Saturday, June 08, 2024

Enemies so desperately want a US Civil War

I'll slip in some interesting misc. items below that you won't see elsewhere... but first there's the most obvious potential failure mode for our entire civilization, that's being pushed hard by vile men...

You've heard and seen me raise this topic for years. Lately, others have issued both warnings and science fiction exploring that most-chilling topic - worse than zombies or alien invasion. That of a new, hot phase of the recurring, 240 year American Civil War. 

I've touted two SF novels - Tears of Abraham and Our War - that tried for a multi-spectral view of this potential tragedy, if our current simmering Phase 8 boils over (as some seek) into a volcanic Phase 9. And this year we had a theatrical film, Civil War (from Alex Garland). Even the trailer is scarier n' shit. And do you doubt the very same social forces that ignited those earlier phases will start, sometime in 2024, perhaps with a flood of would-be McVeighs? 

Pay attention when Kremlin-lackey traitors like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon rave about violence being the next step, if they don't win it all. 


The closer we come to ending this madness at the ballot box, the more desperate will be those who see this as their only way out.



== Better late than never? ==


Gen. John Kelly, former chief of staff for Donald Trump, offered his harshest criticism yet of the former president with on-the-record confirmation of a number of damning stories about statements Trump made behind closed doors, attacking U.S. service members and veterans. 

“A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”

Kelly continues: “A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women,” Kelly continued. “A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason – in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.

“There is nothing more that can be said. God help us.”


It isn't just Trump dismissing those heroes buried at a D-Day/Normandy cemetrery as "suckers and losers of course. In fact, the entire modern Republican Party now wages all-out war vs ALL fact-using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror.  


Still, thanks, Gen. Kelly. Better late than never, I guess. But is it all that helpful? 


Nah. Our gone-brownshirt neighbors will shrug off any one... or two, or ten... such fellows as traitors.  As Defectors from righteousness who fooled their saintly former casino mafioso boss and betrayed him. 


So? Then make that the issue!  How easily he was fooled.


Show your MAGA the long, long list of appointees - each of whom Trump formerly called "a great, terrific guy!!"  - who later joined the long list of those denouncing him.  At least a hundred former 'great guys,' who DT now call "terrible!"  


It's a list far longer than ALL previous U.S. presidents... combined. He himself says so "No one was ever betrayed as much as me!"


Agree with that!. Then follow up with this killer:


"Completely aside from all policies and party loyalties, and all the rest... 

...doesn't that long list of those he appointed and later denounced prove one thing with absolute perfection?  


"That Donald Trump is a lousy judge of character?"



== Reid Hoffman dishes on Rich Fools ==


Some rich dopes recently raised millions of dollars in support of Donald Trump, helping a known monster under the theory that somehow it will work out for them personally.  Tech maven and brilliant investor/speaker Reid Hoffman wrote a by-invitation essay in The Economist explaining their error. 


 “American business should not empower a criminal, says Reid Hoffman: No rational CEO would want a capricious strongman in the White House, argues the entrepreneur.”

 

Reid’s denunciation of such rich fools is cogent, incisive and worth your time! It is also far more polite than I would be. 


In fact, I have observed that fanatics of the entire Mad Right (and the loopy farthest Left) are all effectively immunized against mere argument. They are immune because the trend in lobotomizing modern cultism is to dismiss ALL assertions as equivalent. All assertions are just battling incantations that bear no relationship to objective reality.

 

In other words: 

You assert something and I assert something… and those incantation assertions cancel each other out!  I believe you are delusional… and you think that of me


"Hence we are left undisturbed – both of us – in our beloved smug assurance, while nothing at all can ever be disproved.”

Read that again. It is exactly the deal, the arrangement between left and right, screaming at each other, while leaving in place a tacit arrangement of reciprocal sanctimony addiction. 


