Sunday, December 20, 2020

Broadening our horizons: from negotiating and diversity... to solace regarding viruses.

A bit late for the weekend, here's a roundup of items you'll find nowhere else. Or at leastdeem uniquely worthy of attention!

First. An excellent missive by David Bray and the Atlantic Council calls for a GeoTech Alliance of those nations and other entities who share a common goal of spreading tech-enhanced power widely, rather than falling into the ancient pattern of power concentration by wealth, position, party or race. Embracing that power-dispersive revolution is the main thing that enabled creative development and burgeoning sci-tech advances (albeit unevenly), in recent centuries. 

Turning away from that power-dispersal approach - back toward power concentration - directly correlates with our recent declines.

This choice becomes crucial as newer technologies can vastly multiply the effects, perhaps empowering the vast numbers of skilled and confident workers and consumers who make markets work well, along with vast numbers of skilled and confident voters who invigorate democracy.

The alternative - a return to 6000 years of dismal top-down rule by diktat - is being promoted by self-interested elites across the globe. Perhaps because they realize it is their best and last chance to restore that brutally stupid Old Order.

I agree with this article, top to bottom. Except that I believe this turnaround must entail very specific actions, above all restoring the place of FACTS and objective reality and determinable argument and negotiated "politics" to a nation and world where "politics" have been deliberately and systematically destroyed.

== Can we find middle ground? ==

For many years I’ve asserted that our salvation as a people, nation, species and world lies in harnessing the one thing that has ever worked for us… honest-negotiation based on goodwill and a willingness to adapt to facts. Implicit in that are all the terms of import: competition, cooperation, accountability, honesty…. This is the root truth underlying
The Transparent Society, and my longstanding proposal for Disputation Arenas. And yes, it’s hard to do. Look at the sophists and delusion junkies around you… and that one in the mirror. It’s amazing that any human civilization tried – and somewhat succeeded – to put the positive notion of growth through accountability into practice. (And no surprise at all that it is now under full scale assault.)

Now Reddit has sponsored a site for those few adults who are willing to put this ideal into practice, by inviting challenge to things they currently believe. Reddit's 'Change My View' community becomes a dedicated site.

== a better way to argue for diversity ==

David Ellerman is an expert on Locke and on liberal vs natural rights bases for libertarianism. His new book is The Uses of Diversity: Essays in Polycentricity. Here’s my blurb about it; “For more than sixty centuries humans languished under centralized hierarchies - monarchies, oligarchies, theocracies and feudal, fascist, communist or klepto-aristocracies - and all proved spectacularly awful at statecraft. Gradually, it dawned on us that nature abhors oversimplification, for some very good reasons. The Uses of Diversity: Essays in Polycentricity explores many of the opportunities and constraints that have started, gradually, allowing human societies to reap benefits from complexity." 

Over the long run, the pragmatic benefits of diversity will weigh far more heavily than moralistic chidings about it. Consider that 99% of previous cultures would have laughed at such chidings, calling them weird. “Stop trying to impose YOUR diversity fetishism on us! We have other cultural values and how dare you demand we adopt yours!” It is that easy to respond to liberal lectures that are ONLY morality-based, as we are finding with our obstinate confederate neighbors.

To be clear, I AGREE with those moral chidings! My family and I have benefited immensely from the spreading of horizons of tolerance and below I will offer links to "horizon theory." Tolerance and diversity are wellsprings of justice.

But diversity in a culture is also spectacularly beneficial and practical, as David Ellerman clearly shows. And that PRACTICAL benefit not only supports diversity, it utterly overwhelms all attempted "cultural" refutations. Our Enlightenment Experiment in tolerant inclusion -- while flawed and needing agonizing incremental improvement for two centuries -- has been simply vastly more successful, creative, happier, healthier and better at discovering errors than any other. And it keeps getting better when we are free and tolerant and diverse.


== Will we again be a society of ideas? TV tells! ==

Anyone out there recall "my" TV show? I was a cast member on "The Architechs," A way-cool design show. ("Five geniuses have 48 hours to come up with...") This pilot shows us coming up with a new design to replace the humvee. Remember this was during the Iraq Wars. See the pilot.

Something to help pass the time? The second pilot - "Getting in and out of burning buildings" - was even better! We invented TWENTY new ways!


I was also a regular on History's most popular show ever: "Life After People."

Alas, History was transitioning to become the Bigfoot Channel and our show stopped after just a few episodes.

== a little perspective might help? ==

December 1979, NPR ran an evening show called "unpacking the eighties" which had some of the most clever riffs I ever heard, including a song about the terrible flu we'd all get, around 1985... and in this age when nothing is supposedly ever lost or un-findable, I can't find a trace of this masterpiece, anywhere, with any combo of search words. I think the artist was named "Jesse" something, but can't be sure. Here's a riff I remember by heart:

IT’S A VIRUS*

Back in the Pleistocene,
When we were still marine,
a virus launched a quest,
to be the perfect guest
And re-arranged our genes.

