Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ratchet up my prediction score... by a mosquito zap!

This one merited a special posting. Alerted by the inimitable Jamais Cascio...

David, here's an item to add to your prediction hit list from EARTH...or, at least, a very near-miss:

"A quarter-century ago, American rocket scientists proposed the "Star Wars" defense system to knockout Soviet missiles with laser beams. They are now aiming their lasers at another airborne threat: the mosquito. In a Seattle lab, researchers watched a  glass box of bugs. Every few seconds, a contraption 100 feet away shot a beam that hit buzzing mosquitoes, one by one, with a spot of red light. This particular test used a non-lethal laser. But the Cold War missile-defense strategy will soon be reborn as a WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction. [...] Technology might one day draw a laser barrier around a house or village that could kill or blind the bugs...."

Ahem... is that exactly what I portrayed in that 1989 novel?  In fact, some fans have set up a couple of sites to keep a running record of my successful forecasts. Along with the text of a speech I gave, concerning the art of prediction.  In fact, I devote a large portion of my web site to the topic.

(See also  which tracks modern events/trends that were first mentioned in science fiction.)

 Now, if only any folks in positions of influence were actually tracking the most important kind of "intelligence data" of all. How we need a basic scoring system, simply to keep track of who is right more often! (How do you think almost the entire clade of bonus-swilling CEO and hedge-funders would do?)

===== Misc other matters =====

From Mike Gannis: > ... under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing -- at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse. If you ask me, it's all a government conspiracy to keep kids from being exposed to Heinlein juveniles.

==== And with tax season coming ====

Just a month after the birth of my first child*, I began a yearly practice that I recommend to all Americans, who both love their country and want to see the next generation less-burdened by the wastefulness of ours.  Beyond honestly and carefully paying whatever taxes that I owe, I also send a small and entirely separate donation to the U.S. Treasury, to be applied against the National Debt.  It isn’t much - a gesture - but it seems a good way to express not only faith and commitment, but also rejection of the Cult of Selfishness that got us into this mess.  If you feel as I do, then look for the address and instructions, below.

If interested in helping promote this tradition, send your check (made out to US Treasury) to the Treasure Dept: Bureau of Public Debt, PO Box 2188, Parkersburg WV, 26106-2188.  Send enough so that their time logging it and sending a thank you note isn’t a net loss to our kids, okay?  And feel free to use this, next time some ranting flag-waver fool tries to “out-patriot” you.  (Of course, tutoring at a homework club accomplishes much more...)

* In fact I began the practice long before 1992, stretching back to the 1970s.  But there were gaps and my records only prove it starting in 1992.


Anonymous said...

The "toxic book banning" meme is conservative hysteria-mongering.

The new lead testing law has lots of exceptions and variances.

Ah, yes, of course . . . the story is from Pajamas Media, a conservative blogging collective.

Here's a Snopes article about the regulations and the real and exaggerated parts of the story:

Anonymous said...

To summarize the relevant portions of that link: the Snopes entry addresses the rumor that "regulations taking effect 10 February 2009 prohibit the sale of used children's products that have not been tested and certified as meeting new standards for lead and phthalate content." This is false. Used children's products do not have to be tested and certified. However, they still must meet the new standards somehow. There are exceptions from prosecution which include any "ordinary" children’s book printed after 1985. (What's "ordinary"?)

It looks to me that David's post is correct. Unless the vendor of a 1985 or older children's book can find publisher's documentation of testing a book for lead content (did any publish ever do that?) or test and certify a book themselves (expensive!), they risk the penalties. Say goodbye to those old volumes.

I wonder if this will make old collection-worthy children's books rise in value? I don't think the law covers individual-to-individual sales, such as on eBay.

-- Ted

Anonymous said...

My kids (born '86, '90, '93) all loved those vintage kids books. Numerous examples still sit on our shelves complete with chew marks around the corners.

Lead notwithstanding they still turned out to be tolerably smart.

Spend an hour a night reading to them if you can manage. Their verbal abilities will be considerably Uplifted, albeit with annoying results in the teen years.


Anonymous said...

speaking of star wars... that movie is really great since it was launched...

Anonymous said...

This particular hysteria has undergone a number of sea changes since it was first proposed, including scaring the pants off of librarians who were wondering if this would mandate the shutdown of children's collections everywhere. Thank you Stefan for sending it through Snopes; I don't believe it merits anywhere the angst it first engendered.

David Brin said...

While we're at tracking predictions...
Taser has launched a wearable computer, called Axon, that will let cops record every minute of their day and upload it to a secure website. From there, they can share their favorite memories with friends, family, and jurors. "Our Axon and technology will be a lifeline to protect truth," says Steve Tuttle, the VP of Taser. For years, cops around the world have been accused of being a little too eager to reach out and stun someone. The new camera is head mounted, so it will record everything the user lays his eyes on. Each headset plugs into a Linux powered computer or just plug the recorder into the Synapse docking station, and all of the evidence will be automatically uploaded to Taser.

Ahem This was explicitly predicted in both EARTH and The Transparent Society.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Interesting... very interesting... I say that this is definitely a good idea. It protects cops from false accusations, gives cops reason to behave because they're on camera, and can be used in court for whatever crime the cop happens to witness. It gets my vote.

Now, that said, we must address another critical issue. Dr. Brin, STOP POSTING! You've already got two blog posts and multiple comments posts, and it's only half-way through the month!

Anonymous said...

It gets my vote *only* if they're required to keep it on whenever they're on the clock.

Tony Fisk said...

Panopticon enabling doohickeys we have on record, but mozzie zapping laser systems are something I don't recall. Can anyone recall roughly where it was referred to in the novel?

Travc said...

The Axon recorder sounds a hell of a lot like a device I remember being made in the mid '90s. Basically a glasses camera which was constantly recording to a wearable computer. Of course, back then storage density wasn't high enough to save everything, so it recorded to a ring buffer and had a button you could push to save the last 30sec or so of vid. Nifty idea since you could effectively take a picture of what you just saw (as in past tense).

Though, what is up with that name? Axon!? Maybe their eventual goal is to make a full enchephelon or implantable system of some sort ;)

Seriously though, I have mixed feelings about Taser. They seem to oscillate between acting like a defense contractor (in the worst sense) and a company really trying to leverage technology to help law enforcement and save lives.

The laser bug-zapper is a nifty idea. Not really world changing since what is desperately needed is a very *cheap* way to keep infected mosquitoes from biting humans. Though one of these laser systems would be great for the airlock of the insectary in my SO's lab.

Anyway, I think Andromeda Strain gets the prediction points for this one ;)

I wonder how good it is a killing sandflys? Leschmaniasis is not quite as bit a public health hazard as malaria, but personally a nastier thing to get.

Anonymous said...

for Tony Fisk:
the bug-zapping laser is shown in the description of the organic farm of...I forgot the character name, the woman who wanted to cull humanity using the gravity waves and who's carried away by water when the levees broke. It was used iirc to kill African bees in order to avoid them mating with the less agressive stock kept on the farm.

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks, marino. I'd missed that one (it's on p262 of the Bantam edition).

Dang, it even discusses selection by wingbeat frequency!

Oh well. I have a bit of spare time these days, so I can starting dusting the site down.

BTW: the site's sidebar refers to the notorious dropping of references to 'our home planet' in NASA's mission statement back in 2006. This probably needs updating since I notice that the Ames site now includes the following:
'To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.'

Does anyone know when this new wording was adopted, and by what process? (The 2002 version having been arrived at by a certain community concensus)

David Brin said...

I notice that several people have been generously giving their time to editing and updating the pwiki site devoted to listing (or in some cases dissing ;-) my predictive "hits."

I believe the URL is:

Chris and Tony, are you still lead managers of this endeavor?

I will dump into this space a cluster of rough notes I've put in my "predictions?" file... just is case any of them escaped notice by you guys. Thanks for doing this!

New since 5/08:
Journals Find Fakery in Many Images Submitted to Support Research. Related, of course, to what I said in The Transparent Society about “the end of photograpohy as proof.”

Researchers in Great Britain and the United States have imaged the first high definition imprints that dolphin sounds make in water. The resulting "CymaGlyphs" are reproducible patterns that are expected to form the basis of a lexicon of dolphin language, each pattern representing a dolphin "picture word."

My doctoral dissertation at work -- Dark comets may be prowling the , posing a deadly threat to . They are formed when reflective water ice has evaporated away, leaving behind an organic crust - similar to tar and related to the richest parts of carbonaceous chondrites - creating a surface that only reflects a small fraction of the light of normal asteroids.

My predictive hit on this is two part. My PhD thesis predicted that such layers would form -- now the standard model of comets. And my novel (with Gregory Benford) HEART OF THE COMET was the work that predicted the surface layer would be extremely dark.

Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories. In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.So far, no major gene-splicing discoveries have come out anybody's kitchen or garage. But critics of the movement worry that these amateurs could one day unleash an environmental or medical disaster. Defenders say the future Bill Gates of biotech could be developing a cure for cancer in the garage. Many of these amateurs may have studied biology in college but have no advanced degrees and are not earning a living in the biotechnology field. Some proudly call themselves "biohackers" — innovators who push technological boundaries and put the spread of knowledge before profits.

Scientists have found that the
superconducting state in so-called
"high temperature" superconductors
can be induced by high pressure as
well as low temperature.

Um... duh? I considered this to be so obvious that I made it a major plot element in EARTH. When I realized that the most common mineral state in our planet’s mantle layer -- perovskit -- happens also to be the mineral state of some of the best “high temperature superconductors.” Of course “best” in 1990 still meant only a few dozen degrees above absolute zero... and the Earth’s mantle is many thousands of degrees hot. So, the two domains should have zero overlap, right? Except for the intense pressure, down in the mantle! Should this -- might it -- result in occasional highly-conductive domains down there, deep below the surface? The mere possibility led to one of the most , well, unusual plot veers in any science fiction novel. (Or so I’m told.)

Is this one for the predictions registry? Somewhat reminiscent of “The Giving Plague” or Greg Bear’s VITALS - SEED Magazine is citing evidence “... that a significant factor in why some countries exhibit higher levels of neuroticism than others may be the prevalence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The study also indicates that it may influence a society's preference for strict laws, an expression of uncertainty avoidance, and its valuation of 'masculine' priorities such as competitiveness and financial success over 'feminine' values like relationship-building.” Infected men tended to have lower levels of intelligence, superego strength and novelty-seeking, while infected women exhibited higher levels of intelligence, superego strength and warmth. Infected people of both sexes tend to be susceptible to feelings of guilt.

In 2000, Webster reported that rats infected with Toxoplasma are less fearful of and, in some cases, can even be attracted to their feline predators. She surmised that the parasite subtly manipulates a rat's behavior to increase the rodent's chances of being eaten by a cat—the only animal in which it can reproduce—thereby upping the odds of the parasite reproducing. But the human “mutualist or commensal” relationship seems to be far more complex.
=Is this one for the predictions registry? Somewhat reminiscent of ཞThe Giving Plagueཟ or Greg Bearཡs VITALS - SEED Magazine is citing evidence ཞ... that a significant factor in why some countries exhibit higher levels of neuroticism than others may be the prevalence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The study also indicates that it may influence a society's preference for strict laws, an expression of uncertainty avoidance, and its valuation of 'masculine' priorities such as competitiveness and financial success over 'feminine' values like relationship-building.ཟ Infected men tended to have lower levels of intelligence, superego strength and novelty-seeking, while infected women exhibited higher levels of intelligence, superego strength and warmth. Infected people of both sexes tend to be susceptible to feelings of guilt.

In 2000, Webster reported that rats infected with Toxoplasma are less fearful of and, in some cases, can even be attracted to their feline predators. She surmised that the parasite subtly manipulates a rat's behavior to increase the rodent's chances of being eaten by a catཝthe only animal in which it can reproduceཝthereby upping the odds of the parasite reproducing. But the human ཞmutualist or commensalཟ relationship seems to be far more complex.

Anonymous said...

Imagine flying from London to Sydney in 80 minutes with almost no fuel required.
There is a way of doing this using current/near term technology
This is not fantasy, but simple Newtonian Mechanics

At the “Airport” the passengers and cargo would be loaded into a “Pod” this would be a short dumpy cross between a fuselage and a shipping container

At a precise time the “Conveyor” with the pod from the previous station will descend almost vertically and lock onto the waiting pod, releasing the arriving pod.
The conveyor will then rise carrying the pod towards its destination.

The system would consist of the “Conveyor”, a series of “Airports” which are briefly visited and a collection of “Pods” which can be serviced between trips

The conveyor is a length of strong cable (Carbon Nano-Tubes?) which is in low earth orbit and rotating around its centre such that the ends become stationary in regard to the earth’s surface as they go around.
This system has been proposed as part of system to gain access to orbit however it is not really useful as an access to orbit as any momentum change has to be paid for. (By reaction motors (rockets))

As an earthly transportation system it is ideal, as long as the incoming and outgoing pods have the same mass there is no momentum loss

Initial calculations show that for a small demonstration system with a pod weight of 1 tonnes the orbiting conveyor would mass 12 – 15 tonnes
This small system could be used commercially and could move a payload of 500Kg (or 5 people)
From London to Sydney (And the same from Sydney to London) every 80 minutes 24/7

This assumes that the conveyor can be made from Carbon Nano-tubes
with a tensile strength of 60 Gpa
I believe that this will become possible in the next five to ten years.

The pod re-enters the earth’s atmosphere relatively slowly
At 20km altitude it is doing 2000 mph (Concorde speed)
By 5km altitude it is down to just supersonic, the re-entry loads are similar to the aerodynamic loads on a modern jet – nothing like those on the space shuttle

The conveyor will be under tension and will stretch, this means that as far as the payload pod is concerned it will behave like a spring with a very low rate pulling upwards.
The Pod will need thrusters to compensate for losses due to air friction, these thrusters can be used to “fly” the pod to the destination airport.
Any airport within a radius of 500 miles or so could be a target,

The pod is subjected to a peak acceleration of around 2 G dropping to 1.5 G
What do you think?

