy Inquisition, there were countries they could go to where they were less likely to be brutalized for thinking outside the box (or the cell, depending).

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

We have already established a location, so we just need to choose a time. Weekends are generally best, though this weekend not so much, as I am grading notebooks and preparing a presentation for Monday.

Just leave the bucket o' scotch at home. ;]

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

When and where? Am I forgetting something important? I don't recall hearing of such a blatant violation.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

One side is all about feeling and motivation, the other about the ways to get what those feelings desire. Both are abject failures on their own. It’s the same false duality we saw in the Vulcans of Star Trek,


Even more so in that TOS episode where Kirk was split into two beings. We, the audience saw one as "good Kirk" and one as "bad Kirk", but by the end of the episode, both realized that they needed to be whole in order to function.

Treebeard, no doubt, admires bad Kirk, full stop.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

If you really think Dr. Brin is a blind rationalist with no spiritual side, you haven’t been reading him very carefully. If I had time I could pull out some good passages from the book I finished recently, but since I have it on CD in my car I can’t exactly thumb through and find juicy quotes.


Interesting take on the "writing vs talking" dichotomy. Which category does a book on CD fall into?

LarryHart said...

Uh-oh.

From today's www.electoral-vote.com:

For the first time in many weeks, Hillary Clinton's lead in a national poll is in double digits again. In a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, Clinton is at 50% and Donald Trump is at 40%. In the four-way version. Clinton takes 45%, Donald Trump is at 36%, Gary Johnson is at 11%, and Jill Stein is at 3%.


Hillary ahead by 10%? That means the news media will have to close the gap again to make it a nail-biting horse race. Watch for Trump to kill in Sunday's debate.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Early civilizations probably had no way of conceiving what seems so obvious to us today, that all these gods can't be real. The idea simply wasn't in the meme stream,


An analogue of what you describe can be seen in our love of fiction. We can enjoy, and even be edified by, a variety of different media, different genres, different styles. Now, imagine trying to force the story elements of the Uplift Trilogy, "1984", "Casablanca", "Star Trek: Wrath of Khan", the Foundation trilogy, among others, to all fit into the same narrative, where elements of one piece "prove" that elements of another piece don't make sense, or couldn't have happened.

Robert said...

@Paul SB: Amusingly enough I've found the opposite was true. The smaller the group, the more difficult it was to get roleplaying and interactions going. When my tabletop group got two more players, the players started interacting more and creating a dynamic that let me work more effectively. Likewise with my Skype game (and I must admit it would be fascinating seeing how some of you guys would interact in a Skype- and Roll20-based RPG) when we had three players, things worked out better than with just two. (Then we gained a fourth, lost the lone tabletop member of the Skype game, and gained another fourth, and things worked out well.)

One difference is of course that the group is more cooperative so really the only "disruptions" are from roleplaying with one player running a drunkard womanizing wizard-blacksmith who has a story for every occasion - amusingly, the other three players are female and his character doesn't hit on their characters. ^^)

It may be the predominantly female presence of that group however, as three of the four players are women.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

No doubt we will all wind up using some kind of block chain algorithm some day in order to rely on the notion that most of us don't want to cheat in order to catch those who try.


Aren't we in the US reaching a tipping point where perhaps more do want to cheat than don't?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Our Civil War doesn't count as such a dispute?


Heh. But the Civil War was more about not liking the outcome of the vote than about disputing the integrity of the election result itself.

Robert said...

On another small tangent, Paul mentioned about the effective use of death in his game. I must concur on that as my old tabletop group were able to wipe out most threats without losing any characters in return. When one NPC left the group due to the actions of another player's character, I crafted a new NPC wizard-priest... and after several games realized I'd created the character to compete with one of the players. Rather than have him leave, I chose to kill the NPC and created a random encounter specifically to kill said NPC. Starting with a Disintegrate against the NPC... and the group suddenly being attacked by dark elves.

It was the first time I ever saw that group retreat from a fight. They'd killed over a dozen dark elves (mostly cannon fodder) but I knew the group was winning. And they fled. Because they didn't know how many foes they were facing, their summons had been wiped out quickly and effectively, and they'd lost that NPC first thing.

It was that last thing that was the kicker. They had a death in the group. Even though it was an NPC, they'd roleplayed with that character and liked him. (And he was the group cleric so....) One death, well-placed, can be extremely effective. Think Gandalf in the Fellowship, or Boromir in Two Towers. You got to know those characters. And they weren't bit parts! Now? Anyone could die.

That you don't see deaths after that point doesn't matter. It is still a sword dangling over the heads of the other characters. It doesn't work with just random characters, mind you... though it might be cruel to start with a character death, then have the first part of the book be a flashback and build that character to be truly nice and enjoyable with the reader knowing what is going to happen. ;)

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

"...and I must admit it would be fascinating seeing how some of you guys would interact in a Skype- and Roll20-based RPG.."

