Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Dire warnings - and hope - from science fiction

Posting just before the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday - my favorite - let's step back for some big perspective.

For starters: the Planetary Society proposes that space brings us together! So if you're expecting to gather with extended family on Thanksgiving, avoid politics. TPS offers conversation starters about space. Like Monday's Mars landing! Or the search for life out there. How to stop an Earth-aimed asteroid! The arrival of space tourism for the rich. Earth sensing finding the truth about the Arctic and... oops, some things do circle back to politics. Like our outward, exploring spirit. And facts.

You’ll enjoy and be edified by Eliot Peper’s passionate and fascinating interview with journalist and science fiction maven Annalee Newitz about her new novel “Autonomous,” which explores how intellectual property and dominant corporations might (if we’re not careful) lead to coercive oppression and quashed innovation in the future. It’s a vital topic. Both Intellectual Property (IP) trolls and corporate-rights fanatics have taken important enlightenment-pragmatic innovations and turned them into fundamentalist excuses for oligarchy. 

As fitting and proper in a dire-warning tale, Annalee portrays these trends getting worse in the future, with both organic and AI beings suffering effective slavery.

Today we see innovative creations thwarted or forbidden or hidden away — from screenplays to medicines to spare parts that would let you repair your own tractor. Generic drugs get unscrupulously blocked and rapacious giants like Monsanto persecute farmers for accidentally growing wind-blown seeds. This could all get much worse as synthetic agents like AI or blockchain programs start developing their own needs or else exist as wholly-owned sepoys of controlling corporations.

Warnings like Annalee's are apropos and needed. Still, I have yet to see any of the modern jeremiads against “IP-abuse” delve into why our enlightenment experiment created and fostered these things — patents, copyrights and corporations — in the first place. 

Yes, rapacious exploiters have found ways to use patents etc. against innovation and competition. But that masks the reason that copyrights and patents were created in the first place ... in order to foster those good things! (I have a chapter about this in The Transparent Society.)

Ponder the tragic comedy of errors called “human history.” Sure, most of the calamities were wrought by one thing -- stupid governance by feudalism . But there were some other dampers on freedom and progress. 

One was simple human self-interest. If you invented something – say a new plow or better glass – there was only one way for you and your children to profit from the new technology… if you kept it secret.

Consider how many techs we once had, then lost, across 6000 years. Clear glass. The Baghdad battery. Forceps. Damascus steel. Antekythera devices, suggesting there were geared clocks and sophisticated computer-calculators. The steam machinery of Heron of Alexandria. All vanished because someone died, or forgot the recipe, or some invading army killed the two sons who knew the secret.

Patents were designed to solve this by luring inventors and inventions out of the shadows, bribing innovators with a reliable income stream so they would feel an incentive to immediately share their breakthroughs, rather than hide them. And then the miracle would happen. Someone across town would swiftly make an improvement and patent that… and we were off. (See my posting: Considering Copyright - and Patents.)

Sure, over time, shyster lawyers found ways to twist the meaning of this reform in directions never intended, perverting it into a methodology for cheating, parasitism and innovation suppression. So? Please dig the real lesson. Cheating… will… always… happen. That kind of human will always be with us. And correcting such parasitic maneuvers is what politics is supposed to be for.

Which is why politics itself -- as a mature methodology for discussing problems and adults negotiating solutions – had to be killed, starting with the “Hastert Rule” and diving into Murdochism. Indeed, liberals aren't fault-free!  Because they let these perversions of the IP reform turn them away from remembering what IP was originally for. Instead of seeking to correct the perversions, the standard dogma is to toss it all. Both bathwater and baby.

None of which is said in order to turn you away from Automonous, by Annalee Newitz! Her thought experiment is excellent and insightful…

…as is a vivid novel by Karl Schroeder, soon to be offered for pre-sale: “Stealing Worlds,”  which portrays a tomorrow  fully as dark as Annalee’s, for many of the same reasons. It’s a hacker/cyberpunk novel set in a future dominated by dark corporations and even darker rogue algorithms, only with some twists informed by Karl’s expertise in the new world of blockchain coinage and contracts.

