Sunday, December 13, 2020

Bio Science! And covid related science.

Events often rush past my stack of blog drafts, and hence some of what's below may seem "so last-month." But a lot of it is still pretty important stuff. Sciencey and pertinent! But first, a mini rant:  

Again and again, MAGAs try to obscure the pandemic by raving "deaths" which 
(1) decline proportionately as docs get better at saving folks and 
(2) are low among the demographic of GOP elites because they get elite care, and
(3) co-morbidities and the slaughter of old folks gives fanatics a polemical excuse to claim "a lot of those aren't covid!" and 
(4) Kill off granny and gramps? Sure, get inheritance!

No. Don't go there. And bypass the "there are more cases because we're testing more!" crap. Go to the statistic they can't evade --
-- Hospitalizations. In which we are by far among the very worst in the world. And with ICUs near full-capacity collapse and flu absent because of masks, they have nowhere to turn except to scream when cornered.  

Demand wagers. They'll run so fast.

== It's a virus, it's desirous... of your very flesh and blood ==

 Covid-related news: SCIENCE Magazine: ‘Absolutely remarkable’: No one who got Moderna’s vaccine in trial developed severe COVID-19.

* Genetic factors that affect severity of Covid.  Left out is something folks seem loathe to discuss... what appears to be a racial difference depending on how much Neanderthal ancestry you have! Europeans appear to have the most, while Africans (least hard-hit by covid) have the least and Asian peoples (except Indian) have less, but more Denisovan. Follow this up in comments, if you dare.

* Why has COVID-19 been relatively mild in East Asia? It might be genetic resistance ... Medical research preprint: Evidence that an ancient coronavirus-like epidemic drove adaptation in East Asians from 25,000 to 5,000 years ago.

* Why has Taiwan had a total of only SEVEN deaths from COVID-19? Here's one (possibly biased) interpretation... though one reason Taiwan suffered so little from the epidemic was its previous ordeal at the epicenter of the more deadly coronavirus SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, when Taiwan led the world in per capita deaths. This ordeal trained not chiefly the government officials now claiming credit for mastering Covid, but the immune systems of the Taiwanese. Their antibodies and T-cells were ready for Covid not because of policy choices but because of biological learning processes.

== Let's start with the past... applying to the fearful present ==

The entire CARTA conference on the influence of Infectious Disease on Human Evolution is available for any of you to watch/listen. On the plus side, you’ll learn TONS about malaria, salmonella, typhoid and vaginal ailments… though rather light on the evolution implications. The best is 3h38m into the symposium, a talk by Dr. Susan Kaech of the Salk Institute explaining how our immune B and T cells both do their jobs and store some memory of past battles, in case they meet the same enemy again.  Flu viruses evade this memory by mutating fast. Corona viruses, in contrast, seem to somehow suppress these memory reserves so we “forget” and can be re-infected with the same strain again and again. Two things may be involved. (1) adjuvants released by the new viruses spilling from their replication cell, that fool the immune system into de-emphasizing memory T cells and (2) “antibody enhancement,” a weird scary scenario in which a second infection then uses the antibodies we developed against the first one, as trojan horse penetration aids against us! I knew nothing about any of those things, two weeks ago.

The good news. Many clever people know a LOT about these processes now. Enough to be awed by nature’s cleverness in these ongoing wars. And none of it renders obsolete my speculations in “The Giving Plague.” Available (free) on my website.

And here's the later-latest CARTA seminar (by zoom). Fascinating stuff!

== And the past lives on == 


Scientists recently studied an exceptional set of human and animal footprints dating back several thousand years in the White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Most of the human footprints were made by a young adult, the team determined. But about every 100 yards or so, a few much smaller human prints suddenly appear.


Amazing. Many bacteria species create ‘biofilms’ that let them cluster, defend, against attack and even cooperate. Biofilm traces are among the earliest confirmed signs of life in Earth rocks. Now we see that the genes expressed by bacteria, when they actually make their biofilms appear to be both among the oldest genes and the first expressed by newly ‘born’ cells.  That overlap of early expression and great age is similar to the “recapitulation” in animal embryos. Hence it suggests that early life forms were sophisticated enough to use phased development, as well as biofilms.

 

This theme of ‘phases of life’ is explored in one of my creepier short stories, “Chrysalis,” and it has even creepier implications for human destiny. Find it in INSISTENCE OF VISION.


A study found a locus of anxiety in the brain - ‘anxiety cells’ in the hippocampus — which apparently can be controlled by a beam of light. Okay, so far in mice, using  calcium imaging, inserting miniature microscopes into the brains of lab mice who are put into anxiety inducing platforms without reassuring walls. Using a technique called optogenetics to shine a beam of light onto the cells in the vCA1 region, the researchers were able to effectively silence the anxiety cells and prompt confident, anxiety-free activity in the mice.

 

A cave bear has been uncovered in Siberia, not just bones but soft tissues, fir, even its intact nose.


Okay guys, they don’t need us anymore except to lift boxes to high shelves, and they’ll uplift orangutans to do that. We’re screwed. Might as well serve until no longer wanted even as pets. “For the first time, scientists have been able to grow spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), which are the cells that eventually develop into fully-fledged sperm, in a laboratory environment.”

 

Using a technique called optogenetics to shine a beam of light onto the cells in the vCA1 region, the researchers were able to effectively silence the anxiety cells and prompt confident, anxiety-free activity in the mice.#armymadsci

 

Depression humor Humorist Lightens Depression's Darkness By Talking (And Laughing) About It.


== Pragmatic bio-news? ==


It’s only in mice, so far, but an amazing, partly accidental discovery led scientists the ability to convert fibroblasts into healthy, functioning neurons… and the technique seems to have cured mice of an artificially induced analog to Parkinson’s Disease.  

Scientists engineered the human cells to produce a squid protein known as reflectin, which scatters light to create a sense of transparency or iridescence.

Researchers were able to mimic the mind-altering effects of the drug ketamine by inducing a particular rhythm in one area of the brain.


And finally.... Believers of 5G conspiracy theories have apparently been buying a $350 anti-5G USB key that—not surprisingly—appears to just be a regular USB stick with only 128MB of storage.

120 comments:

Ahcuah said...

So, here is Michael Flynn on Fox Sunday morning, saying “I will tell you one more time—because I’ve been asked—on a scale of one to ten, who will be the next president of the United States, and I say Donald Trump. Ten. A ten.”

That sure looks like an opportunity for a wager. Any way of getting a viral headline about "noted Science Fiction author offers to bet Michael Flynn"? And then the news coverage would give opportunities for laying out the various short, one line bills the Democrats could put out there. There's gotta be a way to get a press release noticed . . .

AVR said...

Dr Brin, about the editing and revisions to the rereleased Uplift novels, will they be much changed or is it mostly typos, slight wording changes and/or correcting the OCR?

Der Oger said...

"Why has Taiwan had a total of only SEVEN deaths from COVID-19?"

I think that one reason is Taiwan's geographic advantage - it is an island.

Second, I believe Taiwanese culture is still Confucian enough to obey authorities, so containment is easier than in western, individualistic countries.

Third, they reacted IMMEDIATELY. They did not allow the virus to spread. This has its roots in the previous SARS epidemy.

Fourth, though I have no numbers, I believe the real problem - pre-existing conditions like diabetes, obesity, respiratory and cardiac diseases - are less prevalent than in western countries.

David Bayly said...

Regarding genetic different f ethnic groups. I read in the Uk newspapers that the hardest hit ethnic group - in the UK - was the Bangladesh one. Did some searches to find this official report

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/908434/Disparities_in_the_risk_and_outcomes_of_COVID_August_2020_update.pdf

This was from before the Neanderthal reports. But it sure muddies the water

Pachydermis2 said...

It is a bit disheartening to realize, one year in, how much we really don't know about Covid-2.

I'm sympathetic to the researchers of course. Even with a question of this importance they can't dish up CSI speed answers. When a comprehensive look at this pandemic is possible in a few years it will be fascinating stuff.

Clearly the damn virus did not- this time - mutate towards less virulence as many expected/hoped. And yes, there are definite reasons why some countries look better than the US/UK/Italy/Spain. Sure, some dishonest or absent data reporting from places like North Korea and sub Saharan Africa, but there must be more. Genetic factors? Wide spread use of anti malarials? Effective authoritarian regimes? All dangerous ground for researchers but they'll have to eventually "go there".

On a personal note when trying to figure out a way to visit the UK in late Spring I learned that all I have to do is come by way of Cambodia. It's on the totally safe, no problemo list. (more realistically there is a way to test on arrival and then five days later to clear quarantine. So if you see me commenting at tedious length on ConBrin some spring days that'll be it!)

I suspect that prior exposure to (more benignly mutated) Covid-1 in Asia is going to be the biggest factor. We've sure had garden variety corona viruses circulating here forever.

Well, tip of the cap to the people who appear to have done in under a year what prior researchers in SARS/Covid-1 never accomplished, an effective vaccine. This will go down as one of the greatest accomplishments of medicine in our times. Advances in bio tech sure helped out there.

Be well.

Pachydermis

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/14/us/trump-voters-stolen-election.html

Polls have presented a stark picture of alternate realities. A Fox News poll released on Friday found that 77 percent of those who cast ballots for Mr. Trump said they thought the election had been stolen from him. Just 10 percent of Democrats agreed.


10 percent of Democrats agreed?????

Where the eff do they find these people?

Larry Hart said...

THIS is what we're up against.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/14/us/trump-voters-stolen-election.html

...
Ms. Claveria said she was worried about what would happen during a Biden presidency. Mr. Biden, she said, “is basically planning to get rid of personal property and all of our freedoms.”

Mr. Trump is trying to stop that, she added, but every institution has obstructed him.

“I think it’s a big coup against our country,” she said. “The F.B.I.’s involved. So is the C.I.A. It’s crazy — even the judges!”
...


Taking her at her word, she honestly believes that Joe Biden--so centrist that the progressives feel betrayed by his nomination--is going to "get rid of personal property", and that everyone in government except Trump is in on the scheme. Really believes it. As in "Doesn't recognize how completely cuckoo this is".

And these people justify destroying democracy because their feelings are hurt if we point out that they are insane?

Anonymous said...

Trump's Plan to Gut the Civil Service, Lawfare

"But this new executive order exempts agencies from following the civil service rules for hiring and firing Schedule F employees. If you are a career civil servant in either the competitive or the excepted service, your agency can simply move you into Schedule F--after which you lose your civil service job protections and can be fired at will.

Alfred Differ said...

Mr. Biden, she said, “is basically planning to get rid of personal property and all of our freedoms.

Ha ha!

The former senator from Delaware(!) planning to rid us of personal property.
What a hoot!

It's not Left vs Right.
It's Educated vs Uneducated.

Delaware!

David Brin said...

AVR the corrections to the 5 re-releases are mostly OCR glitches… MANY of them! Hence my gratitude to my pre-reader volunteers.

Ahcuah do you have a link to Flynn saying “ten!” ? Yeah, the fact that no one says “Bet?” is absolutely appalling to me.

Untold Covid story it what’s happening to high death rates in South Asia, which coincidentally has the highest prevalence of certain Neanderthal genes, where European descendants have moderate amounts and Asians very little (their rare ancestors were Denisovans) and almost none in Africa. The pattern of disease-death vs. Neanderthal gene prevalence is NOT thoroughly established! I’d need to see more research. But at-surface the correlation is creepy.

