Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Inception, The Fifth Element... then science and pragmatic politics

imagesFirst a popular culture note. We just watched Christopher Nolan’s new film (with Leonardo di Caprio) Inception,” and I am pleased to recommend it.  In fact, I have to call it the best movie I've seen in years.

 The concept is rather original (though some have written to me, citing stories -- including my own -- that were forerunners*) It is spectacularly original, compared to the repetitious drivel of remakes and comic books and vampires that make up Hollywood’s normal, cowardly fare. But beyond the concept is a script that actually feeds the intellect, for a change.  That challenges the intellect, daring you to pay attention and track the many layers...

...most of which even turn out to make sense!  Sure it is brilliantly shot, with above average effects and an excellent (if sometimes overbearing) musical score. And the supporting cast steals the show charmingly, at many stages in the story. (The second unit director really earned his pay.)  Still, it is the script - the tight plotting and consistent story line - that I enjoyed most.

And if you found Inception confusing, see a collection of Ten Mind-blowing charts that make sense of the timeline and dream levels of the movie.

MV5BMTkzOTkwNTI4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMDIzNzI5._V1._SY317_CR6,0,214,317_I always attend films with one or more “mental dials” turned down.  I do this in order to be able to enjoy modern movies without spoiling them by noticing every flaw.  Indeed, with some flicks I can (and have to) crank my mental age and IQ down around...age five.

THE FIFTH ELEMENT is an example of a movie that I quite enjoyed (!) but only after performing that intentional self-lobotomy and leaving all critical faculties (except love of color and music and fun) at home.

I did not have to do any of that with INCEPTION. For the first time since GATTACA, I went to see a film as an adult, and felt that adults had proudly written directed and made it... for me.

* See my short stories "Stones of Significance" and "A Stage of Memory" for their layered views of simulated reality.

See more musings about Popular Culture. from Star Trek to Lord of the Rings.

=== In The News ===

What is the most important feature of the new Finance Reform Bill?
“Under little-noticed new provisions whistleblowers like Markopolos who alerted the SEC to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme will for the first time be entitled to collect between 10- and- 30 percent of the money recovered by the government. And that could turn a new wave of whistleblowers, those insiders with proof of financial wrongdoing on Wall Street, into millionaires

philanthropy"If the law works, whistleblowers should be rewarded with millions of dollars. Those whistleblowers will save investors billions and billions of dollars," said Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center  - reminiscent of some suggestions I have long made, e.g. in EARTH and in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

Earlier whistleblower reward programs, passed under Carter and later Clinton, offered prizes for revelation of wrongdoing in a much narrower realm - government contracts.  The unambiguous result was billions in savings... though this was partly bypassed during the first decade of the 21st Century via “emergency over-ride clauses” in the law, that allowed the previous administration to bypass all normal contracting rules “in time of war.”  (It might and can be argued that the billions that thereupon evaporated may have been a major reason for the wars, in the first place.  But who would be that cynical?)

But hold onto the thought that this will be a major step toward transparency.  And see how I predicted it, first in EARTH and later in The Transparent Society ... and here: Horizons and Hope: The Future of Philanthropy.

Pragmatic reasons to do good. Nothing would help save the world more than a general rise in functional human intelligence.  Now researchers suggest that the most efficient way to trigger such a rise, in developing nations, is to redouble efforts to eliminate parasitic infectious disease. “The brain, say author Christopher Eppig and his colleagues, is the “most costly organ in the human body.” Brainpower gobbles up close to 90 percent of a newborn’s energy. It stands to reason, then, that if something interferes with energy intake while the brain is growing, the impact could be serious and longlasting. And for vast swaths of the globe, the biggest threat to a child’s body—and hence brain—is parasitic infection.”

The NY Times featured the Lifeboat Foundation - of which I am a director - in a recent article, describing Lifeboat’s efforts to better understand the risks of high technology, without standing in the way of progress.

Urine as fertilizer? - It is chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are the nutrients  need to thrive—and the main ingredients in common mineral fertilizers. There is, of course, a steady supply of this man-made plant food: an adult on a typical Western diet urinates about 500 liters a year, enough to fill three standard bathtubs. The nutrients in urine are also in just the right form for plants to drink them up, says Håkan Jönsson, a researcher in Uppsala.

