Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reshaping Humanity - and Earth

Will signs of human civilization – our unguided plunge into an “Anthropocene era” – be visible and detectable to others millions of years from now, after all surface relics are ground to dust?  This article by Adam Frank - from The Atlantic - explores possible signs, like a layer rich in nitrogen from all the fertilizers we use (I think phosphorus may be a stronger indicator.)  

“Likewise our relentless hunger for the rare-Earth elements used in electronic gizmos. Far more of these atoms are now wandering around the planet’s surface because of us than would otherwise be the case. They might also show up in future sediments, too. Even our creation, and use, of synthetic steroids has now become so pervasive that it too may be detectable in geologic strata 10 million years from now. And then there’s all that plastic. Studies have shown increasing amounts of plastic “marine litter” are being deposited on the seafloor everywhere from coastal areas to deep basins and even in the Arctic,” writes Adam Frank, astrophysicist, NPR blogger and author of the soon-to-be released book - Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth.

Frank continues: “When we burn fossil fuels, we’re releasing carbon back into the atmosphere that was once part of living tissues. This ancient carbon is depleted in one of that element’s three naturally occurring varieties, or isotopes. The more fossil fuels we burn, the more the balance of these carbon isotopes shifts.” 

I might add that there could be signs of our recent fiddling with nuclear fission.  And our cities would leave anomalous ore deposits of patterned and interlaced metals.

Frank's article goes on to discuss how fifty-six million years ago, Earth passed through the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). During the PETM, the planet’s average temperature climbed as high as 15 degrees Fahrenheit above what we experience today, and some ways it resembles what may happen if climate change spins out of control. But it happened slower, then, not at the extreme rate we are driving this process. So no, that likely wasn’t a civilization.  

Many of you know I've pondered this notion fairly deeply, as the most-used pundit on the popular History Channel show: "Life After People."

One wonders if those who follow us will use that word, to describe us. “Civilization.”

== Reshaping Humanity ==

Are we reaching an important turning point?

A recently released book on AI, The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity by Gigaom publisher Byron Reese, delves deeply into the important questions rising from progress in Artificial Intelligence, automation, the end of work and - just what makes us human. Reese makes a case that technological advances have reshaped humanity just three times in history: 

- 100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language.

- 10,000 years ago, we developed agriculture, which led to cities and warfare.

- 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which lead to the nation state. And that we are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics.

I’d quibble with this timeline, which calls all of those inventive leaps more recent than they actually were. Indeed, in Existence I posit that a huge revolution of thinking must have taken place approximately 40,000 years ago when, within the span of a few centuries, our ancestors vastly expanded their toolkit and made art and religion major facets of their lives. And what’s the Industrial Revolution, exploiting fossil fuels to exponentiate what we could do? Indeed, I can think of at least a dozen accelerations that happened in narrow windows of time, that were probably the bio-human equivalent of sudden operating system upgrades.

We are doing one right now... and old style humans are so terrified that they're clawing at the rest of us, ready to tear it all down, rather than face the inevitability of change.

On Medium, you can read the preface to The Fourth Age, a worthy contributor to the biggest topic /discussion of our era.

Oh, while we're at it.... This article from Big Think lists ten books that explore the future tech of Machine Learning, Robots and Artificial Intelligence -- including Machines of Loving Grace by John Markoff, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark and Our Final Invention by James Barrat.

 == No, scientists weren’t talking “ice age” ==

One of the insidious lies told often about climate change is that“scientists believed back in the 70s that we were heading to an ice age.”  Never mind that surveys have shown that cooling theories constituted a minuscule minority of climate papers, since World War II and they were swiftly debunked. If you offer statistics, confederates blank out.

So let’s go to anecdotes, their prime food.  Like the 1970s film “Soylent Green,” immensely popular, depicting greenhouse broiling in a near future Earth,

Also in the 1970's Steven Spielberg directed a short movie predicated on global warming and air pollution, Los Angeles 2017. It was an episode of the TV show Name of the Game.

One of you, (Jerry E.) cited a science series that became a film shown in schools from Sputnik to the 1980s. The episode of Bell Science program The Unchained Goddess,which was shown on CBS television on February 12, 1958 discussed human-caused global warming. “I remember watching it on television, and I also remember it being shown in my "red state" rural school several times when I was a young child. At that time, Bell Science Series shows were a very big deal to any kid interested in science.” The most relevant two minutes of the program is on YouTube.

And yes, warming was the trend most-widely credited by a vast majority of the scientific community even back then, without satellite data. This is what we are reduced to. The all-out war on every fact profession, from science to the FBI, from journalism to military officers, has reached the point where we cannot deal with our mad uncles with evidence and statistics, only anecdotes.


It’s long been debated whether early humans were responsible for the extinctions of large mammals, all over the globe. Apparently, new data is closing in on confirming the notion. It appears that humans drove North American ground sloths to extinction - along with most large mammals - around 11,000 years ago. More evidence arose in a startling human footprint – apparently running, that was pressed into mud very soon after a sloth pressed his. There are few possibilities other than the drama of a hunter chasing prey.  Wow.

David Christian's Origin Story: A Big History of Everything offers a comprehensive timeline of the universe, from the big bang to the evolution of life on earth....asking what the future may hold. Christian cofounded the Big History Project with Bill Gates.

Another book that delves into the history (and possible future) of life on earth: A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth, by Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink. 

Researchers studying a Bajau community of traditional deep-divers in Sulawesi, Indonesia have found that these families have enlarged spleens that help them handle oxygen better.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Some of our community have links with the space industry

Last night - possibly after eating something too spicy - I was thinking about a commercial opportunity that Elon Musk appears to have missed

As a result of his re-use policy SpaceX now has a number of complete boosters that will never be used again (they were older models) and also the remains of a number of heroic near misses

Musk also has a "Fan Community" - who appear to be willing to spend serious money on his brainwaves

A couple of his no longer required boosters could be cut into say 200mm square sized pieces and the pieces sold along with a nice "Certificate of Authenticity" as hardware that has actually been in space

Distinctive items like the guidance grids - especially the partly melted ones - would make the sort of "Art" piece that large companies would pay lots for

Pieces of the heroic failures could be even more valuable

20 million people watched the Roadster Launch - 20,000 people paid $500 for a $50 "flamethrower"

Would a million people pay $1000 for a part of a rocket that had actually been in space?

If anybody has a link to Elon Musk they could drop a hint - I'm a tight Scotsman and I would love a piece of a rocket that had been in space - and I would even pay $1000
There I have written that - now I'm going to go and have a lie down

Shakatany said...

Well it does look like we humans may have been responsible for many extinctions including this one:

donzelion said...

Sadly, even if the erroneous 9 paragraphs Newsweek published in 1975 have been recanted by the author and repudiated conclusively by the scientific community, they continue to circulate, forever casting a pall on every other projection or claim in the magazine.

As I see it, the most likely explanation for both mathematics and literacy was as a tool to prevent cheating (initially, to record who deposited what grains, who owned them in the granary, etc.). We started developing several of our key technologies to guard against cheating: perhaps that will prove to be AI's chief function (esp. AI that already trades our trillions of dollars of virtual assets every day).

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | One team I was with through the late 90's used to bag the pieces of our failed rocket launches and sell them as 'rocket chips', so your idea is not new. We didn't get anything into space, so we couldn't command high prices, but they did occasionally sell as people understood the joke we were having at our own expense.

My suspicion is Musk might consider the collector value of some of his hardware later after the competition with the other billionaires is over. When he has CRUSHED them mercilessly, he might do it. However, I doubt he will be tempted to carve things up much. Think of the signal you'd send to your neighbors with a full sized booster sitting on your driveway. 8)

Anonymous said...

It seems that a militia has already emerged ready to defeat Skynet.

Before you read the link, consider the fact that the website owner claims to be a hacker; consequently, if you want to visit that site, I suggest you do so from a public computer in an internet cafe. (Waw, que locura)

Link (at your risk):

Anonymous said...

Ho, sorry. forget to sign the above. It's me, Sir Winter.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
I didn't think it was a "New Idea" - but I did think that it was an idea that Musk could use to get another "small" dose of capital
Besides I quite fancy a part to hang on my wall

A Falcon 9 is about 33 tons of metal
So 33,000 1kg lumps - if he could get $1000 each that would be $33 Billion - even $300 each that would be a Billion

He could get a lot more for the big impressive bits like the Merlin "Bells" - but the number of punters willing to shell out $50,000 or so is a bit lower

The highest yield would be to do both!

Anything that could reveal anything commercially confidential could be taken out of the flow

And waiting strikes me as a BAD idea - the more he flys and recovers his boosters the more mundane and "normal" it will become and the less the bits will be worth

locumranch said...

David wonders if those who follow us will use the word 'Civilization' to describe us, talks blithely about 'Reshaping Humanity' & dismisses the unreasonable concerns of 'old style humans' who are terrified about the inevitability of change.

I am left awestruck by David's lack of linguistic self-awareness:

(1) He proposes nothing less than the END of recognisable human civilisation when he questions that those who follow us will use the word 'Civilization' to describe us;

(2) He suggests the veritable extinction of recognisable humanity when he talks so blithely about 'Reshaping Humanity'; and

(3) He asserts that recognisable humanity has somehow out-lived its usefulness when he dismisses the fears & concerns of those silly 'old style humans'.

This planned replacement of a recognisably imperfect humanity with a new & improved Better Angel technological human hybrid, this is the batshit crazy Nazi "Final Solution" on a truly monstrous scale.

