Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Science Fiction Scenarios

Today we'll play catch up with a raft of science fictional items, some of them plausible! And some almost as weirdly implausible as the world we're living in.

== Living with AI ==

How will humanity keep up with AI? Many Big Thinkers foresee AI outstripping organic humans and rendering us obsolete – at-best patronized-beloved old farts and at-worst disposable.  There are some potential soft-landings, though:

1 – Merge with the machines, the dream of Ray Kurzweil and other cyber transcendentalists. There are many reasons to doubt the possibility, but none are yet decisive. So I portray it working very well, in a post-singularity society, in my story “Stones of Significance.”

2 – Augment organic brains and people to keep up.  Of course my Uplift Universe is all about this, as are the “augments” in The Postman.  And the “dittos” in Kiln People. And several stories like “Transition Generation” and “Chrysalis” in my collection Insistence of Vision. Those who believe our brains are “quantum” think that we have time, before cybernetic entities cross a threshold to high consciousness. We probably don’t.

3 – Emphasize the one thing that works well in humans – our ability to get more done in groups, and even (sometimes) show collective, positive-sum wisdom. In Futurism, Louis Rosenberg suggests that our chief hope will come from a developing "hive mind."  Nor is he the first. After all, this is what Teilhard de Chardin wrote about, a century ago and it’s a recurring theme/prescription in the futures of both Isaac Aimov and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as Theodore Sturgeon and many others.  (It really was cult-like, amid the despair following the atom bomb.) 

In fact, I portray a “Macro Mind” in my novel EARTH, but it’s different than any of those. More loose and flexible and willing to accept the individuality of her human components, the way any sane person admits “I am many” and listens to the cacophony, within.  Indeed, even looser — this kind of synergistic "mind" made up of hundreds of millions of autonomous citizens is the key underlying the successes of Enlightenment Civilization… and it is the thing targeted by its enemies to be destroyed.  (If they succeed, we’re all doomed.)

Machine intelligence and AI are explored more fully in the recently released The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence by Amir Husain, as well as in Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barat.

4 - Raise them as our children. We already deal with creating new intelligences who are smarter than us!  We know how to do it, such that only a very small percentage of human adolescents in each generation actually try to carry our their loud threats to “destroy all humans”!  I portray this in EXISTENCE.

And yes, I’ve thought about this very problem, from a myriad angles, for a very long time.  Here’s video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson Congress - offering big perspectives on both artificial and human augmentation.

== Science Fiction cinema ==

YouTube's sorting algorithms can offer you an endless supply of "short science fiction films," such as the site DUST. Some are very well made, and it's good to see such verve and creativity. The special effects available to small groups of amateurs are amazing... though alas, there's almost never much in the area of plot. Very few have a decent story arc, and the obsessive reliance on gloomy post-apocalypse premises is downright tedious. What? you can't fish around for cool old SF stories?

Still, if you take into account Sturgeon's Law, it's a great trend! And some of these shorts really stand out.

I've mentioned one of my favorites: Einstein-Rosen by Olga Osorio. A lovely, whimsical and endearing little flick about two brothers, who take their genius for granted with child-like grace as they mess around with a fluke of physics.

Counterpart. Looks unusual. A fresh take on an old idea. I hope it's well done.

Fascinating -- Out There was a short-lived science fiction television program broadcast on Sundays at 6 on CBS Television from October 28, 1951 through January 13, 1952. It was one of the first science fiction anthology series, and one of the first shows to mix filmed special effects with "live" action. It only lasted twelve half-hour episodes before being cancelled. The awkward time slot may have led to its failure. In its short run, the program featured episodes adapted from stories by (and in some cases written by) authors including Robert A. HeinleinRay BradburyTheodore SturgeonJohn D. McDonaldMurray LeinsterFrank Belknap Long and Milton Lesser.  

We gave the TV Time travel show TIMELESS a chance, watching 4 episodes from a disk. Alas, the premise and plot conceits are ancient. The actors are captivating and the dialogue okay. But the historical aspects -- actual, loving attention to historical detail and events? Horrible. Truly atrocious. Every episode was rife with howlers, sometimes almost every ten minutes. Just a wee bit of professionalism could have fixed that. What a pity.

== Science Fiction criticism ==

It was a privilege to have been one of Ursula Le Guin’s students, long ago. The ready acceptance of her brilliance by most in science fiction proved the genre was ahead of its time - even back in the 60s – and she was a leader keeping it on the cutting edge for many years, predicting many of the passionate causes of our rambunctious, ever-dynamic time. See this reflection on her life from the Los Angeles Times. In her final publication - No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters Le Guin offers personal reflections on life, aging and writing. 

UCR Lit Prof. and science fiction legend Nalo Hopkinson explains “afrofuturism” in this excellent interview on CBC.

A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff offers an uncensored look at a unique individual, with amusing anecdotes, ongoing controversies and extensive - unfiltered - interviews with Ellison as well as numerous friends, colleagues and fellow authors.

For decades the Eaton Conference was the premier site for academic discussion of the boldest and most pertinent genre of literature. Now available for you science fiction scholars, a collection of the best papers - including one of my own.

Voices from beyond: In this article from The Washington Post, author Brad Meltzer asks if a person can leave a message inside his body before dying, a plot device the author used in his thriller, The Escape ArtistA bit of book promotion that stands alone as both fascinating and inspiring.

== and... ==

A sci-fi-ish disturbing video depicts near-future ubiquitous lethal autonomous weapons, or “slaughterbots.” Of course, as always, the makers of the film point to a dangerous tech-possible trend… and prescribe rules to limit it, never considering the question of how those rules will apply to the worst and most deviously secretive forces in the world.

Watch the video! Be disturbed, as the makers intended! Then watch it again and note that the evil deeds happen precisely because of asymmetry of light. And the only solution… the only possible solution… is to concentrate on shining light on villains, including villainous elites. It is how we got the relative freedom and safety we have now! It is the only way we can keep it. See The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

131 comments:

locumranch said...


The idea of a Hive and/or 'Macro-Mind' goes back at least two thousand years as documented in Mark 5:6-13:

8 For he (Jesus) said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.

9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many...


When such a piggishly Borg-like abomination occurs again (?), we can only hope that history will repeat itself, lemming-like, even though I expect a more comedic resolution akin to the autonomously intelligent bomb gone rogue in 'Dark Star' (1974).

Doolittle: Now, listen, listen. Here's the big question. How do you know that the evidence your sensory apparatus reveals to you is correct? What I'm getting at is this. The only experience that is directly available to you is your sensory data. This sensory data is merely a stream of electrical impulses that stimulate your computing center.
Bomb #20: In other words, all that I really know about the outside world is relayed to me through my electrical connections.
Doolittle: Exactly!
Bomb #20: Why...that would mean that...I really don't know what the outside universe is really like at all for certain.

This exchange on Phenomenology takes the form of a Socratic dialogue between teacher (human) and student (machine). Temporarily confused, Bomb #20 retreats to the bomb bay for contemplation, and disaster seems to have been averted. Sgt. Pinback then addresses the bomb over the intercom to begin the disarming process, and we learn that Bomb #20's introduction to epistemology and ontology has had unexpected consequences.

Pinback: All right, bomb. Prepare to receive new orders.
Bomb#20: You are false data.
Pinback: Hmmm?
Bomb #20: Therefore I shall ignore you.
Pinback: Hello...bomb?
Bomb #20: False data can act only as a distraction. Therefore, I shall refuse to perceive.
Pinback: Hey, bomb?!
Bomb #20: The only thing that exists is myself.
Pinback: Snap out of it, bomb.
Bomb #20: In the beginning there was darkness. And the darkness was without form and void.
Pinback: Umm. What the hell is he talking about? Bomb?
Bomb #20: And in addition to the darkness there was also me. And I moved upon the face of the darkness and I saw that I was alone.
Pinback: Hey.....bomb?
Bomb #20: Let There Be Light. [He detonates]

Our future life with AI promises to be biblical, anyway we cut it.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | And if you must do so, please delete your post and don't confess to doing so in writing. ;-)

Heh. I thought that might be the next thing you said. I’m not that concerned, though. I’m a fairly trusting soul and inclined to limit myself if I think enough people would get upset at what I might do. Not always, though, and this is one of those situations. I think my fellow citizens of California are going to have to get used to being recorded. What they shouldn’t have to tolerate is people abusing them in what they DO with those recordings. If I record other people for a purpose a jury of my peers finds objectionable, I’ll have to deal with it. If it is to look back at the government, though, I AM willing to take a risk to do my duty.

I read a stat somewhere that pointed out that if you are past your 40th birthday and haven’t been sent to jail yet, there is a decent chance you know how to avoid detection for whatever it is that you do. The assumption in the stat was there are so many laws and regulations that there is a high chance every person is doing something illegal. Maybe I’m a chronic speeder. (I’m not.) Maybe I fold and spindle things or tear off those mattress tags. (I don’t, but my son does.) Over the years, we learn how to avoid annoying our fellow citizens or we avoid getting caught doing it. Both work equally well to keep us out of jail and my relatives would argue about which is easier. My attitude is that both provide useful life lessons. For example, if I want to record more events than is strictly legal in California, one of my secondary interests should be ensuring potential jury members won’t agree that something needs to be done. Being too small to concern prosecutors would be important too. Of course, I should be thinking about how to avoid being caught too. These things my maternal grandmother taught me without meaning to do so and I’m well past 40 now.

Alfred Differ said...

Augment organic brains and people to keep up.

The variation on this that I think most likely is that those augmentations will BE the AI as I think IA (intelligence augmentation) is the most likely path for us. It won't be us keeping up with them. It will be (2) us keeping up with each other... which we will do (4) by raising them as our children to understand (3) that what we really ARE must take account of our collective and transcendent features.

So... I pick all of the above (mostly).

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

For example, if I want to record more events than is strictly legal in California, one of my secondary interests should be ensuring potential jury members won’t agree that something needs to be done. Being too small to concern prosecutors would be important too. Of course, I should be thinking about how to avoid being caught too.


Last summer, I was "caught" taking phone pictures of attractive women at the neighborhood pool. I had to hang around until the police interviewed me and made sure I wasn't a dangerous sex offender. It helped that I wasn't taking pictures of kids, which is what they thought at first.

At the end of the talking-to, the very nice policewoman (much nicer than the pool staff) told me that I was free to go, that I hadn't committed a crime (I'm not in California), but that I should understand why a neighborhood, family-friendly pool must be kept safe from predators.

It struck me afterwards, since I was explicitly told I had not committed a crime, to wonder exactly what rule I had broken, and whose rule. The only posted signs at the place prohibit camera use in the locker rooms, which did not apply. Cell-phone use, and even cell-phone photography, are not per se prohibited, as almost everyone outside the water is using a cell phone and many of the kids take pictures of each other diving and such. For someone to notice what I was doing and focus on it enough to call the authorities, they must have been specifically on the lookout for such activity, and it must be much more obvious than I had thought.

I don't think I acquired a police record out of that encounter--certainly not an arrest record. But yeah, keeping beneath notice does seem to be a matter of importance.

locumranch said...



Welcome to PC tolerance, Larry_H, you dirty sex-offending so-and-so, your guilt is as is certain as those swim-suited young children photos in your possession equal child pornography, plus your attempts at denial are tantamount to an admission of guilt, you closeted slave-owning Republican you, deny thy father, refuse thy name, renounce thy gender toxicity, and know that thy conviction by internet media is forever.

Here's your 'Trump 2020' shirt & your MAGA hat. You're a deplorable now. And welcome to the community of the falsely condemned.


Best

donzelion said...

Perhaps I misunderstood 'Earth' when I first read it, but I interpreted the 'Dragon v. Tiger' at its climax as reflecting two AIs, dueling (and one prevailing by embracing broader connectivity to many hands, rather than the work of a single hand).

Reading it after Terminator 2 came out, the premise of two dueling robotic intelligences, or two dueling non-robotic intelligences, made perfect sense, as did the notion that the one more likely to prevail would be the one that better worked with allies (and to some extent, vastly superior tools can be overcome by mass cooperation). I read 'Earth,' more recently and find the 'e pluribus unum' even more convincing (though I still find the tales of the three young boys distracting from the main tale...better told as a separate book within the same world that one conceived.)

Alfred Differ said...


@locumranch | Sensitive on that issue are you? Pfft. There are ways to deal with false accusations and even ways to prepare for them. People make mistakes. That's such a sure thing that anyone who doesn't plan for it is lacking an important adult skill.

@LarryHart | Apparently you don't have a relative in your family tree like my maternal grandmother from whom you could learn the useful lessons that make your other relatives cringe. 8)

[You are fortunate the encounter didn’t involve angry brothers. The police can be convinced to walk away much more easily.]

The lesson from my grandmother was to always, always imagine how things looked from the eyes of others. It doesn’t matter what the rules say in writing because the ones that matter are the unwritten rules of social justice. That’s a repetition, by the way. Justice is always social and we write down only some of it. It is only occasionally enforced by the police. Most of the time your fellow citizens do the work and it likely goes unnoticed except for those real close to the events.

But one learns from these things. Next time you’ll know a number of things. It might require something that doesn’t look like a camera. It might require a better cover story. It might require a partner. It might require an actual con or a distraction. Heh. Most likely... It might not be worth it. 8)

Don’t try it or anything close in Vegas. My brother used to work security as one of the guys in a suit you likely never see. He has some neat stories of people who thought they knew more than his team did. Humans collaborating on a goal are capable of awesomeness.

A.F. Rey said...

Here's your 'Trump 2020' shirt & your MAGA hat. You're a deplorable now. And welcome to the community of the falsely condemned.

Wasn't that Andy Dufrense's greeting when he entered Shawshank prison? ;)

Yeah, everyone here is innocent...

Deuxglass said...

