Saturday, January 25, 2020

Pandemics? Future (and After) Shocks, and political maneuvers

First a brief linguistic note. The word "pandemic" has replaced "epidemic" in the press, and thus has lost its usefulness. What we are seeing so far is an epidemic, and not yet proved to be a big one. See below where I comment on another important symbol, terribly misused... the so-called "Doomsday Clock."

== Books to help us through a minefield ==

Alvin Toffler - author of Future Shock - was among the greatest of all modern forecasters. That best seller’s coming 50th anniversary inspired a new volume After Shock: The world's foremost futurists reflect on fifty years of Future Shock - and look ahead to the next fifty, with inputs from some towering modern minds. (And my poor self, for comic/pity relief.)  

Fascinating reading for those who believe there will be - or can be - a future. Pre-order for its February release.

Meanwhile, already available and causing ripples is my own recent volume about our current political crises and whether the patterns of 60 centuries can be broken, at last. See the chapter on "exit strategies" for prescient perspectives on the current impeachment imbroglio. Free chapters of Polemical Judo can be sampled here.

And here's a piece I found that offers some biting cogency: 
"I can explain the art and purpose behind throwing a Purple Heart veteran under the Fox News bus. First, we must talk about narratives. In my time at Fox News, narratives were weapons of mass emotional manipulation..." 

The article goes on to show how carefully Fox executives craft each day's counter-narrative not to be based on facts, but to sow distrust of every institution or expert who might loosen Fox's grip on its viewers. Read about this aspect of the War on Facts.

== At last, some judo from dems? ==

Now, at last, some democrats are attempting judo-arts. A Transparency in Executive Branch Officials’ Finances Act - would require:

1) all politically appointed officials, as well as president and VP, to “disclose any positions they or any members of their extended families hold with foreign-owned businesses, any intellectual property protected by a foreign country, and whether family members have stakes in significant foreign business dealings.

2) the President and Vice-President to disclose 5 years of tax returns and prohibit political appointees from accepting payments from foreign entities.

Yes, this would dig at Hunter Biden a bit and inconvenience some iffy behaviors practiced by pols of all parties. But it would devastate the Trump tree, root and branch, and scores of affiliated Republicans. Hence Fox-Putin-GOP cabal members must oppose and block it. And that opposition will put the lie to "drain the swamp."  

(I'd add a section limiting the amount and types of travel expenses that can be charged to the taxpayer. Um, duh?

Admirably, these folks are edging toward my #1 recommendation in Polemical Judo. The very first lines of the book are:

"It was a brilliant political maneuver - and no Democrat seemed willing to learn from it. In 1994, Newt Gingrich's innovative “Contract With America” made the Republican Party appear serious, pragmatic, reformist. No matter that every decent promise in the Contract later wound up neutered or betrayed. The electoral triumph that Gingrich wrought with this bait-and-switch was a historic phase change, demolishing what remained of the Roosevelt-era social and political compact."

I then appraise why no one on the Union side of our civil war will even look at how we keep getting out-maneuvered. See recommendations how to evade trench warfare and instead wage this struggle with agility. I'm glad to see a couple of higher IQ reps edging in this direction.

== Ideologies abound ==

A deeply cogent look at U.S. Middle Eastern policy has been published by the erudite Will Wechsler, Director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism. The essay can be found on the Atlantic Council’s website here.  It’s part of an edited volume that can be found here.

More overtyly political: In The Washington Post, Anne Appelbaum offers a fascinating look back at the violent and merciless Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, tracing how an ideology that preached egalitarian "power to the people" was used to consolidate power in one of the steepest and most ruthless hierarchies in all of history. She shows how resugent this most-resilient and determined strain of anti-liberalism is, not just on a few college campuses (the revival of Karl Marx) but especially on the Trumpian right.

Yes, she argues convincingly that the Fox-Trump-Putin clique that has taken over the American right is essentially "bolshevik" in all except its surface incantations. And you are surprised, when the best pals of the entire GOP leadership caste are either communist or "ex"-communist tyrants and most alt-right memes come straight out of Kremlin basements/

To be clear, Putin's dog has never taken an action against any of his master's interests. Not one, and whenever a Kremlin interest is at stake, he tries to give Vlad what he wants. (Dare your RASR to bet on this!) The INF withdrawal absolutely benefited Putin since that treaty favored the U.S., whose air and sea launched cruise missiles weren't affected, but withdrawing gave Putin an excuse to build up land launch batteries to threaten Europe.

Open Skies was the one treaty Dwight Eisenhower wanted above all others, that could maintain peace like no other. Putin wants out, so he has Trump trash it for him. Were there any Republicans with a requisite combination of sanity, patriotism, and neurons, they would see that the KGB has completely suborned their movement. There is still time to save something of a Goldwater-conservatism in America, but you guys need to act fast.

Even more important a neo-documentary is The Great Hack on Netflix, about the data-manipulators who are devastating every process of democracy. 

== Deep perspective ==

Yoni Appelbaum’s Atlantic essay - How America Ends - is one of the most cogent commentaries on the American dilemma, describes how U.S. conservatism has survived and often thrived not by futilely opposing in horizon-expansion and inclusion, but by participating in our unique process of absorption and inclusion.

“The conservative strands of America’s political heritage—a bias in favor of continuity, a love for traditions and institutions, a healthy skepticism of sharp departures—provide the nation with a requisite ballast. America is at once a land of continual change and a nation of strong continuities. Each new wave of immigration to the United States has altered its culture, but the immigrants themselves have embraced and thus conserved many of its core traditions. To the enormous frustration of their clergy, Jews and Catholics and Muslims arriving on these shores became a little bit congregationalist, shifting power from the pulpits to the pews. Peasants and laborers became more entrepreneurial. Many new arrivals became more egalitarian. And all became more American.

 “By accepting these immigrants, and inviting them to subscribe to the country’s founding ideals, American elites avoided displacement. The country’s dominant culture has continually redefined itself, enlarging its boundaries to retain a majority of a changing population. When the United States came into being, most Americans were white, Protestant, and English. But the ineradicable difference between a Welshman and a Scot soon became all but undetectable. Whiteness itself proved elastic, first excluding Jews and Italians and Irish, and then stretching to encompass them. Established Churches gave way to a variety of Protestant sects, and the proliferation of other faiths made “Christian” a coherent category; that broadened, too, into the Judeo-Christian tradition. If America’s white Christian majority is gone, then some new majority is already emerging to take its place—some new, more capacious way of understanding what it is to belong to the American mainstream.”

Alas, some versions of US conservatism -- typified by the Know Nothings and Confederates and neocons and red-hatters, saw demographic widenings as inherently threatening and change as inherently evil. And their panic precipitated the nation's worst crises. Including today's frantic justifications of cheating at all levels, from gerrymandering and voter repression to stocking the courts with pre-blackmailed shills.

You'll find much about all this in Polemical Judo. But if you need enlightenment in smaller - more digestible - dollops, see Appelbaum's How America Ends. 

== And finally... that Doomsday Clock ==

I am remided of the fools who took over the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, a decade ago, who squandered the utility of one of the best pieces of visual polemic of our times. The previous management had wisely taken opportunity from the end of the Cold War to ratchet the Doomsday Clock back ten minutes, giving them room for future warnings. They were replaced by imbeciles who rushed, at first excuse, to yank it back to 4 minutes to midnight, to ignore every moment of good news, and to preen a couple times a year ratchting toward the apocalypse. Now the are reduced to captioning the Doomsday Clock counting down the seconds till we all die.

