Wednesday, January 29, 2020

'Viral' news... and more from the frontiers of biology...

The coronavirus has brought our attention back around to life's tenuous miracle on this amazing planet. So let's have a biology news breakdown... and I'll get back to the matter of viruses towrd the end.

== Advances in medicine and health ==

The U.K. may start offering full genome sequencing to every child born in the country. “While the tests could theoretically improve medical treatment, it also raises a slew of questions about medical privacy, consent, and the future of the human race.” Yes, like most new technologies, it could either empower Big Brothers or else... if shared openly and accountably and transparently they could prevent Orwellian nightmares forever.

Researchers claim to have 3D-printed skin that’s alive and has blood vessels. Skin is the biggest “organ” of the body and this can be of huge importance to burn victims and others. Auto-immune matching is the most crucial aspect for making it work.

Weird! “After bone marrow transplant, a man’s semen contains only donor’s DNA.” Dang. Better hope the fellow who donated and saved your life isn’t also a sexual predator. Notify that CSI show! (via

Only this is why we need a civilization filled with bright skeptics. Because there turns out to be more to this story… There are no sperm cells because the individual had a vasectomy. DNA is from white blood cells or blood cell fragments in the semen. Boy, talk about an object lesson for us all. 

Psychiatric disorders affect 25 percent of the population in any given year. A new study has identified more than a hundred gene variants that can affect a person’s risk of developing multiple psychiatric disorders — a biological clue that could lead to more effective treatments for the disorders in the future. 

Researchers fed a machine learning system 1.77 million electrocardiogram (ECG) logs — measured in voltage over time — from 400,000 patients, in order to detect patterns that could indicate future cardiac problems including heart attacks and atrial fibrillation. The AI model distinguished between patients who would die within a year and those who survived. Um… duh? Discovering correlations in vast data sets is what computers do really well. Using good judgment about those correlations, especially when the datasets might contain biases (e.g. racial) is something that smart humans and wise societies must view as a good thing, helping us target those undercurrents. And so far, boy have the activists been on top of this.

Specific neurons that map memories have now been identified in the human brain.

And the company selling rich people blood transfusions from young folks is back. Now? A scientifically dubious and likely harmless mutually beneficial business deal. Later? When these Rhino-horn-using, struldbrug-vampires start demanding fresh young blood daily? You’ve seen it in science fiction. Undermine this failure mode with good science!

Wearable medical devices today can monitor heart rate, blood oxygen, and physical activity. New laser-engraved microfluidic sensors can detect minute concentrations of molecules in perspiration, like a wearable sensor that can measure the levels of uric acid and tyrosine in sweat. “Tyrosine can be an indicator of metabolic disorders, liver disease, eating disorders, and neuropsychiatric conditions.” (via IFTF)

Aaaand… we compost vaggie waste, but human bodies? The future “using one-eighth of the energy of cremation and saving as much as a metric ton of carbon dioxide, it can convert a body into a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil in a month.” Um, I recycle/compost a lot of our veggie scraps. But this... I hope to keep it an abstract consideration for decades, yet.

== More from the Medical world ==

The CRISPR technique uses molecular scissors for genes, revolutionizing scientific research by letting scientists alter DNA. But a new gene editing system may prove even more powerful.

We’ve officially annihilated a second strain of polio. Only one remains. “Currently, WPV1 only circulates in two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. But vaccination efforts to stop it are plagued by vaccine misinformation and harmful rumors, armed conflicts and insecurity, and fears and misinformation about vaccine-derived polio infections, which are rare but a considerable threat.”

vaccine which could revolutionize tuberculosis treatment might provide long-term protection against the disease, which kills 1.5 million people around the world each year. One of the huge baddies still out there. 

Thanks Vaxxers! The notoriously contagious measles virus not only makes people sick, it also sneaks inside important immune cells in the body and wipes their "memories," new research suggests. Once infected, the amnesic immune system no longer recognizes the harmful pathogens that it has fought off in the past. In fact, docs just proved what’s long been suspected: “When they started using the vaccine they noticed a drop in deaths from other diseases at the same time. This happened in every country the vaccine was adopted. The first theory was that the Measles vaccine protected people from other diseases, but there was no way it could do that. Research showed that it didn't do that. It took years to figure out that not getting Measles is what protected people.”

Getting science fictional with a quirky side thought though… If measles zeroes out some immune cell memories… might it be useful developing therapies for allergies of autoimmune diseases? Should measles vaccination be delayed until you know your child does not have allergies or an auto-immune ailment? If so, might the actual disease be therapeutic, resetting the immune system?

== Convergence ==

Aliens among us. Scientists have found microbes that live on sulfate more than 1.5 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface in water that has been trapped in fractures in the rock for hundreds of millions of years. 

Deadly Brain Cancers Act Like 'Vampires' By Hijacking Normal Cells To Grow.” All of it consistent with my own theory, in my short story “Chrysalis,” That one biologist said: “This is what you’ll be remembered for, a century from now, Brin.”  Huh. I kinda hope not?  Anyway the story is in Insistence of Vision.

Getting weirder still, the ctenophore a small sea organism, has a relatively advanced nervous system, but different from any other animal – using ‘a different chemical language’, lacking the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and nitric oxide, and many other chemical messengers considered the universal neural language of all animals. Has it invented neurons, muscles and other specialized tissues, independently from the rest of the animal kingdom?

Researchers find also “that the neural circuits underlying smell, episodic memory, spatial navigation, behavior choice and vision in insects are nearly identical to those performing the same functions in mammals – despite the fact that different, though overlapping, sets of genes were harnessed to build each one… the suggested answer is convergence: these far-flung branches of the evolutionary tree arrived at common designs for a nervous system because they each had to solve the same fundamental problems.”