That said, it's truly hilarious how many prophetic similarities there are between the progressive 'The Fourth Age', the regressive 'The Fourth Turning' & the apocalyptic 'Book of Revelations', the only difference between the three being that 'The Fourth Turning' remains somewhat optimistic about the continued survival of imperfect old-style humans, whereas the other two predict old-style human extinction & replacement due to a rapturous 'singularity'.


Amen, Duncan_C. He is spot-on when he suggests that serviceable rockets may be LESS valuable than chopped up ones sold as technological fetishes to service the 'Religion of Science', as described in the link below:

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | He already has too much 'supply' from a collector's sense to get $1K/kg. I doubt he would get $0.1K/kg.

Collectors are very sensitive to supply. Look at the price of American silver dollars from the 20's and you'll find they match close to the price of silver UNLESS there is something very special about them. We printed lots and lots of them, so they could do their ACTUAL job which was tied to the price of silver. A few are exceptional in that they look freshly minted, or have odd features, or they had special histories. The common Morgan or Peace dollar is worth a bit more than the silver, but not much.

Waiting might actually help, but I don't expect it to help much if at all.

It would be cool to have a piece, though. I agree with you on that. The point I'm making is I don't think he'll get the price you imagine. They WILL be collectors items, but probably as whole units if the price they could fetch is to be maximized.

[We sold our rocket chips as chips because that was the end state of the test flights. If the vehicle survived, it was worth more to us than to a possible collector.]

David Brin said...

The last para, about how the "Fourth Turning" ends in an optimistic note, was actually interesting. (The rest was the typical howl-storm of insipid nonsense. And yes, the millennials I meet seem calm, sapient, brave and ready to save us from the loony Boomers -- like locumranch and Steve Bannon.

They can see that Bannon & ilk are trying desperately to make the fourth American "crisis" happen and in gruesomely violent ways. They can see that the right's apocalypse junkies are bent on triggering calamity. They will remember who did that. When their "hero generation" takes charge, they will hate every thing that Bannon and Pence and locum stand for.

Millennials are already secular, irreligious, calm, educated and scientific and almost utterly anti-racist and anti-sexist. Sorry, fellahs. If the Fourth Turning crisis becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy, that won't prove it valid. Just another psycho religious tract that brought on its own craziness. And the "heroes" will crush those who deliberately incited such misery.

David Brin said...

PS... cowards. Dozens of wagers are on the table. Any guts/honesty at all? TAKE THE BET over the incredible lie that scientific consensus in the 1970s favored an ice age. You lie. Your entire movement lies. And you are sniveling cowards who can't step up to a wager.

locumranch said...

If you'll pardon a brief digression, I'm beginning to believe that what humans call Progress, aka 'improvement, onward or forward movement as toward a destination', is more about creating new & random 'clang' associations between previously unconnected data points.

As an example, I googled the Bomb Worship scene from the film 'Beneath the Planet of Apes' (circa 1970) just a few moments ago, all in order to make an unpleasantly snarky connection between Science & Religion, which led to the Reel Antagonist film review site I linked above, leading (in turn) to a post on same site about the financial film disaster that was Costner's 'The Postman', which leads us back to our host.

For not only was Costner's 'The Postman' a poor adaption of our host's rather excellent Science Fiction juvenile, but Costner's film was a figurative 'Bomb' (Estimated Budget $80 million, Box-Office Total $17.6 million, Net Loss Total $62 million) which appeared to me (then) to be a 'Dances with Postman' sequel to his 'Dances with Wolves' and 'Dances with Trees (Robin Hood)' wherein David's Holnists were cookie-cutter substitutes for the evil Union Calvary from 'Wolves'.

As a juvenile, David's 'The Postman' compares quite favourably with Asimov & Heinlein's juvenile space operas (circa 1950) which, by happy non-coincidence, were all largely obsessed with heroic scientists mining the Asteroid Belt, overcoming adversity & fighting Holnist-style space pirates.

That's not too bad, as origin stories go.


Now taking wagers on time remaining before Telsa Motors goes belly-up & Elon Musk gets exposed as a Madoff-level confidence man. Place your bets, gentlemen. Place your bets.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

Collectors are very sensitive to supply - so that explains $500 for a $50 "flame thrower"??

I think you are missing the point - the "Market" is not just collectors - there are literally millions of people who would like something that has been to space

$1000/kg - may be pushing a bit too far but $100/kg - which means a piece of an actual spaceship that has been up there for your wall for $100

20 million people watched the Falcon Heavy take off

The two boosters that landed next to each other were old stock and will not be re-used

Think of that picture on your wall with a piece of one of the boosters - $200? Bargain!
In 500 gram lumps (1kg is too big) - that would be 120,000 pieces -

120,000 unique pieces - That is NOT a large number when he sold 20,000 flamethrowers

The worldwide market is a LOT bigger than you think - 300 million people in the USA alone - how many are "Space Fans" - 5% - at least - 15 million customers in the USA alone

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Loco
I don't normally read your drivel but I'm willing to take your bet on Tesla

What do you propose?

Anonymous said...

Duncan Cairncross:
All right. certainly Space X scrap could sell well on the internet.
I think that meteorites could also sell well among collectors. (That is, if we can find meteorites somewhere)
I have noticed that, in the cities with iron and steel activity, it is very easy to confuse remains of slag from furnaces with a meteorite. And the meteorites that explode or the fragments of those that fall apart in the air do not usually have the melting streaks of the meteorites, so the carbonaceous chondrites, at least I, confuse them with common rocks. And actually, I think that only once did I locate a fragment of a large meteorite impact. A drop of metal encapsulated in hardened oceanic sediment. (I lost that stone) When I broke the stone, I noticed the shiny metal, but I put it in a glass with water and the metal rusted, so I guess the metal was iron for the most part.
It seems worth looking for meteorites. I must do that one day.
But the idea of marketing Space X scrap could be good business.


David Brin said...

Oh! Oh! I am in such agony over the insulting dismissal of my "juvenile!" Golly.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Winter7

The advantage that SpaceX would have is the "Certificates of Authenticity" -

Actual certified meteorite bits do sell and for a lot of money - thousands of dollars for 10 grams

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Certified meteorite bits are not available by the metric ton. That's the difference for collectors. 8)

I think you may have a good point about the flame throwers. I shouldn't be looking at this from the perspective of a collector. I should be thinking about people who bought pet rocks. Fad purchases. Okay. In that case, the price he gets depends on how it is pitched. There should be a range of things from common stuff at $19.95 to rare stuff at $1995. The museums might want hardware that did something 'first' like landing safely, landing on the barge, re-flight & safe recovery and so on, but that probably leaves a lot of equipment.

Alfred Differ said...

There isn't much point in placing Tesla bets with locumranch when we can do that just fine through the equity and options markets.

@locumranch | So, what position have you taken with ACTUAL money?

Personally, I tend to stay away from TSLA. It's expensive to own and swings a few percentage points in a single day's trading.
TSLA options aren't much better unless one can sell them short. That takes more reserves than I'm willing to risk when the IV is a little over 50% and a single at-the-money contract (call or put) is near $2K. Also, the put/call ratio is near 1.0, so I'm not sure anyone really knows where this is going

If you want to short TSLA, you'll need some balls to do it. They had a good run up (~20%) this month. No doubt they will correct a bit as people pull money off the table, but I don't think the price really reflects TSLA's value. It reflects the mood people are in about TSLA.

If you can predict it, put your money in. I don't think I can.

Anonymous said...

As for the Elon Musk flamethrowers that you mention; I have noticed that these flamethrowers are more for defensive use, as to scare thieves in our homes (with the precaution of not getting too close to the Christmas tree that many of us used to leave in a corner for almost half a year.) The real flamethrowers used in the war ( Stalingrad) are flamethrowers ... Different and the fact that Elon's flamethrower is not an attack flamethrower is very good, because it means that Elon Musk prefers to create defensive weapons, and it is certainly what I have always said: we must use non-lethal weapons to defend ourselves against the psychopaths, we must be the good cowboys in the movie.
Elon Musk's flamethrower reminds me a lot of the flamethrower used in the first Aliens movie, (I do not mean immigrants, I mean the film in which Sigourney Weaver appears). The movie in which Ripley; acting in a totally irrational way, the kitten is returned to save even though there is no time left. (The ship's self-destruct system was activated) That, incidentally, in the future exploitation of the mines in the asteroid belt, it will be convenient that all transported with minerals load have self-destruct systems. (In case the ship fails and is on a collision route with the earth).


Anonymous said...

All mining spacecraft must have a self-destruct system because all cargo ships are dangerous if their navigation systems fail. The past of my country is proof of this:

Jesús García Corona
(13 November 1881 – 7 November 1907) was a Mexican railroad brakeman who died while preventing a train loaded with dynamite from exploding near Nacozari, Sonora, in 1907. As el héroe de Nacozari he is revered as a national hero and many streets, plazas, and schools across Mexico are named for him.

García was born in Hermosillo, Sonora. At the age of 17 got a job with Moctezuma Copper Company, but due to his age, he was made a waterboy. He was promoted to switchman, then to brakeman.

Jesús García was the railroad brakeman for the train that covered the line between Nacozari, Sonora, and Douglas, Arizona. On 7 November 1907 the train was stopped in the town and, as he was resting, he saw that some hay on the roof of a car containing dynamite had caught fire. The cause of the fire was that the locomotive's firebox was failing and sparks were going out from the smokestack. The wind blew them and got into the dynamite cars. García drove the train in reverse downhill at full-steam six kilometers out of the town before the dynamite exploded, killing him and sparing the population of the mining town.

