Friday, March 26, 2021

The post-Covid world of 2030

These have been boom times for “futurists,” a profession without credentials, in which anyone can opine about tomorrow’s Undiscovered Country. Ever since the turn of the century, a whole spectrum of corporations, intel and defense agencies, planning councils and NGOs have expressed growing concern about time scales that used to be the sole province of science fiction (SF). In fact, all those companies and groups have been consulting an ensemble of “hard” SF authors, uninterrupted by travel restrictions during a pandemic.

While I spend no time on airplanes now - and my associated speaking fees are now lower - I nevertheless am doing bunches of zoomed appearances at virtualized conferences... one of them looming as I type this.

One question always pops up; can we navigate our way out of the current messes, helped by new technologies? 

The news and prospects are mixed, but assuming we restore basic stability to the Western Enlightenment Experiment... and that is a big assumption... then several technological and social trends may come to fruition in the next five to ten years.

== Potential game-changers ==

- Advances in the cost effectiveness of sustainable energy supplies will be augmented by better storage systems. This will both reduce reliance on fossil fuels and allow cities and homes to be more autonomous.

- Urban farming methods may move to industrial scale, allowing even greater moves toward local autonomy. (Perhaps requiring a full decade or more to show significant impact.) And meat use will decline for several reasons - (a longstanding sci-fi prediction that seems on track sooner than anyone expected) - reducing ecological burdens and ensuring some degree of food security, as well.

- Local, small-scale, on-demand manufacturing may start to show effects by 2025, altering supply chains and reducing their stretched networks.

- If all of the above take hold, there will be surplus oceanic shipping capacity across the planet. Some of it may be applied to ameliorate (not solve) acute water shortages. Innovative uses of such vessels may range all the way from hideaways for the rich to refuges for climate refugees… possibilities I describe in my novels Existence and Earth.

- Full scale diagnostic evaluations of diet, genes and micro-biome will result in micro-biotic therapies and treatments utilizing the kitchen systems of the human gut. Artificial Intelligence (AI) appraisals of other diagnostics will both advance detection of problems and become distributed to hand-held devices cheaply available to even poor clinics.

- Hand-held devices will start to carry detection technologies that can appraise across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, allowing NGOs and even private parties to detect and report environmental problems. Socially, this extension of citizen vision will go beyond the current trend of applying accountability to police and other authorities.  Despotisms will be empowered, as predicted in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. But democracies will also be empowered, as described in The Transparent Society.

- I give odds that tsunamis of revelation will crack the shields protecting many elites from disclosure of past and present torts and turpitudes. The Panama Papers and Epstein cases — and the more recent FinCEN spill — exhibit how much fear propels some oligarchs to combine efforts at repression. But only a few more cracks may cause the dike to collapse, revealing networks of extortion, cheating and blackmail. This is only partly technologically-driven and hence is not guaranteed. 

I assure you, preventing this is the absolute top goal of the combined world oligarchies. If it does happen, there will be dangerous spasms by all sorts of elites, desperate to either retain status or evade consequences. But if the fever runs its course, the more transparent world will be cleaner and better run. And far more just. And vastly better able to handle tomorrow's challenges.

- Some of those elites have grown aware of the power of 90 years of Hollywood propaganda for individualism, criticism, diversity, suspicion of authority and appreciation of eccentricity. Counter-propaganda pushing older, more traditional approaches to authority and conformity are already emerging and they have the advantage of resonating with ancient human fears.  Much will depend upon this meme-war. Which I appraise entertainingly in VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood!

Of course much will also depend upon short term resolution of current crises. If our systems remain undermined and sabotaged by incited civil strife and deliberately-stoked distrust of expertise, then all bets are off.

What about the role of technology and technology companies and individuals?

Many fret about the spread of "surveillance technologies that will empower Big Brother." These fears are well-grounded, but utterly myopic.

- First, ubiquitous cameras and face-recognition are only the beginning. Nothing will stop them and any such thought  of "protecting" citizens from being seen by elites is stunningly absurd, as the cameras get smaller, better, faster, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous every month. Moore's Law to the nth. Safeguarding freedom, safety and privacy will require a change in perspective.

- Yes, despotisms will benefit from this trend. And hence the only thing that matters is to prevent despotism altogether.

- In contrast, a free society will be able to apply the very same burgeoning technologies toward accountability. At this very moment, we are seeing these new tools applied to end centuries of abuse by "bad apple" police who are thugs, while empowering truly professional cops to do their jobs better. Do not be fooled by the failure of juries to convict badd apple officers in trials. That's an injustice, but at least nearly all of those officers are being fired and blacklisted, and that's happening entirely because cameras now empower victims to be believed.  Moreover, we are fast approaching a point where camera-witnessed crimes will be solved with far lower police staffing. Letting us be more hiring selective. Ignoring the positive aspects of this trend is just as bad as ignoring the very real problems.

 I do not guarantee light will be used this way with broad effectiveness. It is an open question whether we citizens will have the gumption to apply "sousveillance" upward at all elites. Only note a historical fact: both Gandhi and ML King were saved by crude technologies of light in their days. And history shows that assertive vision by and for the citizenry is the only method that has ever increased freedom and - yes - some degree of privacy.

Oh, privacy hand wringers are totally right about the problem and the danger presented by surveillance tech! And they are diametrically wrong in the common prescription. Trying to ban technologies and create shadows for citizens to hide within is spectacularly wrongheaded and disastrous. See The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?  

== And pandemics? So are we done? ==

Of course not. But it's too soon to make predictions except:

- Some flaws in resilience will be addressed: better disease intel systems. 

Stockpiles repaired and replenished and modernized after Trump eviscerations. 

Quicker "emergency" delpoyments of large scale trials of tests and vaccines. 

Federal ownership of extra vaccine factories, or else payments to mothball and maintain surge production capacity. 

Money for bio research.

Unspoken by pundits. This will lead to annual "flu shots" that are also tuned against at least the coronivirus half of common colds. And possibly a number of nasty buggers may get immunization chokes put around them... maybe Ebola.

And serious efforts to get nations to ban the eating or pet-keeping of wild animals, plus ideally exclusion zones around some bat populations... and better forensic disagnostics of deliberate or inandvertent release modes. Not saying that happened. But better wariness and tracking.

In fact, from a historical perspective, this was a training run for potentially much worse and - despite imbecile obstructions and certainly after they were gone - our resilient capability to deploy science was actually quite formidable and impressive.

Almost as impressive as the prescience of science fiction authors who are now choking down repeated urges to chant "I told you so!"


Acacia H. said...

I'm surprised you didn't focus more on the impact that Covid and future pandemics will have on society. For one thing, the United States (and Europe) has seen that wearing masks will significantly reduce the spread of the flu. Seriously, the flu season for 2020 was almost non-existent, and that was due to widespread mask wearing. And you'll see a lot more people starting to wear masks for flu season because it's more acceptable now.