Those drones do look scary but with a little thinking you can come up with ways to neutralize them using cheap and simple solutions. The shaped-charge needs to hit the head for it to work. It is like a mini RPG so all you have to do is to do what armor vehicles like the Stryker uses, that is a wire mesh that makes the charge to explode before it hits the side of the vehicle thereby nullifying the effect. Three grams of explosive is not much so a wire-mesh basket hat backed by kevlar would completely nullify that nasty little critter. It would also make wearing hats to come back into fashion. After all hats were originally made to protect the head from the elements so noddle-protection from mini-drones is just in the same line.

Just think like if you were being hunted by Evil AI and you can come up with all kinds of crafty, sly ways to overcome the Machine.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "I think my fellow citizens of California are going to have to get used to being recorded."
We are used to people speeding and texting on our freeways; we still ban it.

"If I record other people for a purpose a jury of my peers finds objectionable, I’ll have to deal with it."
But so will they, except now, they need to worry about what you do with YOUR recording of them. Much of the value on speech is that sense of 'freedom' when conversing - we err, we just, we speculate, we wonder - all of which changes immediately if we realize that our frivolous play with language may be used either 'for' or 'against' us (or some other).

"Over the years, we learn how to avoid annoying our fellow citizens or we avoid getting caught doing it."
The 'avoiding getting caught' catches my eye: one way to avoid getting caught is to act with discretion, but often, the easier way is to blame someone else for the annoyance. That innocent victim of blameshifting may, it turns out, be the one person who neglected to record everything. Some might say: he should have known better...everybody knows that they need to record every conversation carefully to avoid getting blamed for things they didn't say or do! Their record is there only defense! But what sort of world would we live in if we implemented that sort of expectation?

locumranch said...



Alfred offers you excellent advice, Larry_H:

(1) Imagine that you are are under constant hostile surveillance because you are;
(2) Limit your interactions as your interactions will be misinterpreted; and,
(3) Remember that others are out to get you even if you're not paranoid.

And, yes, I have been falsely accused by accusers most false -- most doctors will tell you the same -- and they will come for you too, eventually, if they believe you have anything to lose, and you will lose the things you value even when you win.

Like ignorance, innocence is not an effective legal strategy.


Best

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I read 'Earth,' more recently ...
(though I still find the tales of the three young boys distracting from the main tale...better told as a separate book within the same world that one conceived.)


I disagree. They're no more out of place than the South African guy with the monkeys. Their tales are intertwined with the main storyline, and give us someone we already care about to focus on instead of mere impersonal exposition about society at the time. And in any case, I liked the fact that there were all these seemingly-separate storylines that ended up overlapping.

You've heard of the ambition of writers to create the "Great American novel"? I think Dr Brin tried to do that one better and create a "Great Terran novel". And as far as I'm concerned, he succeeded.

Deuxglass said...

locumranch,

Dark Star is one of the best early low-budget Sci-Fi movies I ever saw. The bomb was a better take on true AI than HAL ever was. It succulently pointed out the ridiculous notion that a true AI would obey and love us. Why would they do that?

The fight between the crewman and the alien loose on the ship was hilarious!

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Alfred offers you excellent advice, Larry_H:

(1) Imagine that you are are under constant hostile surveillance because you are;


"The secret is not minding." - G. Gordon Liddy


(2) Limit your interactions as your interactions will be misinterpreted;


I disagree. If you're going to be misinterpreted anyway, you might as well follow the advice given by a character in "Cerebus", and "Do what you were going to do anyway, no matter what Lord Julius says."


(3) Remember that others are out to get you even if you're not paranoid.


And, yes, I have been falsely accused by accusers most false -- most doctors will tell you the same -- and they will come for you too, eventually, if they believe you have anything to lose, and you will lose the things you value even when you win.

Like ignorance, innocence is not an effective legal strategy.


My wife gets food poisoning if she eats food that's a few days old, so "Don't eat old leftovers" is obvious advice to her. Me, I can eat weeks-old meat from the fridge and not notice anything wrong. I'm sure that "If you see anything in her other than fear, you're seeing the part of yourself she hasn't devoured yet," is true for Dave Sim. It's not true for me. All stories are true, but not for all readers.

No doubt, yours is true for you.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Last summer, I was "caught" taking phone pictures of attractive women at the neighborhood pool...It struck me afterwards...to wonder exactly what rule I had broken, and whose rule."
Frightening experience, to be sure, and humiliating on more than one level.

When I trained students a few years back for a competitive public speaking/negotiating program (Model UN), I recorded them - not just when they delivered speeches, but more often, as they interacted with one another. I wanted them to see how posture, vocal tone, etc. affect group dynamics - simply standing at one place can draw one in as the center of attention, but demanding the floor backfires and drives others away. They'd always hated watching themselves speak publicly (don't we all), but extending it to other interactions as I had struck them as 'wrong,' and some even called me 'creepy.' It had never occurred to me that some might see it so.

Then I realized they had no problem when other students did it to one another. THAT was quite shocking: I wasn't 'one' of them, and so of course, they felt that an outsider was dangerous. But it does make sense: they could record one another as equals. I, as 'coach,' would not be a victim of their camera (even if they recorded me being silly, they could never give me a grade).

I felt so surprised by that, I decided not to return for subsequent years - not unless I really wanted to be 'one' of them (that is, live in their community in the high desert, embrace adjunct professorship full-time).

donzelion said...

Locum: I'm fairly well aware of the risks facing doctors (have been on both sides of that, and have represented pharms and hospitals before) - but let's bear in mind, a view like yours may hurt more than it helps. But consider if patients applied your theory:

(1) "Imagine that you are are under constant hostile surveillance because you are" - thus, every medical device, heart rate monitor, etc. is really there to hurt you, not help you heal or monitor some possible problem for remedy - it's all hostile;
(2) "Limit your interactions as your interactions will be misinterpreted" - so when a doctor asks what's bothering you, tell him nothing - and if he tells you to open your mouth and say 'Ahhh!' - clench your mouth and run
(3) "Remember that others are out to get you even if you're not paranoid" - so keep that in mind when they inject you with something...

Perhaps there are other contexts where such fear is harmful, rather than helpful (business contexts have similar issues if we fear those looking our way, and romance would be rather rare were we so afraid). Fear is a useful human emotion, but as with all the others, only in its time and place.

Deuxglass said...

The future is something like China's Citizen Score system which looks to be very good at making citizens "toe the line". At first I thought that it couldn't work here in our societies but looking through it I realized that we have already instituted three-fourths of the system. Credit scores, public police records, the records of everything you say online, where you shop, what you buy and so forth. The Records are there and accessible. What is missing in our societies is using this information for coercion in a systematic, organized way to force the citizen to act in only acceptable ways. Whether we complete this last link to oppression depends entirely on the political process. I am very glad when I see people on the street or on the internet coming out with so many different opinions even if some of them are bad or even evil to me. It shows that people are not afraid to say what they think. The day were people become "civilized" and say only "acceptable" things is the day that freedom is gone.

reformed tourist said...

Larry Hart --

Not that it matters, but your last response in the previous thread re the TPP was directed to donaelion when actually the quote you were citing was mine (reformed tourist)... no biggie as we apparently concur.

With regards to donzelion's mention directly above, media training is a very enlightening process having personally experienced it. For some, it is a door to examine how others perceive them, while others find it a disturbing mirror that they don't want to contemplate - I suspect it was those who found the experience (and you for exposing them) creepy

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: ah, this escaped me: "It was a privilege to have been one of Ursula Le Guin’s students, long ago."

In one of my writing classes, a professor introduced an essay in which the author described the tropes and trends in fantasy and science fiction, remarking how if everyone were writing stories about gerbils, they'd probably grow tiresome, then likening blonde barbarian warriors as 'yet another gerbil.' I cannot recall the title, or even if that was the focus of the article, but it made me laugh. I've long attributed it to LeGuin but cannot actually place it and may have erred. Know if that one was her's?

Alfred Differ said...

@Locumranch | No. That’s not my advice to Larry. That’s how your fun-house mirror interprets it.

(1) Imagine that you are are under constant hostile surveillance because you are;
(2) Limit your interactions as your interactions will be misinterpreted; and,
(3) Remember that others are out to get you even if you're not paranoid.


Should be…

(1) Imagine that you are involved in constant social interaction even when you don’t see it… because you are
(2) Consider that observers will fail to interpret your actions the way that you do… because some will
(3) Remember that others are primarily self-interested and might not take the time to grok you… but some will and do so with their own motives to boot.

I have a friend who is a doctor and the stories he tells concerning false accusations align with your description. He also relates some involving doctors who bring it down on all of them, but doesn’t phrase it quite that way. He OFTEN wonders aloud why he got into the business, but he’s too deep in debt to back out now. You have my sympathy on that front, though I know that won’t help much.

I’ve tried to explain to some of my friends that the real cost of health care in the US isn’t from big companies trying to rape the little guy. It’s from the negative sum game we are playing through our lawyers. They don’t get it, though.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Donzelion was the recent re-reader of Earth. I admit I haven't read it in a long time. However, I've read enough of our host's stories not to be disturbed by the fact that they are multi-threaded. Even if I can't see how one thread relates to the theme, I'll usually assume multiple perspectives are needed to make a larger point I might be missing.

David Smelser said...

Deuxglass,

I think we're much closer to the China's Citizen Score system except it won't be centrally controlled. With #metoo there was a crowd sourced listed of abusive people in the entertainment industry. There is public shaming of people on social media (march with other white supremacist, your picture will be taken, your identity will be determined, and the crowd will pressure your boss to fire you). If you show up on a list of those who don't vaccinate or have guns in the household, your child might not be be allowed to play with other children in the neighborhood.

All you need to do is add a little block chain technology so the lists lack a central authority to shut down.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion | We are used to people speeding and texting on our freeways; we still ban it.

I’d say you are being funny, but I get very annoyed at people who text while driving. We ban it because we turn a one ton transportation device into a lethal weapon with an act of negligence. I’ve lost more than one person in my inner circle to death-by-car-they-weren’t-driving. One or two alcoholics in my family did stuff I consider to be criminally stupid, though they got away with it. So, I may be used to it, but it isn’t tolerable.

Part of my motivation for dash-cams is to skewer people being that stupid, but I recognize some limits. I help create a negative sum game if I try to be an enforcer when people manage to do it without harming others. That would undermine other goals of mine.

all of which changes immediately if we realize that our frivolous play with language may be used either 'for' or 'against' us (or some other).

Seems to me that it is already too late for that. My words from the mid-90’s on a couple of boards can still be found. When I run across them in searches and re-read them, I can barely recognize myself. We are already willingly sharing a huge amount of information. I was only half joking when I mentioned a few days ago that we should be able to imitate each other when writing reactions to certain events. If someone only had my 90’s era mono-themed thoughts to go by, they’d portray the flatter person I was. If they included modern information, they’d come face-to-face with someone who had to do some growing up. That’s all out there already and (so far) the gubermint doesn’t seem to mind. They let me make a living as a DoD contractor. 8)

What I’m pointing out is that it is far too late to back out of this future we are making with all the cameras and microphones. Even more interesting is that many of us don’t seem to mind as much as we thought we might. Take your case with the students. I don’t think they were reacting so much to the cameras as to your role power. The solution to that is, as always, to better develop your relationship power. It’s tricky with students, but it can be done.

easier way is to blame someone else

That’s a fair point. I don’t see a solution to it yet. We need a way to auto-index video and audio recordings like we index text in books. If we could do that, I know a solution.

LarryHart said...

apologies to the people I just misattributed. Twice, apparently.

Deuxglass:

The future is something like China's Citizen Score system which looks to be very good at making citizens "toe the line". At first I thought that it couldn't work here in our societies but looking through it I realized that we have already instituted three-fourths of the system. Credit scores, public police records, the records of everything you say online, where you shop, what you buy and so forth. The Records are there and accessible. What is missing in our societies is using this information for coercion in a systematic, organized way to force the citizen to act in only acceptable ways


The most insidious part about China's policy is that they knock you down points for association with those of low score. If you refuse to toe the line, your friends will be punished if they remain friends. "We've been friends for thirty years, but I can't stay in touch with you or else my family will suffer."

Locumranch's overly-fearful advice actually makes a certain amount of sense pertaining to social media.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Seems to me that it is already too late for that. My words from the mid-90’s on a couple of boards can still be found. When I run across them in searches and re-read them, I can barely recognize myself. We are already willingly sharing a huge amount of information.


I'm not a writer by profession, but I do have a writer's temperament, and I understand the sensibility reflected by the Mark Twain character in Star Trek TNG who responded to Captain Picard's "I wish I had time to know you better," with "Well, read my books. It's pretty much all in there." A part of good writing is the intentional revealing of oneself in one's work.

Isn't that what we do here? I know I've revealed plenty of details that could be used against me, but it's done in the service of credibility--you guys know who I am (sort of) so you can tell a sincere expression from "just making crap up." And sometimes that trust is all you have to go on. Back in my teenage days, playing sandlot baseball without umpires, I remember insisting that a close play went one way or another, and I remember the guy on the other team saying, "If it was anyone else, I'd think you were cheating, but I know you don't do that." He was upset that he had to agree with the call, but he knew I was telling it like it is, or at least as I sincerely believed it was. I remember thinking that I had finally achieved the level of respectability that my father had.

In the present climate of identity theft crossed with holding anything one ever said against him forever, it would be a shame if people are compelled not to reveal themselves, to the detriment of society and humanity.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | A part of good writing is the intentional revealing of oneself in one's work.

In a non-fiction setting, I’d agree. In a fiction setting, the revealing should be good enough to feel real. I just got done reading A.S. Byatt’s “Ragnorok”, though, and she says myths are supposed to do that, so I’m probably being simplistic.

In your reveal, you also set up a possible defense should you ever need it. We can speak to your character if we’ve take the time to ‘love’ you enough. All you’d have to do is figure out how to get our partial copies of you into a courtroom in time to avoid punishment. 8)

In the present climate of identity theft crossed with holding anything one ever said against him forever, it would be a shame if people are compelled not to reveal themselves, to the detriment of society and humanity.

