Saturday, April 13, 2024

Accelerationism and the recurring flaw in human civilizations

Youtuber Joe Scott runs a series of entertaining commentaries that mix a bit of gonzo with big picture perspectives on science or history or culture.  Not quite as big-picture as I’d like, but still, better than most impatient digital citizens are used to. In this above-average episode, he discusses ‘accelerationism,’ which used to stand for efforts to accelerate the pace of human progress… 

… only now its more frequent use is among cults of rightwing zillionaires and their sycophants (and there is a version on the far left!) who actively aim to tip our current civilization into upheaval and crisis. 


Why would anyone want to do such a thing?  


Well, I’ve been pointing at this trend toward elitist solipsism ever since writing The Postman, way back in the eighties, a tale that featured devastating wars provoked by ‘the Mystic of Leningrad’ and by a homegrown, all-American fascist movement led by ‘Nathan Holn.’ And yes, both forecasts struck way close to today’s marks! 


...though I confess I was partly inspired by Robert Heinlein’s projection of a USA that toppled into fundamentalist theocracy under “Nehemiah Scudder.” 


Seriously, see what Heinlein had to say about the nasty current that seeps erosively through one aspect of our national character; his perspective might surprise you.


As Joe Scott explains: under this current, perversely sick New Accelerationism, some current ‘prepper’ zillionaire-romantics figure ‘it’s all gonna blow inevitably anyway, so let’s force it sooner, get it over with, while there’s still some control.’  *

Sure. Control by you guys, of course, expecting to emerge from your secret castle-enclaves to cheers and rapturous obeisance by the desperate survivors, who will obediently revert to proper peasantry, while helping you crush all the remaining nerds. Nerds and fact-people who will – naturally - get all the blame, as in Walter Miller's SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz. 

ElsewhereI show how much likelier it is that survivors will side with the nerds, joining us to crack open every luscious, luxurious prepper castle, like a fresh nut…


… because the prepper lords deliberately incited and accelerated a crisis that never had to happen, in the first place.



== Things are only 'bad' because villains want them to be ==


Seriously. Our current ‘crisis’ is almost completely made up!  If weighed according to actual facts and capabilities, we are right now in pretty good shape. And not just by superficialities, like the best economy in 25+ years.  


By almost any statistical metric, we’re making fantastic progress against world poverty, for example, and getting a helluva lot done (if not yet enough!) toward saving the planet.  While crime and other turpitudes are rising in red-run America (except Utah) they are declining in most blue areas (excluding sores like Illinois). 


In fact, nearly all of the social war taking place right now in the USA is about made-up stuff – like woke-ist symbol bullying and fact-averse Foxite diatribes. What it boils down to is deliberate incitement of an old psychological sickness that has simmered at the heart of America since its founding. 


I refer to a cultural rift between diametrically opposed elements of our national character… a majority who approve generally of modernity... vs. a large, persistent and vocal minority who are always (sometimes violently) nostalgic for one form or another of feudalism...


... leading to my own diagnosis that we are in Phase Eight of the ever-recurring, 240 year American Civil War.


Hm… I just said recurring. Does that mean I credit cyclical history?

 

Bite your tongue for suggesting it!



== A holy writ of MAGA ==


During the cited video, Joe Scott holds up a book that has become a quasi-religious tome, clutched desperately by so many modern confederates.  The Fourth Turning and its sequel The Fourth Turning is Here. While soft-pedaling politics, Scott telegraphs his own skepticism and dislike of this maniacally insane cult. 


I’m more open (less subtle) than Scott, in despising these cult tomes of deeply-sick pareidolia. Elsewhere I weigh in, showing how romantics of “the Right” almost always clutch memes of cyclical historyas mystics and feudalists have for 6000 years. 


This noxious allure was especially strong among both Confederates and Nazis It seems as if that kind of character draws comfort from shrugs that actual, actual human progress inevitably failsThey desperately cling to a notion that “what goes around, comes around…” 


…despite the fact that none of it - at any level, in any way - is supportable by actual facts. 


I reiterate that! And offer major wager stakes. There are no elements of the Fourth Turning cult that aren’t at-best delusional and at worst outright propaganda aimed at demoralizing the one human civilization that ever truly broke away from 6000 years of brutally stoopid feudalism. The first to not only make Progress very real, but give our children a real chance at survival.