So to this very day,
Whether you grok or pray
all your inheritors
count on those visitors
And what they make you pay.

.
REFRAIN

It’s a virus,
It inspired us,
to rise above the mud.
It’s a virus,
It’s desirous,
of your very flesh and blood.

Now I know your body’s burning,
But don’t give up the ghost.
Tiny viruses are turning you
Into the perfect... host.

.
Though you may curse microbes
who make you blow your nose,
evolution bends
to what a virus sends,
making us recompose.

Though when you least expect
You may be struck down next
thank the virus, he
put us in misery,
But then he gave us sex!


It’s a virus,
Its inspired us,
to rise above the mud.
It’s a virus,
It’s desirous,
of your very flesh and blood.

Now I know your body’s burning,
But don’t give up the ghost.
Tiny viruses are turning you
Into the perfect... host.


Originally from a 1979  NPR show “Unpacking the 80s”.

Italics passages recited by memory.
Non-italics verses made up by DB

56 comments:

scidata said...

Quite BASIC is fun. Might be a good standard for simple algorithms in this blog if ever needed. I did a quick "Calculation of pi" some years back for my computational psychohistory article. I'll post it if I can find it (re-did in Forth, lost the original BASIC somewhere). It's only a few lines long yet captures the gist of Monte Carlo simulation. Handy for all you economics types (I'm not such). Simple DNA manipulations are good too for grasping things like codons, HGT, mRNA snippets, etc. Mendel could have done his work in an afternoon if he'd had a 1980-class BASIC computer. I'm sure someone has written alternate history SF with Lovelace, Turing, or von Neumann having one.

David Brin said...

WOw I removed the part of the blog about Quitebasic but it was still in the tags! I'll tak about it in a future posting.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Scidata: for a fun alternative look at Countess Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, see Sydney Padua's graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. The cartoons are fun, but the real meat is in the copious footnotes. Beware; you might learn something :)

Dennis M Davidson said...

A brief comment from the previous discussion.

Pachydermis2:

There will be a peaceful transition of power.

Well yes, technically we are witnessing a peaceful transfer of power. It’s been an uncooperative transition. Could be worse, I suppose. Not too long ago there were threats to kidnap and execute a governor or two. POTUS did call for the overthrow of at least one state government. Clickbait melodrama? I think not.

Hopefully, we are beyond that kind of threat. But with Trump, you never know. Are we facing martial law and a nullified election? Hell no! It’s just not going to happen. Then why would anyone be concerned? Two reasons come to mind. One: Trump is being delusional. It’s not a good thing for the president to be delusional whether it’s contrived or not. Trump lost. He needs to man up, admit it to the country, congratulate Biden & Harris, then order his staff to support the transition team. Two: He has a day job. There’s a pandemic to manage.

As to the press, I’d much prefer if CNN, WSJ, Fox and others would avoid the noise and follow Trump’s money trail—--investigate his tax frauds, business scams and current government grift. They’ve failed us all on that. But any talk that even hints at a low probability/high cost event like a coup really should be covered by the press. Even if it looks like yet another tatty melodrama.

Am I too worked up about this? Yes. Do I have a better use for my time? Most definitely, yes. There’s Jupiter, Saturn and several moons to see tonight. Hoping for clear skies in Connecticut.

Alfred Differ said...

(from last thread)

Rather than have me garble 'Lindy Proof', I'll just reference Taleb.

https://medium.com/incerto/an-expert-called-lindy-fdb30f146eaf

Don't follow the link if you haven't got a thick skin.
Taleb doesn't suffer fools and submissive types.
He puts the later in the former group.

Keith Halperin said...

@Alfred: Thanks for the Taleb link. I've read some of his books- seems like an arrogant jerk, but he's probably largely right about what he says.
Re: the Lindy test- I believe that mere durability and not being disproven/rejected/harmful may be insufficient criteria. An idea can be largely harmful to most adherents or stakeholders, and yet be the contrary to a certain group and thus last a long time. As an example: think of the frequently-mentioned "feudal attractor".

@ Dr Brin: you've presumably covered this extensively here in "CB" and elsewhere, but how do you define "diversity" and "tolerance"- "diversity" and "tolerance" of what and of whom?
Also, ISTM that the higher the stakes of a given decision, the greater the emphasis needs to be on the proper framing of the objective facts: if you and I are discussing whether or not my front door is open, not much framing is needed. On the other hand, if I'm trying to get hundreds of millions of people to make long-term major changes in their lifestyles, then I'm going to use all the behavioral economics/cognitive biases techniques/tricks to properly frame/get them to do it. A rough example of this was when I was saying that in order to marginalize the effect of someone learning a major secret, you tell everything and give them the details, while doing it in such a way as that it would appear to be an outlandish, unbelievable conspiracy theory.

jim said...