When flu season starts having an impact again you will likely see companies offering their employees incentives to wear masks to avoid catching or spreading the flu during the flu season. Not all companies will do this, but I'm sure quite a few will. After all, illness reduces productivity. Insisting your employees wear masks is a small price to pay to ensuring employee productivity remain high (and reduce the use of sick time).

Acacia H.

Pappenheimer said...

Re: the last gasp of the elite...

Not as hopeful as you are about floodlighting the cockroaches, but I hope you are right - I'm too old to be giving weather support to flight units operating over/in the Swiss Alps. Rocks in some of those clouds.

David Brin said...

Acacia see addendum

David Brin said...

All the news reports about "a Spacex rocket breaking up during uncontrolled re-entry.." Journalism! The impression is a failure happened. It was a freaking SECOND stage which (so far) is meant to burn. This one didn't follow the usual procedure and broke up a bit more spectacularly and over a more populated area... harming no one. I was worried for a minute. Had I missed a launch?

scidata said...

SpaceX presents a real challenge for traditional space journalism. For example, tomorrow there's a chance that SN11 will do a static fire test, and a 10km flight shortly after it. Not months or years between the two (as with Artemis), but hours. This ain't your father's space biz.

Slim Moldie said...

We certainly live in astounding times. I've turned off my serious subjects brain for the evening to be fan boy. Dr. Brin, I'm curious if you ever considered or were approached to write a Man-Kzin story. I think you'd open some avenues in the canon of some of my favorite brown paper bag cover books.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry ( & scidata by reference)

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

Read any single author enough and you'll start seeing things their way. No way to avoid it since our perceptual frameworks are lego structures formed by stories that explain, exemplify, and... rats... ran out of 'ex' words.

You get it, right?

For example, I'll quote/paraphrase Hayek, Hofstadter, and our Host because I've read them. A lot.

Alfred Differ said...

The F9 second stage won't ever get re-used. They looked into it. They'd have to beef it up quite a bit which would require beefing up the first stage. The decision was to step up to the BFR instead.

If you watch the webcasts, you'll see they now report speed and altitude on both stages. The entry burn meant to save the first stage sheds around half the kinetic energy just before deceleration gets into some VERY serious g-loads. They don't like to save all that fuel to do that, but there is little choice. Shedding ALL the KE the same way they shed less than half of it would probably ruin the aft end of the stage... or require beefing it up. Rocket equation is merciless about mass, so fuel gets save and spent at the right time instead.

This all changes (they think) if the rocket is bigger and can be dropped sideways through the atmosphere. Instead of the tiny, business end of the vehicle doing all the work on the air, the pressurized body does. They might still drop the first stage on the BFR the same way as the F9, but I wouldn't count on that for long. They'll learn from the upper stages (SN8-> whatever) and consider options for BN's. Once they get the header tank notion worked out, I wouldn't be shocked if the BN's evolved.

One of the internal cameras they have on the F9 shows the view from INSIDE the oxygen tank. It's a hoot to watch and shows why most everyone else dares NOT tip a rocket over.

Alfred Differ said...

One of the nasty's that I think will get seriously choked soon by the new RNA methods for vaccines is... malaria.

That will be a super, big, f#$%ing deal too.

Tony Fisk said...

The cameras showing a Georgia rep being placed under arrest for seeking access to the Governor's office to witness the signing ceremony for the white and shiny new voting laws didn't seem to make much impact.
Of course, the powers that be are feeling less threatened by such niceties as public opinion. For now.

The prohibition on providing water to people waiting in line to vote suggests it might be possible to set up the stalls just before the line...

I think it's time to ressurect readings of Kipling's ode to Gunga Din.

One potential COVID spin-off I noted last week (was it here? I forget)
... mRNA technique being used to develop a malaria vaccine. Now *that* would be a game changer.

There's a reason why traditional non-software engineering has stuck to 'waterfall' development processes. Material investment. SpaceX's commitment to rapid prototyping does appear to be paying off in results, but how much has it cost up front?

(On a similar note, I watched 'Edge of Tomorrow' the other day. An entertaining variant of 'Groundhog Day', although I think Tom Cruise's character would've developed a total phobia for Emily Blunt's by the end of it. Reset!)

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Larry Hart,
" He defies categorization, intentionally so as he refuses to be pigeonholed."

Ugh. One of them.

Der Oger said...

I like the idea of sousveillance. Just an idea I had after reading your blog:

What about creating a crowdfunded NGO that provides sousveillance AND surveillance to certain areas and events. They could collect data on areas where police misbehavior and/or crimes would most likely happen. Using installed cameras could be a way, but a fleet of mobile drones that cover an entire area and can be called to an area in an instant could be even more effective.

They could follow suspects and make apprehension easier. They could identify policemen who participate in unnecessary violence, especially against peaceful protesters and media persons covering these events. And using drones might avoid vandalism and evasion.

Next, data of interest could be stored and be openly accessible for every person with access to the internet. To minimize legal backlash, maybe the servers controlling the drones and storing the data could stand in another country or area where the local jurisdiction is powerless. (Iceland, perhaps?)

How many policemen and criminals would start to change their behavior in dealing with these events if their names, photos and addresses suddenly became available to the general public?

(BTW, Dr. Brin, did you read Dave Egger's The Circle?)

David Brin said...

Alfred, way cool discussion of landing returns. Only possible use of Falc9 second stages after delivery would be to collect them in orbit for further use out there. But Elon plans to bypass that.

Tony, Elon’s development methods for the BFR hinge on one thing. Falcon9s are so stunningly profitable that they fund the whole thing and are filling suites in Arianspace and ULA and Rosscosmos with suicidal thoughts. Eventually, ULA+Bezos will do a first stage orbital launch and return. But it’ll be years before they can drop prices enough to undercut the Falcon9 and by then? The first stage BFR is the biggest gamble I’ve ever seen. But if it works,,,

Yeah Edge of Tomorrow was an amazing flick.

Dems may need to drop a couple of items from the voting rights bill… same-day registration is one that’s dubious... as sops to Manchin. But they should include a couple of items as gimmes for the Supreme Court to throw out and look tough to Kavanaugh’s blaickmailers.

It's not just the TALK filibuster that should replace senator veto but the minority should have to mashall signatures of 41 to assertively let that talker continue. THAT combination might satisfy Manchin while still knocking the legs out from under Moscow Mitch.

Der Oger, I certainly think The Circle was brilliant propaganda, like Ender’s Game, in the service of evil. Did you notice (no one did) that the ultimate resolution of the entire story was “nasty guys at the top did NOT live by the cult openness standard they preached, but now they will die by it.” In other words the only solution WAS sousveillance, after all.

One scene in particular. When the bitc-protagonist’s colleagues are using their cell cams to bully her poor-shy ex-boyfriend. Remember that? Insane. What the scene doesn’t show is OTHER, more decent people, coming up and pointing cams at the BULLIES for being mean to a shy person and sending the footage to their moms.

