Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Proof of "Uplift"... or at least intelligence...

I just want to hurry a post in order to mention some miscellaneous scientific items...

...and to thank the skilled professionals of the U.S. intelligence services, who appear (at long last) to have found the spine to stand up to Bush Administration hysterics, by downgrading the danger of nuclear weaponry, developed by Iran. You’ve read about it in the papers. At a stroke, the professionals have undercut the drive to foment yet another Middle Eastern war, sucking in (and possibly destroying) the last American military strength and finalizing the demolition of U.S. moral leadership in the world.

That is not to say that we are out of the woods. The option of a schoolyard bully to use the peremptory powers of Commander in Chief - plus the apparent compliant docility of the Air Force - make the next year dangerous as hell.

But at least there are indications of what I have long called-for, a rising by the professionals to start doing their jobs - protecting the people and the Constitution from a danger within. We’ve now seen the Navy and the Cia begin to stand up. Now, will we get what we need from the FBI? Will the subornation protocols be invoked, at last?

This is where we’ll be saved, or not. The elections, a year from now, will only ratify a counter-revolution that must first be pushed forward (perhaps quietly) by the men and women who swore us oaths. Who offered to put their lives between us and danger. Who have the skills and knowledge to stand up for the law, for the Constitution, and for our civilization.

--- Get SEED! ---

If you haven’t yet seen SEED Magazine, go get a copy. It’s like a mix of DISCOVER and WIRED, only better. On target and cool.

Oh, and they have an article - by David Grinspoon - about the SETI/METI imbroglio, in their next issue. (And yes, mentioning me.) An article so well-written that I saw not a single cringe-worthy minsinterpretation or exaggeration or unfairness. A real rarity in science policy reporting

--- Other cool stuff --

GPS locator technology in cameras will let each digital photo taken get geotagged as it's taken. Another service has the capability of uploading those geotagged pictures to public websites as soon as an Internet connection is detected... .and you get a spankin' everyman's surveillance tool.

See "The history of the universe in a nutshell, from the Big Bang to now, and on to the future - John Mather will tell the story of how we got here, how the Universe began with a Big Bang, how it could have produced an Earth where sentient beings can live, and how those beings are discovering their history.”

Keep eyes open for a familiar face in "Life after People" - a Discovery Channel show based on an October 2006 New Scientist article. The show is about a theoretical "future world" without people, where only animals are left.

Oh, did I mention you'll see a familiar face being interviewed?

One of their topics touches on the whole Message to Aliens thing. For a relevant article about how hard it is to be detected... now... see But some fellows plan to change that.

Some of you have seen this. Are chimpanzees closer to human intelligence than we thought? One memory test included three 5-year-old chimps who'd been taught the order of Arabic numerals 1 through 9, and a dozen human volunteers.They saw nine numbers displayed on a computer screen. When they touched the first number, the other eight turned into white squares. The test was to touch all these squares in the order of the numbers that used to be there.Results showed that the chimps, while no more accurate than the people, could do this faster. (Thanks Zechariah!) This is relevant to “uplift” of course. And also to my new novel... and the fact that autistic people, sometimes with savant powers, appear to process more like animals.

And, as if that weren't big enough "uplift-related" news, check out this one! I am so glad I am on record having been a friend of dolphins and chimps!

And, finally, this for the eco-minded.


Tony Fisk said...

Bush says Iran remains a threat

Listening to his maunderings on the radio this morning, I got the distinct impression that Bush has a case of the sulks.

Zorgon, old bean, you really should sort out your login woes and get your own blog going. My comments on your last slab of meat are to be found in the last post, but can be summarised as, consider Venezuela.

David Brin said...

Tony is very wise. At the end of last-post's comments he was far more mature and well-phrased than I.

I do not claim that the "oil plus incompetence" explanation is totally invalid. What I do claim is that the reflex of most Bushite opponents to reflexively and generally angrily dismiss any other possibility reflects the kind of rigid thinking that has allowed Rove to kick our teeth in, every time.

Look, the things I am saying would resonate with middle-right voters! If you scream "it's oil!" They will answer "Yeah? So? Yum, let's go get it!"

But I am saying that the chief accomplishment of this gang has been to steal and waste trillions, destroy US military power, its influence, its health and leadership in the world... so thoroughly that it might as well have been intentional.

If you make that case with an ostrich, he or she will have to either go into complete denial... or get mad.

Book Calendar said...

If you follow the concept of peak oil, it may be a lot closer than we are being told. Think a couple of years. A lot of these wars are about maintaining our dependence on oil. If the war stopped, the domestic agenda could change very quickly to solving the permanent energy crisis.

The article on chimpanzees doesn't surprise me. They are very social animals, and memory could be more adaptive for social intelligence than tool making. I have no authority on this, it is just an idea. Chimpanzees have fairly complex social strategies and communication strategies.

David Brin said...

book calendar's variation is highly plausible. As soon as Ronald Reagan entered office, he ended much of Carter's energy research and tore the solar panels off the White House roof.

When W entered office, he stopped Clinton's efficiency programs and poured all the money into chimerical "hydrogen power."


David hello,
I am new here, went to college with Steve Tisch, maybe you know him, Tufts 1971. SMILE.
Wonder if you have ever come across or considered idea of polar cities for future survivors of global warming? See my blog and blueprints here: http://pcillu101.blogspot.com

Am interested in developing polar cities project into a sci fi novel and movie titled POLAR CITY RED for 2015 release date. Any advice? Ever hear of this concept of polar cities? Take a quick look at my images on site....

in Taiwan
danbloom AT GMAIL

Unknown said...

Here's an interesting quote:

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Tuesday that even the allegations that Tehran was pursuing a nuclear weapon up to 2003 were false.

"I categorically reject any allegation that Iran has had before, has now and will have [such a program] because a nuclear weapon is not in our defense decree," Soltanieh said.

"We are of the belief that a nuclear weapon would create a vulnerability and therefore we are and have and will be against nuclear weapons," he said.

I mean, one can believe that Iran does want a nuke and is making things up when they say this - perfectly plausible,but then why would they pick THAT for the argument? Or you can believe they're being sincere. Either way, though, it's interesting.

Anonymous said...

The chimp research would be more convincing had they not used numerals, but merely had the subjects arrange the flashed symbols back into a standard pattern.

As it stands, the human subjects may have been handicapped by their automatic attempt to "read" the numbers. Even with random symbols, they'd probably learn to map them to numbers during the training phase, to simplify the intellectual task. Using random symbols AND a patterning task would tend to limit that.

The most significant thing is that chimps have the ability to use the idea of ordering. I'm sure that's old news in chimp studies, but I'm less sure that this research has really added anything significant.

The experiment versus children - hopefully who've just recently learned their numbers - may be more telling.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

The Magazine looks great -- seems like this will be my big brother's Xmas present.

The Onion is not uplifting Dolphins -- they don't read. However, I have a theory that if anyone hooks these beasts up to a sonogram, that they will find that Dolphins are sending acoustic pictures -- that when they talk about a fish, they send the image of a fish, hence, human speech is probably the most simple baby-talk to them, and sort of like going from reading text in a computer to trying to decipher the binary behind it -- not an easy task and shows more language proficiency from the Dolphin than the human. If we are more advanced, why can't we speak dolphin?

I predict some sort of "gelatin chamber" much like those used to build 3d models can be adapted to "image" for a dolphin.

>> About the monkeys. This test only shows response time. I'd say that a simple appliance chip can have a faster response time than a computer -- it's looking at less things, the Monkey is not distracted by thoughts about taxes and such. However, it is perhaps a good test to show that monkeys may be better fighters in "point and shoot" tasks than humans. And between monkey and monkey, and human and human, the efficiency of "response time" shows how efficient the connections in the brain are -- thus, in these terms, it's a quick and accurate IQ test. I've read some studies on this, that you can just check the quickness of a person pressing a button after seeing a light. It does not check higher cognitive functions, but does tell you synapse response. Part of intelligence is the efficient conversion of glucose into electrical pulses -- so I suppose a calorie to electricity test is not far behind. This might be equivalent to looking at the Mhz of a computer chip. You assume that everyone has the same chip -- but you know that the monkey and human have different processors. And of course, the calorie efficiency is like the efforts to use less electricity in a chip -- and that leads to better processing, because there is only so much "juice" and heat you can add to a given processor. This has no effect on the Software people add to their brains however, which gives us an advantage to people who beat us in First Person Shooter games.

