Saturday, March 20, 2021

Technological marvels & advances

Okay, the last 4 months were the busiest in my professional life, completing twelve book projects all with January deadlines. Scan to bottom to see them laid out. From sober nonfiction to sci fi comedy to several SF adventures for young people and fresh tactics for politics!

Only now... science and technology news!

First, many of you have heard or seen me talk about a looming Age of Amateurs You can help scientists understand our planet: Citizen science allows laymen to contribute to groundbreaking investigations, even without traveling.

See a very wise-guy ruminate about the “Precautionary Principle” and its major flaw -- a tendency to take “better-safe-than-sorry” way too far. (We saw this with covid, in the slowness of vaccine roll-out, when expanding the size of the phase three trials 10-fold would certainly have been justified.) Kevin Kelly (author of The Inevitable: 12 Technologic Forces that Will Shape Our Future) recommends instead a “Proactionary Principle,” that we should err instead on the side of progress and willingness to assess consequences more fluidly, while letting innovators generally at least try. A notion that I generally support, but that I maintain will only work under conditions of general transparency, allowing light and reciprocal criticism to expose potential errors (and errors in the criticism!) in real time. 


Indeed, that is why I support the Precautionary Principle in some cases... like shouting yoohoo “METI messages” into the cosmos. We have very little knowledge (or ‘light”) about the galactic situation re the Fermi Paradox. We are learning facts with incredible speed, but there simply isn’t any way to scale the potentially lethal consequences under any kind of illuminating criticism. There are cases when it’s ‘better safe than sorry.’


== Technology Milestones & Updates ==


This reported improvement to 30%+ efficiency of membrane desalinization purification of water could be another of those scientific wonders that might help prevent calamities in a drying world. 


MIT economists have  argued that the United States taxes machinery and equipment too little compared to labor, thereby encouraging excessive automation that eliminates jobs without making the economy more productive. ITIF President Rob Atkinson has argued in response that automation doesn’t lead to joblessness and that increasing taxes on automation equipment, including artificial intelligence, would hurt U.S. competitiveness and reduce real wage growth. Attend a discussion. 


Ryan Abbott’s new book The Reasonable Robot: Artificial Intelligence and the Law argues that, as a general principle, the law should not discriminate between AI and human behavior, and discusses how this principle should shape tax, tort, intellectual property, and criminal law. I have some disagreements… but interesting arguments.

== More tech! ==

Inertial Confinement Fusion… using 192 intersecting laser beams… has long been as much of a chimera as a useful tokomak. But finally some reports suggest they might be on the verge of “burning plasma.”


The huge Italian neutrino observatory has become sensitive enough to confirm that the sun’s core uses the “C-N-O” cycle to do about 1% of its fusion, with the rest accomplished by the simpler “proton-proton” reaction.


An optical circuit has performed a quantum computation called “Gaussian boson sampling” (GBS) 100 trillion times faster than a supercomputer could, according to researchers in China. Boson sampling is a way of computing the output of a linear optical circuit that has multiple inputs and multiple outputs. As bosons, photons obey Bose-Einstein statistics meaning they clump together without separate identity and follow group dynamics, as in a laser. Predicting the path of such aggregates could be very useful. But I have to wonder about potential biological implications, if – as predicted by Roger Penrose & allies – there are quantum elements inside living cells, like neurons. 


A Beijing institute has come up with a new family of ceramics that wrap themselves in a buffer layer of insulating air, which protects against the sudden temperature changes, making them suitable to replace most metal in engines.


United Airlines is investing in VTOL startup Archer and has placed a $1 billion order for 200 electric VTOL aircraft. Expect those downtown helipad ports soon, that we were promised in ‘the future’! (How ironic that LA just recently ended its longstanding zoning requirement that tall buildings have helipads!  Kind of like Sears ending its mail order business in 1992, of all years!)


== What's happening in biology! ==


DARPA’s RadioBio program, announced today, seeks to establish whether purposeful electromagnetic wave signaling between biological cells exists—and if so, to determine what information is being transferred. “There are many complex interactions within and between cells, so determining if electromagnetic waves, which could be low or high frequencies, somehow play a role in transmitting and receiving meaningful signals through what might be an ion-rich, aqueous solution is a significant challenge.” Evoking further wonder is whether this might correlate with the purported “quantum-molecular-computational” effects that (as I alluded separately above) some, like recent Nobelist Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have claimed might be going on along tiny structures inside cells, especially neurons, which would vastly expand the amount of ‘computing’ actually going on within us.


Potentially great news... maybe. Mouse analogues have proved unreliable for any disease or effect of aging, for reasons I lay down elsewhere. Still this would be cool, and reminiscent of Vernor Vinge’s RAINBOWS END: “A team of neuroscientists has identified a potential means to address the loss of cognitive function due to Alzheimer’s disease by targeting protein synthesis in mice.”...and “... jump-starting protein synthesis in the brain can revive lost cognitive functions.” (Please contact me, if you are involved in this work.)


Scientists studying the bio-mineral body armor of leaf-cutter ants have found the coating is made up of a thin layer of rhombohedral magnesium calcite crystals around 3-5 microns in size.


African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. It’s not for nutrition. Instead, they will chew chunks of the plants and spit them back out into their fur, anointing themselves with a form of chemical armor that most likely protects them from predators like hyenas and wild dogs. The ritual transforms the rats into the world’s only known toxic rodents, and ranks them among the few mammals that borrow poisons from plants.


Proteins are the building blocks of life, responsible for most of what happens inside cells. How a protein works and what it does is determined by its 3D shape — ‘structure is function’ is an axiom of molecular biology. Proteins tend to adopt their shape without help, guided only by the laws of physics. Now a Deep Mind program has made a huge advance in predicting protein folded shapes from just their genetic sequence. AlphaFold’s structures predictions were indistinguishable from those determined using ‘gold standard’ experimental methods such as X-ray crystallography. 


Researchers have used slime molds – amoeba communities that clump in filaments and clusters – to mimic resource patterns like metropolitan subway systems, and now possibly vast filamentary structures linking both galaxies and dark matter clumps in the cosmos.


== TWELVE books? Are you kidding, Brin? ==


Okay then, see this jpeg for all the projects that came due (successfully) last month. In fact, by liberal interpretation, the count is SIXTEEN!


...including my sci fi comedy, my 4th nonfiction book Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction & Hollywood, two series for young adults... and revised/updated re-issues of The Postman, The Practice Effect and five Uplift novels, all with new introductions and covers. Link to most of them here!


Hot off the presses is VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.









114 comments:

scidata said...

Another thought on WJCC fits here. The emphasis is usually on the benefit to Johnny, or to the citizen scientist in the larger sense. Glad to see a discussion of the wider process (eg the Proactionary Principle) and the benefits to science of a less formal, more ad hoc approach.

Here's a made-up example using something I recently read on the Oumuamua object. A wider exposure to coding, and the commensurate increased adoption of computational thinking, is a good thing, at least as good as Martha's muffins. Those from Toronto will catch the double entendre.

The main issues needed to be explained with Oumuamua are its composition, shape, size, luminosity, colour spectrum, trajectory, and of course origin. From Earth, only its luminosity and trajectory could be accurately measured. The theories that could explain all these characteristics were/are abundant and varied. The problem is that each must be tested against observation & established physical theory, and we only have a few thousand scientists working on it, and each one of those has a life to live, and speculative astronomy is not a well-paying field. Some poor souls even had to stoop to wild green men theories in the popular press.

There are a growing number of publicly available AI, ML, and distributed computing resources. All that's needed to harness them is a basic (BASIC?) level of computational skill. Since the 1950s, the focus has been on enabling computers to interpret human thought. Forth is one language that puts equal focus on enabling humans to comprehend how digital computers work, but the goal is the same: better human-computer interface. Enough about Forth :)

What about Nitrogen ice?
A collision in a young, frantic, extra-solar system chipped off a chunk of this reddish stuff and flung it out into interstellar space. The system didn't even need to be more exotic than ours (Pluto is a bit pink). Origin and colour spectrum explained. Occasional heating events over the course of its journey (most notably our Sun) cause off-gasing of Nitrogen, which doesn't leave much of a cometary tail but does provide a wee bit of thrust. Non-ballistic trajectory and suspicious 'smoothness' explained. Ice is shiny. Luminosity and inaccurate guesses about size and shape explained.

These possibilites/suggestions could be easily coded by a 1980s-level undergraduate. Alas, we've lost that skill and now must rely on PhDs, MBAs, CGAs, and pricey SOBs to do this work. S-l-o-w. Better to let global computers (even modest ones like QuiteBASIC) do the work. Better to let the millions of amateurs at least have a go at it. Of course, the results would have to be checked by authors and later reviewed by qualified peers. The unrepeatability of data/coding in many papers is a whole other topic, and I get paid even less than the little green men theorists, so it's back to my soldering station.

Calculemus!

David Brin said...

scidata well said.

Smurphs said...

Hey, Doc, I'm glad the big push is over, I hope get a little down time now.

