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.


110 comments:

David Brin said...

A time may come when injustice makes the country burn. I have seen it before.

But it will not be tonight.

Terry Nation said...

"The modern GOP cannot be embarrassed by hypocrisy. Hypocrisy of the whole point of their existence, that rules that apply to others don't apply to them.

@reason, paradoctor: You're both right and both wrong. The fanatics of the far right don't feel shame at hypocrisy; indeed they see it as a useful tool, both as a blade to provoke and divide, and as a shield to block rationality. Exposing hypocrisy won't change them or even alter their course."

Little you know, that your (lackey-sigh) OGH is just the same.
No, worse.
That one are straight about their hypocrisy, well, that is not hypocrisy at all, just stupidity, while one certain King David are hypocritical even about his hypocrisy. Hypocritical to the core so to say. Even to his own lying eyes.
And that is helluva killarious.


"But the point is not to engage with them -- they have already, by their own choice, forfeited their ability to be part of the society of peaceful discussion."

Yes. Exactly.
Peacefull *discussion*, like free thoughts conversations. Oh-Gosh-How, that thing allergic to it. How insuferable.
Neither wits, nor accountability.


"The point is to disenchant, by demonstrating reality in ways very hard to obfuscate or dissuade, that can't be avoided by changing the subject."

Yes, yes, exactly.
Throw bare facts into his smug face.
That is what that thing fear the most.
It runs away, I mean closing/deleting that comment, every time.


"It's a tricky thing to do, and I'm not sure OGH has exactly the right way to go about it, but the general concept is sound -- and it is PRECISELY the strategy of King and Lewis and Shuttlesworth."

Ha-ha... because he himself are that hypocrite.


Robert said...

"I urge folks to be optimistic rebels."

You succeed with me. Be proud of it.
But why you not? Why you so scared of freedom of thoughts? Why so drowned in feudalistic delusion that thought can be controlled? And with what... with censure, in our advanced age.

Alfred Differ said...

I like the deformable wing idea. My second corporate effort at high altitude flight used a similar idea, but using internal tension lines to morph the outer shape a bit. Airships near the ground are at the mercy of the winds unless they can reduce their cross-section OR overpower the wind. Overpowering is really expensive and heavy, so I was looking for other ideas.

Along the way, I got pretty good at building those octahedral elements for 3-D tessellations. I used to cut the balsa by hand, but found it was easier (and cheaper) to buy thin bamboo coffee stir sticks. Their grain/fibers run more predictably along the long dimension which winds up mattering a lot when you try to deform a large structure built with them.

I had to stop playing with them when my son discovered how much more he preferred to take them apart than put them together. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Happy (American) Thanksgiving Day, everyone.

TCB said...

One thing that does bother me about the convictions of the three Ahmaud Arbery murderers is that they were not prosecuted until that cell phone video leaked.

The McMichaels and Bryan were not arrested until months after they chased Arbery in a pickup truck in Satilla Shores, their neighborhood near Brunswick, on Feb. 23, 2020. Travis McMichael shot Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, with a shotgun at close range. Bryan filmed the fatal encounter on his cellphone. Only after video footage of the fatal shooting leaked online May 5, 2020, did authorities arrest the trio on felony murder charges.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/-almost-got-away-leaked-video-led-convictions-ahmaud-arbery-case-rcna6690

If I am a homicidal racist looking to 'get away with it', the takeaway here is 'Do not film your violence.' Ahmaud Arbery could not testify against his killers, but the video testified for him.

Paradoctor said...

Arbery and Rittenhouse cases compared

These cases have similarities and differences. In both cases, three White men, at least one heavily armed, pursued one person; the one pursued, when cornered, resisted; the three men attacked; shots were fired, someone died, and the case went to court.

In the Arbery case, the pursued one was Black, and unarmed, and died. In the Rittenhouse case, the pursued one was White, and armed, and his assailants died or were maimed. In the Arbery case, the pursuers were found guilty and imprisoned by the law; in the Rittenhouse case, the pursuers were shot by the pursued.

In the Rittenhouse case, two of the three men were lightly armed (with a plastic bag of hospital supplies, and a skateboard), and the third heavily armed, with a pistol. The two died, the one was maimed.

In both cases, all of those who had firearms survived, and all of those who did not died.

In both cases, the pursued one was found to be in the right by judge and jury, and the pursuers suffered.

In both cases, the pursued had good reason to fear for his life, and a pursuer later claimed to fear for his life. So in both cases, mutual fear caused mutual attack in mutual self-defense.

In both cases, a pursuer later claimed altruistic motives for the pursuit; namely, protecting the public from a suspected intruder.

In both cases, the pursuers should have broken pursuit after repelling the pursued.

Where the cases differ, it is clear that it was better to be White than Black, and better to have a firearm than not.

There are possibilities not explored in these two cases. What if the pursued one was Black, and armed, and killed two pursuers, and lived? And what if the pursued one was White, and unarmed, and died? How would judge and jury rule afterwards?

In the case of an unarmed White man slain after pursuit, I am fairly sure that the judge and jury would find the pursuers guilty. But in the case of an armed Black man slaying his pursuers, I am not at all sure that the court would find him not guilty. Given the history of this country, I am not at all sure that the law, as practiced, applies the principle of self-defense consistently across skin-tint lines.

The real rules appear to be: if you’re Black, and pursued, then you must die or be punished; and if you’re White, and pursued, then you must die or be armed. And even in these hypothetical cases, the pursuers should have broken pursuit after repelling the pursued.

David Brin said...

Paradoctor while there is some merit to your lists and appraisal, it is clearly somewaht biased. Yes, biased in the same direction that I agree we need to go. But still, in the spirit of polite disagreement we foster here, let me add some factors.

Evidence both in and out of court suggests that all 8 men involved in the two incidents were... mentally impaired individuals, propelled far more by macho adrenaline than anything else. I could use more colorful language. Sure. That shared trait has Absolutely ZERO applicability to the legal or moral judgements of the events or persons.

Seven out of eight were white.

Legally, it's clear that both parties of pursuers should have been satisfied to have chased their targets away. Further pursuit was idiotic. In the Georgia case it was also criminal and racist. In the Wisconsin case attacking a man armed with an assault rifle with a bag of toiletries was both macho and cosmically dumb.

Pertinent is the damage toll. Of the eight men involved in both incidents, three are dead, three are heading toward at least 20 years of half alive imprisonment under daily danger from half of the prison population (barring a Trump#2 pardon; and federal charges should be pressed, in case some future GA governor is tempted.)

That leaves one fellow with a chunk of his arm blown off but who may get speaking gigs...

... and #8, who looks like he'll get a congressional internship instead of the 1 year sentence for Reckless Endangerment that he deserves and would have got, had the prosecution been even remotely competent.

His future will be... complicated... and, depending on some choices, likely to be dangerous.

So. The racial element IS very real, in both cases. I do not downplay it. But the the costs paid by all participants are much more about a different trait.

Machismo.



TCB said...

Paradoctor, Rittenhouse's defenders love to focus exclusively on the situation which evolved from the moment he confronted the protesters in Waukesha to the moment he shot them, and to hope we all forget how easily he could have simply stayed home. All we have really learned from this verdict, in my view, is "Shoot first, whether you are in the right or not."

Incidentally, Leonard Peltier has spent some 44 years in prison for allegedly killing two FBI agents in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975, on shaky evidence. I mention him because I read a comment elsewhere which contrasted his case (there was ongoing violence at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, with plenty of other people around who may really have shot the agents) with the light sentences January 6 insurrectionists have been getting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Peltier

scidata said...

A good recent BBC short about the Antikythera mechanism, that bolsters my interest in computational psychohistory. Also a cool thought by AC Clarke that if the ancient Greeks had fully understood what they had wrought, they might have reached the moon within 300 years.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqlJ50zDgeA

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

If I am a homicidal racist looking to 'get away with it', the takeaway here is 'Do not film your violence.'


But you're dating yourself by considering that possibility. For people below a certain age, the notion of "not filming" anything they do seems to be inconceivable. Or as King George III would have it, "I wasn't aware that was something a person could do."

While I'm sure some of them will figure it out eventually, I'd caution to stop giving them advice out loud.

TCB said...

A last word on the Rittenhouse case: Thom Hartmann video on "Tokyo Roses" based in Russia, China and the European Union who are posting the vast majority of supposedly American-based tweets supporting Rittenhouse.

Former FBI assistant director Frank Figluzzi found that of 32,315 pro-Rittenhouse hashtag tweets on November 19 and 20, 29,600 had geolocation disabled and of those 17,000 were listed as foreign but a deep scrub revealed that most were in the above mentioned nations. Snopes checked and found it was actually worse than he'd reported.

Hartmann goes on to explain that under Citizens United, Tokyo Rose's foreign-based fascist radio propaganda would be accorded the same speech rights as the Allied commanders.

Why Won't Social Media Stop "Tokyo Roses" From Destroying Our Democracy?

Ilithi Dragon said...

My understanding of the Rittenhouse case is that, according to the law, he did nothing wrong.

However, comma, there are many things that we do that are not illegal, for which we are still liable.

Rittenhouse didn't break any laws in going out that night with that rifle, and his use of that rifle to defend himself in the particular instance that he did was justifiable under the law.

I also don't think a Reckless Endangerment charge could have stuck. Legal precedent has been well established that just carrying a firearm is not, and cannot, be considered reckless endangerment. So, unless he was brandishing that rifle, waving it around, pointing it at people, etc., I don't see legal grounds for reckless endangerment.


That said, while Rittenhouse isn't criminally culpable, that doesn't mean that he isn't liable in civil court. He made a very poor decision to go out that night with that rifle, and while that was not illegal, nor even a criminally reckless action, it was still a Very Bad Idea. He should not have put himself in that situation in the first place, and Rittenhouse himself has said that, given the opportunity to go back and make the choice again, he would have stayed home.

There may be grounds for a civil suit against him for that.


It is also worth noting that Rittenhouse has filed multiple civil suits against a few different news agencies (I think it was 3, might have been 4) for libel, on the grounds that they were spreading false information about him being a white supremacist neo-nazi type, which he is not. From what I have been told about those suits, it sounds like he has a decent chance of winning those suits.




Overall, I think justice was served in both cases, with the caveat that the Rittenhouse case in particular was wildly and shamefully politicized in the media, by both sides, and the caveat that Rittenhouse may still be found liable for damages in civil court.