Once someone puts the chimp on a chip -- well, that's another story.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

David said...
I do not claim that the "oil plus incompetence" explanation is totally invalid. What I do claim is that the reflex of most Bushite opponents to reflexively and generally angrily dismiss any other possibility reflects the kind of rigid thinking that has allowed Rove to kick our teeth in, every time.

I've been puzzling the incompetence vs. evil doer who likes to pretend the fool for a while now. I think I've come up with a "sketch" of what is going on.

There are 3 or 4 factions involved. 1 and 2 are Bush and Cheney factions, which are more or less aligned. Basically, amongst the elites, I think there is an unwritten rule; Don't let the Plebes know, and don't kill the players -- you can do what you want to the pawns. Everyone has too much "Mark Foley" dirt on each other -- so that's why we get the confession from THIS former Italian President, shortly before he's too old to care; http://www.corriere.it/politica/07_novembre_30/osama_berlusconi_cossiga_27f4ccee-9f55-11dc-8807-0003ba99c53b.shtml

Loosely translated; 9/11 was an inside job. I've worked with the CIA in the past on "false flags" -- and this was one. -- again, that was him talking, not me.

People have complained about the lack of supporting evidence. I guess they are used to Bush already -- a good sign. In the old days, a world leader would say such things, and you would depend upon it because their sources are not your sources -- so you have to take their word for it.

OK. He mentioned the Mossad -- but I think they were just involved in "documenting" the event. The story about the celebrating Arabs who were across the river and detained after 9/11, were found with video equipment, were mentioned to be known Mossad (no big deal about MI-6 or Mossad working on US soil -- because, it seems, with the rule that the CIA can't -- they trade dirty work, understand?), and were released. Only the US can send our planes after false drills and turn off radar. The important thing to remember is that Bush was pretty sour towards Israel BEFORE 9/11 -- go back and look at some old news footage. I was paying attention and it was like somebody turned a light-switch on amongst the NeoCons. BEFORE 9/11, they didn't like Israel. AFTER 9/11 they could do no wrong.

In this level of the Elites, there are no nations, just personal fiefdoms and power. We are not going to have WW III with China or Russia -- it's just good for business that people think we might. It's probably tempting to build cardboard tanks, and just put the money into a luxury yacht -- but too many eyeballs and they did that already in the USSR. It's taken me a long time to come to that conclusion. But China is NOT going to ruin America's economy to take us over. They are competing with us to grab up most of Africa, the same way we exploited Latin America. All nations will be in debt eventually to Offshore banks one day, I'm guessing, because HUGE wealth converts all, so the powerful in China, the Blairs, the Bushes, the whomever, all get a seat on the Carlysle Group, or some such holding company, and most of them are using their countries to impoverish third-world nations, while the games they play with eachother, enrich their own accounts at the expense of their own countries. Think of it like Ancient Rome. When they ran out of roads and places to plunder -- they turned inward.

IF you read the book "Disaster Capitalism" you can understand that they didn't create the Katrina storm to destroy New Orleans -- they just had great plans in place to gentrify the place, and to disperse Democratic voters (poor people) and even better, make them homeless. We set up voting systems for Iraqi refugees but you won't see any for New Orleans folks. These contingency plans sit around and wait. Iraq was a testing ground for privatization. Either that, or it was just a test to see how to steal a Trillion $ -- and spread the money with enough folks that you have credibility. GM gets big bucks, and you don't have bad press -- get it?

So, if you look at any war like the Elites, it has levels of goals. A disaster for Florida, however, is treated differently from New Orleans. Mainly, because you have wealthier and connected people. The Middle Class cannot be attacked directly -- yet. So you hand out money and they have a warm feeling about who to vote for. In Louisiana, there were 127 Public Schools, now there are 4. They are tearing down public housing this December -- buildings that are in perfectly good shape. They have 50,000 families in formaldehyde laced mobile homes and they are giving the eviction notices. To ensure that there were no jobs for the poor, they brought in outside contractors -- from Mexico. But charged for them like they were expert employees, just because.

What do we know from these things. In war and disaster the goals are;
#1 Don't get caught (spread the money, have plausible deniability available and seed stories)
#2 Make money.
#3 Gain more power (disperse voters, pass laws).
#4 Remove professional class and/or Public supports (consolidating power in the elites -- hopefully YOUR elites, but all Yachts rise on the drought of public money)
#5 Destabilize (this allows you to ask for more power to control the problem, it allows you to sell weapons, it allows you to get cheaper resources out of the desperate people).

By this measure, Iraq has been a huge success. The only problem is that the violence is reducing due to the Ethnic Cleansing. When a Sunni is no longer in a Shi-ite neighborhood, the problem recedes. If we had let ANY side win in Iraq, it would have become stable. You don't feel threatened by the oppressed side. The other problem is Iran's eventual alliance with Iraq if current trends continue. Attacking Iran will give BushCo more to play with, and more destabilization.

By the way, that destabilization helps their friends in Saudi Arabia, who were in the red before we invaded Iraq, and facing an uprising of people sick of the royal family. Sending "foreign fighters" to Iraq, let them bleed off all the dissidents (including their prison population), and give the people something else to worry about rather than political changes. That might have been the same reason that James Baker LET Saddam invade Kuwait. Curiously, the Royals were ALSO on vacation at the time. Now there is no more pesky talk of Democracy and the Royals protect them from Evil Iraq.

Pakistan threatens India.
India threatens China.
North Korea can ruin pipelines.
Iraq threatens Iran, Kuwait, and gives something for the rabble to focus on in Saudi Arabia.
Turkey, however -- we have to send them ALOT more money to make them happy, or let them invade the Kurds for the WORST public relations event in history.
China gets to destroy Darfur with their own Iran/Contra, as long as we have to beg for $70 Billion a month. The sudden "discovery" of lead-painted toys and all the other bad stuff that was merrily shipped to WalMart is part of a trade war without actually protecting jobs for citizens, or really public health for that matter -- pawns again.
Putin has a good economy, and suddenly, he must protect mother Russia from big, bad Bush. So instead of those new schools -- more weapons, yeah! Wouldn't want to form a middle class there with the new found wealth, now would we?

It's all a game, and fortunately or unfortunately, most of the nations "powerful" are in on it and won't be making any HUGE wars. But skirmishes like Iraq or Iran -- sure.

Ruining Bush's day by informing the public that we KNEW Iran had no weapons program after 2003 is just one of the factions moving their pawns. See, if Bush's fascism takes hold, then someone else won't be in charge. It could be patriots or it could be another powerful faction. But in general, nothing will get Bush impeached -- he is above the fray.

Mark said...

However, I have a theory that if anyone hooks these beasts up to a sonogram, that they will find that Dolphins are sending acoustic pictures -- that when they talk about a fish, they send the image of a fish...

That has been my theory as well. Dolphins don't just hear the way we do, their echo-location ability completely changes the way they can process sounds. I doubt they can truly send a picture of a fish, but I suspect they can send a simplified symbol of a fish.

I'd love to see MRI brain studies of dolphins to differentiate between how they think when hearing a sound versus using echo-location, and then see how that compares to when the communicate with each other.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again. Logon still blown out.)

That video about the Big Bang sounds fascinating -- but it might already be obsolete. Apparently dark matter stars abounded very early in the history of the universe:

Generally science-related, but off-topic for this particular discussion, here's a provocative description of what sounds for all the world like Hari Seldon's psychohistory, replete with equations(!):


If this really worked, it would revolutionize international relations. Might even bring us close to Leibniz's dream of solving conflicts by pure logic -- when people had a dispute, Leibniz believed that somebody they would eventually resolve by declaring, "Gentlemen, let us calculate!"

Alas, as attractive as this guy's scheme seems, I have grave doubts.

First, the weasel-word escape clause "provided the input data are good." In the real world, concerning politics and international conflicts, the input data are N*E*V*E*R good. International conflicts always erupt in a fog of uncertainty and false rumor. Just look at the recent revelation that Iran ended its nuclear program in 2003, for pete's sake!

Second: if this guy is so credible, where the devil are his double-blind experiments? (I.e., make predictions at random about future events, then he makes predictions, and we see whether the monkey tossing darts at a newspaper does better than his method. We know the monkey wins in stock picking -- about abou poli sci?) What peer-reviewed academic journal have they been published in? I'm seeing lots of predictions he got right -- where's the track record of predictions he got wrong? What his total score? Why doesn't this guy have a website where he lists all his predictions and shows how they came true? Why hasn't some polisci article run down the hard numbers and tabulated this guy's method using the scientific method, so everyone can verify it?