Good travels Pachydermis. Keep us posted.

Keith Halperin said...

We just reached 300,000 COVID-19 deaths here in the USA.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

The former senator from Delaware(!) planning to rid us of personal property.
What a hoot!


I agree, but it's not funny because she has as much right to her beliefs (and to vote accordingly and to refuse to accept the election results accordingly) as I do.

We seem to be in an age of willful stupidity. Stupidity as a marker of tribal identity. Stupidity as a means of virtue-signaling one's allegiance to God. Does the "wisdom of crowds" survive such a thing?

While I fully understand the reasons we can't have a tribunal who decides which people are qualified to vote and which are not, the fact that that can't be done plus willful stupidity is a failure mode of the theory underlying democracy.

Ahcuah said...

Dr. Brin asked: Ahcuah do you have a link to Flynn saying “ten!” ? Yeah, the fact that no one says “Bet?” is absolutely appalling to me.

It's right there in the youtube link in my comment. It's at the 27 second mark.

I embedded the link, so maybe you missed it. Here it is in raw form:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrVZdfp8Nn0

ZarPaulus said...

Personally, I think Africa has weathered this pandemic so well because they have recent experience with horrific epidemics and well-developed protocols for handling them.

African-Americans, unfortunately, aren't doing as well.

matthew said...

I suspect Flynn's certainty is tied to what we will see next - an attempt by Trump to use Presidential emergency powers to delay the transition indefinitely.

We have seen the courts shoot down Trump's lawsuits 59-1 at this point. But that was due to either an absence of facts or lacking standing.

Emergency powers of the POTUS are not clearly defined. They are exactly what a 6-3 SCOTUS will allow him to have.

I suspect that Barr resigning today was because he understands the legal definition of sedition and he thinks that Trump will not succeed. At least that gives a little bit of solace.

David Brin said...

But wait! Can Two Scoops hope for .... Hawaii???

More seriously... Is there any such thing as too much caution? All Democratic members of the US House of Representatives must do extra security until January 6, since loss of just 11 could allow last minute Trump 'shenanigens.'

Sound paranoid?  Think it's not discussed in some Kremlin basement? All Pelosi's people should avoid each other and grow eyes in the backs of their heads.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

But wait! Can Two Scoops hope for .... Hawaii???


If three of Hawaii's four electors are faithless, then Biden doesn't have more EVs than Trump did in 2016. Hope springs eternal. :)


More seriously... Is there any such thing as too much caution? All Democratic members of the US House of Representatives must do extra security until January 6, since loss of just 11 could allow last minute Trump 'shenanigens.'


Jezus, you just won't let a guy rest peacefully, will you?

How about the other way around? Nancy Pelosi refuses to seat the 126 self-admitted traitors.


* * *

matthew:

We have seen the courts shoot down Trump's lawsuits 59-1 at this point. But that was due to either an absence of facts or lacking standing.

Emergency powers of the POTUS are not clearly defined. They are exactly what a 6-3 SCOTUS will allow him to have.


While I worry about everything (see above), and I will always remember that you knew Trump would win four years ago, I will go out on a limb here and say this is not going to happen. It would have been (slightly) more possible that he could have used this strategy to delay the election itself. Delaying January 20 would be akin to commanding the waves to stop hitting the shore.

David Brin said...

Envision ALL the capitol police and such obeying Trump and letting him onto the Capitol steps and keeping Biden off... till exactly noon, and then snubbing the ex, turning their backs on him as he screams, as they welcome the new President onstage. A total non-possibility... but it WOULD keep Two Scoops occupied till he's rendered harmless.

Larry Hart said...

When I was a tiny kid in 1968, I thought that as soon as the candidate (Nixon in that case) won the election, he was the new president. I don't remember even knowing the term "President-Elect" until the next time, or since Nixon was re-elected, maybe it was even 1976. And when I did first understand that there was an interval between the election and the inauguration, I always felt like that was just a formality--that the new guy really was president for all intents and purposes, even if no one could say that out loud for a few months.

We'd be in a lot less danger right now if the universe was really like that.

Der Oger said...

Africa's underdeveloped infrastructure and a younger-aged population might have contributed to a (seemingly) slower and less lethal spread of the pandemy.



David Brin said...

No. They found a 'lawyer' dumber than Rudy? What a staggering moron! Did Ellis actually post this? Apparently so and it is tearing across the MAGAsphere. And such ignorance is mind-blowing. Of course there are lies upon lies in the following. But the capper is that this imbecile is conflating two entirely different processes and it will never get to the one she's clutching at:

"Today, the electoral college votes will be sealed and sent by special carrier to Washington where they will remain sealed until January 6th when the House and Senate will come into a joint session to open the votes. The media is going to make you believe that it's all over and Joe Biden is now officially president...

'On January 6th, Nancy Pelosi will sit down with the rest of the House members as she has no special power or authority over the hearing... Vice President Mike Pence will have all the authority as president of the Senate for that day and will accept or reject motions to decide the next steps by the assembly.
'Remember... Mike Pence is in full authority that day as written in the Constitution. The ballots will be certified today but that means nothing...

'The votes will be opened and at that point one House member could, and most likely will, raise their hand to object to the Vice President on the state of elector's votes. That objection could cover fraud or any other reason, and with the seconding of that objection everything changes. Everything!!

'The House and Senate will divide for two hours (at least) to debate, then vote. The vote will be per Senator with the Vice President being the deciding vote if needed in the Senate, while the vote in the House will be only be ONE vote per delegation, per state, not per House member!!! The Republicans have 30 delegation votes compared to the Democrats 20 delegation votes.

'If this scenario runs true, President Trump gets re-elected.
The Democrats, the media, social networks and globalists around the world will come unhinged and chaos will erupt. Bigly.

'President Trump is trying to do the right thing and go through the courts first, expose all the fraud, but we all knew that none of the courts, even the Supreme Court wanted to touch this issue with a 10-ft pole!

'This is why our forefathers were so brilliant because they knew something like this could happen someday. So, don't listen to the media and all their deception and lies. All you have to do is read the Constitution and you know that the law, policies and procedures in the end are on our side."

Did you read all that crap? Okay, set aside all the rest of the BS.
She is confusing two separate steps! One is the process of certifying the electoral votes from the states, and that the House does by simple MAJORITY of members.

(Hence, House dems, guard your LIVES till that day! I mean it, just 11 of you would... just stay safe.)

The vote BY STATE DELEGATIONS only happens if there is not majority of electors. And that won't happen if the envelopes from the states are all faithfully opened and counted and passed by the majority of members.

The significant thing is this is what passes for a SMART PERSON in this clown car! We have been living in Idiocracy.

And this is the answer to all those lefties bitching that Biden is bringing in experienced hands. WE NEED A GOVERNMENT before anything else, fools. His picks can hit the ground without a hiccup. Go ahead and demand new faces as Deputy Secretaries getting ready for their turn! But work with the quarterback for now, will ya?

https://texags.com/forums/16/topics/3166024

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

We seem to be in an age of willful stupidity. Stupidity as a marker of tribal identity. Stupidity as a means of virtue-signaling one's allegiance to God.

My snark answer is 'When were we ever in an age of willful non-stupidity?'

However, your second sentence shows is really isn't stupidity. It is loyalty which is being demonstrated. We may see it as stupidity, but to the loyal... it is not.

Does the "wisdom of crowds" survive such a thing?

Yes. Most certainly. We know this from history because we humans seldom unite in loyalty to a singular cause. The more divided we are, the more diverse our 'wisdom' is ESPECIALLY when some of us think the others are being stupid.

The ancient solution for stupidity is to expose our children to it and leave them just free enough to take a different course. Can you think of anything your own parents did that was truly stupid? I can, though I think both of them were pretty darn smart. I imagine most of us can. It is a slow defense against utter stupidity unless one is SO bad at it as to earn a Darwin award, but it does the job.

We CAN do better though. Our markets are much faster and far less deadly.

David Brin said...

ALERT! ON TWITTER JENNA ELLIS HAS DISAVOWED A "STATEMENT THAT I NEVER MADE." Inspecific as that denial is, we must take her word, for now. Yet I will leave up the following, where I dissect a horrifically treasonous and stupid assertion going around, with claims that she wrote it.
IF IT TURNS OUT SHE'S INNOCENT, THEN IT IS ONLY OF AUTHORING THIS MONSTROUS DRIVEL. AS OPPOSED TO OTHER MONSTROUS DRIVEL. And in that case we swap her name out of the following, replaced by "Some MAGA cretin with delusions of lawyerness."
The spectacularly wrong legal "point" remains what it is.

gregory byshenk said...

Larry Hart said...
While I fully understand the reasons we can't have a tribunal who decides which people are qualified to vote and which are not, the fact that that can't be done plus willful stupidity is a failure mode of the theory underlying democracy.

Now I am trying to remember... Was it in Earth that I recall some mention of a requirement to read some percentage of "contrary" news in order to maintain one's eligibility to vote? Where 'contrary' meant sources other than one's preferred sources.

Or am I remembering something else?

Daniel Duffy said...

For those of you who thought Operation Warp Speed had anything to do with vaccine development. Trump announced Warp Speed on May 21.

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/moderna-covid-19-vaccine-design.html?fbclid=IwAR0dhIo2U10l0VgEKrbIe7Iffwr6oeMY_I2f6vOnYs1AE08Acmt2kgHLVs0

We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time

You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13.

Larry Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pachydermis2 said...

"Sound paranoid?"

Yep.

Pachy

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman asserts that (for all intents and purposes) #ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/14/opinion/republicans-reagan-disinformation.html

...
Notice, by the way, that I’m not including qualifiers, like saying “some” Republicans. We’re talking about most of the party here. The Texas lawsuit calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the election was both absurd and deeply un-American, but more than 60 percent of Republicans in the House signed a brief supporting it, and only a handful of elected Republicans denounced the suit.

At this point, you aren’t considered a proper Republican unless you hate facts.
...

Larry Hart said...

This bit from Terry Pratchett's Going Postal explains Trump, maybe even as well as the "great bull-semen" line:


He pitched the voice right. It was the key to a thousand frauds. You had to sound right, sound like you knew what you were doing, sound like you were in charge. And, while he'd spoken gibberish, it was authentic gibberish.

Jon S. said...

Dr. Brin, what has Kraken Karen there said at any point to make you think she was supposed to be one of the smart ones? She's the one who keeps filing all these motions filled with misspellings, basic procedural errors, allegations of excessive numbers of votes from the non-existent Edison County (seriously, no such place anywhere in the US), and such demands as trying to have the Wisconsin State Supreme Court review footage from the TCF Center in Detroit (which, as I'm sure you're aware but which seems to have escaped her, is in Michigan).

I have no problem believing that she thinks that's how the process works. I'm not sure what criteria the Trump team use to select their lawyers, but "basic competence" doesn't seem to be among them.

David Brin said...

SOme of your remarks are so goo I cut/pasted them (without attribution! So sue me!) on my other threads!

Larry Hart said...

I'm not sure if blogger mangled my post or if I did, but it's in bad enough shape that I will actually delete it and try again...

Alfred Differ:

"We seem to be in an age of willful stupidity. Stupidity as a marker of tribal identity. Stupidity as a means of virtue-signaling one's allegiance to God."

...
However, your second sentence shows is really isn't stupidity. It is loyalty which is being demonstrated. We may see it as stupidity, but to the loyal... it is not.


