Tuesday, November 30, 2021

You... yes, you... can help save the world exactly by YOUR priorities! Oh, and those killing us with their passion.

On Giving Tuesday, take a glance at what might be the best way to leverage your power as a planetary citizen! Pick a problem you perceive desperately needs solving. Make a list of ten. There's a way to pool small amounts with millions of others who together hire pros to attack exactly your combination of concerns! 

Proxy Activism, the power of joining!

Have more than just a little? In the range of a dozen millions or so? Want to change the world more than most billionaires do? Then here's a way that a mere millionaire might change the whole world of philanthropy, forever!

And yes, I am talking about the one thing Vladimir Putin hates more than enlightenment, accountable law or the USA... NGOs or Non-Government Organizations. He - and his tool Fox News - rails against the very concept. A way that Western citizens can act outside of government to make the world better for all.

== Fear isn't the 'mind-killer." It's passion! ==

All right, I do return to this. But there is a common trait shared by all of those who are propelling us into civil war. Those who are tearing us apart with passion. 

As I said in the linked TEDdish talk, sanctimonious indignation is the mind poison shared far too widely across all spectra of politics and society, having very little to do with how justified (or not) your cause may be. It holds for to ALL of those who think it’s helpful to be “mad as hell!”  …. 

See: Is sanctimony an addictive disease?  

Okay yes, sure, there are good aspects to being passionate, especially in fighting against evil! We have the trait for good reasons. But it is all too easy for passion to become far more a mind-killer than mere fear.

I'm talking about when your passion takes over, blocking all ability to carefully evaluate your foes, especially their weaknesses, and thus you become less capable at defeating them. When feeling good about your righteousness becomes more important than achieving stated goals - that's sanctimony. When the voluptuous roar of your subjectivity makes you spurn (with malice) any application of objective reality.

When you are unable to recite the catechism of reasonableness: "I am at-most 90% right and my enemies are at-most 99% wrong." Which distills down to the sacred epigram of science: "I just might be mistaken."

== Where the mind-killer is most virulent ==

First, let’s address the by-far-worst infection: the entire Mad Right. Dig it, MAGAs and confederates and Fox-puppets: not one of your incantation memes would survive close, fact-based scrutiny and you know it. 

That is the definition of insanity. 

But far worse: your refusal to wager over your howl-memes is the very definition of dishonorable cowardice. Your dads and grampas would disown you, if they saw how all of you weasel, when dared to bet on your blowhard spews.

Many of your lie-memes are concocted in Kremlin basements (who else would want you screaming “deep state!” hatred at every single American fact-using profession, now including even the U.S. military officer corps?) Of course you must clutch all the lies passionately, because the slightest glimmer of reason will shatter them.

This means there are simply no sane American Republicans left. Even those who are calm-of-tone and who claim to regret Donald Trump are still complicit in their cult’s all-out War on Folks Who Know Stuff and against every single fact-using profession. There are no incantations or magic spells to cancel or excuse that crime.

(We’ll see in a matter of days whether an honest version of US conservatism still has a place in  American political life… manifest in Joe Manchin, if he comes through re: those vital bills, this month. If he does, then live with him, the way Lincoln and Grant accepted help from patriotic southerners who donned blue and fought for the Union. Grit… your… teeth and accept the miracle of a Democratic Senator from the reddest state in the nation, who ousted Moscow Mitch as majority leader and made Liz and Bernie committee chairs. That is... show some acceptance IF he eventually comes through. I guess we'll see.)

== Alas, there's plenty of crazy left-over to share around ==

Without any doubt - and with mountain ranges of proof - the monumental heap of treason and lunacy is on the entire mad right. But that does not mean they have a complete monopoly!

To the portion of the left that’s also so addicted to sanctimony that you harm the cause, please, I beg you to dig this. 

STRATEGICALLY we share goals: save the planet, increase justice & tolerance, invest in new generations, all that. (In fact, I've fought longer and harder for all those things - and more effectively - than almost any of those who keep carping me from that direction; bet on it?) 

