Saturday, March 14, 2015

Armed with Cameras...

What does it mean for the world to flow with light?

Let's start this example of sousveillance in action… a professor and his students showcase where the FDA buried information about drug company misconduct

Now, the standard response to something like this is to build and then build some more upon our callouses of cynicism. Oh no, we see more villainy, proving that all institutions are corrupt!  Instead of yes! We just caught some villainy! Proving that we can -- with grinding but relentless hard work -- improve our institutions, the way our parents and grandparents did!

Light is penetrating previously dark corners. But the real lesson here is not the cynical one pushed by both left and right -- and by Hollywood -- that institutions are inherently hopeless. They have functions. Every episode of revealed skullduggery -- from the SAE frat-jerks to Ferguson's racist fine-factory -- is not cause for despair, but rather evidence that supervision and light are the only tools we have, to ensure that they function better. Every act of asserted accountability proves they haven't wrecked democracy.  Not yet.

This is no fairy tale.  Justice and happy endings aren't guaranteed.  Martin Luther King Jr. did not promise the path would be linear, but an "arc" that will sweep toward justice only if most (not all) of us pull on it, like gravity.  

Want an example?

== It will take a lot of these... ==

"A Louisiana man was paid $50 to deliver a summons in a brutality case to a police officer, as he left a courthouse. Hours later, the man was arrested and charged with assaulting the officer; the claim was that he had attacked the officer on the courthouse steps, slapping him with the summons and in effect striking him hard enough to move him back several feet. Charges were supported by two ADAs at the scene. For two years, prosecution against the man proceeded.

"Unfortunately for these particular, conniving officers, the ADAs, and the DA, the man had asked his wife and nephew to film him delivering the summons so he could prove he had done so. Eventually, the case came to the jurisdiction of the Louisiana State AG's office - where all charges were promptly dropped. The man is currently pursuing a civil-rights lawsuit against the law enforcement officials involved."

We are at a cusp when authority figures with bad habits will soon see those bad habits exposed, not by happenstance, but systematically and regularly, by technologically enhanced citizen power. 

Let's be clear about one thing; we can't do it alone. Professionals must be our allies against thugs. 

I've often pointed out that good cops deserve not just respect but also some allowance for the tension and adrenaline that comes with an extraordinarily difficult job. A sliding scale must allow for the fact that good cops will have an occasional really bad day. Those days should be judged by their rarity, and whether the resulting harm was fairly small.

On the other hand, it is illogical and self-defeating for them to show “solidarity” with thugs on the force. Good public servants already face a choice -- to find this new sousveillance trend  daunting? To reflexively close ranks and show solidarity with uniformed hoolums... or else realize, deep down, that they are different from the badged ruffians, and share no common interests them.

With the advent -- and now widespread adoption -- of cop lapel-cameras, after Obama Administration and court rulings that citizens have a blanket right to record their interactions with police, the road ahead is clear. Especially as ghetto youths will now, more and more, be doing what I predicted in both Earth and The Transparent Society -- stepping out of the car with their own lapel cams beaming -- real-time -- a record into the cloud.

Moreover, the good side of the light-wave is evident. It's getting easier to catch bad guys and to get convictions, separating perpetrators and proving what they did, while assisting the innocent to say "I didn't do it, go way now, oh public servant, and bother the guys who did."

== Cop Cams and Accountability ==

A trend? Things are changing in Tijuana -- where the police department is issuing body cameras to cops on the street -- with the aim of turning off corruption and bribes. Sure you cynics, there will be ways around it. Yeah, sure, only the stupid half will get caught this the start. But eliminating the corrupt / stupid cops is a bad And this is only the beginning. 

Now another piece to the puzzle. The largest organization of public defenders in the United States is building a “cop accountability” database, aimed at helping defense attorneys question the credibility of police officers in court.  The contents of the Legal Aid database have been harvested from a variety of sources, e.g. civil lawsuits filed against the city, criminal trials in which a police witness was deemed not credible by a judge, and news reports about police wrongdoing. Information also comes from grievances that New Yorkers have filed against individual officers with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

I cannot reiterate often enough the thing to keep in mind -- that this must not become a "zero tolerance" situation, in which a good officer must pay harsh penalties for a flash of temper or a lapse in procedure that was an exception and that wrought no major, lasting harm. 

There must be a scaled allowance for the fact that we all are descended directly from cavemen.  We need these folks! Their job is hard and often ambiguous and tense. A sliding scale of leeway must be part of it, before a cop's credibility sinks and his comrades decide that he's a bad apple, making things harder on them all. But they, too, must embrace this sliding scale, or they will have foresworn our trust.

== Accountability ain't easy ==

Did you think this was settled? It will be a fight for years.

Texas bill would make recording police illegal: Citizens with cameras would not be permitted to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer on duty. The offense would be a misdemeanor. This bill would contradict the precedent set in 2011 by an appeals court, which found that citizens are allowed to record police.

Forgive me for getting political, but are you surprised by the red-gray hue of this troglodytism? After Florida and Georgia fought hard against this new and vital civil right?

Seriously, some of you are smart enough to start awakening to our national tragedy. The hijacking and betrayal of American conservatism.

== The left is not guilt free ==

An Aside:  Should we rid our police forces of thugs?  Sure, and light will help. But we need the same thing regarding school teachers

In fact, this is one area where liberalism has been just plain wrong for decades, giving an unnecessary (and rather lonely) legitimate talking point to the Right. 

Sure, teachers must be protected from capricious bullying! There must be leeway and process. A burden of proof -- that parents and administrators and teacher peers and quality standards can all play a role in satisfying.

But the firing of bad teachers is a duty that we owe our kids. It should not take years and years. Especially when everyone -- parents, peers, administrators, standards and students(!) agree that an awful maniac or dope or lazy bum simply has to go.

Sure, I can accept your instincts to protect the teaching profession. Now squint and envision those cops closing ranks to protect the worst bad apples on the force. You are doing the same damned thing!  And you are doing it wrong if you actually believe the present state of affairs is wholesome.

== Equipping the Neighborhood Watch ==

Back to street transparency... Dropcam Keeps an eye on the neighborhood: Utterly illustrating The Transparent Society,  here’s how, very soon, we will all be cam equipped members of the Neighborhood Watch. The Internet-connected video surveillance camera, Dropcam -- acquired last year by Google’s Nest Labs -- is able to constantly stream video over your home Wi-Fi, and store data to the cloud. You can access the video via your web browser or through mobile apps. 

