Saturday, September 29, 2018

Science Fiction helps expand our "horizons of inclusion"

First an aside: I'm interviewed about transparency and freedom and the future by the Indian magazine Factor Daily, with emphasis on how I view India's ambitious Aadhaar Program to digitize all billion of the nation's people.

== Horizons of Inclusion ==

Ever more, in our efforts to expand horizons of inclusion, we are pondering the very nature of “personhood.” So let's consider context.

Most (feudal) societies simply accepted as normal the notion of hierarchies of inherent worth among humans, with the bottom layer often having - by law or theology or custom - little to no value. They generally justified this oppression with incantations and assertions about superiority carried on through families, assertions that proved to be generally worthless. 

Yes, the sons of kings were often taller, stronger and effectively smarter… because they always had enough to eat and the best tutors. Nevertheless, inbreeding and delusion combined to make feudalism by far the stupidest - if most-prevalent - form of government. Progress only started taking off when we (partially) escaped its clutches.

Some complain we’ve swung too far the other way, denying any systematic differences among types of people. Such differences may exist, in marginal/statistical ways, but even if we are overcompensating a bit, it is to make up for - and end - the 6000 years of brutal betrayal, unfairness and outright, self-serving lies of those past hierarchies.  

I stand with the egalitarian Revolution! Even if - at times - it commits category errors of its own, we are still very far from the dangerous (if utterly hypothetical) leveling extreme that Kurt Vonnegut satirized in his famous story, “Harrison Bergeron.” Far more likely is a tip-over back into nasty habits from the feudal era. Hence, 'social justice radicalism' is among the least of our dangers, right now.

Expressing this category flattening to new degrees are efforts at legally establishing Personhood for Animals. Take this editorial in the NY Times, arguing the case for our nearest relatives, Bonobos and Chimpanzees. 

Or take this effort to gather support for a “Declaration on the Rights and Freedom of Dolphins and Whales", led by Denis Kotov, director of the Russian bookstore chain - Bookvoed.   I urge you to have a look and sign it, if you agree!

Certainly I have written extensively - and sold a lot of books - about possible futures wherein diverse kinds of beings are members of our civilization, from AI and chimps and dolphins to wildly variant humans and even ecosystems(!), all with rights and the ability to speak up for them.  Here is where I explain my Uplift Universe and offer links. 

For some time, I was invited to animal rights conferences, because these tales portray a generously broadminded civilization welcoming a wide diversity of cultural/artistic contributions, wisdom and citizenship.

Ah but those invitations dried up, when many of the activists realized that there’s an implicit arc from here to that diverse and richly multi-species future civilization, and it involves more than just making grand declarations. Like everything worth accomplishing, it might entail some meddling, some risk, some moral hazard and arrogance… and yes, even pain. I admit it.

And yet all of that is true, in equal measure, if we choose the other path -- prescribed by the New Puritans -- not to "meddle" at all, refusing to lend a hand to those other species who crowd below a thick, glass ceiling of intellect, unable to grasp, let alone actively assert, concepts like personal sovereignty or enlightened self-interest. 

Yes, there  are many areas of agreement. We should move steadily toward not killing animals. We can and must relinquish human exploitation of many swathes of Earth, in order to re-expand natural habitats and prevent mass extinction. We should try ever-harder to understand the languages of bright creatures. The divide is over whether we should stop there, or possibly also lend a hand, as the first of Earth's species to make it across what's obviously a chasm of evolutionary difficulty toward fully-assertive sapience. The standard, official-liberal ideology assumes that the answer is inarguably NO. That we should arrogate a permanent role as beneficent protectors, the paternalistic arbiters of what's right... forever.. and never turn to ask our fellow Earth-denizens, "So what is it that you want?"

Is it automatically more-moral to pull back that potential helping hand? Deciding instead to clutch tightly -- only to ourselves -- a gift that transforms the universe?

== Sci Fi Scenarios ==

My posting Space Force--or Farce? Symbolism over Substance, published on Medium.

The coming movie "Anon" looks like somebody read "The Transparent Society" a couple of times

And everybody should watch this Jordan Peele bit about Deepfake. Commented one of you: "now there is a tech for Brin's prediction registry. Especially the chapter “The End of Photography as Proof,” in The Transparent Society." 

Ah, but I point out something surprising, that should be obvious.

In fact, there’s a solution.

== Science fictional futures have arrived ==

But moving on...  Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, speaking at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago in 2016, acknowledged that science fiction is "something we pay close attention to," a tool to help the military suss out the requirements of potential conflicts.

The U.S. Army recently announced a major initiative, Futures Command, to help it anticipate and adapt to coming combat by harnessing the expertise of business leaders, technologists and academics. (Three cities in California — Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco — are on the short list of locations being considered for the Futures Command headquarters.) The Army should make room in this new initiative for strategic imagineers, including screenwriters and novelists. And the seers at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

Oh, revisit some of the best of the best older science fiction stories in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, vol 1, 1929 - 1964, edited by Robert Silverberg, with classics by Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Blish, Zelazny, Knight, Sturgeon, Keyes, Matheson, van Vogt, Simak, Leinster, Cordwainer Smith, Judith Merril and more. 

An interview I did for Reuters on the future of Artificial Intelligence - and raising the next generation of robots.

== And from the sublimely professional to the... ==

Art Bell Remembered: Whatever you think of all the wildly eager paranormal fixations, Art Bell was always entertaining and a true cultural icon. Had me on his show, a couple of times. He at least pretended to be cheerful as I systematically shot down 99% of UFO mythology. Of course, the whole megillah was back, the following week, immune to any refutation. A miracle! ;-)

(See my logic tearing up UFOs in a short story: "Those Eyes," which I wrote just after appearing on Art's show, on which I used the radio to *taunt* those space-teaser jerks! Later, I expanded on the the taunts, in EXISTENCE.)

While we're being silly... “Why Ewoks are the greatest SciFi warriors.”, by Patrick S. Tomlinson, author of Gate CrashersHeh!  My kinda sci fi thinking!

Fantasy revenge is dumb and generally unproductive.  Still, I will pass along a link to a new sci fi collection that’s filled with unabashed wish-fantasies about… well… I call him “Two Scoops,” a far better and more subtle mockery. Anyway. For those of you who feel beyond all subtlety, award winning feminist science fiction scholar and writer Marleen S. Barr brings you When Trump Changed, The Feminist Science Fiction Justice League Quashes the Orange Outrage Pussy Grabber.  

A bit more soberly (a bit) -  the latest anthology from B Cubed Press, looks beyond current political issues to the futures our current political situation may portend. 29 science fiction authors contributed their visions of a post-Trump world: After the Orange: Ruin and Recovery., imagining scenarios.... "if things go on as they are."

Where is America headed? Unusual scenarios are presented in More Alternative Truths: Stories from the Resistance, with stories and poems by David Gerrold, Jane Yolen, Adam-Troy Castro, Jim Wright and others. 

And yes, we should be arguing at a higher level. But this is what the enemies of our enlightenment wrought. The union must laugh, even bitterly, so that we can prevail.


donzelion said...

Tomlinson missed a third possibility, a variation on his second: "the little furries built all those booby traps as a direct response to the Imperial occupation in a matter of a few years. This is, by far, the more terrifying possibility"
Not at all: the terrifying possibility is that they built those traps in a matter of hours.

They'd been watching the imperials for years or months, but there's little evidence they'd engaged the Imperials at all. Whether there's megafauna or not, it's possible they built each trap targeting the Imperials. The simple 'tripwire' trap didn't "fail" - it calculated mass of ATSTs for use in other attacks. Likewise, the glider/bombers with rocks weren't an 'attack,'but an experiment.

That implies a level of both genius and social organization surpassing any spacefaring race, OR a mastery of the Force that matched any jedi capabilities coupled with a battlefield cunning no jedi ever displayed. Vader's little pit trap for Luke in ESB was pathetic by comparison.

Tim Harness said...

And the Ewoks have all that busted Empire tech to learn from. How long until they build their own star ships?

Robert said...

Hopefully they'll be able to do it in a matter of a month or two because Endor is going to be going through a nuclear winter with all the Death Star debris landing on the planet. And if the Death Star was vaporized so it's all dust, that will block out the sun for years. If it was turned into pure energy then everything on the side of the planet facing the Death Star is going to suffer from massive radiation damage. In short, the Endor Holocaust.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

In a variant on my argument re: "horizons" inclusion of animal species in our concept of "us." Kevin Esvelt of the MIT Media Lab has yet a third approach. Instead of just saving ecosystems and leaving other species to fight-flee-die in the natural Circle of Life, he observes that life for most animals is filled with paranoia, fear and pain, even in a healthy ecosystem. Moreover, millions of animals would not get to exist, if we stopped raising many myriads of them for our use (an argument also made by Temple Grandin.) Hence, what Esvelt wants is for us to intervene! Not my approach -- to daintily uplift a few sub-species to join us as fellow sapients -- but rather to act across the whole range of animal life to reduce pain! To replace death-fear and agony as much as possible. To maximize "hedonic value" across the whole animal kingdom.

Yipe! What a hubristic ambition! I've only seen it portrayed once in sci fi, in the very last story of Clifford Simak's compilation epic entitled CITY.

donzelion said...

Felling, stripping, positioning, and hanging a redwood in a perfectly positioned trap - in a few hours, with stone age equipment - suggests some pretty insane engineering capabilities. They could probably tunnel pretty quickly too if they wanted.

That said, the fact they caused an entire imperial battalion to forget their jobs, abandon a defensive position, and walk into those traps makes me think Ewoks have immensely powerful Force powers, an order of magnitude beyond mere jedi (even more so because no one noticed). That makes all the ropes merely camouflage: they could have ripped the ATSTs apart with their minds, but then everyone would know.

