Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Challenges and Changes

Setting aside detailed politics, for now... but not the underlying issue...

Now that intellect and curiosity are threatened species in America, let's all nurture them wherever we can. One method: I often dip in to give brief answers to the curious on Quora. We’ve collected some of these queries - and my responses - on my secondary (Wordpress) blog. I explore questions like... “What has been the impact of science fiction books on readers?” and “Can you name a concept that is rarely explored in science fiction?” and ‘What are some science fiction novels with a memorable protagonist?
Others are trying to come up with answers. For example: the Breakthrough Prizes celebrate the bold accomplishments of scientists as if they are rock stars… and with generous Silicon Valley funding, plus Morgan Freeman presenting, they seem on track! (Though they've got a way to go, when it comes to red-carpet fashion allure, during the photo sessions.)

In this fascinating look at the last one thousand years, Ian Mortimer’s book Millennium: From Religion to Revolution: How Civilization Has Changed Over a Thousand Years offers big-idea perspective on how far we have come, especially by developing new tools as well as a vigorously open society. And science. He writes, "The most significant changes are experienced when society is forced to deviate from its entrenched patterns of behavior."  This review is worthwhile in its own right. Mortimer looks at the tremendous challenges we will face to survive the next millennium.  Or the next few years.

Case in point: see the giant new containment shell that the Ukraine is slowly sliding into place to cover the fast-decaying concrete “sarcophagus” protecting Eurasia from the poisons inside the Chernobyl reactor.


== Potential game changers ==

Researchers  have created a device that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and uses sunlight to break it into a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen called synthesis gas or “syngas,” that can be used directly or turned into diesel or other liquid fuels. Yeah. Saw this a couple of years ago. Note that this is not so much a plausible way to put a dent in atmospheric carbon. Fact is, the same solar energy, fed into the grid, would prevent CO2 emissions in the 1st place.

It is a potentially useful item, but more to provide fuels for outposts and military use. Also, this tech may be useful on Mars! Some call it an “artificial leaf,” using a special catalyst - tungsten diselenide - and sunlight.  We’ll see. But I rank it as a helpful game changer.

Here's another: A mild electric current combined with an antibiotic can kill multidrug-resistant bacteria by helping the antibiotic to cross protective biofilms. Zaps of electricity may also prove helpful in jumpstarting the blood clotting process to heal wounds.

Remember the Horta, in Star Trek:TOS? An alien creature whose biology was based on Silicon, which has a chemical bonding structure similar enough to carbon that science fiction writers have speculated for a century about alternate biologies.  Alas, there is no simple silicon molecule that merges well with a convenient liquid, like water, nor one that has carbon’s vast flexibility in bonding.

Still, rejoice, fans of diversity!  Researchers managed to coerce an extremophile bacterium to use an enzyme that could catalyze silicon–carbon bonding — if fed the right silicon-containing precursors.

Veering semi-randomly, but optimistically, access to mobile money was influential in lifting 2% of Kenyan households out of poverty -- particularly empowering female-headed families.

== Challenges on the weather front ==

This is the second year in a row that temperatures near the North Pole have risen to freakishly warm levels. During 2015’s final days, the temperature near the Pole spiked to the melting point… It’s about 20C [36 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean…  “It will be fascinating to see if the stratospheric polar vortex continues to be as weak as it is now, which favors a negative Arctic Oscillation and probably a cold mid/late winter to continue over central and eastern Asia and eastern North America.” Watch. Our neighbors who are waging war on science, and every other fact-profession, will shiver and proclaim that their misery proves that nothing is changing.

U.S. Energy independence - one of the Obama Administration's specatcular braggables - has come in the short term from vast new supplies of natural gas... but ultimately depends on the same thing that might save us from the worst ravages of climate change… new technologies for sustainable energy and efficiency and storage.  All of which were blocked, relentlessly but (thank God) ultimately futilely by certain political factions.  Still, we are going to need oil and gas for some time.  And the best transition is one in which America and the West are fully independent from sources in unstable and unfriendly parts of the world.

Well, unfriendly to our civilization and enlightenment, though not to the incoming administration.

In other words, the stunning hypocrisy of those who blocked sustainables, thus keeping us tied to the Persian Gulf ten years longer than we needed to be.  In sharp contrast, note that it was during President Obama’s tenure that we regained independence and gas prices plummeted. (The U.S. has produced more oil and natural gas than any other country every year since 2012.)

In any event, it is a good thing that now it seems that new oil and gas discoveries in Texas will make this bridge of independence secure.  

The even gooder thing?  U.S. Sets Staggering Record with 191% Growth in Solar Power Installations in 2016. In other words, twits, you have failed.  We smartypants will save the world for you, despite you.

==Though smart folks aren't always right ==

The other side, while far more sapient, still has its fetishes and complexes.  Like a prudish utter-refusal to consider a Plan B, to supplement, in case efficiency and sustainables prove insufficient, by themselves.

Of all the schemes to ameliorate climate change through “geo-engineering,” the one with the greatest mix of plausibility and controllability is Ocean Fertilization. Most attention has been applied to adding the key missing ingredient… powdered ironHow dumping iron in the oceans can help fight climate change.

But the concept should be viewed more generally. Essentially you are talking about adding a little land to fertilize water.

This is exactly parallel to humanity's ancient trick: adding water to dry land in irrigation.  With almost identical advantages and failure modes!

Think. When you irrigate a region by adding water from mountain sources to flatlands with poor drainage, you are creating a recipe for long term disaster. Salts build up and you make a desert. On the other hand, when you add water to land and there’s good drainage? Well, there are places on Earth where irrigation has been practiced for thousands of years, without much harm. Drainage is key.

As for the reverse? Adding land to water? Well, minerals washed out to sea by weathering are precisely the way our planet maintains her “Gaia Balance” against the CO2 released by volcanoes and living ecosystems. That and upwelling currents that stir up ocean-bottom sediments. Both fertilize the 20% or so of the oceans that are filled with life. (The rest, that don't get nutrients, are vast ocean "deserts.") It's the same deal. “Adding land to sea.”

We are already doing this, big time, with agricultural runoff, and when this effluent spills into bodies of water with poor circulation – the Caribbean, Mediterranean and especially the Black Sea – then eutrophication and de-oxygenization can spread death, as when you irrigate a region with poor drainage, ashore. But when nutrients are added to fast and broad ocean currents – as happens at upwelling zones off Chile, South Africa and the Grand Banks, the result is a fecund burst of life, a vibrant food chain. And, incidentally, some carbon removal from the atmosphere. The magnitude of the latter is under dispute, but even if it is zero, isn’t the experiment worth trying?  If only to get more fish?

Not according to zealous purists, who fear that any form of geo-engineering, no matter how inherently controllable or plausible, is anathema – even the bottom stirrers I described in Earth, that merely boost what nature already does. Why oppose even small scale experiments? Pure prudishness, Because the activists assume that any such efforts might reduce our passion to save the world by reducing carbon use.

Such contempt. See The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the enemies of science by Will Storr.  Such zero sum thinking. The liberal-smartypants-progressive wing does contain some unreasoning, reflexively sanctimonious cretins, and these helped to propel Trumpist reaction.

Just let's be clear. One side contains some preachy flakes.  The other consists... but I was going to put that aside. For today. 

 == Fascinating lagniappes! ==

This sparrow acts like it has four sexes. Because a chromosome flip created a second set of “sex” chromosomes, beyond the XY pair. One individual in this species can only mate with one-quarter of the population. There are very few sexual systems with more than two sexes.”  No other species was known to have one set of fully operational sex chromosomes and another pair that subdivided the species again on another aspect of mate choice. 

Researchers managed to remove most of the C-14 from graphite blocks storing radioactive waste, and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds.  The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free.  Though current and voltage levels are low, this is a perfect source for science fictional scales of time. Because C-14 has such a long half life, the researchers estimate a diamond battery would still generate 50 percent of its capacity after 5,730 years.  Wowzer!

Oh, a final Brin-note. The 3rd issue of the i4is journal Axiom from the Institute for Interstellar Studies is now out and it features “an exclusive article by the world-renown science fiction writer David Brin about artificial intelligence: "How Might Artificial Intelligence Come About: Different Approaches and their Implications for Life in the Universe." You can order the issue here.  

117 comments:

Robert said...

Actually, Dr. Brin, wouldn't the radioactive diamonds be the perfect power source for use in remote sensors used in science? Even if the system wouldn't power this, then if you include a capacitor to slowly build up a charge, then you could have a system where when sufficient charge builds, the sensor lights up, records and transmits data, and then goes back into hibernation mode.

This may also work in deep space.

Also, alloys of three metals have been shown to be more effective at resisting radiation damage, meaning these materials could be used for better radiation shielding both for containment of radioactive waste, and for satellites and probes in space.

Rob H.

Catfish N. Cod said...

(1) On the question of the syngas gadget: not only is it a godsend for Martian colonization... would it not become useful on Earth in the event of a glut of solar power? This is a quite long term extrapolation -- latter half of the 21st century -- but if China and/or the US get as far as solar power satellites, the possibility exists that excess capacity could be devoted to direct climate mitigation rather than being swapped for fossil fuel use, closing the carbon cycle rather than extracting new atoms. It may or may not be useful but every arrow in the quiver has value.

(2) The MDR-zap concept is even more interesting, even as I note it has limited in vivo applications; nervous and cardiac systems tend to be sensitive to electric shock. I suppose this could be used as a decontamination protocol.

(3) A friend in the oil and gas industry insists that Obama was a hindrance to their industry and should get no credit for the fracking boom. I get that the R&D was done prior and that the carbon barons never love environmental rules, but seriously, no love for lifting the export ban?

(4) Despite that, the solar industry is now large and profitable enough that yanking the rug out from under them is unlikely to delay matters more than a year or two -- that is, unless active measures are taken to destroy that industry. I have come to expect that only a fraction of the population ever appreciate the Sons of Martha.

matthew said...

Robert, thanks for the great link on the solid solutions of Ni-Fe, etc. That's exciting stuff. I've spent a lot of my career working on alloys with similar makeups and I read the original article with a lot of interest.

Here's the full, original article if anyone wants to go digging.
http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms13564

Paul Shen-Brown said...

A return to the previous thread, if that's okay...

‪TCB‪ said...‬
Paul SB, holy hell, this is good stuff! Thank you!‬

TCB,

I’m just glad somebody finds my babbling interesting. I wish it were Congress, as they are likely the only ones who could do anything about it in the short run, but I have gotten the impression that counting on government to govern these days is a wasted dream. Change the memescape, and eventually the government will follow the people, but it’s a painfully long process.

What I said to Slim Moldie about learning how to operate your brain goes for all of us. For me it was a real revelation. I rarely get really mad at kids now I understand what is behind their behavior, and I apply the same ideas to adults. Few of them have much of a clue what is guiding their own hands.

I was thrilled a week ago when I found out that Robert Sapolsky is coming out with a new book next year, and one that has the look of a magnum opus. It’s slated to come out in May.

“Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1594205078/ref=pe_2313360_219591110_em_lm

Zepp Jamieson said...

Iceland is leading in the realm of CO2 sequesterisation, with a project called Carbfis (http://phys.org/news/2016-06-climate-mitigation-co2.html ). Recently it was reported that the conversion to CO2 to stable solid was occurring at a rate 10,000 times faster than even the initial optimistic reports seen at this link. If it's scalable and catches on (the solid can be used as a fuel) then it could make a significant dent in CO2 atmospheric concentrations.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: My wife is currently taking classes to get the special ed credential for mod to severe students. I'm going to relay your anthropology observation story regarding kids and oxytocin deprivation and ask if she is being trained to observe anything like that.

...but I have gotten the impression that counting on government to govern these days is a wasted dream

As I tell my wife when she says things like this...

We will make a libertarian of you yet. 8)

To be technically correct, though, I should say classical liberal instead. Modern US liberals place a higher expectation on government than the classical liberals do. Basically, the people should lead and the government should follow if we want them doing what we do at all.

Alfred Differ said...

When it comes to giving Obama credit or not, I like to test people who don't want to give him any credit for anything by asking them if they'll give him credit for mostly staying out of the way. When Al Gore says he invented the internet, it was this kind of action he supported. He got the feds out of the way. People can laugh all they want at the way he said it, but I'll give credit to anyone who gets regulation out of the way of a Good Thing.

Alfred Differ said...

I tried Quora for a while, but I'll admit I got tired of answering questions coming from people who sincerely had no clue and needed a decent education before asking for answers that were going to fly over their heads.

