Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Postman Persists… and delivers…. (plus more SF news...)

Let me remind you that my post before this one - about looming clouds of war -- remains pertinent and important. The best way to prevent it from coming true is by making as many as possible aware of how many of the world's despots want this. These things tend to shrivel when everyone is looking! I'd rather prove wrong and a "Cassandra" than right, looking out my window at ruins.

== Speaking of "posts" amid the ruins... ==

From fiction to reality… a lot of people emailed me about this! The Postman delivers....

Drone captures eerie footage of USPS truck delivering mail to still standing mailboxes on the street in a devastated Santa Rosa neighborhood burned down by fire.” - with footage by drone operator Douglas Thron.

And while we’re on the subject… I’m putting out a call! If any of you know genius cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, or genius cinematic composer James Newton Howard, I’m hoping to invite them to a special, 20th anniversary screening of The Postman at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Whatever its faults, the film is musically and visually one of the dozen or so most gorgeous films ever made. (With a small but growing cult following.) 

I’d invite Kevin Costner – who certainly gets some credit for that beauty - and screenwriter Brian Helgeland too - (or any of the younger Costners in the film) because I think the flick had more heart that any other from that era. Alas, no method I've researched seems to penetrate the Hollywood protective barriers, not even for Mr. Windon. And Tom Petty is now beyond reach, alack.

If you'd like to delve into the novel again, my website has a Reading Group discussion guide with questions to ponder.

== Will we transform? Bring some thought to it ==

A French journalist recently asked me: - "As a futurist, do you think transhumanism describes a future bound to happen, especially the Singularity? Does humanity really have the need to enhance itself to fight the exponential development of AI?" 

My reply starts with perspective: there have always been human beings who were dissatisfied with the ‘hand we’re dealt’ in life, who preached that we can get a better deal. For most of history and pre-history, these transcendental mystics proclaimed that the method for achieving this better deal would be through incantations of magic or faith, because words and thoughts were the only means they had, to effect change among the most powerful beings around them — the lords and kings and priests.

Scroll forward to the 19th Century and the same mystical thinking focused on sociology. The notion that a better society might be achieved through revolution, or through a “natural” progression of class struggle. Then Freud unveiled the sub-conscious and the locus of transformation shifted, again.

In the 1980s, many of the same personality types were obsessed with space colonies. Then came the computer-internet age, and artificial intelligence seemed more plausible. And Vernor Vinge coined “the Singularity” to stand for a transformation that we might soon achieve through science and technology.

I do not say all of this to deny the possibility of a coming transformation. Indeed, one form or another of “singularity” is clearly coming. Whether it will be a “hard-landing” arrival of super-AI, with organic humanity left behind or crushed…or a “soft-landing” in which we get enhanced and can come along as transformed beings, or something else… is another story that I explore in these videos:

(1) The “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art with optimism. They feature my blather about peering into the future. Vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing. 

(2) Video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson congress in Las Vegas, October 2016. A punchy tour of big perspectives on Intelligence, as well as both artificial and human augmentation. 


But in this Q&A I focused on the fact that we have heard such promises before. The personality type that propels such promises has always been there, with only the details of transcendence changing, from one generation to the next.

== Speaking of pertinent media ==

You podcast viewers should see these guys! John Michael Godier and Isaac Arthur.  Their casts are great, very detailed, fascinating, logical and comprehensive, regarding all sorts of mind-expanding topics from spaceflight to the Fermi Paradox. In this collaboration, Arthur does part one of an extensive appraisal of the concept of Uplift, and Godier concludes in part 2. Of course, I kept coming up with quibbles… half of which they answered before each episode ended. An admirable score!

Want a show with brains? You might enjoy “Novum,” the science fiction podcast produced by Ari Brin. 

Stephen Spielberg is reviving his ‘80s anthology series Amazing Stories for Apple. The deal is for 10 episodes at a budget of more than $5 million per episode.    

Terrific Sci Fi Short by Andrew FinchThe lone survivor of the first mission to Mars uses his last moments to pass the torch of inspiration. 

A young, pre-Trek William Shatner stars in that weird film INCUBUS, with dialogue entirely in Esperanto. Now available on YouTube! 

== Science Fiction Miscellany ==

My novel Kiln People made ComputerWorld, in an article about future mobility and many ways that we might become bigger and greater than we are.   

The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University is seeking submissions for its second climate fiction contest. First prize: $1,000 | Deadline: February 28, 2018. Judged by science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson  

What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In David Walton's The Genius Plague, a fungal infection grants astonishing powers of communication, memory, and intellect. But is the human race the master in this symbiotic relationship, or are we becoming the pawns of a subtly dominating and utterly alien species? Read an excerpt here

In order to read this printing of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, you have to heat the pages to guess what temperature?

Let Go is a web comic that earnestly takes us to a darker Jetsons’ future. Not a dystopia, as such, but a family groping their way forward through technological unemployment, video addiction and dominance by social scoring. A sincere effort to peer ahead a few years. Here’s the sampler & kickstarter

Adam: The Mirror: a gorgeous – if clichéd – robotic morality tale intro to Neill (District 9) Blomkamp’s new science fiction film.

== Women propel sci fi! ==

Amazon has made Linda Nagata’s new book THE LAST GOOD MAN - a very near-future, high-tech thriller with a military theme - a “monthly deal” in the US and Canada. Science Fiction was poorer when Linda tapered her career and we’re richer now that she’s back in such a big way. 

Romania has always been crazy for science fiction. At the recent Sci+Fi Fest in Bucharest, Ona Frantz won top honors for the translation of my novel Existence. Congratulations! 

Farah Mendelsohn’s new critical new book, a study of the work of Robert A. Heinlein, will be published by Unbound, in 2018. E-book £12; Hardback + e-book, £35.  Pre-order at  https://unbound.com/books/robert-heinlein

Oh, a quirky thought. I propose we nominate - for the short subject media Hugo - this fun tribute to the indomitable and remarkable Mrs. Emma Peel. In her day, no concept was more science fictional than a woman protagonist who was fully equal to the hero (and then some!) in all ways, and who could both solve mysteries and utterly kick-ass. The true fore-runner of Gal Gadot. And the quality of this video, down to the last nugget and musical riff and snip of editing, is terrific. 

And now back to our weird - (I hope it's a simulation) - world.


89 comments:

Daniel Duffy said...

"Will we diversify into many types of humanity?"

I am reminded of an SF story where mankind has spread across the galaxy pushing both clockwise and counter-clockwise around the galactic center along the various spiral arms of the Milky Way. This continues at sub-light speed for 100,000s of years until we finally get to the far end of the galaxy at the opposite side from Earth. There our latest colony finally encounters another intelligent alien species.

After much confusion and threats, we finally realize that the "aliens" are us. They are humans who have migrated the opposite direction around the galaxy, with evolution and genetic engineering changing them to survive on 10,000s of alien worlds with different environments. By the time both branches of humanity meet on the opposite side of the galaxy, neither is recognizably human any more.

Tony Fisk said...

The Genius Plague harks back to a segment in "Star Surgeon", where the YA interstellar doctors are stumped by a viral infection that's turning the population into imbeciles.
Turns out the problem lies, not in the intelligent, symbiotic virus, but the population's evolving immune systems.

There's also Aldiss' character, the Morel, in Hothouse.

@daniel, the situation you describe has at least one real-life example. There are two distinct species of sea bird around Scandinavia, which turn out to be variants of the same species that have radiated in opposite directions from Alaska. (the details elude me. Dawkins refers to it somewhere)

drf5n said...