I followed Alfred’s link and found this:

“Note that I am here modifying Popper’s idea; we can replace “true” (rather, not false) with “useful”, even “not harmful”, even “protective to its users”. So I will diverge from Popper in the following. For things to survive, they necessarily need to fare well in the risk dimension, that is be good at not dying, surviving, that type of thing. By the Lindy Effect, if an idea has skin in the game, it is not in the truth game, but in the harm game. An idea survives if it is a good risk manager, that is, not only doesn’t harm its holders, but favors their survival –this also affects superstitions that have crossed centuries because they led to some protective actions. More technically, it needs to be convex and reduce fragility somewhere.”

Darrell E said...

I didn't find the Taleb article offensive at all, but I do think it was poorly written enough to be tedious as hell to read.

Larry Hart said...

jim quoting Taleb:

An idea survives if it is a good risk manager, that is, not only doesn’t harm its holders, but favors their survival –this also affects superstitions that have crossed centuries because they led to some protective actions.


I've often marveled at the survival of such "beliefs" as baseball players not changing their socks while they're on a winning streak, lest the socks be the source of their good luck. I doubt that anyone really believes in a cause/effect relationship between socks and winning, and yet, no one wants to be the guy who tempted fate and lost, especially when it costs so little to follow the superstition and there's an element of fun to it as well.

If we grant that the superstition has no real-world basis in fact, it still costs so little to follow and would cost so much in self-recrimination and doubt to not follow (with no particular upside) that the calculus always leads toward acceptance.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I didn't find the Taleb article offensive at all, but I do think it was poorly written enough to be tedious as hell to read.


That's a kind of offensiveness, Your Honor. :)

scidata said...


I'm no neuromancer, but I do use mental tricks to persuade. I find that short, pithy phrases work better than polemics (which I've already admitted to not being able to write). Such phrases sneak into stubborn minds before the Lamestream Media shield can be raised.
"Shame and Prejudice" is an example:
https://moa.ubc.ca/exhibition/shame-and-prejudice/

Another one I like to use on Elmer Gantry types is:
"The Jesus I know isn't short of cash."
See? One can be offensive without being tedious.

Also, stomping on superstition is good trouble. For example, calling the Biden victory ASAP, instead of worrying about 'jinxing' it :)
"Get there first with the most" - Patton or Romel, not sure which

Smurphs said...

From The West Wing: Toby Ziegler on calling the election early (paraphrasing)

“Do you want to tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?"

Prophetic.

TCB said...

@ scidata, "Get there first with the most men" is attributed to the villainous Nathan Bedford Forrest (Confederate general and early leader of the KKK). But the bastard did know a thing or two about military strategy.

David said...

Amidst all the talk here about verbal judo, persuasion & diversity, I'd like to contribute a link to Kara Swisher's podcast over at the (lame stream alert!) New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/17/opinion/sway-kara-swisher-brene-brown.html

For those of you who haven't run across Kara, she covers tech & Silicon Valley with an aggressive, no-B.S. attitude towards the giant tech companies and the humanities-deficient nerds who run them.

In this episode, she has a conversation with Brené Brown about vulnerability and shame, and how these touchy emotional taboo subjects bear on the social crisis we're facing in the post-Trump age.

We all know the problems. Hostility to facts, science, reason. Aggressive chanting of empty slogans. Self-destructive behavior, flaunted as "Freedom~!"

But if we dig down, what underlies these behaviors that are making pandemics/climate change/inequality/you name it ... worse?

Shame is much more likely to be driving these behaviors than the cure for it. And I’ll tell you why. What we have is an empathy crisis. And here’s what’s really complicated about these emotions. Shame and empathy really have a hard time coexisting in people for this reason. Shame is completely self-focused. In fact, of all the kind of personality disorders, shame drives narcissism more than anything else. I define narcissism as the shame-based fear of being ordinary.

Kara Swisher
So they’re not shameless. They’re full of shame, is what you’re saying.

Brene Brown
They’re full of shame.

Kara Swisher
Full of shame, but without empathy to stop it.

Brene Brown
And that kills empathy. Right. And the reason why these two things have a hard time coexisting is that shame is self-focused. Empathy is other-focused. But shame, it forces us to believe we’re alone. I always say, if you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow into every corner of our lives — secrecy, silence, and judgment. But if you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and you douse it with empathy, you’ve created a hostile environment. The minute you know you’re not alone and that your experience is human and you’re met with empathy, shame just doesn’t survive. And that’s why I think vulnerability is a requirement for building shame resilience, but the actual antidote to shame is empathy.


I've often noted that amongst my Trump-voting rural family members, the reasons have NOTHING to do with policy. It's all feeling-based. And that feeling is anger;
... under that, hurt at feeling mocked by "elites";
... under that fear of being left behind, of being useless, without worth.

If we're going to salvage some of the people who have been drawn into the Trump Cult, we are going to have to figure out how to dig deep into these root causes and address feelings with something more than bloodless logic.

Sorry for the logorrhea.

matthew said...

Here's more sourcing that the massive hack on US systems was aided by a security update with the password of "solarwinds123".