Lucas, with his characteristic restraint, opted not to have the Ewoks respond to flying C3P0 by doing aerial pirouettes themselves simply because that would have been outside the budget. But surely it'll be in the next improved version...

donzelion said...

What an intriguingly novel form of villain (hero). A sort of interspecies evangelical, dogmatic Jainism...

Tim Wolter said...

A welcome respite from politics. Would that it were lasting and generalized. Sigh.

Regards Ewoks I bring you a small gift. The hang glider Ewok was a man whose remarkable career included Star Wars, Star Trek TOS, The Addams Family, Buck Rogers in the 21st Century and much, so much, more!

I've also been working up a couple of presentations based on my adventures on that salvage excavation of a World War One battlefield. Most of the combatants of the Great War would have fared much better than Imperial Storm Troopers. Jeez, start by clearing a mile of jungle on all sides of your base!

But occupying a special page in the Encyclopedia of Bad Ideas we do have the French Army of 1914. Their doctrine was that of irresistible attack, at all times, and without regard to what the enemy was up to. They wanted to demonstrate their 'elan' and to terrify the enemy. They also, being French, wanted to look damn good doing it.

Charging at entrenched machine guns while wearing bright red uniform pants......

But even they fared a bit better than them Storm Troopers.


David Brin said...

ROTJ was what turned me against Lucas, after the brilliance of EMPIRE. The jungle battle had only one pivot point that made any difference. When Chewbacca took over the walker-tank. Properly handled, it resulted in the taking of the power station and the blowing up of the defense transmitters, permitting Billy Dee Williams to blow the death star and the Emperor. Hence, not ONE action taken by the prancing, preening, posturing Jedi force guys mattered an iota. The Republic was saved by normal, non-force people.

As for Luke's confrontations on the Death Star... in a raw sense, they were fine, dramatic, with real potential. The actual dialogue though sucked hard. The "moral quandary" the Emperor confronted Luke with was dumb in the extreme and had a simple answer.

But if I could overdub that confrontation with fresh dialogue, the movie would turn from stupid-evil to possibly deep and meaningful. Ah well.

Luke seeing Yoda, Obiwan and Anekin in the flames at the end was apropos. They all deserved to be in hell.

ROTJ was a betrayal, but with overall high quality and a just-miss. The prequels were freakshows.

Robert said...

Well, Dr. Brin, I'm not sure if you've watched the post-sequels but the Ghost Puppet actually seemed to have learned something in the time it's been dead and in the spectral winds - that the most important thing Luke taught Rei was his weakness and his failures. That it is through failure that we in fact learn.

I guess that muppet learned a lot in the last few years of its life because it just failed time and time again. ;)

Also, Luke cutting himself off from the Force in the second Jedi post-sequel was interesting and suggested to me that he wasn't able to see any of the Force Ghosts because? He cut himself off from the very source they used to communicate. Probably useful when you don't want to listen to dead people lecturing you...

Rob H.

donzelion said...

Rob H: "the Ghost Puppet actually seemed to have learned something in the time it's been dead"

I had suggested a few years ago (well before 'Last Jedi') that our host's general judgment of Yoda is mostly sound (albeit, perhaps a bit extreme...'most vile creation in all of literature?') - unless one regards Yoda (and Obi-Wan) as suffering from a suicidal existentialist depression, having concluded at some time before the prequels that the Jedi should cease to exist, but lacking the resolve to commit seppuku themselves (and uncomfortable with compelling others to commit collective suicide).

In that light, their constant failures isn't intentional evil, or even intentional ineptitude, but mostly, internal contradictions at work. The propensity for jedi to wander off into isolation and abandon their calling makes sense (though that certainly doesn't justify it). Ghost Puppet's ability to laugh at weakness, futility, and absurdity is akin to Camus's Sisyphus laughing at his silly rock. "Do or do not, there is no try" gets replaced with "there is only try, fail, and maybe try again."

"Luke cutting himself off from the Force...suggested to me that he wasn't able to see any of the Force Ghosts"
They'd been in his own head all along, projected outwards by him to justify his own decisions.

donzelion said...

And thinking of controversial jedis makes me think of Elon Musk's latest twist: fined $20m, forced to step down as chairman (but not CEO), he's had his wrist slapped for his 'I have a buyer' tweet.

Perhaps that is proper: one must play by the rules when using the magic of securities (which create the vastest fortunes out of faith and hope). And still, if millions of electric vehicles come onto roads in the next 5 years as a result of his efforts, or if his rockets carry significant payloads to Mars (or even to the Moon), all these twists in the tale will be shrugged aside and his genius touted in decades to come. Wonderful changes can arise even after a cadence of spectacular, heroic setbacks and failures.

Personally, I'd urge those ascribing messianic capabilities to this effusive maverick to rein in such impulses (and refrain from betting their children's inheritance on any single company). As with any other jedi - fallible, neither altogether good nor evil, just interesting and potentially important. Quite likely, the world will be 'saved' by the efforts of any one of the thousands of gifted engineer/scientist wookies who actually did the work and fixed the problems that needed to be fixed, even if attention fixates upon others as the so-called 'heroes.'

I have greater hopes for Musk than the 'chosen one' progeny of other founders (including the one tweeting from the Oval Office): at least he's trying to touch things that really do matter.

David Brin said...

Robert please be specific, because I saw zero "wisdom" in any Jedi related matter in The Last Jedi, not in anything Yoda says and not in the way Luke remained obsequious to the nasty little horror. No one comments on how Luke repeated with exact precision every single mistake made by Obiwan and Yoda (if the latter were mistakes, strong evidence suggests Y's betrayals were intentional.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Fermi Paradox solved!

Spotted on Facebook: The word "phonetically" doesn't begin with an 'f'. Shit like this is why aliens fly straight past us.

Zepp Jamieson said...

BTW, I'm reading "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" and it will be the first fan-fic I've ever reviewed. But I glanced at the page count on my reader and wondered just how long it is. It's 667,000 words, making it longer than "War and Peace," "Les Miserables" or (gawd help us) "Atlas Shrugged." I'm about a third the way in now and enjoying it immensely.
I noticed that the Doctor's name popped up: you were apparently one of the first to review it, back around 2010, when it was a sedate 80,000 words or so.
It's grown some, but from what I've seen, the standards are being maintained. Full of wit, in both sense of the word.

donzelion said...

"No one comments on how Luke repeated with exact precision every single mistake made by Obiwan and Yoda (if the latter were mistakes, strong evidence suggests Y's betrayals were intentional.)"

I thought I just did, but figured I'd go further.

Yoda is either (1) exceptionally mendacious, duplicitous, and anarchistic, with a goal of destroying the Jedi completely, (2) exceptionally stupid, or (3) semi-suicidal, finally retreating into a swamp to decide whether to permit himself to do something...or just die. Obi-Wan, likewise, albeit without the possibility of mendacity.

One can see him flying off to acquire the clone army, asking himself along the way, "Do this should I? End ourselves I should." Sitting in a spaceship for hours, days, months, thinking, "Need me, they do, or die they will. But why needed is it?" Procrastinating, and finally, at the last minute trying to come through (actually, just a bit late for it to make much difference for most of his dead colleagues). Infuriating, but neither evil nor mendacious...just flawed.

Religious figures often retreat into deserts in time of tortured uncertainty, where they await spiritual clarity of some form. They might similarly have retreated to swamps, but if they did, their insights would have been far less likely to be what medium? rocks sink, clay tablets don't congeal so well, and even scrolls get chewed up...and again, why preserve musings of bitter uncertainty, when the main energy is devoted to resolving whether to continue to exist at all?

Seen that way, Luke doesn't repeat the mistakes, but simply acknowledges the lesson: the jedi really should be destroyed, because all the claptrap of chosen champions is foolishly absurd, misleading folks who know better into surrendering their own agency.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Zepp
I really enjoyed Methods of Rationality - but as Dr Brin lambasts some authors for not tightening up their work I suspect that if he was to review the whole thing he would do the same

Look forwards to reading what you thought of it

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The "moral quandary" the Emperor confronted Luke with was dumb in the extreme and had a simple answer.

But if I could overdub that confrontation with fresh dialogue, the movie would turn from stupid-evil to possibly deep and meaningful. Ah well.

How different the universe would be if Empire Strikes Back had incorporated the fake dialogue that Darth Vader spoke while filming in order to avoid a major spoiler on the set:

Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

No, Luke. Obi-Wan killed your father!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

No one comments on how Luke repeated with exact precision every single mistake made by Obiwan and Yoda

Repeating seems to be a feature, not a bug, in Lucas's plotting. He's obsessed with the same thing happening over and over. From the climaxes of RotJ and "The Force Awakens" being repeats of the ending of the one, true "Star Wars" to such trivialities as "I have a bad feeling about this" being spoken in at least the first six films.

Larry Hart said...


Luke doesn't repeat the mistakes, but simply acknowledges the lesson: the jedi really should be destroyed, because all the claptrap of chosen champions is foolishly absurd, misleading folks who know better into surrendering their own agency.

In the original movie, I got the sense that Jedi had mastered the use of an external thing (The Force) rather than that The Force was the exclusive property of the Jedi. Seen in that sense, the religious mumbo-jumbo associated with using Force powers is akin to the religious mummery that Salvor Hardin surrounds the use of atomic power in the Four Kingdoms during the first Foundation book.

Larry Hart said...

I found this to be the funniest line in that Ewoks article, especially here where we've discussed the 300 Spartans at least a few times:

They only retreat in the face of overwhelming force, and even then, they are leading the invaders into ambushes, like the unholy offspring of Teddy Ruxpin and Leonidas.

jim said...

‘What a hubristic ambition!”

It always cracks me up when techno-cornucopias think that hubristic ambition is a good thing. It reminds me of talking with some teenage boys after watching movies like The Godfather, Good Fellas and Scarface. And some of the boys want to grow up to be gangsters and enjoy the “glamorous” lifestyle.