Oh, please fix the Ms. Peel link.

David Brin said...

Didn't the Emma Peel link work?

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

Paul SB said...

One of the things I always found annoying about a lot of science fiction, especially the old classics, is how humans of the future are rarely portrayed as different from the humans of today. Even something as simple as names are usually the same as today. Arthur C. Clarke's stories take place thousands of years in the future, but the characters dress, act, think and even have the same mainstream American, mostly Anglophone names. It is rare for anyone to seriously take on the idea that humans might be different, both physically and mentally, in the future. What an annoying lack of imagination on the part of people who are supposed to be the gurus of imagination.

I have only read one book by Linda Nagato, called "Limit of Vision," and quite some time ago. I remember enjoying it, but that was before I became a teacher and stopped having time to read. I don't have a lot of money these days, but if anyone could recommend any of her older works I might be able to dredge up out of the local libraries (I have library cards for 4 different library systems) i would appreciate any suggestions. I feel like I am living the old Monty Python skit where a patient tells his doctor, "My brain hurts!" and the doctor replies, "It'll have to come out, then." Some good fiction might help keep it in.

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

...
By the time both branches of humanity meet on the opposite side of the galaxy, neither is recognizably human any more.


That seemed to be a pet peeve of C.S. Lewis's as well. In "Out of the Silent Planet", he had the Oyarsa of Mars putting human space explorers on trial, asking what they intended to accomplish through space travel. And each step of questioning was designed to point out that after adapting the species to space travel and to life on other planets, none of the "humanity" that the scientist-antagonist wanted to spread to the stars would resemble humanity--that ultimately, all he was interested in was that human sperm would spread throughout the universe, regardless of the containers it was spread from.

Tim Wolter said...

LarryH

Oyarsa's conversation with Weston is at once one of the funniest and most savage alien/human conversations in all of fiction.

Tim Wolter/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

the Emma Peel link ...


Wow!

I was only about seven years old, but my heterosexuality definitely began manifesting (even before I understood just what it meant) for Diana Rigg and Julie (Catwoman) Newmar.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter/Tacitus:

Oyarsa's conversation with Weston is at once one of the funniest and most savage alien/human conversations in all of fiction.


It's the only time I remember reading an argument in which "humanism" is presented as a bad thing. Usually, the term implies "Dignity for all people because they are people" or something of that sort. Lewis turned it around to "Dignity for earth people at the expense of anyone else", making it sound more like today's white supremacy.

Of course, he was writing in the WWII era, so he likely had yesterday's white supremacy in mind.

Alfred Differ said...

If y'all want to beat speciation, just keep trading. After all, it's not like we don't trade our children along with goods and services.

I don't think much of the argument that we will differentiate until we can't recognize each other as human once we are out there. We WILL differentiate, but we will also keep trading. The meaning of 'human' is what will change and we already have plenty of evidence for how this works right here on Earth.

Tim Wolter said...

Larry

I beg to differ. It was more an indictment of a Western society that had just destroyed itself in WWI. Weston....Western.....Lewis threw little tidbits like that in all the time.

And if anything it was more of an anti colonialism theme than anti human. Recall that Weston was unperturbed by the necessity of wiping out any lesser beings.

In one of the later books in the series a character opines that the values of the eldila seemed rather "old fashioned". Ransom (!) responded that:

"They are not old fashioned; but they are very, very old."

TW/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

@Tim/Tac,

I don't see that our positions on Lewis are incompatible.

Lewis, among other things, is a Christian apologist, and I think he viewed humanism as an atheistic philosophy, exalting the human species above God. So I understand why he would present "humanism" in a negative light, attempting to point out its pitfalls.

I agree that he was condemning colonialism. I'd throw in Naziism as well. But I don't think he was doing that instead of maligning humanism. He was doing the one by way of the example of the other.

LarryHart said...

@Tim/Tac (again)

Let me clarify something I was saying about Lewis and humanism. In real life, "humanism" advocating that people are owed dignity by simple virtue of being human is about as universal as it gets. It implicitly frowns upon anyone being considered second-class citizens or worse.

I think Lewis was saying that in a sci-fi setting where other intelligent species exist and interact with people, if you leave the definition of "human" as it currently is, then humanism ceases to be universal and becomes just another chauvinistic worldview, no different from white nationalism and its like.

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tac (yet another time) :

In one of the later books in the series a character opines that the values of the eldila seemed rather "old fashioned". Ransom (!) responded that:

"They are not old fashioned; but they are very, very old."


It's a good line, but a bad attitude. :)

I like the trilogy, but I got turned off when the final book (That Hideous Strength) harped on the wonderfulness of good old-fashioned Christian values and the absurdity of secular ones.

One thing I remember finding quite enlightening is that Lewis, through his characters, sounded much like Dave Sim when his older women characters "knew their place" in well-functioning society, while these newer, younger women with their birth control and their sex before marriage and their jobs caused no end of trouble. I found it enlightening because Dave acted as if 1970s feminism was the point at which this schism took place, whereas Lewis, writing in 1946, was saying pretty much the exact same thing. I suppose it was ever thus.

Tim Wolter said...

Larry

Yes, the final book in the trilogy was in some ways the best written but with the least in the way of profound ideas.

C.S. and women. Well, his own life in that regard was a bit atypical. He made a promise to a fellow soldier to look after his mum should he not make it back. He didn't. The exact nature of the relationship between Lewis and Mrs. Moore is the subject of speculation but was an off limits topic during his life. She was partly a mother figure, perhaps more than that.....

See "Shadowlands" for the later chapter in his life.

TW/T

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | In real life, "humanism" advocating that people are owed dignity by simple virtue of being human is about as universal as it gets.

Heh. Very enlightened of you, but it isn't universal... yet. It is merely the secret sauce of our now 450 year old revolution/transcendence.

Antonym said...

Though overall a bit flat, "Kiln People" had at its core the most interesting application of high tech on our personalities: Duplication. I could get so much done with as part of a team of Me's! But my ultimate goal is to have those additional bodies and minds linked. I have been keeping a close eye on the advances in Quantum Entangled Telecommunication in the hope that one day I can become a manifold of different forms and personas, connected via entangled neurons. My concern though is how far my components could travel away from each other before the speed of light interferes with the higher networked level of cognition. Unless communication via quantum entangled systems is superluminal, then all bets are off, cause that is time travel. Time Lord!

-AtomicZeppelinMan

Jon S. said...

@Tony:

I was confused for a moment, because the only Star Surgeon I was familiar with wasn't a YA novel (at least for the time), but rather one of James White's Sector General books. In that one, the doctors were dealing with a planet that turned out to be on the fringe of a previously-undiscovered interstellar empire, whose (strangely identical to Earth-human) populace was overcome by a series of mysterious plagues. Eventually, the doctors discovered the plagues were being deliberately engineered and introduced by the Empire, as a way of giving their people a central cause to rally around (the empire was at what Dr. Conway called "an unwieldy stage", about forty systems or so that had to be kept under central control, and there was unrest among the member beings who weren't humanlike). Before the problem was solved, the war was brought to the doctors' literal doorstep, as the one set of hyperspace coordinates known to every ship's pilot in the Galactic Federation, military or civilian, was that of Galactic Sector Twelve General Hospital...