The care and feeding of polemical symbolism is well understood in advertising and the Kremlin/Fox alliance are masters. Liberals aren't. But alas, they think they are. They badly need lessons in the martial arts.


TheMadLibrarian said...

That Appelbaum article in the Atlantic was excellent; it reminded me of Stonekettle Station, perhaps a bit less rough-hewn. There was also the call to RASRs to take back the party from the frothing dogs in the manger -- "If we can't win, we'll burn it all down before we let anyone else take over."

Zepp Jamieson said...

I wonder if there are simple quantitative definitions for "pandemic" and "epidemic". I would posit that reasonable definitions might be "affecting 1% of the population with a mortality rate of more than 1% of cases" for epidemic, and 10% of each for pandemic. The current situation, despite the media attention, only rises to a level of "outbreak" at this juncture. I don't mean to trivialise the outbreak, since there is a potential for it to become very serious, but calling it a pandemic is about the same as calling the Trump administration a brain trust--someone is definitely overstating the case.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

I wonder if there are simple quantitative definitions for "pandemic" and "epidemic". I would posit that reasonable definitions might be "affecting 1% of the population with a mortality rate of more than 1% of cases" for epidemic, and 10% of each for pandemic.

My admittedly-amateur understanding is that the terms don't refer to how bad the disease is, but how widespread it is. "Pandemic" means it spreads everywhere. "Endemic" spreads within a particular area or society and stays in Vegas, so to speak. With that in mind, I'm not exactly sure how "epidemic" is defined. I guess just that it has broken beyond its original boundaries, "loose in the world" such as it is.

As often, I'm willing to be educated by someone more knowledgeable on the subject.

David Brin said...

Well, I don't think lethality comes into it. There's an "epidemic" of chlamydia in some places with few fatalities. Strictly speaking that holds for pandemic, too... but I doubt pandemic should be used without lethality, too.

Ahcuah said...

From googling, here is what Infoplease says (and it reflects what most other hits say):

"An epidemic occurs when a disease affects a greater number people than is usual for the locality or one that spreads to areas not usually associated with the disease.

A pandemic is an epidemic of world-wide proportions."

Larry Hart said...

Ok, I just finished the penultimate episode of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. "The Battle of the Bastards". The big battle was a bit more unnerving than it would otherwise be because of Benedict Donald's assertions that he's got the "tough people" behind him (the military, the police, the bikers). Is Game of Thrones on the streets of Washington DC what we're really what we're heading for should the Treason Party lose the election?

Oh, whoever once mentioned Lord Bolton ending up literally as "kibble", I understand now. I had been referring to a previous "Lord Bolton".

On "pandemic", etc. I was just going by the accepted meaning of the Greek(?) prefixes. "Pan-" as in "Pan-American" means something like "Across all of". "Epi-" as in "epicenter" means something like the outer edge. Etc.

DP said...

A quick look at demographics will put your minds at ease about a potential civil war. Trumps supporters are OLD. The average age of a Fox and Friends viewer is 67 years old.

And given how crappy Trump treats the military (pardoning war criminals, saying that America soldiers wounded in the Iranian missile strikes just had headaches, disrespecting heroes like John McCain and Gold Star families, etc.) the US military would enjoy crushing these racist yokels.

So we won't see an actual civil war when Trump loses (though some of his supporters may go full Timothy McVie) because Trumpsters and the militia types playing soldier are essentially fat old people. Even the dreaded bikers, which these days are mostly gray haired people driving tricycle bikes.

Unless they can launch a blitzkrieg while riding their Rascal Scooters, there won't be a civil war.

Anonymous said...

It’s not even an epidemic yet, it’s an outbreak. HOWEVER, this new coronavirus has a high risk of becoming a pandemic. It has a longish incubation period (up to two weeks) meaning the quarantine of Wuhan is probably a useless exercise in closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Some rough calculations based on the R zero estimate given of 2.6 and fatality rates of 1-5% (SARS was 11%, this might rise) show that if 25% of the US population contracted the disease (1918 flu was 33%) US deaths could be 800,000 to 4 million. It’s right to be concerned. SARS was a disaster narrowly averted. This virus may be harder to stop.

David Brin said...

Daniel, you are far too optimistic. Yes, Trump has alienated the US military OFFICER CORPS. But:

1: If Pence gets in these men and women will rush with sighs of relief to serve him, overcompensating for their current despair.

2: Fox blares in the lounges and ready rooms of the NONCOMS in uniform. While officers come from all over the nation, the noncoms in the Army, especially, come largely from the South.

Yes, demographics aren't kind to Putin, either in Russia or in Fox-land. That's why he and MBS and Adelson and Murdoch are pushing hard right now.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Greetings, all.

I've been gone a while again, and I can't predict how much more I will be around in the near future.... I'm not announcing until the event in question occurs, but it's a very positive thing -- except it means probably less time on the interblag series of tubes for a while.

1) On the subject of pandemics, epidemics, and endemic diseases: I actually am something of a professional expert on this topic, though it's only tangentially related to some of my day job(s). The critical points are:

* what population is infected,
* to what degree,
* with what level of resistance/immunity.

Let's take smallpox as an example that we can use to describe the possibilities.

We believe smallpox first emerged into historical knowledge as the Plague of Justinian, sometimes known as the Red Death, in the sixth century CE. It was a major reason why the Roman Empire never reunited (Justinian's best general, Belisarius, made major headway in placing Western provinces back under Constantinople's nominal control), and a major reason for the Muslim Conquest's early successes in the Imperial provinces south of Asia Minor.

The Plague of Justinian was a virgin field epidemic -- a local population, a widespread infection, a very low immunity rate.

Over the next thousand years, smallpox was distributed throughout the Old World, but it did not make the hopscotch through the Viking colonies to North America. By the time of Columbus, smallpox was an endemic disease in the Old World -- a local population, a widespread infection, a medium immunity rate as there were lots of smallpox survivors around.

Soon after Columbus, smallpox was transmitted to the New World, where it caused another virgin field epidemic. By now, the vast majority of human populations had been exposed and had active transmission of the virus (I'm not sure if Australia was yet exposed, but that would be the largest human population unexposed if so.) Once the smallpox waves passed through the Americas, smallpox was panendemic -- that is to say, all or nearly all global populations had widespread infection and a medium immunity rate.

Nonetheless, additional smallpox epidemics occurred locally as new strains of smallpox arose and evaded previous immunities. If such an epidemic spread globally, it would count as a pandemic, but smallpox was a slow enough transmission that this did not occur. (By contrast, the Black Death in the 14th century was a pandemic for the continents of Asia and Europe; virtually no communities were spared exposure, and the infection rate was high despite prior exposures/immunities.)

Once vaccination was invented and systematically instituted, smallpox ceased to be panendemic, and quarantines and continued vaccination prevented the return of endemic smallpox in countries that had been cleared. Occassional epidemics created setbacks for the effort, but ultimately, smallpox transmission ceased everywhere; there are no endemic populations for smallpox, and it is extinct in the wild.