You know, the Greeks that came up with the idea of hubris were not trying to be party poopers but give a serious warning about our ability to fool ourselves and our lack of ability to understand all the consequences of our actions in the real world.

And dig it, our current hubristic attitude has already created a Nemesis that threatens our civilization. And doubling down on hubris (our current strategy ) is probably going to make the Nemesis stronger and our predicament worse.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: What's unholy about teddy ruxpin shopping Leonidas? Who knows what the teddy abs look like under their fur? But I do concur: easily the funniest line in a very witty post.

I hadn't meant that Jedi claimed exclusive ownership of the Force, but rather, their existence at all dampened the shared development of what should have been a universal tool. Sort of like the role of the Knights Hospitaller as the Christian navy in the post-Crusades era: a moribund, irrelevant anachronism that turned to slave trading and piracy. It was a historical dead end, but since it existed, most Christian powers deferred learning how to build navies for generations. I see jedi knights as an ironic invocation of that order - ironic because Yoda bringing in slave/clones (and generally not being judged harshly for so doing) precisely matches the historical precedent, though few knew it.

donzelion said...

That should have been 'shipping,' not 'shopping.' Autocorrect...

Larry Hart said...


I hadn't meant that Jedi claimed exclusive ownership of the Force, ...

Maybe you didn't, but the movies which followed the original seemed to imply that The Force was something generated by (ugh!) mitochlorians in the bloodstreams of Jedi and Sith practitioners themselves.

Zepp Jamieson said...

“[Kavanaugh] would have been well advised in his state of exhaustion and despair to have stuck with the script that others had helped him prepare. That said, we are really not going to let this nomination turn on infelicitous language under duress. I hope.” -- George Will, explaining that the reason Kavanaugh repeatedly committed perjury was because he missed his nappy.

David Brin said...

Donzelion, you leave out the temporal coincidence… that Yoda orders the Jedi into a suicide assault into a giant sports arena filled with armed aliens and robots, to save Obiwan & friends… an assault that kills most of the Jedi… and it can only have happened AFTER Yoda collects the clone army for himself. One of the worst villainous betrayals in the history of cinema.

Zepp HPMOR is hugely entertaining… and often frustrating. Clearly there’s only one explanation for the whole Potterverse… it has to be a post singularity simulation. I even wrote my own few-page ending to HPMOR to that effects!

Jim. Bah, you exclude the fact that YOUR reflexes to examine your own society for errors and to shout criticism is a trait that (1) you share with a MAJORITY of your fellow citizens, (2) It is the ONLY society that ever taught this, and (2) it is the quintessense of wisdom…

… except for the utter dullard stupidity of those who think they invented it and deny others have this trait or that it can do any good. (It’s only resulted in the best civilization of all time.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Duncan: I still have 400,000 words to go, so it may be a month or two. I usually have five or six books going at once, which slows things down.
I'm mindful of the fact that they were a series of novels rather than a single novel, and got blogged together. So considering it was one novel is a bit like considering the original 7 HP books as one novel. Thus far, at least, the writing is fairly tight.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Doctor Brin: I got a huge kick out of his efforts to trace a genetic flag for magic.
I'm not expecting him to come up with a rational reconciliation between the Potterverse and our world, although if I was going to take a crack at it, I would look into the properties of magic and spooky entanglement. Getting genetic predispositions to work at sub-atomic levels might be a bit difficult, though. I might have to hire an assistant.

donzelion said...

"Donzelion, you leave out the temporal coincidence… that Yoda orders the Jedi into a suicide assault...and it can only have happened AFTER Yoda collects the clone army for himself. One of the worst villainous betrayals in the history of cinema."

Mercifully, I've forgotten quite a bit of the plot, and prefer not to review it to offer a plausible rebuttal. Still, whether Yoda consciously betrayed them, subconsciously was riven by procrastination, or his bad timing had other causes - it's striking to me that Yoda took 'possession' of a 'slave' army of dark-skinned humans (even if clones) - and nobody batted an eye. 'The good guys!' Humph.

David Brin said...

Zepp, Eliezer held a contest for which reader would come up with a good final climax confrontation between HP and Voldie. Naturally, he chose his own and it was pretty good.

Mine explored the absolute fact that a post singularity "game" is the only way it all fits. Harry tells V "Either you or I must be the protagonist/customer and either way, if you kill me it's GAME OVER. On the other hand, if you want to be a powerful wizard in this reality, then you are going to have to compromise. And I offer you a deal. Let's go together and explore the roots of this simulation from the inside. Together."

Followed by the sequel: "Harry Potter and the Antlantean Computer."

Note that HPMOR all takes place in HP's 1st year in school. Some prodigy. ALso a bit of a jerk. Like Eliezer. The one forgives the other.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I look forward to reading the rest of HPMOR and comparing endings.
I like Harry's Slytherin propensities in this: they round him out a bit. The original had some of the 'British Book for Boys' about him. If Alan Moore had written the series Harry probably would have died in a fire rather contemptuously along about book five. I also liked how Eliezer gave a quick glance to the storyline's two weakest elements, Ron Weasley and Quiddich, and just casually flicked them right out of his storyline.

David Brin said...

Also flicked aside, the gentle giant guy.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, you yourself suffer from hubris and a tendency to blindly hate similar to my own issues with Bill Clinton - issues that you actually had me step back and open my eyes on and realize I was wrong. The thing to realize is this: Yoda as written in the preqels and the latter two OT Star Wars movies is not the Yoda written in Star Wars: The Quest for More Money. Or whatever Ep. VIII was called.

Consider for a moment what Yoda did. He took Luke's decision to burn the Jedi Tree and the books he believed hidden within out of Luke's hands. This then resulted in Luke choosing to use a Force Ability that would kill himself... to save his sister and the remnants of the Resistance. This also gave Rei time to reach the Resistance in time to save them so that that remnant could go into the galaxy and flame the dying embers of freedom, and perhaps train a new generation of Jedi using the core original knowledge of the Jedi and the knowledge that Jedi are not perfect and need not be perfect. Instead, they are very very human.

In fact, one of the reasons for the fanboi ire against the Resistance is that it is a multicultural group with women heroes, non-white heroes, non-human heroes, and imperfect heroes. You can contrast that with the First Order which is white or white-seeming (white armor to cover up the potential lack of homogeneity in the troops) with all of its leaders either male or wearing armor that conceals femininity, while being decidedly a shadow of what the Empire had been.


As for the Clone Troops being non-white soldiers, I never got the impression that the Jedi mistreated the Clone Troopers (for the most part, no doubt there were some assholes among the Jedi just as there are among most groups of people). The novelizations even show that the Clone Troopers regretted cutting down the Jedi when ordered, but did so anyway because their loyalty to Order 66 was paramount.

Personally, I prefer what fans had originally believed the Clone Wars to have been - an uprising among clone workers which could have been suppressed by Droids. That would then explain the disdain that most people show toward droids seeing these machines were massacring men and women who were in fact a slave uprising. But no doubt having the Jedi supporting the suppression of slaves was beyond anything Lucas would have dared tell for a story.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | Musk is no messiah, but he's still in command of his future. I bought TSLA after his tweet not on a belief in him, but in a belief in the volatility he was going to create. Lots of opportunities to buy on the dip, I figured, to get some cost averaging. I didn't quite expect as MUCH volatility as what showed up, but it's working out. I'm close to even at the moment.

The real action would be with SpaceX, though. His company is likely to be in the position of setting prices that others have to follow. The other companies with appear bigger in terms of activity and volume, but SpaceX might run away with the game here in the US. The other 'competitors' aren't as close in the market sense as some think. It won't be about a few payloads to Mars. It will be about setting the pace and the standards for the industry.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
Musk and Tesla
To sell LOTS of EV's we need three things

(1) - Sexy Cars
(2) - Fast Charge Network
(3) - Manufacturing infrastructure

In all three Tesla is swimming away while the other car manufacturers are dipping toes in the water

Manufacturing Infrastructure is the killer - It costs Billions AND the existing infrastructure is NOT useful

How is Ford (for instance) going to borrow ten Billion dollars?

Ford is putting it's future on Pick-up Trucks

To me a pick up is a LOT easier to make electric - it's already BIG and HEAVY

When Tesla start selling a F150 sized pick up with a 200 kwh battery 300 miles TOWING range a huge "Frunk" for storing valuables

And the KILLER - 20 Kw of mains power available - run all of your tools, welders, compressors - everything all day at any work site
What Tradie would not LOVE that

I almost forgot - after some vandalism Tesla is setting up the cameras already on board to keep an eye on the vehicle when it is parked

So their Pickup will not only be able to power the worksite but also watch it for thieves

David Brin said...

Rob H. Sorry, but the Disney flicks aren't off the hook. They aren't as deliberately evil as the prequels, or side-swipe evil as in ROTJ. But JJ Abrams, a genius at characters, would not know an original plot if it bit him. Ep. 7 is widely seen as imitating Ep4, sure. But the gimmick of "destroying the Republic" with a well-timed multishot is insane, and entirely unnecessary. A republic of a million worlds? riiiiight.

donzelion said...

Alfred: Hmmm, I suppose I see Musk less as "in command of his future" than "gambling in some very interest pots" - hoping his engineers and other employees will bridge gaps that others haven't figured out how to bridge just yet, and will do so before his investors bolt. Which of his gambles has 'paid off' so far?

"I bought TSLA after his tweet not on a belief in him,"
You are hardly a novice or a duffer in the investment game. My point is mostly for the ones who bet their retirement funds, rather than the ones who invest and know what they're doing.

"SpaceX might run away with the game here in the US."
Or go bankrupt in a quick fiery blaze, or by a trickle over years. Most emerging industries will suffer a cycle of catastrophic reversals before someone eventually finds the model that actually works. Railroads and others failed early, but proved their value so that others became the railroad barons in time.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, you just shifted the goalpost and ignored my actual comment. This is activity you deride in certain other posters on here who you have a love-hate relationship with here.