In his honor a statue was raised and the name of the town of Nacozari was changed to Nacozari de García. He was declared Hero of Humanity by the American Red Cross, many streets in Mexico carry his name, and the Estadio Héroe de Nacozari sports stadium in Hermosillo is also named after him. García's sacrifice is remembered in the corrido (ballad) "Máquina 501", sung by Pancho "el Charro" Avitia, and Mexican railroad workers commemorate 7 November every year as the Día del Ferrocarrilero (Railroader's Day). His heroism is also recounted in the ballad, "Jesus Garcia" sung by Arizona State's official balladeer, Dolan Ellis, who wanted to let the world know of the "Casey Jones of Mexico" who saved the town.

The "Máquina 501" song in free translation:

Engine 501
rolls through Sonora.
And the brakeman
who won't sigh will cry.
One fine Sunday, gentlemen,
'round three o'clock,
Jesús Garcia sweetly
caressed his mother.
"Soon I must depart,
kind mother,
the train whistle
draws the future near."
Arriving at the station
a whistle blew shrill.
The wagon with dynamite
menaced with its roof afire.
The fireman says,
"Jesús, let's scram!
that wagon behind
will burn us to hell."
Jesús replies,
"That I cannot own--
this conflagration
will kill the whole town!"
So he throws it in reverse
to escape downhill
and by the sixth mile
into God's hands he'd arrived.
From that unforgettable day
you've earned the holy cross
you've earned our applause.
Jesús, you're our hero.
Engine 501
rolls through Sonora.
And the brakeman
who won't sigh will cry.

Instead of the train, it could still be, in the future, a huge cargo spacecraft with the reactor and navigation systems failing after a solar storm.


yana said...

David Brin (relating Byron Reese):

"100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language."

That's absurd. Go take a walk in the woods, language is all around us. Better, take a walk into the woods and then stop, sit down, and just listen for an hour. There are two kinds of people who do that: spirituals and scientists. Both will tell you that language does not require hematite and tinder. Only a few years ago, we learned that dolphins have names. Even when separated for a couple years, they call each other by the same names they used earlier. That's language. And the chances of a dolphin harnessing fire is... yeah, it's that.

"And yes, warming was the trend most-widely credited by a vast majority of the scientific community even back then, without satellite data."

Missing the point, there was a debate over cooling/warming in the 1970s, it was up in the air (so to speak) because on one hand, there was atmo data showing a warming trend, but on the other hand, data from ice cores telling us that on average, interglacial stable periods last 8,000 to 18,000 years, and about 12,000 years is common. If we're at 12,000 now, a well-meaning scientist can be excused for raising the alarm about an Ice Age in the 1970s. It's what we tell commuters all over the world now: if you see something, say something.

Don't deny that there was a real debate in the 1970s. Back then, obvious which datasets had the stronger hand, and it wasn't a very long debate. But denying the history of it only feeds the goofy semi-science of today's pick-and-choose science denialism.

On the third hand, advances in apparatus have refined ice core data interpretation, and most Ice Ages seem to be immediately preceded by a spike in temps. Even if this is true, even if that's what we're doing now by burning stuff, it's gonna be ok. All the tech we're discovering now to combat warming will be neatly reversible if we face cooling instead.

"Millennials are already secular, irreligious, calm, educated and scientific and almost utterly anti-racist and anti-sexist."

Allelujah. I call them "normals", and they've just been painted a vivid picture of what apathy means in a representative democracy. Note that the self-ID 'religious' was declining until late 2001, then it spiked just after. Now, what happens 15-20 years after a social trend? ANY social trend? The kids rebel.

A nice convergence, this particular rebellion today. Steeped on higher religion and fear of foreigners, and then just as they're getting politically mature, they get a wave of 'christian sharia' laws. Just as they're getting politically active, they gain innate ability to communicate worldwide (except in NKorea, Iran, China, etc.)

Obviously, they'd rebel by being inclusive, tolerant, and keen on the usefulness of science.

Anonymous said...

It is sad that the whole planet is still in the phase of denial regarding the problem of global warming. The most unconscious form of denial is when we block our awareness to such an extent that we don’t even take in something that’s happening. On Sept.11th, for example, Susan called her boss over to witness what she was seeing from her window at work in NYC, as the second plane flew straight into the second building and destroyed it. Her boss, who was standing right next to her, insisted that it was an optical illusion. He simply could not take in the reality of the situation.This kind of denial makes the people around it feel like banging the side of their head against the heel of their hand. They are essentially being told that what they are seeing right in front of them,doesn’t exist.It’s crazymaking. It makes us doubt our sense of “normal” and question what we see in front of our eyes or feel in our guts to be true.
It is important to find a way to make the world leave behind the denial phase. Because right now, we are all sliding rapidly towards the precipice of climate change, and we should focus on applying drastic solutions to the problem. ¡Since many years!

Anonymous said...

A French girl crossed the border by mistake and was detained for two weeks. It is evident that she was locked up because she is brunette. If she were white they would not have done anything to her. Racism grows among the border guards:



yana said...

David Brin:

"Oh! Oh! I am in such agony over the insulting dismissal of my "juvenile!" Golly."

Bud, what's wrong with you? Here's what locumranch said:

"The Postman compares quite favourably with Asimov & Heinlein's juvenile space operas (circa 1950)"

Flocking hell, me'd plotz a geldbrik if anyone ever said that about my book. Face it, locran adores you. With each new datapoint, confidence is growing around one of the ninety possible explanations for locran's posts here. Possibility #51 is that you are paying an annoyance tax, from the audacity of naming this blog what you did.

If you key on the idea of "contrary" then we'd almost expect that someone would take on the challenge, someday. Whatever you say yay, locran'll say neigh, but in a form of tribute to you, because the nays are not tangents of a complete separate worldview, they are not extrapolations of an outside wisdom store, they are interpolations of your own writing. Every week the interpolation crystallizes more pure: it's contrary for the sake, implying that locran seeks your approval.

Locran loves you, and the way of showing it involves epitomizing contrariness. Honestly, it's kinda cute, and fun watching it unfold.

Mike G in Corvallis said...

@Winter7: "Instead of the train, it could still be, in the future, a huge cargo spacecraft with the reactor and navigation systems failing after a solar storm."

Not exactly a new idea. See "Sound Decision" by Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett, in Astounding Science Fiction, October 1956. In this case it was an interplanetary spacecraft with 200 passengers that was going to impact Long Island Sound near NYC. They didn't have a self-destruct bomb ... so the captain requested that Ground Control send up a missile with a nuclear warhead.

Anonymous said...

Mike G en Corvallis:

Yes. A heroic sacrifice similar to that of Captain George Kirk; the father of Captain James Tiberius Kirk, who launched his ship against the Romulan enemies, to save the survivors who escaped.
And, as I see the current situation in the world, perhaps very soon, many of us will have to decide if we are heroes or not.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Sometime in human history we started "Cultural Evolution"
Changes were invented spread and conserved - which being about a million times faster than Darwinian evolution took over

This appears to have happened abut 70,000 years ago when stone tools went from glacially slow improvement - tools 100,0000 years apart look the same - to lightning fast change

We don't know what happened
My theory is that what we call "Language" happened

Which was probably linked to the "pre-language" we see in nature but was a completely different animal

yana said...


"as I see the current situation in the world, perhaps very soon,"

You can't believe how many times that's paraphrased in both religious texts and webspiracy theories. I love that stuff, keep up on it because every now and then an alarmist fringe comes up sixes. What's really heroic is keeping up the patter with people you meet every day, so they know that you support humanity's onward trek, but not pressing them to come along. The ones who perk up and ask more, each one a footstep in the trek, but nothing is ever going to come "perhaps very soon" thus a watchman is bitter but a witness is zealous.

Anonymous said...


And certainly we all want things to be as you say Yana. But often, our sensible decisions are put in check by the most unnameable evil. Yes. In your country you can probably live according to your ideas. But you certainly would not like to visit some places in Mexico. Hooo, Yana. If you knew what is hidden behind the masks.


yana said...

Duncan Cairncross:

"We don't know what happened
My theory is that what we call "Language" happened
Which was probably linked to the "pre-language" we see in nature but was a completely different animal"

To each animal their own, but language is independent of technology. There is no such thing as "pre-language," that's a lingering conceit of the primacy idea, facets of which fall every couple centuries. First, the Earth was "prime", then the Sun, then Man. As we speak, the primacy of Man is being proved fallacy. If you're stuck on the concept of language as evidence of the primacy of Man, watch this and get back to me...

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Yana
When plants or animals invent "Cultural Evolution" then I will say that they have language

Until then the ONLY animal to have language on earth is humanity

yana said...


"Hooo, Yana. If you knew what is hidden behind the masks."

Oh my goodness, Winter7. The depths which the human condition can plumb are not unknown here. Where to start, naw better to leave it there.

"certainly we all want things to be as you say Yana"

Then give up the urgent expectation of the world going down some kind of shitter or other "perhaps very soon," which is after all just a temporary impetus to live the life you already know you should.

It's easy to recognize the basic human decency in people you meet every day, it's not so easy to infer the basic human decency of people whom you hear about on this or that newsfeed.

"our sensible decisions are put in check"

No, they are not. To claim so is to abrogate any "natural" human rights, become a useful example to locumranch, and doom oneself to the impotence of later apology. The "End" is not nigh, if one person takes the future one person at a time.

yana said...