So yes, that one also dealt with definitions of "human" - in the Federation, all sapients are regarded as deserving of equal rights, and the Translator matrix translates every species' name for itself as "human", while in the Empire, the humanlike DBDGs were in charge and anything with a different physiology was regarded as "subhuman". Expanded definitions of "human" are seen as a good thing in White's tales (although it did cause Conway a little trouble when he took an Educator tape to guide visiting Melfan surgeons on how to implant a new artificial pancreas in members of their species - unfortunately, while the Melfans rather resemble giant crabs, one of them was female-equivalent and considered quite beautiful by Melfan standards, and the Educator tape is a complete recording of the surgeon that donated it, so Conway was being very distracted and very disturbed by exactly why...).

matthew said...

Leaving SciFi for science for a moment.
Slate's article on what turned the sky red in parts of Asia for nine days in 1770.
Spoiler - it is guessed that it was the aurora from a solar storm.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/11/what_caused_the_sky_to_turn_red_for_two_weeks_in_1770.html

matthew said...

Back to politics. A very good long form article on the genesis of the Steele Dossier.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/15/how-trump-walked-into-putins-web-luke

A.F. Rey said...

Ah, yes, Mrs. Peel. I recall Isaac Asimov once writing about her in an article in TV Guide. He called her the perfect date. Tall, beautiful, and if someone tried to mug you while you were out with her, she would beat them up and protect you. What could be better? :)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@LarryHart | In real life, "humanism" advocating that people are owed dignity by simple virtue of being human is about as universal as it gets.

Heh. Very enlightened of you, but it isn't universal... yet. It is merely the secret sauce of our now 450 year old revolution/transcendence.


Forgive a digression that will seem like an entirely different topic. I promise it comes back around...

In his 1976 novel (set in 2276) Imperial Earth, Arthur Clarke addresses the fact that through instantaneous electronic communication, humanity had become used to the world village in which you could have telepresence conversations with anyone on earth without having to physically travel to where the other person is. He also foresees this bubble bursting with interplanetary travel and colonization. The two-point-something second delay in communication with the moon makes conversation awkward and uncomfortable, and with anything further away, real-time conversation is all but impossible. The importance of ambassadors and business travel is forced upon the human race again. A progression is permanently halted and reversed.

Ok, in an analogous manner, I think that is what Lewis was saying about humanism. History has been a progression of inclusion as the horizon expands more and more as to who "counts" as human. The obvious conclusion is that it will end up being universal. Just like the instantaneous communication on earth is universal. But, (says Lewis), when there are Hrossi and Sorns and all these other species included in the interactions, they are necessarily left out. If the horizon expands to include other species, then what you are talking about can't be "humanism". It is something else. If the something else is what we are arguing in favor of, then "human" isn't really the deciding factor. So you have to decide whether you are a humanist or a whatever-the-heck-else-we're-talking-about. You can't be both, any more than you could have a meaningful business meeting with clients on Titan.

Lewis was very much a Christian writer as well as a Christian, and I think this denunciation of (secular) humanism is intentional. Doubtless, he would argue that the "something else" we advocate which includes non-human species is rooted in us all being children of God, or something of that nature.

My speculation only, but educated speculation at that.

LarryHart said...

Another thing about C S Lewis...

Lewis was a philologist by profession, and his novels involve meticulously contrived alien languages. One of the pleasures of reading the "Out of the Silent Planet" trilogy was the gradual sense that I understood the Hrossi language--that I could make sense of it and had a feel for how it worked.

This is very similar to how the aforementioned Star Trek TNG episode called "Darmok" worked. The final scene portrays a touching conversation between Captain Picard and the aliens, spoken entirely in metaphors and allusions--both to earth legends and to those of the aliens. And with a sense of awe and wonder, the viewer realizes that he can follow and understand the conversation. That's what it must feel like to make first contact with a new earthbound civilization and first bridge the communication gap!

Jon S. said...

"That's what it must feel like to make first contact with a new earthbound civilization and first bridge the communication gap!"

Or, in the words of the Tamarian first officer, "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Diana Rigg is still amazing. Most people know of her role as Lady Tryell in 'Game of Thrones' but she was both chilling and hilarious as the diabolical blood-draining Sutton in 'You, Me and the Apocalypse', a buried treasure.

JPinOR said...

I am reminded of an SF story where mankind has spread across the galaxy pushing both clockwise and counter-clockwise...

Final Encounter by Harry Harrison 1964!

What do I win? ;)

onlyabouthenail said...

The final novel in the trilogy contains the best take-down of Christianity I've seen. It's absurdly obvious that the "Eve" character can't pass the moral test the God character has set for her, as she has no moral sense. Well of course she can't, but Lewis really lays this out in all the detail one could want. Surely Lewis didn't mean to write a satire/deconstruction of Christianity? But he did it.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I suppose we (meaning our generation) won't ever know, but my suspicion is we will just change the meaning of 'human' by including variety. They did much the same thing in Star Trek TNG and not just the Darmok episode. It shows up a lot in DS9 too.

Basically, CAN we imagine ourselves as something else? I suspect the answer is "Yes" in a manner that starts in a limited way and grows as the generations accumulate experience at it. What bothers many of us about slavery? That we can imagine being them? What bothers many of us about animal abuse? That we can imagine being them? Okay. We aren't all that good at imagining ourselves as other mammals, but we ARE learning. Collectively learning too.

David Brin said...


Antonym: “Though overall a bit flat, "Kiln People" …” Whaaaaa? Manic and action -packed and zany… maybe self-indulgent and logically challenging… but flat???? Does anyone else out there agree with that?

LH raises an important point about how our “horizon expansion” process will be limited by reality, when civilization includes higher and lower levels of being NOT by smug delusion - as in 6000 years of feudalism - but in reality, with AIs and augments and uplifted animals etc. We must complete the general inclusion project before that happens!

Fron on the road in Silicon Valley....

Zepp Jamieson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zepp Jamieson said...

Well, maybe if you put a few puns in, Kiln People wouldn't be so flat...

BES-EG.

LarryHart said...

onlyabouthenail:

The final novel in the trilogy contains the best take-down of Christianity I've seen. It's absurdly obvious that the "Eve" character can't pass the moral test the God character has set for her...


That's the middle book you're describing, not the third one. But yeah, point taken. As an irreligious person myself, I was amused by the whole "She already said no? "How many more times does he get to tempt her?" excuse to physically beat up the devil. Also, for Tacitus, who is uncomfortable with the very concept of "irredeemable", the fact that saving Weston was never even considered should give one pause.

Still, strangely enough, I enjoyed the book, much as I enjoy "Jesus Christ, Superstar" without...whatayacall...believing.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

What bothers many of us about slavery? That we can imagine being them? What bothers many of us about animal abuse? That we can imagine being them?


To some extent, yes. I think some people (my brother is one) are vegetarians because they can imagine themselves being the Thanksgiving turkey, as it were.

But I don't think you have to go quite that far to understand that a pet has feelings, understands pain and betrayal, and has expectations of you that you don't want to disappoint. Or your kid feels that way, which makes it important to you by the transitive property of importance to.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

“Though overall a bit flat, "Kiln People" …” Whaaaaa? Manic and action -packed and zany… maybe self-indulgent and logically challenging… but flat????


I don't know exactly what the earlier poster meant by that, but I thought he was referring to the fact that Kiln People felt a little more removed from the real world than many of your other novels. I can imagine Earth, Existence, and even the Uplift books as taking place in our actual future. KP felt more like unabashed fiction.