Charging 25K for a secret method of prediction isn't how academic science typically works. If an algorithm really works, academics typically publish it in a peer-reviewed journal and let others test and replicate their results. I'm not seeing that here.

Also, some of this guy's "predictions" are so blindingly obvious they don't even qualify as predictions. For example he "forecast the death of the mideast peace process." Gee. Really? What a revelation! Who would ever have imagined that the mideast peace process would break down???

He predicted China's hardliners would crack down on dissidents. Wow. That's a hard one. I never would've imagined that the commisars who run a communist dictatorship would crack down on dissenters.

Frankly, I'm strongly tempted to call bullshit on this one. Sounds suspiciously like an exceptionally smooth high-end scam. 25 grand per prediction is nice loot. I bet the palm readers in gypsy getup are turning green with envy at the cash this guy is raking in.

Much as I wish this guy's psychohistory-sounding methodology works, all the warning signs point to something bogus. (See the classic "7 Warning Signs of Bogus Science" by Bob Parks and check how many traits this guy's work exhibits.) Hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again. Logon still no mas.)

As depressing as it is to respond to Dr. Brin's baseless insults and unjustified hurt feelings, I suppose I'll have to, lest someone believe silence equals assent.

First, let me point out that I never intended to insult or denigrate Dr. Brin. I have the greatest respect for him. That said, Dr. Brin is not omniscient. Like all of us, he's not a universal talent. He's a fine writer and doubtless a solid scientist, but no one is an expert at everything. Therefore it's hard to see how Dr. Brin could get offended by my statement that his discussion of economics seems naive. AFAICT, economics is not one of Dr. Brin's advanced degrees. That's not "name-calling" by the way -- just a blunt assessment, and less fractious than some of the things Dr. Brin has said about me. If I'm not offended by Dr. Brin's characterization of my comments, why should he bridle at my characterization of his? Can't we act like adults here and have some vigorous straightforward rough-and-tumble debates about important without swooning and falling down with the vapors?

The suggestion that America could've done better by buying a trillion dollars worth of oil on the spot market is simply silly. If Dr. Brin takes umbrage at this, let me point out that an economist would've surely used a lot more sulphorous language. "Naive" is mild, believe me.

As to the suggestion by someone else that Bremer's Order 34 + my fourth point = a U.S. "oil heist," no, no, a thousand times no!

Please note that Bremer's General Order 34 does not specify that American companies get to 100% own and 100% repatriate Iraqi oil. I'm sure that the U.S. would be perfeclty happy to allow Chinese oil companies to expatriate 100% of their profits from pumping Iraqi oil -- provided the Chinese gov't makes the proper concessions to us...probably about the yuan and our current account deficit. General Order 34 is all about controlling access to oil, not about the U.S. doing a "take the money and run" smash-and-grab for oil.

Tony Fisk's point about Venezuela sounds superficially credible. However, all's not as it seems at first glance. If you study the figures, Tony, I think you'll find that Venezuela has only 70 billion in crude oil reserves. The 1.2 trillion barrels of oil reverse you seem to be talking about are tar sands. This matters because it takes huge amounts of energy to get usable refinabe crude out of tar sands. You have to use high-temperature steam, etc., and this requires lots of energy.

So Venezuela's theoretical 1.2 trillion of tar reserves require an energy budget to extract that constantly gets worse as time passes. That is to say, today it costs $90 per barrel of oil to generate the nergy to extract usable oil from Venezuela's tar sands, but 10 years from now it's likely to cost $200 a barrel as the price of oil rises, and then $500 a barrel, and so on. What this means is that the value of Venezuela's tar sands reserves is constantly dropping over time. The geopolitical value of Venezuela's tar sands therefore constantly drops as time passes.

Compare with Iraq's crude oil reserves. They require very little energy to extract until you get to about the last 25% (which requires steam and forced extaction, etc.) Crude oil gets more valuable as time passes, while tar sands get less valuable. I think that explains why Venezuela is not a "low-hanging fruit" in the global geopolitical game to control world oil reserves, while Iraq is.

Iraq currently has 115 billion in estimated crude oil reserves, Venezuela has 77, and Saudi Arabia, at the top of the list, has 264. I think I've explained convincingly why military attacks on Saudi Arabia are not on. Canada, by the way, has 175 billion. NAFTA highway, anyone? Does that help explain it?

The remainder of Dr. Brin's points are easy to debunk. Dr. Brin claims that there is no evidence of any American control of Iraqi oil. Okay -- explain how China, for example, could pump oil from Iraq without either negotiating with the U.S. or militarily confronting us in the middle east, as long as U.S. troops are in place in Iraq. I'm waiting, Dr. Brin -- show me how China could do it. You can't. That means we have control.

Dr. Brin went on to assert that our current treaty with Iraq would become worthless the instant a stable Iraqi government came to power. What evidence is there that a stable Iraqi govenrment will ever emerge? The 1921 Balfour Declaration forcibly welded 3 disparate nations together into a phony country called "Iraq," whose diamond-shaped borders were drawn at Versailles by Woodrow Wilson and the French and Brit leaders to insure that the rich oil fields to the west and the north remained under British control. The narrow bottleneck at the bottom of Iraq was expressly designed to insure that the British navy could control shipping in and out of the phony artificial entity now called "Iraq."

Alas, the instant America deposed Saddam, that phony artificial confection called "Iraq" blew apart and the country has now effectively split back into the 3 nations it was prior to the Balfour Declaration. This means that there are almost certainly going to be 3 nations to negotiate with, not one, and none of 'em will be what we know today as "Iraq." This makes internecine conflict permanent, and should allow America to play off each of the 3 competing nations (Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites) against the others to extract whatever concessions we want -- including all the oil we can possibly pump. It's an old old game, played first the Persian empire, then by the Romans, and most recently in Mesopotamia by the Ottoman Empire.

In fact, lots of commentators seem to assume that the disintegration of Iraq into a failed state lacking a single center of power was uninentional -- but what if it wasn't? Isn't a fragmented chaotic hollow stateless Iraq which will thrash and fail in civil war for at leat a generation exactly what's ideal for us to maintain a U.S. military presence there, and to force concessions on oil diplomatically? Allawi & company are puppets and there isn't even a real "Iraq" nation. There are 3 competing nations now instea dof "Iraq" and Allawi et al. only enjoy the illusion of "ruling" anything as long as we say they do -- the instant America withdraw support, Allwai gets greased by the Mahdi Army. Convenient way to make sure that America has leverage to force whatever ultra-weak impotent government rules Iraq-in-name-only has to give us all the control of Mesopotamian oil we demand, isn't it?

All the signs point to chaos and a "hollow state" fragmented in interminable civil war in Iraq for the next generation, at least. Read William S. Lind on disintegrated failed states for a better analysis than I could offer. A generation is planety of time to leverage our control of Iraqi oil into all the geopolitical power America could possibly dream of. How valuable do you think Iraq's oil will be in 2040?

Lastly, note that I have countered all Dr. Brin's points, but he has rebutted none of mine. Dr. Brin asked a fractious right-winger a while back, "How have I refused to debate? And when?"

Dr. Brin refuses to debate when someone posts detailed and rational rebuttals to his points, full of facts. Such rebuttals are then declared "too long" and whomever makes such rebuttals is advised to "get a blog." Meanwhile, only trolls and right-winger neocons who post 10-word caricatures get a substantive response from Dr. Brin -- an easy enough task.

So we have a Catch-22. Anyone who psots a 10-word sound-bite resopnse gets slammed (correctly) by Dr. Brin for being "shallow" and "superficial." But anyone who essays a detailed and thoughtful response gets dismissed with the advice "start your own blog."

I believe this illustrates yet another of the limitations of the internet as a forum for debate. Serious thoughtful in-depth debate is not practical in comments, because such somments are declared "too long" or "tedious to read."

Incidentally, TIME magazine now suggests that the drunk-driving C student in the Oval Office himself planned this week's NIE leak about Iraq's nuclear program ending in 2003. If true, this uggests that the entire Iraq sabre-rattling has been a distraction to keep the political opopsition's attention focused on foreign affairs and away from the White House's frantic efforts to ram through domestic depredations as its lame-duck power winds down.