Duncan Cairncross:
Hi Yana
When plants or animals invent "Cultural Evolution" then I will say that they have language

Until then the ONLY animal to have language on earth is humanity"

Took you six minutes to post this reply, and the documentary linked in my previous post is 53 minutes long, so perhaps you're not open to new information?

As i already know, the last segment in the film directly addresses your first knee-jerk rebuttal above. For your convenience, will re-post the link, and for the second time, will encourage you to get back to me after watching it...

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | I might not agree with yana on particular details, but the notion that other animals use language is sound enough. To avoid that, you'll have to define language so tightly that you'll be in conflict with what researchers are also finding out about human languages. We use a few simultaneously.

... and yes. They evolve. Ours evolve really fast. So fast we support the equivalent of viruses in our heads. We haven't quite invented good memetic security methods just yet.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi yana
A 53 minute documentary on plant language when they simply don't show the advancement inside the generations that humans did after inventing language

I will watch it - Ok watched it - all about Darwinian evolution fascinating - but hellish slow evolution and that video - why do US programs take so LOOOONG to tell us stuff

Does not change my point even slightly

yana said...

Duncan Cairncross:
"they simply don't show the advancement inside the generations that humans did after inventing language"

Of course they don't, they're plants. Who the flock told you that plants could talk? This ain't no cheap Rick Moranis movie here. Even with all the evidence, you still believe that plants only exchange chemicals via dutiful clockwork, devoid of any awareness of their surroundings?

My explanation holds more water: molecules are words to plants, they use them to communicate with their own kind as well as with other species, both vegetable and animal. They exchange molecules to express concepts of parentage as well as clan membership, and can be more gender-expansive than the most permissive human society.

To deny that plants use language, a language fitted to their needs and not ours, is to pick-and-choose among scientific results. Rats, Dunc, didn't know that you were a selective science denialist. Ah well, good luck to yah.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Ok so I should not call it "Language" as you guys have copyright on the term

Wait lets see what the DICTIONARY says!!!

"the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way"

That is what I would call "Language" and it is the "construct" that enables humans to transfer any information from individual to individual and enables "Cultural Evolution" to take place

Looks like the Dictionary agrees with me!

So you guys should go away and find another word for the types of information transfer that you are talking about

Language is already taken!

How about Lanheich for your usage - I don't think anybody is using that word

yana said...

Duncan Cairncross:

"Looks like the Dictionary agrees with me!"

D00d, i just, i just can't. You gotta come with more than that.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi yana
You argue that "Language" is a broad word that means many different things
I show you the definition
and you say "You gotta come with more than that."

I would have thought that as I was using the actual dictionary definition then YOU would have to be the one coming up with a justification for a different definition!

Anyway this is all just jabberring around the point - something happened which permitted humans to operate using "Cultural Evolution"

This "something" was the ability to transfer ideas and information about new things inside a society and to later generations

Bu the dictionary definition that is what "Language" does and the various form of "Pre-Language" used by non humans do not meet that definition

But call it "Fred" if you want

"Fred" now means
The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way

"Language" now means (according to yana)
Signals that can be used to convey a limited and non extendable range of subjects

Changing the subject
"Millennials are already secular, irreligious, calm, educated and scientific and almost utterly anti-racist and anti-sexist."
Because they were not brain damaged by lead the way we old buggers were and are??

yana said...

Thank you,

Language is a method of communication. People have several, we already know that animals have several, as well as a generally common vocabulary amongst them, and now we know that plants do the same exact thing. Just slower.

The root point here is that Byron Reese is nutty to say that fire enabled language. It has always been with us, since we were shrew-like critters gnawing on dinobones. Communication takes place within many species, and even across species and kingdom lines, certainly predating any ideas about scraping your favorite flint across a broken hematite nodule.

Dunc, you seem to be defending the primacy of Man in a changing universe. Humbly submit that the reason the floor seems to be shifting under humanity's feet is that the more we learn, the less we seem to be in control of things. Blame it on quantum mechanics, at the root of it. That's what killed the last gods, and that language is quite extendable.

locumranch said...

And then there's 'Body Language' wherein humans, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish & insects communicate complex messages through colors, patterns, signs, posture & dance. And the sounds, pitch & song patterns used as communication by insects & birds. And the simple chemicals received and excreted by plants & bacteria that communicate complex chemotactic & chemotropic behaviours.

It's ALL language assuming that the applicable stimulus used by one discrete identity transfers reproducible information to yet another discrete entity.

Using the above definition, it's possible to argue that humanity's attempts to communicate using patterns of abstract grunts & scratches does not meet the above definition of language per se, since the meaning conveyed by what humans call 'language' is imprecise, easily misunderstood & largely irreproducible, as in the case of David taking (mock?) offence at my use of the trade term 'juvenile' when referring to his 'Postman' novel, especially when most of his target audience -- and, in fact, most of 'enlightened western humanity' -- barely reads at a 5th grade level.


Robert said...


yana and the Rancher höchstpersönlich have beaten me to it, but rating The Postman above the Heinlein juveniles is hardly an insult. Good as your work is, it also isn't true. I'd also put the first Uplift trilogy ahead of The Postman. That still leaves it way up there. To be more precise, I put the Heinlein juveniles ahead of 90% of Heinlein's own work, all of Asimov, and all of Clarke except for Childhood's End and The City and the Stars.

As for the movie, our host's evaluation is one I agree with - actually pretty good, but well short of the book. If you want movies that mangled good books, try Jumper, Earthsea, or Childhood's End. The last two from the people who brought us Sharknado

Thanks also for the book recommendations! Three have gone onto my library list - a record.

Bob Pfeiffer.
From the home state of The Postman - also the state with highest proportion of people who read for pleasure.

Darrell E said...

Regarding the language discussion, I think Duncan, yana and Alfred probably aren't too far apart though they stress opposite ends of the spectrum. I often am the one arguing that humans aren't particularly special. Meaning that all of the characteristics that have traditionally been used as examples of human specialness, characteristics that only humans exhibit, have more recently been discovered in other organisms to one degree or another. Obviously I agree with yana on this.

However, I also often find myself arguing that degrees do matter, that in fact in real life degrees are all there is. Despite some very basic similarities there is a huge difference between the communications of plants and the communications of humans. Or even between other apes and humans. And the degree of difference is very significant. Plenty significant to warrant categorizing them differently as Duncan, and most other people, do. Not because of a commitment to or desire for human specialness but because it is a useful distinction to make because it maps accurately to real world phenomena.

David Brin said...

Winter7, what a cool story about the brave brakeman… and inspiring for SF? Ah, but my story “The Logs” - recently published in INSISTENCE OF VISION - is very similar including a train between asteroids and a brave rescue.

Um yana, shifting the goal posts so that the word “language” now encompasses dozens of species with rudimentary semantic skills is reasonable. Only then we need a new word for the kind of spectacularly more effective and agile and creative linguistic skill owned by humans, and we are right back where we started.

Mind you, I write extensively about animal conceptual abilities and their potential to go beyond the current glass ceiling that constrains everyone from dolphins and apes to sea lions, elephants and crows. But “we’re all the same’ - while it sounds generously pro-diversity - is not helpful or remotely accurate.

Bob, the notion that ol’ locum wasn’t trying to stab is as absurd as his hallucination that I give a dar…. zzzzzzzz

Alfred Differ said...

@yana | molecules are words to plants

That's the stretch too far. Confusing my endocrine system for a language system is the same kind of error people make when they confuse the map for the terrain. WE abstract the chemistry involved into linguistic terms. Plants and animals using such systems do not.

Languages require far more than communication. They must involve abstraction, compression of information, and have an analogy structure. If I say 'sour grapes story' it means a lot more than the sum of 'sour', 'grapes', and 'story' do together. If I say 'coffee' it could mean a type of bean or an experience at a restaurant. What each of those mean, though, depends on what many of the other linguistic elements mean. Chemical systems, whether carriers of information pass through the blood, water, or air cannot do that. Comparing our words to those chemicals gets to the root of the error. Our linguistic elements are FAR more.

Alfred Differ said...

@Darrel E | And the degree of difference is very significant.

Yes. Agreed. The way I usually put it is that humans aren't spectacularly special, but we are kinda special. We ARE doing something spectacular, but the physical difference that enables this isn't huge. It's just self-reinforcing which, while amazing, is just evolution in action.

Where our languages explode into astonishing is with the complexity of the analogical structure. A brain hosting a ‘self’ has to be as big as it has to be, which sounds pretty obvious until you deal with humans. A human ‘self’ has to be able to model other humans because we are social creates. We depend heavily on being able to do this. Some are better at it, right? There are limits, though. Dunbar’s number might not be well determined, but it makes some conceptual sense. Look it up. It ain’t a small number. Modeling a number of other humans within one human brain requires serious amounts of abstraction and compression AND an extensible storage structure. To make matters worse, it’s a moving target because those who can do it well have a track record of producing a few more babies in each generation. It’s gotten to the point now where we are trying to model complex structures that imitate the universe around us. We invented mathematics as a way to help us keep each other honest in our contracts, but now we model black holes, engineer spacecraft to fly by Pluto, and contemplate devices that might be capable of hosting human-sized minds. Even if we only model partial human minds digitally, what will that do to Dunbar’s limit, hmm? What happens to our communities when we each can buy equipment blowing that limit out by 10x or 100x or… 1,000,000x?

Yah. We are kinda special and we are building the spectacular as each creative mind expands our languages.

locumranch said...

Alfred argues that "Our linguistic elements are FAR more (than chemical analogues)", much in the same way that he argues that abstract thoughts possess concrete reality, whereas I would argue that our human linguistic elements possess far LESS reality than measurable chemical systems.