“Read any single author enough and you'll start seeing things their way.” Well…What if the zeitgeist is - “see all ways, argue, and help us pick forward through the morass”?

David Brin said...

Slim Moldie, if I had the machine from KILN PEOPLE I'd write all sorts of add on stuff! As is? no time!

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

How many policemen and criminals would start to change their behavior in dealing with these events if their names, photos and addresses suddenly became available to the general public?

Well, the downside of that was the backstory for the 2019 Watchmen miniseries. If you're not familiar, the Seventh Kavalry (essentially the KKK) knew who all the police were and where they lived, so they could implement the "White Night", a coordinated simultaneous attack on all of their homes and families.

did you read Dave Egger's The Circle?

I read it a few years ago when my high-school aged daughter was also reading it. I was intrigued by the idea behind the book--it could have been good--but I found the execution disappointing. The ending required the protagonist and her former best friend to change their way of thinking just because the narrative required it at that point.

IIRC, the book was trying way too hard to be this century's 1984.

Robert said...

The cameras showing a Georgia rep being placed under arrest for seeking access to the Governor's office to witness the signing ceremony for the white and shiny new voting laws didn't seem to make much impact.

Of course not.

When Black women knock on a door it's an offence worthy of arrest. When white men break into a building it's freedom of speech. This is self-evident to Republicans.

Remember how in Orwell's 1984 the government rewrote history and everyone went along with it? I'm now getting newsletters from Republican politicians blaming Biden and the Democrats for the half-million American Covid deaths that could have been prevented.

A significant chunk of the American population seems to be spectacularly resistant to reality, even ignoring their own memories to follow the party line. Why would a video change their minds, when they already know she must be guilty of something?

David Brin said...

The entire Eggers premise was that the light of accountability would NOT shine on bullies and cheaters who were using light to bully and cheat. And then in the end the protagonost uses light to shine accountability on bullies and cheaters. In fact, it would not surprise me to find that the whole book/film was financed by the cheaters and bullies guild, to turn people away from light. Knowing that there must be a 'sacrifice' at the end. But so many readers and viewers would be miffed vs. light that the propaganda message would stick.

David Brin said...

Robert, that is why I say the only way to eviscerate such lies is WAGERS. And Dominion Systems is doing exactly that, with stunning effectiveness.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"both mentioned how readers of certain writers start seeing patterns in everything"

Read any single author enough and you'll start seeing things their way.

Of course. I've done the same thing with Kurt Vonnegut, and more recently with our host here ("more recently" now meaning "Within the last thirty years"). My point was that Dave Sim's "way" in particular is to notice patterns in everything.

An example: Around the time of the Iraq War in 2003, it was also the period where the first SARS outbreaks were taking place. Like the current COVID pandemic, SARS had originated in China, but was breaking out in some particular cities over here, most notably Toronto. As I've mentioned before, Dave is Canadian, and he was enthusiastically in favor of Bush's war and ashamed of his own country for not being so enthusiastic in support. To him, the fact that a virus originated in China and afflicted Toronto was the inevitable consequence of Canada in general and (what he referred to as) "socialist Ontario" in particular "siding with China against the United States" (see, China also opposed the war). To him, the link between SARS, China, and the Iraq War was such an obvious sign from God that anyone who refused to hear the message must be being willfully rebellious.

So later that year, when on the very same day that US bombers knocked out power in Baghdad, there was a massive power outage on our east coast which took out New York City and much of eastern Canada. I dutifully wrote to Dave and asked him if God was warning Canada about tying its fortunes too closely to the US as to share in our comeuppance for aggression against a Muslim country. He accused me of ignoring his point and simply playing parlor games.

Which reminded me of a Vonnegut line from Mother Night which I'm afraid I also have to explain. The "Black Fuherer of Harlem" says that he had supported the Axis during WWII because the Japanese were the colored people, and then went off about how the colored people of the world are going to get their own A-bomb and give the Japanese the honor of dropping it on America. When the protagonist asks whether Japan's cruel treatment of other colored people in China was a problem, the Black Fuhrer responds as if talking to an idiot, "Whatever makes you think a Chinaman is a colored person?"

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: "Read any single author enough and you'll start seeing things their way."
So maybe I should lay off the Joe Abercrombie fiction?
Vonnegut was a genius at pointing out the inherent idiocies of racism. In England in the 50s, people were considered "coloured" if a crease in their skin (inside the elbow, for instance) was darker than the surrounding skin surface.
"Socialist Ontario"? With FORD in charge?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In fact, it would not surprise me to find that the whole book/film was financed by the cheaters and bullies guild, to turn people away from light. Knowing that there must be a 'sacrifice' at the end. But so many readers and viewers would be miffed vs. light that the propaganda message would stick.

I'd almost agree with you, but I'd say the motivation behind the author's message was not cheaters and bullies, but privacy advocates. The book was trying (too obviously, IMHO) to be 1984, and the final sentence might as well have been "She loved Big Brother." Instead of implying "The Reich will last 1000 years", the implication was "From now on, every moment of everyone's life is public." The fishtank with the shark and the octopus and the seahorses being the so-obvious-as-to-bash-the-reader-over-the-head metaphor.

* * *

Zepp Jamieson:

"Read any single author enough and you'll start seeing things their way."
So maybe I should lay off the Joe Abercrombie fiction?

I presume you kid, but there's a difference between "seeing things their way" and "agreeing with them."

Case in point, I went through an Ayn Rand binge a few years ago (well, closer to 25 now that I think about it), and while I was reading her novels, I could definitely "see things her way" in the sense of being confident of predicting what she would have to say about any given situation. That did not mean I felt the same way she would have. The denouement of Atlas Shrugged in particular, I remember having to willfully suspend my own sensibilities in order to appreciate what the author obviously meant as a "happy ending."

With that in mind, and to respond to Dr Brin's question-by-implication as to my continued fascination with Dave Sim, I "see things his way" in the sense of understanding his thought processes and possibly being his only reader who does so (while simultaneously recognizing the hubris behind that assessment). I admire his often-unique powers of observation, while being flabbergasted by the conclusions he draws from those observations.

David Brin said...

LarryHart please don't take my question about Dave Simas a carp. I've actually found your views into that world interesting anda glimps of how even (sometimes especially) smart people can dive into bizarre paths. It has happened a lot Sapience appears to. be very, very hard.

A different problem has hit those "intelectual royalty" families who have interbred, like the Huxleys, Brains maried brains for generations and Aldous and Julian and their peers had horrible health problems and Aldous was almost blind.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart please don't take my question about Dave Simas a carp

I don't take it as an insult. I do take it as an expression that something seems inexplicable, which it is unless I take a lot of time to...well, to explicate it.

Robert said...

"Socialist Ontario"? With FORD in charge?

Well, in 2003 when Iraq was being invaded it was Eves not Ford. Even more right-wing.