Yes, I differ with both authors over where we may be heading – I don’t deem their described failure-mode paths to be highly plausible. (How do you have ever-rising automated production of ever-cheaper and even home-printable goods coincide with massive, super-depression poverty, in which no one can afford to buy anything and revolution simmers around the corner, empowered by spectacularly democratized means of destruction

Such a future would have to entail mass bribery of the lower orders and quelling them with pleasure – Huxleyan rather than Orwellian despotism. There are several possible attractor states  -- many of them unattractive -that such a society may drift toward -- feudal fealty pyramids, revolution, intelligent-though-uncompassionate social contracts – but none of them plausibly combine vast-cheap production with simmering-resentful world-slums, as enticing as those seem for a fiction author.

Still, these are great reads! Moreover, it’s kinda flattering how both novels wind up delivering an ultimate plot resolution similar to the one I came up with, in EARTH (1989) -- a democratized transcendence that replies to the monolithic saviors offered earlier, by the likes of Asimov and Clarke!

Indeed, it is the sort of literal, plausible deus ex machine that might offer our best hope for a soft-landing, amid this ongoing good-and-bad singularity.

== Other explorations of SF ==

Here's as essay on "What is SF" by I guy I've long known. He tries to parse Science fiction as science fiction.

As you know, I prefer "Speculative History," since science does not have to be central to our stories, but change is.  (I've long believed fantasy is about static social structures - generally feudal/demigod - and SF is drawn to thought experiments about how things might be shaken into new forms.)

This essay is more focused, peeking at speculative fiction books set on single-gender planets. An interesting sampler that includes my Glory Season, tangentially. Of course there are many left out. The most important would be Philip Wylie’s 1950s novel The Disappearance in which women-only and men-only worlds both exist in parallel (as the title suggests, separation is sudden), and the overall lesson is surprisingly advanced for the era when it was written.  

The biggest sub-genre that is not alluded-to is the SF’nal world where one gender is so marginalized that it might as well be cattle. In that sub-genre, there are as many angry feminist authors as callously contemptuous male ones.  

== And more fecundity!  ==

Ray Kurzweil's first novel, Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, tells the story of a remarkable girl who, with her super-intelligence and smart technologies, plus help from her friends — solves some of the world’s largest challenges: curing cancer, brokering peace in the middle east, and providing clean water to millions in Africa. And she does it all before her 16th birthday. 

2001: An Odyssey in Words: Celebrating the Centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s Birth, is an anthology edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter, with fiction by Alastair Reynolds, Bruce Sterling, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Becky Chambers, Chris Beckett and others, with each story exactly 2001 words in length.

Unfit: a new sci fi magazine worth a look… they aim to explore some kinda surreal stuff… like my own “The Crystal Spheres.”

For a little optimism, and some online vividness, see Seat 14c, a  shared anthology sposored by ANA Airlines, in which one of their 2017 flights winds up in the year 2037. Fun from some of the best writers in the genre.

Here's a fun rundown of novels that play mind games with reality, in the spirit of the recent Nexflix show MANIAC.

And an interesting historical document. A 1964 Playboy interview with Asimov, Pohl, Anderson, Serling, Budrys, Clarke, Sturgeon, Blish, Heinlein… Dang they could and should have then included Judith Merrill, C.L. Moore, and Leigh Brackett, but still, kinda fascinating. Naturally, where they were on-target, you feel a sense of awe.  As you’ll wince at some myopia and failure to see what should have been obvious. And well, there's an unfortunate cartoon. But hey, we’ve made progress!

Children of Time – the sci-fi novel by author Adrian Tchaikovsky that won the Arthur Clarke Award, portrays what may be the last humans attempting to colonize a world already occupied by sapient spiders who had been uplifted by humans with good taste in ship names. And Lionsgate films is in pre-production. It could be great! (The novel sure is.) So here’s hoping.

And finally an important endeavor in civics education by the creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comix.  


Chris Heinz said...

I found this novel way disappointing = see the link. But, it was a 1st novel.

David Brin said...

Alfred good points about the Weyl tax scheme, which is kind of a forced auction. It has attractive first-order effects, giving individuals a libertarian-style sovereignty over the value of whatever they own. If you try to avoid tax by low-balling, someone will likely come and buy-snatch it from you. It certainly appears to be a radical supercharging of the George Tax, which maintains that, while people should own the they produce themselves, economic value derived from land (often including natural resources and natural opportunities) should belong equally to all members of society. Whoever thimks he can make better use of an asset is welcome to bid up its price, but must add value or he - in turn - will be overtaxed at that price.