We share overall goals and strategy. But your refusal to re-examine flawed TACTICS is a betrayal that all winning reform movements had to overcome. MLK, Gandhi, Frederick Douglass and so on spent half their time and energy on that, alas. And you who would piss on allies really, really, really need to read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

Think. Strategy and goals are sacred. Tactics - on the other hand - must be disposable/replaceable with new ones that work better. It's called agility and it is key to victory.

Fundamentally, it is BS that any criticism of flawed tactics is an 'attempt to undermine the cause.' That’s a flat out lie, as bad as any clutched by the right and it makes you more like them!

It is utterly proved that some of your sanctimony-propelled tactics harm the broad coalition - a majority of Americans(!) - who share your goals. Especially the reflex to diss allies and to refuse any credit to the two persons who are (at this moment) unambiguously your leaders, who need and deserve your passionate support. 

And yes, I mean Joe & Kamala. 

Your reflex to seach and sift and growl and dig for any excuse to hate them is why we lose. It's the same betrayal as in 1980, 1988, 1994, 2000, 2010 and 2016.  Only, if you try it this time, Stacey Abrams will come after you. With a stick.

== And yes, Maher is right ==

Indeed, while I disagree with him in many ways, that core truth about tactics is what Bill Maher has been saying, all along. And not just him, but also AOC, Stacey Abrams, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, Bernie and Liz, in their own ways. Tactics to help win in 2022 by TAKING TERRITORY away from the mad/treasonous/red/muscovite confederacy. 

And you won’t help that happen by screaming spittle in the faces of those you hope to convert.

Here’s the biggest one to fix. Cut down the obsession with SYMBOLISM! 

The entire mad right is obsessed with with symbol crap! Stop playing that mug’s game by going all sumo-grunt-shove with them over emblems. 

There are other battles - pragmatic fights - that matter far more for the planet and poor and justice, and every other good thing. Like winning.

== The Crux ==

Okay, don't leave with any impression I'm down with both-sides-ism!  While I finger-wagged at the most-fervid left, let's come full circle to recall who is far more wrong, strategically, morally, scientifically, factually and by any metric of decency or patriotism. 

I've said this before:

Yes, the FAR left CONTAINS some fact-allergic, troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.   


But today’s mad ENTIRE right CONSISTS of fact-allergic, troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.     


There is all the world’s difference between FAR and ENTIRE.  

As there is between CONTAINS and CONSISTS. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Are we Out of Time? Science Fiction at so many crossroads - in the sky and in the future.

First some Real Sci-Tech News that’s also totally sci fi and brings aviation full circle.

 The Wright Brothers’ original designs achieved controlled aerodynamics by warping the wings, the way a bird does, but Glenn Curtis showed that having separate flaps and ailerons just worked much better for heavy, human-carrying craft… that is, till now! 

Instead of requiring separate movable surfaces such as ailerons to control the roll and pitch of the plane, as conventional wings do, NASA’s new assembly system makes it possible to deform the whole wing, or parts of it, by incorporating a mix of stiff and flexible components in its structure. …The result is a wing that is much lighter, and thus much more energy efficient, than those with conventional designs, whether made from metal or composites, the researchers say. Because the structure, comprising thousands of tiny triangles of matchstick-like struts, is composed mostly of empty space, it forms a mechanical “metamaterial” that combines the structural stiffness of a rubber-like polymer and the extreme lightness and low density of an aerogel.” 

Now add to that my longstanding prediction that 2023 will be the "year of the flying car"? (At least limited air-limo service for the rich and hobby kits for use in rural zones.)

What a way to being our monthly Science Fiction breakdown?

== Latest Brin News ==

Out of Time!
The future needs heroes! Announcing two vivid new titles in the Out of Time series for YA readers: If the future asked for help would you go? 

A 24th century utopia has no war, disease, or crime... but no heroes with the grit to solve problems that are suddenly swarming over them! So they reach back in time for heroes... but only the young can survive the journey! 

Hot off the press: The Archimedes Gambit, by Patrick Freivald: youths time travel to stop a rogue AI on a killing spree.  Followed by another vivid tale of survival against all odds: Storm's Eye by October K. Santerelli, just released. And/or start with other great titles in this series written earlier by award winners like Nancy Kress and Sheila Finch.

