Saturday, November 16, 2019

Ban the pesky cameras? Before we all agree, consider what works.

First an update: Like millions, I fret about our calamitous political schisms increasingly resemble civil war. POLEMICAL JUDO, offers many perspectives on our crisis that you’ve never seen. Over 100+ tactics to help defend our Great Experiment. Now in both e-book and paperback.

Get  free sample chapters. Scan the table of contents, for a breadth of modern issues covered in unusual - perhaps sometimes science fictional  - ways! If 1% of the ideas might prove useful, shouldn't some be tried? (Priced super-low, because it’s more important to see these methods get into the right hands than to make a buck.)
Do help spread the word... and Amazon plaudits are welcome.

== Seeing should not be believing ==

Okay, it's a fraught era, all right, and one that some of us predicted. As if straight out of Earth and The Transparent Society — “Google just dropped a trove of visual deepfakes “free to the research community, for use in developing synthetic video detection methods.” The dataset includes 1000 “before” and “after” videos in which the faces of people were swapped with other people’s faces.” In the long run, we will document all our lives for simple self-protection.

Seeing isn’t believing: How to spot manipulated videosStraight from my chapter* “The End of Photography As Proof of Anything At All…”  The Internet is increasingly populated with false and misleading videos. These researchers set out to develop a guide to label altered videos and hold creators and sharers of this misinformation accountable.

And San Francisco recently banned facial recognition technologyMight the city’s ban on the technology set a nationwide precedent? How is this supposed to work, when both hardware and software get better at exponential rates. And cameras get faster, cheaper, smaller, better and more mobile quicker than Moore's law? There are already face recognition cell phone apps! Nothing will keep all elites from having this, though by law you might prevent average folks, for a while. How is that supposed to help, again?

== Right Diagnosis -- Deadly Wrong Prescription ==

The cause gains momentum. These privacy activists are vigorous and rightly concerned about misuse of surveillance tech -- standing on the Capitol steps scanning 13,000 faces for recognition, wearing signs demanding "Make this illegal!" Oh, these are good folks, with right-on concerns about the coming surveilled world that could easily turn Orwellian. Right problem! ... But absolutely and spectacularly wrong solution! A prescription that is not only technologically and historically clueless, but that plays right into the hands of every would-be Big Brother.

I debated this very topic last week on NPR's "To The Point" with Warren Olney.  The ACLU attorney - Kade Crawford - was smart, cogent, admirable and agile... though she also utterly misses what history tells us -- that it's no use 'hiding' from elites. What works -- the ONLY thing that has ever protected freedom and, yes, some privacy -- is when average citizens can maximally see, thus holding elites accountable.

Why do you think Putin, Trump and Fox desperately seek to preserve al kinds of secrecy? The sole fallback position of today's GOP distills to "Don't Look At Us!" Tax returns, staffer testimony, Trump's bragged-about "Great Wall of NDAs"... when will our paladins of freedom at ACLU and EFF (join today!) ever grasp the core truth of human nature -- that all enemies of the enlightenment are terrified of light?

We mustn’t be the ones giving them excuses to blind us, while retaining in secret all the powers we foolishly “outlawed.” Listen to the stimulating debate on NPR.

== They are already watching you... so look back ==

Oh, you ask: "Who is EFF?" The Electronic frontier Foundation (I’m a member and you should join) is an NGO that vigorously gathers information about those who are gathering information about us. That’s the side of modern, e-activism that is utterly essential and it can work. And articles like this one show it, in action, as the authors reveal the depth and breadth of surveillance tech used by law enforcement in San Diego.

Indeed, it is a daunting list, from body-worn copcams to face recognition (FR) to cell-phone spoof “stingrays” to license plate readers and doorbell-cam ‘sharing’ and drones, it’s clear that the sum total could be used by a top-down state to control or oppress, as this very sum of converging technologies is being used today, in China. Most cryptic and mysterious is the Palantir data analysis system, which unabashedly aims to empower mighty elites at the expense of citizens. 

“Between the busiest border crossing in the United States, a large military presence, a major port, a booming tech and cybersecurity industry, and elected officials who campaign on government innovation, it’s a wonder that San Diego has yet to become a Big Brother hellscape. Or has it? Perhaps the process was so gradual that no one noticed.”

And so we come to the point where I always part company with my dear friends and colleagues and paladins of freedom at EFF. For I have never known one of them to look in a mirror, and notice the phenomenon that they are seeing there.

By all means, read this summary! Be aware. Then refuse to panic. YOU go look in a mirror while you are flush with suspicion of authority (SoA) endorphins… and recognize THAT you are reacting that way. 

Good. Nurse that voluptuously urgent sense of SoA militancy! But also know that a majority of your fellow citizens share it. And if we together choose to supervise the elites controlling these technologies… and use them ourselves, then yes, there is a chance. Our only chance, but a real chance to stay free.

== On privacy and cameras ==

Sean Carroll - on his Mindscape podcast - interviews my colleague Ramez Naam (The Nexus Trilogy) about reasons for optimism that humanity can (tho not necessarily will) solve many of the crises that we face. Mez kindly cites me in the final 16 minutes… though I think I’ll give up trying to explain to folks that David Brin does NOT think “privacy is dead.” 

Sure, only one thing will save some privacy for us — along with freedom. We’ll retain both, providing we all get to see nearly everything. Which would mean (and no one ever gets this) that we’ll catch voyeurs and spies and peeping toms who try to barge in on us, and be empowered to hold them accountable with MYOB! (Mind Your Own Business.) It's what all of us do, when we dine at restaurants! Glancing around to ensure no one if leaning/listening in.

But aside from that… Mez gives a truly fine interview that will leave you inspired and motivated to help those good trends save the world.

== Why tech suppression won't work ==

Brin’s corollary to Moore’s Law is in effect, as the cameras get smatter, better, faster, cheaper and more mobile/numerous every year. Now: The “World's smallest camera is size of a grain of sand.” Just the sensor part, which fits at the tip of a thread for surgical uses. But the notion you’ll be able to “hide” is nonsense. You are better off protecting freedom and (some) privacy by letting everybody see.

And sensors can be helpful: when a bicyclist hit his head in an accident, knocking him out, his Apple Watch detected a “hard fall” and called 911 with his location. The watch also sent a text to the man’s son to let him know his father had suffered a fall.

Stop fearing the future! Yes, many daunting problems and even minefields lie in front of us. DO peer ahead and warn! Science Fiction plays a big part of that and I have offered lots of warnings!  But almost every solution that could possibly work will require confidence! Confidence in us and the tools of elightenment.

== Bringing us full circle ==

Which takes us back to my new book filled with tools!  POLEMICAL JUDO - offers scores of tactics potentially useful right now! If only someone out there gets it read by someone in the right position to apply them. 