I detest Abrams. I hate what he did to New Trek. I was refusing to watch the post-sequels for the longest time, and only watched them when a friend asked nicely. And I snarked at the movies and found quite a few problems with them. But what we were talking about wasn't about the condition of the films. We were talking about the evolution and changes in the character of Yoda.

But you know, it doesn't matter. Continue to avoid looking at your own biases. It's human nature after all. Just know that some of us actually listen when someone says "you are allowing your biases to blind yourself to the truth."

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...


I still think of Tesla as a software company that happens to sell cars. People think the hardware is disruptive (it is), but it's really the software that will be. The car will be a platform for the software.

This misidentification is where I think the value is. It's the same kind of error people make when they think of Amazon as an online seller. They do that, but that's not really what they are doing. Same thing for people who think of Google as a search engine selling ads. They do that, but that's not really what they do. It's the software behind all of them that really matters. It's the fungible cognition that matters.

I could be wrong, of course, but it is this point that tempts me to buy and hold long positions in each. My TSLA position is more about what happens in the next two years for now, but I'm still tempted. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Donzelion | I recognize the gamble he is taking, but it is one he knows from previous companies.

In the case of SpaceX, he's got a bit more than good engineers figuring out new stuff. They've managed to retrieve rockets intact. That makes each one useful in teaching how things actually worked. Instead of sinking a lot of money into prediction methods, they can look at the actual vehicles and learn. That will matter both in defensive manufacturing costs and in operational costs. That should leave SpaceX with room to spare in determining their prices in an historically inelastic price environment. It will also alter the insurance costs their customers get to face.

Take a look at their launch manifest past and future. Spread across the last two years (roughly) is the replacement of the entire Iridium constellation. There is one more launch to go for that feat. Each rocket carries a few of them up. Swapping out an entire constellation (successfully) is a big deal though it won't get much press. I know of a number of useful business cases that require moderately priced constellations. I know a few more services that depend on the existence of multiple constellations. SpaceX is proving they can provide. Huge. And they are doing it in a way that enables them to learn as they go. Even bigger.

I understand that first movers can be beaten by late adopters. Microsoft played that strategy a lot and did very well. As with Tesla, though, SpaceX is swimming (as Duncan put it) while the others are piddling about in the shallows (as I'm inclined to put it.) Bezos isn't stupid, so I'll give him some credit for being a risk, but he's awful late to the game. The others? The dinosaurs are in as much trouble as the old car companies. They'll need federal protection to survive which they won't get for long from the USAF when SpaceX starts to adjust prices. When the inelastic industry begins to stretch, the USAF will notice in a big way.

Larry Hart said...


Personally, I prefer what fans had originally believed the Clone Wars to have been - an uprising among clone workers which could have been suppressed by Droids. That would then explain the disdain that most people show toward droids seeing these machines were massacring men and women who were in fact a slave uprising.

In my mind, "The Clone Wars" approximates what John Byrne imagined in Kryptonian history when he revamped the "Superman" titles in the mid 1980s. Basically, Kryptonians had clones of themselves at various ages kept in storage for spare body parts. There were movements for clones to be recognized as people with rights, but those were fringe movements because the clones were never conscious, functioning beings. Then came a widow who was so obsessed with her grown son that she arranged a marriage for him with what turned out to be one of her clones. When the son became aware of what his "wife" was, he killed both women and broadcast a message to all of krypton describing what had happened. That set off a war among Kryptonian society that lasted 100,000 years.

There are echoes of Dr Brin's Kiln People in there as well.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Lots of opportunities to buy on the dip, I figured, to get some cost averaging. I didn't quite expect as MUCH volatility as what showed up, but it's working out. I'm close to even at the moment.

Is it impolitic to point out that you could have also been close to even by not buying any at all? :)

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking of SF, Dr. Brin, if you're ever in the market for used mass-market paperbacks, you might try The Book Mark on Grand Avenue in Escondido. I stopped in there last weekend, and they have a couple of long rows packed with books from the '60s thru '80s, including a handful of your books. Heck, they even had a copy of "Renunciates of Darkover," (with my story in it) which is rarely seen. (I know; always I look for it. :) ) Worth checking out if you're looking for something.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,,

There's exactly 2 points in The Last Jedi that are worthwhile. The first is that, unlike Obi-wan skulking around the original Death Star, he goes after Kylo Ren directly. Just doing that puts him far ahead of Obi-wan and Yoda.

The second is the resolution of the problem of where do all these bad guys come from anyway? Kill the Sith, and another pops up from, um, where exactly? Now the answer is clear -- ther IS balance to the Force. An unpleasant sort of yin-yang balance, but balance. You can't have all good guys. If you do, bad guys will pop up.

At the end of the movie, with both the uber-good and uber-bad guys gone, maybe the regular people can get some stability.

I still say that the whole premise of the prequels stank the place up. it would ahve been much better tematic material to have Jedi vs. Stormtroopers. Is it better to take your 'best' guy (as if Jango Fett was that great...) and make a million of hiim, or is it best to train each invidiual to their own personal best? It would have made a much better story.

As for Abrams and plots, none of the movies had an original plot, and the Campbellian overtones practically demanded cycles and re-use of storylines. Wherhet or not Abrams is bright enough to notice that, he did follow what had already been done.

Duncan Carincross,

I hadn't even thought of replacing gas generators with vehicle batteries on jobsites. Good thinking there.

jim said...

Bah – ha , ha , ha
Thanks for the Kavanaugh like non response…
Angrily pound the table and spout something irrelevant.

matthew said...

Russian troll army implicated in attacks on "The Last Jedi."

You cannot make this stuff up.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Also flicked aside, the gentle giant guy."
True, although Dumbledore seems to have taken on a few of his characteristics.
Years back, we had some friends, Scott and Nancy and in 1998 they had a daughter. A few years later my wife and I took Nancy and her daughter, now a toddler, to see the first HP movie.
Now Scotty was a Norwegian giant, 6'6 and about 350 pounds, and he had a huge black beard.
When Hagrid first appeared on the screen, the girl pointed and screamed, "Daddy!"

Darrell E said...


Musk doesn't need his engineers to pull any magic rabbits out of their hats in order to make it. Both Tesla and Space X are beyond that point.

In the case of Tesla he is already beyond the point, even, of finding out if it works. It does work. Works great. And lots of people want to buy Teslas. The Models S & X are big sellers. They have at times out sold all vehicles in their class including ICE vehicles. The Model 3 production, though suffering delays, is progressing and they've just had an over 10,000 produced week. The Model 3 is recently the top selling car in the US price-wise and the 3rd top selling car in the US volume-wise. Despite all the negative press about how the Model 3 can't possibly be profitable, particularly the yet to be produced $35,000 base model, outfits that specialize in taking things like cars apart and figuring out how much it costs to produce them have determined that it is likely that Tesla can turn a profit on the $35,000 base model. They've also all expressed how impressed they were at what they found, especially in the power systems. Even the ones that where very negative about Tesla before dissecting the Model 3.

So product-wise, Tesla has made it. Their product is the real deal, no engineering breakthroughs needed to realize it. It's already realized. And they've got the sales. The largest hurdle left is a financial market that is highly biased against Tesla and is betting and hoping on Tesla failing.

SpaceX isn't quite that far along, but most of the major engineering innovations have already occurred. If they were content at stopping with the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy they'd be at a point pretty equivalent to Tesla. Perhaps even a bit better. The product is working well. No one else is remotely close to doing what they can do. No one is remotely close to their price. No private outfits, no nations. They've got a big lead. But they've got bigger plans. The BFR. But even there most of the engineering innovations are done. They are already making parts. The next major hurdle is seeing if it works.

My main point is simply that Musk is not propping things up at Tesla and SpaceX and hoping that his engineers come up with breakthroughs in the nick of time to save things. They are way past that. Are they still risky investments? Sure, to some degree of riskiness. SpaceX more so than Tesla because the goal at Space X is BFR or bust. If they just wanted to be a successful launch company they could simply focus on continuing to develop what they've got working already instead of focusing on the BFR and they'd almost surely continue to be successful. That's why Musk has kept it private so far. But with Tesla the risk at this point is due much more to a market that is biased against Tesla, some of that systemic bias against disruptive new companies in general and some of it because of some big players that want to make big money off of Tesla failing, than because Tesla doesn't have a viable product, or can't produce it or can't get enough people to buy it.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, here's a study in contrast between different observers' interpretation of the same events:

But Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said Judge Kavanaugh could be excused for showing passion. Mr. Grassley said he was reminded of the 1991 testimony of Clarence Thomas, who told the committee that the hearing into sexual harassment allegations from Anita F. Hill amounted to a “high-tech lynching.”

“I don’t think what he said is any different than what Justice Thomas said,” Mr. Grassley said. He added of Justice Thomas, “He’s been on the Supreme Court for 26 years, and I’ve never heard anybody raise any questions about his temperament, and it’s seemed to me to be just as dogmatic and as explosive as what he said.”

Imagine, I wondered, what the response would have been if now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had behaved similarly as he answered sexual harassment charges by his fellow African-American, law professor Anita Hill, during his historic 1991 confirmation hearings. I can only imagine he would have been frog-marched out of the hearing room in midsentence.

But he kept his cool. You could easily tell from his grimly serious and determined face and voice that he was angry about the accusations. But even when he got to his unforgettable and controversial description of the affair as a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks,” the risky remark had its desired effect. It knocked his Democratic critics off-balance and emboldened his Republican supporters.

David Brin said...

Zepp, cue story!

AFR thanks for the rec. I’ll swing by when in Escondido.

Raito… Id enjoyed the confrontation of Luke vs Kylo immensely. CHARACTER is no problem in an Abrams universe. It’s PLOT that is always insane.

“The second is the resolution of the problem of where do all these bad guys come from anyway? Kill the Sith, and another pops up from, um, where exactly?”