Tony Fisk said...

While it could be done, I don't think it would be all that practical.

1. such a device could only service set spots on the Earth
2. such spots would have to be close to the equator, or at equal latitudes.
3. what about trips in a counter-rotational direction (eg London-New York)?

norrinat: an ambush predator resembling an old, filthy and battered doormat, that seeks to wrap itself around your shoes and trip you up when you step on it.

JuhnDonn said...

Sen. Ron Wyden on the mystery over who killed a provision in the stimulus package that would have curtailed bonuses at bailed out companies.

This lack of transparency -- and the lack of accountability that results -- is one of the most significant threats to our democracy. This is not at all how the civics books tell us the system is suppose to work. What we have here is a prime example of Washington deny, defer, delay.

Anonymous said...

let me ask something... what is mosquito zap???

sociotard said...

"Mosquito Zap" Refers to killing mosquitos by shooting them with a laser (or 'zapping' them, to employ a bit of onomatopoeia)

sociotard said...

Ah, yes, that chinese text appears to be spam. Somebody wants to raise their google page rank. I used google translate on a few of the links:
*Watch house
*Buy a house
*Construction company since the sale of
*since the sale
*Taipei new homes

David Brin said...

Tony et al... could you contact me separately, I can't seem to find my password etc to sign in onto the PBwiki. Though I am getting the notifications.

This person wrote in requesting to join. Could you let them in?

JuhnDonn said...

Ooh, good article at Rolling Stone:The Big Takeover
The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution

In essence, the Fed was telling Congress to lay off and let the experts handle things. "It's like buying a car in a used-car lot without opening the hood, and saying, 'I think it's fine,'" says Dan Fuss, an analyst with the investment firm Loomis Sayles. "The salesman says, 'Don't worry about it. Trust me.' It'll probably get us out of the lot, but how much farther? None of us knows."

When one considers the comparatively extensive system of congressional checks and balances that goes into the spending of every dollar in the budget via the normal appropriations process, what's happening in the Fed amounts to something truly revolutionary — a kind of shadow government with a budget many times the size of the normal federal outlay, administered dictatorially by one man, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. "We spend hours and hours and hours arguing over $10 million amendments on the floor of the Senate, but there has been no discussion about who has been receiving this $3 trillion," says Sen. Bernie Sanders. "It is beyond comprehension."

JuhnDonn said...

D'oh! Forgot link to The Big Takeover article.

There we go!

Anonymous said...

Are we really sure that laser is just zapping mosquitoes?

Could that be the reason those 2 satellites "collided"?

No, it's just frying mosquitoes:)

Matt DeBlass said...

On a slightly political note:

The Obamas (and, of course, their staff) have officially started the White House Vegetable Garden. My thoughts:

1 - Michael Pollan must be ecstatic
2 - What a great educational opportunity this is, it sets and example of eating healthy, eating frugally, eating locally and being environmentally aware
3 - It probably doesn't hurt from a security standpoint either. The Secret Service knows exactly where the vegetables are coming from, and since the garden is meant to be pesticide-free, any tampering should be easy to spot
4 - As far as image goes, the inevitable photograph of President Obama, Leader of the Free World on his hands and knees pulling weeds will send quite a message.

"antas" a type of breath mint made from ground up insects

Anonymous said...

The link "children's books" should lead to a specific article at the site it links to, but in fact it just links to the site's front page, from which finding that particular article seems non-trivial.

Please post a direct link.

David Brin said...

I'm not sure what anonymous is referring to....

It does appear that the latest round of toxic asset purchases will at least be made on an "auction" basis, forcing the owners to bid downward in competition to offer the taxpayer the best possible purchase price. With a slim chance they'll be worth something, some day. Can anyone verify this?

My unusual take on things is that the "corruption" goes vastly beyond ponzi schemes or even the rampant illegality and failure of fiduciary responsibility. Even among those in their caste who were puntilious at following nearly every law and being open and aboveboard... even most of them engaged in one behavior set that was both illegal and deeply contrary to the spirit of capitalism.

A cabal CARTEL of golf buddies who appointed each other to each other's boards, in clear restraint of competition in the field of corporate management. A cartel that fostered the assumption that only members of this cartel were qualified to offer the services in question. And therefore, that the skyrocketing compensation packages that they voted each other were justified by scarcity of a commodity that they, themselves, artificially fostered.

Of course, for our political saviors to recognize this failure mode would extend the perceived stink FAR beyond the circle of merely AIG and Fannie Mae and those megaliths being bailed out at high cost. It would require recognition of some fundamentals. e.g. that Adam smith warned against elite cronyism as THE major threat to market health! A threat far more pervasive, in human history, and more deadly to markets and freedom, than socialism ever was.

It would entail recognizing that top capitalists are NOT the same thing as capitalism itself, any more than politicians are the same thing as a great democracy. Indeed, both institutions do well in proportion to the degree they remain challenging and inconvenient to the elites who try to say "l'etat, c'est moi."

It would entail recognizing that today's "industrial democracy" model for corporate governance is dysfunctional - nay, psychotic - requiring reworking in fundamental ways. Ways that do not have to involve tons of socialist oversight, just tons more transparency and incentives to manage for the long term.

But I rant...

...anyway, the news from Phoenix was great, today. Ben's high school's robotics team made it into the FINALS of the Phoenix Regional and their team also won the Team Spirit Award. How terrific is that? Now if only the grueling thing would END and let the poor kid get back to AP calc and his eagle project and having dinner with us, again..,....

Anonymous said...


Congrats on your son's robotics triumph. FIRST, I assume. An outstanding program, I have had some peripheral involvment. And am currently doing something similar sans budget.

As I ponder how the younger generation will find the resources, motivation and perhaps compassion to care for us doddering Boomers I console myself with this:

They are gonna build us some absolutely bitchin' power wheelchairs!


David Brin said...

Alas, Russ Daggatt crushed my hopes about the upcoming "auction" of toxic assets.

The auctions of bank crap are intended to result in a higher price for the stuff, not a lower price. Banks decide what they choose to sell and the federal government guarantees the downside. It’s a HORRIBLE idea.

These “public-private partnerships” never work out well. It’s like we are seeking to create moral hazard – private “partners” with almost no skin in the game (only about 3% of the equity put up) swinging for the fence with no downside. What could possibly go wrong? Our private “partners” will be doing the bidding, so they it’s “heads they win, tails taxpayers lose”.

All it does is transfers the bank losses to taxpayers (via the Fed – because Congress wouldn’t approve more bank bailout funds) but delays recognition of those losses for as long as possible.

Heaven help us. Rollig Stone is right. It is a coup.

David Brin said...

Folks, please do (if possible) drop by and help Tony (and others) revise, fill and update the predictions wiki at:

Not only is it interesting -- tracking the successful... and embarrassingly wrong forecasts from Earth and other books. But filling it in and taking care of some of the missing sections could actually help your humble host at getting some attention paid to interesting topics. Making the wiki look fairly professional and respectable could make a real difference.

If you want to join with full writing privileges, just ask Tony.

Thanks and all best.

david b

Tony Fisk said...

wrt 'professional', I'm trying to provide a standard format to each description so, if you do decide to chip in and write up a prediction, please remember to select 'PredictionTemplate' from the bottom of the template list when you create a new page.

One other area where I'd like a bit of assistance is page references. I like to include a brief (um, 'fair usage') excerpt from the novel to demonstrate how the prediction is presented. While some of the remaining uncatalogued predictions do have page refs for later use, a lot do not. If you can go through and add to these, it will save a bit of 'serial-trawling' time.

Reading the Stone's article, I do find it incredible that several hundred billion dollars of government money would be allowed to go walkabout without asking how it is going to be spent. (the latter part of the article even gets as paranoid as some comment sessions in this blog! 'slaves were kept illiterate for a reason' ...brrrr!)
Maybe they're waiting for it to turn up in those open Swiss bank accounts before pouncing? No, that is a wish reminiscent of expecting Superman to put things right!

Hmmm! Daggett's comments on the 'toxic auction' don't seem to have been posted.

Anonymous said...

"This is more than disappointing. In fact, it fills me with a sense of despair."

Even for the Prophet of Doom himself, Krugman, that's some strong language.



Stiglitz seems to be of much the same opinion.

"The plan needs to be transparent, cost the taxpayer as little as possible and focus on getting the banks to start lending again to sectors that create jobs."

That transparent word again...Dr. Brin would love Stiglitz. The only man alive who likes that word as much as he does.

"The taxpayers put out $350 billion and didn't even get the right to find out what the money was being spent on, let alone have a say in what the banks did with it."

That doesn't change under the Geitner plan.


Moving past the Nobel Crowd....

"If I'm right and the mortgages are largely trash, then the Geithner plan is a Rube Goldberg device for shifting inevitable losses from the banks to the Treasury, preserving the big banks and their incumbent management in all their dysfunctional glory. The cost will be continued vast over-capacity in banking, and a consequent weakening of the remaining, smaller, better- managed banks who didn't participate in the garbage-loan frenzy."

James K Galbraith pointing out that the Moral Hazard coin has two sides - this isn't just rewarding Bad Actors, but punishing the good ones who never profited from this boondoggle.




My own observation?

"Nationally, since the recession started at the end of 2007, more than 80 percent of laid-off workers have been men."


Masses of frustrated unemployed male omnivorous savanah apes with GUNS and alchohol are a bigger threat to the stability of a society than pissy bank managers, IMHO.

If we wait 'till they get hungry, we're really in the shit.

Jumper said...

Lasers with the new tracking systems are probably the only thing that will eventually help with "space junk."

There are a few "space elevator" systems proposed that seem far superior to the geosynch cable concept, which in my view is moonbeams and stardust. Wikipedia has links from "space elevator."

Re: economy: "credit default swaps and derivatives were "not regulated.'" A two-edged sword. This means normal laws were in effect. Such as Ponzi laws. Traders were guilty of violation of Ponzi laws. We await indictments.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

My 2 cents on the "Predictions" is that this shouldn't be like Patents.

The importance is, how good someone is at looking at how trends are today, and predicting the future. If someone else has predicted it first - then kudos. But if another party predicted something like a laser bug zapper before them -- it doesn't mean that anyone else isn't using sound judgement if they make the same prediction.

The importance is if they could have honestly heard about the prior prediction.

The other "skill" would be at identifying good ideas. Some of us can pick out a true statement, from ten false ones, or a good technology out of many that don't pan out. This should also be considered a skill in the predictor category -- but maybe have its own category of "wisdom" or something quaint like that.

>> For myself. I not only predicted a lot of things, but drew up plans. When I was ten, I was really excited about coherent light, acoustics -- namely ultrasonics, magnetism and fiber optics.

I was telling my dad; "Hey, if there were some way to quickly detect a sound, and then reproduce its opposite at a right angle -- you could cancel it out." I have something along those lines for light as well -- but different, of course, but it works along the idea of a reverse hologram, so it requires a reference beam to be split and inverted.

I predicted the use of fiber optics in surgery, making a laparoscopic device and using a laser to cut out clots. I used a parasol instead of a balloon, that was also used to scrape the artery walls. My 6th grade teacher told me I didn't know enough medicine to even bother with such ideas.

I thought about using a disk like a record player, and using lasers to etch data on it. However, my system actually used a form of interferometry/holographic data storage. Which can actually work and store a lot more data -- I was never one for the binary dots. I'm still holding out for a memory crystal, that uses xrays in a similar fashion -- the ideas in that design, to create flaws in a solid matrix, utilize the idea of creating a laser at the conjunction of two beams. I was predicting this was a way that could be used to so surgery, destroy tumors, and such inside the human body -- another score with that one. Seems they've been doing that about two years.

I'd say I have about 150 or more real hits on technology. I'm still waiting for "credit jewelry" like a ring that stores personal data and encryption for your credit accounts--"waving" hand to pay for things (I know you may have heard about it, but I wrote down biometric payments 25 years ago), and a choker that monitors health and radios for doctors/police (actually, they have something like that for seniors). But I don't record a hit unless I have working plans that show how to make it.

I sent in to one of those phony patent application companies, a design to use a suspension of "ferro fluid" as a dynamic lens (shaped by magnetic fields). The application was as an amplifier for radio waves. The removal of static, I think was as simple as it was clever -- I was borrowing from the idea of a reference beam in holography, and to remove whatever static that you get in transmission or in the electronics, you send a reference signal with no data through the pipes, and optically remove it when boosting the signal. The laser goes through two ferrofluid lenses, and gets read on a photo sensitive plate. Any jostling, of the device, gets filtered out by the reference beam as well. I think the ferro-fluid lens Idea all alone, was patented a few years ago by someone else. Anyway, if some of these inventor ripoff companies were decent, they might actually make money on some patents.

Have I mentioned these before? I'd hate to be annoying on this score.

I still hold out hope for a technique, that converts heat into light. Seems like it would be a very good way to cool things -- extremely cheaply. If you cold get the technique down for trapping un-balanced electrons in nano-holes, then maybe, conversion without added power. This is another one, that is extremely simple, and I wonder how it hasn't been thought of before.

>> In the more far-out realm. I was changing my model of "how the Universe is" -- right about the time that physics was changing to a multiverse idea where our big bang was one of many and that these event horizons will eventually collide -- or are constantly colliding with these collisions having no specific locality (time and space existing inside the Universe, not outside) -- basically energizing the quantum foam. Anyway, I'm now abandoning this prediction, and I now think that there are many universes created all the time -- but they all are annihilated except for two. The one that is "causal reality" for us, and a higher set of dimensions, that "powers" our Universe -- basically, the source of space time that enters our own.

