Sunday, May 07, 2017

More Than Human? And science roundup!

First an announcement: Wednesday, May 10th I'll speak at the “Digital Revolution,” a free public forum that the Union-Tribune will hold at the University of San Diego’s Kroc Theater. It starts at 6:30 p.m. All you have to do is register online at uniontribune.com/future."

== More than we are? ==

Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture that was founded to allow humans to keep up with the advancements made in machines. The interface is intended to work by augmenting that which makes us human: our brains.  I've written extensively, in both science and fiction, about the quandaries of human consciousness and the murky, non-linear paths that might have brought us here. For example.

A panel has recommended the development of an A.I. index, analogous to the Consumer Price Index, to track the pace and spread of artificial intelligence technology. That technical assessment, they said, could then be combined with detailed data on skills and tasks involved in various occupations to guide education and job-training programs.

The Next Human: taking evolution into our own hands. National Geographic offers Beyond Human: how humans are shaping our own evolutionRead this excellent  article, which reviews human genetic change… how many ways we have changed - at the level of genes - since technologies began altering our way if life, letting us occupy Tibetan and Andean highlands or drink the milk of animals, or consume alcohol. The authors go on to examine how techniques like In Vitro Fertilization and CRISPR are opening the science fictional worlds of deliberate gene slicing.  

When asked whether this is ethical, Linda MacDonald Glenn, a bioethicist at California State University, Monterey Bay, comments; “For this sort of technology to be banned or not used is to suggest that evolution has been benign. That it somehow has been a positive. Oh Lord, it has not been! When you think of the pain and suffering that has come from so many mistakes, it boggles the mind.”

And it goes farther: Hundreds of people have radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices embedded in their bodies that allow them to unlock their doors or log on to their computers without touching anything. One company, Dangerous Things, claims to have sold 10,500 RFID chips, as well as do-it-yourself kits to install them under the skin. The people who buy them call themselves body hackers or grinders.” 

How soon to Molly, from Neuromancer?  Or even my dittoes from Kiln People? But oops, some things are predictable: “Another grinder …wants to implant a vibrator beneath his pubic bone and connect it via the web to others with similar implants."

Yeow. Very interesting article. Though alas, things are much more complicated. Take the implication that we can increase human lifespan and human intelligence by simply finding the right genetic (or nutrition) switches to flick. In both cases, indicators suggest the the smartest or longest lived humans are crowding against glass ceilings that will be very hard to shatter. 

Yes, certainly we have crashed through other limitations before!  But in the case of IQ, it seems that when smart people breed together, their odds of brainy offspring rise in company with their chances of having kids with problems like autism spectrum. (In Existence I portray how tech might overcome this by empowering autistic folks and freeing them.)

== Can we delay aging? ==

This could be among the scariest bits of science, especially in an era of rising aristocracy and wealth disparity. Researchers at Stanford University led by neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray showed in a 2014 study that infusions of blood from young mice reversed cognitive and neurological impairments seen in old ones.” 

If this brings to mind some of the 1950s science fiction tales about rich old coots having young men and women squeezed for their life essence (in some cases it was prescient about blood transfusions) then how about “parabiosis,” a bizarre technique in which two mice were sutured together in such as way that they shared a circulatory system - which found old mice joined to their youthful counterparts showed changes in gene activity making them more youthful. And the younger mice aged.

The article is more optimistic, showing preliminary evidence that the juvenizing factors may be in blood plasma, which millions of teens could easily donate to millions of elderly without it becoming a matter of being preyed upon.  Indeed, science might decipher the elixir components and synthesize them and that will be that… 

And now credible news that billionaire Peter Thiel may be trying it.

Only not so fast.  Results in mice almost never apply to humans, when it comes to lifespan extension - and there are reasons. Sorry.

A chemical switch to slow the aging of cells? Again and again I point out that human are probably slready using all these ‘low-hanging fruit” for lengthening lifespan. anti-senescence treatments that work in mice almost never do a thing in already methuselah humans. Now, to be fair, these results do seem to apply to human cells. Still, see my story "Chrysalis' in my collection, Insistence of Vision to see how this might not go as expected!

== Next Steps in Tech ==

Speaking of our generation's irreplaceable man... Elon Musk has revealed his new tunnel boring machine -- an ambitious plan aimed at reducing traffic congestion. I've thought a lot about tunneling over the years and we spoke about it recently. Though dinner was mostly about Mars.


Oh, and see the next transportation revolution… electric planes!