Want another stocking stuffer for that adventure-minded teen? It’s on! 1000 teens never volunteered for this, when their high school got snatched and dropped onto an alien world - in Colony High - only now they’re busy exploring, discovering, fighting parasites, uncovering mysteries and - despite arguments and angst - doing better than their alien-kidnappers expected… or wanted. Find out how in the new episode: Castaways of New Mojave! (co-written with Jeff Carlson). Now in paper or on Kindle. 

And for more 'grownup" fare... for those with a more literary bent… the Best of David Brin - a collection of short stories I’d sure call “my best” - is now available both on Kindle and in a fine collectable hardcover. 

And giving equal time to the meatiest stuff... get my Uplift Storm Trilogy on Amazon or Nook. Find out what happens to the Five Galaxies and a bunch of refugee dolphins! (Oh, and the six refugee races of Jijo!) 

== Are you a POD person? ==

One of the better "Brinterviews" is this one on Mythaxis, challenging me but generally highlighting ways that I urge folks to be optimistic rebels.

For your weekend listening pleasure or edification. Singularity Radio - from Singularity University - offers my interview on The Value of History, Criticism and Science Fiction...themes I explore more deeply in Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood.

And another themed podcast interview… What you can do to ensure a better future … David Brin on Conversations with Tom.

Oh, more listening pleasure? A nice series online offers <10min readings by three sci fi authors, each week. This time, following two very talented (!) young authors, I presented a just-written opening scene for an even newer novel in my Out of Time series for teens. After listening, come back to comments and tell us if you guessed who the "pommie war correspondent" guest star is! The video and audio interviews are available on Space Cowboy Books.

== At the borderland tween sci and sci fi ==

I love it when someone offers a fresh perspective. We’ve long pondered comparisons of the oncoming wave of robots with how we treated each other, across the centuries. But in The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals about Our Future with Robots, MIT Media Lab researcher and technology policy expert Kate Darling argues for treating robots more like the way we treat animals. 

Okay, your first reflex is to cringe, thinking of meat eating and sport hunters and cruel masters. But ponder your own ways and the likely relationships of neolithic hunters to their dogs, farmers to their precious horses and those who rush to beaches in order to help stranded whales their ancestors would have eaten...

...and the simple fact that you do tend to love and complement the animals in your life.

The argument: we are already equipped with tools of otherness-empathy, should we actually choose to use them. “Robots are likely to supplement—rather than replace—our own skills and relationships. So if we consider our history of incorporating animals into our work, transportation, military, and even families, we actually have a solid basis for how to contend with this future.” 

And yes, spectrum folks may be key to this, as was the case when Temple Grandin showed us our complacently unnecessary insults to meat animals. I portray exactly this extension to AIs… in Existence.

And more SF ...

I am impressed with the new novel by Shawn Butler. Vivid and fast-paced, Run Lab Rat Run explores the coming era of human augmentation at every level, from scientific to ethical, asking ‘What if every possibility comes true? Might we split into dozens of species?’ This is the real deal in speculative fiction.

Jackson Allen's MESH is 'Truly Devious' meets 'Ready Player One.' Only one thing stands between Roman’s supervillain principal, his killer robots, and plans for world domination – a plucky band of retrotech rebels brought together by the MESH.

With Kindle Vella, U.S. based authors can publish serialized stories,  written specifically to be released in a serial format, one 600–5,000 word episode at a time. Readers can explore Kindle Vella stories by genre.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Science - tech roundup! Was Sodom blasted from space? A song-prediction on 'Albedo,' and much more

Okay, to keep y'all rolling toward holidays with family & friends... a few updates from recent science & tech news...

= The Past Speaks! ==

Strong evidence suggests ‘biblical” scale sky-brimstone actually happened in the region spoken-of in that ancient compilation. In appears that in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600 years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a leading Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea. "The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Siberia, where a ~ 50-m-wide bolide detonated with ~ 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A city-wide ~ 1.5-m-thick carbon-and-ash-rich destruction layer contains peak concentrations of shocked quartz; melted pottery and mudbricks; diamond-like carbon; soot; Fe- and Si-rich spherules; CaCO3 spherules from melted plaster; and melted platinum, iridium, nickel, gold, silver, zircon, chromite, and quartz." Heating experiments indicate temperatures exceeded 2000 °C.  Other evidence includes: “ extreme disarticulation and skeletal fragmentation in nearby humans…” Woof.