Based on these Ideas, I was thinking you could create field of anti-matter, coupled with what I call "coherent matter." Another prediction I had many years ago -- that just got proved this year. One property of this matter, which has yet to be discovered, is that it can be transparent to normal matter -- physically. When we think of solids, we are really talking about a structure of interference patterns. The Proton and the electron, are about the relative size and distance that Jupiter is to the Sun -- so there is a LOT of space.

That's why I go back to the pre-Einstein theory of an aether -- which is now getting revamped as a "quantum foam" -- but no. There is a aether, because all this interference has to be disturbing SOMETHING to prevent matter from slipping past each other. I prefer to see it as the middle four dimensions which we only interact with indirectly via gravity and photons -- you can think of it as adding pressure.

Well, long story short, you should be able to manipulate this concept of "zero point energy" but which, I look at as some turbulence from Gravity that resonates with other matter -- kind of like a wake, created by the stone in the water. With very small gaps, you can trade some of the force of gravity for power that does work -- space/time, or the aether, can actually resonate. Now, if you have two plates of some exotic matter that is very tricky to come by; antimatter and coherent matter. You should be able to effect the "higher dimensions" that fix position in the middle dimensions for our every day matter in the lower four dimensions (if keeping track -- that means 12). So I'm predicting, a portal that can put you or your socks, in nearly any place in this Universe, with no loss of time. This is NOT quantum tunneling, or any other mislabeled phenomena. Matter entering the anti-matter side, is in a way, annihilated (so you want to enter the gate QUICKLY), but, before the "particles" (another conversation) can be destroyed as a pure blast of energy, they are absorbed by the coherent matter (very cold, with almost no energy or pattern of it's own beyond a resonance). Since the absorption is nearly perfect, nothing is really destroyed, but the higher dimensional locus of the particle (matter with gravity has another 4 dimensions that describe it) can be changed. But, I don't know enough about how location is fixed in these dimensions to know how you would control it, beyond a bit of trial and error. Error, of course, meaning a detonation like a h-bomb.

Anyway, this is all a guess. But I guessed that the Hubble Constant would be found to be increasing a few years before the Astrophysicists discovered it. I've been, strangely right about a lot of things so far. Spooky. Yeah, but sure, a gate is a taller order. I had a lot of ideas that have now seem to be adopted in physics -- but I've abandoned about half of them now.

OK, I have a lot of less, far-out ideas and predictions. More prosaic things like a business plan for taking our International Trade ideas at this one startup I was involved in, and starting first with an auction system for people to bid and buy online. I was about 6 years ahead of Ebay on that. Except my idea was that you would guarantee the quality and delivery of goods with an escrow account. If you have ever used eBay to buy something, you'd probably agree that it STILL needs that. I had a unique way of encrypting data back when you had to buy your own satellite dish to do anything beyond a Bulletin Board (like Compuserve).

But, I'm still going to keep a few good ideas under my hat. If the dollar and world economic system flat lines -- we can still trade goods. Even trade goods if it doesn't but without money.

I think we also need a way to standardize and trade "green" equipment. Meaning, we have all this great ideas for alternative energy, but a lot of the equipment is custom. We need a system where Green companies can standardize and bulk buy parts, and have them pre-sold if they go out of business. Virtual companies that can change quickly based upon better technology that changes in months rather than years.

>> AS far as social/society predictions. I thought by now that there would be more "recreational terrorism" from the disaffected in society. I did predict, however, an economy more and more based on "security." OK, maybe every dystopian Sci-Fi film saw that one coming.

>> I saw documents that were made of other documents, and linked with "look up fields." So, basically, hypertext documents about 4 years before we had the first nibble of a telnet, and Archie and Veronica. Only, I was thinking of all documents being a kind of "wiki" and that attribution would be part of the linking mechanism. I'm still thinking that part of this has yet to come,... but basically, I was looking at a world where we didn't use patent restrictions and licensing to allow people to benefit from their ideas. You would tax every business profit, and all the IP and technology used to create it, would be referenced in a patent wiki. Everything that it was based on, would either be unique, or reference some other source. Anyone else could also link to your unique data, or back to your sources. The money would flow through about 4 levels of reference and credit those ideas. But I missed the whole hypertext value of this -- I was thinking of it more in terms of an IP-Wiki.

The concept was to reward innovators, while making circumvention have very little benefit--since it's based upon micropayment and taxes that are already collected. The government would function as the IP rewarder in this case, based upon corporate taxes. Get rid of licensing. Add the ability for everyone to have a central location to inform others -- in fact, they benefit the more people promote the usage of their ideas. And this wasn't just for IP -- it was also for music, books and the like. Anything that was information was 100% free in a sense -- but everyone paid into it proportionally. You could even be a net leech -- the money only scales from what you make on derived works (so you have to be a net provider, over the amount you consume, to derive revenue).

This society also used 3 forms of currency at the same time; Leisure, Resource and Intellectual. There were exchange rates to convert between the three -- so you could trade time for goods. The government, set the standards for the exchange rates to balance the society (this works pretty well, because most votes were directly from citizens, with tax penalties being applied for NOT voting-- almost NO elected representatives but there were full time bureaucrats). But it allowed the society to slow things down. There wasn't an attitude of "more is better" or that they needed growth for growths sake -- hopefully, this current Depression, will teach us this value pretty soon.

One of the few, most serious crimes, was propaganda, interestingly.

I'm predicting either we go to a more Democratic-Socialist society (with more individual power, but also, more responsibility), and at the same time, we can go to a much more Libertarian-Repressive society. A pure Capitalist society is extremely depressing. Ownership and control being a bigger decider of success than merit.

>> There was some "job trading" that was required. Higher Education was paid for by selecting an equivalent amount of time of public service -- no exceptions.

I also see a "transition" to a more Cyber existence. I mean, I wrote these ideas down about 30 years ago, so they might seem "old hat" today. But we will have interface ports (every other sci-fi book as some sort of implants). I saw some of the first uses to be to enhance taste. You could be eating paste, and other than texture, it would be a relatively easy task to trick the taste buds to make the food anything you liked. It would be one of the first cyber-manipulations, along with a "memory fixing" button, to both store and erase memories that society would engage in.

But the benefits of food taste manipulation means that the poor person, can eat tasteless food and get some measure of happiness, and the health conscious, can feel like they are eating ice cream, when chewing on wheat grass.

>> The problem I would have, is that it I would have to take days of describing the society I'm seeing in my head. Who else is going to weed through 300 pages to check off all the "hits."

I'm looking at things from more of a perspective of how they should be, or how they can fail. Right now, society is tracking more along the lines of my fears/predictions on a dystopia. We know we are going down the wrong track, when wealthy enclaves start to seal themselves off. They will of course be called "Bubble Burbs." I saw America as eventually running out of other countries to "feed off of" for profits, and that just as Ancient Rome collapsed when it could no longer pillage other countries (it got too big), there would be an economic feeding frenzy of a new bubble economy formed that would cause the Robber Barons to only see each other as the last resource worthy of exploiting (kind of the bubble we are in now, with the derivatives market). However, they haven't overtly started to feed on each other except for a few buyouts.

It could still go either way, though.

JuhnDonn said...

Jumper said... Re: economy: "credit default swaps and derivatives were "not regulated.'" A two-edged sword. This means normal laws were in effect. Such as Ponzi laws. Traders were guilty of violation of Ponzi laws. We await indictments.

What's that saying about wish in one hand and spit in the other?

The bankers are in charge of the monetary system. Not likely they'll smash their own toes.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Eh, I doubt we'll see indictments for Ponzi schemes. You'd have to be able to prove that they actually were running a Ponzi scheme, and new it. And from what I understand of this mess (which, admittedly, isn't perfect), they weren't technically doing anything illegal - they were making what would technically be the regular gamble of investment. It was just insanely high-risk.

I suppose you could possibly present it as a Ponzi scheme, I just don't see it as being something that could be achieved without a lot of luck, skill, or mistakes on the part of the defendant(s) in not covering their ass.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

As others have pointed out -- Brin's laser mosquito destruction idea would be great for space debris.

But I think that SMART genetic engineering may have more promise. Don't keep trying to wipe out the mosquito -- make a BETTER mosquito. And by Better, I mean one that doesn't pick up diseases in the first place, can reproduce MORE (outcompeting the non-engineered bugs of course), and can't stand the taste of humans.

The problem is with anything that effectively worked against mosquitos -- you have to find some way of replacing them in the ecosystem. Lots of important animals feed on them. We need our frogs and bats.

The smart thing to do, is to engineer pests that sidestep humans.

Nature eventually settles most death dealing pests to become mere nuisance or become symbiotic over time. The problem is, the Malaria and other diseases, see the mosquito as their host to adapt to, and not killing humans doesn't seem important to them. So it never adapts to a less pathogenic form. Not killing the host, means a disease gets transmitted more.

The arms race that we seem to go into with weeds and pests is destructive and never ending. But strategies to adapt life to be less destructive, should prevent mosquitos from needing to adapt around our changes. We just need less pesty, pests that survive BETTER.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> I think there are definitely some criminal activities going on with the Credit Default Swaps.

You'd probably, however, get a better idea of what those are, by reading this web site;

A very smart guy who understands these sorts of things. Though, as with a lot of these highly trained Economic/Stock folks, he doesn't seem to understand the relativity of money, and that government CAN spend on infrastructure and MAKE money.

>> Anyway, while there were a lot of lobbying efforts to make things LEGAL, that should have been crimes. There was definitely willful deceit and irresponsible banking moves. Moodies seems to have been rating companies higher, who partake of their (conflict of interest) consulting services. A few companies were conducting naked shorts to drive down the price of Bear Sterns. I'm also, pretty sure that banks were trading these mortgage properties, and mixing them with the "insurance" to trade them like AAA rated bonds -- sort of a quasi fraud. The advantage was, that if they could convert these into other types of assets, they could trade more of them. The limit for a bank to loan to a mortgage might be $10 for every $1 in asset, but I think that certain classes of investments can go up to 20 times assets.

Then there was Negroponte, helping Financial banks sidestep SEC rules via Patriot Act national security provisions to trade (leverage) at up to 40 times assets. Is that criminally stupid, or just criminal? Just because something is legal, doesn't mean that you shouldn't be hung for treason for doing it.

And in 2005, they KNEW this collapse was coming. Because they changed the way banks settle debts. Long story short; The Democrats HAD TO BAIL OUT THE BANKS, because not doing so, would have put the taxpayer on the hook for the entire $1.4 Quadrillion on the Derivatives market (but really, after 1 Quadrillion or 10, it's fantasy bucks anyway).

This was either willful greed on someone's part, or there was an intent to collapse the system. The laws that were revoked and passed should never, EVER, in a million years be done by people who had the best intentions. But some of these rich folks, start getting really myopic -- it's human nature to think what is good for you, is good.

$5 Billion was spent to lobby Congress. The Banksters knew what they were doing, and the politicians got enough money not to care.

If we don't set an example on this -- like we didn't do for the phony Iraq war (the first one as well), Iran/Contra, The S&L bailout, the Vietnam War and Watergate -- just to name a few. Why would any robber baron ever think that the rewards weren't worth the risk? I mean, did the SEC catch anyone in 8 years beyond Martha Stewart?

Tony Fisk said...

Whoever called this relief package 'TARP' ('Third Ares Reconnaisance Pathogen'?) has a very grim sense of humour.

You may want to consider a more benign form of 'giving plague', in the form of a donation to Worldchanging.

I suspect most readers here will have heard of them. For those who haven't, they currently have a hole in the budget and a challenge: raise $10,000 to meet a pledge of $100,000. Among other things, they have another book in the works, tentatively titled 'Bright Green'.

Sounds like a better deal than anything on offer from Wall Street these days. Lord knows, we need someone who shows that there's more to the world than paying rich guys' mortgages.

sturr: the act of sticking a large stick into an old peat bog.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Catching up on Brin's last post, I read this comment;

It was the creation of an international cartel in top-level management, which acted monopolistically, in blatant restraint of trade, in order to corner the market in a single valuable commodity -- managerial positions atop major corporations -- especially international financial institutions.

Sure, these guys maintained a superficial appearance of competing... while appointing each other to each others' boards and desperately fostering the mythology of the indispensable, hyper-elite manager.

Wow. That's something I think some of us suspected was going on -- more of an ad-hoc network. But yeah, this would be the "Powers That Be" -- right there.

The fostering of the indispensable, hyper-elite management -- also know as the "innovator" to be compared to the rest of us useless eater known only as "consumers."

This goes right to the propaganda of people like Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz, and many of the think tanks -- the whole purpose was to create this sort of mythos. And of course, to ridicule anyone challenging the status quo as a conspiracy theorist (apologies however, since some people do actually have unfounded and nutty ideas -- but hey, paranoia comes from a government keeping us in the dark).

On the back channel, I think this is tied up with the NeoCons. It think that ultimately, what they couldn't do by positioning their "made men" executives in places of power to vote each other more largess (Atlas not only shrugging, but setting the planet on all the little guys so that he could relieve himself) -- what the Executive club did to the corporate environment, Neocons did to the Political and Religious. Who they couldn't tempt with good positions and pay above their abilities, they compromised with illegal or perverted activities. You know, the Mark Foley's of the NeoCon world -- who seemed to get promoted not in spite of what they did, but BECAUSE of what they did wrong.

Made men.

It's the mob, just with a different product.

CIA and other three-letter organizations, clears out Democracies like Haiti or Chile for the Robber Barons. The NeoCons take over the politics and teaching of truth as the prophets of globalism. The Economic Royalists.

The media, is run by these people. Only the people who "think correctly" or who are distracting enough, get promoted. Truth-tellers don't get called back, or get set up and kicked to the curb like Dan Rather.