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/23/cyber-attack-us-security-protocols

My take:
Sometimes, people make stupid mistakes, like using a very simple, easily-guessed, password on a system that secures a huge part of the US classified computer resources.

Sometimes, hostile intent is hidden underneath a coat of "incompetence."

Alfred Differ said...

Taken writes like he speaks. He obviously plays with the language as he uses it to communicate and challenges you to keep up. Stretched connotations and implied metaphors that strain the sense of his message are common. I don’t see it as bad writing, but it sure isn’t aimed at people with a jr high vocabulary.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Superstitions DO work. Placebo style. A batter IS more likely to hit if they believe they will. This is seen most often in reverse when they do NOT believe.

Larry Hart said...

Just curious. Is there any reasonably-known work of fiction which casts Nathan Bedford Forrest as the villain of the piece?

duncan cairncross said...

Re David and - Shame and empathy

The childhood brain damage from leaded petrol appears to destroy "empathy" - which then produces the doubled murder rate at our peak crime years

Is that the mechanism that also produces Trump and BREXIT?

Larry Hart said...

David:

I've often noted that amongst my Trump-voting rural family members, the reasons have NOTHING to do with policy. It's all feeling-based. And that feeling is anger;
... under that, hurt at feeling mocked by "elites";
... under that fear of being left behind, of being useless, without worth.


That Trump was their middle finger to the establishment was not in itself surprising. What I think some of us foolishly believed is that the Trump supporters would realize that Trump himself made things worse, not better, in all of those areas. That when they realized Trump was exactly the type to mock them and for whom they had no value, they would come to their senses.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, is not going to mock them and will listen to their concerns. But he won't make liberals cry, and so they consider him indistinguishable from Fidel Castro and Josef Stalin.

We reckoned without their absolute hatred of us to the extent that they would willingly immolate themselves as long as they could make us feel bad in the process.

I'm thinking that the only way to counter Trumpism is to harden ourselves against feeling bad about things we have no control over. When Trump's policies hurt innocents, it's galling, but we have to ignore the harm (since we can't stop it) and just go like, "Dude, I'm sitting over here and all that crap you're pulling isn't harming me personally, so y'know, knock yourself out." Maybe they'll get tired of metaphorically "rolling coal" if no one reacts, just as they're finding out that Parler is no fun if there are no libs to own over there. And when their policies actually do harm to themselves?


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...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/23/us/politics/trump-covid-stimulus.html

...
“Most working Americans don’t need a check right now,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning. “It’s a really foolish, egg-headed left-wing socialist idea to pass out free money to people.”


He means egg-headed, left wing socialists like Donald Trump, who won't sign the COVID relief bill without an increase in the amount of free money it passes out to people?

Alfred Differ said...

Taken = Taleb. My phone is more aggressive in dealing with what it thinks are spelling errors. Makes sense for those of us with wider thumbs. 8)


Matthew,

Yah. We lump all those risks into the 'Insider Threat' category. Doesn't matter if one is careless, disgruntled, or an agent for a foreign intelligence. If one opens the door from the inside, the adversary just walks in.

My suspicion is that the password is associated with a QA test account and someone did not follow the checklist to remove it for a production release. I'm an advocate for tough testing, though, so it could easily be something much dumber or more nefarious.

Lots of us have bits and pieces of SolarWinds software. Now we have to go check it all. Heads will roll.

Alfred Differ said...

jim,

Popper spent a lot of time attacking 'True' in the sense that there are a priori truths for us to find. He wrote volumes about how it is a discovered thing at best, but we find it by finding what isn't.

I don't think Taleb was diverging from Popper at all. No doubt Taleb thinks he is, but that might be his ego speaking. (Popper had quite an ego too.) What Taleb DOES do is extend by bringing in a different understanding of probability. Popper's version of 'probability' will likely be forgotten to the ages. Taleb's might not.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Donald Trump, who won't sign the COVID relief bill without an increase in the amount of free money it passes out to people?"

Michelle Goldman of the NYT had the perfect chide for the GOP about him: "You knew he was a snake when you picked him up."
Pelosi has a unanimous consent bill slated for tomorrow night, asking Congress to unanimously approve Trump's demand for $2,000 payments. The Republicans are in an absolute no-win situation: vote for it and basically surrender, or vote against it, screwing the public on Christmas Eve.

Serves them right.

Don Gisselbeck said...

I can't find the original source, but it went like this; many Americans would rather slit their own throats than live in peace and prosperity with people they despise.

David Brin said...

Americans? Or humans? Criminy, Americans are actually pretty low on the ranks of truly vicious grudge holders. And yes, even now.

Alfred Differ said...