Both the George Tax and the Weyl Tax undercut a plague on every society — a drift toward the lordly-owner castes emphasizing rent-seeking or “rentier” economics… the main thing that Adam Smith denounced and that the U.S. Founders rebelled against. And the use of money to warp politics to favor rentiers is happening before our eye, especially with so-called "supply Side" voodoo.

Each generation of Americans has had to struggle with the tendency of oligarchs to emphasize rentier-friendly rules that suck the life out of a middle class and that suck economic value into asset bubbles that inevitably pop.

Alfred Differ comments on what happens when they pop: “Look at the recent financial meltdown. Wealth owners got slaughtered because property values dropped. They recovered later, but for a while, some of them lost half their wealth. That fact demonstrates what 'price' really means. It is a value that emerges when buyers and sellers are in equilibrium. If buyers go home as they do during bond market collapses, the assets become illiquid. There is NO price on such assets at that point. Even the last agreed upon price is meaningless. In the language of software developers, the price is assigned a null pointer. Ain't nothing there and that is the reality behind our markets.”

Which takes us to one of my doubt-questions about the COST system. People are (1) not good judges of value, nor rational and (2) easy-prey to shysters. Hence such a system would have to be regulated dozens of ways, in order to deal with predictable modes of cheating. (One of these, that Donald Trump used to crush Merv Griffin, was luring your naïve adversary into over-estimation of value.)

Another aspect is momentum. There’d have to be allowance for human reluctance to work hard at re-evaluatuion, something that might be helped by AI assistance.

Then there’s the matter of poor folks, who cannot afford high taxes but if they set a low price can be bought out and sent packing by speculators and gentrifiers. There would have to be a generous, tax-free floor. Which would then offer the rich a chance to stash-safely some property by vesting it in the poor. But then, won’t the poor benefit from that, even if the property is entailed with a future buy-back price?

I remain a bit sceptical… but willing to read more. That is, if I can find the time. Your further thoughts are welcome.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Posting just before the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday - my favorite

Mine too. Despite all attempts to subsume it into the Christmas season, which now begins immediately after Halloween. Thanksgiving is not political, not religious (at least not sectarian), and except for the purchase of food, not consumerist. What's not to love?

Since I don't know how much I'll be on-line tomorrow, I wish a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to my American compatriots, and to all else who take those wishes in the spirit intended.

Laurence said...

Sounds like Ray Kurzweil has never read this little story:

Larry Hart said...


Sounds like someone is trying to do the same thing as Norman Goldman's radio show in comics form.

(Archived opening hour of past shows are free, as is the live stream between 3-6pm PST weekdays)

David Brin said...

Overcompensation against American exceptionalism can go way too far. Postings by liberals made me realize we need reminders that the truest American spirit of tolerance, diversity, freedom of speech, separation of church & state and generosity of spirit do go back *almost* to the First Thanksgiving. Look up a fellow named Roger Williams. And regain a bit of your pride.

Better yet, read my short story "A Professor at Harvard" in INSISTENCE OF VISION.

Blessings on all and may we decide to actually deserve all of our good fortune. The nation turned mightily toward righteousness, this month, but the road is long.

J said...

Wow, I just finished listening to Children of Time last week! That would indeed make a great movie. I hope they can do it right.

Alfred Differ said...

People are (1) not good judges of value, nor rational and (2) easy-prey to shysters.

I'd add a few other things to that list and break out the one about people not being rational. One of the things they are is inclined to spend their treasure to harm others who they think did wrong. Imagine putting a value on your copyright to Glory Season. Got anyone out there who despises the message you delivered? Might they be willing to spend money just to harm you for delivering it? You might have to over-value your copyright for defensive purposes. Got anyone else who doesn't like you enough to take a swing? (I don't actually want to know answers to any of these questions, of course.)