Yes, indeed. We possess a veritable cornucopia of languages from which to choose, a Tower of Babel even, and we possess more words, symbols & linguistic abstractions than any other species that we can identify, BUT our superior grasp of high order abstractions does not necessarily make us better communicators.

Although we have hundreds of descriptors for bodies of water (like oceans, seas & streams), what terms do we actually need to describe water other than "wet", plus a few modifiers like big, little, salt, clean, still, moving, near, far, etc?

This is especially true in medicine where we've made up thousands of pretentious & exotic names for everything, so we can pretend we're smarter than average by nomenclature, as in the case of 'vermiform appendix' which means 'worm-like thing'.

Just this morning, BBC Radio reported that basic fluency in almost any human language requires a vocabulary of LESS than 1000 terms, even though most sophisticated adult language speakers possess an average vocabulary of (+/-) 20,000 words.


Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Dude. You are being thick. I don’t really care what you think is real or not anymore. Enjoy your version of facts if it makes you feel like you know something. Don’t care.

Try raising a kid who has access to a small subset of a language. They all start that way, of course, but they accrete terms of meanings as they get older. When accretion slows to a crawl or stops, the parent suffers a kind of pain that is hard to explain to other parents. That pain points to what is actually happening compared to what could be happening. We begin to grieve for the person our child could have become.

Last year I got to face a surgeon intent on saving my life. His job was to remove a small cancer before it got fully to stage 2. No doubt he could have used a longer description of what he intended to do for me, but all he really had to say was ‘sigmoid colon and related lymph tissue’ and I could look up what he was going to remove. It’s all done now, so I get to face many years of wondering about re-occurrence, but I don’t intend to do so using a pidgin language for describing it. My doctor wasn’t pretending to be smarter than me. He wasn’t even pretending to be smart. He shared his technical experience once I made it clear the big words didn’t scare me. He communicated a richer experience than just what he intended to remove. He demonstrated his experience in a highly compressed, abstract form.

All languages are used to communicate, but not all forms of communication use language. People confuse this distinction because it is hard for us to think ABOUT communication without using language. It’s hard for us to even be human without language. A ‘self’ is also an accretion (what a coincidence!), but of what, hmm? In humans, much of our conscious self is an accretion of experience expressed in linguistic terms. The storage structure is analogical and perfect for experience accretion. That’s HOW our brains accumulate what we are.

Anonymous said...

Doctor Brin:
Yes; Right, David. I often have the impression that I generate new ideas for novels, but then I find out that this is not the case. It is difficult to create new ideas. In fact, I've noticed that almost all the latest science fiction movies are all based on ideas used over and over again.
As for the matter of the language of some marine beings .. I think it is clear that the dolphins; the orcas; whales belugas and other whales need something to communicate with us and create a civilization:
A) An electronic communication system adaptable to them.
B) Robotic arms adapted to their brains. (And certainly that theme was already mentioned in The Uplift Saga)
That is to say. I think we will all agree that the direct intervention of human technology is necessary to achieve a breakthrough for some non-human species of our world. Without that intervention, I doubt that the current situation of other species will improve.
I feel an innate kindness in the dolphins. They have saved the lives of many humans at sea, even though humans kill them with fishing nets, maddening sonars and direct fishing. For the Japanese, some dolphins are a very popular snack and frightful killings are organized.
Be warned that some scenes of the link are extremely disturbing:

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
Sometimes we must take risks. If I were in your situation, I would accept that my son participate in brain tissue transplant experiments.

I think it's possible to bribe those condemned to death to donate their brains to use parts of those brains in the treatment of severe autism.
Those condemned to death will no longer need their brains. Why waste those brains ?.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Language

The difference may be similar to the difference between an old analog computer - like a battleships fire control system

And a digital computer

The old style computer was and is superb at doing its job - but you had to make physical changes to make it do something else

A digital computer is changed by changing the program not the hardware -

The difference between human "language" and pre-human "language" is that the human language can build upon itself and add additional "words" or concepts

Pre-human languages can do something similar but at some point the ability of a language to add to itself got to a "critical mass" and morphed into something different

Daniel Duffy said...

Somewhat off topic - though the signs of our civilization may exist in the future, for now there is still no sign of an other civilization in the universe.

It is looking more and more likely that we are all alone.

"Many solutions have been proposed to solve this riddle, known as the Fermi Paradox. The aliens are hiding. They’ve entered suspended animation until more propitious conditions arise. A Great Filter makes the leap from “life “to “intelligent life” improbable, if not impossible. They’ve blown themselves up.Researchers of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute have another answer. It’s likely intelligent life doesn’t exist at all, outside of Earth."

No Klingons. No Wookies. No ET phoning home.

Just us.

Maybe because Earth is a VERY rare place. Even more rare is a large companion moon.

So if we fail as a species the universe goes back to the unaware darkness of being mindless, blind, deaf and dumb.

But if we succeed, we can seed the universe with intelligent life in a remarkably short period of time - even at only a fraction of light speed.

"And indeed, the power of the SRP lies in its ability to replicate at an exponential rate. The initial rate of exploration would be slow, but after producing potentially millions upon millions of offspring, the rate of expansion would increase by an order of magnitude. So even at a speed of about a tenth the speed of light, these probes could cover a huge amount of territory in a relatively short amount of time from a cosmological perspective.... The researchers put this model to test by using a computer simulation. What they discovered was that, by using this technique, an alien civilization could send probes traveling no faster than 10% the speed of light to every single solar system in the galaxy in only 10 million years. Which is incredible — that’s an amount of time that’s significantly less than the age of the Earth."

I am reminded of an SF story where mankind has spread across the galaxy pushing both clockwise and counter-clockwise around the galactic center along the various spiral arms of the Milky Way. This continues at sub-light speed for 100,000s of years until we finally get the far end of the galaxy at the opposite side from Earth. There our latest colony finally encounters another intelligent alien species. After much confusion and threats, we finally realize that the "aliens" are us. They are humans who have migrated the opposite direction around the galaxy, with evolution and genetic engineering changing them to survive on 10,000s of alien worlds with different environments. By the time both branches of humanity meet on the opposite side of the galaxy, neither is recognizably human any more.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin, is this the type of Democratic candidate you had in mind?

Zepp Jamieson said...

There's a fairly depressing article at Business Insider ( ) that essential argues that the Fermi paradox is answered by the possibility that all advanced technological civilizations are unsustainable and deplete their planet's resources and / or make it inhabitable before they gain the ability to travel to other planets.

David Brin said...

Zepp... wow... thanks for linking to MJ. And hell yeah. That girl gotta go up! And no, that isn't the only mold. I am fine with Santa Monica electing a Santa Monica liberal and Berkeley electing a lefty nut. I know some residually sane republicans... there are a few left... and I've urged them to run. But the battle, this round is in the districts that Two Scoops is swinging into battlegrounds. These are the places where decent folks need to be drawn away from the madness, And hell yeah, these ex-officers are our heroes. They are rising up to defend the nation in the best possible way. And Rupert Murdoch is going to so regret turning them -- along with every other fact-using profession -- into enemies of his treasonously revived confederacy.

And hell, yeah. give the folks who made this video a lot more to do!

But oh... please Texas... do the same thing in your state Senate and Assembly!

David Brin said...

Zepp, those who push any one "theory" for the Fermi Paradox are mostly silly, at best.

I have almost a hundred. And yes, some seem less implausible than others.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | I've thought about all sorts of things for him, but what I've learned is that the state of our current knowledge just isn't good enough yet for me to feel right about trying to forceably alter him. There is no escalating disease. There is no obvious 'thing' to fix. If the current theory of in-utero injury related to an activated immune system are correct, the damage is done, not happening anymore, and it's just a matter of trying to make do. He IS learning, so I could easily do more harm than good in guessing about what to do.

Sometimes we just have to admit that we don't know. In the mean time we collect information, help the people doing the research, and hope a future generation won't have to put up with it. That's what being human is like. 8)

As for brains from death row inmates, I'm generally opposed to state executions. I'll pass just on principle alone.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | That's the 'universal' computer concept if I recall correctly. They can be re-tasked without having to physically alter them because they always emulate other more hardwired devices that would solve specific problems. The programs we write are the emulators.

My suspicion (and it isn't any more than that) is that the primary problem we solve is reproduction and that doesn't change. Along the way we can be constrained by other species or limits to resources. We can also be hijacked to fill a different purpose like being food for some other predator species. Every animal has a way to jumble our genetics a bit to give the kids a way to get started before bacteria and viruses can tune themselves to hijack us. We have immune systems that learn as they go as well. Some animals, though, can change how they behave too by changing what they are socially. We probably don't change much as individuals from generation to generation, but we adapt fast at a social level and that makes us harder to hijack. In defense, therefore, we get to keep at the work of our primary purpose. Babies.

From a biological level, therefore, language changes what we are mentally, thus how we behave socially. That enables another way to select the 'fittest' among us. Since we tend to select against low SES outcomes at least as much as we do for attractive physical characteristics, the social AND genetic landscapes change making it harder to hijack us all.

Zepp Jamieson said...

MJ Hegar is a strong and vociferous voice to get rid of Citizens United, which tells me she has her priorities straight. As you know, I'm a Social Democrat, so I'm keen on hearing her views on labour and workers' rights. I'm guessing she be at worst acceptable.

On the Fermi Paradox: I'm not wedded to any one theory. Some strike me as more plausible than others (to a degree, including this one) but in light of the lack of ANY testable elements, it is purely in the realm of speculation.