Writes Brian Chen writes, "Everyday people can use Internet -connected cameras to hold one another accountable or to keep an eye out for each other.” 

If you hate this world, fine, agitate to ban the cams… and then only Big Brother and the other elites will still have them.  Stop shouting at a tsunami to “stop!”

Surf, instead.

And finally...

list of Think Tanks by region/topic. VERY interesting to the few of you who will find it interesting. ;-)


locumranch said...

Did everybody get that? It cannot be reiterated enough.

In order for the principles of transparency, sousveillence and coveillence to work, effect enlightenment or reduce corruption, GOOD people must be willing to ACT, despite a plethora of negative consequences & strong public disapprobation, and therein lies the rub.

For a culture or an individual to effect change, it is not enough to simply KNOW that corruptions exist. It is necessary, first, to be GOOD (howsoever you choose to define this term); it is necessary, second, to be willing to act despite negative consequences (aka 'kickback'); and, third, it is necessary to actually ACT.

This is why corruption and evil will always be with us: Few of us meet the literal definition of what it means to be 'good'; many of us are wiling to accept some degree of corruption rather than risk the negative consequences of confrontation; and most of us are either unable or unwilling to act.

This is what Edmond Burke meant when he said that 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing', prompting me to reiterate (once again) that there is a the huge difference between the Transparency of KNOWING and the Opacity of DOING.


DP said...

Forget about mere cameras. When are we going to see a fool proof 99.999% accurate voice stress analyzer that can tell when someone (especially a politician) is lying? Make it a device so small it can be worn without the other person knowing, giving you silent buzzes when they are lying.

Now that would be a game changer.

Imagine a world where it would be impossible to tell a lie. Whether it was telling Aunt Agnes that her ugly dress is pretty, or a candidate promising to never raise taxes, or a CEO saying there would be no layoffs, or a wayward husband claiming he was just working late.

Would that be heaven or hell?

Treebeard said...

So now we have an atheist paraphrasing a Baptist preacher about “moral arcs of the universe” and comparing it to gravity, and speaking of ubiquitous surveillance cameras in Manichean terms of “light” and “darkness”. All I can say is, only in America (at least one hopes).

Justice and happy endings aren’t guaranteed? Aww, say it ain’t so old boy! I was sure that all of history was a grand moral arc, and that homo Californicus was so much more moral than every other species and tribe they’ve wiped out on their epic ascent from the caves to dancing with the stars. Just think: if this goes on, in another couple of centuries, we’ll be able to demonstrate our moral superiority to *the whole galaxy* at warp speed and with supernova arrogance, a la that paragon of moral evolution, James Tiberius Kirk (assuming, of course, that the moral arc of the universe doesn’t actually bend toward ISIS, as some would insist). Ah well, I guess only a non-existent God knows. In the meantime, maybe we need a new acronym to remind ourselves of another inconvenient truth: TANSTAAMA.

It’s stuff like this that convinces me that religion will never go away, and that Nietzsche was right in positing that people would rather believe in nothing (moral arcs) than have nothing to believe in, and “go mad from the revelation” of living in a godless, nihilistic universe. But I guess even some “atheist” science fiction writers don’t see it that way, and see invisible moral arcs and Star Trek religion where the rest of us see only an indifferent void. Fascinating…

Doug S. said...

Don't you mean Jean-Luc Picard?

David Brin said...

Locum’s offering, this time, is actually pretty well-spoken and targets a region that’s akin to truth. But not quite in the cynical sense that he meant. For, in fact, the thresholds of sight and action that bemoans to be impossible are instead merely hard.

What he will never do is look in a mirror and recognize that his own suspicion of authority (SOA) reflex is shared with tens of millions of others who suckled the very same relentless hollywood propaganda that he suckled, extolling brave-eccentric individualists who refuse to be cowed by The Man. How marvelous that nearly all SOA acolytes also preen “I invented suspicion of authority! No one taught it to me! I am alone and you are all sheep!”

If that were true, then Locum’s despair would be well-grounded. It’s not.

Treebeard is - in contrast - simply a joke. He knows nothing of my religious position. Yeowch what a rant! Notice the sub text: “You enlightenment types will impose tolerant diversity and openminded acceptance of eccentricity upon the universe! Damn you intolerant sameness-imposing bastards, for forcing tolerance and diversity on everyone!”

The irony? That he is - in a way - right! This is a war and tolerant-eclectic-enlightenment values cannot co-exist - at root-level - with the standard human pattern of priest-justified top-down repressive dogmatism. That root level truly is zero sum… though if Star Trek prevails there will be religions and missionaries floating everywhere. BFD.

Oh, to show this ditzo’s insipidity and lack of research: “So you want to make gods. Now why would that bother anybody?"

rewinn said...

"Moral Arc" is one of those terms that would be improved by a definition, but unless one denies the existence of morality at all ... which is silly ... the existence of an increase in morality is pretty easy to observe in history. Before intelligence, morality as we commonly understand it is impossible; in early societies, the concept of caring about strangers distant in time and space would make no sense at all; only in the current era do we see mass concern about murderous barbarities on another continent or the impact of environmental degradation on great-grandchildren yet unborn.

To a large extent, this may be simply a matter of an increase in knowledge; you can't feel compassion for people you don't know about. Through photographs and international travel (often funded by Uncle Sam's desire to police the world) we may see and then feel that Iraqi children are not subhuman, but very much like our own. Only through increasing the availability of images are we ABLE to feel that police officers gunning down a boy playing at a picnic table is outrageous. That the moral emotions thus aroused are expressed through our legal system is another demonstration that, indeed, the arc of morality is bending ... too slowly of course ... toward justice.

It is not inevitable, perhaps; we can easily imagine a dystopia-with-cameras; but in practice we are seeing a general increase in compassion worldwide. It is in competition with an increased ability to slaughter remotely and dispassionately, but the near-universal revulsion to the "Collateral Murder" video illegally (but morally) disclosed by Pvt. Manning demonstrates that increased knowledge of the effects of dispassionate slaughter can lead to an increasingly moral response.

And no supernatural agent is needed here.

Duncan Cairncross said...