A game changer? Announced: a water harvester that uses only ambient sunlight to pull liters of water out of the air each day in conditions as low as 20 percent humidity.  

A team has invented a revolutionary way to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from air by triggering artificial photosynthesis in a synthetic material — breaking down carbon dioxide while also producing fuel.  Well, tentatively. 

Wish you had this in school? A tiny module you could put on a professor’s lectern and it not only records but transcribes the lecture as text.  Now to have an AI explain it all…

Remember this breakthrough. “Graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab. Then, as an ink or solution, it can be spread on a substrate or porous material. Use it as a membrane, and apparently it can separate salty from seawater. The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.”

Have a look at the Deep Space Gateway, the habitat Boeing wants to send to cislunar space. It could house critical research for human exploration and could dock other vehicles using a system similar to the International Space Station’s, though more modern and compact and possibly apropos for  use as an interplanetary spacecraft.

American farmers are using Ukrainian hacker firmware to free their tractors from lock-in to John Deere for all repairs. Seven states are considering laws to allow people to hack or repair their own private property, an issue that has been riling libertarian spirits all over, and where I find my libertarian roots aroused.  Only note, the villains are not exactly "big bad government."

Are we wired for numbers? Human understanding of counting is central to our understanding of the world around us.  Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting the Course of Human History, by anthropologist Caleb Everett examines the evolution of our perception of numbers -- and how it has influenced human behavior in societies across the globe.

An accidental discovery of real potential importance. Wax worms can apparently eat and break down polyethylene plastic bags.

Deriving traces of human DNA(Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc) from ancient caves… but not from bones? Rather from dirt?  

Heroes of Science(!) action figures! Unfortunately, not yet available.

There. Down with the war on science and all of its practitioners.  They want all this to stop.

57 comments:

Paul SB said...

Nice little science/tech roundup here. I can certainly say that as a biology teacher I would love to have an action figure (or a plush better yet) of old Gregor Mendel, the Father (pun intended) of Genetic Science. The ethics question brought up by Glenn should give pause to anyone who claims moral exclusivity to religion. The water harvester sounds like reality imitating art (if you can credit George Lucas as an artist). Both that and the graphene water purifier are cases in point for Glenn's ethics concern. The bit on getting DNA from dirt isn't as new as you might think. It was at least a couple decades ago that I saw an article in which they were pulling up DNA from an ancient Scythian burial pit, but doing this for other members of the genus is certainly new.

Donzelion,
It's my first initial, last name minus the hyphen, at the service provided by google.

LarryHart said...


Nous sommes tous Français aujourd'hui!

Merci, France, et Merci, mon Dieu.

Susan Watson said...

"[I]n an era of rising aristocracy and wealth disparity" there would be an even greater threat than exploitation of young bodies by the elderly rich; Longer lives would accelerate the accumulation of wealth as relative advantage became unsurmountable. Younger people of talent and energy would be locked out of access to resources.

Susan Watson said...

... liberté, égalité, fraternité!
we have liberty over here, but sadly lack equality of access or any sense of fraternity

Jan Eringa said...

Those water from air devices have been very thoroughly debunked. Theyou are basically dehumidifiers 😀

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

"The boring machine"??? Are we sure that's not a joke/pun?

In one issue of Frank Quitely's "All Star Superman" series, Lex Luthor escapes from prison using a machine which converts the writings of Herman Melville into sub-sonic vibrations which can drill through solid rock, "literally boring a tunnel into the earth."

That single line of dialogue made me a fan. :)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

A tiny module you could put on a professor’s lectern and it not only records but transcribes the lecture as text.


If the transcriber is as bad as the one that transcribes voice messages on my IPhone, then it's pretty useless.

I mean, what it does is amazing, but still, what it ultimately produces is gibberish to the reader.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB

"and you don't need fancy PV technology with a basement full of batteries when an old-fashioned Trombe Wall will do the trick admirably"

I actually had something similar on my ChCh house - I used the floor slab as my heat store - it worked very well

For my new house I had a good look and used PV instead - That fancy technology is CHEAPER than a solar water panel!

That is not true if you live somewhere where it never freezes - but the freeze protection system makes solar hot water more expensive (and much shorter lived)

I'm using PV - no batteries YET - and a ground source heat pump - I can keep my whole house warm on 1Kw electrical

Paul SB said...