It is also worth noting that, at least as far as I understand, the duration of both of these court cases was not atypical at all. Many would wish to see justice delivered much sooner, but these things take time to process through (and for very good reason!), something that many people frustrated over perceived delays in justice often forget.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In the Wisconsin case attacking a man armed with an assault rifle with a bag of toiletries was both macho and cosmically dumb.


The actions of other people toward Rittenhouse once shooting had begun makes more sense if the others perceived him as an active shooter. The prosecution actually made that characterization in closing arguments, but should have emphasized it more as central to their argument. If a "good guy with a gun" or a "Let's roll" group of passengers charges an active shooter in a risky attempt to overwhelm and stop him, is the shooter supposed to be able to claim self-defense?


and #8, who looks like he'll get a congressional internship instead of the 1 year sentence for Reckless Endangerment that he deserves and would have got, had the prosecution been even remotely competent.

His future will be... complicated... and, depending on some choices, likely to be dangerous.


As a young boy interning for Republicans, he may actually get what he poetically deserves.

I wish that was a joke.

Paradoctor said...

Brin:
Excellent points you make, and numbers you cite. Perhaps I will revise my essay to include them. 7 of 8 parties in all permutations of these cases are stupid and macho. That's implicit in the pursuit. Only Arbery was not aggressive.

David Brin said...

Re that terrific video about the Antekythera device. Alas, like every other discussion of ancient wonders and technologies, not one person discussed the real question... which is why such marvelous methods were lost! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqlJ50zDgeA

You know my answer. Secrecy

Paradoc. Arbery did not deserve what happened to him, even remotely. Totally the Victim of a lynching. Still, Do not pretend he made good choices being there, that night. While the law must not consider that, we are perfectly entitled to nod at that fact, as a minor permutation on the grievious crime that took his life.

duncan cairncross said...

"Why such marvelous methods were lost"

Secrecy is a part of that
But actual usefulness is a bigger part!

None of the methods/devices that were "lost" were actually any use for any endeavor that put food on the table or did anything useful

You need a LOT of other things before such a device is useful

Larry Hart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

It is also worth noting that Rittenhouse has filed multiple civil suits against a few different news agencies (I think it was 3, might have been 4) for libel, on the grounds that they were spreading false information about him being a white supremacist neo-nazi type, which he is not. From what I have been told about those suits, it sounds like he has a decent chance of winning those suits.


He might have less of a decent chance because he's appeared in video drinking and toasting with the Proud Boys. I suppose there's a difference between being a white supremacist and simply exhilarating in their company, but such moments probably give the news outlets more leeway.

During the Trump decades (ok, it only seemed that way), it was said of Trump himself that whether or not he himself was a racist, what mattered most was that the racists themselves perceived him to be supporting them. And in that vein, we have Kyle's triumphant visit to Mar a Lago, telling Trump he (Kyle) is a big fan and Trump talking about what a great guy Kyle is. Not legally incriminating, but really, what are they praising each other for? Trump's infrastructure policies?

BTW, aprpos nothing at all, I saw an item the other day that KKK type groups use the phrase "Did you see Kyle?" as a semi-secret "Hail Hydra" way of identifying themselves to each other. It's been around at least since Charlottesville if not long before, so it has nothing to do with Kyle Rittenhouse. It's a too cute for words way of saying "Seig Heil".

David Brin said...

Duncan no way. Even in their only-for-the-priests versions... Heron's steam powered gates and the Antekythera and the Bagdhjad Bettery etc were all of immense use to theocrats and kings. Who shared the inventor's wish for secrecy. So, when the city burned it was all lost.

duncan cairncross said...

Not convinced about the Antikythera and Heron's gates

Don't see how either could be used to overawe the populace - a piece of rope and a priest in another room would have been better for the gates
Remember when they made the first Star Trek they wanted automatic doors but the way that they did it was with ropes and extras to pull them

The Antikythera would have had to be BETTER at predicting things than the usual calculations - and I'm pretty sure that it would have been worse - or more accurately it would have been just as good for short term prediction and would have become less accurate the further that you go forwards

The Baghdad battery was a scroll holder!! - it could NOT have been a battery unless you drilled some extra holes in it and made a number of other changes

To overawe the population Crystal balls and fireworks would work much better


Ilithi Dragon said...

@Larry Hart:

The "Have you seen Kyle? He's about this tall." joke has been a thing since the '90s, at least. I remember kids joking about it back when I was in Junior High. "Seen Kyle" sounds like "Sig Heil" and "about this tall" is accompanied by holding your hand out to demonstrate the height, in the same position as the Nazi salute.

Some kid found a clever wordplay on a sensitive subject, and as kids do, they shared it around.

Those White Supremacist types sharing it around today are probably just co-opting the joke from when they were a kid.

scidata said...

The 'retention of invention' theme is what draws me to Hilton, Asimov, Brin, and others. I thought Apple's FOUNDATION did a pretty good job in season 1, water clocks notwithstanding :)
There's a "we few, we happy few" feel to the CollapseOS group (less than 100 of us). I struggle to keep up in CB, but I'm well over my head there, even though solid knowledge of Forth is kind of a baseline. Gosh some people are wicked smart. Fortunately, I take Voltaire's view, appreciation over envy.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin, Ahmaud Arbury was killed at 1:15 in the afternoon. If he made a single bad choice I am not aware of it.

Re: lost Antikythera technology, it's clear that SOME of the necessary techniques, such as hardening steel to make files and weapons, was widespread and never lost. So, it's interesting to consider what was lost from the Antikythera mechanism: mainly the understanding that it could be made, and the finer points of how to make gears so precisely and mate them together, as well as the basic idea of using such a mechanism to represent planetary motions. Primitive gears, Wikipedia tells me, were known at least as early as the 4th Century BC in China and it appears the Greeks were aware of them within a century or so.

A South-pointing chariot was built in China, which used gears to keep a statue's arm pointing South no matter how the chariot turned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzUKr621gr4

The earliest credible report of this design is circa 300 AD.

Most of the basic skills in the Antikythera Mechanism were well within the grasp of a good apprentice, and there were plenty of metal workers in the 1st Century BC who could have learned to copy it. But, yes, thanks to secrecy the whole concept was lost for over a millennium. The first men who made a mechanism of similar function and told others how to build one were Richard of Wallingford in England and Giovanni Dondi in Italy, working in the first half of the 1300's.

Wiki also tells us that geared odometers existed only a few decades after the Mechanism.

An odometer for measuring distance was first described by Vitruvius around 27 and 23 BC, although the actual inventor may have been Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) during the First Punic War. Hero of Alexandria (10 AD – 70 AD) describes a similar device in chapter 34 of his Dioptra. The machine was also used in the time of Roman Emperor Commodus (c. 192 AD), although after this point in time there seems to be a gap between its use in Roman times and that of the 15th century in Western Europe.[1] Some researchers have speculated that the device might have included technology similar to that of the Greek Antikythera mechanism.[2]

The odometer of Vitruvius was based on chariot wheels of 4 Roman feet (1.18 m) diameter turning 400 times in one Roman mile (about 1,480 m). For each revolution a pin on the axle engaged a 400-tooth cogwheel thus turning it one complete revolution per mile. This engaged another gear with holes along the circumference, where pebbles (calculus) were located, that were to drop one by one into a box. The distance traveled would thus be given simply by counting the number of pebbles.[2] Whether this instrument was ever built at the time is disputed. Leonardo da Vinci later tried to build it himself according to the description, but failed. However, in 1981 engineer Andre Sleeswyk built his own replica, replacing the square-toothed gear designs of da Vinci with the triangular, pointed teeth found in the Antikythera mechanism. With this modification, the Vitruvius odometer functioned perfectly.[2]

TCB said...

Larry Hart, there's a riddle that goes like this:

Two Nazis are sitting at a table, and eight other people join them for dinner. How many Nazis are there?

Answer: Ten. If you tolerate Nazis, you are one too.

Robert said...

I'll break with tradition here by commenting on the topic of the actual blog post… :-)

If you have young adults on your gift list, you could do a lot worse than the two series David started (Yanked and Colony High). They are well-written and will definitely be on my grandniece's bookshelf when she's a tween/teen.

Yanked can be read in any order, as each novel is stand-alone with different protagonists. Colony High is a series with continuing characters and should be read in order.

Robert said...

Rittenhouse may still be found liable for damages in civil court.

There's also an argument over who gets to keep excess money from the $2 million crowd-sourced for his defence. So there may well be a decent amount of money to go after.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Another question to be explored, why didn't some Islamic power land on the moon in 1769? Much of the Islamic world was at least a couple hundred years ahead of the West in the 10th and 11th centuries. Averroes had his books burned by fundamentalists, but there was also the Mongol invasion.
This was interesting: https://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/30/science/how-islam-won-and-lost-the-lead-in-science.html

David Brin said...

There’s a mythology that all the tricks of construction used in the Parthenon were cleverly calculated, when it benefitted from lessons learned across 300 years of lesser works. Likewise, the Antikythera machine blatantly was not the first. There had to have been at least a century of buildup and trials and we never hears of it because of … you know.

Jon S. said...

There was at least one charge of which Rittenhouse was clearly guilty. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for a minor to possess a "dangerous weapon" (which includes rifles of all types and sizes, as well as pistols, shotguns, bows, and presumably swords) unless in a wilderness area during hunting season while properly licensed. Oddly, that's the exact charge the judge chose to dismiss for no readily apparent reason.

Alfred Differ said...

Don Gisselbeck,

I think the better question is how did we manage to pull it off at all.

Most civilizations are not like ours. In their centers they make the average person have a moderately higher income than a peasant on the periphery. Maybe double. Not triple. The Islamic world was no different.

Double real income is seriously good compared to periphery peasants, but no one is going to fund an effort to go to the Moon. No one. Not even the princes and priests have enough resources to make that happen when the average person in their empire is still at a typical peasant income. It wouldn't matter if the tech seeds existed or not.

WE went to the Moon because we are incredibly filthy rich compared to the old periphery peasant income. All of us.

Der Oger said...

You know my answer. Secrecy

Maybe that was one of the contributing factors. Some others:
Information was far more susceptible to being destroyed or contained until Gutenberg invented the press. Afterwards, it could be spread more easily and quickly. The Library of Alexandria's business model included spreading knowledge by copying books.

Second, the mechanism and the battery were not of use to the majority of population, since technologies needed to fully make them useful were not invented. I also suspect the widespread use of slavery hindered the technological progress (why buy a machine to farm your grounds for a price of hundreds of thousands of sestertii, when I can buy an army of slaves doing the same work?)