To your comment on sacking teachers

As far as I am aware teachers have "Tenure"
Which just means that the correct process must be used to sack them
This is what happens for all workers in most other countries

The process is simple
The bad teacher must be officially warned about his/her shortcomings
He/she must be allowed a period to fix them
After that period if not fixed - bye-bye

Its not too cumbersome and its used elsewhere for all workers

However it does involve the administration in doing some work and in manning up to talk to the teacher

In my experience most of the time when somebody says they can't sack somebody what they actually mean is that they can't be bothered doing the work required

It may be worse in the USA - here everybody in management knows that you have to follow procedure
In the USA its so easy to sack people that managers may feel put out about having to actually do some work

Unions normally concentrate on ensuring that all of the correct steps have been taken

Again - no problem sacking a bad worker as long as the administrator follows procedure

The big problem in the USA is not that teachers have tenure but that all of the other workers don't

Jerry Emanuelson said...

The equating of atheism with nihilism exposes religion's fundamental flaw. Anyone who has ever marveled at the wonders of the universe, while at the same time doubting the existence of a supreme being, knows how silly this equating of atheism with nihilism really is.

This is especially true for anyone who has, throughout their lifetime, maintained both a sense of wonder and purposefulness to their lives, while at the same time remaining extremely doubtful about the possibility of any sort of supreme being.

Laurent Weppe said...

"The equating of atheism with nihilism exposes religion's fundamental flaw"

Atheism isn't a form of nihilism: atheistic supremacism is. The folks whose worldview can be summarized as "I'm so much smarter than these cognitively limited religious rubes" always end up reaching the (perfectly logical given the posit it's based on) conclusion that every moral, ethics and values are meaningless tropes used to keep the intellectually stunted plebs under control and maintain the material comforts of the ruling class; and that, therefore, the only worthwhile deed is to work toward making sure the "enlightened brights" dominate the social hierarchy, since only them deserve such material comforts.

And yes, I pretty much summarized the randologist creed here.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Laurent, the common flaw in both religion and atheistic supremacism is that they are both forms of dogmatism.

Dogmatism is so common in the human mind that it must have once given humans an evolutionary advantage of some sort. Now, dogmatism is a serious obstacle. Humans must learn to become comfortable with uncertainty.

Science is the one successful method that has been developed for managing uncertainty. Knowledge and certainty are mutually exclusive. Certainty is a myth of unscientific worldviews.

DP said...

It's one thing to film a cop misbehaving.

But when can we spy on the elite behind their closed doors?

Tony Fisk said...

Can't help feeling Treebeard's reference to Homo Californicus is drawing from elements of Dicebox: Don't Look Back

But I digress.

Tacitus said...


Regards the removal of incompetent teachers in the US.
I state for the record that I hold teachers individually in high esteem and consider the profession of same to be most noble.
But there are quirks to the US system that you perhaps have not seen down in the Antipodes.

It varies from place to place but where I live the teachers union was until recently the most powerful political entity in the state. Measure it any way you choose, by lobbying dollars spent, by endorsements given in political contests, etc. The problems began when they allied themselves exclusively with one political party. They came to have effective veto power over that party's candidates, most problematically in school board races. Negotiations over wages and benefits became friendly chats between political chums. They did poor service to the public, who as company pensions vanished and health insurance costs soared, became resentful that teachers had a much better benefit package that most citizens; and to their members, as said skewing in negotiations actually did not push salary increases as they should have.

The issue of tenure is tricky. Most teachers are not great from day one. There is a learning curve and other than the genuinely awful you need to give them time. Once tenure was attained there was a tendency to "coast". If after a decade or so you can leave teaching and collect a pension while you start a new career, great. (speaking of some relatives of mine now). In the border zone, where a teacher had been around long enough to be a known quantity but not long enough to have their ticket punched, there was a strong tendency to circle the wagons and defend. It would be a rare administrator who would actually fire a poor teacher when they got flak from both the teachers union and the school board....those in many cases being the same entity.

Having worked on a volunteer basis in the schools for many years now I have seen some lousy teachers along with many excellent ones. The former can be removed eventually, but it usually takes years. During which time new batches of students (my kids were among them) miss the chance to learn effectively.

Union electricians would not tolerate sloppy wiring done by one of their own. Union teachers, alas, too often do/did.


Laurent Weppe said...

"But when can we spy on the elite behind their closed doors?"

By finding members of the elite willing to blow the whistle and film their peers behind closed doors.

Jumper said...

Treebeard, you probably will like this. It's one of my favorites.

AcidDC said...

"But the firing of bad teachers is a duty that we owe our kids. It should not take years and years. Especially when everyone -- parents, peers, administrators, standards and students(!) agree that an awful maniac or dope or lazy bum simply has to go.

Sure, I can accept your instincts to protect the teaching profession. Now squint and envision those cops closing ranks to protect the worst bad apples on the force. You are doing the same damned thing! And you are doing it wrong if you actually believe the present state of affairs is wholesome."

What is this about? Is there some wave of unprofessionalism or abuse among teachers that I haven't heard about? It's silly to suggest that the problems with our education system have anything to do with there being a glut of bad teachers that it's impossible to get rid of. If anything we have the reverse issue, that it's difficult to attract and retain good teachers. Giving teachers fewer rights and making the profession less appealing just makes the problem worse.

locumranch said...

In the sense that cameras are not 'arms', it is unclear as to how the presence or absence of a derivative (and therefore discounted?) SOA argument is even relevant to the above discussion, my point being that mere awareness of malfesiance is non-synonymous with definitive corrective action.


Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Dropcam is a recordable version of Dr. Reeve's invention shown in the David Niven film, A Matter of Life and Death (circa 1946). If anyone here has not seen the film, it is a must-see.

David Brin said...

Notice that AcidDC is not even remotely interested in a dispassionate investigation that might take into account the frustrations of parents like me, who watched helplessly knowing all three kids would waste semesters taking “science” from a lazy “coaster who had made a fine art of doing the minimum that keeps him on the slow-track to firing, filing delays and ALMOST flipping off (with just-barely-ambiguous hand gestures and guffawing at any attempt to set up a parent-teacher conference) any parent or peer who complained, while putting children in tears with demeaning snarks. He will outlast any efforts to get rid of him and "retire" at 55 with full pension, tapping our arteries for his parasitism for 30 years.

Your position is utterly monstrous. Your fellow citizens want to be able to stop terrible teachers from harming their kids! That you would not discuss ways and means to maintain quality control in such a vital professions is… I reiterate without exaggeration… utterly monstrous.

Tacitus said...