This might or might not be accurate, but it seems to fit the evidence. I personally don't believe that even the drunk-driving C student in the Oval Office is crazy enough and stupid enough to attack Iran. Moreover, the entire military spearheaded by the Navy seems to be doing itse damndest to thwart any attack on Iran. Good news, if true.

TIME magazine article here:

Tony Fisk said...

Zorgon, point on Venezuela conceded.

The advice to 'start your blog' is not intended to dismiss you. Your analyses are detailed and well thought out. You take the time to amass your backing material. They deserve to be placed somewhere where it is easy to search for/refer to them.

... Hmmm! That Time article link is broken. Personally, I don't see why Bush would deliberately engineer such an embarrassing rebuttal to his foreign policy.

Another assessment of the changes in procedures that led to that NIE report is here.

Somebody seems to have heeded the outcome of the last hue and cry over WMD. (Pesky admirals!)

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again. Blasted logon still blown.)

Here's the Time link again:

Here's the TIME link in HTML code format.

The White House using Iran sabre-rattling as a smoke screen to cover one last domestic policy neocon push might make sense if we recognize that this presidency is all about politics. Domestic politics is paramount to these guys. As Bruce Sterling admirably put it, in this maladministration "It doesn't matter if you get it done as long as you get it spun."

Dr. Brin seems prescient in suggesting an internal revolt by the professionals in the military and civil service. He deserves great credit for highlighting that option, and he may well have inspired many professionals who are doing just that. I believe that in the near future, one of the great untold stories about the last 7 years will be a massive but stealthy behind-the-scenes effort by military and DOJ and state dept. and civil service professionals to throw sand in the gears of this maladminsitration's efforts to roll back the New Deal and ditch modern post-Eisnenhower int'l relations in favor of Gilded Age robber barony & gunboat "diplomacy." An effort largely successful, too. We just haven't seen it because it's going on behind tightly closed doors in places like the Joint Chiefs' meetings and inside U.S. Attorneys' offices.

David Brin said...

Zoron, some good stuff. I am skeptical of psychohistory for another reason. I have come to realize that most of the emergent properties of the Enlightenment arise out of human complexity that FAR exceeded the simplistic theories of Marx and Freud etc, who transfixed civilization 100 years ago and did so much harm.

The power of the Enlightenment has not come from applying reason and logic to human affairs, as much as it has come from applying some very basic tools to combat human self-delusion. Logic and reason are all too often vehicles for massive delusion! It is THE essential human quandary, that the Enlightenment fights with processes of transparency, openness and reciprocal criticism.

I can do a simple Hari Seldon on you (and don't forget , I am officially THE channeler of him, since Isaac passed away!) If a society is traditionally oligarchic, it will fight to quash accountability systems. If those accountability systems thrive, then the society will move from an oligarchic pyramid to a diamond of openness and progress...

...unless the oligarchs are allowed to shut accountability down. There.

I never claimed that buying a trillion$ worth of oil would be smart! I said we'd have got a helluva lot more oil than we have with this venture, or ever possibly could get. If oil has anything to do with it, it is getting iraqi oil off the market... plus the influence of certain petro states in forging our policy.

As usual, exhaustion set in halfway down. Zorgon, make your own blog and give us a summary! Ah, yes, you call that chickening out of dealing with your reasoned argument. Fine, but I am one man with a few slim reeds of access to genuine influence in this world. I cannot spend overmuch lifespan on a blog comments section that will NOT appreciably increase my ability to shape events at a crucial time.

If I plant some unconventional ideas here, you are welcome to "rebut" them... politely. Just do not resent that I skim.

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks, Zorgon.

I suppose secret manouevrings and hush ups are to be expected in this game. I hope that's why so little push back is heard of. (I certainly wouldn't want to rely in it being the case!)

Baer makes no justification for his assertion, simply stating that "..you can bet that an explosive, 180-degree turn on Iran like this one was greenlighted by the President", and then going on from there.

Assumptions are the weakest point of any theory. Still, in the same spirit as Manchuria, it is worth considering.

Occam suggests it is far more likely that a set of professionals did their own thing and caused embarrassment. So why the Times article? Possibly to bolster the public impression that the president is still in control?

Jamais Cascio recently came up with a variation on Gandhi's quote:

First they fight you, then they laugh at you, then they ignore you , then you lose.

To which I hope doesn't get added:
...then you lose it

gmknobl said...

Lest others get bent out of shape, go crazy and start some on-line stalking, as it appears at time people here may go, I have only one comment, and it isn't from me but from certain opposable thumbed friends...

"So long and thanks for all the fish."

Onions have so many layers, unless their glass. (mwaa ha ha ha!)

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Mark said;
That has been my theory as well. Dolphins don't just hear the way we do, their echo-location ability completely changes the way they can process sounds. I doubt they can truly send a picture of a fish, but I suspect they can send a simplified symbol of a fish.

>> Not OUR picture of a fish -- the SOUND picture of a fish. The fat in their foreheads (especially on the bottle-nose Dolphin) has nerve endings and acts like a sound imaging chamber -- about the size of a pregnant woman's stomach. When they scan a fish, the "simplified" version of reproducing the feedback is the "image" given. This is a bit like what I'd heard of Western Indians in early America -- that they wouldn't just say "go to the fence" it would be the fence standing by the river in a field of wheat.

So a dolphin is not only saying FISH, but also often, but not always (they have abstractions too -- otherwise they could never deal with learning human commands -- make sense?), they include the Salmon with a bloated belly and an ulcer on the stomach -- because they basically do a medical grade scan on everything they investigate.

>> I have a lot more ideas about how the Universe REALLY works, that I'd love to bounce off someone. So far, I've predicted the acceleration of the Universe expansion (it's really attenuation as standing-waves get smaller), and that string theory would be abandoned. There is also a max size to a galaxy just as there is a star. Dark matter is a bleed through of gravity from other Universes -- not really a parallel dimension, just that these separate Universes are co-incident with Gravity in space/time but not in energy. Anyway, really a different perspective from MOST of what I've heard from anyone. But almost every new discover seems to fit my model, so there you go.

Also, I'm totally convinced that "there is no time but the present" is actually true in physics. So, no time travel -- it's just an energy state.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> Hmm. I like where you are headed with this. Let me add another "side effect" of transparency. I'm also considering your "Modernist" vs. Romantic from a different perspective -- and basically, I'll say that a Modernist is just more advanced but sometimes impractical. On the level of a person, we look at "Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs" states that a person can only rise to a certain level of relationships depending upon getting basic needs filled like security, food, affection and such. As a society threatens these needs more and more, you get more Romantics -- or people who need strong leaders. Democracies are precarious and expensive, because they require EDUCATION. Almost all societies of higher education become more Liberal.
I look at discussions about security between Liberals and Conservatives. And it seems to boil down to, from the Conservative perspective; criticism of America or our Ethic, is not liking America. It's the same perspective as a child who has been criticized. A Liberal, expects more of America and criticizes OUR behavior, rather than that of the rest of the world, because that is how PARENTS raise their children. The grown children that inhabit the Conservative movement, cannot see this "parental nurturing perspective" and reconcile that with their paycheck and house just as a dog can't see the color purple. The Mommy State, and You are Telling on Me traitor, are concerns of the pre-teenager. Your FRIEND would compliment you, and blame everyone else -- not realizing, the only real control you have is over your own behavior if you want a different result.
Now, transparency comes headlong into conflict with old models of government with prosperity. Prosperity without fear and war, means education (and the reverse is true). Before transparency and communication and books, we had religion. It was a great way to make sure everyone behaved a certain way, without making half your farmers become police, and to make sure people didn't eat shellfish which would make them sick; half diet plan, half social fabric -- the bible.
When people have all they want, and don't fear someone randomly taking their things and killing them, religion has much less relevance. So, governments move to police and surveillance, perhaps because they tend to be made up of people with enough insecurity that they need to dominate others. Well-adjusted people don't tend to protest unless they have to, or run for office because they need to -- they just want a decent living, and perhaps do something good with their lives. Time spent with politics will not jibe with the concept of a life dealing with positive things.
As the ability to surveil and track increases and the number of groups doing this becomes more numerous, eventually the watchers also become watched. The Cheney's in their bunkers and the NSA enablers have to ask Google to NOT put their house on a map -- but, that map might appear in England with a higher resolution satellite product. They might even go after that group to keep their own privacy because THEY cannot be the ones subjected to scrutiny -- only us. But can they convince China, or maybe tomorrow India and we might have strained relations? Eventually, you are going to get a detailed view of Cheney's house and his quail hunting camp. You are GOING to know who he was meeting with, because someone forgot that their clothing had an RFID tag on it, and someone built a web page that tracked all the fashion items moving out of a certain store in Washington that all the hip politicos go to -- you get the idea. Right now, because THEY think they can sit in their bunkers and spy on every aspect of our lives, and sell the data to friendly companies, the Elites love the idea of RFID, geo-tracked cell phones, a camera on every corner, and a Universal ID -- because THEY can destroy the tapes and lose the email and YOU can't.
But there is too much technology and too much overlap. There are 3 different places they must destroy the email -- it cannot be done without saying; "we are illegally hiding something." And everybody but they, and well paid media pundits damn well know it. Tomorrow, there will be a nook and cranny they overlooked, and instead of pulling out a credit card receipt showing Bin Laden had lunch with Rumsfeld or something else as spectacular, we will have video of it, because they are creating a perfect spy state without realizing that the cronyism that it takes to realize their power, will give them a pretty corrupt and incompetent security force.
The only hope for the future, is for people to start to become adults. Real adults. People who are good because they choose to be. There is no way to SECURE this country, except with the collective well-being of everyone. When you consider that one stray bullet on the 400-mile Alaska pipeline can shut it down (that was news two weeks ago), you realize that the 'soft spots' in America are more and more every day. It's a testament to how decent the average person is that we can have water supplies, electricity, and numerous other collective things. If you rob the poor of these benefits -- what is to stop someone from robbing you of your chance to horde it? There aren't enough cameras or bullets for the police state they envision. It would have to be tighter than North Korea -- and how much fun would that be?