Daniel Duffy said...

What the ancient world really needed was a patent system. Without the protection of patents, inventors will keep the secrets of their inventions secret. At most they will share these secrets (whether its the Antikythera Mechanism, Hero's steam engine, the Baghdad battery, etc.) within a small groups of religious devotees and cults like the Pythagoreans or Mithras worshipers. And when such a cult dies out, the secrets die with them.

Daniel Duffy said...

Don - it was the Mongols. Islam never recovered from their invasion. To survive and rise again from the ashes, Islam became hard core fundamentalist.

Robert said...

There had to have been at least a century of buildup and trials and we never hears of it because of … you know.

Lack of interest in technology among those who wrote books, for one thing. Consider the Roman mills at Barbegal, which were discovered in our lifetime and significantly changed our understanding of Roman technology — yet weren't mentioned in any historical documents. Roman writers just weren't interested, the mills weren't an artistically impressive monument, so historians didn't know about them. When I studied Roman history at university classicists were just beginning to admit that there was more to Rome than you could learn from Plutarch et al.


For those curious, I recommend Temple's book The Genius of China, which summarizes Needham's multi-volume Science and Civilization in China.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: Most civilizations are not like ours.

Exactly. Perhaps though, there's another option: microcivilizations. Dutch Trading Companies, Privateers, SpaceX, very independent universities, citizen science groups and projects, CollapseOS, etc. That's what I was getting at with "we happy few".

Don Gisselbeck said...

True, but that just moves the question up a level. Why did we become filthy rich?

scidata said...

Two fresh thoughts presented in the BBC Antikythera short:
1) Computers. The importance of conceptualizing computation as a useful pursuit in itself. That is the leap that AC Clarke was on about.
2) Ships. Civs great and small have always put their most precious seeds, tools, and people into exploration ships. That is indeed where to look (it's where they found the Antikythera mechanism). More SETI effort needs to focus on ships and artifacts. We'll first need to wrestle this domain back from the nut-jobs, whackos, and cosmic snake oil types. Planetary civs are only radio-busy for a blink of an eye, but derelict and wrecked ships persist - especially in deep water or space (free from darned oxygen). Plus, rummaging through junk is way safer than talking to aliens. Archaeological SETI (A-SETI?).

Now that I'm finally cutting through EXISTENCE at a good clip (Audible), everything is lighting up. A replicating rat brain stumbling into sentient AI where all the Great Technologies failed - heh, lucky it was a rat and not a lemming.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@Daniel: The portions of dar al-Islam that were invaded never recovered from the Mongols. That does include the institution of the centralized Caliphate -- the six centuries of imperial achievements of the Umayyads and Abbasids -- and Iran, while not undone, fell off the pace of the frontrunner civilizations. But remember how much of Islam was not so conquered! The Mongols never reached Mecca, or Jerusalem, or Cairo; the hordes never saw Africa, or Iberia, or the Arabian Sea. Muslim civilization as a whole took a huge body blow, but your thesis that this alone caused the 'turn to fundamentalism' doesn't hold water.

@Der Oger, Daniel: patents are not very practical until written documents are readily produced -- which means at least Chinese-style stamp printing, if not Gutenberg's movable type press. The best copyright that could be managed under such conditions were things like the 'anagram puzzles' used in the 16-17th c. to timestamp discoveries before full publication. In the age before cheap and easy documentation -- which is to say, before printing -- the artifacts themselves are more likely to be the focus of reverse engineering efforts. Besides which, you have to trust the patent office not to swipe your invention. In the West, only the Romans and Persians were able to build *that* professionalized a civil service in antiquity, and the inheritors of those traditions, the Catholic Church and the Caliphate... who were all priests and had incentives to manipulate and cheat. The Library at Alexandria could have pulled it off, but at the cost of making the Library even more of a target.

Thus, I would be very surprised to see any sort of operational system of patents anywhere in antiquity. Communications technology wasn't up to the task.

Der Oger said...

@Daniel Duffy:
To survive and rise again from the ashes, Islam became hard core fundamentalist.

It was also a reaction to colonialism.

What the ancient world really needed was a patent system.

I believe patents -especially if hoarded by large corporations forevermore- can hinder progress more than helping it. And who would have enforced them, especially beyond one's borders?

Pappenheimer said...

The Dune ornithopters are based on a VERY variable wing - Herbert thought (possibly correctly) that such designs would be more efficient than standard propulsion systems

re: Parthenon and Ancient Engineering - the Egyptian pyramid building architects did use prior experience - note that there is one early pyramid that had to be truncated when the builders realized the angles were too steep - but I'm not sure how much detail we have about any personal or guild linkages between individual project overseers. Nor how much secrecy they could have kept while building huge monuments.

(De Camp's "The Ancient Engineers" is, I am sure, far outdated, but I still uses it as a reference).

GMT -8 said...

TCB, I disagree. Your attitude has the benefit of hindsight. Yes, I would never sit down at a table with a bunch of people with neo-NAZI symbols. But I know some people who would, not because they agree with them, but because they want to learn about them

I’ve spent my life surrounded by people I disagree with or are different from me. One of my models is an African American writer who would detox members of the KKK. He would interview them and let them speak their minds. He would become friends with them. Over time, they saw his humanity and felt a greater attachment to that then to the hateful creed they were associating with (and leading). This writer has a wall filled with the paraphernalia of former KKK leaders that he has detoxed. I am not so patient, but f we are quick to give up on people and give in to hating them back, we may end up nearly as bad as they are.

I just got back from an afternoon at the Japanese American National Museum. I spent a few hours looking at the history of the WW II era concentration camps in the US. They were not as evil as the German ones (my Japanese American wife says that the German camps were a whole level worse), but she fumes at how FDR signed off on putting loyal Americans into concentration camps even after he was informed that the people posed no threat.

GMT -8 said...

TCB, I disagree. Your attitude has the benefit of hindsight. Yes, I would never sit down at a table with a bunch of people with neo-NAZI symbols. But I know some people who would, not because they agree with them, but because they want to learn about them

I’ve spent my life surrounded by people I disagree with or are different from me. One of my models is an African American writer who would detox members of the KKK. He would interview them and let them speak their minds. He would become friends with them. Over time, they saw his humanity and felt a greater attachment to that then to the hateful creed they were associating with (and leading). This writer has a wall filled with the paraphernalia of former KKK leaders that he has detoxed. I am not so patient, but f we are quick to give up on people and give in to hating them back, we may end up nearly as bad as they are.

I just got back from an afternoon at the Japanese American National Museum. I spent a few hours looking at the history of the WW II era concentration camps in the US. They were not as evil as the German ones (my Japanese American wife says that the German camps were a whole level worse), but she fumes at how FDR signed off on putting loyal Americans into concentration camps even after he was informed that the people posed no threat.

GMT -8 said...

Here is the story I was describing:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/18/daryl-davis-black-musician-who-converts-ku-klux-klan-members

Mr. Davis is a musician, not a writer.

David Brin said...

The Caliphate Renaissance went about as far as it could go without (1) crucial use of fossil fuels (which they could have had) and (2) enlightenment methods of competitive inquiry, which they lacked because, for all of their confidence (which makes some feudal paternalistic regimes more open to scholarship) they simply would never have had the requisite impudence. And when they lost that paternalistic confidence, the rest of the shine faded.

duncan cairncross said...

Civilisation - (from an Engineers POV) - had a lot of separate requirements and they all needed to be in place before the massive enrichment that we saw in the 1700's

The Caliphate had some of those, the Renaissance had some more but we did not end up with a critical mass until the 1700's

The last items were
Massive increase in food supply
Cheap iron
The Stock Markets

Ilithi Dragon said...

@Jon S, re the "dangerous weapon" charge:

My initial thought, after a conversation with a good friend who keeps well informed on politics, was that this was correct.

A conversation with another friend, who is also usually well informed, indicated otherwise. Not sure who to believe, I looked up the law myself.

The devil, in this case, is in the details. The relevant state law that says it is illegal for a minor to possess a firearm lists a number of exceptions, in addition to hunting. A couple of them are pretty broad and vague, and it was one of those exceptions that Rittenhouse fell into.

My interpretation of the language of the law is that the intent was probably not to leave such a large loophole or broad exception, but under the letter of the law, Rittenhouse was exempt from the ban on minors openly carrying a firearm by one of the exceptions in that very same law.

That was why the judge ordered it to be ignored.

Should the law be written with such a broad set if exceptions? Probably not, but as currently written, Ritte house didn't break it.

Daniel Duffy said...

You all are ignoring the main ingredient for an advanced civilization

The Arab caliphate had coffee and they created advanced mathematics and science.

Then the Italians got coffee and created the Renaissance

Then the Dutch got coffee and created the Commercial Revolution

Then the British got coffee and created the Industrial Revolution.

"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems." —Paul ErdÅ‘s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAPG18zNtXk

(Warning: JRE - but still an interesting discussion)

P.S. Beer was required to create the first early Agricultural civilization (otherwise why not just stay hunter gatherers?). But coffee is the perfect drug for advanced industrial civilizations.

I can't imagine the kind of drug needed for a cyborg/interstellar civilization.

Robert said...

Duncan, throw in crazy notions of freedom imported from the Wendat (and others)…

You'd probably enjoy reading The Dawn of Everything by Graeber and Wengrow:
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/human-history-society-dawn-of-everything-book

scidata said...

Re: Coffee

I don't know if I ever posted anything in CB about it, but for a time, this was one of my main themes. It sprang from Steven Johnson's brilliant analysis over a decade ago. Kind of the inverse of the leaded gasoline effect.

Before my tagline was "computation from first principles", it was "coffee in, algorithms out".

Paradoctor said...

Duffy:
If it took a depressant to make us invent agriculture, and a stimulant for the industrial revolution, then I guess that going into space will require an hallucinogen. Well, we already have LSD and psilocybin.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

P.S. Beer was required to create the first early Agricultural civilization (otherwise why not just stay hunter gatherers?). But coffee is the perfect drug for advanced industrial civilizations.


My own understanding of your theory is that it is not so much coffee per se that allows civilizations to advance, but the fact that most civilizations at the time drank wine or beer, and so were buzzed all the time. Coffee (tea worked for the British as well) allowed them to sober up.

Alfred Differ said...