Asserting a thing as a means of loyalty may not in itself be stupidity, but drawing conclusions from such premises and acting on those conclusions as if they are logically sound is stupidity.


"Does the "wisdom of crowds" survive such a thing?"

Yes. Most certainly. We know this from history because we humans seldom unite in loyalty to a singular cause. The more divided we are, the more diverse our 'wisdom' is ESPECIALLY when some of us think the others are being stupid.


I'm not sure you answered the question I asked. I meant that the theory behind the so-called "wisdom of crowds" is that, despite our differences, reality makes itself clear enough to enough people that we will collectively make decently-right decisions by listening to majorities. Not each individual choice, but more often than not.

If a majority--or a large enough unified plurality--is determined to make choices based on litmus tests rather than on reality, then the theory fails. We don't control a pandemic if enough citizens are of a mind to endure and spread the disease.

Note, if those people really believed that "herd immunity" was a better way to deal with COVID than lockdowns and masks, then we would be talking about diversity of opinion, and maybe that side is right and my thinking on the matter is flawed. That would be an example of the wisdom of crowds, even if I was on the losing side. But if they act in ways which spread the virus simply as a display of loyalty to der Fuhrer, then we're talking about something other than "wisdom". In fact, the opposite thing.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

I'm not sure what criteria the Trump team use to select their lawyers, but "basic competence" doesn't seem to be among them.


Loyalty to der Fuhrer. It really is that simple.

* * *

Dr Brin:

SOme of your remarks are so goo[d] I cut/pasted them (without attribution! So sue me!) on my other threads!


I would strongly advise against doing that with a Stonekettle quote. Just sayin'.

David Brin said...

Hoping some WH staffers got good gear and have recorded some Oval Tantrums.
Good footage could
(1) wean maybe 10 million off the cult and
(2) compete with the epic Hitler bunker scene in "Downfall," the root stock for so much satire.

https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/hitlers-downfall-parodies

Keith Halperin said...

Re: Wisdom of Crowds:
I wonder if the WOC works best when the emotional stakes are low/nonexistent.

David Brin said...

WOC much the topic in both The Transparent Society and "smart mob" scenes in EXISTENCE.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

WOC much the topic in both The Transparent Society and "smart mob" scenes in EXISTENCE.


Yes, but in real life, we seem to need instruction on how to handle "dumb mobs".

Speaking of...

(Warning: the following is disgusting, and certainly not work-appropriate)

https://twitter.com/shoe0nhead/status/1337952462179889153/photo/1

Anyone remember the old Simpsons episode where Bart waves his butt around with "Don't tread on me!" written on it? And Lisa says, "I'm surprised you could write so legibly on your own butt."? Well, life catches up to art.

A drink and a shower isn't going to do it this time.

Alfred Differ said...

'Wisdom of Crowds' as I learned it involves a collective wisdom that does not have to be manifest in any particular individual.

Classic example... how much does that cow weigh? Ask 100 people at random and their guesses can be wildly off. Ask a rancher and they'd probably get close, but we can compare the rancher's answer to the average of the randomly chosen group. When WOC works, the group gets close whether or not a rancher is among them.

When a particular faith group makes decisions that have consequences, we find out later if the decisions were stupid. It can take a while. It can also require prior agreement on the Figure Of Merit. If their FOM involves increasing their ranks and mine involves the financial prosperity of their members, there is no agreed upon definition of 'stupid'.

It doesn't have to be a religious group to see this effect. College football fans bet 'stupidly' in Vegas every year. My father used to take advantage of that when their WOC predictions moved the point spread on many games. All he had to do was figure out which ones were likely biased and then play HIS predictions on enough of them for statistics to work out. In that situation, my father was 'the rancher' and betting that other betters really were that foolish. It worked often enough he kept doing it, but sometimes it didn't. Why? He wasn't really 'the rancher'. He was like them, but loyal to a different ideal.

TCB said...

Just saw this: Even without a Senate majority, Kamala Harris has the power to take Mitch McConnell's job.

Vice President Harris will become President of the Senate (automatically) under Article I, Section 3, which also recognizes that the Senate can “choose their other officers,” including majority and minority leaders. But Art. I, Sec. 3 does not give such “other officers” the Vice President’s power to preside, which includes the power of “priority recognition”—that is, allowing a Senator to speak on the Senate floor, and thus to move a bill into debate. Until the mid-20th-century, the Vice President used the presiding officer’s power of priority recognition to develop the Senate into the world’s greatest deliberative body, cultivating a forum for open debate and compromise that transcended partisan lines. When the House passed a bill, any Senator recognized by the Vice President (acting as presiding officer) could move it to the floor, be seconded by another Senator, and proceed into debate and a vote.

The Standing Rules of the Senate give its presiding officer abundant power. But they do not require the Majority Leader to be that presiding officer. Delegation of priority recognition from the Vice President to the Majority Leader is not required by any written Rule of the Senate, or by any of its Standing Orders. As Vice Presidents took on greater executive duties, they simply began delegating the chair to chosen Senators.

[snip...]

Can courts stop the Vice President from reclaiming her power to preside on behalf of the nation? They cannot. Who would have standing to sue here? Only the Majority Leader. Would a court recognize any right to retain presiding power by a Majority Leader? No. The Constitutional power granted to the Vice President to preside over the Senate may not be limited by the Senate’s own internal deliberations.

David Brin said...

TCB interesting. Thanks.

And... um... thanks? LH?

And Alfred, now we know one reason you're interesting.

Larry Hart said...

Interesting. I wonder if he still thinks he can control them.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/15/us/politics/mcconnell-congratulates-biden.html

Breaking with President Trump’s drive to overturn his election loss, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory and began a campaign to keep fellow Republicans from joining a doomed last-ditch effort to reverse the outcome in Congress.

Although Mr. McConnell waited until weeks after Mr. Biden was declared the winner to recognize the outcome, his actions were a clear bid by the majority leader, who is the most powerful Republican in Congress, to put an end to his party’s attempts to sow doubt about the election.
...
A short time later, on a private call with Senate Republicans, Mr. McConnell and his top deputies pleaded with their colleagues not to join members of the House in objecting to the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to ratify the Electoral College’s decision, according to three people familiar with the conversation, who described it on the condition of anonymity.
...

George Carty said...

Der Oger,

Wouldn't the general state of people's health (wrt stuff like obesity, diabetes and metabolic health) have much more effects on IFRs/CFRs than it would have on infection rates?

While being an island certainly isn't magic (look how badly the UK has handled Covid!) it is clear that early imposition of strict border quarantine (which usually means keeping out almost all foreigners for capacity reasons) was clearly by far the most important policy. The problem with Trump was that he arguably wasn't xenophobic enough, because he didn't want to shut out travellers from "white" countries in Europe and/or because he didn't want to strand American citizens abroad. Both Taiwan and South Korea were also arguably aided not so much by Confucian values as by the very strong `asabiyyah that comes from having long faced a terrible enemy (the PRC for Taiwan, or North Korea for South Korea) which poses an immediate threat to national survival.

The West's reluctance to close borders early was also driven by two other factors. One being complacency: as the West was hardly hit at all by SARS or MERS, a lot of people (including those in decision-making positions) probably expected that this new coronavirus threat would be largely confined to the Asia/Pacific region again. This of course wasn't the case, although how much this was because Covid-19 has lots of mild cases and spreads a lot in carriers who don't yet show symptoms (unlike the earlier coronaviruses), and how much this was because the Western world was far more interconnected with China in 2019 than in 2003 (note the disease most likely became established in Europe because of Chinese immigrants working for fashion houses in northern Italy) is not clear.

The second factor is that Western cultures are far more ideologically committed to freedom of travel than East Asian ones: no Western country ever had anything comparable to Japan's Sakoku era, and there is also a widespread hostility to border controls among Western progressives, who see them as fundamentally evil and/or racist. Even the Trumpists in America or the Brexiteers in the UK are mostly challenging not the freedom to travel but the freedom (of immigrants) to settle, even though strict border quarantines could be only a minor inconvenience to immigrants but are utterly lethal to tourist and business travel (as well as to international trucking, which is probably the reason why even Brexit Britain never considered properly quarantining its borders).

I wonder if the universalism of the teachings of Jesus (whether they be filtered though St Paul, or through Muhammad) may ultimately be the root of this? Note that:

* The Ming Dynasty lost interest in the outside world, and their greatest explorer prior to this point (Zheng He) was not a Han Chinese but a Hui Muslim,
* Japan imposed sakoku in the first place mainly to keep out Catholic missionaries from Spain and Portugal,
* Europe needed the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia to decree that international conflict should be only about state and not about church,
* East Asian countries where Jesus-descended religions are strong (Catholic Philippines and Sunni Muslim Indonesia) didn't do quite as well against Covid-19 (although they still did far better than Western countries).

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

When a particular faith group makes decisions that have consequences, we find out later if the decisions were stupid. It can take a while. It can also require prior agreement on the Figure Of Merit. If their FOM involves increasing their ranks and mine involves the financial prosperity of their members, there is no agreed upon definition of 'stupid'.


While I see what you're getting at, I still think there is an objective definition of "stupid" (in this context), which amounts to "Making choices ostensibly to increase your FOM (whatever that happens to be) which in fact decrease that very FOM). My classic example (ok, "classic") is voting for Republicans because one is against policies which favor corporations.

David Smelser said...

So Mitch McConnell congratulates Biden on his win the same day that Putin does...

https://www.npr.org/sections/biden-transition-updates/2020/12/15/946655533/putin-congratulates-biden-on-his-victory-over-trump

Der Oger said...

@George Carty: What I wanted to point out that the pandemy has a multitude of influencing factors from various fields of science - biology, psychology, sociology etc.
Disregarding the "soft" fields often leads to incomplete solutions and results. (I remember one of the leading scientists during the first months of the pandemy often stressing that he is no sociologist, economic scholar etc. and just a virologist.)

Complex problems seldom have simple solutions.

In this regard, your idea about the abrahamitic religions being a contributing factor to the spread of the virus is a truly interesting one.

George Carty said...

Der Oger,

"In this regard, your idea about the abrahamitic religions being a contributing factor to the spread of the virus is a truly interesting one."

Not Judaism though, as that is still a religion focused on a specific ethnic group rather than one intended for the whole of humanity.

One thing that led me towards the idea of Jesusian universalism being a critical factor in the West's vulnerability to Covid-19, was Craig Schumacher's notion that human ethical systems (much like material substances) come in three phases.

In Phase I ethical systems the highest object of devotion is the ethnocultural group which originated the system in the first place: examples would be most pre-Christian polytheistic religions, Judaism, Buddhism, Fascism/Nazism, Heathenism and Asatru.

In Phase II ethical systems the highest object of devotion is the ethical system itself, which aims to become the guiding principles of the whole of humanity: examples would be Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism and Objectivism.

In Phase III ethical systems the highest object of devotion is the search for objective truth via process of trial and error: possible examples would be contemporary secular humanism, the Bahai faith, Wicca, and LaVeyan Satanism.

While personally I'm not sure how clear-cut the distinction between old Christendom (phase II) and modern Western civilization (phase III) actually is, the distinction between the particularist ethics of Phase I and the universalist ethics of Phase II is far clearer in my mind. Note that in this schema, World War II pitted the Axis (an alliance of Phase I powers) against the Allies (in which the Western Allies were Phase III and the Soviet Union was Phase II).