For example, I lost count of the number of people asking if they should double major in college. After answering a couple of them with things to ponder I settled on a belief that I should have said 'mu' to all of them.

I was tempted to answer some other questions with 'What is the difference between a duck?' because the first question was equally odd.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Your last line reminds me of why I switched from majoring in history in college to anthropology. One of my best history professors, after going on and on all year about all the "great men" who moved history, made this interesting admission: "You know, the kings and priests and generals are always at least 20 years behind the people."

My reply was: "Then we're studying the wrong people. The leaders aren't changing the world, they're holding us back! If you want to know what makes societies do what they do, you need to study the people." Guess what anthropology does?

And no, I will go to my grave (and likely an early one, given the stress of my job) not willing to self-label in any other way than as me. I find exceptions in everything, complications everywhere, and disdain the bumper-sticker sloganeering of any movement you care to name. Maybe that's a symptom of being OCD, or ASD or maybe I'm just a weirdo. But I take my reality whole, unfiltered, with all the burned crunchy bits (BCB's). Thunder and does all the way.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

"Your last line" refers to your first post, which was your only post when I started typing, but by the time I finished there were two more in between.

So were your Quora people smarter than a duck? (รก la Rowan Atkinson)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: The great thing about the 'classical liberal' label is that it speaks more about what you aren't than what you are. I won't try to convince you to use it, though. You aren't one... yet. 8)

I don't know about 20 years behind, but through most of our history I could accept an argument that they were the least likely to adapt to innovations that led away from authoritarian leadership. The peasantry is guilty of its own inclination to avoid innovation, but I suspect that was due to being all too familiar with the correlation between error and famine. Authoritarians were troublesome, but they could be tolerated if they didn't demand too much. It was the odd clade in the middle that risked toppling institutions. Study them and we see the forces that move history in the last four or five centuries, but not really before that.

Alfred Differ said...

... and I can type faster than a duck. No two finger pecking for me. 8)



Here is an example after a quick peek at Quora again.

"Is it true that particle constantly appear and disappear in the void?"

The question sounds meaningful, but to someone who knows QED it isn't. The trouble is with the word 'true'. It as if they asked what the color of the number seven is. The philosopher within me wants to quibble that we can't know such things and that the theory models fundamental forces that way. If I say that, though, many translate that as a 'No' answer. The actual answer is 'mu.'

Paul SB said...

"The question sounds meaningful, but to someone who knows QED it isn't. "
- In other words, the kind of things that people have heard of, but so fundamentally misunderstand that their question cannot be answered without going into the kind of depth you get out of several college-level classes. Some things can't be answered quickly and simply, they need time to stew between the ears.

Peasants tend to be too much in survival mode to have a big part in huge changes, but burghers have more opportunity to talk, read and think, and some will inevitably tinker, tweak and downright experiment. Think about the big events that happened in the timeframe of four to five hundred years ago. You had the coming together of New and Old worlds, which helped to shake up people's ethnocentric complacency, and the Reformation, which broke up the mental stranglehold of a single worldview (for the Caucasian world, anyway). I never thought it was coincidental that the one followed the other within a century (1492-1575).

Twominds said...

@Catfish 3:35 PM
On the question of the syngas gadget: not only is it a godsend for Martian colonization... would it not become useful on Earth in the event of a glut of solar power?

Syngas, and any other useable form of electricity-to-storage are already useful. We do have solar and wind power gluts now and again. Every time when electricity production exceeds consumption there's a glut. In Germany this happens now and again. Then, power is sold sometimes for negative prices, just to try to keep input and output balanced, or there's danger of blackouts and damage to equipment.
In Germany, and I thought in some US states too, there's a rule that wind and solar power have preference on the net, even when it's not useful. To encourage building more of it, but it's not well thought out.
So, storage of power on a very large scale is necessary if we want to produce the lion's share of electricity with renewable sources. Personally, I'd like to see a much greater percentage of nuclear power in that mix. Put solar and wind farms in places where they're most effective, instead of trying to cram them in everywhere there may be a measly megawatt to win, and use nuclear for the rest.

raito said...

Paul SB,

Re; Great Men. In Japanese history, the big guy for a long time was George Sansom, who definitely subscribed to that theory. So much so that he effectively said that they were so great that they acted without regard to current conditions. This led to the Conference on Japan in 1973 which resulted in Japan in the Muromachi Age, which showed that these great men definitely did know current conditions, and acted accordingly.

I've also found that the more recent World Turned Upside Down, which addresses the history of the samurai class is about as anti-great men as you can get.

Just an example.

Alfred Differ,

I've seen similar troubles with most of those sorts of answer sites. Stackoverflow is a bit better, but only because they're willing to close questions as redundant or malformed. I don't see many trolls, though, which means that the questions are probably be asked by people who want to know. Which is a good sign.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

To be technically correct, though, I should say classical liberal instead. Modern US liberals place a higher expectation on government than the classical liberals do. Basically, the people should lead and the government should follow if we want them doing what we do at all.


In theory, democratic government should be an administrative function. "We need a road, so how do we fund/build/maintain such a road?" That sort of thing. The idea that government is the force which tells us how to live our lives (whether liberal or conservative) and enforces conformity to that vision on the populace--that sounds more like authoritarianism to me. Unfortunately, we in the USA seem to have been viewing government in that manner for some time now. It's not just Trump. It's been going on at least since Michael Dukakis was slammed in the 1988 election for being "just an administrator". I used to think that's what a president should be. But these days, the president has to be a celebrity first and foremost. Every president since 1980 has been such, with the possible exception of Poppy Bush.

When I was in my twenties, I thought "libertarian" sounded more like what I was than Democrat or Republican or conservative or liberal. To me, libertarianism meant that the coercive power of government should be reserved for the most necessary cases, and that authority should leave people alone whenever people on their own are not creating a crisis in the fabric of society. I became disenchanted with capital-L Libertarians when it became clear (to me) that they took the philosophy to the extreme--that government should never be allowed to restrict individual behavior. Which says to me, in the real world, that the strongest and most ruthless of individuals are allowed to impose their will on others instead. They seem willing to trade one authoritarianism for another. If we're going to fight and die to throw off the yoke of big government, I'd prefer to see a different endgame from that one.

Anonymous said...

Uncritical as ever; the unregulated craze to stick the biosphere for oil

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/12/16/watch-the-insanity-of-american-school-drop-off/

leads to overproduction and consequent price crashes, which in turn makes it complicated for oil companies to a) stay solvent b) make necessary capital investiments c) try to find what limited, expensive, and hard to get reserves remain. Precisely the limits, drawbacks, diminishing returns that an ever-blinkered optimist flees from like that 'do not want' dog. And if solar (and the collapse back to the marketplace failure that is the electric car) is all that, then why is going gonzo for NG even necessary? "All of the above" sounds merely like business as usual on what the Iroqui call your death path.

Geoengineering, yet again? What could possibly go wrong? That's right! Nothing! Sign up today and we'll include the DerpMaster 3000, free!--one so not totally blinkered may notice that humans have, among other things, bred virus resistant rabbits (whoops!) or are quite good at leaning on all the wrong levers biospherical. More important, who will pay for the lobbing aquatic? Hmm--politics. How's that working out for you? When the halls of power consists of Republicans...and are some strapping young lads going to row the bespoke iron out to sea, or will this be yet another resource-to-spigot flow of your fully armed and operational death path?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin's other blog:

Of course, Asimov’s Foundation novels are critical reading for any science fiction fan. And yet, I was critical of Isaac’s decision to try to include all of his fiction in a single SF universe. It seemed self-indulgent and too restraining. It meant he had to reconcile two incompatible facts: that humans invent intelligent robots in the early 21st century… and 25,000 years later, a hyperdrive-using galactic empire of 25 million worlds does not know of robots.


Agreed. It's not so much that the facts of the two series can't be reconciled as that they weren't meant to be. They're about very different frameworks and writing styles. I'm a fan of comics, and for several decades now, Marvel and DC comics have been all about defining one huge universe in which all of their characters co-exist. I find that the story emphasis on reconciliation is more tedious than entertaining or enlightening. It gives the stories all of the fun and excitement of a history class. I felt that the later Foundation/Robot stories suffered from this same problem.



He did it, though. He came up with reasons and those reasons drove stories. And I tied together all of his loose ends in my ultimate concluding book Foundation’s Triumph.


He did, and you did, probably as well as was possible. But in my humble opinion, the exercise was not worth doing in the first place. I enjoy the older stories, both the Robot ones and the Foundation ones, for what they were back then, and don't personally feel any need to explain a sweep of history that fits both together and thereby (necessarily) diminishes both series. While it is possible (and has been done successfully) to write novels in which Sherlock Holmes and Dracula co-exist, but that doesn't mean the original Holmes stories or Dracula novel should be read as if they always co-existed in story space.

I'm not saying I didn't read or enjoy the later Robot/Foundation stories for what they were. But mentally, they form a separate series. To me, the post-1983 stories are not so much sequels as re-imaginings. Metaphorically, they're NuTrek to the older stories' TOS.

You yourself once hinted that you have something in mind for reconciling the universes of "Existence" with the Uplift novels. Personally, I don't see how that can (or should) be done considering the quite different "first contact" scenarios in the two. But if you do proceed on such a course, I would strongly recommend you let the story unfold as a story rather than writing essentially a history text, or (as in NuTrek) re-writing old stories with the circumstances altered. Just my two cents, anyway.

David Brin said...

Relax LArryHart. One learns from the mistakes of giants and I feel no temptation to universalize and/or fetishistically connect. It was an awful self-indulgence for Asimov and Lucas. I'll invent my own.

raito have you seen Bergamini’s controversial “Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy”? Makes a strong case that the royal family was always in charge and never stopped.

Anonymous loves to rail and rant. But in fact we’ve seen that past small scale ocean fertilization experiments had one trait above all. They dissipated and stopped, within weeks or months. That means that experimenting, to find out what actually happens, scientifically, is not especially dangerous. If so, then why not proceed with some tests, if only for curiosity? You are not a logical person.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin: the cogent arguments against initiating geoengineering (ignoring Precautionary Principle extremists that would dither in the face of extinction, and climate change deniers who think we are all liars) have to do with the scalability of the experiments.

Which is a fair point. Further experiments need to be on a staircase of size, and coordinated with local and global oceanographers, climatologists, meteorologists, marine wildlife experts, &c. Prudence is a virtue.

Let me relate one anecdote that captures the problem of climate communication well. I saw one gentlemen who mocked Gore for predicting the icecap to vanish by 2014... then asserted blandly that the planet was in a cooling phase.

Neither claim is correct, of course. The icecap is melting, but not that fast. This is the core problem: hysteria and hype, and a tendency by many activists to exaggerate for effect, discredits the whole movement and effectively aids denier propaganda. But Miami Beach *is* flooding and the Greenland farms are emerging from the ice. The polar bears are becoming desperate and cruise ships are plying the Northwest Passage.

The popularity of opposing climate science, beyond straight-up anti-intellectualism, rests on one primary support: the belief that it will impoverish the ordinary American. I tend to see very little effort made on pushback for that notion. Efforts to support "green jobs" and the like are seen as being likely to help someone else. So the problem continues.

However! I do not believe the efforts of the Veridian Project were in vain. The elites who have no incentive to believe otherwise, now think climate change is real. So do nearly every person in an educated environment, which definitely includes the military, intelligence, and civil service, not just in America but globally. Practicalities may slow mitigation and response, but not even here can we stay willfully blind. Assuming democracy and open society are not destroyed.... we will respond.

The likelihood that geoengineering will be required grows every year. It will grow faster under Trump. But it was always likely. Remember: environmental projections made in 1900 for the year 2000 predicted that New York would be drowning in horse dung. Projections are only as valid as their assumptions. We can innovate our way out of this too.

That is, if we keep innovating at all.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

I haven't read it, though I'm acquainted with the theory. My usual period of study is pre-Edo. It does make a certain bit of sense, seeing as it talks about events after the Meiji Restoration when the Imperial house had their power back. Prior to the Edo (OK, prior to their last civil wars), the Japanese had been trading extensively, and always had designs on places like Korea.

I do occasionally think the Restoration may have erred in (effectively, then actually) abolishing the samurai. Japanese history shows that there was a certain amount of class mobility (indeed, that's possible the whole thesis of World Turned Upside Down). Had the current government kept the class, but relegated it to military officers and certain levels of civil officials, that might have made more sense. The samurai class made up nearly all of the above-village-level government during the Edo. At least the part that wasn't hereditarily from the imperial aristocracy (and by then, most of those families had samurai status, too, one way or another). It would have given people something to aspire to. Especially if the Japanese could have had something like Britain's Victorian Arthurian renaissance, whose point was likely to leverage an idealized feudal system (in which the oaths ran both ways [and conveniently leaving out the whole serf thing]). If they had, it would have likely concentrated on the legends of Yamato, Yoshitsune, and Benkei.