Don Gisselbeck,

Exactly. The biggest question we can possibly ask about ourselves is "How the hell did we do this?" When the great enrichment began the economists of the day did NOT see it. We were a few generations into it before we have documented evidence of people wondering how the heck a small region like Britain could support 25 million people when more than 4-5 million people was the historical cut where famines culled communities.

There are at least two dozen 'easy' answers that people toss up for that question that don't actually work if you dig into the details. They can all be defeated with a combination of economic history and the simple questions that sound like "The Chinese had that, so why didn't they see the great enrichment?"

The ONLY explanation I've see that I can't figure out how to defeat is the one offered by McCloskey. The Dutch tripped over a social tool during their fight with the Hapsburgs and got rich in the middle of a war against the local superpower. The English copied it (imperfectly) and took the Dutch empire. The Scots copied it (imperfectly) and coupled with the Dissenters changed the @#$#ing world.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

I'm a big fan of small groups of people magnifying their capabilities through cooperation to accomplish greatness, but these 'incorporations' are more like a squid's tentacles than the squid (civilization) itself.

Our civilization has advanced our tech frontier a LONG WAY from where we were as nomadic hunter-gathers, but we were already a long way from there with the tech invented by agricultural civilizations. Some tech gets lost (sort of) and reinvented later, but I think it is very important that we ponder what it actually takes to prevent the loss.

This will sound trivial, but loss is prevented by teaching an art/craft to the next generation. Secrecy makes knowledge fragile, but an even bigger problem happens when civilizations collapse. Knowledge needed by a previous generation isn't needed by the next, so guess what doesn't get taught? How useful was Roman law to people in post-Roman London, hmm?

Passing non-genetic skills to the next generation is the primary ability of hominids that makes us successful, but we only pass along what's useful. Young incorporations innovate, but it takes a full civilization to pass along all the older skills too.

This is something I think a lot of space colony dreamers fail to understand. There is no such thing as a small, self-sufficient human community that isn't impoverished. Those colonists will need advanced tech because the environment out there is so incredibly hostile, therefore they will need to pass along advanced skills along with all the little things. That takes a LOT of people. Division of labor is no joke. We take the stars when we lift our markets off world. Millions of us will have to be on that cutting edge supported by billions at home. The millions out there will grow to billions if successful, but they need the Terran billions until they do.

Der Oger said...

@ Daniel Duffy:

You all are ignoring the main ingredient for an advanced civilization

The Nazis used opioids and meth, and look what they did.
The Americans ... oops.

I can't imagine the kind of drug needed for a cyborg/interstellar civilization.

I don't know, maybe some kind of spice melange. But we should consider MDMA and Cannabis to achieve that stage and avoid the Great Filter of Self-Destruction.

Paul Revile said...

"Kate Darling argues for treating robots more like the way we treat animals."

Robots are already treated far better than most of the people unfortunate enough to have valuable mineral resources under their sand. Or the average native of virtually any post-colonial state anywhere in the world. Especially in these end days of the American empire.

But I do suspect that hunter gatherers had far more sympathy for the animals they preyed upon than almost anyone alive, precisely because they depended entirely upon the well being of the living world around them, and because that sympathy undoubtedly made them better hunters. If you doubt this, look at some cave paintings or rock art, you'll feel it across the ages. The reverence they held for their world is still vivid after thirty or forty thousand years.

Which is not the quite the same thing as rushing out to save a whale, but then, whales mostly need saving because of us.

Let's say somebody does rush out to save a whale but then stops off at the 7-11 in their humvee to buy a dozen products filled with oils derived from a recently immolated rain forest, is there any real sense in which the culture of the latter is more compassionate and enlightened than the culture of the former?

One is working perfectly well wherever it still flourishes, the other is close to collapse, with the possibility of the end of all complex life steaming into view along with it.

I suppose there must be some transcendent moment away in the future that redeems today for all the futurists. A sort of ethical promissory note: "One day my son, in times undreamt of today, all this horror and destruction will have been worth it. You'll see."

Can we really separate the tremendous cost of the culture required to create Mr Brin from the joys of having him around? I think not. Not without considering both aspects equally can we hope to actually progress. Without training at least one eye upon the most negative aspects of capital, America and the neoliberal era, how is it possible to judge what might realistically survive it? As things stand, a very dark and very dystopian technological feudalism is the absolute best that can be hoped for.

If 1984 had been about Capitalism instead, would it not look very much like today?

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Dr. Brin, if you're right about the Caliphate being unable to move to competitive inquiry -- why didn't it happen in other parts of the Islamic world? What made the Catholic-Protestant milieu able to make that leap when the Sunni and Shi'a didn't? I ask because the trade and crossroads effects are often cited as why classical Greece gained the capability, but the High Islamic civilizations were also thick with trade and the "crossroad effect"...

(I have a theory, but I don't want to bias the forum.)

David Brin said...

It wasn't just that the British etc replaced BEER with coffee. Much of what they drank before was GIN! Used to disinfect water, sure. Still Gin is a poison even ignoring alcohol.

Catfish. The european enlightenment also benefited from Europe's fragmentation. Minorities persecuted for free thinking could often move.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: but we only pass along what's useful

That was the key point of that BBC Antikythera short, in particular AC Clarke's comment. Namely, that applied knowledge is far less important than is theoretical/cybernetic/philosophical knowledge. Thinking about thinking is inherently heretical, so only a post-religious civ can make that leap. I don't think that requires a total 'reformation', but only enough space for a "happy few" to work out the 'psychohistory' of it. Asimov over Marx FTW.

Alfred Differ said...

Catfish 'n Cod,

The Dutch tripped across the tool they needed against the Hapsburgs (probably) by luck. If their war had gone a little worse, Amsterdam would have been gutted like Antwerp. If it had gone a little better, they would have had a few more live noblemen rebelling against the Hapsburgs. They wound up in the happy middle with too few strong nobles telling them how to do things and too few Spaniards able to come against them before the Dutch bourgeoisie organized themselves to fight back.

I think it was luck mostly and their disconnect with the Roman church. No one with sufficient juice was there after a certain point in the war telling them what to do. Out of necessity, they tolerated innovation from the bourgeoisie in a way the aristocrats and priests would never have done.

That tolerance required something fairly small, but pretty weird. They changed the meaning of 'courage' and 'justice' slightly. Courage used to mean something closer to what Aristotle described. We'd call it martial courage. It's not something the bourgeoisie could display without being on the battlefield where they had much less experience than the Spaniards. The Dutch found a way, though, and innovation poured upon the fields and seas.

David Brin said...

Alfred that's why I so hoped HGame of Thrones would end with all the lords simply dead. All right, John Snow as nominal king but only to open parliament and cut ribbons.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred Differ
I agree that it takes lots of people to form a civilisation

But is that tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands? or millions?

With most things you get to a point of diminishing returns - so what is that point?

Gutenberg REDUCED the number as knowledge could exist in books

Does our modern tech society also diminish that number even more?

Alfred Differ said...

David,

I am one of the few who haven't watched Game of Thrones much. I've caught an occasional episode and got the backstory essentials, but avoided the rest. Haven't read the novel version either.

I also haven't read the many, many follow-on books for Dune, but that was kinda the impression I got with the last Frank Herbert one. Everything exploded and people got too far out to be effectively controlled. I know there was more to it that I never figured out, but when the distant cousins came back with new skills I thought the whole series was redeemed. Before that point I didn't like any of the characters. After that, I still didn't like any of them, but at least no one could shackle everyone.

If we get the stars, our distant children are going to wonder why we ever thought we needed* kings when the vast majority of human history didn't have any. Nomadic hunter-gatherers don't need them and don't have to put up with males who want to try. Well... unless we wind up reduced to being shepherds out there.


* Built right into our system of ethics like a carefully crafted jig for trapping societies into a particular shape. I think you are spot on with the attractor being a filter halting intelligences from taking to the stars. I tried your argument for that on a bright co-worker the other day and surprised him. He hadn't thought of it as a possibility at all. Not even a little. Fish don't see the water.

Pappenheimer said...





Dear Robert

"Canadian experience when we tried a UBI pilot project was that the money was spent in the community. When we gave money to the wealthy (as tax breaks) it had no demonstrable effect on employment or the economy."

Small-size experiments cannot show what problems would arise from large-scale implementation.
But we have history for that.
It's bad that teachers do not know basics of economy and cannot teach it to masses. (probably that's delibrerate decision of those who know better?)
But I will not lecture you here. I think you can find information yourself. Starting from Marx who was first who gave definition of what money is. Basicly, money is everything that can work as money. Because money is just another kind of goods to exchange.

And history gives us lots of examples how someone's bright idea of introducing some 'special money' or money-like constructs fails shortly. By market giving to it its swift and decisive resolution.
That, that have no value behind will be devaluated.
That, that really is important and valuable will be in bigger need and with a bigger price.
UBI money have no value behind itself. Or, just as people promptly started suggesting here, there'd be some imposed values (like demand to vote for this or that party, do some "free" work and etc).

About "money to the wealthy". Well, that is way more advanced topic. Precuring more deeper understanding of economy science. Topic related to money velocity, stagnation and inflation, why we not use gold as money anymore and etc.
Basicly, that is *NOT GOOD* when money 'overpriced'. I know, that's contre-intuitive. We all would like to buy more with our hardearned dollars. But for economy that is like trombs into blood vessels - not healthy at all. Can create events like Great Depression.

UBI it's cure that can be more dangerous than desease while being nothing more than placebo. That is like idea of eating sand to have feeling of a full stomach. Well, it can satiate your hanger. For a short time. That's why I pointed at difference between small and large-scale effects from the very beginning.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

I don't think a total reformation is needed either. Schism IS. Believers of Idea B have to be willing to be hostile to enforcers of Idea A.

I'm not going to grade theory vs practical knowledge relative to each other. The vast majority of what we know is practical, though. VAST majority. As a result, the vast majority of innovation occurs in practical knowledge. Much of it goes unnoticed, though. A HUGE fraction of it goes unnoticed until great(^5) grand-children look back and notice the world changed somehow.

The textbook example of this will BE the Great Enrichment beginning somewhere in the late 17th to early 18th century and not being noticed by ANYONE in print until about 1835. English aristocrats were dealing with the newly rich encroaching on their social turf long before that, but didn't grasp the magnitude of what was happening. Somewhere along the way, Britain broke through what had once been a "Carrying Capacity" hard limit where agricultural land could not support more than a certain number of people. By 1835 or so, they had about 4x their historical maximum of people living there. They didn't just break through a bit. They BLEW THROUGH IT.