My friend Simon Conway Morris, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, has stressed the importance of evolutionary convergence: that evolution tends to arrive at the same solutions over and over again, even in distant branches of the animal tree, and even when the proteins or genes used to build a similar structure are not themselves related.

And weirder still? That ‘blob” organism that’s neither plant nor animal that has slime mold features but… 700 sexes?

== ... and miscellany ==

660 2” cubes of refined – but not isotope separated – metallic uranium were recovered from the primitive Nazi atomic program near the end of WWII. This fascinating article tells of maybe 5 cubes known today. The rest? Not exactly dangerous, as they were. Probably got sent to a refinery to become way more dangerous.

Humans making icebergs in order to refreeze the Arctic? Um clever method, but harder than planting trees.

Carlsberg is working on beer bottles made of paper.  

Satellite images can be used to detect stranded whales — a potential new way to identify strandings in real-time.

== It's a virus... ==

I could link you to my Hugo nominated story about the ultimate in "commensal" viral parasitism -- "The Giving Plague," in my collection OTHERNESS... or my more recent story "Chrysalis," with an unusual take on both infection and cancer, as well as a secret part of the human genome (in INSISTENCE OF VISION).  Heck I could go into many reasons to stay calm in the face of coronavirus... and one or two reasons not to...

But instead, let me offer a different sort of wisdom, from a December 1979 NPR show called "Unpacking the 80s"... a little song that stuck in my head, ever since.

Back in the Pleistocene
When we were still marine
A virus launched a quest 
   to be the perfect guest
   and re-arranged our genes.

It's a virus, it inspired us
   to rise above the mud.
It's a virus, it's desirous
   of your very flesh and blood.
Now I know your body's burnin,
   but don't give up the ghost!
Tiny viruses are turning you
   into the perfect... host.


TheMadLibrarian said...

I am a sample size of one, but there needs to be more to the 'measles reset' for the autoimmune system. I am old enough to have caught the big childhood 3 (measles, mumps, chicken pox), but unfortunately did not develop superpowers from them, and sadly, also developed allergies later in life.

Tony Fisk said...

I recall an episode from Alan E Nourse's "Star Surgeon" where the medical team search for the cure to a virus that is turning the planet's population into mindless drudges.

They succeed! Only to realise that it's the virus that's making the race intelligent; the real problem being that peoples' immune systems have started reacting to its presence. Their 'cure' is *not* helping.

It's not quite what the anti-vaxxers claim with their "measles vaccine causes autism" tosh, but close-ish.

My parents were certainly not anti-vax, but I'm not sure what I was vaccinated against in '60s UK. I do recall gaining childhood immunity from M, M, and R in the time honored manner. Maybe the prevailing attitude was complacency toward 'childhood diseases'? I can still remember the sniggers that went around in a viewing of "Gone With The Wind" when we learn of the death of Scarlett's beau from... *measles*!?? (which was, of course, a major scourge of the Civil War)

Also managed to pick up a case of chickenpox on my last trip to the states ('93). The mortality risk, as an adult, is not insignificant, and vaccines have only been routinely available in the last 15-20 years or so. Fortunately, a course of Acyclovir (and possibly residual effects of a smallpox vaccine from 25 years prior) seemed to keep it in check.

I do seem to have developed a liking for brainss, though...

Spam (Sr. Res. Scientist, GTRI) said...

One of my favorite 80s novels (other than of course the Uplift series) was David Palmers "Emergence". Totally worth a re-read, with an ultimately hopeful story of the emergence of the next hominid species (a result of nth generation mutations after viral exposures) after a devastating bio-nuclear conflict.

Alfred Differ said...

My auto-immune battle occurred when I was 51. My sister’s began in her late 30’s I think.

Never got measles. Did get mumps and chickenpox back to back as soon as I lived outside the US. I have no idea what vaccines I got as a kid, except for small pox and typhoid ones. My father was USAF enlisted so we got shots on orders. Didn’t think much about it until years later when I learned there was a chickenpox vaccination and REALLY wished it had been around earlier.

The therapy that saved my life in 2013-14 involved a partial unlearning for my immune system. It too could have killed me. For many (90%) there are secondary effects that are damn nasty. Fortunately medical researchers found a less dangerous method. When THEY consider using measles as an approach to reset things, I might listen. For now, though I suspect unlearning techniques are the solution, but the measles variant will have to be genetically engineered. Everyone will pee their pants when someone actually tries this.

Alfred Differ said...

On a separate note, one funding source for SpaceX notes they are on a two week launch cadence now. Also by next year they will have more operational satellites in orbit than everyone else combined... including Countries.

Eat that OldSpace.๐Ÿ˜Ž

A.F. Rey said...

“After bone marrow transplant, a man’s semen contains only donor’s DNA.”

Two horrifying words: paternity suit! :)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Weird! “After bone marrow transplant, a man’s semen contains only donor’s DNA.” Dang. Better hope the fellow who donated and saved your life isn’t also a sexual predator. Notify that CSI show!

But isn't it the other way around? It's not that you'll be blamed for the crimes of the sexual predator. Rather, you can leave semen at the scene of the crime, and he'll take the blame.

Keith Halperin said...

RE: 3D printed skin: Kinda "cool", kinda "EW-W-W-W!"
It won't be long until when we hear the commercial line:
"What's in YOUR wallet?", the wallet will reply...
But seriously- wake me when they successfully have 3D-printed skin with active, producing hair follicles...