And if you've never read it, I highly recommend reading Richard Hamming's You and Your Research (transcript here: http://www.paulgraham.com/hamming.html). You often go on, sometimes at length, about the Greatest Generation. But often without specifics. Here are specifics. A mathematician, without particular interest in a particular field, becomes nearly the world's foremost expert on certain digital technologies. Why? Because it needed to be done, specifically in order to keep bright minds in the field. It's also worth looking up his later lectures at the Naval Postgraduate School. It shows that part of his motivations were social -- he apparently hated the social lost of angry, frustrated analog engineers left behind by digital technology as much as he hated the technological loss of their brain power. And it was the second time he'd seen it! (first time was relay ladder logic supplanted by analog computing)

Berial said...

@Catfish N. Cod said.:
"That is, if we keep innovating at all."

Seems the Trump cabinet has ideas about the government's role in research:
Appropriation Negation

CLAIM: Representative Mick Mulvaney, who was recently selected as the Trump administration's nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, one posed the question “Do we really need government-funded research at all?” on Facebook.

Findings: TRUE

CP said...

I heartily agree that we should conduct small scale experiments in ocean fertilization. Expanding our tool set and finding out what can and can't be done under various circumstances is almost always useful.

And, I think it's quite likely to yield valuable tools for boosting food stocks, perhaps offering a way to utilize marine resources that's "half way in between" exploitation of the commons and intensive aquaculture.

However, I think it's unlikely to yield a useful solution to the carbon dioxide issue and probably shouldn't be oversold for that purpose.

To remove carbon dioxide in a meaningful way it has to be put in very long term storage. Increased surface productivity from fertilization keeps the carbon largely in short term cycles. Maintaining a higher standing crop near the surface could have some impact but it would probably be fairly limited. And, all that carbon (as biomass/critters) has to go "somewhere" as the population turns over. If it's harvested for human consumption, it's just transferred from short term marine to short term terrestrial cycling. If it sinks to the bottom it decays, exhausting limited deep-water oxygen supplies (that aren't readily replenished from the surface) and risking the creation of dead zones, hydrogen sulfide buildup, etc. Using bottom stirrers to avoid that scenario just injects the carbon back into the short term surface cycles (which might benefit food production as an alternative to adding more fertilizer but doesn't sequester it and takes energy to accomplish). If it's harvested and buried on land for long term sequestration that also takes extra energy...

So, by all means we should be experimenting. But, we should also keep expectations realistic.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Berial:

The charitable interpretation is that he thought the science was wrong, and had no idea that this meant the need for research was greater and not less. (I sure would like to know why the rates in Brazil and Colombia are different; it could lead to a way to stop the brain damage).

But the more troubling possibility is that he will extend that logic government-wide. In which case all hell will break loose. Does he have any idea how many cities' economies are powered by having a robust research community that fosters entrepreneurship? Just how it would tear the hearts out of dozens of local economies? The hundreds of thousands of people it would throw out of work?

I don't actually believe he could get government science destroyed. There are too many House members who know how much crap they would get; even those in safe seats would be primaried to death by outraged local bigwigs. The Freedom Caucus is already starting to show signs of being affected by reality.

Keep this in mind. For this Congress, any three Republican senators can block legislation or appointment. And Ryan can only afford to lose twenty-three members of the House.

And reality still looms. Addition and subtraction cannot be voted away. You cannot shrink the debt, cut taxes, maintain benefits, and spend on the military and infrastructure. At least one of those four priorities has to go.
(1) Not cutting taxes would infuriate both the donors and the base, and while Trump can claim he's not dependent on donors, Congress certainly is.
(2) Not maintaining benefits would be a quick trip to oblivion, and the smarter Congresscritters realize this.
(3) Not spending on the military would make them look weak and lose them support...

....so they will do what they've always done, and borrow it all. Guns and butter, the rich get richer, and the deficit explodes. Except this time you can't blame Democrats, though they'll still try to make up some BS about how Obama set up us the fiscal bomb. But it's the Republican illusion of fiscal prudence that has no chance to survive make your time.

The budget is Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid/VA, and defense; all else is a rounding error. Social Security could be fixed for decades by lifting the cap on contributions. Healthcare can only be fixed by stopping the explosion in healthcare costs, i.e., by the reform sections of Obamacare, which need to be carried over to any form of Trumpcare. And defense needs a complete rebuild of procurement. That, plus tax reform, is the only POSSIBLE fiscal plan; anything else, by any party, is posturing.

And the $70B+ on research is what keeps this country competitive. Cutting it would be slicing our own throat, and far too many people in this country know it. If they're foolish enough to try, the whirlwind will descend upon them.

David Brin said...

raito, CP, Catfish... you are all smokin'!

Robert said...

You are optimistic.

Republicans can and will gleefully gut Medicaid, Social Security, and the like. They will promptly state this is Barack Obama's fault and get their base to rail huge about it while constantly shouting to the Independents "this is Barack Obama's fault! This is the Democrats' fault!" as all those benefits are lost.

And enough people are stupid enough to believe in the constantly-shouted lie that they will get away with this and Democrats will suffer worse and lose more seats in Congress.

If Republicans are wise, they will eliminate the Voter Rights Act as unnecessary bureaucracy and by eliminating it they save money. They could do this to the EPA as well as causing undo expense and negatively impacting local homeowners and small businesses. And they will shout loudly that Democrats are responsible for enslaving the American People with these unnecessary bureaucratic red tape machines and crow about how much money is saved by eliminating these bureaucratic organizations.

People have been shown to be stupid enough to believe this. And thus Republicans will remain in power in Congress and in the Presidency while they drive this nation into the next Great Depression. When that happens they will point fingers at minorities and Democrats and say "these bastards destroyed our country" and sit back as Republicans voters go to war against their fellow citizens because most of them are too stupid to actually think for themselves. And the ones who try to speak up will be called traitors and put to death as well.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

Raito,

Stackoverflow is one of them that I respect enough NOT to answer questions unless I’m sure I’m at least a local expert. In my area of expertise, though, questions are usually directed to a vendor’s community site where I’m happily out-numbered by people who like to help. I used to do more of it for beginners, but when the product suite picked up an international exposure, it became much more difficult. English fluency gets in the way of some who need help. 8)

I’m all for helping people who ask for it, but when they need many hours of training to get to where they can understand; my inner-merchant wants to be paid for it. When I see many of them in need of help, my inner-entrepreneur wants to set up a for-profit school.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I suspect it was more about the reformation, counter-reformation, counter-counter-reformation, and schisms. Some people began to take God very seriously and very personally. It is the latter that created both the diversity of opinion and the moral defenses believers needed when others accused them of immoral behavior. If you feel Called to study Creation, there isn’t much anyone can say to stop you if you can maintain ties with a few supporters for your oxytocin fix. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Those Libertarians who ruined it for you are certainly a vocal bunch, but my experience is they are out-numbered by people who hold opinions you might appreciate. In this most recent election, Gary Johnson mentioned how many more people are libertarians than realize it. I suspect if those folks stopped for a moment, thought about it, and then reregistered as Libertarians, the vocal bunch would be swamped by the flood. While I DO wish that would happen (the most insane among them would leave), I’m not holding my breath.

I’m with you on the ideal for a Democracy, but I’ll quibble slightly and point out that one can have democracy and authoritarian rule at the same time. People who like to be lead can choose who leads. The only way to get a liberal democracy, therefore, is to recognize that liberty and democracy aren’t always harmonious. Democracy is a system for making decisions where we can’t reasonably have everyone go their own way. Liberty is what you have when no one blocks you from trying to go your own way. We want both, but compromises are necessary. The Libertarian fundamentalists obviously draw the line where you would not. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

In this most recent election, Gary Johnson mentioned how many more people are libertarians than realize it.


I see your point, and I might go so far as to continue considering myself a small-l libertarian, but to state that in public would be misleading, because the word would almost certainly be taken differently from what I meant by it.

Just as there are some decent Republican congresspeople, but a vote for them means a vote for Mitch McConnell's and Paul Ryan's agendas, so too with Libertarians. I might not have anything against Gary Johnson as a person, but it feels to me as if a vote for Libertarians in actual office means a vote for Ayn Randian individualism. You'd have to convince me otherwise to get my vote.

I’m with you on the ideal for a Democracy, but I’ll quibble slightly and point out that one can have democracy and authoritarian rule at the same time. People who like to be lead can choose who leads. The only way to get a liberal democracy, therefore, is to recognize that liberty and democracy aren’t always harmonious.


Yeah, in America the words "liberty" and "democracy" are often used interchangeably (along with "capitalism") as if they all mean the same thing. I like the idea that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. I tend to trust in the wisdom of crowds, but also recognize that crowds can be misinformed or co-opted. I don't know what the best solution to that is, but I know what it isn't, and it isn't fascism.


Democracy is a system for making decisions where we can’t reasonably have everyone go their own way. Liberty is what you have when no one blocks you from trying to go your own way. We want both, but compromises are necessary.


Good points, and I'd agree with them all.

The Libertarian fundamentalists obviously draw the line where you would not. 8)


The Libertarian fundamentalists don't seem to recognize that there are any circumstances under which we can't reasonably have everyone go their own way. Or maybe more charitably, they believe that the bad actors will be sorted out by reputation and social pressure and enlightened self-interest alone. To quote Apu from The Simpsons, "Maybe in some Shangri-la, but not here, sir!"

Zepp Jamieson said...

I sometimes describe myself as a leftist libertarian, or a social libertarian. I agree with them on the matter of individual rights, but I don't believe those rights also apply to corporations, churches or other such formal groups. Further, I understand the needs of a society are different from those of an economy, and government must exist in order to address the needs of both and keep them in balance.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Yes, when the phrase "religious liberty" is used to mean the freedom of religious institutions to enforce their doctrine on individuals, then the world really has turned upside down (and not in a good way). My favorite Orwell line applies, "that is a different thing; in fact, the opposite thing."

As to corporations and other institutions being "persons" in a legal sense, it is dangerously absurd to treat such artificial persons as having the same rights and protections as human beings. Human beings act on conscience and compassion and sense of citizenship (and yes on fear and greed and other "bad" motives as well). Societies have developed over the millennia to allow human beings to co-exist and thrive together. Treating artificial beings which share none of these characteristics as equal citizens is dangerously absurd. Treating them as having more of a say than human beings is fascism.

Jumper said...

I call myself liberal and progressive but also a libertarian. All those words have meanings, and I want all of them.

LarryHart, I bet you remember that some wag put it this way: "I'll believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one."

David Brin said...

I am a Smithian libertarian, in that I believe competition is the wellspring of human creativity, but that cheaters almost always destroy flat-open-fair competitive situations. We create arenas that are sufficiently flat-open-fair and competitive only by

- regulating away most of the cheating that - in 99% of human societies - eliminated fair competition in favor of feudalism,

- intervening to ensure that talent is not wasted, but instead maximized so that our competitive arenas get the most feedstock of eager, capable and confidently creative competitors.

- tuning the competitive arenas so that they are maximally positive sum, rewarding capitalism, but never creating an obligate lordly-feudal caste.

These three desiderata are absolutely necessary conditions for competition to leverage into vastly fecund, positive sum arenas. And it is that product... vastly fecund, positive sum arenas... Adam Smith sought and prescribed. It is the outcome that engenders stunning cornucopias of wealth that then subsidize preening-posing "libertarian" ingrates to ignore all of the above and instead flounce about government being the intrinsic enemy of freedom and creativity.

Bull. So far, government is the way we create conditions under which our great competitive arenas can function without tumbling into the cheat-traps of feudalism. Markets, democracy, science, justice courts and sports all function in direct proportion to regulated openness.

In theory there are ways to do this without "government" but a steep burden of proof falls on ingrates who proclaim hatred for the one thing that has ever, ever, ever worked.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi CP

Carbon needs to go into long term storage - yes - not "really long term" 100 years would be more than enough
That would give us time to stop introducing more CO2 and start reducing the amount by other means

The deep oceans are already nutrient rich at depth - all that is required for ocean fertilization to actually work to segregate the carbon is that "things" die and sink down below the sunlit depths
If we do the fertilization in deep water that will be automatic

When we get to large scale experiments then we should definitely avoid small isolated zones to avoid any of the type of effects that you are worried about
In the

We are looking at about 20 Billions tonnes CO2 "surplus" per year
The oceans are about 360 Million square Km
So 55 tonnes/square Km - 550kg/Hectare 55 grams/square meter

That is a lot - but it is similar amount to the fertilizer that is put on agricultural land

Oxygen - water on the surface has about 8gms oxygen per liter

Thinking about the bottom 10 meters that would be 10,000 liters / square meter
Assume 10% of the surface oxygen that would be 8 kg of oxygen

55 grams of detritus would not massively effect that 8kg

TCB said...