Malthus did notice the population explosion. Many did. What they failed to do is calculate backward to what that implied when all those babies failed to starve to death. [Okay. They did in Ireland a little later. On average, though, famines became more rare and then largely vanished in certain places. Malnutrition didn't until much later.] Feeding babies takes more than land. It takes money. Where in the world was all that money coming from?


There is one point I want to make about theoretical knowledge, though. American's love it, but we are loathe to study philosophy and its subfields that focus upon knowledge itself. We don't even like to study political philosophy though we love our politics. This unwillingness is at the heart of our barbarism. It's dripping with SOA. Don't tell ME how to think about thinking! I already know all I need and will figure out the rest! We love to believe we have sound theoretical knowledge, but we are damn near illiterate in the field. Eee-pissed-uh-mol-oggie? What's that?

How does this matter? It makes my point that most of our knowledge is practical. America is built on practical knowledge because a great many of us refuse to pick up a damn book and do the thing a barbarian won't do. Someone out there just MIGHT know something better than ME! I could LEARN from them… by reading a book! THAT'S the real American Heresy. Say you believe that is possible and you become one of the fact users being warred upon right now. 8)

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin - "The European enlightenment also benefited from Europe's fragmentation. Minorities persecuted for free thinking could often move."

There was another less pleasant reason why Europe's fragmentation resulted in technical superiority.

Of all the great "Gunpowder Empires" of the early modern era (Hapsburg Europe, Ottoman Turkey, Sahfavid Persia, Mogul India, and Ming China), only Europe remained fragmented, even under Charles V. The others achieved total dominance of their central government over local lords and warlords, crating peaceful stable societies.

And stagnated.

All of the other gunpowder empires were at their peaks were vastly more powerful and wealthy than all of Europe. Meanwhile, every republic, principality, duchy, barony, city state, kingdom and empire in Europe was locked in a never ending struggle for military, political, ideological and commercial dominance.

It was cultural Darwinism on a continental scale with never ending military advances tested in warfare, ideological struggle (Catholics, Protestant's, Puritans, etc.) commercial rivalries - all spurring never ending scientific advances.

Constant ferment and violence produce technological advancements. As for the others, there was a price to be paid for perfect, orderly and peaceful societies. They don't advance.

Which in an odd way gives me hope.

Like the internet of of the 21st century, the printing press of the 16th century mostly produced hatred and lies. Guy Fawkes and Cromwell's puritans were no different than any of today's terrorists. Plagues and pandemics regularly swept through Europe with its lack of sanitation and crowded cities. Witchfinder generals seem to be making a comeback in our century aided by spyware and malware. Drug cartels act no differently than the East India Company.

Like the 16th and 17th centuries, the 20th and 21st centuries have and will see their share of horrors. But out of that bloody chaos came advances in knowledge, rule of law, and improvements in living never seen before.

So history might repeat itself. We just have to survive the next 100 years to see something better. Billions might die before this century is through from global warming to pandemics to terrorism. We'll be enriched by resources of other worlds, as Europe was enriched by resources of the New World (but without the slavery and genocide of native populations). Spurred by actual violence and looming threats both environmental and human, science will respond in ways we can't begin to imagine and produce wonders we can't foresee anymore than Leonardo could imagine a 747.

P.S. I never liked the peaceful squeaky clean future presented in Star Trek. It's unhistorical for a neat and tidy "perfect" society to see continued technological advancement. Like the old Gunpower Empires that achieve perfect stability, Federation should also be doomed to technological stagnation.

Robert said...

On the coffee/tea question, I will point out that the Chinese have been drinking tea for over two millennia. And that drinking boiled water (rather than alcohol) has an even older history. Alcohol was a recreational drink, not a staple of everyday diet.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Alfred that's why I so hoped HGame of Thrones would end with all the lords simply dead. All right, John Snow as nominal king but only to open parliament and cut ribbons.


Since I lost interest at the beginning of season 8 and never finished the series, I can imagine that it went that way, or that it will in the undocumented future.

And I say that as someone who was enraptured by the first six seasons. But then, I've come to expect the "Return of the Jedi" effect.


It wasn't just that the British etc replaced BEER with coffee. Much of what they drank before was GIN! Used to disinfect water, sure.


Heh. I've always smiled at the bit in the musical Oliver where one of the ragamuffins says something impertinent to Fagin, and he retorts, "Shut up and drink your gin!" I took that as a humorous way of showing how inappropriate a guardian he is for kids, but maybe there's some historical accuracy there.


Still Gin is a poison even ignoring alcohol.


Ok, when I was in college in the 80s, some of my housemates were part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and they brought back a recipe for an alcoholic mixture we called Blue (or Romulan Ale). As I recall, it had six different alcoholic ingredients mixed together, all of which were clear except for the blue curacao which gave the mixture its color. Other ingredients were tequila and vodka...I can't come up with the full list right now, but one was gin. This was not meant to be taken straight, by the way. A tablespoon mixed into a glass of 7-up would get you pretty buzzed.

Anyway, our house became sort of locally famous for serving more exotic drinks than beer at parties. But after the first attempt, we permanently modified the recipe and left out the gin. Furthermore, no one in the house would touch the gin afterwards. And this is a house full of mostly-underage college students in possession of a bottle of alcohol, voluntarily refusing to drink it. Like my first and only attempt at a cigarette, the gin proved to be a bridge too far.

TCB said...

GMT-8, I swear I didn't go looking for this, I just stumbled over it on Salon. Christian Picciolini, a famous ex-neo-Nazi who has spent twenty years weaning individuals from far-right radicalization, has thrown in the towel. He's burned out; he says one-on-one deradicalization is too slow and inadequate to the problem.

Those who are genuinely interested in assisting extremists in leaving white-power groups can follow the "blueprint" Picciolini has established, he says. But his concern is that even for those with the best intentions, "It cannot scale to meet the need."
...

Picciolini says he will now focus on administering the antidote for the poison of racism, white supremacy and far-right violence" "long term prevention." Cultivating a society that diminishes the viability of hate organizations and demolishes the ideologies they promulgate, will require a mass political movement, he believes, to reorient public policy toward community, equality and solidarity. Progressive economic policies, expressed through reliable social services, such as education, health care and vibrant public institutions, will create healthier and happier people. Picciloni told me, "Healthy and happy people do not join hate groups."
...

The consequences of failure are potentially catastrophic. "People always ask me about all the talk of 'war' and 'civil war' on the right," Picciolini said. "They say, 'Do you think there's going to be war?' I tell them, 'It doesn't matter what I think. If they believe there's going to be war, they will make sure of it. We're going to have a war.'"

Individual "deradicalization" is pointless, says Christian Picciolini — if we can't change society, we're doomed

https://www.salon.com/2021/11/27/famous-ex-neo-nazi-has-had-enough-america-now-is-the-skinheads-dream-of-the-1990s/

matthew said...

Leave the pronouncements about GoT until GRRM finishes the series.

The TV show was decent until they got beyond what George had plotted out for them. Then some hacks tried to finish the story and lost the trail of breadcrumbs left for them.

The thing that GRRM has always done right is fulfill his own prophesies (in fact I think that is 75% of his problems writing - he has to wrap up all the loose threads and cannot help making more of them whenever he thinks of something else that would be cool). He has spent five books showing why feudalism sucks and how there could be a glimmer of a better alternative. Give him a chance to finish his ending. His Chosen Ones look to be taking a tumble into bad decision land, except for his Not-A-Chosen-One-But-Rather-An-Everyman characters.

Kinda like a certain someone with his Gubru and Epsiarch jerky, deciding to try to live another day. I'll not bet against either Tom Orley or Samwell Tarly, for that matter. Heroes come through in the end. And both authors share a positive dislike for inherited or oligarchal rule. Wait until the story is done. Neither story is done being written yet.

(...OK, OK, Tom Orley does have that Chosen One / Hero, vibe. But he spends a lot of his efforts gently helping those around him become Heroes, too...)

(As does Samwell)

matthew said...

I spent a good part of this holiday weekend watching "The Beatles: Get Back."

If you have the ability to watch it, I highly suggest that you do so.

There is a lot to be amazed at in the footage. Paul absently writing, "Let It Be" in the background while John, George, and Yoko talk about set design. George showing John the chords to "All Things Must Pass," and then Paul utterly shutting it down as a Beatles song. All the laughter they shared, even in the tension of not knowing if they could still function together. Man, those folks love each other, even when they are fighting.

It is long, and has a slow, slow pace. An act of deliberate genius from Peter Jackson. The utter creative grind to get to "Get Back." The frustration and utterly nuts ideas. The slurred speech as they get stoned and lose the threads of what they were doing.The Beatles are one of the only subjects in the world that could be commercially viable at this pacing, even 50 years past their time. But the pacing serves a magnificent, heart-breaking story. If it wasn't long and slow in parts, the impact of Billy Preston on *everyone's* face the moment he starts to play along would be lost. Just a miracle. Give thanks for Billy.

If you've ever worked on a creative project with a group of peers, you will learn something from the documentary.

Cooperation / Competition indeed.

(And Ringo. Glue. Lovely and sweet glue.)



scidata said...

@Alfred Differ

Correct as always. But we may be talking about different scales, perhaps I meant picocivilizations. Like Einstein's closest five peeps, or even a single mind, as explored in Jeff Hawkins' "A Thousand Brains" (very encouraging that such a mind-blowing, Palmy-Forthy book can be so popular). These don't require any schism because they're invisible to the 'squid' (to use your earlier metaphor). Except in the scariest, most paranoid SF stories of course.

Jon S. said...

Pappenheimer, you speak as though "economics" were a regular science, with agreed-upon standards and verifiable outcomes, rather than having multiple schools of thought each of which claims itself to be correct. It's as if physics still allowed the teaching of phlogiston theory, with its adherents insisting that "oxygen" is a popular myth but doesn't really exist - although for proper applicability, this also requires that the existence of oxygen be nonfalsifiable, so it really could just be a different interpretation of the data. That's how supply-side still exists as a theory.

Daniel, the culture of the Federation may be "squeaky clean", but only in TNG did they exist without external threats to drive innovation - and honestly, TNG didn't show a lot of innovation, either. They shut down anything new the moment it presented any danger whatsoever (cf the soliton-wave drive, development of AI in exocomps, etc). In all the other series, there has been something going on, even if just at the frontiers of Federation space, to drive development (conflict with the Romulans, competition with the Klingons, countering the Breen energy-drain weapon during the Dominion War, various "gods", and so forth). Sure, life is boring on Earth and Vulcan and Andor - so the adventurous sort go and join Starfleet, where their job is to find exciting things and make sure they don't go and make the core worlds "exciting".