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

...I still think there is an objective definition of "stupid"...

I'd like to believe that, but I'm skeptical. Our stated FOM's are usually ex post facto explanations. If you can state your FOM ex ante, then it becomes subject to wager risks, right? It makes your behaviors testable. Not many of us are willing to do that.

Being against policies which favor corporations is a squishy position and not a decent FOM. Much of my own libertarian inclination is similarly squishy until we get into gritty details. Which policy? How is is worded? Applicable to whom? Absent the grit, a squishy FOM is really just 'guiding principles' which might not be internally consistent or optimizable on a simple FOM.

I'm EASILY in your camp about much of what qualifies as stupid, but I'm not more the 'rancher' than my father was. What I HAVE learned is that consistently 'stupid' behavior most likely means I'm failing to notice the object/idea to which others are remaining faithful.

Another example | A rat approaches a cat. The rat seems interested, but the cat kills it. Was the rat being stupid or was it a faithful Toxoplasma gondii host?

You are host to countless memes.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Finally ran across the term I've been trying to remember.
Instead of 'stupid', I tend to imagine 'Lindy-proof'.
(I learned the term from Taleb. Misunderstandings are strictly mine.)

An idea is Lindy-proof when it is often exposed to tests and survives them. There is also a need for consequences landing on believers if a test fails. Another is that a Lindy-proof idea should confer upon its believers some kind of protection.

Falsifiability, Risk, Value.

Some of what I think is stupid is actually Lindy-proof.
I disagree enough to take a risk by holding to another idea, though.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

What I HAVE learned is that consistently 'stupid' behavior most likely means I'm failing to notice the object/idea to which others are remaining faithful.


I've spent much of the last four years trying to decipher the motivations of the Trump supporters before finally (reluctantly) landing on "White Grievance" and "Owning the libs." I'd say they're being stupid to prioritize those values above personal well-being, national security, and American patriotism, but that would be a value judgement which is different from the sense that we are using "stupid" in this conversation. Noted.

The example I gave earlier was not about hidden loyalties. I meant that I've heard a lot of Republican voters--even prior to Trump--saying that they vote for Republicans because they don't like the way the global economy destroys American jobs. Since until very recently, the Republican Party has been the one touting the global economy and betraying American workers in every way possible, I see this as a "stupid" thing to do in the very sense we are talking about--contrary to logic. This is not me rendering judgement on their values--it is me pointing out that they are subverting their own stated cause. They're being counterproductive in the same way they would be by turning down the thermostat in your house because you are feeling too cold, or eating nuts because they are allergic to them, or putting on sunglasses in order to see better in the dark.


Another example | A rat approaches a cat. The rat seems interested, but the cat kills it. Was the rat being stupid or was it a faithful Toxoplasma gondii host?


The cat having toxoplasmosa powers which cause the rat to willingly sacrifice itself to the cat is a brilliant metaphor for Donald Trump's Mule powers over his followers. :)

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

In a sense, you're positing that, by definition, no one acts stupidly, because whaterver they're doing, they're doing it in service of some purpose. The examples that I gave of people acting contrary to their intent become examples where they have a different intent from the one they claim.

However, I still perceive a qualitative difference between acting contrary to a particular value in service of a different value vs. acting contrary to a value because of a mistaken belief about the cause and effect relationship.

To use your cat/rat example, it makes a big difference how the toxoplasmosis works on the rat's brain. If it makes him feel motivated to approach the cat or feel a desire to enter the cat's mouth, then in doing so, the rat is behaving in a rational manner. It might be a self-destructive manner, but since his attraction to the cat is stronger than his desire to go on living, that's not a disqualifying characteristic. However, if the toxoplasmosis simply mutes the natural aversion to a cat, making the rat ignorant of its peril as it approaches, then I'd say the contagion makes the rat stupid. He doesn't value nearness to the cat more than his life--he just forgets that approaching the cat is contrary to his self-preservation value.

Voting for Republicans because they'll fight to preserve white privilege but saying it's because you're a fiscal conservative--I'll grant that that is a case of serving a different value. However, voting for Republicans explicitly because of a belief that Republicans defend American workers against corporate power seems to me to involve a mistaken belief about cause and effect. The action is contrary to the very value it is presumed to support.

Keith Halperin said...

A brief note of Brinnian “techn-optimism”:
My wife and recently enjoyed watching Steven Soderbergh's "Let Them All Talk".
The reason I'm bringing this up is that we learned this well-produced quality movie was filmed on an iPhone!
This lets me think that we may be on the brink of a video Renaissance where the ability to create high quality product is available to multitudes:
Want to create the Uplift Series? Instead of waiting for a major production company to green-light it, find some brilliant film students who share your vision and put together a Kickstarter campaign.
(I don't think we're QUITE there yet to that scenario, but we're fairly close...)

And now a bad fanfic idea for your enter/musement:
Think of 3 parts Foundation/Empire Series(including 1 part "Pebble in the Sky"), 1 part "Drakon, "1 part ST:TOS “Patterns of Force,” and 1 Part ST:TOS “The Eugenics Wars”.

Since Hari Seldon's life/adventures seem to be fairly well covered, let's have Yugo Amaryl get some literary action.
Sometime after Yugo joins “Team Hari” and has become an ardent psycho-historian, Dr. S. sends Yugo on a mission to the planet Aspergia in the Phannish Sector where Dr. S. has learned there may be substantial numbers of brilliant potential psycho-historian-recruits.

On his way there in between Jumps, his single-hypership (or is it hyper-singleship?) is caught in a strange and rare astrophysical phenomenon (shades of Ludovic Trema- insert techno-babble ) and vaguely similar to our old friend Joseph Schwartz (of PITS fame) he is transported in time and space, but unlike Schwartz (and similar to Gwendolyn Ingolfson of Drakon) Yugo is transported back in time to an alternate timeline- OUR timeline in 2013....

Skipping some sections, Yugo learns where he is and after connecting his laptop Prime Radiant to the internet (“Space this 'buffering'!”), recognizes that our timeline is doomed unless he can use psycho-history to save US. Being a street-smart Dahlite, a good math guy, and having 20k+ years advanced tech, he becomes wealthy, powerful, and determined to use psycho-history to save the Earth. However (for reasons which will need to be worked out), Yugo has determined that in order for Earth to be saved, there will need to be a number of populist, authoritarian leaders in place around the world, prior to....

In 2015, Yugo's agents (in cahoots with Putin) meet with Trump, Duterte of the Philippines, Duda of Poland, and subsequently with Bolsonaro of Brazil, and Orban of Hungary. (The agents also met with Modi of India but he declined the offer, and with various British politicians- the British were too disorganized to accept Yugo's help.)

Meanwhile, science fiction writer and futurist Daniel Baron (with a keen interest in contemporary politics and human flourishing) slowly uncovers the truth with the help of his loyal blog-followers including Achooah, Elephantiasis, Barry Bart, Arthur Divider, Das Troll, and others too numerous to mention. Yugo learns of this and works to disrupt Baron's efforts through the aid of the "splitter" named Tim and the mysterious entity known as “Loco Ranchero,” but Tim and Loco Ranchero are driven off....

In 2020, events appear to be reaching a climax (perhaps a psycho-historic crisis?) when the election of Joe Biden and the development of COVID-19 vaccines seem to lead to a positive outcome, UNTIL..

Take it from there, Folks!

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

…no one acts stupidly, because whatever they're doing, they're doing it in service of some purpose…

Heh. Nah. I don't go that far. I'm thinking about consistent behaviors that obviously (to an outside observer) contradict a stated purpose. It is easy to be randomly stupid and foolish, but not so easy to be consistent about it before I'll begin to suspect an unknown purpose.

Deciphering the motivations for followers of Two Scoops leads us both to "Owning the Libs", though I use a different term for it. I see it as tribal conflict between believers in different ideals. The ideas themselves are at war. The people are simply hosts.

YOU make for a decent warrior for the 'other side'. Many here do, but are you actually serving your own stated purpose? Look in the mirror and ask if your FOM is ex post facto. Ask your reflection if it really, really matters? I suspect it doesn't. The ideal you serve has promised you rewards that bind you to it. You'll struggle to imagine life any other way than as a believer in that ideal. You'll believe that your kids and mine will suffer if you fail as one of the faithful.

Some call it tribal warfare, but I think that fails to capture the scope of the conflict. Your Enlightenment Civilization calls you to conflict now and then. You'll do it willingly at the expense of your personal comfort and treasure. You'll know with little doubt that the other side is Wrong… and behaving stupidly… because it is SO obvious.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Helps you spot your(?) opponents quickly. But are they really? Opponents? Stupid?

Maybe. Human hosts most likely. Some you'll never win over. Some are relatively safe and we can co-exist. Some aren't. All are human, though, and our kids might inter-marry.

———
As I understand it, the rat is turned-on a bit by the smell of cat urine. That's what the parasite does. Excellent means of ensuring the parasite makes it to the innards of a cat.

Our ideals do similar things to us.

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

@Keith: Nice idea. I had the following one:

In 100.000 BC, an interstellar expedition of an advanced alien race visits earth. An accident leaves them stranded, without their starships and any way of communication. They, as a team of researchers, do not have the know-how of building starships or comm devices, but are either very long-lived or practically immortal (Cryogenic sleeping chambers? Cloning technology?) and have enough gadgets to hide themselves and conduct scientific experiments. In order to get back, they try to advance humanity up to the point they are able to build interstellar technology by themselves. Not everything goes as planned, and perhaps the stranded divide up into rivaling factions.

Jon S. said...

Yugo has clearly made some basic errors in his calculations, is all I can say.

jim said...

The thing about psyco-history that it is a multi- level model. You start out first focused on purely the physical level – you map out (not model) how energy flows and the location, concentration and flow of materials on a planet. Then you start to sample the organisms on the planet to help flesh out and tune the integrated ecological / climate model. Only then do start to layer over the sociological structures -the history of ideas- the model of the mind.

When Yugo arrived on earth and started this process, the crisis was clear from just the mapping of the energy and material flows. A huge (but finite) store of hydrocarbons was being burnt, big enough to change the chemistry of the atmosphere. By the time the biological sampling was done Yugo had already realized this society was deep into ecological overshoot and the crisis was rapidly approaching. By the time the sociological structure and the historical data came in Yugo knew what had to be done.

He remembered and old fable about a clever man who got a king to agree to pay him one grain of rice for his first full day of work, 2 grains of rice for his second day of work, 4 grains on his third day of work and so on until near the end of the month until the king realized he would have to pay this man all the rice in the kingdom …. So the king had him killed.

Yugo saw that we on earth had set up social structures that try to insure perpetual exponential growth in the economy. He not only knew that this would inevitably blow up in their faces and the longer this process goes on the worse the outcome. So, bringing forward the crisis by even a few years could avoid the worst possible outcomes. It was then he noticed the strange appeal that a certain reality TV a-hole had on a large section of the nation state at the center of the global economy, and he hatched a desperate and dangerous plan to save mankind….

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

In 100.000 BC, an interstellar expedition of an advanced alien race visits earth. An accident leaves them stranded, without their starships and any way of communication. They, as a team of researchers, do not have the know-how of building starships or comm devices, but are either very long-lived or practically immortal (Cryogenic sleeping chambers? Cloning technology?) and have enough gadgets to hide themselves and conduct scientific experiments. In order to get back, they try to advance humanity up to the point they are able to build interstellar technology by themselves.