So this is the crack in the veneer -- we are starting to see behind the facade and into the conspiracy of the Robber Barons.

>> And speaking of Secrets Revealed. For those of you who thought 9/11 was an inside job. Well, here is some BIG AMMO, to prove that our BushCo government knew Who, What, and How (only question left was When). A certain CIA asset was just released from prison, without ever having a lawyer, or faced a courtroom, or known what she was charged with.

Now this is a bombshell and a smoking gun....
Tom Hartmann interviewed Susan Lindauer, She is the cousin of Andrew Card (second cousin on her father's side). Recruited by the CIA due to her work as an anti-war activist. She could get in touch with people in Libya and Iraq who wanted sanctions lifted.

A bit of her comments;
"For five years, I was the poster child for President Bush's retaliation against Americans who opposed his War Policy in Iraq. In March, 2004 the Justice Department indicted me for acting as an "unregistered Iraqi Agent" (not espionage), because I delivered a prescient letter to my second cousin, Andy Card, former Chief of Staff to President Bush, warning of the dire consequences of War.

"More dangerously, I had decided to talk. In February, 2004 I approached the senior staff of Senators Trent Lott and John McCain and asked to testify in front of the new blue ribbon Presidential Commission on Iraqi Pre-War Intelligence. Within a month, I was astounded to wake up one morning to hear FBI agents pounding on the door of my house in Maryland with an arrest warrant.

"The indictment called me "Symbol Susan." It was a bizarre notation unsupported by any evidence or action in the indictment. It did however have one crucial purpose?to communicate a warning that anybody breaking ranks from the Bush White House should expect to be brutally crushed like I was.To speak the truth under President George Bush was the worst crime of all. It was treason.
'But what exactly was the U.S. government trying to hide?

"The answer is more far reaching than you would expect. In the first article of this series written and edited with the help of Michael Collins, we talk about the 9/11 warning that my team delivered to the Office of Counter-Terrorism at the Justice Department in August, 2001.
"For those who think you've heard the whole story of 9/11, you might be surprised."
Susan Lindauer, March 1, 2009

David Brin said...

Wow, Shat. You sound like a guy who should REALLY want to see predictions registries.

My chief reasons for wanting them include repudiating charismatic scammers and bringing into the foreground guys who happen to be tight a lot, but whose success has been hobbled by other things like deficits in charisma, connections, luck or tenacity. The objective would be to bring-together the charismatic and networked and luck and tenacious -- and match them with others who happen to be right a lot. And then let such matchups develop as they will.

David Brin said...

I wondered if any of you would recall that TARP was my killer disease in "The Giving Plague."

JuhnDonn said...

The commercial world is very frequently put into confusion by the bankruptcy of merchants, that assumed the splendour of wealth only to obtain the privilege of trading with the stock of other men, and of contracting debts which nothing but lucky casualties could enable them to pay; till after having supported their appearance a while by tumultuary magnificence of boundless traffic, they sink at once, and drag down into poverty those whom their equipages had induced to trust them.

Samuel Johnson
Rambler #189 (January 7, 1752)

David Brin said...

I do a guest blog for George Dvorsky, about uplift, at

It's a cool site.

Feel free to weigh in!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fake_William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...
Wow, Shat. You sound like a guy who should REALLY want to see predictions registries.

If only to relieve my brother of the conversations where I say; "Remember when I told you I had this idea..."

A very great author, suggested that the "Hindmost" was sponsoring an earth lottery, because they believed the best trait of humans was "good luck."

So perhaps, such a website might actually help the government track the soothsayers in society. In the future, Putsches like the Bush administration, would probably want to target these people first. You know, so they don't crow; "These guys are going to crash the economy -- look back at how many times I was right if you don't believe me."
/ snicker 2

>> But seriously, it's a good idea -- at least it warrants further blogging on my part, I've already paid for the electrons to do it.

I was thinking of something that might help in this regard. I'm working with this fellow who wants to do green investing. And my idea was that companies creating solutions, could post what equipment they used to build and manufacture their solution -- nobody would have direct access to the plans but the submitter, but the data would go into a database, quantifying how much pipe, what gauge steel -- basic things like that.

The PAYOFF, for developers, is that they get to have a way to provide good numbers, for the equipment they need. More than one developer, can look at these numbers, and realize; "If I just change to a 3/4" pipe from a 1" pipe -- I can get it at half price."

It's a way to standardize things that are going to be custom at first. The main thing harming investment into alternative energy, is that there is a slightly better idea next week. How can I justify, as an Angel Investor, putting my life savings into someone's bio-energy plant, if it becomes obsolete?

>> It's the same problem if I were to post, how to make a "gravity lens." I'm not the type of person who can even change the oil on my car. But dang it, I've been right too often to ignore, and I can SEE how things work -- model them in my head. I see how the "byproduct" of time/space creates what we call gravity. I'm pretty sure how it can be diverted/manipulated.

So people like me -- dreamers. Are not the engineers. But it isn't an accident, that so many real inventions have been preceded by Sci-Fi authors. There is a "truth" that we can instantly recognize. Smart people often see me as an idiot. Really smart people, however, have a different reaction.

It's important that the people who CAN recognize truth, get access to the people who have ideas. It's important that the engineers can be inspired to go down the right path -- since often, the people who are best and implementing a plan, are too busy knowing what works and what doesn't to ever come up with new breakthroughs. I've definitely seen the limitations of "knowing too much." Not that you can be ignorant and just pull brilliance out of a hat -- but the failings of people who study medicine very hard, or learn the incredibly difficult math involved in quantum physics -- after they go through the gauntlet, they often seem less open to new ideas that don't involve the skills they learned.

Einstein fought the old guard and threw out the concept of an aether. Now we've got "complexity theorists" who want to fit everything into a Quantum-particle model. Every unexplained phenomena is solved by a new particle. Since we can't see any of these things yet - it's the problem of 5 blind men describing an elephant -- they think they have 5 different creatures they discovered.

But the dream precedes the Math. And when they combine, you get useful scientific theories.

We need a better mechanism to reward ideas. And the ability to put your idea in stone, and put a date stamp on it, helps people get support later on. Because If I'm saying light can be used to effect gravity, and last year some University in Virginia levitates a small object with light (which they ascribe to it bouncing off the quantum foam -- which means, they DON'T know how it works the way I do) -- well then, I would have some credit, instead of annoying my friends and family who long ago tuned me out for "hey, I had that idea...." Nobody gets ANY respect for anything but making a buck on their idea. The typical response to dreamers is; "Yeah, sure you did." So you either go crazy or you shut up.

Having flirted with the "go crazy" for too much of my life, I've resigned my self to be an underachieving multimedia developer.

Sometimes, you only get to DREAM that some big company will pay you a pittance and exploit your big brain -- or you might get a lawyer, and get your idea stolen because you don't have enough cash to fight the company that is now making your product. The spoils almost always go to those with enough money for patent lawyers.

Programmers, have to give things away for free, or spend as much time seeing if someone patented the "for loop" as they do developing.

>> So there ought to be a REASON -- a benefit of an "Open Patents Wiki." Our current IP and patent law, seems to me a great restriction on innovation.

Until you can come up with something useful -- and can MAKE a product with it (because the clock is ticking after you patent), you don't want people to know your idea.

So in my dream of a future society that is actually a Meritocracy,... you transfer the taxes to a pool of money. And that pool gets apportioned out to all the idea people who got it right.

How you do this with our current system, however?

The rewards go to those who can take them, and pass laws to make it legal. At a large convention, we pay ASCAP when we play music. They never ask us what the songs are -- they ask us how many people attend. The "excuse" is that this is to compensate artists. How do they know I played "Eye of the Tiger" or something from MoTown? They don't. And they don't care.

>> You could have a donation pool, to a Wiki-based site. At least, you can advertise great thinkers, so they might find some support later. But more likely, someone will troll the ideas, and never attribute it. Sure, you can bitch and moan that "hey, dude -- it's right there from April 1st, 2009 -- at least give me an attribution!" They won't.

But it's a bit better than not having anything to point to.

I'd think about contributing to such a thing, but I have to limit my "creative time." It seems that I can come up with ideas as fast or faster than I can write. And the more I do it, the less employable I am. I've been seriously scared in the past of using my brain too much -- I have to quickly turn on the News or Cartoon Network, to kill a few brain cells and calm myself down.

At a Liberal Arts college in St. Petersburg Florida, I was almost kicked out of a Creative Thinking Class for being too creative. I wrote 120 ideas on how to make use of a paperclip, which was about 50 more than the entire class put together (and I rejected the simple ideas).

So it would be a full time job, combing through such a collection and finding WHAT the idea was. I mean, If I create a volume of ideas, and it's a run-on sentence, nobody is going to know that I got it two days before Joe Blow -- because they aren't going to read it.

>> So to make such a Wiki -- you'd have to come up with ways to qualify the idea. IBM has a really great patent submission and search program -- and that is a good place to start.

If I were building this -- I would want to bring in a specialist who develops "Speech to text" software. Work on letting computers understand written or spoken language, helps to cross-reference possible memes with the words in context. You don't need to have the computer UNDERSTAND what a writer might be submitting, but the heuristic tree it builds to try and figure out the MEANING -- is pretty much how the data should be stored.

I had an idea that the brain stored information holographically ( think there is a lot more to back up this theory today). Each neuron in the brain, except for a few exceptions DOES NOT, STORE a specific bit of data. What happens is the brain takes a "snapshot" of the neural branches. Many of the neurons involved at the time, know of the pattern. Recalling the information, means having a "similar thought" -- or a new set of events, that evokes a certain percentage of that same snapshot. It's why people remember better, the more disparate details they notice -- not LESS. Focusing is not a great path to memory -- it's why Multimedia works to inform people. We have sight, smell, touch -- the more senses involved, the "bigger" the footprint of the snapshot -- the more likely the data retrieval will have a similar pattern. When people are "reminded" of a previous event -- they don't have to see the same red dress, they might just remember the smell of cookies and being in a store. So, retrieval just needs a certain threshold of matches -- not a certain "percentage" of matches.

Google is close to -- but doesn't quite have this down yet. But I'm sure they are thinking about it.

>> OK, maybe a new type of database is something for Version 2.0. But version 1.0 would need a way for a person to associate the TYPE of idea they want to claim. They should be limited to the number of associations in this case -- because being too broad and vague, isn't very useful, except to say; "I had the idea of anti-gravity." Did they say how? No. But there are some nits out there who would claim that Anti-gravity breakthrough on just that vague notion.

So there has to be, ahead of time -- a threshold for a "hit" that is not subjective.

A form should be filled out, that requires some idea of "how do you do it." For example, even saying a prediction like; "In March of 2009, there will be a huge natural disaster affecting the ground." Now, some will claim later that they got a hit on the Alaska volcano (as they do at -- who use a program that scrubs the web for ideas in blogs, and uses the changes in speech to try and predict the future). But, to me, there has to be a Horseshoes standard.

If you said, "in the spring, we will have a volcano explode in the Western Hemisphere and threaten a city," and another person says; "we will have a cataclysmic natural event in Alaska this year." Who gets MORE credit as a soothsayer? Person A had the time down to 4 months, the type of event, and a very vague notion of where, but not much about the impact. Person B had a better idea of location, and the extent of damages. Neither prediction would have helped in this case, a person who didn't want to get covered by Lava, because they aren't going to leave the state in case your volcano shows up, and having a vague notion of a bad thing at a specific time; Do I wear a Poncho or a Helmet?

But, I think if you come up with an agreement for scoring based upon "Utility and Certainty." If I say the Planet Earth, as a location, that is at least, more useful than saying Mars and being wrong -- but not much. The extent of the event effects a few miles -- maybe 25. So there we can say, that if someone said "Earth" for a volcano, they get a 2 out of a possible 100. If someone had the disaster down to a 25 mile location -- since it effects that amount of area -- they get 100 points on Location. So, on a quick tally, I'd give person A a score of 90/1000 for time, 12/100 location, 90/100 for event, 50/100 for extent, and 5/100 for general Utility. Person B would get 10/1000 for time, 50/100 for location, 5/100 for event, 10/100 fore extent (hardly anyone got hurt -- not cataclysmic). Looking back, we might also want to ask if it effects property, people, or just news reporters.

It's very important, to create the yardstick BEFORE giving the credit. Even if the measurements are arbitrary -- everyone playing Tennis uses the same net and the same distance between the lines. It may not be right -- but it's fair. It also puts down the inevitable noise created by people publishing volumes of "there will be a Volcano in Alaska" -- and they of course, have 49 other US states predicted as well, each and every month. Predictions for disasters and politics should have a volume vs. hits score to modify a person's record. But for inventions -- a thousand bad ideas are not a negative, as long as one is good -- if at least, you have an idea on how to make a thing. Again, however, each category is going to need a different yardstick -- or maybe you weigh it or check the volume (you get the idea).

Anyway, I think it's a very worthy project.

JuhnDonn said...

Hey Shat, small world! I did Mac tech support at a small liberal arts college in St. Pete, near the beaches. Nice laid back school but a pain when hurricanes approached. 3' above sea level meant a lot of machine moves. I was there from '97-'05.

Oh yeah, my wife attended same school back in late '70's.

Tony Fisk said...

Hello, this sounds familiar.

More wastage on infrastructure:

US to Boost Mexico Border Defence

... with patrols, that is. Not good, solid concrete constructions (contracted to...?)

JuhnDonn said...

Well, if they can get Boarder Patrol agents up to the Clinton era levels, that'll help. And the fact they're working on U.S. smuggling to Mexico as well is a good thing. Most of the gang weapons are coming from the U.S.

David Brin said...

Shat -- here's the idea for your green investor... why focus on one narrow idea, when he can help create a "pump-priming" institution that would leverage OTHER millionaires and billionaires into doing great things.