Giving them a very real chance at the stars.


And so -- and especially in light of the Civil War flick that's right now in theaters -- do we stand a chance of preventing spoiled-rich ‘accelerationists’ and their sycophant toadies and blackmailed politicals from deliberately inciting (accelerating) a bloody Ninth Phase of the American Civil War?  


(You can help in small ways, like preventing any of your friends from joining yet another hemorrhage of frippy sanctimony-preeners, running off to the next Nader-Stein-Cornel distraction treason. (And yes, we now know these lefty masturbatory distractions are often Kremlin-based.)


 But know what’s seriously needed? YOU can help by...


… becoming avolunteer poll worker during the 2024 election year. Recruit one. Be one. You’ll be doing your share.


And now... to make some of you furious with me...!



== Please Bill, Use This Word! == ==


Yeah yeah, I know some of you will be triggered by this name I am about to type here. You shouldn't be.


I assert that one word would help Bill Maher immensely. 


"Tactics." 


If he said even more clearly: "We share the same general goals of tolerance, diversity, justice, a level-playing field, compassion, rights, peace... and we share an overall strategy of seeking all those good things through continuously-improving, open/transparent and calmly-debated democracy!


"Where we differ is over pragmatic methods. I assert that these fine goals and our shared strategy are NOT helped by some of the left's tactics. Especially those that bully and drive away allies! Tactics that make our coalition smaller rather than bigger and overwhelming, as blue waves needed to be in the 1770s, in the 1860s. In the 1940s and 1960s... 


"...leading to victories at Yorktown, at Appomattox and Berlin. In Selma and in the dreams that came largely - if never completely true - that were preached on the Lincoln steps by Martin Luther King.


"Another such blue wave is desperately-needed right now!  But it is hindered, rather than helped, by tactics that promote a cult of fragility - a cult of personal outrage over symbolic purities! A cult that offers sanctimony-addicts a luscious rush, but that doesn't at all help to achieve the pragmatic, incremental progress sought by Gandhi and MLK. 


"Worst of all? Refusal ever to admit that any particular, favorite tactic might be wrongheaded, counterproductive or in need of critical adjustment...


"...and that includes demonizing allies like me, who point out possible tactical errors."


Okay, I admit it's futile. Maher is too caught up in the smarmy, smartass side of his schtick ever to say that.  


But let me ask this: are YOU qualified to judge, when you can't tell the difference between an ally who's an irksome smartass...


...and a revived confederacy that's biliously allied with Nazis and the Kremlin and Putin and his slightly-relabeled, fascist+neo-commie KGB, aiming for our downfall and the end of everything that actually made America great?


Want a litmus for this phase of civil war? Anyone prioritizing sanctimony over that broad, overwhelmingly victorious blue wave is at best a sucker and useless. 


And at-worst...



====================================




AFTER-THOUGHTS:


*  Triggering a crisis early, in order to minimize the overall effects, was the theme of Donald Bensen's 1979 Campbell Award nominated novel And Having Writ....


And yes, I openly declare again that EVERY ASPECT of the Fourth Turning cult is a lie. There are zero validities whatsoever. And anyone citing that pile of steaming donkey-doo must be confronted with... wagers.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Cynics are no help… nor are those pushing the remaking of humanity

Heading out for the eclipse... likely to be messed up by thunderstorms!  These things never work out.  Anyway, here's a little mini-rant about CYNICISM that might amuse you. BTW for the record, I really approve of the guys I am criticizing here!  They are of value to the world. I just wish they'd add a little bit of a song to their messages of gloom. Optimism is a partner of cynicism, if you wanna get things done.  It makes you more effective!



== Jeez, man. Always look (at least a bit) on the bright side of life! ==


Carumba! Bruce Sterling and Cory Doctorow are younger than me. But in this interview with Tim Ventura, Bruce goes full – “I hope I don’t live so long that I’ll see the world’s final decay into dull, incompetent worldwide oligarchy.” (Or something like that.)  


Dang, well I hope never to become a cranky geezer shouting at (literal) clouds! I mean ‘recent science is boring’? Jeepers, Bruce, you really need to get out more. The wave of great new stuff is accelerating!  