===Lots of Earthlike Planets? ===

More than 100 planets that are a similar size to Earth have been discovered in just the past few weeks, it has been announced.  The discovery was made by the space telescope Kepler which has been scanning the skies for planets that are orbiting stars since it was launched in January last year. "Kepler finds planets by detecting almost imperceptible 'winks' - the tiny amount of dimming that occurs each time a planet moves across the face of a star.  'Transits', as they are known, by terrestrial planets produce a small change in a star's brightness of about 100 parts per million, lasting for 2 to 16 hours.  Information such as a planet's size and the extent of its orbit can be calculated from the amount of dimming, the length of time between 'winks' and the star's mass."

This raises the number of discovered extrasolar planets up around half a thousand (up from ZERO in just 15 years.)

Actually, the news article leaves out a lot:

1 - because these planets were discovered by “transit” that means ONLY stellar systems whose planets orbit in a plane exactly in line with the Earth will be discovered, maybe one in a thousand.  The fact that so many have been discovered anyway, despite this handicap, suggests that the numbers in our neighborhood are truly large.

2 - Many of us always knew that lots of planets would be found, because of the “angular momentum effect.  Almost all of our solar system’s angular momentum is held by one planet, Jupiter, and not the sun.  The fact that other G type stars rotate at about the same rate as Sol suggested that they, too, must have bled off their angular momentum to orbiting bodies.  Switching hats from astronomer to science fiction author, I knew it for other reasons, too.

3 - There are people who desperately want there to be no life worlds, among these newly discovered planets!  Why would that be?  See why, by looking up The Great Filter.

A side note! Renowned space artist Jon Lomberg reports that: “The Keck Observatory has a new fundraising idea: donate $5K to their research programs and have an exoplanet named after you. I heard about this from their Development director, Debbie Goodwin. This is the biggest bargain around-- and is possible only because the number of exoplanets is over 1000, including the latest Kepler results. Great birthday or anniversary gift too, and unlike the International Star Registry, it's actually official.

=== The Muse’s Corner ===

Are we witnessing the birth of a cosmic internet?

Fab@Home is a platform of printers and programs that fit on your desktop,and can produce functional 3D objects. Look at the 4-legged robot printed…

Not quite Star Trek’s food replicator, but the Cornucopia is a personal food fabricator based on 3D printing techniques. Still in the design stage, the Cornucopia will combine food from specified ingredients, extrude them in layers, cook and then cool them on a serving tray. You’ll be able to dial in specific nutritional/caloric requirements to individualize meals. What more could you want…?

The Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered buckyballs in space for the first time…soccer ball-shaped 60 atom carbon molecules first observed in a laboratory 25 years ago

Are we living in a black hole? Using a modified version of Einstein’s General Relativity equations, Physicist Nikodem Poplawski showed that a universe could exist inside the black hole of another universe – like a set of Russian nesting dolls. Such black holes could then be tunnels or wormholes between universes – an idea already widely explored in so many sci fi stories.

 Why Transhumanism is the best bet to prevent the extinction of civilization

Then there’s this fascinating argument that evolution - real genetic changes -- took place in England since 1215 CE, as the commercially successful demonstrably (from records) had more surviving children, possibly passing on the assiduous, individualistic, and nonviolently competitive traits that generate creative wealth. 

“Women, over the course of their reproductive lives, can give birth to 12 or more children. Still in some current societies the average women gives birth to more than 6 children. Yet for the world before 1800 the number of children per woman that survived to adulthood was always just a little above 2. World population grew from perhaps 0.1 m. in 100,000 BC to 770 m. by 1800. But this still represents an average of 2.005 surviving children per woman before 1800.”

=== Briefly Swinging Just a Little Political ===

Again, see the endeavor led by Lawrence Lessig to reform the fundamentally corrupt current system, under which members of Congress have to spend a full quarter of their time fund-raising, in order to finance the modern political campaign. “Co-founder of Creative Commons, law professor, author, and copyright guru, Lessig is a visionary of law and technology policy.  His approach to changing the influence of money in politics is both fascinating and logical.”