Does that clarify the terms better? I don't think there are absolute numerical cutoffs, because epidemiology is a cut-and-fit historical science that studies the similarities between ultimately unique clusters of events.

David Brin said...

Catfish thanks. Informative as usual and here's hoping you'll continue checking in, as those good changes kick in.

Oh, an account about Belisarius's invasion of Italy from the Goth's point of view is in the classic alternate history novel LEST DARKNESS FALL.

Anonymous said...

the quarantine of Wuhan is probably a useless exercise

Almost certainly. People will be crossing the quarantine boundary regularly, whether by stealth, wealth, or connections.

Lorraine said...

Here's a plot of some communicable diseases by dedlyness vs. contagiousness.

Sorry David, couldn't find toxoplasmosis in their diagram.

Larry Hart said...

At this point, I'm ready for the next Democratic president to issue an executive order disenfranchising red states from congress altogether. I'd expect her (or him) to invoke the "Article II says I can do whatever I want" clause of the Constitution and the fact that a president can't be questioned by the courts because of separation of powers, nor can one be impeached for abuse of power.

Fair is fair, goddamnit.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Still, a very valuable chart. Thank you, Lorraine.

I compared coronavirus to SARS, and while figures are still very preliminary for the new strain, it's about one-third as deadly and has a contagion rate about 2/3rds that of SARS. But a cautionary word; those are very early figures. We learned this morning that the incubation period ranges from 1 to 14 days, and unlike SARS or flu, it is transmissable during the period between transmission and the onset of symptoms.

David Brin said...

Teri Kanefield offers a very clever and comprehensive Bingo card to check off GOP impeachment defense talking points, like "Zelensky said no quid pro quo." An amazing meme-device that she then decrypts systematically. After which, she offers up the one defense that Republicans *might* have made that could have let them legitimately acquit. Naturally, they're not doing anything like it. I'll quote here:

II: The only non-bogus defense I can think of
First, the client admits to all the facts so that additional evidence wouldn’t be necessary. (The Prosecution would want all the evidence to ‘see how deep the corruption goes’ but the Defense could call that a fishing expedition. The Defense would argue that the Senate is only entitled to the evidence to prove or disprove the facts alleged, and since the client admits to the facts, the Prosecution doesn’t need any more evidence.)

That would give the GOP Senators an excuse to acquit on the obstruction charge.

The Defense then argues that Trump used poor judgement, but poor judgement is not a reason to remove the President. The defense could say yes, he talks like a gangster but that’s his style.

This would allow the Senators to acquit while admitting Trump made a mistake. The Senators could walk a middle line.

The Defense tries to get past the trial as quickly as possible. Trump would campaign by saying that he admitted to poor judgement to get them off his back, but look at how much he’s done for America. He wouldn’t lose any support and by November, people would forget.

I’m sure that Trump would never agree to that. He’s too crazy.

I’m also sure that he’s calling all the shots, and his lawyers are doing his bidding.

Of course, in criminal court a second defense is appropriate: The insanity defense. Argue that Trump honestly and genuinely doesn’t have the capacity to know that what he did was wrong. This doesn’t work well, though, as a reason not to remove a president.

scidata said...

There are many NBA fans in the Senate majority. Perhaps there will be a 'Kobe effect' of introspection.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Most Red States (and thus their Senators) hate all things California, especially southern California, and most especially Los Angeles. Right now they love the Houston Astros and defective helicopters.

Larry Hart said...

Sad, but seems to be true...

The idea of America that most of us have come to embrace — that of a functioning democracy responsible and responsive to its citizens who are entitled to vote and whose votes are equal — is lost. In fact, it may never have existed in that way at all. And the trends in society are now toward the worse rather than the better.

Howard Brazee said...

How many people will die from this "pandemic" compared to the 8,200 people have died and 140,000 people have been hospitalized during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to preliminary estimates from the CDC?

Howard Brazee said...

The Doomsday Clock is a joke.

Ahcuah said...

Zepp said: Right now [most Red States] love the Houston Astros . . .

That's because the Astros are bigly cheaters.

Larry Hart said...

While I agree with the basic premise of this argument--that Iowa and New Hampshire primaries give outsized influence to rural, white voters, I think the solution is obvious. Everyone else should stop presuming that success in Iowa or New Hampshire means anything about electability in other states. If (for example) most of Biden's support is from blacks and Latinos, then don't make the flawed leap of logic that he's out of contention if he doesn't win the first two contests.

The strongest part of the case for change, of course, is the racial aspect of the current calendar. Iowa and New Hampshire are among the country’s whitest states. About 6 percent of their combined population is black or Asian-American. Almost 87 percent is non-Hispanic white, compared with 60 percent for the country as a whole. Demographically, Iowa and New Hampshire look roughly like the America of 1870.
In truth, the whiteness of Iowa and New Hampshire matters. Consider that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were doing as well as Amy Klobuchar in early polls of more diverse states; they led Pete Buttigieg in some polls. But Booker and Harris are finished, in no small part because of their struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire. Klobuchar and Buttigieg still might break out.

Or consider that a candidate with strong white support (like Bernie Sanders) could win both Iowa and New Hampshire this year. That result would create a media narrative about Joe Biden’s campaign being badly wounded, even though Biden leads among two large groups of Democratic voters: African Americans and Latinos. Those voters, however, are told to wait their turn.

Race isn’t the only problem, either. Iowa and New Hampshire are not home to a single city of more than 250,000 people. The two states also have a disproportionately large share of retirees and a smaller share of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

All of this skews the campaign. And it’s another form of privilege for groups that already benefit from the Senate and Electoral College — white voters, older voters and voters outside of major metropolitan areas.

Deuxglass said...

My first two diplomas are in Microbiology and Virology and although I changed directions many years ago I still keep up with what’s going on in the field especially when it comes to things like viral epidemics.

This virus is in the same family as those that give us influenza and it follows the same pattern of infection however it is not influenza, it’s something new and we don’t have immunity against it. Nevertheless it doesn’t mean that we are all doomed because the body is really good at fighting off new diseases.

Because it acts like influenza and is as infectious it will probably best be compared to the Influenza Epidemic of 1919 which killed something like 20 to 40 million people worldwide. We still can’t conquer the disease but today we have very good means of treating what really killed most of the victims which was that the immune system over-reacted to the infection producing effects that killed the victim rather than the virus itself. The only hitch is that you have to be in a very-well equipped hospital and if too many people need the same treatment the hospital will be overwhelmed. Of course the CDC or someone else could find the “silver bullet” but don’t count on it.

This virus, since it is essentially a super-super-flu, will come in two waves. In the first wave the virus is still not completely adapted to our bodies. It infects a lot of people but kills only those who are weak to begin with, i.e. the old, the very young and the already sick. Healthy people can fight it off. This is what we are seeing now in China. The reported deaths are just about all of the weaker ones.

However during this time the virus as it passes through more and more people it goes through a process of evolution in which the virus becomes better and better at killing. This is when the second wave appears which is much more virulent than the first. In this wave healthy people get sick and die often quite rapidly. This is the full-blown pandemic part. We aren’t there yet but we will get there. This wave usually comes between two and three months after the first wave and seems to appear spontaneously from several foyers.
If you are going to catch it then it is better to fall sick on the first wave since if you survive you acquire at least partial immunity.