Okay... I just gotta finish the rest of the abstract here: “An airburst-related influx of salt (~ 4 wt.%) produced hypersalinity, inhibited agriculture, and caused a ~ 300–600-year-long abandonment of ~ 120 regional settlements within a > 25-km radius. Tall el-Hammam may be the second oldest city/town destroyed by a cosmic airburst/impact, after Abu Hureyra, Syria, and possibly the earliest site with an oral tradition that was written down (Genesis). Tunguska-scale airbursts can devastate entire cities/regions and thus, pose a severe modern-day hazard.”

Oh my. That oughta get the paranoid author juices flowing!

Zooming ahead to a slower apocalypse. A core visible trait of our planet - its albedo -- is changing before our eyes, literally. The Earth is ‘dimming.” Our planet is reflecting about half a watt less light per square meter than it was two decades ago. 

In ‘light’ of this news, I recommend a wonderful - nerdy - song by Vangelis - “Albedo”. A stirring recitation of traits of our beautiful planet. This video is also gorgeous. Note that even when this music was composed, in the 1970s, of all the distantly visible traits Vangelis recited, he knew that only one was changeable by humanity… the one he recites at the end. 

And at the end of this love ode to Earth, you will realize what so many knew even then.

Though yes, I have posted an analysis of how many of those other traits actually can be changed buy us and our descendants, across tens of millions of years.

== Our busy brains ==

French researchers isolated some of the neural pathways in our brains – specifically the hippocampus - that are responsible for recording and recalling the sequence of time.  

“Farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go”: Researchers have given a paralyzed man some ability to speak by decoding signals between his brain and mouth.  In other words… the “subvocal” device in Earth (1990) that I predicted would start appearing just about now. After months of adjustments to the system, the man was able to generate a word reliably every four seconds, or roughly 15 words per minute."Normal speech is on the order of 120, 150 words per minute, so there's a lot of room to improve," a lead researcher says.  

Apparently  listening to musical melodies activates an intriguing prediction/recognition system. When there is a pause between notes, the brain makes a prediction about the next note to come and we derive a teensy jolt of pleasure when the prediction comes true… but sometimes a different kind of pleasure jolt from puzzlement, when prediction fails! (I’m looking at you, Weird Al!)

For insight into the brain, decision making and critical thinking: a new book just released by Steven Pinker: Rationality: What it is, Why it seems scarce, Why it matters, a follow-up to Enlightenment Now. Pinker delves into conspiracy theorizing, fake news and medical quackery, exploring why humans so often seem to make decisions that seem irrational and illogical.  

And here's an interesting podcast interview of Steven Pinker along with the "worst American," George F. Will. 

I'll be commenting on this podcast later

 == Take that spider! Elephants don't have to be melancholy... ==

Do spiders record useful memory information outside their bodies, in their webs, the way we did with oral traditions, then books and e-media? See: Spiders weave a web of memories.  Interesting, if true. (If you want to read a vivid tale of highly-evolved (uplifted?) spiders, try Children of Time, by Adrian Tchikovsky.)

Guy I know suggested taking this concept of externally-stored memory, which helped launch human civilization, to a new level by giving tools to other creatures on this planet. For example, already there are dolphins who have regular access to touch screens. 

So,how about erecting monoliths across elephant foraging grounds and migratory paths? Not just passive obelisks, but sturdy, active interfaces where they could manipulate simple abacus-like objects... or else touch screens... or even just a chalkboard, that one elephant might alter and leave in some kind of order for the next one - or herd - to come across. 

On the first order, how much fun just to see if they develop a habit of some kind of "messaging?" But the number of follow-on possibilities seems endless. I think such a project would be fantastic!

 == And biology(!) miscellany... ==

We already knew that the chloroplasts in plants use some quantum effects in converting sunlight to chemical energy. Roger Penrose and associates suggest that certain tiny rods inside neurons may do similar tricks with quantum computing. Now, researchers suspect that some songbirds use a “quantum compass” that senses the Earth’s magnetic field, helping them tell north from south during their annual migrations… “that a protein in birds’ eyes called cryptochrome 4, or CRY4, could serve as a magnetic sensor.”