David Brin
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Unknown said...
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Ian said...

I hope I can be forgiven for picking up a couple of points from the previous comment section;

"Serious question--what is the correct way to order a society in which technology allows for much, MUCH less human toil to produce an abundance of goods. I mean, isn't the point of technology to FREE people from drudgery? A few hundred years ago, there could literally be no food on the table without everybody at that table putting in a long, hard day's work to produce it. Cruel as it sounds, a "work or starve" system makes a certain amount of sense in those circumstances. It's being imposed by nature, not by society, and it's not fair to take food off of the table of those who worked for it to feed those who didn't.

But what's the correct way to order things when technology allows (say) five man-hours of work a month tending the machinery to produce all the necessities and many of the luxuries of life? To me, it makes a lot of sense to say that anyone who puts in the required (small) amount of work has earned his living and that of his dependents. But in practice, unfettered capitalism means that the less human labor is required for the system, the LOWER everyone's standard of living becomes, because they are "deprived" of a method of earning a living."

- Tim H

There's a fundamental fallacy here that advancing technology inevitably leads to less employment in total.

If that were the case, roughly 200 years after the start of the industrial revolution, we should surely be approaching 100% unemployment.

At a minimum we should see a steady increase in unemployment over time - we don't.

Unemployment is largely driven by the economic cycle and government policy not be advances in technology.

Simply put, technological advancements make societies as a whole richer.

That leads to increased demand for goods and services - which creates more employment.

We in the west employ fewer auto workers and loom workers that we did a generation ago.

We also employ for fewer buggy whip manufacturers, livery stable operators and street sweepers.

Those jobs have been more than made up for by increases in all sorts of other forms of employment from teaching to computer programmers to retail staff and waiters.

Government should not be seeking to preserve jobs through protection, governments should be compensating the people directly affected by reductions in protection and helping them to find work elsewhere in the economy.

Ian said...

From the previous comment thread:

"Sure the Japanese used mercantilist methods to drive an export-propeled development scheme, that's copied all over the world, especially China. So? What irritates me is that they give no credit where it is due... to deliberate decisions to LET them do this. Those decisions lifted them out of poverty. We, too, could have been mercantilist, like every empire before us. We chose not to be and that decision made the modern world."

Sorry David but this is simply an example of the post hoc ergo proctor hoc logical fallcy.

A. Japan engaged in protectionism and industrial policy with the stated intent of developing it's economy.

B. Japan subsequently experienced raid economic growth.

Therefore A caused B.

Except that, Hong Kong and Taiwan didn't pursue mercantilist policies and experienced rapid economic growth at the same time.

At the same time, several countries that did pursue such policies - India and the Phillipiens are priem examples - failed to produce rapid economic growth.

If I have to I can write an essay on why that economic growth occurred - broadly it has to do with the Confucian social model; a especially rapid demographic shift; universal primary education and education for women in particular.

As I've already pointed out much of Japan's mercantilism was a miserable failure and resulted in billions wasted on industries that never took off.

Lindy said...

The Lessig link doesn't work. "Page Not Found"

Tim H. said...

Ian, you're attributing Larry hart's words to me. Unfettered free trade is a dead end, a threat to social stability. I would much rather see it modified than eliminated.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On Inception: I haven't seen it, but several of my friends have (including some much smarter than I), and while they agree that it's not a bad movie, they felt the delivery fell flat, particularly at the end. From their comments, it was the very end of the movie that especially fell flat. What are your thoughts on that?

Also, on the general new-movie topic, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is an example of a fun fantasy action flick that doesn't deride science or modern learning, and in fact embraces it (it's directly noted by Cage's character that science and magic are 'the same', in the sense that magic is just another part of the universe and can be explained by science, and the main character uses his scientific knowledge/education to help defeat the villain). It relies heavily on the "The Chosen One" trope, but the explanation and delivery of that is passable, and the hero does ask why magic is kept a secret, but it is quickly brushed off with an explanation of "Civilians must not know about magic. It's complicated."