David Brin said...

Marc you said a mouthful. Mostly very wise stuff... so next time put in lots of paragraph breaks to give people a break, hm?

Your child-parent portrayal of conservatives/liberals is generally in the right direction, but I portray it more along multiple axes.

Satiability + Actual plenty/satiation should create a general secular trend that transforms predatory empathy into alliance sympathy. I have spoken of this as “horizon adaptation.” When fear levels are high, we ally only with close relatives and predate on neighbors. When fear levels decline, humans extend horizons of alliance -- and time, distance, planning -- ever outward (hence science fiction).

Hence the civil rights movements and even eco-animal rights are clearly examples of horizon stretching as society becomes ready for each new phase.

The chief diff between the four classic types: Lefties, liberals, conservatives and reactionaries is this.

Lefties are fanatical about the forward cutting edge of tolerance horizon extension... and hence do not “get” what is happening at all. They serve a useful purpose, by applying frantic pressure to expand horizons. But in their indignant self-righteousness, they do not see themselves as part of a civilization process, but rather as romantic vanguards of a crusade. Ironically, a “tribe” of righteous ones who behave intolerantly toward dissenters... and thus, while useful, they are not actually, elementally “in” the enlightenment process.

Liberals who are pragmatic modernists often agree with lefties about the next steps but are sensitive to the complexities and practicalities of running a complex, enlightenment civilization. This makes them seem tepid and compromising and sinfully “moderate” when, in fact, they are the only group that gets it. We must improve. Even rapidly. But romanticism and dogmatic prescriptionism are mad.

Mind you (and here I will raise howls!) I classify LIBERTARIANS under the category of “liberals” in that their movement should be about applying steady, pragmatic pressure on one front of the expanding horizon, the front of individual empowerment and maximalization of the number of fully-vested participants in the markets that drive wealth (and thus satiation.)

Conservatives - by personality - are suspicious of this whole process of horizon expansion. They SHOULD form a natural balance to the fervid, zealous, fizzing lefties, pointing out flaws and worries, so that the liberals can proceed at a steady pace. Alas, Conservatism has never found such a useful niche. It has been unable to deal with the fact that they prove wrong, wrong wrong again and again, over civil rights, womens’ rights, the environment...

Just take a look at the new debate over “repealing Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell”. If You saw this headline 12 years ago, the ones wanting repeal were conservatives, wanting us to go back to chasing military gays with secret police tactics. Now, the same phrase stands for those wanting to take the next step of making gay-ness irrelevant in the military, while conservatives say they LOVE “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell”! “It works fine!” they shout. Never giving even a nod to how they fought it.

Just as most of them have pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls and swear they never opposed him.

Don’t get me wrong. Like the libertarians, conservatism could be a valuable force, if it wanted to be.

Reactionaries? They want the horizon expansions rolled back. They are waging war on us.

Anonymous said...


The SETI stuff is fascinating. Thanks. Maybe we don't yet have to wonder if the choice is Galaxy Quest or the Berserkers!

For the toned down rhetoric, thanks again. It speaks to a willingness to engage in serious discussion. Of course you will be forgiven the occasional lapse, we are all human.

War with Iran? I hope not. And I think not. But I suppose it could happen. It depends on what year you think we are re-living.
(my assumption is that while technology changes quickly, people change much more slowly, so history might repeat itself, at least in part)

1898 redux?
We have human rights issues with Spain and covet some of their assets (land, sugar cane, stogies). A terrorist act shocks us and we assume official involvement. "Remember the Maine!" shouts Fox, er, Hearst, and we charge up San Juan Hill. Long term impact, mildly negative. Source of much Yanqui go home feeling, gunboat diplomacy makes us lazy in world affairs. But European powers kept out of our hemisphere.

1916/7 redux?
We have a plucky friend locked in a life and death struggle. We want to help, we really do. But is it our job to go "over there"? Media coverage makes much of atrocities in Belgium, most of it propaganda hooey. We cheat a bit, allowing munitions to be carried under "neutral US flag. Our president is a high minded fellow with great ideals. Rather than pragmatically push the warring parties towards the negotiating table we declare war. Final outcome? New found stature as a world power. Profits for US businesses. But otherwise a disaster. Great alt hist. material, with a shorter WWI or a different outcome would the overall suffering of the 20th century have been less? (hard to imagine much more).

1940 redux?
Again with the plucky friend in peril. Albeit this time facing an enemy of genuine evil (although this was not as obvious until the einsatzgruppen and the death camps of later on). It seems like a matter of when, not if we get involved. But enthusiasm for another round is limited in the US. Pearl Harbor comes along and solves that. Did FDR know it was coming and not act? Echos of the 9/11 conspiracy buffs. End result? A better world, but not good by any means.

Anyway, barring another Pearl Harbor, real or faux, or another leader with the moral fiber of FDR (or the tragically flawed Wilson), I do not see it happening in the near term.


Fake_William_Shatner said...


Sorry about the page-breaks. I was a cut-and-paste error. On the Mac, I suppose there is a combination of Unix (line feed) breaks and Mac breaks (carriage return, Line feed). ONLY a geek would sit and ponder the WHY of such things.

You said;
Liberals who are pragmatic modernists often agree with lefties about the next steps but are sensitive to the complexities and practicalities of running a complex, enlightenment civilization. This makes them seem tepid and compromising and sinfully “moderate” when, in fact, they are the only group that gets it. We must improve. Even rapidly. But romanticism and dogmatic prescriptionism are mad.

I'm going to say that what is called the LEFT is actually the middle. The full-on communist and animal rights activist, IS an outlier, but not necessarily of a person who has "expanded" horizons. As rare as unicorns, the true left --as you've pointed out THEY moderated their own extremism's but the right never did.

The problem with our fixation of Linear models -- is while convenient, it just doesn't really get the psychology. Left is more expansive of "self" onto other, but I'd have to say, as you get more extreme self, you get more Depersonalized. The person throwing themselves in front of a bus for a dog, while in Korea they'd happily barbecue it -- May be more enlightened on one level, and the Pragmatic MIDDLE Lefties like I'm tending to be, are only pragmatic because we are too lazy to push all the neanderthals in our culture -- perhaps, ultimately with 9 Billion people, we all need to quit eating meat.

On the other hand, the person throwing themselves in front of the Bus for a dog, is probably NOT having good personal relationships. They've abstracted people into concepts, and they pine more about starving kids in Africa then they might someone down the street. They latch ON TO OTHER. This may be a product of our alienation, dystopia -- something. And I think us Sci-Fi/Fantasy geeks are guilty of a bit of head-in-the-clouds mentality. We don't touch the earth enough, walk in the woods, and we've spent too much time in Virtual worlds. The Far Left is almost the same mentality as the Far Right, and it may just be an accident of early socialization that they latched onto it.