Hi Duncan,

You're on South Island, right? Dunedin area, if I remember right, or was it Invercargill? Either way, you probably get colder winters than what I grew up with in Colorado at your latitude, though proximity to the ocean must moderate that a bit. Some good solar would be a boon, either way. How's the sunshine days where you are? I'm solar powered myself, best where the gloom doesn't last too long. Still, I'm surprised PV has actually gotten that cheap. I would have never expected that in our lifetimes. Things are looking up!

But the floor slab heat store must have meant no cold kitchen floor in the mornings.

Tony Fisk said...

An interesting addendum to the post: Hydrogen as a fuel has big attractions... and big problems, one of which is transportation. However, it could be piggybacked via an established system, and CSIRO have found a way of storing and extracting hydrogen in ammonia.

Meanwhile, in the more political side of science, more pieces coming together connecting Brexit, and Mercer, and Bannon, and Thiel, and ...

Duncan Cairncross said...

I still have the warm floor slab - if you are building it is by far the cheapest way to heat your house

I'm 40 minutes from Invercargill and 90 minutes from Dunedin

I have a very simple system - PV on the roof and an inverter - we only get 25% back on exported!

I have two hot water tanks - one is heated to 45C by a heat pump - which draws heat from a small field 2 meters under my lawn

t
he second tank goes up to 60C to kill the bugs

The underfloor simply vampires heat from the tank

Financially I'm getting about 7% return on the PV - a lot better than the bank

PV has gone a long way down in price - and when I got mine if I had wanted to go direct to China I could have halved the price!

My house temperatures vary from up to 24C during the day down to 19C at the night in winter

I've got polished concrete - underfloor heating does NOT work with carpet and the floor rarely feels "warm" - just not cold

Duncan Cairncross said...

Solar water heating has the water panels on your roof - just where you really do not want any leaks
I think that this is part of the reason that it is so expensive

Unknown said...

@Duncan: I've seen solar water heating spring up a bit around here. (Negative, no pun intended, my mind just picked that word.)


And following on Susan's words...in fact, I was mentating about this in the shower this evening, so I must've been picking up her thread, I tend to do that, yes there are psychic phenomena.....humans need, and in this order I say: food, shelter, local community, and global-access infrastructure. (Clothes are for the meak.) All else is fancy, and there's been decades of it.

Unknown said...

That's meek. See, I erred. But I corrected only cos I know you chaps would play with it......

TheMadLibrarian said...

The John Deere fiasco has ongoing documentation at BoingBoing. Farmers are the most hardcore DIYers I know, because the crops won't wait for someone to fart around with your harvester or seed drill. Is it any wonder that they are demanding the right to repair equipment that was sold to them, and only later were they told, "Oh, you're only leasing it, because we own the software that makes it go. We can brick your tractor because reasons."

The solar water reclaimer is a little more high tech, but I remember Euell Gibbons demonstrating a solar still with a hole in damp sand, a sheet of plastic, and a cup. Nothing new under the sun

If I could get my mitts on those science action figures, all my Christmas gift giving would be immediately settled. Regrettably, they are not in production; I wonder if the designer thought of setting up a Kickstarter to manufacture them?

LarryHart said...

Unknown:

humans need, and in this order I say: food, shelter, local community, and global-access infrastructure. (Clothes are for the meak.) All else is fancy,...


Well, I'd add potable water and breathable air in there somewhere. And heat in certain climates.

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB

I have still been here but I was just lurking. First of all I was away for six weeks and I had promised myself to cut my internet use to zero during that time and I found it so refreshing to discover that there is a life beyond politics. Secondly I felt that this forum had become too much of a political echo chamber and that turned me off.

I wrote before that the election here would be between Le Pen and Macron and that Macron would win and he did. It was a very boring election since the result was pre-ordained and that neither candidate didn't feel the need to elaborate on their respective policies. I wrote before that Macron was vetted and financed by the wealthy and backed by the Parisian "Gauche Caviar". He is not his own man and will follow orders very well. Most of the people I know who voted for him recognize that he is a straw man, an empty suit but they voted for him because they had no choice. The percentage of people who stayed away was the highest since 1969. Twelve percent of those who voted put in a blank ballot. Macron is not loved nor even liked by most people because they see him for what he is, that is a tool to keep the gravy train chugging along for a few more years.

The coming legislative elections will decide all. Macron was a surprising element but to me the most surprise was Mélenchon’s score. As a quasi-communist you would have expected that he would pick up his customary 12% and that’s that but this time he zoomed up to 20% which is basically what the old French Communist party had in its heyday. Mélenchon has reconstituted the far left. History is coming back with a vengeance it seems.