You might be interested in two darkly-comedic variations on that theme. Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan and Douglas (not the Dilbert guy) Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

scidata said...

@Alfred Differ

Not all warriors for the Enlightenment are following some FOM system or belief. For myself, I simply promote diversity as rational. I've said on many occasions that confederates can be useful. We get to the stars faster with them than without them because pruning humanity is wasteful at best, fatal at worst (as explored in the split Kirk transporter accident TOS episode). I thought Bronowski explained this well in "The Ascent of Man".

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

In 2020, events appear to be reaching a climax (perhaps a psycho-historic crisis?) when the election of Joe Biden and the development of COVID-19 vaccines seem to lead to a positive outcome, UNTIL..


The Mule, using his visi-sOANar (amplified by Twitter) demoralizes the population into accepting him as dictator for life. A bewildered Yugo, his clade of petty dictators, and various excommunicated Republicans bemoan, "I still thought we could control him."

David Brin said...

Notice jim doesn't go to the implied simplistically cruel 'solution' of mass die-off. Though some speak of the slightly less crude monstrous intervention of a pandemic that creates sterility.

Again, jim should see that Bensen novel...

Darrell E said...

Der Oger said...

"In 100.000 BC, an interstellar expedition of an advanced alien race visits earth. An accident leaves them stranded, without their starships and any way of communication. They, as a team of researchers, do not have the know-how of building starships or comm devices, but are either very long-lived or practically immortal (Cryogenic sleeping chambers? Cloning technology?) and have enough gadgets to hide themselves and conduct scientific experiments. In order to get back, they try to advance humanity up to the point they are able to build interstellar technology by themselves. Not everything goes as planned, and perhaps the stranded divide up into rivaling factions."

Very similar to Mutineer's Moon by David Weber. Only about 50,000 BC, but pretty much all the other elements you mention. Cryogenic sleeping chambers to extend already long lives, manipulating humanity in many ways for several reasons, including to accelerate the technological advance of humanity in order to facilitate getting back home, and things definitely not going according to plan.

One twist though, the aliens aren't really aliens, they are humans. The book sort of fast talking around the whole, "wait a minute, how did humans evolve on Earth and yet were running around the galaxy founding interstellar empires a 100,000 years or more before human's developed civilization on Earth?" If I remember correctly the story was that humans evolved on some other planet long ago and far away, founded an interstellar empire during which they colonized many planets including Earth, and then that original empire fell and Earth was "lost." By the time of the story the empire that the aliens were from was number 6 or 7 in a long history, 100,000 years or so, of rise and fall. Of course, given our knowledge of the biological history of life on Earth, this is entirely unbelievable. If humans really were an alien species transplanted to Earth it would be shockingly obvious.

David Brin said...

Keith, what a kewl story scenario! One of the big gaps - ready for other stories - that I left after Foundation’s Triumph was the question of “Chaos”… a disease/pandemic of some sort that altered humanity so that individualism-renaissances always failed and you wind up with the weirdly neurotic societies of The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun… and a reason why none of the human planets for 25,000 years managed to break out. And I hint that Daneel Olivaw and the Zeroth Law for “our own good.”

Der Oger… great theme. See a novel called “And Having Writ…” by Benson. Alien sociologists’ ship crashes on Earth in 1906 and they reveal themselves openly and change everything.

Larry Hart said...

Context left as an exercise to the reader...


Captain James T. Kirk : Get off my ship. You're a dead duck here, you're powerless. We know about you, and we don't want to play. Maybe... maybe there're others like you around, maybe you've caused a lot of suffering, a lot of history; but that's all over. We'll be on guard now, we'll be ready for you, so ship out! Come on, haul it!

Dr. McCoy : Yeah, out already!

Kang : Out! We need no urging to hate Humans. But for the present, only a fool fights in a burning house. Out!

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

One twist though, the aliens aren't really aliens, they are humans. The book sort of fast talking around the whole, "wait a minute, how did humans evolve on Earth and yet were running around the galaxy founding interstellar empires a 100,000 years or more before human's developed civilization on Earth?" If I remember correctly the story was that humans evolved on some other planet long ago and far away, founded an interstellar empire during which they colonized many planets including Earth, and then that original empire fell and Earth was "lost." By the time of the story the empire that the aliens were from was number 6 or 7 in a long history, 100,000 years or so, of rise and fall.


I won't ask him to comment, but I've sometimes wondered if our host was going for something like that with the Progenetors.


Of course, given our knowledge of the biological history of life on Earth, this is entirely unbelievable. If humans really were an alien species transplanted to Earth it would be shockingly obvious.


The alien species somehow transplanted to Earth is cats. I had a diabetic cat once, and learned then that cats have an insulin molecule that is different from the one used by all other mammals including humans. I often wonder if cats are even constructed out of DNA, or if they use some other building block instead.

Pappenheimer said...

A more plausible theory is Clarke's short story where alien scientists give humanity's ancestors a kick-start and then get recalled due to some catastrophe that threatens their home planet, and never return, leaving us humans to muddle along. He reused the basic concept in "2001" while adding an automatic monitoring system - when we reach a certain technological level, we trigger an alarm. It's a tossup at this point whether the AI reviewing our transmissions would report "Worth continuing" or "Time to sanitize the planet and restart".

TCB said...

1. Aliens built the Egyptian Pyramids.

2. The Egyptians worshipped cats.

3. Cats are aliens.

Therefore,

Cats built the Pyramids.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Deciphering the motivations for followers of Two Scoops leads us both to "Owning the Libs", though I use a different term for it. I see it as tribal conflict between believers in different ideals. The ideas themselves are at war. The people are simply hosts.


This may be a shortcoming on my part, but I don't see it as a clash of ideas. That's what makes "working together", "finding common ground", or "compromise" so frustrating. How do you work together with someone whose main goal is upsetting you?

Do we do as locumranch once suggested and compromise with Hitler over how many Jews it is acceptable to kill? Six million is too many, but we'll meet him halfway and allow two or three million?

What ideas were clashing when Republican congresscritters like John McCain chided President Obama for not sending troops to Syria after ISIS...until he did send them, at which point they chided him for doing so?

It's more like the line from Hamilton in which our protagonist notes:
"But they don't have a plan. They just hate mine."

Or later, when Burr runs for Senator:
"They don't need to know me. They don't like you."



Some call it tribal warfare, but I think that fails to capture the scope of the conflict. Your Enlightenment Civilization calls you to conflict now and then. You'll do it willingly at the expense of your personal comfort and treasure. You'll know with little doubt that the other side is Wrong… and behaving stupidly… because it is SO obvious.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Helps you spot your(?) opponents quickly. But are they really? Opponents? Stupid?


It's not quite so simple. I recognize their right to their values, even as I also recognize that they don't recognize my right to my values. And that if their values prevail, mine are undermined, because undermining my values is an essential part of their values. As an example, white supremacy can't co-exist with equality before the law.

I realize that in our system of government, it is essential to work with those whose opinions differ from mine and to find common ground where we can work together. In that regard, I don't call them stupid to their faces. That's my way of venting when I perceive that we would find common ground if they really wanted the outcomes they say they want, but instead they work in ways which frustrate the very outcomes they claim to desire. Obviously, if their rhetoric doesn't match their true intentions, then they're not so much "stupid" as "devious". Pretending to oppose abortion when what they really oppose is sex. Or pretending to oppose illegal immigration, but really wanting to keep illegal aliens terrorized into working for peanuts.

TCB said...

Thom Harmann explains why Democrats cannot win if they don't take talk radio seriously.

He reports talking to billionaires who owned hundreds of radio stations, who said they wouldn't pick up progressive shows because "why should I give air time to people who say I should pay more taxes" and "I prefer real Christians". He ends by noting that there are 1500 right wing stations all across America, which can be heard almost anywhere except the remotest wilderness, and fewer than 50 on the left.

matthew said...

Interesting to note that the root cause of the Russians having access to the deepest level of our government's sensitive computer networks is because the IT security service, SolarWinds, reportedly used "SolarWinds123" as their password to the system.

Reminds me of how Trump's twitter account was hacked because his password was so easy to guess and he did not have two step validation in place.

Russia's C*zy Be*r does not need to be smart, when so many entrusted with our security are so stupid.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everybody: Thanks for your comments.
One way around the "we evolved on another planet and came here trope along time ago" (which BTW *makes Larry Niven's"Known Space" fantasy [at some level] and not SF) which is REALLY UNLIKELY but is at least possible would be:
Humans evolved an advanced techno-society ~125k BP during the Eemian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eemian) time, and then clean up their mess very nicely (so we don't find any of it) and high-tailed it out of Dodge.

My original thought around myscenario is that the Russians were using a crude (or maybe not-so-crude?) version of psycho-history on the US&A...

TDB (Thanks, Dr. Brin): Would this disease have been distinct from the "brain fever" which turned the great majority of humanity into Midwestern Americans- pleasant and polite people [until 2016] but not curious about most things? (Sorry for the stereotype folks, if any of you are/were from the Midwest.)
Also, while I wouldn't want to live on either Lije's Earth or Solaria, I can imagine a post-climate change world where a fear of new things goes along with a fear of the unpredictable outside world. Also, I can imagine that Solaria would be an ideal near-paradise for some people on the autistic spectrum:
"Hey, I get everything I need/want right here, and I don't have to see or touch anyone!"

Also (and it's probably been discussed elsewhere) there seems to be a major incidence of "How the HELL did they come up with that idea and who said it was good?". In particular, didn't R. Giskard say:
"Hey, these folks are stagnating here. We need to light a fire under their butts so they'll colonize the galaxy- lets slowly kill off all life on Earth."
Also, didn't you talk (through Mr. Antyk) about the "tilling effect"?
It looks like our "plastic pals" decided to exterminate advanced life on ~2,500,000 worlds. Didn't anybody say, "Ummm, maybe we should skip those for now."? WTF!!!
Somebody should have come up with a "Minus First Law":
"A robot shall not commit planetocide or through inaction, allow planetocide to come about."

Cheers,
KH


*More questions about how much and about what counter-factual info turns SF into fantasy sometime later.

David Brin said...

Sorry not engaging as much. Never, ever boon busier. But carry on! Good stuff.

toduro said...

Recent story suggestions / mentions here reminded me of an amusing question I saw a few years ago:

Why isn't there a sci-fi first contact story in which the ET's who land here are hapless tourists who did not intend to come but took a wrong turn somewhere and their "car" broke down? Similar to most people these days in that they really don't know how their "car" works so have no clue how to repair it. From a civilization advanced enough that we can't figure out how to fix the "car" either.

If such a story is already out there, I bet someone in the crowd here knows about it and will pipe up.

If not, which well known sci-fi writer would be inclined to write such a story?

Jon S. said...

"One way around the "we evolved on another planet and came here trope along time ago" (which BTW *makes Larry Niven's"Known Space" fantasy [at some level] and not SF) which is REALLY UNLIKELY but is at least possible would be:
Humans evolved an advanced techno-society ~125k BP during the Eemian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eemian) time, and then clean up their mess very nicely (so we don't find any of it) and high-tailed it out of Dodge."


The background for the Halo universe involves a conflict between the Forerunners and the early Humans, a spacefaring species, when the alien Flood first appeared - the Humans favored immediate sterilization of any planet with an active Flood presence, while the Forerunners wanted to preserve as much as possible first. In the end, Humans were hit with a weapon that reverted their society to a literal stone-age level and confined to their original home planet, Earth.