* in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? 


Larry Hart said...

A bit of humorous distraction for nerds. I have the same reaction to this video that I did to the "David S. Pumpkin" sketch on SNL. Namely, it really shouldn't be that funny, but for some reason it is:

People used to say "It's nine of the clock. Ten of the clock.

This visionary said, "We don't need the 'f th'. I can do that with a sky-comma!"

David Brin said...

In Russia, Putin’s state TV apparatus is busy defending Trump.
Google that phrase to link to the article.

locumranch said...

Assuming 'The End of Video as Evidence of Anything' -- as suggested by our fine host & Kevin Kelly waaay back in 1985 (link above) -- I can't help but wonder if video surveillance & sousveilance still has any utility whatsoever in a culture where photographic evidence can be so easily faked by advanced video editing techniques.

So what if you have videographic proof of criminal activity, oligarchic malfeasance or Nazi conspiracies?

It's proof of NOTHING when -- with just a few clicks of my internet-capable keyboard -- I can give you access to Deep Fake pornographic videos of famous celebrities having sex ON THE MOON with Bigfoot, J. Edgar Hoover and computer-generated aliens.

Perhaps the time for video sousveillance has passed and, along with it, the time when immutable reality still conformed to the arbitrary whims of the photographic art.

Reality is DEAD: Long Live the Manufactured Consensus.


Here's the must click link for DB's interview re. 'Does facial recognition software threaten our freedom?'. Click now & hear David tell us that the time has come for all the little metaphorical mouses out there to 'Bell the Cat' of Top-Down Video Surveillance. Bell the Cat? What a great idea! May we have some disposable volunteers please?

David Brin said...

While idiotic and wrongheaded and propelled only by reflex hostility, locum posted a readable set of arguments expressed in big-boy voice. So yay vitamins.

The answer to unreliable (or lying) witnesses is the same as it's been for 500,000 years. Moire witnesses. The same scene shot by someone(s) more neutral ands reliable. Duh.

Deuxglass said...

"The secret ballot, also known as Australian ballot, is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous, forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation, blackmailing, and potential vote buying. The system is one means of achieving the goal of political privacy."

I don't see the secret ballot can survive in the future. Political privacy will be impossible. We might as well get rid of it vote by Twitter.

Larry Hart said...


It seems to me that the secret ballot is being eroded voluntarily, at least by the younger generation. If I were bribing/extorting voters to vote as I ordered, I would demand a selfie from inside the voting booth as proof. Many are doing that on their own, without prompting.

One might say that the "right to remain silent" is being similarly eroded by stupid crooks live-streaming their own crimes.

Eliminating the anonymous vote would make voter intimidation/bribery easier, but would make messing with the totals much harder. For that reason, I cynically believe that the Republicans won't let it go away.

Deuxglass said...


Immature behavior is a fact of life. The difference is that now we have a permanent record of the stupid things one does and says.

Are you against the secret ballot? If yes then what would you replace it with?

Deuxglass said...

And I expect that very few people take selfies in the booth.

Deuxglass said...


Communist and dictator-ruled countries regularly came up with elections where 98.9% of the voters voted for the present leaders. They did vote that way because they knew if they didn't vote the "right" way then they would be punished severely. If you can know how someone votes then you can punish them personally. The result would that one party (the one who can punish the most) would overwhelm the other. Once installed then it would be self-perpetuating.

Deuxglass said...

If you know how one votes then you no longer have to convince. All you have to do is come up with a good way to punish. Even the Ancient Athenians believed that the anonymous vote was the keystone of their democracy. Remove that and the systems implodes.

Larry Hart said...


Are you against the secret ballot?

No, I'm for it. My cynical comment was that the Republican Party will work to protect the concept for reasons much different from mine.

And I expect that very few people take selfies in the booth.

I can't speak first hand, but I thought I've read that it's becoming a thing. A more personal version of the "I voted!" sticker.

locumranch said...

David says that "The answer to unreliable (or lying) witnesses is the same as it's been for 500,000 years. More witnesses."

Excepting that "Research has found that (the) malleable nature of human memory and visual perception makes eyewitness testimony one of the most unreliable forms of evidence".

Ergo, the 'More Witnesses' solution to the unreliable witness problem is a circular argument that can only compound the error inherent in the initial unreliable witness problem, also known as 'Garbage In, Garbage Out' to the computer literate, leading only to Fake Video, Fake Experts, Fake News and Fake Consensus.

And, since we can believe NOTHING when we can no longer believe our eyes, our ears or our senses, we no longer believe your Fake Data, Fake Science or Fake Impeachment.


Alfred Differ said...


You really ought to read his book. He addressed that.

Alfred Differ said...

One version of a non-secret ballot that I’d tolerate has encrypted choices and an in-the-clear digital signature. As long as decrypt requires one key per ballot (no sharing or back door) I would probably go along with it.

Deuxglass said...


Could you explain a bit more? Who would know how you voted?

David Brin said...

The secret ballot was to prevent intimidation and retaliation. Secrecy is protective... but unreliable. I have spent 20+ years exploring and arguing about the approach that's better, over the long term...

...accountability. Making it hard for anyone to punish you, no matter how you chose to vote, or live your life. And that's the project we've been pursuing. We've become so good at it that millions take for granted a freedom to express themselves that would have got them killed in other eras. And that WILL get almost all of us killed, if locumranch and his cult gain real power.

Deuxglass said...

If secrecy falls in voting then the only recousse is to push the accountability approach.

Treebeard said...

I don’t think human minds can handle too much knowledge and transparency; we need limited awareness to stay sane. If we knew about all the death, suffering, outrages and dramas happening all the time it would be too much for us. And we’re seeing that now with social media—people being driven crazy by too much information, too much transparency, too much connectivity. To me more surveillance, more data and more access is just creating a tech-enabled “total perspective vortex” horror machine. I once wrote a story to that effect, about how the internet is becoming a Lovecraftian super-organism that drives its addicts insane.

I can easily imagine a near future world where digital media is totally ignored because no one trusts any of it, or it’s treated like a toxic drug and shunned. Who knows, maybe when people can no longer trust any digital medium they will rediscover the virtues of in-person communication and real world experience, and this tech-addled era will be seen as a mad experiment that failed. That sounds like progress in my book (yes, book).

scidata said...

This has been asked before (by others), but I'm not sure if it was ever answered. Is there any reasonable search facility for Contrary Brin? It's a great resource, but searching linearly back thru topics is intractable. Repetition is a problem too, especially for relative newcomers like me. This probably came up a lot during the compilation of Polemical Judo.

David Brin said...