Ford is more of a businessman's populist kinda guy, rather than an ideologue. Your classic guy-next-door, as long as you remember that the guy next door grew up rich, inherited dad's company, and thinks that his success is all down to him…

Eves was a more refined version of Harris. Asset-strip the government and sell it off to cronies, while not missing a chance to screw over anyone who wasn't either a rich white guy or a rural white guy.

Alfred Differ said...

Those second stage F9's are eggshells compared to the first stage vehicles. Control of them doesn't last very long as it all depends on batteries. Plenty long enough for missions, but collecting them would require something up there to continue attitude and orbit control.

If SpaceX could easily re-use those upper stages, I have no doubt they would... if only to make the point. They spent heaps and gobs of money developing the system they have, but now they have the only reusable, orbital vehicle AND it comes in both regular and heavy lift formats.

Was it worth it? Pshaw!

It wasn't many years ago that other US launch providers ABANDONED the commercial US launch market. It accounted for less than half (a third IF I recall correctly) of the possible launch revenue. SpaceX stepped into that niche where customers were doomed to rely on over-seas launch services and OWNED it in short order. From that they've been leaning into and taking share in the US Gov launch niche those others thought they monopolized. As of late, some commercial launches that would have gone to others outside the US have been coming to SpaceX too.

The decision to abandon the commercial US niche will go down in history as one of the most monumental f@#%-ups ever committed by giant corporations. They SHOULD have known better. There was plenty of evidence for real engineering activity in newer space companies. There was even evidence that these projects were attracting attention and involvement from millionaires and multi-millionaires. Not just one. Many.

Polaroid and Kodak could have come out with digital cameras.
They didn't.
History has already judged them.

Write a list of US defense contractors currently making money providing US Gov launches.
They have already failed the same way.
Fade to black.

I think the current re-flight record for an F9 lower stage is currently 9 complete flights. Their launch cadence is getting closer and closer to once a week. That's a HUGE amount of engineering know-how. Ka-Ching$$. That's also the kind of technical evidence that mollifies scared investors.

The only mark against them right now is they don't actually have enough customers to support the current launch cadence.


They are putting up the orbital version of the fiber we laid across oceans in the late 90's that changed the entire world economy. If you aren't paying attention to StarLink or think it's just an astronomer's source of annoyance, think again. The 21st century WILL be remembered for this because the end result will link EVERY human on the planet to the internet… except a few scientists stationed at the South Pole… though they might get them too in a later phase.

Cheap access to space changes everything. Absolutely everything.

Paul451 said...

Tony Fisk,
Re: Georgia's historic election laws
"The prohibition on providing water to people waiting in line to vote suggests it might be possible to set up the stalls just before the line..."

However, the ambiguity allows election officials from a certain party, aided by police, to arrest anyone who sets up such stalls. After all, one day later, you can release them without charges and there's no harm done, right.

Not only is the burden on the victims to sue for wrongful arrest, easy for a certain-party-appointed judge to throw out without explicitly ruling on whether they broke the law (since they weren't charged. Vastly lower legal standard for arrest than for conviction,) but you can't get that day back.

Larry Hart said...


"Socialist Ontario"? With FORD in charge?

Well, in 2003 when Iraq was being invaded it was Eves not Ford. Even more right-wing.

I know nothing of Ontario's local politics, but I suspect that Dave Sim's reference to "socialist Ontario" would have had more to do with whether it was common to aim for 50% women in the legislature, or perhaps whether 95% of all "alimony" (he was really talking about child support) went from men to women.

In Dave-world, feminization, feminism, atheism, Marxism, and socialism are all synonyms.

Larry Hart said...

Paul451 quoting:

"The prohibition on providing water to people waiting in line to vote suggests it might be possible to set up the stalls just before the line..."

The prohibition on providing water to people waiting in line to vote suggests that these restrictions have nothing to do with protecting against fraud. How do they even pretend to justify this restriction?

scidata said...

Today's SN11 flight apparently scrubbed because FAA inspector didn't show up on time. WTAF

David Brin said...

Alfred: "They are putting up the orbital version of the fiber we laid across oceans in the late 90's that changed the entire world economy. If you aren't paying attention to StarLink or think it's just an astronomer's source of annoyance, think again. The 21st century WILL be remembered for this because the end result will link EVERY human on the planet to the internet… except a few scientists stationed at the South Pole… though they might get them too in a later phase."

The elephant in the room, in all this Starlink thing, is you-know-which-country, who cannot allow their citizens access to such a system. And that nation's elite have much leverage and power.

Elon did not confide in me how how plans to get around that.

Alfred Differ said...


Yah. It may take a while, but I suspect the trick will involve where parts are manufactured. I also suspect it won't be him that solves that problem. Probably better if someone builds a knock-off like the IBM clones.

There are several decades left in this century for them to work it out, but I suspect penetration will occur within two... due to imitations.

duncan cairncross said...

The elephant in the room

The Chinese are very pragmatic - I suspect that they will simply "fold" and rely on the fact that so much of the western "news" is so obviously propaganda that the people will not believe it anyway

scidata said...

Re: StarLink

I'm really not good at polemics or even basic sociological arguments. My wheelhouse is the planting and watering of mind-seeds of deep time, deep space, and deep complexity. A powerful question from history is: "How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paris?"

Robert said...

The prohibition on providing water to people waiting in line to vote suggests that these restrictions have nothing to do with protecting against fraud. How do they even pretend to justify this restriction?

If you provide water to people they will remember your kindness and vote your way in gratitude?

Robert said...

In Dave-world, feminization, feminism, atheism, Marxism, and socialism are all synonyms.

At the time, the Tories were doing what they could to reverse the creeping tide of feminism so women could return to their proper place in kitchens and nurseries.

Sarcasm aside, the one party that reliably votes against any measures that would improve the lives of women, and that routinely dumps on female-dominated occupations, is the Tories. Eves was part of the government whose leader declared that firing nurses was a good idea, because nurses loved their patients and the remaining ones wouldn't let the patients suffer so they would work harder for free.

Dave-world appears to have very little connection to what most of us would call reality.

Cari Burstein said...

Not that this will ever happen as long as the goal is voter suppression, but I think it should actually be legally required for the polling place to provide water and snacks to voters anytime the line stretches more than half an hour long. It should not be the responsibility of third parties to compensate for a broken system that leads to really long lines.

I'm sure their claim is that providing these items does give the opportunity to influence a vote. That could be solved in a different way if they actually were trying to solve a real problem, by just making it illegal to display any promotional materials or identify the source of the free food and drink.

Placing boxes of bottles of water periodically throughout the line that people could take with no human interaction or drone deliveries of water bottles could theoretically circumvent some of it, but of course the whole point is just to discourage voting in areas that likely will vote in a way they don't like, the areas who already suffer disproportionately long lines.

Slim Moldie said...