Alfred Differ said...

David's paper address what some of the potential tests are that might help us constrain some of the parameters people toss about.

Maybe some day (in his copious free time) he will convert that typographical table near the end into one that works in an html format? Heh. 8)

[Yah. We could probably help out there.]

Daniel Duffy said...

Not just one theory to explain the Fermi Paradox - just Occam's Razor:

We are all alone in the galaxy, if not the universe.

Tony Fisk said...

@daniel duffy, the terrestrial equivalent for that SF story you refer to (which I vaguely recall reading once) is referred to as a 'ring species'. In "A Devil's Chaplain", p25, Dawkins cites the example of the UK Herring Gull. Populations of this bird can be found from the UK, all across northern Europe, Siberia, Canada, and the North Atlantic, by which time they are known as the Lesser Black-backed Gull: a quite distinct species that can't interbreed with its cousins (although it could interbreed with its brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, and the descendents could continue interbreeding in a westerly direction, until they became herring gulls).

locumranch said...

While it's acceptable to argue that the alteration of language (and/or programming) can alter output & functional efficiency, it's an absurdity to argue that the alteration of programming (and/or language) alters physical capacity.

Our IBM-compatibles do not become Macs by emulation software; a digital computer's hardware does NOT change with a substitution of software; our physical limitations do not resolve through the application of thoughts & abstractions; and our lawnmowers do not not become interstellar vehicles through the instillation of rocket fuel.

It is irrational to argue otherwise, plus TASAT called 'The Analogues' (aka 'Hell's Pavement'), written by Damon Knight, circa 1952, because the road to hellish nonsense is paved with good intentions.


Darrell E said...

Regarding the Fermi Paradox, it is way too early to call. It is unreasonable to have any degree of assuredness regarding any proposition about the existence of alien intelligence. The parameter space we have explored, in time and space, is infinitesimal. There could be a thriving civilization of Medusae on a planet around Barnard's Runaway Star and we wouldn't know it because we don't have the capability to detect it. Not enough data, and we don't yet have the technology to gather it.

Having said that, I really don't understand how people, like Daniel Duffy for example, can be so sure that we are alone. It doesn't make any sense to me. I've heard all of the arguments, claims and hypotheses. None linked to here are new. I still don't find them convincing. For one example, the self replicating probe argument requires so many possibly improbable (ha) concessions taken for granted it just is not convincing.

And Occam's Razor? Who can say yet which way it cuts on this issue? The more we have learned, the more modern science has advanced the more previous claims commonly used to support "we are alone" arguments have been shown to be wrong. For example, we keep finding earlier evidence of life on Earth until now it looks like life on Earth started pretty much as soon as it was cool enough to allow the chemistries involved. We were sure that planets can't occur in multi-star systems and most systems are multi-star, yet now we have observed not only planets orbiting single stars in multi-star systems but planets orbiting at least two stars in a multi-star system.

Now that it seems likely that life is pretty easy to get started the goal posts get moved to intelligent life is highly improbable or even unique, or even merely multi-cellular life. What evidence is there to support that view? Not much. All the rare Earth type arguments amount to a claim that a series of events rather precisely mimicking the history of life on Earth are necessary for complex life or intelligent life to occur. Due to the limits of our ability to investigate we have so far a single sample, Earth. What makes more sense? That given one single sample and not even the ability, yet, to even look at other samples to then conclude that complex or intelligent life is unique? Doesn't make any sense to me. That makes sense to me is that it is probable but at this point we don't have nearly enough data to warrant placing any significant degree of confidence in any conclusion.

Regarding probability arguments, as in the probability of certain biological systems occurring, none of these arguments are convincing and typically reveal either confusion about probability or disregard for the characteristics of natural systems. Physics, chemistry, biology, they aren't random. Things have properties which cause them to behave in certain ways, the cliche example being that rocks roll down hills. A few years ago I ran across an interesting mathematics paper that, though speculative at this point in time, is a good example. This Sci Am article, A physicist has proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire life-like physical properties, describes the paper for non-mathematicians like me.
The paper was a thermodynamics study of systems surrounded by a heat bath, such as an ocean or atmosphere, and with an external energy source, such as a star. The results suggested that such systems will naturally tend towards evolving living systems, just like rocks naturally tend to roll down hills, because living systems are more efficient at dissipating energy.

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

Having said that, I really don't understand how people, like Daniel Duffy for example, can be so sure that we are alone. It doesn't make any sense to me...

I suppose it depends what you mean by "alone".

I used to think that the probability of life forming was so infinitesimal as to preclude it having happened more than once. As I learned more about things like undersea life forms that use thermal energy rather than light, I had to change my mind, almost diametrically opposite--to the notion that self-replicating systems seem to form around whatever energy sources are available.

But there's a difference between "self-replicating systems" and consciousness, and even among conscious life forms, there might be only a small subset with which it is possible for humans to communicate effectively. Life in space might resemble Dr Brin's Zang. If they're out there, it hardly matters one way or another to us.

I tend to feel that we are alone, which is not to say no other intelligent life forms exist, but that we're limited both in space-time to a small section of the universe we could communicate with and limited in form/function as to what types of communication, cooperation, understanding, etc are available to make use of. And that within those parameters, there don't seem to be other forms of intelligent life close enough to us (in both senses of "close").

I don't claim that as absolute or proven truth--just as my sense of the way of things.

LarryHart said...

Darrel E:

This Sci Am article, A physicist has proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire life-like physical properties, describes the paper for non-mathematicians like me.

If "life-like physical properties" means something like what I think of as "self-replicating systems", then I would think the reason for the existence of such things is that once self-replicating systems happen to form, they perpetuate themselves, while other random systems which happen to form don't perpetuate themselves.

Darrell E said...


By alone I meant in the most general sense, no other intelligent life period.

Your views on this are not unusual and I don't think they are completely unreasonable. I do think it much more probable that, as you said, there is other intelligent life but it is rare enough that distance in time and space makes it improbable that we will every meet any as opposed to the more extreme view that there is no other intelligent life period. But I wonder, what evidence do you feel supports the view "And that within those parameters, there don't seem to be other forms of intelligent life close enough to us (in both senses of "close")?" It can't be much because we simply don't have much. Yes, the facts that space is very big and time is very deep do lend credence to that. But we haven't been able to look with enough resolution, yet, even as far as our closest neighbor. And we don't yet have the ability to listen beyond somewhere between 10 to 100 light years (or less by some accounts) unless someone aims a directional signal straight at us. And the reverse applies to anyone listening for us.

Regarding self replicating systems, on the one sample we have had the ability to gather data on so far, as best we can determine life started nearly as soon as the surface solidified and then evolved a wide variety of organisms with a wide spectrum of consciousness and intelligence.

Basically, I don't think we have enough evidence to warrant confidence in any conclusion. But what very myopic evidence we do have suggests that life may be pretty easy and none of the arguments that yeah, life is easy but intelligent life is so hard it must be extremely rare or unique are convincing when you consider the sample size, the lack of ability to search and the size of the search space. That leaves me at "don't know," but leaning towards somewhere on the spectrum "there are other intelligences out there." Hopefully before I die we will have some knew major findings from next generation super telescopes or probes to Mars, Europa, Titan, Ganymede or wherever, that bear on this question.

Darrell E said...


It's a head line written by a journalist, or worse, an editor. Don't read to much into it. Read the article instead, and if your math is up to it (mine sure ain't) read the paper too. Basically, and the article describes this in more detail, the maths used to model thermodynamics show that in certain types of systems, such as planets around stars, the natural workings out of the "laws of nature," of increasing entropy, will tend to result in self replicating systems and life. It indicates that even at the most basic level, like rocks tending to roll down hills, that life is very easy and should be expected rather than rare.

Jon S. said...

Then there was the idea in John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline - that intelligent aliens might be aiming a directional radio signal just outside the main solar system, as a way of weeding out any species incapable of spaceflight. (There was also another intelligent species, the ones the first species wanted to avoid, that used gas giants as homes, and only attacked Earth in order to free the cetaceans from the harassment of the surface beings.)

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

Yes, the facts that space is very big and time is very deep do lend credence to that. But we haven't been able to look with enough resolution, yet, even as far as our closest neighbor. And we don't yet have the ability to listen beyond somewhere between 10 to 100 light years (or less by some accounts) unless someone aims a directional signal straight at us. And the reverse applies to anyone listening for us.

The same argument makes both of our points, sort of.

You say we are only able to take a small sample of data, so we have no idea whether we are really alone or not.

I say we are only able to take a small sample of data, which is why we're alone.

Those aren't really contradictory positions because we mean different things by "alone". My version has an implicit "for all intents and purposes" after it.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Last I checked, my mac is built on the same kind of hardware as the other PC compatibles. The different chipsets in use have specific drivers, but that layer of software is designed to enable emulations at the next level up. Mac's look different and run different software only because the OS layer has different expectations of the Mac apps. That's all software, though. The OS tends to work through abstractions to talk to hardware.

I'm not suggesting a change of 'software' in my brain will help me grow a third eye, but it does help me imagine being another person. There are limits, but they aren't as strict as many imagine.

Alfred Differ said...

The paper is by Jeremy England at MIT. The PDF is here.

You can see a few of his talks here.

I like Foglio's explanation. We aren't alone, but everyone is avoiding the area because Winslow is here. 8)

Darrell E said...