Matthew -
"Leave the pronouncements about GoT until GRRM finishes the series."

So we can't talk about GoT ever? :D

Der Oger said...

@ Alfred Differ;
If we get the stars, our distant children are going to wonder why we ever thought we needed* kings when the vast majority of human history didn't have any.

I believe that if we advance beyond our own solar system, it depends on the method of transportation (and thus communication) used how this society could look like and develop. If it is STL, you basically say good bye to that portion of humanity, and have no direct control over what society they form (which could make a great story or game scenario, colonists uncovering the various hidden manipulation mechanisms).

STL societies might be small, and maybe subject to societal changes faster than on earth... and maybe any type of society is possible.

If it is FTL (somehow), then it would be interesting how much faster it would be. Some settings explain the rise of neofeudalism with the long communication times, so you'll better have trusted dynasties locally running the show and deal with rebellious rabble-rousers.

Faster FTL and communication methods would allow for representative or even maybe direct democracies.

And then there is the scenario when a STL colony ship arrives at it's intended system ... already colonized by a human civilization that has developed FTL during the former's travel time.

And maybe colonization is undertaken by Terran dynastic corporate lords ... imagine Duke-Ceo Elon XIII of the House Musk launching a fleet of colony ships, taking his loyal staff and riches with him...
into a new domain were no one will contest him.

And what happens to Earth if all scientists and engineers and fact folks leave it for the stars?

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

P.S. I never liked the peaceful squeaky clean future presented in Star Trek. It's unhistorical for a neat and tidy "perfect" society to see continued technological advancement.


The earthly paradise was more of a "Next Generation" thing, and even there only implied until "Deep Space Nine" made it more explicit. In the original series, I believe Gene Roddenbery purposely avoided showing contemporary earth or even mentioning the socio-political situation there. The episodes weren't stories of the human civilization--they were stories of the adventures of one particular starship.

matthew:

Leave the pronouncements about GoT until GRRM finishes the series.


Has he given any indication he plans to do so? IIRC, the tv writers expected more books to come out while the series was on, and none appeared in the intervening eight years or since. What makes you think any are forthcoming?

* * *

The wife and I just saw the new Dune movie as our first indoor date since March 2020. I liked it more than I expected I would, and I hope that Part 2 gets made and we get to see it.

That said, while any movie is going to be missing aspects of the book, there were a few missing elements which I thought would confuse viewers who weren't already familiar with the novel. Mild spoilers, but really only so for non-readers:

* The scene where Jessica first meets the Shadout Mapes. When asked if she knows what a crysknife is, Jessica takes a stab at it by beginning to say "It's a maker of death," or something close to that, and because she uses the word "maker"--the Fremen term for a sandworm--Mapes recognizes fulfilment of prophesy in her. They say the dialogue in the movie, but without the explanation of the specific significance of the word "maker", I feel that something is lost in the translation.

* The scene where Duke Leto and company observe the spice harvester. As in the book, Duke Leto is the first to spot wormsign, but they leave out the dialogue in which the ship broadcasts Duke Leto's identity as the one doing the spotting, and he splits the "bonus" with the entire crew. Again, a little thing, but something that shows why the men and Liet-Kynes warm up to the Duke.

* It needed the banquet scene. Nuff said.

* In the book, Dr Yueh had to trust that the drugged and groggy Duke Leto would remember to use the poison tooth and the right moment, since the guards will never let Yueh himself get close enough to the Baron. In the movie, the Baron stands right over Dr Yueh, who is fully conscious and motivated at that point. Why didn't he just put the poison tooth in his own mouth?

* "The voice" didn't convince me that it would really work that way. Ben Kenobi did it better with the Jedi mind tricks way back in 1977.

* Finally, this is probably inevitable, but the movie just can't convey the overarching sense of the scarcity and preciousness of water that I feel whenever I read the book. Not a fault of this movie in particular, so much as just how movies and books work differently.

Despite my nit-picks, though, it was an enjoyable experience. During the almost three hours of movie, I don't remember any boring parts where I felt like I just couldn't wait to get through this and back to the good stuff. It was all good stuff.

Daniel Duffy said...

"And maybe colonization is undertaken by Terran dynastic corporate lords"

Frank Herbert once explained why the Dune universe was a feudal empire. His reasoning was that younger sons who would no inherit their father's planets would gather up retainers and mercenaries and strike out for another solar system and set up their onw barony or duchy, and so mankind spreads across the stars.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

And then there is the scenario when a STL colony ship arrives at it's intended system ... already colonized by a human civilization that has developed FTL during the former's travel time.


That was the exact scenario of Marvel's original Guardians of the Galaxy concept way beck when the earth was cooling in 1968. The character of Vance Astro (who I don't believe appeared in the films) spent 1000 years in suspended animation until he arrived at a world which was already a thriving civilization settled long ago with by FTL ships. He wasn't just a man out of time like Captain America--he was a man out of time for no good reason.

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/25/opinion/liberals-happiness-thanksgiving.html

The liberal-conservative happiness gap, then, may not be primarily about political ideology but rather connections to our country’s three core institutions. Self-identified liberals are less likely than conservatives, on average, to be tied to family, faith and community.
...
This view garners further support from the research on happiness. A Pew Research study, for instance, ties the Republican attainment of happiness advantage over Democrats in part to more marriage, greater family satisfaction and higher levels of religious attendance.


I don't get it. Maybe because, unlike the liberals they present, I am married and am very happy with my family. But to me, "higher levels of religious attendance" is part of what used to make me unhappy. Even among conservatives who believe that church attendance is a good thing, I always got the sense (before COVID) that it was seen as more of a duty than as something that made churchgoers happier. Homer Simpson's pleasure at Sunday afternoon being "when there's the most time before having to go back to church," seemed a much more accurate portrayal of the typical attitude.

David Brin said...

I haven't a clue what show Larry Hart was watching re Star Trek TOS, but is sure wasn't th e3 season Roddenberry/Kirk series, which dived into directo social crit and commentary very frequntly (and often with turgid preachiness.)

I've been slow here because Amtrak has poor equipment and we chose that method to go to LA for our first sci fi convention in 2+ years. Fun but really tiring.

Persevere.

Daniel Duffy said...

Larry and Dr. Brin a present to you a funny critique of the Star Trek universe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1Kju_-1sYM

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Frank Herbert once explained why the Dune universe was a feudal empire. His reasoning was that younger sons who would no inherit their father's planets would gather up retainers and mercenaries and strike out for another solar system and set up their onw barony or duchy, and so mankind spreads across the stars.


That reminds me, even in the book, the spice is a fairly new discovery. IIRC, the Harkonnens have been mining spice on Arrakis for 80 years. The movie made it even more explicit, having Kynes say that the Fremen were on their way to making the world a paradise until the spice was discovered, and then no one wanted the desert to disappear.

So how did all those planets get occupied before the spice? Because I also had the sense that the civilization as a whole was ancient, not that it had just been established less than a century ago.

Dr Brin:

I haven't a clue what show Larry Hart was watching re Star Trek TOS, but is sure wasn't th e3 season Roddenberry/Kirk series, which dived into directo social crit and commentary very frequntly (and often with turgid preachiness.)


Well, first of all, I tend to think of the first two seasons much more reverently than the flawed 3rd season. But even there, wasn't the preachiness and social criticism done more in allegory form than in actual references to earth of the episodes' time?

David Brin said...

Herbert's cosmos makes no sense. Nor does coverting a functioning desert planet into A 'PARADISE" when there are plenty opf planets. Buy the Fremen out!

Alfred Differ said...

Matthew,

Thank you. For GRRM's work, I'll just 'Give (the) piece a chance' to finish as he intends. 8)

Scidata,

Heh. Even at the small scale there is schism. It's more likely to lead to less hostile consequences, but not always. Maybe I should say 'division', but that makes it sound so calm. My experience taught me innovative groups are usually highly animated. Emotions run high.

Maybe there is just a mismatch between us in how we use the term civilization. It's not like it is well defined. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,

Writing what we know in a condensed, durable form doesn't change the number of people needed to preserve a civilization. It makes it easier to pass along information. It enables us to shift from "Master with a couple of apprentices" to "Master's book and all those willing to read it", but that doesn't make Master's knowledge actually useful. Nor does it make his book terribly effective at passing what he knows.

Books are tools much like a plough. We can do things we once could not. The result, however, was MUCH more knowledge got created and tested and refined and thrown out to be invented anew. Industrial scale printing enabled more to learn and more to innovate and grew what our civilization knew making it necessary for there to be MORE of us to be who we became.

Roman law got "rediscovered" when it was taken back into Europe after Christians retook the Iberian peninsula. Roman civilization was not rebuilt, though. Greek astronomy was preserved by the Arabs, modified over the centuries, and then reintroduced into Europe the same way. Greek civilization was not rebuilt.

I have no idea how many people are needed to found a civilization. I suspect there is no easy answer or firm division separating 'tribe' at the small end from 'civilization' at the large end. What I am sure of, though, is that any culture intending to pass knowledge from one generation to the next will understand quite well that living examples of knowledge (masters) make more effective teachers of it than books, scrolls, or chiseled marks on stone. It's not that the knowledge is preserved for the ages that matters. It's the fact that masters demonstrate the importance of their knowledge simply by their own existence. Want to know what is important to a culture? Look to how many people spend the effort to learn it.*

Our modern tech civilization dies without hundreds of millions of us participating in it. It explodes into something bigger as billions participate in it.



* I created knowledge when doing my PhD. It sits on a shelf untaught to the next generation. I'm am a living example of it… and how it doesn't matter to the lives of most every human alive. My 'book' hasn't reduced the number of people needed to preserve our civilization. What it DID do is preserve a few innovative thoughts that MIGHT save someone a few months of thought down the road IF they realize it exists when they face a problem I found curious enough to ponder and document.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

Okay. I didn't intend to address exactly what we'd look like in the likely scenarios for reaching the stars, but I'll write down some of it. I didn't intend it here because my thoughts on the subject are kinda dark and my fellow space advocates get all gloomy when I open my mouth. "Buzz-kill" is the thought most likely bouncing around unspoken in their heads. 8)

1. I think FTL is damn unlikely. Sorry. Please oh-great-to-the-many grandchildren prove me wrong. Please. I don't think they will, though.