Georgia. Drinking Water Law. Voting Lines. Election Day. God?

I'm just wondering, what if some Godly people, brothers and sisters, pass out paper cups and maybe send some balloons to the heavens--maybe kiss some clouds with a little spice: a little prayer they call seeding. Does that make the good Lord's rain criminal behavior?

Scidata, I thought polemics were the things I was using to record my acoustic guitar so you got one up on me. FWIW I prefer condenser polemics over dynamic, although the Shure SM90 might be your best bang for the buck.

RE Starlink, say we fast-forward to Rainbows End sort of future. What percent of their living wage will people have to pay to be on Starlink? Will the 3 meals a day + snacks and desserts countries subsidize the cost for the rest? Seriously, how does that work?

I hardly ever post, so don't freak out I'll most likely be gone awhile, but lastly...seeking advise. Picked up Hyperion for the bed-time reading and am finding no fault in the book so far, except that it is assisting me in falling asleep consistently after about 3 pages. Re-read the inside blurb: and I'm sorry, but Canterbury Tales isn't the most ringing endorsement. And now I'm worried. I've got the Snow Queen and The Boat of a Million years on the to-read stack. Does Hyperion go next to Infinite Jest on the top shelf of shame, or do I stick it out a bit longer?

Larry Hart said...

Cari Burstein:

...or drone deliveries of water bottles...

That's brilliant! A few amateurs could fly a swarm of drones carrying water bottles over to the line from a safe distance away.

scidata said...

@Slim Moldie

I know even less about guitars than polemics. Recently watched a Keith Richards talk about "bustin' off the sixth string" that warmed my heart though. I once had one of those joke playbills that read, "Rolling Stones Live! - plus Keith Richards". And in my youth, the few pence I had left after buying transistors always went for Shure turntable cartridges. Not sure why, but playing Elvis Costello records 20 hours a day seemed to burn those puppies out.

David Brin said...

A fellow offered a comment that was passionate and intelligent and passed through the spam filter... but placed it somewhere other than in this thread. About guns. I don't haunt past threads, alas.

Alfred Differ said...

Slim Moldie,

In a Rainbows End world I suspect connection costs will be near zero for the same reason printer companies practically give away new printers nowadays. You'll be captured by subscriptions which are more lucrative.

Read the 'Fast Times' story that goes along with the Rainbow novel and you'll see things from the kid's perspective a little better. Access to the raw network won't mean much as it's all the stuff we gain by being connected that is the real value.

I'll bet net access will be subsidized for basic stuff. What gets counted as 'basic' will probably change quickly too even in a future that turns out a little different from Vinge's near-transcendence world.

Paul451 said...

Alfred Differ,
"Polaroid and Kodak could have come out with digital cameras."

Kodak did. They supposedly invented the first digital camera in the '70s. They tried to sell digital cameras in the late '80s and through the '90s. I suspect it was undersupported by management until it was too late and became a panic with everyone (who had nothing to do with the development previously, and knew nothing about it) trying to jump in and "save the company".

Things might have been different if they'd seen the writing on the wall with video cameras, in 1983, when the 16mm market died out overnight after Sony & JVC introduced camcorders. If they'd had a decade of experience with home video cameras, they'd have their own sensor lab to dominate the digital still camera market in the '90s. Kodak's R&D lab was apparently pretty good. (Like Xerox's R&D lab. Or Microsoft's.)

Similarly: While Polaroid came out with a photo-printer in 2008 using dye-in-paper, based on an advanced version of their Instant film that they were re-developing. Obviously a wee bit late. But they could have done it in the mid-'90s, as soon as digital cameras went mainstream. Hell, make the "printer" compatible with their existing film-packs. Small print size, low resolution, but portable, and more vivid colours than contemporary ink-jet printing. Then they could have rebranded a super-cheap, nearly disposable digital camera to go with their printers (while building up their internal know-how in electronics); the camera you take to the beach to save your expensive prosumer camera from getting damaged/stolen/used-by-the-kids. Later a waterproof version of their holiday camera, and a larger format, super-bright version of their photo-printer. Then GoPro-style action-cams. Then co-branded waterproof cellphones, focused (ha) on photo and video. They had other branded products, like floppy disks and sunglasses (ie, chemically treated films), and were a household name associated with something fun and easy-to-use. Imagine how much you would have to spend to get that kind of brand association. Threw it away.)

Re: SpaceX, Falcon, Starlink
"Cheap access to space changes everything."

It's step two. Where step one was "Access to space". 70 years after step one, we're just now starting to reach step two. Worse, many people in the industry, in research, still don't understand why it's even a step.

That said: SpaceX has (IMO) missed a trick in not expanding into standard satellite buses (other than Starlink), intended to be easy for themselves to launch, and standardised for suppliers to build off-the-shelf hardware to lower costs and development time for customers. Similar to what happened in cubesats. It has started to happen in the medium-size commsat market. Even JPL has been trying to save money by using commercial commsat buses as the core of lower-cost probes. But it seems such a gimme for SpaceX. Lower hardware costs, encourage new customers for launch. Standardise satellite form-factors, develop standard ejectors that can be bundled up together for Starship launches. (No-one will develop payloads that require Starship until long after it exists.)

Paul451 said...

duncan cairncross,
Re: Chinese elephant's and Starlink
"The Chinese are very pragmatic - I suspect that they will simply "fold" and rely on the fact that so much of the western "news" is so obviously propaganda that the people will not believe it anyway"

I don't think it's western news, as such, that bothers them, but the ability for Chinese activists internally and externally to coordinate and undermine the central government, without monitoring or interference. (Along with the ability for other countries to do to China what they and Russia and oligarchal rentboys have done to the West, via bot-farms and similar tactics.)

Paul451 said...

Re: Watering voters.

Assuming Dems take the risk of setting up snack stations near the waiting queue, I hope they put up a big sign, officially "as a warning to well meaning people", that loudly proclaims that giving water and food to people in line is illegal under Georgia law, with Brian Kemp's name prominently displayed. With copies of the relevant parts of the actual law available at the stand, having on the back a list of state legislators who voted for and against it, along with their party affiliation.

I especially hope they do this in rural Republican areas.

As Larry Hart said: "these restrictions have nothing to do with protecting against fraud. How do they even pretend to justify this restriction?"

It's so obviously stupid that, at first, many people won't believe it. Some conservatives will want to see "proof" of the law. Some will read it. A few will be angry enough about the utter stupidity and vindictiveness of it, to change their vote. Sure, tomorrow, they'll be back to gorging on Fox News or similar, and nodding along to whatever BS justification the talking-heads come up with. But you only need that vote, that day.

matthew said...

Re: watering voters, Paul451 says "I especially hope they do this in rural Republican areas." There will be no long voter lines in rural Republican areas, so no water is needed.