When they re-emerged in the 26th century, they encountered an alien religious alliance known as the Covenant, who regarded Humans as blasphemous because we had recovered Forerunner artifacts and then reverse-engineered the technology to make new things. When we discovered the Halos, and the ancient records preserved there, it just made them angrier.

Keith Halperin said...

Busy is good! Write, talk, and hopefully make money at it. It's what you do!

David Brin said...

toduro, cool concept! Try ROADSIDE PICNIC!

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

In particular, didn't R. Giskard say:
"Hey, these folks are stagnating here. We need to light a fire under their butts so they'll colonize the galaxy- lets slowly kill off all life on Earth."


I only read that part of the series once, and that was decades ago, but wasn't it Daneel who came up with the Zeroth Law and therefore justified hurting individual humans in service of helping humanity? IIRC, Giskard was skeptical enough that violating the First Law killed him.

David Brin said...

Isaac couldn't bring himself to admit his original concept was that there had been a nuclear war. So instead he crafted future humans that were blatantly insane and unable to lift their gaze, the way at least 50% of our version of humanity would.

A weird situation I elucidated in FT.

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

SolarWinds, reportedly used "SolarWinds123" as their password to the system.

If so, someone should be shot.

Better yet, find the person who set it and investigate them to find out if they did it knowingly to open the door for others. Upset former employees DO occasionally leave ticking time bombs on their way out the door.

I suspect this isn't that simple, though. A good scapegoat is useful at times, but it can distract from the real issues. It is NOT EASY to maintain a good security posture against a dedicated foreign state adversary. There ARE easy things to do that help, but that's just a start. If you aren't on the periphery of the attack, the easy things are like trying to dig a foxhole while under fire.

Trench warfare is a decent analogy for where this all goes.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

Not all warriors for the Enlightenment are following some FOM system or belief.

So you say, but that is probably a strong hint at your actual belief system.

I simply promote diversity as rational

Yah. There it is. You see? Probably not.

The thing is, for most of human history, 99.9% of people strongly disagreed. Our xenophobia offers an evolutionary advantage. Up to a point, of course, but enough to set us up as the dominant mammal. Quite a feat considering our lack of tooth and claw.

Your point is too many generations down the road for most of us to see it. Personally, I agree with you, but it is a multi-generational advantage both genetic and memetic. We slid into it (unknowingly) between 2-3K generations ago with trade outside our kin groups. We became a different kind of hominid that way, but no one among us needed to understand your point to advocate for it to have it happen. Most people still don't. Most people don't even believe in positive sum games even.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

How do you work together with someone whose main goal is upsetting you?

Just don't. If they continue, threaten to steal/win over their children. At some point, they will escalate from poking you to shooting you. First one to resort to violence looses the middle and then the battle. You might want to buy some body armor first, though.

I'm only half joking. You ARE allowed to fight for what you believe. Don't wait for anyone to give you permission. Unless you host a particularly submissive meme, which I strongly doubt, defend your ideals.

If you work at it a bit to secularize Matthew 5:16, you'll find it broadly applicable at piercing the armor they place around their children.

———

There is a neat Hamilton fact that digs at the heart of what Constitutional Originalists claim to want. Hamilton provided most of the essays in defense of the new Constitution that were later bundled into The Federalist Papers. Yet… he wanted a central bank when he was Sec Treas. Madison opposed that and Jefferson too, yet when Jefferson was President, he let himself be convinced not to undo that particular piece of Federalist policy. Worse yet, Madison supported the Sedition Act which blatantly violates a citizen's rights.

The Framers agreed enough to write our Constitution and defend it through ratification, but they often hated each other… or learned to over the years. Hatred of Hamilton better explains the opposition to his policy than any Constitutional argument against Hamilton's ideas.

See anything like that going on today? I sure do. There are a lot of people who hate Obama. Many of us have dipped deep into hatred of Trump. There is no path to compromise while that continues. The best we will manage before tolerance re-emerges is not shooting each other.

———

Pretending to oppose abortion when what they really oppose is sex.

Nah. They oppose a guilt-free life. What hook do your masters have on you if you are relatively happy?

They remind me a bit of a similar behavior seen from some progressives who refuse to accept that the world has improved a bit. Can't Be! What would happen to our need to broadcast Doom And Gloom?!

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Our first choice for a name for our son was Arthur. Both our families were less than enthusiastic and we eventually settled on Julian.

I had the pleasure of being part of a different community many years ago that had a falling out with one of our more prolific writers. His response was to write a serial parody of us on another site. It contained deliciously piercing details masked just well enough that our folks had to squint a bit before they realized which character pertained to them. I was cast as a chimp if I recall correctly. [It was a real hoot to read and I made sure he knew it.]

There are FAR better ways for Yugo to break us up than sending in provocateurs.

Pappenheimer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Darrell E said...

Keith Halperin said...

"One way around the "we evolved on another planet and came here trope along time ago" (which BTW *makes Larry Niven's"Known Space" fantasy [at some level] and not SF) which is REALLY UNLIKELY but is at least possible would be:
Humans evolved an advanced techno-society ~125k BP during the Eemian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eemian) time, and then clean up their mess very nicely (so we don't find any of it) and high-tailed it out of Dodge.
"

Michael P. Kube-McDowell used a similar trope in his The Trigon Disunity trilogy. In that story the current human civilization on Earth is busy self destructing, including burning scientists at the stake, due to over-population and ecological damage. A lone scientist using a radio telescope to search for ETs, in hopes they might help Earth in some way, finds a signal coming from another star. He gets in touch with other scientists in hiding to help decipher the signal. Turns out the signal is coming from humans. These humans say they are a colony settled from Earth long ago.

As the story unfolds we find out that humans achieved an advanced society on Earth tens of thousands of years ago, colonized many planets, and then encountered a super advanced alien race which wiped them out so thoroughly that humans on Earth nearly went extinct, were knocked back to the stone age and all knowledge of the previous high civilization was lost.

Darrell E said...

Larry,

You may be right. Cats definitely could be aliens.

Which brings to mind flat-cats, those furry, purry frisbees from Mars, from one of my favorite Heinlein juvenile novels, The Rolling Stones.

I still recall, when reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for the first time, the pleasure of recognizing that the fire-breathing young Hazel in that story was the very same Grandma Hazel, she of such attitude and competence, in The Rolling Stones.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Isaac couldn't bring himself to admit his original concept was that there had been a nuclear war...


The thing is, the original stories that mentioned a radioactive earth (i.e,, The Stars Like Dust) were written in the 1950s, and although I was not quite born yet then, my sense of the time through fiction is that it was almost universally assumed that a nuclear exchange would happen some time in the future. As a plot device, that didn't even require explanation--just a rueful nod to inevitability. In fact, a far-future Earth which did not have a nuclear exchange in its history might have been considered implausible. It might even have been considered optimistic that the post-nuclear humans lived in an Asimovian story rather than something like Mad Max.

It was only because he revived the series in the 1980s--when detente was a thing, and it was looking more like war could be averted--that an alternate explanation for Earth's radioactivity became necessary to the narrative.

Pachydermis2 said...

It's fun to consider SciFi plot lines. True, a lot of the great themes have been done many times. There are after all only so many ways a story can unfold and I suspect a few recent Blockbuster Hits have their genesis with tales told 'round Neolithic feasting fires. Perhaps in the case of Michael Bay movies, told better....

It might be fun one day to have various regulars here who have delusions of creativity to each be given the same simple framework.....premise, character(s) and one plot element....and have us each cook up an opening to a SciFi story.

It should be limited to whatever the character limit is for posting.

To make it a bit more interesting, it could even be spun into the styles of assorted writers. With so many of the greats now passing on we could do this without causing great distress in this Time Space continuum.

Heck it might degenerate into a nerdy Bulwer-Lytton prize but that's cool.

"It was a Dark and Stormy nebula...."

Pachydermis

Keith Halperin said...

Thanks, Folks. I checked and it was *Lumbar Mammothus, I mean Levular Mandamus, who came with the "frog in a pot on the stove" strategy.
Any clue who came up with the "eliminate all advanced life on planets" strategy?
"R. TeNation said: "Hey robots! Lets become Daleks and EXTERMINATE the advanced life on planets."
"Can't we exterminate ALL life on planets?"
"No, R. Saberhagen. Think 'Daleks' NOT 'Beserkers'".



*I'd enjoy seeing "Asimovian Name Generator, like the "Star Wars Name Generator".
- Halbekesan

Larry Hart said...

There's a scene in Vonnegut's Player Piano where protagonist Paul Proteus, having just been fired during a management getaway, returns to the island's saloon for one last drink and gets into an argument with the bartender (who refuses to serve a "saboteur"). Proteus lobs an insult back at the bartender on his way out the door, only to discover that without rank to protect him, the bartender is perfectly willing to jump the bar and smash Paul in the face.

I keep hoping/expecting to see something metaphorically equivalent happen to Trump the first time he tries to pull s*** that he only gets away with now because of the immunity granted to the office.

Larry Hart said...

A troll who claims to be Pappenheimer:

Your host and your own bechavior most foolly evidance of it.


Seriously, dude? You're just phoning it in now.

Larry Hart said...

Pachydermis2:

"It was a Dark and Stormy nebula...."


Comics writer/artist John Byrne opened his Babe miniseries with narration intended to evoke the prose style of that "Dark and stormy night" bit from The Royale. IIRC, part of it was, "The sea heaved and rolled like some big heaving rolling thing."

scidata said...

@Alfred Differ

If advocating rationality counts as a belief system, then we are truly doomed. We will simply be replaced by Vulcans, AI, or whatever evolution comes up with next.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I was writing my Solstice piece, and upon rereading it, realized that without meaning to, I wound up channelling Robert Heinlein. Obviously there are worse sources for a muse, and I've always liked his writing, but I found myself blinking in astonishment at what came out:

"We’ll always have conspiracy theorists, of course, but by this time next year they may be back in their accustomed position of providing amusement and some puzzlement. People are free to believe whatever damned fool notions they want, as the saying goes. But they aren’t free to make it public policy.
Chemtrails? Moon Landing Hoax? Poison Vaccines? No such thing as COVID? Your opinions, your right. You can even hold public office with nutball beliefs like those, like the idiot I’m stuck with for my Congressman. But don’t try to make them beliefs WE must live by. We have the right to tell you to go to hell—and we will!
And yes, this includes religious beliefs. Most churches are just conspiracy theories with money."

Larry Hart said...

Some of Alfred's posts appeared higher up than other posts I've already seen. I think. Anyway, they're worth a look.

Alfred Differ:

See anything like that going on today? I sure do. There are a lot of people who hate Obama. Many of us have dipped deep into hatred of Trump. There is no path to compromise while that continues.


While I agree, I also see that as one of those false equivalences. From what I can tell, Trump-haters hate him because of what he's done. They'd hate anyone who did the same things. Obama-haters seem to hate the man.

I mention that only to say that it's not feasible that both sides come together and stop hating the other's president. "We'll accept treason and self-dealing if you accept that a black guy was president"? Doesn't sound like a fair exchange to me.


"Pretending to oppose abortion when what they really oppose is sex."

Nah. They oppose a guilt-free life.


Sure, I'll accept the more general characterization. But it is also important to note how hung up on sex in particular Christian moralizers really are. This is one of those things I used to argue was not as simple as that, but have come to realize it is. When politicians and political preachers talk about "Christian values", they almost always mean nothing other than traditional patriarchal roles for men and women. They certainly don't refer to the Sermon on the Mount or anything else that Jesus actually preached about.