Yep. I know of no Contrary Brin search facility, which I've wanted often. Blogger is frankly inferior to Medium etc in so many ways. Eventually, we must move. Onerous though.

Many of my sci-fi Hollywood articles and blogs will be in VIVID TOMORROWS.

Larry Hart said...


Researchers have found that Fox News isn’t very effective at informing Americans. A 2012 study by Fairleigh Dickinson University reported that watching Fox News had “a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge.”

The study found that those who regularly watched Fox News actually knew less about both domestic and international issues than those who watched no news at all. N.P.R. listeners were particularly well-informed, the study found, but even people who got their news from a comedy program like “The Daily Show” — or who had no news source whatsoever — knew more about current events than Fox viewers.

That may be correlation rather than causation, but at the least it suggests that viewers of Fox News don’t actually learn much.

I'd call that a feature, not a bug.

David Brin said...

I cannot urge you too strongly to read the linked article from The Atlantic's special issue on "Civil War." Here's a blip from How America Ends, by Yoni Appelbaum, who shows why the right is so desperate to cheat and grip power, in the face of demographic collapse:
“A conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation. A conservatism defined by identity reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question—and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.”

And: “When a group that has traditionally exercised power comes to believe that its eclipse is inevitable, and that the destruction of all it holds dear will follow, it will fight to preserve what it has—whatever the cost.”

Before you gloat over the apparent intention of the Republican Party to self-destruct at a gibbet of fanaticism, consider a sobering historical correlation and danger sign. The Fox/Putin systematic destruction of moderate conservatism has dangerous implications, as Appelbaum points out:

“In his recent study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe, the political scientist Daniel Ziblatt zeroes in on a decisive factor distinguishing the states that achieved democratic stability from those that fell prey to authoritarian impulses.

“The key variable was not the strength or character of the political left, or of the forces pushing for greater democratization, so much as the viability of the center-right. A strong center-right party could wall off more extreme right-wing movements, shutting out the radicals who attacked the political system itself….

“If groups that traditionally have enjoyed privileged positions see a future for themselves in a more democratic society, Ziblatt finds, they will accede to it. But if “conservative forces believe that electoral politics will permanently exclude them from government, they are more likely to reject democracy outright.””

This is just another reason to be ready with an olive branch to offer any and all ‘RASRs’ who are willing to renounce their movement’s fealty to mafia-oligarchy, and who will help re-establish the primacy of facts and fact professions. All else is negotiable! But without those two things, we are forced to accept a bitter truth. That sane conservatives have turned a blind eye to their duty, to country, civilization and conservatism. At which point, we’ll just have to save all of those things, ourselves.

And yes, Appelbaum covers a few of the points I say in POLEMICAL JUDO. How nice to be a wee bit less lonely.

Ahcuah said...


Not sure if you missed this, or if you saw it and thought it inadequate.

The easiest way to do a decent search is using Google, and limiting it to a site. So, for instance, to find my comments, I would use "site: neinast". Yes, I have a nicely rare last name. But one can add in all sorts of other Google tricks to narrow a search for other things.

Ahcuah said...

Oh, shoot. Got that wrong. Need to proofread before I post. Leave off the http stuff:

" neinast"

scidata said...

Re: Search Engine

Of course I use Google, but it returns basically the same hit many times over, forcing one to dig thru page after page of results to find stuff. Better than nothing, but still primitive. There is a Blogger search engine that's a bit spartan, but is interesting:

You can submit an XML Sitemap maybe. I do this on WordPress.

scidata said...

@Bob Neinast

Thanks very much. I wrote my blurb above before I saw yours.

Smurphs said...

I make no claims of prognostication, in fact, I think my Crystal Ball is made of obsidian, but remember:

The first seven states to secede in 1861 did not secede over Slavery. They did not secede over States Rights. They did not secede over Taxes. Or economic policy.

They seceded because they LOST AN ELECTION.

The poor little snowflakes were afraid they would be treated the same way they had been treating the Union for decades.

They could not conceive that the other side might negotiate in good faith, because they no longer knew how.

Alfred Differ said...


There are two basic needs the trusting citizen has of a voting system.

1. Illegitimate ballots can be detected and set aside for possible future action.
2. Legitimate ballots containing valid votes can be counted and recounted if necessary.

Getting both at the same time places constraints on the two parts of a process used by the system. Other constraints/concerns might make getting both impossible, so compromise usually results.

No matter what requirements and constraints are considered, they fall into three categories. Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.

1. A digital signature on a ballot can be checked against another system to determine if the ballot is legitimate, but risks undermining confidentiality in systems where the voter has a reasonable expectation of secrecy. Integrity at the cost of risk to Confidentiality.

2. Encrypting ballot choices AFTER the scanning devices tally choices while ignoring signatures protects Confidentiality at the cost of risk to Availability of the ballot during a recount. The counting device is trusted in the field, but can be tested using a sample ballot set later if there are reasons to believe they've malfunctioned or been compromised. IF the ballots really need to be re-counted because the machines are suspect, we'd know from the signatures who to ask to authorize opening the encrypted packet. ONLY those citizens could do that, though.

So… who knows how I voted? The device into which I place my ballot would briefly if the software was written incorrectly. Write it properly and no one would except me. Authenticate the voter first using the offered identity (private key) for the signature on a string identifying the voting device. Authentication is a matter of decryption using the voter's public key registered with the State. Success=Legitimate Voter @ Legitimate Voting Device.

Once done, that process hands off to another that trusts the authenticator when it hands through the voter's public key. It collects ballot choices, tallies them into buckets, and then encrypts the choice set using the public key. That bundle is digitally signed by the voter at the end of the process. Success=Legitimate Ballot that might contain Invalid 'choices'.

This process is a sketch, though. Decent cryptography developers would look at the sketch and think of all sorts of ways to mess with confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Doing it right would best be done by doing it in the open so we can all howl at the little stupidities that seep into software and hardware development processes.

Something along this path, though, is something I could tolerate as a reasonable compromise between the two initial needs trusting citizens have. We ARE all going to have digital identities soon enough and our various institutions ARE going to need to authenticate us as both citizens and customers. We might as well accept this and leverage it in our compromises.

Alfred Differ said...

With all that, though, I still agree with our host. Accountability fixes most of the problems we have. All the little tricks we can employ with our new digital powers won't mean much if we can't hold cheaters accountable. For example, in such a world, authority can always come beat my pass phrase out of me to decrypt the ballot I cast. In such a world, they would build back doors to save themselves the cost of assigning someone to beat me whether they cared about my well-being or not. With accountability, both of those options get seen and the pitchfork carrying mob responds.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

With accountability, both of those options get seen and the pitchfork carrying mob responds.