I disagree a bit. There is a difference between our two arguments as you summarized them that does not necessarily have to do with what we each mean by alone. Your argument assumes that our search abilities won't significantly increase and or that we (humans, not you and I personally (alas!)) won't be around long enough to see something interesting. Which in turn seems to assume a degree of rareness that I don't think is particularly well supported by what we do know about our universe. That may be the main difference in our views on this.

Bet you a couple of fingers of Old Pulteney 35 Year Old against a bucket list epigastrium mundifier of your choice, loser pays for both? This way, no matter what we both win.

Darrell E said...


Wouldn't blame them. But is it the True Winslow?

Berial said...

If there is some 'great filter' out there that weeds out space capable civilizations, I REALLY hope it's something along the lines of 'intelligence smart enough to do it is extremely rare', or something similar, because that means we've already successfully leapt the hurdle. Otherwise the filter is something in front of us that we haven't crossed yet and we may still be in for a fall. Something like 'the civilization gets so advanced that just one of its members can make a weapon that can wipe out ALL of its members (FREX:grey goo)'.

What a bummer it must be to have tons of civilizations wipe themselves out just as they are about to reach the 'finish line', so to speak.

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

Your argument assumes that our search abilities won't significantly increase and or that we (humans, not you and I personally (alas!)) won't be around long enough to see something interesting.

Actually, my argument is more about you and I personally. I'm not trying to talk humanity as a whole to stop looking. I do believe we'll continue to be alone through my lifetime.

Strangely enough, I just now had a conversation with a cute waitress at lunch. She had just called off a relationship with her violent boyfriend and was ready to give up on finding a marriage partner. I told her what had happened to me in my younger days--that it's when you stop desperately searching for a lover and find ways to be comfortable in your own skin that someone else comes along and finds you.

I was talking about romance, of course, but maybe the same advice applies to SETI?

LarryHart said...


Otherwise the filter is something in front of us that we haven't crossed yet and we may still be in for a fall. Something like 'the civilization gets so advanced that just one of its members can make a weapon that can wipe out ALL of its members (FREX:grey goo)'.

Maybe the odds favor one of the species developing "Mule" powers and personally throwing civilization off the rails?

Tony Fisk said...

I suspect one massive filter is the efficient swapping of ideas/genes.
It took life on Earth over a *billion* years to invent sex; a significant fraction of the age of the Universe.
So I suspect that single celled life is common. Like "No Man's Sky", anything more interesting is v. rare.

We should have better abilities to see what's actually out there in a few years. I am particularly taken by the proposal to detect tree-like structures on exoplanets from their light reflecting properties.

Alfred Differ said...
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Alfred Differ said...

Is there an example of a 'mule' attack in a currently Earth-bound species? I CAN think of different types of life trying to hijack other types, but genetic variety tends to ensure that strategy is incomplete and leaves behind generations who are partially immune.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
¿Can pregnant women have an allergic reaction against the embryo? ¡Oh my God! I dont believe it. It must be a theory. Never listen to something like that.
What I do know is that medical malpractice is very possible. (The son of a woman I know has a damaged brain because the doctors thought that, to give him more chances to survive, it was necessary to saturate his brain with a certain very dangerous drug ... Yes, he survived, but his brain was burned. they die because of totally erroneous diagnoses, and I am sure that a relative was treated by a young doctor in such a way that they made sure that my relative died so as not to occupy more beds in the hospital, in someone with cerebral damage due to embolism). Oh yes. Hospitals in Mexico are death.
But I insist, in that I in your case, I would risk to submit my son to an experimental surgery of brain tissue transplant. (I would do it).
And in another matter: I think that if you only have one child, you should adopt at least two children of about five years old. (maybe Hispanics) Because time passes faster than we imagine. And it is always good to have children in advanced old age. (a selfish adoption, if adopted to serve soon as caregivers, but everything has long-term benefits for all)


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

And now, finally, scientists confirm my claim that we are already falling rapidly to the precipice of global warming. (I told you) :


Tony Fisk said...

@Winter, pregnant women certainly can have an allergic reaction to the foetus. It doesn't end well for the foetus.

Classic example is the rhesus blood factor (Rh). About 1 in 7 of the population don't have this factor (Rh-). An Rh- mother can carry one Rh+ baby to term without too many problems, but will have formed antibodies to the Rh factor in foetal blood that will react. Thereafter, any further Rh+ foetuses will likely miscarry. It happened a lot before the middle of last century.

My family is a case in point: my mother is Rh-. The main reason I'm here as her second child is that I am also Rh-.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | ¿Can pregnant women have an allergic reaction against the embryo?

Yes. A pregnant woman can have an immune response against a legitimate external bug too. So can a fetus apparently. When the mother's immune system is active, the fetus apparently can notice that too.

I'm not sure of the exact details, but the guess is that the fetal immune system responds at a time when the fetus is still small and weak, thus it does damage to itself. What I read on it made it sound like a case of very bad timing, but the researchers were more interested in immune responses in women who grow up in an 'overly clean' world.

This is all a complicated mess and difficult to study, so I'm not suggesting we Know What Is Going On. Far from it. It's just that the material I read on it sounded the most plausible of all the ideas I've heard. Immune responses come in a bewilderingly large variety, attack seemingly unrelated tissues, and vary even more based on the environment in which the people are embedded. A bad-timing attack on a fetus could do all sorts of things ranging from nothing big enough to be apparent to miscarriage. There is one fairly consistent trait we DO know, though. Girls are much less likely to be autistic, but when they are it is pretty bad. Since the hemispheres of the brains of girls are a little more tied together, they might be able to cope with a bad-timing attack on the developing brain a little better. They could suffer exactly the same damage, but have better outcomes because they have more options for work-arounds.

This disorder isn't simple and I strongly suspect it isn't repairable. Like other brain injuries, you have to have hope that a child will find a way around. Fortunately, after parents get over the emotional trauma and make the decision to work, the solution is pretty easy to describe to them. Love your child and help them find ANY way to learn what they need, but don't make it worse. It's the same recipe for every other child, but with more patience, support, and tools. No brain surgeries are required.

My wife and I DID think about having another child, but there is an ugly statistic we had to face. If you have one autistic boy, the odds the next one will be also is uncomfortably high. Maybe we'd have a girl? The odds for her are not good either. Besides, we realized we'd be having another child for the purpose of caring for the first when we got too old. That's not very loving, so we decided to stop. I thought about adoption to avoid the ugly statistic, but it didn't avoid the accusation. So... we stopped. Instead, my wife and I focused on our son and she has now acquired a teaching credential to work with autistic kids on the mod-to-severe end of the spectrum in K-12 schools around here. She is currently working on her Masters in the same subject area. My job is to help her get through to the degree and NOT to retire. Any retirement money I make goes to her on his behalf and is intended to keep him out of a state home.

I have an issue with bringing a child into the world for the expressed purpose of being a nurse to someone else whether it is a parent or a sibling. I want my children to surpass me (of course), but mostly I want them to be free. I'd be violating my duty to our civilization if I did otherwise. So far, I'm fairly comfortable with how we've handled things. There are a few things I wish I had learned earlier, but I can live with the fact that I'm just human. 8)

David Brin said...

Temporal considerations suggest that the Occam’s razor highest ranking Fermi would be technological intelligence. Life appeared very soon after the Earth cooled.
Tony says: “It took life on Earth over a *billion* years to invent sex” Good point. But still that’s pretty early.

Sub-sapient intelligence appears so common today — dolphins, apes, baboons, sea lions, crows — that I’d guess it existed among velociraptors and hence is also probably pretty easy. But tech-ready sapience happened once in 4 billion years.

And out of 10,000 human societies, only a few that started using metals ever escaped the next trap of feudalism, an attractor state that always crushed any upward movement.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:

Four Hindu and Latino orphaned children would have a happier future in your family than in the violent streets of Calcutta or Bogotá. And if you adopt four children, they can take turns taking care of your son and you in fifty years.
Adopt Those children will be happy. And you will be a great example of honesty and courage for them. Not the reasons. Just adopt Time is running out.
Everything in life implies a risk. Take a risk.


Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | I get your point, but I disagree. Bringing them here can certainly help them, but there is a FAR better way to do that. All we have to do is open the markets properly and trade with them. That also means opening the border quite a bit to enable movement of labor, but I'll settle for free movement of trade goods and services for now.

Besides, I wouldn't look that far. I'd rather open the border with Mexico. We are going to be begging you all to come north in a generation or two. I'd rather we got to work on our demographic problem now rather than later when it will be much more costly in the political sense.

Ultimately, though, I think bringing children into my family for a purpose more vulgar than love can be cast as a kind of slavery. I won't do it. What children in other nations need of me isn't to be their father. They need me to trade with them, share what I've learned, and learn form them in return. A rich father is enough to lift a child, but it leaves the child's village in the dirt. It is the thing a nobleman would do. I'm bourgeoisie.

This is where I usually start pointing to statistics, because I'm not making this up. Take a peek at the site when you get a chance. You can see some of what is happening in the world using the numbers each nation reports.$chart-type=bubbles

Try that chart and adjust it a bit by changing the axes and what is charted on each. Run the numbers through the years like you would an online video. Some correlations jump out.

Darrell E said...


Minor quibble, single celled organisms do exchange DNA. Arguably more freely than sexually reproducing organisms. Sex isn't necessary to exchange genes. Also, there are single celled organisms that sexually reproduce, for example single celled protists that appeared about 1.3 billion years before multi-cellular organisms with nervous systems.

Marino said...

