Saturday, January 29, 2022

Science Fiction: news & updates

In 1971 at Caltech (I was there), Bruce Murray and Carl Sagan welcomed Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury onstage for a panel: “Mars and the Mind of Man.” Among many cogent remarks, Arthur stated: "whether or not there is life on Mars now, there will be by the end of this century."

Well, well. Unless you count a stray bacterium aboard Sojourner... But we can keep on pushing!

== For your consideration... ==

Hugo Award nominations are now open for Chicon - the World Science Fiction Convention - in September in Chicago, likely to be the best SF con in a generation! I have three possibles, if you care to consider them. For the "Related Works" category, my nonfiction book Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood. And a series ripe for consideration in the YA roster: The "Out of Time" (or "Yanked!") series: Only teens can teleport through time and space! Dollops of fun, adventure & optimism for young adults...

... and The Colony High series: aliens kidnap a California high school and live to regret it!  Fun for all ages.

== Sci Fi Flick News! ==

Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi novel Rendezvous With Rama will be filmed, with Denis Villeneuve on board to direct. ‘First published in 1973, the novel is regarded as one of the cornerstones of Clarke’s works. Set in the 2130s, the story involves a 31 by 12 mile cylindrical alien starship that enters the Solar System. The story is told from the point of view of a group of human explorers who intercept the ship in an attempt to unlock its mysteries. And yes, I grew up with Arthur's books and helped establish UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination

When it comes to exploring an asteroid that is much more than it seems, I prefer Greg Bear’s Eon. You decide. Still, after excellent adaptations of both Dune and Arrival (based on Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life). I expect nothing but great stuff from Villeneuve.

== SF out of Asia ==

Of course everyone is talking about the Korean film renaissance, after the worldwide success of Squid Game. But neighbors are also at it.

We just watched the Japanese film version (on Netflix) of Robert Heinlein's great classic "The Door Into Summer." Except for a few embellishments which (mostly) improved the story a bit, it is terrifically faithful and well done. Way-fun! (sub-titles)

From China, a charming 20 minute short about a desert village that comes together to create a sci fi flick about a rescue mission to Mars. The Comeback.

And in Asia next year… Rob Sawyer will be one of the Author Guests of Honor at the 2023 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), which will be held August 16-20, 2023, in Chengdu, China. The other two author guests of honor are Sergey Lukianenko from Russia and Cixin Liu from China. Our family much enjoyed being the first foreign SF guests at a major Chengdu SF festival, just before the Yokohama Worldcon, in 2007.

== A  bit of whimsey ==

From the finale of The Expanse: The troopers listed in the drop pods are a variety of sci fi heroes! Like … Rico, J, … Juan "Johnny" Rico from Starship Troopers, Starr, L, that’s Lucky Starr for Asimov’s YA novels, and D. Bowman of 2001. And Ripley and Hicks and Vasquez & Hudson from Aliens... Duncan Idaho from DUNE, Adm. Akbar from Star Wars, Deckard from Bladerunner, Riker from Star Trek, Alex Rogan from Last Starfighter, Neary from Close Encounters, O’Neil from Stargate, Quaid from Total Recall, and Sarah Conner from Terminator. Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, Nesmith from Galaxy Quest, Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica.  Bobbie Draper from Expanse and Louise Banks from Arrival and E. Buck from Halo. And Kevin Flynn from TRON and Joseph Cooper from Interstellar. ...Ashamed to say that a few others only sound familiar. But these are pure nerds! And The Expanse was terrific.

And one of you chimed in: “And just to confuse all us fans, R Levine, H Ochiai and K Garrity are all names of karate instructors who've taught Expanse show runner Naren Shankar.”

Alas I’m still chopped liver. sigh.

== Looking back, to look ahead… ==

Are you a fan of Gregory Benford's epic and magnificent “Galactic Center” novels? The series took a quarter century to complete, and Benford traces his own research into the strange structures there. For the first time, all the depth surrounding the series is collected in one volume. The Galactic Center Companion.

And here's my own such guide  - 'Contacting Aliens: A Guide to The Uplift Universe "Of course you recall the nursery rhyme each Earthchild learns, to help remember the Orders of Life — OHow MReality Tricks MEasily — a mnemonic that's philosophically useful as well as handy." — "the 7 known orders of life in the Uplift universe." Can you use the mnemonic to name them all?

Alas now out of print. (Looking for a legacy publisher.)

SFWA's Heritage Author Republication Project (HARP) helps “heritage” authors republish their currently out-of-print backlist titles. The Independent Authors Committee's primary aim for HARP is to help older or disabled authors get their backlist titles back into print, especially books that have never been available electronically and have been out-of-print at least 15 years.