And the water is the least of things, though great for building outrage on the left. The ability in the same bill for the GOP-gerrymandered legislature to remove election officials, demand infinite recounts, and take over elections in Fulton County are the real travesties. The Georgia GOP, aided by by own brother btw, are trying to ensure that the next time there will be no chance for a Democratic groundswell to win.

If the Senate doesn't pass SB1 we will not see any purple in Georgia. It will be pure, cheating Red.

Robert said...

I don't haunt past threads, alas.

Can you lock comments on past threads once you post the 'onwards' message?

scidata said...

A fantasy phone call between Elon and me:

Elon: Scidata, so nice of you to call.
Me: I do what I can. So, that's four Starships that blowed up real good on landing.
Elon: Yeah, kind of reminds me of the early Falcon days.
Me: Let's hope it turns out as well.
Elon: We learn something every time, so we're making progress.
Me: Maybe. You're probably also adding (patching) code.
Elon: Trade secret, sorry.
Me: SpaceX should have done three or four ground-up re-writes by now.
Elon: We're an iterative culture, not a back-to-the-drawing board one.
Me: Diminishing returns; cruft builds up. Design is not evolution (think giraffe nerve).
Elon: Nobody else has ever done this better or faster.
Me: 50 years in low-earth orbit is a low comparison bar.
Elon: We have great people.
Me: It's not just code cruft. Staff, esp engineers, also become dogmatic and territorial over time.
Elon: Well what can we do?
Me: Write everything in Forth, from first principles, just to see what real design feels like again. Not as production software, but as a learning exercise. And while you're at it, teach basic coding to everyone. Computational thinking is an organizational development winner.
Elon: Forth? Are you mad??
Me: No, just slightly annoyed at all the smoke and noise. It scares the wildlife.
Elon: assh-- click

Daniel Duffy said...

Chinese history keeps repeating itself.

Between 1405 and 1433, the Ming government sponsored naval expeditions led by eunuch admiral Zheng He. Massive Chinese fleets consisting of treasure ships measuring over 400 feet long (the Santa Maria of Columbus was only 117 feet long) reached as far as South Africa and maybe California. In all areas of knowledge (science, military, engineering, navigation, etc.) the Chinese led the world.

Everyone else really were meaningless barbarians by comparison, especially Europeans then busy burning witches and heretics and maybe bathing once a year. World domination should have gone to China, not Europe.

Then a new emperor ordered that Zheng He's fleet be burned to prevent any further contamination of Chinese society by contact with inferior cultures and disruptive ideas.

Today, the CCP's restrictive policies (social credit, facial recognition software, snuffing out democracy in Hong Kong, internet bans and controls, etc.) is yet another burning of the fleet.

They are strangling invention, stifling the dissent that questions authority and provides innovation, creativity and change. Instead they have chosen a new isolation and obedience to authority in an effort to assure social harmony.

The results will be the same.

Daniel Duffy said...

Don't lose any sleep over China, it's demographically a dead man walking destined to grow old before it gets rich.

Remember back in the 1980s when everyone was predicting the Japan would take over the world? Didn't happen. Why? for the same reason China is not going to take over the world: demographics.

Hard to imagine, but China is running out of people and workers. Like Japan before it, China has very poor fertility rates. Its so bad that the interior provinces are asking for a 2 baby MINIMUM policy:

The decades-old one-child policy has skewed China’s population older, as well as resulted in far more boys than girls, due to some couples seeking to make sure their only child would be male. The aging problem is weighing on China’s pension system, while the gender imbalance has made it hard for some men to find wives. As a result, Mei said in his proposal to the provincial political advisory body earlier this year, the mere relaxation of the one-child policy isn’t enough, and two-child policy should be enforced.

But it's already too late. Easing its one baby policy won't alter China's demographic collapse:

As a result of rapid declines in birth and death rates over the past four decades, China’s life expectancy at birth has increased by more than 10 years to 75 years. With steep declines in fertility and increasing longevity, China’s population has aged rapidly over the past 40 years, with the median age nearly doubling from 19 to 35 years. The adoption of the one-child policy also accelerated the decline in the proportion of China’s children, falling precipitously from 40 percent in 1970 to 18 percent today.
In contrast, the working-age population aged 15 to 64 years jumped from 56 to 73 percent, higher than the 62 percent average for more developed countries. The extraordinary age-structure transformation allowed China to benefit from the demographic dividend, a short-term productive advantage due to a large labor force relative to small numbers of dependent young and old. Throughout the past four decades, China’s potential support ratio, or working-age persons per retiree, was high, early on 14 working-age persons per retiree, and now eight, versus three per retiree in Germany, Italy and Japan and five per retiree in Australia, Canada and the United States.

Daniel Duffy said...

Also, before the one-child policy, China’s sex ratio at birth averaged around 107 boys for every 100 girls. Ten years after the policy’s adoption, the ratio reached 115 boys for 100 girls and may exceed 125 in some provinces, reflecting the strong preference for sons, especially in rural farming areas. China’s unusually high sex ratio at birth indicates extensive use of sex-selective abortion. The number of young males unable to find brides is estimated at more than 25 million.

The critical factor determining China’s future population is the level of fertility. If China’s current fertility of about 1.6 births per woman were to remain constant, its population would peak at 1.44 billion in a dozen years and then begin declining, reaching a population of 1.33 billion by mid-century and 868 million by the century’s end

In addition, constant fertility would reduce the proportions of children and the working-age population and nearly triple the proportion of elderly to 25 percent. As a result, China’s current potential support ratio of 8.3 working-age persons per retiree would fall to 2.5 persons per retiree by mid-century. China’s fertility could also decline further, perhaps approaching low levels of Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan. Further reduction in Chinese fertility to 1.3 births per woman – the low variant - would accelerate population decline, shrinking labor force and aging, with China’s population peaking at 1.40 billion by this decade’s end, then declining to 600 million by 2100. In 50 years, one-third of the population would be elderly and the potential support ratio would fall to an unprecedented 1.6 working-age persons per retiree.

Daniel Duffy said...

Demographics aren't the worst of China's problems. In their rush to industrialize they have turned China into a toxic cesspool.

As for China's degraded and poisoned environment see "Our Real China Problem"

Within seconds we saw a broad stream of bubbling water cascading out the back of the plant and down the hillside. The astringent odor of chlorine attacked our nostrils, and once we reached the stream's edge, the smell was so powerful that we immediately backed away. Below us, where the discharge emptied into the Jialin, a frothy white plume was spreading across the slow-moving river.

Fifty yards farther on we encountered a second stream, this one a mere foot wide but clogged with pineapple-sized clumps of dried orange foam. Beyond was a third creek. Its stench identified it as household sewage (workers in China's state-owned factories generally live on site or nearby), but its most extraordinary feature was its color -- as black as used motor oil. Not ten yards away a grizzled peasant in a dark-blue Mao jacket and trousers (an outfit still worn in China by the poor) bent over a tiny vegetable patch to pick some greens for his midday meal.