Do you know if/when these new additions will be available for the Kindle? It doesn't seem that any of the Uplift books are in Kindle yet. (Except for Sundiver, which I purchased when you re-released it last year.)

David Brin said...

Smurphs almost everything is kindled....

see

http://www.davidbrin.com/books.html

Alfred Differ said...

FMK,

If there is a fear that Jim’s scenario could conceivably become a reality, then the oligarchs might come to the negotiating table and accept some variation of David’s as a compromise.

Well… There is a problem when the rich become too complacent, but I'm not a big fan of using fear to prevent their bad behavior. Sunshine tends to work better because non-sociopaths will self-censor their actions to avoid scrutiny.

The problem with fear in the markets is participants shift to a negative-sum game. They start hedging seriously and buying security. Better a smaller gain to protect against a moderate to large loss. It's like buying Put contracts in an Options market. The sellers of security charge handsomely, but also know how to hedge.

There should be SOME fear of consequences, but not so much as to cause large cashflows to people who offer security. We are better off relying on sunlight to make cockroaches hide than on selling people insect traps.

In a nutshell, I think Paul451 nails it.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

Alas, we've lost that skill and now must rely on PhDs, MBAs, CGAs, and pricey SOBs to do this work.

Ya know… I'm not so sure that is true. When I poke around on GitHub I see not just the tools we need to run coding projects big and small, I see an awful lot of people learning stuff. It's not the way our host would like to see, but they are doing it anyway.

I suspect there are actually MORE people exposed to coding an algorithmic thinking now compared to when I was a kid in HS. It's the internet. The folks at Sun were mostly right. The network is the computer. I'd add that we are components just as much as our computing devices, but I doubt YOU would have to be told that. 8)

David Brin said...

Slfred, my proposal has little to do with the top layers of the pyramid of programmers, except to increase vastly the bottom layer feedstock of those who have at least been exposed to the notions, like it takes algorithms to move pixels.

Tony Fisk said...

Some birds are also known to do the crested rat trick eg the hooded pitohui of New Guinea, which stores the toxin from beetles in its plumage.

Alfred Differ said...

David,

I understand. What I'm noticing is that the feed you want to have happen is being worked out anyway increasing the number of exposed students. It's not anywhere near the scale you propose, but it isn't tiny either. Most importantly, it is growing rather than diminishing.

I doubt you have the time to poke around on GitHub looking at the projects being supported there. Most are small things that go stale quickly. Activity probably follows a classic power law curve, but I haven't spent enough time to check that notion. I HAVE spent enough time to realize there are an awful lot of people in the world now who have at least basic skills with these modern tools. Way, way more than what caused the initial free/liberate software boom.

While you would have us stomp it, there is already a lot of pressure on the toothpaste tube. Scidata may feel it is going slowly and only non-amateurs are involved, but my perspective says this is all quickening due to hard-to-notice amateurs.


______
Tiny anecdote in support of this. Just yesterday I was poking about on Twitter and came across a small account where the person asked if it was worth learning GitHub. They said they were small and unlikely to draw interest from collaborators, but loved what they were doing and posted a link to it. Not many responded (it IS a small account), but everyone took a side saying it was worth it. Three different valid explanations for value emerged in the first six responses. The original poster was convinced and said so.

I strongly suspect these small things are happening all around us, but go mostly unnoticed because we can't devote attention to the volume of data required to detect it. I suspect amateurs are acquiring coding skills in large numbers in spite of us because I did NOT have to hunt to find that particular small account. All I had to do was read a few things from outside my usual bubble. From what I've seen on GitHub, my lucky accident wasn't a fluke.

______
This doesn't detract from your proposal.
I think it supports you.

More!

Daniel Duffy said...

Concerning the "precautionary principle" I have just one word:

Thalidomide

That tragedy is why we have the precautionary principle in the first place.

And it's still a good argument in its favor.

Daniel Duffy said...

Biologically we have a serious problem nobody is talking about: we aren't the men we used to be.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/18/toxic-chemicals-health-humanity-erin-brokovich

Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity

The end of humankind? It may be coming sooner than we think, thanks to hormone-disrupting chemicals that are decimating fertility at an alarming

rate around the globe. A new book called Countdown, by Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, finds that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973. Following the trajectory we are on, Swan’s research suggests sperm counts could reach zero by 2045. Zero. Let that sink in. That would mean no babies. No reproduction. No more humans. Forgive me for asking: why isn’t the UN calling an emergency meeting on this right now?

The chemicals to blame for this crisis are found in everything from plastic containers and food wrapping, to waterproof clothes and fragrances in cleaning products, to soaps and shampoos, to electronics and carpeting. Some of them, called PFAS, are known as “forever chemicals”, because they don’t breakdown in the environment or the human body. They just accumulate and accumulate – doing more and more damage, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Now, it seems, humanity is reaching a breaking point.

Swan’s book is staggering in its findings. “In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” Swan writes. In addition to that, Swan finds that, on average, a man today will have half of the sperm his grandfather had. “The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” writes Swan, adding: “It’s a global existential crisis.” That’s not hyperbole. That’s just science.

As if this wasn’t terrifying enough, Swan’s research finds that these chemicals aren’t just dramatically reducing semen quality, they are also shrinking penis size and volume of the testes. This is nothing short of a full-scale emergency for humanity.

(You would think that smaller penises alone would be enough to sound the alarms)

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: GitHub ... I see an awful lot of people learning stuff.

You are correct, sir. There's a reason why Linus Torvalds built a versioning system for 'gits'. There's a reason why Breakthrough and SETI@home focus on Green Bank. "Rocket Boys" (aka "October Sky") could only happen in WV. Only Nixon could go to China. One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means (Alan Perlis).

"I had the privilege of joining Homer Hickam Official Page today for the virtual Rocket Boys Festival."
- Senator Joe Manchin, Oct 2020

Prodigious!

Jon S. said...

More exposure to software languages, or even to the principles underlying programming, would not necessarily help with questions like 'Oumuamua.

I was a professional software engineer for years. Unfortunately, my work was in the area of modifiable ballistic trajectories, and impact timing (Force Timing and Deconfliction, an important concept in planning nuclear war - but I'm feeling much better now, thank you). All that knowledge would have been of absolutely no use in analysis of potential interstellar objects - I wouldn't have knows what questions to ask, much less how to phrase them in terms of software.

Knowing a technique that can be used alongside certain knowledge doesn't itself give you the knowledge, any more than a working grasp of volatile chemistry makes you an expert mechanic with internal-combustion engines (or vice versa).

locumranch said...


According to the Guardian review of Dr. Shanna Swan's book 'Countdown' cited by Danial Duffy above, the human race is most certainly doomed, just not in the way suggested by Dr. Swan.

Dr. Swan is an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York who (1) finds that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973, (2) sounds the alarm on the inadvertent introduction of certain 'endocrine disruptor' chemicals in our environment, and (3) suggests that human sperm counts could reach zero by 2045, rendering humanity extinct, if current trends continue.

The problem is that Dr. Swan is an individual of only middling intelligence -- what Nassim Taleb refers to "Intellectual-Yet-Idiot" -- who mistakenly assigns false significance to (1) a 60% drop in sperm count, (2) the inadvertent introduction of endocrine disruptors into our environment and (3) if current trends continue.

To whit:

(1) a 60% drop in sperm count is not necessarily significant when tight underwear and hot water immersion has been shown to cause a 25% and 90% drop in male sperm counts respectively;

(2) the inadvertent introduction of endocrine disruptors into our environment is deliberate, not inadvertent & currently much celebrated as a social good as in the case of water fluoridation; and

(3) current trends can never continue as expected when their presumed date of onset predates either the assumed causative factor or the acquisition of baseline data.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18681235/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017333/

https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/index.html


May God protect us from the alarmist idiocy of the "if current trends continue" projective mindset which continues to make nonsense out of sperm counts, covid, environmental cycles and climate change.

Kudos to Dr. Brin, btw, for the successful completion of more than 12 literary projects last month, presaging a veritable cornucopia of published works next month, with the expectation of numerical doubling for every month thereafter, if current trends continue.


Best

David Brin said...

Thanks for kind words, locumranch. Still:
"the inadvertent introduction of endocrine disruptors into our environment is deliberate, not inadvertent & currently much celebrated as a social good as in the case of water fluoridation;"

Um... which is it? inadvertent or celebrated? And citations for both or either?

I agree that the sperm count thing won't lead to extinction... but could lead to some billionaire trying to ensure that just a few males (including him) get all the posterity....

duncan cairncross said...

Re the sperm count thing

If you need one does it matter if there are 100,000 or just 50,000??

Robert said...

If you need one does it matter if there are 100,000 or just 50,000??

Ask someone who's trying to have a family. It matters.

FMK said...

Hi Alfred,

Isn't the behaviour modification that results from sunshine driven by a fear of consequences (if caught)?

I'm any case, I've read that the spectre of communism lead to various concessions for workers' rights and the strengthening of the welfare state during the cold War. Even the New Deal was defended as a way of preventing a possible communist revolution in the future. Jim's proposal could be such a spectre.