Keith,

An idea can be largely harmful to most adherents or stakeholders, and yet … As an example: think of the frequently-mentioned "feudal attractor"

Well… The thing about the feudal attractor is that it DID work to our benefit in the collective sense. When the ice began to retreat there were roughly 5 - 10 million humans on the planet. Climate change utterly altered our nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle when we had to move and learn new environments. Agriculture emerged as a coping approach with mixed results. Lots more food, but of low quality AND we were immobilized, thus wound up living in our own filth. Shorter lifespans, Y-chromosome bottle-neck, and a shift to pastoral social patterns resulted. Yet… our population grew. A LOT.

The feudal attractor sucks for individual humans, but it works for the species. We survived a massive climate shift and exploded into the hundreds of millions of us. That attractor probably would have killed us in the end when we made infertile all the land we used, but we found a way out of that too. Running one step ahead of the guy who speaks in ALL CAPS.

Nowadays, some of us think like pastoralists and some of us still think as nomadic hunter-gatherers in the sense of our tolerance for diversity. We HAVE diversity we once did not, so we are fundamentally changed. So… how harmful is the feudal attractor again? Hmm. We grew into something else and now we are changing again. It would be dumb to revert, but our civilization wouldn't be here without that phase of our history. We wouldn't understand the alternative without our diversity.

scidata said...

The wisest, kindest, most generous people I know, beyond my immediate family, are all American. You are the hope of mankind - never forget it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Criminy, Americans are actually pretty low on the ranks of truly vicious grudge holders. And yes, even now.


There's a street in Chicago called Devon Street which for several decades now has been a mecca of both Indian and Pakistani commerce that is known by members of those communities even in other cities. Indian and Pakistani, side by side in peace and prosperity. If they can do it, so can the rest of us.

My sense of those particular Americans who "would rather slit their own throats" is that they are the ones who feel--justifiably or not--that the system is so rigged against them that they'll never catch a break, and that other people are prospering at their expense. Their throat is going to be slit anyway, so why not at least take a measure of revenge on the way out?

A more just and egalitarian society might go a long way toward making these people feel invested in the system and therefore less likely to purposely sabotage it. Unfortunately, to many of them, "a more just an egalitarian society" is exactly what threatens their perceived superior status. It apparently isn't possible to remove all bases for malcontentment.

David Brin said...

LH, the rage of white-non-clllege males in the US... the Confederate ground troops of this attempted oligarchic putsch... is not economic. That idiotic meme courses through all echelons of liberalism and it's just false. Yes, confederate romantics march and die for their feudal overlord class oppressors, now as they did at Antietem. But the reasons are deeper... that very romanticism that makes obeisance to feudal lords feel so natural to them...

...plus deep, lava-hot hate towards those they truly despise. Smartypants nerds. The geeks who were so much fun to bully in Junior High, who now have more of everything... not just money and position but especially applicable knowledge and facts.

"The wisest, kindest, most generous people I know, beyond my immediate family, are all American. You are the hope of mankind - never forget it."

Thanks Scidata. This applies even more when you realize that "confederates" are a different memic-species -- romantic and fact-averse -- and that one could -- a bit aggressively, I admit -- declaim that they are separate from "Americans". Especially since they so readily do exactly that, raving about secession, at the drop of a kepi.

By that light, "Americans" are as advanced and decent and science-loving and progressive as anyone, even Canadians.

Well, we have some sanctimony junkies on the left, as well. But at least they aim their howls in a direction we do need to travel. They aren't helpful, much, except the nagging keeps us from ever sitting down.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH, the rage of white-non-clllege males in the US... the Confederate ground troops of this attempted oligarchic putsch... is not economic.
...
But the reasons are deeper... that very romanticism that makes obeisance to feudal lords feel so natural to them...

...plus deep, lava-hot hate towards those they truly despise. Smartypants nerds. The geeks who were so much fun to bully in Junior High, who now have more of everything... not just money and position but especially applicable knowledge and facts.


That's true of the loudest and most publicized stormTrumpers, sure. It doesn't fully apply to all of the regular Republican voters including those in blue cities, though. I work with a Trump supporter who is otherwise the nicest sort of guy you could expect--the way Tacitus used to describe his Republican neighbors who would give you the shirt off their backs if you're in trouble. This is a fellow IT professional in a metropolitan area. Hardly the type who has spent his life with deep-seated hatred of nerds. And yet, he was all indignant about how poorly the Democrats treated Brett Kavanaugh, and he's been all in for Trump. Another co-worker I have mentioned before has made it clear that he's all about the economy, and credited Trump with the pre-COVID expansion, even though he doesn't blame Trump for the recession, nor is he willing to give President Obama credit for his years of the expansion. "The president doesn't really control the economy," which is true, except somehow Trump gets credit for the good parts.

That second guy is expatriate Iranian, which I think explains much of his attitude toward the two parties.

Point being, I agree it's not as simple as economics, but it's also not as simple as nerd-hatred.

Also, my original contention was that the Trumpsters are willing to upset the chessboard because they feel there's no way for them to win. I didn't just mean economically. I also meant culturally--that the stability of the earth under their feet depends on white privilege or patriarchy or the ability to openly persecute minorities. Nerd hatred is part of that, but not the entirety.



confederates" are a different memic-species -- romantic and fact-averse -- and that one could -- a bit aggressively, I admit -- declaim that they are separate from "Americans". Especially since they so readily do exactly that, raving about secession, at the drop of a kepi.