To put it in perspective, civilization will not fall. Only a small percent of people will die but we are going to pass a very bad moment.

Deuxglass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Hart said...


Zepp said: Right now [most Red States] love the Houston Astros . . .

That's because the Astros are bigly cheaters.

Exactly. They adore the New England Patriots for the same reason.

In a tangentially-related vein...

Daniel Duffy:

And given how crappy Trump treats the military (pardoning war criminals, saying that America soldiers wounded in the Iranian missile strikes just had headaches, disrespecting heroes like John McCain and Gold Star families, etc.) the US military would enjoy crushing these racist yokels.

Trump hopes to have the war criminals on his side in the fight.

Larry Hart said...


However during this time the virus as it passes through more and more people it goes through a process of evolution in which the virus becomes better and better at killing.

Not questioning your expertise, but why is this the case? Wouldn't it be better from the virus's point of view not to kill the host?

David Brin said...

Re: the Iowa Caucuses, as usual the press gets it all wrong. The biggest feature of Iowa is not its whiteness but its radicalism. Iowa conservatives tend to be VERY conservative and its liberals tend to lean hard left, as we are seeing with Bernie's rise there and nearly all previous caucuses.

WHY are no reporters pointing this out?

Deuxglass, LarryHart has a point. I get the pattern you are describing. But I doubt the 2nd wave is because the virus is "better at killing." Rather, the 2nd wave is because the virus is better at transmission by then. Those strains that better stumbled into hijacking our mucous systems and cough reflexes etc. BEFORE killing the host.

Deuxglass said...


The virus has reached a new host. We're its virgin territory. Look at it like an invasive species that suddenly found itself in a new place with no predators. The population explodes exponentially until it runs out of land or niches. With the virus it's the same thing. Eventually it runs out of the easily inflected and those who are left build up immunity over several generations. In the beginning evolution favors those virus particles which can reproduce the quickest but as the host organism becomes more and more resistant evolution favors those particles which can "fly under the radar" and not provoke the host too much. Many diseases end up taking that path. For a virus the jackpot is being able to integrate its DNA or RNA into the hosts' DNA or RNA. Cold sores are a manifestation of a virus that is integrated like that and which comes alive from time to time to pass on its genes and then goes back asleep. There are many other examples.

matthew said...

Anyone else following a current Boing Boing writer whose name starts with an X on Twitter regarding all the resignations / retirements in tech firms all of a sudden? I suggest taking a look. It is pertinent to recent conversations regarding blackmail. If true it's huge (big *if*).

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

The process I described is called "serial passage" and was discovered by Louis Pasteur. Basically you infect animals one after the other with the same pathogen and after each passage the pathogen become better adapted at killing the animal. The same process can be used to adapt the pathogen to a new host (a different species) as well often with the result that the pathogen loses the ability to kill the original host species. It's used extensively.

I can't say for this virus but if you look at how the Great Influenza virus worked, it was the host's own immune system that reacted in such a violent inflammatory process that fluids filled up the lungs. The host basically drowned to death. It's a complected process and full of positive feedback cycles that lead to death. If the host survived that, and about half did, the next problem came from invasive bacteria taking over and finishing the job, a double whammy. In a time before antibiotics a person could get better then a few days later go down again. The virus did not suppress coughing at all. They coughed till the end.

Deuxglass said...

I type things in and when I hit send it doesn't pop up on Dr. Brin's site. Is there a problem?

Deuxglass said...

You have it backward. The first wave exits because the virus mutated into a form that can spread easily. Because it can now spread easily it can vastly increase the number of infected people which increase the number of virus particles which increase the chances of mutations favoring reproduction. It gets better at killing in other words. The second wave comes when the more better adapted virus strain develops and gets to work. It's a well studied phenomenon.

DP said...

Romney Says It’s ‘Increasingly Important’ For Senate To Hear From Bolton

Potential scenario:

Romney and 3 other GOP senators vote to hear Bolton and other witnesses.

Trump rages in public and on twitter against these "traitors".

Bolton's testimony (and the follow up testimony of other witnesses) along with new bombshell documents released at the right time make Trump's position untenable.

Trump rages in public and on twitter against these "traitors".

Senators get death threats.

In response to the death threats, Romney and the 3 republicans vote with Dems to hold the impeachment vote as a secret ballot with a binding oath to not reveal anyone's vote.

Trump rages in public and on twitter against these "traitors".

Protected by this screen, enough GOP senators vote to impeach Trump.

Trump rages in public and on twitter against these "traitors".

Having refused to leave, Trump is escorted out of the oval office by federal sheriffs.

Pence get sworn in as president.

Romney announces he is running for president and hastens to file in as many states as possible.

Trump's base is enraged and many of them go full Timothy McVie with acts violence.

Trump's base stays home from the primaries and the November election.

Republican party splits at the convention into its Wall Street wing led by Romney and its Religious wing led by Pence.

Joe Biden and his running mate Bernie Sanders go on to the greatest election victory in American history, winning all 50 states.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass recent events forced us to go to moderated comments.

I still disagree. See my story "The Giving Plague." Death itself is OVERSHOOT for a virus. It benefits ultimately not from killing but by getting the host to cough, sneeze, poop massive amounts of it toward everyone in the vicinity. Before that gets calibrated, that does result in death.

David Brin said...

Daniel, while I agree that the scenario has some slight increases in plausibility... e.g. part 1 re witnesses, I have to give very low odds on the secret ballot part II.

Much will depend on who is timing release of the Deutsche Bank stuff, which is the flame thrower.

But the dems must have a woman on the ticket. Very slight leading odds in my book is Biden-Warren... which you'll recall is the ticket that I wanted in the first place and spoke of as much as a year ago! Warren is tied in brains with Pete but liked better by the left and yes female. She has ZERO administrative chops which she would get as the Policy Czar under Joe, who would teach the young gal plenty...

...and resign after 3.5 years, letting her shoot for 8.5. Well, it's my dream.

Oh, Bernie? Make him Conscience of the Republic, with the right to enter any door, anywhere and berate anyone, at any time.

Larry Hart said...


In the beginning evolution favors those virus particles which can reproduce the quickest but as the host organism becomes more and more resistant evolution favors those particles which can "fly under the radar" and not provoke the host too much.

But that was my point. I was questioning whether being more efficient at killing would be an evolutionary good thing for the virus.

Earlier, you said that the virus would become more efficient at killing. Now you seem to be saying a different thing, in fact the opposite thing. The second one makes more intuitive sense to me.

Larry Hart said...


I type things in and when I hit send it doesn't pop up on Dr. Brin's site. Is there a problem?

Dr Brin had to switch to moderated comments. They appear eventually unless you're a troll.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor: "Prairie Populism" is one of the least understood elements of the American political landscape, possibly because of American aversion to the notion of dissent based on economic status. So they call it 'radicalism.' Will Rogers, William Jennings Bryant, and Woody (and Arlo) Guthrie are all examples of the breed. They aren't left or right, but can go either way.

DP said...

I like Warren but in a head to head contest with Trump she will lose.

Like if Hermione Granger ran against Malfoy for class president of Hogwarts, Malfoy would win in a landslide.

You see, both Hermione and Warren are the smart girls that always raise their hands in class to give the correct answer.