There is also the small problem that monopoly isn't automatically bad. I have a copyright on my source code for an open source project (clados) stashed at GitHub. The code is mine and I've made that clear, but I've freely licensed it to all who are willing to accept the generous terms. Do I have a monopoly? Should I self-assess the value of that code? Should I pay taxes on it? What do I do when one of the people who got pissed at me for my business approach decides to force me to sell?


We are blessed with bright people in academia, but some ideas from economics have done terrible harm. Hollywood has its 'mad scientist' stereotype, but reality produced 'economists with good intentions' and they are much more dangerous.

Their 'Data as Labor' suggestion has all the looks of a well meaning monster to me. At the root is a fundamental misunderstanding. Users of social media aren't passive producers of content being exploited. At a minimum, they are active producers deriving benefit from their contributions. If there is any exploitation (I'm willing to consider this as a real possibility) it is related to fraud when the platform owner hides their actual intent or lies about their use for the content. Their DAL proposal smacks of someone trying to tell me I'm undervaluing my contribution and they intend to help make sure the exploitation stops. How dumb do they think I am?

As for VIP, I'd love to de-politicize immigration policies. I'm not sure that is possible, though, and I'm really wary of anything that looks like indentured servitude. I'd listen carefully to this one and be equally prepared to provide support or opposition. I don't think it is a good idea for an immigrant's sponsor to profit from the sponsorship... unless the sponsor is family. You already know I support chain immigration, though, and we've been over this. I'd be very wary of VIP. It could be another well intentioned monster, but I'd be willing to hear it speak in small doses.

{Time to go sleep off some turkey. Have fun all. Enjoy your families if you have them. Enjoy being with someone else otherwise.}

David Brin said...

Thanks for points I can raise with them, Alfred. I don't have all the answers.

Re chain migration, you know my argument. Ahmed in Mogadishuis lucky with relatives in the US. Musul has none but works and studies hard. Ahmed is already lucky, getting remittances, visits and help from lawyers. Why should the law favor the already lucky over the talented and hard working?

I don't get it.

Alfred Differ said...

Yah. I'd let them both in. Some in the GOP think the Dems are for open borders. They are mistaken. It is my friends who are for much more open borders because we think the law as it stands is immoral. I'm more inclined to tear it down than fix it, but I'm in a minority so I'll just have to try to persuade the rest of you. No easy feat. 8)

David Brin said...

Much opposition to immigration may be racist. I don't care what the average skin tone of a typical American is, a generation by now. What's essential is that immigrants come in quantities we can "digest"... culturally, in the sense of engendering prosperity and assumptions of individualism, diversity, equal opportunity plus fair-flar competitiveness, general secularism and an understanding and preference for positive sums. Exploratory, confident, adventurous, humorous and adaptable. If so, then America is still America and will lead the world.

That won't happen (sorry) if the gates are just thrown open. We'll become a pyramidal society with a vast, unabsorbed underclass and the cultural effects will devastate everything special about us. And anyone who quotes me saying the preceding, without including the following, is a goddam liar, because we CAN digest waves of clever, ambitious immigrants!! We have and benefited immensely for 280 years. And will continue doing so. We can absorb more than we have! Though yes, an orderly and controlled border is essential.

Anonymous said...

Technology is making my idea of becoming an eternal spirit possible. But, of course, I want true consciousness, not just a trace of what my soul was. By the way; This technology has the potential to be a very successful business.
Maybe we can all live eternally on the internet. And live in virtual worlds for all eternity. Well also, from a virtual life, it is possible to change everything. ¡Eternal life! ¡Centuries and centuries of unending struggle against the forces of evil!
In the end, after many eons, we will see how our sun dies, while we, the AI, move away in huge world ships, in the direction of the stars.



Alfred Differ said...

okay. There probably isn't much of a difference in our positions then. I think we can digest a lot of immigrants right now and would be better off in the attempt. No doubt we'd scare the xenophobes, so I'd accept a compromise that limited the danger their reaction would cause. Maybe a ratchet that sunsets restrictions over a 20 year period? If GDP was below 1%, the ratchet could pause.

Immigrants help with GDP growth simply by being here... and we need them to deal with Boomer retirements.

The people of the world wouldn't all rush here, but people with family already here would have a leg up.

g'night all!

Tony Fisk said...

Luck played a large part, and it's not something to be encouraged.
On the other hand...the inadvisability of bringing guns to knife fights.