In the 2002 presidential elections Jean-Marie Le Pen obtained only 18% of the vote. Compare that with Marine Le Pen’s 34.5% and you see that the Front National has almost doubled in pull. The two extremes are gaining at the expense of the traditional parties and we will see that they will gain many more seats in the legislative elections. The result is that Macron will find it hard to govern with a majority. He will have to govern using a coalition and that brings back the demons of the Quatrième République where prime ministers changed every few months or even weeks.

The elites are not even trying to hide their influence anymore. They are conducting an audacious experiment of eliminating the middle class thereby removing the only class that could potentially compete with them. Some elites' vision of paradise is something like what we find in Dubai where you have a very small number of people living in extreme luxury served by a restrained, efficient professional class and a very large laboring class that live in dormitories and who have zero rights. That is paradise for many those on top and to them it represents the ideal society for the future. Dubai is modern feudalism.

I would expect that the next hurtle is to find ways to tell how individuals vote and sanction those who vote the "wrong way". With the technology available today the powers in place could fairly easily deduce for whom one voted and I don't see, considering the stakes involved, why they would refrain from going all the way now. It's just a small step away.

Paul SB said...

Deuxglass,

I agree that this forum can sound a lot like a political echo chamber, but I have the strong impression that most of its regular commentators are the kind of people who are willing to weigh and consider contributions rather than merely reject anything that does not fit their preconceived notions (with a few notable exceptions...). I have not heard anything like your assessment of Macron. Here most people only know that he is the alternative to the National Front (a term that has always been synonymous with fascism), so anyone here who is not in the Steve Bannon (fascist) camp was rooting for him. Your description is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election here, when a small but vocal subset was chanting "Billionaires for Bush or Gore." The corruption is so endemic that our choices in our various democracies are no longer even about picking the lesser evil. Now it's getting down to the same old aristocratic factionalism with democracy as a rubber stamp, much as Britain's House of Commons was for the House of Lords until the 19th Century. Have you read the article that Tony posted? It's pretty frightening stuff.

But thank you for taking the time to comment here. Even if the news is bad news, I think most of us appreciate being as informed as we can be. Whether or not we can do anything about it is a different matter, but if we don't know what is happening to begin with, we are doomed.

Paul SB said...

Unknown,

You wrote: "See, I erred. But I corrected only cos I know you chaps would play with it......"

Most of the time no one says anything about minor typos. The spell checkers have gotten so aggressive in recent years that they end up making more typos rather than less, and if we stopped to lampoon every one, there wouldn't be much of substance being discussed here. I have had a few myself that did gain attention - like my "thunder and does" or "Shaun the Sherpa" gaffs (one of our British fellows decided he liked the "thunder" one enough to nick, but I've forgotten to try to keep it alive here - Paul 451 was helping for awhile there...). NBD - nothing to worry about.

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB,

It started to sound like an echo chamber when the "meme to talk about today" crept in.

The foreign press has a hard time converting French politics into something they could understand. They often resort to saying that he is like Obama or Bill Clinton which is ridiculous because he isn't. There is no enthusiasm in the electorate for him. Ipsos in an exit poll remarked that 43% of those who voted for him did so just to keep Le Pen out. I know it will rub some people the wrong way in saying that. It is not that civilization won this time and all is well. All it means is that the reckoning has been put off a couple of years or so. The underlying pressures are still there and building. Macron is there not to rock the boat and he will not resolve the big problems because his handlers are the oligarchs and the privileged class and they do not want to change anything that goes against their interests.

David Brin said...

"In bars and cafés across France, voters breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge that arrogantly comparing themselves to the U.S. population, a longtime favorite pastime of the French people, would remain viable for the foreseeable future."

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/french-annoyingly-retain-right-to-claim-intellectual-superiority-over-americans

Deuxglass said...

Ah the Parisian Bobo elite. So predictable yet so interesting to converse with. Wit above all is their creed. Make the idea subservient to wit because what really matters is to shine at dinner parties with other important people. L'esprit est tout. They are fun to be with as long as the wine flows freely. They openly admit parallels with 1789 but they don't seem to care.

LarryHart said...

@Deuxglass,

I don't claim to know much about French politics. I actually am happy to see that Le Pen lost, and that's really the only dog I have in that hunt. I understand the desire to see more radical change than Macron represents--something like a Bernie Sanders candidacy, for example. I understand disappointment that this recent election result was not that. However, I do take non-trivial pleasure in the fact that a Nazi didn't win.