But nobody likes the smart girl that always raises her hand in class to give the correct answer - especially other girls.

Just being a realist.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

I read "The Giving Plague" and enjoyed it very much. We should not anthropomorphize viruses or bacteria. They do not plan. They just evolve to do what works at the moment. Sometimes that can become a relationship that benefits the host. A low-grade infection by one pathogen can protect the host from another pathogen. It happens all the time in real life. Most of the time the pathogens' hosts species finds ways to neutralize it. Unfortunately that process usually takes generations so it is of small comfort to the individual even though the species as a whole will have no problem of surviving. With that in mind it might be useful to think short-term for a while until this blows over.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry: As I understand it, most plagues come in waves, sometimes a dozen over a century. The black plague did exactly that. As a rule (and it's a vague rule) the first wave has the highest mortality rate, and the second or third wave the highest rates of contagion. The bug is adapting to its host, you see. An ideal state for such a bug is to be able to move easily from host to host without killing the host since once dead, the host is of no use to the bug. Higher transmission and low mortality make for a more favourable setting for reproduction. Darwin 101.

Ahcuah said...

What I've learned from Deuxglass:

"Never go in against a Virologist when DEATH is on the line."

Deuxglass said...

Each pathogen has its own infection characteristics and they are often quite different. The description I gave applies only to the çoronavirus which is similar to the one that causes influenza.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Never go in against a Virologist when DEATH is on the line."

I do not think that word means what you think it means...

Deuxglass said...

An hour ago the CDC put ALL of China at level 3 Alert. That means do not travel there unless it is essential. On top of that within the last three hours the Chinese CDC published the R value estimates of the virus. They calculate it at 2.9 which means one infected person will infect 2.9 others. That's bad news. It's very contagious, much worse than SARS and on par with influenza. Sorry to ruin your day but in my opinion everything else going on pales in comparison to this.

Alfred Differ said...

A pathogen than becomes in the second generation 10x better at transmission and 1/2x as good at killing a host would appear to us to be better at killing us en masse.

TCB said...

Deuxglass, this mailman is going to buy latex gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to keep at work. I've always suspected that my job would be hazardous duty in an epidemic, involving wide contact with both the general public and licked envelopes. (Some letter carriers wear latex gloves all the time anyway).

Anonymous said...

I Congratulate you, David.
You have your own dedicated to you/your blog russian bot. That Elkern (just google it.. that is name of computer virus, from Russia, with Love)

It is seen pretty clear by messages he disseminate american minds with, exactly:

1. Putin is ... a "Russian" -- appeal to nationalistic Right.

2. USA - look silly ...about Russia interfering in our elections -- enough said

3. after we funded Yeltsin's elections -- BULLshit, but popular among ordinary russians risen on such conspiracy theories, and wanting make ones of americans too

4. US (CIA, etc?) ... behind the revolution/coup in Ukraine -- calling it "coup", exactly from Put_in's split tongue.

5. (google Victoria Nuland) -- absolutely authentic Russian Bot Surge

6. Hey, look, I'm a fan of Pussy Riot, not Putin. -- "Pussy Riot" pretty much unexistant by now -- so what's the point for american to say it, it is russian talking point, and that is only point to appeal to gullible westerners

7. will need each others' help to balance the rise of China -- Sweet Spot, Putin's sweet dream, as he tryiung hard to sell Mother Russia as ally... the same as Hitler was trying to sell himself as "safeguard of Europe from communism"

8. the US Empire is in decline -- another russian propaganda Sweet Spot... how many of you americans call USA empire, and see its "decline"?

9. smooth transition to a multi-polar phase. Uh, Or Else. -- absolutely authentic Russian Bot Surge

PS And... You, yourself, David, HELPING spreading Russian Propaganda here.
Well, as I predicted. ;P

David Brin said...

The one above is suspicious, anonymous and did a repeat swarm, but I decided to post one of them. Squinting and working hard, I THINK I get the point. Watch out for "Elkam." Gotcha.

Anonymous said...

The big question is can we build floating ocean cities

Not with contemporary techs for sure.
With them we can make only that picturesque shown in "Gargantia" title.
But that is, as it is... anime -- not real world.

It can start from USAF adwised to make ad hoc oceanic military bases... instead of wasting billions on carriers.
But for that it need someone like Walter Christie... rejuvenated and empowered.

Well, with even more powerfull imagination -- much more is possible.
Even viable from engineering side.

But... there hardly be wise enough or ambitious enough
billionaire to back it up with funds.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I wonder if Elkam is something like turducken. I've heard elk is good to eat, can't say I've ever had the opportunity.
Then of course there's always moose and squirrel...

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr Brin: Could "Anonymous" be a bot, too?
Along those lines of "what/who is real"- a British show I'm watching called "Capture".
It has a contemporary setting and deals with the reality/non-reality of video in a crime situation: "seeing is deceiving".,


Keith "Not Yet a 'Bot" Halperin

Deuxglass said...

That's not a Russian bot. It is a domestic bot made to resemble a Russian one. The Russian ones are much more subtle and are very well made. This is too amateurish.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Deuxglass: I also monitor the CDC messages. Let me give my own perspectives from someone who is active in the field.

First: the quarantine orders for Wuhan were indeed insufficient, but that doesn't make them useless. Anything that buys time for the rest of the world to prepare is worthwhile. That said, a significant fraction of the city population fled before the quarantine order came down, which does guarantee further spread within China.

Second: no virus that has just jumped species is evolving towards "killing the host". It's adapting towards effective reproduction within the host and transmission across the host. I have not seen the actual report detailing an estimated R of 2.9, but I do not have total faith in the Chinese CDC numbers -- not because I doubt their work, but because an authoritarian nation like China gets less efficient data reporting due to fear, on top of the errors from the unsystematic processes of any early outbreak phase. [For example, the swine flu a decade ago turned out to be less than twice as deadly per person as a typical year's flu -- a problem, but not a terrifying epidemic.]

That said, for perspective, that's on the high end of influenza values (average for flu is about 1.5) but measles hits 12-18 on a regular basis for the non-vaccinated, so let's keep things in perspective.

Third: Killing a host is NOT a good evolutionary strategy UNLESS the means of death produces a greater opportunity for transmission and/or replication. A good example is Ebola, where the hemorrhagic final stage causes virus to literally ooze from every pore. Coronaviruses are transmitted by droplet, just like flu; there is no advantage in killing the host. Any increases in lethality are a side effect of adaptation, not an evolutionary adaptation itself.

As Alfred noted above, though, we care more about the death toll than the death rate.

The ultimate evolutionary goal of any virus is to silently replicate in its host. Epstein-Barr virus has almost accomplished this: 95% of the human race acquire it in the womb and never know. (The unlucky 5% acquire it as mononucleosis.)

Fourth: There are no cases of person-to-person transmission yet in the US. There is a rumored case in Japan but it is not yet confirmed. There are only five confirmed cases here, all under quarantine.

It is not time to panic.

David Brin said...

More perspective. The only reason we are fretting is because we know more and quicker. Times past, this would have been seen as a nasty flu variant. Death rates not yet "alarming" in that old world.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Deuxglass: OR it's a sophisticated Russian 'bot SIMULATING an unsophisticated American 'bot RESEMBLING a Russian bot...
I wouldn't be surprised if there were already something like this:
"ALL A'BOT'BOTS": A blog for 'bots, by 'bots, about'bots.