On transhumanism: I'm hoping to see and use at least surgically-implanted super-PDA brain implants within my lifetime, and I would like to see the beginnings of a new generation with cybernetic interfaces that develop naturally while in the womb, and then continue developing after birth, 'grown' by nano-machine 'cells' that will be naturally produced by our own bodies.

Ian said...

Larry, naked assertion is no substitute for reasoned argument.

"Unfettered free trade" is in any case a myth and doesn't describe any economy in the world today.

Unless you've modified your position substantially, your argument is not so much "unfettered free trade is bad" as "trade is currently too free and the world would be a better place if there was more protectionism".

Prove your assertion and there's a Nobel Prize in Economics going begging because you will have disproved about two hundred years of empirical research.

Tom Crowl said...

Regarding Transhumanism... this needed inevitability has a path combining some difficult elements.

In the relatively near-term its seems to be imperative and unavoidable while being critically perilous at the same time.

As a teen (I'm 60 now) I remember being convinced that science was relatively close to serious life-extension and that very likely our generation was at some sort of borderline which could become extremely tense. (I still think this may be true.)

I had an idea for a novel (never written) about some small group of researchers essentially developing a methodology for practical immortality... but that it was very expensive and could only be available to a few...

The novel then would be concerned with the social/political implications of that becoming public and the ensuing conflict that limitation would provoke.

(Of course, regarding bioengineering generally there are many other potential pitfalls and plot potentials including the accidental or intentional creation of devastating pathogens, agricultural mega-disasters, etc... all of which can, have or will form the basis for many great stories.)

This bring up, in my opinion... the Ultimatum Game problem for developing technical civilizations... (which could have relevance to the Great Filter question)...

Which is that as civilizations become more complex... they may become more vulnerable to the actions (intentional or otherwise) of fewer and fewer of its members.

Along with the 'altruism-scaling' problem these form what I would call a Justice Imperative.

And since one man's justice may be another's outrage... this forms a very difficult hurdle to cross...

Not impossible... but very tough.
I'd hypothesize that civilizations that make it past this problem...

Will have to have hold on to their "Enlightenment" very tightly!!!

That' something that we're not doing so well.

Speaking of which...

Thanks for Lawrence Lessig link... I've posted my proposal and am hoping for the best:


Money and the Machinery of Representation

Tom Crowl said...

On the 'free trade' question...

For me the fundamental problem is NOT with trade itself (which is a great spark to development)...

as it is that the current globalization model rests upon a premise of excessive national specialization.

The hypothesis seems benign and has some positive aspects: "that profound inter-dependence will foster peaceful relations and a general rise is wealth."

But humanity's resiliency decreases to the extent we become a single economic organism... a single metabolism.

This poses another difficult problem... we need to form BOTH a global decision organism for some issues (like global warming, protecting the oceans, etc.) while maintaining a degree of autonomous economic resiliency for some number of its component parts (so to speak).

And do all that while maintaining the confidence of an increasing proportion of the world's population. (see my previous comment on the Ultimatum Game problem).

For me... the bottom line is that the greatest threat to humanity is a failure to develop a healthy political culture.

With that, everything else is solvable.

Patricia Mathews said...

But the great advances in well-being since 1800 can also be explained by economic factors.

First of all, huge tracts of land that Europeans could settle suddenly became available from the 16th Century onwards. That meant a rich society and, for those living there, a free society.

Second, the discovery and use of fossil fuels.

Note: both of these appeared at the time to be limitless resources, but they were capital assets, not income, and we now realize we need to treat them like a savings account into which no more deposits are being made.

Those fueled the industrial and scientific revolutions and made them possible, though they weren't the cause. (Not sufficient, but absolutely necessary.)

I will address the "genetic" (?) changes in 13th century England after revisiting the economics, but note that England had endured - and assimilated - wave after wave of invaders since Hengist & Horsa landed on the eastern shore.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin, did you happen to see any of this while you were at Comic Con?

Tom Crowl said...

Just ran across this which is an always relevant quote...