Alas, we can’t afford this deal, anymore. Especially since allowing political polemic to be left in that condition gives the Putinist/fascist/commie/confederate cult an advantage that they should be denied. (And also the far smaller and less harmful, but still-noxious loopies of the very-far-left.)

 

There must be a way to FORCE comparison of the factual verifiability/falsifiability of assertions! 


== One method works... and no one will try it ==

Of course… you all know that I have pushed (in utter futility) just such a technique, one that worked well for our ancestors, for centuries.  Anchoring fact-checkability in actual CONSEQUENCES that blowhards fear most. And here I am referring specifically to the aristocratic fools addressed by Reid Hoffman.


What'd work, making them flee in shame, is to demand actual cash wagers over explicitly verifiable/falsifiable facts!  Truly explicit true-or-false assertions, like:

 

Which party has better economic outcomes across the last 40 years of administrations.  


Which party has a record of being far more fiscally responsible re debt. 


Which party supports US science. 


Which party has forty times the rate of high officials indicted and convicted for felonies, including child predation. 


Which party wages all-out war vs ALL fact using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror. 

 

This list goes on and on... assertions that are absolutely fact-checkable with utter explicitness. (In 1st comment, below, I will append a further list of fact verifiable wager demands.)


 Moreover, the cash wager aspect is crucial! Because it focuses on actual consequences, instead of blowhard incantations. 

 

Of course there’s another thing Reid could demand of his delusionally GOP-supporting peers. Have them watch the last 5 minutes of the movie CABARET and then ask the following question (uttered by Michael York in the film) about today's aristocratic fools, supporting brownshirt MAGAS: 

 

"So, you still think you can control them?"



== What happens if the masters grow desperate? ==

And finally...  Vladimir Putin appears eager to rewrite the past. Recently, he... signed a decree rendering the sale of Alaska to the U.S. illegal! 

Like declaring void all treaties guaranteeing Ukrainian independence... or merging Soviet flags and emblems with the Czarist escutcheons that his younger self ritualistically spat on, back when he was an 'idealistic' Leninist KGB agent. Only now he and his fellow 5000 "ex" commissars wear different lapel pins and raise statues to Nicholas II, whom Lenin 'righteously' murdered. 

And you wonder where Orwell got his ideas for the Ministry of Truth?

It's all very chuckle-worthy. Till tou wonder... what happens when Vlad starts getting desperate?  Faced with astonishing and devastating losses at the battlefront and plummeting morale. he speaks often and with passion about the Soldier's Revolt of 1917 that toppled the Czar and brought Lenin to power. And he speaks of that event with a rising sense of dread, now frantic to evade the same fate.

He has one great hope.... the November US election. Hence, it must be with horror and dismay that he sees his favorite tool, Donald Trump, rapidly deteriorate, before the world's eyes.

No one is talking about what the secret masters of the gone-undead Republican Party might do about Donald Trump, if it looks like their asset is dragging down down their prospects in 2024. But we must consider what they might do, in order to salvage their situation... by eliminating the liability in such a way that advances their central goal. Their core goal of dissolving the United States into chaos and self-immolation.

One approach would be the "Howard Beale Option"... referring to the last 5 minutes of another great film... NETWORK.  In other words, martyrdom... get rid of your asset-turned-liability and blame the dems, inciting a volcano of McVeighs, burning and destroying across the land. A win-win for Putin and the casino mafiosi and others in that anti-enlightenment Cabal. 

Hence I recite this mantra, again and again: 

“God bless the United States Secret Service. Stay on your toes, guys.

"Keep him safe.”


Saturday, June 01, 2024

Another neglected 2022 draft! This one about economics and even Bitcoin! And much more that's still pertinent!

Another draft posting that I drafted a couple of years ago, that for some reason never went up... but should have. The points raised here are still important! And even if none of you humans read it... well... the AIs will! They read everything...