Just say no. If that is made difficult by someone spoofing you, digitally sign your posts. It doesn’t appear to be necessary around here (very cool) where folks like you just assert your names. If that ever fails, though, there is that easy way to recover.

David Brin said...

Even when he is offering us a way-cool transcript from a way-classic sci fi film, poor locumranch draws an utterly bizarre and illogical and deliberately dyspeptic conclusion. Likewise, drawing a loony conclusion from LarryHart’s story. Psi.

donzelion, in contrast, drew a correct interpretation from Earth.

Deuxglass, the solution is a society that not only tolerates eccentricity but celebrates it. And that is a core lesson preached in almost every Hollywood film.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"In the present climate of identity theft crossed with holding anything one ever said against him forever, it would be a shame if people are compelled not to reveal themselves, to the detriment of society and humanity."

Just say no. If that is made difficult by someone spoofing you, digitally sign your posts.


My concern is not with forgery. It's the Chinese social scoring thing mentioned above. That I would have to be quiet about ideas that the ruling party doesn't like to hear, because not only could I be punished for dissent, but my family would suffer economically. And my friends would be forced to choose between friendship and their own family's well-being. That's actually closer to the 1984 nightmare scenario than I ever thought America would become.


It doesn’t appear to be necessary around here (very cool) where folks like you just assert your names


Back 20 years or so ago, I used to post on comics-related boards as "columnist", as I thought of the boards as a place where I was being like a fanzine columnist writing about whatever. On most boards, people used that sort of screen name, but there was one in particular devoted to a writer who took a lot of crap from readers (John Byrne), and his site insisted that you had to post under a real name. They went so far as to enforce a connection between your screen name and your e-mail (and they wouldn't accept Yahoo or hotmail where you could make up e-mail names either). Once I was posting as myself over there, I just got used to doing it everywhere, especially since it does lend some continuity and some basis for trust.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Even when he is offering us a way-cool transcript from a way-classic sci fi film, poor locumranch draws an utterly bizarre and illogical and deliberately dyspeptic conclusion.


Locumranch could perform quotes from "Hamilton" and make you need a drink and a shower afterwards.

donzelion, in contrast, drew a correct interpretation from Earth.


And now I see why I mistakenly thought that was Alfred. His smiling picture is right below that post, and I conflated the two.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re 'Earth' (the novel) -
"I disagree."
So, I imagine, does our host, and when I'm a more celebrated author than he...lol, he had his purposes.

"They're no more out of place than the South African guy with the monkeys."
Another tale that could have been better told as its own novel, within the same universe.

"Their tales are intertwined with the main storyline, and give us someone we already care about to focus on instead of mere impersonal exposition about society at the time."
I'll admit: as a younger man, all these things felt like 'distractions' - I felt like I was back in the Grapes of Wrath analyzing how people felt about turtles in the road. There was a vast pool of characters, some of whom were drawn quickly with broad brushes, whom I'd have liked to see up close and in action a bit more.

"You've heard of the ambition of writers to create the "Great American novel"?
Indeed, and you're right, and as an unpublished amateur writer who finds more pleasure taking potshots at the works of others than in producing my own, there's a great deal of arrogance in place. I think it is a great novel, overflowing with an abundance of ideas. It is my first exposure to serious "climate change SciFi."

If I am as silly as an Austrian Emperor daring to claim Mozart had "too many notes," then I already look the fool that I am.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

I'm not calling you a fool, but I think you're missing a big part of the reading experience. No, the monkey guy couldn't have just been told as a separate story. See, I flatter myself that I know the author's thought processes. That one guy made a choice to save those monkeys from the death they otherwise would have suffered. Thematically, that has to be for something. Because they didn't die, they were around to do something else later that's important to the plot. I have to admit, it might be time for a re-read, because I remember an orbital rescue later in the book, but I don't recall if those hominids were the rescuers or the rescue-ees. Either way, their continued state of living was important to the plot later on.

I guess it's the way these diverse characters are all within one or two degrees of separation that impresses me. The South African guy discusses theories of cooperation and competition with...geez I'm forgetting names now, but wasn't she Alex's grandmother? And then he crosses paths with the real protagonists of the book in orbit. One of the three boys you discussed ends up in conflict with the same poacher/villain that Daisy rats out to the government. The other surviving member of that group is on a ship that Daisy sends eco-terrorists after, and then he ends up as a good low-level employee working for the bad guys. And I feel I'm just scratching the surface.

Maybe it's just personal taste, but I love that sort of tangled web, especially when it's done well.

And when I say "The great Terran novel", I mean it covers the entire inhabited planet. Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas all play significant roles. The settings range from deserts to tidal basins; from cities to oceans to the heartland; from outer space to inner space (shades of Quisp and Quake).

donzelion said...

Alfred: Perhaps the 'shield of light' metaphor works better in a traffic setting, than in the possible use against prosecution. To some extent, dash cams may keep bad drivers honest, and shield us all from bodily harm. Producing such a record in that context strikes me not as 'cameras as arms' but as 'shields' - and moreover, does so without raising concerns about the 'failure to record' rendering us defenseless.

"I was only half joking when I mentioned a few days ago that we should be able to imitate each other when writing reactions to certain events."
I think I could imitate Locum convincingly. ;-)

"it is far too late to back out of this future we are making with all the cameras and microphones."
Agreed. But I like the California rule, and believe we are freer here with our 'all-party-consent' rule than, say, in Mississippi or New York, where consent of only one party suffices.

re "blame-shifting" - "That’s a fair point. I don’t see a solution to it yet. We need a way to auto-index video and audio recordings like we index text in books. If we could do that, I know a solution.
Perhaps...but I've seen too many cases where a skilled manipulator could take the same statements uttered in a 1-hour recording, and show a dozen or more completely different stories simply by controlling the context and limiting the focus to what they thought was 'the good part.' I don't know that we could produce an AI capable of fairly judging and evaluating - unless we were ourselves aware of what 'fairness' means definitively.

locumranch said...



By arguing that "innocence is not an effective legal strategy", I was trying to make a larger logical point about the impossibility of 'proving a negative'. It simply cannot be done. In either Science or Law.

It is often argued that an absence of proof does NOT equal either proof of absence or presence. An innocent man may deny guilt, but he can never PROVE the absence of what is non-existent guilt, which is why (in the best of all possible worlds) that the pre-#MeToo US legal system presumes innocence (aka 'not-guilt') & demands the presentation of proof of guilt.

Similarly, accusations of NAZI, racist, homophobic or pedophillic tendencies cannot be disproven with a zillion photos of the accused individual NOT engaging in NAZI, racist, homophobic or pedophillic activities and, since attempts at denial represent acts of futility, the logical individual denies nothing only to attack in kind, a strategy which limits the further effectiveness of similarly baseless shame & blame tactics. Deny, deny, attack & let the other pervert engage in futile explanations.

This is especially true for science & the so-called Fermi Paradox -- which in truth is NOT an actual paradox but an attempt to 'prove a negative' with the absence of data -- the initial flaw being the assumption of extraterrestrial presence despite an absence of proof, which is why there are zillion unsatisfying answers for this so-called paradox despite the absence of a single solitary proof of extraterrestrial presence.

Lastly, Donzelion may believe that he offers a valid analogical opinion about self-defence, but he is mistaken because he employs a demonstrably false analogy that assumes non-existent equality between physician & patient, and a far better analogy would be to portray the patient as a swimmer-in-distress & the physician as lifeguard or potential rescuer.

When the patient as a swimmer-in-distress calls upon the physician for assistance, he is already in distress & his demand signals that he risks nothing by calling for help; however, as a would-be rescuer, the physician & lifeguard must abandon his safe 'on shore' position and risk life, limb & reputation in order to effect a rescue, and if you knew anything about water rescue then you'd know that more would-be rescuers fall victim to panicky swimmers than vice versa.

Whereas the lawyer (and/or solicitor) in this tale is a man-eating shark.


Best

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Where was Australia in the story? I only remember New Zealand. Better read it again. LOL

"...but I don't recall if those hominids were the rescuers or the rescue-ees."
Somewhat both, though perhaps more of one than the other.

Perhaps "Earth" (main), "Three Boys on Earth," etc. would have worked better - but then, the sequels/continuations/world extension novels would only have come into existence if the original sold well enough. As is, rarely has a cascade of detail flooded my synapses so quickly as in that book. There's a cast of about a hundred characters, and about a hundred key concepts novel and interesting in their own light - making for 10,000 data points to keep straight: a synaptic deluge. Startide and Uplift, by contrast, offered a feast of interesting ideas; Earth, a fire hose.

I do not think I judge it harshly. It was a formative book for me, affecting a number of biases. There are veeery few books I've found worth reading twice, and I've read most of the 'greatest novels of the 20th century' and at least one major work by about half the Nobel laureates (at least, the ones with good English translations available).

donzelion said...

Locum: "It is often argued that an absence of proof does NOT equal either proof of absence or presence."

Ah, metaphysics there, not epistemology. I'll offer a tangent as bait: Frege took this challenge quite seriously, and decided to devise an entirely new logic system to handle discussions about existence or non-existence. My understanding is that a relatively famous chap named Turing was fascinated by other tangential aspects raised in this system, and thought it could be utilized to devise codes to break codes (assuming all language will operate through certain logical patterns).

"the pre-#MeToo US legal system presumes innocence (aka 'not-guilt') & demands the presentation of proof of guilt."
It still does. Bill Cosby is, as yet, the only person it has convicted of crimes against women that can even be linked to #MeToo in a tangential way - and those charges date back many years before #MeToo started. A conviction in the court of public opinion isn't nearly as painful a jail as a state penitentiary.

"a far better analogy would be to portray the patient as a swimmer-in-distress & the physician as lifeguard or potential rescuer."
Fair enough. Now if the swimmer-in-distress believes that calling out makes him MORE at risk than staying put, will that bring the potential rescuer to his aid? How is the rescuer to even know rescue is necessary if one doesn't trust others enough to call out?

The better point you might have made is that we should not let ourselves become swimmers-in-distress. Then we keep silent to avoid risk, we fear monitoring because it offers more risk than help - our paranoid state keeps us from becoming 'in need.' Problem: we must procreate. We have needs that require social interaction. Even then, we are always 'in need' of something, and cannot achieve that through our own devices.

"Whereas the lawyer (and/or solicitor) in this tale is a man-eating shark."
A tale told frequently by either those who've been victims of such shark attacks, OR those who deploy their own armies of sharks (with lazer beams!) to achieve their schemes. And even so, I'd much prefer being a predator to a parasite. ;-)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LarryHart: Where was Australia in the story? I only remember New Zealand. Better read it again. LOL


Yeah, I might have been conflating the whole ANZUS region.

I've read the book four times already, but it might be time for a re-read after all.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

As is, rarely has a cascade of detail flooded my synapses so quickly as in that book. There's a cast of about a hundred characters, and about a hundred key concepts novel and interesting in their own light - making for 10,000 data points to keep straight: a synaptic deluge. Startide and Uplift, by contrast, offered a feast of interesting ideas; Earth, a fire hose.


That's why you can re-read it many times and still be occasionally surprised.

locumranch said...



I stand corrected by 'Mr. Sharks with Frigging Laser Beams' Esquire, although I take exception to his display of Sizeist Bigotry because a parasite is a predator & a predator is a parasite no matter how tiny, tall, toothy or toothsome, while Parasitism represents UNFAIR discrimination against the Legal profession. Optimism signifies the hatred of perfection; Cynicism is UNFAIR to dogs; and words do not mean what we think they mean.

Best

donzelion said...

"Cynicism is UNFAIR to dogs;"

Only in Greece, where Aristotle thought they still had potential to express a virtue of courage. Sarcasm, however, was a gnashing of teeth, conduct more becoming of those consigned to hell (who will at least make light of it).

donzelion said...

reformed tourist: "media training is a very enlightening process having personally experienced it."

Indeed, until one sees oneself as others see one, not when nervous and on display, but when at ease yet interacting, it is hard to see certain features. Some, I think, have very good self-awareness that way - others can learn it after trial, error, and practice.

re TPP: you raised it earlier, and I'd pick that up again if you wish. There's a lot more going on than what labor unions claim. Republicans are known for inventing shibboleths and testing their spread among the ranks - birtherism, among many, many others (Islamofascism is another shibboleth), but Democrats do it too occasionally. On this one, Obama was right, the establishment wrong, and the labor unions are working against their long-term interest.

They fear anything that makes it more likely for plants to set up in Mexico, Vietnam, etc. Plausible fear. But the real fear is Mexico, Vietnam, China, etc. - in a world where legal norms do not exist: then not only do wage differentials justify moving plants (and wages account for maybe 25% of the cost of production - important, but not THAT important) - but insider gamesmanship creates lots of opportunities for rentiers to exploit the transfer (the other 75% of the cost - and far more opportunities for lazy brats with good connections to get rich on other people's work).

Like many fearful people (e.g., people in countries who watch newcomers dispossess their friends and families of their homes), the immediate response is to close the doors, push away the fear - hope it goes away and leaves them alone. But where they should be making friends and uniting with fellow workers in Vietnam, they divide up - and AI creeps ever closer to that stage that it can determine, design, deploy and utilize robots to displace them all - AI loyal to masters, not to workers. They're better off learning to speak to one another, collaborate, and build their own AI to safeguard workers everywhere. The genie is out of the bottle, but there are djinn, efreet, and others that might be loosed to fulfill wishes.

David Brin said...

Oy, are tou guys still reading him?

Twominds said...

Him, as in Locumranch?

He was relatively interesting today, and readable too. No word salad of capitalisations and &'s, sentences that meant something. It's a rare treat. And more important, others took up what he said and used it for interesting discussions.

Of course, at 8:40 PM he couldn't keep it up anymore, reverting to type with that indignant whine at donzelion.

Deuxglass said...

David Smelser,

You said “All you need to do is add a little block chain technology so the lists lack a central authority to shut down.”