It’s not that cynicism has no place – I bought a terrifically cynical novella from Bruce some years back – about a delightful, fictionalized future Silvio Berlusconi. But there the cynicism was mixed with lovely riffs of optimistic techno-joy and faith in progress. Still, misanthropists can contribute! Indeed, beyond his relentless cynicism-chic, Bruce does note some real, worrisome trends, like looming oligarchy-dominance and their blatant War on Science. And, of course, we’re all fretful about the spasm of crises recently unleashed by Vlad Putin all over the globe, desperately hurling every trick he’s gathered, in order to stave off his own version of the movie “Downfall.” 

Still, when Bruce goes: “I thought civilization would become stodgy…”  Well, sure. Maybe? But do you have to be the poster boy?

It’s not that Bruce doesn’t say way interesting things!  About half of his cynicism riffs are clever or very informative, adding to the piles of contrarian tradeoffs that I keep on the cluttered desk of my mind, weighing how – not whether – to fight against doom and oligarchy, with all my might and to my last breath!

Example: He asserts that there’s no Russo-Ukrainian ‘war’ going on, in Belgrade? Well, maybe not with overt violence. But expatriate Russians are talking to Ukrainian refugees and learning they aren’t Nazis, or remotely interested in being Russian, and are absolutely determined to be Ukrainian. And Vlad has to fear those expatriates coming home. And talking.


What all of this reveals is the truly controlling factor that underlies all our surface struggles over ideology and perception of the world. That factor is personality. 


Want an example? WHY do almost all conservative intellectuals drift toward obsession with so-called “cyclical history?” 


Like the current fetish on the right for an insanely stoop'id book called The Fourth Turning? 


Likewise Nazi ice-moon cults and confederate Book of Revelation millennialism? Their one shared personality driver is a desperate wish for things to cycle back to changelessness, Especially to counter the Left’s equally-compulsive, dreamy mania to “re-forge humanity!” 


But neither of those personality-propelled obsessions hold a candle to the grumpy-dour geezer mantra: 


Fie on the future! It’s only an ever-dull muddling-through of more-of-the-same! Oh, and get off my lawn!”


Two last thoughts: 


First, Bruce opines that we’ve already lost to the oligarchies (so why bother?) But that’s okay since oligarchies inevitably collapse through incompetence!


Well, that’s half right. Gaze across the last 6000 years, a dismal epoch when feudal rule by owner-lord families and their inheritance brats dominated every continent (those with agriculture). 


Across all those bleak centuries of relentlessly-enforced stupidity and misrule by inheritance brats, specific families and dynasties generally did ‘collapse’! 


What did NOT collapse was the overall pattern of male-run, harem-seeking called feudalism, which continued, unvaried, almost all that time. For that pattern to change called for both new technologies+education plus determination by savvy new generations. 


For 200 years, successively smarter innovators have struggled to overcome repeated putsch attempts by that oligarchic-feudal attractor state. And those savvy, determined, progressive-egalitarian-scientific innovators succeeded - sometimes just barely – at maintaining this enlightenment miracle.  Counting on their heirs and successors – we, the living – to do the same.


Moreover, what other Blue Americans accomplished in the 1770s and 1860s and 1960s, we can do yet again, with vastly improved tools and skills plus some of that ancestral grit! Moreover, we’ll do it with or without the help of addictive cynics.


Finally, Bruce is – or once was - a maven of techno-cyberpunk – and yet, what was the most-thrilling article of tool/hardware he chose to share with us this time? A mega Swiss Army knife?  


Okay, guy. Enjoy cynical retirement. Us young fools will keep fighting for the dream.


--- 


Posted in honor of another friend and colleague - older but perennially optimistic. My friend Vernor Vinge.


Friday, March 29, 2024

Do the Rich Have Too Much Money? A neglected posting... till now.

Want to time travel? I found this on my desktop… a roundup of news that seemed highly indicative… in early 2022!  Back in those na├»ve, bygone days of innocence… but now…  Heck yes, a lot of it is pertinent right now!


Like… saving market economies from their all-too-natural decay back into feudalism.


------


First, something a long time coming!  Utter proof we are seeing a Western Revival and push back against the World Oligarchic Putsch. A landmark deal agreed upon by the world's richest nations on Saturday will see a global minimum rate of corporation tax placed on multinational companies including tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Finance ministers from the Group of Seven, or G-7 nations, said they had agreed to having a global base corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent.  Companies  with a strong online presence, would pay taxes in the countries where they record sales, not just where they have an operational base.