This is clearly the most insidious and dangerous idea I have come across this week. It's a contender for the Bad Idea of the Year Award too!

Tacitus

I mean, would we all be our keyboard selves in the Mines of Moria?

Robert said...

And you would most definitely be needed in the group, Tacitus. ;)

Rob H.

Jacob said...

Regarding Voting...

Hi. I've taken classes on elections, worked on them as an Election Inspector, and thought long and hard about how to improve things. While it is a fallacy to appeal to authority, I do think it is useful to establish that this isn't off the cuff.

The main concerns regarding elections are generally...
Are Votes Cast and Counted as intended?
Is Voting accessible enough so that Voters can participate without allowing non-Voters (non-people, foreign, or unauthorized) to vote?
Are people using bribery/coercion to force or prevent specific Votes?
Is there any retaliating against people for the way they vote?

There are tensions such as those between Transparency and Privacy at all aspects of trying to accomplish/avoid the above concerns. The Secret Ballot is very effective at handling the later two, but hinder the first two. It is no surprise that we adopted it in our chaotic & troubled past. I'd have supported it then. Now however, I think it is time to work a bit smarter.

As a Transparency advocate, I want us to work on ensuring that votes are Cast and Counted as intended. Something we currently fail at. I can say with absolutely certainty that our current system is not secure. When I worked elections security was established by having 1 member of both primary parties escorting votes to the county seat where they are tallied. This is based on declared affiliation. If I or others in a similar position had simply lied about my party, a conspiracy of two could have changed apparent outcomes. Electronic Voting machine manipulation would be an easier way to malign the vote on a grand scale. The problem here is that none of us can ensure that our vote as counted as we intended it to be.

This is all due to the Secret Ballot which we have for a good reason. So lets talk about those goals and how to accomplish them in the modern era. Please consider the following four bad actors. The Employer who will fire someone for voting the wrong way. The Spouse that will beat someone for not submitting. The Super Pac that will pay swing state voters to win elections. The Foreign Government with almost Omnipotent Hacking ability. There are many other types, but this should do for our discussion. Our goal is to prevent them from changing votes. Please now adopt their mindset in order to manipulate the system I purpose.

Once & on Request, we provide voters with a personal Online ID & Password.
Voting can take place at any time once the Election Board establishes candidates and current Results are Available at all times.
Internet Voting closes 1 week before the actual Election. Be sure to check your vote on someone else's phone or a library computer during this week.
Voting in Person Overrides your Internet Vote.

Those are the basics of what a Voter needs to know. Now lets examine the bad actors and how to circumvent them. That the Secret Ballot still exists as it does today where you can vote in person.

- Employer enforced voting. (Hand over your ID/Password or be fired.) Simply do so and report the business to the Elections Board. Vote in Person and override however the business votes. This type of thing is illegal and not worth the risk considering how ineffective it is. Early voting would still be happening so trying to lock down just 1 day wouldn't work.

- The Abusive Spouse. (Physical, Emotional, or Abandonment Abuse.) Hand over the information or Vote to their wishes. Override the Vote in person.

- The PAC with money. (Bribery.) Accept the Bribe, or better yet hold out for a better one. Report them to the Elections Board for prosecution. Vote in Person to override their Vote.

Jacob said...

continued...

- The Foreign Power/Group (Big Hacking.) This is the real danger to move to Internet based voting. There are a TON of ways to muck up most systems. In order to address these, the biggest by phase is the Transparency included in the system. You can SEE how your ID has voted at all times. Rather set up some system which you also have to determine is trustworthy, lets just let you Verify your own Vote as often as you like. You simply can't do better than that. Be sure to check on someone else's device too. A Big Hacker could capture your device such that you try to Vote A, Hacker Votes B for you, You query your ID, Hacker reports A back. It isn't effectively possible for a program to detect you querying ID's Vote on an unrelated device and Report A without Actually change the Vote to A which was your original intent. Internet Voting Closes a Week early to lock all votes in so they can't be changed after you've checked them.

To be extremely brief on the Security of the government Servers themselves. Here is the layout. Internet -> Vote Verification and Writer PC -> Vote Database PC -> Vote Reader PC -> Internet. I assume Big Hacking owns any PC it can talk to. Period. The Vote Verification and Writer PC & The Vote Reader PC are connected to the Internet and therefore own-able by big Hackers. The solution for this is to make both PCs almost completely Read Only. Just flat out remove the Write Heads from the logic parts of the computer. Keep them only in the channels that handle Votes. I don't want to get too deep in this part of the technical side as I think it distracts from the overall picture. If however, you agree with the other parts we can get into it.

Jacob said...

Yeah going to move this to the next thread.