Whilst I'm here, an interesting report about a liquid that can store solar energy for up to ten years before releasing it as heat. They're not looking to replace power stations system, but a system that can provide a temperature increase of 63C has possibilities.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Re chain migration, you know my argument. Ahmed in Mogadishuis lucky with relatives in the US. Musul has none but works and studies hard. Ahmed is already lucky, getting remittances, visits and help from lawyers. Why should the law favor the already lucky over the talented and hard working?

I don't get it.

Caveat emptor, I'm more in agreement with Alfred on this one. You seem not to "get it" because you're thinking of the individual immigrants in isolation--why should this one benefit more than that one just because this one is lucky enough to have a US relative? Whereas I see it more from the POV of the family who is already here. They want their family to be here with them--why should that be denied them? And incidentally, it benefits the rest of us that the new immigrant will presumably have a support system in place already when they get here--they're not becoming a burden to the country.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

Whilst I'm here, an interesting report about a liquid that can store solar energy for up to ten years before releasing it as heat.

I used to joke/fantasize about something like that--a theoretical substance that could fill a portion of the basement and store heat all summer, releasing it back into the house over the winter.

What an age we live in.

Twominds said...

@Cadfish N. Cod from the last thread.

The Heinlein novel this tax idea reminds you of is Number of the Beast, where the hero's live for a short while in a parallel USA with that system. I thought back then that Heinlein had thought of it himself, but it looks like it's an older libertarian idea.

I need to reread Number of the Beast. Almost all of the pulp sf references went way over my head. I only have it in translation, so it must be 30 years or so that I read it.

Larry Hart said...

We've discussed some of this here, including Benedict Donald's slipping approval ratings among the armed forces, but I find the part that I bolded below curious.

For what it is worth, Trump's approval rating among active-duty troops is slipping a bit. He was at 46% approve and 37% disapprove at the start of his term, and now it's pretty much even, with 43.8% approving and 43.1% disapproving. Mirroring trends among the general public, he does much worse with officers (i.e., college-educated folks) and women soldiers than he does with enlisted men. The pollsters did not ask the coast guard what they think, so we won't be able to suss out the effect of today's visit, but among branches they did talk to, the President is most popular with the Marines, and least popular with the Air Force, for whatever that is worth.

David Brin said...

Interesting how DT's least popular in the USAF. I guess intellect is winning over religious fanatic indoctrination efforts.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Or maybe the religious fanatics actually take their religion seriously.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

You still have not a single shred of evidence that Damascus steel (wootz) 'vanished because someone died, or forgot the recipe, or some invading army killed the two sons who knew the secret'. If you do, then the scholars who maintain otherwise would absolutely love to see your sources for that.

You had no evidence of it the last time you said so a couple of years ago, and you still have none. This is an area where you are significantly out of your depth.

There is still >no< scientific nor historical basis for such a statement, and it lessens your other arguments.

The current best history is that the vanadium-bearing ore that wootz is predicated on just ran out. The deposits were depleted. And since no one knew or could know just why that ore made wootz, there was no secret to keep.

And the process wasn't any more secret than any other process. Crucible steel was made all over India and central Asia.

But I don't expect you'd believe me, a nobody. You didn't last time, so why would you this time? I just get my information from people like Ann Feurbach, PhD who regularly writes papers on exactly this sort of stuff, and Ric Furrer, who has less than a doctorate but is invited to demonstrate at places like the Smithsonian and on Nova.

The irony comes when you have people like Al Pendray attempting to lock up the process again by patent.

Since you seem to want examples of knowledge lost when it didn't have to be, how about the green glass from Lorraine? That was lost likely lost through war and politics.

David Brin said...

Geez raito, what's with the fury? Fine! I'll try to replace Damascus steel with "green glass from Lorraine..." and will probably forget.

Memory is assigned partly by importance and you need to understand that I assign very little importance to factoids that make no real difference to the core argument.

Remeind me never to argue with you over which direction the toilet roll is supposed to go. Yipe!

Alfred Differ said...

... obviously over the top. 8)

My mother and her cousin had an argument over that when I was real young. My mother couldn't care less. Her cousin thought it important. That's when I learned about arguments that weren't worth winning, but I didn't really get it until I was almost 30.