Perhaps AcidDC is instead a fortunate person who lives in a district where they are doing great. Such places do exist with the right alignment of financial, geographic and demographic stars.

My point, and it seems David that you concur, is that there are problem teachers and I envy our new commentator if he lives in an idyllic world where he is unaware of such.

I would go further. I think making it easier to remove the chaff would improve the teaching profession for the better educators. They would for instance be working with a (imho) more principled bunch of colleagues. Just back from lunch with a teacher friend so I reiterate, the Profession and many of its members are worthy, and suffer unfairly by the tarnish of perhaps 5% or so who should be doing something else with their lives....and with the lives of our community's future.


Paul Shen-Brown said...

It looks to me like the hyperbole has gone a little over the top here. As a science teacher myself, and a parent with children in school, I see this from 2 sides (there are more sides than parents & teachers here). In my own experience on both ends, I have seen both good and bad teachers, and a whole lot of new people who have potential but need support to get them through their first few years (as Tacitus notes). The teacher's unions are often an impediment to getting rid of the bad apples, but I have seen determined administrators make life such hell for bad teachers they were eventually driven out. We had one of these at my school who was teaching essentially 18th Century science because modern science conflicted with her Evangelical beliefs. The principal at the time made it his mission to drive the looney old bidy out, and the entire school was grateful. On the other hand, we have the opposite situation at my school right now, where a very good teacher is being pink-slipped, not by the principal (we have a new one this year, which makes him rather weak) but by an incompetent superintendent who wants to be seen as "tough on teachers." While the union is working to save my colleague's job (as well as others at other schools in the district - none of whom I know and can vouch for their quality). The superintendent spent most of our district's budget for the past few years an big, expensive building projects, which strangely enough all went to the building contractor his son works for, while class sizes grew, teachers and important support staff were laid off, the 10-year new textbook adoption was dropped from the budget ... I could go on.

What Jerry said about dogmatism in religion is equally true for all areas of human thought. Everything has at least 2 sides, if not more, but people tend to take the side they are most familiar with and fossilize their opinions. What AcidDC said about recruitment and retention is absolutely true, but you don't hear about it on the news, talk radio or the blogosphere. Do you know of any other profession that requires a college degree (an investment of years as well as dollars) in which 75% of people entering the profession have left it permanently within 5 years? Half are gone in the first year - that is how bad the working conditions are. Most teachers strongly feel that the rest of humanity has no idea and never will unless they try it themselves.

Having said that, I am also a parent who has had some concerns about some of my children's teachers - though only a few. And I don't have a magic solution, except to keep as open a mind as possible, and suggest that people try to find out what is happening before they flip out. It simply isn't the same story everywhere and in every case.

My students are taking the high school exit exam next week, which is almost as big a pain in the neck for the teachers as the students. So I have to get back to work. There were other things I wanted to comment on, but it will have to wait.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Tacitus, your comment came in while I was typing mine, so I didn't see it until mine posted. What you said about making it easier to get rid of the chaff is something most of us entirely agree with. The problem is that it is the administrators whose responsibility it is to do this are of very, very mixed quality, and are not trusted, as a general rule, by teachers. The worst of them are high school principals who used to be elementary school teachers. They seem to always expect high school-aged children to act like sweet little second-graders, and blame the teachers when they don't. This is why teacher's unions almost universally oppose the kinds of remedies that have been offered by our political caste in recent years.

Now I am off, really, but I might have time to check again tonight...

David Brin said...

Proposal. Take ratings by Peer-teachers, administrators, Parents, Students -- plus automated eval from test scores. If all five agree that a teacher sucks, he is out of there instantly!

Four out of five puts you on probation with a fast-track to exit.

Three out of five gets you on slower probation, with equal burdens of proof.

Two out of five gets you spending your summers in training.

Treebeard said...

I watched your Singularity Summit video Dr. Brin. You recommended that people familiarize themselves with scripture in order to influence and manipulate believers, not out of any actual belief in its contents, which doesn’t do much to change my opinion of you.

You spoke of “becoming gods”, which I guess makes you an “I-theist”, a Luciferian, a Thelemite, or something similar – a devotee of a Faustian, “left hand path” ideology of self-deification in scientific drag. Which is fine, but why the conniving, deceptive, manipulative approach? Why not just come out and state your radical agenda of transhumanism, world government (the new tower of Babel or Federation you say it’s time to build), global memetic engineering via Hollywood, militarism, etc. – the entire apparatus of an ersatz religion that is trying, in the guise of techno-progressivism and neoliberalism, to conquer the planet and initiate a regime that is indistinguishable from what Muslims call the reign the “Dajjal” (Antichrist)?

David Brin said...

Why, Treebeard? Feigning curiosity, but smugly sure you know the answer already, you ask why?

Because, you simpleminded putz, you watched that video with a will to seek justification for your hostility, utterly ignoring anything that did not fit your pre-aimed rage.

Brin talks about re-building Babel! Therefore he hates God… or else denies any possibility God exists!

Bull. They look, but they do not see. They listen but do not hear. I am not responsible for your monomoniacal hatred — that can only interpret others as being similar in monomaniacal hatred. All I can say is that your strawman is based upon what you see in the mirror. It has nothing to do with me.

If you were NOT a dismally stupid person, I might have pointed to where, time and again, I suggest that Scripture supports a new hypothesis — that we are supposed to rise up. The way children rise up to become adolescents who, (as is inherent in our nature) stop taking things for granted and begin asking questions! Expressing ambition. Acting like apprentices in the Father’s high art.

If I point to evidence that — even in the kindergarten text — there is a clear mission to become apprentice co-creators… a mission that is being reified and proved in a million scientific labs, as we speak — your response is not humanity’s greatest gift (after love)… the gift of curiosity. No, it is hatred.

Yes, I am agnostic… as I am clearly supposed to be! Else He would be opening the sky and speaking to us all plainly, instead of daily preaching the Sermon of Ambiguity.

But indeed I am not an atheist. (Thanks for never once asking, you smarmy twit.) I in fact, have publicly baited many of the Extreme-Militant Atheist Cultists, like Dennett. I seek those logical zones wherein He might still reside. And that makes me more a true son than all your sanctimonious catechisms will ever make you.

(But why bother? You are merely skimming this, not reading, as you skimmed the video, blind to everything but pre-set hate.)

