Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Go do your proxy power! (and misc items...)

After returning from a family vacation in Baja California, I am in catch-up mode, dumping all sorts of things on you.... (I’ll yelp an alert when the politics lamp is lit.)

ProxyActivismFirst though, this may be your last chance to get those 2005 charitable domations in. Please look at my Proxy Power article and get others to look at it, too. We may disagree on many things. But you would not be here if you did not think that people can help save ( and improve) the world. Belief in human and social improvability is, I have come to believe, the principal personality trait that separates modernist-pragmatists from the nostalgist romantics that ruled nearly all human civilizations, and made a hash of it for 4,000 years.
Announcement: “Contrary Brin” chosen as a “Red-Hot Blog”...

I just received this message: “Congratulations! Your blog Contrary Brin has been chosen as one of our Red Hot Blogs of the Day!” See:

I couldn’t have done it without all of you....

Bandit wrote in with this: ‘
Captain Cyborg and the problem of evil . This concerns some of the issues with brain download, the two conflicting viewpoints of automation, and man/machine
interface. You get a mention, too!”

Some great Kurzweil links...

*Evolution takes science honours BBC News Dec. 23, 2005
* Research into how evolution works has been named by Science Magazine as top science achievement of 2005, a year that also saw fierce debate erupt over "intelligent design." Science magazine's breakthroughs of 2005: Winner: Evolution in action. Genome sequencing and painstaking field observations shed light on the intricacies of how...

* Better than people The Economist Dec. 20, 2005
* Japanese find robots less intimidating than people. "The prevailing view in Japan is that the country is lucky to be uninhibited by robophobia. With fewer of the complexes that trouble many westerners, so the theory goes, Japan is free to make use of a great new tool, just when its needs and abilities are happily about to converge. "What...

* Creating first synthetic life form Globe and Mail Dec. 19, 2005
* Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form -- a microbe made from scratch. The controversial project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter. One option for sparking life in...

* Civilisation has left its mark on our genes News Service Dec. 19, 2005
* A detailed look at human DNA has shown that 1800 genes, or roughly 7 percent of the total in the human genome, have changed under the influence of natural selection within the past 50,000 years, probably in response to aspects of modern human culture such as the emergence of agriculture and the shift towards living in densely populated...

This last one is a special interest of mine. I have long felt that evolution accelerated with the discovery of technology, instead of ebbing. (See: Christopher Wills’s book, “Children of Prometheus.”

1. the discovery of beer probably caused the death of huge fractions of human males who could not control their impulses, resulting in a “glass half full” situation that is seldom noticed... the fact that 2/3 of us are actually rather self-controlled.

2. Clothes and other technologies allowed settlement of heights that then forced Tibetans to evolve better lungs.

3. Now that impregnation is optional and no longer obligate with sex, I predict that the locus of compulsion in humans will shift. Sex will become less driven, but we’ll all be descended from people who actively wanted kids. See “A Mote in God’s Eye.” There are good and bad implications.

...and now... the political lamp is lit...

* Always entertaining and unashamedly pointed, try out recent additions to the lively “Armageddon Buffet” site at

* and finally, the following. I am not totally in agreement. I think there is still a chance that this scenario may not fully flower. For example, the Iraqi Shiites may not wind up as pro-Iranian as this guy thinks. Nor as dedicated to punishing us for the horrid betrayal that the earlier Bush admin perpetrated in 91. (They surely have cause for bitterness.) Still, it is a dismally plausible scenario and one that did not have to arise. It took monumental and repeated incompetence (or something much worse) to bring us to this brink.

Iraq: Game Over by Robert Dreyfuss, author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam

. “The last hope for peace in Iraq was stomped to death this week. The victory of the Shiite religious coalition in the December 15 election hands power for the next four years to a fanatical band of fundamentalist Shiite parties backed by Iran, above all to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Quietly backed by His Malevolence, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sustained by a 20,000-strong paramilitary force called the Badr Brigade, and with both overt and covert support from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard corps, SCIRI will create a theocratic bastion state in its southern Iraqi fiefdom and use its power in Baghdad to rule what's left of the Iraqi state by force.”

“ There isn't any point in looking for silver linings in the catastrophic Iraqi vote. The likely next prime minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, is a smooth-talking SCIRI thug. His boss, Abdel Aziz Hakim of SCIRI, is the former commander of the Badr Brigade and a militant cleric who has issued bloodthirsty calls for a no-holds-barred military solution to the insurgency. The scores of secret torture prisons by the SCIRI-led Iraqi ministry of the interior will proliferate, and SCIRI-led death squads will start going down their lists of targets. The divisive, sectarian constitution that was rammed down Iraq's throat in October by the Shiite religious bloc will be preserved intact under the new, "permanent government" of Iraq led by SCIRI. The Kurds, ensconced in northern Iraq, will retreat further into their enclave, content to proceed step-by-step toward what they hope will be a breakaway rump state. Earlier this year, after the January 31 transitional elections, the Kurds made their deal with the Shiite devil, winning in exchange two vital (for them) points: that Iraq will have a virtually nonexistent central government will power reserved for the provincial regions, and that revenues from future Iraqi oil fields will go to those regions, not to the state. All the Kurds want now is to take over Kirkuk, which they will do with force, violence, and ethnic cleansing aimed at Arab residents of the Kirkuk area.”

This is a case we any decent person simply has to hope and pray that the incompetent jerks who put us in this situation will prove to be fantastically lucky, and that Dreyfuss will prove too pessimistic, by far. That is my hope, of course.


Anonymous said...

The above link doesn't work for me. This one does.

Anonymous said...

And this from Knight Ridder today:

"Kurds preparing takeover; U.S. exit strategy at risk."

Don Quijote said...

"Kurds preparing takeover; U.S. exit strategy at risk."

We have a strategy?

Oh, and while worrying about Iraq, think 5 minutes about poor Kuwait who is likely to suffer a never ending plague of retribution no matter who comes to power in Iraq!

Anonymous said...

If you're at and want to copy the link to whatever it is you're looking at so other people can see it, keep in mind there's extra STUFF in the URL that indicates just which customer it is that is viewing that page. For a book, cutting off the URL right after the ISBN (which will be included in the URL for a page for a book) will result in a link everyone can use.

(Add that one to the "things learned the hard way by some" list....)

Anonymous said...

...we are all descended from breeders...

Oooh, the Moties could really be us... Perhaps, but we would still want to have the methuselah-like Pak lifecycle.

That reminds me of the "true" goal of the drive to reproduce; it's not children, but rather grandchildren that the genes want.

-- Matt

Anonymous said...

As I articulated in the comments here
I still assert that proxy power of the sort advertised here is sub-optimal except for the very rich.

David Brin said...

Want to understand evolution... and have lots of fun with friends? Go see:

Genius said...

And now drinking beer results in more sex and more kids probably!
There are many interesting and surprising things we are selecting for - but I guess that has always been the case.

As to Iraq the pessimists are always too pessimistic and the optimists are probably out of touch with reality.
Iraq is in a bad state but the reduction in central authority might be a good thing and while the authorities might respond harshly to terrorism (as states have done throughout history) they are under the same pressures that have resulted in more peace over the last 60 years
For example
1) Many foreign people are in many foreign countries this makes those countries much more interested in what goes on in those countries
2) Anything you do gets shown around the world and pressure goes on the EU and the US to become a pain in your A*** and it will, even in a cynical world, take quite a few bribes to get them to stop.

So I am optimistic that it will only be a mild disaster.... reasonable?