Of course it is totally nuts. A product of the makers’ inability to even begin to think originally. The Abrams cycle makes utterly useless every victory we rooted for in the Skywalker cycle ep4-6.

Hey guys, seriously? Speak up if I owe RobH an apology! I can take it and raised you to be impudent! But from here, I just see sniveling-snide antagonism, a snarling spasm that I did not earn or deserve. Shrugged. Barring a community consensus otherwise, IFIYGD sir.

Oh, but at least Rob is a proved community contributor and hence worth an inquiry into “am I mistaken”? Heck, I have been wrong, at times.

I have no such curiosity about Mr. Cogency “jim.” Howl away imbecile. Yaaaaaaaawn zzzzz.

David Brin said...

Alfred, a mere software company would not have earned the quality awards Tesla’s received. E.g best crash tests in the world by far. Of course SpaceX was fantastic, forcing utter disruption in the ULA slovenly monopoly. Taxpayers and others will save many tens of billions.

As for drones/droids/clones… the answer is simple. Romanticism. In romantic fantasy, the legions of enemy beings and soldiers are unworthy of compassion even as enemies. And that is made trivial if they are portrayed as having no mothers. More examples… orcs that Saruman mined from the Earth. Or so ugly they deserved to die.

This is the core danger of romanticism – the Nazis, Confederates and Stalinists all did it. Their enemies in effect had no mothers. And yes, there was dehumanizing of the Japanese in WWII propaganda, but never very thick and never a matter of policy. (Excuses for Manzanar were always in terms of how nice conditions were. A travesty! But one we quickly repented, when panic ebbed.)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Hey guys, seriously? Speak up if I owe RobH an apology!

Well, I haven't been following the back-and-forth close enough to say for sure, but he seems to be making a genuine point rather than trolling you.

I'd caution against the syndrome I encountered with Dave Sim, in which any attempt at applying his own philosophical observations to himself was deemed an egregious attack on him. I ultimately became famous as Dave's nemesis for pointing out obvious truisms, such as that he spent 20 pages of anecdotes and stories "proving" that women don't argue with facts or logic, but only with anecdotes and stories. I actually thought it was a test, but I guess not.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | Is it impolitic to point out...

What?! Visit the theme park and NOT ride the roller-coaster?!

Heh. Seriously, though, that WAS my position for quite a few months. I went long after his tweet.

Besides, if you take no risk, you won't have much saved up on retirement day. I'm betting about 2% of my current retirement funds on this. I'm betting about 15% on a home improvement on a house I'm selling. I'm betting about 50% using the classic S&P index strategy. The remaining percentage is mostly indexed too, but against market sectors. If the house pays off this year (I expect to double the improvement amount at risk) I'll put the original stake back into the indexes and play with the rest.

I learned my lesson years ago about diversifying retirement money and using indexes, but it's not such a bad idea to take chances with a small chunk now and then. That's part of how I avoid being too tied into rent-seeking strategies.

Alfred Differ said...


They aren't a 'mere' anything. Tesla obviously sells hardware, but I think they behave like a software company and that their real value will show up when we go driverless.

Amazon looks like an online selling platform from the outside. From the inside they are about AI and their cloud platform.

Google looks like a search engine selling ads form the outside. From the inside, they are about AI and knowing what the internet knows.

I'm claiming Tesla is doing something similar. Their value isn't in the cars. In the mean time, they are a lot of fun to watch as they disrupt things.

donzelion said...

In other news...

California rose to the rescue of the internet as we know it, signing into law America's strongest 'net neutrality' rules that bar companies from discriminating about internet services. Trump's 'buddy' Jeff Sessions promised to sue to prevent that.

Concerned about women in view of the Kavanaugh hearings? When the last round of sexual harassment claims against a candidate for the Supreme Court commenced, there were two women in the Senate. In the current US Senate, there are 23. Guess what that means? When women want there to be an investigation and to take claims against women seriously, it gets taken seriously. Jerry Brown just signed a law requiring public corporations in California to include women on the boards (which may not be constitutional...but...). A start...

Perhaps the most noteworthy laws for a group fascinated by the 'transparent society' are efforts to increase accountability for police. In 1978, Jerry Brown signed off on a law creating an exceptionally opaque system designed to prevent prosecutors and judges (not to mention defense attorneys) from accessing police records of misconduct allegations and infractions by officers. That's changed. Similarly, with Senate Bill 1421 signed into law, California's public will have unprecedented access to police body cam footage. Two steps forward...

A third bill was placed on hold for a year which would have prohibited shootings by police except upon determining a 'reasonable threat': police vehemently denounced that rule, as it might increase the risk that they'd get sued for wrongful death or shooting claims.

But on balance, California's legislature has been incredibly productive, in sharp contrast to the federal Congress, which issued a tax cut and rolled back a few more Obama era regulations, but has little else to show for itself.

Tim Wolter said...

It is possible that Rob feels strongly enough about the Star Wars franchise that you have stomped on something that is important to him. A apology for doing so inadvertently costs you nothing.

It is not a topic that would garner more than a shrug from others, myself being one of same.


donzelion said...

Darrell E: "Musk doesn't need his engineers to pull any magic rabbits out of their hats in order to make it. Both Tesla and Space X are beyond that point."

On the contrary: reaching Tesla's production goals will require many impressive feats, and earning profits could require almost a new form of mathematics. I'm not entirely certain how the March 2018 recall on Model S was handled, but hitting 10k units a month (a number that major automakers hit decades ago) is only one piece: profits will be a harder nut to crack, and unlike Amazon, this is a field where failure to do so early will have serious implications and could derail the whole enterprise.

"And lots of people want to buy Teslas."
A lot more people want to buy Fords, GMs, and Chryslers - and have done so - and each has had years where despite selling vehicles at a per unit cost well under 50%, they lost billions. Last group of German engineers I read about (and Musk applauded) calculated a per unit cost of about $28k for each Model 3, $18k parts, $10k labor. That makes the $35k Model 3 unlikely to be profitable at any volume, and unlike to generate the sort of profits needed to expand volume much - without the help of the financial markets.

"The largest hurdle left is a financial market that is highly biased against Tesla and is betting and hoping on Tesla failing...But with Tesla the risk at this point is due much more to a market that is biased against Tesla,"
The financial market BUILT Tesla. His ideas and strategy - their money. But for their input and faith, he'd have gone bankrupt years ago; Tesla has never shown a profit, and is judged mostly at whether the losses are falling. Their bias is 'do not lose money' - which makes them slightly resistant to some kinds of cult-followership (while susceptible to other kinds).

As for SpaceX, I have no idea what if any profitability they'll ever experience. I don't expect magic, only steady, consistent excellence: that's never been cheap, and unfortunately, this is a field where everything could literally go up in smoke in seconds.

None of which is to say Musk isn't trying some truly incredible projects - only that should he fail, there will be plenty of other people who suffer more from his failure financially than he will. Should he succeed, he will be lauded as a visionary for decades, akin to Henry Ford and Thomas Edison - which is appropriate. He's yet to succeed, and has my hopes, but not (much) of my money.

donzelion said...

Alfred: I get it, and didn't say that I disrespected Musk's work, only that this is no simple matter of launching a reusable rocket that he's settled on and others never considered, and no simple market where finding the right product will solve the problems with it.

I'd start here: 90 total launches were made in 2017, 85 for 2016. The US made 29 orbital launch attempts in 2017, one more than 2016. The article properly lauds SpaceX's Falcon (18 successful launches in 2017, up from 8 in 2016! wow!), but Russia's Soyuz-U is a 40-year old vehicle (how different from Soyuz-2? - I'd leave engineers to explain) - that is only now being retired.

All that said, what profits are possible here? I don't see Falcon looking at an IPO: the market is simply too unstable, driving primarily by government agendas but with some commercial possibilities as well. That may change: lots of government contractors do quite well, depending on a large number of factors simply outside their control (Boeing, Lockheed). That could become the world of rocket launches too. If it does, then let's hope it keeps on growing.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Donzelion

Making cars for $28K - when the average selling price (at the moment) is $49K at a rate of 5000/week gives a gross profit of $105 Million a week - or over $5 Billion a year PROFIT

- that is before the ramp up to 10,000 a week

So far all of the Model 3 sales have been to the USA and Canada - and they STILL have a huge backlog - this is before all of those cars get out into the wild and have the owners friends and relatives drive them

I used to think that Tesla would show the way and then the older car companies would overtake them
Now I think it is becoming too late! - the older car companies have not started to spend the money needed and I'm not at all sure that they will be able to pull together enough money to catch up - or even stay in business

The "Rest of the World" is still an untapped market

donzelion said...

Tim/Tacitus: re Star Wars - "It is not a topic that would garner more than a shrug from others, myself being one of same." -it's mostly useful clickbait for the indexing engines.

A debate about the merits of Star Wars by 'serious' people may attract other serious people who are fascinated and want something more than a mere film critic's take (there's no shortage of those, all available for a few clicks).

But I cannot say whether Rob H is offended, or any apology warranted. Dr. Brin has thrown out some extremist judgments on occasion ('Yoda is the most evil character in the history of literature?') - and that's a provocation he's certainly allowed to offer. Granted, an apology costs nothing, and a reminder to acknowledge biases and eschew hubris is hardly a harmful statement - but it's all supposed to be fun in the end, no (and our host did write a book on the topic where several of these arguments were set down).

David Brin said...

I am still at a loss why he's so miffed. But I regret causing affront.

As for there being 23 female senators, that means little when a majority party can use a 1 vote margin to stomp the minority in the face.