From Federalist #51 James Madison:

"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.
In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger."

The Justice Imperative isn't a new idea.

Tony Fisk said...

That stream of photographs causes me to quote Cmdr. Ivanova:
"I thought the Vorlon's planet killers were bad but this... this... I don't even understand what I'm seeing here!"

Tacitus2 said...

5K to have a planet named after me. Not an unreasonable price tag for something so large and permanent.
But a moment of reflection might be in order.
What are the odds of planet Tacitus being the ethereal home of a race of buxom Moon Princesses? Not. Very. Likely.
Highest probability would be an environmentally unfriendly bit of rock, for which I could Shop Local. I suspect large chunks of Iceland are available at a reasonable rate. And I could in principle have a picnic there someday.
But its the worst case scenario that gives me pause. Just my luck I would acquire a planet that was home to some slime covered, carnivorous sentinants. Just imagine my great, great (xxx) grandchildren having to explain every time the Earth Defense Forces have another skirmish with the Tacitan Space Navy.


Doug said...

CulturalEngineer: A good book on the meme of "what if only a small part of society could buy immortality" is Joe Haldeman's _Buying_Time._

Tim H. said...

Thought there'd be something amusing at comic-con when P. Z. Myers posted that the irreverend Phelps would be picketing. Probably won't discourage them, but the pictures were great.

Stefan Jones said...

The definitive maldistribution-of-enhancements fiction is Nancy Kress's "Beggars in Spain" and especially its sequel, "Beggars and Choosers."

* * *

While technological progress may open up new career opportunities while scuttling others, this doesn't automatically translate to a richer or fairer society. Folks who don't have the skills or talents to deal with skillful work get excluded.

The typical libertarian fan-boy / economic triumphalist response to this seems to be "well, let 'em die if they don't want to learn," but I believe this is a case of ideological blindness of the sort that leaves the victim unable to comprehend, much less deal with, civilization-endangering calamities.

The labor opportunity solution space defined by early industrialism once allowed a significant fraction of the population to live fairly well on unskilled labor. This is no longer so. It is not ethically acceptable, nor healthy for the long term sustainability of civilization to let this emergent exclusion play itself out according to some kind of ignorant, ideologically warped interpretation of Darwinism.

One of the other articles Dave linked to, concerning the deleterious effect of disease on intelligence, suggests a way out. If the entire population of children were freed from the deleterious effects of disease, malnutrition, pollution, and cultural deprivation, we might well find that a significantly greater portion of the population able to fully participate in today's more demanding labor market.


'knaly': What all the cool kids are doing. You wouldn't understand, Old Man.

David Brin said...

Ian is right that the modern economy is 90% of the people talking the super-productive - including esp farmers) into feeding us. OTOH... advances in technology did drive the prosperity of the 60s and 90s.

Ian, you are right that asian mercantilist practices were less significant than the fact that the US did NOT practice mercantilism, allowing amer consumers to buy trillions of $ of crap they never needed.

I thought the end of Inception was just fine. ...There were some logical nitpicks, like "who's dream is it?" and what the technology was, and the silliness of it involving just a little wrist hookup. But the logical sequence was cool and their explanation for why you would be in peril, from events that take place in a dream, was VASTLY better than "if the mental image dies, the body dies." I always HATED that stupidity, in the Matrix etc.

Ilithi thanks for the insight into Sorcerer's Apprentice. Maybe I'll see it after all.

"as civilizations become more complex... they may become more vulnerable to the actions (intentional or otherwise) of fewer and fewer of its members."
==>terrific summary. It is a crux issue I deal with all the time in SETI, the lifeboat foundation, and the IEET. Is this the reason we see no aliens?

".. we need to form BOTH a global decision organism for some issues (like global warming, protecting the oceans, etc.) while maintaining a degree of autonomous economic resiliency for some number of its component parts (so to speak)."

Could not have said it better myself! You guys are on a roll. Of course the "eat local foods" movement is part of this. When we get the solar roof shingle, the grid will get less delicate. Resilience is my major theme.

No I did not see the Westboro assholes at Cimicon. But I love 'em. They highlight the looniness of culture war.