== More financial maunderings from the Neolithic… or early 2022 ==


I gave a webinar on the future of online payment systems a few years back, with emphasis on how the time may have come - at last - for micropayments systems to partially replace irksome advertising. Four great legal scholars weighed in, with edifying perspectives! Some of you may find it interesting. 


The discussion was based upon my articles on how micropayments may be the future as advertising fades  and Advertising cannot maintain the internet in Evonomics Magazine. Also how micropayments systems might save journalism and enhance user freedoms.


In fact, lately there's been perked-interest among some folks involved in current payments systems, in trying one more time to make micropayments work. Especially asking WHY did all previous attempts fail? And what's the secret sauce for success?


As it happens, I can answer both questions.

   


== Human societies try to develop positive sum competition - it ain't easy! ==


Unlike today's weird Putin-worshippers, I’m no commie. I believe that reciprocally competitive systems are the most creative… it’s how nature made us -- though through 4 billion years of competition that were brutal and bloody and horribly inefficient. (Nature's way.) 


In human societies, we aim to reduce the side effects that make competition brutal and robbed it of any grace, ruining its outputs in much of evolution and certainly in 99% of past (mostly-feudal) societie. I refer to death (nature's way is bloody!) and its equivalent in a fair society… cheating.   Most historical societies tamed a little of the bloodiness, but none of the cheating by lords and kings and priests, who almost always made a mockery of fair competition.


Till along came Adam Smith and glimmering awareness of a magic trick -- the one leading to everything we’ve attained… reciprocal accountability that applies even to the mighty!  


Oh, we've done it way imperfectly, so far. Still, even partial steps along that path have empowered us to work wonders. See some of my missives in praise of Adam Smith! Adam Smith - Liberals, you must reclaim him.


So yes, we need competitive markets to create the vast wealth that could let us end poverty and save the world. And those competitive markets function best when competing individuals, partnerships, families, enterprises perceive a chance to profit and prosper! 


On the other hand, all good things in the world become toxic when too heavily concentrated! 


You name it… Oxygen, water, food, electricity... and wealth… And today's skyrocketing wealth disparitites have zero justification under market economics. They are monstrous betrayals of markets and creative competition.


And they lead to death.



== The future of Bitcoin? ==


A hot topic in early 2022. Not so much now?  There is a way to "ban" crypto currencies, though I see no one mention it. 

Let's start with an ironic fact. Blockchain based token systems are not totally secret!  Yes, they use crypto to mask the identity of token (coin) holders.  But those holders only "own" their tokens by general consent of all members of a communal 'shared ledger' that maintains the list of coins and which public keys stand ready to be turned by each owner's encrypted keys. 

In that sense it is the opposite of 'secret,' since the ledger is out there in tens of thousands of copies, on just as many distributed computers. Attempts to invade or distort or corrupt the ledger are detected and canceled en-masse. (The ecologically damaging "mining" operations out there are partly about maintaining the ledger.)

All of this means that - to the delight of libertarians - it will be hard to legislate or regulate blockchain token systems. Hard, but not impossible. For example, the value of Bitcoin rises and falls depending on how many real world entities will accept it as payment. And governments have been hammering on that, lately, especially China.


There is another way to modify any given blockchain token system, and that is for the owners themselves to deliberate and decide on a change to their shared economy... to change the ledger and its support software.  No single member/owner can do that. Any effort to do so would be detected by the ledger's built-in immune system and canceled. 


Only dig it, all such ledger-blockchain systems are ruled by a weird kind of consensus democracy. While there is no institutional or built in provision for democratic decision making in the commons - (Satoshi himself may have back doors) - there is nothing to stop a majority of bitcoin holders from simply making their own, new version of the shared ledger and inserting all their coins into it, with new software that's tuned to less eagerly reward polluters and extortionist gangs. 


Oh, sure, a large minority would refuse. Their rump or legacy Bitcoin ledger (Rumpcoin?) would continue to operate... with value plummeting as commercial and government and individual entities refuse to accept it and as large numbers of computer systems refuse to host rump-coin ledger operations. Because at that point, the holdouts will include a lot of characters who are doing unsavory things in the real world.