Tangential to your comment, but it pointed out to me a way in which the current Republican Party has deformed the concept of what constitutes outrage sufficient enough to resort to pitchfork-carrying mob action.

Consider, if it were clear that Republican officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania actually miscounted votes (or sent faithless electors to overturn those votes) to give Republicans a victory by cheating, we might see that as legitimately provoking us to go to the pitchforks, having been given no other option. However, Trump supporters are already threatening to go to the pitchforks if they lose the election. To them, a democratic process which doesn't go their way is as egregious an outrage as cheating is to us.

How the f*** do we fight that?

scidata said...

Larry Hart: How the f*** do we fight that?

With hugs. They are our brothers.

duncan cairncross said...

Re- Ballots

It's simpler than that
Have each ballot with two parts - one has an identifier - the other does not

Vote using the one without an identifier
Keep the one with an identifier

We can now trace who voted - but NOT who they voted for

A less foolproof system is to have your name ticked off on the register when you are given you ballot

This gives traceability to who voted - but again not who they voted for

Then the registers can be merged and voters can be audited to detect any cheating

Paper ballots are simply the best way

Alfred Differ said...

If the mistrust concerns the legitimacy of a set of ballots, I don't see how a paper ballot w/o identifier can address it. My one with an identifier is in my possession? How does that help the trusting citizen believe in the three pillars? (confidentiality, integrity, availability) [CIA]

Alfred Differ said...


How the f*** do we fight that?

With pitchforks aimed ONLY at the people on the other side with pitchforks.
With understanding for those who are tempted to fight but chose not to do so.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin would like this. My congressional district, NC-11, gerrymandered to provide a lair for Trumpist lickspittle Mark Meadows, will now be more competitive owing to recent court decisions. And a Democractic challenger has thrown his hat in the ring: a crusty old colonel named Morris Davis.

Larry Hart said...

Yes, finally someone else is recognizing deliberate Republican strategy for what it is. Any action that is not pro-Republican partisan is labelled partisan on the other side, and committing egregious actions is its own defense, because anyone calling them on what they're actually doing is themselves committing an offense against decency:


Three years later, Robert Mueller faced his own uncomfortable choice. As special counsel, he helped uncover evidence that President Trump had repeatedly broken the law, including paying hush money to two women and interfering in the Russia investigation. But Mueller understood that clearly laying out his conclusions would subject him to vicious criticism as a partisan.


Not just Trump, but many members of Congress, have chosen to depict anything other than partisan hackery for their own side as partisan hackery for the other side.


Howard Brazee said...

I can see a time when individuals record everything that happens with them automatically. (I'm not sure how we decide what keeps past a day).

Some cars are doing this already.

I wonder how that would affect low-level bribery.

locumranch said...

The Atlantic article cited by David starts with the following paragraph:

Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election".

Yet, we are at the very place where we are at now because NEITHER side has been able to see the Positive Sum in recent defeat, something the US Progressive Party rejected from the get-go as it began delegitimising the 2016 US Election before the final vote was even counted, after boasting (rather prematurely) that demographic replacement of a dying white middle class would prevent any further US Conservative victories for ever & ever.

Now, that doesn't sound like the above-stated conditions for continuing Democracy which are to include (1) the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable, (2) the losers could accept the result, adjust and (3) move on to fight in the next election", does it?

Of course, our fine host will insist that the permanent elimination of the deplorably conservative contingent is the very epitome of a Positive Sum 'Win-Win' outcome, and it's just too sad that the deplorably conservative contingent targeted for elimination doesn't agree with his enlightened assessment.

Tell us again, glorious leader, how the demographic elimination of millions & millions of a certain deplorable identity group is a positive sum outcome worthy of celebration.


Larry Hart said...

Mr. Pomerantsev, who worked in a Russian television station in the early 2000s, said there is a transgressive thrill in strong leaders thumbing their nose at the facts.

“We slightly miss the point if we don’t understand how much pleasure their supporters derive from this,” he said. “Did he really say that? You can’t stop watching him. It’s partly about power. But it’s also anarchic, and there’s a weird freedom in that.”

David Brin said...

"Of course, our fine host will insist that the permanent elimination of the deplorably conservative contingent is the very epitome of a Positive Sum 'Win-Win' outcome"

You lie. You despicably and deliberately lie. You know you are expressing YOUR values and trying to cram them into your opponents and because you know it, that makes you a truly lying teller of lies, deserving no cred.

None of which bothers me much, given how little credibility you have. What's so fascinating... and lets you hang around... is the fact that you are capable of such incantations reveals to us how incredibly foreign such thinking is to anything American... but how typical across the benighted history of our species.

David Brin said...

Those wanting to search in the blog... There is an app on the sidebar of this blog, right above 'Popular Posts' - you have to scroll down some didtance past book covers.

scidata said...

Thanks. That search engine is a big improvement.

Re: Ultima Thule --> Arrokoth

Switching out a dark & scary name for Pocahontas' tribe. I see what you did there NASA.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

What's so fascinating... and lets you hang around... is the fact that you are capable of such incantations reveals to us how incredibly foreign such thinking is to anything American... but how typical across the benighted history of our species.

That's exactly what I find so frustrating about the attitude of Republicans, not just irredemables like lyin'ranch, but RASRs, some of whom have fled this blog because we just don't understand their way of thinking.

I think every citizen is equal before the law. Someone else thinks this country belongs to white Christian males, and their votes must count above all. Both of us are entitled to our own opinion, but both opinions are not equally American.

For decades, Republicans have claimed for themselves the title of real Americans with Democrats and liberals cast as hippies and commies. If that characterization were ever valid, it is so no more. Republicans reject checks-and-balances, the rule of law, and democracy itself. They may run America, but they are un-American.

Deuxglass said...


Thanks for that thorough explanation. Although I believe that paper is better than electronic now, I recognize that sooner or later voting will be all electronic and your idea looks very good.

In France election results are almost never contested. When a French citizen changes residence he has to register himself at the mayors office who will deregister him from the where he had lived previously so there are no out of date voter rolls to purge. The mayor issues him the voters card with which he can vote at his town of residence. Elections are holidays here.

Voting is by paper and each vote goes down a long table where representatives from each party gets to confirm who was voted for. Occasionally ballot boxes get lost but it is rare.

Because of this process results aren't contested. There are no contention over voter rolls or if non-citizens voted. It makes the election results trusted by just about everybody. However it doesn't do anything about the quality of those elected. We still get a lot of dumbasses voted in office here.

scidata said...

A succinct defense of my pervasive, grass-roots citizen science philosophy:

"Big Philanthropy is definitionally a plutocratic voice in our democracy, an exercise of power by the wealthy that is unaccountable, non-transparent, donor-directed, perpetual, and tax-subsidized."
- Robert Reich

And the most important detriment of Big Philanthropy: interest in and responsibility for philanthropy recede off to an unattainable ivory tower.

