Friday, December 02, 2016

More Marvels from Space!

Time to take a breather to recall we're still a magnificent, outward-looking, scientific civilization.  Though I will add a time-sensitive political note, at the end. Especially for all you brainy folks who pin your hopes on salvation by the Electoral College.  Only now...

...on to wonders of Space!

Breathtaking....See this spectacular composite image of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons probe. Then consider: this imagery was taken in blackness deeper than any night you ever knew, amid lifeless, bitter cold. And see more gorgeous Pluto pix and Charon’s mysterious (now explained) red polar caps!

The planet is fully tidal-locked with its big moon, Charon, showing only one face to each other. The heart-shaped region Tombaugh Regio (I once met Clyde Tombaugh) is exactly opposite Charon.  Read what this seems to imply… including a possible sub-surface ocean.

Now take this note of consolation: You are a member of a nation and civilization that does this sort of thing. We did this. We do this.

Remember that. Let it gird and support you.

Water plumes from Europa’s south pole! This suggests that the moon’s vast ocean may be closer to the surface than we thought and might be sampled without having to melt or drill our way down. (At NASA's NIAC we are funding some weird-cool ways to get science done there._

See the latest op-ed by Ed Lu of the B612 Foundation, which aims to detect all the potentially Earth threatening asteroids. An important topic! Especially since we might also mine these for resources! (Disclaimer: I am on their advisory board.) 

Good bye RosettaThe Rosetta probe, which has orbited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for two years, has collided with the comet. Thanks for proving my doctoral thesis! 

Don't miss this great article from the New Yorker on the OSIRIS-REx mission to sample an asteroid.

== More on Mars and the Moon ==

Hot news from Mars! Radar inspection of Utopia Planitia revealed a deposit of water ice – as much as in Lake Superior – in a relatively flat, low latitude region the size of New Mexico. The layer ranges in thickness from 260 feet to 560 feet (80 to 170 m) and is made up of 50 to 85 percent water ice.  

A fascinating re-examination of results from the 1976 Viking Lander on Mars, the only one to explicitly look for life, which gave us ambiguous results. This new paper suggests that maybe Viking found life, after all.  

Back to the Moon? The Bushes & co. made a repeat of Apollo the centerpiece of their space ambition. It became GOP dogma to join Russia, China, Japan, Europe, India and several billionaires, all flocking to return to a sterile ball without any near-term usefulness or interest by scientists. Now, we see indications that the Trump administration will drop all Obama Era endeavors aimed at the fantastic riches to be found on asteroids, in favor of "been there, done that."

As an adviser to one of NASA's innovative-oriented directorates, I know about all sides of this argument. And there is an overlap of interest in one area, creating a cis-lunar station in orbit above the Moon. It is an ideal spot for both retrieving and studying asteroidal samples and offering services (for pay) to those wannabe copycat nations aiming to brag about being neo-Apollos. That part makes sense. But for that reason, don't expect to see it.

No, what this shows is that the Worst Man in America -- George F. Will -- is wrong in proclaiming Donald Trump to be "a false republican." DT's appointments so far are amplifications, not reversals of standard GOP crazinesses. And his policies toward science and space -- like ending all NASA Earth-science work -- differ from the Fox-propelled line only in being farther to the right.


== Further out in space ==

The most detailed 3D map yet of a billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy includes precise positions and brightness of 1.142 billion stars, plus distances and motions of more than 2 million of them.  You can navigate!  Courtesy ESA’s wonderful GAIA mission.

Space “blobs”! Ten times the diameter of the Milky Way! Glowing! Finally Explained! 

Boyajian’s Star (KIC 8462852) is one of the strangest discoveries of the Kepler mission, which vastly expanded our catalogue of alien planets.  Only in his case, the pattern of light dimming from the star cannot come from planetary eclipses, or even a disk of dust. The star not only dims up to 20% at intervals, it has been secularly dimming across observations spanning a century.  It is hard to accommodate both the long-term dimming and the lack of infrared and submillimeter emission. Explanations (discussed here before) range from internal stellar fluctuations to interstellar blockage of some kind, all the way to vast, alien architectural projects. 

Our galaxy may be more complex than a regular spiral. It’s already been reclassified as one of those “barred” spirals.  Now it seems the “Orion Spur that we sit amid is more than just a spur, but a complex – if not complete – spiral arm in its own right. 

== Exploring Earth ==

Read a fine and moving review – on Centauri Dreams – of Dr. David Grinspoon’s new book (blurbed by yours truly). In Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet's Future, David Grinspoon relates the question of our own survival as we deal with the so-called Anthropocene, a time when our technologies are increasingly affecting our planet, creating a new set of challenges to survival.

Thank Heavens. The GOES-R satellite is in orbit, safe from sabotage. It will nail down climate matters with great accuracy. The Bushites canceled almost every program to study climate and while Obama reversed course, it was hard getting money from Congress. This may be all we get for a long time.

This Japanese company's plan for a real world space elevator garners at least a mention... though I expect some cynicism below, in comments. 

A wonderfully inspiring story about the black women engineers and mathematicians who were deeply involved in the early space program. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly. An except from the interview with the author on the New York Times:

'Some of the white male engineers seemed almost puzzled by the bigotry of the time — they saw a problem that needed to be solved, by the smartest person available. Do you think there’s a connection between the clarity and precision of mathematics and engineering and the ability of NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, to employ people of color? Yes, though at the same time, this institution was also on the front lines of a lot of these conflicts and national emergencies: World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the space race. They needed all hands on deck. Like: “We don’t have enough computers? Where are we going to get them? Oh, there are these black women, at this black school, that’s right across town? Let’s get them in here.” There was a bit of an emergency sensibility a lot of the time."

== METI redux ==

The StarTalk science and astronomy site runs fascinating podcasts. In a recent episode (as of October 18: 7pm EST) host and astrobiology maven David Grinspoon ("Dr. Funkyspoon") interviews astronomer and science fiction author David Brin about a wide range of matters including the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligent civilizations (SETI). They answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about communicating with aliens. 

A new book, Waiting for Contact: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by Lawrence Squeri offers a cogent, engaging history of humanity's most ambitious quest - seeking outward for other minds. 

This Smithsonian Magazine article by Michael Chorost describes the “Cosmic Call” beaming from the Evpatoria dish in Crimea, in 1999. 

The article does point out (lightly) the fact that dozens of researchers in astronomy, SETI and related fields have protested against stunts such as this "cosmic call." These include former NASA SETI head Dr. John Billingham and former senior US diplomat Michael Michaud, who led the commission that drafted the SETI Protocols. A majority of workers in SETI, in fact, consider such METI stunts -- Messaging to Extra-Terrestrials - to be at-best affronts to grownup scientific process, in which we are expected to vett our projects openly and listen, when peers and others complain about potential for harm. These fellows (and some of them are friends of mine) are so gushy gung-ho that they shrug off every complaint or request to talk it over, before blaring "yoohoo!" into the cosmos.

To be clear, we do not expect these beamings to draw slathering alien invaders tomorrow. But when you aim to alter some principal observable characteristics of our planet, is it too much to ask for an environmental impact statement? And some discussion? For example, examining the history of past HUMAN first contacts between different cultures? Every one of which led to pain?
Those who zealously admire these shout-stunts tend to have the right instincts! To look outward and explore the cosmos. As an astronomer who also has done well with science fiction novels, I approve of the reflex, wholeheartedly! I've spent my whole life pondering the alien. But when people dive into the matter -- as they can do in this article and in this debate...
... they always come away both more informed and more willing to say: "Let's pause and talk over the ramifications, first."
Alas, there are zealots who are so confident in their evidence-free assertions and assumptions that they rush to wager their children -- and yours and mine -- that the universe is nothing but a Sesame Street-Barney wunderland. Oh, please let it be so.
An animated introduction to the Fermi Paradox. A bit simplistic and off by a few factors. But interesting.
And from xkcd:
and (almost) finally...XKCD makes fun astronomical comparisons!  

== And for you, who pray to the Electoral College ==

1- Don't expect salvation from the Electoral College. Yes, there'll be more defections-of-conscience than ever before. Some electors are talking out options, as a "college" should. Like matching Clinton and Trump abstainers, or voting for a sane republican, making Paul Ryan take responsibility. There's even a "Kasich Gambit." Ohio's electors could almost do it all by themselves.

I had no success with my own great idea... getting some billionaire to offer an all-expense-paid actual meeting of the Electoral College, at some resort - for the first time in 240 years - letting them talk it out, free of outside interference. Too late, I guess. Ah, judgement, thou art fled...


2- At last, someone offers a $100K reward for anyone bringing forward conclusive evidence of election fraud. I've begged for this. The reward should be 10X larger, (with help from a zillionaire), plus offers of immunity, hero status and talk show gigs.

Oh, and whistleblowers reap 20% of whatever the U.S. gets, when conspiracies are nailed!  


Crowdfund this, asap.





155 comments:

Treebeard said...

Responding to Catfish and others' comments about the evils of nationalism, Germany, etc.:

If Germany's idea of doing better than old Euro-nationalism is birthrates of 1.2, mass immigrant invasions, total emasculation of their men, their women being raped on the streets, and a total lack of any cultural influence or confidence, then it has already failed miserably. The same is true of the rest of Western Europe. This brand of liberalism is a failed, suicidal civilizational model, which people throughout the West are revolting against en masse. Like I said, liberalism doesn't sustain nations and peoples, it subverts and destroys them. Like a Geico ad, if you're a liberal, you destroy these things -- it's what you do.

Paul SB said...

The story about the African American mathematicians reminded me of Annie Jump Cannon a few generations earlier, when women almost never pursued higher education. The world is, indeed, changing, and in many ways for the better, in spite of just-so sawdust stories to the contrary, backed by no facts whatsoever.

Oh! Be A Fine Girl! Kiss Me!

The math ladies in the basement got it right, while the famous male professors floundered in the data.

Tacitus2 said...

Science - Good.

Our FIRST Team just landed another sponsor. And I am applying to teach at the local Tech School. Anatomy Physiology, also Medical Terminology and whatever else I can blag my way through!

I may have missed peoples thoughts on the "reactionless drive" that has been in the news lately. It makes a monkey of Newton as I understand it. Which I totally don't.

Tacitus

raito said...

I heard a radio interview with the author of Hidden Figures. Awesome stuff.

dennisd said...

David,
Thanks for the 'uplifting' updates on these amazing missions of discovery. New Horizons, GAIA, GOES-R ---- all stunning accomplishments from a robust civilization.

Jonathan Sills said...

The EM drive, if it works (which is as yet unproved, but an exciting possibility!), doesn't really mess with Newton too much - not even as much as Einstein did. It would appear to make a hash of Conservation of Momentum; if it works, there are going to be theoretical physicists tearing their hair out as they work to revise their theories to take this into consideration. (And engineers working themselves half to death to improve its output, as if the measurements so far hold up, the device as constituted may be exerting 0.00001g of thrust, which isn't really enough to shave off that much time from here to, say, Mars, even at constant thrust.)

I hope it proves out, just as I hope White's other enthusiasm, the Alcubierre drive, does, but I'm not betting the mortgage on it. (On the other hand, if they both work, we have warp and impulse drive, and just need artificial gravity and transporters before we can found the Federation...)

Stefan Jones said...

The last eight years have been AMAZING for space exploration, and for the advancement of private space travel.

I hang out on model rocketry discussion groups. The hobby skews old, so there's a lot of curmudgeon types devoted to golden age thinking. ("Why can't we have the Saturn V again?")

There was a supposition that Obama hated space travel, and that the hobby would be clamped down on and eliminated. But DAMN if the hobby in its own golden age. There is a national contest for teens, Obama has hosted science fairs with rocketry booths at the White House, and college aerospace programs are using rocketry. One Oregon State University program is mentored by my rocketry club. The other weekend a dozen or so student got their high-power certification at our high desert launch site. This is really extraordinary. And the students are going to to work with Blue Origin and SpaceX.

The big dangers to space science in a Trump administration are: A) Budget slashing after tax cuts and run-away military spending trash the economy, and B) a push for glamorous staffed space travel stunts based on"when America was great" thinking.

David Brin said...

Alas, they will concoct vast "projects" that look grand and move us forward not an iota. Going back to put more footsteps on the moon. Feh. But it may offset enough of this desire to prevent the "grand projects" Bush Senior and Bush Junior chose... great big delightful, Patton-scale wars.

BTW... that "lumpenproetariat" article was chilling!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumpenproletariat

It never occurred to me to compare Trump... not as much to fascists as Napolean III.

David Brin said...

Could this help explain the tidal wave of billionaires entering DT's cabinet? "President-elect Donald Trump’s ultra-wealthy Cabinet nominees will be able to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes in the coming weeks when they sell some of their holdings to avoid conflicts of interest in their new positions. The tax advantage will allow Trump officials, forced by ethics laws to sell certain assets, to skip the weighty tax bills they would otherwise owe on the profits from selling stock and other holdings."

They think they can ride the backs of the lumbenproletariat and the lumpenprols will keep whinneying "yes massa!" But it won't last.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-cabinet-could-avoid-millions-in-taxes-thanks-to-this-little-known-law/2016/12/02/509d009a-b7f5-11e6-959c-172c82123976_story.html?utm_term=.6fdd6e85b093

locumranch said...


The Universe is awe-inspiring & spectacular with the planet Pluto tidal-locked with Charon and water on Mars & Europa, giving rise to the pressing issue of moral deservingness. Does Charon deserve to be tidal-locked with Pluto? Does Pluto still deserve to be called a planet? And does a Republican led humanity deserve to even witness such beauty?

Screw this whole deservingness question to death!

Using today's technology. we build a giant columbiad rail gun, as suggested by Jules Verne, and shoot a series of human-containing capsules straight to Mars. These capsules are primitive projectiles: They contain only enough supplies & life support for the 4 month crossing; they land by a simple combination of airbags & parachute; and they lack even basic propulsion, navigation or the ability to divert. We use only the most optimistic volunteers, fire off thousands & thousands of rounds and expect 95% casualties until we either run out of progressives or have a self-sustaining colony on the Martian lakeshore.

It's 'win-win' & it would yield better odds of success than any modern marriage or state-run lottery, at least as far as the lumpenproletariat are concerned.


Best
+++++
Donald Trump & his cronies will rob their nations blind & issue presidential pardons for themselves, as the establishment has done since the beginning, until the lumpenproletariat rise up (those who have not been relocated to Mars) & build a people's paradise that will "rule for a thousand years", one governed by the best academics, eugenicists & climate scientists that grant money can buy, until the would-be lumpenproletariat rises up to liberate itself from their would-be liberators, over & over again, as described by our current definition of insanity. Hallelujah.

Alfred Differ said...

Conservation of momentum and translation symmetry are essentially the same thing. Anything that breaks one breaks the other. In a Newtonian perspective, a potential function breaks translation symmetry with any gradient at all (the force that changes momentum). If one can find the potential than an EM drive taps into, there is no issue with physics. If one cannot, there IS an issue. You can't have forces without broken symmetry anymore than a coin can have one side.

Alfred Differ said...

That's a heckuva tax break.
Why do we let them do that?!

Oh yah.

TCB said...

I've been following the Reddit threads (a bit) on the EM drive. The most cogent objection I've seen is that the reported amount of thrust may lie in the margin of error of the experiments, a margin of error that includes zero thrust. Or that it may work close to Earth for reasons not yet known but fail to work out in space. It has been tested in vacuum but (for example) may interact in an unknown way with Earth's magnetic field.
...
Locum, a columbiad and a rail gun are two entirely different technologies (the former was a common large-bore cannon in the Civil War era and is mentioned in Verne probably because it sounded somewhat high-tech back then).

Also, why are you so obsessed with getting rid of the concept of deserving? When the Felonious Five of the Supreme Court (so called by Vincent Bugliosi, who sent Manson to prison) awarded the PResidency to George W. Bush, one of their opinions flatly stated that Bush would be 'irreparably harmed' by letting Gore win, i.e. that Bush 'deserved' it more. It was 'his' 'prize'.

We maybe should stop talking about important offices as prizes to be won. If you enjoy doing the job you're probably really shitty at it.
...
I was confused for a minute about Boyajian's star, until I looked it up and saw that Tabby's star is the same one.
...

Actually, though about rail guns:

There's a Canadian company called Thoth that has a patent for a 12 mile high inflatable tubular tower (not really a space elevator but an elevator-equipped launch pad).

Sorta space elevator

Buuuut if they think they can do that, WHY NOT a rail gun in the middle of the tube??? You probably CAN accelerate humans in a capsule to at or near escape velocity if you've got a 12 mile vertical run. Air's getting thin by the time you pop out the top end. Maybe have additional rocket engines that kick in after exiting, if the railgun alone is not enough.

Thoughts?