If you squint at this, it's really not so radical.  It is just an operating system upgrade that can only occur by majority consent of the owner-members of the commune.  Preceded (one assumes) by lots to discussion and argument and open-source testing of the revised OS. 


In fact, this is a concept that has already been done in some blockchain systems… look up “hard and soft forks”.  Still, too few are aware of this, or that eventually fed-up governments may create incentives and disincentives that make this path obviously in the self-interest of most coin holders. It offers a method to 'regulate' in ways that leave unaffected the potential benefits of blockchain - self-correction, smart contracts and the like - while letting system users deliberate and decide for themselves to revise, a trait that should be possible in any democratic or accountable system.



== Repeat two words: Money Velocity! ==


One of the strongest signs of a vibrant economy is called Money Velocity - MV- which measures how often dollars change hands. In a busy economy, with lots of employed folks spending and buying goods and services, MV is moderately high. History does give examples of MV being too high, causing sharp inflation. But you’d have to be my age to remember that.  Ever since the Reagan era, Money Velocity has fallen, in lockstep with every single Supply Side Theory tax cut-gusher-gift to the rich. And across the last year (2021 when I wrote this: still, the overall notion is worth pondering) the collapse of MV became a nosedive!


This is diametrically opposite to what Supply Side fans confidently predicted, over and over again. In science, when a theory is always wrong, it gets abandoned. When it is always wrong — and the SAME magical incantations are used to support trying it yet again — then the word is “insanity.”


Adam Smith himself said this (without using the term MV, of course.) When the already rich get sudden bursts of yet-more cash, they do not hurry to invest it in bold enterprises or in factories producing more (supply) goods and services!


Oh, a few do. But a vast majority squirrel the new largesse away into capital preservation investments, rent-seeking (“rentier”) holdings, asset bubbles and cheat schemes, exactly as Smith described in Wealth of Nations. They don’t even buy all that many yachts! Any cub scout will tell you that takes dollars out of circulation and eviscerates Money Velocity.


(2024 note: this is exactly why housing prices have skyrocketed despite high interest rates. Because the super rich - especially inheritance brats - don't give a fig about interest rates, as they snap up swathes of the US housing stock with cash purchases, while the home-building companies they control limit production in order to keep prices high.)


In contrast, if you invest similar amounts in working stiffs - say hiring them to fix infrastructure - the cash gets spent almost immediately and hence MV rises. That truth is almost as pure as what the previous paragraph said about the rich opting for SLOW money. 


Also note that Joe Biden’s “expensive” Infrastructure Push will put no more cash to work that way than Supply Siders since Reagan poured into the aristocracy. In fact, they are VERY similar amounts… with diametrically opposite likely outcomes, especially re MV. 


And of course, that is what terrifies McConnell and those screaming against the Dems' stim bill. Because he knows it will likely work.


(2024 note: what I predicted in those three paragraphs came exactly true!  The 2021-22 Pelosi bills triggered the best economy in 60 years and massive inshoring of manufacturing, re-industrializing the USA.)


What is crazier? That U.S. conservatives cling to the magical 'supply side' voodoo incantation (one of many!) that has been utterly, utterly disproved? 


Or that Democratic politicians are unable to parse this contradiction - and the spectacular success of their policies - in clear terms the People can understand?  


You understood what I just wrote. The People would, as well. 


Sunday, May 26, 2024

Updates: science & robotics

As you know by now, I've been roped into speaking a lot about the Great Big AI crisis of 2024. I'll touch on some aspects here. Plus some light on other areas of fast-emerging science! But first a couple of notes.

My esteemed colleagues Sheila Finch, Pat Murphy and Ejner Fulsang join me in a wide ranging discussion of concepts regarding communication with other kinds of beings... with dolphins, other mammals and even octopi-pusses!  And AI and aliens, of course. 