They claim to love America, to be patriots, to be the only real Americans. And in the same breath, they worship the flags and symbols of two armies which fought existential wars against the United States of America--the Confederacy and Nazi Germany. Even within their own minds, I don't see how that works.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Alfred: Thanks. Let's define "diversity"- of whom, about what, where, and to what extent? In my own case, my family and I enjoy living in San Francisco in part because there are so many different types of people here and when we leave SF (Pre-COVID) to go to other more ethnically homogenous (aka, "whiter") homogenous parts of the Bay Area, we frequently comment on that and feel glad we live where we do. At the same time, virtually all of my friends are middle-class white people. Perhaps I'm a hypocrite (or perhaps I contain multitudes)...

@ Scidata: We Americans have been-, are-, and can be kind, giving, and good people. At the same time, there are at least 74 million adult Americans who (however kind and giving they may be in other aspects of their lives), are NOT good people and are a shame and embarrassment to the rest of America and the world. I fear it will take many years and much work to become the "good guys" again...

@ Larry Hart: It's anecdotal, but my understanding is that (at least here in the US), South Asians of all types get along pretty well.

Of course poor, working class, and many middle-class feel the "*system" has been rigged against them because it HAS (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-social-mobility-of-82-countries/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socioeconomic_mobility_in_the_United_States#:~:text=US%20social%20mobility%20has%20either,7%25%20to%20experience%20downward%20mobility, https://www.pnas.org/content/117/1/251), the folks just above them fear the loss of their entitlements/privileges because they feel it's all a zero-sum game, and because it's a lot easier to "punch down" than "punch up" we see right-wing populist rage.

While I don't believe it's possible to remove all bases for malcontentment,
I do believe it can be substantially reduced, possibly with these two proposals:
1) A multi-year stint of universal, national service combined with post-secondary education and a skilled-trade apprenticeship program.
2) A multi-generational plan to repair and upgrade our infrastructure, restore our degraded environment, and work to make us maximally energy-sustainable, while creating decently paid and benefited work for anyone who wants it: a "Green WPA."

Keith


*Here defined as "social mobility".

Pachydermis2 said...

David, Larry and others

Although I find many aspects of your world view to be wrong headed in assorted ways (sometimes amusing, other times alarming) that won't keep me from wishing you all an excellent holiday season in whatever faith tradition, or none at all, brings you comfort. I hope that you have the privilege as I do, of seeing some next generation types appearing in 2D or 3D as circumstances allow to make it all worthwhile.

It's been a hard year. Next year is not going to be a cakewalk either. So take a few days to relax and enjoy. We've made it this far together, more or less.

Sincere best wishes

Pachy

David Brin said...

"Point being, I agree it's not as simple as economics, but it's also not as simple as nerd-hatred."

Yes... but nerd and fact-use hatred must be paramount, lest facts be used to demolish racism, climate denialism, supply side and other cult catechisms.

Pachy, yes, enjoy the holidays... but stay wary. This fellow suggests NOW is when Pence could stage a soft counter coup, since starting Sunday, a 25th Amerndment temporary suspension of Trump would last till inauguration day. NOT gonna happen!

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/if-trump-uses-martial-law-pence-should-use-25th-amendment.html

scidata said...

The fact that I admire Americans generally doesn't mean that I am blind to the ignorance, cowardice, and depravity of some. I suspect they number much less than 74 million though.

Robert said...

the ability to openly persecute minorities

I think this is getting closer.

When I was young childhood bullying was a lot more open, and tolerated. A lot of the behaviour I see from the American right (and increasingly the Canadian right) resembled those not-missed schooldays.

I don't know if the need to feel superior to someone is sufficient to explain the American (and increasingly the Canadian) right, but I get the feeling it's a big part of it.

Robert Prior said...

The fact that I admire Americans generally doesn't mean that I am blind to the ignorance, cowardice, and depravity of some. I suspect they number much less than 74 million though.

And this is where I (as usual) quote fellow Canadian Peter Watts:

Edmund Burke once said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I think that begs a question.

If you do nothing, what makes you any fucking good?


https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=5370

Keith Halperin said...

@ Scidata, unfortunately, those 74 million voted for Trump.
Assuming an additional 10% of that number basically support what Trump says but for some reason didn't vote for him, then we're saying ~25% of the US population supports an authoritarian, anti-democratic, corrupt scoundrel.

David Brin said...

KH... many of those 74 million were holding their noses... and maybe 10% I betcha were cheats where ED&S voting tabulators saved Mitch and Collins... but yeah.

Robert, yes, in middle class America school bullying certainly appears to have plummeted. Our kids never even saw any of what you and I experienced.

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

@ Larry Hart: It's anecdotal, but my understanding is that (at least here in the US), South Asians of all types get along pretty well.