Treebeard said...

"Ultima Thule" is an ancient Greek term that, per wikipedia, "acquired a metaphorical meaning of any distant place located beyond the 'borders of the known world'". Which doesn’t seem terribly inappropriate for a distant space object. But the nature of the cultural jihad being waged now is such that anything associated with European identity, masculinity and mythology must be extirpated; an entire identity group is being targeted for destruction. We see this phenomenon in your own field, where being male and pale is a virtual disqualifier for winning a Hugo award. I could name many more examples of this phenomenon, but I shouldn’t need to elaborate. All of which goes to what locum is talking about. If an entire identity group is being targeted for elimination, and they aren’t allowed to object without being vilified and proscribed, then that is about as negative sum as it gets, so of course many are going to choose to fight. No one wants to live in a story where the future doesn’t include them. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees, as a great American once said.

locumranch said...

I am equally fascinated by the illogic displayed by the Resurgent Left:

For instance, LH argues that "every citizen is equal before the law," which sounds ever so democratic, until he advocates for the tyranny of Minority Rule by disparaging the democratic MAJORITY & the democratic principle of Majority Rule in the very same breath.

Thankfully, the USA was designed a Republic, rather than a Democracy, in order to avoid the Tyranny of the Majority trap -- which the US Constitution does splendidly, btw -- hence the importance of the Electoral College.

Yet, even so, the typical Leftist Cry-Bully wants to have its cake & eat it, too, as it (1) condemns Majority Rule by the majority identity group, (2) demands Minority Rule by minority identity groups, and simultaneously (3) seeks to dismantle the Electoral College & the US Republic in preparation for the demographic shifts that will ensure a Majority Rule tyranny by various leftists, commies & hypocrites for all eternity.

And, assuming that David does not actually intend "the permanent elimination of the deplorably conservative contingent majority" for all eternity -- but, instead, intends to SHARE and ALTERNATE power with the deplorable & much despised conservative contingent for "for ever & ever" as detailed in the above-mentioned conditions for continuing Democracy, then I owe him an apology.

So how about it, David? Do you promise to SHARE power with & protect the future political interests of Christians, Confederates, Isolationists, agricultural producers, resource providers, whites, science-haters, climate change deniers & other deplorables for ever & ever??

The crickets I hear prove otherwise.


David Brin said...

treebeard points to real complaints about the far-left that are justified... and that are minuscule and that time will forget. The putsch to take over the sci fi awards is corrective of past injustices and aimed at encouraging growth in good directions. Yes, it is exaggerated, dogmatic and unnecessarily vehement, even punitive. But I fret far less about those colleagues than about the Putin-Saudi-oligarch cabal waging war on fact-people and plotting to enslave us all.

"So how about it, David? Do you promise to SHARE power with & protect the future political interests of Christians, Confederates, Isolationists, agricultural producers, resource providers, whites, science-haters, climate change deniers & other deplorables for ever & ever??"

SImple answer. Yes. Though they will not offer me the same assurance with any sincerity.

"The crickets I hear prove otherwise."

You lie. You utterly lie. You lie deliberately and therefore from a corruption of the soul that I hope you can eventually climb out of.

Larry Hart said...

an entire identity group is being targeted for destruction.

The problem is that that identity group considers its inherent superiority as an essential part of its identity. Therefore, it sees targeting others for equal rights as the same thing as targeting them for destruction.

No one wants to live in a story where the future doesn’t include them.

Again, true as far as it goes. But you can't consider "where the future includes others too" to be identical to "where the future doesn't include them".

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin quotes someone whose posts are dead to me:

"So how about it, David? Do you promise to SHARE power with & protect the future political interests of Christians, Confederates, Isolationists, agricultural producers, resource providers, whites, science-haters, climate change deniers & other deplorables for ever & ever??"

If they work within the political system--voting, campaigning, lobbying, running for office, etc, then they have as much right to the process as I do, and may the best man win.

Once someone resorts to cheating, bullying, intimidation, violence, etc in order to win, then they invite retaliation, censure, and a forfeiting of rights. Even if--especially if--they consider cheating, bullying, intimidation, and violence to be their God-given right.

That list of deplorables intentionally conflates mere identity groups with individuals who openly declare their intent to harm others. Thus, in your view, opposing white supremacists for their attacks upon others is the same thing as opposing whites for the color of their skin.

duncan cairncross said...

Deuxglass talks about the woeful quality of French politicians

As far as I can see the Chinese system allows everybody to vote - but limits the actual "politicians" to people who have been through a training and selection process which requires a higher level of probity and demonstrated intelligence and leadership.

This is not the sort of "Democracy" we would recognise - But as long as it is transparent and the ability to remove people who don't meet the standards is maintained then maybe it's actually a better - improved model

Alfred Differ said...


The crickets I hear prove otherwise.

The fact you thought he would decline demonstrates how little you understand him and the rest of us. Remember we are believers in a positive sum system. That means we believe we are better off WITH you than WITHOUT you.

Heh. That doesn't mean we are going to make it easy on you, though.
Sharpen your arguments.

David Brin said...

"Sharpen your arguments."

Um... he should start by looking at the the actual us, instead of strawmwn that make him feel smug. We are waaaaaaaaay over here. Not at all like the loon you see in the mirror.

Alfred Differ said...


Paper is a decent technology for elections and should probably be included as a backup in any future digital system. I have two beefs with it, but they aren't big enough to be discouraging.

1) Paper can't be in two places at once. This is an availability issue. If it is in the ballot box, it can't be in the authentication process. If it is being authenticated, it isn't in a safe archive. So... make copies of each ballot? That poses confidentiality risks. While a single copy passes through the hands of an observer, there are integrity risks. Maybe these risks can be kept manageable, but residents of certain North Carolina precincts thought much the same when people came them offering to help fill-in and deliver their mail-in-ballots to official sites... and then did not deliver them... or altered them.

2) Paper CAN include the name of the voter for future validation checks, but this risks confidentiality in systems where secret ballots are beneficial. With name and choices recorded together, it becomes much more valuable for crackers to break into archives. They KNOW someone will pay for that data... or pay to avoid having it revealed. Leave names off of ballots like today? That poses integrity risks because we can't re-authenticate the person casting the ballot leaving us having no back-up to the initial test done on election day to authenticate a voter. Record a ballot ID against the voter's name in a separate precinct book? That's slightly better than putting it on the ballot because it gives crackers two things they have to acquire.

Paper is the cheaper option for now, but it isn't as cheap as many think. Contemplate the security processes associated with ballots and those costs in addition to printing and storage costs. It adds up. In a state like mine (California) with nearly 40 million people, the cost of paper isn't tiny.