See -- EON: the Eye of the Needle Foundation -- proposing an entirely new kind of charitable institution, one that might help dramatically enlarge the pot of modern generosity by offering the super-wealthy (and many of the rest of us, too) some unique incentives. Something for the man or woman who has everything.

David Brin said...

As a flavor... favor for my friend George Dvorsky, I have been answering questions and being ornery at his excellent blog:

I invite any here to drop in there and weigh in!

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Gilmoure said...
Hey Shat, small world! I did Mac tech support at a small liberal arts college in St. Pete, near the beaches. Nice laid back school but a pain when hurricanes approached. 3' above sea level meant a lot of machine moves. I was there from '97-'05.

Oh yeah, my wife attended same school back in late '70's.

LOL. I went to "Eckerd College" we used to call it "Eckerd Drugs." The lightning displays over the ocean made up for any storm surge in my mind.

I remember being at the Gamma dorm, where if was very religious (they seemed to be very conscious of grouping people at this school). And it was even stranger, because the token heathens were me and my roommate. Now, they had more issues with me, for whatever reason (penchant for honesty, maybe), than my roommate -- who had tats way before they were trendy, a 7 foot Python, and a dog named Bear who would usually knock over the beer cups into the cigarette ashes at least once a week (on my bed). I don't smoke and back then, I couldn't stand beer.

I actually wrote a song called "I Fear the Beer." Ah, the inspiration.

HE ended up not able to deal with me -- which was all for the best, because I went to a dorm where they had a lot of hippies. In general, I'm not against the hippies because they were fundamentally right about the important stuff -- but there are a lot of people who adopt the trappings, because they just want to get high. They aren't really hippies -- but they, and the Conservatives, don't know that, so it's pointless to argue.

I'm sure all these people are staunch Conservatives now -- because their drug use was so very herd like. Oh yeah, that was the Kappa dorm. Actors and Stoners.

>> Boy, it takes me back.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...
Shat -- here's the idea for your green investor... why focus on one narrow idea, when he can help create a "pump-priming" institution that would leverage OTHER millionaires and billionaires into doing great things.

See -- EON: the Eye of the Needle Foundation -- proposing an entirely new kind of charitable institution, one that might help dramatically enlarge the pot of modern generosity by offering the super-wealthy (and many of the rest of us, too) some unique incentives. Something for the man or woman who has everything.

I'll check it out.

This guy I'm helping -- not sure how serious he is, because he's been trying to do the 501C gig (I think that's the charity paperwork) for a few years.

I was thinking of something more along the lines of "recycling" the Green Tech, so that it was cheaper for startups. A way to standardize innovation.

>> But I might go the total philanthropic route,... I'm doing some donation work for a lady who is from South Africa. She was a broker, but now has gone back to her calling; as a mystic. I keep an open mind -- and I'll take supernatural help if I can get it. But I'm still waiting for any non-explainable phenomena to manifest. She has a lot of top-tier power brokers who are believers, and she is in the bent of taking people onto the green path right now -- however they get there, I'm game.

My designs for her have become the symbol for the Women's movement in South Africa -- though I don't know if it is THE symbol, or "A Symbol" if you get the difference. This lady, is positive about everything -- so that means, I don't know if something is good or not -- it's ALL great. I'm apparently, the best designer in the world.

>> I've got to create a blog for her -- so I'll look into some of these new "automagical" CSS Web 2.0 blogs and maybe send you a few links if I find one that is; Cheap or free, super easy, not spanking servers to accomplish this magic.

>> My own thoughts about "charity" is that for the most part, they are a huge waste of time -- beyond a good source of therapy and feel-good for the participants, they don't change the world. Habitat for Humanity -- however, is one that is a rare exception. So, anything that models along those lines I think is the way to go.

>> I've committed myself, however to do two things; Read the book "Web of Debt" by Ellen Hodgson Brown, J.D. and learn to program the iPhone (just downloaded the developer's kit yesterday -- can't wait to learn Objective C language). Because there are two HUGE trends I see in the future; 1) that whether or not banking fails, people are going to be moving towards Credit Unions, and smaller or public banks. 2) The ONLY stock I would buy is Apple right now, as the iPhone is going to become the new "platform" for people doing cool things.

Apple was about the only stock I kept 10 months ago. And just before everything turned South, I sold it. Of course, I could predict the economic downturn -- but I didn't know that Apple would actually be one of the few stocks NORTH of my sell price. I mean, I'm sitting here thinking about saving seeds and building a Victory Guarden -- and I still have technolust and MUST purchase their next widget. Nobody else can get inside my head like that.

Do you know they demoed adding a USB probe and turning an iTouch into a tool to monitor blood glucose levels for a diabetic? I mean, every week there are 10 new apps for this thing -- and at least one really useful thing I've never thought of. Steve Jobs added a Geek Port to the old NeXT computers -- and he has a hidden strategy to make the iPhone a Star Trek TriCorder -- you wait and see. Not speaking out of school of what you can read on -- but the next phone is going to likely have a 3-core processor and even more 3D capabilities. I just would like it to run Keynote, so that I can run the next trade show off of my phone. Do you know how useful it is to have "Drink Mixer Pro" in my pocket along with "Super Pickup Lines for Parties?" I'm not going to drag out my laptop, but I can pour Vodka with one hand, and tell a lady she must have hurt her ankle falling from heaven. It's all about the immediacy.

So if I can converge the new banking trend, Green philanthropy, and then make it some sort of iPhone application,...

Okay, I don't want to bogart the conversation - I'll pass the pipe. ;-)

David Brin said...

Another for the registry!

Aussie Barflies Monitor Texas Border from Local Pub- by David Axe on 3/24/09

Texas border sheriffs have set up an ad-supported Website where people all over the world can monitor border surveillance footage to spot illegal immigrants. “We had folks send an email saying, in good Australian fashion, ‘Hey mate, we’ve been watching your border for you from the pub in Australia’,” Don Reay of the Texas Border Sheriffs’ Coalition told The Guardian.
Around 100,000 people have signed up to become “Virtual Texas Deputies,” according to the newspaper.

The $5-million, 1,000-mile-long user-monitored border system relies on barflies and others to report anything suspicious they see. “Web users who spot an apparently illegal crossing will be able to alert the authorities by telephoning a number free of charge,” the BBC reports.

But how many casual users do you really think will pick up a phone and make that call?
(Photo: via

sociotard said...

I just wish the Texans weren't using herbicides to clear the plant-life along the border, ala Vietnam.


Tony Fisk said...

A couple of items in the last edition of New Scientist caught my attention:

This one for WS and his concept of holographic neural memories:
None of this precise '*you* are here' nonsense:
Whole brain is in the grip of consciousness

According to economic theory, money is just a logical construct to make trade convenient. So, why do we handle it so illogically? In fact, we seem to handle it in the same way as food. (keywords: satiation, addiction, and probably bulemia) Link

Finally, you might recall recent discussions about the 'brittleness' of modern day infrastructures and their over-reliance on 'Just in Time' supply lines. I was a little skeptical, partly because I couldn't think of a credible threat to that structure.

Well, put aside any threats from 'communication satellites' and shifty looking characters in need of a shave, and start thinking of the phrase 'Coronal Mass Ejection' in the same way you think of 'mid-level nuclear exchange' and 'EMP'. A gob of plasma coughed up by the sun which strikes the earth wouldn't kill you outright. However, it would kill the means by which modern man lives. Specifically, it could burn out all power transformers and bring down the grid for half the US (or Europe, or China) Getting all these transformers repaired is where the 'just in time' problem starts to grow 6" fangs. The outage could last for years, in which time millions would have died from cold, thirst, starvation, lack of medical supplies, violence...

It's a grim and ironic scenario, given that the previous week's issue discussed how a high voltage DC power grid could both store and distribute the power from various alternate energy sources!

Is this the sort of idle, alarmist speculation of the sort that one associates with NEO asteroid watchers?
The sun is currently just coming out of a prolonged quiet phase of its cycle, so it's unlikely to happen tomorrow. However, cascade failures due to solar activity have occurred recently (eg. 1989). The last really big CME to hit Earth was 'the Carrington Event' of 1859, so I would put the long term annual risk of this threat at the order of 1% pa. Enough to lose some sleep over.

dessa: what happens when plasma starts ta messa wid da tessa!

David Brin said...


Anonymous said...

"Shrugging" at AIG.

(Some of the Ayn Rand haters here seem to forget - or more probably never actually read that far - that Rand identified corrupt and parasitic businessmen as particularly despicable.)

Joshua O'Madadhain said...

Nicholas Kristof proposes a predictions registry:

JuhnDonn said...

Echos of Dust Bowl?

California Can't Afford Water ProblemsThe Central Valley Project has made a preliminary decision to cut off all water for irrigation this year. The State Water Project is set to deliver just 10 percent of its normal allocation to farmers. That leaves producers to leave land fallow or dependent on precious groundwater supplies.

The lack of water has an impact beyond the farm gate. The study estimates that Californians, both producers and those whose livelihoods are tied in some way to agriculture, will lose between $1.6 billion and $2.2 billion in direct and indirect income.

The study also estimates that 60,000 to 80,000 Californians will lose their jobs. Most will be relatively low-paid field workers who will find it difficult to find other jobs.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Sorry, but I was inspired to create another wall of text.
Tony Fisk said...
A couple of items in the last edition of New Scientist caught my attention

Good find Tony. If we had an idea registry, I would have gotten credit for that over ten years ago. And my point was specifically talking about a neural network branch pattern being used for information retrieval.

The Coronal Mass Ejection is always going to be a potential problem. NASA is pointing to a potential weakening of the magnetic fields around the earth. And you know, one of those pole reversals could leave us with no magnetic field for a few years.

The real problem I think comes in when you get a lull in Solar winds and then get a huge storm. I'm pretty sure that our field gets powered up by the normal solar winds. So, even if the sun gradually put out more radiation -- we'd be OK, but we'd certainly get more lightning storms -- more electricity from the interaction of charged particles and earth's magnetic field.

So hopefully, if we get a big blast from the sun -- it's after a lot of solar wind. Wear that sun screen.

I also want to say; that the damage from EM fields-- you know the ones from power lines and computer monitors, to health is VERY arbitrary, and doesn't depend on the strength of it (this is me talking -- I haven't read it anywhere yet). It has to do with resonant frequencies of what are called "calcium gates" (if memory serves me). The way a cell gets the nutrients it needs, is that all our nutrients are ionized in the gut. They get a net negative charge and leach into the blood stream. The cells, keep a net positive charge with extra by stoking up extra Potassium (this is why its important for athletes to drink electrolytes, I suppose). But it's not as simple as negative ion attracted to positive one. The gates, keep out everything but what fits the "key hole." The Calcium gate gets a message from the nucleus of the cell with the typical messenger enzyme or protein (not sure), then it resonates at the proper frequency of the nutrient required -- so the cell doesn't have to pump out all the stuff it doesn't need -- that would be extra work for sure.

You could probably see where this is going. If the frequency of a magnetic field is the same as the nutrient -- it's going to prevent its absorption, since the Calcium is a metal. Either the exact opposite or the same frequency (one dampens and the other makes it too energetic), is going to prevent healthy uptake of the cell.

So EM poisoning would be the perfect thing to NEVER get attention by our Corporate system of "prove it kills you" to stop anything in this country -- thank God the Swiss pushed these standards first. But depending upon what is in the room distorting the fields, and what nutrient a person needs -- EM fields will have absolutely Zero effect, or cause absolutely ANY random lack of nutrient. Almost any symptom over time.

>> And along the lines of the ionic nutrient system. There was some Swedish nobel prize winner (for Xray technology or something) who proposed that our nervous system worked as a conduit for electric charges. He noticed that on Xray's a lot of tumors that saw spontaneous healing had halos appear around them. He surmised that there was yet another immune function going on where the human body sent extra fluid and nutrients to an area by negatively charging it. It dried up and starved an area with an extra positive charge. To me, it was the missing link between Eastern and Western science and I wrote a lot of theories about this when I first went to college.

Anyway, the guy was laughed out of his position of respect due to this theory (of course).

Still, I think he was on to something. I also went on to propose an idea of how chemicals find each other in a solution based upon a theory of "inverse harmonics" -- because I figure, how do cells get the right nutrient in a solution? Any negative and positive charge would be attracted to each other right? So, how does the motion of a calcium ion bring in the right one? It produces the exact opposite frequency (in ultrasonic ranges). To any particle in the solution, this frequency is just more random noise. But to something vibrating at the opposite frequency, it will dampen motion in the direction of the motion.

And from that, I had an idea for a device that "transmitted" like a homeopathic remedy. It's an idea from the Xray specialists "electric nervous system" idea, and from the Calcium gates, and a bit of the silly nonsense that linked Homeopathy and Quantum Mechanics. Well, it turns out that Quantum Mechanics DOES now say, that the idea of a particle impinging its pattern on something like alcohol or water IS POSSIBLE. Thanks for catching up guys. That's how I described it 24 years ago. Conservation of Energy -- SHOULD be changing Quantum Patterns inside of atoms. Think about it. An atom of water bouncing up against a glass jar a million times -- the glass has an atomic frequency and balance of charges. If the patterns inside the water atom, are inverse to the glass, then the impact is dampened. This could be tested with very sensitive equipment and a large volume of very pure water; Take a certain volume of water and shake it at extremely high frequencies with something like copper beads. Do it for a few weeks. Test it to see how much copper is in the solution. And introduce another sample and merely mix in the same amount of copper such that they are chemically the same.

Let both samples sit and have the same resting temperature. Then shake both vigorously at high frequencies for a few minutes. The NEW sample of water, should be slightly warmer or have a different florescent state when zapped with a laser.

SUCH A TEST, would prove that there was a subatomic frequency adaptation to the material that reduced the heat energy from motion. It could be further assumed that, the Water of the same chemical solution, can be different depending on the materials it has "adapted to."