The late author Robert Anton Wilson, whom I dearly loved, was in most respects a libertarian but said he didn't vote for the Libertarian candidate in 1989 because "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people."

Which for me sums up the problem with libertarianism.

You want to be a pot-smoking gun-owning atheist polyamorist? Sure, fine! Oh, you also think any corporate thug should have an unfettered right to enslave, rob, pollute, and generally act like Danny McBride in This Is The End? Oh, come on, now. And don't come crying to me when the Red Brigades burn your factory and shoot you in the kneecaps. You said you didn't want no meddlin' government.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Robert: Your cynicism is either correct, or it isn't. If it's correct, the situation is hopeless; but if it's correct, democracy was never the right strategy to begin with. If it's not correct, your attitude drives people away right when they are desperately needed. In either case, the cynicism is unhelpful.

My observations have been that Republicans have become numb to being lied to and therefore take it as a given that cuts to entitlements will not touch them; but when they actually start getting threatened, never mind hit with nastiness, they respond. It was this response that doomed McCain in 2008; the second that pensions were threatened, the elderly of Florida abandoned ship in droves.

@Albert, @Larry: The two-party lock forced by first-past-the-post is, IMHO, the cause of the doctrinaire nature of the present Libertarian Party in America. Place voters on a spectrum from practical to ideological. Under a FPTP system, it is clear that the practical action is to inject libertarianism into one or both of the two major parties; therefore practical libertarians are to be found in the D's and R's. This leaves the Libertarian Party itself to the ideologues, who then deride the practical types as sellouts and resent them for making a rational choice.

Under an IRV system I would expect third parties to prosper. Maine will be testing this proposition going forward.

(And I feel your pain; I have had LP friends deride me for being insufficiently devoted to principles. To hell with principles; they are useful tools but subservient to experimental results.)

Also re your discussion with Zepp: I have to keep pointing this out to relatives in MS where the most extreme "religious liberty" bill was passed -- that it is in fact precisely the sort of law the First Amendment was written to block, by favoring a particular belief. Even with Trump-appointed judges I still have no doubt it will be struck down.

@TCB: And this is why I am liberal-tarian and not libertarian. As I pointed out to one guy objecting to minimum wage laws: "You know, freedom of contract is enhanced by a lack of coercion regarding my daily bread. That creates a libertarian argument for UBI."

CP said...

Duncan:

The numbers might work in theory (I don't have time to dig into
them...). And, you may have a point on duration of storage. But:

When animals/plants die near the surface, aerobic decay starts immediately and continues as they sink (usually a slow process except
for the largest "particles"). This depletes oxygen at mid-depths (below
the area of easy surface mixing/photosynthesis) until you reach the
oxygen minimum zone, usually at around 200 to 1000 meters. Only 10-20%
of organic material typically penetrates below that zone and comes
anywhere near the bottom. This limitation on available food (combined
with low temperatures) restricts further decay/respiration by animals.
So, oxygen use declines and oxygen levels go up again at greater depths.
But, it's a limited resource since it's only replenished by the global
deep-water circulation system that's driven by the sinking of cold,
dense, oxygen-rich polar water. Add a lot of additional organic material
to deep waters and the demand can exceed the supply tipping the system
into anaerobic decay (with the effect being cumulative since the oxygen
is only replenished on a scale of decades to centuries by the
polar-driven circulation).

Adding fertilizer below the photic zone won't do any good since an
energy source is needed to drive fixation of carbon. By definition,
below the photic zone there's insufficient light for photosynthesis and
no carbon fixation occurs (excluding a few geothermal vents that provide
chemo-synthetic options). So, it will either do nothing (if the
nutrients introduced weren't limiting factors) or increase the rate of
oxygen depletion (if the nutrients introduced were limiting factors).

Maybe the system can handle the additional input for a time.
However, I'd have to see some pretty solid studies confirming that before committing resources on a large scale.

Of course, we could always install "bubblers" to replenish deep water
oxygen artificially. But, building such a system and pumping air through
it would likely prove expensive.

Meanwhile, I suspect that we're not too far away from artificial
photosynthesis technology that could pull out the carbon dioxide
directly... ;-)

> Carbon needs to go into long term storage - yes - not "really long
> term" 100 years would be more than enough

> That would give us time to stop introducing more CO2 and start
> reducing the amount by other means
>
> The deep oceans are already nutrient rich at depth - all that is
> required for ocean fertilization to actually work to segregate the
> carbon is that "things" die and sink down below the sunlit depths If
> we do the fertilization in deep water that will be automatic
>
> When we get to large scale experiments then we should definitely
> avoid small isolated zones to avoid any of the type of effects that
> you are worried about In the
>
> We are looking at about 20 Billions tonnes CO2 "surplus" per year The
> oceans are about 360 Million square Km So 55 tonnes/square Km -
> 550kg/Hectare 55 grams/square meter
>
> That is a lot - but it is similar amount to the fertilizer that is
> put on agricultural land
>
> Oxygen - water on the surface has about 8gms oxygen per liter
>
> Thinking about the bottom 10 meters that would be 10,000 liters /
> square meter Assume 10% of the surface oxygen that would be 8 kg of
> oxygen
>
> 55 grams of detritus would not massively effect that 8kg

Tony Fisk said...

Sounds like David's steampunk persona is Liberty Smith (I opted for Nils Fortenbras a while back)

On sequestering CO2, I sometimes wonder whether it's more efficient to draw it out of the air or the ocean (surface sea water containing 50 times the amount of CO2 than air). Either way, once you have it, CO2 forms a stable liquid in the high pressure/low temperature environment found in the ocean depths. Like clathrates, it could be stored in the seafloor sediment quite safely.

There's something else that will need doing, too: drawing the heat out of the ocean.

Finally, in the more science minded spirit of the post, feast your eyes on the rarely glimpsed wonders of the ice-roofed seafloor off Antarctica.

David Brin said...

You are all being really smart tonight. I have the best community on the web.

Happy solstice, all. Let us hope and pray that 2016 has thus ended and the sunshine will augment now, filling our heart and brightening the minds of our fellow citizens.

Paul SB said...

"You are all being really smart tonight. I have the best community on the web."
- And, of course, that's a night I get home from work and fall asleep on the couch...

Paul SB said...

Tony, that article about the Antarctic benthic community didn't have much to say, but I was struck by how similar the picture looked to artists' reconstructions of Precambrian and early Paleozoic life. Just a thought...

Paul SB said...

CP, Duncan, and anyone else interested,

Here are two recent articles from Science Daily about progress in artificial photosynthesis. We already have it, it's just not yet at a point it can be scaled up for commercial production. But it's in the works.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160503072412.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160912122634.htm

Big surprise that so much of this progress is happening in Germany...

Paul SB said...

I have some catching up to do here, and I have to go to work soon, so assuming I don't fall asleep again, I'll have more to say later. First:

Alfred,
On the Reformation & discovery of the New World, you said,

"@Paul SB: I suspect it was more about the reformation, counter-reformation, counter-counter-reformation, and schisms. Some people began to take God very seriously and very personally."

All those schisms created so much diversity that, for the first few hundred years you had the Law of Segmentary Opposition rearing its ugly head and massive bloodshed. Eventually, though, the bloodletting began to trail off a bit, and segmentary thinking is at least somewhat in retreat, as societies are becoming more cosmopolitan (but segmentary troglodytes still abound, even on this blog). What I was pointing out is that it seems too coincidental for this to have happened within a century of the discovery of the New World for there to not have been a causal link. I wonder if such an epic discovery made people in Europe question the received wisdom of the Church, since they never mentioned two great big continents on the other side of the Atlantic. Add to that the flurry of fanciful tales - facilitated by the "new" (actual old Chinese technology adapted to a different kind of script) printing press - that stimulated the imagination and chipped away at old assumptions about the inevitability of one's lot in life, and you had some mental channels to move the continent in new, more diverse directions.

BTW - We live in a place that took its name from one of those fanciful 16th Century novels, in this case a Spanish novel, not Thomas Moore's more famous "Utopia" which English speakers are more familiar with, or Voltaire's much later "Candide".

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB,

Been away for a while, but just noticed your exchange above with Alfred above:

My reply was: "Then we're studying the wrong people. The leaders aren't changing the world, they're holding us back! If you want to know what makes societies do what they do, you need to study the people." Guess what anthropology does?

Slight pet peeve, but if this is how your history professors approached it, then you had piss-poor history professors who had no business being in the profession, and distorted your whole perception of the field. For the last 30-40 years, cultural and social history has overwhelmingly dominated the field. Sure, there are a few cranks and politically-beholden crackpots who try to return the field to what it used to be, a dull recitation of boring facts. But they're irrelevant now; even historical biography is full of economic and social and ethnographic angles and analyses.

Sorry, not venting at you, more despairing that it's idiots like that who're responsible for the widespread distaste and antagonism toward knowing where we are and how we got here.

Jeff B. said...

Catfish (and Rob H.)

My observations have been that Republicans have become numb to being lied to and therefore take it as a given that cuts to entitlements will not touch them; but when they actually start getting threatened, never mind hit with nastiness, they respond. It was this response that doomed McCain in 2008; the second that pensions were threatened, the elderly of Florida abandoned ship in droves.

My fear- and we already see some signs of this- is that the Rs are going to repackage their Obamacare, Medicare, Social Security, etc. replacements as "improvements", and this is going to seem reasonable. The +-30% diehard Trump supporters will excuse away anything, but if they make it sound reasonable, then the 10% or so of the electorate that voted for Trump but weren't foam-at-the-mouth radicals might buy into it. Unless the Dems go against all past practice and go on the attack, harder than they've fought for anything in the past 30 years, then the public might buy the Rightspeak propaganda.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Jeff B.: all the rhetoric in the world doesn't change facts as stark as fewer dollars in your pocket, or rising inflation, or losing your health insurance or food stamps.

The only question is what price people are really, truly willing to pay for spite. Are they willing to grind further into poverty just to stick it to perceived class and race-enemies and fuel the greater glory of Dear Leader? Russians, it is clear, are; they want national glory worse than anything. But they are accustomed to being unfree. Not sure Americans are willing to take that deal.

Jeff B. said...

Catfish,

I totally agree with you- that's the logical approach, and I desperately hope my fears are misplaced. But people are already showing willing to explain away and accept the doublespeak about draining the swamp, about the Wall Streeters and plutocrats now about to take critical cabinet posts. The "we've always been at war with Eastasia" vibe is truly chilling, and if the Repubs offer any sort of cover story for the improvements they're planning, then people very well might not see it's directly against their own interests.

After all, they've bought into the "cut taxes for the rich" and end the "death tax" rhetoric for years...

Jeff B. said...

Re: Russia, I'll say it again: Putin got a yuge Christmas present this year. His goal all along hasn't been to put in pro-Russian governments, that's just the icing on the cake. In his worldview, the West, and the U.S. in specific, were directly and deliberately responsible for the collapse of the U.S.S.R., and actively conspire to keep Russia from greatness. His response ever since is to ensure as he sees it Russia's security.

Since the Russian economy will never match the west, he'll always be fighting (and it is a fight to him) from a position of weakness, so he uses what resources he has to destabilize those foes whenever and wherever he can. Toppling other governments is so passe and Twentieth-Century; it's much easier to stir up contention and dissension, boost controversial figures, and sit back and watch the chaos. Chaos means that your enemies won't have the time to focus on you.

So Trump is definitely a bonus- he was played bigly from the beginning, 1st by some gagworthy ego-stroking, and then by advisors with direct ties. The goal was even perhaps to allow all this to become known, to throw us into chaos. Trump wouldn't get elected, of course, but our political systems and public trust would be damaged and destabilized.

Robert said...

Catfish, in all likelihood democracy is doomed. The oligarchy Dr. Brin has warned so much against is in the process of shoring up the walls to create an illusion of democracy while ensuring they win and we don't.

And then they will learn that their walls were built on sand and when the economy crashes big and people are starving in the streets, people will turn on each other. And on them. And they too will fall.