So, anyway, I don't think either of our models really hits it right. I suppose Horizontal relationships is a good way of looking at people with security. But I still think my point about Mazlov's hierarchy of Needs better explains how Liberals and Conservatives see things like Criticizing SELF rather than OTHER. I don't see any PRAGMATISM to pointing out the rights of the people in China being less than America, so it's OK that Bush is reigning in the Constitution with every piece of paper. That sort of "our tribe is better than theirs" is NOT a good survival philosophy.

It may be a by-product that our essentially tribal history, does not give the modern man the right responses to threats. Unfortunately, we've created a modern environment for people that exceeds the slow pace of their evolution.

If we WERE still in tribes -- Psychopaths that end up running energy companies that can hire death squads, and the sorts of leaders who can boost an economy through war vs. green technologies and ordinances just because it helps their friends and pockets -- well THOSE sorts of people would be weeded out.

The NorthEastern Indians like the Iroquois seem to have had much better sense in all things than the Europeans who displaced them -- so much for survival of the fittest. My own theory is that survival amongst humans, usually goes to the most disease infested. Up until the 20th century, most wars were won by the immune system more than anything else.

David Brin said...

Actually, my horizon-expanding satiability/satiation process is simply an amplification of Maslowe's hierarchy of needs.

It accepts that premise, but also that some people never notice that they have enough food. They eat till bursting.

Likewise, the portion of the rich who don't get that a thriving civilization is the only way they will enjoy the money.

Anonymous said...

A quick example on Dr. Brin's comment:

Logic and reason are all too often vehicles for massive delusion!

One of Marx's big errors was his acceptance of the 'Labor Theory of Value' (hard to really blame him for, as it was the standard model at the time)--a large fraction of the socioeconomic/political conclusions Marx reached follow logically validly from the assumption that the value of the items produced by a given amount of labor is equal to the value of that labor.

Such a view of value leads quite rationally to a zero-sum game view of economics. Thus, if there are winners, there must be losers, and the winners are therefore exploiting the losers.

Logic/rationality can sometimes be a straightjacket that takes one all to far away from reality, since one innacurate assumption/postulate/etc. can lead to disastrously wrong conclusions.

A more modern (and potentially more controversial) example is moderate Christianity and evolution. Despite all the ID BS and whatnot, there remain a lot of Christians and Christian denominations (Catholicism being the largest example, of course) that are open to evolution. I would argue that the fundamentalists are in fact the ones who are being more logical here:

While there is nothing in evolution as such that is inherently a major problem for core Christian beliefs, accepting evolution implies accepting the great age of the planet and universe--and especially of the very, very long time during which they existed without any humans around. Fundamentalists, thinking logically, realize that this would raise very problematic questions about their faith.

Never mind what God was doing for all those billions of years, once humanity was around (40,000 years ago, 100,000 ya, or even a few million ya depending on your definitions) why did God wait so darn long to send a savior?

Fundamentalists realize that, logically, evolution poses a problem for their faith, and so they deny evolution.

Moderate Christians (some of them at least) accept evolution, but don't think it through in a logical manner and see the problems it poses for their faith.

I know which ones I prefer to have as neighbors, though! (And potentially allies in the continuation of the Enlightenment.)

matthew said...

Timeline of Bill of Rights under G. W. Bush


Alfred Differ said...

I have it from a few of my friends that the other moderate Christians who accept evolution and do think it through recognize the conflict, scratch their heads awhile, and then give up and let the next generation try to solve it. I'm told it's not the first time they have been confronted with something they didn't understand. In fact, their frustration with their fundamentalist cousins is that their cousins seem to have forgotten their own history when it comes to ignorance. 8)

sociotard said...

Dr. Brin, may I ask you a question?

Could you explain your "transparent society" ideal specifically as it applies to the 'mad dog' scenario, such as what happened durning in that Nebraska mall?

A crowd peppered with inconspicuous, armed people can return fire and put down mad dogs. How would a crowd equipped with cameras deter someone who plans on shooting themselves anyway?

Anonymous said...

Okay, Zechariah, besides the fact that's a completely apples to oranges comparison,

I'm not convinced by the argument that events like the Virginia Tech shooting or the Nebraska mall shooting mean we should allow concealed weapons anywhere.

First, if somebody's carrying a concealed weapon, it's a pistol. Pistols don't have the same range or accuracy as a rifle, so wouldn't necessarily have done any good in this case. It'd require somebody to get close enough to hit with accuracy, when apparently he was on the third floor.

Second, and more importantly, the assumption that having more shots fired would be a good thing. Shooting at a person is different than shooting at a target, and not just because people can move, fire back, or whatever. And the kind of chaos that would be caused among the bystanders with more guns firing.

Third, there's no guarantee somebody would even have been close enough with a gun.

Fourth, it really basically assumes life's an action movie.

I'm not completely against concealed weapon permits, but using random shootings like this or Virginia Tech as reasons to support concealed handguns just doesn't fly.

sociotard said...

I compared carrying pistols to carrying cameras specifically because David Brin did so. Every now and then the subject of armed societies being polite societies comes up and Dr. Brin reminds us that young men don't think logically all the time, so it's not really true. Then he asks "what if they were carrying cameras".

He specifically made this argument after the Virginia Tech shootings. I didn't get it then, and I just thought the headline made a good excuse to bring it up.

And a 1% chance of stopping a suicidal spree killer with a pistol is more than a 0% chance of stopping him with a camera.

Rob Perkins said...

Never mind what God was doing for all those billions of years, once humanity was around (40,000 years ago, 100,000 ya, or even a few million ya depending on your definitions) why did God wait so darn long to send a savior?

Why didn't he send 10? Or 10 million?

David, it's narrow theology that produces a begged question like that. Maybe that's your point.

Moderate Christians (some of them at least) accept evolution, but don't think it through in a logical manner and see the problems it poses for their faith.

I suppose I could be classified a "moderate" in that sense, as a Mormon with no stake in the young-earth ideas. (I won't call them theories. I reserve that for topics more solidly empirical than questions about Origins.)

The people who *do* think little of the apparent contradictions do so because their premise is that the human race hasn't obtained a complete perspective on the questions of origins, and so aren't troubled about the stories their ancestors told each other.

We suppose that if God told them the truth through some prophet, that He was smart enough as God to not blow their minds with stuff they couldn't grasp. Instead He'd let a few basic pragmatic things come to light, and build on that as the generations grew. "Line upon line, precept upon precept," kind of like math education.

(I will award exactly one bazillion points to a person who can name the source of that quote without googling it.)

There are even christians who suppose that evolution must be true, and who believe quite extra-canonically that God must have *grown* the bodies of the human species, using evolutionary mechanisms, only introducing the "imago dei" into the species when the time was right.

Those are just two nuggets of relatively deep thought, from a demographic which you, David, have claimed isn't thinking things through.

They are, with more depth, nuance, and clear logic than you've apparently imagined here.

I accept the plausibility of approaches like that mostly because I see the same processes at work in my own human children.

For example, I don't despair at the fact that my 10 year old can't grasp enough mathematics to comprehend a shape of finite area with a perimeter of infinite length. The main reason for that is that 200 years ago, *no one could*. But in just two short years, she'll not only be able to understand it, she'll be able to manipulate ideas like it into something greater.

Not thinking clearly indeed. Yeesh.

Rob Perkins said...


My apologies; I reacted thinking David had written thoughts which are actually attributed to j.e.b.

Please substitute "j.e.b" for "David" in my last little screed, there. Sorry! :-)

Anonymous said...

If everyone carries a gun, there will be many more gun deaths. Rage, Irrationality, Misunderstandings will be expressed violently. It seems obvious to me that allowing all conflicts in the US to end in a shooting would cause a greater body count than stopping a few crazies. And of course, you can’t stop someone who wants to die with the threat of death. I can just see you rushing valiantly towards the gunfire. You draw your pistol, kill the bad guy, and are gunned down yourself in turn by another plucky hero who arrives on the scene to see you shooting a youth in the mail.

The only purpose of a well armed Citizenry that I can see is preventing an effective military take over of the US. Given they could easily take and hold anything they wanted. But I seriously doubt they would hold so large a land with so many people with our current arms level.