2. STL colony ships with live populations (big arks) will likely die during the journey unless they are really, really huge. Even then, their distant descendants will likely have fallen into the behaviors of pastoralists who are some of the most socially conservative, innovation limiting people ever to exist. I suspect that will kill them before they get to their destination OR deliver a population unsuitable for colonization of a world requiring liberal innovators.

3. STL colony ships with some kind of tech for storing our minds and rebuilding us upon arrival are a viable possibility for taking the stars. Risky, but the travelers would still be the people with the correct behavior set on arrival that drove them out there in the first place. All you need is… well… mind storage. If you can do that, though, you are a short skip away from a kind of singularity that might change us fundamentally. The real question would be whether such people actually wanted to go.

4. V. Vinge described an STL technique (ramjets) that can lead to colonizations, but isn't civilization preserving. Ignore the fact that he seems to think they destroy themselves anyway and you still get the only people who consistently ply interstellar space being… THE MARKET MAKERS.

Whether we will implode on schedule (Vinge's darker story elements) or explode in the near future (everyone's Singularity fantasies), I suspect we ONLY take the stars when there are ways to get there with people suited to colonizing and inclined to participate in very slow markets. No flashy FTL starships. No galactic emperors. No slow arks sent off into the void preserving humanity from extinction. We are a social species. Some colonies might get cut off, but when that happens they will be deeply impoverished and in need of reconnecting to the folks driving the ramjets/trade junks.

Anonymous said...

Still no updates? And where that youithfull vibrant updates twice a week.
Or that is just number of comments plummeting? So you making it look like in old good times? Oh, sorry, I used that word 'old' again.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Was typing all this up on my phone, then the person I was waiting for got done, and a misclick lost it all, so retyping.

Regarding the Utopia of Star Trek. The "Star Trek is an unrealistic, conflict-free utopia" criticism is one I've heard many times before.

It is not true, however. The Federation has experienced its fair share of strife and competition, and while it hasn't always handled things perfectly, the point of the Federation we see is a society that has overcome the challenges we face today and tomorrow, successfully. That's kinda the point of Star Trek, after all.

But just because we see them in a successful society with wonders we struggle to comprehend or wouldn't predict (something something, people of the 1800s and predicting 747s), doesn't mean they didn't have their fair share of strife and struggle to get there.


Star Trek is set in a universe in which Earth has gone through a Third World War, complete with nuclear exchange. Over half a billion people dead in the war (nevermind the aftermath of it - the comment in First Contact isn't clear if it includes the deaths from infrastructure collapse, but the specific subject being commented on was WWIII).

Humanity overcame that horror, and shortly after meeting the Vulcans and unifying in the reach for the stars, they stumbled into a war with the Kzinti, then struggled to scratch out a place for themselves in the isolationist community of the local stellar region.

The Federation itself was formed in the aftermath of the Earth-Romulan War, and early Federation history was plagued by conflict with the Orion Syndicate, with the Federation's unified government and trade protection, etc. conflicting sharply with the Syndicate's vast array of piracy, slavers, and organized crime.

Nevermind the challenges and hardships that just go along with large scale colonization of multiple worlds, which continues to be a thing for the entirety of the Federation's history.

The Federation in the 23rd Century was dominated by the Federation-Klingon Cold War, renewed contact with the Romulans, and managing conflicts with various other belligerent neighbors, like the Gorn.

The 24th Century was also not the grand era of peace that many think it was (though, in the Federation's internal politics, the "peacehawk" political factions were dominant into the 2360s, due to the long-term fallout of the Khitomer Conspiracy, and the Tomed Incident). Early in the 24th Century, there was renewed conflict with the Romulans following the Tomed Incident (the Romulans cut off all diplomatic contact and returned to their prior isolationism, but there were at least a few conflicts with Federation ships following the incident, and tensions remained high along the RNZ).

Then there was the Federation-Cardiassian War, which lasted a full 20 years, from 2347 to 2367, before an armistice was signed. An official peace treaty wasn't signed until 2370. During that time, the Federation also fought wars with the Tzenkethi, the Talarians (and lost multiple colonies in that conflict), and the Tholians (suffering the destruction of at least one starbase).

Then, of course, there is the Dominion War in the 2370s, and the arrival of the Borg in the 2360s.

The Federation is a nation sandwiched between belligerent neighbors. The Klingons, Romulans, Tholians, Gorn, Tzenkethi, Talarians, Sheliak, Cardassians, Breen, and others surround the Federation. Some are peer or near-peer threats, others are only strong enough to give the Federation a bloody nose, but the Federation has had to deal with those threats and manage or stand off against them for its entire history. Some it has managed to turn into friends and allies, some who even ended up joining the Federation, while others have remained long-term competitors.

(continued in next post)

Ilithi Dragon said...

(continued from previous post)

The Federation is also, throughout its history, continuously adding new cultures and technological paths, cultures and technologies that are, with the bounds of basic rights, etc., celebrated and integrated, rather than overridden. This melting pot of ideas and cultures has been a foundation of its strength and success throughout its history, much like the US (though the US hasn't always lived up to that ideal as well as the Federation).

The Federation is also hardly portrayed as being perfect and flawless. Many of the TNG episodes, in particular, deal with the Federation making mistakes, and then correcting them.

The Federation isn't always a utopia, either. The developed worlds of the Federation are pretty comfortable, sure, but the Federation still has plenty of frontier and developing worlds, with all of the struggles and hardships that go along with that, and not all of those colony efforts work out. Lt. Yar, the first tactical officer of the Enterprise we see in TNG, came from one such failed colony (though why the Federation didn't step in to reestablish law and order isn't clear - the Federation sometimes seems to have a very "hands off" policy in regards to the internal affairs of its colonies, though not always - perhaps it has something to do with the specific legal paradigm of the particular colonial charters).


As for the idea that the Federation shuts down any new idea, hardly.

The Federation tested the Soliton Wave drive, yes. And, yes, they found a VERY big flaw - a simple malfunction turned the soliton wave of the drive's warp field into a runaway cataclysm that would not only have destroyed the ship it was carrying, but also any planet it happened to be pointed at, and it was only shut down because the ship that was testing it actually had a warp drive.

I doubt the Federation abandoned the technology, but it was made clear that the system as it was then designed was NOT a safe method of FTL travel, at all. We do see, however, the Federation make some significant leaps forward in maximum warp speeds in the years after that episode (The Galaxy class, when launched in 2364, was billed as having bleeding-edge engines that could reach a blistering Warp 9.6 for short sprints, but by the 2370s, we see ships that are reaching Warp 9.9 and faster with relative ease).


As for the Data/Lore/Lal AI issue. Starfleet and the Federation are both VERY cautious about "playing god," and are still struggling with the moral and ethical issues of manufactured life in the TNG era (this struggle was a focus of many episodes in TNG, and a few in Voyager). The same goes for genetic engineering. Humans (and presumably, other members of the Federation) had a very bad experience with early genetic engineering (see Khan, et al), and it is only in the mid-24th Century that the Federation is starting to overcome that aversion.

These are challenges that we don't have to face yet, today, and probably not tomorrow. Certainly not for created AI (we're a long way away from truly sapient AI constructs - hardware isn't there), though the genetic engineering thing will probably be a concern in the near future (let's hope we don't fuck it up for real, like humanity did the first time around in Star Trek).

Ilithi Dragon said...

Also, regarding the Trek-bashing YouTube video, seen it before, and it's still painful to watch today, because the arguments are lazy, ham-handed, and the "Pro-Trek" arguing guy is set up to be an obvious idiot who doesn't present any actual counter or rebuttal to anything. He comes up with these stupid red herrings as rebuttal to everything, not because there isn't a rebuttal or counter-argument to be made, but because the people who made the video want to spend 8 minutes bashing on Star Trek and not have anyone challenge their attack.

Robert said...

I created knowledge when doing my PhD. It sits on a shelf untaught to the next generation.

I sometimes wonder how many times my father's PhD thesis — "The Effects of Ochratoxin A on Quail Embryos" by M. Prior, published in the 70s at the University of Saskatchewan — has been cited. Don't think it's been digitized — I know he hired a typist to make the final proofs for publication —and only available in a couple of university libraries if it hasn't been culled by now.

If someone has access to a proper scholarly information system I'd love to know if something as simple as title/abstract is available online. because I haven't been able to find a trace.

Robert said...

Worth reading is Jane Jacobs' last book: Dark Age Ahead.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Age_Ahead

The problem with relying on just books (or online information) is that they don't convey institutional knowledge.

Larry Hart said...

Some comments I missed or which need clarifying from yesterday...

Dune: In the book, it was Liet-Kynes (or was it his father?) who had the dream of making Arrakis bloom and who enlisted the Fremen in that cause. Before that, the Fremen had been content to live in the desert. This was also emphasized in later books when the desert was beginning to retreat and the Fremen seemed to be unhappy about that.

The movie doesn't go there at all. Taming the desert seems to be a Fremen goal rather than one they were convinced to follow.

Star Trek: I might have confused things by saying that TOS didn't focus on (or barely mention) the status of earth at the time of the episodes. That seems to have been taken to refer to social commentary on 1960s-earth, which of course the series had much of. What I meant is that we didn't see what 23rd century earth looked or felt like in the original series.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Orson Welles on the end result of peace and stability:
https://youtu.be/21h0G_gU9Tw

Larry Hart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

Was typing all this up on my phone, then the person I was waiting for got done, and a misclick lost it all, so retyping.


Technology sucks. :)


Regarding the Utopia of Star Trek. The "Star Trek is an unrealistic, conflict-free utopia" criticism is one I've heard many times before.


To me, that's a complaint about writing more than a complaint against the depicted civilizations. The people who say that mean that one can't write interesting stories in such a universe. I think that is self-evidently incorrect.


It is not true, however. The Federation has experienced its fair share of strife and competition, and while it hasn't always handled things perfectly, the point of the Federation we see is a society that has overcome the challenges we face today and tomorrow, successfully. That's kinda the point of Star Trek, after all.

But just because we see them in a successful society with wonders we struggle to comprehend or wouldn't predict (something something, people of the 1800s and predicting 747s), doesn't mean they didn't have their fair share of strife and struggle to get there.


One of the best explanations I've seen concerning the difference between "solved today's problems" vs "never have any problems again."


Also, regarding the Trek-bashing YouTube video, seen it before, and it's still painful to watch today, because the arguments are lazy, ham-handed, and the "Pro-Trek" arguing guy is set up to be an obvious idiot ...