From Siberian ice, a 24,000 year old rotifer was revived. 

And speaking of the (semi) small… researchers examined data from 3,200 species and discovered a governing principle that determines sperm size in a species: Females with small reproductive tracts drive the production of bigger sperm. On the other hand, the need to spread sperm far and wide shrinks sperm across evolutionary timescales. “For instance, the parasitoid wasp Cotesia congregata produces little swimmers that are less than one-thousandth of a centimeter long, while fruit flies make sperm with 2.3-inch (6 cm) tails that coil tightly to fit inside their tiny bodies.”

Were dinosaurs already in decline before the asteroid struck? The debate continues

== Sewer bots ==

And I just found out that one of my weirdest ideas from the 90s - that I thought would never be implemented - actually was done a while back! 

Back then I was pondering one of the most powerful economic assets… Rights-of-Way (RoW). MCI & Sprint shredded the old AT&T monopoly on long distance by laying fiber along railroad and gas-line RoW. Around 2000 I consulted and published on missing RoW opportunities, like ways to enhance local RoW use in the developing world, in ways that might benefit the poor. 

There are two other types of RoW that have not yet been utilized for fiber/data and all that, Rights of Way that run all the way into every city and even into almost every home! First of these is water lines… but those have many valves, making fiber laying impossible. But the other one... can you guess?… 

...yep… topologically, sewer lines are open all the way! No valves or doors or gates. You could in theory deliver fiber all the way to every toilet in every home in the nation or world!

Um, that would take a helluva robot!  But it appears the concept was actually applied, to a limited degree! Indeed, it seems Sewer robots from Ca-Botics have successfully installed fibre-optics in some of the world’s major cities, including Paris, Berlin, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto. I wonder if those old musings of mine were picked up…

wouldn’t be the first time.

And finally... Vernor Vinge's great classic Rainbows End speculated on the effects of haptic feedback suits providing a real person with virtual 'touch." As did I in several stories ranging from "NatuLife" to EARTH and EXISTENCE

So. How about a ‘touchable” hologram system that uses jets of air known as “aerohaptics” to replicate the sensation of touch? Still more of an uncanny valley thing, I betcha.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Ongoing worries and concerns -- and some good trends

With the U.S. restoring itself as trusted leader of the West - also (at last) dealing with internal disasters like decayed infrastructure and inequality (fixes long delayed by the KGB-Foxites) - and especially as our protector castes no longer feel hampered at the top by Kremlin agents...

...we can now expect a series of desperation moves by those who have been waging all-but-open war against us for years, who know that a time of reckoning is coming. With oil prices up in ways that are sure to be temporary, Putin has a window, an opening, to take aggressive actions.

For example, we are seeing his puppet, Lukashenko, use Belarus to hurl innocent refugees at the borders of NATO, chortling as the west is caught between our compassionate laws and instincts, on the one hand, and the hard lesson taught by earlier waves -- that admitting great, bottomless tsunamis only winds up radicalizing European voters, triggering the backlash election of populist fascists who are just like Lukashenko and Putin and cozy up to them.  Short term, reflexive do-gooderism feels righteous but often does more long term harm than good.

Liberals are right to feel desperate discomfort from that irony! They are also fools to ignore what it means... that we cannot do everything at once. (We can help the poor of other nations both with aid and by pulling support from the local oligarchic oppressor classes that our own moguls propped-up, for a century.)

Now comes word that NATO has warned of Russian military buildups next to another victim-neighbor, Ukraine. Trump's betrayal of that brave country is now being corrected, though it will take time. This sets a clock ticking which may cause Vlad to rush his aggressor plans.

== And more evidence that this is war ==

Among ongoing worries and concerns... the mysterious Havana Syndrome: In late 2016, U.S. diplomats in Cuba experienced ongoing neurological symptoms, such as headaches, nausea and hearing loss, accompanied by a piercing, high-pitched sound. In the last five years, such symptoms have since been reported by more than 200 U.S. personnel in places as diverse as Bogota, Guangzhou, Vienna, and Hanoi. 