It is far, far from enough! But at last some of my large scale 'suggestions' are being tried. Now Let’s get all 50 U.S. states to pass a treaty banning 'bidding wars' for factories, sports teams etc... with maybe a sliding scale tilted for poorer states or low populations. A trivially easy thing that'd save citizens hundreds of billions.


The following made oligarchs fearful of what the Pelosi bills might accomplish, if thirty years of sabotaging the IRS came to an end: 


ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits. Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.  

Over the longer run, what we need is the World Ownership Treaty. Nothing on Earth is 'owned' unless a human or government or nonprofit claims it openly and accountably. So much illicit property would be abandoned by criminals etc. that national debts would be erased and the rest of us could have a tax jubilee. The World Ownership Treaty has zero justified objections. If you own something... just say so.


And a minor tech note: An amazing helium airship alternates life as dirigible or water ship. Alas, it is missing some important aspects I could explain… 



== When the Rich have Too Much Money… ==


“The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ilya Prigogine was fond of saying that the future is not so much determined by what we do in the present as our image of the future determines what we do today.” So begins the latest missive of Noema Magazine.


The Near Future: The Pew Research Center’s annual Big Challenges Report top-features my musings on energy, local production/autonomy, transparency etc., along with other top seers, like the estimable Esther Dyson, Jamais Cascio, Amy Webb & Abigail deKosnick and many others.


Among the points I raise:

  • Advances in cost-effectiveness of sustainable energy supplies will be augmented by better storage systems. This will both reduce reliance on fossil fuels and allow cities and homes to be more autonomous.
  • Urban farming methods may move to industrial scale, allowing similar moves toward local autonomy (perhaps requiring a full decade or more to show significant impact). Meat use will decline for several reasons, ensuring some degree of food security, as well.
  • Local, small-scale, on-demand manufacturing may start to show effects in 2025. If all of the above take hold, there will be surplus oceanic shipping capacity across the planet. Some of it may be applied to ameliorate (not solve) acute water shortages. Innovative uses of such vessels may range all the way to those depicted in my novel ‘Earth.’
  • Full-scale diagnostic evaluations of diet, genes and microbiome will result in micro-biotic therapies and treatments. AI appraisals of other diagnostics will both advance detection of problems and become distributed to handheld devices cheaply available to all, even poor clinics.
  • Handheld devices will start to carry detection technologies that can appraise across the spectrum, allowing NGOs and even private parties to detect and report environmental problems.
  • Socially, this extension of citizen vision will go beyond the current trend of assigning accountability to police and other authorities. Despotisms will be empowered, as predicted in ‘Nineteen Eighty-four.’ But democracies will also be empowered, as in ‘The Transparent Society.’
  • I give odds that tsunamis of revelation will crack the shields protecting many elites from disclosure of past and present torts and turpitudes. The Panama Papers and Epstein cases exhibit how fear propels the elites to combine efforts at repression. But only a few more cracks may cause the dike to collapse, revealing networks of blackmail. This is only partly technologically driven and hence is not guaranteed. If it does happen, there will be dangerous spasms by all sorts of elites, desperate to either retain status or evade consequences. But if the fever runs its course, the more transparent world will be cleaner and better run.
  • Some of those elites have grown aware of the power of 90 years of Hollywood propaganda for individualism, criticism, diversity, suspicion of authority and appreciation of eccentricity. Counter-propaganda pushing older, more traditional approaches to authority and conformity are already emerging, and they have the advantage of resonating with ancient human fears. Much will depend upon this meme war.

“Of course, much will also depend upon short-term resolution of current crises. If our systems remain undermined and sabotaged by incited civil strife and distrust of expertise, then all bets are off. You will get many answers to this canvassing fretting about the spread of ‘surveillance technologies that will empower Big Brother.’ These fears are well-grounded, but utterly myopic. First, ubiquitous cameras and facial recognition are only the beginning. Nothing will stop them and any such thought of ‘protecting’ citizens from being seen by elites is stunningly absurd, as the cameras get smaller, better, faster, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous every month. Moore’s Law to the nth degree. Yes, despotisms will benefit from this trend. And hence, the only thing that matters is to prevent despotism altogether.