All this was dwarfed by what lay ahead. The vapor was what we saw first -- wispy white, it hung low in the air, like tear gas. Stepping closer, we heard the sound of gushing water. Not until we were merely footsteps away, however, could we see the source of the commotion: a vast, roaring torrent of white, easily thirty yards wide, splashing down the hillside like a waterfall of boiling milk.

Again the scent of chlorine was unmistakable, but this waterfall was much whiter than the first. Decades of unhindered discharge had left the rocks coated with a creamlike residue, creating a perversely beautiful white-on-white effect. Above us the waterfall had bent trees sideways; below, it split into five channels before pouring into the unfortunate Jialin. All this and yet the factory, as one worker had informed us, was operating at about 25 percent of capacity.

At least five of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in China. Sixty to 90 percent of the rainfall in Guangdong, the southern province that is the center of China's economic boom, is acid rain. Since nearly all the gasoline in China is leaded (Beijing switched to unleaded gas in June), and 80 percent of the coal isn't "washed" before being burned, people's lungs and nervous systems are bombarded by an extraordinary volume and variety of deadly poisons. One of every four deaths in China is caused by lung disease, brought about by the air pollution and the increasingly fashionable habit of cigarette smoking. Suburban sprawl and soil erosion gobbled up more than 86 million acres of farmland from 1950 to 1990 -- as much as all the farmland in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Farmland losses have continued in the 1990s, raising questions about China's ability to feed itself in years to come, especially as rising incomes lead to more meat-intensive diets.

Daniel Duffy said...

Also recommend these videos on Chinese demographics:

duncan cairncross said...

the Demographic "bomb" !!!

Only its a fizzle

YES you end up with more Pensioners per worker

But you also end up with LESS kids per worker

In terms of a society both absorb resources - and they just about cancel each other out

Its a "Wash" less kids - more pensioners

As far as the actual REDUCTION in population is concerned THAT will take generations to have a major effect

Losing 10% of the population per generation takes a fair few generations to make a difference

David Brin said...

DD a few historical inaccuracies.

1. Cheng He was sent out by the Yongle Emperor who was a Chinese anomaly. He also built the Forbidden City! Almost Bankrupted China and his heirs reverted to normal insularity.

“Then a new emperor ordered that Zheng He's fleet be burned to prevent any further contamination of Chinese society by contact with inferior cultures and disruptive ideas.”

Mostly left to rot and the end was more financial than paranoid. But sure. Return to normal.

“Everyone else really were meaningless barbarians by comparison, especially Europeans then busy burning witches and heretics and maybe bathing once a year.”

To be clear, at the time of Zheng He’s last voyage, Henry the Navigator was already building new style ships at his institute in Lisbon. Smaller but vastly more agile vessels. And Brunelleschi had already invented perspective, an artistic breakthrough of mind blowing proportions. So let’s not get carried away.

“World domination should have gone to China, not Europe.”

well, coulda. Maybe. Though in fact the center of the world then was the Turkish Sultanate.

I am much less concerned about the demographics than I am about a meme campaign to stir up hatred of the West.

India. THEIR demographics are what worry me.

David Brin said...

Okay, here's an amusement and clearly no accident. Did you know there's a David Brin Drive in Laredo Texas, right next to Fritz Leiber Drive, Alex Haley Drive. and John Irving Drive. Though I kinda get the short end! And one can imagine the phrase "... then turn on David Brin..." Yipe! Getting that enough!!! ;-),+Laredo,+TX+78041/@27.5645022,-99.4690305,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x866120d00ed35f1f:0x1ca2dd40e2e2903d!8m2!3d27.5645022!4d-99.4668365?hl=en

Alfred Differ said...


I hear ya. Picking on Polaroid and Kodak alone would be unfair. Picking on some of their bright people would be worse. The behavior of large corporations that tempts them to avoid paths that produce competitive products that could wipe out their other products is actually pretty common. So common, I like to point it out when people argue too strenuously for regulation to break up monopolies. e.g. Henry Ford had a wonderful little cash cow with the Model T, but he failed to adapt them fast enough to prevent others from crushing his advantage and then his lock on the cheaper end of the auto market.

Historical doofi are pretty obvious... ex post facto.

Alternate decision paths that would have avoided disaster jump out at us... ex post facto.

There also seem to be ignored prophets for each that called out the End Times. Some even tried to prevent collapse. I know a guy who called out the Doom of the last housing bubble. Wish I had listened to him in time to save my 401K and sold my house. Alas, that lesson in prudence will benefit me ex post facto.

I experience considerable schadenfreude regarding the events coming at the old defense contractors, though. This time I knew ex ante. I tried hard more than once to set up ways to profit and left a trail of unpaid bills, pissed-off former business partners, and a combination of presentation slide decks, some hardware, and bits of software. No fat bank accounts unfortunately. Still... my friends and I were right and we knew it cold. Some of them made some money too.

So... good enough... I'll take it as a win* for our civilization.

* [Yah. Another BFR upper stage blew up today. Don't care. They have the bit between their teeth. Not just Elon. Talk to the community and it's really obvious.]

Daniel Duffy said...


Having more pensioners than kids puts your population in an ever declining spiral, with each generation having fewer children (which later become fewer workers) and more elderly. Peter Zeihan does a great job of explaining what that does to government expenditures and capital markets.

No growth capitalism is an oxymoron, and economic growth is not physically possible when populations are declining (the Japanese have so far avoided this by going massively into ever deepening debt).

But the real demographic loser is Russia. Putin has only a decade to obtain his strategic goals before the Russians run out of draftable young men to serve in the army (a decline of 50%) or provide the engineering/technological workforce to keep Russian infrastructure and strategic weapons' functioning. The average Russian male mortality is only 59, their technical class is about to die out:

Daniel Duffy said...

India's demographics, from an economic point of view, are actually quite healthy:

However, it's disastrous from an environmental and global warming point of view.

So there you have it.

You can either have increasing population demographics with more children than elderly that promotes economic growth.

Or you can have declining population demographics with more elderly than children that saves the planet.

You can't have both.

Daniel Duffy said...

Probably the best video on the costs, energy needs, and economics of vertical farming for three types of food: low calorie greens like lettuce and kale (already profitable and expanding), medium calorie fruits and vegetables (profitable if you factor in all costs such as reduce transportation costs) and high calorie cereals (not economically viable - and probably never will be).

Daniel Duffy said...

As for Zheng He’s fleet, sources differ but both appear to be true.

Yes, the fleet was left to rot in harbor and over time Chinese craftsmen forgot how to make them.

However, the ships were later set fire to prevent these rotting hulks from becoming a hazard (many of the fires may have been arson or local officials acting without imperial orders).

Robert said...

The whole point of the one child policy was population reduction. China is well into ecological overshoot just from population. This is not something the Party is unaware of*.