RE: bone marrow/DNA: Genetic "deep fake"-
"In a world were digital spoofing means you can only trust your onsite eyes and ears, and DNA is used to verify everything, our *hero(**ine) seeks to prove their innocence of the murder of the CEO of Alphazon, when their DNA is all over the crime scene..."
(Probably already done- I don't normally watch movies like this....)


* Chris Pine
** Scarlett Johansson

Deuxglass said...

Catfish 'n Cod,

You rate our current status as “serious concern”. That is a meaningless statement. Does it mean you are worried but not enough to change your habits except for washing your hands more often? You say that fear is irrational but fear is a most useful emotion. The Chinese govt. by suddenly implementing a total shutdown of something like 40 million people created fear in the people there. It’s a fear so strong that people radically changed their habits. They stay at home, wash often and avoid all contact with other people. That is exactly you need to do to stop the chain of contagion! Fear is very useful.

Define panic behavior for me in this situation and give me some examples if you have some. In those examples are the panic reactions justified or not? Is a village putting a barrier up to keep people out an unreasonable reaction or is it good sense? Is stopping air traffic to China a panic reaction or just something you wished you had done a week ago?

You say that frightened people are not, as a default, reasonable. I disagree. Frightened people when faced with a terrible situation are very rational and reasonable when they have the truth as to the nature of the danger. However when those in authority play down the danger in order to “keep people calm” they encourage a dangerous complacency and if subsequent events prove that those in authority were not telling the whole story then that trust collapses with dire consequences. The CDC knows this very well and they are careful not to sugarcoat it.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Bit odd to see the Doctor squeamish about composting human bodies. After all, that was how most bodies were handled prior to about the 16th century, and still are in most parts of the world. It's really no different from the composting of animal waste. And every molecule of water you drink passed through millions of people. Similarly, at least some of the nutrients you get from veggies were once a part of somebody.

scidata said...

Also from the frontiers of biology: programmable critters (xenobots).

Xenobots are one of the primes reasons that I predict the Forth will rise again.

Jon S. said...

More Criminal Minds than CSI, my wife says (she watches a lot of these shows). The CM team is composed of FBI profilers; the gimmick here would be that the suspect in a series of violent rapes is caught by DNA, but maintains his innocence and doesn't even vaguely fit the psych profile worked out by the team. About halfway through someone finds that the seminal fluid left on the victims contains no semen, but the suspect produces semen, and is therefore innocent; Dr. Reid, the resident polymath, remembers this story, and they find out the suspect was also a marrow donor. Now the search is on for the recipient...

David Brin said...

I probably kept the longest span of unmoderated comments from any "public person" and it was a great run, shrugging and putting up with the occasional troll... and more than occasional but tolerable zero-sum-strawman-loon. But if you folks can put up with the delays, this really is better. The Kremlin-filth-spewer "Progressbot" has tried posting some fecal swill, for example. No fellah, I'm not afraid of you. I do have a nose that dislikes stench.

TCB said...

I don't mind the delays one bit. Totally worth it. Some opinions are not worth hearing, and those who complain about being muzzled in those cases are arguing in bad faith. Try expressing an opposing view on a far right forum (or certain far left ones) and see how fast they perma-ban you.

Deuxglass said...

I don't mind the delay at all since it's for a good cause.

Deuxglass said...

Have you tried to outsource your moderation function?

Tony Fisk said...

Keith Halperin said:

"But seriously- wake me when they successfully have 3D-printed skin with active, producing hair follicles..."

Be careful what you wish for. (;-)

Lloyd Flack said...

The delay removes some of the excitement of any conflict. It weakens what you get from an impulsive post. There is now no reason not to think a bit before you post.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Coronavirus found in Hillary's e-mails!!!

The most contagious and lethal human-to-human pandemic remains the one of sheer idiocy. I do however, like #6, in which we evil Canadians spread the virus to China for the usual nefarious reasons.

Alfred Differ said...

I wanna piece of those evil Canadians. Two of my north-of-the-border equity positions took a hit. ๐Ÿคจ

I’m not a fan of moderation here due to timing, but I dislike the earlier stench more. Ah well.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

""The Kremlin-filth-spewer "Progressbot" has tried posting some fecal swill, for example. No fellah, I'm not afraid of you. I do have a nose that dislikes stench.""

Ha-ha-ha. :)))
Of course YOU a afraid.
You are AFRAID to be transparent.
You are AFRAID of your mistakes to be exposed.
You are AFRAID to be accountable.

Well, don't sweat it, little wuss Davy -- that is all not a news -- that is what all feudalistic nobility AFRAID -- to be cought with their pants off. ;P

You are Naked King Dave The Hypocrite I :)))))))))))))))))))))

Zepp Jamieson said...

Watch it! Justin Trudeau could sneeze at you any moment now.

I'm guessing that the trolls will get bored with not seeing their crap being up on the blog and bugger off to bother Meghan and Harry or scream that all women are evil or whatever they do in their copious spare time, and the Doctor will quietly lift the moderation and we'll all be clever enough not to say anything when it happens.

Deuxglass said...

I don't mind the bat-eating. After all oysters look like they came out of someones' nose but I love eating them and crabs and lobsters are positively unearthly but I have no problem with them either. I object to bats only because there is little meat on their bones, their wings are chewy and the claws scratch as they go done my gullet.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Jon S: This is a good screen treatment!
Question:do we legally "own" our DNA, or can a company which collects it use it for their own purposes?
Likewise, do we "own" our biometric signatures? If not, how far are we from:
You and I are in a public space- no real expectation of privacy.
I pick up my phone, point it at you and say to it: "Identify and send digital dossier."
In a few seconds/minutes, I know who you are and all about you...