This means there is a memory. An echo of what has interacted is left. We take this for granted with magnetic computer memory -- but such information could be read out of almost any material.

The other implication is that Homeopaths were right. That distilling Hemlock in a solution of water and diluting it more and more, can actually have water that takes on properties of Hemlock without having the atom.

From this concept, I imagined a device that "broadcasted" the Homeo properties. Water or another pure substance (I preferred laser-cooled Helium -- and YES, i figured that out way before everyone else and they finally laser cooled objects about 5 years ago -- not that I've kept track). Helium also has the benefit of acting like a metal.

But almost any disease, if it could be distilled, could be destroyed by the Quantum Transmitter.

However, I won't impart how I'd make such a thing. Its use could impart the inverse of health as well.

>> I only mention these things -- because I know I'm never going to be in a position to get credit or benefit from it. I figured out how to cancel out sounds when I was ten, and laparoscopy and about a hundred or more inventions (almost went crazy then). And what good did it do me? Having an original idea in the State of Georgia at High School is the equivalent of farting in Public. Having all these interests distracting me from the making of money and bedding of women and the only response I get is indifference, people wondering why I'm trying to freak them out, or I'm just a loser trying to take credit. If I were smart -- I'd have made money by now because that is the only measure that counts.

So, I went to Business School and took Programming, after art school and after the Engineering/Writing courses I started out with. When I learned the average writer in the US made $145 per year, at the time the choice was simple.

But I've come to terms with it. There are evil psychopaths who commit war crimes in Chile, and get toasted at huge benefits and live to ripe old ages. There are thoughtful kids who have a bomb land on their house and that is that. Nothing is fair and "Karma" is a comforting notion. But occasionally, you can cast your bread upon the waters.

God, if I'd only grown up in an area where there wasn't a war on reason going on.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

TwinBeam said...
"Shrugging" at AIG.

(Some of the Ayn Rand haters here seem to forget - or more probably never actually read that far - that Rand identified corrupt and parasitic businessmen as particularly despicable.)

Try reading about the Straussians sometime -- then get back to us.

Ayn Rand, Allan Greenspan, Karl Rove, and the rest of the Cancerous polyps that metastasized with their concepts of executive exceptionalism (very easy ideas for wealthy people to accept) into Globalism.

That Atlas Shrugged is such a stupid, crappy, imperialistic bit of tripe. The notion that the poor and powerless will "burden" the smart people. What a con job. It's the owners that have Tech graduates washing cars while their jobs go to India. As soon as India starts charging too much -- those jobs will go to another country. For me, that book is a Litmus test for stupid.

>> Does it seem like I've formed an opinion? This is Neal Boortz's favorite book. Do these pseudo Liberatrians mention that the moonies back half of the Libertarian think tanks?

Drop a person in some salt water, with some well ground Atlas Shrugged pamphlets, and if it turns blue -- discard the solution, it's way too basic.

The damage to the world from Straussian/Randian advocates isn't done yet.

Another graduate of this school was Arthur Laffer and his "Laffer Curve." That gave us the Supply-Side economic theory. Before Reaganite adoption of this drivel, everyone since the dawn of money knew that the wages of workers decided Demand. The replacement for wages has been cheap credit -- which we've run out of.

>> In case anyone is going to get confused about the culprits:

AIG will be changing their name to IOU -- sorry, now, something like UIG, I think.

Blackwater will be changing their names to Ex.

Diebold, who like all the other Elections for Profit gigs has a convenient button to just erase votes without a log file, will be changing their name to Premier Election Solutions -- seems that they solved this prickly problem for their clients.

Project for a New American Century (PNAC) -- chock full of Randian devotees, will be changing its name to. Yes, the Likud party is deeply imbedded into the very bowels of America, and we no longer call the shots.

Like all the CIA Cocaine and Rendition planes that change their flight numbers but not their errands.

The cockroaches will wait and see what Obama does, but they will press on with their destruction of Democracy, and re-emerge when the lights go out with new names.

>> And just like how the Fed got formed, to prevent the Banks from crashing our system, by putting Bankers in charge. The New bank crash will require the bomb makers to be in charge, because they are the only ones who know how to diffuse it. History repeats, for the greatest scam. If it's not a finance crisis its a war -- and its the same progeny that hand down this family business and we think these crisis are all accidents.

Atlas didn't shrug-- he's using the globe as a port-a-potty.

Jester said...

" (Some of the Ayn Rand haters here seem to forget - or more probably never actually read that far - that Rand identified corrupt and parasitic businessmen as particularly despicable.) "

Uh, her Ubbermensch was a guy who defrauded his employer, broke the terms he agreed to when he was hired, and destroyed his employers intellectual and physical property.

Remember? Galt developed the Electrical Free Lunch Engine while he was on the clock, making it his employers property, but then he threw a fit and destroyed it because the pay package changed in ways he didn't like.

Everything anyone ever needed to know about Rand -


Just another sad fan-girl with a tendancy to develop crushes on murderous psychopaths.

"What is good for me is right" was her credo, such an original thought...but it's one she lifted without atribution from a man who kidnapped, murdered, and dismembered a 12 year old girl.

TwinBeam said...

Jester and Captain Shatner - you seem to have mistaken me for someone who'd take offense at criticism of Ayn Rand or her books. Sorry - no joy for you.

My reason for posting was simply that people have been attacking those at AIG who didn't cause the mess, and who are trying to restore order. As a result, the people at AIG are now simply shrugging and asking "Why did I bother - this country doesn't deserve my hard work. I'm outa here."

Surely, even with apparently having not actually read the book, you can see the analogy?

As for the rest of my comment - I was merely pointing out that only someone ignorant of "Atlas Shrugged" and Rand's beliefs would believe those to be approving of the greedy and incompetent financiers that created this mess. Such ignorance does not deserve self-righteousness.

I'm not claiming to be a "Rand Expert" myself - I read the books decades ago, dabbled in Objectivism, and moved on.

Jester said...

You entirely missed the point of my comment.

Rand had nothing against dishonesty, theft, murder, extortion, rape, or long as they were commited by the sort of Man she considered "Worthy" of making his own laws.

John Galt was a looter, but it was OK because he was an Ubbermensch.

The question isn't whether or not AIG execs were "parasitic", but whether they were ruthless enough to get Ayn wet.

If so, she'd condone all they did.

Twinbeam said...

No Jester, I didn't miss the point of your post. The second half of my post was specifically directed at you.

And no, sorry, I'm still not shocked or upset by criticism of Rand - not even crude and misdirected second-hand opinions such as yours.

David Brin said...

Putting aside the lamentable morality of Rand... the churlish ingratitude of refusing the amortize the social, physical, and human capital that society (that hated word!) built, enabling titans of industry to do their thing...

... the chief thing I detest about Rand is her complete inability to recognize something she claimed to be the world's greatest genius at -- matters of style. (In fact, her fiction is stylistically awful and clunky and bloated. But that is not the issue here.)

She never, once, recognized that her own style was that of a tyrannical guru, not a scientist or engineer or innovator. She made grand declarations about human nature without ever, even once, couching them in falsifiable terms, offering experiments that she would accept as disproof, if they did not go as predicted.

In this respect, she followed the tiresome path trod by Freud, Marx and Hubbard, and so many others. relying on her fierce personality to get followers to nod and accept her models, ex cathedra, rather than submitting her claims to the very scientific process that she claimed to admire. (Again, just like Marx Freus and Hubbard.)

As for specifics, her romanticization of ubermenschen never took into account the inevitable rise of lazy, conspiratorial cheating, as THE major deadly enemy of capitalism. She admitted that it happened, but then ignored Adam Smith -- a vastly superior philosopher of libertaianism, who today's libertarians frantically ignore.

Anyone with any sense can see that 99% of the benefits of capitalism come from three things: Competition, reliably transparent law, and a vast supply of capable competitors.

And here's the crux. Not one, not two, but ALL THREE OF THESE are direct products of intervention by Enlightenment governments. Indeed, not one of the three ever happened... EVER... to any significant degree, before the invention of Enlightenment government.

Especially #3, enhancing the supply of capable and eager and vigorous competitors. For 4,000 years, the vast majority of human talent was wasted, by prejudice (people needlessly assuming that children of other races, or the poor, or who were female were incompetent, and thus not offering them education levels required in order to try), by inadequate infrastructure, by ill health, and by systems purposely designed to favor oligarchies. All four of these pervasiv bad habits had to go, and not just for moral reasons! But because these filthy habits ruined market competition and human creativity.

Only in the last generation has #3 been dramatically changed, by orders of magnitude, by precisely the "liberalism" that libertarians and Rand-ites claim to despise. Today, all children are presumed to be potential feedstock into the competitive mill of capitalism, and the education system is a "failure" only to the extent that it fails to turn half of the kids into potential managers, creators, entrepreneurs.

Half aren't potential alphas! Oh, where is historical perspective when we need it? And that "failed" half can read/write/ better that the super-elites of other days. This irony, that socialism can serve capitalism, is entirely lost on cretinous dogmatists... though the Swedes always found it obvious.

John Galt rants as if the liberal social programs were all about confiscation giveaways. But that has ALWAYS been a carricature. And while some freakazoid leftists do want to "equalize all outcomes," as in ANTHEM, they are absurd nutsos, distrusted by the vast majority of liberals.

No, the core agenda of today's liberalism remains the same as it ever was, back when it was called "Classic Liberalism" and was founded by Adam Smith. It is about ending the waste of human potential and doing all the goody things that are not only morally right, but THAT MAXIMIZE THE HUMAN FEEDSTOCK OF TALENT INTO THE COMPETITIVE PROCESS OF CAPITALISM.

Moreover, when you put it that way, it is the liberals who are the friends of markets and capitalism and competition and everything Rand claims to love. Enlightenment government was the best thing that ever happened to entrepreneurial capitalism, and- despite some stupid meddlesome excesses and freaky lefty socialist dopinesses (that I despise) - it remains so today.

Rand is a stalking horse. She rails at Enlightenment government, while she's subsidized by our would-be New Lords, who know that an open, transparent, responsible government is the chief obstacle between them and re-establishment of feudalism.

Her followers have succeeded at their assigned mission, to make libertarianism seem so silly that even libertarian-minded republicans, in the 2008 election, when the GOP was exposed as a viper's den of fanaticism and corruption, could not bring themselves to hold their noses and vote for Bob Barr.

Does anybody need more "falsifiability" that the failure of libertarians to compete, memically, at a time when EVERY market condition should have favored their message?

I am sick of this. I am sick of Limbaugh's shared purpose with the few ditzy socialists out there, who share his gol ... to keep spreading the lie that liberalism has a scintilla to do with socialism, in the anti-market sense.

We need the civil servants in order to keep our markets open, fair and competitive. (That is why Bush's #1 program was to wage war against the Civil Service.)

And we need good schools and health care (at least for all kids) IN ORDER FOR CAPITALISM TO THRIVE.

I oppose socialism for adults, because they are no longer the pre-feedstock raw material, that the Enlightenment system must supply, to unleash into markets. On the other hand, anyone who says we should not simply GIVE every american kid free health care is a rationalizer for evil.

And an outright enemy of free enterprise.


Boot said...

You say you want to avoid socialism for Adults. I can see that in order to provide motivation. Why do you associate Healthcare as one of the "Do not Do"s?

We have socialized Defense, Police, Fire, Regulations, etc. These boil down largely into protection of society. It sounds like you support education because it promotes greater competition.

Does not Healthcare make sense from a efficiency and protection stand point?

I'd support avoiding socializing comforts and luxuries. Make people work, innovate, compete for access to those. Restricting access to necessities to people does not make sense unless we know they are abusing them. Sure send out hunters for those individual and punish them in a way discourages others from abuse of public generosity. But failing to ensure basic food, shelter, and health will just limit our ability to compete with one another.

David Brin said...

I do not support socialized health care for adults... nor do I oppose it. I simply have not seen the plan that gets both the advantages of the European AND American systems while avoiding the negatives of both. None of the plans I have seen, including Hillary's, looked worth a hill of beans.

Nor will universal health happen tomorrow, if we try to do it for everybody. It... just... won't... happen.

Whereas we could have universal health for kids within a few months -- effectively tomorrow -- if that were the fundamental dividing line. Few would dare oppose it. And then that system would have a chance to work out the kinks and corrections. If it did the job efficiently, adults might follow.

To me it seems a no brainer. Insuring kids is fundamental, to both goody-goody moral liberalism and pro-market Classic liberalism... and in fact to any remotely moral ism at all.

As for my prior rant, let me add one thing. Note that capitalism simply does better under democrats. Period, in all ways and at all levels. This causes cognitive dissonance because the superficial gobbledygook catch phrases of the dems appear suspicious of capitalism and those of the right praise it. But those catch phrases are smoke and mirrors.

Capitalism does better under dems because they are the movement of Adam Smith and classic liberalism. It does badly under goppers for the simple reason that they represent the feudalist/oligarch thieves who ruined markets in every known civilization.

Want more cognitive dissonance?

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST! Didn't I predict that Obama would find an excuse to clamp down on the border????????

His excuse is Mexico's drug cartel war. But Clinton did the same thing in 1993... and Bush savaged the Border Patrol. Real agendas are sometimes the opposite of appearances.

Where is that predictions registry? Find ONE other person who predicted Obama's border crackdown. Even one.

tacitus2 said...


To be clear, we have so far seen TALK about clamping down on the Mexican border. This is not a scarce commodity. We have not seen effective action, which would be.

And to couch it in terms of evil American gun show Uzis getting to the cartels? Weird. To be clear, I am in general not opposed to discussion of rational gun control.