Heh. Our first choice for a name for our son was Arthur. Both our families were less than enthusiastic and we eventually settled on Julian.


Sounds like my wife and me when she was pregnant. Her family especially kept suggesting baby names, and trying to get us to divulge our own selections. The fact was that we hadn't decided on any names yet, but we didn't want to be coerced into a choice by anyone else. At Thanksgiving that year, my wife remembers a particular argument between her mother and her sister about whether the baby should be named Mary Catherine or Catherine Mary. :)

The baby ended up arriving three weeks earlier than expected, and it was a darned good thing that she was a girl, because we still hadn't agreed on any good boy's names. As it turned out, my wife and I both independently arrived at "Laurel" for different reasons, so we went with it. So she's sort of named after my wife's grandmother Laura, and sort of named after my grandfather Leo, and sort of named after me, and I have an adult cousin named Laurel, and I've always liked the connotations relating to victory and celebration (laurel leaves). But I've never said to her out loud that she's also named after the Laurel Jane Juspeczyk character in the "Watchmen" comic.

So don't tell anyone. :)

TCB said...

A Reddit commenter called MANDATORYFUNLEADER has a lot to say about how ES&S voting machines seem to have had a huge and very suspicious influence on major US elections for 20 years, always in favor of Republicans. Scroll down for MANDATORYFUNLEADER's second comment with links.

Excerpt:

Maine, where Susan Collins spent the entire last year losing in every poll, by about 8-10%. She won her race by 9%. Roughly a 17% flip.

Who's machines handle all of the ballots in Maine, including the mail in? ES&S. And since the race is soooo far apart, there will never be an audit of the equipment.

But it's just like, one race, right?

No. Of course not. This year, South Carolina spent $51 million on new ES&S equipment. Lindsay Graham went from polling down 1-2%, to winning by 10%.

In Iowa, Jodi Ernst went from polling down around 3 points in nearly every poll, to winning by 6.5%. Just shy of a ten point swing.

In Montana, Daines was within a few points, generally even, with his competitor Bullock. Daines won his race 55-45, another magical 10 point swing for the Republicans.

Every senate race, where ES&S machines were used, we had crazy swings like this, and the results of every ES&S senate race went for the Republicans by so much, that no recount or audit will ever be performed.

Back in Georgia, in the 2018 gubernatorial race, there was quite a bit of tomfuckery too. Kemp "won" a pretty disputed race against the Democrat Stacey Abrams. Part of the issues revolving around the race, were that not only was Kemp overseeing his own election, but he had ties to the company who's equipment they were using. ES&S. The equipment ended up not having any paper back ups, and the results were all erased, so no audit. Oops. For this election, they went with Dominion, after Democrats blocked attempts to purchase more ES&S equipment.

It's not like any of this is a huge secret. ES&S has been getting eyeballed since their tomfuckery in Florida, during the 2000 race. They weren't the hanging chads, they were the ones that "mistakenly" gave Bush a bunch of votes in a county, allowing him to call himself the winner, helping to justify his pushes in court.

The commenter adds that Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel, former CEO of ES&S "never won an election, that wasn't counted by his own machines.

He went from losing in the polls, to winning his election by 17%.
...

Dominion machines are undergoing complete audits, and passing, in states where the results exactly matched the polls. But we'll NEVER see Republicans push to audit the machines in states where their candidates magically outperformed polls by 10 to 20 points.

Who knows maybe this is all BS (I don't believe so) but by Republican standards isn't there enough here for multiple investigations just to be sure?

Keith Halperin said...


@ Everybody, again: Thanks for your feedback.

Re: rationality: based on what we have learned/are learning about inherent cognitive biases, I believe that people can be rational (emotionally objective evaluation of evidence-based facts) only a fairly small percentage of our waking lives, but being aware of these biases, we can work to understand them and take them into account when decision-making...

Going back to psycho-history, that's on problem I have with the Asimovian version: "It only works if people don't know about it, and we can keep it a secret for 1,000 years." Maybe, if with "brain fever" quadrillions of people are incurious and they all believe they are free and rational actors. As above, I think it would be be closer to actuality to let people know that (as people) we/they are constantly being manipulated consciously and unconsciously in a multitude of ways for intentions beneficial, neutral, and harmful, but by being aware of this, we can work toward an active flourishing life, as opposed to a passive and stunted one...A sophisticated alternative to "let's keep it a secret for 1,000 years" would have been to tell everything and complete detail, but frame it in such a way as it would seem to be an unbelievable conspiracy- you could have it as a story arc in some "Galactic X-Files" show...

That gives me an evil idea: send out the premise the Foundation(small group of people working in secret for the survival and flourishing of civiliztion) on OAN, 8chan, Parler, etc. as a an actual contemporary plot of the liberal socialist Deep State to ban Christianity, guns, and private property and making homosexuality compulsory while turning everyone into espresso-drinking, Prius driving, fake news-listening libtards, and this "Foundation" was actually responsible for stealing the election from Donald Trump, Best President Ever!

(As my evil brain won't shut down: a variation on this-
a Star Trek "Mirror Universe" Evil Hari Seldon works to set up a Foundation to create a stable, galaxy-wide totalitarian state under the guise of benevolence, but only Hari (and R. Daneel) know this.
A slight variation- based on his findings, Hari sincerely believes that a totalitarian state is best for humanity, shades of the God-Emperor's "Golden Plan" in the Duniverse.)

Have a good weekend, Folks.

David Brin said...

Guys...

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/dec/18/scientists-looking-for-aliens-investigate-radio-beam-from-nearby-star

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/alien-hunters-discover-mysterious-signal-from-proxima-centauri/

duncan cairncross said...

Keith Halperin

Read
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistorical_Crisis

It answers your points - but be warned its a very substantial work with lots of interesting ideas

The Proxima "signal" is apparently not modulated - or at least not modulated in any way that we would use
We use amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM)
Is there a way to use the phase of the signal? and would we detect that?
Something else???

scidata said...

Re: Proxima Centauri

Well, this is a switch. Dr. Brin is posting potential SETI contact and I'm throwing cold water on it!
UHF is a crazy band. So many recent microsatellites and homebrew projects use it. Could be one of a thousand poorly documented Terran sources. I see much more promise in GW and GAZERs.
Still, it's never aliens until it is.

Alfred Differ said...

Wow. They've got direct neutrino evidence now consistent with CNO fusion cycle near 1% of power generation in the center of our Sun.

That's one of the long-standing conjectures I thought would out-live me absent confirmation. It's long been believed to be true, but supporting evidence was hard to come by.

Pretty #$%&ing neat to see new observation windows open up for astrophysicists. It was neat enough seeing IR equipment* become a thing, but gravity and neutrinos are something else entirely.

-------
*I watched a live-stream the other day involving an amateur astronomer with a decent rig as he tried out his new, relatively cheap CH4 filter. He wasn't sure what he was looking at when using it to look at Saturn and Jupiter, but the people chatting with him read up on it live. Literally live. I got to watch them learn about atmospheric opacity, diffuse & specular reflection, and bandpass filters in a way that I would have sacrificed goats to make happen in labs I used to teach**. Spontaneous, effective, and self-directed. It was amazing to watch.

**Those labs and classes are from the 80's. This modern world is VERY different. I'd have more impact today by writing stuff down and making a few videos. Maybe no impact at all... or maybe they'd find what they need without any further help.

David Brin said...

'The narrow beam of radio waves was picked up during 30 hours of observations by the Parkes telescope in Australia in April and May last year, the Guardian understands. Analysis of the beam has been under way for some time and scientists have yet to identify a terrestrial culprit such as ground-based equipment or a passing satellite.'

This means it was found in 'post-facto' analysis of recorded data, and hence there was no alert sent to other observatories to swing over and verify, While much higher than background, and lasting 2.5 hours, the signal was about one ten-thousandth the power imputed to the so-called WOW! detection of the 1970s.

Mentioned: the very narrow 980 Mhz spectum also had frequency drift roughly commensurate with the 'movement of a planet. Though we can't compare it yet to any rotation process in the Proxima system.

Whatever the actual reality of this event - and I give odds against - I suppose this means:

1- Every nut will be aiming every kind of antenna toward there, shouting yoohoo, while ignoring the fact that this is exactly where that mistake was made, in Liu Cixin's famous novel The Three Body Problem... and...

2- there will be someone aiming a dish at Proxima Centauri pretty much permanently, from now on. Fine by me.


Actually though, I am rooting against this being 'the real deal'. In my profession, we know far more ways for things to go badly, than well. And even in a best case scenario, I'd rather humanity had the pride of fixing ourselves, than giving credit to outsiders. (And that's at-best.)

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Obama-haters seem to hate the man.

Some. Most of them I know can point to what he did, though. The problem is that we don't agree on what he actually did. We are in a perception trap. What one sees as fact depends heavily on what one expect to see. Perception models matter a great deal and we obviously aren't sharing a common one among us all.

The hatred won't stop. It will eventually cool to tolerance not of the horrors but of the fact that they are in the past… assuming of course we do not choose a similar wound-opening leader in the near future.

…it is also important to note how hung up on sex…

Yah. Not surprising, though. I don't have to tell you this, but if there is a social force large enough to push guys away from the training we receive (while young) from preachers, it is sex from a willing female who expects different behavior. Most of us just nod with understanding, so our masters must take care to pair us with women who won't do that. That means strong gender-role typing. If the masters fail, they won't hold us for long.

Kinda works the other way around too when we don't treat them like property. I made damn sure there wasn't even a whiff of an obedience vow in our marriage documentation.

Laurel Jane Juspeczyk

That's a good one. My son's name is related to my wife's sister's name. Julie. A big influence, though, was the DS9 character. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,

Is there a way to use the phase of the signal?

Yup. Look up the Zigbee protocol.
Phase modulated, digital communication.
Base 4.

At 4.3 ly's? Ugh.

If any modulation method would cut through the ISM and be detectable at a distance as more signal than noise, I'd expect aliens to use phase modulation.

I can't think of a single natural source for it, but that probably means I'm not imaginative enough. Creation likes to poke fun at any of us who say things like that, so I'll just smile and wait.

Robert said...

Why isn't there a sci-fi first contact story in which the ET's who land here are hapless tourists who did not intend to come but took a wrong turn somewhere and their "car" broke down?

There is. That's the gimmick in "Seven and the Stars" by Joe Haldeman, collected in Dealing in Futures.

Nice little story. Protagonist is a science fiction writer.

David: second time I've tried to submit this. Maybe your spam filter was over-zealous the first time?

Jon S. said...

Saw a mention of the Proxima signal yesterday. Trying to track down the paper whose abstract I read, but essentially the paper said that the signal detected was consistent with known information about Proxima b and its orbit interacting with the RF emissions from Proxima Centauri itself, and suggested that this might be used to detect Earth-mass planets orbiting other red dwarf stars.

If anyone else finds it before I do, please post. If you find something debunking it, I would be fascinated.

smitpa said...

Re the Proxima signal, phase modulation is a subset of frequency modulation. An fm demodulator works just fine with it. Its just narrow band.

David Brin said...

Phase modulation can only be applied to a totally coherent signal... a laser or maser... since anything non-coherent would smear the phases, unlike amplitude or frequency modulation, which can go onto cruder beams.