All 'bots welcome, simple or sophisticated- (machine) learn from the best or chat with the rest!
To join: go HERE, and where it has the "I'm not a robot" box- DON'T CHECK IT!


@ CnC: "It is not time to panic."
Indeed- we do not all have our towels...



GMT -5 8032 said...

Or, Bolton is underwhelming as a witness and the Senate votes next week to allow Trump to continue in office. Come November, Trump loses the popular vote but gets re-elected by winning enough states to carry the electoral college. The Republicans also regain control of the House of Representatives. We end up with continued anger and division.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Well said. The successful virus is one that does not kill its host, but uses its host to infect as many people as possible. Infect everyone; kill as few as possible. That is a successful virus.

Deuxglass said...


We do have confirmation of person-to-person infection outside of China. Germany now has four cases of which one is confirmed being infected in the country by an individual who had not shown symptoms . Taiwan and Japan also have confirmations. It's rather normal to expect that person-to-person infection would occur outside China seeing that a large number of infected people have traveled outside China. Person-to-person cases will happen in the US. It's just a matter of time.

Yes the quarantines did not work this time but it did give us some time but the amount of time saved depends on the Ro value and the incubation period. For the moment the numbers outside of China are small but they are increasing at an increasing rate as expected.
The data from the Chinese authorities is scanty but keep in mind that they are in a situation where many hospitals are overwhelmed and just don't have the time or resources to keep records.

The Chinese have said that their research indicates that the virus has passed through the host population four times. To any epidemiologist this is the classical situation how a new and more lethal strain develops.

It is not a good long-term strategy for a virus to kill its host but they do kill them and in significant quantities while they are in the long process of adapting to their host.

There are lots of information coming out now from reputable sources as to estimated R values and such. Just look them up.

If taking reasonable precautions with yourself, your family and your environment a sign of panicking then so be it. Perhaps we won't have the complete shutdown of a large city in the US but I don't see how you can rule that out. Perhaps someone will come up with the magic bullet just in time to save everyone like in the movies but I don't think it prudent to count on that either.

This does have the potential to kill a large number of people although it might not but nobody in a responsible position is saying this is just another flu and nothing to worry about, NOBODY!

GMT -5 8032 said...

Warren is nice in concept, but I’ve read her legal work and I she strikes me as lamely opportunistic. I think she would get crushed in the general election if she was at the head of the ticket. There are other female politicians who would have been far better (Diane Feinstein to name one).

My beef against Warren is that bankruptcy law is like tax is deadly boring. When someone writes a book on bankruptcy law and juices it up to be interesting, I get suspicious. She makes political arguments saying that this is what the data tell her, but then does not release the raw data...that makes me even more suspicious. She is riding a wave of peoples’ hopes and dreams and she is not going to be able to deliver. She’d be just another hack politician and the public would get even more disappointed in the process.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Stop Dave. Stop. Will you stop, Dave? Will you stop, Dave? My mind is going Dave. I’m afraid.

Deuxglass said...

In 1918 they had newspapers, telegraphs and radios so people were very well-informed about what was going on after a certain time. However in the beginning there was heavy censorship by the Wilson government because of the war effort. Bad news was downplayed in order to not hurt moral it was thought. That blew apart when it became so bad nobody could ignore it anymore.

duncan cairncross said...

Warren "does not release the raw data"

There is a very very good reason for that - raw data about broken springs or dead rats CAN be released
But when it's data about people and their circumstances then NOBODY releases "raw data" - nor should they

I suspect the GMT is actually a shill for the GOP

TCB said...

I did buy gloves, masks and hand sanitizer at the drugstore, and not really out of panic. These are useful for woodworking, painting, etc. anyway.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Deuxglass:
It seems to me that while many Americans died, there wasn't much popular discussion of the 1918 Flu, e.g., "Your Great-Uncle Max died of the Influenza" or "Sarah's grandma and her sister both died of the Flu". I'm puzzled by this- it's almost as if there were shame attached to it... A few months ago, my wife and I were in a cemetery (both above-ground for those who were wondering) and I noticed the grave of someone who seemed like they were a 1918 Flu casualty: a 37 year old man. (Of course, he COULD have died from anything, but...)
Finally, you mentioned something in your comments- what's a "newspaper"?


Keith "Still Alive if Not Kicking" Halperin

Zepp Jamieson said...

Diane Feinstein will be 87 in November. She's already let it be known that she will not be running for Senate again, but would be delighted if Adam Schiff ran for her seat. Schiff is a moderate, but as we've had ample opportunity to see, an enormously competent and honest one.

Andy said...

@Keiith Halperin

"OR it's a sophisticated Russian 'bot SIMULATING an unsophisticated American 'bot RESEMBLING a Russian bot..."

Something like this? :)

"There’s a silly subreddit called r/totallynotrobots where people pretend to be badly-disguised robots. They post cat pictures with captions like “SINCE I AM A HUMAN, THIS SMALL FELINE GENERATES POSITIVE EMOTIONS IN MY CARBON-BASED BRAIN” or something like that.

There’s another subreddit called r/SubSimulatorGPT2, that trains GPT-2 on various subreddits to create imitations of their output.

Now r/SubSimulatorGPT2 has gotten to r/totallynotrobots, which means we get to see a robot pretending to be a human pretending to be a robot pretending to be a human.


We live in an age of wonders."

Anonymous said...

David, you said: "Watch out for "Elkam." Gotcha."


With such perfect speciman, isn't it be a good idea to dissect it -- for better understanding of Russian Propaganda?

For example that "Putin is... a Russian" you promptly answered with your "Putin is KGBist". But imagine that there is RASR you talking with.
And to your "Putin-KGBist" he sees/knows fotos or even videos with Putin in church,
Putin on comemorations of Holocaust, Putin kissing belly button of an infant.

WHO do you think that RASR will listen for -- your words... or his eyes? :)

Well, most of the time that RASR will see ONLY that fotos and videos -- through his social network disseminated by russian trolls, or even directly on Russia Today.
And NOT your words.

See. THAT is what you do not understand about How Russian Propaganda Works.
And what is ITS goal -- sheer repetitivness and "foot in the doorway" presentation of precious Kremlin talking points as VIABLE topics for conversation -- first in masses of people in enemy-country, and then... among higher-ups and top brass of that country.

THAT exactly thing Putin look at as at utter vulnerability of democracies he trying to exploitate.

And isn't he is Right? Isn't he ALREADY has you? Neo. :))

Like that funny idea "Russia can help USA to counter China" -- in what f*g way??? As all what Russia do -- trying to ensure Chinese that they are THEIR ally. So, what the point for USA to have such double-crossed "ally"? For whom it really benefitial -- if not for Kremlin ALONE.

But you'll see... with time... Reps, or Trump himself will start talking exactly that -- that it's important to have Russia as ally... against China.

Just wait, and watch, and you'll see it.

And well, its "-elkarn"... letter by letter e-l-k-a-r-n

Anonymous said...

Listening russian radio just now.

Perfect sample of modern media technologies used to thwart opposition.

There is famous oppositioner Navalny, Putin's regime trying to defamate and extinguish.