Let me try to explain thusly: If I were categorizing most of your other novels under "Drama" or "Action/Adventure", I'd have put Kiln People in the "Comedy/Drama" section.

Antonym said...

Now I feel bad for insulting my favorite author.
My bad!
-AtomicZeppelinMan

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

Or, in the words of the Tamarian first officer, "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel."


Always a pleasure to meet someone geekier than myself. :)

Zepp Jamieson:

Diana Rigg is still amazing.


So is Julie Newmar, or at least she was the last time I saw her a few years back.

Luke Man said...

Mr. Brin, a question was raised in a discussion between a friend and I on the topic of a transparent society:
What threat to transparency and accountability might improvements in ability to create realistic video and audio pose to accountability in general and confidence in truth in general? If making video or audio that is near to or indistinguishable from a real recording becomes as common as something like photoshop, how can we trust any surveillance or sousveillance?

David Brin said...

AZM --- allin good fun ;-)

Luke Man: I have a chapter in The Transparent Society called "The end of photography as proof?"

The answer was the same as it has always been, for untrustworthy witnesses.

MORE witnesses.

More cameras. More light.

Alfred Differ said...

I'd put Kiln People under comedy/mystery. I could see the 'advice for new authors' angle about writing mysteries, but with some effort at humor added on top.

Flat? Nah. I was chuckling through most of it. Where I stopped laughing had nothing to do withe the story, though. I had it with me for the last 50 pages or so in the hospital as my father passed. That bit of timing added an interesting twist to how I interpreted the final scenes. 8)

onlyaboutthenail said...

LarryHart

Oops! Yes, when Ransom realizes he can't win the argument, his answer is to destroy the means of communication. If people can't hear the evidence/arguments against us they will have to believe us. Can't deny that this works! ;) It's weird that Lewis wants this treated as a MORAL victory. The God, as much as the human characters, treats it as righteous, pretending the new species *passed the test* and God has won this round. So Might Makes Right absolutely, simple as that.

Paul SB said...

"LH raises an important point about how our “horizon expansion” process will be limited by reality, when civilization includes higher and lower levels of being NOT by smug delusion - as in 6000 years of feudalism - but in reality, with AIs and augments and uplifted animals etc. We must complete the general inclusion project before that happens!"

Ursula Kroeber LeGuin raised something like this point with regard to aliens in "The Lathe of Heaven" (btw I got a hold of a DVD and was less unimpressed with a second viewing, though the film quality was terribly grainy). Being a member of a well-known anthropological family, it shouldn't surprise anyone that she would come up with an illustration of segmentary opposition way back then. To put it simply, the average horizon of inclusion for humans expanded greatly when Earth looked as if it were being invaded by aliens. Unfortunately that is how it always goes with humans. They come together when they have someone else to fight against. When there is no one to fight against, they start fighting each other. If Earth should ever be invaded by aliens, the humans will eventually realize that racism was just a pigment of their imagination and engage in true racism - human verses some other race.

But does the enemy have to be a living thing? Could we decide that our real enemy is poverty? How about climate change? Disease? Instead of taking the fight to another group of people (and Larry - I think humans will always restrict the word /human/ to their own species, but "peoplehood" can be expanded - look at how some humans treat their pets) why not make the fight against something more abstract, but much more meaningful. The US loses more people to drug overdose in three weeks than in the felling of the World Trade Center. The problem there is that our leaders find it all too easy and convenient to mobilize fear against outsiders to their political advantage, and too many people are easily duped by that. How about a war on stupidity? With enough of the population inoculated against politicians by learning critical thinking humans could solve a whole lo of their problems.

Tim Wolter said...

LarryH

Regards CS Lewis and redemption.

In Peralandra Weston was in a way offered a chance at redemption. Recall the scene - complete with Startide overtures - where they are both riding the fish in the darkness and Ransom offers to pray with him.

This is made far more explicit in That Hideous Strength with the Frost character at the moment of death: "Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him. He became able to know (and simultaneously rejected the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw; he wholly hated."

Lewis was not primarily a theologian, or even primarily a writer. He was a professor. I'd have loved to have been a student in his class or a peripheral figure leaning on the bar when the Inklings met in the pub.

Tim Wolter/Tacitus

Catfish N. Cod said...

Paul, a theory I have about humanity uniting against threats other than each other: while we do so at a low level already (smallpox, polio, etc.), it's not enough to completely overcome our tribalism. David Gerrold was very pessimistic on this trend: in The War Against The Chtorr, even obvious evidence of extraterrestrial biowarfare is not enough for Earth's leadership to overcome tribalism, which is why the black ops section of the Western Alliance arranges for a very nasty cluebat in one of the very first scenes...

My theory is that we are more likely to respond to threats that manifest in the ways our ancestors *expected* threats. To wit: predators. And the more dangerous predators were mammals, and the *most* dangerous predators were other hominids.

Our priest-manipulators recognized this reality early, all across the world. Hence one of the most frequent commonalities throughout the world as a way to consolidate conception of, and opposition to, threats against the community:

Demons.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

To put it simply, the average horizon of inclusion for humans expanded greatly when Earth looked as if it were being invaded by aliens.


She anticipated "Watchmen" then. :)


Unfortunately that is how it always goes with humans. They come together when they have someone else to fight against. When there is no one to fight against, they start fighting each other.


I've been arguing that with our resident white nationalists as the reason something like Naziism is constitutionally doomed to failure. Once you've rid yourself of the Jews and the blacks and the Hispanics and everyone in the country is white, you're going to have to find new "outsiders" from the lower tiers of whiteness. It's the equivalent of a company who fires the lowest 10% performers routinely--eventually you run out of percents.

Paul SB said...

Onlyaboutthemail,

You might appreciate this quote:

The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief - call it what you will - than any book ever written. It has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor-bicycle and golf course.
- A. A. Milne

Yes, the guy who wrote "Winnie the Pooh." I think if this quote were more widely circulated Winnie would be banned by churches across America. Milne, however, was not an atheist (as far as I know) but was just expressing a common sentiment among the smarter Christians that the harsh OT was a real hindrance to, and contradictory of, the more happy, hippie peace and love messages of the NT.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter/Tacitus2:

In Peralandra Weston was in a way offered a chance at redemption. Recall the scene - complete with Startide overtures - where they are both riding the fish in the darkness and Ransom offers to pray with him.


I don't have the book in front of me. My recollection was that Ransom was following his nice guy nature, but that Weston was already "gone" and the man's body was by then only a vehicle for the evil eldil. Recall the scene immediately after Weston lands on Perelandra and invites the evil one into him. It sounds suspiciously like that biblical passage Dr Brin refutes where the Jews call condemnation on themselves for all eternity.


This is made far more explicit in That Hideous Strength with the Frost character at the moment of death: "Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him. He became able to know (and simultaneously rejected the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw; he wholly hated."


That also seemed like a cop-out, which is the most charitable explanation. A less charitable one is that God was being a sadist. Making someone aware that he's responsible for his own bad choices at the exact moment he is unable to redeem himself doesn't seem like a real offer of forgiveness. More like Kilgore Trout's fictional vignette inside of Kurt Vonnegut's "Jailbird" in which new arrivals to heaven are subjected to audits proving that their misfortunes were all their own fault before they're let through the gates.


Lewis was not primarily a theologian, or even primarily a writer. He was a professor. I'd have loved to have been a student in his class or a peripheral figure leaning on the bar when the Inklings met in the pub.