Jumper said...

locumranch rightly accuses some on the left of the "just world" hypothesis, as its pernicious influence is somewhat universal,
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Just_world_hypothesis
but neglects to mention its far more robust occurrence on the right in the form of social Darwinism and racism.
Then he tosses in his own nihilistic suggestion that all morality is without foundation in logic, therefore null. By which one might assume that locumranch simply has none, or thinks he has none (morals). Of course most people do, as his own protests of unfairness make him logically null, appearing to others as an insane person.

Tim H. said...

Perhaps someone will just happen to leave a copy oh RAH's "Spinoff" essay where "He I name when I overindulge in burritos" will find it?
Jonathan Sills, without the transporter and artificial gravity we can still start building Jerry Pournelle's "Empire of Man".

Randall Winn said...

TCB

“…one of their opinions flatly stated that Bush would be 'irreparably harmed' “
Indeed. One of the requirements of issueing a stay is a finding that the party requesting the stay would be irreparably harmed more than the opposing party. Scalia not only opined that not getting the White House would “harm” Bush (rather than merely disappoint him) but ignored the exact same pseudo-harm that would accrue to Gore. As you point out, treating the opportunity to hold public office as a cash value prize rather than as an opportunity to serve the public has bad consequences.

To his credit, Trump is quite open about the cash value of the prize.

Since the Electoral College is back in the news, it bears mention that Scalia (in his opinion on the stay, not in the ultimate opinion) was wrong in another way: since the College had not voted when the stay was issued, NO candidate had any interest in the public office at that time.

---
locum ...
“If Germany's idea of doing better than old Euro-nationalism is … total emasculation of their men … and a total lack of any cultural influence or confidence, then it has already failed miserably.”

The condition being false, the conclusion may be ignored.

Since he brings up the subject of rape, however, it’s worth noting that women (and men) have been raped since forever, and much more often by authoritarians than be those who believe in the legal equality of all persons. That’s one of the reasons civilization is A Good Thing and To Be Defended.



Zepp Jamieson said...

TCB wrote: "You probably CAN accelerate humans in a capsule to at or near escape velocity if you've got a 12 mile vertical run."

Escape velocity in 12 miles equates to just about 1000 gravities. There's not much cargo that could endure that, and no known life forms.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin:

A more apt version might be what informs most so-called 'banana republic dictatorships' -- Lumpenbourgeoisie

TCB said...

@ Zepp, I just ran a much comfier 5 g calculation at 12 miles on Wolfram Alpha and got a run-up of just under 30 seconds and an exit velocity of 3078 mph.

I got just about 160g, not 1000, for escape velocity at 12 miles. Still over fifteen times what humans can stand. But hardened nonliving payloads can do that.

Anyway, 3000 mph at 12 miles altitude basically saves you about half of a first rocket stage. Might be a way to make that work.

Paul SB said...

Has anyone notice that in the last year nearly all of loci's arguments have been little more than reductio ad ridiculum?

Here's an interesting line from one of the popular web sites on fallacies: "In fact, this type of fallacy usually shows desperation in the one committing the fallacy."

from

https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/42/Appeal-to-Ridicule

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

The Just World fallacy is not just political, its origins are really supernatural - notions of divine justice. This is equally true of East and West, where one side puts the onus for delivering justice in the hands of gods, while the other treats the idea of karma as a sort of natural law that operates regardless of the will of the gods. Either way, it leads to a sort of fatalism in which people have little motivation to act, especially to improve things, since they believe that everything is pretty much pre-ordained. It has been noted here before that the most religious states in the nation are also the most conservative, regressive, and the ones that have the most social problems (excepting some of the most densely-populated urban centers). When people believe that nothing can be done about their lot, that everyone gets what they deserve, then trying to fix things or make improvements is counter to God's Plan and meddling. The origins of many of our woes run much deeper than recent political events.

However, I'm not sure that I would say that loci is insane. Social Darwinism, racism and in his case quite militant sexism are more indicators of deeply immature, egoistically insecure, self-centered assholes than the truly insane. If he were actually insane, you would expect incoherence and a lot of second- and third-order associative reasoning, rather than the more garden-variety inconsistencies and simple-minded, obvious rationalizations.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I went on an assumption of 0 to 26,000 mph in twelve miles. Granted, 17,500mph will get you into LEO, but I was taking it literally.
Of course, the 12 miles doesn't have to be vertical; Suppose it's at 45 degrees, with the aperture at 12 miles altitude. That would make the tube a hair under 17 miles long. However, you whould have to traverse that much more upper atmosphere, and there are obvious structural stresses. I could calculate different angles, but I shall instead go and sin no more.

TCB said...

Yeah, I was running some other numbers, assuming non-vertical. Railgun needs to be reallllly long to help much. Build one in the Himalayas, start underground and use tall mountains for support, pointing East, maybe you could manage something.

But it's becoming clearer why nobody has seriously considered it.

Paul SB said...

Duncan (from the last thread),

What you said about the human brain acting ahead of its data stream is essentially correct, though I would characterize it more as brains jumping to conclusions based on preliminary information (or "first impressions" if you prefer).

"My understanding is that the brain operates "ahead" of it's data stream

Have you ever seen aircraft - you can see what it is - count the engines - then it comes closer and it's a seagull?

Your/our visual processing grinds until it gets a solution and then moves on - sometimes the solution is wrong

This is because if it waited for full data the saber-tooth would get us before we decided to dodge"

This points out the major flaw in the minds of those who 'act on instinct' or 'go with their guts' - they jump top conclusions quickly without taking the time to verify whether their first impressions were actually correct. Add confirmation bias, the sunk cost effect and a host of other ways human brains defend their egos, and we have a basic difference between smart people and people who are not - the time people are willing to invest in reaching firm conclusions.

Paul SB said...

Larry (from the previous thread),

As a lad of 25, " That was the first time I noticed my perception being altered that way, but it certainly wasn't the last. And I wasn't old back then."

- I did say that this phenomenon does not only happen with age, but with other stressors as well. Lack of sleep is the most common, and people rarely know their own limits there. It is also very common with small children who are learning to speak. I wouldn't worry about it too much. It happens to just about everyone, and is not unusual. It is something that you will probably see more of as you age. No bigge!

Jumper said...

Paul, the appearance of insanity doesn't mean everything. A man being attacked by a hive of bees looks insane from a few hundred yards away... but based solely on the ability to process logically, locumranch does. And I don't know if the metaphorical bees attacking him are figments of his imagination, but there is evidence suggesting so.

David Brin said...

Zepp I like the lumpenbourgeoisie term! very apt!

Locum keeps interpreting his opponents as being like his cult. It is psychotic, since his opponents are the people who invented the very tolerance that he accuses them of abusing. Thus, unintentionally, he pays obeisance to our standards. If only he had irony neurons.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I wish I could take credit, but it was a neologm coined in the 1920 to describe supporters of business-oriented dictatorships, or what later was called fascism.

locumranch said...


All of my fellow nerds know what Spock said about an insane society.

And, no, I am am neither insane nor immoral. I still care, even though at times I wish I didn't, and I am intensely irritated by those who conflate morality with logic.

Logic is necessarily amoral, especially when defined in terms of causal reasoning. It tells us how to get from point A to point B, but it cannot tell us 'why'. In contrast, Morality is the study of preference & desirability as it reduces the 'why' of such a journey into a collection of 'ought tos', shouldisms & mustn'ts.

I can tell you the best ways to cure disease, deliver an infant, prolong life, abort a fetus, or end a life as these are logically-dependent actions, but the 'ought to', should & mustn't of these actions are the sole province of an increasingly subjective & culturally relativistic morality. Oppenheimer used LOGIC to build the Bomb. Then, when he desired not to use it, he used Morality.

Logic expands. Morality limits.

I say again:

We can colonize Space today with current technology. We build a rail gun (tube) 50, 100, 200 miles long. It exits on a mountain top. We depressurize it like Elon Musk's old-timey pneumatic tube transport Hyperpoof knock-off. It costs a few Trillion dollars for the first launch, then only hundreds of dollars for every launch thereafter. We load it with human-containing metal cans & launch them into space. Volunteers only. Pop, pop, pop. First, orbit; then, Mars; then, the Stars our destination. Maybe we build another on Moon Base Alpha. Thousands die. Boo-hoo. All would still be dead in a few hundred years if we coddled them, fed them bonbons & didn't try.


Best
___
@Randall: Not my words. Not my women. Not mine to abuse or protect. Not my problem.

Jeff B. said...

As liberal arts student with just an affinity for science I can only marvel, and wait impatiently for the newest discoveries and inventions. I am indeed proud to be part of this civilization.

As far as politics go, I'm 250 miles from home, with my son who is competiting at the Princeton (U.) Classic speech and debate tournament, and it's truly hard right now to feel gloomy here. The kids I've judged have been absolutely amazing;all races, genders, able and disabled... their hope and optimism and energy, their promise is Our promise. T his is is the future, now! I find it hard to see the current troubles as being more as a passing phase. The consequences otherwise are too horrible to contemplate.

TCB said...

Sheesh, speaking of lumpenbourgeoisie, I just got back from the supermarket, where I complained to the clerk about the National Enquirer, standard reading fare for a certain segment of lumpen. She said she'd tell her supervisor, and hey, one complaint probably means 100 other customers had a beef but said nothing.

As any citizen of Unistat probably knows, this is one of the tabloids that have sat right next to the register for decades. Hard to buy your groceries without seeing that big front page headline, and for the last two or three months it's been one pro-Trump, anti-Clinton or anti-Obama story pretty much every week.

Today's National Enquirer, the one that pushed me over the edge, said something like "MUSLIM SPIES IN OBAMA'S CIA".

Prolly I'll just keep mentioning it until they move them to the regular magazine rack, a HYUUUGE demotion, or until I turn slightly bluer. Probably the latter.

On the opposite pole, I've been thinking gift subscriptions to Funny Times might be a productive idea.

Jumper said...

Regarding the floating tether, what holds up the last 500 meters at the top? A few more small segments? That's not enough to accelerate a pod; an electromagnetic line would just yank down in response giving your payload nothing substantial to push against to accelerate. No, you need three massive balloons on top, spreading the load out by 3 girders anchoring the balloons outside of the center where the pods will whizzing by.

LarryHart said...

Johnathan Sills:

The EM drive, if it works (which is as yet unproved, but an exciting possibility!), doesn't really mess with Newton too much - not even as much as Einstein did. It would appear to make a hash of Conservation of Momentum;


Well, isn't that Newton too? The whole "equal and opposite reaction" thing?

In any case, it makes a monkey out of the Thomas Jefferson character in "Hamilton" :


Every action has an equal, opposite reaction.
John Adams shat the bed. I love the guy, but he’s in traction.
Poor Alexander Hamilton. He is missing in action.
So now I’m facing—Aaron Burr?!--With his own faction

LarryHart said...

TCB:

We maybe should stop talking about important offices as prizes to be won.


Exactly!!! We The People should be electing the best at performing the job, not the ones who are best able to win a game show.


If you enjoy doing the job you're probably really shitty at it


I wouldn't go quite that far, but I'd say if you're in the job strictly for the perks, then you're probably really shitty at it.

Except I don't typically say "shit".

LarryHart said...

Randall Winn:

Scalia not only opined that not getting the White House would “harm” Bush (rather than merely disappoint him) but ignored the exact same pseudo-harm that would accrue to Gore.


I'm just going off of memory here, but IIRC, it wasn't exactly that George Bush would be harmed by losing the election after all. It was presumed that even as the recount was proceeding, the election process would continue to move forward--the electors choosing W in December and him being inaugurated in January. Thus, as the sitting president, W would have been harmed by having his legitimacy questioned by a recount that showed he didn't really win Florida (and thus shouldn't be president) after all.

It would be like refusing to show an instant replay for a play which the rules don't allow to be challenged, because the replay would show that the team that won didn't do so legitimately.

Note, I'm not defending this argument--just trying to explain the way I recall it.


LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The Just World fallacy is not just political, its origins are really supernatural - notions of divine justice. This is equally true of East and West, where one side puts the onus for delivering justice in the hands of gods, while the other treats the idea of karma as a sort of natural law that operates regardless of the will of the gods.


I've heard it used by campus preachers as a reason why the Heaven and Hell of Christianity must exist. Something along the lines of "Hitler was so evil that it is not plausible he escaped comeuppance by committing suicide. The only possible way for Hitler (as an example) to get what he deserved is if the comeuppance happens in the afterlife. Therefore, a punitive afterlife is proven to exist."


Either way, it leads to a sort of fatalism in which people have little motivation to act, especially to improve things, since they believe that everything is pretty much pre-ordained.


Not only pre-ordained, but justified. "What exists is self-evidently as God intended, and therefore better than any alternative." Therefore, any attempt at reform is an attempt at degradation. Which ignores the fact that once a reform is instituted, the same logic would insist that that way is now as God intended, and therefore wonderful.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I am intensely irritated by those who conflate morality with logic.


That's funny, because the only one doing that is you.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

"Have you ever seen aircraft - you can see what it is - count the engines - then it comes closer and it's a seagull?"


Comics make good use of the reader's attribution of more detail than is actually seen on the printed image.


"Your/our visual processing grinds until it gets a solution and then moves on - sometimes the solution is wrong

This is because if it waited for full data the saber-tooth would get us before we decided to dodge"

This points out the major flaw in the minds of those who 'act on instinct' or 'go with their guts' - they jump top conclusions quickly without taking the time to verify whether their first impressions were actually correct.


When the one who acts on gut instinct gets it right, he gains status over those who dither over possibilities and consequences because he gets something done ahead of the others. Sometimes the others would have been too late to prevent the crisis that he ends up taking care of. That's how that sort of leader gets admired--usually until he gets something horribly wrong that a bit of thoughtful lcost/benefit analysis would have mitigated.

TCB said...

@ Larryhart, the 2000 election and legal fight was a complicated and very ugly affair. I really think the Brooks Brothers riot speaks for the whole thing in a way. Roger Stone, more recently carrying water for Donald Trump, engineered the well-dressed mob that bullied canvassers into halting the Miami-Dade recount that might well have put Al Gore in the White House. People who examined photos of these guys discovered that many were GOP congressional aides flown in on the party's dime. They were controlled from a mobile HQ parked down the street. Afterward, Wayne Newton sang Danke Schoen at a party for them.

Here's a photo.

Ioan said...

Since this thread has gotten political, it would be a good time to ask this question.

Up until this year, the Great Lake States were almost uniformly blue (Indiana was a swing state). How can we get them back?

Don't get me wrong, I agree with David that the global benefits of outsourcing outweigh the suffering that the region experienced. However, that's still our job to try to ameliorate the suffering or lose them the same way we lost Appalachia.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart: The inauguration was still six weeks away. The recount would have been completed in time easily. The state of Florida had an arbitrary date (December 22, I believe) by which votes were supposed to be finalized--unless a full recount might change the result of the election. The SC chose to ignore that provision, and ruled that the votes couldn't be recounted before the arbitrary deadline.

Jeff B. said...

TCB/Larry Hart,

As wrong as he was about his philosopher kings, didn't Plato in the Republic state the same thing- that desire for the throne should be instant disqualification or the job?

If only there were some way to adapt that principle to democracy...

David Brin said...

Who is this fairly interesting, moderately intelligent and cogently expressive and only somewhat wrong fellow? And what has he done with our Locumranch?

(referring to the recent philosophical riff.)


Ioan... I am working on it....

Brin on the road

Anonymous said...

@Dr.Brin, from the previous thread

in The Transparent Society and elsewhere I keep explaining... *Nothing that outraged activists do will prevent the police from seeing you!* If you gain temporary victories, all you'll do is drive the powers into secret corners. The very notion that facial recog won't be as trivial as breathing, available in 10,000 ways, ten years from now is proof of lack of imagination bordering on self-lobotomization.

I think I have more imagination than that! And I do agree intellectually, but my remark about being not happy about it, reflects my personality who doesn't like being in view all the time. Especially not in times where I have less trust than usual that all that info won't be misused by the ones in power.

The trick will be always to have these powers ourselves. To make police less needed and thus fewer! To recognize police and hold them accountable. And to easily catch the voyeurs and peeping toms who would violate our privacy by judgmentally peering at us.

And this is where my imagination is having trouble. I can easily imagine misuse of survaillance, but I see much less how to do what you say here, to take these powers for ourselves. I'm afraid we'll be continually one step behind in the arms race.


About the current post: thanks for all the great space links, many of them I hadn't seen yet, and especially for the link to Grinspoon's book. On my wish list for Christmas!
For the ones here who like geology and biology, I found this 2011 book very worthwile: Revolutions that made the Earth from Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson. I think it gives a good overview how inseparable geological processes and the evolution of life have been in shaping the Earth that we know.


Interesting tidbit maybe on the assaults in Germany in Cologne at new years eve last year: Germany until recently had a very outdated law on what counts as rape. Only when a woman has put up such a resistance that she was hurt in the process, it counted. Being intimidated into submission or not having been wounded in the fight were not enough. Many people in Germany have tried for ages to get this law changed, without success, and only now, now that women were assaulted by 'filthy furriners' instead of german men, suddenly a change of law was possible.

Twominds

Paul SB said...