It's why my FACT ACT would give every rep and senator one subpoena per year, majority or minority, to compel 2 hours of testimony from anyone, before a chosen committee. A step back to individuals and against partisan rule.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: I didn't really respond to that section of your proposed FACT Act, though I could have at the time. I still fear the possibility of Congressionally-financed 'Creation Scientists' getting federal support - with almost half of Congress skeptical of evolution (!!!), we should expect that many 'scientists' they'd finance will be politically useful folks who would suddenly obtain some legitimacy as 'government' officials (or at least, some budget).

For the subpoena power (clause 10), I'm more concerned about constitutional construction. Congress's subpoena power doesn't grow directly from the Constitution; it's an 'assumed' power growing from legislative authority. Congress can delegate that to committees and subcommittees (like the House Un-American Activities Committee), but has no authority to delegate it to individual members (who are never 'legislative bodies' - they're just members).

All that said, I don't know many people who believe that the lack of the subpoena power is a very big obstacle to injecting 'truthful/useful' testimony into legislative processes. Legislation routinely relies on proposals by extremely skilled scientists hired by lobbyists (who will hire any fact-user they need to achieve their ends). Perhaps simply setting committee rules so that the ranking member must concur with each subpoena would suffice (that alone is unprecedented for most committees these days) without a new, questionable law (that would certainly be challenged, and might not survive constitutional review).

"As for there being 23 female senators, that means little when a majority party can use a 1 vote margin to stomp the minority in the face."
It probably will prove to mean very little more than the FBI spent a week reviewing testimony of a handful of speakers. A broader subpoena power would be useful, esp. one that minority parties could invoke without the committee chair's initiative.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

If you look at the sales structure Tesla get the Profit from building their cars

GM and the others may be able to make cars at a similar Cost/Price ratio (as somebody from the Automobile Industry (engines) I would be AMAZED if they did)

BUT GM does not get that money! - it goes to the Dealers and it is then eaten by the whole dealer network showrooms inventory

Profits MATTER
But Tesla has been making substantial profits on all of it's cars ever since the Roadster - but has been pouring those profits back into the company

On the financial side the IPO yielded about $200M + the $300M that had been put in by the initial people -
The company has a net debt on it's borrowing of about $10 Billion

The "Valuation" from the current stock price of over $50 Billion - is a long way above the $10.5 Billion that was actually invested in the company - and is actually in line with a company with an income of $0.5 Billion a year

The likes of GM have a huge amount of "Assets" - in terms of the machinery to make IC cars - when EV's are the same price (soon) and better in every other way - how much will those "Assets" be worth?

matthew said...

Have to point this one out even though by tomorrow everyone will have heard of it:

For quite a while a lot of smart people said that money laundering would be Trump's downfall. The other shoe has now dropped.

Note that the big break in this was a trove of old Fred Trump business records including over 200 tax returns. They were in a Trump relative's basement.

Holy crap.

Alfred Differ said...

Holy crap indeed. The whole family is implicated in a multi-decade con job to hide tax and other types of fraud. Wow.

Robert said...

I don't care all that much about Star Wars. It's simply a movie.

What I care about is when someone acts in a fashion contrary to the message they espouse.

Dr. Brin, you have so fallen in love with your theory that Yoda is evil and destructive that you fail to consider points of view that contradict this beloved view of yours. You choose to believe that this character cannot change. And this is contrary to what we saw in both Empire and in Last Jedi.

In Empire the message is "Do or do not, there is no try." In short, if you try you will fail. You either succeed or you fail. And this is contrary to the view that failure is a means by which we learn.

Contrast that with what Yoda said to Luke in Last Jedi: Luke's most important lesson to Rei was about weakness and failure. Luke Skywalker was a legend, a myth. She shows up and finds a simple scared man who was in over his head and who saw everything fall apart... and up and left as a result. She realized heroes are "human" too. (Mind you, this is a galaxy with multiple species - by "human" I don't mean "homo sapiens" but rather the aspect of being a flawed being but still striving to do something in the world.)

She's going to teach the new Force Users - be they Jedi or something else - that it's okay to get angry, it's okay to be scared, it's okay to fail... so long as you continue to move forward, that you continue to try, to learn until you succeed. That they are as human as the next person (be they homo sapiens or alien).

That is tremendous character growth, especially for a fossilized old coot who once felt it was his way or the highway.

Or you can ignore this and insist "nope, he's evil" and close your eyes to change. It's a very conservative point of view. It's the same point of view that says when a person leaves jail, they're still a criminal and will break more laws and probably should remain in jail forever (unless they're a rich white man in which case it's okay). Personally? I like to believe that change is possible... be it for people or fictional muppets that exist primarily on the large screen.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion | What profits are possible here?

I started work on a small start-up in the 90's and started hanging around with people trying to commercialize space. The field is both difficult and full of people with absolutely no business sense. Most projects were of the type that weren't really business at all. Government was the buyer. Purchasing decisions were acts of politics. Ignore those, though, and consider the rarer people who had business experience or were willing to get it. They showed up occasionally. They knew the starry-eyed and the frauds quickly and avoided them.

The non-profit I joined up with liked to glean the folks with more practical sense and get them talking to each other. We worked at this for years and slowly accreted a community that talked about actual business problems needing solutions. These are the kinds of problems that have commercial customers where buying decisions are more about what the market supports than what politics will support. When I first joined up, the best we could manage was people who made a million or so from some other field and came to an event wondering about what could be done. When I left the multi-millionaires were showing up consistently, the billionaires were sniffing around, and some of our people had founded companies that were making payrolls. We already knew not to place our hopes and dreams in any single effort. Some went bankrupt. Some were arrested for tax shenanigans. Some were defeated by others in competition. By the time I left it was beginning to dawn on us that we were winning.

What we were seeing was them talking about ways they could solve problems and they were cribbing from the work of the people we had gleaned and the business plan competitions we set up. There are a number of good plans, but ALL of them suffered the same chicken-n-egg problem. All needed 'cheap access to space' and 'frequent access to space'. These plans needed the same market conditions so we had easy acronyms for them. CATS and FATS.

Well… there is a way to get CATS and FATS. Rich investors who believe they can get richer and are good at persuading others to ride their coattails. We were seeing internet wealth showing up and the people behind it were asking themselves what they were going to do for an encore. Even the mere multi-millionaires who got rich with a new small widget/algorithm in the tech boom pondered how they could impress the world by doing something bigger. They didn't just show up at speaking events, though. They came to our startups directly to see the actual problems.

The list of problems in need of solutions is long. The list of businesses willing to pay to have them solved is not… without CATS and FATS. The available exploration capital for the mining industry isn't measured in billions, so asteroid resource plans must start on a shoe string. The secondary market for old communications satellites is modest. It would be bigger if those birds could be restocked with volatiles. A service industry could support that, but the prices would be high without CATS and FATS. What about birds that go into the wrong orbit? Insurance might like to recover some value from assets on which they've had to pay off on a policy. Doable? Sure, but expensive without CATS and FATS. Business cases only close without them for very expensive assets that can survive in an odd orbit until the service truck arrives.

The list is long and SpaceX is working at the THE ONE THING that enables all the plans on it… and succeeding. They talk about Mars and landing boosters and flying humans. What matters is CATS and FATS. Human markets occupy space on CATS and FATS. Human civilization follows.

David Brin said...

Rob. First, nothing you said explains the snorting rage you expressed at me. And given that, I am within rights to ignore this phase between us.

But I won’t. There is nothing inconsistent in Yoda’s behavior before vs after (and especially during) dying. He’s a bully. Only Mace Windoo had the nuts to ignore Y’s order to do that suicide charge. If ONE other jedi had helped him,,,

Naturally Bigshot Yoda would demean Luke’s importance, as he demeaned everyone’s importance when he lived.

I NEVER said that the Disney approach would not shift away from Lucas’s worst-evil obsessions. In fact, I have said that, repeatedly and all here know that I have. Yet still, Y’s most recent apparition was so smarmy and vague, you are welcome to Rorsach some interpretation. Ghosts. Feh.

David Brin said...

donzelion the whole FACT ACT process is adversarial, welcoming and often requiring public airing of evidence. The very thing that those monsters always shrink from.

Congress can delegate subpoenas to each rep if it wants to, till it becomes traditional to pass a bill, each year. The tricky part is when a majority gives this to minority members… who betray the deal when they become majority. Then you have to count on voters punishing them.

Think. How will you feel if YOUR district’s rep is denied a chance to use your district’s one subpoena.

Trump’s wealth analysis by the NYT is neutralized by “it’s the fake NY Times.” Again, they haven’t a clue how to do polemic. Here’s a simple demand that if shouted by enough people, would have the same value:

“Give the IRS permission to tell us how your tax audit is going!”

donzelion said...

Duncan: My last post had some erroneous numbers so I deleted it. The point remains though. Tesla is valued far more than most other companies that also suffered losses in 2017, more than companies that have proven themselves over decades. Perhaps it should be, perhaps not.

As a company, Tesla has never been profitable, losing -$294m in 2014, -$889m in 2015, -$675m in 2016, and -$1.961 bn in 2017. Investors expect real profits soon. Perhaps they'll see them. Perhaps not.

GM's net was $2.804 bn in 2014, $9.687 bn in 2015, $9.427 bn in 2016, and a loss of -$3.880 bn in 2017 (that loss can largely be accounted for by one-off discontinued operations). Not wonderful, not horrible.

"But Tesla has been making substantial profits on all of it's cars ever since the Roadster"
Tesla made substantial gross profits. They also lost a lot of money.

"The likes of GM have a huge amount of "Assets" - in terms of the machinery to make IC cars - when EV's are the same price (soon) and better in every other way - how much will those "Assets" be worth?"
Probably correct. GM is selling its own EV, as are Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, and many others. They'll probably figure out exactly how to switch to larger scale EV production if demand proves out. Tesla profits, however, is dependent upon demand materializing. It may. It may not.

Tesla did beat Toyota's Prius for two months...of course, one factor in that is the fact that Tesla buyers get a much larger federal (and often, a state) tax credit, dropping the cost by up to $10k.