I'm happy to be contradicted on this, but my impression is that the political and socioeconomic agreements that currently obtain in Liberal democracies are the result of pragmatic compromises reached between competing (non-revolutionary) ideologies.

The problem is that if our political system has been suborned by the super rich (by way of their obscene wealth), then passing legislation that may threaten that same wealth becomes exceedingly difficult.

In such a case, it is the fear of revolution that  brings otherwise reluctant elites to the negotiating table.

Robert said...

I've read that the spectre of communism lead to various concessions for workers' rights and the strengthening of the welfare state during the cold War.

That was the explicitly-stated reason for many of them.

Might be just a coincidence that once the Cold War was won and communism no longer seemed a threat that the western powers began chipping away at workers rights.

David Brin said...

Duncan. It matters. Many are "helpers." And why else MAKE so many?

I argue elsewhere that Marx had his greatest effects not in the east, where he bacame guru of another state religion justifying feudalism... but in the West where his SCI-FI SCENARIO scared the oligarchs into co-opting the working class into the bourgeoisie.

Paul451 said...

(From the last...)

FMK,
""Handing Sunni/Wahabi Afghanistan to Shia Iran would exacerbate sectarian tensions"

A few people have made that claim. It's easily refuted in that the Taliban have been in talks with Iran about them providing military assistance. Their intent, presumably, is to try to play Iran off against the US. Having the US step back and saying, "Nope, not playing," is part of what makes it a good move, IMO.

duncan cairncross said...

Many are "helpers." And why else MAKE so many?

Not convinced evolution works like that!

There are lots because they are "cheap" - and many because you may be competing with other males

Incidentally thanks for recommending the Throwing Madonna - very interesting book - must look up some of his later ones

I agree 100% about Marx - his diagnosis was spot on and his "prediction" led to some very smart people saying "we can't have THAT" - and preventing it
Unfortunately Reagan and Thatcher reversed those "fixes"

Daniel Duffy said...

"I agree that the sperm count thing won't lead to extinction... but could lead to some billionaire trying to ensure that just a few males (including him) get all the posterity..."

You've just described "The Handmaids Tale"

Daniel Duffy said...

(1) a 60% drop in sperm count is not necessarily significant when tight underwear and hot water immersion has been shown to cause a 25% and 90% drop in male sperm counts respectively;

As these effects are temporary and do not cause a permanent decline in sperm counts as do endocrine disruptors, I can only assume that there must be an epidemic of men wearing tighty whities while siting in hot tubs.

(2) the inadvertent introduction of endocrine disruptors into our environment is deliberate, not inadvertent & currently much celebrated as a social good as in the case of water fluoridation; and

Who celebrates the introduction of endocrine disruptors as a social good?

(3) current trends can never continue as expected when their presumed date of onset predates either the assumed causative factor or the acquisition of baseline data.

Eventually we will reach a point where there are much fewer people on the planet causing less pollution. However, endocrine disruptors like microplastics stay in the environment a long time, and even at very low levels they still cause effects via long term chronic exposure.

We haven't even started to study the effects on males of other mammalian species.

Meanwhile, declining birth rates and aging populations spell doom for capitalism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTbILK0fxDY

Peter Zeihan does a great job of describing the effect of graying populations on capital markets and consumer spending, and economic growth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9zH1dWeKE0

jim said...

The time of troubles keeps living up to its name,

It’s not just demonically enthralled greed heads who are ready willing and able to murder you if you stand between them and their greed, we can only hope that our covid 19 vaccination program will not duplicate the disaster that occurred with the vaccination for Marek’s disease in chickens. (it made the disease far worse)
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/tthis-chicken-vaccine-makes-virus-dangerous

And economic growth has become a complete and total ponzi scheme in which we use more than 4 dollars worth of debt to “grow” the economy by 1 dollar. We are racking up huge levels of debt that can NEVER be repayed. (don’t be sure that your pension will actually be there in 10 years)

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

"I agree that the sperm count thing won't lead to extinction... but could lead to some billionaire trying to ensure that just a few males (including him) get all the posterity..."

You've just described "The Handmaids Tale"


Really?

I only read it once, but I don't remember any limits on which males could reproduce. The problem was female infertility and the commoditization of those women who remained fertile.

David Brin said...

So plastic pollution is a getler, less violent version of "The Screwfly Solution"?

David Brin said...

Handmaid's tale, despitge the title, had no analogues across all of human history. Yes, top males would rationalize grabbing harems.... and some harem's e.g. turkish, were malevolently insane, while Genghiz Khan's was apparently so productive because it was rationally beneficent to the mothers. But there's no historical analogue to Atwood's sp[ectacular devotion to joylessness and avoidance of pleasure.

Treebeard said...

Daniel Duffy, testosterone levels are also dropping steadily. If this is an intentional program (which I doubt), there’s an obvious explanation: modern elites tend to be anti-natalists and depopulationists, promoting anything that discourages traditional families and more children. They also need a feminized, domesticated population that will do as they’re told, sit at desks all day maintaining the technocracy without causing a lot of problems. Declining testosterone and sperm counts fit well with those requirements. As do the non-traditional gender agendas and other cultural crusades we’re seeing. Masculinity is increasingly just incompatible with this (increasingly pathological) civilization. Of course, nature will ultimately correct us when we get too far removed from her, and those who fully embrace this program will simply stop existing. I’m sure the late Roman elites had some bizarre ideas along these lines too, and where are they now?

jim said...

So David
I have a question for you.
When is it allowable to threaten violence against another blog commenter on Contrary Brin?
(like how Alfred Differ did in the last comment section)

David Brin said...

WHat's hilarious about Treebeard's scenario is that the exact opposite... reversing every single aspect... would make just as good a paranoid sci fi scenario... elites conspiring to keep labor costs low by INCREASING the poor labor pool. His scenario is absurd because those 'desks-all-day' jobs are vanishing. And where does the surge of "age of amateurs' hobbies and avocations, including athletic ones, fit into his scenario?

It's like the hilarious notion that UNIVERSITIES are tools of individuality-repression when it is the scientifically literate and tained who are investigating the sperm count thing and other stuff while Treeberard's cultdoes everything it can to repressscientific curiosity and competitive investigation, while encouraging rote-incantation nuremberg rallies.

David Brin said...

Jim, har! Alfred's remark was abstract and general and in no way personal... and you KNOW that! Further it boiled down to "If you throw an insurrection to topple both bad things and important good ones, you'll only achieve those goals through violent means and I have every right to resist.

jim said...

Well David this is the threat that Alfred Differ actually made
"I wouldn't be taking up arms against my government. I'd take them up against you and your allies. You'd be the actual threat."

that seems to me to be a pretty direct threat of violence.

jim said...

That is quite the paraphrasing there David

You transformed Alfred Differ’s direct threat of violence
“. I wouldn't be taking up arms against my government. I'd take them up against you and your allies. You'd be the actual threat.”

Into this????
“If you throw an insurrection to topple both bad things and important good ones, you'll only achieve those goals through violent means and I have every right to resist.’


WOW

I proposed limits on wealth and income and in response Alfred Differ uses your blog to tell me he will murder me if i try. He even justifies his potential murder by saying "he is saving our civilization from monsters".


David Brin said...

Jim, I deem your interpretation of that abstraction as a personal threat at you to be utterly bizarre and a scramble (desperate) to catch me in a hypocrisy. (How's THAT for partaphrasing?). And I deem the attempt to be laughable. Seriously, you need help.

duncan cairncross said...

Jim
As a citizen I would "take up arms" against your racist insurrection - which is exactly what your "Second Amendment" was meant to ensure!

It was intended to provide a militia in case the Aristos or other enemies rose against the elected government

Just as citizens are assisting the FBI in identifying the armed insurrectionists from 6th of January

Larry Hart said...

jim:

The time of troubles keeps living up to its name,


What I gather is that you (personally) are of the type to always see the sky about to fall, and therefore are always angry at the world for managing to muddle through without stopping all else to address your pet Thing That Nothing Else Matters If We Don't Solve!

I'm in my sixties, and for at least forty years, there have been reasons I could expect Life As I Know It (or sometimes, life full stop) was about to end any minute now. And yet it keeps not happening.


"I wouldn't be taking up arms against my government. I'd take them up against you and your allies. You'd be the actual threat."

that seems to me to be a pretty direct threat of violence.


Oh, come on!

His "threat" was wholly conditional, at the level of "If you come at me with a knife, I'll pull my gun." Which is a whole different thing from "If I see you on the street, I'll pull my gun."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Yes, top males would rationalize grabbing harems....


Did I read a different book from everyone else? I remember infertile wives having stand ins to get pregnant and deliver babies on their (the wives') behalf. I don't remember harems, though, or anything to suggest that specific men had a monopoly on reproduction.


But there's no historical analogue to Atwood's sp[ectacular devotion to joylessness and avoidance of pleasure.


