Thursday, May 05, 2011

Paranoia has many roots and levels

As one who nurses a few conspiracy theories of his own -- but only ones that fit the Seven Secret Rules of Plausibility ;-) -- I actually find most of the run-of-the-mill-kneejerk stories, concocted by modern loonies (not only on the far right, but also plenty on the far-left and even far-out) to be just plain dumb. They are nearly always based on several self-flattering premises:

1) that the powers who are supposedly performing the conniving-nefarious activity are nearly all-powerful, nearly all-knowing and have unlimited supplies of eager, willing, compliant, conscience-free, yet staggeringly competent henchmen, who somehow commit their acts with perfect timing, without a glitch, hiccup or anyone deciding to blab... and

2) that somehow, in a world filled with skilled scientists, cops, investigators, journalists. intelligence agents and dedicated enemies of the (purported) conspirators, somehow it is the believer and his or her close-aligned pals who are the only ones smart enough to see through the smoke and mirrors to the truth... and

3) that lots of people on this planet can be delusional crazy while vigorously denying it, yet nevertheless the True Believer proclaims, in serene confidence -- "I'm not one of those nuts!"

Days after Osama bin Laden's death, a wealth of conspiracy theories have been spun, claiming that Osama was actually a U.S. agent, that he had actually been dead for a decade, frozen in some super-secret location. Or that Osama is actually alive and well, being interrogated by U.S. officials. Or possibly that President Obama invented Osama's death to boost his re-election campaign, or as a distraction from Trump pushing the "birther" conspiracy (one conspiracy to kill another)...

ConspiracyTheoriesThere are powerful psychological drivers behind conspiracies: A need to explain one’s own poverty and failure. The allure of enticing pattern recognition. Above all, the warm feeling we get from being in the know…from being part of the “elect group” that can see what’s going on! There are no richer mental drug-highs than self-righteous indignation, resentment, and contempt for fools. See my article on Conspiracies and Wishful Thinking and my videos: Ten Super-Secret Rules of Conspiracy Theories.)

Self-delusion is the greatest of all human talents.

This is not the time or place for me to get into intense detail, in a formal essay appraising all the types and species of human paranoia... and why my own particular brands just happen to be the ones that are smart, on target and sensible! Alas. Lacking both the requisite energy and spare-expendable lifespan, I'll just offer a few enlightening tidbits below, and save all-encompassing wisdom for another time.


This seems especially pertinent, given America’s recent swerve down Kookoo Lane. Aha! Belief in Conspiracies linked to Machiavellian Mindset -- a firm belief that "they did it" is linked to the concept that "I would do it". It's exactly what I would have written, if they hadn't systematically stolen my ideas. Wait, am I confusing conspiracy theorizing with paranoia? Easy to do... except when the conspiracies are real, but only a few can see them!

Or might it all be chemical? In work that gives cranky teenagers another reason to blame their parents for all life's woes, researchers have uncovered a genetic link to happiness. The study of more than 2,500 Americans revealed two variants of a gene that influenced how satisfied – or dissatisfied – people were with their lot. Those born with two long versions of the gene (one is passed down from each parent) were more likely to declare themselves "very satisfied" with life than those who inherited two short versions.


Your GPS-enabled cell phone allows your location to be tracked at all times. Even the photos you take on such a device have a location-coding attached when you upload them to the internet, pinpointing the precise coordinates of your home or where you had that weekend tryst.

Can arresting officers search the arrested person's cellphone, downloading everything from address books, photos and websites to thousands of texts... plus everything the phone touched in the Cloud... all without a warrant, because the phone was on your immediate person, and thus "like" a pocket or a purse or a set of keys? Or is the phone something much more? A "portal" into your whole life, meriting a warrant to rummage through?

And now -- they lied to us! Was The Last Typewriter Factory Closed? Not Really.


Elaine Walker (lovely voice!) wrote and performed two songs based on my novels, Sundiver and Earth. This was 1992.. but they still sound amazing. Elaine’s songs are linked from here.