LarryHart said...


But its the worst case scenario that gives me pause. Just my luck I would acquire a planet that was home to some slime covered, carnivorous sentinants. Just imagine my great, great (xxx) grandchildren having to explain every time the Earth Defense Forces have another skirmish with the Tacitan Space Navy.

Hey, I feel your pain. My brother's name is Mitch, and in college, he made friends with several people from Central America whose homes were later devestated by Hurricane Mitch in the late 1980s. I think he still feels some irrational guilt about that.

JuhnDonn said...

I like to think that Planet Gilmoure would be cool but realistically, it'd be a pretty run of the mill inconsequential rock.

Acacia H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acacia H. said...

I have to wonder if the Republican leadership is quietly cursing Arizona for bringing illegal immigration to the forefront of the election cycle right now. While this will undoubtedly bring about some short-term gains by energizing the WASP vote, it'll undoubtedly sting them in the end by driving off a number of Hispanic voters who might be disillusioned by Democrats but who see Republicans as a far greater threat. In essence, the Arizona law is threatening to paint Hispanics as second-class citizens, with legally-sanctioned discrimination against employment and law enforcement. (After all, why risk a lawsuit saying you hired an illegal immigrant when you can hire a nice white person instead? And avoid lawsuits by not giving reasons for the failure to elect Hispanic job candidates.)

What's more, it is this powerful-but-shrinking white base of the Republican Party that is pushing a lot of the Tea Party antics and the anti-immigrant rhetoric. While the Tea Parties may claim they are not prejudiced and that there are blacks and Hispanics and Asians among them... the general consensus by non-Tea Partiers is that clouds are less white than the Tea Party. Hell, there's even some KKK-assertions made by some people on the far left, though I honestly believe that 99.999% of the Tea Partiers don't hold to KKK-belief standards.

Thus the Democrats starting to paint all Republicans with the Tea Party brush. Republicans are correct in describing this as fear tactics... and to be honest, I hope it works because while it might be a fear tactic, there is an element of truth in that some Tea Party aspects are being embraced by the Republicans... and I don't mean smaller government and reduced spending!

(Ideally I'd prefer to see more Independents get into power. People who will vote for whichever side has the better idea. Ultimately I suspect Independents would have the most power for States and the people they represent. And they can hopefully bring a moderating presence into Congress. As well as likely representing the middle of the left/right dynamic.)


Here's a disturbing bit of news: there has been a reduction in ocean greenery and plankton over the last 100 years, and it's very likely due to global warming and its influence on ocean dynamics. Interestingly, the Indian Ocean has seen an increase in plankton, and it might behoove us to investigate why this is happening... and see what we can do to replicate this in bioengineering efforts.


I'm not quite sure how many people will be able to see this (I'm unsure if it'll be behind a New York Times paywall or not) but there's a fascinating article on the dynamics of salt and how it has influenced the oil reserves in the Gulf Coast. It went into some details in how these salt reserves formed, which makes me think that the next great oil reserve in a million years will very likely be the Mediterranean Sea (unless of course Antarctica ends up reattached to South America, at which point we'll see Antarctica lose its ice sheet over several thousand years... the resultant rise in ocean levels might very well flood the Mediterranean further).

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

FYI. Drudge just linked to a scare piece on an Alex Jones site about the coming dissolution of America in 2017, and they used a Still from The Postman to illustrate the story.

It was a hard LOL for me, and thought you'd all like to know.


Here's a quotation:

"America’s collapse occurred when government ceased to represent the people and became the instrument of a private oligarchy. Decisions were made in behalf of short-term profits for the few at the expense of unmanageable liabilities for the many."

At first I thought this had a right-wing slant. Now I'm not so sure.

Tim H. said...

Sounds like he might've watched Michael Moore's "Capitalism, A love story". Hope I live to see secular humanism come back in style.

Ian said...

The link to the "Fix Congress" article doesn;t work.

I have a modest proposal Americans may wish to consider: extend the term of the House of Representatives to four years with half elected each two years.

This would greatly reduce the fund-raising pressure and make it easier for Representatives to focus on matters other than electoral popularity.