I figured she was extrapolating from 1980s right-wing Christianity. Think John Ashcroft, or Jeff Sessions actually making the rules.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

WHat's hilarious about Treebeard's scenario is that the exact opposite...


For some reason, locumranch stopped channeling Dave Sim, so I guess nature abhorred the vacuum enough to cause Treebeard to fill it. Sorry, but I just got through re-reading 300 issues about "feminized society", and I have no need to be inundated with that crap here too.

scidata said...

Artemis would be very impressive -- 50 years ago. Maybe they could even use a 6502 as the navigational computer. Sorry for the sarcasm, I have great respect for the people at NASA. But wow. Just wow. Even they must cringe occasionally.

David Brin said...

Bridenstine was the only Trump official I respected. Hoped Biden would keep him, as a gesture. Ex-Sen. Nelson knows a lot and MIGHT administer well. But his bias is huge toward manned spaceflight and hence will support Artemis and hence was the wrong guy.

David Brin said...

Call to the community! Can you guys read this series?

http://web.archive.org/web/20101031100957/http://reformthelp.org/reformthelp/marketing/positioning/models.php

or via short URL

3D+other models of politics http://www.tinyurl.com/polimodels

Would anyone care to copy and host a version? because this web archive will likely go away.

Alfred Differ said...

FMK,

Isn't the behaviour modification that results from sunshine driven by a fear of consequences (if caught)?

Fair enough. I'm caught being too ambiguous. 8)

I tend to distinguish between fear of being caught and fear of the consequences of being caught. I also distinguish criminal consequences from civil ones.

Read David's Transparent Society book and you'll run across a thought experiment involving consequences one faces from over-hearing a conversation at a nearby dining table in an open restaurant. (I'm pretty sure the story is in there near a chapter teaching us the distinction between knowing something and acting on that knowledge.) A few things can happen.

1. We can overhear a conversation intentionally or accidentally.
2. We can give the appearance of intending to overhear or not.
3. We can act upon what we hear or not.

None of those are likely to carry criminal consequences until we act in very specific ways.

Some of those are likely to carry social consequences across a broad number of people who witness (or think they do) intent.

Some of those will carry very specific personal consequences if certain people witness or hear of intent. (Your husband was listening too closely to the lady in the slinky dress. That kinda stuff.)

If you want to keep billionaires in line ethically, some kinds of consequences aren't going to work well. Those of us with smaller wealth reserves are more impacted by disruptions in our friendship networks. They aren't immune, but some of us are actually vulnerable.

____
Where sunshine comes into the picture is its potential to amplify consequences good and bad. The good part is just as important as the bad. Sift back through our host's comments and you'll see him refer to 'good billionaires'. They exist, but without sunshine, who would ever know?

Back to the restaurant scene now. A nosy, creepy billionaire can annoy a few people and face few consequences if they have a good PR team on staff. Sunshine on creepy behavior, though, can be seen by many more. That same billionaire will need a decent legal team threatening people who post recordings and observations. That can get expensive and potentially ineffective. One of those lawyers is likely to mention it is cheaper to avoid the behaviors that go viral, hmm? A bad billionaire would probably just shift where he dines, though, and solve the problem for us. Creepy behavior isolated without need for criminal consequences. From fear? Probably not… or not much.

But a good billionaire might overhear an opportunity, seem creepy at first, and then act in a way that causes many of us to forgive. That should be possible AND encouraged, but it won't work without sunshine.

Alfred Differ said...

jim,

I'd take them up against you and your allies.

I usually avoid statements like that over concerns that some DO take it the way you have. Watch me long enough and you'll see me being VERY particular in my use of second person pronouns. 'You' is very easy to misinterpret. Is it direct or indirect? When I'm extra careful, you'll see me shift to 'one' instead of 'you'.

I won't weasel here, though. I was using it in a very direct sense, but not meaning to imply impending violence. What I was implying was the potential for violence. IF (a really, really huge IF) things came to that state, I WOULD take up arms. There is no implied threat, though, because I don't believe that state will occur AND there are many exit ramps should we ever find ourselves on that road.

Normally, I'll go out of my way to distinguish between someone being stupid or simply saying something that sounds stupid, but casual readers might jump further than my words and think I'm throwing bombs in their direction. I rarely am. However, I know HOW to throw those bombs and promise I shall make it clear when I do. No reading between the lines will be necessary.

[… and yes. David paraphrased me well. Doing that requires more than a literal reading, though. He's paid attention to other things I've said in other comments.]

__________
Here are some example responses to more words of yours.

1. economic growth has become a complete and total ponzi scheme

No. I can see how many zero-sum thinkers might think so, but it is an idea born of ignorance.

2. we use more than 4 dollars worth of debt to “grow” the economy by 1 dollar

Yah. It's called leverage. We monetize things and then lend out far more than the value of the thing. How much more depends on the creditworthiness of borrowers IF lenders hire decent skill on their teams.

What? You think the ratio has to go the other way? It should be larger than 1 dollar of growth per dollar of debt? Pfft. I don't think you know what a dollar actually is.

3. don’t be sure that your pension will actually be there in 10 years

Now THAT is quite possibly true.
Of pensions.
Maybe not with IRA's, but it could be.

I probably don't agree with your reasoning that led here, but this certainly IS a possibility in many parts of the world.


Do any of these feel like personal attacks? They aren't. I'm definitely attacking your ideas, though. You might very well be a smart guy, but your ideas don't show it. This is especially true of the notion of limiting wealth and income. You and your allies would have to use violence to bring that about. I'm sure of it.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

"If I see you on the street, I'll pull my gun."

Ha! I'd more likely buy him a beer so he's too drunk to go vote on whatever lunacy his faction was pushing.
Maybe I could talk physics & math until he passed out to get the same result.

Guns are mostly 'manhood' enhancements. Like those little blue pills.
Largely unnecessary except for a few scenarios where there are no other realistic options.


scidata,

Torvalds is a civilization-level hero as far as I'm concerned. He's not alone in that field by any means, but DAMN has he changed the world for the better.

Tony Fisk said...

Stored the first two of four. The rest seem to have been wiped before archiving.

Tony Fisk said...

... btw why do you think wayback is going away?

Robert said...

I don't remember harems, though, or anything to suggest that specific men had a monopoly on reproduction.

The Commanders did seem to monopolize women. Fred's household had a wife, handmaiden, and several servants. Offred mentioned that two of the guards were caught making out, and mentioned that it was hard to be a guard around women but having none of your own — there was a line implying that being granted a wife was a reward for faithful/meritorious service.

In the sequel there was that Commander who kept running through young wives — poisoning them when he got tired of them. And a fair number of girls seemed to run away to become Aunts.

In general the impression I got was that there was a shortage of women in Gilead, the Commanders controlled who got them, and they took more than their share.

Robert said...

David, why not repost the articles as blog posts here? Boost visibility and preserve them at the same time. Or post them on your own site, which gives you control.

locumranch said...


Although first attributed to ignorance, I now attribute the rising tide of global chicken little-ism to mental illness; hence my relative silence.

There is zero evidence that the decline in male sperm counts is either permanent or irreversible; fluorine is one such endocrine disruptor and, yes, we do add it to our water supply (happily; proudly) to promote dental health; and there are many non-human animal studies to that effect.

Numerous CDC (NIH) studies document the inadvertent/proscribed effects of fluorine & fluoridation as spermicidal endocrine disruptors (1), while the CDC simultaneously celebrates the public health & dental benefits of '75 years of water fluoridation'(2).

Humanity is indeed mad, in a self-defeating way, as exemplified by the way we choose to fight terrorism by funding terrorism(3), the way we try to prohibit racism by making every social decision contingent upon race(4) and the way we seek to preempt gun violence by rendering the potential victim defenceless(5).

And, now, if you will excuse me, but I'm off to the ski slopes for some End-of-the-World fun, as I've been warned that 'Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past' (March 20,2000) by Dr. David Viner of the prestigious Climatic Research Unit (6).


Best
______
(1) Adverse effects of fluoride
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18681235/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017333/

(2) Celebrate 75 years of fluoridation
https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/index.html

(3) FBI informant in charge of Whitmer kidnapping plot
https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-government/fbi-informant-facebook-led-me-infiltrate-plot-kidnap-gretchen-whitmer

(4) California tries to make racism legal
https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_16,_Repeal_Proposition_209_Affirmative_Action_Amendment_(2020)

(5) More shootings in gun free zones https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-mass-shooters-russia-public-shootings-thousand-oaks-mercy-hospital-chicago-1121-story.html

(6) Climate Change hype
https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/steve-connor-don-t-believe-the-hype-over-climate-headlines-2180195.html

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

In general the impression I got was that there was a shortage of women in Gilead, the Commanders controlled who got them, and they took more than their share.


Ok, I guess I can see that, although my impression while reading the book was that fertile women were the "limiting reagent", as it were. If only a few men had access to them, it wasn't because others were denied, but because the supply of women was limited.

Which might amount to the same thing as far as "only a few males get to reproduce", but not what I think of when I hear "harems". To me, harems are when a small number of men monopolize a large number of women.