You're probably talking about a lost era, but yeah, I'm with you on that one. Or as Cerebus would say, "Aye!"


Paul SB said...

Tim,

If you were in the bar when the Inklings met in the pub, you would have the much greater joy of listening in on Tolkien, who was simply a much deeper thinker than his buddy Lewis. They shared their religious faith, but Lewis was dogmatic about it, Tolkien recognized that humanity struggles with it, and struggles mightily. The two are a great illustration of what Ernst Myer called "typological" vs. "population" thinking. With the exception of Eustace in Narnia, his characters are pretty much static, falling into one category or other. People praise his writing, but his characters are pretty much cardboard cutouts. But in Tolkien characters deal with the temptations of sin, give in, redeem themselves, pay the ultimate price in some cases. Some become hopelessly mired in it, like Sauron & Smeagol, the ring wraiths, etc. but the central characters and even many of the peripheral ones act like real, complicated human beings (even in the diminutive form of hobbits). Much more satisfying, I would say.

Paul SB said...

Catfish,

I like the way you think, more often than not. In this case your theory (hypothesis, really) is very in line with evolutionary psychology. That means that it makes a whole lot of sense, but we are still a long way from being able to prove such claims, even being able to test such claims. The idea that demons should like like a twisted, animalistic version of humans (with horns and tails) fits very well with the kind of analogical reasoning that human minds fall naturally into. Even the depiction of red skin (true of demons in the Christian tradition but not always in other cultures, where colors have different psychological meanings) is consistent with the idea of energy and wildness and danger, like fire.

In further support of your hypothesis, I would point out that there is also neuroanatomical evidence. The fear processing center of the human brain, like most structures in the human body, have a left and right. In humans one side only responds to threats from other humans, while the other side responds to all other kinds of threat. Size matters in brains. The fact that there is as much real estate dedicated to fearing each other as there is to snakes, lions, heights, fire and everything else, shows what the greatest source of trepidation is for humans - each other. And that makes good sense of the segmentary opposition we were discussing, and why it is so much harder to get people united behind something like climate change when there are always human scapegoats available.

Larry's comment about using up scapegoats until there are none left, then you have to start creating new ones from the variations within the in group, is right on target. However, old scapegoats don't have to be destroyed entirely, they only need to be superseded by another. It's no accident that the Reformation happened after the invasions of the Vikings, Magyars and Saracens had mellowed out and the Crusades against Islam were over. Same with the sudden rise in anti-homosexual violence among American Christians when the Soviet Union ceased being perceived as an all-pervasive threat. As soon as Islamic terrorists started to grab the headlines, those old scapegoats became less motivating. Also note, though, that none of those old scapegoats have been completely destroyed. We always keep around some Jews, fags, Muslims, commies, slopes etc, so there will be scapegoats to chose from. The HIV epidemic focused attention on the gay community at a time when fear of commies was on the wane. If it had happened earlier, it would not have had a big impact. So I don't think the -ists will ever completely exterminate any given scapegoat. They are just too politically useful to throw away. Look at how the right wing goes on and on about freeloading welfare queens, but they never do anything to reform welfare. It's the Democrats who do that, because their elect me rhetoric doesn't depend on scapegoating poor people.

A.F. Rey said...

To put it simply, the average horizon of inclusion for humans expanded greatly when Earth looked as if it were being invaded by aliens.


She anticipated "Watchmen" then. :)


Or, more likely, The Outer Limits anticipated her. :)

Moore recognized that his ending paralleled the episode The Architects of Fear. So much so that he included an ad for it on a TV set in the last issue of the series.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-03-13/entertainment/0903120391_1_outer-limits-watchmen-graphic-novel

The episode came out in 1963, six years before LeGuin published her novel.

Which just goes to show that ideas float around everywhere, and are used by all of us in different ways.

David Brin said...

here's an outrage!
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-reverses-obama-era-ban-on-import-of-elephant-trophies-from-zimbabwe/

OTOH: Can we try to be fair? Mocking Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife for posing with the first sheet of dollar bills with his signature on it? Seriously? Reflexive lefty twits! Choose… your… battles! There’s plenty to hate about these confederate plantation-lords and Putin-puppets. Control your rage and aim it at the unbearable real offenses, not harmless and natural stuff. You are supposed to be the sapient ones. All you accomplished, by shrieking at this innocent & harmless image, is making it harder to attract conservative defectors.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/treasury-head-mnuchin-wife-mocked-for-posing-with-dollars/

David Brin said...

PaulSB the New Testament is vastly worse than the OT! The OT shows examples of nasty wrath. But it does not declare innocent children to be damned to infinite eternal torment for a mistake made by a couple of teenagers, 6000 years ago. And there is no piece of writing more evil and horrible than the Book of Revelation.

Jesus isn't to blame. It's those loonies Paul and John of Patmos and those who followed them.

LarryHart said...

comic relief from today's www.electoral-vote.com :


The staff of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" took to the streets of Los Angeles, and found a fair number of people who enthusiastically support the notion that Hillary Clinton should be impeached, ideally as soon as possible. Of course, she can't actually be impeached, because she currently holds no public office, but that's just a minor detail.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMupq6zB1Tc

Alfred Differ said...

ideas float around everywhere

Yah. They are the basis vectors of the mind.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Mocking Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife for posing with the first sheet of dollar bills with his signature on it? Seriously? Reflexive lefty twits!"

The French peasantry endured centuries of severe privation and oppression.
The pressure mounted, as it is in America.
But it was an misinterpreted utterance by Marie Antionette that sparked the Revolution.
"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

Treasury Barbie might be our Marie Antionette.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"The staff of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" took to the streets of Los Angeles, and found a fair number of people who enthusiastically support the notion that Hillary Clinton should be impeached..."

Kimmel used to host something called "The Man Show" and used to do the same routing. One of my favorites was the time he got dozens of women to sign a petition to "end women's sufferage"--without explaining what women's sufferage actually is.

He once got people to sign a petition to attack North Korea by showing a map showing how much larger NK was than SK. The islands so identified were mainland Australia and Tasmania.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

I have no illusions about the New Testament, or the jerk I was named for, being any better than the OT, but that is the common excuse Christians use, talking out of one side of their mouths, for their supposed superiority over Jews, while out of the other side they use Levitical taboos to damn pretty much anyone they feel like.

Tony Fisk said...

Saw that Krimmel piece. I was appalled that such levels of situational non-awareness exist. (although one guy was shown snapping out of it, at least)

That story about why the sky turned red gives an extra data point.

1770, 1859, ... ~90 year interval. Hits from massive solar flares are starting to look alarmingly commonplace. I assume someone's done a statistical analysis of frequency based on observed flares of that magnitude? (will check)

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Saw that Krimmel piece. I was appalled that such levels of situational non-awareness exist.


I was willing to cut some slack to people who might think "impeached" meant something like "had her offenses aired officially" without realizing that impeachment is something that happens specifically to office-holders.

(although one guy was shown snapping out of it, at least)


That guy was kind cool to end with.

But I think it was the woman right before him who was scary. She wasn't actually answering the question about impeachment, but a series of questions like "What is more of a danger to our country? Hillary Clinton or climate change?" Her response implied not just "Hillary is bad" but also "That climate change thing isn't a real threat." That was true of her answer to the second, similar question which I don't remember what the non-Hillary threat was. But then, when she had to choose between Hillary and ISIS, she couldn't decide. That last bit reminded me of my reaction on hearing that a Muslim terrorist shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida--that the right wing wouldn't know who to root for.