The core argument matters most when you are trying to move a large chunk of mindshare.
The factoids matter when you are trimming your position as you near a majority capable of making policy.

David Brin said...

Small efficiencies are worth making regular habits. So yes... over the top!

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

.. obviously over the top. 8)

Not if there's a cat in the house.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Keep the door closed so they don't drink from the bowl.

Honestly, though, I've never had a cat mess with it. I know they do, but I'm inclined to let them outside where they find better things to mess with. Not everyone can do that and many cats should be protected if you want them to live to a ripe old age, but I prefer cats that prefer a mix of being inside and outside.

...and with this topic, I think I'm the furthest off-topic I've ever been. 8)

Tony Fisk said...

I'm with David on the toilet roll debate (no cats)

Meanwhile, on a two hour shuttle trip some 240 years in the future, the debate has evolved.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

but I prefer cats that prefer a mix of being inside and outside.

We had that, until several neighbors complained about the cats killing birds and rabbits in their yards. I'd have thought we were doing them a favor. But now we have the worst of both worlds--cats who are used to going outside having to be kept inside.

David Brin said...

LH... not a problem that can't be solved by inviting a few coyotes into the neighborhood...

Ilithi Dragon said...

lol this sounds almost like a midwatch conversation...

Complete with the morbid solution to the cat problem.
} X = 8 )

john fremont said...

@Larry Hart

I wonder how Trump's poll numbers with the Marines will hold up if he relieves Secretary Mattis? Mattis is very esteemed in Marine Corps ranks especially with enlisted Marines. The other thing with those poll numbers is that the Marine Corps has the lowest percentage of females in its ranks being that it is primarily a light infantry force. From some anecdotes I have gotten from some relatives serving in the Corps right now, is that the African American and Latino leathernecks are not very inspired by the C-in-C but of course respect the office. The white Marines hold a higher opinion of him citing changes in rules of engagement for ground forces for example.I think Mattis had more to do with that but those Marines would say that Trump picked the right man for the job.

David Brin said...

Then control the coyotes by switching from silly-useless (and tasty-morsel) urban lap dogs to large useful ones.

Only each solution leads to problems. I know an old lady who swallowed a fly....

Tony Fisk said...

Of silly, useless, tasty lapdogs.
"We were wild dogs once, roaming free. Then we noticed you had sofas."
(looks up guiltily from a slightly gnawed uplift novel.)
"... and a cozy civilisation."

Alfred Differ said...

Meh. Neighbors complaining about my cat being a cat get ignored mostly. Doesn't happen often. I live in suburbia where cats are thick enough to kill anything that is small and moves.

I have a female we adopted because she coped with my son in his early years. She got abandoned outside, but adopted us when he kept letting her in the house. She behaves almost semi-feral when outside and near larger animals (like us) and like a house cat when inside. Ideal for us. The crows hate her and say so, but she nails the smaller birds even though she has to be getting near 12 years old now.

Invite the coyotes and I'll just get a bigger, smarter cat next time. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH... not a problem that can't be solved by inviting a few coyotes into the neighborhood...

We have those too.

BTW, if the forecast holds up, I'm about to get buried in over a foot of snow. It's quite early in the season for that sort of thing in Chicago. And it looks as if Tacitus and raito are in the clear up in Wisconsin--this will be strictly a northern Illinois event.

Not a good sign when I'm sick of winter already in November.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Meh. Neighbors complaining about my cat being a cat get ignored mostly.

We got a letter signed by several neighbors citing a village ordinance allowing "uncontrolled animals" to be impounded by the police department. Their complaint was that the cats kill bunnies and birds. I would have thought that at least the bunny-killing was a feature, not a bug.

I suspect those are the Republicans in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
Certainly cats are excellent at keeping mice at bay. Because of that, I allowed my neighbor's cats to enter my house, while solving the problem of a rat. (The rat in question died traversed by my improvised spear and crushed with a club).
But the cats continued to arrive, and they entered through the corridors and through the roofs. They began to leave excrement in the laundry room of the patio and urinated in the patio and in the garage. So I had to start chasing the cats noisily, then spraying them with water, when I surprised them by smashing the bags in the trash can. The smell of cat urine is intense and unpleasant, so I can understand that someone is upset.
Someone suggested a peaceful solution: Place a box of sand for the cats, so that the cats have their own latrine and leave the house alone. I suppose cat owners can buy rectangular and wide plastic containers to fill them with sand. That can avoid incidents with neighbors. And if one puts cat toys in the yard, the cats will prefer to play in the yard than to devour the chicks or ducks of the neighbors.