Regards Rand, I have not read her stuff. So I feel minimally qualified to comment. But when was the last time there was a serious political discussion based on.....a book? Worth listening to a little just for that, as our current society usually uses movies, TV or God help us, cartoon characters to frame our political discussions.

As to the general concept that government interventions (tax policy, labor law, environmental regulations) influencing people's level of entrepreneurship? I would rate it as plausible. Hold the flamethrowers guys, I am not saying that those are unworthy things for government to be doing, indeed, the people have spoken in the last election. But I reserve judgement on whether the current administration will do them wisely, well or even honestly.


Fake_William_Shatner said...

TwinBeam said...
Jester and Captain Shatner - you seem to have mistaken me for someone who'd take offense at criticism of Ayn Rand or her books. Sorry - no joy for you.

My reason for posting was simply that people have been attacking those at AIG who didn't cause the mess, and who are trying to restore order. As a result, the people at AIG are now simply shrugging and asking "Why did I bother - this country doesn't deserve my hard work. I'm outa here."

Surely, even with apparently having not actually read the book, you can see the analogy?

Hey, I don't necessarily BLAME AIG -- the same way I don't blame Lindy Englund. They are both opportunists who took advantage of the rules. Phil Gramm and other Economic Royalists Enablers (with a copy of Atlas Shrugged ON EVERYONE'S Bookshelf-- like Catcher in the Rye seems a favorite with serial killers).

AIG saw a few loopholes. They also broker the law in the US -- but moved this business to England, where it was another loophole. Banks that sell mortgages, find that MOST borrowers get a new mortgage in 5 years or so, that's why the interest is on the front of the loan. Almost as good a financial scam as the Federal Reserve. So it's 95% pure profit for them. If a NINJA loan defaults -- there is no exposure to the bank, because the borrower has PMI to cover the banks loss.

The slight uptick in foreclosures, however, required a bit more Private Mortgage Insurance to cover it. But AIG, had taken this money and bet it on Consumer Default Swaps and the Derivatives Market. It wasn't only greedy, it was stupid.

What Lindy Englund did, was legal, however, according to the President's own hand picked lawyer apologist. It doesn't make it right.

But it was good for whatever need Lindy had, and it was good for AIG.

But where is the money? Is there a bagman out there holding it all for after the dust settles? Seriously, you have all these financial ponzi scheme companies like Goldman Sacks and AIG, taking a dollar and lending it out 10 or even 40 times over, and putting it on mortgages that will balloon into into something THEY KNOW that the borrower can't pay in 5 years. Whatever they might do to rig the application and get that money into the system -- they know better than the borrower how much they can afford. That's how they make a living.

So we can assume a 20x money loaned for every dollar on account, at about 6% interest with 95% pure profit in the first 5 years. But that's not all. Then we have that money going into the Derivatives and CDS with even more ROI. Do we know if AIG and Goldman are the played or the player?

An old trick in the auction business, is to have other auction houses you partner with to bid on your items. If you have some old painting, or a horsehead book end that just hasn't been appreciating in value, you can get a friend to buy it for an outrageous fee. It won't have the other auction houses name on the purchase -- but you will also return the favor. What you get is a horsehead bookend that is so valuable, that someone bought it and turned around and sold it for 100% more than they paid. And that person also made a bundle selling it again. What a hot item!

I think that's part of the scam on Wall Street. Sure, no company is worth 40x ROI -- seriously, how can a dollar now be worth 40 times its value at some company? Do we plan that far ahead? Before 40 years, that money will find a better opportunity and be gone -- is there any 40 year period in history that hasn't shown that to happen?

But you are waiting for the bigger sucker.

It's why developers built all these strip shopping centers during the 70's. Some investor would turn around and sell it for a premium return. So the suckers would look at the developers and say; "I want in on this too!" And then they find they are holding the hot potato and don't have these great buyers around.

>> The Wall Street bailout, is a situation where the Bankers changed the laws to make sure the American taxpayer was forced to be the last sucker. They didn't spend $5 Billion in lobbying for nothing, did they?

I'm sure that these investment firms, petitioned for the rules to be changed so that their Lindy Englund's could do what they so enjoyed doing and get paid for it.

>> The problem is that there is no shame. That the "what is good for me is good" is a religious belief now for so many people.

I look at it this way; When the Military Industrial complex wanted more money, and Bush wanted more power, they paid for people who would lie and create deniability (in case the lie was discovered) and got us in a war with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, after all the "collateral damage" and "these things happen." Sentiments of war. We are supposed to worry about some of our leaders being "duped." We are supposed to worry about a bonus to an executive who isn't necessarily evil, but is no more useful to society than are the million other potential Lindy Englund's who have no ethics and believe what is good for them is good.

What Conservatives and Economic Royalists are constantly trying to tell me about a judicial system that convicts a few innocent poor people and applies the death penalty -- is that the deterrence and punishment of people who are MOSTLY guilty, outweighs the rights of those who are innocent. The need to get a few Saddam Husseins, who are SLIGHTLY more harmful than the puppet we replace them with, outweighs the million people who will die in that process (even if you believe the excuse at face value).

Screw them. I'm willing to accept that a few non-evil Lindy Englunds go to prison for life. I'm willing to accept Bush and Cheney convicted of war crimes even if they actually didn't know better.

Because nobody was too concerned that some Iraqi taxi cab driver had a bomb fall on the wrong house and kill his children. He didn't get the chance at a $10 million bonus and he didn't get the power to sell off America's Glass Steagal act, to enable some robber barons who would only be taking advantage of something that is now legal.

If you believe in deterrence, and meritocracy, then punishing a few White Collar criminals, whether guilty or merely unethical, is much more effective because these people plan ahead. If you look at a few hundred years of history -- the Bigger theives have every reason to commit these crimes again because they never get caught. They share the wealth with the power structure that is supposed to bring the justice -- that's how they got this far to begin with, by putting in office the most unethical people.

>> That's why I always point to Mark Foley. Karl Rove got interested in his campaign AFTER he found out he liked Page boys. That is how the NeoCons operate --- like the mob. Just like the Likud party, coincidentally, who somehow picked a guy who has 10 rape charges to be their leader.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> Let me say again, how people like Ayn Rand and her adherents make me sick to my stomach.

I know some good people, who are also NeoCons. Most of them are frightened of something all the time. Most of them love racial and misogynistic jokes that they share with me when it's just us white guys. I'm not TOTALLY offended, and I don't mind dirty jokes. But I don't JUST make fun of a certain crowd, and I have a lot more respect for everyone.

But it's like Rush Limbaugh. Any specific thing he says, COULD be or MIGHT NOT BE, racist. Sure, its an observation -- don't sue a person for that. But he ONLY observes when "urban people" get to take advantage of the Liberal Government somehow. He never observes when privileged people do the same unless they are *gasp* Liberal.

It isn't just Rush. We have think tanks that spew out "facts" all the time, that tell us how lowering taxes raises more revenue. It's pure fiction -- but it's their freedom of speech. They can say in some news reports, that American business is paying the second highest amount of taxes in the world. Sure, you can skew things that way -- because they MAKE so much money and the US economy is so much bigger than other economies. The FACT that corporations in this country pay the second lowest of any developed nation (65% of fortune 500 companies pay none), can be twisted and used as a talking point against how Socialist our country has become.

We have an organization called "The Family" which is an offshoot of Christianity. They have many judges and Democrats and Republicans in their club. But they don't publish their membership. They have a simple philosophy; "The Family is on a mission from God -- so anything you do that increases the power and wealth of the family is Good." Why doesn't God ever just materialize the Gold if this were true?

It's just more of the same -- history is chock full of the Courtiers who fawn on the king and say that he deserves everything -- because they are first in line for the Royal Trickle Down. Rush Limbaugh and his Straussian ilk are nothing new.

But it's coupling this with Religion and putting it in the food, the air, the minds of children. The Nazis were a religious cult. And if the NeoCons aren't following a recipe to create fundamentalists who can rationalize almost any behavior -- then dang, they accidentally lucked into the original recipe. There is little that separates the philosophy of Straussian's, Randians, NeoCons, and Nazis -- merely, what they've gotten away with so far.

All these nitwits, who say that there is no Evolution, and then talk in Economic terms about Social Darwinism. "Intelligent Design" isn't important to the leaders of these movements -- it's the ability to think that believing what you are told is how to be right with God. You are a "good Christian" because of what you believe, not what you do.

The Church's that are sick, preach about Faith more than Love.

And the society that is sick, is more concerned with reward, than with justice and helping people get a leg up.

>> AIDs doesn't kill people -- it's the opportunistic infections that take advantage when the immune system is down. What the NeoCon/Straussian/Randian philosophy did, was corrupt our sense of justice and honor, and it allowed the Opportunists to think that what was good for them was good.

They are an infection. A blight. A cancer. There is no greater threat to America than these adherents. All our warships and satellites cannot protect us from this.

They are practicing their social darwinism, and feeling justified because we are sheep and they are noble lions. Yet they hide their intentions, and they cover their teeth, and they feed in the dark. What we have, is a bunch of voracious parasites, who are about to wipe out the entire herd of sheep, because all they are is an appetite with PR agencies.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Half aren't potential alphas! Oh, where is historical perspective when we need it? And that "failed" half can read/write/ better that the super-elites of other days. This irony, that socialism can serve capitalism, is entirely lost on cretinous dogmatists... though the Swedes always found it obvious.

I Love it when you rant!

It always annoyed me to here this "tough love" from people who didn't. It's as if, we Liberals invented havens for Lazy people, and only those who give less, actually care. Well if the whole "sink or swim" concept worked, -- then the Middle Ages would have been marvels of social uplift. Is Mexico making all it's people titans of opportunity, or just wasting human capital? Why is Sweden doing so much better by coddling all it's poor people than the Free-Market paradise called Mexico?

All these problems are going to bite the Conservatives on the rear. They think more prisons will protect them. Have you noticed how the Crips and the Bloods show up in more cities? All those families that are too busy to see each other, all those people working extra jobs so that they aren't "lazy losers" -- well that has a social cost. And either you have evil unions and minimum wage and standards that allow for kids to have parents and an opportunity, or you hire a bunch of people with machine guns and hope they can hold out against the rise of gangs.

Don't pay for all the freeloaders with healthcare, schools and mass transportation. It seems to be working well for Mexico's wealthy families. Until, of course, their kids get kidnapped.

Rich people can either pay MORE taxes than poor people, or they can deal with a criminal element that is going to take it from them -- how can they expect people to respect the laws of a system that is rigged to exclude the poor? It's always been from the perspective of the elite, that they are just and the world would be better if people were just more like them. If the world were all like America, we world would consume itself in a decade.

But the Republican philosophy is thankfully dying, because more people are seeing themselves as below the curve. That selfishness you taught everyone -- you can see the backtracking in churches and in the media to "go green." Damn, you really want to teach altruism and shared purpose and "turn the other cheek," when everybody starts identifying with the have nots -- right?

Is Obama progress or an exit strategy? That's what I want to know. Don't accuse us Progressives and Democrats of "Socialism" because Obama isn't bringing that by a long shot. We NEED Socialism to get out of this mess -- so don't blame it for the half-assed Republican economics that Obama is using -- which will probably fail.

I still don't know if Obama has a strategy to deal with the NeoCon mob or not. If the Bankers can take out anyone they want who gets in their way -- then he can't show any desire to prosecute Bush and his conspirators until he can round them all up at once. Put a few of the architects of the Banskter scam in his cabinet and undermine them is the best strategy. Because they won't be working as hard against you if they think you are like them.

What I worry about is a nice Obama, who grew up in a Chicago with the Reagonomic sentiments. That he might be a great policy wonk and great person, but he doesn't know that our crisis was planned, and has happened before.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

TwinBeam said...
Jester and Captain Shatner - you seem to have mistaken me for someone who'd take offense at criticism of Ayn Rand or her books. Sorry - no joy for you.

My reason for posting was simply that people have been attacking those at AIG who didn't cause the mess, and who are trying to restore order. As a result, the people at AIG are now simply shrugging and asking "Why did I bother - this country doesn't deserve my hard work. I'm outa here." 

Surely, even with apparently having not actually read the book, you can see the analogy?

>> The lack of Joy I feel is in coming across people that can't smell a skunk. Not in telling them they stepped in a skunk and them laughing at me for not appreciating their expensive cologne. I wrinkle up my nose and think to myself; He actually paid for that?
I just want to revisit how insulting your comment is to intelligence. The idea that the AIG executives got into trouble "helping America." I was silly enough to think they were a bunch of self-serving opportunists, who moved money from safe and prudent investments, into high risk ventures. The mortgages that banks were "forced to give to unethical poor people" were not covered because the the damn Private Mortgage Insurance was being bet on the ponies at the race track. But hey, I guess if you take the families money and put it all on the Roulette wheel, in order to put the money back later -- you are just trying to help out. Because making yourself wealthier, will make you so much more fun to be around at Thanksgiving.

You accuse people of not reading Atlas Shrugged and then point out you are not an expert. Hey, I'm guilty. I read two chapters and almost puked. When I have some apologist trying to "lecture me" in human nature, based upon their on 'just so story' -- it kind of turns my stomach. The great Randian leaders like Greenspan, wall street robber barons, and Neal Bortz,... you know, I don't know anyone I fully respect that likes her drivel.

People who "flirted with Objectivism" is like people who tried torture, but didn't like it too much. "The screaming hurt my ears." Waterboarding, I guess, is more ethical, because the torturer, doesn't have to wear ear plugs.

>> And it makes me SO ANGRY, that the poor or the Liberal, get blamed for the treatment of all the "smart and hard working people." Sorry, but I'm smart and hard working, too. This is just the "hey, all us good people are getting attacked!" When we criticized George Bush -- it was the troops, America, Religion, or Mother Theresa we were against. Nobody screams more than a NeoCon being held to the same standards they prescribe. Bush was a robber baron punk--who hid behind whatever large object he could find. The whole philosophy behind Globalism, is firmly supported by the people who ascribe to the "noble opportunist" form of capitalism. Yet it is Globalism, that is the reason that all the Smart Hard working people are getting the shaft. Their good jobs went to India. As soon as India costs too much, the good paying jobs will leave their smart hard-working people and go someplace else.