If you find that reasoning flawed, I'd welcome your insight.

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

Yes I am also happy that Le Pen was defeated but she will be back next time. I guess that I seem to be a pessimist but I see that the world is going through convulsions. The Le Pen phenomena is not limited to France. There are Le Pen-like leaders in control of many countries now and they are spreading. I would love to know why this is happening but I haven't yet heard a convincing argument yet. The conspiracy theory is bullshit. The world is too big and complicated for a handful of people to control it. The economic reason has some merit but doesn't explain why it is happening now and not before. I keep thinking of something said about Humanity in Frank Herbert's Dune. Humanity had become complacent and took as natural that the world would continue in its present path but Humanity felt itself as becoming stale and this staleness brought on the Muad'Dib's Jihad. It was Humanity's way of shaking things up, remixing genes and new ideas and remaking what was old into something new.

Berial said...

Deuxglass,
I think we're on the same page. As I told a friend, "What's it say about the state of the world that Nazi's are finishing in the top two?"

I've watched a lot of Mark Blyth video's but I just don't understand the reasoning, which seems to boil down to "the left sucks so lets vote for the far right to stop all this bullshit the elites are pushing on us".

Antonym said...

We will need to make base level changes to our bodies if we want to send anything more than robots into space for extended periods of time. Anyone have any suggestions for good genetic hacks to counter micro-gravity environments (at least until I get my World Cylinder up and spinning) or to withstand lower air pressures?
Though, worst case scenario, I am very willing to launch "scanned" copies of me (and my wife, and as many friends who want to go along) into the Inky Black. Best not to keep all your eggs in one gravity well.

AtomicZeppelinMan

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

The economic reason has some merit


I get that Western civilization is ready for an economic shake-up. What I don't get is why it has to be a fascist one, when a "Bernie Sanders" one, especially when the fascists are typically in bed with the corporations they claim to oppose, and they always try to pass themselves off as championing a Bernie Sanders agenda.


but doesn't explain why it is happening now and not before. I keep thinking of something said about Humanity in Frank Herbert's Dune. Humanity had become complacent and took as natural that the world would continue in its present path but Humanity felt itself as becoming stale and this staleness brought on the Muad'Dib's Jihad. It was Humanity's way of shaking things up, remixing genes and new ideas and remaking what was old into something new.


That's an interesting take. Ironic as well, because for the nationalists who are leading the shake-up, "remixing genes" is the last thing they want to do.

LarryHart said...

...that should have read "...a fascist one instead of a Bernie Sanders one,"

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

I would prefer a Sanders shakeup to a fascist one also but it looks like that will not happen because the "business as usual" forces are just too strong. This lack of resolution of the deep economic problems force people into the arms of the fascists. The leopard can't change its spots. Their strategy now is to get as much as you can and then escape to a prepared place when the carnage comes.

donzelion said...

Paul: Mine's even easier. Donzelion, same service. ;-) Let's definitely get together before I'm fully in Anaheim.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin, main post: "There. Down with the war on science and all of its practitioners. They want all this to stop."

That's a 2005 review? Time for an update...

Folks hear the 'debate' about climate science. They do not grasp that billionaires are profiting immensely from perpetuating the debate - it pushes down the cost for insurance that will ultimately cover their own assets, while skipping regular folks. Likewise, the hypocrites behind 'alternatives to evolution' seek to publish their own textbooks at 800% markup, thereby breaking the education textbook oligopoly.

Healthcare must be the most important angle of all...doctors want to treat patients - patients want treatment - yet a vast industry has arisen to prevent both from getting what they want, seeking to monopolize the amazing fruits of scientific discovery for their own benefit.

Jumper said...

If we wanted to be snarky about language I'd jump on the "hurtles" we must cross. But I make them too, all the time. Mistakes, that is.

The solar still reminds me of something I read recently - that as dry as Mars is, its soil still contains 5% moisture. Now, first, I don't believe this, but if they mean volume percent (about 2% by weight) it might be true, against all my gut reaction that it's not. Soil holds on to moisture extremely tightly, especially to smaller particle sizes such as clay. Even in a vacuum environment soil does not like to give it up. Increase the tendency by adding salts which further pin it in place,

donzelion said...

Deuxglass: "Their strategy now is to get as much as you can and then escape to a prepared place when the carnage comes."

I prefer to think of it as 'build your gated complex, let your friends in, burn down the town, buy it at a discount.'