David S said...

One reason you might want to continue an impeachment for a politician who is no longer in office is that the impeach may disqualify the person from holding any other office. (My understanding that this is a separate vote from removing from office).

sociotard said...

I believe it is possible to impeach someone after they have left office. The Senate still tried Secretary of War William Belknap, even though he resigned. Hillary could be impeached, if they found something from her time as Sec State to do so for.

Slim Moldie said...

I simultaneously love and have complaints with both Tolkien and Lewis...similar to how I feel about the band Rush.

The most compelling analysis I’ve ever heard on Lord of the Rings is that for Tolkien the personal raison d'etre was in creating an elvish language and what perhaps unintentionally came out (in the form of truth) that actually resonates with us, his audience is a story about overcoming an addiction and facing reality. In this light, The Scouring of the Shire and The Grey Havens are a bit more compelling.

If you haven’t read it, Robert Heinlein’s Orphans in The Sky is a pretty serviceable parable for the consequences of a mutiny against science and fact using professions. (Where have I heard that mentioned?) I won’t spoil it, but yes—civilization returns to ignorance, darkness and feudalism and the ending is a bit of a downer for me, at least thematically :)

Donald Gisselbeck said...

In defense of St Paul, once you have said "There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but Christ is in all..." the equality cat is pretty much out of the bag. Of course as with much human progress it takes a few millenia.

Paul SB said...

Donald,

I like your defense of St. Me, don't get me wrong. Though ti is not unique to Christianity - it is a basic tenet of Buddhism that all living things contain a Buddha nature and are capable of becoming Buddhas themselves. Hinduism doesn't agree with Buddha's ultimate aim, but they see reincarnation as a process of perpetual (or at least, potential) self-improvement to the point that any one of us can become a god if we work at it hard enough. There have been theologians of probably every religion out there who have recognized a divine spark in us all. It's mostly a Christian thing to assume humans are naturally evil and want to condemn everyone who isn't in the club to eternal damnation - a fact that points to the very political nature of religion.

But St. Paul, in spite of what he wrote about equality, was still an utter bastard to the 50% of the human race he was not a part of. We live with our contradictions, and more often than not ignore them.

Darrell E said...

Slim Moldie,

Regarding Tolkien, I think language was definitely one of his major muses, as he himself said. When people start discussing Tolkien's motivations and purposes I always like to keep in mind two things that he himself wrote about those. 1) He wrote that his stories were not intended to be allegorical and that he despised allegory in all its forms*. 2) That his motivation for writing TLOTR and related books was simply a desire to write the best story that he could.

No doubt Tolkien's writings were informed by his experiences, his ethics, his world-view. How could they not be? But I've always taken him at his word about what he was trying to say with his stories, that he was just trying to create the best story he could.

* Based on that I've always assumed that he was not impressed with Lewis's stories.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

It's mostly a Christian thing to assume humans are naturally evil and want to condemn everyone who isn't in the club to eternal damnation - a fact that points to the very political nature of religion.


Even if you're in the club, you're still condemned. But you can have a "get out of Hell free" card if you submit to the proper authorities, eschew critical thinking, and "love Big Brother" as it were.

Darrell E said...

Donald,

That is not really an accurate interpretation of Galatians 3:28. The very clear context of the "equality" is that of people that have Faith. As in Christians. If you aren't a Christian you aren't equal. Though I do agree with your last. Christians have yet to do any better than any other group at treating all subgroups within their group equally.

LarryHart said...

re Tolkein and Lewis...

Kurt Vonnegut tried to argue that stories can be graphed as a chart of "good fortune" vs "ill fortune" over time. In his masters thesis (which the University of Chicago did not accept), he used graphs to show that the story of Cinderella and the essential Christian story are isomorphic.

With some authors--Ayn Rand is definitely one and CS Lewis can bleed into the category as well--I have to separate what I think of as good fortune from what I know the author wants the reader to cheer for.

Robert said...

Heyla, Dr. Brin. It's me again, wandering in with another article struggling in my mouth like a proud cat offering prey to its owners. ;) In this case an article on long-term research into the impact a basic income has on quality of life, employment, and other aspects of society - using money from casinos and given to people of Cherokee heritage. And it seems that the Puritanical view of giving money without strings to the poor does not result in people not working and leeching off others but did go and significantly reduce children's antisocial tendencies and improve their mental health.

In short: Republicans have been wrong all along about this. They love to talk about welfare mothers and the like but it comes down to one simple thing: greed. They don't want THEIR money going to poor people. After all, THEY worked hard for that money so why should some poor person reap the benefits from THEIR work? You know. Assholes.

Anyway, you take care and it's a fascinating if long article so enjoy! :)

Rob H.

Tim Wolter said...

Robert

Having worked for many years in an area with a similar situation - large native American population, casino revenue - I can say that the scenario above is not the only one.

I'm retired now and perhaps a bit freer to speak my mind.

The rate of substance abuse, especially opioids, was appalling. The unemployment rate ditto. There were its true, genuine commitments to either end of society. The community loved and nurtured their young children. They revered and respected their elders.

But, and this is key, there was no obligation to follow the sage advice from the elders. Young people were expected to follow their own path. Well, Hell's Bells, young people have as a default setting an inclination to do stupid things. You, I and most everyone else can attest to that.

Now, to what extent did guaranteed tribal income influence this? That is hard to say in my setting, it was of course only one factor. But the parameters you mention, mental health issues, antisocial tendencies in the young.....these were the worst I ever say in a long and varied career.

I've gone a bit further than my decloaked self probably should here. I'm speaking out of frustration for a culture I admired, and it was painful to see its self destructive dysfunction.

Maybe we need other and more widely applicable trials of UBE to make wise judgments.

So speaks the elder. You of course can find your own path. I'll understand.

T.Wolter/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Robert:

In short: Republicans have been wrong all along about this.


You could have full-stopped after "wrong".


TThey don't want THEIR money going to poor people. After all, THEY worked hard for that money...


I have more sympathy for those who actually did work hard and sacrifice other benefits for their wealth than for those who luck into wealth and act as if the same arguments apply to them as well.


so why should some poor person reap the benefits from THEIR work?


Society?

You know. Assholes.


No argument there. With the health care and tax bills, the Republicans have branded themselves as the Asshole Party. Seriously, it's gone beyond mere philosophical and political differences now. I viscerally hate them.

Bad liberal! Bad!

Berial said...

Tim,
Do you think the unemployment was what caused the substance abuse or something else? The Native American population has a reputation for more easily falling into alcoholism than many other groups. I don't know if this is because of a genetic makeup or the way the group has been treated overall. But anyway, what was the UBI coming in from the casinos? Is it enough to still live in poverty or at lower middle?

Personally, I'm not a big fan of UBI. I think a universal job guarantee would work better but we are approaching a time in history when a smaller and smaller number of very productive people can produce enough abundance to meet almost everyone's needs (if not their wants). Once that happens we HAVE to have a solution other than, 'no work, no eat'.

Tim Wolter said...

Beriel

It was a very complicated situation. A full discussion would no doubt rub well meaning folks the wrong way. But to focus on a couple of facets..