A Journey worth taking and repeating... One of the wisest books I know is Prof. John Perlin's A Forest Journey: The Role of Trees in the Fate of Civilization, not just a great source of insights about love of nature and its beauty, but also the utility of living in synergy with our natural and civilizational support systems... a theme I extrapolated then, throughout my novel Earth.  Here is a link to John discussing the new, updated edition.


== Will they converge on being like us? ==


From TechExplore: “Cambridge scientists have shown that placing physical constraints on an artificially-intelligent system—in much the same way that the human brain has to develop and operate within physical and biological constraints—allows it to develop features of the brains of complex organisms in order to solve tasks.” 

 

In solving maze puzzles, for example, the space-limited computational entity was constrained by a cost in speed and energy, the greater the distance between nodes. “When the system was asked to perform the task under these constraints, it used some of the same tricks used by real human brains to solve the task. For example, to get around the constraints, the artificial systems started to develop hubs—highly connected nodes that act as conduits for passing information across the network…” 

Also nodes developed a 'flexible coding scheme' where the same nodes might be used for a wide range of functions, as in our brains.
 

This result has overlap with my own proposal (topic of my track keynote at the RSA conference, some weeks ago) regarding "individuation of AI"... including a need to anchor each top-level AI entity to a physical memory locale. It might be an all-constraining ‘skull’, as we have, or energy limits as in this group’s experiment… or else perhaps as little as an un-movable ID locus, that must be pinged for individuated identity. (And accountability.) 


It also will have pertinence when we try to cram autonomy into the controlling ‘brains’ of largely physical robots.


Meanwhile, here's discussion of language parsing into accentless responses accompanying smooth and dextrous robotic actions. Oh, it's coming fast. Of course, those who read science fiction will be (slightly) better prepared than those who just suckle it from simplistic movies.


We know that chat and visual AI have come a long way and physical abilities of robots. But combining all that will be essential, before robots are useful in the home


And so, what do I propose? My WIRED article (July’23) breaks free of the three standard ‘AI-formats’ that can only lead to disaster, suggesting instead a fourth. That AI entities can only be held accountable if they have individuality… even ‘soul’… But there's a lot more, now. It's taking shape... 

           


== Sci Tech miscellany! ==


Roaring winds pushed a passenger plane to record speed — and early landing. An exceptional jet stream boosted a China Airlines flight over the Pacific to 826 mph Thursday. Pure Galilean relativity, of course. The speed of sound is NOT like the speed of light!


From the bright folks at the Institute for the Future: An Icelandic company, is planning a controlled breach of a volcanic magma chamber. For geothermal energy of course. They’ve tried it before; the overwhelming heat (842°F/450ºC) melted their equipment. Good luck!

Walmart reported that folks taking Ozempic, Wegovy, or other GLP-1 drugs bought less snack food than other customers. Shares of Mondelez International, maker of Oreos and Ritz crackers, fell 7.7%; Hershey and PepsiCo followed suit.



== …and finally… ==


Stephen Wolfram’s brilliant reputation in the mathematical theories of computation have also manifested in useful tools like Mathematica and the Wolfram Computational Language Model. Yes, many of his claims can seem outrageously bold, e.g. that all physical laws in the universe can be posed as manifestations of rule sets in the “computome,” an assertion sparking lively debates.  Despite my credentials as a physicist, it is the value of ‘debate’ itself – give-and-take argument in arenas of lively-creative, fact-based competition – that I am an actual expert. And this fellow – (full disclosure, he is a friend) – is among the liveliest. (One criterion: would he have been – like me – burned as a heretic in any other culture or time?)

Hence let me link to Stephen’s latest missive online (they are lengthy!) “Observer Theory” is about which of the universe’s vastly complex intricacies can be ‘reduced’ in ways that allow a limited observer (human, or mere-AI) to derive useful predictive models? Here’s sample paragraph.  