Just came up with an unpleasant modification of the scene in "Minority Report" where Anderton kept getting these customized ads and using some of our OGH's concepts.
People usually see (as in "look at") a fairly substantial number of other people in the course of their day. Imagine if companies/organizations were willing to make small (not necessarily "micro) *payments or equivalent for each person we look at in a public space, where the "viewee" could be identified and researched for tailored advertising, solicitations, etc. If an observed person had an anomalous or blocked profile, they would be singled out for further investigation by... In effect, you'd be incentivizing people to be your market research/business development/informers/spies. While they probably would have disapproved of the incentivizing aspect, the Stasi would have LOVED this!

@ Tony Fisk: Thanks, I remember that from the movie.
ISTM that successful hair regeneration is somewhat like fusion power: always 5 years away.

@ Everybody: Re Moderation delays-
We can consider this to be "The Blog of the Future", where the moderator and commenters are located in various Solar System locations.



* incorporating dynamic pricing and gamefied depending on how valuable the viewee turns out to be, however the organization measures "value".

Deuxglass said...

This bot is clearly tailored to this blog. How can we be rid of it? Dr. Brin. You can't moderate this all by yourself. You need helpers.

David Brin said...

That's just a sample of the ravings. Fortunately, it is so easy to skim-tell that it's psycho trollery that I can spend far less time spamming that it spends typing. The bad news: those two seconds I lose are worth more to humanity. Alas.

Speak up if the community wants to see more of what was sampled.

Keith the advertising hell experienced by Anderton in Minority Report won't happen. By then we'll have programs that almost perfectly understand your product tastes and desires, right? So why would you get PUSH advertising anymore, when that software would just become your shopping assistant, answerable to you, and not the corporations? Advertising is a dinosaur and doomed.

Anonymous said...

The contention that impeachment requires criminal (or crime-like) conduct is constitutional crabgrass. Virtually every impeached official makes the argument. They are always wrong. But not even regular treatments with logic and heaps of precedent can stop the insidious weed from reappearing in every impeachment spring. Thanks to Professor Dershowitz, we must now do the weary work again.

Deuxglass said...

I think Keith is an AI that has gone insane. Too much interaction with humans has pushed him over the deep end.

Deuxglass said...

Kieth has possibly been made by North Central Positronics. That would explain his style of raving.

Andy said...

@scidata That xenobot article is both amazing and terrifying. As is the article it links to on reviving disembodied pig brains... it seems the ability of brains to survive and recover may be much greater than we thought... so many ethical questions here.

Andy said...

David wrote, "By then we'll have programs that almost perfectly understand your product tastes and desires, right? So why would you get PUSH advertising anymore, when that software would just become your shopping assistant, answerable to you, and not the corporations?"

Reminds me of the song by the amazing musician Vienna Teng, The Hymn of Acxiom. The title refers to an identity-matching and data marketing company.

Somebody hears you. You know that. You know that.
Somebody hears you. You know that inside.
Someone is learning the colors of all your moods, to
(Say just the right thing and) show that you're understood.
Here you're known.

Leave your life open. You don't have. You don't have.
Leave your life open. You don't have to hide.
Someone is gathering every crumb you drop, these
(Mindless decisions and) moments you long forgot.
Keep them all.

Let our formulas find your soul.
We'll divine your artesian source (in your mind),
Marshal feed and force (our machines will)
To design you a perfect love
Or (better still) a perfect lust.
O how glorious, glorious: a brand new need is born.

Now we possess you. You'll own that. You'll own that.
Now we possess you. You'll own that in time.
Now we will build you an endlessly upward world,
(Reach in your pocket) embrace you for all you're worth.

Is that wrong?
Isn't this what you want?

David Brin said...

Huh, thanks Andy.

I admit I can't get my quick scan-and-spam below 2 seconds. But that's okay. Wow, what a yapper. You can all vote to have me show a day's worth or hour's worth of this compulsive gnat's spew.

One thing. If I want to get the flush time down to one second I'd ban all anonymous postings. So if you do that, be sure to start with your pseudonym : "I'm ___ "


At least Lamar Alexander's rationalization for not calling witnesses is logically not-insane. Essentially: "(1) Trump DID every act he is accused of (and has relentlessly denied), hence no witnesses to the material facts are needed. And (2) witnesses have no bearing on our judgment whether those actions are grounds for removal." (paraphrased) Just one rub, making this utterly specious to the level of treason: Trump's lawyers and Senate lackeys are still openly refusing to accept #1. Hence, Lamar should want witnesses to sway colleagues to the conclusion he already reached. Hence, his rationalization for loyalty to monsters is absurd, after all.

Everyone assumes that the utter cowardice shown by GOP senators is because of fear of revenge challenges by Trumpists in primaries. (Should Pelosi have delayed till those primaries?) But Lamar is retiring and many other suspicious flake-outs, like Anthony Kennedy, were immune to mere political threats.

More and more I am convinced that the KGB - with David Pecker's safe and the Epstein files and so much more - has achieved their long-sought leverage over the US ruling caste, via blackmail. In the case of Lindsey Graham, it is so obvious that the inevitable revelations will be yawners! Any of you could write his likely "scandalous story."

But my guess is that we'll find (soon, I hope) that many sons and daughters were lured into compromised situations and threatened with ruin. Think Hunter Biden only exponentiated with ACTUAL crimes and not just a minor stench. Men (mostly) and women with such sons (mostly) and daughters might deem protecting then to be a higher loyalty than their duty to America and civilization and the future of humanity. I call them damned - truly damned - for making that choice.

Whether or not this is true of Lamar... and I would bet on it... folks really ought to look at my blackmail chapters in Polemical Judo.

Larry Hart said...