“In contrast, a free society will be able to apply the very same burgeoning technologies toward accountability. We are seeing them applied to end centuries of abuse by ‘bad-apple’ police who are thugs, while empowering the truly professional cops to do their jobs better. I do not guarantee light will be used this way, despite today’s spectacular example. It is an open question whether we citizens will have the gumption to apply ‘sousveillance’ upward at all elites. But Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. likewise were saved by crude technologies of light in their days. And history shows that assertive vision by and for the citizenry is the only method that has ever increased freedom and – yes – some degree of privacy.

A new type of digital asset - known as a non-fungible token (NFT) - has exploded in popularity during the pandemic as enthusiasts and investors scramble to spend enormous sums of money on items that only exist online. “Blockchain technology allows the items to be publicly authenticated as one-of-a-kind, unlike traditional online objects which can be endlessly reproduced.”… “ In October 2020, Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile spent almost $67,000 on a 10-second video artwork that he could have watched for free online. Last week, he sold it for $6.6 million. The video by digital artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, was authenticated by blockchain, which serves as a digital signature to certify who owns it and that it is the original work.”


From The Washington Post: The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy. Consider a sealed copy of Super Mario 64 sells for $1.56M in record-breaking auction. That record didn’t last long, till August 2021. Rare copy of Super Mario Bros. sells for $2 million, the most ever paid for a video game. 


===============================


== Addendum March 30, 2024 ==


What's above was an economics rant from the past. Only now, let me also tack on something from spring 2024 (today!) that I just sent to a purported 'investment guru economist' I know. His bi-weekly newsletter regularly - and obsessively - focuses on the Federal Reserve ('Fed') and the ongoing drama of setting calibrated interest rates to fight inflation.  (The fellow never, ever talks about all the things that matter much, much more, like tax/fiscal policy, money velocity and rising wealth disparities.)


Here, he does make one cogent point about inflation... but doesn't follow up to the logical conclusion:


"This matters because the average consumer doesn’t look at benchmarks. They perceive inflation when it starts having visibly large and/or frequent effects on their lives. This is why food and gasoline prices matter so much; people buy them regularly enough to notice higher prices. Their contribution to inflation perceptions is greater than their weighting in the benchmarks."

Yes!  It is true that the poor and middle class do not borrow in order to meet basic needs. All they can do, when prices rise, is tighten their belts. Interest rates do not affect such basics.

ALSO The rich do not borrow. Because, after 40 years of Supply Side tax grifts, they have all the money! And now they are snapping up 1/3 of US housing stock with cash purchases. What Adam Smith called economically useless 'rent-seeking'. The net effect of Republican Congresses firehousing all our wealth into the gaping-open maws of parasites.

That's gradually changing, at last. The US is rapidly re-industrializing, right now! But not by borrowing. The boom in US manufacturing investment is entirely Keynesian - meaning that it's being propelled by federal infrastructure spending and the Chips Act.   Those Pelosi bills are having all of the positive effects that Austrian School  fanatics insanely promised for Supply Side... and never delivered.  

That old argument isnow  settled by facts... which never (alas) sway cultists. Pure fact. Keynes is proved. Laffer is disproved. Period.

But in that case, what's with the obsession of the Right upon the Federal Reserve? What - pray tell - is the Fed supposedly influencing, with interest rate meddling? The answer is... not much.

If you want to see what's important to oligarchy - the core issue that's got them so upset that the they will support Trump? Just look at what the GOP in Congress and the Courts is actually doing, right now! Other than "Hunter hearings" and other Benghazi-style theatrics, what Mike Johnson et. al are doing is:

- Desperately using every lever - like governemnt shut-down threats and holding hostage aid to Ukraine - to slash the coming wave of IRS audits that might affect their masters.  With that wave looming, many in oligarchy are terrified. Re-eviscerating the IRS is the top GOP priority!  But Schumer called Johnson's bluff.

- Their other clear priority is obedience to the Kremlin and blocking aid to Ukraine.

Look at what actually is happening and then please, please name for me one other actual (not polemical) priority? 

== And finally ==

Oh yeah, then there's this. 

Please don't travel April 17-21.  

That's McVeigh season. Though, if you listen to MAGA world, ALL of 2024 into 2025 could be.  

God bless the FBI.