"The "Valuation" from the current stock price of over $50 Billion - is a long way above the $10.5 Billion that was actually invested in the company"
I'd normally read the market cap as the best guide to what's 'actually invested.'

"and is actually in line with a company with an income of $0.5 Billion a year"
Again, I'd normally read 'in line with a company' by referring to others playing in the same space: here, the only other major public automaker that suffered losses in 2017 I know of is GM (and their case for this being a one-off is pretty well-proven). What other companies are you speaking of?

To value Tesla so much more than GM is an expression of faith in Elon Musk and EVs. Faith may be warranted. But the Musk cult may have induced him to silly tweets like that $420 offer, and honestly, he still has bigger hurdles to overcome.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Congress can delegate subpoenas to each rep if it wants to,"

Really? Where do you find that in the Constitution? It's been raised quite a few times and tested (e.g., Exxon Corp. v. FTC, and Liveright v. United States); no court I know of interpreted the delegation authority as you do, while the Supreme Court has ruled to the contrary, invalidating attempts to confer individual power to individual members of Congress in their personal capacity (but not in their capacity as committee chair, so long as the power was directly conferred upon that committee).

Courts only enforce Congressional subpoenas after a chamber of Congress issues a contempt resolution (which again, reflects the will of the entire body, not any individual member thereof). That sort of fits with the expectation that this simply cannot be delegated to individual members.

In any event, subpoena power matters when one seeks to compel testimony that a witness refuses to provide (most often, to compel documents the witness prefers to destroy); I thought your goal was to ensure science is taken into consideration. There are better ways to do that which don't raise constitutional questions.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

I very much disagree with your characterization of these companies as 'software' companies. There really aren't too many software companies anymore. You're right that they aren't what they appear to do, though.

Your examples are rent-seekers. But modern, technological rent-seekers.

The robber barons made a few mistakes, and paid for them. They wanted to OWN everything. This resulted in all that anti-trust stuff. These days, they've taken a lesson from the old 20's organized crime. They don't want to OWN everything, they just want to CONTROL it. And get their cut. Owning something is risky. Much better to allow anyone to own it, as long as you control it and get your cut. It also avoids all that nasty anti-trust stuff. So it's OK, in the Rockafellerian sense of being slightly less rich but keeping your head, for other companies to exist. Just as long as they aren't too large.

As a slight aside, all that anti-trust stuff resulted in a lot more corporate transparency. Yes, you can still hide things from the public, but it's a lot harder. Our host could probably expound on that quite a bit.

AT&T owned everything. It got them split up as soon as there was a convenient reason. I'm still not absolutely certain that was a good idea. The excuse was that they were too big to audit by the IRS (which they were).

Probably the first modern, technological rent-seeker was IBM. They didn't want to own every company. What they did want was for every piece of corporate information to pass through one of their systems. That was their cut -- a piece of every typed memo or stored piece of data.

But they failed when the personal computer came in. Then Microsoft took over. All they wanted was a piece of every program and PC out there.

You're entirely correct that Google isn't about searches. All they want is a piece of >every< internet data transfer.

Amazon doesn't want to own all inventory. They're quite content to let others take that risk. What they do want is a piece of every internet sale. They sell their own inventory mainly to keep themselves big enough that there's no practical alternative. Sears was that during the physical sales era, and didn't see that they could have absolutely crushed everyone else in online sales. Look where they are now.

Apple doesn't want to own every app. But they want a piece of every one of them. And a piece of all music, too.

No one (of sufficient size) sells things any more. They sell revenue streams disguised as brands. And they're all designed to take a cut of every single thing within their sphere of operation. And the biggest want you to do their work for them, and take their cut.

Darrell E said...


I can't tell if you are simply saying that what Tesla is trying to achieve is a risky endeavor, which is of course unquestionably true, or if you are saying more than that. You seem, in my opinion, to be a "hater" or to at least be overly influenced by said "haters." And I'm guessing you are thinking I might be a Musk "fan boy." It's probably pointless to say more, but I'll give it shot.

You: "Darrell E: "Musk doesn't need his engineers to pull any magic rabbits out of their hats in order to make it. Both Tesla and Space X are beyond that point.""

On the contrary: reaching Tesla's production goals will require many impressive feats,

Reaching their production goals is hard work, yes, but it is not something that requires innovative engineering breakthroughs. It is a known task that has been solved many times. And despite nearly always missing their initially claimed target dates, they have steadily met every new production target. In what way is it reasonable to compare a start-ups achieving 10,000 units per week for the 1st time with 100 year old car companies? This may be the way the shortsighted market works, but it isn't reasonable and when it causes companies like Tesla to fail that isn't necessarily a good thing.

You: ". . . and earning profits could require almost a new form of mathematics."

Not bad, made me smile. But not necessarily accurate. Yes, there are plenty of estimates critical of the Model 3's profitability. But there are also plenty that estimate it can be profitable. Some by outfits that were initially skeptical and in one case downright hostile. Given that Tesla, and SpaceX as well, have steadily proven so many of the negative claims and forecasts against them false, why so negative about this? It seems the more Tesla & SpaceX progress the louder and more intense their critics become.

You: "profits will be a harder nut to crack, and unlike Amazon, this is a field where failure to do so early will have serious implications and could derail the whole enterprise."

Agree 100%. But, normal for the circumstances and given their track record so far I think it is reasonable to think they have a pretty good chance at becoming profitable within a reasonable time frame.

You: "A lot more people want to buy Fords, GMs, and Chryslers - and have done so . . ."

The Model 3 was the number 1 selling car in the US by dollars last month and number 3 by units. Neither Ford, GM or Chrysler were ahead of it. Already addressed profitability above.

You: "The financial market BUILT Tesla. His ideas and strategy - their money. But for their input and faith, he'd have gone bankrupt years ago;"

Sure. That's they way things work. This is a prime example of the strength of the market. That doesn't in any way preclude the fact that there are big players in the market, both on the trading side and the reporting/prognostication side that are biased against Musk because they don't like him and or what he is doing, or simply because they are playing a strategy that requires that Musk/Tesla lose, rather than because Tesla is too risky. That may be the way things are, but it's shitty. This isn't the market impartially arriving at a determination of the worth of a business. This is an aspect of the market that gives the lie to the fabled free market utopia and is an example of why reasonable market regulation is necessary for a decent society.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Sorry to crash in and ignore discussion, but I just saw this and had to draw attention:

Thomas Friedman finally got it. And said it outright. In the New York Times.

And he abandons bothsidesism and whataboutism to state what I could plainly see even as a high school student in the Young Independents:

"It would be easy to blame both sides equally for this shift, noted Ornstein, but it is just not true. After the end of the Cold War, he said, “tribal politics were introduced by Newt Gingrich when he came to Congress 40 years ago,” and then perfected by Mitch McConnell during the Barack Obama presidency, when McConnell declared his intention to use his G.O.P. Senate caucus to make Obama fail as a strategy for getting Republicans back in power."

Zepp Jamieson said...


Zepp Jamieson said...

"Thomas Friedman finally got it."

No, he really doesn't get it. He thinks the people running the Republican party are reasonable, well-intentioned people who put the country ahead of personal power. They are not, and should never be treated as such.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Regarding Congressional Subpoenas: The House and Senate each have unshared authority to determine the nature of how subpoenas can be handled. I like the FACT Act idea, although if misused, could be a severe impediment in the House. And Courts, due to separation of powers, would have no say in how Congress determined the issuing of subpoenas. (They could if Congress was misusing them in such a way as to violate the rights of the citizenry, however).

Robert said...

Well, Dr. Brin, if it makes you feel any better, the second post-sequel movie did state Luke had cut himself off from the Force. So for quite a few years, Yoda was unable to haunt Luke because Luke was removed from the grid, as it were.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Dr. Brin: "Congress can delegate subpoenas to each rep if it wants to,"

donz: 'Really? Where do you find that in the Constitution?'

Utter malarkey. Even YOU could design a system where the chamber votes to officially as a chamber issue subpoenas from a list submitted by members. Don't be obtuse.

donzelion said...

Zepp: "Regarding Congressional Subpoenas: The House and Senate each have unshared authority to determine the nature of how subpoenas can be handled."

Indeed they do, and use that power freely for legislative and oversight functions. But each chamber wields that power as a collective. Individual members (except in their capacity as ministerial officers in a committee) do not wield oversight or legislative power.

The House/Senate might create 435/100 subcommittees with a quorum of 1 and empower each such 'subcommittee' to conduct investigations in some specific legislative/oversight jurisdiction. Never been tried. The extension of jurisdiction would be the key element though; committees and subs need a specific mandate identifying why they were created, what they can investigate, why it connects to legislative/oversight processes of the collective chamber. Generic wording wouldn't work; the Agriculture Committees reviews Ag developments, including Ag agencies, etc. It's not THAT narrow, but it's always narrower than a general grant of authority 'for the sake of good law.'

That sort of delegation might survive, and get us where our host wants to go...but I still can't see why it would be a place worth going. Seems more chaotic than helpful.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: obtuse? I simply review how the Supreme Court interprets the Constituion. They may be obtuse at times. They're also the only body with a final say on what it means.

You want to overrule them? You'll need evidence to support that, either law or otherwise. Law is also a 'fact using' profession; we do not have freedom to reinterpret what the rules mean however we please.

In this case, if you know how to overrule the cases I cited, by all means chime in. If not, you're out of your field of expertise, asserting knowledge you don't have in fields you don't know. And that would be hubris which your friends would seek to discourage for your own benefit, and for the sake of the other good ideas you do have.

A.F. Rey said...

Remember how the last election was compared to Back to the Future? Well, apparently word has spread.

Snopes has an article on a social media meme that compares an actual photo of Don and company with a still from the movie. The likeness is uncanny...

For real fun, watch the YouTube video at the end, which replaces Biff with Trump in a scene from the second movie. :D

Jon S. said...