Larry Hart said...

Robert (redux) :

Fred's household had a wife, handmaiden, and several servants.


Well, the wife was infertile, which was the whole point of the handmaidens. Meaning that the wife and handmaiden did not represent multiple avenues for a single male to reproduce. I don't remember details of female guards to comment on whether they constituted a harem of any sort.


Offred mentioned that two of the guards were caught making out, and mentioned that it was hard to be a guard around women but having none of your own


So again, that speaks to the "only a few men get reproductive privileges", but also again, not so much because they've monopolized the women, but because the fertile women are scarce to begin with.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: Torvalds is a civilization-level hero

Larry Wall (Perl, TMTOWTDI)
John Kemeny (BASIC, tied Los Alamos crew to wider scientific literacy)
that pulls in Einstein, von Neumann, and most especially Hans Bethe
Chuck Moore (Forth, radio astronomy as a lifestyle, tales from the Coal Seam)
Isaac Asimov (Tandy, personal computers, the dream of individual learning via internet)
David Brin (who got almost everything right about AI, WJCC)
and
Ada Lovelace, who first envisioned it all (with tip of the hat to Mary Shelley too)

and a host of others you haven't heard of (but I knew personally)

Robert said...

Larry, there were definitely men in the story who had no access to women, not just no access to fertile women. The colour-coded clothing of Commander's households meant that several women were assigned to one man. There were multi-coloured women who filled all the roles in lower-class households (shopped, cleaned, cooked, had kids) but Commanders were portrayed as having single-purpose women. Were the Martha's married to other men? Can't remember, honestly, and not really inclined to reread the novels again right now.

The Guards were shown as being close to celibate (at risk of nasty consequences). Which left extra women for the Commanders…

Treebeard said...

Locum, you can add “expand the empire by losing wars” to that list. And “strengthen world order by destabilizing other nations and spreading chaos”. And “protect your hegemonic global system by sanctioning everyone until they build a new system that no longer needs you” (as China, Russia, etc. are now doing in Eurasia). And “advance diplomacy by haranguing and insulting other statesmen” (as America’s glorious leaders did recently vis-a-vis China and Russia). And “defeat rival states by uniting them against you” (again China, Russia, and others). And “strengthen the economy by printing trillions of dollars”. And “achieve gender equality by declaring gender a matter of identity so men can declare themselves women and defeat real women in sports”. And so many more.

One of the hallmarks of late imperial regimes is rule by delusional madmen. Hubris (which we all grew up with and remember fondly—the Conquest of Space, history ending in the early 1990s, etc.) gives way to ate (madness, which we’re now clearly seeing all around us at every level of society), which finally gives way to nemesis (the foe who gives the arrogant crazies a reality check and teaches them humility), which we see taking shape on the near horizon.

I think you have the right idea locum: enjoy this late phase of the empire while you still can, because I suspect things are going to be getting more real and less comfortable for everyone soon. (And buy bitcoin if you haven’t already; it’s a good hedge against the dollar empire collapse.)

Acacia H. said...

So, Dr. Brin, it seems that Dark Matter may in fact be illusionary. And the best way to describe it is to bring up an old NASA mission that failed to land on Mars... because one group was using metric and another was using imperial measurements. The failure to account for the system used by most scientists resulted in the Mars probe smashing into Mars instead of entering orbit.

It seems that most models for galactic spin uses Newtonian physics, rather than General Relativity. A plasma physicist took a poke at it and found that when using the proper physics, galactic spin aligns nicely without needing a magical material that we cannot see.

One problem I've long had about Dark Matter and Dark Energy is this need to use magical thinking to solve a problem. What was needed instead was for someone to look at the tools being used in the models and determine those models failed on a large scale... while the proper models negate the need for magical thinking.

Acacia H.

David Brin said...

Robert the list of 'fantastic elements" in a sci fi novel is supposed to be limited, both for plausibility and to make the story seem a plausible thought experiment. Atwood's "Tale" jumbles together at least a dozen implausibles.

The most plausible was an infertility plague and resulting change invaluation of fertile women. We're seeing a different version in Asia where boys out number girls by tens of millions. Under such conditions women MIGHT gain sway and power. Bit more often across time have been chattel-ized.

But the implausibilities rise out of all proportion with --- the spectacular cruelty of Atwood's system, which would lead 95% of US women and at least 85% of uS males to willingly die before allowing anything like it...

... the anti-sex cultism! Reproduction is an act of extreme distaste. Sure, Orwell had it, too, but there are no examples of ruling male cliques doing it on large scale across 6000 years. Yes, Atwood portrays that fraying at the edges. Still, there's no plausibility that the victorious commanders would do that.

... though anti-sex cultism explains the Marthas and aunties. Sterile women have no business having sex at all. And all the commanders would be poisoned very quickly.

... extreme right wing.... environmentalism? WTF okay.

==

There ARE a few points where one can squint and see some overlaps between Treebeard's hallucinatory howl and objective reality. A couple. If you look closely and squint. Alas, for the most part it's just ravings. Alack.

Acacia H. said...

As an aside to Treebeard. I'm a transwoman. I've been taking testosterone blockers and estradiol for a couple of years now. I'm the poster child for "feminization" and let me ask you: do I seem more "passive" and "domesticated" now that I'm growing breasts and don't have testosterone luring me into certain behavior patterns? Or am I still the outspoken and ornery person I was before I started "feminizing"?

Because trust me, and my friends and enemies can confirm this, I am as stubborn and undomesticated as a woman as ever I was when I thought I was male. Maybe you should pull your head out of 19th century assumptions and look at how women act and think in the 21st century.

Acacia H.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

And buy bitcoin if you haven’t already; it’s a good hedge against the dollar empire collapse.)


If technological society collapses, in what sense will bitcoin even exist, let alone be worth someone else's while to give you stuff in exchange for it?

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

And “achieve gender equality by declaring gender a matter of identity so men can declare themselves women and defeat real women in sports”.


...And make up shit that right-wingers tell each other is happening, even when it isn't? I'm surprised you didn't add "So teenage boys can claim to be girls so they can enter girls' bathrooms."

It is actual birth-women who have been disqualified from women's sports because they have too much testosterone to compete fairly with other women. The next man to declare himself a woman so that he can rout all comers in women's sports will be the first.


David Brin said...

Acacia, while the paper you link-to certainly is erudite and well-linked, and I get most of the points in raises, this "garvito-magnetic" terminology deeply worries me.

matthew said...

Having someone who pretends to be an environmentalist suggest bitcoin is a total laugh out loud moment. What sort of ignorant fools does the ent think we all are? Bitcoin is one of the most environmentally evil inventions of the last two decades. Today, bitcoin uses as much energy as Argentina.

And their near-constant fixation about "femitization" of males betrays much more than they intend it to, I think.
Yo, nazi-boy, the only people that worry about such things are those that are over-correcting for their own deficiencies. Methinks the plant protest too much. I'd feel sorry for you but you have already said that your choice of victim are LGBTQ folks, so nope. Asshole.

Daniel Duffy said...

Locom's still worried about commies putting fluoride in water

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr2bSL5VQgM

Acacia H. said...

You're better able to follow the math than I am, Dr. Brin. And honestly, doing away with magical materials that we can't see and doesn't interact with the universe except through gravity or space-time expansion is a good thing. If this ends up being legitimate then this means billions of dollars have been spent on a boondoggle when it could have been spent on other scientific endeavors.

Acacia H.

David Brin said...

Acacia most of the actual money spent on "dark matter" still did good science. The "waste" if any was on theoreticians! And consider that religious tithing!

David Brin said...

I forgot! My political metaphors essay DID already get transferred to my web site! Agh, sorry Tony!

My general political essay in four parts - about the insipid/lobotomizing left-right "axis"- how history betrayed competitive creativity, and what libertarianism might look like, if it ever grew up.
https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/politicalmetaphors1.html
https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/politicalmetaphors2.html
https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/politicalmetaphors3.html
https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/politicalmetaphors2.html

Tony Fisk said...

S'alright, David. I only downloaded the web pages.

Must have a look at that paper, Acacia. I've always felt that dark matter had an element of 'Rigg's Constant' to it, and that theories about it were getting well ahead of observation.

re: transgender assignment and '*isation' horrors, a popular local radio host recently identified as male. Originally English, and female, they got a gig as viola player in the Hong Kong Symphony. She decided to get herself there by cycling across Eurasia, with violin...

Treebeard said...

Acacia, good for you. Personally I’m a transtree. I’ve identified as a tree since I was a sapling. This is how trees act in the 21st century, so you’d better get used to it. We demand our rights and we’ll no longer stand around quietly while arborphobes cut us down.

Matthew is of course not worth responding too with his witless, repetitive rants. I’ll just note that this is the guy who accused 2/3+ of the classic rock power trio of myself, locum and jim of being bots, so he’s probably not a guy I’ll be taking investment or any other kind of advice from soon.

David Brin said...