Do you have a favorite long-neglected author of SF? I'm thinking Zenna Henderson, John Boyd, C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Richard C. Meredith, Lisa Goldstein, Hal Clement, James Blish, Roberta MacAvoy, R.A. Lafferty, Meghan Lindholm, Cordwainer Smith, J.D. Bernal, Pat Murphy.

Some greats I simply refuse to believe are out of print! Fritz Leiber and L. Sprague deCamp. Charles Sheffield! But James P. Hogan's 70s and 80s novels are impossible to find. Also Piers Anthony. You’ve likely heard of them, at least, but D.G. Compton is recipient of this year's Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. I assume it isn’t time yet to ‘rediscover” true greats like Fred Pohl or C M Kornbluth or Poul Anderson or Robert Sheckley! Frederick Brown’s epic short stories and those of Eric Frank Russell. Zelazny or Farmer.

Facebook followers also chimed in with Alfred Coppell. John Boyd. Jerry Sohl. Richard Wilson. Clifford D. Simak. Alan E. Nourse. Raymond F. Jones. H. Beam Piper and Keith Laumer will always be beloved of the Baen crowd. But Mack Reynolds? Christopher Anvil?Jack Williamson? And  James Schmitz gave us out first taste of a spunky young heroine in popular sci fi, other than Isaac’s Bayta and Arkady Darrell… the indomitable Telzy Amberdon. (Guys in may age clade fell in love.)

Panshin, Pangborn, Boucher and Russell… Tom Reamy.  Yeah, Van Vogt… though his obsession with portraying uber-lordly demigod supermen above all mortal law grew as tiresome then as it is now with the relentlessly anti-democracy works of O.S. Card.

As a treat, here's a treasury of book synopses of ancient science fiction.

And finally... It seemed like cutting edge sci tech at the time. Dwight Eisenhower – later president – led a cross country truck expedition in 1919 that was epic and showed how crude American infrastructure was. Yet how important.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Can we 'de-radicalize' our neighbors? Will AI help? Are are we in a "cool war"? And are we resilient?

Are we teetering on the edge of some kind of war? From "cold war" to crackling "cool" (See The Cool War by Pohl), to simmering warm, as undersea cables are sabotaged? Or even...

... Well, well, I've been posting possibilities on social media. But here on-blog, I'll stick with a pre-prepared topic that is sadly related, as Fox watchers bobble-nod to Tucker Carlson's nightly recitation of Kremlin memes. And so....

How do we confront growing extremism?

Let's start with the unmentioned player looming on the horizon: artificial Intelligence or AI, which some see as a factor that, if fully weaponized, might end the very enlightenment experiment that gave birth to it... 

...or else AI might become the very tool we need in order to layer upon our many-layered caveman brains, and thus grow up, at long last!

Compare these trends in Part 1 of a wide-ranging interview I gave about AI and the future. And part 2 on January 31.

Meanwhile, let's not wait around for 'em. Old fashioned humans of goodwill and sapience can solve and resolve our problems... starting now.

== Is de-radicalization possible? ==

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."

See also Christian Picciolini's book Breaking Hate: Confronting the New Culture of Extemism

"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. "Healthy and happy people do not join hate groups." ... The consequences of failure are potentially catastrophic. "If they believe there's going to be war, they will make sure of it."

Having offered you that glimpse, I must demur! 

We don’t have to lure all MAGAs back into the light. Their demographic collapse is so bad that they depend absolutely on cheating to amplify atom-thin, gerrymandered local majorities. And they count on help from our own far-left, who can be counted on to betray the Union Coalition, as they did in 80, 88, 94, 2000, 2010 and 2016. 

Let's be optimistic, though. Certainly Stacey Abrams, Bernie,Liz, AOC and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison are striving every day to keep that wing wing inside the tent... inside the only coalition in the worlds that's broad enough to (maybe) save civilization.

If those heroes can manage it, then the key is…

…to peel away as few as half a million Republicans at the saner end of the Fox-realm, who now stare at that Kremlin agitprop station in desperation to maintain the incantation “I know the right has gone mad... but... but... but democrats are even worse! Yeah, that's the ticket! Those commies...”

Find these wavering conservatives, who have been lured into betraying every traditional American value! Corner them! 

The “wager thing” works, if you nail it down. Demand that you and that borderline GOPper together fact check ONE evening of Tucker vs ONE evening of Maddow, before a panel of senior retired military officers. 

Peel away even just one and heaven (and America) rejoices.

== Resilience or nuttery? ==

Returning full circle.... If some kind of cool or warm or even hot war is coming - including acts of economic sabotage like the severing of undersea cables, then it's time (again) to talk RESILIENCE. I’ve long pushed for moves that might improve civilization’s overall robustness.