You're seeing it as a Socratic critique of "Star Trek". In that sense, you ascribe a motive to the producer with respect to who "wins" the debate.

OTOH, I took it as an implicit critique of the kinds of conversations that nerds treat as important (despite my being one of them). In which case, who "wins" the debate is immaterial. The debate itself is what is being lampooned.

David Brin said...

"Smoking wasn’t popular among women until Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, rebranded it. In 1929 he capitalized on the feminist movement and repositioned cigarettes with a “torches of freedom” campaign. Bernays hired women to march down Fifth Avenue smoking as a public display of emancipation and rebellion. Within six years, women were purchasing 1 in 5 cigarettes, up from 1 in 20 in 1923.

"The strategy is simple: If people associate something negative with your product (e.g., cancer), change the conversation — “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

"Facebook’s rebranding to Meta is your mom at Thanksgiving when your brother begins bragging about all the “honk” he was making selling meth in rehab … just ignore all actions and words leading to that point, and change the subject as if the entire natural state has been suspended. Philip Morris and Blackwater are also good at this. New names attempt to divert our attention from teen depression, lung cancer, and murder, respectively.

A low-calorie version of this is unfolding in the payments space. The stale product formerly known as a loan has been rebranded as “Buy Now Pay Later,” or BNPL. The premise is simple: Buy a product for a fraction of its cost at checkout and pay the rest of it off over a few weeks or months. The good news: Debt is not as bad as cancer. Though it can trigger depression and even revolution. But that’s another post.

BNPL is one of the hottest trends in finance: 1 in 5 Americans used one of these services in the past year"

https://www.profgalloway.com/red-friday/

Der Oger said...

@ Alfred Differ:
2. STL colony ships with live populations (big arks) will likely die during the journey unless they are really, really huge. Even then, their distant descendants will likely have fallen into the behaviors of pastoralists who are some of the most socially conservative, innovation limiting people ever to exist. I suspect that will kill them before they get to their destination OR deliver a population unsuitable for colonization of a world requiring liberal innovators.

Interesting.
One way I could imagine to counter this problem would be to send a fleet of many arks - not just one. For redundancy, but also for competition ... so that stagnation is somewhat lessened.
Maybe a vanguard fleet of robots has already established waypoints, or maybe these waypoints are already "worlds" in their own right once the exodus fleet arrives there.

Herbert's cosmos makes no sense. Nor does coverting a functioning desert planet into A 'PARADISE" when there are plenty opf planets. Buy the Fremen out!

My view on neofeudal settings is that feudal houses like the Harkonnens in Dune or the Successor States of the BattleTech franchise pretty much take what they can get with their forces ... even if buying out would have been the better option. AND: I don't remember the Fremen to be a people that could be bought out ...

David Brin said...

Wow an amazingly vivid argument/discussion! I am following along, though too swamped to say much.

We just went to our first convention in 2+ years. LOSCON in LA was sparse by old standards but pretty sweet for a plague year. We met with the mighty TV producer/writer Brian Buckner ...

...and I got to meet one of my heroes, the brilliant author/scriptor/director Nicholas Meyer, who in the past led fine teams to save for us all one of the greatest mythologies in the history of our species... Star Trek... by guiding the wonderful even-numbered films, thus rescuing that noble franchise from the calamitous odd-numbered ones. (All Sherlock Holmes fans, look for his new novel about Holmes in Egypt!)

Had dinner with Greg Benford, Larry Niven and my oldest (by duration) sci fi pal Steve Barnes, always brilliant and insightful and patient with my contrarian poking. (I mean well.)

Amtrak train to LA 3 HOURS delayed on a side track with engine trouble... hooray the Infrastructure Bill!

The LA Metro system is clean and safe etc... with the worst signage I have seen on any metro system around the world. How hard would that be to fix? The Infrastructure Bill also MUST complete the last-5-miles problem in so many cities, linking metro to the airport! Damn the GOP for delaying that (and for so many other treasons.)

now, hoping this wasn't a spreader event! And hoping you all are getting your own rising tastes of normality.



duncan cairncross said...

Re the "lost knowledge" and the PhD papers left on the shelf

Engineering is all about lost knowledge! - most new ideas are useful for a few years and then they are overtaken by the flood of new ideas

My own patent for a reduced mass diesel "delivery valve" (part of the high pressure fuel system) was obsoleted within five years and if one in ten thousand new ideas is patented I would be gobsmacked

The PhD paper on the shelf is more important for training the individual in creating new ideas than for the knowledge contained in it

I wonder if this could be one of the first tasks of an artificial intelligence?
Reading all of the old PhD papers to see if there is anything that should be publicized?

Or would that be a motive for the "Death of all Humans"

Pappenheimer said...

Der Oger - there was an old SF short novel that dealt (?) with the problem of a generational crew not being suitable for pioneering...the population was divided into 2 stable groups (a low-tech priesthood and peasantry that didn't know where they were, and a hidden tech minority that did) and by some unspecified genetics, when the priesthood and peasantry interbred on the new planet - this would produce adventurous individuals.

There was a funny scene when the priesthood warned that the sun would not come up tomorrow for some infraction of the rules, and the techs were happy because they'd get to give the 'sun' an overhaul.

Daniel Duffy said...

You are all wrong.

The Federation is like root beer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bskhLaJYd8

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Pappenheimer

That would be
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captive_Universe

Captive Universe by Harry Harrison

TCB said...

Off topic, but: Cameras the size of salt grains.

https://phys.org/news/2021-11-camera-size-salt-grain.html

Now, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Washington have overcome these obstacles with an ultracompact camera the size of a coarse grain of salt. The new system can produce crisp, full-color images on par with a conventional compound camera lens 500,000 times larger in volume, the researchers reported in a paper published Nov. 29 in Nature Communications.

...

Heide also envisions using ultracompact imagers to create "surfaces as sensors." "We could turn individual surfaces into cameras that have ultra-high resolution, so you wouldn't need three cameras on the back of your phone anymore, but the whole back of your phone would become one giant camera. We can think of completely different ways to build devices in the future," he said.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

The Federation is like root beer.


America used to be like that.

A.F. Rey said...

And totally off subject, just in case you haven't seen this before, my son let me know about a device every science fiction afficionado should know about. One we've all seen, but never realized.

The Most Important Device in the Universe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phPp5oYnps0

Be amazed. :)

(I know. I'm always late to the party...)

Larry Hart said...

Couldn't have said it better myself...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/29/opinion/abortion-vaccine-mandate.html

As the feminist Ellen Willis once put it, the central question in the abortion debate is not whether a fetus is a person, but whether a woman is.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@Daniel, David: Simply saying "Europe was fragmented" doesn't seem enough for me. Despite the propaganda promulgated by every dynasty -- including the Communist mandarin-dynasty -- China fragmented frequently. Consider the old Chinese proverb: "The mountains are tall, and the Emperor is very far away."

My take is that it was the combination of three factors at once that made the difference:
(1) The fragmentation -- the motive for innovation, necessary but not sufficient
(2) The labor environment post-Black Death -- spare resources available in many fragments, the means for innovation [wealth from the Americas may have helped too, but the trends started before 1492]
(3) The printing press -- a leap in communications, permitting cognitive innovation despite the fragmentation -- the opportunity for innovation

Motive, means, and opportunity, your Honor.

Herbert's cosmos makes no sense. Nor does converting a functioning desert planet into A 'PARADISE" when there are plenty of planets. Buy the Fremen out!

I propose a First Law of Herbert: Nothing in Dune makes sense except in the light of the Spacing Guild monopoly.

Let's take the Fremen-Guild interaction as an example. We know the Fremen have the means to bribe the Guild, because they do so in canon: Arrakis is free of orbital sensors so that only the Fremen and the Guild know there is a terraforming project in the southern hemisphere. No one else would be able to even dream of buying a mass migration from the Guild -- but the Fremen have the Guild's second most vital resource in the palm of their hand. So why not reach "paradise" by bribing their way off the planet instead?

Because that threatens the Guild's most vital resource: their monopoly. Fremen know way too much about the properties of the spice; more exposure, exposure en masse (unthinkable except on Arrakis and to the Guild), and about the environment of Arrakis that produces spice. Isolating the Fremen is not possible since every last one of them is physiologically dependent on spice; taking them into the Guild is not practical, not only from a cultural perspective but also because the Guild would have to massively overhaul itself to deal with such a leap in population. Population-scale medical examination of Fremen physiology would be critical in reverse engineering the Guild's methods.

And someone might even figure out the most important secret of all: how to replicate Arrakis' spice life cycle. I do not for a moment believe that the Guild spent even a fraction of a hundred centuries ignorant of the origin of a resource they completely depended on. Imperial civilization on Arrakis was arranged as to make it nigh-impossible to smuggle sandtrout off-planet -- and in such a way that no active measures were required, as the act itself would give away too much.

The Fremen stayed where they were because the Guild wanted them there. And the Guild chose to allow the south polar terraforming, to have yet another way to tighten the market -- and another lever to influence the Fremen. ("Nice ecosystem you have here. Shame if anything happened to it.") The risk appeared worth the benefit -- as long as you didn't have an unforeseeable player enter the game.

Paradoctor said...

The Federation is America's SF self-portrait. As America's view of itself darkens, so does the Federation.

Larry Hart said...

I'd say "You can't make this stuff up," except that they are literally making this stuff up.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Nov30.html#item-4

What's in a Name, Part I: This one is moronic—literally. Some right-wingers are pointing out (correctly) that 'Omicron' is an anagram of 'Moronic,' and suggesting (laughably) that this is evidence the Democrats are "putting one over" on Republicans. These are, of course, the same folks who read all kinds of nutty things into the pronouncements of Q, despite the fact that Q hasn't actually posted anything new in over a year.

scidata said...

Paradoctor: America's SF self-portrait

Let's just hope it doesn't go full-on Dorian Gray.

Larry Hart said...

Something else I just remembered is missing from the Dune movie. I'm not sure how important it seems to y'all, but I would have liked to see the small victory, anyway.

In the book, Duke Leto orders a clandestine raid on Geidi Prime which relieves the Baron of the spice reserves the Harkonnens had been hoarding in advance of the coup. The Baron couldn't admit that he had been hoarding spice. Also, the extent of the conspiracy against the Atreides was made obvious by the knowledge that the emperor was also hoarding spice.

None of this is hinted at or mentioned in the movie.

David Brin said...

onward
onward