The gated community is the neo-feudalist equivalent of a castle - designed less for 'peasant uprising defense' and more for 'wealth preservation.' Sure, oligarchs can flee in the unlikely event of a true uprising - but why bother since they own the police? Easier to retreat onto a golf course, plot their next development project (e.g., block a freeway expansion for a few years so they can get thousands of plots at 15% discount when locals hurt, flip those plots sans discount after they stop blocking it...). All they need is simple, repeatable, high margin schemes like that to guarantee they and their progeny remain wealthy.

Catfish N. Cod said...

So by this theory, the leftists and the fascists are advancing for the same reason: the hollowing out of the middle class and the push of the oligarchy for greater control.

Dr. Brin is right, this is starting to feel 1789ish. And I don't *want* to live through such. I liked my life so far, thank you.

But I am starting to despair at the idea of rational discourse having anything to do with this Republic. My contacts with conservatives and conservative libertarians are going down dangerous roads... despite the mounting evidence that Trump, at minimum, made a monumental error by hiring a compromised National Security Adviser, they continue to insist that the investigations are 100% politically motivated attempts to avoid doing a critical postmortem of the Hillary Clinton campaign, and this justifies them ignoring any and all criticism of their shiny new Administration. Two wrongs, it seems, make a right.

I feel like the Guelphs and Ghibellines have come to roost, and we are now a grab-bag collection of provinces to be fought over by outside powers despite having the greatest wealth and technology of our civilization, all because we'd rather feud than anything else.

At which point all I could do is move my family to the least threatening province, find as many people willing to preserve civilization with me as possible, and fort up.

Midboss57 said...

It's actually pretty obvious why people are turning to the far right.

Standard plutocratic/despotic/feudal... leadership 101 teaches that one of the most important things to do is to neutralize all moderate opposition as top priority so that the only alternative to you is the unthinkable. Al Assad has done this in Syria and this means that the two choices are either him or islamists. Meanwhile, in the US, the corporate top dogs essentially throw their money at buying those democrats that are willing to sell out (Repubs do it too but their voters don't really seem to mind that much) or throw money/propaganda at defeating any remotely economically progressive candidate. The effect is somewhat less strong but still exists in the other Western Countries. The reason a Sanders type shakeup is not in the cards is because they are pulling every effort in preventing it from ever happening because that would be a credible alternative and that's their greatest threat.

Meanwhile, the far right is ignored because it serves as an example of what happens if you refuse to play their game. "You think we treat you bad ? What you're gonna do, side with these psychos ? We dare you ! Besides, they are so toxic no one would willingly... oh."

Problem is, they got too greedy and 2008 and its fallout happened and people are very angry. A smart move would have been to dial back the bad behaviour long enough for things to blow over but they didn't even slow down. And now people all over the developed world are willing to side with anyone that promises an alternative, no matter how horrific.

Fortunately at least, we can thank Trump for showing the world that no, the far right is not going to put a leash on the oligarchs reprehensible behaviour. That may have saved us from Le Pen for another five years.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Ironic as well, because for the nationalists who are leading the shake-up, "remixing genes" is the last thing they want to do."

You must know a different sort of nationalist than I do. The folks I know have little problem 'remixing genes' - it's the terms of trade that they object to: they want control over the equation sans responsibility for the outcome. How many anti-immigrant reactionaries in America would hesitate to mix genes with Melania Trump given the opportunity, despite her immigrant status? How many French protest against Salma Hayek marrying a Frenchman?

Science obliterated the mythology of 'racial purity.' It seems to me it has been replaced with marginally less reprehensible 'beauty exploitation through immigrant subjugation.' Genocide is far less probable for any group, BUT new forms of slavery a bit more probable, a burden that tends to fall most heavily upon women (as everything else involving human gene exchanges tends to do).

donzelion said...

Catfish: "Dr. Brin is right, this is starting to feel 1789ish. And I don't *want* to live through such. I liked my life so far, thank you."

Our host tends to favor analogies to 1932 or 1861. I still prefer 1871 - the era in which New York bankers financed the very Southern Aristocrats who pretended to hate them (but borrowed extensively from them to preserve sharecropper plantations). Texan Ted Cruz has one foot in Texas, another in NYC (where does his wife work again), and GW Bush, Trump, and any other 'outsider' gets nowhere without close links to the bankers (the largest financiers of GWB, once Enron collapsed, were credit card companies).