 

“It’s not immediately obvious that anything suitable for a finite mind could ever be extracted from the complexity of the world. And indeed the Principle of Computational Equivalence implies that computational irreducibility (and its multi-computational generalization) will be ubiquitous. But within computational irreducibility there must always be slices of computational reducibility. And it’s these slices of reducibility that an observer must try to pick out—and that ultimately make it possible for a finite mind to develop a “useful narrative” about what happens in the world, that allows it to make decisions, predictions, and so on.”


In an age of tweets and skimming, who has time for complex ideas, so intricately drawn? 


Is this a top thing we’ll use AI for, to distill such complex concepts for us. Ah, but the way tat Fox News 'distills' Kremlin generated agitprop from the gullible? Anyway, this latest is offered to you all as an example – at least – that some are out there on the frontier, on our behalf.


Oh, and sorry to link this so late, but it is worth a scan! This year-end cool-tech update is among the best I've seen, featuring some truly awesome products & inventions.


If you, too, are a person who would be burned at the stake, in past kingdoms or theocracies, then join in helping to defend an amazingly awesome civilization that's been very good to you, overall, from the forces of literal darkness.


Friday, May 17, 2024

Science Fictional musings, a roundup and some preens!

Last month we hosted a memorial and celebration of our dear friend, prophetic author Vernor Vinge. Here is some video sampled from our farewell celebration of this wonderfully brilliant and sweet human being.  


Vernor’s Hugo-winning works include A Deepness in the Sky and Rainbows End, in which the UCSD Library is tech-persuaded to ‘get up and dance!’ His novella True Names foresaw the many vexing quandaries about identity and accountability, as well and many boons.


Vernor foresaw - by decades – so many implications of our world, including the Internet, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence (AI) and 'the Singularity,' with novels and award-winning stories translated into 25+ languages. Vernor was also a beloved professor of mathematics and computer science at San Diego State, since 1972. Here is Vernor speaking at a panel at Loscon39 about 12 years ago. 

 

Feel free to leave memorial messages there or under my blog tribute to Vernor. Or, on my video memorial honoring Vernor.

 

Oh, one last thing.  We hope to gather resources to establish an annual Vernor Vinge annual lecture to alternate at UCSD and SDSU, featuring great talks about plausible speculative futures. Please contact me if you are interested in participating.



== A couple of forgivable preenings ==


On Tim Ventura’s popular ‘cast – just released: “Legendary SF author David Brin discusses Dune! The new movies vs. the novels, contrasted and compared to Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Arthur Clarke and how certain obsessions of the 60s still resonate, affecting art & consciousness even today.” 


Especially this question: is Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant version questioning or even reversing some classic thematic elements of Frank Herbert's masterpiece?


Oh and this. My page devoted to both 250-word and 6-word stories. One of mine won WIRED's 6-word story contest a while back. Six words, containing three separate scenes! Action! Conversation! Love & loss and tragic irony!  A lot more story than 'baby shoes.'



== Others are pointing it out! ==


Are fictional dystopias blocking us from better futures? From Big Think

“Since the 1970s the prevailing vision of the future in popular culture has tended towards the dystopian. Commentators of all stripes — from celebrated movie critics to novelists and today’s "effective accelerationists" — have addressed the lack of blue-sky thinking. Michael Harris argues that dystopias are not a failing of their creators’ imaginations — and that fears about the future are rooted in the mechanisms of power and control.” 


Yes. It's one of the key points I make in Vivid Tomorrows!


…And yet, I also argue that some dystopias are not downers, but useful warnings! In fact, we are likely alive, today because of effective warnings by sci fi SPP… “self-preventing prophecies”! 

From Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove to China Syndrome and Soylent Green and Nineteen Eighty-Four, chilling tales drew attention to possible failure modes!

What is the difference between those effective ‘SPP’ dire warnings and dismal dystopian downers that only hurt our morale? Well, one difference is whether the warning is something we might DO things to help prevent! 