In case this wasn't clear, that was my point. Indians and Pakistanis may see each other as enemies over there, but here in Chicago, they live and prosper side by side. That example was a counterexample to Americans preferring to slit their own throats than to do that.

* * *

Pachydermis2:

Although I find many aspects of your world view to be wrong headed in assorted ways ...


Likewise.


Sincere best wishes


Likewise.

David Brin said...

And you are both welcome here! Your disagreements asdd richeness to our stew. And dissent and criticism! By grownups who argue fairly. Though not those who try to piss in the stew or defecate in our room. Fortunately those are rare. I haven't seen one in a while here. But let me know if you see a post that qualifies. I'll give one warning and then tune the spam filter.

Meanwhile, peace and joy to you all! Thrive and persevere and here's to the third decade of ths millennium being far better for us all, and for civilization, than the first two.

Larry Hart said...

My wife's family never does the "Wait until Christmas morning" thing, but opens their presents on Christmas Eve. Well, my lovely wife got me The Escape and The Ancient Ones. How did she know? :)

...and to all, a good night.



Alfred Differ said...

My suspicion regarding the change in our tolerance of bullying is that we've produced something similar to an autoimmune response.

If you aren't able to bully someone, that means you are at the bottom of the SES ladder. Right? That sucks, therefore {fill in irrational response here}.

If you pick on someone/anyone, you aren't at the bottom. All is well enough with the world.

The 'autoimmune' nature of the response is that it isn't needed. There is no need for a defense, but we are trained by generations of stress experiences to expect a need.

If there are epigenetic switches to set for this, they've been set for at least 6,000 years. Thing might not be as bad as this, but we probably need three generations to go by before the oldest of us aren't stressing the youngest, thus maintaining the cycle.

David Brin said...

Alfred, Mark Twain explained poor white loyalty to plantations lords as due there being someone lower they could kick.

LarryHart, you got some cool wife! An example to you all!

Felis N and thrive.

scidata said...

My sister made me a covid mask that says, "Doctrine is the Mindkiller"

Happiness is having a few other souls in this world who truly understand you.

Joyeux Noel

Robert said...

If you aren't able to bully someone, that means you are at the bottom of the SES ladder. Right? That sucks, therefore {fill in irrational response here}.

Most other primates have hierarchical social structures. I would not be surprised if we had instinctive tendencies that way.

In one of Harry Turtledove's novels one of the characters remarks that the reason America isn't as anti-semitic as Europe is that Americans can look down on blacks, so they don't need to look down on Jews.

I would like to point out that bullying is still around in schools. It's more subtle than a lot of what we suffered, because physical bullying isn't tolerated as much (with some exemptions for athletes, sadly). OTOH, social bullying is if anything more prevalent through the medium of always-connected social media. I suspect that a great deal of the stress that today's young people are feeling is because they have no way to disconnect. (Not answering a text within a certain time period is interpreted as shunning, for example.)

Alfred Differ said...

poor white loyalty to plantations lords

Yah. I was thinking of Twain as well.

I suspect this is one of the long term alterations to us resulting form the feudal attractor. It will take a while to undo. More than a generation. Probably three or more. That means my job is to buy time for the next generation to improve things a bit. Don't kick anyone as though they are beneath me.

Heh. Kinda dark, but it's still a decent Christmas message. Play nice.

... and with that...

May there be more joy for you all in this season than you anticipate. Next year too.

Der Oger said...

I wish you a Merry Christmas, luck and health!

TCB said...

I'd really reaaaaly like to see AOC push an investigation of ES&S.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart, you got some cool wife! An example to you all!


Your books played a part in our courtship back in the 90s. At the time, I had just re-read The Postman, and I lent it to her to read on a trip she was taking to California. A book that took me a month to finish, she read on the flight. :)

Anyway, while that was one of my favorite books, it had never occurred to me to seek out other novels by the same author. That's exactly what she did, though. And then she introduced me to the Uplift series.

The rest is history--25 years this coming summer. Some countries don't last that long.

Keith Halperin said...

Good discussion here (https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444253/pri-the-takeaway) on Trump and the rise of populism with solutions:
1) Keeping authoritarian demagogues from winning elections (hopefully by)
2) Providing economic opportunities for populist (socially-conservative white people) supporters.
3) Making government more effective (including reducing the number of presidential appointees: ~4k. Most western democracies have maybe 100 appointees) and turning more government functions over to trained experts.

@ Alfred: I don't think you can eliminate the feudal attractor, but I suspect you CAN channel it into useful (or at least less-harmful) channels.
(Don't know what those might be, except maybe sports teams and other smaller, local organizations. Drunken soccer rowdies rioting beat large armies fighting wars.) Also from what I've read, our concept of "problem elimination" is a rather American approach to social problems, and frequently tends not to work completely and/or has negative, unintended consequences. I believe that a better approach for many social problems is "problem melioration/harm reduction". Hopefully, as we continue to learn more about how individuals and groups REALLY act (and not just as we'd like them to), we'll learn how to do this better, and also how to effectively deal with the deep resistance many people have with this approach...