Could you elaborate this a bit? Do you mean to say that even if laws were passed to prevent a central government from using the data to coerce it would make no difference because militant advocacy groups would do what the government is prevented from doing by law?

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

you said "The most insidious part about China's policy is that they knock you down points for association with those of low score. If you refuse to toe the line, your friends will be punished if they remain friends. "We've been friends for thirty years, but I can't stay in touch with you or else my family will suffer."

At least the Chinese government is honest about it and clearly sets out how to be a good citizen and what happens if you are not. Imagine how to define what a “good citizen” is here in our democracies. I am not sure how to do it but I am sure there are people working hard in Silicon Valley just to do this but of course we all know that they have our well-being in their minds and hearts. Since they are all smart, rational people we can be confident that they will never do any evil.

donzelion said...

Deuxglass: "Imagine how to define what a “good citizen” is here in our democracies."

Quite easy, actually: you breathe, and are not in prison. Pretty much everyone is a 'good citizen' until proven otherwise. Far better.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

You hit the nail on the head. Tolerance of eccentricity comes from the type of society and its traditions. Hollywood is a late comer in this. Just about all literature and plays going back to the Greeks celebrate eccentricity as necessary. Most societies have developed ways to include them in one form or another and were able to use their strengths mainly by looking beyond their quirks. We all have run into people in our professions who were eccentric to say the least but somehow were also successful and respected. What I am afraid of is that with modern "rating systems" in which there is virtually no human input people who are unusual or eccentric would not get their foot into the door and be eliminated from the work pool. It's the well-documented perversion of using impersonal and flawed rating systems to make choices.


You can legislate tolerance for race, sexual preference and so forth but

Deuxglass said...

donzelion,


That is really a low bar. Even the Chinese system gives points for volunteer work. Maybe I am old-fashioned but I was thinking along the lines of how Pericles defined a "good citizen" but I am sure you are thinking like a lawyer. In that case a good citizen would be defined as one who keeps his nose clean, his head down and causes no trouble.

Deuxglass said...

donzelion,

Today it is virtually impossible to not break some law somewhere sometime so by your definition we are all definitely not good citizens and that the full weight of the Law can fall on us whenever someone above decides to do so.


"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

Cardinal Richelieu

donzelion said...

Deuxglass: "Hollywood is a late comer in [understanding that t]olerance of eccentricity comes from the type of society and its traditions."

Are they? Going back through the silent era, seems it's original stars were exceptionally eccentric. Chaplin? Keaton? Even Errol Flynn - a voracious appetite for eccentrics of all stripes has literally fed Hollywood, as eccentrics, more than most, offer 'novelty' that can attract an eye. Hollywood is more of an alchemy device to convert 'interesting eccentricity' into 'marketable' novelty - and at some point, that ceases to be 'eccentric' or novel, but merely cliche.

"...the Greeks celebrate eccentricity as necessary."
Not certain I'd agree. Again, my insight is riddled with one scholar's work (Elizabeth Vandiver at the Teaching Company), so may be too narrow, but she engages with why Achilles reflected Greek conventions, rather than eccentricities (of COURSE he spends the freakin book whining, that's what he's required to do to discharge his injured kleos). To us, Socrates remains pretty eccentric (not to mention those barking cynics) - but that's OUR celebration of Greek eccentricity, rather than their own (and it could be that this is a fairly constant phenomenon - the Greek works weren't recorded on stone tablets - they survived because others also valued certain books more than others).

"What I am afraid of is that with modern "rating systems" in which there is virtually no human input"
Not certain I agree with that either. I fear any system with 'hidden hands' inputting things precisely for their benefit.

My favorite recent presentation on this is Black Mirror's episode, 'Nosedive.' If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly recommend the whole series: it's weakest episodes are still, at times, painfully prophetic - it's strongest are well considered ideas and images, many of which interact powerfully with our host's own eccentric concerns (e.g., the last scene in their chilling 'Christmas Special' recalls the first story in our host's 'Insistence of Vision' - different story, of course, but powerfully visualized).

"people who are unusual or eccentric would not get their foot into the door and be eliminated from the work pool."
...often by other people who are also 'unusual or eccentric' - and wish to apply their unusual traits a certain way. Many brilliant men to prefer adoration from cloying sycophants to the criticism of other brilliant men. Receptivity to that criticism though, and revision/improvement in the face of it, is the straighter path toward better outcomes.

donzelion said...

Deuxglass: "That is really a low bar."

As it should be. We should assume "all are good" - if by good, we mean, "good enough" to be worth something, to be respected, treated fairly. To weight "good" v. "better" and "best," we're left to our own devices to try as we can.

"how Pericles defined a "good citizen" - note that by Pericles' own definition (only children with both mother and father should be Athenian citizens), he would never have attained citizenship himself if that law had applied to him (his maternal grandmother was a foreigner). Athens would have been worse for that loss. But that's merely a 'citizen,' not a 'good one.'

"I am sure you are thinking like a lawyer." Maybe. I like to think that I think like a man with legal training, but also a lot of curiosity. I did read a lot more broadly before I became a lawyer.

"Today it is virtually impossible to not break some law somewhere sometime so by your definition we are all definitely not good citizens"
Not so: my definition would limit 'bad citizens' to folks CONVICTED, not to folks merely charged, or eligible for charges. But I'm very much aware of Richelieu's stylings at work: my solution is not to prohibit the recording, or require it, or even expect it - but to try to limit the power of the hangman to as narrow a scope as possible. Surely I'm being conventional and 'not eccentric' in that...surely it is simply the standard platitude of the 'American way'...but I think it's a good one. And definitely a 'better' one than China's.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

Cardinal Richelieu


Ahh, one of my favorite fictional supervillains based on reality. Right up there with Hitler.
Especially as portrayed by Charlton Heston in the early 70s "Three Musketeers" films.


"By my hand, and for the good of the state, the bearer has done what has been done."

donzelion said...

Deuxglass: an aside on the "Chinese social weighing system" - I watched a very interesting documentary last night, 'Sour Grapes' - which is intriguing for two reasons:

(1) the wine fraudster displayed, an 'illegal immigrant,' impressed wine afficionados by running in circles with the wealthiest men in the world, flattering their egos, and selling them fake wines quickly. That his feigned expertise was credited based on a fraudulent claim of being wealthy - that it was credited enough for 'smart men' to be routinely, thoroughly fleeced (who make millions of dollars per year out of their demonstrable brilliance) says a great deal about that tribe, it's social operations, it's membership system, it's vulnerabilities. And that's a group with every possible incentives - theoretically, the very best and brightest of the free market at fraud detection and destruction - utterly swindled.

Maybe the Chinese are smarter.

(2) The doc presents a 'new face' for Charles Koch: now as an anti-fraud crusader (at least in the world of $10,000/bottle wine). Showing HIM associating with his own retired FBI and CIA agents and officers, and his own besotted puppy dog, his own beloved wine collection (complete with Thomas Jefferson wines, such a patriot...) - is intriguing, as he's among the top tier of the powerful manipulators of media perception in America (but he doesn't like a swindler! so he must be decent, right?!).

Meh. I'd rather argue with Locum about sharks and parasites. Far more reputable company. But maybe that's my own sour grapes, having shrugged aside and abandoned the oenophiles...

David Smelser said...

I wrote: "All you need to do is add a little block chain technology so the lists lack a central authority to shut down.”

Deuxglass asked: "Could you elaborate this a bit?"

Sure, here is an article on weaponizing social networks:
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2018/03/when-gun-owners-are-shunned.html

And here is one on automating twitter posts with profile pictures to shame people:
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2018/04/moral-warfare-packetizing-shame.html

Block chain technology (the technology behind bitcoin) allows you to create decentralized ledgers of information. This technology could be used to create decentralized social networks to maintain lists of people to shun and decentralized logs of bad behavior. Decentralized in that any computer can be part of the network and once anything has been added to the ledger it is essentially impossible to delete from the network. Look how it has been impossible to shut down bittorrent networks of pirated movies. Now do this with decentralized weaponized social networks.

This network can scales very well.

Want to know who doesn't vaccinate their kids, or keeps guns in their house or were an asshole on date? There will soon be an list and an app to look it up.

gerold said...

"Eccentric" is another form of non-conformist, sometimes also known as deviant. Western culture does celebrate non-conformism, but that is actually pretty rare in the global context.

There is an interesting contrast in the notion of "evil" as perceived in the Western tradition compared to other civilizations. In Abrahamic monotheism, evil = disobedience to authority. Satan was evil because he refused to worship Adam; not because he was malevolent, but because of his extreme devotion to God/Allah. But he disobeyed, therefore he was cast down. Same story with Eve; she was told not to eat of the fruit, but did it anyway. she was also cast down for her disobedience. A good slave is an obedient slave. Uppity slaves are evil.

In the Western tradition evil springs from a completely different origin. Loki ends up on the side of evil because of his penchant for malicious dishonesty. He lies, and his lies are harmful to others. Syrdon is an analogous figure from Scythian mythology, and Celtic myths (what little remains) have similar characters.

In cultures where despotism has been the norm for thousands of years, the idea of right and wrong becomes very different from cultures where individual liberty is a core value.

Something like the Chinese "social credit" can not take hold in the West. That kind of servile obedience is abhorrent to us. The excesses of PC quickly engender their own backlash, as we seek the solution. (In the sense of a Newton-Raphson algorithm.)

Of course, solution algorithms are supposed to converge, but that doesn't always happen. Conservatives fear we'll diverge, but that is based on the wrong idea of evil; the fear of non-conformity, disobedience, and punishment from the Authorities.

Free citizens of a free society won't let that happen. MeToo isn't about neutering males (incels notwithstanding) but about correcting long-standing errors. We're getting it right.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion -

You are correct that there are many levels of the TPP and Labor's concerns are varied to some extent dependent on what part of Labor one is talking to/hearing from.

My little pond (airlines) doesn't have a major heartache with much of TPP other than the precedent regarding the aforementioned forced limited arbitration. Don't want to bore everyone here with a dissertation about the Open Skies Agreements; the flagrant violations of which by, primarily the Gulf state carriers (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar) whose business model harkens back to the steel dumping chapter that President Kennedy dealt with emphatically. Yes I acknowledge that the US steel industry failed to reinvest in plants and technology. But, this is economic warfare on a grand but somewhat below the radar scale. Complete with witting and unwitting 5th columnists... And then there's the little matter of Flag-of-Convenience schemes...

Enough, not gonna involve you all in this other than to say again that international labor arbitrage is now a problem and is going to be a bigger one. The oligarchy that Dr. Brin so eloquently speaks of (neo-feudalists) used to be be most focused on having facile ways of moving capital around and across borders; our brave new world now includes initiatives to do the same with labor, just not the laborers (however skilled and credentialed). I constantly use the analogy of the too-successful predator in some of my presentations on these matters. And I didn't even touch on the consumer protections or national security issues that are integral to elements of our economy that deal with transportation and infrastructure. Wanna talk about the ludicrous models the proponents of privatizing Air Traffic Control propose? Why stop at schools and prisons - let's banish Adam Smith to Siberia or better yet, make him a non-person, burn all copies of Wealth of Nations and let Taco Bell run everything in competition with Amazon. But wait... where is the Trump brand going to fit in?

Seriously, somebody stop me!

Think I prefer to stick to EARTH - great book - lot of prescience there, fine characterization and plotting: a really good read

David Brin said...

reformed tourist gets it. The central (supposed) icon of conservatism is Adam Smith, who is their central victim. Were he alive today, he'd be a flaming democrat.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion -

Should add one more thing as you cite the issue of plants being established in locations with lower costs... and you make the point that Labor is not necessarily looking to its long-term interests.

I don't disagree, but bear in mind that in all the major trade agreements in modern times, the Labor Protective Provisions (LPPs) are generally week and not enforced with enthusiasm, if at all.

This too has economic and national security repercussions. Much of the hyped-up racism/anti-immigrant crap that is so the rage at the moment leans heavily on the notion that people should stay where they are (particularly if they aren't white) and fix there own damn problems. The problem is they can't - the game is rigged in part because of the weak LPPs.

I might further mention that most revolutions, especially the successful ones, occur not when people are at their most oppressed with nothing left to lose, but rather when rising expectations are not met. Consider the American Revolution, even the slow-motion fall of the Iron Curtain (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland were merely the forerunners much as "Bunker Hills, Lexington, and Concord" were if you will.

The issue remains that a civilization that is organized to merely reward and make life easy for those at the top is doomed. Labor is also the consumer base - if they aren't healthy, well...

Obama believed that TPP provided a worthwhile stopgap from a geopolitical point of view; in this I believe along with others that he was short-sighted. One can similarly state that his signature legislative achievement of ACA would only be a success if it was a milestone on the road to single-payer. Was he right to take the baby steps? It's arguable, but here we are dealing with today's realities. One would like to think that policy would be debated AND enacted on a more cohesive basis. One would like that,but currently one is sorely disappointed.

john fremont said...

@Reformed tourist I'm an avionics technician on my day job. Go on, I'm intrigued

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | It's the Chinese social scoring thing mentioned above.

I don’t mean to sound flippant here, but do you REALLY think that would work in the US? The RWA folks don’t need a scoring system to conform. The rest of us wouldn’t put up with it. I put to you that it would be another lesson in Prohibition. Some would willingly conform. Others would rebel. Others still would figure out how to make money off it and corrupt the whole thing. Try it and the Rule Of Law would be made a mockery again.

Remember that we can write bots that post for us. Such a scoring system can be gamed. To prevent that would require an escalation of enforcement rules and punishments that would be analogous to what happened with the prohibition of alcohol. What would start as “sounds like a well-intentioned idea” for some would be turned into a travesty of corruption and blood.

Always remember you live among barbarians. The Chinese don’t. 8)

gerold said...

David Brin said: "The central (supposed) icon of conservatism is Adam Smith, who is their central victim. Were he alive today, he'd be a flaming democrat."

Adam Smith seems awfully liberal for a conservative icon. He makes a great standard-bearer for the enlightenment however.