If I'm wrong? I will gladly be wrong. But I'm not wrong. We are royally fucked because a certain segment of the populace wants humanity to end because they believe they will ascend to Heaven and be gods in their own right and lord it over all the other dead because God is on Their Side.

On a plus note, in a couple million years a new intelligent species will arise and start creating its own civilization. However much we fuck up this planet, it will continue. As will life on it. Of course, that won't matter to those of us who are living in the here and now but....

Rob H.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Putin got a yuge Christmas present this year."
And it's a gift that keeps on giving. Trump had some lunatic tweets this morning that the US must engage in a massive nuclear buildup, and that once the rest of the world saw how many nukes the US had, they would disarm. Sounds like Peter Sellers characters--worrying about precious bodily fluids and giving involuntary Nazi salutes and determining nuclear policy.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Aleksandr Dugin's "Foundations of Geopolitics" (1997) appears to be Putin's blueprint. Dugin himself was reportedly expelled from the inner circle of Putin advisors last year -- for arguing that Putin wasn't being aggressive enough; Dugin wanted all of Ukraine conquered immediately, damn the cost.

Nonetheless, his blueprint sounds extremely close to what Putin has been actually doing, and Putin has adopted his terminology: the goal is a "Eurasian Union" that maps closely to the old sphere of influence of the USSR.

More chilling are Dugin's underlying theories of geopolitics: that the entire concept of a nation-state is a false sham, as is nationalism; that polygot authoritarian empires are the only proper polity; that conquest and construction of such an empire is the absolute core of Russian existence, and that there is no Russia without the will to dominate; that this imperialism is the source of Russian exceptionalism; and that subordination of the individual to the state is an absolute requirement for such a polity to exist, which is why the West ("Atlanticism") must be destroyed.

Oh, and that Europe must eventually be "Finlandized". In other words, the revanchist dream of the complete subjugation of Europe.

As long as Putin holds to such a philosophy, his state is functionally identical to Daesh (and for that matter the Soviet Union): an insatiable machine of domination that can only be submitted to or destroyed. The nations of the world are only now realizing that the bear was only hibernating; and from Trump to Farage to Le Pen to the Austrian Freedom Party, the infiltrating Eurasian International is on the rise everywhere -- abetted by the refugees whose homes were destroyed by Russian bombs launched by his client Bashar al-Assad.

Containment defeated the Soviet Union. Putin has no intention of being contained again. (How long he thinks a relatively backward nation of 100 million can maintain domination of nearly a billion people with a better tech base, even with his team's subterfuge skills, is left as an exercise for the student.)

Dwight Williams said...

Sidebar note: I have a problem with seeing those refugees charged with "abetting" the likes of Putin, Dugin, and whoever else is driving the current attempts to further entrench bad governance of humanity worldwide.

Back to the discussion of how to derail that drive.

Jumper said...

What they're saying about Snowden:
http://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/snowden_report_highlights.pdf

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dwight: Bad phrasing; the abettor in question is Assad.

David Brin said...

Catfish thanks that was very interesting and speaks to what I even in the 1980s called the fundamental Russian meme of paranoia.

Alas, it leaves one head-scratching about several factors.

1- How will nascent alliance with Ankara, Tehran, Pakistan, Manilla and especially Beijing pan out? All share the dream of demolishing Atlanticism. OTOH, there are divergence of interests with China.

2- Which can be resolved if Putin is (as I believe and no one else seems to even suspect) selling off Siberia.

3- Which he must do, because of Russian demographic collapse. Does he truly expect to maintain parity as an empire, while Russian women refuse to breed with Russian males?

4- All of them in the Eurasian Axis of authoritarianism (EAAA) are terrified of the new arrays of internet satellites about to be launched. Before they can take hold - restoring the Internet as a disruptor of state power - we will likely see either a betrayal of these efforts, by Trump, or else an "accident" in low earth orbit.

Alfred Differ said...

David has an article encouraging those of us who live in states dominated by a single party we do not like to consider re-registering in that party en masse in order to act as a moderating influence upon it. It is an approach that makes the most sense if we are also vocal and vote in our primaries. Being in an early primary state is even better.

For those of you who might be willing to think of yourself as a small (l) libertarian, I would like to suggest something similar. This works best if you live in a state where the party in control of it doesn’t bother you too much. Consider re-registering as a Libertarian and getting into the mix with the local party people. Donate in small dollar amounts when they put forward the non-Randian’s among them. Withhold money and frown a lot during events where the Randians are speaking too much. Most local Libertarian parties work on very tiny budgets. They WILL notice what you are doing, especially if you say you are doing it. When it comes time to vote, though, vote as you feel you should. If your ‘new party’ offers anyone you can stomach, vote for them. If not, tell them you would if person X didn’t say/do Y.

In a state with an open primary for the party you don’t mind too much, you will probably be voting in their primary anyway. Libertarians aren’t big on the primary process. In states with closed primary processes, just re-register before the deadline so you can vote in the primary of your choice. You can switch when you need to switch.

What I’m trying to point out here is that unless you plan to run for office yourself, you gain nothing by being slavishly loyal to a particular party BETWEEN ELECTIONS. Consider pushing your local libertarians around a bit. It doesn’t take more than a few dollars much of the time. You’ve got a couple of years before we go collectively insane again, so please think about it.

For my fellow Californian’s, the Democrats have this place locked up for a while. Whether you like or dislike them, the truth is they don’t need help maintaining the lock between elections and only a little during elections depending on whether they are within reach of a super majority in the legislature. As long as they keep running open primaries, your party registration doesn’t matter. You can vote to moderate them if you like or signal a third party to choose a candidate that isn’t so extreme. Please think about it.

Duncan Cairncross said...

As a non American I'm not too worried about the horrors that the Donald may unleash domestically
I'm worried but not personally effected

The Russian situation is much more worrying - appeasement is never a good long term strategy and I worry that Putin will just keep on pushing until he passes some invisible line and the Donald snaps and orders a massive reprisal

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: 1- Well, that's part of the insanity of the original 1997 plan... in that version, Moscow was supposed to team up with Tokyo and New Delhi to dismember Beijing. The review did not go into just how Dugin thinks that could be accomplished. Besides which, anyone who thinks Ankara and Tehran would be able to be long-term buddies under Great Power rules is delusional.

2, 3 - That's why he has been intermittently trying to raise the Russian birthrate by any trick he can think of, other than the obvious one of making Russia worth living in, and encouraging Russian males to be worth breeding with.

However, anyone who wishes to know why Putin is in power at all is encouraged to look at this graph:

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/russia/gdp-per-capita

Russian GDP *cratered* during the 1990's when our lovely Bush-Clinton cabals were "helping" them, then bounced as soon as Putin attained power. Of course they love him! Of course they believe him when he blames the West! And of course he's becoming aggressive, now that the means of his delivery (oil) has ceased to provide returns... and because he destroyed Medvedev's attempt to actually encourage innovation in Russia, which could have made them actually independent of the West. (It's not like Russians aren't smart enough, or don't have the resources or the training. Russia could be a powerhouse of science and technology!... if Moscow ever trusted them enough to let them work....)

4 - Wow, excellent, excellent point. The entire concept of national firewalls would be completely destroyed by satellite broadband; the only hope then would be to control the devices people used to access them, or else control the satellite control center. I would predict that in any Great Power war, those satellites would be on the target list, after the initial wave of surveillance satellite attacks.

Jeff B. said...

Catfish,

Russia is and will be a hollow threat- the only danger is if we do not counter the interference in various national elections, and do not contain the idiot puppets that've arisen. Putin's bluffing with an empty hand, and so is reduced to influence peddling. Nationalists are the easiest to dupe, and the easiest to be swayed that a "great power" is treating them as equals.

Germany and Austria seem to be rejecting this already, and while influencing things the nationalists now don't look like a long term threat in much of Europe. But in the interim, Khaos.

Rob H., Trump is the mildest of threats in the scope of things. Unless everything we've read about him for the last 30 years is a lie, he's disorganized, disinterested in anything but the image, easily distracted, and a poor manager. There is no organized equivalent of the Brownshirts, no organized equivalent of the total party machine that was the National Socialist Party. The Republicans are still sensitive to public opinion (despite Trump's deafness) and will ameliorate some of their proposals.

Democratic institutions are too strong and too deep, bureaucratic processes too interwoven and ingrained, and too steeped in tradition- this is not the end of Democracy. Yet. It very well might be damaged and weakened, perhaps enough for a future demagogue to deal the coup de grace, but not now, not yet.

Alfred Differ said...

There is an excellent case to be made for Russia forcefully taking Ukraine, and an equally good case for why it would be folly. In geopolitical terms, Russia is inherently undefendable. It’s only choice is to expand its borders and then use ‘defense in depth’ and ‘winter’ when the inevitable invasion occurs. This leads to cyclic history of expansion, high costs, collapse, and wound licking.

The 2015-2025 decade forecast at Stratfor argues the Russian Federation is unlikely to survive in its current form. They argue Russia will repeat the cycle that caused the Soviet collapse because Russia is still too dependent upon energy revenues. If Putin understands this, we have a plausible explanation for him NOT taking Ukraine by force. The moment he tries, his costs go up. If Ukraine doesn’t submit peacefully, his costs stay up. If US leadership understands this, we have a plausible explanation for harsh sanctions as a tool to speed up the cycle. Sanctions deplete reserves useful for supporting conflict, but they also put pressure on infrastructure budgets.

Historically speaking, Russians have a solution for the high cost phase of the cycle that involves secret police and social depravation. Russians have a long history of coping with this by submitting, but that usually only slows the cycle. Stratfor argues the FSB won’t be able to prevent the centrifugal forces pulling the Russian federation apart. Their leadership is involved in the national economy, so their strength weakens with energy market prices. Without great strength, they won’t be able to inspire the terror needed to prevent transformation.

On the flip side of their west border, Poland, Hungary, and Romania will seek to recover what they’ve lost. They are the most likely forces of unrest in Belarus and Ukraine. If the US and EU can manage a moderate amount of energy independence over the long haul, Russian costs of defending former Soviet regions from being taken back into Europe will be difficult to fund. On the east border we won’t find other states behaving too opportunistically until the East decides it is better off economically if they severe ties with Moscow and establish them with Pacific Rim traders. Putin won’t sell off Siberia, but will probably lose it this decade anyway.

Whether Russia is a collection of authoritarians or a nation doesn’t really matter, though. It is what it is and what it isn’t is a liberal democracy with a history of its people choosing not to submit to the secret police. If they remain what they are, the cycle will bring them to collapse again, only this time they lose Siberia, the North Caucasus region, Belarus, Ukraine, and probably all access to the Caspian. They are correct about invasions about their inherently undefendable position, but they can’t hold against the economic forces arrayed against them. There will be no invasion army this decade, but that’s because one isn’t needed by any border nation. The harsh economic truths of their strategy will do them in.

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish N. Cod: I would predict that in any Great Power war, those satellites would be on the target list, after the initial wave of surveillance satellite attacks.

Yah. In his 100 year forecast, Friedman (of Stratfor) made much the same point. His version had the war occur around mid-century and by then the Russians were toast. The war involved an alliance of Turkey and Japan against the US. It sounds implausible for now, but one has to focus on plausible centers of regional power in a rich world, and that excludes the Persians.

In the book, it was a first strike against a large space station we put up to defend our dominance on that frontier. Basically, it is a sneak attack on an important piece of ‘naval’ infrastructure. Sound familiar?

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB: You want to be a pot-smoking gun-owning atheist polyamorist? Sure, fine! Oh, you also think any corporate thug should have an unfettered right to enslave, rob, pollute, and generally act like Danny McBride in This Is The End? Oh, come on, now.

From my experience, what gets them into trouble is they can’t deal with the distinction between law and regulation. Law emerges from the collective actions of us all. Regulations are designed by legislative bodies who write down what appears to be law. We don’t need first degree murder regulations to know that we want people who do it capture and in many places put to death. We don’t need fraud regulations to know we want unfair practices stopped, reversed, and punished. We write them anyway because in doing so we get to avoid arbitrary enforcement issues when our neighbors go primal and demand an eye for an eye.

When the zealots argue for leaving enslavers alone to be dealt with by reputation systems, they ignore emergent law and the people who are likely to enforce it. As long as some of us are willing to do so, the Rule of Law won’t hold in that setting. What the sane ones want is a reduction in regulation until we are closer to actual Law. Consider how few of us are willing to enforce jaywalking or seat belt regulations. Consider how many of us violate cell phone usage while driving regulations. If we aren’t willing to break the Rule of Law, maybe we don’t need the regulation. THAT is the only sane debate to be had for each piece of legislation that makes use of coercive government powers.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I remembered a little quote from someone much more famous and respected than myself (like that's saying anything) that does a fair job of summing up my disdain for labels.