"I feel like the Guelphs and Ghibellines have come to roost, and we are now a grab-bag collection of provinces to be fought over by outside powers despite having the greatest wealth and technology of our civilization, all because we'd rather feud than anything else."
Again, 1870s feels more apropos. Feuds between Democrats and Republicans in that era drew public attention, but the real action was behind the scenes boardroom deals and trusts -
which dictated prices and dominated society to the extent they could force mass migrations. The more Republicans and Democrats blocked each other from doing anything at all, the easier it was for robber barons to take over anything of value and keep it for themselves.

And then those farmstead university towns started to work their magic, setting up a later generation to fuel a pair of Roosevelt agendas...

"At which point all I could do is move my family to the least threatening province..."
The future will be a fight between old money hierarchies through a Texas-dominated faction, and new money middle through a California-dominated faction.

Texas makes its money through monopolistic insider trades (land extraction) and serflike exploitation (e.g., largest employers: the 'call center' systems set up by Infosys, Wipro, Accenture, and Tata).

California makes its money through NOT 'forting up' - but embracing science and creativity around the world (e.g., our largest employers are Disneyland + the University of California system).

You can guess which side I back in this contest.

LarryHart said...

Midboss57:

It's actually pretty obvious why people are turning to the far right.

Standard plutocratic/despotic/feudal... leadership 101 teaches that one of the most important things to do is to neutralize all moderate opposition as top priority so that the only alternative to you is the unthinkable.


That was part of the backstory of "Earth" which led to the Helvetian War. Moderate politicians were bribed or threatened or assassinated in order to insure that only radical loonie policies could be pursued, making sure that reasonable compromise was not possible.

LarryHart said...

Midboss57:

Meanwhile, the far right is ignored because it serves as an example of what happens if you refuse to play their game. "You think we treat you bad ? What you're gonna do, side with these psychos ? We dare you ! Besides, they are so toxic no one would willingly... oh."


You'd think they'd have learned that lesson in 1933.

Or have I just watched "Cabaret" too many times?
"Do you still think you can control them?"


Problem is, they got too greedy and 2008 and its fallout happened and people are very angry. A smart move would have been to dial back the bad behaviour long enough for things to blow over but they didn't even slow down. And now people all over the developed world are willing to side with anyone that promises an alternative, no matter how horrific.

Fortunately at least, we can thank Trump for showing the world that no, the far right is not going to put a leash on the oligarchs reprehensible behaviour. That may have saved us from Le Pen for another five years.


I was going to say...and then you said it yourself. It doesn't surprise me that desperate voters go for the unprecedented. It does surprise me that they haven't yet figured out that those particular radicals (nationalist demagogues, "Nazis" by other names) inevitably end up empowering the very same enemies that the revolt is supposedly against. It's like an entire electorate of locumranches.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LarryHart: "Ironic as well, because for the nationalists who are leading the shake-up, "remixing genes" is the last thing they want to do."

You must know a different sort of nationalist than I do. The folks I know have little problem 'remixing genes' - it's the terms of trade that they object to: they want control over the equation sans responsibility for the outcome. How many anti-immigrant reactionaries in America would hesitate to mix genes with Melania Trump given the opportunity, despite her immigrant status?


Yeah, they'll all carve out exceptions for their own selves. But the nationalists I know are big on racial purity. They're the ones who would condemn others of their race as race-traitors for co-mingling their genes. I don't see them being down with (say) white Aryans as a whole spilling their genes in with the mongrel races.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N Cod:

Dr. Brin is right, this is starting to feel 1789ish. And I don't *want* to live through such. I liked my life so far, thank you.


Remember, 1789 also brought us the US Constitution. And 1933 brought both Hitler and Roosevelt. There are alternatives.

Paul451 said...

Re: Mocking typos.

I generally only react to the interesting ones. Those which change the meaning of the sentence in an amusing or ironic way.

Or to those of PaulSB, who apparently is raising an autocorrect-AI which is going through a particularly creative phrase. ("Thunder and Does" for "thinkers and doers". "Space Elf" for "share of".)

Jumper,
"that as dry as Mars is, its soil still contains 5% moisture."

Water, but not moisture.

It's an oft-repeated but misleading number. Hydrous minerals are not "moist" in any reasonable sense. The water molecules are part of the structure of the mineral. To "extract" the water you are actually changing the mineral to another form. From clay to feldspar, for example.

To use an analogy, concrete has a high level of water content in the chemical hydration of the cement. But good luck trying to get it back out again.

Jumper said...

I hear you, Paul. But if you stick that concrete in an oven and recoverable H2O bakes out, it becomes irrelevant. Now for making bricks, (also an interest for Mars) it's sadly more important. The hydrate minerals don't provide any lube for assisting compaction.