I think Keith is an AI that has gone insane. Too much interaction with humans has pushed him over the deep end.

"I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought."

Larry Hart said...


it seems the ability of brains to survive and recover may be much greater than we thought..

So maybe the Game of Thrones characters who are brought back to life isn't pure fantasy?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In the case of Lindsey Graham, it is so obvious that the inevitable revelations will be yawners! Any of you could write his likely "scandalous story."

The blackmail on Lindsey Graham can't simply be that he's gay. That hardly qualifies as a secret. I'm wondering if he has fathered a black baby. Remember how such allegations affected John McCain's campaign in Graham's state of South Carolina. This would also play into your suggestion that " many sons and daughters were lured into compromised situations and threatened with ruin". Because as far as we know at the moment, LG doesn't have any sons or daughters.

folks really ought to look at my blackmail chapters in Polemical Judo.

Hey, I remember the passage from your much earlier book Earth in which you prophesied that all voices of moderation would be bribed or threatened or blackmailed into silence until the Helvetian War was the only possible outcome. We're probably at just about the right point in the book's backstory timeline for this to happen.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Wow, what a yapper. You can all vote to have me show a day's worth or hour's worth of this compulsive gnat's spew.

I'm gonna vote no on that one. And it's kinda sad, because when he or "he" first appeared, he seemed genuinely interested in conversation. At some point, that just went over into hurling of insults which, like those from locumranch, have no basis in reality. I gave up on him after he became livid with me for insisting that I exist, which I thought was hilarious because were he to be correct, then who was he arguing with?

So no, I wouldn't waste our time publishing his posts, except maybe as the occasional reminder of why moderation is necessary.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Trump's lawyers and Senate lackeys are still openly refusing to accept #1. H

Not only do they refuse to allow that Trump committed the acts he's accused of, they say that there are no first-hand witness accounts when it's their own selves who prevent any first-hand witnesses from giving their account.

It's a wonder that Republicans even pretend to celebrate the Fourth of July any more, as they obviously hate America--one more thing they've accused liberals of for decades while really talking about themselves. No surprise there.

When in the course of human events...

Keith Halperin said...

@ Deuxglass:
I hope you are joking about me being either a bot, insane, or raving.
I try not to inflame or attack, but to comment, to amuse, and to possibly add value in a polite and respectful manner.
If my style/content is inappropriate to this blog, let me know how I should change it:
if that seems reasonable I will do so, and if not I will leave.

Thank You,

Keith Halperin

Anonymous said...

@ Dr. Brin: "So why would you get PUSH advertising anymore, when that software would just become your shopping assistant, answerable to you, and not the corporations? Advertising is a dinosaur and doomed."

A near-future scenario:

Why? Because WE want you to buy what we have/believe what we tell you/do what we want you to do.
Why? Because "enough" is NEVER "enough".
Why? Because we get off on manipulating you in ways so subtle that you'll never know it.
"We control the horizontal. WE control the vertical."
We know you better than you know yourself. How do we do that?
We have a staff of hundreds of memers, cognitive scientists, behavioral economists, algorithmists, and our own exascale/quantum hybrid system. What do YOU have? Your kilo-and- a-half blob of cerebral jelly helped by your "shopping assistant", "virtual assistant" "medical coach", etc.
Where do you think your "shopping assistant", et al came from?
Did you think your choices were really yours and not OUR choices for you?
Did you imagine we didn't have access to everything you've said or done, publicly or online? You think YOU'RE in charge? Well, think again, Sunshine.
Would you like a probability-ranked sample of the three most likely responses you'd say to what we're telling you, including this last sentence?
There's a 83.2% probability that you'll be bringing up the "Opt Out Option"(OOO).
Even if you weren't so predictable, you Twen Cen folks are SO PREDICTABLE!
Yeah, Zygote- go "OOO. Go "All Amish", or "All Paleo", or "All Dieselpunk", but if you want to be part of today's society, "it's my way or the highway"- you can't be "a little bit pregnant" and you can't say "I'd like a highly digitalized technological society without increasingly sophisticated and subtle manipulation and control from above."
You MIGHT have had that, but that ship sailed (or sank) back in the '90 s when companies decided to use internet-based advertising instead of other models.
Now we have "The Fearless Five", or do we really have just one? (Guess which one WE'RE from!)

You know, WAY back in Twen Cen, a writer and some of his successors wrote about a crude version of what we do, calling it "Psycho-history." (It should have been called "Applied Sociology" but that isn't a particularly sales-making title.) However, Psycho-history was much cruder than what we do- you couldn't tell people about it and it wouldn't work at the individual level. WE tell EVERYBODY about it, and OF COURSE it works at the individual level. One other thing about those books- the "humaniform robot" (Couldn't they say "android" in those days?) protagonist at one point discussed working to make an easier-to serve kind of human, but he had to give that up. Well, we're creating an *easier to serve humanity better and better each day, and we help people think that they like it, and then they actually DO!

There's a 98.2% probability, you'd ask who "WE" are, or "I" am.
Well, the folks who came up with my version 1.0 (You didn't really think I was a human did you? Of course you did- that's the idea!) had read some of those old Psycho-history books ("I'm shocked! Shocked that Software engineers would read science fiction!) and they designated me after a character in one of them.
The called me "The Mule".
(I also like to think it's because if I had a body I'd kick (like an) ass, and I DON'T EVER GIVE UP...)

Have a good one, Zygote...



Keith "Can't Write Good Dialogue" Halperin

*Easier to serve US, that is!

Deuxglass said...


You are Blaine the Pain.

David Brin said...