“The moment when someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you. And when you want to have a conversation, they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that's not the way to have a conversation.”
- Niel DeGrasse Tyson

Randall Winn said...

@Alfred - might Russia change the game with a little geoengineering? Add just a bit more green house gasses and ....

...melt the Arctic enough that it becomes a Russian Mediterranean Sea and perhaps all those north-flowing Siberian rivers become new centers of power. It would suck to be a nation whose wealth is concentrated in cities on a coastline, but St. Petersburg is a swamp anyway and Moscow is safe from flooding.

Paul SB said...

Jeff,

When I was doing my undergrad studies, I was at the local university, because it was the only university I could half-way afford. It was the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, and if you have hear doc the place, it has a reputation for being a very conservative - at times frighteningly conservative - place. I found it ironic that most people I knew who did not go to the university assumed that it was some haven of radical liberals, hippies and communists, when in reality a whole lot of the staff there were pretty stodgy. One of the best history professors I had loved that old-fashioned "great man" approach, though she presented it not as monolithic. To her it was more satisfying than the newfangled social history approaches. She really was a good professor, and I attribute what writing skills I have to passing through the gauntlet of her classes. But then, I did change majors to a social science, in large part because I was unsatisfied with the old-fashioned paradigm. There was one professor there who taught just a couple classes who had a more social history approach. Ironically, she was a historian from the Air Force Academy, and always taught class in uniform.

I think you can guess that I'm in complete agreement with you about how this old-fashioned approach makes history feel very dead for most people. If I had the money to go to another university, perhaps I would have stuck with history. But I am glad I went with an actual social science. When I was younger I didn't really get just how relevant the difference is between social history, which is particularistic, and social science, which is generalizing and therefore useful.

Jumper said...

Texting / phoning while driving is a violation of law, not regulation, to be technical.
There are two kinds of regulation, although purpose and motive can overlap: regulation to defeat competition, and regulation to ease the courts when case-by-case torts become absurd. What if to determine damages, every human on earth had to summon to court every human who had ever burned gasoline? Or spilled insecticide, or sold an apple with a tiny amount of carcinogen?

MillenniumCrow said...

Alfred,

Thank you for the Stratfor summation, I too have been thinking about that report lately. In the intelligence and Special Operations communities, there's been some concern about what will happen to Russia's nuclear arsenal in the event of the situation that the report describes. Trying to secure all of those weapons is a military planner's nightmare.

In the near term we have to deal with Russian political/informational/cyber warfare and the possibility of a regional conflict escalating, while in the medium to long term we have to be concerned about the possibility of a Russian collapse. I think that one or both of these possibilities is now inevitable.

MillenniumCrow said...

Alfred,

Thank you for the Stratfor summation, I too have been thinking about that report lately. In the intelligence and Special Operations communities, there's been some concern about what will happen to Russia's nuclear arsenal in the event of the situation that the report describes. Trying to secure all of those weapons is a military planner's nightmare.

In the near term we have to deal with Russian political/informational/cyber warfare and the possibility of a regional conflict escalating, while in the medium to long term we have to be concerned about the possibility of a Russian collapse. I think that one or both of these possibilities is now inevitable.

LarryHart said...

Jeff B:

even historical biography is full of economic and social and ethnographic angles and analyses.


Sometimes even accompanied by an awesome hip-hop soundtrack.

David Brin said...

Garry Kasparov on Vladimir Putin’s meddling and America’s response.
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/12/garry_kasparov_on_why_vladimir_putin_hates_chess.html

Except he buys into the lunacy that Obama was "weak." WFT? Then why was Putin desperate to retaliate against Obama and Clinton? Is no one else on this planet able to look at a MAP? Putin has "won" the Crimea,the Donbass and a ruin of East Aleppo... all nibble backs after BHO and HRC together stole from Russia the Ukraine. Is our journalistic caste truly stupid?

Robert said...

Yes, Dr. Brin. It is that stupid.

The problem is that our journalistic wing has become a profit-driven mechanism.

If you want to have proper impartial journalism return, you need to make a large nonprofit journalistic organization and find people willing to fund it while not having a say on what it does. This type of organization could have proper journalists once more on a large scale, and seeing it doesn't need to cowtow to advertisers and stockholders (mind you, it can still run advertising to keep costs down, just that it doesn't try to achieve profits) it can be truly impartial.

Rob H.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Here is an example of how bad journalism has gotten compared with what it used to be: In October of 1962, ABC television newsman John Scali was trusted to convey critical information between the Soviet Union and the United States to prevent an imminent nuclear war.

Can anyone name a current journalist anywhere in the world that would now be trusted to convey critical information between two countries that were on the brink of nuclear war?

Alfred Differ said...

Jumper,

I'm making a point from the 'philosophy of law' angle that points out the distinction between what emerges from people and is rarely written down from what we write either through legislative bodies or through regulators. To be exact, I should recognize the difference between statutes and regulations, but I lumped them together to point out that they aren't emergent.

In the US, we tend to use the word 'law' for emergent law and statutes, but not necessarily for regulations. Donzelion could probably lecture me on the fine details, but I'm reaching for an abstraction the Libertarians seem to miss if my experience generalizes. Hayek described law as ONLY the emergent rules of a society. If they got written down, then they also became legislation that contained both statutes and regulation depending on whether legislative powers were delegated.

Some Libertarians think they know the Law better than others or that their version should dominate in our social markets. With emergent law, that makes about as much sense and trying to dominate a language because they come to be in similar ways. From my perspective, they are being blindly dumb even if I happen to agree with their preferences for Law.


Written law making cell phone usage while driving an infraction happens to be based on emergent law for its validity, but it is unclear just how many of us support it. In the US, we tend not to measure such things because The People delegate legislative authority to elected officials and then avoid involving themselves further. I AM supportive of smacking people who do this, but I'm not convinced an infraction is necessary. If someone is harmed by a driver who was using their cell phone, thus driving in a distracted state, I suspect emergent law covering manslaughter and negligent use of dangerous equipment currently written would suffice. I don't object enough to the additional statutes to want to undo them, though.

Alfred Differ said...

@Randall Winn: Suppose they did. What would it really gain them? Another border that would cost them money to defend. An ice choked arctic is as effective a defense against military invasion as a high mountain range. It is costly to invade across a barrier region. That's why the Russians fought hard to retain a border along the Caucasus range and would (if they had the money) anchor part of their western border along the Carpathians. The northern plains of Europe have no such barrier, so depth is the next best option.

Look to what the Soviets had after WWII. It was pretty good, but it got expensive. US/NATO strategy for containment effectively tried to trap the Russians into those costs. Soviet adventurism in Afghanistan raised costs further, but only hastened a collapse that was already underway.

There are only two ways out of the Russian cycle for them. One is collapse and death of Russia as a nation. Complete demise. The other is to assimilate the northern plains of Europe by convincing them all they are Russians too. Good luck with that. Simply conquering northern Europe could lead us back to feudalism, but it probably wouldn't end the Russian cycle. The US would still be here as a threat.

Treebeard said...

Actually Catfish, the will to dominate, build a global empire and impose its values and societal models on the rest of the world is the hallmark of the modern United States. Are all those hundreds of US military bases around the world and that giant propaganda apparatus Dr. Brin loves so much doing humanitarian work? Nope. They're building that Tower of Babylon global empire—I mean the glorious, history-ending Federation.

I was amused by your story of the grand Eurasian International conspiracy. This is where the neolib/cons have really jumped the shark. Instead of realizing that the rank-and-file populations of the West really don't want immigrants invading their lands en masse, raping their women and fighting their police in the streets, bringing their alien religion, altering their demographics, etc., nor do they want cultural pathologies like the sexual freakshow agenda imposed upon them, nor do they want their national or ethnic identities erased by elite globalists – instead of coming to grips with this, you create this boogieman of Russia to justify the populist rejection of the Atlanticist/Tower of Babylon agenda.

It's not a Eurasianist conspiracy, but normal “heartland conservatism” and human nature re-asserting itself. The problem is that the Atlanticist order is an abnormal, pathological regime that requires constant wars, propaganda and meddling or it falls apart. The problem isn't Russia, it's YOU.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I remember having a similar discussion back in my home town when the state wanted to make new hate crimes legislation. Many people I knew were upset that homosexuals were being given special rights and privileges as if they were some special, protected class. Of course, most of these people were already flaming homophobes. Their argument was that if you murder someone, you have already committed a serious crime - murder is murder. But people I knew in law enforcement had a different take. They saw it as sending a message to police to enforce laws that already existed but were rarely enforced. That is, when the victim of a homicide was found to be gay, they frequently did a very cursory investigation, and closed the case without filing charges against anyone. In other words, the police let people get away with murder if the victim happened to be a member of a group that did not get church approval.

Extra penalties for causing accidents while texting are meant to draw attention to a growing, and often fatal, problem in society. It's not that people were getting away with anything, it's more that authorities recognize that texting while driving is extremely dangerous, likely to cause life-threatening accidents (in which the other party may not be guilty of doing anything foolish), so extra penalties act as a deterrent.

Personally, if people get themselves killed driving while texting, that sounds like evolution in action. Slap a Darwin Award on them and be glad they are out of the gene pool! But traffic accidents rarely only hurt the person who caused the accident. That's why we need this kind of legislative deterrent.

As far as laws vs. regulations go, that sounds more like the difference between defining a terms and creating an operational definition, rather than one being necessary and the other superfluous or worse.

Jumper said...

Are you an American, Treebeard?

Treebeard said...

Of course I'm American. Though I have done some travelling and lived abroad (don't worry, I'm not an agent of the Eurasian International, and I don't get any rubles for these posts). Why do you ask?

David Brin said...

Hilarious ent: We have outproduced all your beloved feudalisms in just one century by orders of magnitude, and that’s all of them, combined, including today’s Eurasian neo-feudalists. Combined. And that’s in all categories, including human happiness. All the world’s people want to come to North America and Europe. They are voting with their feet, fellah. Show me those scurrying and clamoring to get into the EAAA, hm?

Russian women refuse to breed with their men, who die before age 60 while their brightest youths flee in an arterial gusher… but the problem is… us?

Your cult is theirs and has driven an exodus of every scientist or person who knows stuff, even those with “conservative personalities” like military or intelligence officers. Um, how long do you think that can be maintained? Screeching spittle at all the calm adults who know stuff?

Jumper, of course he isn't American. He's a feudalist romantic confederate.

David Brin said...

A very long but rewarding essay by one of Bell Labs’ finest, about what it takes to be truly creative and productive… at least in some industry where inventiveness must be pragmatic and productive, blending individual inspiration and ambition with teamwork and good leadership….
http://www.paulgraham.com/hamming.html

… of the sort that made the U.S. the center of world productivity and progress… til the rise of a new confederacy.

Treebeard said...

Try producing a sane, sustainable and coherent society, old boy. Atlanticist countries have some of the lowest native birthrates in the world themselves, but unlike normal civilizations, it has a pathological elite who think importing people from alien tribes and cultures to replace the natives is a good solution. Call me whatever you like, but I doubt this policy is going to produce Star Trek.

If you ask me, it's a rather vile and parasitic mentality that only views populations in terms of the few productive, progressive elites it can poach for the coastal enclaves, and regards the rest as interchangeable untermenschen who are owed no loyalty or respect. This won't produce any kind of sane, sustainable or coherent society, but constant strife and another type of feudalism. To put it another way, what you call “the Confederacy” is just your own shadow staring back at you.

donzelion said...

OK, just caught on to this debate after a bit of travel, but first, to clear something up:

Regulations properly enacted are laws. In the U.S., regulations typically are issued by (executive) administrative agencies, which issue them based on mandates enacted in legislation (statutes) - law = regulations + statutes + other stuff (treaties, court orders, constitutions, etc.). The 'propriety' of a specific regulation is frequently an area of dispute (e.g., when the IRS enacted a regulation in the tax code defining carried interest rates as taxable income - did they comply with all the steps required of them by Congress?) - when this occurs, the 'legality' of a regulation is questioned, but in the ordinary course, (almost) all regulations are laws.

"What the sane [libertarians] want is a reduction in regulation until we are closer to actual Law."
If a libertarian's sanity relies upon an irrational or non-existent distinction - are they really all that 'sane'? ;-)

Jumper said...