Winter 7

Ilithi Dragon said...

I see you have identified the only actually good/competent aspect of that whole trilogy, Winter. Giacchino is a solid composer.

The rest of those movies are just garbage. Well, to be fair to the actors, they were all not terrible, but they weren't given any good scripting or direction.

Alfred Differ said...

My mother was a crazy cat lady. Quite literally. So... no one has to convince me of the problems when too many cats hang around in too small a place. I like cats, but my siblings are understandably burned out on them. I'm close too. They better be able to look out for themselves. I have limits... and expectations. Affection? Yes. Fur baby? No.

My mother used to help run a cat shelter. Everyone running that place was nuts, I'm convinced. It's quite possible they were (in later life) more of a danger to the cats than the cats would have faced out on their own. So... if you care about cats, look very carefully at the people around you looking to help. Sometimes they don't realize their limits.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | Heh. How annoying of them. I guess they don't get the historical correlation in Europe between elimination of urban cats and the plague. Those little birdies bring in nasty versions of influenza too. 8)

Some people need to get a life, I suppose.

I think we are better off letting some of our urban and suburban landscape run a bit more to the wild.
Next house I buy won't be a bee desert, so we'll see what my neighbors think about that.

Anonymous said...

Ilithi Dragon:

In fact. I think it would be great if the US Navy created a hydrofoil war ship; with the figure of the USS Enterprise. Or an airship. (But the airships are slow, and a hydrofoil ship can be fast and lethal if it uses missiles.) It would be possible to give it stealth configuration.
However, either for a ship in orbit or for a hydrofoil ship, it would be necessary to place in plane alignment all the elements of the ship; which would not prevent the ship from being recognized as the USS Enterprise. The different parts of the ship must be at the same level to facilitate the balance issue and maximize the stealth effect.
Elon Musk could have the resources to build in Earth orbit, a cargo ship with the configuration of the USS Enterprise, that would be powerfully inspiring. That ship represents the ideals of inclusion; equality; justice and democracy of humanity.
The ship could be used for tourist use or to transport minerals from the asteroid belt.
If I were a millionaire, I would build the ship. After all, as I had told you before, an American scientist designed a very interesting magnetic propulsion system. (The system has a flaw but I know how to fix it).
In addition, there is another similar advance, which can be improved:


Anonymous said...

An American is trying to get where no one else has arrived before. Try to cross Antarctica on foot.
I have nothing against risking my skin when looking for a treasure; but ... Just to get further than the others? Yes. I guess that's enough reason. But not for me. A storm is going to cause serious problems to the guy. They're going to freeze some fingers and ... But it's too late. Now the issue is the rescue team's problem. He carries two satellite phones and two cell phones. And a GPS.

Did not this guy know what happened to the other guy who tried to do the same? ... I think with Google Earth I saw something in the area of the route: A huge expanse of hexagons on the floor. I mean, Basalt! (If it was not that, then maybe it was a spaceship buried in the snow)

Still no news of the cause why the government took the facilities of the solar observatory for months? Did anyone other than me notice that, during that event, an American solar probe approached the sun? Of course, I can make some deductions, but ... If I'm not sure I can not say anything ... (usually).
Going back to the topic in the blog. Economy in science fiction? I wonder if future colonies in the moons with oceans could have a closed economy. That is to say. If the colonies manage to obtain all the necessary machinery and laboratories to create everything they need ... does that mean they can stop relying on land imports? That would be great, because that way, the Russian feudals could not reach us through the extortion of the trade blockade. We would be free in the new colonies. We could create all kinds of colonies. Ecological colonies; colonies of hippies, colonies nu ... of nannies. (day care centers). All free thinkers could go to the colonies and choose the colony they like the most.

¿Do not you have a strange feeling that we've already talked about this? ¿Causal loop? ...


Anonymous said...