I’ve been honored with musical interpretations ( of my work by composers Brian Carroll, Richard Stoops and Katherine Gilliam, by the groups Matucana and Treebeard, by Tom Smith and at least two others whose CDs I seem to have missplaced ;-( Then there are the works by amatueur and semi-pro artists ... and tributes and riffs by fan writers. Terrific stuff!

UpliftMontageUplift has already begun... Birds that prosper on the city streets have larger brains than their pastoral relations. So it seems that novel environments, including urban landscapes, may select for street smarts—at least for birds that flock toward the city lights. Heck we already knew that about rats...

A new page all about the Uplift Universe..

=== GENERAL COOL STUFF -- (with a hint of paranoia) ===

Former planet Pluto may have grown a comet-like tail -- a wispy trail of Carbon monoxide stretching fourth of the way to its moon Charon

Robotic probe measures methane trapped on seafloor -- the first time measurements made in situ. Observations support larger estimates of methane stored in world's oceans: 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon, twice as much as in conventional fossil fuels.

Folks referred me to an article on "io9" entitled "Are we surrounded by Dyson Spheres?" - -the notion that much of the missing Dark Matter that may bind the galaxies invisibly might be made of great big macho habitats completely surrounding stars. Tho I show this in Heaven's Reach, I'm very skeptical. I was mentally gathering half a dozen big refutations - then read the article. Dave Goldberg did a great job analyzing the idea himself. Great science reporting!

Can we blame our crazy ancestors? New research suggests that says Homo heidelbergensis is the common forebear of both humans and Neanderthals.

Even not knowing a word of Serbian, you should enjoy this animated science fiction film! Seriously. Serbia? There have been great amateur animators there for years. But this is CRAZY! These guys deserve major studio. support. Who's been keeping talent like this squashed? Do I need to ask?

===Miscellaneous But Important! ===

Ethanol blamed for record food prices worldwide

One leaf could power a house?

Nautilus X is getting renewed aerospace news media attention. NASA suggests using Bigelow Aerospace inflatable modules to assemble Nautilus X, and the spacecraft can incorporate propulsion systems to enable high delta-V missions.

Going back to paranoia on a larger scale! From the Washington Times: How the U.S. Treasury Department froze Libyan assets. They expected $100 million, but found over $30 billion -- mostly all in one bank. To put it in perspective: In 2009, Libya had a gross domestic product of $62 billion. Anybody remember the “Helvetian War” from my novel EARTH?


"Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things." -- Douglas Adams

Calm down. Remember, the thing that you are trying to defend... against those who are conspiring to bring it down... is a calm, enlightened, pragmatic civilization filled with smart problem-solvers, who appreciate knowledge, wisdom and skill... and who negotiate with one another.

See also: Conspiracies and Wishful Thinking


Brendan said...

Even better the film has English sub titles. A good watch!

Acacia H. said...

I must admit some surprise no one's mentioned the recent experiment proving Einstein was right in his theories that the Earth's mass would warp its surrounding spacetime, and that it would "drag" the fabric of spacetime by a certain degree as it rotates.

They used a gravity probe in Earth orbit using gyroscopes that detected not only the geodesic effect, but also frame-dragging. And Einstein's Theory of General Relativity has been proven correct.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Acacia H. said...

As an aside, The April 30, 2011 issue of "The Economist" had an interesting article on the rise of intellectualism in Great Britain's government. Especially telling was this paragraph below (one that Republican politicians really need to take to heart as I suspect it's part of why they've become so vile and despicable):

"But there is political utility in thinking, for few things are more politically toxic than a lack of ideas. Looking back, John Major's hated Tory government was not especially incompetent. After the European Exchange-Rate Mechanism debacle of 1992, it provided steady economic stewardship for five years. It was just bereft of new ideas and had nothing to say about the future. Neither did Gordon Brown's premiership recover when he turned out to be a political game-player rather than the big thinker of lore."

Rob H.

paters: the failed attempt to get people interested in roast penguin to go with their taters - paters and taters

Paul said...