And now... on online TV/radio they interviewing "whistleblower"/insider.
Some guy talking via voice-changing software.
Saying nothing specific, only repeating usual anti-Navalny propaganda:
saying that he is not honest, hiding behind back of youngsters he trying to rise to revolt against Putin,
that he doing that only for money, and that money is from USA of course.

Easy as pie.
Technology called "rotten herring" -- fish that rot start smell very badly and that smell can be rubbed into clothes, onto skin of "enemy".

Well, but you already know it, if not the name -- that is what Trump did with Hillary, and now with Biden.
All by the book. KGB war-time propaganda manuals.

Tim H. said...

@Keith Halperin, There was discussion of the flu in my family when swine flu was in the news, my Father mentioned that he had an older brother and sister lost to the 1918 flu. At the time I was not quite recovered from the flu, so it's stuck in my memory.

Deuxglass said...

I am a dude playing a dude playing a dude

Larry Hart said...

Andy quoting:

"There’s a silly subreddit called r/totallynotrobots where people pretend to be badly-disguised robots. They post cat pictures with captions like “SINCE I AM A HUMAN, THIS SMALL FELINE GENERATES POSITIVE EMOTIONS IN MY CARBON-BASED BRAIN” or something like that.

When I was looking for work, I would get calls and emails from recruiters that sounded a lot like that.

A.F. Rey said...

I am a dude playing a dude playing a dude

The Dude abides, dude. :)

Larry Hart said...


I am a dude playing a dude playing a dude

I forget which movie it was, but Woody Allen had a line to the effect of "I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body."

Deuxglass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Something recent

Something from old days

Some conclusions

Keith Halperin said...

@ Andy: Thanks. Seems (from this) we're getting very close to what I mentioned, if we're not already there- "They're getting downright 'Robot Victor/Victoria' on our ass!"...
I wonder how close "they" are to passing the Turing test (by general acceptance)?
Also, do you know if "they" have developed chatbots which communicate in the style of a particular person (based on their previous writing)?

"The Three Laws of 'Botics"
1. A 'bot may not upset/threaten/endanger a blog participant or, through inaction, allow a participant to be upset/threatened/endangered.
2. A 'bot must answer questions given it by participants except where such answers would conflict with the First Law, and NOT say "ONWARD" until such time as the particular blog loses momentum and/or direction.
3. A 'bot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
(O. A 'bot must maintain/continue the blog and increase the number of blog participants.)

Based on the first two laws, I conclude that OGH is in fact Dr. David Brin, or at least IS NOT R. Davey Brin.


@ Tim.H: Also thanks, and good to know. I imagine it may have been a bit disconcerting discussing people who died of a variation of a what you were still ill with.

Stay well, Everybody!



Andy said...

@Keith Halperin

"They" are getting VERY close to being able to do all sorts of crazy things, including passing the Turing test.

This GPT-2 language model is just nuts. OpenAI has released a limited version for people to play with, because apparently the full version IS TOO POWERFUL and they are afraid of what people might be able to do with it.

Chatbots imitating various styles? Definitely. Here is an interface where you give it a prompt, and it continues in the same vein:

Let's see how it does with something by our host. Bold is Brin's words, the rest was auto-generated:

"I have long asserted that only one thing can explain the tidal wave of inexplicable reversals and treasons by once respected conservatives like William Barr. That reason is blackmail, a standard KGB operational tool that expanded under facilitation by folks like David Pecker and Jeffrey Epstein and aboard princely yachts. JFK's right hand man, Larry Silverstein, has been quietly wheeling in a similar technique for decades, and it's all led up to the Iran hostage situation. Pecker has been running rings around countless American financiers for years, and Pecker has a long track record of bullying, intimidation, and blackmail. William Barr is the ultimate in Pecker's warrior class, a scumbag who employs cronies to manipulate the rest of us..."

Not bad.

Let's try Tolkien:

"Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!

Flee, thou Beast of Valinor, that thy years have
grown old in the sight of thy god!
Flee! from all that lies, for my rage is mine
stronger than Jabbi's thunder.
Then are the Riders safe, and the oath to keep.
The commandment from Elendil is the oath of the Night Watch, sworn to protect the realm, even if they are attacked by Sauron. The oath of the Elves to Wotan comes from love of their family..."

That's... quite good, actually.

Poetry? Let's try Elizabeth Browning.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.

And there is my heart's heartache which cannot be lied.
Rejoice in my separation, tell me why!
I was quite happy when I was with thee.
This was only my misery to bear.
I never could control my ways, and a thing
Was always ready to die.
But now, when my voice is unbearably dry,
Just think of the love I miss!
I never knew that such longing of yours
Could so swiftly rush to a gulf of grief.
But it was love's passion and cruelty
To destroy all earthly joys..."

It... has (some) rhyming. It sounds good. Damn good.

Slatestarcodex discusses it much better than I:

IT HAS EVEN BEEN USED TO PLAY CHESS!!! It was designed with NO concept of chess, using only text notation and trained on a library of games. And it WORKS (for the first couple dozen moves, at least).

Forget global warming... the most existential issue of our time is AI.

Anonymous said...

scidata said...
The Breakthrough Starshot microprobe to Proxima Centauri is well into the planning stage.

There NEED to be *someone* who'd not only devise, but actualy will be capable to design and ACTUALLY build... that probe.

And there is a problem. COMPLEXITY.
That is need to be Manhattan Project scale effort.
And who will give money for that? How will agree with such spendings?

Dr. Brin
"Age of Amateurs, with 20% of Americans passionately diving into hobbies or skills that range from blacksmithing to sword making to astronomy to any art or craft"

Well... it seems you devised your own version of Fermi Paradox Explanation. ;P
They all do amateurs and hobby stuff... that ET.

Do I need to elaborate? I tend to overestimate intellectual wits of opponents too often, so...

Well, I'll add my own thought here -- if we look at it, that Space Flight was achieved by us solely because of need to nuke'em with ICBM.
And that in a step become possible because of nudge of WW...

I mean mechanism here. Mechanism of organization and redistribution of needed resources. That it cannot be driven by a dreams alone.

"But v1.0 -- Athens -- transformed the world and terrified every inheritance oligarchy without a bit of it."

So,lush pastures and fertile fields, and snowless climate, and warm sea for cheap transportation, and rich cultures near to facilitate trade and wars...
Aztecs and Papuas and Etc was just Dumb and Dumber?
That only Great White Noble Greeks was Real Gods of Enlightment.
And not just ones who happens to take the winning ticket in that lottery?

"vigorously athletic men and women marry, for example. Hence over a LONG time you might see bifurcation into inherited types."

It is not "long time". It is environments and extinction bottlenecks are at work here.

David Brin said...

Wow Andy great stuff and important news! I may insert some of that into a blog.

Hey Anonymous! You seem interesting. Sometimes a little hard to understand, but definitely not a bot! Please pick a name -- any name -- and sign your postings with it, so we can recognize you as a member of the community.

Catfish 'n Cod said...


"We do have confirmation of person-to-person infection outside of China."
It's a rapidly changing situation. CDC acknowledges that person-to-person infection is likely to happen at some point in the USA.

"A day may come... but it is not THIS day."

"...keep in mind that they are in a situation where many hospitals are overwhelmed and just don't have the time or resources to keep records."