From my perspective (ER) the prescription drug problem was worse than the alcohol. It had lots of sources. The quasi sovereignty of a reservation made it easy for nepotism and lax enforcement of unpopular laws to be the norm. Often very bedrock institutions like the clinic were chronically underfunded. The casino money just sorta vanished. And with a very public DEA raid for flagrant over prescription of narcotics (for resale) the institutions that should have helped were at times fueling the problem. BTW this pattern holds true for multiple places in the midwest, the situation elsewhere I know not of.

Unemployment is also complicated. In some ways it mirrored bigger forces in society. Nobody particularly likes seasonal and/or menial labor jobs. In this part of the world these were often filled by people from overseas who came to work for a while. Legally I should add, although there was also a small community of illegals. In my experience these folks were just there for the work and caused few difficulties.

But opportunities offered and not taken...they break your heart. Make what you will of affirmative action. At its best it finds under represented communities and gives those who can make it in The Show a fair chance. I am quite sure any young person of native ancestry who had decent grades and/or a solid work record could write their own ticket. But scholarships so often go unfilled. The drop out rate from college was horrible even for those who made it in the door. If you were an employer you would not, nay, should not, tolerate a "find your own path" attitude towards turning up for work.

Yes, the native community has been ill treated for centuries. And while I won't go so far as to admit an addiction gene lets be honest and say it is a theory of long standing.

But you wanted to physically grab the promising young people before they had screwed up. "Stay in school! Ditch that loser boyfriend! Apply for this job/scholarship/internship and work your butt off!"

Wisdom of the elders. No obligation to follow that path. After a while you started feeling all white and patriarchal about it and you stopped badgering the kids. And the cycle goes on.

Drop UBE funds into a dysfunctional community and I fear the money vanishes with little positive impact. I'd like to be wrong.

TW/T

Berial said...

Tim,
Yeah, a lot of what you describe is almost exactly the same experience as my Dad, who worked in their school system. He really hated the completely obvious nepotism/cronyism and what the lack of motivation was doing to the kids.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Slim: I am not sure that Orphans in the Sky was seriously meant to depict merely a mutiny against science and facts. After all, the Crew still have "scientists" and "engineers" among their membership; they're just profoundly ignorant ones due to the destruction of records during the voyage.

This was one of the first depictions of a "generation ship" and presents the quandry all such super-STL designs have: how do you prevent collapse of complex society on what is effectively a small, inaccessible island in space? A Ship requires maintenance no matter how well automated, but ecologies and societies are much less stable than a well-engineered vessel. We have many examples of isolated human colonies going to wreck either by ecological or societal collapse (Easter Island being a famous one).

That's the frame for a story that's really about escaping from religious-dogmatic ignorance into an individual-rational view of the Universe. (The key concept, the moving Ship, is a callback to Galileo and the moving Earth: both were considered oxymoronic nonsense according to the dogmatic paradigm.) But the backstory of the Ship was not part of that point, as far as I could tell. The mutiny that created the society on the Ship wasn't intended to be against rationalism... but that was its effect.

It was the point Heinlein made in a throwaway reference in Time Enough For Love, though. The escapees of the Ship, though stuck in the Stone Age on their colony planet, are doing relatively well and will eventually create a new branch of human civilization. The Vanguard herself, though, is a dead hulk: the Ship's Crew encountered some Outside Context Problem.

Berial said...

@Catfish,
An "Outside Context Problem"? You mean like an 'Excession'?

Sorry, had to get an Ian M. Banks reference in here somehow.

Robert said...

Tacitus, part of the problem was... a lack of transparency. Money was disappearing. To where? To who? If there was no accountability then nepotism and greed allows a select few to benefit while the many suffer. This could be considered a microcosm of society itself.

Consider for a moment drug addiction studies using rats. When rats are isolated in cages and are thus in a stressful environment and offered drugs, then you see addiction. But when addicted rats were put back into a social environment without stress, a number of them overcame addiction. Other rats in a low-stress environment would experiment with drugs but not become addicted.

So then: stress, a lack of social support, and drug availability = addiction. There are exceptions of course but we can often see outliers in all aspects of society. There are people who are in stress-free environments who still become addicted. There are people who live stressful lives and yet avoid it.

Let us consider something else. Food stamps. You see people up in arms about food stamps. People with food stamps shouldn't be allowed to buy steak or lobster or junk food or soda or anything really. The circle of food allowed shrinks further and further until eventually Food stamps would buy unsweetened oatmeal, powdered milk, and a couple staples that are totally unappetizing and that is all. And then because so few people want to be so restricted that they don't use Food stamps, the program is eliminated. Of course, the kicker is this: a large number of people on food stamps are families of military personnel. These so-called patriots are against Food stamps that benefit families of soldiers. Because it is actually about "not spending MY money on poor people" when you get down to it.

I say this: let EVERYONE get a Basic Income. And then let EVERYONE be able to earn another $10,000 completely tax free. And then every dollar of earnings from WHATEVER source is taxed. You will see plenty of people utilizing that basic income and then moving beyond it, and it will be fair and even and transparent. And you can spend it however you want.

What happens when someone doesn't need to worry nearly as much about affording housing and food? They start spending money on other things. This is what benefits the economy, not rich people buying stocks and scratching the backs of other rich people. And best of all for my fellow Libertarians, it would even allow for a reduction of bureaucracy because if everyone gets the same exact amount for a basic income? Then all you need is to track that everyone gets that income.

How is this concept so alien and horrifying? And further, even if certain people DO avoid getting a job and just live off this basic income... so what? We have a segment of the population who are long-term unemployed for a number of reasons. Disability. Retirement. Unable to get a job. Ex-con. Whatever the reason, they already exist and for a number of reasons will not be in the job market. Providing for their basic needs is not only what's right... it is beneficial to society as a whole. And now we have proper research over a long term showing that it works and how it benefits people.

As for your example, Tacitus? You have your personal observation. But is there verified research to back up these claims? Is there documentation and journal articles and the like? And might there not be OTHER reasons why you saw people given this apparent income but were going down the other road, such as illness, disability, being unable to work, or the like?

I am far more conservative than quite a few folk on here. I am not nearly as conservative as you. I understand the conservative mindset. I understand the Libertarian mindset. And I can see the flaws in those mindsets.

What currently exists doesn't work. How is a basic income going to make things worse?

Rob H.

Berial said...

@Robert
The main argument I usually see against a UBI is that it'll just be eaten by inflation (or rents when they are being more honest.) If everyone starts with 10k then 'magically' homes and rental property costs 10k more, and all salaries stagnate until 10k worth of inflation hits then the salaries can start creeping up again, but only after the UBI has been consumed by the owners in 'rents'.

At least that seems to be one of the main arguments against that I see from economists on the various economic blogs I visit. (I'm no economist!) Other economic blogs have counter arguments. The ones against seem to prefer a Universal Jobs Guarantee but I think the UBI guys have arguments against that.

Either way, neither way, we do need to find SOME way forward though.

David Brin said...

Wisdom from Tim.

Berial I am less interested in Universal Income than in redistributed ownership. Libertarians must choose between property worship and being champions of creative-competitive markets because they are diametric opposites and enemies. At minimum we need transparency of ownership. But also… We need a Jubilee Year, once per generation, when society ensures that heirs do not become Lords and the children of the poor do not inherit poverty. (I am old fashioned enough not to mind poverty that you earned.) UBI should not be welfare. It should be dividends.

Robert said...