It's curious. my internet sniffer blocker software marks thousands of crawler locks on the Google translator website. I guess that makes sense. Internet spies are especially interested in the messages that are translated.


duncan cairncross said...

Cats are more of an issue here (NZ) - in fact all of the introduced mammals are a problem as the native birds have little in the way of defences

Yes I have a bloody cat - it was "inherited" when somebody left it with us for a "couple of weeks" and then never came back

The dog is mine - and follows me about - the cat (AKA - the cat that craps in bath) has decided that it owns my son

David Brin said...

Got 3 beehives and looking to set up two more

Anonymous said...

Good flowers for bees:
• Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac provide enticing spring blooms in a bee garden.
• Bees feast on bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and hosta in the summer.
• For fall, zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod are late bloomers that will tempt foragers.

Plants that are bad for bees:

Rhododendron. Spectacular and beautiful, not many people know the common rhododendron hides a poisonous secret – its nectar is toxic to bees. ...
Azalea. Rhododendron's sister, azaleas are also toxic to bees. ...
Trumpet flower, or angel's trumpet. ...
Oleander. ...
Yellow Jessamine. ...
Mountain Laurel. ...
Heliconia. ...
Bog rosemary.


Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

My mother used to help run a cat shelter. Everyone running that place was nuts,

Don't cats spread some sort of brain toxin which causes mice to run toward the cat instead of away from it--and incidentally which makes human beings love cats? I'm pretty sure I have that disease. And knowing it's there doesn't change the symptom.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I guess they don't get the historical correlation in Europe between elimination of urban cats and the plague.

Simpler than that--my wife hates the rabbits because they keep eating her garden plants. I'd have thought the neighbors would feel the same way. The cats would be like superheroes--"I'll save you(r vegetables), ma'am!"

David Brin said...

LH look up toxoplasma - a parasitic paramecium that infests cats and affects rat (and some say human) brains.

Gophers. For years I felt like Bill Murray in Caddyshack. Then I laid chickenwire along the bottoms of my garden beds. We get along, now.



dimonic said...

I have long tried to espouse a system where patent's and copyrights can at a maximum be 95% sold by their creator: no matter what, the creator retains 5% ownership for 75 years or their lifetime + 25 years, whichever is longer.

I would also add that corporations must cede 5% ownership of patents to their creating employees for the same time period.

Neither of these stipulations could honestly be said to be barriers to innovation or the fair exchange of ideas - but they would finally provide some actual incentive to the actual inventor class.

dimonic said...

"Then control the coyotes by switching from silly-useless (and tasty-morsel) urban lap dogs to large useful ones."

I have a Jack Russel. She catches mice, rats and other rodents, and we also have a very large yellow hound who protects her from 'yotes.

As for control, I have a Lee Enfield for that.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

(from last time)

There's no fury. Just a bit of disappointment.

My point of view is that your blog and comment pages are not the primary vehicle for your arguments. Your speaking and consulting gigs do that. It's a bit of a semi-closed community here in that it's mostly regulars posting comments. So I feel a bit free to challenge how you make those arguments.

I want your arguments to succeed. But I think you make a mistake in how you present them some of the time. The meme of 'lost knowledge was suppressed, and here's examples!' is one of them. I'm disappointed that you assign little importance to your factoids. According to my speech professor all those years ago (you know, one of those smart people who deal in knowledge), those factoids are probably the most powerful tool you can use in persuasive speech. Woe to you if you were in his class and tried to use an incorrect example to prove your point.

For someone who isn't convinced or doesn't understand your position, the factoids matter the most. If they're true, then perhaps the core argument is true. At least they now have some way to connect from the specific to the general. If they aren't, then the core argument is likely false (because the examples do not support the main point). That's what happens in the mind of your audience.

You may not persuade your audience. That happens. They may comprehend your main point, but not agree with it. But you lose people when you use examples that aren't correct.

I disagree some with Alfred Differ's position on this. Yes, the core argument matters. But getting people to the point of understanding it can require examples. And they must be correct, or you risk that understanding.

At least I'm late enough to have stayed out of the toilet paper discussion. And our (late) cats never had the urge to play with it. Not so the toddlers. I do vaguely recall some study of it (might have been an IgNobel submission). It did find a slight preference for over the top because it was a bit more sanitary.