Rob read the Kiln People.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall Dr. Brin's exact words, but in regards to Virginia Tech, a lot of the people dies because the communications on campus were crap. Confusion and chaos kept students in classes, nobody knew where things were going on, not even the police. The shootings were a while apart, and if people had been able to keep each other updated better, then people could have stayed away and the police could possibly have gotten to him before the second round of shootings. Not exactly cameras, but sort of on the same concept.

And now to jump off this topic and on to breaking news of evil:

The CIA Destroyed Tapes of Interrogations

Back in 2005, the CIA destroyed two tapes of "severe interrogations" of terrorist suspects, because they were afraid of what would happen if they became public. Probably because they knew if people saw real video of the kinds of "harsh interrogation" we've been reduced to, the whole "it's not REALLY torture" pretense would collapse like a house of cards.

Also they'd be evidence to impeach many officials and try them for war crimes. The CIA says the tapes would have revealed CIA agent identities, as if it weren't possible to blur out identities on tapes.

They obstructed justice, lied to the 9/11 Commission, Congress, and US federal judges. At least they still have a little shame and are a little afraid of public exposure. Spencer Ackerman has more

Rob Perkins said...

Is that a recommendation that you think I ought to take, to read Kiln People, or an observation that I have?

I have read it, twice. Its treatment of some fun metaphysical ideas is typical Brin, and I enjoyed playing with him in that sandbox during the read.

It may go without saying here that I've read everything by David that I could obtain, including some of his peer reviewed papers.

Unknown said...

On the issue of random shootings:

Consider this scenario. You're in a mall, you have a concealed - or even non-concealed, it doesn't matter - weapon.

A young man near you shoots another young man.

How do you react?

Do you shoot him? If so, how do you know he didn't just do what you did? What's to keep someone from shooting YOU, thinking you're the source of the gunshots? Especially since in a crowd, visibility of the sort required to identify shooters is limited.

Do you not shoot him? If so, then what did your gun get you?

A 1% chance of stopping a mad dog is all well and good, but I think the chance of adding to the mayhem is much higher.

There are similar problems with concealed carry to deter crime. If you're mugged while carrying a gun ... the mugger has the advantage, you don't. And if you scare him, he WILL shoot.

David Brin said...


Zechariah, reciprocal deterrence with cameras breaks down when a mad dog starts shooting. But still citizens can document the event and act as helpers in the general process, as did those private individuals who documented 9/11.

What would NOT help is for everyone to walk around armed, all the time, as in the first half of Heinlein’s BEYOND THIS HORIZON. (The second half is terrific!) Think. This guy stationed himself with a heavy weapon on a balcony perch. Most people would have small handguns. Oh, great scenario.

Far better to detect when a doofus is walking around armed! Which people will soon be able to do, when we are equipped with better sensors. Citizens spotting this horror before he REACHES his perch. That’s where the “cameras” would do far more good than guns.

And of course, how many short-tempered people would whip out a gun and use it, if everybody had em? Dang, look at the wild west. Look at the armed to-the-teeth ghettos. Do I want to live in a world where I cuss out a bad driver and he can start blazing away at me? Shit.

Yes, I favor the 2nd Amendment! I do believe the citizenry should be armed. But in such a way that they can best defend their homes and freedoms without endangering each other. How?


Re religion: rob is on-target. But I go farther. The whole “savior” thing is dependent upon a horrid premise, Original Sin.

Why would a decent Father curse generations of future babies to damnation over a mistake made by a couple of ignorant and impulsive teen cavemen? Why would He then demand something that He himself had declared illegal and immoral, a human sacrifice, TO HIMSELF, in order to TENTATIVELY remove this curse from innocent babies -- but only tentatively, demanding also that they recite precisely the right incantations, as well -- especially millions of them, who grow up far away from the Word?

If you want to start going down paths of logic, try that one.

In comparison, the notion that the Creator would patiently set up a vast and marvelous cosmos, starting with a marvelous Bang of distilled mathematics, and then wait 13 billion years to see what marvelous co-creator apprentices might emerge, seems to me t much less far-fetched.

rob had part of it sussed. The Bible is our kindergarten book, filled with vivid and violent stories, and guilt trips, and morality tales, all of it appropriate for children... or immature and frightened tribesmen. Those tales haven’t lost their relevance or resonance, any more than we abandon the values our parents taught us. But we do add more advanced texts, as time goes on!

Right now, I see a two volume set across the room... Morse and Feschback’s tome of methods of theoretical physics, and I know they contain a large fraction of the words that He spoke, when He said “let there be light.” What’s more, I recall those few moments when I managed to read the equations and FEEL their power.

The marvel? I don’t even have to know that He exists, in order to feel that power as a kind of prayer, and to say “wow” at the wonder of it all.

THAT is what terrifies the Fundamentalists, down deep. The notion that science might be continuing revelation. That they are stuck in Kindergarten while others are in graduate school, unrolling the Creator’s blueprints and studying how to continue His work. Like teens entering Dad’s business.

To some of us, that image is SO WAY COOL! Frankly, I find it a far better reply to religious reactionaries than Dennett and that silly crowd, shrieking their atheist manifestos. (I was just at one of their conferences. Yipes, do they miss the point!)

Dig it, this notion of science-as-revelation does not even require one to abandon agnosticism! Since the Great Sermon we see all around us, every day, is ambiguity... we’re supposed to be uncertain He exists. (Try it. Politely ask that he part the clouds, Monty Python fashion, and clear it all up!)

No, I prefer this view, even from the perspective of preaching goodness! Rewards and punishment are for the immature. But the notion of having to get morally better IN ORDER TO BE WORTHY OF DOING GREAT WORK? That seems a better motive than yowping a lot of onsequious nonsense, in order to be one of the 144,000 who don’t get to have blood squirting out their eyes on the plains of Meggido.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the destruction of the interrogation tapes. There is some interesting speculation floating around that on reason may be that the detainees named some key Saudi officials as terrorists sponsors.

Anonymous said...

Here's Gerald Posner on who Zubaydah named as he was brought into custody (even before interrogation).

Zubaydah, wounded when he was captured in Pakistan, was fooled in a fake flag operation to believe that the Saudis held him. Instead of being afraid of the ‘Saudis,’ he demanded to talk to three Saudi princes (one, the nephew of the King, who happened to be in the U.S. on 9/11). He gave his interrogators the private cell phone numbers of all 3. He did the same regarding the chief of Pakistan's air force.

After the U.S. told the Saudis and Pakistanis of Zubaydah's finger pointing, all four men had tragic 'accidents.' The King's nephew died of complications from liposuction at the age of 43. A day later, the 41 year old Prince named by Zubaydah died in a one-car accident on his way to the funeral of the King’s nephew. The third named prince, age 25, died a week later of "thirst," according to the Saudi Royal Court. And shortly after that, the chief of Pakistan’s air force died when his plane exploded with his wife and 15 of his top aides on board

David Brin said...

Holy mackeral. If even half of that is true....

Of course, with trillions, and a closed society, you can buy fresh identities pretty easy. Just hold a close-casket funeral and grow a beard and use another name... with a wink.

Anonymous said...

Just hiding the tapes from the 9/11 commission is criminal.

If there was any White House (or Undisclosed Location) involvement, we're in impeachment territory.

And while the "Saudi Princes" rumor sounds too good to be true, and I don't pin much hope on it . . . that would be the end of the House of Bush.

Unknown said...

Google is your friend:

On July 22, 2002, Prince Ahmed was felled by a heart attack at age 43. One day later Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, 41, was killed in what was called a high-speed car accident. The last member of the trio, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, officially "died of thirst" while traveling east of Riyadh one week later. And seven months after that, Mushaf Ali Mir, by then Pakistan's Air Marshal, perished in a plane crash in clear weather over the unruly North-West Frontier province, along with his wife and closest confidants.

Anonymous said...

"we’re supposed to be uncertain He exists"

FWIW Brams in his "Superior Beings: If They Exist, How Would We Know?" exhibits a two-person non-zero sum game which, under some very plausible (to me, anyway) assumptions about desires of a benevolent "God" and "we humans stuck down here on Terra", has a Nash equilibrium dictating that God's dominant strategy would be to make the universe look like He isn't around.

Rob Perkins said...

Re religion: rob is on-target. But I go farther. The whole “savior” thing is dependent upon a horrid premise, Original Sin.