Keith Halperin said...


@ Duncan: Thank you. I've heard of Kingsbury's work, but never read it. The article fgoes on to state: "The book is neither officially authorized by Asimov's estate (as they had previously done with the Second Foundation Trilogy), nor is it intended to be recognized as part of his continuity."
In TV/movie terms, I'd call it a "rebooted sequel".

@ Alfred: "… assuming of course we do not choose a similar wound-opening leader in the near future."
As a jolly and optimistic person, I not only believe we (What do you mean "we"?) WILL/TRY TO choose someone like that, but that they are already out there, waiting for the right time. There are probably a number of individuals, probably *men (and probably sociopaths) currently in their late teens to late thirties who looks at Trump and says to themselves: "I can and will do better."
When will the time be "right"? I'd say over the next 20-30 years as the climate gets nastier and more unpredictable, as current- and next-gen automation **creates 10's of millions of angry young men and women with no real prospects for good jobs and lives, as aging white people try again to maintain their sense of entitlement and dominance- when the stars come together it will be once again time for a fascist demagogue to try again...
(I REALLY want to be wrong about this.)

Re: Radio signals fro Proxima b: Everybody should have realized by now that these signals are from HUMANS from ~500 years in the future, sent back in time through a "bachelor sun" to us today from "FAR CENTAURUS".

Cheers,


*However, I should watch the rest of "Years and Years" and see how Emma Thompson's character plays out.
**A meaningful environmentally-oriented infrastructure program ("A Green WPA for the 21st Century." with union-scale wages and benefits could prevent this.

duncan cairncross said...

Keith Halperin

My generation (Boomers) and half of the following one were poisoned as children by lead from leaded petrol
In our peak crime years we doubled the murder rate
Today in our peak voting years we give you BREXIT and Trump
But we will die off and the succeeding generations do not have their empathy destroyed by brain damage
So in your 20 - 30 years we will all be over 70 - 80 years old and hopefully no longer as important

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

I've heard of Kingsbury's work, but never read it. The article fgoes on to state: "The book is neither officially authorized by Asimov's estate (as they had previously done with the Second Foundation Trilogy), nor is it intended to be recognized as part of his continuity."
In TV/movie terms, I'd call it a "rebooted sequel".


I was pointed to Kingsubry's novel by someone on this list a few years ago. Because it is not officially authorized, it doesn't really take place in Asimov's universe, but the analogs are completely obvious and consistent. You'll know "Trantor" when you see it, even though it's called something else. That sort of thing.

Me, I'm the opposite of a speed reader, and I love to savor books of this type, but I think I set a personal record by taking over a year to read it. Caveat emptor.

What I liked most about it is that, unlike the Benford/Bear/Brin trilogy or even the later Asimov-written books, it actually takes place in the future of the original books. A new "Seldon Crisis" centuries after the Plan has supposedly run its course. I realized that I had been looking for such a thing ever since I read the original trilogy.

What I didn't like--well, without spoiling too much for you, it seems that the later writers, including Asimov himself in the 1980s, just can't manage to stick with the sense in the original series that humanity has expanded beyond the importance of one particular world in the Sirius Sector.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ a while back:

An idea is Lindy-proof when it is often exposed to tests and survives them. There is also a need for consequences landing on believers if a test fails. Another is that a Lindy-proof idea should confer upon its believers some kind of protection.

Falsifiability, Risk, Value.

Some of what I think is stupid is actually Lindy-proof.


I'm confused as to whether your "Lindy-proof" means an idea has merit, or that its followers continue believing it despite it not having merit.

For instance, Supply Side economics. "Tax cuts increase government revenue" and "Giving money to rich people and corporations causes investment in jobs and infrastructure." To me, all of these notions have been disproven again and again in the real world, and yet are treated by "experts" as revealed truth. Does that make them "Lindy-proof"? Or does the term refer to theories more akin to "Gravity and inertia cause the earth to orbit the sun"?

Smurphs said...

It's not over yet.

CNN: "Heated Oval Office meeting included talk of special counsel, martial law as Trump advisers clash"

https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/19/politics/trump-oval-office-meeting-special-counsel-martial-law/index.html

Yes, that's right, Martial Law is being discussed IN THE OVAL OFFICE!

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

The proper definition for Lindy Effect involves 'expected life expectency' and goes like this.

If a thing has lasted X number of years and the expectation of it lasting more is proportional to X, the Lindy Effect applies. Mortality rate decreases with time.

One application involves authors with books that get stocked on shelves in bookstores. If your book got shelved and remained so for X years, and it the expectation of that continuing is proportional to X, the effect exists. When you get a chance, check whether Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is still on the shelf at your nearest bookstore. Chances are high that it is. Chances are high it will remain so for a long time since it was published over 150 years ago.

This effect applies to ideas too, but is a little harder to measure.

A 'Lindy Proof' thing is one where the Lindy Effect appears to apply with a few extra features.

1. Falsifiable
2. Believers are at risk of 'harm' if idea is shown to be false.
3. Believers benefit if idea survives falsifiability tests.

Many ideas can show the Lindy Effect but not be Lindy Proof.
Falsifiability isn't strictly required. Belief that an idea can be falsified IS.

Consider Trickle Down Economics. Few here would say it hasn't been falsified, but technically it can't be proven. Macro-Econ is like that. Believers CAN believe it can be falsified, yet still believe we have failed to do so.

Consider Feudal Hierarchies. Few here would say the average person benefits from being part of one, but technically it can't be proven. Religion gets involved to support the Aristocracy. You might suffer in this life and ascend in the next. Believers MIGHT think their ideas can be falsified, but make it effectively impossible to accomplish.

Now try "Loyalty to a Warlord". It has a lot in common with feudalism, but without so much religion. Believers can think they won't be Kibble, ARE at risk if they are proven wrong, but could strongly benefit if they help the warlord succeed. Falsifiable? Yes and No. Just change who is in the out-group to include any who do not benefit. QED.

Lindy Proof ideas might have merit, but many don't.

TCB said...

For clarification, does "Lindy-proof" refer to Charles Lindbergh (i.e. he crossed the ocean solo and therefore tested and refuted the notion that this could not be done) or if it refers to the Lindy effect, which is really more statistical in nature?

The Lindy effect is a theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.[1] Where the Lindy effect applies, mortality rate decreases with time.

I heard this applied to restaurants. If a restaurant had been in business for a year, it would probably close in a year, whereas if a restaurant had been open for a hundred years, it was more likely to continue for another hundred. The reason is that if you sample something randomly from a large group, it will probably return a result somewhere nearer the middle of the bell curve (in this case, time from start to finish). So the Lindy effect is related to the Bostrom doomsday argument, but in the doomsday argument the random sample is taken from the number of humans who ever lived, not the number of years a restaurant was open.

But what Differ means by "Lindy-proof" doesn't seem strongly linked to either of these concepts, so please clarify.

matthew said...

Trump discussing holding power by use of martial law is being treated as "Trump being Trump" by our main media outlets. They have normalized the idea that he is a mostly harmless buffoon. The thing is, a coup looks like a bunch of fools, until it works. A coup is lawless, until the winners get to define "law" in such a way as to retroactively be legal.

Journalism has failed us, massively.

The discussion of martial law in the Oval Office is already a crime, on a standalone basis. Sedition does not require an overt act to be illegal. It differs from conspiracy charges in this way.

Dem leadership should be impeaching Trump again. That they are not speaks to their political cowardice. They are betting that the sedition is all talk. They are risking the Union by not taking Trump seriously. Disgusting political cowardice. And Mitt Romney (or any other supposed "adult" GOP senator) could end the attempt personally in the space of 15 minutes by threatening to caucus with the Dems.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans
#TrumpIsTryingACoup

Jon S. said...

Trump is trying a coup. The reason more of us aren't freaking out about it is because we've served, or know someone who's in the armed forces, and have no concern that any such orders would ever be obeyed. (It helps that the Chairman of the JCOS and the Army Chief of Staff have both stated, twice, that US armed forces have no business deciding US elections.)

Dems could try to impeach again, one supposes, but to what end? There's still no way the Senate will convict; all it will do is hand Dems the public appearance of a loss at the very moment when they're on the verge of taking control of the government (possibly the entire Legislative branch, depending on how the runoff elections in Georgia go). And even if some Republican senators managed to find where their courage was stolen to, at best you might shorten his term by as much as perhaps a week. He'd still be president up until that point, and I think even more likely to try to break everything on his way out (since there would be absolutely no chance that not breaking it might work in his favor at that point - right now, it might be possible to soothe him into believing that behaving himself for another month will help him).

As for potential civilian uprisings, all I can say is that I wouldn't care to be the person who decided to assume that only far-right Trumpistas are armed and willing to fight for a cause...

Pachydermis2 said...

Umm...you're getting pretty worked up over "unnamed sources" as reported by the dubiously accurate CNN.

There will be a peaceful transition of power.

I understand that media outlets desperately want clicks and subscribers. But, do some of you on some level "need" this strange melodrama?

There's lots of better uses for your time.

Pachydermis

Larry Hart said...

Pachydermis2:

But, do some of you on some level "need" this strange melodrama?


Yeah, seriously. It's good to spot the possible failure modes and to counter them before they can take root, but the increasing level of worry about the gimmicks that Trump might pull in the increasingly small amount of time left to him is in itself worrying to me, because it demoralizes us and lends credence to Trump's otherwise-absurd behavior.

Understand, Trump himself is in a fight for his life. He has absolutely no reason to concede because there is no upside for him to losing the legal protections of his office. He will entertain any possible course of action, no matter how ridiculous or treasonous, because for him there is no alternative. I have no doubt that the use of nuclear weapons on the San Andreas Fault to dump the west coast into the ocean has also "been discussed in the Oval Office."

The Republican Party, however, is in a different position. Despite losing the presidency, they will most likely still control the Senate and they've packed the federal courts including the supreme court with young lifetime appointees. They have plenty of power which is only secure because of the Electoral College and the un-democratic Senate--because of the Constitution and the Blue states' acceptance of its bindingness. They're not about to precipitate a crisis which would give the Blue states cover for saying "Fuck it!" and refusing to play along.

Apparently, the Republicans can't be overtly dismissive of Trump because he controls almost their entire electorate. In the past several years, they have alienated everybody except the White Grievance crowd and those who fear "socialism" enough to prefer fascism. If they lose those voters to a Trump tantrum, they lose permanently. So they're not going to gainsay him while he still holds the bully pulpit. But they can't invoke martial law for the same reason Democrats won't impeach Trump again--neither ploy would ultimately prevail, and either one would make the perpetrators look like petulant toddlers.

That's why they've shifted from asserting that Trump won to limiting Biden's powers and options before he begins. They're going to cause us many headaches in the years to come--I don't doubt that. But martial law and outright overturning of the election is not going to be part of it. Donald Trump will not be president after noon EST on January 20.

Smurphs said...

Well, Pachy, you’re right that they are unnamed sources. But as Michael Flynn and Syndey Powell have called for Martial Law to overturn the election on numerous occasions, I have no doubt that if they were in the Oval Office, that is exactly what they said. Do you doubt it?

But you’re right, I have no proof they were in the office.

I actually wonder who opposed them.

matthew said...

Coup attempt is reported by the Times, the Post, The Guardian, and multiple cable channels, Pachy.
"Dubiously accurate CNN" explains much about your media sourcing.

David Brin said...

onward

onward