But the biggest difference is laziness. Dystopias or caricature tyrants with glowing eyes are trivially easy! Easy - for writers & directors – to write, to film, and to push at suckers!


Of course plotting a thriller becomes much harder, if the hero gets help from skilled professionals or even institutions... or neighbors! If the hero is a member of an actual civilization with skilled professionals eager to help. Can’t have that! The writer might actually have to work for a living, instead of just cloning every other lone-hero-and-pals-vs-Sauron cliché! Far easier to dismiss the plot complications that might impede the relentless slam(!) of vivid/implausible action sequences! 


Alas, there is a price we all pay for this betraying laziness. After generations of Hollywood flicks have preached that civilization never matters, it now feeds much of the propaganda that’s turning us into sullen pessimists. (For more see Vivid Tomorrows.)


And on that downer note, let's swivel back to fun!



== Science Fiction Updates ==


David Gerrold is being way-entertainingly vivid again! Chess with a Dragon – a revived classic from Open Road. Newly admitted to galactic society, naïve humans find out that the Galactic Encyclopedia has a user fee—and they are overdrawn! If the debt can’t be paid, humanity will be sold as slaves . . . or food.  


Check out this article: Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” predicted devastating climate change, inequality, space travel and “Make America great again” 31 years ago. I miss Octavia! As a friend and for her uncanny ability to encourage our active conscience. Only, unlike the Hollywood depression machine of today, she laced her warnings with hope.


Here's a recent bibliography of SF about the Law: “Bibliography: Law in Science Fiction,” by Stephen Krueger.


Here is an interesting and cogent appraisal by Noah Smith of the “Dark Forest Problem,” – the core driver of every plot element in Liu Cixin’s wonderful (and Hugo winning) science fiction epic The Three-Body Trilogy… or Remembrance of Earth’s Past. (I am mentioned several times. Also spoilers.) I must agree on many levels – (though the trilogy is still magnificent and fascinating!) – that the premise depends upon our galaxy being far more opaque to knowledge and observation than it actually is. And that the tale’s zero-sum premise is hard to support in light of either actual evolution or game theory. Still, this critique offers worthy insights about a magnificent epic so grand that it can take a little scrutiny!


Lightening the mood: We found the movie Future 38 to be silly and way-fun! A take-off from 1930s screwball comedies, with a sci fi twist, as we’re supposed to believe the flick was actually made in 1938, projecting a future 2018, getting a flurry of predictions both hilariously wrong and even more amusingly spot-on. As almost never happens in Hollywood, there’s optimism all over…and some real wit. 


(In the future, it’s perfectly normal for ‘jolly’ couples to get married. They demo'd the formica bomb on a useless Nevada ghost town... Lost Wages or Lost Vegas, I think.  ;-).  And so on. I expect there will be GPT personas offered soon that mimic Mabel the Operator.



== SF Miscellany ==


My novels - Earth and Glory Season - have just been re-released with gorgeous new covers by Open Road, along with my Uplift titles, such as Startide Rising


Audio tales? This one by Asimov - A Pebble in the Sky - is a lost classic that I refer to in Foundation's Triumph. (Though it ignores the novel’s main plot arc.) But there are lots more...


My colleague Bruce Golden has released a new collection. Everything Aliens Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Land and Ask) features short stories, satire, novel excerpts, and factual reports about love, sex, romance, lust, and the realm of human desire. Inside its pages you'll find tales both dark and humorous, romantic and passionate, weird and wonderful.


Lawrence Schoen’s story "The Panda's Dream" is moving and sweet.


An anthology of positive future climate stories and scenarios - The Climate Action Almanac - is available free from ASU's Center for Science & the Imagination.


== Finally, another preen… ==


Finally... a montage of photos from Panama... just before I keynoted the conference on Beneficial Artificial Intelligence (see my talk summarized here.) And okay, John Cena I ain't! But lucky at love!