Dr. Brin, I'm afraid I must concur with Rob H. in disagreeing with your interpretation of the events of The Last Jedi.

In the original trilogy, Yoda was a lying little sack of midichlorians who willed himself to "die" (letting his life be absorbed into the Force) when his house of falsehoods started to collapse around him. He and his ilk were largely responsible, in my opinion, for the total collapse of the Jedi, teaching relative youngsters like Obi-wan to say things like "Only the Sith deal in absolutes!" with a straight face. The only way, in my view, to bring "balance" to the Force was to utterly destroy both the Sith and the Jedi as institutions, because both had become so caught up in teaching their students The One True Way that they had lost all flexibility.

He was even worse in the prequels, hypocritically wielding Dark Side powers in his big fight with Dooku, and accepting delivery of an army of slave soldiers without even questioning why.

In the last movie, however, he seems to have learned something during his time away - something Luke failed to learn. Luke got halfway there, with his understanding that the Jedi had to end, but still didn't understand why they had to end; he never grasped that the issue was the fact that the Jedi, with their insistence on always being "perfect" and getting everything right the first time, would inevitably create their own monsters, casting aside half-trained powerful Force users because they screwed up once. Yoda finally understood that if you never allowed someone to learn from their mistakes, you essentially never allowed them to learn.

And so he intervened with Luke, destroyed the "ancient Jedi texts", and made sure his former pupil sent Rey off into the galaxy to teach others how to make mistakes and then apologize and fix them. That was a teaching the Jedi had always lacked, one that even Yoda failed to comprehend until after abandoning his body. (I like to imagine a convocation of all the most powerful Jedi ever, just waiting for Yoda to show up so they could yell at him for spending almost a thousand years ensuring they would all ultimately fail. At least, in my headcanon that was his big learning experience.)

donzelion said...

Darrell E: "You seem, in my opinion, to be a "hater" or to at least be overly influenced by said "haters."

Skeptics are not 'haters.' You'll see no cynical dismissal of Musk's work from me, anywhere, but only skepticism, which is both healthy and necessary.

"And I'm guessing you are thinking I might be a Musk "fan boy."
You might be; we know they exist. They hurt the cause they embrace because they bring only enthusiasm, not rationality to the table. In time, the critics MUST be answered - or the endeavor fails. But not necessarily 'now.'

"Reaching their production goals is hard work, yes, but it is not something that requires innovative engineering breakthroughs."
I don't know what precisely happened while Musk was in 'production hell.' I assume these were extraordinary problems unique to his product - but I could be wrong. If I am wrong and these are 'ordinary' problems that inflicted extraordinary delays and caused him to repeatedly fail to meet his own projections - then he's either incompetent or disingenuous, and either of those defects should cause his backers to reevaluate. Claiming these are 'extraordinary problems needing extraordinary solutions' is actually a statement of faith in him.

In what way is it reasonable to compare a start-ups achieving 10,000 units per week for the 1st time with 100 year old car companies?
It's reasonable because his startup competes with those 100 year old companies in a market: everyone is always comparing and choosing, as they should, and as we set it up to force them to do.

But mostly, I find the cult around Musk distasteful and dangerous. It smells like the Enron cult of the '90s, and the UBS/AIG/Investment Bankers cult of the '00s to me. At the time, the members of those cults sniffed at me for my parochial, cynical simple-mindedness.

That said, if you glance back to where Alfred explained his Tesla investment, I shrugged that aside: Alfred knows what he's doing, isn't betting his life savings, and is betting responsibly. Others aren't. I am afraid for them: Musk will take care of himself one way or the other, but those folks, broken and bankrupted, will create hardship for the rest of their community. Our community. I see myself as on the side of all the people who wish to help save our climate, or mitigate harms to it, who buy into Musk's dream based on their hopes of doing good.

"This may be the way the shortsighted market works, but it isn't reasonable and when it causes companies like Tesla to fail-"
Again, the 'shortsighted market' BUILT Tesla - and kept it afloat despite always losing money. ;-) They're neither shortsighted nor farsighted; just 'money' sighted.

But most players in the market aren't betting with their own money, lives, reputations, etc. - and they're not competing with one another to pick the best investments, but competing with smaller, individual investors to try to fleece them of their wealth.

That is my criticism of capitalism in general: the big profit more from fleecing the small than they do from competing with one another. The purposes of becoming 'big' is supposedly to deploy economies of scale and other advantages that come with size; in practice however, it's more often about beating up the little guy more efficiently, while carefully avoiding engagement with the other big players. I fear that should this pattern bear out once again with Tesla, it will do so to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of small people who in good faith wanted Tesla to help save our climate. This group needs to be defended, strengthened, protected from interlopers looking to fleece them. I don't know if Musk is such a man; I do know many have done precisely that, and history is littered with the rubble and debt they left behind.

donzelion said...

Jon S: "[Yoda] was even worse in the prequels, hypocritically wielding Dark Side powers in his big fight with Dooku, and accepting delivery of an army of slave soldiers without even questioning why."

That slave army is my biggest knock against Yoda, but also, a reason why I'm reluctant to hate him entirely. Exactly how did he take 'possession' of it?

Perhaps Yoda asked the clones to serve? If they're volunteers - not slaves - and he needed to convince them to serve his goals, that might delay their arrival...which means that Yoda didn't betray the Jedi, but simply complied with basic decency. But if Yoda never obtained their consent, simply issued orders to 'his' (or 'the Republic's) army, then we have two possibilities:
(1) He hesitated, but decided, 'f#ck it, I'll use whatever I can to save my friends' - meaning his friends were worth more to him than the liberty of other beings, but at least he acknowledged those beings have value as beings. Not laudable, but not wretchedly vile either. I can imagine Yoda agonizing about this (and meditating on it).
(2) He never hesitated, meaning he never regarded the clones as having intrinsic value as beings, seeing them as mere tools. If so, then Yoda is no better than the Sith (and possibly worse - the droid army might not have consisted of sentient machines, so they might never have been 'enslaved').

Lucas left this initial recruitment off screen: he didn't think these details mattered much. That tells us about Lucas, not Yoda. That few critics pointed out the possible problem also tells us about Americans: we're surprisingly comfortable with slavery at times...or maybe we're so uncomfortable with it that we refuse to acknowledge the possibility of its existence and meaning...

donzelion said...

And aside from all the other musings...bravo Mascot! Bravo Japanese engineering for Hayabusa! Bravo French engineering for Mascot? Bravo humanity for the capacity for multiple nations to compete for glory by exploration!

And can anyone tell me how 'OSIRIS-Rex' got it's name? LOL, Egyptian/Greek metaphors, American engineering...may Bennu prove even more lucrative than Ryugu (

Anonymous said...

There is an intersting book called "the Last Ringbearer" wher the Orcs are the good guys and Mordor is a land of science and engineering while Gondor is reactionary and Elves are bad.

Perhaps something could be written for Star Wars with Darth Vader as the hero?

Treebeard said...

^^ Those sound like perfect examples of Enlightenment cult inversion taken to its logical conclusion: a world where ugliness, materialism, soulless industry and science are exalted as good, and beauty, tradition, spirituality and nobility are deprecated as evil. I think we're about 90% of the way there, if we can finish the off the last pockets of rebellion and achieve total victory for the Empire. Or as Phil Dick might put it, perfect the “Black Iron Prison”: a prison for the human soul so sophisticated that it has convinced its inmates they are free. I've heard Muslims call it the “Dajjal system”— a society that makes heaven look like hell and vice versa—or a sun rising in the West that claims it is the real sun; I've heard a Buddhist describe it as the elevation of samsara to the status of nirvana. In Gnostic terms, this is the project of the archons: to keep us trapped in the prison of matter, under the dominion of false gods; in Christian terms, it is a demonic enterprise that inverts creation and creator. Try as we might, we can't avoid metaphysics; ultimately that's what a lot of these disagreements boil down to, in my opinion. But of course this is all crazy nonsense and these are meaningless matters compared to the price of a Tesla model 3.

David Brin said...

“Dr. Brin: obtuse? I simply review how the Supreme Court interprets the Constituion.”

No, you did NOT do that and despite your assumption to the contrary, your response proves it. Again, the House can vote, en masse to validate 435 separate subpoenas and that is NOT delegation of authority. Crum.

BTW, if you cannot see the wretched betrayal of sending all but one of the Jedi in an unnecessary suicide charge when you had a giant army just 5 minutes away, then I give up.



Zepp Jamieson said...

"But each chamber wields that power as a collective. Individual members (except in their capacity as ministerial officers in a committee) do not wield oversight or legislative power."

No, but it only takes a simple rules and proceedures vote in each chamber to change that. There's nothing in the Constitution to preclude such a movie.

Legally, quite possible. Politically, about as likely as the Ottawa Senators winning the World Series.

Zepp Jamieson said...

What would happen if we hooked Trump up to a brain?

Thomas Maughan said...

"but even if we are overcompensating a bit, it is to make up for - and end - the 6000 years of brutal betrayal, unfairness and outright, self-serving lies of those past hierarchies."

So which is it; "make up for" or "end"? It cannot be both. Ending is a reasonable goal; "making up for" seems impossible to calculate exactly how much any living person should get, taken from other living persons, based on what Ogg did to Mogg 6000 years ago but calculated on modern, du jour, ethics rather than ethics existing at the time of Ogg and Mogg.

The only beneficiary of that exercise is of course the broker, the person doing the taking and the giving, minus his fee.

We exist because those past hierarchies were successful in a Darwinian sense.

How exactly would Personhood bestowed upon chimpanzees work? They would have to have Guardians ad Litem; and those persons would naturally receive the government benefits that accrue to chimpanzees; they would cast the chimpanzees' votes. Imagine how many votes you could cast if you were guardian to hundreds of chimpanzees!

Or millions. Presumably the elephants will be voting Republicans.