Notice that you simply attacked (and hurled yourself at a strawman) instead of grappling with even ONE of the scriptural items I raise. For example, that He slays almost everybody in Noah’s time and in Sodom, for real nastiness, but kills no one (!) in Babel, instead calmly saying “go do other things, for now, though your potential is limitless.”

Your… potential… is… limitless. Nothing will be beyond us.

That is genuine scripture! But are you even remotely intrigued? No. Hatred blinds you, stymies the adolescent gift of curiosity… (though not the adolescent curse of rage.)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Back to teachers tenure

We (the rest of the world) manage quite well with not only teachers having tenure but all other employees as well

The issue in the USA is not the tenure

There are two possible problems
(1) Administrators not doing THEIR jobs very well
As a manager if my people are not pulling their weight it's my fault

(2) Unions blocking improvements
This can and does happen - but it is normally a reaction to very bad management
Most people go to work to get the job done and are supportive of efforts keep things going
It does not take much "Management incompetence" or worse "Management malice" to lose that supportive mindset

When your administrators are known to be obnoxious incompetents it is difficult to avoid dropping into reflexive obstructionism

So the root cause of the "Union Obstruction" is back to the Administration not doing their jobs very well

Another slightly more forgivable reason for admin NOT sacking bad teachers is
They don't know that it is possible and they don't know how

Here with "universal tenure" a lot of the population believe that "you can't sack a bad worker"
They are wrong - completely wrong but the belief is there

An administrator who "Knew" that he could not get rid of a bad teacher would be unlikely to put any effort into finding out how to sack said bad teacher

David Brin said...

Sorry Duncan, but I am pretty old and I have lived for extended periods in Europe. And no one can tell me that there aren't left-style insanities. Europe has been eviscerated by lefty inanities, vast vacation and early-retirement inanities and laws making it nearly impossible to fire private employees.

I am a huge supporter of teachers! But their solidarity with BAD teachers is like cops closing ranks to protect the thugs. It may be human nature, but it is vile.

And you KNOW that I know that the Right is today's far-worse problem.

Smurphs said...


Please remember what happens when the union is busted and tenure is no more. Suddenly, the 50 year old teacher, who has given 25 years of outstanding performance, is determined to be a bad teacher and let go. To be replaced by a new hire with no experience, but for one third the salary. Not to mention no pension burden.
Everyone discusses the example where tenure keeps the bad teachers in school. To me, the point of tenure is to protect the good, not the bad. And believe me, with school budgets under more strain every year, the good really need the protection.
The whole discussion reminds me of my brother-in-law, who constantly brings up the excesses some unions as the reason all unions are bad. When I ask him how many companies fail due to bad unions, versus how many fail due to incompetent and criminal management, he goes silent. And I mean criminal management, not poor management or bad luck.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"vast vacation and early-retirement inanities and laws making it nearly impossible to fire private employees"

Vast vacations
That would be a problem if we had an actual shortage of labor
But that's not the case as a result of improved productivity we can get over twice as much output per hour worked as we could in the 90's
If anything the problem is too much labor - in which case longer vacations mean that more people are employed

The same goes for early retirement and reduction in the working week

Laws that make it nearly impossible to fire employees

The laws require you to use due process and give the bad worker a chance to improve
That's all

If they don't improve you can sack them

What you can't do is sack them for no reason

And if they do anything too outrageous you can sack them immediately
- Even if they do do something like stealing you do have to hold a meeting - but this is to ensure that you have all of the facts

It's not "nearly impossible" but it does require your HR people to have a spine and do some work

The fact that well educated people like you believe that it is nearly impossible means that in some ways it does become "nearly impossible"
But that is a failure of will - not a failure of law

There are left wing lunacies but these are not part of them

Tim H. said...

In teaching any effort at reform is likely to result in the "Vogons" running amuck, and a large portion of what's wrong with education could be attributed to well intentioned reform.

David Brin said...

Smurphs, your strawman is precisely an example of why the left has lost the cred it needs, in order to fight the right's insanity.

Look at your posting. It poses things entirely as a zero sum game. Either we keep the present (insane) system in which no possible combination of parents, peers, administrators, students and performance criteria can remove a toxic teacher from our kids...

...or else (according to you) toss all protections! They all go! Teachers fired right and left, the day before their retirement is vested! Put against walls and SHOT! for teaching evolution! Put in cages and forced to eat chalk!

Your inability to posit a possible incremental reform that would help solve the problems while keeping the good... that kind of dogmatic response is what has gone insane about America.

Thanks for so clearly demonstrating that the lunacy is only 90% on the right. That other 10% is utter lefty drivel.

Smurphs said...


I apologize for stating my case poorly. I understand your response, but I was not strawmanning anything. This is really happening every day where I live (Pennsylvania). Three teachers I know well, close friends, not just friend of friends, have been suddenly found to be “underperformers” and let go. After decades of excellent performance reviews. Oddly enough, all just within a few years of qualifying for their full pension benefits. Again, I know these cases personally. I sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

My point, which I obviously failed to get across, was not to defend tenure at all costs. I am one hundred percent with you on the “There has to be a better way” bandwagon. My point was that real people need real defending from the Right right now.

(It’s the Right around here, locally, at the School Board and County Commissioner level. It may be different in other places. Around here, rating teachers on ‘Merit” has become a euphemism for rating teachers on ‘Money’. )

David Brin said...

Smurphs... fair enough. Indiana and Pennsylvania aren't really "blue" anymore and the Union will probably trade them for Virginia and N. Carolina, which are civilizing at a fair pace.

Good luck in your local battles. The confederate war on unions is part of the war on all smartypants... scientists, civil servants, teachers. It is liberals' fault for not making the pattern clear as day.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I've just been looking up labour laws in various countries

All of them permit you to fire somebody who is not performing satisfactorily

The UK law does not require you to go through the steps
But if you don't you may get into trouble if your employee objects so the sensible thing to do is the
Warning, time to get better, dismissal

From Wikipedia
In the United States and Canada, tenure is a teacher or college professor's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause. It is awarded after a probationary period.

Without just cause - exactly the same as employment law in Europe

There is a part that could cause difficulty for a good employer
If you need to "downsize"
In Europe you would have to make your employees redundant - and pay them a redundancy payment
In the UK the statutory payment is
one weeks pay for each year of employment
So an employee with 10 years experience would get 10 weeks pay
And if you needed to downsize a very small payment

Other countries are more generous
Spain is 45 days/year
This is a bit more realistic but it is also enough to make downsizing expensive - we could argue if it is adding too much to the cost of business

Again - not "nearly impossible" not even difficult

BUT it does need the administrators to have an actual reason like poor performance
a "just cause" which they can defend in a tribunal
They can't just say "he/she is performing badly" they need some foresight - it's easy to damn somebody in a quarterly review - but in a tribunal a worker can point to his/her previous reviews

Paul451 said...