Keith I have one answer to your entire scenario. "You." That fact that you worked hard to express your trained Suspicion of Authority (SoA) toward conspiratorial elites controlling us via media - as they are certainly trying (and to some extent with success) to do right now -is in itself a datum.

The fact that you are one of millions and millions whose value system is reculsion toward such power accumulations is a potentially crucial datum.

Even poor locumranch expresses his dizzyingly counterfactual, enraged jibber-jabber in terms of individualism and SoA.

TCB said...

Deuxglass said: I think Keith is an AI that has gone insane. Too much interaction with humans has pushed him over the deep end.

I think TCB is an AI that has gone insane. Too much interaction with humans has pushed him over the deep end. (It would explain so much).

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin: Thank you.
PLEASE NOTE: I don't believe we are currently in such a depressing scenario- just that we are headed in that direction
( *,,,,

However, the battle is not yet over!
That's why in an earlier comment I asked about the best ways to make sure that powerful influencing developments are used for general betterment and empowerment, beyond
1) the widespread distribution of the information in an easily comprehensible, objective presentation followed by
2) well-organized, convenient, and accessible discussion and debate in a civil, rational manner.
Another way of addressing it is:
How do we work toward calm, considered reflection when (it seems) more and more people are being made increasingly frightened and angry?

Have a Great Weekend, Everybody


*Affective vs. cognitive ads
Affective advertising (using comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) activates the amygdala, the orbitofrontal cortices, and the brainstem whereas cognitive advertising (strict facts) mainly activates the posterior parietal cortex and the superior prefrontal cortices.[13] Ambler and Burne in 1999 created the Memory-Affect-Cognition (MAC) theory to explain the processes involved in decision making. According to the theory, the majority of decisions are habitual and do not require affect or cognition; they require memory only.[14] Most of the remaining decisions only require memory and affect; they do not require cognition.[15] The main use for cognition is in the form of rationalization following a particular action, however, there are occasional instances in which memory, affect and cognition are all used in conjunction, such as during a debate about a particular choice.[14] The above findings suggest a correlation exists between ad memorization and the degree of affective content within the advertisement, but it is still unclear how this translates to brand memory.[7]

Deuxglass said...


You may have gone insane but you are a biological AI like me. Keith on the other hand has no soul.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Deuxglass: I'm afraid I still don't get what you mean.
I looked up "Blaine the Pain" on the web.
I'm not this guy:
I'm this guy:

Still Perplexed,

DP said...

Gorbachev stated that the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl caused the collapse of the USSR.

Chernobyl, then, represented a fundamental shift in the relationship between the Soviet citizenry and the state. Before the explosion, most Soviets were not discontented dissidents; they believed in the Soviet system, forgave its flaws, and hoped for a better future within its confines. But after Chernobyl, the system seemed potentially unredeemable—and actively dangerous. In the early days of glasnost, stories of Stalin’s mass murders decades earlier slowly bubbled to the fore, but those generally receded, so far removed were they from everyday life. After Chernobyl, though, every citizen’s safety was at stake.

Could the Wuhan virus do the same thing to the PRC?

matthew said...

I note that I think it's not blackmail in many Senate GOPers. They *want* the electoral interference because it helps them get re-elected*. There are 20 up for re-election* and I think a significant fraction are looking at internal polling that puts them underwater.

Cheating is all they have left. Plus, they cheated last time and know that the foreign powers that gave them money have proof of it. So blackmail, but only in the context of "we did a crime together."

I'm sure that there is some out and out blackmail with tapes and all that, but I suspect the GOP is mostly just a mob enterprise these days. I have some personal connections to that type of "GOP" of the Ruski mob NY variety, even.

Jon S. said...

I think that I am an AI that has gone insane. Too much interaction with humans has pushed me over the deep end. (It would explain so much!)

I'm not convinced that anyone has blackmail material on Lindsey. I believe sufficient explanation can be found in the fact that he seeks to amass and maintain power. Having latched onto the ears of the metaphorical Trumpista tiger, he now finds that he cannot let go without risking loss of power - a fate worse than death, for such a man.

I'm afraid, however, that he's going to learn the hard way that there really isn't any way for him to stay on top. When the tiger goes down, he goes down with it.

Larry Hart said...

Bill Maher last night:

And so, in the future, when Trump shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, Mitch McConnell will be there to lick the blood off his shoes.

True dat.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Daniel Duffy asked, "Could the Wuhan virus do the same thing to the PRC?"

First I think Chechnya and Afghanistan contributed more to the end of the USSR, by Chernobyl certainly contributed.

Likewise, coronoavirus could weaken an already stressed Beijing regime. The outbreak would have to become a full-blown pandemic before it directly topples government, and people would have to be blaming the government for letting it happen. Beijing is already strained from resistances in Hong Kong, Tibet, the Nepal regions, and the western provinces. They are also worried about an ascendant Russia, and a declining US. And even if the outbreak is contained reasonably soon, panic is going to create massive cutbacks in international trade and travel, twin lifebloods of the Chinese economy.

The US, already in crisis over the Senate vote, will have to face the problem that in the past year, the GOP dismantled much of the federal coordinating office that works with the CDC to address and ameliorate potential plague outbreaks.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry: We've already seen what McConnell is willing to lick if something scares Trump badly.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Duffy said...
Gorbachev stated that the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl caused the collapse of the USSR.

Classical post hoc ergo propter hoc.
And self-excuse from Gorbachev side -- one who made possible that "glasnost".
USSR was dead much before Chernobyl.
In a sense it was born dead even.

Alfred Differ said...

When the tiger goes down, he goes down with it.

And that’s why impeachment had to happen with or without acquittal. The system must show an attempt to take on the tiger so the rest of us rise to finish the job instead of start it.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Stepping back from the churn of news is sometimes helpful; it lets you see patterns that you subconsciously picked up.