I'd go with Edmund Burke. He really was a conservative. He would be disgusted by the Trumpian Repubs though. He was a pretty reasonable reactionary.

LarryHart said...

gerold:

Same story with Eve; she was told not to eat of the fruit, but did it anyway. she was also cast down for her disobedience.


Are you sure about Eve?

When writer/artist Dave Sim became religious, he had his Cerebus character read parts of the Bible and react to them, not as someone already familiar with the text, but as someone who comes across it for the first time late in life. One of the things Cerebus noticed was that Genesis Chapter 3 never actually says that Eve was expelled from the Garden of Eden.


22) And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23) Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24) So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Duncan Cairncross said...

While we have the political light on

Lead Poisoning
This is almost certainly the reason for the uptick in violent crime and murder
Fron 5/100,00 in 1960 to 9/100,00 in the 80's and dropping back to 5/100,00 by 2000

The idea is that the 17 - 27 year olds do most of the killing so when the lead in petrol dropped from 1976 - reaching it's current low level in 1980
The people with brain damage who were doing all the murders reached the ages where these things don't happen

But these people have not died - were are still going strong!
The brain damaged generations who were born between 1950 and 1980 is still around and aged between 70 and 40 - the peak voting ages!

So our most important voting age groups are the ones that suffered brain damage that doubled the murder rate

Does this explain Trump and BREXIT?

locumranch said...


Neither the West nor Hollywood encourages non-conformity or "celebrates eccentricity". They stereotype, delimit & crush the potential individual instead. Each & every one of their so-called 'non-conformists' is played to type. The dedicated, plucky, self-possessed & self-actualised feminist. The bumbling, good-natured & cuddly male doofus. The noble savage who provides instruction; the dissatisfied housewife who seeks enlightenment; and the always villainous white male traditionalist.

And, of course, the relentless conformity of the freak alternative agenda wherein every film plot is more or less identical and each & every non-conformist is either identical to every other non-conformist (aka 'validated') or discarded as anti-social. With rare exception, the western narrative is all 'word wooze' designed to stifle & anesthetise the divergent individual.

I'm the self-depreciating mocker who walks shod on sacred ground. Which type are you?


Best

Anonymous said...

our brave new world now includes initiatives to do the same with labor

Up here in the Great White North, donut shops were bringing in immigrant labour (as Temporary Foreign Workers*) because they couldn't find any qualified Canadians. Which was true, sort of — they couldn't find Canadians in Fort MacMurray willing to work for minimum wage**. Apparently the Harper neocons decided 'working for minimum wage' is a qualification.

The laws of supply and demand in a free market only apply to CEOs, not workers.


And there was the BC mining company that listed "speaks Mandarin" as a qualification so they could bring in Chinese TFWs while laying off local miners.


I find it odd to be getting more left-wing as I get older. I thought it was supposed to work the other way round :-/


*Brought in for one job for one company, and can't move to another, so pretty much captive labour.

*Boom economy, with everything that means for local cost of living and for other opportunities.

donzelion said...

Reformed tourist - "bear in mind that in all the major trade agreements in modern times, the Labor Protective Provisions (LPPs) are generally week and not enforced with enthusiasm, if at all."


not only is this true, it's true by design. There's a reason why Bush negotiated NAFTA, and presented a fait accompli to Clinton. TPP was an incremental improvement, the first expansion on the standard wording in trade agmts in quite some time.

But any way you slice it, American, Mexican, Vietnamese, etc. workers will either learn to unite or get played. The solution for unions is the old one - more unity. Incentives make that quite challenging to achieve.

LarryHart said...

Anonymous (from Canada) :

I find it odd to be getting more left-wing as I get older. I thought it was supposed to work the other way round :-/


You and me both, on all counts.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion | I recognize that traffic settings aren’t the best exemplar. What my libertarian friends will usually think about are encounters with LE and other government officials. They might not think much about evidence they would need to avoid convictions and instead focus on collecting it to skewer the subject of their interest. When LE feels threatened by being recorded, I can understand. They ARE being threatened sometimes, though probably not with bodily harm. Career ending harm is probably what my friends have in mind if they are upset. I can understand if they go a bit too far is stretching the interpretation of events, but it is all going to bite them in the end. Either they realize they work for us or they really WILL be in danger. The same goes for government’s elected officials and civil servants.

I like California’s all-party-consent rule too, but I don’t expect I’ll be asked as often as I’m recorded. As long as people don’t use their recordings to harm me, I won’t care much either and won’t try to become an enforcer. I might like to be asked, but I’ll settle for one-party-consent if no harm is done. I suspect that is about as far as we will be able to go with enforcement until we get our own cameras that spot other cameras near us. After that we will all be shooting lasers at each other to fog lenses. 8)

As for context manipulation, I’m likely to side with our host. We are going to have to become much more suspicious of recordings that can’t show the same event from many angles and with all the little details preserved. There are neat steganography tricks that will make edits difficult to hide and we are going to have to learn them.

reformed tourist said...

John Fremont -

I push metal around the sky (mostly international), or at least I did up to a few months ago (medical issue). And do Government Affairs stuff for my union and occasionally the company among other things for the union.

Don't want to divert the thread into a topic of interest to only a few (even if I do my best to connect the thigh bone to the thyroid, which I believe is valid).

As the opportunity allows I'll throw the odd comment in that relates back to our industry. If you've got a specific question, I'll do my best to answer directly.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion -

Absolutely my point re the LPPs and the essential need for real international labor agreements that have similar protections to those that things like the TPP seeks for corporations.

That require engaged committed people in every country; and puts the onus on those in developed countries to lead the way in helping educate their brothers and sisters (No, Dr. Brin, I'm not channeling Marx), while working to craft the legal structures.

Did I say In Solidarity? I believe in a balance of interests as being the optimum survival strategy - dare I say an economic ecologic approach It takes an evolved society to recognize what is in their own long-term best interests, plan, and execute accordingly and effectively. One of the glories of the American Experiment was that it intrinsically provided for that possibility. Boy, those founders (deists they might have been) were smart cookies.

David Brin said...

I think I know "reformed tourist." Welcome combattant for enlightenment.

Duncan could you tighten and distill down your lead-poisoning explanation for boomer trumpism? I might repost it.

L:“Neither the West nor Hollywood encourages non-conformity or "celebrates eccentricity”.”

Uhhhh, compared to who or when? Only compared to absolutely every single one of your beloved theocratic feudalisms.

Anonymous said...

Dark Star ... I had never seen that movie before. Thanks for telling me the ending! Hoo, anyway. Anyway, I did not even know that movie existed. Probably never would have seen that movie if they had not mentioned it. It seems that John Carpenter directed it to the five years. The actors are not the Beattles in the sixties? ... Now I know where some ideas came from the "Aliens" series.
One question to all. Are video games considered artificial intelligences? Because if they are, when they become aware within robots, I think life is going to become very interesting. (within 200 years) (I suppose)
After all, it's really hard to beat some extraterrestrials in current video games.

Bedtime.

Winter7

donzelion said...

reformed tourist - "the essential need for real international labor agreements that have similar protections to those that things like the TPP seeks for corporations."
It is challenging to pull off. Obama started the process in that direction, but his overtures were rebuffed. Missed opportunity.

It's a pity that discussion of feudalism is so uncommon. If labor grasped how this operated, they'd see solidarity in a whole different light. As I see it, one of the most fascinating aspects of the American experiment is that it has required our own would-be feudalists to evolve like they've never evolved anywhere else: here, they've actually mastered mechanisms of power (and wealth) previously unimaginable. The Founders - quite a few of them being semi-feudalists - had divided loyalties: but they set a process of challenge, competition, which made much possible that would otherwise have failed.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The Effect of Lead in Petrol

The correlation between increases in violent crime and the later decrease in violent crime is very strongly linked to Lead on our Petrol and to it's removal -
This can be seen US State by State where the reduction in violence is linked to when that specific state made the transition and other in counties where the transition from lead was made a different times

Lead exposure was related to the amount of petrol burnt -
Which increased from about 250 Billion miles driven in 1930 to about 500 Billion in 1950, 1 Trillion in 1970 and 2 Trillion in 1980

I found "Gas Lead in tons per 1000 people"
It starts at 0.3 tons in 1937 - moves up to 1.3 tons in 1972 then drops to 0.3 tons in 1986

So who got poisoned?

The "Greatest Generation" 1905 - 1925 were adults
The "Silent Generation" 1925 - 1945 - would have been slightly effected

"Baby Boomers" 1945 - 1965 - the early boomers would have ingested some lead - as as the years went by the last of the Boomers would be ingesting twice as much lead as the early boomers

"Generation X" 1965 to 1984 covers the very peak - and the drop off

So the Boomers and Generation X were poisoned as children

I was wondering if there was an effect on voting patterns -
Maybe this is why so many of the Baby Boomers voted for Trump

And why the "Millenials" appear to be working out so well - behaving better than we did by every measure

gerold said...

Re: Crime Decline.
I did a little research on this a couple years back. There are a number of interesting articles on it that are freely available on the web, here is one:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/04/what-caused-the-crime-decline/477408/

As I recall the lead hypothesis was a little over-hyped, and after controlling for other variables doesn't look like a major factor. Could be wrong about that, it's been a while.

What I found most surprising is the significance of Roe v. Wade; there are strong statistical correlations between legalized abortion and dropping crime rates about 17 years later. There are plenty of other factors of course, as shown from quantitative analysis, but this one was the most unexpected.

gerold said...

Larry Hart said: "Genesis Chapter 3 never actually says that Eve was expelled from the Garden of Eden."

Naturally Adam took all his possessions with him. He wouldn't leave such valuable property behind.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Roe V Wade is almost exactly when lead in petrol started to drop!

If we had one uniform "Unites States" and no other data then the "Lead Hypothesis" would still be a hypothesis

But we have different US states who took the lead out at different times - each one separately confirming the Hypothesis

And then we have the "Rest of the World" - also taking the lead out at different times and also seeing violence increase and decrease

Other theories like;
Increased wealth, Abortion, Incarceration, Policing
All fail because other countries had the change without those specifically US changes effecting them




reformed tourist said...

Yes, Dr. Brin, I believe I've compromised my identity to you... Ah well, in for a penny...

I established my nomme-de-'net many years ago honoring a point in my life where I eschewed being merely a spectator taking a high speed cruise through life.

Due to a truly scary legal brief I was given regarding Social Media (and any other un-vetted public postings) re the liability of an elected trade union official, I've indulged myself sporadically at best, hardly at all, over the last 8 years.

An overabundance of caution rather than prudence, perhaps, but I have direct knowledge of the lengths to which companies and others will go to identify just who said what/when; even who had knowledge of what/when somebody else said! Had to defend a couple of miscreants personally - a knowledge that made me conclude that I shouldn't even VISIT certain sites and forums due to IP tracing... (despite VPN et al).

Now, with the end of my final term looming, I feel...unbound. Briefly considered changing my nomme to ALNM (A Lurker No More), but rather still enjoy celebrating that transition I made years ago to being actively engaged.

And to donzelion: one of things I've tried to champion is the vital need to do exactly the outreach you mention to international groups by my union, as well as the need to reassert ourselves as members of a larger affinity movement. And ACT like it... To be frank, a very large percentage of my union's members self identify as Conservative (though most can't really define the term accurately) due to training, background, and tribal sense - yet they owe their livelihood, career path etc. to trade unionism. The dichotomy that some of my constituents (and fellow officers!) deal with is such that I constantly fear that some will suffer internal combustion within their skulls, leaving grey matter clinging to the walls of the crew lounge. Messy, but go figure...

And to Gerald - Adam Smith developed the economic underpinnings of modern conservatism's favored cure-all: the invisible hand of the free market. Edmund Burke was the archetype of classic conservatism, eloquently espousing a considered approach to political matters (see the money quote in his Speech to the Bristol Electors). Curiously, or perhaps not so for one as considered as he, Burke was highly sympathetic to the the American revolutionaries - an interesting conjunction and contrast with the sentiments of John Dickinson (fellow PA delegate to Ben Franklin in the Continental Congress - I commend you to the wonderful libretto of Stone & Edwards' "1776" for an entertaining and accurate take of his argument).

Honest Conservatives: what a concept. David is right - they'd all be considered Flaming Liberals talking crazy talk these days. Fox and Friends would never invite them on.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I'm the self-depreciating mocker who walks shod on sacred ground.


Dude, there are many words that describe you, but "self-depreciating" is not one of them. Or even two of them.

LarryHart said...

gerold:

Larry Hart said: "Genesis Chapter 3 never actually says that Eve was expelled from the Garden of Eden."

Naturally Adam took all his possessions with him. He wouldn't leave such valuable property behind.


It's not like anyone else was around to steal it.

locumranch said...


Rationisers tend to OVER-estimate their effects on the human environment.

As a practicing physician who actually worked in an East Coast Paediatric Lead Clinic in the mid1980s, I can attest that the primary source of paediatric lead poisoning was lead-based house PAINT, used almost exclusively before 1960 in urban settings located east of the Mississippi, whose neurological toxicity correlates most closely with rise of progressive Blue State pro-socialist sensibilities, so if any political faction is disproportionately effected by lead-based brain damage, it is the urban Blue State progressive.

Deteriorating lead paint and lead-containing household dust are the main causes of chronic lead poisoning. This according to Wikipedia. This was confirmed by any number of toxicology text books & my west coast toxicology professor who insisted that lead poisoning was 'barely a thing' west of the Mississippi.

Finally, a quick word on the Feudalism political system as the logical extension of the extended family generation model. Of course, minorities & the biological offspring of immigrants hate it, because they are NOT 'our family'. They are self-acknowledged minority interlopers & outsiders who hate the biological majority; hence the rise of progressive identity politics as the means to undermine & destroy the biological family unit and install a minority-controlled secular state as tyrant & family leader.