Dr.Brin,

In this case, loci's response was much, much more measured than his usual rant. But his central riff of "logic expands, morality limits" is pretty No Duh! stuff, don't you think? Of course morality limits. That is the point of morality. It provides an internal, frontal lobe check on impulsive, limbic system behavior. It is a defining feature of adulthood, along with myelination of the connections between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain. Likewise the comment that reckless exploration would result in the deaths of thousands of people who would die anyway goes back to his usual solipsism. All Men Must Die, it is true, but when, after how long and how satisfying a life, and in how much pain? When leaders of nations do things like this, they go down in history as monsters, even if their nations or the whole world gains some benefit from their ruthless actions.

David Brin said...

Twominds put The Transparent Society on that Xmas gift list! On P 160 I predicted the arrival of "cop-cams" worn by police… and that the people they stop will have their own cams, looking back at them. The most important civil liberties advance in 20+ years was the establishment of that right. And I dread Trump possibly trying to retrac t it.

I am sorry you cannot imagine anything but Orwellian surveillance. Blame Hollywood, since they depict that incessantly and almost never portray citizens looking back reciprocally. But the latter IS what is happening and the tech trends favor it at least as much as Big Brother. If you must envision it without Hollywood's help, then do it anyway. Because it is the only way we can be free. It is already the way we became free.

DB on a train

Paul SB said...

Jeff B.,

Where you wrote:

"As wrong as he was about his philosopher kings, didn't Plato in the Republic state the same thing- that desire for the throne should be instant disqualification or the job?

If only there were some way to adapt that principle to democracy..."

I thought maybe, just maybe there is, but it would require literally kicking out all the bums currently in office in virtually every democratically-elected office the world over. Wealth acts very much like an addiction. Generally speaking, the wealthier people are, the more greedy they become. This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what the wealthy say about themselves, but millennia of propaganda by those who controlled the means of making propaganda is easily discounted.

So how about making a wealth cap on serving in political office. Anyone whose net worth is over a certain figure (adjustable for inflation and income distribution) is simply disqualified from service, though not from voting. If anyone's net worth rises above that level while they serve a term in office, they are disqualified from reelection and are subject to immediate investigation for abuse of office. A modest proposal?

Paul SB said...

Larry,

If you want to get technical, your campus preachers example would be called Argumentum ad consequentium, or "appeal to consequences" - which basically means that something must be true because I don't like the consequences that would result if it weren't true. It's very much of the same ilk as the Just World Fallacy, wishful or magical thinking. It's all just ego-defense horse puckey.

Our comments about what is both pre-ordained and justified is kind of a rehash of old Dr. Pangloss & his pupil, Candide, isn't it?

"Comics make good use of the reader's attribution of more detail than is actually seen on the printed image."
- You, my friend, have spent too much time reading American comics, where the quality of the art is often very poor. Having an artistic savant at home who finds the better stuff, I am getting to know the difference.

Leaders who get it right based on a gut instinct (if that is actually what happened and not just the image they portray of themselves) appeals to the lazy brains among us, and they are legion! One of my fervent hopes is that neurology becomes a standard part of public school curriculum, so that future generations will be able to tell the difference. However, I can be sure that fools in government will rewrite the curriculum to circumvent that - the same fools who took Thomas Jefferson out of the Texas history curriculum.

David Brin said...

"American comics, where the quality of the art is often very poor"

Ahem. The Life Eaters. Art by the magnificent Scott Hampton.

Great Xmas gift.

http://www.davidbrin.com/lifeeaters.html

David Brin said...

See the embedded trailer! Watch it full screen! It oughta remind you what's at stake.

http://www.davidbrin.com/lifeeaters.html

Catfish N. Cod said...

....it appears the Great Galactic Ghoul ate my previous post.

* I'd say Utopia Planitia just went to top of Elon Musk's colonization target list.
* I'm not sure you *couldn't* sell the cis-lunar station -- hell, repurpose that asteroid-capture mission to build the thing -- to a Trump administration. It wouldn't work on a regular Republican, but Trump could be convinced (by fast talking) that this would be a chance to put one over on everyone else, the way Levi Strauss made more of a fortune selling blue jeans to miners than any single miner found in gold. Let other nations pay for exploring the moon... pay *us* for the privilege, in fact. After all, we were there first! And that would leave us flexible to go for the REAL targets... which nobody else has the tools to even try for.
* Space elevator: I've said it before and I'll say it again... the day someone successfully builds a carbon nanotube cable-stayed bridge is the day to seriously start working on a space elevator for Earth. Meanwhile, the logical way to learn how to do it, and prepare for it, would also be the logical follow-on project to a cislunar station: building a Kevlar space elevator for the Moon. We can do that *today*... if we had a counterweight first... now THERE is a dramatic infrastructure project!
* "Hidden Figures" is a perfect example of why our nation should provide "maximum opportunity to all". It doesn't "deserve" it, but a disservice is done to all of us if we let talent go to waste. If we play by equal rules, China and India will crush us with sheer numbers; our competitive advantage in the world is higher quality. We can't afford to let people languish in opportunity cul-de-sacs.
* As long as we're doing responses to strawmen, the ent would have us believe that the ongoing demographic transition, the existence of migration patterns, and the preference for soft power are all the fault of political and moral choices on the part of Germans, not driven by the rise of technology, shifts in climate, and the relative efficacy of geopolitical tactics... or of the choices other nations and peoples have been making recently. He also (by reversing the descriptions of modern Germany he finds negative) believes civilizational stability comes from fecundity, restrictions on movement, a strong traditionalist masculinity to exert will and protect women, and cultural influence through self-confidence. What versions of historical German society this corresponds to, and the state they left Germans in, are left as an exercise for the reader.
* locum's Mars colonization "plan" is surely meant to be facetious in one sense, but does point out that Mars colonization is primarily a matter of choosing to throw enough resources at the problem. We simply haven't made the cost/benefit ratio good enough with current technology. We *could* do it the way he proposes... though we won't. For one thing, that railcannon would also have to be treated as a potential WMD itself. See Moon is a Harsh Mistress, though the trajectories for one launched from Earth to impact Earth would be more restrictive than from a lunar Flinger.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Got that one! The Life Eaters is an exception that proves the rule, as they say.

Has anyone else approached you about making graphic novels of any of your stories? I can imagine quite a few of them working well in graphic form.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Hmmm. Grant Morrison could do a good job on "Kiln People." He's done recognizable monochromatic faces in other work.
For Practice Effect, Ashley Cope. Magic and wit inform her art.
For the Uplift series, maybe Fiona Staples. And her partner, Brian K. Vaughn could be a good candidate for the necessary rewrite to fit the new format.
Of course, they need to finish "Saga" first.

donzelion said...

Hi TwoMinds, sorry for delay (have been hammered by work lately).

re "police bodycams with facial recognition software"

(1) The Slate article you linked to raises 'dystopian fears' of police monitoring protests etc. I find that a little funny. For much of America, that sort of dystopia already exists. The Slate article frothes at the possibility of being treated just like any 'stop'n'frisk' African-American/Latino who was treated accordingly under procedures that are repeatedly proposed as 'tough on crime' and repeatedly tossed as 'ineffective (and frustrating)' (witness Trump re-raising this process).

No, the police cannot read your face and name in a machine. They just gently stroke their pistol, and courteously request your papers. If you're not white, it happens more often.

(2) "By enhancing police-worn body cameras with facial recognition technology, beat cops themselves could be turned into a citywide mass automated tracking tool."

That'll happen about 20-40 years after we've replaced our entire army with drone soldiers. Such a mass automated tracking tool cannot function efficiently through walking officers with other duties. A tool for tracking requires either a huge swarm of inputs, or relatively steady/fixed observers - police are not a 'swarm' and when they're fixed in one location, they're not responding to urgent matters. Thus, I would expect more of a comprehensive tracking system would be created - and police would respond to calls.

The earliest such efforts will be 'auto-police' systems - e.g., 'traffic ticket cameras on steroids.' And even less popular...

Just my thoughts...

Slim Moldie said...

end-user vs creator,
who wields the power?
the creator designs the remote
the end-user still gets the vote
the touch screen is addictive
cool fox drool
blame it on public school
and as technology exponentiates
will we devolve into lower primates?
do invention and innovation really precede science?
and please weigh this on your conscience:
are the intellectual elite starving or feeding the mentally weak?
does each creator have an obligation
to precede their science with innovation:
to figure out how to make
their technology give more than it will take?
I realize my reasoning may be atactic
but I don’t hesitate to "conflate morality with logic"
in asking does technology have
an obligation to become didactic?
Because as technology exponentiates
do we devolve into lower primates?

greg byshenk said...

Paul SB wrote:
This points out the major flaw in the minds of those who 'act on instinct' or 'go with their guts' - they jump top conclusions quickly without taking the time to verify whether their first impressions were actually correct.

I don't think that this is the 'flaw'. All of us 'act on instinct' the vast majority of the time. We couldn't go about our daily business if we didn't.

The 'flaw' is in not recognizing that our first instinct may be wrong, and that when faced with important decisions we should consider that possibility.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
I'm on a similar page
IMHO a politician is a servant of the people so he/she should serve no other masters - none!

This means that a politician - once elected - should have no other income - anything like royalties should be directed to a national recognized charity

In order to make that work he/she should be paid a lot more than presently - at least twice as much
PLUS - I am thinking that he/she should get a "pension" and also be unable to get anything other than that pension for at least five years after leaving office

In the UK if you are a Lord/Lady entitled to serve in the House of Lords you cannot serve in the House of Commons unless you renounce your title - pass it on to your heir
(at least it used to be like that)

We could treat wealth the same way - you have to pass your wealth on before you can be elected - and it can't come back!
Have a simple transition number that is index linked - say two million 2016 Dollars

greg byshenk said...

Simon Wren-Lewis has some commentary relevant to the 'war on expertise'. He talks about economics, but it is also more generally relevant.

"The broadcast media should be a defense against populism, not the means by which populism takes hold. If you treat knowledge as just an opinion, of course people will vote for whatever sounds good to their ears. [...] We cannot expect people to make sensible decisions about these issues if expertise on these issues (not just economic, but legal, constitutional etc) is kept locked away in specialist programmes they will never see, or ignored altogether. We must stop allowing politicians to dictate what is knowledge and what is just an opinion."

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

This might sound kind of weird, but do you think Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover would make for an interesting rendition of "Startide Rising?" I think they could have great fun with the dolphin crew.

For "Existence" I would want no less than Miyazaki Hayao, but that's probably just a pipe dream.

Paul SB said...

Greg,

"The 'flaw' is in not recognizing that our first instinct may be wrong, and that when faced with important decisions we should consider that possibility."

- I think we are saying pretty much the same thing. I explain this to my students when doing the nervous system. The instinctive system (System 1, in Kahneman's terms) works fast and is easy to follow. If you are standing in the road and a truck is coming at you at 80 mph, you need to react fast. That saves your life in an emergency. But when you are making important decisions (like who to vote for, what career to pursue, who to marry) you don't want to rely on System 1. Important decisions need time and careful consideration of many factors. As Larry was saying earlier, leaders who seem to act on impulse and get it right are often rewarded in our culture. But when they get it right, it's really pure luck, not some mysterious "instinct" and betting on such people is foolish.

This is my biggest beef with the Star Wars franchise. If it were more real and Luke trusted his feelings, he would have missed the target by a mile and the Death Star would have wasted the rebel base. But many people equate bravery with stupidity.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

"Comics make good use of the reader's attribution of more detail than is actually seen on the printed image."
- You, my friend, have spent too much time reading American comics, where the quality of the art is often very poor. Having an artistic savant at home who finds the better stuff, I am getting to know the difference.


Actually, my formative years in Marvel and DC superhero comics were when the art was much better than it is now. I've pretty much given up on those companies for that very reason--I feel personally insulted at the level of artwork that is considered acceptable (let alone "hot") in comics. Great America (amusement park) is now covered with representations of iconic DC heroes, and I cry when I see the artwork that is considered "on model" these days. Spitting on genius and all.

But more to my original point, it's not a question of whether the artwork is good or not. Line drawings, even fairly detailed and realistic ones, can only represent reality when accompanied by the willing participation of the reader. I wasn't saying that's a bad thing. Just that it works as a demonstration of what we discussed about the brain filling in the pieces of information it is missing.

Paul SB said...

Slim Moldie,

Fun putting the question into verse - you're a braver soul than I, as far as that goes. But "devolution" doesn't happen, it's a misunderstanding of evolution, which itself is directionless (regardless of oddly-dressed rock bands from the 70's). I think we might both be seeing the central issue as one of the motivation for technological development, which for most is a profit motive, regardless of safety. I doubt it ever occurred to Henry Ford that the waste gasses from his creation would actually kill thousands of people a year and contribute to flat-lining the Earth's biosphere. But it also facilitated a population boom that there is no going back from without mass destruction, so we have to innovate our way out of this hole. Can this be done when technology is motivated more by short-term profit and less by long-term good, to say nothing of long-term survival?

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

As long as we're doing responses to strawmen, the ent would have us believe that the ongoing demographic transition, the existence of migration patterns, and the preference for soft power are all the fault of political and moral choices on the part of Germans,


I recall the neocons reaction to Germany's (and France's) reluctance to join in the push for the Iraq War, to shame Germany for being too pacifistic. My thought was along the lines of "You want to change that? We should be down on our knees thanking God that we live in a world in which Germany can be thought of as too pacifistic."

He also (by reversing the descriptions of modern Germany he finds negative) believes civilizational stability comes from fecundity, restrictions on movement, a strong traditionalist masculinity to exert will and protect women, and cultural influence through self-confidence. What versions of historical German society this corresponds to, and the state they left Germans in, are left as an exercise for the reader.


I don't believe he is forgetting the example of Nazi Germany. Rather, he regards that period as a good model for a successful society, and WWII as an unfortunate event which cut short the thousand-year reich.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

This points out the major flaw in the minds of those who 'act on instinct' or 'go with their guts' - they jump top conclusions quickly without taking the time to verify whether their first impressions were actually correct.


greg byshenk:

The 'flaw' is in not recognizing that our first instinct may be wrong, and that when faced with important decisions we should consider that possibility.


There are circumstances in society, just as in individual behavior, where quickness of action is essential and when "analysis paralysis" can be deadly. In those circumstances, the quick-acting leader who chooses correctly by instinct can be (rightly) seen as a savior.

The flaw is when society decides that thoughtful analysis is therefore not necessary at all, and that quick action is always preferable to deliberation. That perception can last until the gut-action leader makes some devastating blunders and then goes "Who could have possibly guessed that that would happen?" when the "that" is something his critics have been pointing out all along. Then, the pendulum swings back the other way.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

For the Uplift series, maybe Fiona Staples. And her partner, Brian K. Vaughn could be a good candidate for the necessary rewrite to fit the new format.
Of course, they need to finish "Saga" first.


Hmmm, I might need to check that one out. I've lost track of Brian K Vaughn lately, but in the previous decade, he wrote two of my favorite comics series, "Y: The Last Man" and "Ex-Machina". And to Paul's point, those both had good artwork, although the inevitable fill-in artists could leave something to be desired.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Understood!

But the quality of the art can make a big difference, in much the same way that the quality of an author's description can make a scene make sense to a reader, or be so vague that the reader's mind misconstrues the scene and comes away with the wrong impression.

As far as graphic narrative goes, commercial priorities have overridden craftsmanship in the industry.

When I was a young larva, one of my ambitions was to create a comic modeled on the art of Maxfield Parrish. That would have been unbelievably time consuming, but one hell of an expression of craftsmanship.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

For "Existence" I would want no less than Miyazaki Hayao, but that's probably just a pipe dream.


I may be wrong, but I just finished my third reading of "Existence", and I feel that it wouldn't translate well to the graphic (or movie) format. It could be done, but much of the experience would necessarily be lost.

OTOH, I wouldn't mind seeing "Earth" translated into graphic novel form. And "Kiln People" almost begs for it. That one might resonate better in that format than it does as a novel, although some skill would have to be taken to avoid certain spoilers inherent in the plot.



Jumper said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shpEiIjRXlQ

Of all of the people that I used to know
Most never adjusted to the great big world
I see them lurking in book stores
Working for the Public Radio
Carrying their babies around in a sack on their back
Moving careful and slow

(Chorus)
It's money that matters
Hear what I say
It's money that matters
In the USA

All of these people are much brighter than I
In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
But they barely survive
They eke out a living and they barely survive

When I was a young boy, maybe thirteen
I took a hard look around me and asked what does it mean?
So I talked to my father, and he didn't know
And I talked to my friend and he didn't know
And I talked to my brother and he didn't know
And I talked to everybody that I knew

It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters
Whatever you do

Then I talked to a man lived up on the county line
I was washing his car with a friend of mine
He was a little fat guy in a red jumpsuit
I said "You look kind of funny"
He said "I know that I do"

"But I got a great big house on the hill here
And a great big blonde wife inside it
And a great big pool in my backyard and another great big pool
beside it
Sonny it's money that matters, hear what I say
It's money that matters in the USA
It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters whatever you do"

--Randy Newman

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

As Larry was saying earlier, leaders who seem to act on impulse and get it right are often rewarded in our culture. But when they get it right, it's really pure luck, not some mysterious "instinct" and betting on such people is foolish.