Unknown said...

Everyone is trying to be so intellectual and converse with you in your comments, it's cute.

Alas, I have nothing whatsoever to say other than a genuine and heartfelt THANK YOU for your lucid explanation of going to see movies.

I could never put it into those words, I always explained that I just saw a movie "for what it was" and was able to enjoy even meager fare. Your adept example of a self-lobotomy was perfect! Many thanks your way for putting what I've thought for years into perfect words.

I happen to agree about The Fifth Element, by the way 8) One of my all-time favorite movies, so I suppose I like to dive down into that five-year-old quite a bit. ;)

Acacia H. said...

Trying to be intellectual? oO

Ilithi Dragon said...

Gosh durn! She dun went 'n figur'd us out!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Regarding the infowars article that made it to the top of Drudge... I could not read it in its entirety, nor most of the replies. I felt my brain overloading and the fail-safes kicking in to shut my brain down before it liquefied and ran out my ears...

I am, however, tempted to write an editorial critique of the article, as if it were the premise of a fictional post-apocalyptic story, and see what kind of response I get in the comments... My ability to shove my brain through that cheese grater is questionable, though.

Oh, and bonus lol's for the picture of the Postman being of the leader of a clan of the general group/movement that was largely RESPONSIBLE for the whole post-collapse chaos/tribalism and a primary preventer of the recovery from the collapse.

LarryHart said...


Ideally I'd prefer to see more Independents get into power. People who will vote for whichever side has the better idea.

I have a lot of respect for true Independents who vote for the person, not the party.

I have ZERO respect for so-called "independents" who have suddenly found reasons why Obama and incumbent Democrats are dangerous (deficits! Afghanistan! bank bailouts!) whereas they were perfectly content to let all those things happen under Bush and Republican majorities. Sorry, but belated concessions like "I didn't like Bush either" don't make up for a total willingness to let the Bush Administration have a free pass and then become spurred to action when the Obama administration takes over.

It does not make one "independent" to complain bitterly about both sides when Democrats are in power, and not to do so when Republicans are.

Anders Brink said...

It is not a rightwing slant if it could turn out frighteningly true!

Acacia H. said...

And it's not a leftist commie slant if there is plenty of evidence that it's real. Yet people call Global Warming a leftist plot to control the world and destroy the economy. ;)

Rob H.

John Kurman said...

"The typical libertarian fan-boy / economic triumphalist response to this seems to be "well, let 'em die if they don't want to learn," but I believe this is a case of ideological blindness of the sort that leaves the victim unable to comprehend, much less deal with, civilization-endangering calamities".

It is a blindspot, and it also leaves this type of individual with a comical look of surprise on his/her face when technological progress finally leaves a big gaping hole in their midsection.

There is an old saying in the Arts: "If you can't make it Good, make it Red".

Oops. I'm sorry. Wrong saying, although I suspect there's something there also. No, the saying is: "Technique is cheap".

Meaning anyone who relies soley upon technical virtuosity as their strong suit is destined, eventually, for a nasty surprise.

Unknown said...

If you enjoyed the movie, Inception, perhaps you'd also enjoy reading Lucid Dreaming by Robert Waggoner. The concepts of the movie are discussed at length in the book.

David Brin said...

Actually, I did not care for the specific dream-related detail-scenario. I looked upon it as an excuse to create a nested reality deception plot. I really doubt that anyone learned anything much useful about dreams, from the flick.

What I liked best was that the director CARED about following his own logical scenario in great detail, and shared his enjoyment of meticulous-ness with us

Ilithi Dragon said...

A fascinating comparison of base the premise and core aspects of "Inception" and the political realities that reflect them. Somewhat chilling, too, when you think about it.

I suspect that the only true solution to the problem is to make curriculum that teaches rational and scientific thinking like this site, primarily authored by Eliezer Yudkowsky, the same guy writing the "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" fanfic Dr. Brin has linked to a few times, a mandatory part of our national education, starting early in primary school and continuing through secondary school, and also including it as a mandatory gen-ed credit in all pre- and post-graduate courses.