He probably is incapable of parsing the difference. Butg Treebeard's latest - while standing up for a part of the zeitgeist spectrum I despise - was nevertheless sarcastically pungent and expressive and yet while caustic and wrongheaded, his assertions were not lying-loony-treasonous. I only wish HE were able to grasp the distinction.

locumranch said...


Daniel Duffy said 'Locom's still worried about commies putting fluoride in water'.

Actually, no. It was double-D Daniel Duffy who sounded the alarm about the impending low sperm testicular apocalypse and environmental endocrine disruptors.

For the record, I support water fluoridation for its dental benefits, as does the CDC, even though fluorine, fluoride & fluorosis are well-documented endocrine disruptors that inhibit mammalian spermatogenesis.

And why is that?

It's because life has never been & will never be a gluten-free paradise or pastoral ideal, but rather a complex exercise in lifestyle trade-offs & risk/benefit analysis.

I'd rather indulge in inanities like Dark Matter, oft described as existing everywhere, nowhere, unseen, invisible, omnipresent, immanent, immaterial yet massy, but most likely a proxy for God and an idol for god-botherers.


Best

Acacia H. said...

Treebeard, you're no different than the "wits" who claim "I identify as an attack helicopter" or the like.

Let's put it another way. You comment on "feminization" and suggest it will make men more pliable but I've known far too many women, cisgendered women, who are stubborn as hell and who passionately believe in things and who won't back down on those beliefs, to see "female" as something akin to "weak" or "pliable." Women are some of the strongest people around and if you don't think that's so, try squeezing a football-sized object through your ass and we'll see how strong you are.

Humanity is an adaptable species. It has evolved to exist in environments where it should not flourish and yet does. So we're not going to have a Childhood's End scenario where people stop having children because there will always be those humans who are capable of surviving, be it through estrogen resistance or some other element that will still allow humans to breed, and that ignores the technological aspects including advances in crafting artificial wombs.

In short? Humanity isn't going to be wiped out so easily.

Acacia H.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Treebeard's latest - while standing up for a part of the zeitgeist spectrum I despise - was nevertheless sarcastically pungent and expressive and yet while caustic and wrongheaded, his assertions were not lying-loony-treasonous.


Well, maybe, but he still checks the box that locum likes to, using the humorous "I identify as a tree" to give cover to the argument that "If (name minority group here) get to argue for their right to equality, then I get to argue for my right to supremacy over them, because that's my cultural identity!"

Robert said...

Robert the list of 'fantastic elements" in a sci fi novel is supposed to be limited, both for plausibility and to make the story seem a plausible thought experiment. Atwood's "Tale" jumbles together at least a dozen implausibles.

Atwood isn't writing science fiction. She has stated that, repeatedly. She comes from a different tradition and doesn't seem interested in learning.

And to be honest, a lot of 'science fiction' writers don't limit their fantastic elements, or jumble together implausibles.

matthew said...

Environmental impact of Bitcoin through the lens of buying a Tesla with it
https://amp.ft.com/content/e4e8b571-c61c-499d-ad1b-f4bfb48e65c7

David Brin said...

Robert, At wood credits science fiction with a large part of her childhood upbringing. She deliberately chose to give in to sycophants urgings to shit on a genre that was kind to her and foundational. Also "plausibility" is EXACTLY the reason given by PC suppoprters to proclaim her works are not like the "febrile imaginings of science fiction."

Having said that, let me add that HT does its job of galvanizing those already committed to the cause.

I doubt anyone not already committed - at least somewhat - was changed in their perspective.

Those who believe "yes, men would do that!" are fueled. "Those who say "I am every male I know would die to prevent that" have no place in her cosmology. Even the Good Husband waiting for Offred in Toronto is standing around waving signs instead of fighting Gilead at the front, like he should.

==

Locumranch is under one-strike warning again. For the "Double D" crap. Yeah, we bandy "you're a loon" and "crazy" around here and other brusque stuff. But those are assertions and anyway we get to draw lines here where we consensus (and host) want. And I rule that to be playground snarling-yipping that quickly leads to the sort of thing that L banned.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Having said that, let me add that HT does its job of galvanizing those already committed to the cause.


Probably so on both sides of the issue. In the way that many authoritarians take 1984 (or The Godfather) to be a how-to manual, I'm sure there are people who think The Handmaid's Tale is an idea whose time has come.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

For the "Double D" crap.


Your blog, your rules. But seriously? That stood out from the crowd?

David Brin said...

LH : Sure I have received "fan mail" from weirdos thanking me for founding Holn-ism. But I doubt even the worst incel reads the Handmaid's Tale as a prescriptive utopia. Their imagined feudal harems are likely much more like the GOR novels.

Locum's crazy assertions of supposed "fact" are often - well - crazy and house rules let us say it's so. I am much more liberal at shrugging off those. Partly because they serve as great examples of the kind of lunacy we must deal with, if civilization is to be saved. Magical chants and incantations and counter-factuals that serve these fellows as masturbatory invocations.

Nastiness, however, will not be tolerated. Because these is no beneficial reason to tolerate it. And one of the few excellent features of Blogger is its terrific spam filter system. Maybe monthly I dip in to see what it's been culling, like repeated, desperate attempts to mimic some of the user names of regular community members, and on rare ovvasions I find smomeone who got culled by mistake. That's why some earlier blog postings suddenly get orphaned appearances. But generally it's not worth the time.

Locum is warned. Sooner or later he'll likely be banned again. The longer he delays it, the shorter the ban is likely to be.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

But I doubt even the worst incel reads the Handmaid's Tale as a prescriptive utopia.


No, but the worst Puritanical types might. Not because of harems, but because they long for a social system that disdains pleasure.

* * *


Nastiness, however, will not be tolerated.


I'm guessing that "D*****-D" means something in Lower Feldan slang that I'm not aware of? :)

As far as I'm concerned, if he refrains from slandering me by asserting that I said the diametric opposite of what I said, I'll be content.

David Brin said...

LH the "double D" snark obviously referred to a braziere size. In itself no more than mone more example of locum's 3rd grade playground maturity. But I recognize the nasty reflex and know where it eventually leads. When he proclaims assertions that are hallucinatory opposite-to-facts, on the other hand, I find it actually interesting (slightly) as an instructive example of how these cult ravings are masturbatory in nature.

"No, but the worst Puritanical types might. Not because of harems, but because they long for a social system that disdains pleasure."

I see few of those. MAGAs are unlikely to be anti-sex. More likely incel complainers about their lack of it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

MAGAs are unlikely to be anti-sex. More likely incel complainers about their lack of it.


Again, I was thinking more of the rules being set by a Jeff Sessions (who maintains that only "bad people" smoke marijuana) or a John Ashcroft (who couldn't stand to look at an uncovered statue of Justice). The brand of "conservatism" which wants to outlaw not only abortion, but contraception. That aspect of "conservatism" doesn't show so much now that they've taken to publicly praising Donald Trump as a role model, but it hasn't gone away.

Robert said...

Or am I still the outspoken and ornery person I was before I started "feminizing"?

Given that the most stubborn and ornery people I know are biologically female (have had children) I personally don't associate those traits with being 'masculine'.

In terms of classifying traits/behaviours as masculine/feminine, in addition to cultural differences* there are also secondary effects. For example, bullying was often regarded as a male problem in school, because it was usually boys who beat up other kids. Then we recognized that there are other forms of bullying and it became obvious that girls also bullied other kids, although less often violently. But now it turns out that bigger/stronger girls are willing to get physical too, so what really seems to govern physical bullying is strength differential. Boys tend to be stronger, but strong girls don't seem to be any more averse to physical aggression against weaker opponents.

Biology is complicated. I don't understand it very well, but I do understand it sufficiently to know that it's more complicated than I learned in school. I also realize that understanding the biology doesn't give me a window into people's lived experiences.

Maybe I'm shallow, but my biggest problem with transgender activism that I can't see a clear-cut way of protecting people who are transgender while also not allowing people like Jessica Yaniv** to use the protective measures to harass people. I suspect there isn't a simple way, and that the best we can do is to not adopt black-and-white dichotomies for dealing with complex world. In Yaniv's case I think the Human Rights Tribunal got it right, but I'm bothered that she has destroyed several minority-owned businesses without apparently suffering much in the way of consequences.


*Apparently in the Arab world being mercurial and emotional is a male trait, while being cold and calculating is female. Just as a couple of centuries ago pink was for boys and blue was for girls, a lot of what we regard as obvious and universal isn't.

**Yaniv (legal name Simpson) seems to be a real-world troll with a nasty racist edge.

Robert said...

Atwood credits science fiction with a large part of her childhood upbringing.

She has publicly stated, on numerous occasions, that she doesn't write science fiction. "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/apr/26/fiction.margaretatwood

David Brin said...

Bah, Atwood has said different things all over the place, depending on which sycophants have her ear. But sure, if she wants that definition, then fine. I'm still better at the plausibility thing. In order for Gilead to happen, 99% of the adults in America would have to be killed first.

MIND YOU it is excellent polemic. And that's what she wrote and accomplished.