I wouldn't say "pure" luck. Certain people's brains might be wired to jump to the correct conclusion in a particular situation. The mistake is in presuming that that skill is applicable generally, or that the one who demonstrated the skill once doesn't have hidden ulterior motives in other situations.

Homer Simpson saved the town by pressing the "Moe" button (instead of Eeenie, Meenie, or Miney) in a situation where doing nothing was not an option, but the townspeople rightly ridiculed him once they knew how he made that choice. :)


This is my biggest beef with the Star Wars franchise. If it were more real and Luke trusted his feelings, he would have missed the target by a mile and the Death Star would have wasted the rebel base. But many people equate bravery with stupidity.


Heh. Well, I'm willing to make allowance for the fact that the movie set-up was

1) The Force was real
2) The target was too small for even a computer to hit correctly

That was a situation where something outside the box had to be done.

I will say, in somewhat agreement with you, that I'm glad the movie changed the order of events in that scene. In the novelization and in the comic book, Han Solo dispatches Vader first, and then the thing about Luke turning off his computer and using The Force serves as the final climax of the story. The movie turned that around, which seems to me to work much better.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Don't forget the line about bulls-eyeing wamp rats in Beggar's Canyon back home. Not the mystical Force, but a honing of skill, if we want realism and less mystical mumbo jumbo. If we exclude the mysticism, you could see that as a matter of the victor being the one who honed his skills rather than relying entirely on the technology. But Lucas had to go with the mystic mumbo jumbo, and encourage people to react rather than think.

In Luke Skywalker's case, training his marksmanship skill all those years on Tatooine myelinated those parts of the brain that would move the skill from System 2 to System 1, developing what is called "automaticity" where you can do something that would normally require some thinking time very quickly and accurately. Nothing mystic, but probably not easily conveyed in an action movie.

Come to think of it, they would only have to have had someone like Han Solo comment on how all those years wasting time flying around Beggar's Canyon really paid off.

locumranch said...


Yes, of course. Many of my comments are meant to be facetious. However, insomuch as perfection is the enemy of the good, the limiting effects of morality can become increasingly problematic.

Galileo's heliocentric model, democracy, the separation of church & state, emancipation, evolution, suffrage & birth control: The initial arguments against these commonly recognised advances were all predominantly MORAL.

SOME morality is absolutely necessary for social functioning, yet TOO MUCH morality quickly stifles & extinguishes creativity, risk taking and common sense. Though seemingly reasonable from the get-go, our attempts to equalise, empower, serve & protect quickly become restrictively dystopian.

Our 'Zero Tolerance' policies against discrimination, disobedience, risk-taking, harassment & violence quickly evolve into a policy of Intolerance. People act in tribal fashion? Eliminate 'Freedom of association'. An elementary school student strikes another student or fails to do as he is told? Arrest him. A playground injury? No more playtime. Hateful words are spoken? No more 'Freedom of Speech'.

Like overbearing parents, extremely well-meaning people like PaulSB & Greg insist on protecting us from ourselves:

The voice of US education wants to extinguish those youthful "impulsive, limbic system behavior(s)" so our children can become fully mature, unimaginative & obedient adult drones; David wants our most educated scientific caste to eliminate error & lead in meritorious fashion; and Greg wants to protect our public democracy against 'populism' through the undemocratic manipulation of popular media.

NASA was eventually choked to death by this very same 'Zero Tolerance' approach that effectively forbade risk-taking, loss of life or failure; and, after one too many errors, the same fate awaits Space X.

If it is true that humans LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES, then (1) stupidity, youthful exuberance, impulsivity & risk-taking are our best teachers, (2) The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom and (2) we condemn ourselves to ignorance by being mature, responsible & risk-averse adults.

If we ever want to get off this damn rock of ours, then we need to start making mistakes. Bold ones, big ones & lots of them. Fast. Or, we will be forced to repeat the same mistakes that we already know.

Morality is a Box: Think Outside It.


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Smurphs said...

Jumper, thanks for the Randy Newman quote.

My biggest fear right now is that Trump has learned his "Political Science" from Randy as well.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Miyazaki Hayao is 76 and describes himself as semi-retired, although he still pens manga. I doubt very much he would want to take on a project as big as Existence.
Colleen Coover is a very good comic artist, but I suspect Brin would want someone a bit less stylized. The people who did "Space Brothers" might suit him, both artistically and philosophically.
I've suggested on several forums that if they ever want to do a cover of Gaiman's "Sandman" series, it would just about have to be high-end anime, serialized for television. You would need at least 75 episodes of 22 minutes each to tell the story properly.
I imagine Brin would just as soon avoid Hollywood altogether. I can just picture some studio flac telling him, "Dave, we LOVE the Uplift series! It's terrific, best thing we've read in years. But listen, for it to be a viable commercial property, we gotta get rid of all those aliens..."

Catfish N. Cod said...

Here's a question I'd like to see addressed by your NIAC colleagues and yourself, Dr. Brin, along with perhaps other long-range extrapolation organizations like the RAND corporation...

... China is likely to be a major power for at least the first half of the 21st century. (Not sure if it will continue after that; their demographic problems are severe.) Right now, Chinese space program ambitions are mainly aimed at recapitulating all the achievements of the previous two space powers, the U.S. and U.S.S.R./Russia. But at some point, that program ends, whether with a return to the moon or by beating us to Mars.

What then? Given China's own head, the ability to make its own plans, what will they prioritize? Greater access to space via rocketry? Space elevators? Solar power satellites? On-orbit manufacturing? Asteroid mining?

And what will the implications be for the world's other space programs, particularly since China is "shut out" for now from international cooperation? (Note that I thought the *most* revolutionary idea in the book and film _The Martian_ was Sino-American space exploration cooperation. Right now, any hint of actually doing that would cause heads all over Washington to explode in paranoia.)

Given this TED talk transcript it would seem to me that China's priorities are very different from ours, and that while they acknowledge some of the power of science, their willingness to permit freedom of thought and to embrace Otherness are.... not ours. Which has serious implications for our future. I didn't see terribly much Confucianism or Subcontinental flavors to the Roddenberry-Star Trek vision, even though those two civilizational tendencies make up half of humanity; the focus stayed mostly on the Great Powers of the time. India is a democracy and has compatibility with the Enlightenment, even as it is something entirely its own. China... can interface with Enlightenment ideas. Which is not at all the same thing. What can be foreseen? What are the implications for our expansion into space?

Catfish N. Cod said...

Zepp, since your post was made while I wrote mine, an addendum comment: I think Uplift would work best as an animation series, rather than try to make dolphins the focus of a CGI spectacular. What I would see Hollywood do with that (exaggerate Tom and Gillian's role above all others; make the dolphin-waldoes almost exactly human-proportioned to visually convey dolphin sentience; over-the-top graphics to convey the grotesqueness of the attacking Galactics) would cheapen the strong message of Otherness that Startide Rising and the Uplift War conveyed to me.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: " I've lost track of Brian K Vaughn lately, but in the previous decade, he wrote two of my favorite comics series, "Y: The Last Man" and "Ex-Machina"."

"Saga" is the first graphic novel not named "Girl Genius" to win the Hugo, and it's some of Vaughn's very best work. Loopy, innovative, and searing.

Catfish N. Cod said...

New York Times: Beware The Union.

David Brin said...

I always kinda felt sorry for the wamp rats, great big and possibly smart critters, minding their own business when Skywalker and his buddies came swooping from the sky in hi-tech, cowardly splendor, blasting through Beggar's canyon like capricious, death-dealing gods...

----

Today I read about a fellow who won for the US medals in diving in the fifties. The first Asian American olympian medalist and the first American to win in successive olympics. He had to learn diving one day a week at the local pool, Wednesday, the day coloreds were allowed, before the pool was drained to be clean for white folks. Oh and white thugs, giggling, would poop in it, late Tuesday.

Locumranch, have you ever experienced anything like that? It might tweak your empathy more effectively than 300 years of slavery, or a century of Jim Crow and KKK lynchings, because your ilk care far more about symbolism than actual facts. And because Asians are now honorary whites.

Oh, poor snowflake! You are upset because political correctness "police" have the gall to *NAG* you about some of your language habits. Because we're raising our daughters with karate and uppity attitudes. The very same complaint that motivates the Jihadists, whose biggest fear is that their women might become like ours. Oh, you share far more traits and attitudes with them, than not!

(Prediction, a time may come when the US right suddenly veers to support radical islamic tyrants, just as they now adore Russian tyrants; all it takes is a slight veer of symbolism, replacing the marxist logos with Orthodox Christian ones.)

Mind you, I do despise the far wing of PC bullies. (PCBs are toxic, yes.) I've said so, many times. They can be major twits on some university campuses and minor irritants out in the nation, at large -- serving Fox as poster-kid strawmen. They are virtually insignificant in the Democratic Party or in the running of a great nation, but we know you HAVE TO envision that the left's radicals are the same kind of fulminating tsunami that has taken over the entire US right. You have to. And Fox ensures it.

But sorry, dear delicate one. You do have a valid, if legitimate, extremely minor complaint when PCBs go overboard (as some do). But being occasionally nagged and/or guilt-tripped doesn't erase or cancel your inherited white-male privilege. You've still got plenty.

No, your core complaint is not about the legit-but-trivial inconvenience-irritation of being occasionally nagged. Your real beef is (as you have oft expressed) resentment that you have had stolen from you the greater white-male privileges to oppress women and minorities as lesser beings than you... exactly the sop that was given to poor whites in the Olde South, persuading them to march and die for their class enemies and oppressors, the plantation lords. Exactly as your cult today fights (and slowly dies) in service to Trump's and Murdoch's oligarchs.

No,this is about more than education (though nearly all people who deal in facts despise your cult of ignorance.) It is not self-interest, since you care nothing about who governs better. It is partly about basic sapience. And hypocrisy.

But mostly it's just playground whining. I recognize the tone, the same as that emitted by 5th grade bullies who tried to make me submit, then backed away in shock and pain and outrage that I dared to fight back and the proper victim had the nerve to bloody their nose.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

I figured Miyazaki was just a pipe dream, but after reading "Nausicaa" he would be ideal for something on that kind of epic scale. I'm not sure he would be interested, though, even if he were a couple decades younger.

With Coover & Tobin, though the art is pretty stylized, I thought they would bring some of their wry humor to it. I don't know if our host has read any of their work. If he has I would ask his opinion on it. It was just a weird thought of mine, anyway.

Paul SB said...

It's funny how this last bit from loci is pretty much exactly what I was told by those members of the American Nazi Party who tried to recruit me when I was in college, almost 25 years ago. Same shit, different decade.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

TCB said...

Catfish, that NYT article is interesting; however, as a lifelong resident of North Carolina and Massachusetts, I never minded being in one of the fiscally 'shortchanged' states, even knowing what I do now (I DO mind the voting disparity, though!)

As long as the fiscal imbalances are not dire, it's a worthwhile arrangement. To explain why, I point you to this short video: How the euro caused the Greek crisis.

In short: Greece couldn't devalue its currency to stay competitive with other European countries, since after 2001 they all used the Euro. But Europe doesn't have federalism: Germans don't pay taxes that woil go to Greek unemployment checks, for instance.

We Americans do. And so that video argues that by tolerating this imbalance of taxation, we avoid having a Greek-style fiscal meltdown in Mississippi.

even if they do deserve it grumble grumble yeah i said that word deserve grumble grump

Alfred Differ said...

Whether the elevator reaches up 12 miles or to the top of the atmosphere where orbits are possible even briefly, the speed at which one is ejected isn't reduced much by the altitude gain if the goal is to orbit. Potential energy gain is useful, but orbital kinetic energy is the bigger problem. Calculate it out to see this.

There IS one advantage to starting high, but it is best achieved with an ejection speed near zero. Whether it is 12 miles or at the top again, the dynamic pressure faced by the vehicle is considerably lower with a high start. That means the vehicle doesn't have to carry as much structural mass and lift it along the way. Structural mass isn't fuel, so it counts against payload.

Guns and rails of any kind get energy from the ground where infrastructure can deliver it easiest, but high accelerations increase the need for structural mass. Large balloons can deliver a vehicle to a high altitude, though, without high accelerations and the mass they demand for vehicle rigidity. It doesn't really matter what tech is used since elevators could potentially do the same.

Marrying rail guns and elevators strikes me as a recipe for disaster. Talk to any competent engineer about perturbation theory and they will tell you rigid bodies aren't.

Alfred Differ said...

Morality isn't a box, a cage, or any other simple analogy. It is a system of behaviors built through social evolution from nags and sympathy. It is the result of our actions and preferences, but not our designs. There is no outside the system because the moment one of us moves outside the norms, we bring the system with us.

Another thing morality is not is logical. On that, locumranch is correct and I understand his annoyance at those who think otherwise. Logic suggests design and morality isn't.

As for breaking norms in order to learn, be my guest. We might learn from the mistakes of others, but the usual lesson communicated is "Don't repeat that fool's mistake." Men who step beyond social customs face a high risk of failing to reproduce or reproduce often. There ARE perfectly logical reasons why most of us conform most of the time.

The most common fool's mistake I've seen is the one that translates as "I know what I'm doing, so join me in doing it." There are so many ways to be foolish in doing so.

Anonymous said...

Paul SB:

Don't forget the line about bulls-eyeing wamp rats in Beggar's Canyon back home. Not the mystical Force, but a honing of skill, if we want realism and less mystical mumbo jumbo. If we exclude the mysticism, you could see that as a matter of the victor being the one who honed his skills rather than relying entirely on the technology. But Lucas had to go with the mystic mumbo jumbo, and encourage people to react rather than think.

Actually, the Force as depicted in the original movie was not so blatantly supernatural. There were only hints as to what form the Force took in action. It could very easily be viewed the way you suggest--that Luke was better off trusting skills he had honed since childhood. The only real part the Force played in that final scene is that the dead Obi Wan was able to remind Luke to trust his instincts.



In Luke Skywalker's case, training his marksmanship skill all those years on Tatooine myelinated those parts of the brain that would move the skill from System 2 to System 1, developing what is called "automaticity" where you can do something that would normally require some thinking time very quickly and accurately.


Daaarrrrr! Pretty flowers!

:)

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod's link to the New York Times quotes the musical Hamilton!


“If New York’s in debt —

Why should Virginia bear it? Our debts are paid, I’m afraid

Don’t tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade”


That's Thomas Jefferson speaking. The article should have included Alexander Hamilton's retort:


A civics lesson from a slaver! Hey, neighbor,
Your debts are paid 'cause you don't pay for labor.
'We plant seeds in the south! We create!" Keep ranting,
'Cause we know who's really doing the planting.

LarryHart said...

That was me commenting to Paul SB about Star Wars up a few posts.

It must have lost my name when reCAPTCHPA took a long time to respond.

Catfish N. Cod said...

TCB: How appropriate that you mention Massachusetts and Mississippi, as those are the first two states *I* lived in. (Hence my nom de blog -- the state fishes of each.) And while Massachusetts has not, heretofore, complained much -- it is because they didn't need to. Buying federal peace and economic stability with tax dollar outflow has been a good deal for over a century now. It pushed not only a wide free-trade zone but also helped harmonize standards, ethics, and national unity.

But see! The efforts of the New Order wish to undo all that. In the name of small-government "federalism", they wish the states to receive block grants, but be basically left to their own fiscal devices. Which means now Massachusetts keeps paying, but has no say in what Mississippi does with the money. And given the cultural gap and the track record, Mississippi is likely to spend it on things that Massachusetts will strongly object to.

At which point, we have the original problem: an excess of taxation and a surfeit of representation.

(This is aside from questions of capture by moneyed elites and corruption of same -- my observations tell me that any one-party state will sustain these regardless of ideology or culture; and Mississippi and Massachusetts are both one-party states.)

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Pretty sunset! (after the last few weeks at work, I'm pretty close to that state...)

I see what you mean about the "Trust your feelings" line in the original, though as young as I was when I first saw it, I doubt I was thinking that much about it then.

raito said...

Paul SB,

Seagulls? Experience counts for a lot. I've seen air traffic controllers correctly identify aircraft at 10 miles 95 times out of a hundred (while doing time in the simulation/AI trenches with that as the subject matter).

"All Men Must Die, it is true, but when, after how long and how satisfying a life, and in how much pain?"

And importantly, after doing how much good?

"What Would Machiavelli Do?"

Suck up to the nobles, just as he did do. Some of the PhDs I hang around with are historians...

Ioan,

The popular meme is that jobs are hard to come by in the rural areas. Except that in WI, it doesn't seem to be so. Most of the state is 3.9% or less, except the far northern tier of counties (where tourism is the business), the 3 southeast counties (think inner city Milwaukee, but with less resources), some counties around Adams County (no idea what's happening there), and Menominee (the reservation).