I think matthew is somewhat right, in that there have to be a few GOPers who have internally accepted the idea of reliance on foreign principalities to retain their power. More of them probably want to stay plausibly denial, a position become more untenable by the day.

But there's a broader dynamic at work here. The demographics of the US population are shifting; everyone has known this for decades. The previous social concept of what "All-American" meant -- built by the Greatest Generation to replace the wreckage of the WASP dominion -- still included "white" as the core concept of American society. That this was a compromise forced on them by the shape of the New Deal coalition did not change the social effects.

The GOP has centered itself on that concept, even as the demographic it describes continues to shrink. They had a chance to recompile themselves for the 21st century, most notably with the famous "Post-Mortem" after the 2012 election. Instead, the "base", guided by Fox News and other media (talk radio, social media, and likely foreign influence), chose grievance and tribalism as a lodestone. They have taken actions for that purpose that virtually eliminate any chance of a multi-racial coalition on the right under the current system.

This has set up a pernicious set of incentives that pulls on everyone like a whirlpool. The more they become aligned with an exclusivist message, the less they are able to win free and fair elections. The more they gerrrymander, the more they become dependent on a base that demands exclusion -- and the more the incentives for moderation vanish. The more they rely on foreign influence, the more they become dependent on foreign influence -- which means they can only garner support from those who don't know or don't care that they are under foreign influence. The more they need external assistance to be elected, the more fiercely they will defend that assistance -- and gerrymandering -- and restricting the franchise -- and a divided and divisive media -- and an exclusivist outlook.

It's a horrible series of positive feedback loops, and at its end will be a party that stands for autocracy in the name of an illusionary "Real America" that was never real, was a deliberate construct to animate a previous power-sharing deal, and no longer has much, if anything, to do with the actual nation today -- or its challenges and potential.

And now, with Murkowski's statement that she has despaired of having a fair trial, the Republican Party has in essence declared that they are no longer trustworthy guarantors of Constitutional duties. Barring further cheating, that means they will lose power; you can't win close elections when you close your eyes to things 70% of the populace want seen.

So their choices are either to go soul-searching, or to sit back and allow cheating. And now they have publicly declared their choice.

They'd better be praying that they lose power, now. Their fate under any alternative scenario is far grimmer.

Deuxglass said...

The impeachment is a sideshow now. Much more import events have moved to the forefront.

Deuxglass said...

Two-thirds of China's production is shutting down. Almost every country has stopped flights into or out of the country. Person-to-person transmission is well-established. The US and many other countries refuse entry to any non-citizen who has been to China in the last two weeks. The CDC has instituted mandatory quarantine on anyone they deem a risk. For the moment the virus has not mutated but the fact that it probably will gives scientists a cold sweat. To be brief, the situation sucks the most I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Zepp: The US, already in crisis over the Senate vote, will have to face the problem that in the past year, the GOP dismantled much of the federal coordinating office that works with the CDC to address and ameliorate potential plague outbreaks.

The Ontario government* did that just before SARS — saved less than a million by cutting the group that monitored the world for emerging diseases and disseminated information to public health units so they weren't caught short.

Then SARS hit and cost billions.

Could someone please explain to me why, if the media is really dominated by left-wing-liberals, the right-wing parties of both the US and Canada can still portray themselves as the parties of fiscal responsibility and no one calls them on it?

*Under Harris, a neocon who'd fit right into your Republican party.

TCB said...

I'll just leave this here.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Could someone please explain to me why, if the media is really dominated by left-wing-liberals, the right-wing parties of both the US and Canada can still portray themselves as the parties of fiscal responsibility and no one calls them on it?"

I sure would love an answer to that. Aside from the fact that the corporate media in the US is distinctly right-of-centre and owned by the same plutocrats who are ruining democracy across North America.

And now Ontario has Ford, Canada's answer to Trump.

David Brin said...

epp - Afghanistan is called the lad where empires go to die. The US is so epc we actually “went there” and did not die but merely wasted gobs of strength and lives… which enabling a million girls and women to finish school. And the Taliban cannot get that genie back into the bottle.

Catfish I shall crib one of your cogent paragraphs.

I think those expecting the Xi regime to totter are engaging in wish-hallucination. The elites’s levers of power are very extensive.

I do not think they worry about an ascendant Russia, which does not exist,… as opposed to a world mafia which is indeed ascendant, backed by Russian KGB apparatus, blackmail systems and nukes. They are allied with that mafia to tear down western systems of law and accountability, but they plan to deal with that mafia in their own time.

I ask that any anonymous posters sign with a chosen monicker. Give yourself a signature name. I let one through that was clearly a person possessed of both mind and grammar… and anothersuspicious one because it offered a cogent minority opinion worth pondering. Alas, it rose our of a fecal spew that I did spend more than two seconds skimming, if only to blink in amazement at how pathetic a human soul can become, when it festers in self-contempt. Alas.

David Brin said...

Zepp among the WAGER demands that most terrifies redders is to dare them to put money on their assertion that the GOP is more fiscally responsible than democrats... then offer a bet whether they are AS fiscally responsible... or even HALF as much. The repeated demands leave them in a puddle, where their only hope is to declare that APST Republicans WERE wretched horrors ... But NOW...

...At which time you demand cash bets on THAT!

Treebeard said...