BTW, Tacitus is correct on one thing. It is not a universal panacea. Take this final paragraph from the article I linked above:

Still, if anything is to be learned from the Cherokee experiment, it’s this: To imagine that a basic income, or something like it, would suddenly satisfy the disillusioned, out-of-work Rust Belt worker is as wrongheaded as imagining it would do no good at all, or drive people to stop working. There is a third possibility: that an infusion of cash into struggling households would lift up the youth in those households in all the subtle but still meaningful ways Costello has observed over the years, until finally, when they come of age, they are better prepared for the brave new world of work, whether the robots are coming or not.

----------

The final part of the article points out that some teenagers who get the benefit squander it all. Others do get involved in drugs and end up having stipends go to dealers (which really says we need to legalize drugs so that any such money spent goes to something useful rather than a dealer's pockets). But it does help people.

And that's the thing. It is to be spent as the person wants. Is there any difference between some rich kid getting millions of dollars tax-free from an inheritance under Trump's tax plan and squandering it all on parties and drugs and someone doing so with a basic stipend? Both are done on the Taxpayer's Wallet, it's just one spent far more money that could have been used to greater benefit.

If someone has a Basic Income and squanders it? So be it. If someone has a job and spends it on drugs or booze, is that any different? That person is working a job that someone else could use to far greater benefit and wasting those resources all the same.

Let's give the Basic Income a try. We can even use it as an expanded Social Security, given to everyone rather than just retirees, so to use an existing infrastructure. And I'm sure that people on Social Security wouldn't mind having their income go up from several hundred a month to nearly $1,000 a month, tax free. Hell, the party that put it through and ensured it for everyone would probably gain considerable popularity among the poor and elderly. Too bad Republican politicians have their heads too far up their rich donors' asses to see this.

Rob H.

Berial said...

Looking at the Senate tax plan, you have Republican's raising taxes on individuals and eliminating health insurance for millions to pay for corporate tax cuts. It sounds like a liberal's parody of a conservative tax plan, yet here we are.

They ARE who we think they are.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Berial: Totally a Banks reference. And at their level of civilization, an OCP need not be very large.

@David, Berial, Robert: I have long thought that any public UBI be both branded as, and really be, a dividend: the model being the Alaska Permanent Fund.

As for private dividends, it would make a big, big difference if tiny fractions of ownership were an *expected* reward of labor. Not big to start with: I'm fine with escalating the fraction of earnable/purchaseable ownership with longevity of service, or of having vesting periods before stock becomes voting stock.

But having the right to a share of earnings... a seat at the table however minuscule... would make a huge difference to buy-in. It would also solve one of the biggest problems with the union model, namely that there was no disincentive against bankrupting the company or otherwise making counter-competitive demands. If the union is also the council of worker-shareholders, damaging the company becomes even more directly stupid: make the company inefficient and dividends go down. Publix, a grocery store chain in the Southeast, has rules along these lines: you *must* be a present or past employee to own Publix stock.

But since corporations write their own by-laws, there is every incentive for would-be lords to cheat any laws intended to create this effect. It could only be done by encouraging massive numbers of companies to be created along these lines, and for those corporations to out-compete aristocratically organized capitalism.

LarryHart said...

Berial:

but we are approaching a time in history when a smaller and smaller number of very productive people can produce enough abundance to meet almost everyone's needs (if not their wants). Once that happens we HAVE to have a solution other than, 'no work, no eat'.


Thanks. I've been unsuccessfully arguing that very point for years now.

Alfred Differ said...

@Berial | … but we are approaching a time in history when a smaller and smaller number of very productive people can produce enough abundance to meet almost everyone's needs (if not their wants). Once that happens we HAVE to have a solution other than, 'no work, no eat'.

That day has already come and gone for those of us in the West. We have a solution. Wants become Needs.

No joke. Try taking away from people some of what they want but do not really need. Observe. Now try to take away something they actually need. Observe. Compare and Contrast. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Okay. If a UBI is to be treated as a dividend, what is the dividend on? Alaska oil production generates state revenue which is returned as a dividend to citizens, right?

If a UBI is produces from tax revenues, I’m going to reject calling it a dividend because it is really redistribution. If it is generated from land rents (BLM usage fees?) or other similar things, then it could rightly be called a dividend. A city that produced infrastructure could generate revenue from it and share it as a dividend. Would that dividend go to everyone, though? Cities using local taxes to build things owe that dividend to the people who paid in somehow, don’t they?

@Catfish | If the union is also the council of worker-shareholders, damaging the company becomes even more directly stupid:

Perhaps if the people running the union have skin in the game. Not all do or enough of it anyway. People with more wealth can get up and go somewhere else when the local industry collapses. Skin in the game matters. 8)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- Moving to a point where we don't need many workers
We may be getting close to having a "Positronic Brain" - but we are a long way from having a robotic body for it to operate for less than millions of dollars and without requiring a mains lead

So we will need lots of "menial workers" - I hope that we get a UBI so that the "menial workers" we need get paid properly
Why should a guy who works at a nice clean desk get paid more than the guy who cleans the toilets??

UBI - as far as I am concerned the "Total Human Property" that we all all heir to comprises 90% + of the total wealth out there

So if we decide to tax wealth and use the taxes to fund a UBI then we are simply sharing a common human property more equally

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | The brains will be located near power, the bodies will be a virtual set of senses and limbs, and the need to keep them physically together will exist only where tasks require it. That suggests menial work will be automated or pushed to expert systems except along the fringes. Cleaning the toilet bowl is not on one of those fringes.

If you want to keep wages close together, always make it possible for the janitor to learn the white collar job. This is already partially true and explains why there aren't orders of magnitude differences in most wage categories. Where those differences DO exist, there is a decent chance a protection/admiration racket is maintaining them. (For example, CEO wages.)

s far as I am concerned the "Total Human Property" that we all all heir to comprises 90% + of the total wealth out there

Heh. I figured you would say something like that. I'll admit that if I started from your position, the natural conclusion is that the dividend results from rents on that property. Those rents are collected in what we call taxes today.

Obviously, I don't start from your position. My unique ideas belong to me and anyone with whom I am willing to share them. Anyone saying otherwise is proposing theft and my response will be as vigorous as their seriousness about enforcing their views. Until I lose, those dividends belong to me.

The great thing about patent, trademark, and copyright processes, when done correctly and not as a Disney protection racket, is that they are designed to ENSURE I lose, but at a pace gradual enough that I don't defend my property too vigorously.

I already know I'll lose eventually, but by then no one will be able to control my ideas or extract money from my hide for any benefit I derive from them. Taxes on them will be paid by all because you'll all own them after they arrive in the 'Total Human Property'.

So, we come back around to being forced to pay taxes as social dues, but a UBI based on this total property is just a redistribution. It ain't a dividend because we ALREADY own usage rights to the total human property. Taxes as rents on what we already own strike be as a mistaken understanding.

Duncan Cairncross said...


Hi Alfred
But we don't all "ALREADY own usage rights to the total human property"
We should - but instead some people "Own" a whole lot more than others

We all should own a equal share of the generations old heritage - and then an unequal part due to our own contributions

Instead 70 people "own" more than 100 Million
And none of those 70 have contributed anything unusual!

So how much is the "usage rights worth" - 90% of all wealth

And NO I don't have "usage rights" if I can't use something that was built with my rights

I can't drive away a brand new Roller so I don't have "usage rights" to that

I could understand somebody arguing that 95% is too high - but IMHO it is actually too low

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Jim Baca said...

Certainly the trump supporters were part of a movement of transformation. Just more snake oil, however.