If it were jobs that were the problem, I'd say tow some of those mobile data centers out there and hire the locals to do data massaging. Eventually AI will do it well enough, but for the next decade or so you still need people making sure things are right. And it doesn't require much training if you're literate. No more than decently skills for manufacturing.

But decent internet connectivity hasn't penetrated a lot of rural WI, and there's nothing even remotely similar to the Rural Electrification Act.

And it sure doesn't help that a good chunk of the western part of the state is in a media market that isn't in Wisconsin, and so rarely reports on the WI side of their broadcast area.

Dr. Brin,

Daughters and karate? My daughter entered her first swordplay tournament last weekend. And won her division.

Paul451 said...

dennisd said...
"Thanks for the 'uplifting' updates on these amazing missions of discovery. New Horizons, GAIA, GOES-R ---- all stunning accomplishments from a robust civilization."

Relating to comments in the previous thread, I read that as "stunning accomplishments from a robot civilisation".

--

PaulSB,
Re: A Modest-income Proposal

It's too easy to hide wealth in other forms, or amongst other people. Does the wealthy spouse disqualify a "poor" would-be politician? Do the wealthy children? Or business partner? Whatever line you draw creates the loop-hole.

Aside: I think it was Heinlein's juvie novels where Venus-colony had a law that any politician losing office received an automatic 5yr jail sentence. On the grounds that they "must have done something" while in office, or why else did they run.

locumranch said...



I judge David's last missive to be both silly & racist:

It is silly because I am no more personally responsible for some racially-motivated Pool Poopage (circa 1950) than David is for the slaughter of the Canaanites (circa 1450 bc); and, it is racist because he attempts to lay poopage-related shame, blame and responsibility on me & my identity group based on nothing more than the colour of my skin.

This, then, is the end result of the Identity Politic Blame Game:

Most of us (who are aged 60 years or younger) no longer give a damn. We have never owned slaves, beaten our wives, fired a weapon in anger, slaughtered native peoples, deprived women of the vote, participated in any racist episodes or benefited from whatever 'white privilege' is. We are tired of apologising for those shameful actions for which we are not responsible; we judge our debts as paid in full; and, quite frankly, we have neither guilt nor shits left to give you.

I will apologise, however, for my tedious philosophising. Having travelled widely, I often forget how morally naive & unsophisticated most Americans are.


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Paul451 said...

Catfish N. Cod,
"the logical follow-on project to a cislunar station: building a Kevlar space elevator for the Moon."

Not an elevator, a rotovator. Uses vastly less material. Is vastly quicker to get from surface to trans-orbital release. And can be accessed from more places on the moon.

Also, unlike an Earth-side space elevator, a LEO rotovator is possible with existing materials. You could have a network throughout the Earth-moon system, even throughout the solar system. (Although around Mars, conventional "space elevators" on Phobos and Deimos make sense. The minimum space elevator on Phobos, IIRC, is something like 18km long.)

At the poles (where both rotovators and elevators can't reach) you can launch fuel made from polar ice using a throw tower. A tower with a horizontally rotating head or swing-arm. You spin it up to the desired RPM, then you feed the payload out on one line and a much heavier bulk counterweight on an opposite (but shorter) line, maintaining the RPM of the head as you feed them out. Once the desired tip-velocity is reached, you release both payload and counterweight. (The counterweight can be local rock/regolith or any waste. Just be careful choosing where it comes down.) Only works on the moon because of the lack of atmosphere, but works on any body without an atmosphere, Ceres to Ganymede.

Alfred,
Re: Inflatable launch tower.
"There IS one advantage to starting high, but it is best achieved with an ejection speed near zero. Whether it is 12 miles or at the top again, the dynamic pressure faced by the vehicle is considerably lower with a high start. That means the vehicle doesn't have to carry as much structural mass and lift it along the way. Structural mass isn't fuel, so it counts against payload."

The bigger advantage is that you can optimise the exhaust nozzles on your engines for altitude, which adds tens of seconds to the specific impulse, which adds 10-20% to your payload or hundreds of m/s to your delta-v budget.

Paul451 said...

Paul SB,
"As Larry was saying earlier, leaders who seem to act on impulse and get it right are often rewarded in our culture. But when they get it right, it's really pure luck, not some mysterious "instinct" and betting on such people is foolish."

There's a classic psych experiment where you ask volunteers to rate how "lucky" they think they are. Afterwards you give then a seemingly random magazine and ask them to find the number pictures in the magazine.

The magazine is printed especially for the experiment and hidden in the article "pull quotes", in ads, eventually in full pages, is the answer to the question. "Stop Counting! There Are 274 Pictures In This Magazine!"

People who rated themselves the luckiest spotted the earliest (subtlest) answer. The less lucky people rates themselves, the further in and the more obvious the answer had to be before they saw it.

Those who rated themselves the unluckiest typically didn't see even the full pages with nothing but the words "Stop Counting! There are 274 pictures in this magazine!"

"Luck" is a demonstrable ability.

"This is my biggest beef with the Star Wars franchise. If it were more real and Luke trusted his feelings, he would have missed the target by a mile and the Death Star would have wasted the rebel base."

In a modern version, he would have turned off the targeting system in order to crash into the exhaust vent. (And honestly, even in the real world, given how short the lifespan of the average pilot in that battle was, one of the other rebels would have done out of desperation so long before Luke had reaches the trench.)

And come to think about it, why wouldn't you just program a damn droid to do a suicide run in an X-wing?

Did the prequels actually explain why battle-droids weren't used by the time of the orig-trig?

Slim Moldie said...

Paul SB

Totally agree. So how can we can better educate enough of the population to govern ourselves intelligently?

Comparing working model T Ford to a working smart phone—what worries me is the disparity in the amounts of education and intelligence required to repair, rebuild, modify, duplicate and understand the workings of each.

Locumranch

Your monumental rail gun space colonization blast made me think of Woody Allen’s sperm launch scene from Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask. Boom! Earth seeds the galaxy. But what if humans are greeted like dandelions on the galactic lawn?

So thank you for inspiring me to think about sperm, which got me thinking of absurd population control scenarios ruling out war. Here’s one. So what if Congress enacted a law in accordance with a UN resolution giving financial compensation for vasectomies? Phase one, after every licensed physician is trained to perform a no scalpel vasectomy, every man on earth over the age of x, say like 15 is given a choice. You can maintain your stock equipment, or get a significant financial kickback for banking your sperm and undergoing a voluntary vasectomy. (Competing vasectomy physicians drive around in ice-cream trucks playing "every sperm is sacred" outside high schools, malls and tattoo parlors trolling for patriotic johns.) Now, in order to unbank your sperm, or reverse the vasectomy you can either a: pay back the money plus associated medical costs with interest, or b: prove your capability in the discipline of fatherhood via oral board examination. It could be an elected panel of judges, a reality tv show, or a jury of peers--depending on how creepy we want to go.

It’s just a dumb idea, but I am curious among other things, what would be a feasible financial compensation offered to each participate and what factors would you choose to base your calculations on?

Alfred Differ said...

Oof. What a terrible idea.

I see it now when felons have their sperm flushed and can't legally buy a reversal.

Bang, bang.

David Brin said...

While I am sympathetic with those who say "I never pooped in a 1950s pool or owned slaves, therefore get off my back..."

The fact is that no one is oppressing locum, except exactly as I described... with some nagging. Nagging. Maybe some attempted guilt trips. Aw... poor snowflake. I would feel sorry for you, really, if you weren't (a) blatantly still very white privileged and (b) a spectacular whiner. A dizzyingly frantic whiner.

And one without a scintilla of empathy for the just plain fact that correcting for the crimes of our ancestors is not... done. And I am not talking phney baloney "reparations" which I utterly reject. I am NOT guilty for the crimes of other peoples' (not even my own) ancestors. We are in agreement there.

No, when a black mom can watch her son drive at night to the library or a movie without fearing DEATH as a consequence of a traffic stop, then your whines might sound less stunningly ... well... racist.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin: but it's worth talking tactics about. I agree just as fully with you that "reparations" are not the answer -- not only is the guilt misplaced but it makes restitution of anything impossible. Should I seek "reparations" against Britain for discrimination that pushed my ancestors off their ancestral lands on the Scottish Borders? Should Nova Scotians seek "reparations" for their Tory ancestors, discriminated and expelled for supporting their rightful King in the American Revolution? Or the Acadians of Louisiana against the Nova Scotians, for the crime of French descent?

You can play this game forever; and you and I and locum all reject it, and are all right to.

But that doesn't change the fact that injustice is also here, and now, and against living people. And there is a point -- there are kinds of privilege he doesn't have, that is denied to the sort of people I, and most likely locum as well, came from! There is such a thing as "bicoastal" privilege -- the extra attention garnered to those from the wealthy, highly developed, well-connected cities. (Look at where the justices of the Supreme Court went to law school.) There is class privilege -- God knows Dr. Brin agrees about that!

And there is even privilege of having descended from Union, rather than Confederate, ancestors. Lemme give you an example. For a research project once, I investigated the recruitment patterns of a certain Ivy League medical school over its entire history. I found the list of interview sites for admission, as of the year 1900. Listed were extensive opportunities in the Northeast... the Midwest... California and Oregon... the capitals of Europe... even Yokohama, Japan, and Shanghai, China.

But not in the South. Oh no. Them's filthy rebels, they is. Never mind that candidates by this time would have all been born after the war, or at least far too young to even be drummer boys and powder monkeys. But Those Sorts of People just weren't to be allowed to muddy the hallowed halls. Because their ancestors had Done Something Wrong.

It changed, of course. By the First World War that was all over. But it was there, and it was real.

Wouldn't it be better, rather than having racist practices like Ferguson's fine-traps and North Carolina's voter-ID... and then supposedly "reverse-racist" practices like affirmative action or ... wouldn't it be better to fix the damn problems in the first place? Wouldn't it be better to have a country where nobody has to worry about that because everyone fights for everyone else's fair treatment?

But locum doesn't feel he has to, that he shouldn't be bothered to. Because they haven't affected him. They're not his fault. He didn't do anything wrong, nor did his friends or family. And he won't suffer consequences if he continues to do nothing. He should only have to fight about the discrimination against people like himself.

It shouldn't matter that locum's privilege is greater in some things and less than others. It shouldn't matter that blacks are, on the whole, suffering more. All the privilege, all the discrimination, is wrong: wrong morally (by the Golden Rule), wrong legally (as against the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution), wrong practically (in that the American economy and society is weakened by them).

And we should fight the discrimination against people like him. All that has to be asked in return is that he do the same for us. And if he won't, because he doesn't feel he has to.... that is, again, in a deliberately double-meaning phrase, his privilege.

Jumper said...

It's the denial of the very existence of bigotry that reveals many bigots. And notice how less than a heartbeat goes by before locum tries to make it all about him: "they" are out to make him feel shame and guilt.

TCB said...

I think anyone who poo-poohs reparations should at least put in the time to read Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay on the subject at least once. He makes a good case that the systematic robbery of black Americans did not end with slavery, nor Jim Crow, nor the civil rights era. In many areas it's happening even now, and not just in the South. So I support reparations (for the record I am white).

However, I get that it's politically a non-starter, and the answer that will actually need to happen is universal basic income for all, and fairly soon. Because robots really are going to eliminate most jobs. Obvious example: truck drivers. There are a few million jobs that can be replaced right there; they just haven't built the self-driving trucks yet; but it will become cost-effective for companies to do so in years, not decades.

By the way, has anyone else noticed that the underclass in any given nation largely consists of the progeny of defeated or enslaved peoples? In the US examples include the descendants of African slaves, Scots-Irish beaten by the British Army and now known as hillbillies (that's me), Mexicans (remember that war of conquest?), native Indians...

The overclass seems to remain very stable too. I saw a study of Nuremberg, Germany, which seemed to show that the wealthiest families (by name) 400 or 500 years ago were the same in that city now.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

I've heard of similar experiments, but they don't mean what you think they mean. Notice that all the participants had the same magazine with the same number of pictures. There was no actual luck involved. What these experiments measure is the effect of confidence on attention to detail. You give a "Where's Waldo" kind of challenge to a confident person, that person will pay close attention and try hard because that person perceives the challenge as doable and worthwhile - maybe because they think they are lucky, or maybe because they think they are skilled. The less confident subjects have that nagging voice in the back of their minds that says "You know this isn't going to work, you never win, so shy bother trying hard?"

Let's try a hypothetical that involves actual luck. Say it is 1849, and two people are working opposite sides of the river upstream from Sutter's Mill. Paul A came out there because he knew he was a lucky dawg and he was sure to strike it rich. Paul B lost his job almost a year ago and has been sponging off relatives all this time, so he's gone panning out of desperation. Neither of them know squat about how placer deposits form, but Paul A shoves his pan in the water enthusiastically and pays very close attention to its contents, while Paul B feels the sun burning on his neck and the empty pit of his stomach much more acutely, so he's much more distracted from the work. However, just by luck, there happens to be a placer deposit on the side of the river Paul B is working, and eventually he finds gold. No gold on Paul A's side, so no luck, no matter how confident he is. Bummer, dude! Now Paul B gains confidence and redoubles his effort, and Paul A concludes that he really isn't a lucky dawg after all. The relationship between perception of luck and actual can be isometric, but it isn't necessarily. They key flaw in the magazine experiment is that all the magazines were alike, so there was no actual luck involved. Bad experiment design.

I'll try not to forget other people who wrote above when I get home from work tonight.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

In a modern version [of Star Wars], he would have turned off the targeting system in order to crash into the exhaust vent. (And honestly, even in the real world, given how short the lifespan of the average pilot in that battle was, one of the other rebels would have done out of desperation so long before Luke had reaches the trench.)


Am I the only one who can keep his memories of the original Star Wars sequestered from the ruination of the sequels?

You can't just crash into the outside of the exhaust port. You have to fire a missile down the long pipeline to the reactor core. Only a direct hit will be at an angle to accomplish this feat. The unshielded port is so small that even a computer can't derive the correct moment to launch at the speed those fighters are moving. If that were not the case, the Empire would have shielded the darn port.

Many other rebels did fire at the port and even hit it, but "only impacted on the surface". Many rebel ships crashed into the armor plating of the Death Star and barely dented it. I doubt that a ship crashing into the outside of the area where the exhaust port rests would have sent enough energy all the way down to the reactor core to set off a chain reaction.

Do I err?

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

It's the denial of the very existence of bigotry that reveals many bigots. And notice how less than a heartbeat goes by before locum tries to make it all about him: "they" are out to make him feel shame and guilt.


As someone who refuses to accept even the concept of morality, loc is pretty adept at judging others.

As someone who continually chides liberals for "never even considering that they might be mistaken", loc has never once admitted the possibility of himself committing even the smallest factual error.

I realize that both of those characteristics might be intentional irony. In that case, the reason it doesn't work to make the point is not so much the naivete of the listener as the clumsiness of the delivery.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

He makes a good case that the systematic robbery of black Americans did not end with slavery, nor Jim Crow, nor the civil rights era. In many areas it's happening even now, and not just in the South. So I support reparations


I agree with the first sentence, but the problem I have with "reparations" as a solution is that it they can never "repair" the damage. The issue of who suffers and who benefits is way to complex, and probably needs to be worked out over time with much trial and error. Reparations would essentially be "settling out of court"--a one time payment (from whom to whom?) and then what? Legally, no one can ever claim discrimination again, because the debt has been paid? Or the other side, reparations are paid, but have to be paid again and again because it's never enough (Dennis Moore)?

So my rejection of reparations is not so much philosophical as practical. They won't fix the problem.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

Knowing full well that arguing the physics of Star Wars is akin to a discussion of the various rainbow hues of Magical Unicorns.....have you considered the right angle turn that missile made? It had to be going pretty fast but it turns on a zero radius and zips right in. It would be interesting, if Unicorny, to figure out an approximate mass of the projectile based on the size relative to an Xwing fighter. We can cheat and assume that something Spielberg and Lucas ginned up out of F4 Phantom model parts would be about the mass of a modern fighter jet. It is more difficult to judge the relative speed of the X wing, the Death Star and the missile, but I am guessing somebody here will unleash their inner Adams and Jamies and do so. Now, what kind of sheer force would the internal mechanisms of this projectile experience? Mind you it has to stay in the exact center of the port to do any good at all...

Now on to more useful activities...

Tacitus

Catfish N. Cod said...

@TCB: I actually used TNC's essay as a reference while writing my previous post! I am not questioning that, from an economic standpoint, there has been a continuous defraudment of African-Americans. But for the practical reasons LarryHart points out, as well as my own argument above, I can't agree with it being framed as "reparations"... no one can fix what dead people have done, nor can dead people be punished for their misdeeds (not in this reality, anyway). All we can do is "repair" what injury there is here, now, today. And in that very same essay, TNC makes a very strong case that housing policy would be the place to start.