The initial cost of going digital isn't tiny either, but recurring costs will likely make up for it. The way I see it, we are in that same gap we were in just a few years ago where ride-sharing COULD be done, but few people had mobile phones so it wasn't worth doing it yet. Other needs drove cellphone sales and now a zillion other processes are enabled by them. Ride-share vehicles don't need special GPS receivers and transmitters to hub stations, but some of us thought they would back then and counted them among the initial costs. We were wrong, though, and I suspect digital voting tech will spring upon us the same way. The hurdles will get knocked down by some OTHER (likely commercial) needs.

A.F. Rey said...

We see this phenomenon in your own field, where being male and pale is a virtual disqualifier for winning a Hugo award.

You sound like a Sad Puppy.

There are plenty of great stories that don't win Hugos. It's sour grapes to complain that the highest accolades don't go to a preferred group.

David Brin said...

Well, AFR andy neutral judge would perceive overcompensation and prejudice going on. Plus obsession with symbolism that is a trait most exhibited by right wingers. But I have faith the fever will pass, leaving us better than before,

Alfred: Paper ballots achieve the one most important thing. They allow an audit to reveal THAT something bad happened. The announced results were not the same as the TOTAL votes actually cast for each candidate. It reveals THAT something badly needs to be investigated, culptits discovered, and possibly a do-over election.

That is the most important thing. Verification of individual votes will be much harder to convince folks to do.

locumranch said...

I owe David an apology. Seriously.

I owe David an apology because, even though he despises his opposition to the utmost, he has attempted to stay true to his own despicable ideals of Tolerance, Diversity Acceptance & Otherness. He has been a magnificent challenge & it's literally taken me years to lure him into a logical Catch-22 of this magnitude. Seriously.

Others here, who shall remain forever nameless, can be dismissed with the following:

How typical of the progressive scold who, once convinced of the inherent superiority of their particular identity group, is quick to condemn any other identity group for affecting a similar position of "inherent superiority".

Finally & with tongue lodged in cheek, I can only add that David's display of tolerance, diversity acceptance & otherness towards all those despised deplorables out there, while admirable, is no longer considered sufficient by contemporary PC crowd, as it is tantamount to the insult generated by faint praise.

It is now necessary, according to current PC dogma, for everyone to CELEBRATE the despicable behaviour of the much Despised Other (individual and/or identity group), so HURRAH and THREE CHEERS for Cannibals & Vegans, Climate Change Deniers & Believers, the Cheaters & the Law-obedient, the Rapists & their False Accusers, the White Supremacists & other Carbon Copy Nationalists, the Nazis & the Oven Ready, the Fanny Pirates & the Muslims who KILL THEM, and the Racists who make so much Anti-Racism possible.

Yay, Moral Relativism & Radical Equality because NO standards apply when we fully embrace Tolerance, Diversity Acceptance & Otherness!!

On a side note:

I've been watching the International News & the Optimal PRC Solution to the Hong Kong Riots has just occurred to me, though it's a tad Machiavellian. The PRC need only arrest Carrie Lam, the current Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong and EXECUTE her on Live TV, post-haste, causing all rioting to stop immediately as rioters recoil from the PRC's swift & horrible justice.


Alfred Differ said...


Paper ballots can certainly do all that, but so could a properly run blockchain. You know some of the risks associated with that tech, so I'll just leave it at 'properly run'. 8)

I'll stick with my 'sharpen your arguments' as constructive criticism for him since that encompasses understanding objections and counter-arguments. I've seen him quote Hayek in ways that perfectly demonstrate a failure on his part to understand the context of a quote. Lots of people do that by not reading Hayek. Just use a quotation dictionary and find something that seems applicable the way some people do with Scripture. Understanding the written word of an author IS the challenge he faces here. 8)

Heh. And then he thinks you are giving him faint praise. Pfft!
He spends a lot of time in front of that mirror.

Alfred Differ said...


However it doesn't do anything about the quality of those elected. We still get a lot of dumbasses voted in office here.

Sorry. I missed this piece earlier. It deserves attention. 8)

The people who framed our Constitution expected this. Dumbasses, Corruption, and Evil Intent. Only some of it could they protect us against by dividing power blocs. The rest they made clear was up to us to stop as best we could. That's a big part of why we are a metaphorical sea urchin. Just replace spiny quills with guns and attitude.

[I'd say 'porcupine', but many of their quills point in essentially one direction. Libertarians often use a porcupine image as our party mascot like the elephant used by the GOP, so it's no shock that we point those quills at government when we diss them and turn our backs.] 8)

Zepp Jamieson said...

locumranch, I'm a bit confused. Are you telling us you hate us because we don't tolerate you, or are you telling us you despise us because we do?

Jon S. said...

"That list of deplorables intentionally conflates mere identity groups with individuals who openly declare their intent to harm others. Thus, in your view, opposing white supremacists for their attacks upon others is the same thing as opposing whites for the color of their skin."

That list also seems to insist that one of the prerequisites for being a farmer, or being a Christian, is also being a racist bigot, as it includes both among those "deplorables". This assertion is, of course, absurd on its face, but is made as if the one asserting it actually believes it. (I am unconvinced that the person making the assertion believes much of anything except that he hates pretty much everybody, which is why I shrouded him in the first place.)

Darrell E said...

The crazy rancher is just trolling. His intent is merely to get a rise, to score a hit, not to actually participate in a discussion. I feel sorry for the poor bastard.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Ribose discovered in meteorites:

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

That list also seems to insist that one of the prerequisites for being a farmer, or being a Christian, is also being a racist bigot, as it includes both among those "deplorables".

No, see that's his view of us--that we consider all white people, all Christians, all rural folks, anyone who doesn't say things like "cis-gender" or "micro-aggression" in actual sentences--to be as deplorable as Hitler. And that therefore, all those people are justified in giving us the "Fuck you!" that is a vote for Donald Trump. And they proudly wear the term "deplorable" that he thinks we foist on them because they'd rather be deplorable than Democrat.

IMHO, of course.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I feel sorry for the poor bastard.

I used to. Got tired of it. Now I'm that girl in A Chorus Line:

Six months later, I learned that Carp had died.
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul,
And cried....
'Cause I felt...nothing.

David Smelser said...

On blockchain securing an election:
Presumably, you present ballot options on the screen, have the voter select the options, and those votes are converted to a digital file and inserted into the blockchain. Do I understand the process correctly?

Can you explain how you authenticate/audit that the buttons pressed on the display are properly encoded into the digital file? How does a voter validate that string of bits correctly encodes their intent?

I've been following lots of discussion about ballot marking devices (BMDs) that produce barcodes and it seems like all the objections to BMDs would also apply to block chain marking devices.