Alfred Differ said...

The problem with one of us messing around with another person's name is it tempts the rest of us to do it too. Eventually, we'll hit on name variations that irritate each other and then the snowball rolls downhill.

For the record, I don't mind 'Alfred', 'Al', 'Differ', 'AD', or some full formal variant. I'm not that picky. However, only my first girlfriend ever called me Alfie*. It was endearing, but I doubt any of you here could pull it off. She had a roman-statuesque look to her that enabled me to look past a lot of things. 8)


* [My mother's father was named Alfred. My mother's mother called him Alfie. It's an English thing I think.]

Jon S. said...

Atwood doesn't think spaceships are real? Are those just huge fireworks we launch from Canaveral, then?

Alfred Differ said...

Acacia,

Thank you for the article. I'm going to poke at it a bit.

My professor and his students in the generation before me had a cute insight that no one has really pursued. If you think about mass a bit one can swap momentum into Newton's formula in a four-space extension and get the right behavior in the low speed limit. Mass/rest energy is the time-like component of momentum to within factors of c.

That means we COULD consider the possibility that momentum is the actual 'charge' for gravity. Doing so requires more math than Newton had, but nothing beyond what we can do today.

With that insight, they crafted a field theory similar to E&M that got star-light path bending and Mercury's perihelion shift right without needing curvature. The trick involves the existence of a 'magnetic' nature to the field tensor that isn't the magnetism we know from E&M. There is a velocity dependence which ensures non-closed orbits. What's neat is that's enough to get light to experience the force of gravity too. Photons have momentum.

For some reason, though, we didn't look at galactic rotation curves. Hmm...

Robert said...

I think Atwood has decided that "science fiction" means the space adventure stories that dominated it during her childhood and redefines anything she likes as "speculative fiction" instead — which has the added advantage that you can ignore the science because the important part is the speculation…

She's a proficient writer with a real knack for character and voice. Not a fan of her worldbuilding or moralizing (even in her non-SF works).

She's also a Canadian looking at America from the outside. I'd be surprised if she sees what you do when you look at America.

I remember talking to someone in the 90s who had lived for a year in a small town in the bible belt. She said that before she went she thought The Handmaid's Tale was rather wild science fiction, but after she lived in the south for a year she thought it was more an "if this goes on" cautionary tale instead. The sheer religiosity and hypocrisy she encountered were totally alien to her. (This from someone who had lived in Canada, France, and I think Germany.)

Anyway, not trying to defend Atwood. Not one of my favourite writers. Just pointing out that she isn't trying to play by the same rules you are — she isn't trying to create a rigorous world to explore, but rather decorating a stage for the story she's decided to tell.

It's kind of like The Giver, which I've heard English teachers rhapsodizing over as 'wonderful science fiction' but personally found an incredibly contrived and contorted book that ignored pretty much everything we know about human psychology.

David Brin said...

inneresting, Alfred. I guess that's why the author referred to "gravito-magnetic" fields.

Alfred Differ said...

David,

Yah. We were all excited about it. I got to talk about it at one gravity conference and experience Kip Thorne's gentle but pointed question. Why should we learn that? Heh. I stuck with the honest answer which was "You don't until you have too many unsolvable issues with GR." 8)

Nowadays I avoid using 'magnetism' as a force name because it's just the spatial half of the anti-symmetric field tensor for E&M. History just snorts in my general direction, of course. For the gravity version of a very classical looking linear field theory, half the field tensor is spatial again for exactly the same reasons. Periapsis shifts have to happen, so it's mostly a matter of checking to see if the first order prediction for Mercury lines up. It does with no curvature needed.


What they are doing in the paper that Acacia links to is GR, though. I don't have the chops to read far into it, but it will be fun to try anyway. Far more fun than thinking about Atwood's fictional universe. 8)

mondojohnson said...

Dr. Brin, I recommend this spirited, Brin-esque defense of liberalism: The Radical Liberal by Leon Wieseltier

scidata said...

If you read enough Asimov, you see connections everywhere (perhaps a combination of his erudition and our (esp my own) over-active pattern seeking nature). I read his Neutrino book while slogging books in a Doubleday warehouse (summer job). I never knew that momentum was such a deep subject. I may re-read it to see if any of Alfred Differ's professor's ideas were in there (I don't just recall any). I always liked "The Last Question" because I had a religious upbringing but hit a computational asymptote, and because it was Asimov's own favourite short story. His favourite novel was "The Gods Themselves", with that line taken from an old play about Jeanne d'Arc. A Triumph :)

A less arcane quote from Asimov captures the same sentiment:
"When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent."

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

She's also a Canadian looking at America from the outside. I'd be surprised if she sees what you do when you look at America.


I can second that notion. Years of conversing/arguing with Dave Sim over the feminization of society forced me to understand that the reality he sees around him in Canada is very different from the one I see around me in Chicago. I can't speak to how realistic his view on his own country is, but I did have to get past the sense that he was talking about mine. That was especially evident during our "Global War On Terror" phase, in which he was ashamed of Canada for essentially sitting that one out, while waxing fanboyish over the accomplishments of the US military.


I remember talking to someone in the 90s who had lived for a year in a small town in the bible belt. She said that before she went she thought The Handmaid's Tale was rather wild science fiction, but after she lived in the south for a year she thought it was more an "if this goes on" cautionary tale instead. The sheer religiosity and hypocrisy she encountered were totally alien to her. (This from someone who had lived in Canada, France, and I think Germany.)


That's what I was getting at about The Handmaid's Tale extrapolating from the ascendancy of the religious right in the 80s.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Nowadays I avoid using 'magnetism' as a force name because it's just the spatial half of the anti-symmetric field tensor for E&M. History just snorts in my general direction,...


Heh. One of my favorite Asimov quotations (from an article describing the discovery of vitamins, and that the name "vit-amine" came from the misguided idea that they'd all be amines) seems appropriate here. Paraphrasing, but very close to an exact quote: "We've known for centuries that 'oxygen' is a misnomer too, but what can you do?"

* * *

scidata:

If you read enough Asimov, you see connections everywhere


If you read enough Dave Sim, that is also the case.

Robert said...

That was especially evident during our "Global War On Terror" phase, in which he was ashamed of Canada for essentially sitting that one out, while waxing fanboyish over the accomplishments of the US military.

We didn't really sit it out. No drone strikes, kidnappings, and so forth, but we went into Afghanistan in 2001 along with you Yanks. We sat out the Iraq War, not trusting the intelligence used to justify it (correctly, as it turns out), but ramped up Canadian involvement in Afghanistan in order to free up American forces for the Iraq War.

The "war on terror" isn't particularly popular up here — the steady drip of mostly-Republican politicians and officials blaming Canada for lapses in American security, the ignoring of basic human rights (especially of Canadian citizens) because 'tewwow', the lack of recognition of Canadian contributions, the use of 'security' to justify arbitrary trade actions — all have contributed to a growing section of the population feeling that it not only isn't solving the problem but is probably making it worse.

Support remains strong in the Fox-viewing neocon base, where it's basically a loyalty marker (like anti-LGBT sentiments). And just like in America, those most worried about terrorism live in places that are the least likely to ever be attacked. (Also the places least likely to comply with Covid restrictions, most likely to attack non-whites, receiving more government funding than they pay taxes… sound familiar?)

I don't know Dave Sim at all, but he seems to have fairly standard far-right views, although with flakier justifications. If I had to be, I'd guess he supports the Peoples Party (because the Tories are too left-wing).

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

"That was especially evident during our "Global War On Terror" phase, in which he [Dave Sim] was ashamed of Canada for essentially sitting that one out, while waxing fanboyish over the accomplishments of the US military."

We didn't really sit it out. No drone strikes, kidnappings, and so forth, but we went into Afghanistan in 2001 along with you Yanks. We sat out the Iraq War, ...


It was the Iraq war he was talking about.


I don't know Dave Sim at all, but he seems to have fairly standard far-right views, although with flakier justifications


In a way, that's spot on. Dave is hard to describe unless you've read a lot of his stuff--the "Cerebus" comic and his back-of-the-book essays. He defies categorization, intentionally so as he refuses to be pigeonholed.

His main bugaboo is not conservatism or liberalism, but feminism. He claims to have turned against feminism as far back as the late 70s, but only "came out" as an anti-feminist in a comic printed in 1994. But what he calls "feminism" isn't always the same thing, which makes it very hard to argue the point with him. He has stated that "all women are feminists and all feminists are Marxists." He has also stated that most women aren't feminists, but they're held hostage by a few aging harpies who control policy. As far as I know, he hasn't stopped believing one of those things after being convinced that the other is true, but believes both at the same time.

I often can't tell when he's acting contrary to what he's saying on purpose in order to make a point. An infamous screed of his was called "Tangent" in which he attempted to prove (among other things) that women don't argue logically, but instead rely on stories and anecdotes to imply their points. He did this by writing 20 pages of stories and anecdotes to imply his point. It's hard to believe that wasn't intentionally, but he never gave any indication that it was.