Is this due to foreign surveillance - or directed energy beams? The New York Times summarizes the range of possibilities: Is the Havana Syndrome an act of war - or mass hysteria? 

== Is transparency an answer to 6000 years of cheating? ==

The Pandora Papers are only #10 or so in a series of data spills that I predicted in The Transparent Society, that will - in agonizing fits and starts - strip away the shadows that aristocrats and oligarchs and kings and commissars have always used to cheat and maintain unfair power. This is why so many pools of oligarchy - from mafias, gambling moguls and "ex"-commissars to murder princes and "murdochs" straignt out of HG Wells - have joined together across the last two decades in a coalition - a putsch - to reinforce their influence and undermine the Enlightenment Experiment. 

Because if this counter trend continues, oligarchy - the great enemy of fair competition and enterprise and justice - might vanish forever.

This is why I feel one Great Treaty must prevail across all nations. (In Existence I refer to it as the Big Deal of the late 20s that forestalls revolution.) 

"If you own it, you must say, publicly: 'I own that!' 
"If not, then you don't." 

No shell corporations more than two deep and all must end in publicly named living persons, or governments, or accountable foundations. 

If this happened, then the world tax base might double, letting honest taxpayers get a rate cut. And the amount of abandoned property might erase all national debts.

== More attmpted, blatant cheats ==

And this....A Pentagon program that delegated management of a huge swath of the Internet to a Florida company in January -- just minutes before D. Trump left office -- has ended as mysteriously as it began, with the Defense Department this week retaking control of 175 million IP addresses.  At its peak, the company, Global Resource Systems, controlled almost 6 percent of a section of the Internet called IPv4. 

'The IP addresses had been under Pentagon control for decades but left unused, despite being potentially worth billions of dollars on the open market. Adding to the mystery, company registration records showed Global Resource Systems at the time was only a few months old, having been established in September 2020, and had no publicly reported federal contracts, no obvious public-facing website and no sign on the shared office space it listed as its physical address in Plantation, Fla.'

Store and use these things to do jiu jitsu on your favority conspiracy theory nut-uncle. Ask em to ask Q about that.

And...   From The Atlantic on the powerful effects of social media networks on democracy: "It's not Misinformation. It's Amplified Propaganda, "Perhaps the best word for this emergent bottom-up dynamic is... ampliganda, the shaping of perception through amplification," writes Renee DiResta.

Can we predict tomorrow's threats? The German Defense Ministry is using SF stories to predict future wars.  Their Project Cassandra has already successfully predicted conflict in Algeria. University researchers would use their expertise to help the German defense ministry predict the future. I participate in similar things in the U.S. each year.

== Possible solutions? ==

See the latest IBM Watson X-Prize winners strategizing how humans can work with AI to tackle future global challenges. 

Scientists are experimenting with methods of lowering temperatures in urban areas. In particular, Phoenix is painting its streets gray, to increase reflectivity and lower surface temperatures.

One scientist is testing metal-eating bacteria - extremophiles - that could clean up contaminants and environmental waste from the mining industry. A French company is using enzymes to recycle single-use plastics

And a new, more environmentally sound method for the extraction and separation of rare earth elements, which are critical for technologies used in smart phones and electric batteries. And combine this with ectraction of the raw stuff at geothermal energy plants. A win-win-win?

Climate TRACE is tracking global atmospheric carbon emissions in real time, offering greater transparency -- and accountability.

A new vaccine for malaria (with modest efficacy) may soon be approved by WHO for children.

Essential to food security, urban farming doesn't have to be horizontal. The 51-story Jian Mu Tower to be built in Shenzhen (pictured to the right) will contain offices, a supermarket and a large-scale farm capable of feeding up to 40,000 people per year.

The U.S. Postal Service is trying out paycheck cashing at some branches - which could change how millions now access money via evil check cashing 'services' and pay bills (often with large fees imposed). 

AOC has pushed one of my own longstanding proposals - that we re-establish the postal saving bank that cheat cabals tore down in the 1960s, that would give the poor at least minimal services and would help them to stop being poor.