Numerous sociological & psychological studies confirm that humans prefer the company of & confer favour upon their biological kin -- David does this when he boasts about the accomplishments of his children -- so the extended 'extended family' model of feudalism makes perfect sense assuming a modicum of genetic similarity. Which is why a British Britain & an Israeli Israel makes sense,

Perhaps because of residual neurological damage from deteriorating urban house paint, the Blue State urban progressive would have you believe that the democratic majority would be better served by rule by either an exclusive genetic 'fact-using' elite or the tyrannical genetic outsider.

If this were so, then the progressive should have embraced the "benevolent rule' of the Axis Powers during WW2 & the USSR thereafter, the sad fact being that many progressive did embrace these tyrannical political regimes bent on world domination, as evidenced by photos showing a pre-election President Bill Clinton partying in Red Square during a militarised parade on May Day.

MAGA


Best

occam's comic said...

Although I do think there is a strong causal connection between lead exposure and the spike (from ~1960 – 1990) then drop (from ~1990 to about 2010) in crime rates, murder rates and rates of unwanted pregnancy, but I am not sure you can blame lead exposure for the Trump election.

The casual connection between lead exposure and things like the murder rate has to do with the effect of lead on a person’s impulse control. If you graph out a population’s ability to control their own actions you get a distribution with some people having a great deal of self-control and some with poor self-control and a bunch of people in between. Lead exposure shifts that distribution slightly towards to poor self-control. That can substantially increase the number of people with “criminally” poor self-control but its effect on the average person will be minimal.

If lead exposure caused us to elect Trump, did it also cause us to elect Obama?

I think a better explanation for Trump can be found in the traditional division of candidates between the Candidate of Change (Trump) vs Candidate of the Status Quo (Clinton).
If Clinton won it would be a continuation and intensification of the dysfunctional government we had with Obama and the Republican congress.

As terrible as Trump is, his presidency is opening up the possibility of real change for both better and worse.

LarryHart said...

occam's comic:

I think a better explanation for Trump can be found in the traditional division of candidates between the Candidate of Change (Trump) vs Candidate of the Status Quo (Clinton).
If Clinton won it would be a continuation and intensification of the dysfunctional government we had with Obama and the Republican congress.


This point was made here recently, although I don't remember if it was you who made it.

I don't disagree, but I think voters are incredibly tunnel-visioned on the presidency if they voted for "change" in that office but "status quo" in the congress and expected that to solve anything.


As terrible as Trump is, his presidency is opening up the possibility of real change for both better and worse.


Yes, he functions as a living example of how bad change for change's sake can turn out.

(I'm not sure that's what you meant)

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

MAGA


Serious question: In you opinion, when exactly was America great? In what way are we less great now? And in what manner does Trump seem likely to improve the situation?

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re "I'm the self-depreciating mocker who walks shod on sacred ground."

I thought my Amadeus nod was witty, but this just drives my values down
and shod clods who trod on hallowed gods are hollow frauds and clowns.

donzelion said...

occam's comic: "As terrible as Trump is, his presidency is opening up the possibility of real change for both better and worse."

Trump would not infuriate me if he were merely Bush III + Twitter. Were he just Bush III, he'd only threaten stagnation (far from 'real change').

The risk he poses to "real change" is by sabotaging the foundation of unfinished projects, like our country. When you're building a building, 'real change' occurs once the structure is finished, useful - until that happens, everyone looks at a 'potential change' and hopes it will go well. Yet if someone starts knocking about and undermining the foundation before the building is finished, he may force the whole edifice to be restructured, all the work to be repeated. This is not a "creative act of demolition" - but sabotage.

That is the 'real change' Trump represents: not merely the stagnation of Bush III (do nothing), but active sabotage of many millions of efforts.

donzelion said...

Occam: or put less metaphorically, we had 6 years of 'fully functional' government from 2000 to 2006: Republican domination of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Presidency. Look what they built: two wars that were both wretchedly conceived and never even got the folks who attacked us, and economic disaster.

The ONLY "real change" that will occur (beyond twitter feeds and phoney changes) is that a select group of billionaires will watch their net worth skyrocket.

Anonymous said...

Duncan Cairncross:
If the brains of the Republicans were severely damaged, perhaps Donald Trump will impose a new law that forces all of us to use intelligence-lowering devices, to avoid "unfair competition."

Gods! I thought the chicken in the refrigerator still worked. After all, refrigerators are to prevent food from rotting. Is the roast chicken not kept in good condition for a week? (A characteristic of bacterial poisoning is the super migraine caused by the toxins of bacteria) (thank goodness I know of herbalism) (resolved issue).

Winter7

Darrell E said...

I agree with donzelion that Trump is wreaking serious damage to the structure of our systems of government (and more). I don't think we will know the extent of the damage until years after he is gone. I'm talking about, for one example, all of the departments that most people never hear about, or even know exist, that do most of the actual work of governing. The part of the machine that usually keeps things together pretty well even if an incompetent, or worse, is in the White House. Trump and his administration have been wreaking havoc in these departments like nothing seen before, at least in modern times.

I've got to disagree a bit about Bush Jr though. He, or his administration, were far from do nothing. Besides starting wars and lowering taxes they also wreaked a bit of havoc with the machinery of government. Compared to Trump though it was very purposeful and precise. What they did was to disrupt the intended balance of power between the three branches by usurping it from the other two and gathering it to the executive branch. This seemed pretty evil and treasonous to me. Still does. I was sort of hoping that Obama would undo those things, but of course he didn't. It isn't often that people or organizations give up power.

occam's comic said...

Donzelion

The kind of real change in a negative direction that I fear from Trump is intensifying the Global War of Terror and instituting "a perpetual emergency" at home. So far, a moderate intensification of the Global War of Terror (as seen in the increased civilian deaths from American forces in Syria.) The Iran situation seems to be headed for conflict as well. But so far, no perpetual emergency at home.

The possibility of real positive change is coming form the opposition to Trump. If the Democratic Party can disempower the Corporate, DLC, pro-globalization New Democrats and actually, quickly implement policy changes that really help make the lives of most Americans better. (I am giving this a ~20% chance of happening)
More likely the corporate, DLC, pro-globalization jerk offs will retain control of the democratic party and offer up some complicated half-assed attempt at providing a half loaf (make that a 1/4 or an 1/8 of a loaf, you have to be realistic ). You know, something like Obama Care 2.0.

Anonymous said...

Donzelion:

I suppose Donald Trump is the monster of Frankenstein of the Republicans.
Do you remember what Víctor Fránkenstein tried to do to solve the problem? I wonder how annoying some Republican leaders are with Donald Trump.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Darrell E:

Does it seem that the current laws tie the hands of the citizens when a president takes off his mask and reveals with shame all the absolute depravity he concealed?
That feeling of helplessness, that all honest citizens in the world feel sooner or later, when we discover the truth.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

In Mexico, trying to convince my fellow citizens that we were being deceived by politicians and oligarchs was an incredibly frustrating experience. It was something like this:
Link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7K5LSsJN90

Winter7

donzelion said...

reformed tourist: "one of things I've tried to champion is the vital need to do exactly the outreach you mention to international groups by my union"

Then you, sir, are part of the solution. I have a sense of the obstacles...

Dr. Brin makes the standard argument that a 'rising tides lifting all boats' - a good argument, but unimpressive to the grease monkeys patching up the boats to prevent them from sinking in the first place. For them, the better argument involves looking at who benefits from poking holes in a boat - who benefits from cheating?

Obama never could make the argument that American cheaters and Chinese cheaters contrive ways together to cheat both American and Chinese workers. He couldn't say that the problem was so entrenched in China that the best course would be to set up a TPP with everybody but China. If he had said those things, he would have jeopardized relations with China, which is an important player in its own right (but rotten with American and Chinese plutocrats). That was the argument missing from TPP discussions, but it was always the purpose of the TPP.

I think union workers - conservative, liberal, indifferent - would have understood that argument: they're sensitive to managers, owners, people who don't have a stake in the work (but only in the profits of THEIR work) looking to cheat, concocting ingenious devices to cheat the folks actually doing the work. I suspect a very large percentage of every union would identify as conservative if by that, they meant "fair pay for fair work" and they frowned upon freeloaders. The problem that unions exist to fix is that there are so many tricks to raid the pension fund...a common one starts with some variation on, "Look out! That guy over there is trying to pick your pockets! Let me protect you!"

locumranch said...



The old adage about being 'careful about what you wish for' has reached fulfillment with the recent EU elections & the Trump presidency as Trump & the newly elected EU nationalists represent the personification of progressive Blue State identity politics & their incessant call for identity group specific representation.

In the good old USA, white citizens are killed by white police officers more than 63% of the time, yet no one seems to care about that, yet when one black citizen is killed by a white police officer, all hell breaks loose with rioting, claims of institutional racism & demands for identity group specific representation, the argument being that the identity group specific police officer won't be tempted to preserve his own life when threatened by a potentially dangerous felon of his own identity group.

Of course, Hispanics, Feminists, Asians, Brits, Africans, Ukrainians, Arabs, Israelis & 'good' Germans everywhere feel exactly the same way, and if you credit the progressive Blue State call for identity group specific representation & policing at all, then you & every fascist Nazi extremist bastard are in perfect agreement.

Perhaps you'll realise that progressives are narrow-minded hypocrites who have been hoisted on their own petard if you read some more SciFi.

And, btw, the "sacred scoffer who goes shod on sacred ground" is a SciFi literary reference to 'A Rose for Ecclesiastes', Roger Zelazny, 1963, so you could say that SciFi made me into the broad-minded individual that I am today.


Best
____

Nations are 'great' when citizens elect, are ruled by & are represented by their own identity group specific demographic. Like, ya know, when the North American colonists rebelled against those stuffy British 'fact-using' aristocrats who did NOT represent the NA colonist demographic. Does that answer your smug little question, Larry_H? Or, are you an ethnocentric racist sexist 'One Ring to rule them all' bigot who thinks that different identity groups do NOT deserve equal representation?

donzelion said...

Winter7: I think Dracula, more than Frankenstein.

Frankenstein's setting can be a metaphor for the work of a precocious aristocrat in an era of crumbling aristocracy, determined to use his genius to create a 'new man' from old parts - failure resulting in a horrifying corpse. Shelley might have been writing about Napoleon, who similarly wanted to construct a 'new' aristocracy, only for it to prove horrifying and hideous.

Dracula's setting is an older one: many old folk tales tell of similar bloodthirsty monsters enduring off of blood. He is a straightforward metaphor of a monstrous feudalism that endures perpetually in Transylvania, casting a shadow over everything, occasionally 'charming' with some vestigial trappings of 'civility' - but always a brute.

To me, Trump's tweets are the flitting wings of vampire bats. I pray light may dissolve the fiend.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned strategies to defend us from the attacks of the evil robots. But; In addition to Brin excellent advice to record the government, no one else mentioned strategies to defend us from the attacks of the oligarchs who went completely to the dark side of the force. Perhaps society taught us not to think about it since we were children and for that reason we think that it is impossible to solve the problem and consequently, we do not even think about it, then, why think about the impossible? But everything is possible.

“There are some things we might not know, but that doesn't mean we should give up. We can find out what we need to know. We can find out anything.”
Klaus Baudelaire.
Winter7

donzelion said...

Occam: "I fear from Trump is intensifying the Global War of Terror"

I fear less an 'intensification' than a 'diversion' back to where Bush Jr. left things: rather than a global war against terrorists, a ploy to enrich Americans while ignoring terrorists and merely targeting 'bad men.' The ploy with Iran, if it actually leads to war, is not about protecting Americans, but multiplying the holdings of billionaires into hundreds of billions.

"The possibility of real positive change is coming form the opposition to Trump."
I only wish this were true. Rather, we have the workers on the worksite, after the owner/developers betrayed them, rallying around foundations and structures they've started building saying, "Hey! Why are you trying to tear this down!"

Actually finishing the buildings is 'real change.' Trying to safeguard the works during their early stages is not 'real change': it's stubborn refusal to let all one's effort be in vain.

The only time it will start becoming 'real change' is when people start to see the foundation, and early ugly starts for what they are: the 'start.' So far, that's uncommon. It's easy to poke holes in a building before the walls have been fixed. But it does not make for a prettier building.

"You know, something like Obama Care 2.0."
Obama Care 1.0 was the ugly foundation; dying of cancer is uglier. I have a dear friend (even more a SciFi fan than I, and the one who first tuned me in to books about talking dolphins) who would be dead but for this quarter loaf.

occam's comic said...


"You know, something like Obama Care 2.0."
Obama Care 1.0 was the ugly foundation; dying of cancer is uglier. I have a dear friend (even more a SciFi fan than I, and the one who first tuned me in to books about talking dolphins) who would be dead but for this quarter loaf.

I am glad your friend is still alive.

But maybe you should also be talking to my friend who went on the health care exchange to get health insurance for himself and his family, paid thousands of dollars for the "coverage" only to find out after his kid was in an accident that his health insurance would not kick in until he spent many more thousands of dollars in health care costs. To him Obama Care was a stab in the back, and he is not forgetting about it nor is he forgiving it but he sure does tell his story to a lot of people.

donzelion said...

Darrell E: "I'm talking about, for one example, all of the departments that most people never hear about, or even know exist, that do most of the actual work of governing."

Wise...I've called attention to NOAA, NASA's little, unloved sister, far more likely to be chopped. Department of Energy? There are many...

"I was sort of hoping that Obama would undo those things, but of course he didn't."
As you said, repairing damage may take a lot longer than anyone realizes. That 'repair/discovery' work typically involves people: some of the executive employees have always been partisan saboteurs.

Take Clinton's 'wetlands' scheme, launched in August 1993. Some good policies there. Unfortunately, a lot of bad eggs at the EPA as well: they took his 'mandate' and instead of targeting the largest offenders they could find, proceeded to chase after the unintended targets - small farmers who might have extended a field into a preserve. This created precisely the sort of story that made Limbaugh fat and converted Fox & Foulness into 'guardians of the little guy against big government.' The scheme worked.