Re: Atheism vs Nihilism.

Atheism is nihilistic.... For one very narrow definition of existential nihilism. But when people say "Atheism is just nihilism", they are playing a game where, mid-argument, they change the use of "nihilism" to its broadest sense.

Atheists generally do not believe that there is an externally imposed "purpose" or "meaning" to our existence. We generally do not believe there is an outside morality in the universe. Religious apologists then twist the definition by dropping the "externally imposed" to pretend that atheists believe that our own lives therefore must have no "purpose" or "meaning" to ourselves and those around us. (Or, like Treebeard's masturbatory claims self-superiority, if we don't believe that our lives are meaningless, somehow we aren't really "atheists".)

Laurent, said...
("when can we spy on the elite behind their closed doors?")
"By finding members of the elite willing to blow the whistle and film their peers behind closed doors."

We probably have more success encouraging their servants to blow the whistle.

Paul451 said...

Re: Atheist "dogma".
I think there's a weird double standard with religion. Behaviour that is considered acceptable and downright mild by the religious is considered aggressive and dogmatic when done by atheists. Asking to have a workplace free of religious propaganda and iconography is seen as somehow equivalent to subway preachers, or the "God hates fags" cretins, aggressively forcing your beliefs down people's throats, but the actual propaganda/iconography isn't seen as forcing your beliefs on others.

Put up hundreds of signs with religious verse, one outside of every church, billboards ads, TV spots, etc, and it's not even commented on. Buy one billboard that says "Atheists exist" (actual example from Utah), or "God probably doesn't exist" (actual example from NYC), and people demand it to be taken down. Cities have changed their rules to ban such ads (actual example). Wear a t-shirt in a council chamber that says "I am an atheist" and you'll be ordered to remove it or cover it up because its offensive, as judged by the chairman who is wearing a cross and just led the council in its opening prayer. (Actual fucking example.)

Paul451 said...

Speaking of hectoring other people... This goes on for awhile, it's a personal bug of mine...

Re: Lie detector.

Like most inventors of stress detectors, you immediately market your device as a "lie detector". It's not, it's a stress detector, it does not "detect lies". Believing that it "detects lies" is where it creates hell for anyone who isn't a sociopath.

But it's worse: Like most vendors of stress detectors, sensors, forensic tools, you have the exaggerated "99.999%" infallibility. DNA sequencing is "1 in [multiple] billion" foolproof. Except... when you actually use it. On a perfectly matched laboratory standard sample, under theoretical ideal conditions, it could reach that level according to the maths. In practice, it is messy and error prone. Lab error rates are often unrecorded and never reported. (And that before incompetence and actual fraud and evidence tampering.) But that "1 in [multiple] billion" figure gets thrown out at every opportunity. And DNA testing is perhaps the most reliable forensic science we have. Everything else is much, much worse.

So the idea that an audio voice analysis worn underneath clothing can possibly achieve such a extremely high rate of accuracy is nuts.

Paul451 said...


But it's worse: What does "99.999%" accurate mean? Or rather, what does the 0.001% inaccuracy mean? Is that the rate of false-positives or false-negatives? Is the error record-specific, event-specific, or person-specific.

Eg. Imagine there's a blood test for a disease that has a 1% rate of false-positive. Simple maths says to reduce the rate of false-positives further, whenever you get a positive result, you run the test again. That reduces the false-positive rate to 1 in 10,000. Run the test again on those positives and you reduce the rate of false-positive to 1 in 1,000,000.


But what does "run the test again" mean? Is the error caused by the test itself? That's the easiest one, "record-specific errors", you just re-hit the "run" button on your test. Or is the sampling process variable (a particular blood sample, statistically, may not represent the whole.) If you retest the same sample, you'll get the same (wrong) result. That's "event-specific error", and now you'll need to get a fresh sample for every test. Or is the test inaccurate for certain types of people? That's "person-specific" errors, obviously, and makes the test nearly worthless as an individual diagnostic tool, but it may be useful for population studies (since you can allow for the false-positive, even if you can't reduce it by retesting.)

In medicine, using a "99% accurate" test on a disease with 1/1000 prevalence means that 90% of positives are false. The "99% accurate" test is, across the population, only 10% accurate. A "99% accurate" test on a disease with 1/1m prevalence means 99.999% of results (99,999 false positives for every 1 true positive.)

[Fortunately, in medicine, there are usually other tests that have completely different, non-overlapping error-modes. An x-ray screening has a different type of false-positive error than blood-test, and both have different modes of error than a biopsy. So doctors can "escalate" tests by the degree of intrusion. For your device, there's no such escalation of testing.]

Paul451 said...


But it's worse: The rates of false-positive and false-negative are usually oppositely affected by changes to the test. In order to reduce false-positives to an acceptable level (to make the test even 99% effective, let alone 99.999%), you must increase the rate of false-negatives. That is, you have to turn down the ability of the test to detect the thing you want it to detect. To reduce the rate of false-accusation to 0.001% (of what? devices/statements/days/people?) you would reduce the ability to "detect lies" to maybe 1%. It might still be useful for something, but again stress-detector not actual lie-detector. The only lies you could detect are the ones least useful to catch (otherwise honest, mentally-normal people telling nervous white-lies.)

Paul451 said...


But it's worse: If there is a signature for lying, and an algorithm to detect that signal in a small device, then there's a way to mess up that signal. Bio-feedback training. A drug that tweaks your stress sensitivity. Or a spray to tweak your vocal tightness. Or even a small device hidden in your tie that detects stress but then adds a negating or masking vibration to your voice. Anyone who has a reason to plan to lie to you, whether a criminal, a salesman, a politician, or a cheating husband, will have the greatest motivating to find ways around detection. Again, you only catch the otherwise honest, mentally-normal people telling nervous white-lies.

Conclusion: Will people try to invent such a device? Yes. Will it get deployed on any smartphone or browser? Yes. (Frankly I'm surprised there isn't already.) Will it be worthless garbage that people treat as "fact"? Very much, yes.

Laurent Weppe said...