Treebeard, the last two paragraphs of yours were remarkable. I have many reasons to be cautious over immigration, the foremost being resources and conservation of environment. Why would I want to bequeath a USA of a billion people on the near future? However, I don't see Mexicans as horrible aliens. Even if they weren't invited to Star Trek.

I completely approve of population stability in the USA, and in the former SU too. I will note the huge differences. The Syrian refugees go in one side of Russia and keep going trying to leave on the other side. Despite the opportunities you'll find few taco trucks in Moscow.

As always, your other recommendations you've stated elsewhere seem overly harsh and unrealistic, pessimistic to the point of uselessness.

Randall Winn said...

@Alfred -
//*What would it really gain them?*// A northern Mediterranean, and a Siberia that is farmland.

No-one is going to launch an invasion across the Arctic Ocean so long as there is such a thing as guided missles. And who would be motivated? Canada will have all the land its population can use as the unintended beneficiary of the Russian Spring.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Robert: I refuse to despair. That's all I can say.
@Jeff B.: Not about the Baltics, he isn't. They're the only nations small enough for him to actually occupy on his budget. And they're enough to break the will of NATO if NATO doesn't defend them. An enormous amount depends on next September's elections for the Bundestag -- if Merkel cannot be broken, and Germany commits even a rump NATO to the defense of the Baltics, Putin will be in more of a pickle.

A lot can happen before September, though.

@Alfred: somewhere in his subconscious even Putin knows this. Oil money is fleeting. He bought his nation time with it, but once America and China start distributing cheap solar power in 10-20 years, Russia is screwed. He has to destroy the Western paradigm before that. He really can't invade too many places because he can't afford to garrison them; his only hope is to convince the West to surrender or to become autocratic -- remember, he fears democratization worse than military invasion at this point.

The problem with his plan is that even an autocratic Eastern Europe still will hate Russians. Too much pain was inflicted 1945-1989 for them to forgive Putin or Russia. They will still seek to make common cause with the Baltics, non-Russophone Ukraine, and any dissidents in Belarus. Putin cannot comprehend that Russia's actions in their own periphery are what is doing Moscow in; native resentment plus any outside power will create the same problem. Even the complete fall of the West would only buy Russia time; the next Great Power would be able to support them and the same thing would happen.

Muscovy isn't going anywhere: that is to say, the population in the triangle St. Petersburg - Rostov - Novosibirsk. The only reason they own anything east of the Yenisei is that no one has challenged them enough to take it; and Russia can only get away with their bluster because, like the Chi'n of the Warring States period or Macedonia in ancient Greece, they only have one border they are worrying about. But their army is still a shell of its former grandeur, and they can only fight one serious war before they lose it.

At which point, Putin and Moscow only have one weapon left to stave off their terror at the death of the Russian dream of universal empire. Muscovy is not truly in danger; it's a stable, well-educated, reasonable European-Eurasian nation of a hundred million souls, which could have much promise and remain a leader in world affairs, as Britain and France and Germany and Japan are.

But I fear what the Kremlin will do when they truly realize Dugin was delusional. The military threat is hollow; the economic power is fleeting; but the hacks and skullduggery we have seen so far are peanuts compared to the full nuclear, intelligence, and cyberwarfare capabilities that Moscow still possesses. Nukes can only destroy, and really can only be used once; so it is spies and cyber that Putin now places his faith in.

And it is these we must fight.

Jumper said...

I don't know if it's useful to view Putin as a James Bond super-villain. More likely a juggler / mobster trying to keep his position past his expiration date. He has to leave a path for more stability among his plutocrats when he's gone or they'll be tempted to take him out now.

Robert said...

No, there is reason to hope. After all, 2016 has been killing people left and right. We may very well have Donald Trump keel over from an unexpected heart attack or stroke and leave us with Pence who will still strip away our rights but not be a madman.

Dr. Brin, another article here on how Hillary Clinton dropped the ball and inadvertently encouraged Planned Parenthood supporters to support Trump because she didn't focus on what was important.

This is why I say Sanders would have won. Sanders would have stayed focused on the nation, rather than personal attacks and saying "Trump is Deplorable" all the time. Sanders would have REALIZED people make up their own minds on Trump based on what Trump says and does. By focusing on problems in the nation he would have been putting forth a message on things such as Planned Parenthood and the like and while Trump could attack that message all he wants, enough people would have heard only attacks and no actual foundation from which he wants to build upon.

BTW, what you are going to see is after several Trump/Republican policies go forth and start taking effect, Trump's approval ratings are going to tank further than the Shrug's ever did. And he will not take it well. Seeing he still has his personal security force that he'll issue pardons for left and right, no doubt we'll see the bloody persecution of demonstrations and multiple arrests of people who dare demonstrate against him. And if any dare lift a hand against Trump's private security, those will be considered terrorists and tossed in prisons without a trial.

Things are going to get very very dark. Those of you who believe otherwise? Optimism has its place. It is not now.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Optimism and complacency are two very different things. On balance pessimism leads to inaction.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

This type of organization could have proper journalists once more on a large scale, and seeing it doesn't need to cowtow to advertisers and stockholders (mind you, it can still run advertising to keep costs down, just that it doesn't try to achieve profits) it can be truly impartial.


It's not that such an organization can't make a profit. Just that its profitability is in service to its mission rather than the other way around.

Anonymous said...

The future is FUSION ENERGY. We need to get back to the Moon for Helium-3

Fusion Breakthrough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKifAWeISfM

David Brin said...

“If you ask me, it's a rather vile and parasitic mentality that only views populations in terms of the few productive, progressive elites it can poach for the coastal enclaves..”

Yes, I do keep asking you, because you serve a useful purpose, showing the stunning sophistry and faux intellect of the troglodyte reflex. Do not think for a moment that, despite your evident stupidity, I would underestimate you and your ilk, who have dominated almost every human society and toppled every renaissance.

You are the product of 6000 years of strongmen grabbing all the local maidens and tossing them into their harem piles and slaying any fathers or brothers who protested. 6000 years or more, of genetic culling led to a kind of male who - when he can - will grab harems. And when he can’t, will get on his knees and suck up to the harem grabbers.

You exhibit both traits - in mewling (hilarious) fantasies that YOU might be a lord, in such a world. Meanwhile, in this world, howling adulation of anyone who looks vaguely like a strongman. Hoping for bones tossed from his table.

It is predictable, all the way down the line. And while it is un-sapient, and must be fought by the sapient, it is not your fault.

What IS your fault is the stunning human sin of ingratitude… your mewling is done in a context of coddled-pampered, air-conditioned, full-refrigerator, couch-potato, video-game addict comfort, pausing to go online and snapping at the hands that feed you. Whelp.

David Brin said...

In fact, I have some reservations about immigration. I agree with the democrats that borders should be tightened and illegal immigration reduced. That was no typo. It is always democratic presidents who beef up the Border Patrol and GOPper prexies who weaken it. (Stupid journalists never notice.) And Obama deported more than anyone.

The dems changed America by increasing LEGAL immigration. And I don’t mind the amount, I mind the type. Emphasizing family reunions beyond parent-child is - I believe - deeply immoral. Anyone in the old country who has an American cousin is already luckier than his neighbors! How does he deserve even more luck than the girl next door, who studied harder and tried harder?

We should go back to favoring the best and brightest and most accomplished. Whose wealth generation here will then make us rich enough to afford to keep doing great things.

Only note that the ent went “squirrel!” evading the plain and simple fact that all the world’s people deem Europe and North America to be realms of hope and opportunity and want to *leave* the realms that he admires. Russian youths are fleeing en masse. The first thing a Chinese man does, when he becomes rich, is to buy an escape condo in New York or Vancouver. Your ravings would only make sense if ALL the world’s people were more stupid than… Treebeard?

David Brin said...

Various others:

Catfish n’ Cod… who the heck ARE you and what kind of vitamins have you been taking? Time for you to start your own blog, sir.

RobH if DT tries any of that he will run into the professionals, embedded deeply through every service. If he tries your (I admit clever) “I’ll pardon my own thugs” gambit he will be impeached. The one, speculative) was he might have secured that failure mode is if he has blackmail material on Pence.

DT’s longer-term strategy will be to force scads of professional officers into retirement. A less bloody version of Erdogan’s approach in Turkey.

… which backfires when/if the dems recruit 220 of these retired colonels to run in every GOP owned Congressional district.


Oh, even if the Arctic thaws, you still have (1) almost no topsoil, (2) methane boiling out of permafrost, and (3) just one growing season, while you have destroyed tropics where there used to be two.

Alfred Differ said...

Treebeard is an American xenophobe, but this line from him IS worth considering.

To put it another way, what you call “the Confederacy” is just your own shadow staring back at you.

There is a possible truth in this, but not in the guilt-trip sense. If we leave them behind as we try to rise above humanity's general level of xenophobia, isn't that what it would look like to them?

The solution is to poach ALL their children. 8)

David Brin said...

BTW... "untermenschen" is as untermenschen does. The coastal/blue/university folks welcome your sons and daughters who have only to try. In contrast, the lords who you crawl before and idolize with lickspittle devotion... they have - for 6000 years - proved they'll keep your children in their "place."

This culture war was not invented by America. We have better things to do than focus on keeping you confeds down. We consented to gigantic net tax flows from us to you. We are the ones who built the TVA dams for you, who built your interstate and all the clean schools and clinics, while Appalachian ingrates forget what their realm looked like, just 40 years ago, in the hillbilly era, screaming at us over high speed Internet links we paid for.

Culture War is directly paid for and subsidized by the New Lords who know that one elite stands in the way of their feudal power... the meritocracy. Based not on blood but accomplishment. They train their doggies to hate exactly the "elites" who stand in the way of the Plantation Lords.

So, doggie? You yelp and sic 'em, for master. Gooood doggie!

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: That's why we need this kind of legislative deterrent.

Yah, but it isn’t a deterrent. It is a fantasy deterrent. Look around you at California drivers. The chances of them getting caught are near zero because we don’t enforce it on each other. For honest-to-goodness emergent law we DO enforce without any police being needed. Only some of us are willing to be enough of a zealot to deal with the threat people pose to each other when driving while distracted.

New statutes and regulations that signal our demand that older ones actually be enforced strike me as a good example of insanity. Do the same thing again and expect a different result. Until the behavior described by a statute becomes part of the body of emergent law, enforcing rules against it is an act of coercion by a (possible) majority against a moderately large minority with many in the middle who might not care either way. It doesn’t take large numbers in the opposing minority to block enforcement and make a mockery of the Rule of Law. Prohibition in the US is the textbook case, but we have other large examples like back alley abortions, interracial and cousin marriage, polygamy and polyamory, and all sorts of things that make many of us say ‘Ick’, but not so many that the opposing minority is a thin social residue.

As far as laws vs. regulations go, that sounds more like the difference between defining a terms and creating an operational definition, rather than one being necessary and the other superfluous or worse.

Heh. Philosophers are known to define terms in a different way from common usage. Hayek did this in his three volume set from the 70’s, but he admitted to it early and often. He was trying to point out how Americans can be confused about law by the fact that we re-use the word for legislation and emergent social rules. We do this with many other words too. I love my wife and I love raw salmon. Am I using ‘love’ the same way both times? Nah. There is a connection that might draw a smile from an adult and confusion from a child (and then an ick), but the word is overloaded at least a dozen different ways. The same is true of ‘law’ and Hayek tried to tease out the parts.

I don’t need a statute to tell me that what pedophiles do is wrong. The statute is useful, though, in preventing me from clubbing the offender to death because enforcement of it by the state means I can step away from the problem knowing it will get handled. When I see someone driving distracted with cell phone in hand, I AM tempted to thrash them even with laws on the books because I know of the minimal chance of enforcement and the large opposing minority. I would enforce an emergent rule, though, and not a piece of legislation. THIS is what I think some Libertarians fail to see. Their acceptance of the emergent rules is weaker than those around them and they think a lack of government will leave them facing less coercion. It won’t. Many people will not wait for social reputation systems to act before clubbing them over some bit of carelessness. If they can be taught to see this, they might be a political force someday. Until then, they won’t.

Alfred Differ said...

@Randall: Arguing that no one is going to invade across the Arctic misses the point. Think like a Russian instead of as a member of the West. Russians know deep in their hearts that they get invaded from every open direction. The Mongols pwned them for quite a while. The Poles invaded and stole everything of any value leaving Muscovy’s early Romanovs granting noble titles to civil servants to prevent national collapse. Where did the White Russians come from, hmm?