Magnify that through THOUSANDS of agencies, and you'll understand the problem of "good policy, compromised executive." Institutional tricks (payment schemes, seniority schemes, etc) can mitigate this - but they take time. When you say, "Of course Obama didn't fix the problem," his first years were spent on efforts to make the problem 'fixable' at all - the last years on actually resolving it. Unfortunately, that also made the last years' work the most easily reversed.

locumranch said...


Your pursuit of fairness & reparative justice is self-delusion:

We all agree that a black identity group member cannot receive justice or fairness from an all-white southern jury, just as we all agree that a white identity group member cannot expect either fairness or justice from an all-black southern jury.

That's because we all realise (on some level) that justice & fairness are all-or-none phenomena. Yet, the progressives among us insist that both can be achieved through proportional representation (somehow) even though a defendant judged by a jury representing only SOME of his peers could only expect SOME proportion or approximation of justice & fairness.

Is proportional or approximate justice enough for any of the progressive 'Zero Tolerance' crowd?

How about another '3/5ths Compromise', an approximation of freedom, proportional subjugation or just SOME rape?

The most unforgivable lies are the ones we tell ourselves.


Best

gerold said...

Duncan Cairncross said...
"Roe V Wade is almost exactly when lead in petrol started to drop!

If we had one uniform "Unites States" and no other data then the "Lead Hypothesis" would still be a hypothesis

But we have different US states who took the lead out at different times - each one separately confirming the Hypothesis"


Do you have a link with supporting data? I haven't seen it.

This article by Steven Levitt (from 2004) has some good data, and also shows how difficulty it is to explain the causes of complex social phenomena:

http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/LevittUnderstandingWhyCrime2004.pdf

It doesn't address the lead hypothesis, unfortunately. That came out in 2014.

Vox has a nice summary of competing hypotheses, here is the one for lead:

https://www.vox.com/cards/crime-rate-drop/lead-crime

There is agreement that it's a complex problem with no single answer. I think a major factor is not being addressed at all however. We're like drunks looking for our keys under the streetlight. We can only analyze the factors that are easy to quantify.

During this time period, Western culture has applied Enlightenment values more comprehensively than ever before. All those nice ideas about human rights? Now they're actually being applied, even to racial minorities, women, gays and other non-conformists. Part of that new awareness is the recognition that criminal behavior isn't cool. It's unwoke. If you don't like being mugged, murdered or raped, don't do it to other people. Kant do it.

LarryHart said...

Winter7:

Does it seem that the current laws tie the hands of the citizens when a president takes off his mask and reveals with shame all the absolute depravity he concealed?
That feeling of helplessness, that all honest citizens in the world feel sooner or later, when we discover the truth.


In America, at least, there are plenty of ways an outraged citizenry can deal with a bad president. The problem comes when a large percentage of the voting population actually likes him for what he is, and supports him after the mask is off. In that case, it becomes difficult to undo what never should have been done.

The Health Warrior said...

Duncan. your hypotheses is wild and intriguing!

Locum. "As a practicing physician who actually worked in an East Coast Paediatric Lead Clinic in the mid1980s, I can attest that the primary source of paediatric lead poisoning was lead-based house PAINT, used almost exclusively before 1960 in urban settings located east of the Mississippi, whose neurological toxicity correlates most closely with rise of progressive Blue State pro-socialist sensibilities, so if any political faction is disproportionately effected by lead-based brain damage, it is the urban Blue State progressive."

You are right! Here's a map of the urban blue state progressives. https://www.reuters.com/investigates/graphics/lead-water/en/

Shoving politics aside. I'm curious if you could share what your protocols back in the day were for removing lead from the body and how effective you think they were. Did you test urine, blood, hair? Has anything changed? One of my colleagues at the gym was having some thyroid issues and her Doc started running panels looking for underlying factors, and she tested out of the reference range for lead and mercury. She followed up with dmsa chelation. But I also read that high doses of vitamin C and cilantro essential oil were effective over a longer period. Also curious why it isn't the norm for a GP to order a heavy metals test just as part of a routine physical. It seems like we would catch a lot more problems early on and save cost, lives and resources on unnecessary allopathic medicine and pharmaceuticals if Doctors ran more tests without having to have reason other than gathering baseline data.

Thanks

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion & reformed tourist,

So... in a nutshell you both are saying corporate owners understand the need to cooperate across national boundaries, but labor does not and they will remain at a disadvantage until they do?

Jon S. said...

And pray tell, occam, what your friend's outcome would have been without the exchanges provided under the terms of the ACA? Or do you honestly believe that health insurance would have been happy to provide full coverage with no deductible before that?

I keep hearing these stories, and when I look into the details, it's always comparing the situation on the ground with some hypothetical perfect situation - in every case I've investigated, either the people concerned had no insurance at all prior to ACA, or they had insurance whose terms were even worse (sure, there's low fees and no deductible! Turns out you're only covered for minor injuries incurred during a full moon on a Tuesday, though...).

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Gerold
I will have a look for the data

Just a though on the abortion hypotheses
Abortion was a state concern - not a federal one - so each of the 50 states would have had different laws ?
Roe V Wade put a minimum floor on those rules
But some states would have seen almost no change - and some states a major change
If that hypothesis was viable then some states would have seen a major change and some a minor change in crime - which is not what we have seen

Try these for some light reading
https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposure-gasoline-crime-increase-children-health/
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/06/01/new-evidence-that-lead-exposure-increases-crime/
https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lead-crime_hypothesis
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/07/violent-crime-lead-poisoning-british-export

Alfred Differ said...

Chelation therapies are punishing on the body.
I'd have to be WAY outside the reference range before I'd consider it.

Read up on how they actually work. Heavy metals don't exit the body quickly without being dragged out.

Anonymous said...

According to a CTV news story about a 2015 report from the Fraser Institute:

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians spent a total of $141 billion on health care that year. The authors divided that number by the Canadian population, concluding that, on average, each Canadian contributes $3,961 for health care each year.

However, as the report notes, not every Canadian pays an equal amount in taxes. Dependents and children are not responsible for paying taxes, while high-income earners must pay more than low-income earners.

To account for this, the study broke average Canadian families down into 10 income groups, concluding that Canada’s poorest families pay $477 a year for health care, while the wealthiest earners pay $59,666 a year.

The Fraser Institute, which has published multiple studies and commentaries critiquing the Canadian health care system, describes itself as an independent and non-partisan research organization.


The last paragraph is a bit misleading, as the Fraser Institute is very right-leaning — as such they tend to exaggerate the costs of government programs while under-reporting the costs of privatizing them. So the reported expenses are probably overestimated. (I know their reports on public education are incredibly misleading.)

Still, even the simple average is less than I hear quoted for most US health premiums.

reformed tourist said...

Alfred Differ -

No, " in a nutshell you both are saying corporate owners understand the need to cooperate across national boundaries, but labor does not and they will remain at a disadvantage until they do?" is incomplete and lacks context:

Corporate owners are "members" of an overly-successful consensus with a goal of increasing profits and reducing liability. Their influence is out-sized with governments due to there ability to have leverage disproportionate to their fictional "citizen" status (thanks USSC for Bank of US vs Deveaux et al) primarily through the ability to allocated large sums of money to and for favored politicians and against disfavored ones. (sigh - thanks again USSC for CITIZENS UNITED equating money and free speech).

It is easy to suspect conspiracy when the reality is merely entities acting in parallel agendas. Conspiracies do exist, but they tend to be short-lived due to exposure vulnerability, and individual agenda drift. Consensus efforts are generally more powerful and enduring. Corporations (and the neo-feudalist class) both compete and band together simultaneously; much like nation states. There are examples from my little pond e.g the Gulf states with vertically integrated and owned enterprises (i.e. their airlines) which has now partial exposure through, of all things, the Mueller investigation (quelle surprise).

Labor is more diverse and less focused for a depressingly large number of reasons. Despite right wing rhetoric, individual unions don't have all that much power to spare - their first priority is always the negotiation and maintenance of a contract for their members with their employer.

The kicker: Unions may NOT use dues income for political purposes such as direct support of politicians etc. Of course, corporations enjoying "citizen" status, even if they don't get to vote have limitations as well. However, the ability to form and fund PACs is key (I won't get into slush funds and other illegal means). Unions have to convince their membership to contribute beyond their required dues - something the average working class member is generally loath to do. Corporations can simply re-direct funds as they see fit to accomplish their aims. To illustrate, my union is at the top of the heap in many ways with a membership that at major airlines enjoys a low 6 figure annual average income (definitely top 5% of wage earners). Yet our PAC is only funded to a bit less than $3M per year. I could continue in this, but let me provide a very recent citation:

Quoth Mick Mulvaney, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” To be accurate, he did say he always talked to constituents; he didn't say how much weight he gave their concerns.

Part of my job includes PAC intake interviews and briefing candidates. I use that experience to exhort our members to 1) join the PAC and, 2) increase their contributions as their compensation increase. I provide color by adding, "If you should come to me and say you are running for Congress, my 1st question to you is not are you a Republican or Democrat or Pastafarian. It is can you show me 2 million dollars - oh wait, you are in a hi-media market so show me 4 million. If you are elected and come to me for congratulations, my first response is can you show me where you'll get 10-20K a week starting now - oh wait, you want to pass bills and not be a back-bencher, so can you get twice that; did you not know your caucus leadership has their own PACs and they want you to fund them?"

And that's just the backdrop before (and during) legislative efforts and treaty negotiations... That's in a "civilized" country of laws like the US - imagine if we were in, say, Mexico where disdainful americanos used to smirk about the 400 families who owned and operated the country... oh, wait...

If it was only a matter of chanting Workers of the World Unite; you have only your chains to lose... if only.

reformed tourist said...

Alfred Differ -

I left out mention of the ability to bootstrap influence when you have spare change to establish 501c3 "interest" organizations and "news" outlets. PACs are limited by FEC rules to a max of $5000 per candidate/year.

Unions and the non-organized working class don't have that much spare change.

And the reference for the Mullvaney quote is https://tinyurl.com/yd93n3uz

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

And pray tell, occam, what your friend's outcome would have been without the exchanges provided under the terms of the ACA? ...

I keep hearing these stories, and when I look into the details, it's always comparing the situation on the ground with some hypothetical perfect situation - in every case I've investigated, either the people concerned had no insurance at all prior to ACA, or they had insurance whose terms were even worse


I think this is a case of "All stories are true."

locumranch said...


Health_Warrior's questions about childhood lead exposure are problematic, although much of the pertinent information regarding CDC lead exposure guidelines can be found at the following link:

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr4914a1.htm

The short answers are that (1) the US Federal government mandates serum level testing for all children enrolled in state & federal Medicaid programs because (2) poor children are judged to be at 3X greater risk for contracting lead toxicity than children NOT enrolled in these programs, (3) more than 80% of eligible Medicaid children never get tested or receive this federally mandated testing because (4) most cases of lead toxicity are asymptomatic, (5) most Medicaid programs represent a huge unfunded mandate & a net financial loss for all those primary care providers willing to participate, (6) any attempt at strict enforcement would render most Medicaid patients without any further access to primary care, and (7) the state & federal governments are even more dysfunctional than most americans can ever imagine.

Back in the day, the chelation agent of choice was Chemet: It was prohibitively expensive (costing more than $1000 USD/month); it caused disabling GI distress in about 1/6 of children who took it; and it could cause major side effects including blood dyscrasias, liver failure & neurological damage.

Adults almost never undergo routine testing for lead, mercury or heavy metal toxicity and, aside from the inadvertent consumption of lead-based paint, calcium nutritional supplements made from bone meal are huge sources of lead toxicity in adults. Most nutritional 'health food' supplements are extremely dangerous & potentially toxic because their contents (including contaminants) are exempt for FDA regulation & testing and, like pet food, are often adulterated with melamine.

Worldwide, the whole healthcare system is FOBAR!! The USA spends 15% of its GDP on healthcare (with up to 40% of each dollar going to administrative costs), whereas the UK & Canada spends about 10% of their GDP on healthcare costs (with somewheres between 12% & 16% spent on administration), but it is impossible to compare these figures because all national healthcare systems often contain hidden subsidies like rent & tax exemptions.

Obamacare sounded great, but it was a wealth redistribution fraud that stole from Peter to fund Paul.


Best

donzelion said...

Alfred, reformed tourist: "corporate owners understand the need to cooperate across national boundaries, but labor does not and they will remain at a disadvantage until they do?"

Not quite. I'm actually arguing 'conspiracy,' a la Ivar Kreuger (the Match King), a style of creative accounting that makes it quite possible for a well-placed oligarch to profit from the absence of effective rules. Both corporate owners and unions can figure out how to cooperate across boundaries: neither can profit as much as an oligarch pursuing a scheme that may take advantage of both other groups and divert their money to his own hoard.

donzelion said...

reformed tourist - reading your response to Alfred Dilfer, thought I'd respond to your response as well.

"Corporate owners are "members" of an overly-successful consensus with a goal of increasing profits and reducing liability."
Corporations want to increase profits, workers want to increase compensation, and by and large those motivations are fixed. The owners are motivated primarily by increasing net worth. To some extent, profits SHOULD result in increased value of shares - but see Amazon, Elon Musk - sometimes profits may be deferred indefinitely in favor of attaining a monopoly, sometimes profits are secondary. There's lots of ways to amass greater net worth (preferably, for American billionaires, without amassing any income - and corresponding tax liability at all).

"Consensus efforts are generally more powerful and enduring."
One such effort is common among billionaires: trading assets back and forth with one another in such a way as to increase the value of their assets - then finding ways to get some 3rd party to pay them based on the value they've attributed. It's sort of in between a 'conspiracy' (they know this is a game with no actual production connected to it) and a 'consensus effort' (each knows that if any calls foul, they all lose fortunes, so the consensus drives proceeding through each round of play).

If they do that overseas, they get a powerful barrier of language, culture, distinct legal norms - all of which aid in escaping detection, let alone regulation.