Atlas Shrugged is kind of like the Turner Diaries. The idea is, that if you could just find a way to get all the poor parasites, to do without all the smart hard working people for a while -- they would implode. But wait; who is going to pick the strawberries and FEED all the smart hard working people? Does the CEO club, that runs all the money-making institutions, actually know how to run a farm, or build a barn? As soon as you get rid of the people below the curve -- someone in that group is going to be below the curve as well. And what about those below the curve -- you don't think that you can't find someone to tell others what to do and make more money? Maybe that is a magical skill that only God can provide.

The Robber Barons are playing these people, and setting them against Mexicans, or Liberals, or Amnesty International. 16 cases of voting fraud, being prosecuted at Acorn -- and nothing is mentioned about all that information that lead to the cases coming from Acorn itself. Oh my, someone is hiring poor folks to get poor folks voting! This is the greatest threat to Democracy -- quick, nobody pay attention to the hundreds of cases of proof that voting machines were designed to be rigged, and are "failing" constantly. No, we can't follow the money at AIG, we've got to go after a few homeowners who got mortgages they couldn't afford and are now homeless.

Those damn "godlike" hard working smart people, being beset on all sides by Welfare Queens. Every time I think of that book now, I think of Rush Limbaugh at his recent Republican press junket wearing black silk and gold chains with his hair slicked back and his shirt open. The media didn't show the standing ovations of dissent against this Mobster fop. Yeah, I can see all the burden this guy has to go through. There's your Atlas. And he needs Viagra to get any sort of a lift at all, like the rest of his macho girly men cowards. Hiding their self disgust with Cheshire Cat self-satisfaction and aqua velva.

David Brin said...

I need you guys to be useful, from time to time.

I am exploring this concept:
A few of the most imaginative in the fundamentalist community have taken a sudden liking to this imagery. They have even begun transferring their temporal fealty away from fixating on a looming Book of Revelations end time, turning their future fantasy-expectations instead toward a much more open-ended scenario – envisioning humanity charged with a transcendent (and somewhat science fictional) mission to carry God’s word to the myriad heathen who await out there, amid the innumerable stars!
if this gives you some familiar shivers of 19th Century déjà vu, well, at least it beats the hell (literally) out of all that hand-rubbing yearning for Armageddon.

But I've lost all citations and never tracked names. Can any of you find out who it is, in the fundie community, who has started spreading this new, sfnal Christian notion that - instead of some nearly-here Revelations End Time, we'll be charged to go conquer and convert the space heathen?

David Brin said...

Another help-me.

Earlier we discussed the iconoclasts out there who are accumulating evidence that our wisdom and behavior, not just science, are getting better.

Anyone recall who the top guys are, pointing out that net violence andetc have declined dramatically, since 1945?

David McCabe said...

Not what you're looking for, but The Way of Cross and Dragon is related and worth reading.

tacitus2 said...

C.S. Lewis would have you imagine that the aliens are way ahead of us in their relationship with God, and that we humans would do best to stay home and not muck things up out there in the Field of Arbol.


Tony Fisk said...

Second 'The Way of Cross and Dragon' (also Anderson's 'High Crusade').

Neither of these stories are quite what was wanted, though.

Some stats on comparing trends over time can be read on Gapminder. Hans Rosling gives a number of videos using this data (eg the reduction in extreme poverty).

t2, which Lewis are we talking about? Have you tried 'Perelandra' (also known as 'Voyage to Venus'), which is a re-take on the Book of Genesis.

tacitus2 said...


I believe I have read most of Lewis' work and enjoyed almost all of it. Yes, Perelandra, but if you really want to see his views on the role of alien and God you must read Out of the Silent Planet. Scathing critique on interplanetary imperialism.

On a good day, C.S. had imagination to put even our genial host to shame.

May we all someday be hnau.


Anonymous said...

David, I don't know the answer to the first query about Xian fundamentalists advocating space exploration (but there is a long history of Xian interest in UFOS noted here), but I do know that Stephen Pinker's TED talk "A Brief History of Violence" made a big impact. AFAICT Pinker is the first one to zero in on the evidence for humanity's long-term decrease in violence.

Here's Pinker's TED talk on YouTube:

Pinker converted it to a paper you can find here:

If scholars have claimed that humans are getting wiser, it must have been before the global economic meltdown. I don't see a lot of evidence for it.

In fact, there's a fine article titled "Why Don't Leaders Learn From History?" at the Harvard Business School site here:

Anonymous said...

I see the "children's books" link has been corrected now. Not that the article there is very enlightening, giving no more detail about their reasoning or the nature of the supposed "hazard" than the blog post here did. But that's hardly anyone here's fault.

Meantime, this is worrying from the perspective of "cronies of the king" undermining free market efficiency:

sociotard said...

The closest I can think of to the Galactic Missionary Movement is the South Park episode "Starvin' Marvin in Space". A bunch of missionaries hear that the aliens on Marklar don't know about Jesus, and build a ship to fix that.

Ilithi Dragon said...

You guys are awesome, and this is why I love reading this blog (though it takes a while to read through and digest it all...). I think I'll have some comments later, when I get the chance to finish digesting everything and have enough time to write one.

For now, though, a thought on waterboarding. The whole thing makes me sick, and the attempts at justifying it fill me with outrage, and the lack of any swift, decisive action in approaching it as what it is, and putting the people who allowed and encouraged it on trial as war criminals, makes me even angrier.

However, if you're dealing with people who are particular stubborn about insisting that waterboarding isn't torture, and that even if it is, it yielded results (like those listed in Cheney's reports that are so top-secret they're classified as "Non-Existent"), here's a point to bring up that will probably shut them up real quick, especially if they do have kids in the military. If waterboarding isn't torture, and we're allowed to use it, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with our enemies waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers to gain information and/or confessions. Anyone who is in favor of the U.S. waterboarding alleged terror suspects, should then have no issue with their own children being waterboarded should they serve in the military and be captured by enemy forces.

ToddR said...

Re "Starvin' Marvin in Space" see Mary Doria Russel's "The Sparrow". Different setup but a "Missionaries in Space" story.

Re the "if waterboarding isn't torture then it's OK for captured American soldiers to be waterboarded" rejoinder, during the past several years I have seen that tried several times by Pentagon spokespeople and others, and as far as I can tell it hasn't shut anyone up yet.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yeah, that's true, Todd... Most of the people I've known who support waterboarding tend to be the types who are really only concerned about standards or consequences for other people, not themselves. The few remaining think it's acceptable for the security of the nation. But there are plenty of people I know who are on the fence about it who would be swayed.

David Brin said...

Then there is the pragmatic argument.

You often hear the "24" argument... that Agent Jack (Kieffer Sutherland) needed to apply severe pressure to get a clearcut wouldbe mass murderer to spill about something heinous and imminent.

Um, first, it's... a TV show.

Second, Everybody knows that this sort of thing foes on, and has always gone on, in the dark, secret world of professional agents. The movies exaggerate and romanticize and are often absurd. But sure, it always went on and even a great, lawful democracy always knew that it should not look too closely in those corners.

In return, the agents and agencies were supposed to be ultra, super-dooper, elites who were trained not only in spycraft but in knowing the boundaries and distinctions. Like between acute/time-sensitive desperate NOW-stuff and stale news that's weeks or months old. Or the difference between a terror mastermind and some dope recruited from a silly-ass hill madrassas. And the difference between a rare betrayal of democracy, for democracy's sake... and a nincompoop, rotten, deliberate rationalization of outright and regularly routine evil, staining democracy's honor out in the open, for all to see.

These assholes -- who claim that they are realpolitik practical men, while liberals are pathetic idealists, have it all wrong. THEY are the impractical fools. They have taken something that was rare, that was done -- under liberals -- only under extreme circumstances, by top professionals, and turned it into a mundane, stupid dimwitted piece of normal procedure... and thus not only accomplished nothing (!) AND stained America's honor and cost us allies and recruited thousands of new enemy recruits...

...but they have mad things MUCH harder for the real James Bond types, by forcing our civilization to explicitly forbid that which was (under rare circumstances) tacitly allowed. Can you honestly picture any real master agent approving of monstrosities like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo? If they do, then they aren't the top guys they think they are.

It all comes down to a harsh truth that neither liberals nor conservatives will admit. Liberals LIKE to see themselves the way conservatives portray them -- as the idealists, because idealism seems associated with progress.

But that is all wrong. Progress has been pragmatic, with a gloss of idealism to help propel it along. It is pragmatic to eliminate prejudice because prejudice is horribly inefficient, wastes vast amounts of human talent, engenders social stress and rebellion, and gives excuses for would be tyrants. Likewise, it is no accident that liberal administrations both guard the borders better, for orderly immigration, AND regulate capitalism far better, achieving economic results vastly better that right wing administrations... because liberalism was, is and always will be about making the market etc tools work better.

It is conservatism that is "idealistic" in the same sense that Mark Twin pointed out, when romantic assholes wallowed in Sir Walter Scott and plunged America into Civil War, under a cloud of dreamy rationalizations the boiled down to feudalist thuggery.

No, Guantanamo is exactly what you'd expect from jerks who claim they are the pragmatic worldly men... but who savagely undermined the skilled professionals and now leave them cut off, at the knees.

Ilithi Dragon said...

And then you have to consider the fact that information gained from torture simply isn't reliable, especially with people who wouldn't crack under 'normal' interrogation methods. They're going to lie first, if they have any stake in keeping their mouth shut (and if they don't, they'd spill under regular interrogation), and they're going to keep on lying until they're broken, at which point they'll say or agree to anything to stop the pain.

Yeah, sure, it probably does get results, but how reliable are they? Ask our own troops who were captured in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc., how much they gave up when tortured. How much truth did they tell, and how much did they lie? If the documentaries, interviews, etc. I've seen and read are to be believed, they gave up very little real information, even under severe torture.

At best, it's unreliable information, very difficult if not possible to discern truth from fiction without corroborating data from outside sources, at worst, it's deliberate misinformation.

David Brin said...

In fairness (if that word applies at all here) in a brutally time-acute situation, almost anything you can get a guy to babble will at least give your people leads to check out. Free associations to piece together. It's a very narrow set of circumstances that they happen to exploit (in Hollywood bizarro form) on that "24" show.

Only now, even the skilled pros who know these circumstances and know what they are doing will have their job made harder by dunces like Cheney, who thought they were "pragmatic men."

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yeah, pragmatism isn't "doing anything that could work, regardless of cost/morality/etc.", that's just a patrioticized version of "What's good for me/my interests, is good." Pragmatism is doing what works best, with the most efficiency and little cost, usually tempered by morality (in much the same way that Sun Tzu's pragmatism in teaching the waging of a quick, fast war that was won before it started was tempered by morality and humanism, since such wars were the least costly to the people and the land).

But, then, that's preaching to the choir, isn't it?

David McCabe said...

Maciej Cegłowski wonders about and sets up a prediction tracker.

Remisma: Skill with the dream machine.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Heh, Limbaugh is at it again... "Never tell as lie" my tail...

David McCabe said...

Hey Dragon, welcome to 2006.

Bible: ...

Anonymous said...

Check this out:

Boot said...

Interesting essay by Simon Johnson

Tony Fisk said...

I don't know whether this comes under serious gaming, or playing serious, but those interested in prediction registries, emergent crowding and wotnot might like to investigate the Institute For The Future's latest project:


And a quick reminder about Worldchanging's funding drive.

unlob: to take back that recently launched thermonuclear device

Anonymous said...

David said: These assholes -- who claim that they are realpolitik practical men, while liberals are pathetic idealists, have it all wrong. THEY are the impractical fools. They have taken something that was rare, that was done -- under liberals -- only under extreme circumstances, by top professionals, and turned it into a mundane, stupid dimwitted piece of normal procedure...

This is an argument against torture that no one ever seems to make. It's a powerful one. As the Israelis discovered during the 1990s when they tried using torture on a limited basis against "high-value" Palestinian terrorists to uncover imminent suicide-bombing plots, at first torture was used infrequently. But soon it spread like wildfire, until every Palestinian suspect was being tortured routinely. That was one of the reasons why the Israeli high court banned torture.

It's a problem of human nature. When something is unthinkable and psychologically beyond the pale, we place it mentally off-limits. So torture or rape are simply never used in the judicial system as long as we recognize these activities as being beyond the pale of civilized conduct.

But as soon as we allow even the smallest exception for the use of these kinds of barbarities, we undergo a process of acclimatization whereby torturing a suspect or raping his wife or killing his children, or whatever, in order to force a confession or extract information soon becomes thinkable, then normative, then routine.

As the Sobibor and Auschwitz survivors affirmed, humans can get used to anything and eventually accept it as normal. I think this is a very important reason why we must never accept torture as part of our judicial or police system. Very soon after torture becomes thinkable, it will become such an ordinary everyday occurrence that it gets used in every investigation as a matter of course. We may stare in disbelief at the quotidian use of torture in medieval criminal investigations, but I believe that this is what was going on. Once you allow torture in any part of the judicial or investigative process, it rapidly takes those institutions over entirely.

Hank Roberts said...

Do you take credit for Jane Harman, based on your earlier warnings to be wary of blackmail?


"... Incriminating evidence against California rep. Jane Harman was apparently captured some time ago on a legal NSA wiretap. However, Attorney General Gonzales supposedly intervened to drop the case against her because (and this is where the irony meter explodes) Bush officials wanted her to be able to publicly defend the warrantless wiretap program...."