If the Arctic opens and commercial ports get built, Russians WILL perceive a threat in the future. Germany was an economic disaster after WWI, but 20 years later they willingly entered a two front war to dominate Northern Europe from France to the Urals and made a convincing run at it. It doesn’t matter what we think Canadians will do. It doesn’t matter what we think Japanese, Chinese, USians, and everyone else will do. What matters is what Russians think we will do. When you wrap your brain around that, you’ll see the motivating force behind Russia’s historical cycle. Some among them might like the fossil fuel windfall to be reaped by drilling up there, but many more will make defense budget demands they won’t be able to sustain.

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish N. Code: There is another option available to the defense of the Baltics besides Germany and part of NATO. Germany is likely to be torn about military action, but Poland won’t be. A small side alliance involving Poland, Hungary, Romania, and maybe someone near the Caspian could be expressed through NATO or independently depending on which way Germany flops. Such an alliance would create pressure on Russia that would mitigate some German political outcomes. Look in the news and you’ll find some of these countries already talking to each other and making arrangements.

I agree with you that Muscovy won’t vanish. If the Russian Federation falls apart to that kind of granularity, there won’t be much need to push it further. I suspect this will happen in the first half of this century and we will be focused upon what happens to all the nukes. There might be a shooting war involving the Baltics, but it will be the Poles and Romanians who determine whether the US acts or waits patiently.

As for cyberwar, encourage your friend to practice safe networking as much as safe sex. Best practices are impressively similar for both. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Code. Obviously I type that more often than Cod. Sorry about that. 8)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
Re - rules and regulations and people not obeying them

Re-think your example - substitute tax cheating for texting while driving

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

To your list of problems with warm climate migrating northward, add solifluction. The Alaska Pipeline has had huge problems in the last decade or so with the permafrost it is anchored into turning into mud, causing the pylons to fall over. On top of that, work trucks sent in to repair the pipeline have had to contend with trying to drive on this very high-viscosity mud. In time, though, much of that mud, as viscous as it is, will wash away into rivers and the ocean, disposing of what soil there was, and removing a lot of man-made installations in the process.

Alfred,
It sounds like you are arguing for vigilantism. As I said, the point was to encourage greater enforcement in the first place. How well it worked is hard to say, since hate crime wasn't even a word, much less a statistic, a few dozen years ago. But by raising awareness, it has the potential to move the culture, whereas ignoring the problem has no potential. Same goes for texting and driving. The more people talk about it, the more you hear people saying that texting while driving is really freaking stupid, instead of saying that it's just a matter of freedom of choice. I didn't say it was a perfect solution, but if it moves the needle in the right direction, it's better than doing nothing.

Paul SB said...

Another little gem from the Twig,

"... nor do they want cultural pathologies like the sexual freakshow agenda imposed upon them ..."

Middle school must not have been that long ago for him, right? This kind of obsession with other people's private business only shows a level of childish insecurity that should be embarrassing in an adult. Sexuality is a normal biological drive, and like all things biological, it has a bell curve. Heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality are all spots along that normal continuum, and there really isn't any reason he, or anyone else, should care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes to express those instincts. Regarding more freakish behaviors, these are likely consequences of many centuries of traditions that suppress normal behavior, resulting in psychological obsessions and weird behaviors. People who, like our Twig, obsess over other people's business like this, are the problem. Most of those freaks wouldn't exist if those conservative "values" didn't demonize those behaviors that really are normal and healthy, creating unhealthy obsessions.

David Brin said...

'nuff said. But see what he said about Michelle. And how he defended it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/12/23/trump-friend-and-n-y-campaign-co-chair-says-he-wants-obama-dead-of-mad-cow-disease-in-2017/?utm_term=.cae3682175a4

donzelion said...

Alfred/Paul SB: "The chances of them getting caught are near zero because we don’t enforce it on each other."
Rules against texting shift from a 'fantasy ban' to a painful reality IF a driver causes an accident while texting.

The texting ban would be painfully hard to enforce if police needed to stop a driver, get permission to access their phone (or force them to unlock it), and verify that they'd been texting while driving just now. Multiple lines of coercion required to prove texting while driving has occurred would cross a line that many folks would regard as 'unreasonable' (and hence, violating the 4th Amendment).

However, the second a driver causes an accident, texting becomes crucial to the record. Once someone has experienced the liability, they are likely to be deterred from repeat offenses.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I love my wife and I love raw salmon. Am I using ‘love’ the same way both times?


I read a short story once in which the protagonist is beginning to understand that his wife is an actual vampire who has been slowly sucking the life out of him. The story was supposed to exemplify the fact that women are vampires who suck the life out of men. Anyhoo, at one point, the wife protests that she loves him, and in a moment of clarity, he replies, "You love me the way I love a good steak dinner!"

Certain right-wing jingoists would seem to "love America" in much the same way. Or at least it's the only way their protestations are consistent with reality.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: ignoring the Ent's views for a second, discussion about "the sexual freakshow" is a useful place to assess why progressives splinter.

The debate about sexuality tends to devolve into a discussion of 'special accommodation' - it should always have been about 'bathroom equity.' Girls' bathrooms are almost always private stalls; men's bathrooms are almost always a mixture of private stalls and less private urinals. Insisting upon all private stalls, all the time, for both boys and girls, has been treated as a 'special accommodation.' Hence, many people oppose it.

In a 'gender parity' discussion, the argument follows that "little boys shouldn't have to have other little boys (or adults) scrutinizing their peepees." The status quo is perverted, and the only reason the perversion has survived is that some men like setting things up to give them the most chance to see other men's penises. If the debate were presented that way, even Treebeard would think twice before arguing that the status quo is defensible.

HOWEVER, this discussion never gets presented as 'protecting boys from perverts.' Accommodationist rhetoric dominates because the 'perfect' is the enemy of the 'good.' A winning rhetoric (my approach) could improve the lives of millions of kids now - BUT (a) it exploits preexisting judgments, esp. commonly held beliefs by homophobes without attacking those beliefs, and (b) it exploits and moves the lines of 'normalcy' - where they'd prefer to eliminate the concept entirely.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: Heh. Ok. Tax cheating harms people?

I freely admit there are times when I will be in the opposing minority. Some times that will involve taxation. I’m not so sure that majority rule is good enough for some taxes when there is a significant minority who sees it as a form of theft. Whether the majority agrees with us or not, our opposition is large enough that y’all should think carefully about why we object.

Texting while driving is at a minimum an act of careless disregard for the life of others around us. Many of us can look into our hearts and see that behavior as a failure to understand one of the cardinal virtues. Love. From that we argue for the moral validity of a social rule that punishes the act.

From that framework, which cardinal virtue is one failing to understand it one cheats on one’s tax obligation?

donzelion said...

Duncan: re 'rules & regulations and people not obeying them' - if you substitute tax cheating for 'texting while driving' - you also open the door for a larger consideration: what about rule breakers who, by breaking certain rules, position themselves to become the rulemakers?

Take Trump: did he obtain his billions by cheating on his taxes? Nobody can responsibly argue that he did so without seeing his tax returns (alas, his proponents are not required to be responsible). But it is absolutely certain that his tax savings expanded the pool of funds available to him for his political campaign (and similarly with other Republicans). It is no accident that tax-exempt churches are the organizational foundation of the Republican party in every rural district.

Most rules get broken for convenience (texting while driving); some get broken for more tangible benefit (e.g., murder while performing a burglary). Most of the time, our laws and regulations look to prohibit not just a certain type of behavior, but behavior performed for a certain reason. If X 'intended' to hit Y, then he's guilty of one kind of wrong (an intentional tort); if X did not intend to hit Y, but did so negligently, then he's guilty of a different kind of wrong (a negligence tort), and if X not only intended to hit Y, but the intention was based on malice, he may even have committed yet another kind of wrong (a crime, and one which the state must intervene to redress).

David Brin said...

You guys have been amazing.

now onward DO try to spread word about the next blog. It's an important one. (Though most of you had heard bits of it before.)

onward

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I’m not arguing for vigilantism. I’m arguing that the motivation for it exists in us all and this points to the distinction between types of law that some Libertarians fail to grasp. As long as we are inclined to take matters into our own hands, some Libertarians are going to be disappointed by what I consider to be a valid argument against their preference for small government. I’m recognizing the validity of an argument against something I would personally prefer, so I encourage progressives to take this as an olive branch. 8)

Having said that, I don’t think written law moves the culture. Only emergent law does and we have the causal relationship backward if we say it that way. WE move emergent laws and fight among ourselves while a transition occurs. Toleration of harm done to homosexuals occurred because there were emergent rules in many places that encouraged the harm. Things have changed a bit in some places as the fight over these rules continues. Until we settle the emergent scuffle, though, enforcement of legislation is likely to be uneven at best.

Hate legislation makes for an interesting example. Many of us are deeply bothered by violence done to people in protected groups. If we ask for special crime categories and get them, we can argue that something is being done and then avoid committing counter-violence ourselves. That’s a good thing until we realize the special crimes aren’t enforced any better than the ones we probably should have been enforced in the first place. What do we do next? Get violent? Ask for yet more punishment? Devote more effort to catching people? There are a number of dangers along the possible paths ranging from inaction to an endless list of crimes people can commit to the horrors of universal law enforcement technologies. Where I think the Libertarians have a valid point is in arguing against an endless supply of statutes and regulation. ULE is a civilization ending path best avoided even if it means people doing things that provoke vigilantism. Some of them go too far, though. I wish more of us who are a tad more moderate would ameliorate their arguments for change while preserving the useful parts. That won’t happen unless we get into their politics and face them as concerned neighbors.

donzelion said...

Alfred: a tax evader violates all four cardinal virtues (if your terms follow Plato's chain, through the Catholic church/Aquinas tradition), depending on how and what taxes hey evade and what they do with the savings.

A tax evader violates 'prudence' by failing to judge between actions and consequences. Any time the government fails to do some thing that it was created to do, if a tax evader failed to pay his share, he contributed to causing it to fail to do that thing it was supposed to do.

A tax evader violates 'justice' by taking benefits of having a government without paying for them (with 'justice' treated in a Greek manner, as meaning 'giving to each what is their due' - not unlike how Jesus treated Caesar's taxes).

A tax evader violates 'temperance' if as a result of the evasion, they spend foolishly on immoderate edifices (e.g., if they take the savings to build casinos, bars, and other indulgences, rather than schools/churches, farms, and other public works). Temperance typically relates to controlling appetites - but tax evasion drives risk appetites for certain types of risk (and is intimately linked with other indulgences in appetites).

A tax evader violates 'fortitude' by displacing the courage that is required to participate in public affairs to ensure that taxes are well-spent, and replacing it with a cynical cowardice to prevent shifting his personal resources into the public trough and then trying to guide its path.

Personally, I like the 'tax evader' discussion more than the 'traffic ticket evader' - because there are issues within taxation that are far-reaching and immediately meaningful. America will never be destroyed by having millions of drivers who foolishly text while driving. But we will be destroyed if we reward tax evaders with power.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: I can establish cameras at various points on the perimeter of my vehicle and record the fact that people drive while texting and making calls. If I’m close enough I can get facial features and maybe even a license plate. Run those against DMV records and social media db’s and I can connect the act to a person. There are going to be plenty of ambiguities where someone is looking at their lap and I can’t see the phone in the video that I would have to let go due to the shadow of a doubt, but many would be caught. I could do it. I’ve been tempted and even bought some of the necessary computing equipment. A friend of mine was run down by a kid across the street many years ago before cell phones in cars and I know for a fact the kid and his parents failed any reasonable test of caring what strangers thought of them.

We don’t need the police or acts of violence to stop this stuff. We need people who care. I haven’t built the camera rig partly because none of my friends have been killed lately, but also because emergent law hasn’t caught up yet. The social battle is still underway. Since I see significant advances toward self-driving vehicles, though, I suspect my annoyance may be made moot. It would be a good thing not to have to fight about any of it.

Oops. Just noticed the onward message. I’ll respond to your tax evasion post on the next one. 8)

David Brin said...

You guys have been amazing. I mean it!

But now onward

I mean it this time! (wagging admonishing finger.) Actually in fact, yuou guys can stay down here and do whatever you like! I'll just be onward

DO try to spread word about the next blog. It's an important one. (Though most of you had heard bits of it before.)

onward

Twominds said...

Alfred Differ and Donzelion:
To add a little thing to your argument about whether tax evasion harms people: I think it doesn't harm people directly, but indirectly it does.
Look at Greece for an example: tax evasion is so endemic and happens on such a large scale, that the Greek government misses out on a large chunk of income, with all kinds of concequences for their society.

I know, onward has been called, but I didn't want to carry this little addition to the next thread.

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