But for God's sake, it's not reparations. It's restitution for fraudulent housing discrimination, performed by living people against other living people. Litigation of what dead people did to other dead people is for truth and reconciliation commissions, not accountants. I can't reopen a hundred million estates, not even for injustice on this scale.

@LarryHart: As for Universal Basic Income, I don't believe that can fly anywhere, for exactly the reasons espoused by conservatives. I actually think they are right on that score -- it opens an incentive trap to actually encourage unproductive parasitism, a problem not made unreal by its profound exaggeration by the Right. Most people on government assistance are hard workers, but there really are some people who just sit back and collect their check. And their existence gives plutocrats the excuse to oppress those who aren't lazy at all, in the name of the Social Pyramid. And lastly, it flies in the face of a core meme of American society going back literally to Jamestown and the Pilgrims -- Who Does Not Work, Does Not Eat.

Which is why, if that sort of policy becomes necessary, it will need to be configured as Wage Assistance, with programs (public, public-private partnership, private contract, as desired) to guarantee a minimal-income, minimal-skill job. Aluminum can collector. Hand-crafted stone building laborer, as in the old WPA and CCC. Public service announcement pamphlet distributor. Ditch-digger. *Anything*, just as long as it means no one has to forgo Wage Assistance because there's no job to be had. If you want to forgo that to pursue support by other means, that's your affair, citizen; but the job is here if you want and need it. The flip side of "Who Does Not Work, Does Not Eat" has to be "Who Does Work, Does Eat", or else it's mass cruelty imposed for the benefit of elites.

Oh -- and local input, if not control, of what the jobs are. So locales can use the labor to construct the stuff that will get them *out* of the slump that's preventing jobs from existing.

Paul451 said...

David Brin,
"And I am not talking phney baloney "reparations" which I utterly reject. I am NOT guilty for the crimes of other peoples' (not even my own) ancestors."
Catfish N. Cod,
"I agree just as fully with you that "reparations" are not the answer -- not only is the guilt misplaced but it makes restitution of anything impossible."

I don't see the "obvious" objection to reparations. They have a long tradition in redressing past injustices. And they let the offending nation draw a line and say "This is done". Most tribal justice systems include such a mechanism precisely to cauterise wounds before the fester.

Modern Germany paid reparations to their neighbours for the damage done by the two 20th century wars, in spite of having no political continuity with those two governments and most of the population being born after even the most recent war - and in spite of the country being split in half and half given to the Soviets. They only finished paying off their WWI debts a few years ago.

They continue to pay reparations to Israel and the World Jewish Council, although that's for property confiscation, they've never agreed on compensation for the holocaust itself. They also lost territory in both wars (not counting the Soviet control of East Germany.)

(And it's still a political issue in Greece, apparently.)

New Zealand negotiated a treaty with the native population in lieu of payment. Canada did something similar recently with the northern natives. Australia still struggles with this.

Reparations for the descendants of slaves seems perfectly reasonable to me.

[Now is the wrong time, of course, because of the loss of the share of wealth of the working class, and the failure of both parties to address that (one intentionally, one through incompetence), there's no way for the two sides to sit down and negotiate. America is a prosperous nation, but outside of the two enclaves it is not a prosperous people, and only a prosperous people will ever volunteer to pay to right past wrongs.]

Paul451 said...

Paul SB,
"I've heard of similar experiments, but they don't mean what you think they mean. Notice that all the participants had the same magazine with the same number of pictures. There was no actual luck involved."

No, they mean exactly what I think they mean. You just misunderstand me. I'm saying that there is such a thing as "luck", an innate ability, but it's not some supernatural phenomena, it's the ability to see unexpected opportunity.

They won't win a coin toss more often than "unlucky" people, but they will more often see that fifty dollar note laying the street.

"What these experiments measure is the effect of confidence on attention to detail."

It had nothing to do with attention to detail, per se, and certainly nothing to do with confidence. The "unlucky" participants would usually get the answer (how many pictures) correct, but they focused too much on the detail and missed the unexpected opportunity

It's is a variation on the classic gorilla/basketball experiment demonstrating selective attention.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@LarryHart: As for Universal Basic Income, I don't believe that can fly anywhere, for exactly the reasons espoused by conservatives. I actually think they are right on that score -- it opens an incentive trap to actually encourage unproductive parasitism, a problem not made unreal by its profound exaggeration by the Right. Most people on government assistance are hard workers, but there really are some people who just sit back and collect their check. And their existence gives plutocrats the excuse to oppress those who aren't lazy at all, in the name of the Social Pyramid. And lastly, it flies in the face of a core meme of American society going back literally to Jamestown and the Pilgrims -- Who Does Not Work, Does Not Eat.


I'm not sure why you addressed this to me, as I don't remember pushing UBI or saying anything about it recently. I have stated that in a wealthy society, people shouldn't be denied basic needs, and that the list of what falls into that category varies with time and circumstance. But I don't recall this topic coming up recently.

I would say that "Who Does Not Work Does Not Eat" has to be coupled with "There Is Work Available For All Who Want To Eat". Otherwise, you're just being cruel. In Jamestown and Plymouth Rock in the seventeenth century, a colony could not support its own survival without every individual being required to pull his weight. In an economy where the biggest impediment to employment is the fact that there's nothing useful for (most) people to do, the same rules don't apply.

David Brin said...

Sorry Paul451, I don't see it. Germany's reparations were BY the offending generations TO the harmed generations. Beyond that, I am it it for pragmatic outcomes. I want to build up inner city schools and provide free meals and after school programs not to compensate for slavery (I got grievances too) but in order to get the desired outcome of ending both suffering and the waste of human talent.

My motives, while they include compassion, are also pragmatic, as would be any reader of Adam Smith's two tomes... about truly competitive-fair-open capitalism and Moral Sentiments. It is not my fault that lefties deem my reasons less moral than theirs. We are allies - for now - in equalizing opportunity. And we'll fight later over equalizing outcomes.

Alfred Differ said...

When someone says they didn't do the harm of past racism and that they don't benefit from white privilege in the same sentence, my next step is to see if they are white. The privileged are often blind to their advantage until it is taken away and then they see it as reverse discrimination.

Our current 'battle' with locumranch is just nag vs nag so it is fair enough. If any of us reach for power or weapons, that's where we've gone wrong.

As for seeing the advantage of white privilege, go ride an inner city bus, cross to the wrong side of the tracks, or go visit a park in a low property value neighborhood if they have any. Hang out there for a while.

Paul451 said...

David,
"Germany's reparations were BY the offending generations TO the harmed generations."

Germany only finished paying off its reparations from World War One in October 2010.

So no.

There's a tendency to see slave reparations as something extraordinary because we don't typically personally experience multi-generational reparations, but it's really just a practice going back centuries. Usually it's just at the nation-to-nation level, and the people don't notice unless it's especially vindictive and harmful (like the Treaty of Versailles), or gets manipulated by populists (like the Treaty of Versailles).

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

I'm glad this came up. It certainly helps to look at the various social programs not as charity, but as investments. Entrepreneurs understand that not every investment pans out. But as long as enough do, it's worth keeping on. I'm willing to accept a certain number of 'welfare queens' (too many, and the system need some work) and people who don't manage to move up in order to get the ones that do. And like you, I detest the waste in talent that comes with poverty.

But remember where I came from. I've been a lot closer to these problems than (thankfully!) most people. If not for a few social investments made by others, I wouldn't be here.

It's a bit like research. Except there, negative results are also useful.

I have a hard time understanding a mind that can accept that some investments fail, but believes that social programs are a waste because they don't produce 100% positive outcomes, or believes that most research is a waste because it produces negative results, or is not immediately applicable to a current problem. To me, there's very little difference.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@LarryHart: sorry, you're right, I misaddressed that. The reference should have been two paragraphs above. Apologies. (I think we agree, though.)

@Dr. Brin, @Paul451: The key point is that the agreements were made while the original harming/harmed were still alive. There was agreement to it. After that, it was just a debt like any other... and unlike moral obligations, debts *do* transfer down generations. To put it back in the metaphor, it was an unpaid obligation when the estate was closed. Or an open-ended contract can be made; that's what New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi is.

Parts of the injuries from the civil rights era could still be litigated. (And are; it was only a few years ago that the last of the murderers of the Neshoba County Three was convicted.) But all the injuries from early Jim Crow were done to the dead by the dead; likewise for slavery. I can't dig them up to make restitution; I can only make things right for their descendants.

Affirmative action was effectively an open-ended social contract, but I don't think any side is terribly happy with it. What can it be replaced by?

@raito, I think you could make a stronger case for some kinds of education-as-investment, or social-support-as-investment. But civics and history? They are part of the infrastructure that maintains the Republic and the society (and which are desperately ill). Hard to make the money case when they underly the economy itself.

Paul451 said...

Catfish N. Cod,
"As for Universal Basic Income, I don't believe that can fly anywhere, [...] it opens an incentive trap to actually encourage unproductive parasitism"

The few experiments that have been done suggest otherwise. In the same way that having clear air and water doesn't create a moral hazard. In the same way that having public transport, or road access to your surroundings, doesn't create a moral hazard.

By removing the payment from the traditional adversarial welfare system, it actually reduces the "welfare mentality". Kids stay in school longer, women spend more time raising their kids. I'd expect that more people would risk starting their own businesses. By reducing the immediate financial stress, people look further ahead.

UBI simply gives all people the same safety-net that anyone with supportive family or assets like property already have. "If you try something risky, you might fail, but you'll never fall back further than this." It gives everyone a small part of the invisible privilege that the non-poor have. It doesn't create a moral hazard, it resolves one. Existing welfare systems are supposed to do that, but they don't.

"Most people on government assistance are hard workers, but there really are some people who just sit back and collect their check."

If some people are genuinely lazy, selfish, stupid, do you want to employ them? No? Why would you expect anyone else to? Do you want them making products or providing services that you rely on? Or perhaps you want them out of the street, begging or committing crimes to avoid starvation? Or in prison?

Welfare is much cheaper to society than prison. And UBI is the least psychologically destructive form of welfare.

But having spent time on welfare, I know that much of the reported problems of welfare (the ones that are real) is a misreading of the specific side-effect of adversarial welfare. Most welfare systems give too much and not enough power to arbitrary bureaucrats to remove the last safety net that keeps you off the street. The bureaucrat is enforcing rules that they don't control, often which they don't really understand, in a system that deliberately dehumanises the welfare recipients. It lends itself to disaffected cruelty.

But the more the recipient is punished by the system, the more they focus solely on staying on the system at the expense of opportunities to get off welfare.

I know when I've had dealt with bureaucrats in the welfare system who caused me harm, either out of disinterest or full-blown deliberate kick-down assholes, I usually stopped looking for work until the situation was resolved. Logically, you'd expect it to create a stronger drive to get off the system, but in my experience it always had the opposite effect.

UBI removes that effect entirely. And experiments with UBI seem to back that up. (And the simpler, the better. The more complex the UBI scheme, the more unwanted side-effects.)

Paul451 said...

Cont.

That said, I'm not adverse to government provided minimum work. Amongst UBI-advocates this is called "employer of last resort". But it only works when it's in addition to the UBI, not as a replacement, and never as a punishment.

In my own country, there's a compulsory "Work For The Dole" scheme for people on unemployment who aren't working a minimum number of hours (or doing something else that exempts them). It's a punishment for not being able to get work. Forced labour, if in a soft way.

If you offered the same work in the "Work For The Dole" scheme voluntary, but paid daily at a reduced wage (half minimum wage, for example), which didn't affect their welfare payments, then you'd have people lined up around the block to supplement their income, no matter how crappy the work was. I suspect you'd never have enough work available to satisfy demand.

Every job I've ever applied for, no matter how crappy nor how low paid, has always had dozens to hundreds of people applying for it. When you look at job listings for minimum-wage toilet cleaners, they typically demand years of prior experience - with multiple references, often an OH&S qualification, and are sometimes limited to applicants who apply in groups (couples/families/friends) so they can substitute for each other. On the other hand, I quickly learned to avoid any job that emphasised "no experience necessary", "earn $X thousands", for the same reason I don't click on spam. They are inevitably scams. No real entry-level job needs to "lure".

Paul451 said...

cont.

Since I'm talking about psychological studies.

When you are under stress, you lose the ability to make long term decisions. Your world contracts to the short-term, the immediate hard need. You need a certain amount of grace in your immediate needs in order to be able to make long term decisions. Adversarial welfare increases the sense of short-term risk, reduces a person's ability to think beyond keeping their welfare payment intact. From the point of view of outsiders, that causes very self-destructive reasoning. But it's an inevitable result of that stress. (You see this effect particularly strongly with drug addicts. Their worldview contracts to focusing on getting from fix to fix.)

I've seen people refuse work because it will put them over the "limit" and cut off their welfare payments for that week/month. Even though you actually lose about 50c of welfare for every dollar earned. Getting work always leaves you financially ahead. But it doesn't matter if you explain this to people, the maths can't override the feeling. I suspect the US welfare system is worse (most things usually are) but even under my country's more generous system I've seen - I've felt - the effects. I'm currently working two jobs that together aren't consistent enough to keep me permanently above the welfare income-cutoff. While looking for more work, I've caught myself mentally rejecting jobs because I wouldn't be able to keep one of the existing inadequate jobs. Ie, turning down a 3-day/week job because it threatens my 1-day/week job. Because of the precariousness of my situation, "keeping the jobs I have" subconsciously becomes an imperative that harms long term decision-making. I'm a bookkeeper (supposedly), I grok numbers. If I do this, what's it like for the innumerate?

Another psychological effect is "learned helplessness" - which doesn't mean what people who like to use the phrase "learned helplessness" usually think it means.

If you subject an animal to a painful effect (the original experiment was dogs and electric shocks), which it can avoid if it performs an act, the animal will quickly learn to avoid the painful effect.

But if you previously tortured the animal randomly, where there was nothing the animal can do to stop it; then you place the animal in an environment where it can stop the shock, it won't even look for a solution. It will just stand there, whimpering in pain, withstanding the punishment. Even if you show the animal the solution, it won't initially learn.

In the original experiment where the solution was to jump over a low barrier to the other side of the enclosure from whichever side the dog was on when the shock started, the experimenters had to physically pick up the dogs and move them to the other side repeatedly before the dog made the connection between the action and effect. None of the dogs which didn't experience the previous random punishment had difficulty finding the association without assistance. All of the dogs which experienced the random element failed.

Similarly, if you associate a reward with an action, the animal will perform the action when it wants the reward. Pull a lever to get a food pellet, the animal will pull the lever whenever it's hungry. But make the connection random and the animal will develop a behavioural pathology, performing the act at the expense of other parts of its health. (All forms of gambling exploit this effect.)

It's the randomness that screws up your ability to make rational decisions.

UBI removes the randomness.

Catfish N. Cod said...

It's certainly true that the "adversarial" and paternalistic aspects of welfare are detrimental and tend to create, not prevent, welfare traps. WIC is a good example; despite trying to force people to give children proper nutrition, the net result is a bureaucratic nightmare which incentivizes people to forgo free food money. Which is *horrible*.

Your half-pay "Work for the Dole" scheme seems like the only logical and moral way to arrange what I was proposing. The idea was that any work, any at all, any hours, any pay, any *anything*, qualifies you for the basic benefit. The example I give is of the homeless who sell (usually socialist-propaganda) magazines or newspapers for $1-$2 apiece, working on commission. That's *more* than enough. Aluminum can collection is another. Make it stupid simple and very, very low entry: I'll feed you, just show me you care. The more complex you make welfare, the more you force people to spend time thinking about welfare, which means less time thinking about getting out of the trap.

I don't know how to fix the "cutoff" problem, but I have an idea -- at a certain point, the cash payment turns into other useful stuff of equal value. Such as child care benefits, or housing assistance. The key is to make it (1) of equal value and (2) something they can choose. This can smoothly translate into the sorts of benefits that the middle class enjoys. The point should be: the road out of poverty should be smooth and paved.

I know a fair number of people who have learned helplessness. Poverty in general can induce it, but you're right, overly complex welfare is a major contributor.

It's horrible, but there is another facet of why UBI can't be implemented while racism is a major factor in US politics. When people see someone collecting welfare, what they see is factored by a now-gone stereotype: a lazy slave "stiffing" the master of his labor. The modern-day descendancy of that thought is: if I am paying for you to stay alive, I get to order you around. Hence adversarial welfare. People believe that, by being taxpayers, they are members of a superior class that has rights over the inferior class that cannot pay taxes. (This is of course incentive to maintain the class system.)

It is my considered opinion, though, that anyone who aspires to finalize the design of, oversee, or implement any welfare strategy should be required to live by its terms for a month. Just like in software, "eating your own dog food" produces a remarkable amount of empathy.

Jumper said...