It's also a policy that is increasingly unnecessary in the cities. Many couples are choosing not to have children, even when they are allowed them, because they feel they can't afford them. A place to live, good schools, medical care… children are expensive. Couples that are allowed two children* are choosing to either be childless or have one child.

*Source: discussion with Party members nearly two decades ago.

**If both husband and wife are single children, they are allowed two children.

duncan cairncross said...

ACTUAL economic growth is production per capita

Population growth is NOT NOT NOT useful real economic growth

And economic growth is what we (engineers) do!
Every year we work out how to do more with less - which is REAL growth

Its not just engineers - most people leave the world with more resources than they started with

YES - "IF" we are stuck on a continuous population drop every generation it will eventually become a problem - but that will not be an actual problem for several generations - for well over 100 years - that is plenty of time to do something about

David Brin said...

A very important article discusses many of China's current strengths. I deem it flawed in its own ways. GBut important to absorb and ponder.

duncan cairncross said...

Interesting article

I disagree with the conclusion about innovation -
As far as I can see the USA is not especially good at "innovation"
But has been the world leader at turning the "innovation" into actual products

Not sure if that is still true - but it certainly was true in the 20th century

"There are many millions of Chinese who aspire to freedom"
Just what is "freedom" ??

Free to starve on the streets?
Free to vote?
Free to "Bear Arms"?
Free to be shot by some plonker bearing arms ?

I suspect that the there may well be "millions of Chinese" who aspire to "freedom" US Style
But there are probably also millions of Chinese who believe the earth is flat

duncan cairncross said...


The BIGGEST reason that China is strong is that within living memory they have been very very poor - and they can see just how much they have risen since then

In living memory the USA has seen itself slip from "The BEST place in the world to live" - by a good margin!
To somewhere about 30th or so in nations

China's experience gives the people a LOT of confidence in their Government

scidata said...

The closing argument about serendipity-driven innovation is strong. This is the crux of every psychohistory discussion I've ever had.

On a different subject entirely, I wasn't tilting at windmills about Forth and space with my fanciful phone call. I was serious. So is NASA, the ESA (esp Rosetta), and others.

duncan cairncross said...


Our Host talks about "Amateur Science"

The future will probably bring "Amateur Innovation" as well - people making things in their sheds

This requires two things
(1) Sufficient wealth and time for people to potter
(2) The pottering meme in the culture

As China get richer it will have (1)

(2) ????
Is this going to be present in the Chinese culture

I suspect that it will be present - but possibly at lower percentages
Also has the percentage infected with that meme in the USA and the west dropped?? - how low will it go?

Paul451 said...

Alfred Differ,
"e.g. Henry Ford had a wonderful little cash cow with the Model T, but he failed to adapt them fast enough to prevent others from crushing his advantage and then his lock on the cheaper end of the auto market."

Ford was hamstrung by the Dodge brothers. They were the second largest investors in Ford, but wanted to create a rival company, so when Ford tried to lower prices and put profits back into new production, they sued him for not acting in the interests of investors. Ford knew what their real scheme was, but being an asshole, instead of defending his actions as good business decisions that increase the long term value of the company (and that the Dodges were trying to strip value from Ford Company for themselves), he had his lawyers argue that as majority shareholder, it was his company and he could do what he wanted, including turn the company into a charity. The court said, "no", and the Dodges won both the suit and the appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Ford could not lower prices or raise salaries, and had to issue an extra $19 million dividend to stockholders instead of building more manufacturing capacity. Prior to that, Ford could beat any rival on price, had millions in surplus to expand production and develop new vehicles, and could attract the best workers in the industry. Afterwards, they were just another Detroit auto-maker.

Paul451 said...

Re: Starship explosions.
This isn't a software problem. It's hardware. The tanks initially had weaknesses, that was quickly solved. But their biggest issue is that the new engines are too fragile.

The software has worked fine. Even the most recent failure "landed" right next to the correct landing area after a successful multi-km flight. Once they ruggedise the engines, they'll be golden.

Daniel Duffy said...

By contrast, here is a concise explanation as to why America wil always be #1 no matter what idiot gets elected president: geography.

The largest chunk of arable land in the world, basically everything between the Appalachians and the Rockies (plus California's Imperial Valley).

16,000 miles of navigable water ways (more than the rest of the world combined). If you want to move bulk material - like grain - it is 10x cheaper to do so by barge instead of by truck or rail. Russia has an extensive system of Siberian rivers all flowing in the wrong direction to the frozen arctic, making them essentially useless for commerce (which explains why Putin would welcome global warming).

Fantasies like "Red Dawn" and MITHC notwithstanding, America is almost impossible to invade, oceans on the east and west, tundra to the north and deserts to the south. Logistically it is impossible to invade America. For most of our history, except for a good sized navy to protect American maritime interests, we did not have a significant military because we didn't need one (at the start of WWII, Bulgaria had a larger army than the US).

Three extremely long coastlines dotted with natural harbors allowing American commerce to be easily shipped to world markets across the Atlantic and the Pacific (though exports and imports are only a small fraction of our overall GDP). We are the only nation with direct access to both major oceanic markets.

In short, America props up a global economic system that it really does not directly partake in. We could go isolationist tomorrow and do just fine.

It is the rest of thee world that would suffer when we are gone.

Acacia H. said...

And in line with my previous linked article about how Dark Matter might be explainable by means of faulty mathematical models of the universe that were using Newtonian physics instead of General Relativity... Dark Energy may in fact just be a type of magnetic force rather than some mysterious form of energy. Further testing is required but the "magic forces" of the universe (Dark Energy and Dark Matter) may in fact have mundane, non-esoteric explanations for them.

Acacia H.

scidata said...

Paul451: The software has worked fine.

Hmmm. Software is more than just control, guidance, and gimballing, which I agree has been impressive so far. It's the foundation of operations (vast topic), construction (ditto), telemetry (which cut out inflight on SN11), fuel balancing (wobbly at best so far)*, logistics, risk assessment (seems to be an issue - delay in sunshine, then launch in fog), etc, etc.

Most importantly, it's the culture. I get the iterative approach, and it's obviously light years ahead of Artemis. However, I'm still waiting to see computational thinking throughout. Oddly, Bezos is perhaps ahead in this one area.

* and why are these ships landing with enough fuel to cause such devastating blasts? That smacks of software choices to me. I hope they're working in metric :)

David Brin said...

Ford had another problem. He invented the great assembly line with parts feeder lines on all sides. Great. Others copied that… then THEY innovated and made sure there were TWO or more assembly lines in parallel. They could shut down one to make new models while the other kept running. Ford had to shut ALL production in order to upgrade to the Model A.

“For most of our history, except for a good sized navy to protect American maritime interests, we did not have a significant military because we didn't need one…”

Which was one more reason among many to crush the Confederacy.

Robert said...

Totally off topic, any idea when the second Colony High novel will be published?

Niblings are ready for it…

David Brin said...

It's finished, Robert. But circulating right now. Maybe July August.

David Brin said...