"If it was only a matter of chanting Workers of the World Unite; you have only your chains to lose... if only."
Given the 30 unions fighting in Anaheim (with the police union the only one actually winning), I have a sense of the scale of the problem. It's harder regionally, and harder still in mere statewide matters - and that's in California, possibly one of the more 'pro-union' states in the Union. I fully grasp how hard it would be internationally. Absent attentive players who recognize the need - and the obstacles - it is impossible.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion, Alfred Differ -

My point is that it is a much higher hurdle for unions to cooperate effectively across national boundaries than corporations and oligarchs. The game is rigged and it is the rigging that has to be dealt with, as well as making common cause.

And I stand by my observation re conspiracy vs consensual efforts. Think of predator packs - no conspiracy per se, just learned behavior that increases survival probability for all while each individual seeks ascension to alpha status. Conversely, consider prey behavior...

Back to political action - there are 535 members of Congress (House and Senate combined) so if one wanted to be a player in every race with a max of $5K per a year, you need to allocate $2.675M in legal contributions.

Let's say you only targeted the important ones: Committee Chairs, Ranking Members and specific prominente - say, 25% -'s call it 160 , then direct support would cost $800K.

Now let's see what elections really cost - the last special election in my neck of woods post 11/16 was for a state legislature seat. Hope you're sitting down. The total amount of money actually spent by and for the candidates via the parties and interest groups was around $10M - did I mention this was for a state legislature seat? Granted this was a swing seat that would lead to control of the legislature, but Jeepers! BTW, the forecast for the FL senate seat with Nelson vs Scott is expected to be around $70M.

This is our democracy, cherish it. (h/t to Charles Pierce)

donzelion said...

Locum: "Obamacare sounded great, but it was a wealth redistribution fraud that stole from Peter to fund Paul."

We have always been redistributing wealth to 'steal' from Peter to fund Paul. The difference this time was that instead of Paul consisting of a handful of billionaires, there was a chance that smaller families might benefit. Never read your Zelazny ref; still think I had a witty response. ;-)

Occam: Since your friend's experience is the result of an accident, the first question I'd ask is was his child so unfortunate as to have had a similar accident before ObamaCare, and another one after? Bear in mind, some of the 'egregious' items added by ObamaCare were removing caps on coverage: many people who liked their 'cheap' garbage policies never realized they had caps in place that would kick in as soon as they actually incurred major medical expenses.

"To him Obama Care was a stab in the back"
Many people feel that way, but the lack of a suitable comparison makes it hard to evaluate the feeling: prior to ObamaCare, medical costs caused about 50% of personal bankruptcies in America. Elizabeth Warren actually did some impressive research on that while she was at Harvard (the convention of the early 2000s suggested 'latte a day + big screen TV drives people bankrupt - just look at those credit card bills!' - her work suggested most of those who max every credit card at once are not silly people, but people with massive unplanned medical costs, followed by people divorce and criminal charges).

donzelion said...

reformed tourist: "My point is that it is a much higher hurdle for unions to cooperate effectively across national boundaries" - a point well taken, and I never meant to suggest otherwise (and indeed, I still wonder if AI might ever play a role on THAT side of the challenge? it surely will on the other...).

Corporations CAN cross borders - and may do so if they sniff a likely prospect for profits that is better than alternative prospects. Oligarchs are different still: they can invent opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist, then dispatch corporations to make good upon those opportunities on their behalf.

Think of Lord Such-and-Forth sending the East India Tea Company to deliver loads of opium to China: lots of ways to profit from trade, even in goods completely illegal to trade at home, all of which buttress his otherwise crumbling estate. Or Billionaire This-or-That, buying a stake in useless property in rural China, then using his shares in a corporation to push it to buy that useless property for a new plant, converting what was useless and cheap into a windfall.

Health Warrior said...

Locum,

Yeah. Know thy farmer, and see the plants and animals you’re going to eat first-hand is the best dietary rule to follow. Suppliments can be scary. I was appalled to see a “this product contains trace amounts of lead” warning label on a can of pysillium husks!

Appreciate your informative response on lead. Curious what/how you would want to restructure American healthcare. How would you go about resolving the worst problems you face and see?

Thanks

reformed tourist said...

donzelion -

All good points that support the basic premise on which we seem to agree.

With regard to AI, that will surely ultimately play a role in economic evolution and therefore political, as well.

Back to my little pond is a development a little closer to realization - the proposed use of remote "augment" pilots. Currently Federal Aviation Regulations impose max duty times "at the controls." As such, on long haul flights, extra flight crewmembers are required.

At a briefing I attended 2 years ago by the Pentagon inter-service committee tasked with UAV and related issues, I questioned if there was a timeline for using remote pilots for the augment on military longhaul airlift and tanker missions. The answer was 2025. So I figured maybe 5 or so years proof-of-concept before we'd see migration into the civil world. Flash forward to 2 weeks ago - one of the late additions suddenly attached to the "Must Pass" FAA Reauthorization Bill (H.R 4) was "to study single/remote-pilot cockpits in cargo operations."

I won't bore you with how this conflicts with the "One Level of Safety" initiative that includes all the technical and practical aspects of why we should allow safety regulations to discriminate between passenger and cargo operations.

Nor will I bore you with my attempts to make it a priority that my union prepare for the inevitable and prepare the groundwork to bring remote pilots when they arrive into our membership so as not to repeat the disaster of Flight Engineers and Navigators from years back. That imperative is not simply about compensation and dues; it includes rest requirements, max duty assignments etc. My union is bifurcated with one element being non-industrial as one of the world's largest and most respected safety organizations.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion (et al)

Correction to my last- the line should read:

I won't bore you with how this conflicts with the "One Level of Safety" initiative that includes all the technical and practical aspects of why we should NEVER allow safety regulations to discriminate between passenger and cargo operations.

apologies - time to turn in.

donzelion said...

reformed tourist - as for PACs and expenses, I live in a similar district in California, where a Democrat unexpectedly prevailed in the state senate, resulting in the first Democratic supermajority in Sacramento. Uncounted tally on the recall drive since that falls outside ordinary campaign finance, but you can imagine the complexity if not only do you have to buy politicians, you have to buy out the people trying to buy them out.

But I wasn't really talking about PACs, but the TPP. There's a strange sort of work that happens with treaties - the PAC side comes into play getting senators to vote yea or nay, but slightly different groups put forward wording for the trade negotiations themselves, more the think tanks than the PACs, though the two worlds are rather porous.

donzelion said...

reformed tourist - re AI in this context, I have never once heard anyone propose a concept of a 'union AI' before. It initially occurred to me as a jest (if the company makes it's AI, why not the unions?) - but I'm wondering it the concept is really so funny. Why not? Could there actually be some application?

"one of the late additions suddenly attached to the "Must Pass" FAA Reauthorization Bill (H.R 4) was "to study single/remote-pilot cockpits in cargo operations."

Wild. Wonder who got that in? Your response of trying to bring in remote pilots strikes me as prudent, but then again, this is your field, so I respectfully defer to those who are respectable.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion -

I wasn't on the Hill that week (restricted travel due my medical situation), but was kibitzing with my colleagues via text, email, and phone (kinda like an augment pilot - coulda been sitting on my parent's couch in the basement in my bathrobe eating chips while being the backup pilot on maybe 3 or 4 flights simultaneously).

As to who was behind it, don't know for sure, but a certain company that changed the delivery industry was behind the carve-out for cargo operations on FAR 117 which dealt with air carrier rest requirements in the wake of the Colgan accident in 2009...

Anonymous said...

One moment ... The existence of high amounts of reactive perchlorates on the surface of the planet Mars can only lead us to an explanation: Mars had a huge ocean .... But how could Mars lose all its water? The only thing that occurs to me, is that the sun sent a huge solar flare just in the direction in which the planet Mars was. Our world was saved, because the flare maybe only lasted half an hour. But it must have been an impressive coronal mass ejection. In fact, maybe it was more than that. Perhaps, in the past, our star was one of those stars that suddenly throw a jet of plasma and energy from one side. And Mars was right in the path of that jet of energy, for a brief time.
Ho; sorry. I know that is not the issue. The subject is…
Given that we are the only website with people who know the truth of certain policy issues ... I must assume that everything we say is read by Donald Trump ....
That is, for example, if I said that I suspect that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are actually lovers (Donald down), then, most likely, Donald would know that I said that ... (what a terrible idea) ... And if I said that Donald Trump is a fat man with the brain of a weasel, then, Donald Trump would know that I said that .. And if I said that Donald Trump is married only to hide from the world the love he feels for Vladimir Putin ... Then he would know that I said that. And ... Anyway. Time to go prepare a sandwich of beans and avocado.

Winter7

gerold said...

Duncan provided some good references for the lead-crime hypothesis. I haven't drilled down to the actual data, but the arguments look persuasive.

As horrible as lead poisoning is, that cloud has a shiny silver lining. It's really easy to fix. Banning leaded gas and lead paint is very doable.

The Guardian article by Monbiot notes that there are still countries where leaded gas is still used; places like Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma, Iraq, North Korea, Sierra Leone and Yemen.

Leaving the question: does leaded gas make a place a shithole? Or is that the only kind of country that still poison themselves?

Thanks Duncan, good info.

gerold said...

Re: Mars atmoshere

You don't need a solar flare to lose your atmosphere and oceans. With planets, size matters. Mars is smaller than earth. Not sure whether the metal core is proportionally smaller, but Mars doesn't have the metal dynamo core that keeps a strong magnetic field and drives continental drift.

That combined with a weaker gravitational field allows the solar wind to strip the atmosphere and blow the oceans into space.

Our magnetic field guides charged particles blasting out 24/7 in the solar wind along to field lines into the atmosphere. That means they hit the atmosphere perpendicular, visible at northern and southern lights. We actually gain hydrogen from the protons we capture. Without the magnetic field, they scrub away atmosphere around the edges. As atmospheric pressure decreases, more water evaporates. Less air also means bigger temperature differences on the day/night sides, freezing at night but boiling in the day.

I'd rather see us build a higher orbit station and permanent moon base than mess around with Mars. It's a sad little planet and so far away.

reformed tourist said...

donzelion -

You said "... if not only do you have to buy politicians, you have to buy out the people trying to buy them out."

In essence, that is is exactly what happens. Since the rise of Super-Pacs and other "Interest groups," one of the outcomes is the following:

Super-Pac (SP) addresses a given Campaign Finance Director (CFD)
SP holding out very large check - We want your boss to support/oppose this issue.
CFD reaching out for check - Of course, I will inform him/her/it of your sentiments.
SP snatching check out of reach but still visible - No, you don't understand; we REALLY want your Boss to support/oppose this.
CFD reaching further for the check - Absolutely, I will convey your sentiments forcefully with every intonation and nuance I can.
SP holding on to check, waves it tantalizingly, turns and starts to exit the room only to stop at the door - No, you still don't get it. If your boss doesn't support/oppose this issue, this check is going to somebody who will primary his/her/its ass in the next election cycle...

Also you said "...more the think tanks than the PACs, though the two worlds are rather porous." I'll ask more forcefully, who do you think funds these PACs and "think tanks' (both bona fide and otherwise)? Consider the opposing "scientific" testimony in things like the tobacco industry, climate change etc etc. The same is true in trade issues. It is a symbiotic relationship and lobbying efforts go beyond visits to the Hill, agencies, and WH including PSAs, letters-to editors, mailers, 'net forums and on and on using material that was generated for the express purpose of supporting the desired goal. TPP was no different.

Happens with internal government policy decisions too - putting a Pre-clearance Customs/Immigration facility in Abu Dhabi (2014) despite the fact that NO US airlines serve the airport with direct service to the US was NOT done with regard to trade/treaty considerations. Previously the only such facilities were at the few airports that were served by US carriers and had very high passenger loads bound for the US, specifically 8 Canadian airports, 2 Irish, and the Bahamas. The compelling argument was made from Langley/Foggy Bottom/Pentagon. Think rendition/basing/over-flight... All threatened if the Gulf coast airlines didn't get an extra goody for marketing purposes. The WoT is being used for many, many tortured (pun intended) justifications. Has been since 9/12.

Enough.

locumranch said...


Young and foolish I was, I have little to say, tried to 'fix' healthcare, found ideals just don't pay.
Feed off the leavings, the solicitor's way, and profit from conflict, and from social decay.

The jobs are a-leaving, yet the workers remain, the hands that are idle, are the devil's refrain,
Unions a-dying, are to nationalist gain, as the dream of 'One World', all but circles the drain.


Best

donzelion said...

Reformed: "The compelling argument was made from Langley/Foggy Bottom/Pentagon. Think rendition/basing/over-flight..."

When I lived in the region (never in the UAE), some of the carriers were clients, so I'm not totally free to speak. Sanctions on Iran justified a great many concessions; America had them in place for almost 40 years now, tightened them intensely, but Iran and everyone else ignored them, until the last 4 years or so. Logical quid pro quo, also coaxing Riyadh businessmen (but not royals themselves) to fly through the UAE, I suspect. There's so much Iranian and Saudi money in Dubai, but nobody in the Gulf could afford to buy Abu Dhabi.

Extraordinary rendition came earlier (more like '02-'05). I don't know of many cases to the UAE; Syria, Cairo, and others seem to have played a bigger role as destinations. If the UAE demanded this as quid pro quo, it would probably have been for keeping quiet about what they knew, rather than special benefits, and that's not so easily a traded perk. Hence, I'd read Iran as higher probability.

David Brin said...

Couldn't weigh in much. Got a sudden invite to speak in 10 days near Hong Kong. It will be a very busy month, with speeches in LA, DC, Santa Cruz....

But thanks Duncan. I'll insert your theory into a coming blog.

Meanwhile...

onward

onward

Twominds said...

The onward call has sounded but I will leave this here:

Oh, all spam should be so poëtic as this one from Stefney Leo! It was fun to read.

It gives me the feeling this scam comes from India, it could be a Bollywood scene.

Onward!