Post-Soviet Russia provides a warning to the recipients of sudden wealth; as it quickly ended up in the hands of the plutocrats. However, who am I to say I know better than those to whom reparations are due? On that basis I'd agree. A mule and 40 acres, compounded at historical savings rates comes to about two trillion if my math is still valid. Of course, if we got anywhere near that, the Republicans would panic and blow it all on a needless war. In fact, that's what they did!
Of course, after reparations bigotry would still exist, and the stress of that (which the bigots will deny is real, and anyone with a black face knows is fatally real) and continue4d affirmative action as a remedy for a continuing problem not out of the question.

donzelion said...

re Michael Slager and the prospects of sousveillance: So, a police officer shoots a fleeing African American in the back, five times, all of which is caught on video. There has never been, and never will be, a more obvious case of murder. Nor will there ever be a clearer example of just what sousveillance could mean in terms of defending the rights of citizens against police abuses.

Despite the best test case for sousveillance, and the hopes of everyone that people would believe video which utterly, unquestionably shows that a murder occurred - the trial ends in a mistrial.

Let's let that sink in: if a jury cannot convict a police officer for shooting a black man fleeing from a traffic stop in broad daylight caught on video, then how can we believe this tool will ever be effective to safeguard any lesser rights? What is the evidence that supports hopes in such a tool - that watching the watchers will restrain or limit their conduct?

David Brin said...

donzelion we are discussing that case AND it will go back for another trial. You cannot immediately end the appearance of racist assholes on juries. The time to get upset is if this case is ever abandoned by the prosecutors. If they go back and back and back, then the cop will plea bargain or get convicted. Your conclusions are fallacious. There would not even be a trial but for the video and that cop will never again carry a gun under authority.

Paul451 said...

Donzelion,
"Let's let that sink in: if a jury cannot convict a police officer for shooting a black man fleeing from a traffic stop in broad daylight caught on video, then how can we believe this tool will ever be effective to safeguard any lesser rights?"

True. But you are outraged. And you communicate that outrage with others.

Most importantly, you believe the advocates for the victim. You believe it happened the way they say it happened.

Without the tool, the camera, you are stuck with the cop's own version. Even if you suspect there's something else going on, there'll always be an uncertainty. It's easy to manipulate that uncertainty into inaction.

But you know. And you can act with that knowledge.

Okay, maybe the jury didn't. Maybe they were confused by the judge's instructions, maybe there was one or two hardcore bigots holding out against the others, who knows. But everyone else knows. And little by little, that certainty chips away at the resistance.

TCB said...

Great posts, Paul451!

And let me say, this is one of the brighter spots I see in modern sociopolitical discourse (which has so few bright spots!) that people are seriously starting to discuss universal basic income.

It's a necessity! Sooner than you think!

I mean, jiminy. Who seriously believes the economy exists solely to fulfill the fantasies of a handful of billionaires? Locum goes loco at the thought of anyone 'deserving', but then how the hell do the 1% of the 1% deserve to live like pharaohs?

Paul451 said...

Catfish N. Cod
"The idea was that any work, any at all, any hours, any pay, any *anything*, qualifies you for the basic benefit."

No. This is what I mean by adversarial. You take away the safety net if the person doesn't meet an arbitrary definition of "compliance". The rules will quickly become complex and unmanageable, their application seemingly random. That puts the entire emphasis on a short-term focus on staying within the system. It is designed to create the worst effects of welfare.

That's the problem with the actual work-for-the-dole program we have. It's treated as a punishment.

A work program must be voluntary. (And I mean voluntary, not a snarky "well you can give up the benefit if you don't want to...") If you come in to perform the supplied work, you get additional money above the UBI.

You pull the lever, you get the food pellet.

The UBI is the safety net. The voluntary employment-of-last-resort provides additional income beyond that, if you want, when you can't find regular work.

(My comments were already too long, so I didn't specify, but an important part would be the daily wages. This goes back to the short-term thinking that stress causes (including financial stress). "Getting a job" is a long term venture with delayed reward. If you can just turn up, get assigned to some scut work by the supervisor at that site, then get paid at the end of the day, it taps into short-term thinking while developing long-term positive behavioural associations between work and reward.)

"I don't know how to fix the "cutoff" problem, but I have an idea -- at a certain point, the cash payment turns into other useful stuff of equal value. Such as child care benefits, or housing assistance."

No. A thousand times no. This is the kind of crap that causes the problems of welfare.

"When people see someone collecting welfare [...]"

That's why a UBI is superior to welfare. No-one "collects" it, because everyone receives it. Universal. By right of citizenship and residency. No-one is "on welfare" any more than someone is on "clean-air benefits". It's just part of the background of being in that society.

"It is my considered opinion, though, that anyone who aspires to finalize the design of, oversee, or implement any welfare strategy should be required to live by its terms for a month."

A month isn't long enough. You don't understand poverty until you've eaten your seedcorn.

You have resources beyond your current savings and your current income. Your clothes, your appliances, your vehicle, were bought by a certain level of income. Once you lose that income, you still initially have them. A month isn't long enough. But over time you use them up and you can't replace them. Then the cost of merely staying in place goes up.

"Rent a flat above a shop,
cut your hair and get a job.
Smoke some fags and play some pool,
pretend you never went to school.
But still you'll never get it right
'cos when you're laid in bed at night
watching roaches climb the wall
If you call your Dad he could stop it all.
You'll never live like common people
You'll never do what common people do
You'll never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view"

Anonymous said...

@Dr.Brin 5:17 PM
Both books are on my read list. Whether I'll get them the 25th or buy them, I'll have some interesting end-of-the-year reading. I'll stay commenting on the subject till I read Transparent Society.

About seeing Orwellian surveillance coming and Hollywood's portrayal of it: I hardly ever watch movies, so that's only an indirect influence. The general sound of the news of the world the last couple of years is eroding my optimism much more.

I'm getting pessimistic that societies will gradually improve themselves, as I used to think they will. Before, I thought in the long term the short term ruffles will even out. And in dark moments, Gapminder showed me the long view again. Now, my fear is that trend is broken, even if it isn't visible there yet. If it is, I doubt that we will be able to turn aside some of the really big issues like loss of soil and climate change. Keepingand expanding a technological civilisation while living within viable ecological means. I think we'll need all of our effort for that, and the current cultural and political happenings in much of the world are making that so much harder.


@Donzelion 11:20 PM
Thanks for putting that Slate article in perspective, and for taking the time for that while having a load of work.
For much of America, that sort of dystopia already exists. I think our Morroccan young males can relate to that, even if I think it's not nearly that bad here then in the US. But their experiences will be quite different from mine. Good to be reminded of that.

Twominds

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

But all the injuries from early Jim Crow were done to the dead by the dead; likewise for slavery. I can't dig them up to make restitution


Heh. I almost hate to do this, but there's a bit in "Hamilton" like that. Here, Hamlilton argues for neutrality in a war between Britain and France, against Jefferson who wants to enter the fight on France's side:


You must be out of your Goddamn mind if you think
The President is gonna bring the nation to the brink
Of meddling in the middle of a military mess,
A game of chess, where France is Queen and Kingless.
We signed a treaty with a King whose head is now in a basket.
Would you like to take it out and ask it?
"Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’ head?"
"Uh… do whatever you want. I’m super dead."

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Let's let that sink in: if a jury cannot convict a police officer for shooting a black man fleeing from a traffic stop in broad daylight caught on video, then how can we believe this tool will ever be effective to safeguard any lesser rights? What is the evidence that supports hopes in such a tool - that watching the watchers will restrain or limit their conduct?


I have a cynical answer. The hope is that sousveillance will restrain or limit police conduct in interactions with white people.

Treebeard said...

Locum's main point is true: that modern liberal civilization, with its ideology of egalitarianism and utilitarianism but without a transcendent goal, is basically a project to build the most gilded cage – a cage that inevitably becomes an enervating prison. Nietzsche nailed this many times: “Man needs what is most evil in him for what is best in him,” the reign of the “Last Man”, etc. Without a connection to wild nature and a means to realize our will to power, we degenerate like animals in a zoo, become pathological, obese, addicted, sit around talking about our “privilege” all day and even stop breeding. If we have no frontier and no transcendent goal, then war and collapse are our likely paths to escape from this gilded cage. Climate change, anyone?

Jumper said...

Like red state people, in other words. In blue America, people are awesomely physically fit, pit their minds against profound problems at their jobs, are doing much to alleviate misery, have enthusiasm for the future, and a transcendent belief in progress. All of which you want to destroy like a petulent child because you are full of fear, bitterness and the most profound cowardice.

Randall Winn said...

@locum wrote: "...@Randall: Not my words..."

AH! that explains it. Some *other* locum wrote "... women being raped on the streets..."

I have long suspected "locumranch" was a role, not an entity.

---

@Treebeard

"....we degenerate like animals in a zoo..." is a pretty silly thing to say. The average person today is stronger, healthier and by any reasonable measure more moral than at any time in history or prehistory. We're better at publicizing our messes, that's all.

Stopping breeding is not a bad thing if you're doing it in pursuit of a high-K strategy. Surely we can agree that a low-K approach to human population dynamics is immoral?

David Brin said...

"Without a transcendent goal"???????????

Oh you awful, self-lobotomized troglodyte. You are hilarious! You want transcendent? We are rebuilding the Tower of Babel!

We are building 10,000 ships, spurred by the beauty of a Helen beyond compare. Sending them forth toward Heaven itself.

Not all sciencey types are atheists, but even the atheists are obeying the Great Sermon you hear, any time you step outside and demand from God a sign! The answer is always: "I don't do that shit, anymore. You are growing up and don't need booming sky-voices. Figure it out for yourselves."

Thing is, that Great Sermon is valid, whether or not He exists! (And some of us think he does.)

He did not "punish" the tower builders, fool. Not one builder is killed or harmed. A page earlier he drowns the world! A page later he throws fire & brimstone! But the tower builders? He says "if they continue, nothing will be beyond them..." And so he scattered us, to *delay* our ambitions, but leaving us with the some basic nature. What nature? Everything!

"Nothing will be beyond them." Nothing is beyond us. We are through being scattered and languages are a trivial problem. We are back and rebuilding the sucker. If he wants to scatter us again, fine. But I bet THIS ERA is what He wanted, all along. We've suffered and been confused and tried a myriad foolish experiments and now all that diversity is re-merging. We are vastly, vastly bigger now, than those earlier tower builders.

Nothing transcendent? NO TRANSCENDENT GOAL???

Oh you drivel-spewing utter simpleton. You child, clutching your kindergarten book while millions of us are in grad school, studying Dad's trade. His craft. His profession.

Creation.

No Transcendent goal? I would laugh at such a poor, pathetic-myopic creature. Only... I want to include you. I want to take you up the tower and show you glory.

Slim Moldie said...

Alfred Differ

“Bang bang.” Yes you got me. I’m dead. And as a comedian I am mortified that my scenario did not come across to you as jest! Perhaps I didn’t drop enough hints.

It reminds me of a story Kilgore Trout once wrote a story about a species of hermaphroditic aliens called Scientia-bro-no-nos that inseminated themselves in an autonomic response to laughter. Each time a Scientia-bro-no-nos laughed it gave birth to triplets. At first the Scientia-bro-no-no civilization flourished, but once their population became saturated, the shit hit the fan. Laughter was forbidden and joke tellers were first ostracized and later sentenced to death. Eventually civilization crumbled as no Scientia-bro-no-no was willing to tell a joke.

That said, I jest with purpose--even if I rarely make my point clear. Just look at the big picture behind some of the awesome discussions. Is over population a problem humanity is going to address? Lots of talk of reparations, financial incentives for this and that. We have policy makers thinking in a profit equals cost minus revenue mindset. So, if that’s how they are thinking—I’m just curious...what cost are they assigning to a human?

LarryHart said...

Slim Moldie:

We have policy makers thinking in a profit equals cost minus revenue mindset.


That's kinda scary. I'd have thought it was the other way around.

:)

Treebeard said...

Yeah, I'm sure everything is proceeding according to Yahweh's Great Progressive Plan. But will he destroy the tower or bring the flood this time? Oh that's right, we're the darlings of history, and Yahweh is rewarding our moral progress.

I always thought you were a story-telling monotheist fanatic posing as a rational atheist, but this is first time I've seen you admit it. Good for you.

Slim Moldie said...

LarryHart

Oh man, that's one of my finest dyslexic typos. Too bad it wasn't intentional--unless I subconsciously cross the wires just to make people laugh. It's a real hoot during public speaking. Job interviews. And at some point I just learned to roll with it. Esoteric humor.

LarryHart said...

@Slim Moldie,

I was almost certain that was a typo, but with what passes for economic theory from Republicans, I couldn't quite be sure that "profit equals cost minus revenue" wasn't a theorem in Supply Side science.

David Brin said...

Complete imbecile. He proclaims we have no transcendent goal. Then I show him not one but a heaven filled with transcendent goals, and biblical support as well, all he can do is whimper a playground snark!

We have been rewarded, fool. We have achieved more, with these new powers that all other generations combined. But more, our cornucopia of beauty. If I could show you the sacred beauty of Maxwell's Equations, when they are set in motion, I would. But you are too stupid. But yes, they are what he said, when he said "let there be light."

If he did not want us in the laboratory of Creation then He should have not left the door open, the lights on and the reagents within reach. He would not have made the textbooks so clear and the blueprints so spectacularly readable.

What is it you kindergaarten "worshippers" think He wants from you? To sing hosannahs to him - utterly boring and repetitious - for eternity? That... is... hell. You fanatics WANT an end to all ambition, all striving, all challenges, all overcoming and learning and conversation, creativity... you want ALL of that to end! (And all democracy and the United States of America.) In exchange for what? Having your pleasure center zapped every second for the next billion bazillion years? Oh bliss!

Sorry. If He is a Father then he wants much more from us. The Mormons know this. We are to rise up and be co-creators. And this is said repeatedly in the Bible! In Genesis, fool.

Might He say "not yet" again as we rebuild the Tower this time? Well, enabling the wave of anti-science assholes flooding the planet and America right now might be a sign. And if so, I'll fight. And probably lose. But He made a promise and if not this time then the next.

"Nothing will be beyond them."

Paul SB said...

I'm afraid I ended up not having the time to read and comment as I had intended, so I hope no one thinks I am ignoring them. My son jawed my ears off for a good couple hours when I got home, leaving me less time to grade and create writing prompts than I expected. It looks like some very interesting exchanges between Paul451, Catfish & Larry, among others, but I barely have time to even skim. So real quick:

Slim Moldie said: "Totally agree. So how can we can better educate enough of the population to govern ourselves intelligently?"
- Before becoming a teacher I naively assumed that sufficient education could fix a host of problems, but after doing this for many years I have realized that no education plan will have the intended effects on more than a fraction of students. Think like a statistician. Some will get it perfectly, some will get it more or less, and some will reach exactly the opposite conclusion you would expect. That does not make education useless, but it does mean that education is insufficient by itself. Strong institutions that promote fairness and ferret out corruption are needed, as well as a more multi-pronged approach to getting positive messages out into the world of thoughts and ideas. Then, of course, there's actual social justice, so people have little to bitch about.

Paul 451: Unless I am still misunderstanding you, I think the problem is definitional. What you are calling luck, I would call unconscious processing. Luck is the role of the dice, the flip of the coin, the random appearance of a placer deposit - luck is what is actually, physically there, not an attribute of a person. The person who is more likely to spot the $20 dropped on the street is not so much lucky as more perceptive. I spent years doing archaeological survey, where we basically walk across large parcels of land looking for surface indications of buried cultural remains. More experienced surveyors tend to be the ones who most often find sites, not because they are lucky, but because with years of experience their brains have become good at spotting that exact sheen the sun makes reflecting off broken cryptocrystalline silicates, and years of experience looking at human-made tools make it easy to tell the difference between an artifact and a ventifact - the "noise" of naturally-broken rock. Luck is whether or not there are actual buried sites in the parcel of land you are surveying, and how much of that material has been exposed by erosion. The people who spotted the words in the magazine were not lucky, they were observant.

Dr. Brin,
One of the greatest things about the Age of Enlightenment is that it made it possible for people to find their own transcendence, rather than having to look for some standard-issue transcendence thrust upon them by social norms. Most people still see transcendence in terms of standard-issue religious tropes, but some can seek transcendence in other ways. Contemplating the beauty of the Universe, appreciating the exactitude of a formula, raising children to be the best people they can be, contributing something worthwhile to human society, working to help other members of the animals kingdom, creating works of art that inspire others to wonder - all of these things and more are arena for transcendence. In past ages one church or another stuffed their notions of transcendence down all our ancestors' throats, or the business elite created a hegemonic vision of transcendence through greed and business acumen. The ent's transcendence comes in a volume marked "Friedrich Nietzsche" (or maybe the Marquis de Sade) yet he is clueless that his glorious past would not have allowed him to make that choice. So we can Choose Your Own Transcendence, without having to take the ones chosen for us by past institutions. That is a kind of freedom a certain type of patriot can never understand.

Now the struggle to keep my eyes open is coming to an end, and I still have late assignments my students expect me to grade immediately. Nighty-night, all!

Slim Moldie said...