Al Qaeda has confirmed the death of bin Laden. Which seems nice of them.

"We call upon our Muslim people in Pakistan, on whose land Sheikh Osama was killed, to rise up and revolt to cleanse this shame that has been attached to them by a clique of traitors and thieves who sold everything to the enemies."

(Weird, I was just thinking the same thing. Though perhaps not the same "shame", "clique of traitors" and "enemies" that they meant.)


And then everybody was kungfu fighting.

Carl M. said...

Regarding ethanol: we're eating way too much corn, anyway. Read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Prior to the ethanol craze, corn prices have been below production costs due to the way USDA subsidizes corn farmers since the Nixon years.

Most of that corn land should be turned into pasture.

C. Keith Ray said...

I recently read that speculation in corn futures was the "real" reason for the rise in prices in that commodity and the bubble could burst sooner or later. Increasing numbers of investors are following the herd, raising prices. Might even become a bubble followed by a bust.

Wish I had a link handy but maybe a search would find it.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin (in the main post):

This seems especially pertinent, given America’s recent swerve down Kookoo Lane. Aha! Belief in Conspiracies linked to Machiavellian Mindset -- a firm belief that "they did it" is linked to the concept that "I would do it". It's exactly what I would have written, if they hadn't systematically stolen my ideas.

That certainly explains the recent, pervasive Republican behavior of accusing Democrats of doing what THEY (Republicans) actually do.

"Democrats want to exert government control and curtail your freedoms!" Because of course, when THEY are in power, that's exactly what THEY want to do. They can't even conceive of Obama NOT trying to do so.

LarryHart said...

And as al-Queada is on the brain these days, and as we were recently talking about "Dune"...

Does anyone remember that the tribe's secret name for Paul in the original novel was "Usul", which was translated as "The base of a pillar"?

Becuase in the real world, that's exactly what "al Quaeda" translates to from Arabic.

David Brin said...

supposedly OBL loiked both DUNE & FOUNDATION

David Brin said...

No evidence that bin Laden ever read Foundation or Dune! This article & speculation on the relation of Al Queda to Foundation dates back to 2002

Tony Fisk said...

Mmm! Serbian anime! Not half bad at all! While the idea is strongly reminiscent of 'Ghost in the Machine', and everything gets reset at the end, the imagery and staging is excellent (more than making up for the occasionally clunky animation) and the plot rollicks along at a good pace, with a fair splash of humour (check out the guy fishing with a metal detector at the start). I do wish that female heroines didn't have to be depicted so... heroically though! No wonder Goijan(?) acts like he needs a continuous cold shower!! Are there any female animators?

Don't tell my daughter about those skateboards; I'll never keep up with her!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

supposedly OBL [liked] both DUNE & FOUNDATION

Paul Harvey used to claim that Saddam Hussein liked "The Godfather".

But in any case, I never noticed before how "Usul"--the base of the pillar--would also be a foundation!

Wheels within wheels within wheels, indeed. :)

Anonymous said...

I hope the cell phone search issue gets settled in a reasonable way. One solution is that law enforcement can search what is stored on your phone only, not the cloud. In essence, turn on "airplane mode" and that's what can be searched.

David Brin said...

An example of the "big picture" perspective is this piece I did for Thomas Kuhn's PBS series "Closer to Truth." Are we living in a simulation?

David Brin said...

Hey watch this... catch the dream...

Whoa... tiny robots... kungfu fighting!

Wow... this sure shows where George Lucas got his ideas!

Anonymous said...

The io9 link does not go to a page specifically about Dyson spheres. Instead it seems to be a link to some kind of index page with several stories linked from it, none of which appears to be the Dyson sphere story.

I can't easily find the Dyson sphere story from the provided link. Please provide a more direct link.

Anonymous said...

Dyson sphere link:


Rob said...

Oh, that's cute, JD.

David Brin said...

Krugman the populist?

David Brin said...


Jhartek said...

This is excellent: