Saturday, July 29, 2017

Science Fictional News & Updates

== Science fiction in action! ==

Ward Shelley a few years ago artistically charted the history of science fiction and fantasy - from Gilgamesh to Mary Shelley to the year 2000 - via a fantasy "leviathan" beast. It's quirky, fun, and leaves out a lot, e.g. modern non-English SF. Anyway, it's fun to be included, a couple of times.

Okay, so science fiction has conquered the world. It is the engine behind most of the big, money-making successes of Hollywood. It propels much of the political narrative, from dread of Big Brother to obsession with social collapse scenarios. And now, each year, ever more purportedly “literary” authors try their hand at “doing future” – resulting in romances set in space, thinly repurposed westerns and navel-contemplating angst-ridden time travelers. 

On Slate, Laura Miller appraises some of the most recent forays by artistically approved authors, and finds most of them wanting. Only then, what about Chabon? Bacigalupi? Rajamieni? Okorofor? Sue Burke? We embrace them. Yes, in part because they give a little love back. But also because they bothered to heed some of our history, some of our had-learned craft. Above all, they don't imply: "I just invented all this!".

 Still, should we be glad, or miffed by these cultural appropriations?  

Paraphrasing Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they mock you. Then they fight you. And then they claim to have loved you, all along.” Sigh.

== What's new in SF? ==

Ari Brin's excellent podcast - Novum - explores many topics related to science fiction and its influence on other media - and the world. In Episode 14, she begins a two part series reflecting on "Advertising in Science Fiction."  First, how advertising is portrayed in novels and films about the future, and then in Episode 15 about how advertisers use science fiction - and images of the future -- to sell, sell, sell.  And episode 16... about the origins of the "Jungle Gym," is even better! Terrific stuff.

Gregory Benford’s latest - The Berlin Project - explores another What-if about the Second World War, only this time, instead of maundering about implausible ways the Axis powers might have won, he delves into a way the struggle might have ended much sooner, if the director of the Manhattan Project had not made a crucial mistake. Had Leslie Graves listened to one fellow – who happens to have been Benford’s father-in-law – we might have had the bomb a year earlier, to use against Hitler’s capital. Like Benford’s classic Timescape, this novel shines light on the process of science itself in critical times. Only here, most of the characters – including the incredible Mo Berg – were real-life or even larger than life.  And Benford knew a great many of them. See Tom Shippey’s review in the Wall Street Journal.

Steve DeGroof, creator of the excellent Tree Lobsters comic strip, has a trio of short story collections: First LinesDandelion Seeds, and Scatter Plot -- all going for $1.99 on Kindle. See my review of science-based webcomics.

A lovely and pointed morality tale by Eliot Peper (author of Cumulus - an all-too believable tale of ubiquitous surveillance) is available on Kindle … True Blue… about a future when having blue eyes is the stigma-crushed minority. 

The rebooted Omni Media announces that it has partnered with the Museum of Science Fiction to bring back the original full run of Omni Magazine. Every issue ever published, all the way back to the 1970s, is now available online. Explore the iconic science fiction collection today. 

== Science Fiction & the Future ==

Global English Editing has created a fascinating web-graphic shows you many aspects from a recent study of literacy and reading in many nations, around the world. The good news is that reading is far from going extinct. More paper and e-books than ever are being consumed.. and yes, in the U.S. as well.  Though the graphic also shows reasons for caution. Among tidbits: There are books you can “pre-order” that are scheduled for release a thousand years from now (a stunt). But book publishing is the largest media and entertainment industry.

Wow okay, here’s one for the prediction registry: A study involving 34-week-old fetuses found they were more likely to focus on a pattern of lights that resembled a human face than on the same lights configured to look nothing like a face.” In other words, techies have started visually showing stuff to fetuses. How long before we get the teaching units I portrayed in “Dr. Pak’s Preschool”? A chilling story that forecast future parents giving their unborn off spring a “womb with a view”? 

What next? Poor women renting out their wombs to make advanced bio-mechanical devices, as in “Piecework”? Find both stories (and much more) in OTHERNESS.  

A call for volunteers to update my predictions registry!  It's a wiki. There's more, much more!

Wow. A quantum improvement in hobby drones. Controlled via face and hand gesture recognition, in addition to the usual remote controls. Put out your hand and it will land on it. Gymbaled camera, image stabilized. Amazing.

The Problem with Hollywood's visions of Artificial Intelligence - a re-evaluation of Alex Garland's film Ex Machina. 

== The Sheep Around us? ==

Using his WIRED soapbox to promote his new novel, Walkaway, Cory Doctorow takes the occasion also to fight some of the most hoary and destructive instincts of modern, lazy storytelling in his essay: Disasters Don't Have to End in Dystopia.

“Here’s how you make a dystopia: Convince people that when disaster strikes, their neighbors are their enemies, not their mutual saviors and responsibilities. The belief that when the lights go out, your neighbors will come over with a shotgun—rather than the contents of their freezer so you can have a barbecue before it all spoils—isn’t just a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a weaponized narrative. The belief in the barely restrained predatory nature of the people around you is the cause of dystopia, the belief that turns mere crises into catastrophes.”

This paraphrases the core point from my novel The Postman, which I wrote as a rebuttal to the Mad Max genre’s perpetual contempt for the average person.  In my novel (and I admit that Kevin Costner did remain faithful to this notion) all hope for a restored civilization rests upon the survivors remembering one core fact: “I was once a mighty and noble being, called a citizen.”  And hence, the great accomplishment of the story’s hero is not to defeat the villains, but to remind the people of that central fact.

Rebecca Solnit - one of the finest essayists in America - makes the same point in A Paradise Built in Hell, showing that time and again, our neighbors show pluck and guts, as when 80 average citizens rebelled, aboard flight UA93.  And yet, authors and directors relentlessly trot forth the banal dystopia that Cory criticizes.

Doctorow distinguishes this tiresome cliché with his notion of the  guardedly upbeat utopia. Not the boring aftermath of an enlightened and better civilization — no drama there! That’s why - in the much better tomorrows of Iain Banks, of Star Trek and my own Kiln People - most of the tales take place at a fringe or frontier.  (The Federation is decent and good and fair, which is why we almost never look there.)

Likewise, Doctorow eschews a preachy utopia in favor of portraying its beginning, in danger and ferment.  The initial problem may be chaotic and deadly, as in a dystopia, but with a crucial difference.

“Stories of futures in which disaster strikes and we rise to the occasion are a vaccine against the virus of mistrust. Our disaster recovery is always fastest and smoothest when we work together, when every seat on every lifeboat is taken. Stories in which the breakdown of technology means the breakdown of civilization are a vile libel on humanity itself.”  He asserts that: “ the best science fiction does some­thing much more interesting than prediction: It inspires. That science fiction tells us better nations are ours to build and lets us dream vividly of what it might be like to live in those nations.”

As is very often the case, Doctorow presents important and thought-provoking notions. Alas, Cory does tend also to wave signs implying “Look here! I invented this idea!”  

And so, only in the interests of fairness, I do urge you also to have a look at my much-earlier missive on “The Idiot Plot,” and compare.

== The Big Announcement? ==

The hacker group Anonymous claims that NASA has evidence for alien life. I have heard such rumors all my life. This one sounds especially implausible, for several reasons:

1. Given my overlapping sectors of interest in alien life - as an astrophysicist, the SETI scholar who has catalogued "Fermi" hypotheses, a NASA consultant, a known speculator on alternative biology, and as an expert in science fiction scenarios of First Contact, I can pretty much guarantee you that any contact committee that makes no use of me is both stupid and crazy.  I say that (obviously) without modesty, and yet bolstered by the simple reason that I do not leap to premature conclusions, unlike almost every other savant in the field.

2. Okay, let's shift from one diagnosably egotistical statement to the worst narcissist in the world... do you actually think that our current president would refrain from seizing such an announcement as his own?  Especially as a distraction from current problems? Heck, he might just make something like this up! One third of the country would follow him. The notion that he would leave such a thing to NASA is pure fantasy -- as, blatantly, are most UFO tales.

3. Look, I have written scads of SF about cryptic or suddenly-disclosed alien contact! It makes for great drama. I can entertain the thought. It's just that nearly every publicly bruited scenario I have seen and heard, across half a century, has been so dismally dumb! Tawdry, temporally and sociologically and scientifically illogical blarings of the cheapest Hollywood melodramas, with the added trait of nearly always being stunningly... bo-o-oring. (Zzzzzzzzz.)  Wel... with some exceptions.

4. Okay, maybe I over-rate my own value. But I also know many of the scientists and other thinkers who would be called in to consult, in case of something truly dramatic. And I see no sign of any of them scurrying about frantically or disappearing from the map.

5. But just in case, let me add that I can concoct scenarios under which intelligent and sincere public servants might (a) understand what's going on and not need (or believe  they don't need) input from a sci fi writer... (who has given many talks at alphabetical security agencies.) (b) have genuine and valid reasons for secrecy (see my story "Senses, Three and Six.")  And (c) have compelling reasons not to inform an untrustworthy chief executive.  I admit that all of that is possible...

...though down that road lie many rationalizations, deeply rooted in human nature and bad old practices that seldom led to good. If I were on the commission, I would go along with decided policy... but would perpetually be the fellow inside who questions pat assumptions.

I spent more time on this than the rumor was worth. If it comes true, I would win some wagers and lose others. And pray that we are not led by fools.

== Coming events!  ==

I'll be keynoting at the coming Interstellar Conference, in Monterrey California on August 7. Headlining along with warp drive inventor (or at least the least implausible version) Miguel Alcubierre.

A few days before, I'll be attending the annual Science Foo camp at the Google Campus.


Recent events! July 13 I gave the dinner keynote at "Realizing the Future: Genome Engineering 2017," in Minneapolis. At San Diego's Comicon International, I was on a July 21 panel about alien civilizations with Jimmy Diggs and Mark O'Bannon and others. The next day I was on a couple of panels at Freedom Fest, in Las Vegas. Then we went see Penn & Teller! (Penn's a sci fi reader and futurist, too.)

August 26 - come by the San Diego Festival of Books.


100 comments:

Carl M. said...

I need to respond to some open ends to the previous post's discussion.

Regarding the "flat" wealth tax: let's look at some of the categories:

1. Land. This one is obvious. Government's have been assessing and taxing land for a rather long time. The U.S. is particularly good at it. If I own land in my own name properly spelled, my own name misspelled, a trust, Evil Genius Enterprises, etc. makes little difference. If my entities don't pay tax, the land goes up for sale. Real identity is only required to qualify for a homestead exemption or a deductible, or a lower tax rate. In other words, the default is the highest rate. (And it doesn't have to be that steep, as even flat wealth taxes are more progressive than our current income/wage tax system.)

2. Patents and copyrights. Who or what ever claims ownership pays the tax. In this case, an Ask price based tax is appropriate. (Cut the rate in two at least.) No tax payment means the work goes into the public domain.

3. Physical buildings, factories, etc. May need to go to an ask price system to be fair. Once again, the tax is on the underlying wealth. I would not grant any deductibles to corporations or trusts. Only individual humans get treated as humans.

4. Individual and social capital. (What you earn; who you know; reputation.) No tax. Too intangible.

---

Those were the easy bits. What of derivatives? What of debts? Stock certificates?

One possibility would be to simply ignore them. Each debt is both an asset and a liability. There could be no tax on owning bonds -- and no tax deduction for issuing them. The resulting system would be less debt friendly than what we have today. Our system encourages debt, especially corporate bonds and real estate debt.

Then there is the issue of corporations and other businesses. A business can have value over its physical assets. Its organization, trade secrets, etc. are of value. If you want to tax this value as well, then I'll give a few possibilities. But do note that this is double-taxation, so make the rate lower. (Some double-taxation is good. I'm all for reducing the layers of ownership. If you tax each layer, you get the flattening David is calling for.)

For a public corporation, you could simply tax the market value of the corporation. This would give Amazon the tax clobbering it deserves. (Computing the market cap for tax purposes could get a bit interesting, as I could envision manipulators artificially boosting prices of their competitors. The integral of price times trade volume over the year might work.)

For a private corporation, the owners would need to set an Ask price. The tax rate should be lower since Ask prices for an entire entity are higher than marginal prices for a traded stock. I'd say make the rate half.

If you really want to flatten things out, treat subsidiaries as separately taxed property.

And if we treat mutual funds and other such instruments as stocks, we get ourselves back to true direct ownership. Might be hard on insurance companies, however.

There be details to work out.

Carl M. said...

I need to respond to another comment as well. David wrote:

"Sure, I’d tweak the inheritance tax. But it is fundamentally the fairest tax, if there’s a family business floor. It need never be paid, if you set up a beneficial foundation. Your kids can sit on the board and act like grandees forever..."

I'd go in the exact opposite direction. I want to better match power and responsibility. The owners of business need skin in the game. I also want a diverse population of angel investors.

The same goes for charity. Fund good works at a price. Is this cause worth money that you could use towards winning the America's Cup or other such personal trophy?

If we limit the charitable deduction to the cost basis, and heirs have a zero cost basis, then there are no tax brownie points. (I dream of a bunch of Crappe Artes museums going bankrupt.)

Bureaucrats and managers can be smarter and better people in nearly every way than owners. But there is great utility in having large chunks of wealth in the hands of true owners. Bureaucrats and managers go for consensus, best practices, and momentum.

Sometimes good new ideas come from crackpots. They need funding. But since most crackpot ideas are definitely bad, judgment is called for. This includes people making a gamble with their own money.

The movie Contact illustrated the principle vividly.

Jumper said...

A fun column. I should point out that when the Martian meteor was claimed to harbor fossilized microbes, the story was kept secret, classified by the government.

This leaked out when Clinton was accused of telling Lewinski this classified tidbit for her amusement, and I was pretty miffed to learn they thought they had the right to keep the news under wraps in the first place. So I don't find it unbelievable they'd do it over aliens. I just don't happen to believe they ever did acquire any knowledge of such. But what if they found something significantly different, but just as significant, and the story about space aliens is just deliberate misdirection? What might that other thing be? A pair of pliers recovered from a million-year-old rock?

........................

One thing I've seen repeatedly in end-of-the-world stories involving plagues, epidemics and zombie-type fictions is a major plot hole. This is when one group meets a new group of wanderers and the wanderers keep trying to approach and stand next to the protagonists - yet the wanderers don't seem to have any awareness why they should keep their distance, even when it's clear they understand there's a plague going on! If a plague was going on I'd shout back and forth to my neighbor and certainly not try to go breathe on him! And he would do the same; and he's no genius; but you don't have to be.

David Brin said...

CarlM makes a good effort to answer my Ownership Transparency Treaty. And yes, Land taxation has a lot of fans. I agree that ownership transparency isn’t essential for taxation purposes, as it is for most other property.

But you miss the point. Ownership transparency has many other positive effects and almost zero negative ones. Your reflex to consider secrecy (“privacy”) to be a libertarian desideratum is an example of the deep sickness of today’s libertarianism!

You want less coercion and government regulation? At least a quarter, perhaps half, or all government functions would wither away if light shone on (almost) all misdeeds. Libertarians should make transparency, and the resulting reciprocal accountability, their top agenda item! But plutocrats don’t like it. And hence their slavishly obedient LP lackeys don’t.


Jumper show us links to any validity to the Martian Microbe - Lewinski - secrecy bit. Sorry. I don’t believe a word of it.

Jumper said...

I wouldn't believe me either, except I know I'm not making it up or mis-remembering; I read it in a mainstream newspaper during the impeachment era. The emphasis was more on the presumed fact that it was classified; and barely mentioned in passing what it was. I have looked for it on Google several times and zilch; nada. This is why I wish for LexisNexis.

My other conspiracy theory I can swear I read from a reliable source long ago is that J. Edgar personally had Elvis drafted, presumably because rock 'n' roll was seriously dangerous to national security. This also turns up nothing.

In any case I wouldn't expect anyone to believe me based just on the decades-old memories of an anonymous internet guy. The chances I'm mistaken are non-zero.

David Brin said...

It's not that I distrust Jumper. It's that secrecy of ancient marian microbes makes no sense. Especially in light of Clinton's character, and the later gleeful zest with which he made the announcement. (Which was used in the movie CONTACT.)

Jonathan Sills said...

On the topic of disaster and dystopia: I play the video game Fallout 4 a fair bit (the experience changes a lot with downloadable mods to the game). The basic plot, assuming you don't download the mod that changes the beginning, is that you were a citizen of the US in 2077, rushed into a Vault-Tec vault the day the Great War began and the nukes fell. Turns out every vault the company built, save one in California, was intended as one experiment on its inhabitants or another - yours, Vault 111, was where they wanted to test the psychological effects of people being cryogenically suspended without their knowledge.

At some point, you woke briefly, to see an oddly-dressed thug and someone in a hazmat suit kidnapping your son from a neighboring cryotube. Then you're frozen again. When you finally escape, it's been 210 years since you were first frozen, and everyone else in the Vault is dead, apparently due to a life-support malfunction. You make your way out, finding a weapon on the way, and return to where your home used to be. The sole inhabitant of the area is your robot, Codsworth, who helps orient you (he's the only Mr. Handy model in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who's even willing to admit the War happened). He steers you toward the nearest humans, in Concord, where you find a group of refugees being besieged by raiders. You save them, lead them back to your home, and find that you are now appointed as General of the Minutemen, the closest thing the Commonwealth has to a police force.

Where you go from there is up to you, of course - you can, if you choose, be the most ruthless and frightening character in the 'Wealth - but I invariably wind up not only fulfilling my duties as Minutemen General, but also joining up with the Railroad, a group devoted to rescuing "synths" (artificially-engineered humanoids, created by the shadowy Institute) from slavery, and eventually destroying the Institute before they can use their command of advanced sciences to destroy everyone living above ground (they're convinced the people would be better off dead, and are more than happy to help with that goal).

My version of the Commonwealth is freed of many of its ancient terrors, and if the game engine allowed for it the united forces of the Minutemen and the Railroad would drive the raider and super mutant threats out of the 'Wealth entirely, giving the people a chance to rebuild civilization. (In my headcanon, that's exactly what happens. And the people build a statue not to me, but to Preston Garvey, the Last Minuteman, who kept the dream alive until I could help restore it.)

So yeah, not every "disaster and dystopia" has to stay that way... :)

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Sills said...

Closest I can find on the Clinton-Lewinsky-Martian meteor thing is from the Arcana Wiki, which collects odd facts for use in stories or games. In this case, it's noted that the Lewinsky scandal didn't enter the public consciousness until after Clinton made his announcement about the possible microbes - "Perhaps it was payback for betraying his alien masters? Did Majestic 12 hire Kenneth Starr?"

Alfred Differ said...

(source | https://fas.org/sgp/library/quist2/chap_7.html)


The U.S. classification of information system has three classification levels -- Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential -- which are defined in EO 12356.2 Those levels are used both for NSI and atomic energy information (RD and FRD). Section 1.1(a) of EO 12356 states that:

(a) National Security Information (hereinafter "classified information") shall be classified at one of the following three levels:

(1) "Top Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
(2) "Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.
(3) "Confidential" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.

Section 1.1(b) of EO 12356 states that "except as otherwise provided by statute, no other terms shall be used to identify classified information."


(source | my own experience)


There is an informal classification called "Unclassified" that is placed on information that can be released to the public, but might not BE released for other reasons. For example, unclassified information might also be marked FOUO and then not shared short of a FOIA demand. Material marked this way still has to pass through the appropriate authorities before it is released to the public, so some might mistake this process as covering actually classified information.

LarryHart said...

From the previous comments, I'd ask anyone who considers inheritance to be a purely internal matter within a family unit whether they also approve of the pre-modern practice of children being responsible for their late parents' debts as well.

@locumranch, as to "rubber and glue", you right-wing fantasists don't give us much more to work with. My preferred allusion for the only way to deal with Republican accusations against liberals is "I know you are, but what am I?", but I suppose that's a to-MAY-to, to-MAH-to distinction.

David Brin said...

The one response to the mad right's ravings that all the current scientists and fact-checking services are "consensus biased" is "Okay smart guy, what's YOUR proposed method by which we can use facts and evidence to check on stuff and determine which of us is right?"

The 100% always response is "Well... um... oh look a squirrel!!!!!"

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think the most reasonable world following a major disaster that drives humanity back below the level of nation/states, you will find villages that wage war, and villages that cooperate. A look at pre-colonial central Africa would probably give us insight. Some areas would be dystopic and aggressive, others benign and not particularly acquisitive. You would probably see a rise of exogamic marriage customs, trade, and propagation of knowledge and lore.

A phenomenon like the Holnists would have to seize power quickly, since their destructive nature would be evident and other groups would move quickly to crush them.

Dystopias make for wonderful books and films, but they don't really account for human behaviour.

Steven Hammond said...

Nice summation of the current state of SF, Dr Brin.

I read the Laura Miller article specifically to see if she mentioned David Mitchell and happily she does. (She mentions Cloud Atlas)

Mitchell, is likely my favorite current author and I do think he is is honest about SF and has a serious interest in and uses SF in some new ways and some the are very post-modern. I love his characterization and prose and anyone that pays homage to my favorite dystopian novel Riddley Walker can't be all bad. (I am especially intrigued by Hoban's use of text and history to create the myth the traveling Punch and Judy shows present).

In any event, I would encourage any readers here to (at least) check out David Mitchell's fiction. He is so adapt at painting with words, and his use of SF (and fantasy) is subtle and intriguing. He also seems to be a genuinely good person and I suspect our host would like him. :)

David Brin said...

SH: I've been reading Edward Page Mitchell.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Page_Mitchell

Steven Hammond said...

Thanks, Dr, Brin. I'll have to check him out.

Maybe the Mitchell surname is indicative of unusual insight into the human condition. Alternatively, there may be some writers with that surname who happen to be good writers despite their surname--which is quite common. In any event, the association of Edward Mitchel Page with Poe is quite compelling and worth checking out. (BTW I'm a grad of the institution Poe was kicked out of--not sure what that means in the larger scheme to be honest)

Shane Mallatt said...

Regarding aliens and whether or not they exist. I think Calvin said it best when he opined that the surest sign there is intelligent life in the universe is that it has not tried to contact us.

Laurence said...

"Here’s how you make a dystopia: Convince people that when disaster strikes, their neighbors are their enemies, not their mutual saviors and responsibilities. The belief that when the lights go out, your neighbors will come over with a shotgun—rather than the contents of their freezer so you can have a barbecue before it all spoils—isn’t just a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a weaponized narrative. The belief in the barely restrained predatory nature of the people around you is the cause of dystopia, the belief that turns mere crises into catastrophes."

I'd question that. Most dystopias are based on the premise of government corruption and authoritarianism, not the violence of the mob.

Paul SB said...

Laurence,
I would say that both elements are in play, often in the same story. People (at least in the US) seem to be just as fearful of each other as they are of authority. Otherwise there would be no need for "make my day" or "stand your ground" laws. News media have filled our heads with fear of crime, which is understandable but exaggerated. Most gun owners will tell you their main reason for owning guns is to protect themselves and their families from criminals. Only the real loonies think that their AR-15s will allow them to stand up to the evil government, which controls an army equipped a whole lot better than their nut job asses can get a hold of. But you are right that anti-government SoA paranoia is a huge theme in dystopian fiction. I rarely bother with the genre, though I have heard good things about the reboot of "The Handmaid's Tale."

Shane,
hile I have enjoy Calvin and Hobbes for decades, don't forget that Calvin is a little boy. While "out of the mouths of babes" can be revealing, there is an issue of logic here. If aliens exist and they are smart enough to disdain people who spoil their nest with litter and pollution, then they might choose not to contact them. But if no such aliens exist, we would get the same result - no contact. I still agree with Waterhouse's sentiments, though.

LarryHart said...

@PaulSB,

I expect that Shane was intentionally in full irony mode when quoting Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. It is not a logical argument. However, it does resonate with the same appeal as the very old SNL "Star Trek" sketch in which "Kirk" opines that "except for one TV station, we've found intelligent life in every corner of the universe."

@Laurence,

I think Dr Brin was thinking specifically of the "Mad Max" variety of dystopian worlds. I'd agree with you that the oppressive totalitarian government meme also plays a role. But then complicity in that government by your neighbors plays a role in at least a subset of those. Our host has already recently dinged The Handmaid's Tale for just that quality--the acceptance and lack of resistance to the totalitarian rule. I'd add 1984 to that list. There's some in V For Vendetta too, in which the Nazi-like group gains control by being the only perceived alternative to chaos. That last is starting to look uncomfortably like the real-life United States (or at least the other way around).

locumranch said...


Rather than making 'rightness' a consensus-based popularity contest, most 'smart guys' apply Critical Thinking to facts and evidence to "determine which of us is right".

Cory Doctorow writes that most utopian projects have focused on describing the perfect state and mapping the (optimal) route to it, the implied assumption being that any deviation from the described route to perfection EQUALS the repudiation of a state of utopian perfection & a descent into either a catastrophic hell or a hellish dystopia.

This is the consensus-based POPULAR assumption.

Of course, this implied assumption is crap -- mostly because (1) the term 'utopia', as described by Thomas 'Mocker' More, literally means a non-existent 'No Place', (2) the term 'perfection' represents an idealisation instead of location and (3) there can be neither a path nor a map to a fictional location -- but crap is all we can expect, in retrospect, when we allow a consensus of ignoramuses to interpret medieval Christian metaphor.

It is really self-explanatory: The 'No Place' that Sir Thomas More describes is a parodic Christian Heaven; the righteously observant path leads to literally 'No Where'; and the road to a prideful Christian Hell is paved with a consensus of good intentions.

The Modern Progressive, however, is fairly literal, incredibly credulous & full of consensus-based faith: He accepts 'utopia' as his destination; he expects perfection to be 'made flesh'; he believes that his idealisations of "better angels" are real; and he assumes that any deviation from the righteous progressive path leads to Hell & Eternal Damnation.

And, since a majority accepts this same delusion & rushes willy-nilly off to Nowhere, the Progressive believes himself validated because "consensus".


Best
_____
It is by no accident that David describes the Postman apocalypse as a 'Fall from Grace' as his Heaven is full of mail carriers, lying academics posing as oracles & deep state bureaucrats who have come to 'help' the credulous.

And see ye not yon braid, braid road,
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
Though some call it the Road to Heaven.

Paul SB said...

Oh look, more argument from assertion, genetic fallacy and straw men! Surprise!

I can't say I have ever met a person who fits our zombie parot's descriptions of The Modern Progressive.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Yeah, okay. I was just throwing in my 2 centavos' worth. I spent enough time in a Presbyterian church (Calvinism light) to know not to expect logic from Calvin.

On dystopias, collusion and acceptance, those two are quite common phenomena. It only takes a very vocal and heavily armed minority to terrorize a population into fearful inaction to establish a dictatorship, and there are always traitors who will take money to rat out their neighbors. Several years back the San Diego Mission put out a pamphlet describing the kindly holy men who had come to save the evil heathen natives of those parts from their own barbarity. It featured reproductions of woodcut prints that made the native folk not only look violent but barely even human, and their descriptions of them read like a gang of melodrama villains. They were fighting the notion that the Mission was responsible for quite a lot of atrocities, and tried to excuse the barbarity of the missionaries by claiming that many of the natives colluded with them, and many did nothing to oppose them. It made for amusing reading, to say the least. Of course they never once mentioned that Father Sera was an officer of the Inquisition - the good guys, to be sure.

Treebeard said...

“the best science fiction does some­thing much more interesting than prediction: It inspires. That science fiction tells us better nations are ours to build and lets us dream vividly of what it might be like to live in those nations.”

Says some dude. Call this the Soviet school of science fiction, in which art, literature, etc. must serve the Great Progressive Project to build utopia on earth. But of course utopia means "no place", so this amounts to a religious project, and Doctorow, Brin, et al act as priests of the Cult of Progress.

Dystopian fiction is powerful not because it confirms the greater truth of the Progress Cult and just points to potential pitfalls on the road to Star Trek, because it calls BS on the whole project, and points to inconvenient facts about human beings and the universe that make utopia forever a project for a different plane.

How about this: The best art of any kind forces us to face truths that aren't always flattering or comforting, but awaken us to something greater than the puny and ephemeral works of man.

locumranch said...



Who's a pretty bird who doesn't even know what the term 'argument by assertion' means?

An argument, by definition, refers to "a series of ASSERTIONS, statements & premises typically used to persuade someone of something or to present reasons for accepting a conclusion", so much so that you can't have one (argument) without the other (assertion).

But, seriously, you're talking out of your nether region if you haven't actually read More's 'Utopia'.

It's hilarious, one of history's top 3 satires, right up there with Swift's 'A Modest Proposal' and Ovid's 'Art of Love', made even funnier by More's subsequent martyrdom & sainthood.

Said Saint Thomas More channeling Comicus, "Boy, when you die at the palace, you really DIE at the palace!"


Best
____
@Treebeard: Check out Eric Frank Russell's 'The Space Willies' for more satiric fun.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

locum raises a good question amid his unjust vitriol against those who disagree with his notions. One of which notions, that Utopianism isn't already rather suspect in the minds of the curious and incurious alike, is the obvious ridiculous assumption (straw man - again,) - and needed to be dealt with immediately.
Should the will of the people turn the ship of state towards the utopia which can't exist, or the compromise spot where it will likely end up? Navigational concepts suggest that ships of the sea or air are often on a heading pointed away from the destination and this is by design. Currents and wind modify the optimum vector. Steering close to Utopia may be the best course. Currents may change the heading.

Paul SB said...

Argument by assertion

“”A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
—Lenin
“”If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.
—Goebbels
“”… I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.
—The Bellman from The Hunting of the Snark

Argument by assertion is the logical fallacy where someone tries to argue a point by merely asserting that it is true, regardless of contradiction. While this may seem stupid, it's actually an easy trap to fall into and is quite common.

It is a very simple formal logical fallacy that has the following structure:

X is true.
In practice, arguments by assertion tend to take the "rinse and repeat" approach to logic:

X is true.
No really, X is true.
Actually, X is true.
But X is true.

from http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argument_by_assertion

Sir Thomas Moore's "Utopia" sits on the third shelf from the bottom of the bookcase in my living room, between my copies of Chaucer and Machiavelli's "The Prince." Our faux rancher is as guilty of argument by assumption as other fallacies.

The credibility of Anonymous is now approaching the credibility of locum ranch.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

In a similar vein, a former colleague of mine once likened teaching to bending metal. When you bend metal, it will often snap back a little, so you have to bend it a little farther than the position you intend for it to settle into that position. This is a bit like your analogy of accounting for currents when steering the ship of state.

Most educated people are familiar with the etymology of utopia, and anyway few people believe it is even possible. Negativity bias makes it untenable in the human mind - but it has been a convenient boogeyman for regressives the world over.

Shane Mallatt said...

I find it interesting that utopia described by locumranch and treebeard('literally defined as no place') dovetails nicely with the Buddhist notion of nirvana. Which as a understand it(and I am definitely talking out of my nether regions here) is not a place, but a state of mind where all suffering ceases to exist,and all ego disappears leading to a state equal to heaven on earth. I apologize, as I know this adds nothing to the discussion at hand. I just found it to be very interesting that the idea of no place can have such vastly different meanings depending on which direction you come from.

Laurence said...

"I think Dr Brin was thinking specifically of the "Mad Max" variety of dystopian worlds. I'd agree with you that the oppressive totalitarian government meme also plays a role. But then complicity in that government by your neighbors plays a role in at least a subset of those."

Well since dystopia is the antonym of utopia, and utopias are typically based upon the author's favoured programme of governance, I'm not sure post apocalyptic fiction counts. The best dystopias are critiques of another writer's utopian project, exposing the potential downsides and pitfalls of an over-ambitious project to rewrite human nature

locumranch said...


Shane understands perfectly. Like the existence of Nirvana, the Utopian fantasy of human perfectibility remains an article of religious faith lacking in factual support.

But, how to explain 'argument by assertion' to the feather-brained? In order for 'argument by assertion' to be 'fallacy' -- the key term being 'fallacy' which signifies error, falsehood, mistake, inaccuracy -- the argued assertion must be demonstrably false.

And, there's the rub, as none of the (heretical; cynical; unpopular) OPINIONS that I have asserted in the last few threads have been demonstrably false to the point of fallacy even though they may contradict the rote of popular belief.

For, in a factual, literal & objective sense, Dystopia is everywhere & omnipresent when Utopia is 'No Where'.


Best

Shane Mallatt said...

Jonathan Sills. Like you I spent innumerable hours playing the new fallout game and stuck to the Minuteman and Railroad endings, I did find myself wondering how the game might have been better, and think that the story might have been improved immensely had it not relied on the idiot plot with the player as the titular hero, and made the interactions with the companions and factions more relevant to how the game's endings played out.

Jumper said...

And post-apocalyptic stories may be either dystopian or hopeful, as Pangborn's innocuous but rollicking Davy. Because the apocalypse allows the author to re-imagine the frontier of unknown territory and the cowboy spirit. Like Canticle for Leibowitz the megadeaths and horror are centuries in the past. Or other PA stories are more brutal, like the Mad Max ones, or A Boy and His Dog. And most all include some ray of hope arising as the story progresses.

Paul SB said...

Shane,

As I have been married to a Buddhist for 23 years come next Friday, I can't say I'm an expert but I do have some understanding. You are right that Nirvana is seen not as a place, but as a state of mind. I would leave the word Heaven out of it completely, though, because it has implications that are inappropriate. Nirvana is not a literal place, as Heaven is supposed to be, but more importantly, Nirvana is not a reward for obedience, as Heaven is supposed to be. Nirvana is the state of being removed from the cycle of rewards and punishments, which is seen as a natural consequence of karma and dharma. There is no heavenly bliss in Nirvana, because bliss is impermanent. Likewise there are no gods in Nirvana, because godhood is only a temporary state. Westerners who look at Buddhism as a sort of Eastern version of their more familiar religions miss some very important points.

Paul SB said...

And our faux rancher is also very good at playing "Change That Tune" when the holes in his arguments are pointed out.

Was that
A. The Star-Spangled Banner
B. The Blue Danube
C. The Marche de Rakoczy
D. Whatever the hell he wants to call it

In the common parlance of today, which has utopia (small /u/) meaning a good place, and dystopia meaning a bad place, then clearly both are opinions and it seems unlikely that one could exist without the other, as they are comparisons only. This is, of course, very difference from the original meaning of Utopia, with a capital /U/, which is generally only pointed out by stuffy academics. The opposite of no place, naturally, is some place.

And just how legitimate is it to ascribe opinions to other people, basically telling people what it is they think?

David Brin said...

Oh it just gets worse!

“Rather than making 'rightness' a consensus-based popularity contest, most 'smart guys' apply Critical Thinking to facts and evidence to "determine which of us is right”.”

Har! Notice again and again, when challenged to find some role for facts and evidence, he squirms away! “critical thinking” is locum’s code for “my incantations!”

Evidence. Experiment. Actual outcomes. Actual results that can be repeated. Facts. All enemies of the voluptuous masturbatory incantation.

The rest - skimmed - was just hysterical arm-waving.

David Brin said...

In contrast, treebeard (full name) gets credit for making a grand assertion that, while wrongheaded, at least parses out for us to clearly see.

“Dystopian fiction is powerful not because it confirms the greater truth of the Progress Cult and just points to potential pitfalls on the road to Star Trek, because it calls BS on the whole project, and points to inconvenient facts about human beings and the universe that make utopia forever a project for a different plane.”

Yes, that can be asserted. As it has been every single generation of the America-led western enlightenment. Oswald Spengler screamed about the Decline of the West in 1922 and his ent-like followers said “any minute now.” As did all the commies, from 1848 onward. And as did the fascists. The Confederates and so on.

Yes, our renaissance is always operating on borrowed time, with the odds stacked against it. As Percles so clearly described, positive sum systems are vastly - many orders more productive and successful at error avoidance than the wretched, vile, inherently stupid, corrupt and evil-in-all-ways feudalisms that crushed 99.999% of our ancestors. But feudalism is demonstrably our NATURAL zero-sum system. And every year that we stave it off is another miracle.

But of course we HAVE staved it off and science fictional warnings have played a role in letting us sidestep those “inevitable” collapses. See this book!
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/richard-a-clarke/warnings/

treebeard is actually at his best asserting: “The best art of any kind forces us to face truths that aren't always flattering or comforting, but awaken us to something greater than the puny and ephemeral works of man.” Very artfully spoken and a level above his usual dyspeptic dunce-liness. Indeed, there certainly is an artistic quality to despair… and the cousin that he pushes: resignation/acceptance.

But in fact, that artistic quality is nothing compared to the adolescent joy of challenging Nature and poking through the Creator’s workroom, messing with the reagents He used to make the Big Bang and replicating all His best experiments, understanding the depth and gorgeousness of things like Maxwell’s Equations and the genome and saying “that’s neat!”

Anyone who doesn’t call that prayer -- yes, modernist prayer but vastly higher than "you're so big, please don't crush me!" -- prayer which a true Master Craftsman would appreciate more than hosannahs, is no true child of such a being.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

And, there's the rub, as none of the (heretical; cynical; unpopular) OPINIONS that I have asserted in the last few threads have been demonstrably false to the point of fallacy even though they may contradict the rote of popular belief.


Nice try.

Logical fallacies are fallacious forms of argument. An example of a fallacy is mistaking correlation with causation. Asserting that A is responsible for B just because A precedes B in time is a logical fallacy. It doesn't become a sound argument just because in a particular case, A really did happen to cause B. If your argument is that you have proven that A caused B simply by citing the chronology, then you still argue a fallacy even if your conclusion happens to be correct through no fault of your own.

Likewise, if you just repeat your OPINION (heretical or otherwise) as if doing so proves something, then you are arguing fallaciously, whether or not your OPINION!!! can be disproved.

As far as that goes, what you express here are not OPINIONS! in the legitimate sense of the word. "The Enterprise should be hauled away as garbage," is an opinion. It's something you believe (or don't). It doesn't even make sense to talk about proving or disproving your opinion, as the only thing that can be proven about it is that you actually do (or do not) hold that opinion.

Your assertions are more like "The Enterprise will need to be hauled away because its engines will fail in three months." Rather than opinion, that is what I learned in fifth grade to refer to as an "allegation of fact." It can't be proven at this instant, but eventually, it will be shown to either be true or false, independently of your right to believe it. At a point in the future, it will either become a known fact or a known false statement. That's a different thing from opinion, in fact the opposite thing.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

In the common parlance of today, which has utopia (small /u/) meaning a good place, and dystopia meaning a bad place, then clearly both are opinions and it seems unlikely that one could exist without the other, as they are comparisons only. This is, of course, very difference from the original meaning of Utopia, with a capital /U/, which is generally only pointed out by stuffy academics.


Yes, loc likes to think he's the only one who knows that "utopia" literally means "no place" in Greek. Which only proves that the original writer of the term--Sir Thomas More?--was being clever in his choice of a proper name. It's like calling a metal ore "unobtanium" or calling a Roman soldier "Biggus Dickus".

So? In the intervening centuries, the word has become an allusion which takes on the more generally accepted sense of "a good place" or "a good world" or "a good system". In general conversation, the word doesn't mean "no place" any more than the word "hysterical" can only be applied to persons with wombs.

All of which is tangential to the point of the OPINION!!! being implied if not asserted--that liberals expect to bring a utopia into being (by force if necessary), and that because Utopia cannot exist, then there is in fact no point in trying to improve the human condition at all. That an argument against utopia is an argument against liberalism.

Jonathan Sills said...

Shane, my suggestion for improvement would have been if, in allying with the Institute, you could have dissuaded them from being, well, locum - from believing that since they can't make the entire world just like the Institute, there's no point in even trying to improve things. (Sure, they tried - once. Sixty years before you got thawed out, while Shaun was still a baby. There was infighting, it was blamed on their synth representative because they were all afraid to come out in person, and they immediately gave up and never tried again. And they call themselves "scientists".)

I did download a mod that made it possible to challenge Elder Maxson for leadership of the Brotherhood, and made it possible for them not to persecute the Railroad, but what I really wanted was to make them work with the people of the Commonwealth, too. Most of the 'Wealth just wanted to live in peace, after all, without having to hide from raiders and super mutants on a regular basis. If either of the two most advanced groups in the area could have just been persuaded to work with the locals, things could have been made so much better...

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"So? In the intervening centuries, the word has become an allusion which takes on the more generally accepted sense of "a good place" or "a good world" or "a good system". In general conversation, the word doesn't mean "no place" any more than the word "hysterical" can only be applied to persons with wombs."

- And thus the term Genetic Fallacy. I've called the zombie parrot out on this one before, but he reflexively does it again and again. Maybe he thinks that referring to highbrow literature makes him appear sophisticated. Or perhaps he is just so used to using dishonest rhetoric that he can't help himself. Like a compulsive liar, those neural circuits have been myelinated for so long he can hardly operate without them.

Shane Mallatt said...

Paul SB, thank you for the response. I have to admit that the heaven on earth bit of my post was poorly stated. I think the Christian concept that best mirrors the nirvana would be "the peace that passes understanding". I definitely agree that western religious traditions are fundamentally different than eastern ones and in fact that is what drew me to them. My fondness for KC style burnt ends and in general my Midwestern stubbornness kept me from ever considering conversion, but my forays into eastern philosophy did help me understand that if I want to live in a less hateful world then I could a least try for a less hateful self.

Laurence said...

Yes, loc likes to think he's the only one who knows that "utopia" literally means "no place" in Greek. Which only proves that the original writer of the term--Sir Thomas More?--was being clever in his choice of a proper name. It's like calling a metal ore "unobtanium" or calling a Roman soldier "Biggus Dickus"

I always saw Moore's Utopia as a thought experiment, "I know this won't work in practice, but let's explore some interesting alternative ways of doing things"

While Moore was certainly an interesting thinker, it's worth remembering he was also a pretty vicious fanatic too. Then again, I'm apparently descended from William Tyndall's sister, so I'm bound to be a bit biased.

Paul451 said...

Lawrence,
" "I know this won't work in practice, but let's explore some interesting alternative ways of doing things" "

Which is one of the classic SF subtypes.

--

Re: Mars Microbe cover-up.

Jumper's memories jar with my own. I distinctly remember one of the discoverers' anecdotes about going home after the first night and stopping at a service station and, just because, telling the teller and another customer what he'd just discovered (or thought he'd discovered, as it turned out.) Not something you'd do if it was "classified".

Paul451 said...

Re: Alien cover-up in general.

The only believable theory I've ever heard for why The Government would hide the existence of visiting aliens is if our knowledge of Them is a trigger event for our planet's annihilation. We know that if They know that we know, we get killed; so we desperately pretend not to know.

The scenario is that early in the galaxy's history, one of the first intelligences to develop spaceflight swarmed across the galaxy via slower-that-light ships, consuming billions of worlds, thousands of nascent civilisations; over the several million years, as they expanded, evolutionary selection effects created a species more and more suited to faster and faster expansion. Eventually they encountered a more advanced but non-expansionist civilisation who found themselves facing wave and endless wave of invaders. The advanced civilisation converted itself to a total-war economy and set out to remove the plague from the galaxy. Over several hundred millions more years, they hunted down every colony, even ship, of the enemy, until they had cleansed the galaxy raw of not only the locust-like invaders, but of any intelligence that might one day be a threat. Over the aeons, they came to regret their own genocidal policies and softened their stance - slightly. They would allow non-expansionist civilisations to remain, only acting once that civilisation expanded significantly beyond its home-world.

And there things have remained for a couple of billion years. A mostly non-expansionist, non-AI, civilisation must maintain an endless watch on millions of possible threats across the galaxy. Including us. One of the triggers for extinction is colonising other worlds in your solar system, another is having awareness of the quarantine. (Both scenarios make it too unpredictable for the watchers.)

But they're no longer very good at it.

I mean, who in their civilisation gets "Earth watch" duty? Your entire extended lifespan spent on decrepit, underfunded, million year old space-stations out in the Oort Cloud monitoring broadcasts and doing the occasional sample-return run. Quick thinking and ambition are not required traits. These are not the Best and Brightest. (Edict 1073.5a(iii) says "Cows", and everyone knows it just misspelled (in their language) "native scientists", but verily They torture randomly chosen cows for information. Or that Edict 890.1j(v) used boilerplate from another species, and that humans don't have their brains in that part of their anatomy, but probe us there They do.) And so, many, many times, They have screwed and made Their own existence obvious. But the authorities quickly learnt that if we reveal that They exist, if it becomes public information, They are powerful enough to trigger a resurfacing event on Earth. (A dense object accelerated to relativistic velocity, for example.) So now there is an international conspiracy to prevent Their incompetence from revealing Their existence to the world.

However, every time the conspirators expand their numbers enough to both do their job, and develop ways of breaking the quarantine, they have nearly lost control of the conspiracy, nearly caused our extinction. So, by necessity, they've shrunk their numbers to the barest minimum, given up (for now) on trying also sneak around the quarantine; and so, depressed and fatalistic, they are frantically racing around trying to cover up each act of stupidity by the alien Watchers.

But they're no longer very good at it...

Paul451 said...

I've always thought that would make a nice premise for a snarky TV comedy.

--

Randomly:

Apparently Facebook shut down an internal AI project when the intelligent agents developed their own language to communicate, which the AI creators realised they couldn't read. Via Digital Journal.

Along the same lines, Google Translate's AI has developed artificial languages to serve as interlingua to languages it hasn't been explicit taught how to translate. Via New Sci.

Paul SB said...

Shane,

"...if I want to live in a less hateful world then I could a least try for a less hateful self."

This is one of the most mature statements I have heard in a very long time. Thank you! I wish more people thought like you do. There would be a lot less drama in the world and a lot more happiness.

Where it comes to philosophies and religions, I'm a bit of a hard-nose, which I am told is not necessarily the healthiest thing to be, but I can't help myself. Richard Dawkins once said something along the lines of by all means we should be open minded, but not so open minded that our brains fall out. Learning a lot of history in my college years did a lot to keep my brain from falling out. In the case of Buddhism, it helps to keep in mind that the first Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) was raised a Hindu. Just as Jesus' ideas were simply variations on the themes of the Judaism he was raised with, Siddhartha's ideas were variations on the Hinduism he was raised with. I don't buy reincarnation, for one, because I know where the idea came from. It was the supernatural justification for social order - the caste system. Obedience to dharma parallels the function of obedience to God in the Christian world. In some very fundamental ways the religions of East and West are very similar, because they fulfill the same roles for society. No king can hire enough secret police to watch over every citizen all the time, so they invent supernatural agents to do that job. In the East people obey their kings and laws because if they don't they believe they will be reincarnated as a mosquito or a worm, in the West people obey their kings and laws because if they don't they believe they will burn in Hell for all eternity. I find both ideas to be very unenlightening, and as a hard-nosed scientist I don't buy the superstitions of either side (and I'm told that this isn't the healthiest way to be). The true dichotomy in human thought is not between East and West so much as it is between civilization and small-scale societies.

But another thing I have found over the years to help with getting the hate out of my life has been learning about brains. Once you understand the mechanics of what goes on between people's ears, it just becomes a lot harder to be judgmental. You realize that people are following programs they are not aware of, and there are reasons for why they act the way they do. I like being less judgmental, and I don't much like people who are more judgmental. But of course, you can't take this to its extreme, or your brain drops out and you start to forgive everything and everyone. As an example, I heard a story on the radio a week or so ago where they were saying that the psych meds that the Aurora movie theater shooter was using can sometimes have side effects that worsen rather than improve the disorder it was meant to treat. People who knew him said that once he started taking this medication he completely changed. He never had the slightest interest in guns, but after starting on it he went out and bought guns and started going to shooting ranges. So was he an evil scumbag who deserves to die? I don't think so. But before hearing about that medication's rare side effects, I would have said give him the chair. If the Pope can say, "Who am I to judge?" then I think I can follow suit, at least to some extent.

Paul SB said...

Lawrence,

Your thought experiment interpretation of Thomas Moore is pretty much what I have always thought, too. Especially if you compare the first half of Utopia, in which he ridicules some wealthy fool for boasting about the justness of English law because they hang thieves, it becomes clear that he is doing a compare/contrast. You could do a Venn diagram on England vs Utopia, and you would get what he was on about. That was the era of Enclosure, which was driving peasants who could at least eke out a living on their traditional plots of land before off their land and into the cities where they had no prospects of finding employment, feeding their families, etc. It sounds a bit like our modern corporate mergers, where increasingly behemoth businesses can lay off employees with impunity and impoverish the nation so the CEO clans can buy more mansions and prestige automobiles, feeding the school-to-prison pipeline. Nifty. Not circular history, just a case where the worst of humanity ends up doing similar things in different centuries.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

But of course, you can't take this to its extreme, or your brain drops out and you start to forgive everything and everyone.


Next thing you know, you've got a Christian nation! :)


As an example, I heard a story on the radio a week or so ago where they were saying that the psych meds that the Aurora movie theater shooter was using can sometimes have side effects that worsen rather than improve the disorder it was meant to treat.
...
So was he an evil scumbag who deserves to die? I don't think so. But before hearing about that medication's rare side effects, I would have said give him the chair. If the Pope can say, "Who am I to judge?" then I think I can follow suit, at least to some extent.


Our usual notion of a penal system conflates all sorts of things as if they naturally go together: i.e., punishment, revenge, deterrence, and guilt (not claiming that's an exhaustive list). What happens when you delve into mitigating circumstances like those you cite above? Guilt comes into question, revenge is somewhat pointless, and punishment starts to look like cruelty for its own sake. However, deterrence is still necessary, as a society that can't or won't protect its citizens from danger is pointless.

I'm not claiming to have answers here, just noting that questions are raised. What do you do with individuals who are a clear and present danger to others through no fault of their own? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? After all, you don't shoot a rabid dog (or stomp a rabid bat) out of revenge or punishment for guilt. You remove the clear and present danger to your fellow humans. When the danger is a fellow human, then conflicting rights must be resolved. If that can't be done, then you've reached the point of the bugs in "Starship Troopers" where there's no way to negotiate, so all you can do is protect your own civilization against theirs.

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/opinion/donald-trump-school-choice-criticism.html


...
When these people talk about “government schools,” they want you to think of an alien force, and not an expression of democratic purpose. And when they say “freedom,” they mean freedom from democracy itself.


Amen!

LarryHart said...

Is this the "No True Scotsman" thing, or just plain delusion?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/30/us/politics/republicans-white-house-disarray-trump.html


But Mr. Roth acknowledged that two things could get in the way: “Distractions being caused by a White House that is still in a transitional phase” and a “dysfunctional Republican Party” in Congress that includes too many liberals.

“It is well past time that people recognize that there are far too many Democrats in the Republican Party,” Mr. Roth said.


Words fail me.

locumranch said...


Utopia spelled with an 'eu' prefix (signifying a 'good place') is a non-exclusionary neologism that allows for the existence a 'bad place' (dystopia) as well as non-qualitatively neutral places that are neither good not bad, whereas the old-school utopia spelled with an 'ou' prefix (signifying a perfect 'no place') qualitatively excludes place neutrality.

In the 'ou' old-school sense then, all of David's tales involve far from perfect dystopias: His 'Earth' is an over-populated dystopia; his 'Kiln People' is a bizarre one; his 'Postman' is a regressive one; his 'Tumbledown Abyss' is a claustrophobic one; and, although well-written, his 'Dr. Pak's Preschool' is pure technical horrorshow.

David's tales, no matter how dystopic, offer up the promise of something better mostly because some place 'better' is the only option offered up as the story transitions from one dystopic 'bad place' to another 'more perfect' near utopia in exclusionary either-or fashion.

Thus, we assume that dystopic settings of 'Earth','Kiln People' & 'Postman' have been improved (perfected) via exclusionary process because the destruction of one dystopia (we are to assume) must lead to some utopian improvement, just as we assume (but are not told) that the alternatives offered up at the end of 'Tumbledown Abyss' & 'Dr. Pak's Preschool' are somehow 'more perfect' than the dystopias they replace.

Yet, this need not be the case as escape from non-qualitative dystopian circumstance can lead from 'bad to bad', 'bad to worse', 'better to bad' or 'bad to better', leaving the protagonists from the above dystopias in eternal jeopardy.

There can be no 'happily ever after' in non-qualitative circumstance:

Earth may survive one non-Newtonian crisis only to succumb to another; our blue short-lived Kiln People may live longer only to be enslaved longer; the defeated Holnists may be replaced by hordes of cannibal mutants; the Tumbledown newlyweds may contract a fatal dose of Venusian clap; and the fetus that eludes Dr. Pak's Preschool may die of 5th dimensional malnutrition, exposure & parental neglect.

Why must we assume that progress, improvement & liberal meddling must always lead us closer to some non-existent Utopia? It does not follow logically unless we apply teleology to utopianism. Plus, as Larry_H notes, "the argument against utopia(n assumptions) is an argument against liberalism".

Ergo, I much prefer to 'Walkaway' & not play, thank you, if & when the odds of failure appear to exceed those of success.


Best
_____
In any 'argument by assertion', the argument is true if the assertion is true & the argument is fallacious if the assertion is fallacious. I assert that the 'sun is canary yellow', you counter that the 'sun is lemon yellow', and both arguments are valid, even though the shade of yellow is a matter of opinion. I say that '1+1=3', you counter that '1+1=2', but my argument is fallacious because my assertion is fallacious, whereas your argument (which takes the same form as my argument) is true because your assertion is true.

The genetic fallacy (aka 'fallacy of origin') is an accusation of unjustified prejudice, one that argues that the accused fails to judge each & every assertion on its own merits, preferring to judge the assertion on the merits of its originator, much in the same way that some judge & condemn the assertions of one locumranch in bulk, just as others expect uninformed assertions from the uninformed.

David Brin said...

PaulSB - Your scenario to explain Earth’s isolation and why the authorities might squelch UFO info is definitely possible - if implausible. Indeed, it forms the background premise for my old story “Senses, Three and Six,” which is available in THE RIVER OF TIME.

Locumranch (cogently, so full name) this time makes his plea honest and sincere: “You guys with your hope and happy endings! You threaten my voluptuous depression! Even a glimmer of hope amid dystopia is painful! Stop it!”

Sure, life has generally stunk for most creatures. Seizing the top of the food chain made us lords of creation, but life still suck! For 200 years hard work, innovation and spreading goodwill and sapience has made life better for each generation… but that could end at any point! “And when it does, I’ll have the greatest joy of my life, screaming: ‘I told you so!!!’”

It could happen. The odds have always been against us. Only here’s the deal. locum should WANT to be wrong! It isn’t the fact that he thinks we’ll fail, that’s evil. It ’s the fact that it’s what he desperately desires.

Jumper said...

In the common von Neumann interpretation, 0=∅;n+1=n∪{n}. So we have that 1={∅} and 2={∅,{∅}}

.

Now what does n+k
equal? It equals the unique finite number m such that there is a bijection between m and the disjoint union of n and k

.

In this case it is trivial to see that 1+1={∅}∐{∅}
has two elements so we can write the bijection with 2.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

That was the other Paul with the UFO story - Paul 451. I thought it was funny, in a Douglas Adams sort of way. But it seems to me that stellar evolution being the slow process it is, It's doubtful there has been sapient life in the Universe for multiple billions of years.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I say that '1+1=3', you counter that '1+1=2', but my argument is fallacious because my assertion is fallacious, whereas your argument (which takes the same form as my argument) is true because your assertion is true.


Oh, man, it's been too long, and I've lost too many brain cells. At one time, I could have recited the entire Monty Python "Argument Clinic" sketch to point out that "Argument is a series of statements...Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of whatever the other person says."

"Look, if I want to argue with you, I must take a contrary position."

"But that's not just saying 'No, it isn't.'"

"Yes, it is."

"No, it isn't!"


My true assertion that "1 + 1 = 2" doesn't prove anything any more than your false assertion does. It could be a conclusion of a valid and sound argument, whereas yours could not. But the assertion alone is not proof in either case.

Argument by assertion is a fallacy, not a sometimes-valid form of argument itself. As noted here (with a bit of editorial comment mixed in) :

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argument_by_assertion


Argument by assertion is the logical fallacy where someone tries to argue a point by merely asserting that it is true, regardless of contradiction. While this may seem stupid, it's actually an easy trap to fall into and is quite common.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

The odds have always been against us. Only here’s the deal. locum should WANT to be wrong! It isn’t the fact that he thinks we’ll fail, that’s evil. It ’s the fact that it’s what he desperately desires.


My take is that loc is arguing from a standpoint of "In the long run, we are all dead." Thus, nothing matters.

As a living, sentient being, I take issue. Quality of life matters quite a bit, irrespective of some long term end result.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

locumranch | You are getting too caught up in the details. When you are accused of using argument by assertion (a fallacy) here, it isn't about your particular opinions. Squint a bit at what you write. You are being accused of NOT arguing, thus simply asserting.

They expect a post supporting an argument to follow the following structure.

{Assertion}
{Supporting material}
(Material that refutes objections others make}

I've read lots of your material and you offer plenty of refutation attempts, but those are assertions that can be challenged, thus they need supporting material that can also be challenged.

It's not just your opinions. It is your approach to argument that is being challenged.

Alfred Differ said...

The odds have always been against us.

I'm not convinced this is true anymore. In a Bayesian sense, our history strongly suggests a gloomy future, but recent observed data and a better understanding of the history of the last three or four centuries has been coming in overwhelmingly strong in support of "It is different this time."

occam's comic said...

recent observed data and a better understanding of the history of the last three or four centuries has been coming in overwhelmingly strong in support of "It is different this time."

I agree that things have been different over the last 3 centuries, unfortunately I think that learning how to use fossil fuels was the critical difference. And now that we have become almost completely dependent on fossil fuels for our lives, we are starting to realize that one of the most dangerous situations is when something gives you large short term benefits and small cumulative long term costs.

sociotard said...

And Anthony Scaramucci is out. Listen, I don't think that dynamo on Goldwaters grave is cutting it anymore. To address our energy needs, we need to attach one to the in-out door on Trump's staff.

And a repeat call for Dr. Brin to attest which conservative publications he regularly reads, just to expose himself to a broader selection of ideas. Again, he might be surprised what conservative's agree with. I'm not asking for Breitbart or even Fox. But The American Conservative or National Review? You could do that. Here, try one bemoaning Trump putting neocons in foreign policy positions. Link

LarryHart said...

@sociotard,

I used to read the online version of "The American Conservative" quite frequently, but they seemed to go nuts defending Trump. And I count "bemoaning" the fact that Trump didn't stick to his own guns and instead did something that establishment Republicans wanted as defending Trump (against establishment Republicans).

I find almost no conservative media to be palatable any more. The most I can muster is the Chicago Tribune, whose editorial board leans Republican but nowhere near as much as they did in the 1930s. At least they didn't endorse Trump in November (they endorsed Gary Johnson, but the text as much as said "We can't stomach Hillary, but come on!").

sociotard said...

The American Conservative defending Trump? Maybe once. I only started a bit ago.

Trumps failing hard line approach

The Nuclear Deal Is in Real Danger

Trump Gives Rubio Free Rein on Venezuela Policy

David Brin said...

Alfred left out a step.

"They expect a post supporting an argument to follow the following structure.

{Assertion}
{Supporting material}
(Material that refutes objections others make}"

Sorry, but a mature person inserts a step {Paraphrase the position that I am about to or am arguing against, in words that make it hard for my opponents to claim: "I never said that!" and that neutrals would deem fair.}

That's what grownups do. It shows they actually understand what they are arguing against. It shows they are not setting up a strawman. And hence, of course, it is the one step that locum not only will never perform, but cannot comprehend.

David Brin said...


Sociotard, you see how often I diss George F. Will. How could I, if I don't read him? Likewise I gird my stomach for Krauthammer. Does Jennifer Rubin count anymore? She's rapidly Eisenhowering, as is David Brooks.

Ahem, REASON Magazine considers me an occasional contributor and flew me up to Freedom Fest to be on 2 panels.

Um... is it starting to dawn on you - sociotard - that your effort to pin and malign me ... um... backfired?

I am on many newsletter lists and I quite often here cite bits from John Mauldin and George Friedman. And yes, I do drop in on Amer-Conserv and National Review... though it's not the loony that keeps me at a distance, it's the stooopid.

The Philanthropic Enterprise is an Olde Republican journal that's published me. They promote responsible wealth giving as an alternative to government paternalism. Do they count?

I could go on enumerating, but counting them off, I arrived at the middle finger of my left hand. There you go, fellah. Enjoy.

Alfred Differ said...

Ah yes. Paraphrasing is very important. Skip that step and a refutation attempt can easily wander off target.


I think locumranch is guilty of both problems, though. Some of his stuff leaves the programmer in me to deal with a null pointer exception. The post isn't complete without all its objects actually referring to real content.

Alfred Differ said...

unfortunately I think that learning how to use fossil fuels was the critical difference

Many people would agree with you on this and your concern that we are WAY too dependent on the stuff to have a rosy future ahead of us. Obviously, I’m not one of them. 8)

What makes ‘it different this time’ started about 450 years ago among the Dutch. Quite a way before industrialization and even more before fossil fuels partially displaced ripping down the forests. There were also a number of huge dependencies we had that have also been displaced. For example, land put to agricultural uses is in limited supply. When combined with low-yield grains, we were up against starvation limits so often through history that it is hard to count. Then the Dutch changed the way they looked at the world and soon turned the North and Baltic Seas into trading lakes with Polish wheat going thisaway and tons of other stuff going thataway and famine rates and severities diminished. Failure of crops in one place could be mitigated and our dependency on LOCAL agricultural land was displaced. We could also look at the low-yield grain itself if you like. Early fertilizers helped a lot. Haber helped even more. The Green Revolution and modern genetic engineering methods, though, take the cake.

It is always possible we won’t beat our fossil fuel dependence, but I strongly doubt it. Let the emotions go for a moment and try a round of Bayesian inference. There is SO much innovation going on right now that we are going to have to distinguish between the different types of unobtanium. Some of it is merely notyetium.

locumranch said...


Alfred's prescription for {Assertion}, followed by both {Supportive Assertions} & {Assertions of Refutation} is excellent advice.

In contrast, Larry_H makes the assertion that he knows what an 'argument by assertion is' and, even though his assertion may be true, his assertion alone cannot prove what an 'argument of assertion is' because an "Argument of assertion is (according to his own definition) the logical fallacy where someone tries to argue a point by merely asserting that it is true" wherein he disproves his own claim by faulty circular logic.

Teleological Utopianism is how I paraphrase David's position as he attempts to define human history in terms of predetermined progress towards some poorly defined Utopian fantasy that many others may regard as hellish.

For what is the NexGen Star Trek fantasy besides 'High School in Space' FOREVER?

Hellish!! Bring on the Apocalypse! Any old apocalypse will do!


Best

Viking said...

"Sorry, but a mature person inserts a step {Paraphrase the position that I am about to or am arguing against, in words that make it hard for my opponents to claim: "I never said that!" and that neutrals would deem fair.}"

What if this paraphrasing slightly distorts the arguments of the verbal opponent, as to make them sound ridiculous?

Is that allowed for adults?

How about guilt by association? I can sense a trend that guilt by association is not only accepted nowadays, but expected when dealing with the other major tribe, and especially when dealing with the insane puny libertarian tribe.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi
Alfred and I agree on fossil fuel - we were totally dependent on it but that is changing - and changing faster than I though possible

We also agree (I think) that we are in a different mode now
We disagree about why we are in that different mode - Alfred thinks it has to do with trading and organisation
I believe that it is to do with achieving a critical mass of engineering tools and knowledge

Jumper said...

I don't see any teleological assertions at all. That's probably why the straw man accusations keep coming.

.......................

You left out plant breeding, Alfred. Gregor Mendel. That was a revolution.

LarryHart said...

@locumranch,

I had no idea I was required to prove that a particular fallacy is what it is. We hold some truths to be self-evident.



LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Teleological Utopianism is how I paraphrase David's position as he attempts to define human history in terms of predetermined progress towards some poorly defined Utopian fantasy that many others may regard as hellish.


Ok, no snark for a moment. Seriously, I don't think fiction like Dr Brin's is intended to accurately forecast the inevitable course of human history. If anything, it's more in the nature of what Kurt Vonnegut described writing as "Attempting to put body English on reality"--a perhaps-futile attempt to nudge events along a direction the author desires. Which is a different thing, in fact the opposite thing from a forecast of what will inevitably occur.

And synchronistically, I just hit this bit on page 20 of the novel "Psychohistorical Crisis" which someone on this list recommended:

The mathematical system of the Founder wasn't a public info-machine that automatically answered questions it already had on file; psychohistory was an instrument that has to be strummed by a musician."

Paul SB said...

Viking,

"What if this paraphrasing slightly distorts the arguments of the verbal opponent, as to make them sound ridiculous?"
- That is the very definition of a straw man argument.

Duncan,

I would say that both are factors. Diachronic variation is rarely simple. The fossil fuels liberated so much more energy than humans had before it allowed a mushrooming of both trade and science (what makes technology happen), but we are in a time of diminishing returns on fossil fuels. That and fertilizers, the Green Revolution and genetic engineering are all necessary to maintain our population. The alternatives we are looking at now mostly could not have been invented without the revolutions in science, engineering, trade and fossil fuels. But fossil fuels gotta go!

Larry,

"My take is that loc is arguing from a standpoint of "In the long run, we are all dead." Thus, nothing matters."
- If we are all dead and nothing matters, he would have nothing to bitch about. No, his take is pure tribalism. He has expressed so much hate for liberals, urbanites and women it's hard to see him as anything but a partisan.

Alfred,

Can I be a malachite egg instead? Sure, copper isn't nearly as valuable as gold, but I love the green stripes. Tiger's eyes is cool, too.

David Brin said...

Viking: “What if this paraphrasing slightly distorts the arguments of the verbal opponent, as to make them sound ridiculous?”

Um duh? The person or group who is being paraphrased is welcome to say: “That wasn’t too far off the mark, except for ——“
or else
“Your attempt to paraphrase was wrong for these reasons. Try paraphrasing THIS. If not, then you are strawmanning.”

What? you think because a method that makes argumentation only 90% better is flawed, it’s not a 90% improvement?


As for locum, he doesn’t even bother paraphrasing. His characterizations of my stances and positions and stories are generally strawmen that have nothing to do with things I believe or say.

Given that I posit a rising ability for individual persons to go their own way and argue fairly, free of the tragic limitations of oppression and disease and ignorance, the “high school” metaphor would seem inapropos. I remember high school. But most telling is that he’d prefer death and horror and return to endless oppression. Coddled-privileged prima donna would shriek if his comforts diminished. And feudal lords would tolerate my contrariness for a while. L’s whining would be cut off with a garrotte.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Maybe Nehemiah Scudder is Mike Pence?

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Duncan Cairncross:

That would fit with this report detailing a CBN 'exclusive':

Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries told CBN News, "These are godly individuals that God has risen to a position of prominence in our culture."..."I don't think Donald Trump has figured out that he chained himself to the Apostle Paul," Drollinger laughed.

He's literally laughing that he has smuggled an evangelical cohort into the White House. And once Trump is impeached -- something I'm not sure can be staved off for more than a year at this point -- Pence will be in command of their effort to literally control the nation for the benefit of evangelism.

"It's the best Bible study that I've ever taught in my life. They are so teachable; they're so noble; they're so learned," Drollinger said.

....said every priest who ever buttered up a saecular ruler in order to manipulate them.

America's top cop, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, also attends the study.

"He'll (Jeff Sessions) go out the same day I teach him something and I'll see him do it on camera and I just think, 'Wow, these guys are faithful, available and teachable and they're at Bible study every week they're in town,'" Drollinger said.


In other words, they're openly chortling about how their faith network will be able to puppetize the national legal infrastructure.

This was the scenario the First Amendment was written to guard against. Do they really think that by not having a formal Church Hierarchy, they'll be able to get away with this?

Of course they do. Because Deus vult! If God be with us, who can be against us? And surely if we are all of good character, and filled with the spirit of love and charity, then no evil can befall? The path of good intentions surely cannot lead into the Pit...

CITOKATE only works if you listen to those whom you do not like, with whom you do not agree. I listen to evangelicals, for sometimes they make valid points. I am enriched thereby. The Jesuits have practiced the same for centuries, and I need only point you at the present occupant of the See of Peter to see the positive (though limited) results.

But the Executive Bible Study won't do that. They're proud of how they close their ears to any who disagree. And that is precisely why I cannot abide their cabal: their quest for holiness is liable to doom us all.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

"My take is that loc is arguing from a standpoint of "In the long run, we are all dead." Thus, nothing matters."

- If we are all dead and nothing matters, he would have nothing to bitch about. No, his take is pure tribalism.


On politics and "progressive urbanites", yes. I was referring to the utopia issue. Since it is impossible for life to be good forever, there's no point in any improvement at all. Like young Woody Allen in Annie Hall who wouldn't do his homework because "The universe is expanding!", so therefore, "What's the point?"

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

The American Conservative defending Trump? Maybe once. I only started a bit ago.


Maybe not defending him as a conservative role model, but defending him as "At least he's our schmuck, not Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi."

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :


The issue of abortion continues to divide Democrats. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), chairman of the DCCC, whose job it is to elect Democrats to the House, said yesterday that there will be no litmus tests. If a House candidate is with the Democrats on most issues, but is pro-life and running in a red state where pro-choice candidates have no chance to win, the DCCC will fund them. The statement and position is sure to infuriate liberals, as well as groups devoted to promoting access to abortion.

Democrats need to pick up a net of 24 seats to take over the House. A gain of 24 seats is well within the range of historical outcomes, in which the president's party generally loses a few dozen seats in the House in the midterm elections. The problem, however, is that Democrats need to win a substantial number of districts in fairly red states, hence Luján's position.

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean has already pushed back on this decision and said he will withhold support from the DCCC if it follows through on this. Other progressives are sure to do the same in the coming days. The issue came to a head in Omaha in April when pro-life Democrat Heath Mello ran for mayor. Bernie Sanders campaigned for him and was roundly criticized by other Democrats for doing so. Sanders pushed back by saying that if the Democrats are going to protect a woman's right to choose, they are going to need to win elections in red states. In some ways, Republicans are more flexible than Democrats. The GOP will support candidates who deviate from the party line on one or two issues, as long as they are with the party on most of them. Democrats have more trouble with that.


I'd say that the Republicans are tolerant of their candidates who campaign outside the party line as long as they vote with McConnell and Ryan when needed. Thus, John McCain or former Illinois Senator Mark Kirk. Democrats don't even tolerate campaigning away from ideologically pure positions, and therefore aren't even in a position to cast votes in congress.

Paul SB said...

And thus my use of the term "Dumbocrats."

Paul SB said...

Larry,

The utopia issue is for all intents and purposes a red herring, and yes, a straw man, too. Since the Left proclaims itself to be the side of progress, the Right proclaims that the Left believes in utopianism, but everyone knows that utopia is impossible, therefore the Left is a bunch of morons who will destroy our glorious nation trying to do the impossible.

That's the straw man part. Here's the red herring; attempts to improve the nation require a certain amount of government spending, which is only possible with tax money. Since the rich have the most money to tax, they are the people who have the most to lose from being taxed. The utopia issue is just an attempt to divert attention from the fact that everything the Republicans do is to put more money in the pockets of those who need it the least - the richest members of their party. The red herring of utopianism is to distract the people from seeing the vast corruption they are committing. Like Deep Throat said of one Republican president, "Follow the money."

As far as locum spew is concerned, all he does is parrot the talking points of the party of corruption, having bought into the bullshit that they really are working for the interests of rural chauvinist hate-filled males like himself.

locumranch said...


"I had no idea I was required to prove that a particular fallacy is what it is. We hold some truths to be self-evident."[Larry_H]

Thanks to Larry_H for summing up the entire Progressive/Conservative divide with an economy of words: The Progressive expects that his ASSERTIONS in regard to his good intentions & predicted change-related outcomes to be self-explanatory, 'self-evident' & acceptable at face value, whereas any similar Conservative assertions are condemned as unproven & unacceptable FALLACY.

"I assert that the progressive changes that I propose -- which include the state provision of employment opportunities (item 7), equal rights for all citizens (item 9), the confiscation of ill-gotten gains from oligarchs & profiteers (item 12), profit-sharing in all large enterprises (item 14), the development of old-age pensions (items 15), the creation & maintenance of a sound middle class (item 16), free public higher education (item 20), free national healthcare (item 21) & laws to eliminate hate speech (item 23) -- will make the world a happier & more joyful place. Signed, HITLER"

Excerpted from the Platform of the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party, Munich, Germany, February 24, 1920. [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/platform-of-the-national-socialist-german-workers-rsquo-party]


Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

"I had no idea I was required to prove that a particular fallacy is what it is. We hold some truths to be self-evident."[Larry_H]

Thanks to Larry_H for summing up the entire Progressive/Conservative divide with an economy of words: The Progressive expects that his ASSERTIONS in regard to his good intentions & predicted change-related outcomes to be self-explanatory, 'self-evident' & acceptable at face value, whereas any similar Conservative assertions are condemned as unproven & unacceptable FALLACY.


What the fuck are you talking about?

Show me where in my words you see anything about any value judgements or predictions being self-evident. I hold to be self-evident that the "arguing from assertion fallacy" is in fact a fallacy. If you as a conservative, argue fallaciously, that's on you, not on me for pointing it out.

raito said...

Re: disaster dystopia

Exactly the reason I love Alas, Babylon. The town pulls together. And even has meaningful discussions on how to handle outside forces.

Re: paraphrasing.

Around my house, this is usually expressed as 'Let's argue with facts.' If both sides can't even agree on what is factual, there isn't going to be a resolution, let alone a compromise.

And sure, we're all dead in the long run. But I need stuff to do while I'm waiting around.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

That was yet another example of reflexive dishonesty - with a Godwin bonus thrown in. It's what happens when people grow up surrounded by the righteous who must win at any cost.

LarryHart said...

Latest from Jim Wright:

http://www.stonekettle.com/


...
Donald Trump is the same horrible person he’s been his entire life.

He’s an obnoxious, ignorant, abusive blowhard enabled by wealth and privilege and if you think for one minute the power of the presidency is going to do anything but exacerbate that you are a goddamned fool.

Or a Republican.

But I repeat myself.
...


Heh.

Jumper said...

This is priceless: go to locum's reference and actually read the thing.
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/platform-of-the-national-socialist-german-workers-rsquo-party

This explains everything. Locum's not-so-sly insertion of "hate speech" is merely one example of his crookedness. Of course Hitler's obviously evil intentions, locum left out, because they seem to echo the Trumpies' plans far more than any American progressive liberal's.

matthew said...

Loco also forgets, conveniently for his false narrative, the Night of Long Knives.

A.F. Rey said...

Exactly the reason I love Alas, Babylon. The town pulls together. And even has meaningful discussions on how to handle outside forces.

That reminds me of Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. The survivors of the plague also pull together, although their solution to a stranger is not very nice. ;) They don't exactly rebuild civilization, but, because of the very limited number of survivors, kind of create a "right sized" civilization.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

He has done this many times before, and been called on it by several of the regulars here. He seems to count on the assumption that everyone is as reactionary as he is and will start typing in rage without consulting his links. I'm not sure if he actually reads them himself, or just reads the title and maybe skims a bit. It's just window dressing to lend an air of credibility.

LarryHart said...

Time out for a mention of sci-fi...

At the urging of at least one person on this list, I have just begun reading the quasi-Foundation novel called "Psycohistorical Crisis". I'm only about 20 pages into a 700+ page novel, so I can't say much yet about the plot. It does have the look and feel of a worthy sequel to the Foundation novels, as much as it can with what I presume to be a lack of permission to actually use proper names from Asimov's books. Some of the references are comically obvious (Lakgan in place of Kalgan, or Someone-The-Stubborn instead of The Mule). I do have to admit that calling the Trantor-like planet "Splendid Wisdom" strikes me as weird enough to momentarily take me out of the story.

Unlike the later Asimov novels and the Benford/Bear/Brin sequels, this does not seem to suffer for focusing on "the further adventures of Hari Seldon", which never did captivate me as much as the epic sweep of history in the original trilogy. This one seems like it has a fair-to-middling chance of getting there.

Whoever made the recommendation, thanks.

David Brin said...

Earth Abides was frustrating, of course. The notion that only one child could be taught to read was silly. But one line toward the end was moving... how the Tribe's women were raised to speak, unafraid and that the Tribe's men and boys were raised to hear what the women say.

onward

onward

A.F. Rey said...

I think the point was that the tribe was so small, and the knowledge that they needed to survive was so limited, they didn't need to read at that time. So it was cast off, as the rest of the needless things from civilization.

I would bet that, as they grew and their needs became more complex, they would reinvent reading and writing and whatever else they needed.

Assuming, of course, they didn't come across a challenge in which they would have needed to refer to the old books to learn something new to survive... :(

It may not have been right, but (most) people learn only what they need to learn. Or so I think Stewart was trying to say.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry
I found "Psycohistorical Crisis" to be amazing - I have read it several times and I'm going to read it again soon - every time I read it I found something new and surprising

koi seo said...


I think locumranch is guilty of both problems, though. Some of his stuff leaves the programmer in me to deal with a null pointer exception. The post isn't complete without all its objects actually referring to real content.

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