Corollary homework assignment is to read/reread Asimov’s The Last Question.

Erin Schram said...

LarryHart said,
Am I the only one who can keep his memories of the original Star Wars sequestered from the ruination of the sequels?

My memory confirms that of LarryHart. The missle had to enter the exhaust port, not destroy it.

Paul451 said,
But having spent time on welfare, I know that much of the reported problems of welfare (the ones that are real) is a misreading of the specific side-effect of adversarial welfare. Most welfare systems give too much and not enough power to arbitrary bureaucrats to remove the last safety net that keeps you off the street. The bureaucrat is enforcing rules that they don't control, often which they don't really understand, in a system that deliberately dehumanises the welfare recipients. It lends itself to disaffected cruelty.

After I was fired (my supervisor did not understand the rules), I applied for unemployment compensation. The letter from the Maryland Dept. of Labor said, "We could not find a reason to deny compensation, so you are approved." They literally said that, give or take a few misremembered words.

Fortunately, I have decades of dealing with the discouraging effects of my chronic illnesses, so a callous wording was merely disappointing. I am one of those lucky people who can make opportunities. (I learned the technique from boardgames.) I launched six-prong strategy against my financial crisis, and two of the prongs worked.

I was financially stable again and officially retired, so I imagined that I could learn new programming languages, volunteer for internet-based volunteer work, and maybe continue my job search. Instead, I acted upon those ambitions half-heartedly and shied away from steps that risked failure.

I feel like a bad example. Did my guaranteed income undermine my ambition? Nope, for I recognize my symptoms. I suffer from burnout. A year of filing appeals and complaints for my illegal firing, unsuccessfully searching for a job, dealing with unexplainable delays in my unemployment compensation, repairing my house to sell, and preparing to move in with friends, while still recovering from a five-month sickness, had taken its toll.

I know how to rebuild my motivation. Volunteering at church and attending advanced seminars at Cornell are slowly restoring my ability to risk failure. I could rush the process, at the risk of damaging my psyche in other ways or damaging my health more. Yet if I needed the money or some government agency were pressuring me to get back on my feet, I would rush the process.

And Paul451 also talked about learned helplessness, with the marvelous insight, "It's the randomness that screws up your ability to make rational decisions." In a bureaucracy, some avenues allow workable solutions and other avenues run into a bureaucratic wall. Without experience, the avenues appear random, and that discourages the new hires and their brilliant solutions. A good trainer warns new hires away from those pitfall, before they learn helplessness from too many unexpected barriers.

Paul SB said,
Unless I am still misunderstanding you [Paul451], I think the problem is definitional. What you are calling luck, I would call unconscious processing. Luck is the role of the dice, the flip of the coin, the random appearance of a placer deposit - luck is what is actually, physically there, not an attribute of a person.

I am a boardgame player. In a game, luck is the roll of the dice and the drawing of a hand of cards, but it is also what the player does with it. A bad player could have an effective strategy that depends on particular lucky hand of cards. He says that the game is a game of chance. A good player, in contrast, has different strategies for each possible hand of cards dealt. He says that the game is a game of skill. It is really the same game; the difference is how the player deals with luck.

Erin Schram said...

Treebeard said,
I always thought you were a story-telling monotheist fanatic posing as a rational atheist, but this is first time I've seen you admit it. Good for you.

That mythic vein appears in many scenes in David Brin's novels, so it is no surprise. However, it is not an earmark of theism. Rather, it is a way to talk about revelations, whether those revelations came from religion, from science, or even from overdue common sense.

I myself am a story-telling monotheistic fanatic. My rational atheist friends don't mind my fanaticism, since I am polite about it and like science, too. Thus, I can tell the difference between revelations from religion and revelations from science.

David Brin said,
What is it you kindergaarten "worshippers" think He wants from you? To sing hosannahs to him - utterly boring and repetitious - for eternity?

"Kindergarten" is the wrong word for this kind of ignorance. I like teaching Sunday School for the kindergarten children, for they ignore a blind view of God. Only a story of a God who wants them to grow has an impression on them. Jesus knew that when he said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:13-16)

Christianity is not the restrictive morality that locumranch complained about. Lutheran theology says that Christianity is a celebration. Hence, Christianity does often involve singing hosannahs to celebrate. Other ways to celebrate are sharing food (especially with the hungry), visiting people (especially the sick or imprisioned), and dressing up (especially with those who need clothes). I like stories, games, crafts, and food for celebration. And science makes the very best crafts. We can celebrate by building a great civilization that reaches the stars.

And atheists can understand the fun in that, too.

Paul SB said,
One of the greatest things about the Age of Enlightenment is that it made it possible for people to find their own transcendence, rather than having to look for some standard-issue transcendence thrust upon them by social norms.

I believe that God is delighted that we each have our own vocations.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I agree completely with Paul 451 about the UBI

Changing the subject slightly - reparations - this is an issue here as well because the Maori were cheated out of a lot of land
They sold a great deal at - for the time - a fair price
But some was "sold" by very dubious means - one tribe (iwi) would sell another tribe's land!
The problem with reparations was summed up in a cartoon
A Maori is shown if full ceremonial dress saying
"I want compensation for the land stolen from my Maori ancestors .. by my Pakeha (European) ancestors"
The Romans realized that you could not go back in time and invented a statute of limitations
The way forwards here is to have something that helps all of our poor - not just the Maori

Incidentally there is a "puzzle" about the Maori,
There were about 100,000 Maori in 1770 - and there are now about 600,000 - the numbers did fall to about 40,000 in the 1840's
BUT there are apparently no - zero - pure breed Maori
That simply does not make sense to me - there have not been enough generations to do that
What do you guys think?
My theory (trying to sound like John Cleese) is that a lot of the Maori found that it was simply better to live among the settlers (claiming a Pakeha ancestor) than to remain in the Iwi and be subject to the authority of the chiefs

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Paul451:

I believe you -- but you'll never convince Americans with the rhetoric you're using. It's a truth that the UBI scheme you propose is probably the most logical scheme from an incentive perspective -- it's also the most moral, at least from a Christian perspective -- and yet I can never see a government implementing it the way you describe. A religion, possibly. There might be an Islamic, Buddhist, or Taoist culture that could do that. But it is the ultimate nightmare of the Protestant work ethic to give *anything* for nothing. It violates "Do Not Work, Do Not Eat."

I pulled the requirements as far down as possible, made it as simple as I could. And you slapped it away with a slippery-slope argument. (I wanted the daily wage system you described, too, by the way.) Politics is the art of the possible, and American society simply cannot implement your proposal as written. People would revolt against a government that tried that, and not for racial or class reasons, but out of a sense of pure moral outrage and panic. Because to them, you are the pitchfork mob coming to steal everything and do nothing, and then starve because you can't steal. They sincerely believe that UBI would destroy society, based on their fundamental concepts of human nature. Everything stems from that.

.......but, you know, there just might be a way to do it nonetheless. A social-democratic program, sure, but a much less problematic one, and one that would not conflict with moral codes.

What if it were configured as a public dividend? Again I am thinking of the Alaskan model, but with the giveaways of all the sustainable and extractive industries rescinded in favor of collecting the money owed the public. Solar cell rights on public lands. Oil and gas, for as long as that lasts. Mining rights. Forestry income. Broadcast spectrum rights. And public mutual fund investments; there would have to be some system for that, though splitting it into as many bits as possible would be needed to prevent it becoming a tyrannical position. Instead of cash payments for fines, public corporations have to issue non-voting Class A stock to the public mutual funds every time they get caught.

See, if it were income from common ownership, it's not stealing. THAT kind of UBI could actually be implemented. But as long as people think their pocket's being picked, it will never, ever, ever, ever happen. And THAT sense of stealing is why "poverty must be punished". As if poverty wasn't its own punishment already.

As far as I can see, the literal only other way it could happen is after a collapse of society and a full-out socialist-communist revolt. Which, again, could only happen after a complete collapse of American society into oligarchical despotism. You would have to destroy the current society first, and hi, kind of not my preferred outcome?

----

By the way, I see I didn't describe the "one month" idea sufficiently. It would have to be done a la "Trading Places"... the regular person's resources don't exist for them, for that time period. No clothes, house, job, friends, nothing. They are forced into an alter ego and have to live that life.

I suspect most of them would have a nervous breakdown within a week, though.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Without a connection to wild nature and a means to realize our will to power, we degenerate like animals in a zoo, become pathological, obese, addicted, sit around talking about our “privilege” all day and even stop breeding.

See? Treebeard exemplifies that fear, though he phrased it in Nietzschean-rational-atheist terms rather than Calvinist-moralist. But it comes to the same thing -- pathological fear of the safety net as a constricting doom.

Of course poverty is also a constricting doom, and I know which of the two is better. I think most people want to demand more out of life than being a drone. But the Protestant work ethic insists that there cannot be any drones, that any laggards are a dire threat to society's stability. (And there is some truth to the notion that "the devil makes work for idle hands", too. It's not just pathology about the virtue of work.)

TCB said...

Treebeard said, a few comments earlier:

"Yeah, I'm sure everything is proceeding according to Yahweh's Great Progressive Plan. But will he destroy the tower or bring the flood this time?"

By the look of things, Yahweh intends to destroy the world with religious-fanatic saboteurs and sociopaths this time. They'll do everything they can to make sure we overheat the planet and maybe have a nuke war. Whatever it takes to make the prophecy happen.

Jumper said...

I see plenty of chance for adventure in this society, and many places to achieve leadership - that so called "will to power." The fault is not in the opportunities, it is the culture of fear. Now I tend to see Treebeard and locumranch as young people, younger than me, anyway, and I know what some of the young people I know and admire are actually doing instead of whining: becoming tower climbers (the pay is good and the adventure is breathtaking), driving snowcats after midnight and skiing by day in Montana (the pay sucks but the lifestyle is very rewarding, and you get to rescue people sometimes), going to sea. Online, I know people who work full time for NASA where the pay is good and so is the adventure.

raito said...

Catfish N. Cod,

Yes, I could make a much stronger case, but I was just sketching out the idea. I figure you guys are smart enough to carry it further in your own minds.

The 'public dividend' idea is interesting.

Paul451,

My sympathies for your situation.

In my case, welfare was not available (hilariously, partly because of my [lack of] color [and lack of family]). You guys who have never been there really can't imagine the sheer terror of knowing that any misstep at all, no matter how small, and you're out on the street with no resources of any kind. Thinking big or long term at all doesn't factor into it. How can I get my next meal does.

In my case, I got very, very lucky. The house I was living in was being sold, but I had a friend who had an unused room. He figured we were OK as long as I was looking for work, and when I found some we'd figure out how much I owed him then. It took 3 months to find a minimum-wage kitchen job. During that time, I turned down a 'better' job because it was temporary, and the abyss does stare back. I did a lot of walking to job interviews. When you're not working, it doesn't matter that it take 2 hours to get there, you have time (and nothing but).

Paul SB,

You're never going to get to everyone. Nothing's that perfect. I'm fine with that as long as the benefits are high enough.

Dr. Brin,

I have unfortunately found that the majority of people who believe in 'omni-' gods have a very poor concept of what 'omni-' (in front of words like, -scient, -present, -potent) means. And somehow are able to do that thing where they believe contradictions. Such as 'the plan is unknowable' and 'he wants you to do this' (aka 'I know the plan' aka 'I want you to do this'). Or 'Do not work, do not eat' vs. 'charity' and 'love thy neigbor'.

Erin Schram,

This afternoon a particular food drive will receive a delivery for the items they fell short of their goals for.

Duncan Cairncross,

Sounds a bit like an NHK(?) show I watched on Laotian midwives. One pregnant woman stating that she always did what the village elders told her. With the unspoken 'because they'll make my life miserable if I don't'.

Anonymous said...

Jumper,

Funny, I see locumranch as older than me, though at least a decade less now that I know he still has his parents. Treebeard I can't guess at all. Probably because I have an almost cartoonlike image of him (doesn't feel like a her) in my mind. A kind of agelessness, unchangingness like he wants to convey with his handle. But in my mind he's more like Gollum, small and mean in stature and mind. With some of the looks of Treebeard, gnarled and mossy, but without the quiet thoughtfulness and dignity of Tolkiens Treebeard.

Anonymous said...

Forgot my own handle: Twominds.

Jumper said...

Because I read A Confederacy of Dunces, I always picture Ignatius J. Reilly, "an educated but slothful 30-year-old man living with his mother" as Wikipedia has it.
There's a picture of an artist's conception of the character on the cover of the book.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Confederacy_of_Dunces

Anonymous said...

I must have read that book ages ago, probably for English literature at school. I remember nothing about it, but the title and the cover are still familiar. Seems they left the biggest impression. I guess it was too early for me, I had nothing to relate it to.

But Treebeard as Ignatius? Now how to unsee that image?

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Confederacy of Dunces" is very much worth a second reading. One of the funniest books I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

I doubt if I still have it. I'll have an eye out for it and one day I'll find and read it.

Twominds

locumranch said...


It's not so much that I deny the bigotry, racism & inequality inherent in Identity Politics, it's that I deny that the noble goal of equality can or will be achieved by a strict adherence to (a doubling-down on) the bigotry, racism & inequality inherent in Identity Politics.

Insomuch as David denies personal guilt & responsibility for the actions of either the Other or his putative ancestors AND Catfish N. Cod agrees that fighting the "discrimination against people like him (occurs) in return is that he do the same for us", it appears that both of them more or less agree with my basic argument about the social contract as a TRANSACTION.

This is known as the Golden Rule, folks, and your 'Superior Virtue of the Oppressed' fallacy does not entitle you to unlimited reparative credit.

We most emphatically DISAGREE, however, when we discuss the relative desirability of Equality. Like Monty Python's absurd take on 'Dennis Moore', David & Catfish seem to believe that inequality is simultaneously (1) correctable by legislated inequality (reverse discrimination) and (2) unacceptably immoral, whereas I argue that such an illogical belief system represents an Inherent Contradiction.

To make matters even more absurd, our favorite Champion of Equality sings endless praises to CITROCATE aka 'Competition', even though the very concept of competitive merit, expertism, professionalism & competition presume base INEQUALITY (as all competition is futile if we assume 'equality').

That the Social Contract is TRANSACTIONAL, this is exactly what most of our progressive social engineers have forgotten, but the heretofore Silent Majority has not, especially when that same caucasian EU & US majority now faces minority status in their countries & demands the horrifying turnabout that is 'Fair Play'.

"Where is MY reverse discrimination?," asks this future minority, "Gimme, gimmie, gimmie".


Best
+++++

(1) It's illogical to give your designated Protector Caste a monopoly on deadly force & expect them NOT to use it; and
(2) A great book, 'A Confederacy of Dunces'. It's truly hilarious.

Catfish N. Cod said...

We have a new thread, so I'll try to close out.

@TCB: YHWH promised not to cause the world to be destroyed by flood. Didn't say a word about what He'd do if we flooded the world ourselves, or set fire to it, &c.

@LarryHart: Dude, I know you love the show. But I have the soundtrack in the car. I subject people to it on long rides. It's exactly the image of what Blue America can build, in a way that Red America could find compatible. I mean, Cheney loved it, for God's sake.

But not so long as they're in thrall to fear. They won't let themselves see that their most important values are already winning.

@raito: I kind of stole the idea from Thomas Paine.

@Twominds: you can use the Name/URL button so you don't have to put your handle in the text of your posts.

@locum: You keep assuming things not in evidence. There would be no need for any legislation about inequality of opportunity if the Golden Rule were the norm. But whenever someone points out a violation of the Golden Rule -- say, when a man is shot in the back by a cop on camera, in the clearest possible demonstration of a miscarriage of justice, and there is a hung jury nonetheless -- it is not 'Superior Virtue of the Oppressed', but rather inferior virtue of the biased.

You also keep missing the point of equality of opportunity. Obviously not all citizens are equal in merit, or skill, or virtue; and 'tis folly to try and make them so. But that inequality should not extend to the LAW. Nor to accidents of birth, which was the whole point of the Carnegie Libraries. Equality in some things is desirable precisely so the inequalities in others shine out all the more.

Society is unequal, but in which ways it is unequal are in our power to choose. Aristocrats prefer only birth, technocrats only skill, plutocrats only wealth, ethnic nationalists only outward shape, Nietzscheans only the will to power. Might I suggest that some metrics are better for society than others? And we might want to make such a transaction?

And... it takes me strong will not to call you names when you beg for "reverse discrimination" for disadvantage for the white poor. Because I agree they should get it! Okay, we haven't done a good job on that lately. Fair enough. (Bernie Sanders was trying to point that out.) But it *is* something that should be done. Along with everyone else. Because when white is just a race like any other... and we are ALL getting "reverse discrimination"... guess what? We're all equal again.

David Brin said...

Nothing remotely interesting in locum's latest, which amounts to "nagging me is as bad as any persecution suffered by those who never had my white privilege. So we're even. Because I feel nagged. So stop nagging and go away. I don't see color and I don't see injustice."

onward

onward