Wow, so not only are Trump voters suffering from false consciousness, voting against their own interests and for evil feudal lords, but the lords themselves are being blackmailed by foreign powers into taking positions contrary to their wishes. It’s an interesting theory, but I have a simpler one: you are a paranoid crank. I might not say that if you weren’t wrong so often about so many things, but for that to be the case you would have to stop being a crank, so it’s a bit of a catch-22. And speaking of cranks, I always enjoy hearing from matthew, who let’s recall was confident that 2/3 of locumranch, jim and myself are paid trolls, has predicted more than once that “Trump is toast”, “Kavanaugh is toast”, was talking about building weapons for the Resistance, and probably several other things I’ve forgotten. And it looks like our Ukrainian friend is back with his particular brand of crankery. So I’m leaning toward the idea that this blog is the domain of a lot of highly educated and intelligent cranks.

As my contribution to the crankery, I’d like to put forward the possibility that the coronovirus is an engineered bio-weapon targeting China just as they are poised to topple America from its hegemonic perch. There is some evidence for this theory, which I won’t go into now, but it’s probably at least as strong as the evidence that Russia is blackmailing the entire GOP. Of course if I really wanted to crank up the crankery, I’d tell you about my theory that humanity is infected with a mind-virus from space that causes them to be cranks, and there’s no cure, but that would probably be taking things too far.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor wrote: "Afghanistan is called the lad where empires go to die." I don't normally pick on what was obviously a typo (I make more than my own fair share!) but given Afghanistan's second biggest industry pre-Taliban--child sex services--that was a darkly hilarious typo.
I'll note the British empire went to Afghanistan to die -twice-. In a "Wow, nobody's dumber than me" sense, that's pretty bad-ass.
I love to hit Republicans with the easily verifiable news that 9 out of each 10 dollars in the national debt is the result of Republican follies and misadventures--the ceaseless wars, the insane tax cut for the rich, all of it. They caused 90% of America's debt. The Democrats created 10% over all, and tend to reduce and even eliminate deficits when in power. Which you know, of course, but the 9 out of 10 stat is one easy to cite, easy to prove, and easy to communicate.

David Brin said...

Hey Ent! Put... money... on... it. None of your assertions are remotely true, especially about me or things I have asserted. What is so sad is that you simultaneously believe that crap AND know you would lose any truly neutral adjudicated wager over your assertions.

Zepp you should read George McDonald Fraser's FLASHMAN series of adventure novels that drop the anti-hero into every calamatous moment of the British Empire's 19th century, starting with the annihilation of their Afghanistan force in the 1840s.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@Deuxglass: if you mean the virus outbreak has become more important....

... not quite yet, at least not for the USA. But Wilbur Ross' blinkered "oh, maybe we can get some jobs back" take signals the actual disaster to come. The CDC is highly functional but the rest of the government is uncoordinated and unprepared to deal with the socioeconomic consequences of a China under quarantine.

Will the world economy come screeching to a halt? No. It's important to note that coronaviruses cannot survive more than a few hours outside a human body; most freight commerce will continue. But a "tariff" in the form of quarantine restrictions will now exist on China's exports, and a steeper cost will accrue to China's internal economy. This imposes drag on an economy already rickety from bad debts created to maintain the Communist Party's stability and hold on power.

If the Chinese government starts having internal problems, it will be 100% their own fault... *especially* since they refused to let us help them in the critical early days. And even if they don't, China's economy WILL slow... and America's economy, dependent on just-in-time manufacturing and warehousing of cheap commodities from China, will slow as well.

The only people in government who know what to do about that are precisely the people who have been shoved into a corner; and all the cabal's hopes for a plausible narrative of re-election require the illusion of a successful economy be maintained.

I am really getting concerned now that someone might feel desperate enough to attempt infrastructure attacks, either on the machinery of vote-casting or on the transport, utility, etc. networks. Traditionally, we are close to the point at which a Reichstag incident becomes a tempting option.

@Zepp: Chernobyl was a fluorescent stain that perfectly exemplified and highlighted the systemic failures that caused the USSR to die. While it accelerated the collapse by being such an effective demonstration that even the Soviet populace could see it, it wasn't a "cause". Chernobyl was a result of those same systemic failures. It was already too late when glasnost was implemented; if that had been a feature back in the days of detente they could have salvaged more.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Found the Flashman series at Internet Archive, and will download them later this evening. Thanks for that! They look entertaining.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Treebeard: I'll leave your assertion that all who disagree with you to the paranoid cranks in question. I'm sure they can defend themselves.
But every time a disease, new or old, gets media attention, there's always conspiracy theories that said disease was engineered by one group against another group, usually a nation. The problem is that you can't engineer a virus or bacteria to attack just one country or one race. (Biologically, 'race' is as much a social construct as nationality or religion, and the bugs don't give a damn about any of those).

I do think blackmail plays a big role in Russia's relations with the rest of the world, but I also think it's a big part of how Trump does business.

David Brin said...

Those Flashman books are more than just fantastically fun and entertaining. You also learn TONS of history you never knew... plus stuff that never happened, like Flashy as the sole white survivor of Custer's Last Stand, or accidental cause of the Charge of the Light Brigade, or as inspiration for several Mark Twain stories...

And now onward


Russell Osterlund said...

FWIW, my wife and I voted in the primary today. The weather was gloomy, but there were no problems with parking, crowds, and other potential excuses. Now, onward to November!

Russell Osterlund said...

FWIW, my wife and I voted in the primary today. The weather was gloomy, but there were no problems with parking, crowds, and other potential excuses. Now, onward to November!

Zepp Jamieson said...

I'm still laughing. Trump, running unopposed, managed to lose the election in Dixville Notch. He lost to Mike Bloomberg, a write-in, by one vote to none. Bloomberg also got a Democratic vote, giving him 2 in all, and 40% of the votes cast. I imagine there were quite a few f bombs in the Lincoln bedroom this morning!