Ah no. No nononononononono.

"Original Sin" is not a universally Christian notion, any more than violent jihad is universally Muslim.

There are more soteriologies than that, including mine, which explicitly denies the notion of Original Sin. That one was debunked before the Enlightenment really took hold.

And as long as we're dealing in logic, let me point out that even the notion of a math-uttering God at the beginning of the Universe is still rather constrained and Aristotelian-classical, prime-mover-of-the-spheres stuff.

Even so, yeah, I feel the same numinous awe, looking at the perimeter of a Mandelbrot plot. And the notion that such sets can certainly be plotted to produce three-, four-, and five- axis space geometries, all with n-dimensional perimeters of infinite magnitude, enclosing a finite amount of n+1 dimensional space!

Chew on that awhile, and I dare anyone not to whisper some variant of "allahu akhbar" while sitting gobsmacked on the floor.

Oh man, I'm such a geek...

Woozle said...

Frustration sets in as I find myself absolutely unable to keep up, due to time constraints, with the flood of interesting information and discussion here. I shall keep skimming as usual, but I did want to make another plea...

...to please experiment, make an attempt, to post some of this stuff on Issuepedia, where it can be organized and compartmentalized and cross-correlated. Informality is fine; it's not Wikipedia. (This may clarify somewhat, I hope.)

I admit to being slightly baffled at the general lack of enthusiasm for the Issupedia concept, especially among those here who are both (a) interested in understanding complicated issues and communicating about them and (b) well aware of the problems with the more common forms of discussion on the 'net.

Not to blame or criticize anyone; I realize it's probably a matter of my not explaining the idea well enough. If I had time, I'd write a 5-minute introduction, but I haven't yet and won't have time tonight. If anyone has any ideas for what I should explain in such an intro, please feel free to make suggestions.

Okay, that said, my name is Wuz'al (trying to make it sound Islamic) and I've been your thread-hijacker for this evening; I now withdraw my box-cutter and return you to your regular pilot. Allah Akbar and Jeff.

David Brin said...

Woozle, I am so, so sympathetic. (NOT sarcastic!) You are attempting to do something cool to help create communities that engage in a better kind of discourse, as I discuss at: http://tinyurl.com/yy7yxm

So am I, with my Holocene insights. Heckfire, mine even have a hundred patents! (Many of them overlapping.) And still, I am like you, saying "Hello?" anybody out there?

Problem is, everybody is so damn busy. Why do you think I wrote Kiln People, except as a dream of how to get myself out from under? Oh if only. Or if only civilization would value me enough to provide heaps of assistants! ;-)

Can't complain tho. At least this one values me enough to keep me fed, my kids in school funds ... and nobody's garroted me yet for being an opinionated pest.

Rob, isn't Original Sin kind of implicit in the whole human sacrifice to expiate humanity's base-level of sin, thing? Of course, with the concept of vacuum energy, suddenly one can envision LAYERS of baseline sin levels... starting to sound all buddhist....

Rob Perkins said...

David, Original Sin refers to very specific Augustinian thought, shepherded by Roman Catholic and offshoot-Protestant soteriologies.

Anabaptist-descended and Eastern Orthodox groups don't use it. Mormons and any other "restorationist" creed won't use it. To them there is no base level of sin to expiate; the "human sacrifice" is seen as a willing self-presentation, rather than a forced killing.

As to whether the human sacrifice of Jesus implies Original Sin, I don't agree, but I confess to so much ignorance about the mechanisms of such a thing that all you'd get for an answer is a class of supposition common in, say, wheel-spinning string theory.

The supposition itself centers around blackbox ideas of "justice", which takes the form of a kind of unassailable law of physics. It kind of reduces "sin" to being a violation of physical law, as it were.

Thus, God doesn't impose "eternal damnation", one imposes that on oneself through choices made both before birth and after birth.

All of that presupposes a Mormon point of view on the whole question. The actual mechanisms of "justice" and "mercy" in such a construction remain unexplained, but living in that sort of ignorance doesn't trouble me much, since I also can't *really* intuit things like string theory or electron shell energy levels. Or the "wavicle" behavior of light, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again, logon still blown.)

Miscellaneous scientific news:

This article claims Craig Venter is the future -- why scientist-entrepeneurs represent a sea-change from the current big-government model of scientific research:

(Warning: you might have to read a free ad to get a site pass for salon to view this article. It's worth it.)

How introducing simple checklists has revolutionized medical care in a handful of hospitals, saving hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of patients' lives -- yet America remains weirdly reluctant to make this simple practice a universal part of healthcare:

Studies show superior intelligence and talent not the key to academic
achievement; instead, perserverence and teaching a "growth mindset" appears
to be much more important for academic success:

Example of radical transparency in the courtroom. How long before the currently common practice of LEOs "testilying" becomes a thing of the past? And what will this do to conviction rates?

Research suggests that human evolution has sped up over the last 40,000 years, rather than standing still:

New Japanese Stacked Gate Transistor design may boost CPU speeds up to 20 Ghz and possibly as high as 50 Ghz:

New holographic algorithm might hold the promise of converting NP problems to P (not yet proven, highly speculative, probably unlikely -- but, boy, if we find a way to convert NP-complete problems to polynomial-time problems, it's katy bar the door for computational science!):

Congress, candidates call credit card companies on the table for their outrageous financial thievery:

Repubs and Demos are obsolete, argues this essayist. Instead, current politicians divide between corporatist advocates of tyranny and those who believe in the constitution:

Why the Pentagon is happy about the NIE -- the article suggests it's a counter-coup by Bush 41 against Cheney:

sociotard said...

Thank you for your response, Dr. Brin.

In other news:
Nanotube-producing bacteria show manufacturing promise

The research team believes this is the first time nanotubes have been shown to be produced by biological rather than chemical means. It opens the door to the possibility of cheaper and more environmentally friendly manufacture of electronic materials.
In a process that is not yet fully understood, the Shewanella bacterium secretes polysacarides that seem to produce the template for the arsenic sulfide nanotubes, Myung explained. The practical significance of this technique would be much greater if a bacterial species were identified that could produce nanotubes of cadmium sulfide or other superior semiconductor materials, he added.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, nothing like a good Olbermann rant to start the day.

It's fun, really, watching the Reality Control guys on the right trying to cope with this latest round of egregious pooch-screwing. What's the current talking point, that screwing the pooch is honorable and necessary and the sign of a strong leader, and maybe the pooch was just asking for it?

David Brin said...

Yes, a choice rant.

Alas, Olberman will just put off ostriches by seeming a "smarty pants." Still, it is important that someone be out there putting the "alpha" case. After all, there ARE alpha ostriches. e.g. attorneys.

Anonymous said...


Tony Fisk is right. You do have enough material for your own blog. But maybe it's better if you keep posting here. It's like being at a party where two people are having an interesting conversation. It's just as much fun to listen in as to have your own conversation. (Colabrative blogging: is that an oxymoron or any idea needing more thought?)

Dr. Brin,

I'm not convinced that Bush and company have deliberately set out to do what they have accomplished. Lack of compentence is still plausible. However, if you posit that they have, is having a uncooperative three region state, or three separate states in Iraq, not a good thing for ensuring an oil supply to the West? (It's definitely not a good thing for many other reasons.) With three uncooperative states one will be willing to sell us as much oil as we want. Perhaps that's part of what they set out to do?

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again, logon no mas)

God exists and will be destroyed as soon as humans mount an effective timing attack against the computational substructure of space-time and run an anti-virus program at the Planck scale.

(rim shot)

sociotard said...

A few disturbing graphs about the Russian parlimentary elections.

I can't wait for diebold to bring us the American version

Oh, and Zorgon, have you tried using your email address as your logon? I used to use just "sociotard". It stopped working. Now I use "sociotard@gmail.com" and it works again.

Alfred Differ said...

Wouldn't one of those States wind up getting involved in a war with Turkey? Is that still considered possible?

Unknown said...

The holographic algorithm thing is interesting.

And based on what little I was able to find out in a five-minute google, it does have the advantage of being non-obvious, even in retrospect.

(this is important. We are /good/ at algorithms. If P = NP, it has to be by something REALLY STRANGE.)

Anonymous said...

Life After People is on The History Channel

Lorraine said...

I sincerely hope that it is the chimps, and not the 'autistic' humyns, which you are proposing to 'uplift.'