"They can see that Bannon & ilk are trying desperately to make the fourth American "crisis" happen and in gruesomely violent ways. They can see that the right's apocalypse junkies are bent on triggering calamity. "

Banno is currently in my poor country, playing Wormtongue to our wannabe far right minister of internal affairs (who poses as if he was the true Prime Minister).
Export of such people (for a very wide definition of "people") should be deemed as an act of war.

locumranch said...

The "provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire life-like physical properties" (aka 'Life exists because entropy favours life') is illogically recursive, tantamount to arguing that human eyes & ears are positioned 'just so' so humans may benefit from the current design of eye glasses.

Neither profound nor informative, that's some twisted Benny Hill logic offered up by Darrell_E's physicist, a nonsense argument that suggests yet another solution to the so-called Fermi Paradox:

Our inability to discover extraterrestrial intelligence springs from an absence of terrestrial intelligence.


locumranch said...

And, btw, RH sensitivity is an immune response rather than a true 'allergy', one that leads to the production of anti-RH antibodies by the RH (-) mother, whereas true allergies trigger a histamine cascade mediated by mast cells.

During the first pregnancy-related exposure, small amounts of RH(+) fetal blood may migrate over the placenta into the maternal bloodstream, leading to the production of maternal anti-RH antibodies which attack RH(+) fetuses like an infection in subsequent pregnancies.

This immune response can be prevented by the post-partum administration of Rhogam to the affected mother which acts by binding fetal RH antigen & preventing the maternal production of anti-RH antibodies.

Again, RH sensitivity is NOT an allergy.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled a massive upset yesterday, ousting #4 House Democrat Joe Crowley by a large margin.
There's a lot of areas in the south and the plains states where Dems will have to run centrists. But in the west and NE, they cannot and will not win without a strong leftist presence. People won't want Republican lights who talk up rights of the oppressed while letting Republicans destroy those same people economically.

LarryHart said...

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continues to dismantle checks and balances on our out-of-control illegitimate executive.

Recently, on Bill Maher's show, George Will opined that eventually the Supreme Court would declare Robert Mueller's investigation to be unconstitutional because he was neither appointed by the president nor confirmed by the Senate. Will then asserted that all fruits of the poisonous tree--any indictments or convictions or even evidence gathered under subpoena--would be vacated.

I say two sides can play at that game. When our illegitimate president is revealed to have been an agent of a hostile foreign power all along, he should not simply be impeached, but annulled. All of his court appointments, executive orders, and bills he signed into law should be revoked as fruits of an even more poisonous tree.

I realize that in real life, that's not likely to happen, but there has to be some way of preventing the evil doers from capturing the mechanisms of democracy.

David Brin said...

Alfred & Winter7, there are strategically no more important US goals than a peacefully prosperous and middle class Mexico. Look at a freaking map. Mexico's border with Guatemala is a lot shorter than the US has to "defend" against Mexico. And if we also uplift Guatemala and Honduras? Then it gets shorter still.

Tim H. said...

David I'd phrase that as "Wouldn't it be more fun to make life suck less there?", though your way sounds more respectable.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The problem, as I see it, is that the US is moving rapidly AWAY from a "peacefully prosperous and middle class" society; as Larry notes, the Supreme Court is undermining rights left and right. Today, they ruled that private entities (unions) must give away their services for free or abandon the value of those services altogether.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

The problem, as I see it, is that the US is moving rapidly AWAY from a "peacefully prosperous and middle class" society;

Yes, it doesn't look as if we're in a position to Uplift anyone else. We're barely keeping ourselves sapient. Maybe the only path of redemption left to us is the glavers' route.

as Larry notes, the Supreme Court is undermining rights left and right.

I've lost all respect for the supreme court (no more capitalization) as any kind of voice of wisdom. They're essentially a third house of congress now, "legislating" along party lines. We can't fix that without the presidency and the Senate, and we can't fix those without overturning gerrymandering and Citizens United, so essentially, the will of the people is blocked at every turn.

So what's the appropriate decorum when the United States is no longer a government of, by, and for the people? 1776, or 1789?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Kennedy announced he was going to retire, so Trump gets another pick. Maybe Trump will nominate that skinhead with the tiki torch.

LarryHart said...

More fruits of the poisonous tree. And now even Republicans who are lukewarm if best for Trump and congress will come out to vote for "constitutionalist" judges.

As far as I'm concerned, the supreme court is as illegitimate as Trump is, and wherever Democrats regain power, the proper response to interference by the court is "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"

LarryHart said...

The bitter 14-month battle over Justice Scalia’s seat, during which Republican senators refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland, will most likely pale in comparison to the coming fight over Justice Kennedy’s seat.

I don't see that there's any kind of coming fight. 50 Republican Senators can approve whomever Trump is told by his corporate and Russian masters to appoint, and that will be that. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker and Susan Collins will make token complaints about the right-wing nutjob being appointed, and then vote "Aye" anyway.

"It's a sad day for racing in Gotham City, Mr. Wayne."

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
Alfred… I do not want to be annoying. I say these things only because I know you are a good person and what I am saying is exactly the same as I would say to a close relative. It is not my intention to be annoying. After saying this; I hope I can remember that we are already talking about this in the future. (I remember chicken when it comes to remembering what I said before), so if I insist on the future in these matters, it is because I forgot we talked beforehand. In fact ... We had not already talked about these matters? .....

Alfred. I understand that you insist on sticking to a line of ethics. But sometimes we must be flexible to survive. If humans were not flexible, 37,000 ago, the ice age would have exterminated us.

If you were only talking about you; we could suppose that it is correct to choose a difficult path. But you have a wife. Men must make sure to protect our families. And you know that women live longer than men. Because of that, it would be convenient to change your mind. It is not the same to be taken care of in an asylum that care for relatives, I think you already know that. We are not eternal. We must do what is necessary while there is still time.

I know you can go the hard way to be according to your ethics. But…. Will you ask for the same sacrifice to your family?
If you are worried that the burden of responsibility is too much for two children. Adopt four. (two men and two women) In this way responsibilities will be shared while running the small family business; a small supermarket that you will prepare in advance; since you are very foresighted.
But in the end it's your decision, of course.

And now, I have to check my computer. I think the request to update my antivirus was actually a virus. I have shield deactivation alerts and the computer starts getting very slow.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Yeah, there won't be a fight. Not unless there is such a public outcry that Trump is forced to wait until January 2019. The centrists won't fight and the more strident Dems can't. So we'll get another young, corrupt piece of shit like Gorsuch on the court for the next 35 years.

Darrell E said...

Damn. I've been afraid of the Republican Party having an opportunity to change the balance of the SC decisively in their favor since Bush Jr.'s reign. I thought back then it had the potential to be the longest lasting damage they could inflict. Seems to me to be even more so today. This could end up being especially bad.

LarryHart said...

Only the Rapture can save us now.

(Kidding on the square)

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Not unless there is such a public outcry that Trump is forced to wait until January 2019.

That could also backfire, if it becomes a winning campaign issue for Senate Republicans. Why don't Democratic voters think about such things until after it's too late?

Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got 'til its gone?
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.

donzelion said...

Zepp: "Yeah, there won't be a fight."

There will be a fight, and we're gonna lose this one on Gorsuch II: the Sequel. But so long as we turn up, show up, broaden our arsenal, expand our efforts, unite, and refuse to be defeated, we may win the next one.

Hope you're doing your part, wherever you are. I'm taking to the streets, and may go dark for a while here.

Interested Observer said...

Regarding the Femi paradox, other than basic survival questions (ie, the great filter(s)), my take is that it doesn’t matter. If we really are the only intelligent species, all we have to do is not screw it up and go extinct and bam, we’re Dr. Brin’s Progenators. We get to set the rules.

Regarding current events, I always thought the Klingon Empire was over-the-top, and that no advanced race could survive being so aggressive and militaristic. Frankly, I look at our current military industrial complex and fetishization of the military, and I’m starting to worry.

Zepp Jamieson said...

How come it always backfires for Democrats but not Republicans? Remember all the bullshit reasons they gave to put off replacing Dead Tony for over a year?

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Remember all the bullshit reasons they gave to put off replacing Dead Tony for over a year?

Mitch McConnell insisted at the time that the American people should get to decide who nominates Raptured-Tony's replacement in the next election. Now watch the same guy talk about how important it is to fill the seat before the next election.

They don't even try to sound consistent or principled any more. Their supporters are fully into 1984 mode where facts are whatever the party tells them they are. Listen to any Trump rally speech, and you'll hear that he always tells his audience what to cheer for and what to boo for. "The great Neil Gorsuch," "The terrible Iran deal," that sort of thing. Because his audience isn't ever sure how to properly respond until he clues them in.

Berial said...

From my Twitter timeline:

"Merrick Garland was nominated on March 16, 2016 — or 237 days before that year’s election.
McConnell said that was too close to Election Day for Obama to pick and voters should decide.

Justice Kennedy announced his retirement today — 132 days before this year’s election."

Dan Diamond Verified account

David Brin said...

Larryhart & Berial thanks. But right now I am in mourning. "Optimist" Brin just went from slightly over 50% odds we'll save the Republic... to below 50-50.

Get Sean Smith's TEARS OF ABRAHAM.



Zepp Jamieson said...

@ Donzlion. After watching Rachel Maddow tonight, I'm persuaded the Dems might put up a fight. The Senate is 50-49 with McCain out, and so if they don't have any sellout in the ranks, they need only persuade one Republican to join them on nomination vote. That would hang things up until after the election.
Also, there is pressure to apply the "McConnell Rule"; no SC nominations during an election season.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Larry Hart
Hell, they still chant "Lock her up" at his rallies. They really are brain dead morons.
Dangerous brain dead morons.

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