Alfred Differ said...

David Smelser,

I’d guess there will have to be a certification process up front where devices are created and programmed and a chain-of-evidence process that tracks the devices and changes to them afterward. The devices themselves would have to have some internal equipment offering an encrypted and signed message digest representing their internal state so validation tests can be run comparing what-should-be to what-is. Ideally, all of this would run across the network to legitimize and entire precinct just before they open their polling stations and confirmation failures would call attention to misbehaving or tampered with systems.

Over the longer haul, though, I suspect the move will be away from official polling stations to digital voting using our own devices. A certified app on my phone would be enough to be the ‘device’, so people would have to noodle out how to ensure I don’t unlock the app and then hand my phone to the person pressuring me to vote a particular way. That’s a longer project that abandons the secure, controlled space of a voting booth and risks ballot integrity and confidentiality, but we are already dealing with this for mail-in ballots and learning the ropes.

Chain-of-evidence processes can be placed on a properly run blockchain db. It’s all about producing message digests that represent the state of a system and then recording them.

The really neat thing about digital voting using PKI is that we get to take future historians into account. Keys in use today might protect the confidentiality of my ballot, but 50 years from now I’d expect they could be broken en masse. Maybe 30 years? Depends on how far the quantum computing folks get and how fast. Future academics might have a treasure trove of data to explore that we might not mind them having once enough time passes.

scidata said...

Conducting democracy in populations of billions or even trillions is a strange realm that Asimov and Brin have ventured into (and others too, I'm sure). It may be that the better path is to spread the population density so thin that shouting votes in the Athenian agora might work again. Distributed computation has fabulous advantages. Perhaps distributed governance could too. Estonia is moving towards a system where anyone, anywhere, anytime could be a 'citizen'. I don't pretend to understand it, but there are serious thinkers at work on it.

Jon S. said...

Blockchain verification of votes... I think Randall Munroe had something to say on the topic.

Voting Software

A.F. Rey said...

Interesting article on Accelerationism--basically a white supremacist philosophy that the best way to bring about the wanted change is to help society collapse through violence. A dangerous kibble breeding-ground from the looks of it. (Hat tip to P.Z. Myers for the link.)

Larry Hart said...

Hmmm, "accelerationism" sounds like the darker mirror to the leftist notion that allowing a Donald Trump presidency to harm the country would cause voters to demand rescue from socialist politicians.

It doesn't work for the left. The dynamic may be different on the right, but it doesn't seem likely to work for them either. Instead, I hope that white supremacists will be treated the way Holnists are in a certain novel, with deadly enemies dropping their feuding to join forces and hang the motherfuckers.

David Brin said...

The most systematic and consistent policy of the Trump Administration has been the demolition of all our alliances. (And sciences - another topic.) See these links, which prove that DT is not finished being useful to his Kremlin master. First: a China -South Korea military agreement was prompted by The administrations relentless hostility and demands upon Seoul.

And this on the breakdown in US - South Korea talks:

And how our top allies are responding to increasing inability to rely on America, by forging a European military coalition:

Let's not forget how Ol' Two Scoops betrayed our Kurdish allies. And tried to undermine Ukraine's struggle with Russia.
And then there is this: Lil' Kim snubs his "lover" Trump:

Oh, but this is just a sampling. In every case, the aim is to weaken the West and USA in favor of Russia and China.

David Brin said...

Oh, and lest we forget how our Asian allies - who had been ready with the Trans Pacific Partnership to stand up to Beijing - now see no choice but to cozy up to the new Great Power, even signing off on Chin's grab of most of the South China Sea.

Alfred Differ said...

I [heart] Randall Munroe. 8)

When that one came out, my first thought was ‘Yes! Bury it!’

My next thought was… well… didn’t we think much the same concerning self-driving vehicles? Someday, maybe we could do that when we had god-like software skills? Hmm… Are we there yet? Nah. Yet… the self-driving vehicles tend to kill fewer of us that we do when we drive. Maybe we only need demigod-like skills? Apparently not. We just need a few million creative people poking at various parts of the many problems to be solved. Yay Enlightenment!

Digital voting won’t happen in one fell swoop. We will solve it by solving apparently unrelated problems. ‘Connections Style’ aka ‘Watch more James Burke’.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Yet… the self-driving vehicles tend to kill fewer of us that we do when we drive.

Is that really true? Per car? Per mile driven? Extrapolated to what they'll do when they're all over the road, having to interact with each other as well as with pedestrians? Or in climates that have snow and ice on the roads?

I understand that I'm thinking anecdotally and don't have statistics to back me up. It just seems to me that the reason that there are fewer deaths due to self-driving cars is that there are fewer self-driving cars. And that they (so far) operate in more controlled conditions than is the general case.

If you've got hard numbers to back up a claim that self-driving cars are actually safer, I'd be happy to be convinced.

David Brin said...

If you program a self driving car to drive like an old granny, despite passengers yelling to speed up... then you can program it to ignore them.

Alfred Differ said...


No extrapolation allowed here. We should admit that we don't know how they will fare at scale, but so far the numbers are encouraging. Some of the accidents that involve cars trying to guide themselves are kinda spectacular, but there are are a fair number of examples where the software minimized the damage and loss of life.

We aren't at the fully autonomous stage yet, so we shouldn't extrapolate there either. What we do have numbers for is the driver assistance modules that 1) bring cars to a stop before rear-ending someone, 2) detect lane changes that would lead to collisions and warn, and 3) detect driver distraction/sleepy situations and warn.

Look at some of what is happening at Tesla and you'll find a bit of Elon Musk hype on top of what is probably solid improvements in safety. Ignore the hype, though, and he and his team have probably already saved a lot of lives and others from more serious injuries.

The big gain we get from our incremental steps in this direction is systems that don't get bored. Think about that. Humans as drivers has got to be one of the stupidest things we ever decided everyone should do... except what other option did we have? Humans get bored while piloting a hunka metal massing about 1000kg down a road at over 100 kmh. Crazy that we would ride it. Crazy that we'd ride them next to other humans doing the same and risking getting bored. So we text each other to occupy our minds? Ugh.

In the old, more violent days we used to be easily able to find someone who lost someone close to them by murder. Not so much today. Yay! Instead, we are hard pressed to avoid finding someone near us who has NOT lost someone near to them by car. Expand that to include serious injury instead of death, and there probably aren't any of us left in the {no suffering} set. We've all been close to someone who was seriously injured? I suspect so.

When we can finally avoid this deadly decision we made a few generations ago, the grandkids are going to wonder what the hell was wrong with us. Mobility was THAT necessary to us, but they won't get it and I'll be happy about it.

duncan cairncross said...