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Larry Hart said...

What a maroon. Trump should have been fired in his first week in office, not because of policy or corruption, but simply because he is incapable of understanding the basics of the job.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Dec25.html#item-2

The President largely appears to have given up hope that lawsuits will save him, however, and has turned his focus to stealing the election on January 6, when Congress will count the electoral votes. Apparently, Trump has persuaded himself that the weak spot in the process—and thus his area of opportunity—is the vice-president's reading and announcing of the final results. On Thursday, it was reported that Trump recently met with VP Mike Pence in an effort to persuade Pence to declare Trump president by fiat on the 6th. Pence explained that was not possible, which apparently left the Donald "confused" as to why.

Either Trump is lying about being "confused," or else he's a nitwit. There is zero chance that the fellows who wrote the Constitution would have created a loophole that allowed a single person—a person who, by the way, might well have been on the ballot themselves—to choose a president. And there is zero chance that if they had left that loophole, it would have gone unexploited until 2020. There has been plenty of partisanship, and there have been plenty of hotly contested elections, in U.S. history, and if—to take just one example—VP John C. Breckinridge could have awarded the presidency to someone other than Abraham Lincoln in 1861 (like, say, second-place EV finisher John C. Breckinridge), you can bet your bottom dollar he would have done it.


Or if, say, then-VP Al Gore could have declared himself the winner of the 2000 election?

David Brin said...

onward

onward

David said...


"Point being, I agree it's not as simple as economics, but it's also not as simple as nerd-hatred."

Yes... but nerd and fact-use hatred must be paramount, lest facts be used to demolish racism, climate denialism, supply side and other cult catechisms.


There certainly is that strain of Trump cultism/right-wing rage, and it is a particularly loud and obnoxious one. I have given up trying to reason with, understand, or be kind & gentle to those who dehumanize entire classes of people. And yeah, I know - the whole "I am intolerant of intolerance" meme is one with which I am familiar. It has become a cliché, the type of thing the guitar-strumming hippie teacher in Beavis & Butthead would have airily declaimed, right before he got kicked in the harbls.

The tangle that confronts is that while there are a larger-than-we-are-comfortable-admitting number of our fellow citizens who are so angry & damaged that they would gleefully take any opportunity to bully & stomp on vulnerable groups ... there are also Trump supporters who fit into the category described here:

I work with a Trump supporter who is otherwise the nicest sort of guy you could expect--the way Tacitus used to describe his Republican neighbors who would give you the shirt off their backs if you're in trouble. This is a fellow IT professional in a metropolitan area. Hardly the type who has spent his life with deep-seated hatred of nerds. And yet, he was all indignant about how poorly the Democrats treated Brett Kavanaugh, and he's been all in for Trump.

These are the people who are reach-able. Indeed, if the center continues to disintegrate as it has since 1990, we are going to have to pretty much do triage on our society, to try to salvage people who still have a core of decency from going along for the ride with people who seem to represent the stuff they've been convinced to believe in.

I've worked in Russia, after the collapse. In Ethiopia, where the country continues to splinter, and my former students and colleagues send me emails containing phrases like "mass graves" and "systematic atrocities." Also in South Sudan, Colombia, Peru, Myanmar ... I have become way too acquainted with the reality of what so many right-wing Internet Tough Guys screech about: civil war.

I keep thinking about the beginning chapters of "The Guns of August." Where a generation of Very Smart People thought they could control the anger, fear & hate they whipped up into a frenzy ... only to discover that societal inertia does exist. The last days before the war, French, German and British diplomats ran around, frantically trying to stave off that which they had set in motion, breaking down into tears or drinking themselves into stupors when the truth became apparent.

David Brin said...

After the onward...

But yes. Very well-said, David. And worrisome.
Our biggest danger is that the xenophobic hate of the West being riled in China... utterly baseless in the case of the USA... could go out of control.

We need to volubly remind China that across 4000 years they only ever had one "friend." Another nation - an equal - who REPEATEDLY came to China's aid, asking nothing in return.

But onward to next blog.

onward

David said...

... aaaanndd just as I posted that comment, this little incitement and encouragement to "Cross The Rubicon" and declare martial law, & start with the mass-murder of political opponents, comes across my Twitter timeline:




Tweet from Kelli Ward:

Mr. President
@realDonaldTrump
- we are with you in #Arizona. We are working every avenue to stop this coup & to stop our Republic from crumbing. Patriots are united. Those who are against us are exposing themselves. #Liberty & #freedom are on the line. #CrossTheRubicon
@GenFlynn

(Hope the embed code works, because this is not some internet troll rando spanking it on a Discord chat, but an honest-to-god GOP party chair and two-time Senatorial candidate.)

There have to be consequences for Inciting Sedition. If there are no consequences, no accountability, this will only get worse.