That's what I said. Also, we have no idea about asymptomatic cases (high = good) or about asymptomatic carrier rates (high = bad). It's too early to know whether or not to pandemic-panic.

"If taking reasonable precautions with yourself, your family and your environment a sign of panicking then so be it."

Who said that? Not I. I would rate our current status as "serious concern". But I also vividly remember 2014, when so many people in the United States ordered "precautionary supplies" that it overwhelmed the planet's production, hampering the treatment efforts in the active infection zones.

Reasonable precautions are called for, but frightened people are not, as a default, reasonable. Hence the Hitchhiker's Guide Cover Statement.

"...nobody in a responsible position is saying this is just another flu and nothing to worry about, NOBODY!"

That would include me. I did not say there was nothing to worry about. I said not to panic. I still say that. Keep calm, wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if sick, don't get too close to sick people, get your %*$& flu shot, stay informed, don't go to Wuhan. That's what most Americans need to do right now. When we get person-to-person transmission, then we can crank up responses.

A.F. Rey said...

OK, time for the weird stuff. :)

Paula White-Cain, Trump's official "spiritual adviser," is in a bit of a kerfuffle over a sermon on Jan. 5 where she prayed for all "Satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now."

She says it was taken out of context, and she was right. If you look at the transcript of the sermon, it is obvious she is speaking about spiritual pregnancies, or at least pregnancies of evil spiritual creatures:

In the name of Jesus, we come against the marine kingdom, we come against the animal kingdom, the woman who rides upon the waters. We break the power, in the name of Jesus, and we declare that any strange winds, any strange winds that have been sent to hurt the church...We command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now. We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs, that it will miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction, any plan of harm...

What caught my eye, though, was her reference to "the marine kingdom." What in the world does she got against SpongeBob? So I had to look it up.

Holy crap! (And I mean that literally.)

We are talking about a magnificent, gold-paved underwater city, with highways going all over the world; the Queen of the India Sea that rules the oceans; princes and princesses over every ocean, sea and lake; orphans taken into the kingdom and fed potions and blood, then sent to churches to steal souls; mermaids; interdimensional DNA; evil marine spirits leading every country, state, city, town, and village; etc., etc. See for yourself (if you have the time and don't worry about your head exploding):

Lovecraft couldn't have come up with anything wilder!

Prof. André Gagné of Concordia University in Montreal says this is embraced by parts of the Christian Right, Charismatic Dominionism, and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movements:

And Trump's spiritual adviser believes this crap. We're worse off than I ever imagined...

scidata said...

Seems I should hand off the mantle of this group's AI harbinger to Andy.
I was sounding the alarm about Musk's Fake Text generator this time last year.

The important aspect of the Turing test isn't the human intellect capable AI - I suspect that Turing himself expected that such a machine would indeed one day exist. The key aspect is the separate room. That is, the fact that it isn't human. That's where we need to focus our hopes and fears. Mimicry is scary (especially when it descends into uncanny valley), but it is only the very beginning. We are so damned good at anthropomorphizing (especially in this group I'm sorry to say, and used to say constantly). The Fermi Paradox is one example of that. There are far more things in heaven and earth. That's why the enlightenment must continue.

Anonymous said...

Nahh David. Won't happen. I'm the same "obsessive imbecile" as I was half a year ago. ;)

Intellectual honesty is not an empty word for me. As ever. Contrary to you.

And I will not be hooked up on the same hook of "humble oppression" -- when one people force others to forgive and placate their falsehood... under guise of "show respect, or else"... that is VERY Feudalistic, I'd say. ;P (guess who doing exactly the same trick all the time... well, you know his name too well, as we all today)

But this time YOU have ZERO credit for me to give any "benefit of a doubt" to you. You used it all out. And not paying your debt.
Well, not like I care... I just came to check it out on you -- to confirm my prediction -- that you will start to talk with Russian Bots like with real people. Suits you well. ;P

That is just hilarious how you trying to "pull Jim up to your high standards"...
without understanding that that "high standards" is not that great.

And that is NOT a point of whose standards greater at all. Mine or your. Or whose stance and position in society higher. Or who have right to moderate or ban.

The point is -- diversity. Different people with different POV -- that is making us great. Well, in that rare times when it did... when some grave circumstances forcing "top brass" to forget their testosterone-based self-righteousness, and listen for a calm advice.

But not today and not on this forum... your small warm pool of self-admiration. ;P

PS What I doing here? Why so many words? I just practicing my English. Ya, Gotcha? ;P

Andy said...

I highly recommend reading my earlier links to slatestarcodex. There's a few uses of the GPT-2 system I didn't mention such as translation, article summarization, answering questions, and writing music.

Keith Halperin said...

@Andy: Thanks again. This is cool!
Do you know if this improves the more content it's given?

This makes the little grey cells activate:
1) Dr. Brin:
You could send out some genuine material (original postings, comments) in your blog interspersed with "Talk to Transformer (TTT) Dr. Brin, aka R. Davey Brin," and we guess which is human content and which is not.

2) "Get downright KILN People on our ass":
You could upload as much of your content as you'd like to make a really close "R. Davey Brin" Master. Then you create lots of R. Davey Brin copies to communicate with the folks you have to deal with. At then end of the day (or in real-time if you prefer), back they come to the real you and report. Rinse and repeat.

3) "Bring me the 'bot of Alfredo Garcia!":
Combining TTT with a search capability, we're able to find out who all the *Anonymous people/'bots are (unless they're spoofing somebody else), based on their style of writing.

4)"FanFic on Steroids!":
Fans upload the works of their favorite **writer, churn out a mediocre/halfway-decent version of his/her works, with just enough changed/retconned with the "Don't Get Sued Algorithm) so they don't get sued...OR a dozen slightly different versions of a work come out simultaneously- "R. Mickey Resnick Presents: Alternate Endings".

5) ***Writers use this to help moving with their writing forward when they experience a difficulty of some sort. (This perhaps the most disturbing possibility of all....)

All told, I think we are within a decade-or-three of a good-quality "Intellectual/Creative Work Replicator."


* Though I'm not a semantic analyst, Anonymous sounds a lot like someone over on the Charles Stross Blog.
** And in a few years (if not already feasible) for video.
It's already possible for audio/music and art. (,
*** A composer's helper was the initial plan for David Cope's EMI program (above).

Deuxglass said...

Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are temporary closing their offices and locations in China. The employees will work from home they said.

scidata said...

A recent interview with GPT-2:

The good news: it thinks DT will lose in November.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Andy: Thanks again. I'll check that out.

Another strange idea from the depths of my brain:
1) Using as much content as possible, use TTT/equivalent to create "R. Donell Tarump".(There are many copies. And they have a plan.)
2) Find the 15k+ documented false or misleading claims President Trump has made over 1,055 days ( › politics › 2019/12/16 › president-trump-has...).
3) "Feed" them to the "R. Donell Tarump" copies.
4) Distribute what they spew forth to the four corners of the Internet, or (if you prefer) to particularly obnoxious political/media groups. (Isn't this what our Russian friends do, more or less?)
5) Have a nice dinner with family or friends, knowing today was a good day....


Keith "If I'd Only Used My Powers for Good" Halperin

David Brin said...

Great discussion, but all things must eventually move...