Unknown said...

If there's a modern-day Christ, it is Jaque Fresco. And there begineth the lesson.

In the current circumstance, all the 'rights' one needs is buying. Stop buying. Stop feeding popcul. Put your health first so you don't [[need]] health care or dental. And so on.* Especially females are genetically predisposed to fail here. Talk about gene hacking, fuck.......

*I embody these. Always have had my own music source, for example, than radio or any o that shit.


@Paul: I have auto-correct turned off on all my devices. As well as 'keyboards' not picking up my vernacular. My first Android phone was the best, and shit's gone down hill from there. Shit pisses me the fuck off. I'm pedantic in ways, but I don't gig people for mis-spelling and grammar, the latter I sometimes will ask about.

Unknown said...

By the way, I withdraw my endorsement of (Netflix's) Luke Cage. I thought this would happen, though, after watching the fist one. I thought, 'where the hell are they gonna go with this?....', and they've gone dumb. Cage is supposed to be smart, but he obviously doesn't know the street, and he blames Cottonmouth for what happened, when the little runts brought it on themselves? Not to mention taking 'Switzerland' for granted. In this day? Jesus, this is why civilians get their asses fucked all the time in real life. Ain't nobody learnin.

Additionally, though I didn't specify medium, we were talking about movies and all, so I meant those of Hellboy and Watchmen.

donzelion said...

Paul451/Jumper: it's tidbits like your last exchange re concrete that keep me salivating (and feeling humbled...negligent chemical training). ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

A properly hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum makes turquoise. Study the semi-precious stones and you'll find lots of them are what they are because of water.

I doubt we will have to bake the water out of Martian minerals to get a drink, though. It will be far easier to dig a deeper hole.

Alfred Differ said...

Critical postmortem of the Hillary Clinton campaign? What is there to do but say Oops?

It's going to get done by the people who like to do those things. Most of us don't and won't. Moving on now. Seriously. I think we've all pondered the Clinton's enough. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart,

Regarding the mixing of genes, I think you'll find it is a mixed up thing. Some would hold to what you say. Others are more fearful of cultural mixings. Others look more at social strata mixings.

Unknown said...

I thought that stuff was spam, then a little while ago thought, 'oh, maybe I didn't get the joke.....'....but I guess not. How'd they circumvent the captcha??


@Alfred: people are still animals - obsessed with the cosmetic - embodiments of the problem with human nature. I prefer pale females because of their finer (and lighter) pheromones, but I'm most concerned with emotional function - in particular, autonomy.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

At which point all I could do is move my family to the least threatening province, find as many people willing to preserve civilization with me as possible, and fort up.


Another echo of Asimov's "Foundation". Life is feeling more and more like that lately.

Jumper said...

A friend of mine works discovering (one so far I know of; footemineite), and collecting rare hydrate minerals. Not all are yet known.
Note the abundant lithium nearby, which one of our drive-bys scoffed about, not knowing my NC environs well.
http://mineralbliss.blogspot.com/2013/11/collecting-at-foote-mine-with-jason.html

Paul Revile said...

Probably not an original question: as science becomes more market led, will there be a corresponding increase in misleading presentation of data? We know from virtually every other area of western life that this is a problem, so, will the aim of the whole enterprise shift toward market share? At the expense of curiosity? Who would notice such a thing if it did occur? How could it be recognised? What might be some of the unanticipated effects?

For example this article from 'Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists' seems to be unable to distinguish between cause and effect:

"The combination of this lack of Russian situational awareness, dangerously short warning times, high-readiness alert postures, and the increasing US strike capacity has created a deeply destabilizing and dangerous strategic nuclear situation.

When viewed in the alarming context of deteriorating political relations between Russia and the West, and the threats and counter-threats that are now becoming the norm for both sides in this evolving standoff, it may well be that the danger of an accident leading to nuclear war is as high now as it was in periods of peak crisis during the Cold War."

http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Zepp Jamieson said...

There's also this: https://www.or.is/english/carbfix-project

The (potential) benefits are obvious. The drawbacks seem surmountable: it takes 10x water by weight for each amount of CO2 sequestered. The sequestered rocks may release methane.
But it's possible that the rocks themselves could be used as fuel in the future.

David Brin said...

onward

Anonymous said...

Do you really want to know why Le Pen lookalikes like Trump and Urban (Orban?) are in power? It is due to the difference between immigration policy by coalition and by referendum.