I agree with Alfred
At the moment Tesla's autopilot is more like having a "Co-pilot" that does not get tired and has eyes pointing in every direction
Or at least that is what it is meant to be

Howard Brazee said...

Remember the old SF with robot chauffers getting into the front seat and driving the cars?

Instead, we have incrementally smart cars. They're smart enough to start every time without worrying about the choke, they are smart enough to flash on the mirror when another car is in the blind spot, they are smart enough to slam on the brakes when we are backing up towards a kid on a tricycle. And we use our phones to tell us how to get around traffic jams.

Some cars film and report on vandalism when parked.


Incrementally smart humans are going to come as well.

Larry Hart said...

@Howard Brazee,

I'm not exactly a luddite, but I am that guy who thinks more about what happens when technology fails. All those things that you mentioned cars can do now are great, but what happens when someone falls out of the habit of (say) checking his blind spots because the car does it for him, but one day the light is burned out or the sensor fails? GPS is great, but I never want to get to where I'm helpless to get somewhere without it.

Alfred mentions above that humans become bored while driving, causing them to miss cues. I do acknowledge that. However, having a self-driving co-pilot could tend to make that worse rather than better. You get so used to the car driving itself that you forget that you need to keep an eye on possible exceptional cases.

I'm not arguing against benefits of the technology, just pointing out the other side of the ledger that I think some proponents ignore too cavalierly.

Jon S. said...

You also have to watch out for the blind spots in the programmers' worldviews. The fatal collision in Phoenix apparently happened because no one had programmed the car to recognize a pedestrian who wasn't in a crosswalk, or the outline of a bicycle at all. (And the human on board was supposed to be monitoring the situation, yes, but that goes back to Alfred's point about human error.) As far as the onboard systems were concerned, what they saw was a system glitch, of no more import than swirling leaves, because the engineers simply had not considered jaywalking to be an issue.

Howard Brazee said...

What has happened when technology failed in the past?

When my kids learned to drive, I had an excuse to buy a standard transmission car. They can drive standard transmissions, but their kids haven't driven one. But it doesn't make sense to speculate on automatic transmissions failing and they need to drive standard shift cars. Or that cars fail and they will need to learn all of the skills involved in using horse-drawn carriages.

People regret when the youth don't learn the skills that were necessary for us. I see lots of advantages in learning the skills required to use slide rules. But I don't think slide rules will be needed as backups to modern technology.

Knowing how to use a choke won't help if the computer that makes the choke unnecessary fails.

When my phone fails to tell me about a traffic jam, I still know how to *not* avoid it just as I always failed to avoid them.

David Brin said...

Sci fi story: Guys who froze themselve expect to be revivied when the tech is available to fix em. Pay for it and live off their investments. But future folk rule that world and simply refuse to recognize those investments, or re-apply them.

It's what THEY value that matters. And what work woulf you do? Well there's a skill we mostly taught every citizen that I doubt futur generations will... driver. If a time comes when you can't trust the puters because of some change...

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...
"I'm not exactly a luddite, but I am that guy who thinks more about what happens when technology fails."

Reminds me of a long back and forth argument I had with someone on the CosmoQuest forum years ago about a prototype enclosed "motorcycle" that utilized gyroscopes that the designers hoped to make stabilize and steer the machine. The other guy was arguing that this would be great because people that don't know how to ride motorcycles will be able to operate this thing. I was arguing that this was not necessarily a good thing. What really got him worked up though was me arguing that regardless of how automated the control system might be knowing the dynamics of two wheeled single track vehicles (which are quite different from 4 wheeled vehicles) would always be an advantage to an operator. I was surprised that anyone would deny that, but he did. I kept offering scenarios in which it would be helpful and each time he became more upset.

The machine never came close to making it to market. Didn't surprise me as it seemed apparent to me that the design team didn't actually know how motorcycles steer or maintain stability.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

As far as the onboard systems were concerned, what they saw was a system glitch, of no more import than swirling leaves, because the engineers simply had not considered jaywalking to be an issue.

That's part of what I'm getting at. I'm not sure how much they've considered weather to be an issue. My wife keeps pointing out that self-driving cars seem to be developed, manufactured, and tested in California and in Japan, but not in places where road conditions are hampered by snow, or where signals like road striping are obscured by snow.

Howard Brazee:

What has happened when technology failed in the past?
Knowing how to use a choke won't help if the computer that makes the choke unnecessary fails.

Although I sound as if I'm bashing all new technology, I'm really not. Just saying that one must consider the costs as well as the benefits. If motorized vehicles make life 10000% more efficient, despite the (say) 0.0001% of times when a horse-drawn carriage would really have been helpful, that's still a decent trade-off. My concern is when a new failure mode is much more dangerous or deadly--when the thing that happens only 0.0001% of the time is so bad that you still would prefer not to have it happen.

When my phone fails to tell me about a traffic jam, I still know how to *not* avoid it just as I always failed to avoid them.


matthew said...

Oh my, history being made this morning. Sondaland throwing everyone else under the bus and notably lying about his own involvement / knowledge. Is this enough *pizzazz*?

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Dr. That reminds me of the old joke: "I didn't want to die alone and in bed. That's why I became a bus driver."

I've only had one accident, rear-ended a Volvo back in 1968, non-injury. Last moving violation 1993. So a good driver.

But I'm not getting any younger, and I'm hoping that getting a self-driving car in the next decade will extend my automotive freedom beyond my natural limits.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Matthew. The page is massively entertaining this morning. Sondland admits he didn't get direct orders from Trump personally to commit a quid pro quo, it seems, and radical left wingers have taken over Congress and stolen the middle ground in media coverage from Faux.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Dr. Guardian reports today that they have successfully induced suspended animation in humans:
Humans put into suspended animation for first time

Groundbreaking trial in US rapidly cools trauma victims with catastrophic injury to buy more time for surgery

Ian Sample Science editor

Wed 20 Nov 2019 10.06 EST
Last modified on Wed 20 Nov 2019 11.09 EST

At the University of Maryland doctors are trialling EPR, emergency preservation and resuscitation, for patients. Photograph: Sergey Mironov/Alamy

Doctors have put humans into a state of suspended animation for the first time in a groundbreaking trial that aims to buy more time for surgeons to save seriously injured patients.

The process involves rapidly cooling the brain to less than 10C by replacing the patient’s blood with ice-cold saline solution. Typically the solution is pumped directly into the aorta, the main artery that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

The page is massively entertaining this morning. Sondland admits he didn't get direct orders from Trump personally to commit a quid pro quo, it seems, and radical left wingers have taken over Congress and stolen the middle ground in media coverage from Faux.

If the Radical Left has taken over Congress, then where is my National Health Care?

David Brin said...