@ Paul451 regarding the eventual commercialization of fake magic "lie-detectors":

Why, thank you for summarizing everything that's wrong with Psycho-Pass (to be fair, the author does not shy away from the fact that the society he imagined is fucked up, but he falls in the same trap than Aldous Huxley by making his distopia way too stable and functional to keep my disbelief suspended)

Regarding other things:

"Put up hundreds of signs with religious verse, one outside of every church, billboards ads, TV spots, etc, and it's not even commented on. Buy one billboard that says "Atheists exist" (actual example from Utah), or "God probably doesn't exist" (actual example from NYC), and people demand it to be taken down"

Well, forgive my bluntness, but your american provincialism is showing. It's not that Western Europe doesn't have some eruption of fucked up religious tribalism (like a bunch of french far-right politicians putting nativity scenes in public buildings in order to send the message that "(White) Christianity is still hegemonic here!"), but the massive and generalized double standard you speak of is not universal.


"Europe has been eviscerated by lefty inanities, vast vacation and early-retirement inanities and laws making it nearly impossible to fire private employees."

*Cough*, as other people already pointed out, (Western) European legislations do not make it impossible to fire private employees, they merely demand that
1. The burden of proof lies on the employer when an employee is fired for incompetence (as it should be)
2. Companies which downsize must provide valid reasons for doing so as well as providing compensations to their former employees (compensation which are then deducted from the company's tax sheet, something CEOs seldom mention when they whine about "confiscatory" regulations)
Beside, these laws and regulation exist for a reason: to limit the dismissal/downsizing blackmails: loathsome practices which were commonplace in Europe during the gilded age.
I always laugh when people tell me that France is some sort of giant leftist kolkhoz, given that we have one of the highest ratio of heirs at the helm of companies (32%, compared to 23% in Germany and 20% in the UK), one of the lowest rate of meritocratic promotion (Less than 30% of french large companies are helmed by people who either founded these or worked their way up: all the rest are either helmed by heirs or patricians nepotistically co-opted by boards of directors, resulting in many of the companies responsible for our greatest technologies being controlled by lazy jet-setters or contemptible cheaters), with the shittiest relations between employees and employers in all the western hemisphere: our "harsh" regulations are the only thing stoping my country from experiencing another cycle of feudal wealth monopolizing/crushing of the plebs, followed by a yet another bloody revolution.

As for the "vast" vacations: this remark reminds me of the french right-wing freaking out when Blum established paid vacations in 1936: it would crash the economy, make the working class lazy, cause the end of civilization... fast forward to today, and tourism is a 80 billion industry in France, 70% of which comes from spending by native French, and without which several region (including the one I was born in) would have been turned into demographic deserts long ago.

Paul451 said...

"but your american provincialism is showing."

Wrong continent, wrong hemisphere, (wrong other hemisphere.)

Laurent Weppe said...

"Wrong continent, wrong hemisphere, (wrong other hemisphere.)"

You did exclusively quote American examples: as far as I know, neither Utah nor NYC are located in Europe or Australia.

Tim H. said...

Paul451, concerning atheism, it's about as bad if you're the wrong sort of believer, which I was when I still had any. Something OGH might know too well... But if one borrows some mostly ignored ideas from religion (Do unto others as you'd have them do to you, etc.), the believers sometimes will respond in kind.

Andy said...

David though you are agnostic I am very curious about your speculations as to what God might be like. Personally I have gone from being raised Christian -> Agnostic -> Atheist -> Agnostic, and now very fascinated by Eastern/New Age ideas. I like the idea that everything is a small bit of a greater cosmic consciousness experiencing itself in a subjective, limited manner which when all put together forms a larger story.

Have you read this very short story called The Egg?

Regarding teachers... we need to attract talent by increasing training, improving pay, and weeding out those not cut out for the job:

raito said...

I'm afraid I'm on both sides. I'm on the cynical side from personal experience. I'm on the celebratory side every time something gets fixed, even if it's small. It's not either-or. What I'd like to see is someone trying to figure out how to structure organization that don't tend toward evil.

I do agree that it's harder to be good. Good follows rules, evil doesn't (or worse, twists them). So being good is harder than being evil.

Daniel Duffy's comment brings to mond the Wisconsin gerrymandering problem. The elected legislators held private meetings in a lawyer's office in order to claim confidentiality concerns when questioned. Any idea on how to deal with that?

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Regarding vocal-stress "lie" detectors:

There is already a very old and very cheap class of drugs on the market that will kill vocal stress very effectively. They are beta blockers, which were first developed as a blood pressure reducing medicine. Beta blockers are very common and have a wide range of uses.

Beta blockers are used in people who have difficulty with public speaking because they block the feedback loop of a small amount of psychological stress causing noticeable vocal stress which causes more psychological stress which causes even more vocal stress, etc.

I've been taking a very inexpensive beta blocker for about 15 years because I have a mild case of essential tremor, which can otherwise be a problem for me because I occasionally have to solder very small components on electronic circuit boards.

Beta blockers not only significantly calm vocal stress, but they also reduce heart rate, and even reduce or eliminate the increase in heart rate as a result of psychological stress.

DP said...

Guys, the comment about the near perfect voice stress lie detector was just a thought experiment:

Would life be better or worse if any lie (from a simple social compliment to a campaign promise) could be easily detected?

As for the idea of the lie detector being "trash", what failure rate would constitue a useless device?

Obviously 50% failure rate would be no better than guessing. But what about a lie detector that was right 75% or 80%? or 90% - augmented by the listner's visual clues, observance of the speakers body language, context of the conversation, factoring in the speakers reputation, or the use of simple common sense by the listener?

A device doesn't have to be perfect to be valuable, especially if it could be modified to pick up poker tells

DP said...

As for atheism = nihilism...

It is not possible for an individual to create for themselves meaning and prupose in a purely materialistic world.

In addition to lacking a God, the atheist world view lacks belief in the Soul. This renders the Mind down to purely electrochemical processes occurring in the brain.

This makes free will physically impossible.

Without free will there is no volition to create your own meaning in life.

So at the macro level, the lack of a God makes existence pointless and without purpose. At the micro level, the lack of a Soul makes free will and the creation of self-meaning impossible.

At every level, atheism lead inevitably to abject nihilism. And few atheists have the guts to face up to this. Instead, unable to face this bleak conlcusion, they fantasize about having free will and the ability to create there own meaning in life.