After he read the Bible in order to parody it, he fell in love with Scripture instead and became a religious monotheist, though in Dave style, not a member of any particular religious sect, but simply a believer in The One God. That One God being male, of course. In his pre-religious days, he asserted that women were too religion-oriented, distracting men from the productive work they would have been accomplishing on their own. After becoming religious, it became feminist women are atheists whose only "god" is themselves, and they distract men from what would otherwise be their work on behalf of God. He honestly believes that men with wives or girlfriends are forced to believe Impossible Things (Before Breakfast) in order to preserve the relationship, and he doesn't recognize that someone whose every thought or action is dominated by whether it leads to Hell is in the same position.

Dave wasn't a political conservative until 9/11, but during the Bush years, Bush and Cheney could do no wrong because they were on God's team and we liberals and feminists were on God's adversary's team with the terrorists. It's been close to 10 years since he and I have conversed, so I have no idea what he thought/thinks about Donald Trump and the Republican Party's embrace of Trumpism. I'm afraid I don't want to know.

David Brin said...

From descriptions by several folks, I cannot see a reason why any aspect of this DSim character merits a darm or mote of my attention.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I cannot see a reason why any aspect of this DSim character merits a darm or mote of my attention.


His philosophy, probably no reason. He does deserve recognition for actually (himself and one illustrator of backgrounds) writing, drawing, and marketing 300 issues of a comic book over a 26 year period, beginning when "self publishing" was not even a twinkle in anyone else's eye. And for supporting other self-publishers as they came into existence.

It's his writing and drawing skills that made his comic worth reading before it ended in 2004. Robert and I both mentioned how readers of certain writers start seeing patterns in everything, and Dave did that for me. For many years, I was part of an online Yahoo Group which discussed "Cerebus" and Dave, which meant that for one brief shining moment, I could use a "Cerebus" reference to make a larger point and be sure the audience understood exactly what I meant. It's so much a part of me that I continue to do that here, despite knowing that I have to explain the references.

That and the fact that Dave personally answered correspondence from readers in all that time (and for many years after) is probably why I remain focused on him. As the Republican Party becomes more openly treasonous, a part of me is always metaphorically asking Dave if he thinks they're still on God's team. Metaphorically because it's been almost 10 years since I actually corresponded with the guy.

Jon S. said...

"...beginning when "self publishing" was not even a twinkle in anyone else's eye."

Issue #1 of Cerebus the Aardvark was published in December of 1977. Issue #1 of ElfQuest was published in February of 1978. Unless you're alleging that the Pinis managed to set up WaRP Graphics, establish publication, and churn out the beginning of their story in a grand total of two months, this claim seems unlikely. (Not to mention all the zines that were being self-published even before then...)

Robert said...

Robert and I both mentioned how readers of certain writers start seeing patterns in everything

That was scidata, not me.

TCB said...

Big Breakthrough for “Massless” Energy Storage: Structural Battery That Performs 10x Better Than All Previous Versions

The batteries in today’s electric cars constitute a large part of the vehicles’ weight, without fulfilling any load-bearing function. A structural battery, on the other hand, is one that works as both a power source and as part of the structure – for example, in a car body. This is termed ‘massless’ energy storage, because in essence the battery’s weight vanishes when it becomes part of the load-bearing structure.

Hahahah aw hell that IS clever.

David Brin said...

Batteries as bricks? Structural? Leggo my Leg-oh.

duncan cairncross said...

Structural batteries

Tesla are planning on using structural batteries next year (maybe this year) where the new cells are glued into the frame and provide some of the stiffness of that frame which is then a structural part of the car

I think that they are planning on having three big castings as the structure of the car
A front casting with the front suspension and motor
A rear casting with the rear suspension and motor
A middle casting which has the cells glued into it as part of the structure

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

...beginning when "self publishing" was not even a twinkle in anyone else's eye."

Issue #1 of Cerebus the Aardvark was published in December of 1977. Issue #1 of ElfQuest was published in February of 1978.


Somehow Elfquest was never on my radar while it existed. Cerebus wasn't either until the 90s, but it was still around in the 90s. And so I exaggerate. Self-publishing was a twinkle in some eyes back then. But keeping to a bi-monthly schedule going monthly in two years and then (on average) keeping to that monthly schedule through issue #300 is nothing like what other self-publishers were doing or have done since.

Granted, this was because other self-publishers had a life.

David Brin said...

HR, almost all of my "judo" proposals involve doing something that almost no liberals or democrats understand (apparently) though any general would. The ONLY path to victory. And that is to BREAK UP THE OPPOSING COALITION.

In this case, the idea is to get enough Republicans to split off and agree to regulate all those weapons like cars. Exactly like cars, through the DMV&G. Clone every car -related law and tweak as little as possible to get licensing (different levels for different types, all the way up to artillery, maybe), and so on. The JEFFERSON RIFLE is a way to say "this one is never registered, never controlled, protected by a NEW amendment with no "well regulated militia" exception." And point to Bosnia as evidence that...

..."no future government will come and confiscate all your REGISTERED weapons without triggering an uprising and the bolt-rifles alone will force them to either negotiate or carpet bomb. If it is the latter, then you've already lost."

If that can split off just a quarter of goppers, then the fight is over, except for some Nichols-McVeighs and they need medical care, anyway.

David Brin said...

Some comments I approve occasionally vanish so I assume they went to earlier posting threads after the "onward."

gregory byshenk said...

David Brin said...
HR, almost all of my "judo" proposals involve doing something that almost no liberals or democrats understand (apparently) though any general would. The ONLY path to victory. And that is to BREAK UP THE OPPOSING COALITION.

In this case, the idea is to get enough Republicans to split off and agree to regulate all those weapons like cars. [...]

If that can split off just a quarter of goppers, then the fight is over, except for some Nichols-McVeighs and they need medical care, anyway.


I think the issue is not that Democrats don't understand, but that they see no path to achieving such a goal.

Yes, there are some Republican voters (possibly significant number) who would support such ideas - but very, very few of them will vote for a Democrat over a Republican - even when the Republican candidate is demonstrably a moron or a lunatic (or both) - and often even when the Democratic candidate is a moderate and/or a miltary veteran. And the current Republican party is dead set against any such actions.

Given these facts on the ground, how would you propose to pass such a constitutional amendment? Which two-thirds of Congress (or the states) will support it? Which 38 states will approve it?

Tony Fisk said...

Heh. "Onward" is now the title of a recent Pixar film about a couple of brothers who go on a quest to find the unresurrected half of their deceased father. It has an interesting resolution.

David Brin said...

Greg B Again my aim is not to actually pass such an amendment righjt away. Maybe long term as a consensus solution, But near term the aim is to add one more major area in which 30 million decent republicans feel internal pressure to finally admit: " am waxtching the villain meme network and need to change channels no2.

Treebeard said...

I was out walking last night and I looked up and saw some lights streaking across the sky. Was it an airplane on fire? Shooting stars? Multi-warhead nukes heading for Seattle? Aliens? Putin doing something nefarious? No, supposedly it was a Space-X rocket on re-entry. It looked very close. Of course I took it as another sign of the apocalypse.

matthew said...

No amount of evidence will break the GOP diehards away from their party at this point.
All negotiation-ready conservatives have already left the party - what's left are the racists and the loony, the tribal and the bullies.

The Democratic Party now contains almost all of American political positions from the 70s except the John Birch Society-types and the Klan.
We should not attempt to reach out any farther to the GOP. Doing so just moves the Overton Window in their direction.

Instead, we need to focus on building consensus within the Dems, which is a task exactly as hard as building consensus across the GOP / Dem split of the 1970s.

And messaging, messaging, more messaging to drive home that all the sane adults are under one tent and that tent *excludes* the GOP.


David Brin said...

Hey JIM! You'll like this:
https://news.google.com/articles/CAIiEIL6V82z6Mz1OU3Q-i-RjSgqFwgEKg8IACoHCAowjuuKAzCWrzwwqIQY?hl=en-US&gl=US&ceid=US%3Aen

Suez ship casts doubt on glob alization...

Matthew, you are utterly, utterly wrong and tactically obstinate, pushing a line that has prevented liberal agility for 20 years. "Overton Window" my shiny metal ass! We shift the window by ACTION and shifting national income to the working classes instead of the oligarchy is not moving "rightward!" What a dumb thing to think!

We need to break logjams to do that and we have NOT competed the draining of supporters from the GOP who might be reachable. That is a dismal and utterly unproved assertion and a deeply sad and PATRONIZING one that give up on the one thing that has recently Worked!! Biden reassured enough moderate whites to join him and join us... without proving himself one SCINTILLA to be a "DNC corporatist sellout."

You think Raphael Warnock would have won in Georgia without a flood of fefugees FROM the GOP down there? We need and can get more and we need and can get demolition of Fox only by hammering where they'll hurt most.

===

David Brin said...

"Of course I took it as another sign of the apocalypse..."
Of course you did. Sorry you were disappointed, Treebeard.

David Brin said...

onward
onward