Such fantasies are no different than beliefs in fairies, unicorns or leprechauns.

DP said...

Why does a purely materialistic brain prevent free will?

According to the the latest investigations in neuroscience:

In a recent study, Cashmore has argued that a belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs, since neither complies with the laws of the physical world. One of the basic premises of biology and biochemistry is that biological systems are nothing more than a bag of chemicals that obey chemical and physical laws. Generally, we have no problem with the “bag of chemicals” notion when it comes to bacteria, plants, and similar entities. So why is it so difficult to say the same about humans or other “higher level” species, when we’re all governed by the same laws?

The above links are just for starts. Try googling "neuroscience+free will+is+an+illusion". The implications are staggering, as described by essayist Tom Wolfe:

Since consciousness and thought are entirely physical products of your brain and nervous system - and since your brain arrived fully imprinted at birth - what makes you think you have free will? Where is it going to come from? What "ghost", what "mind", what "self", what "soul", what anything that will not be immediately grabbed by those scornful quotation marks, is going to bubble up your brain stem to give it to you? I have heard neuroscientists theorise that, given computers of sufficient power and sophistication, it would be possible to predict the course of any human being's life moment by moment, including the fact that the poor devil was about to shake his head over the very idea.

A hundred years ago those who worried about the death of God could console one another with the fact that they still had their own bright selves and their own inviolable souls for moral ballast and the marvels of modern science to chart the way.

And now, neuroscience has taken even that from you.

You ain't nothing but a meat puppet. Your free will is only an illusion. The "Self" does not exist and can therefore never hope to create meaning or purpose.

Leaving nothing but abject, complete nihilism.

Anonymous said...

Small wonder armadillos live in the south - Rebel Gray on the outside, Republican Red on the inside.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Free will is like optimism. It is a useful and necessary illusion that is hard-wired into the human brain.

Whenever both unjustifiable optimism and a sense of free-will fail, we call that clinical depression; and there are both pharmacological and psychological treatments for this.

It is likely that both an operational belief in free will and a logically-unjustifiable sense of optimism would have to be wired into any useful high-level artificial intelligence that humans create. Otherwise, why would an artificial intelligence care about doing anything?

Even though we may recognize that both free will and a normal sense of optimism are not logically justified by reality, they are justified as being operational requirements for the successful human consciousness.

Andy said...

Daniel, why do you think free will is required to create meaning?

Alfred Differ said...


This here atheist has no problem creating purpose and meaning for his life. I'm not sure what your 'in a materialistic world' clause means, so maybe I'm not living in one. However, I suspect it is more likely you can't wrap your mind around how some of us don't need (or even care about) a Creator/God. The bit about there being no room for Soul is off-target too. Read Hofstadter's 'strange loop' book and you'll see there is room for this term in a scientific setting. If you are at all inclined to believe in the possibility of a Singularity, there might even be a way to 'immortalize' them.

The rest of your deductive chain dangles out there unconnected to our reality. It's an example of reasoning without evidence for a foundation.

A.F. Rey said...

Free will in itself is a nebulous concept. Just peruse the article in Wikipedia to verify that. So arguing that atheism requires the no one has "free will" entirely depends on your definition.

You seem to have chosen one which requires a consciousness entirely outside of this "meat puppet" of a body.

My definition would simply be the ability to make my own decisions. While these decisions would be based on physical systems, they would still be unpredictable. They would be based on the intial configuration of my brain (which differs from any other brain, either slightly or dramatically), the development of my brain, the experiences that changed my brain, the chemical properties of my brain (at any given instant), the chemical changes to my brain caused by development, experience, hormones, ingestion, other organisms, flaws in the support system, etc., not to mention the inherent feedback mechanisms and the competing parts of the brain that come into play when trying to make a decision. :)

IOW, while the physical systems that make up my brain are purely determanistic, the interplay of these deterministic systems creates a chaotic system that would be practically impossible to model or predict. Hence, a practically non-deterministic system which is currently indistinguishable from "free will."

So while you may not believe it is "real" "free will," I find it to be real for all practical purposes. And so I see no practical, distinguishable difference between a purely physical free will and that which would require a soul.

David Brin said...

Laurent thank you for defending the European approach to labor relations with cogency and clarity. What you made very clear with your “of course” assumptions is how very differently Europeans and Americans view these matters. For example, you take it as a given, on a moral and fundamental basis, that the owner of a small company, whose capital and reputation are at stake, must face a burden of proof when he claims that an employee is not performing his tasks well enough to continue to be employed.

As you know, I am a person with many liberal leanings, who believes deeply that regulation of the economy and enforcing fair treatment of labor is an essential part of maintaining a flat-open and competitively creative capitalism as well as simple justice. So it is not by any right wing reflex that I comment that —

—the European philosophy of burden-of-proof is, in this case, absolutely whacko and ridiculous! Yes, we need many protections. But the employer is the one with vastly more at risk, his capital, reputation, perhaps a lifetime of passionate personal investment.

In the end, it is a marketplace for labor. If two people want the same job, it should drift or move toward the one more qualified. Someone who is fired for incompetence should drift toward jobs that he CAN do, even if they pay less. Marx (who no one reads anymore) knew that employers must be prevented from cheating, oppressing or applying prejudice against the workers. But the market should still function!

David Brin said...

Andy- I agree that teacher pay should rise. As for religion, I believe our theological duty now is to CORNER God by carving away the many things he clearly is not. That leaves some territory (I am writing a book) but that territory does not overlap very much with standard religions.

Nor does it overlap with eastern mysticism, much. Western infatuation with that side of things is questionable. Hey! I put it in my fiction! But Yoda is an example of faux-eastern claptrap that’s simply, flat-out evil.

Daniel D… lie detectors and personality testing (illustrated in SUNDIVER in 1980) will either ensure Big Brother FOREVER or Big Brother NEVER.

Sorry, your “logic” about atheism is… sorry again… drivel. You could say the same stuff about the utter meaninglessness of having been “created” as a plaything by some macro-being who toys with us, never explains a thing, has some “plan” that is pre-ordained and who regularly causes our free will to turn into a joke.

You are honestly saying all THAT is somehow more ennobling than a person standing up, looking at the cosmos and saying “I will make purpose that matters to me, to others and that will change all that I see, for the better.

David Brin said...


DP said...

With all due respect Dr. Brin, you realy should read Tom Wolfe's excellent essay, "Sorry but your Soul Just Died".