In this interview I covered a list of things we can (and must) do to help our nations, civilization and families be more robust against the batterings of fate. Example, Long ago I denounced (to the sound of chirping crickets) the cult of “just-in-time” manufacturing and the tax laws that punished on-site inventory, a nutty notion that helped lead to today’s fragile and easily disrupted supply chains.

Another of my complaints had to do with today’s delicate cell phone systems, which are guaranteed to go offline when we need them most – when storms or disasters or sabotage render the cell towers offline. I promote the notion of a backup peer-to-peer text passing system, that could work even if every tower across a continent were down, allowing (say) the U.S. to maintain the equivalent of a 1940s telegram system in even the worst conditions (as in The Postman.)

Naturally, the big Telcos ignore this problem, even though Qualcomm chips would easily allow this critical contribution to our general robustness. There have been various attempts to bypass the telcos and do this via “mesh networks” – such as this latest attempt. Putting aside the ripe sanctimony wafting from the announcement, a mesh-bypass that requires special apps and efforts is not ideal. But if the Telcos have no imagination or patriotism, then it will be up to guerrilla innovators.

== And further pertinent miscellany ==


The German Defense Ministry is using SF stories to predict future wars.  Their Project Cassandra has already successfully predicted conflict in Algeria. University researchers would use their expertise to help the German defense ministry predict the future. I participate in similar things in the US each year.


Pentagon program that delegated management of a huge swath of the Internet to a Florida company in January -- just minutes before President Trump left office -- has ended as mysteriously as it began, with the Defense Department this week retaking control of 175 million IP addresses.  At its peak, the company, Global Resource Systems, controlled almost 6 percent of a section of the Internet called IPv4. The IP addresses had been under Pentagon control for decades but left unused, despite being potentially worth billions of dollars on the open market. Adding to the mystery, company registration records showed Global Resource Systems at the time was only a few months old, having been established in September 2020, and had no publicly reported federal contracts, no obvious public-facing website and no sign on the shared office space it listed as its physical address in Plantation, Fla. 


Finally, amid the news that Justice Breyer will retire… I feel honored to have Judge David Tatel as my friend, well deserving of the attention in this article as he retires from the Appeals Court bench. If we still lived in an era of some bipartisan consensus and professionalism, instead of each party* caring above all about youth/health and partisan litmus tests, he would be on the Supreme Court right now.  A fine mind, and a judge who could see much farther than almost anyone with working eyes.  

Saturday, January 22, 2022

The paradox of technologies of connectivity

Even as technology links people together across the globe, our differences seem to be driving us further apart. In some ways technology offers greater safety and security than ever - and in other ways, unprecedented threats to the very civilization that engendered it.

Meanwhile, there is a movement to hold AI accountable - requiring alorithms used in decision-making, such as health care, housing, employment or education - to be 'audited' for bias.

At the Noema site, you can read an interesting summary by Nathan Gardels of a new book, “The Age of AI And Our Human Future,” co-written by three authors: veteran Cold War strategist Henry Kissinger, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and computer scientist Daniel Huttenlocher. The Age of AI and our Future asserts that dispersal of burgeoning data systems has increased the danger of inadvertent War by Miscalculation among the world’s great powers.

Gardels notes, "The paradox that technologies of connectivity are dividing the world anew is not lost on the authors. Instead of uniting the planet in a common perspective, the evolution of AI and other tools that frame the use of data, the flow of information and the openness of expression reflect the civilizational and cultural values that undergird them and stand at the heart of divergence between East and West. 

"In time," the authors predict, "an industry founded on the premise of community and communication" may end up "uniting blocs of users in separate realities... evolving along parallel but entirely distinct lines and with communication and exchange between them growing increasingly foreign and difficult."

For the authors, this divergence is compounded by technological escape from the control of human reason historically grounded in the locality of place. As they put it:

 "Now day-to-day reality is accessible on a global scale, across network platforms that unite vast numbers of users. Yet the individual human mind is no longer reality's sole--or perhaps even its principal--navigator. AI-enabled continental and global network platforms have joined the human mind in this task, aiding it and in some areas, perhaps moving toward eventually displacing it."

Well, well, as I frequently point out (with slides) at speeches, this is not the first time that advances in three areas -- knowledge-access (writing, printed books, newspapers, radio, TV) and vision (glass lenses, telescopes, scientific instruments) and attention (perspective and other tools of focus) -- have triggered dangerous disruption... before finally becoming tools for expanded human achievement, consciousness and wisdom. 

(Biggest examples, the printing press tore Europe to shred, before settling in as a generally positive source of wisdom. The arrival of radio and loudspeakers in the 1930s damn near killed civilization... till they saved it. The one new comms tech that had generally positive outcomes from the start was ... (get ready)... television!)

Anyway, there appear to be valid points in the Kissinger/Schmidt/Huttenlocher book and  solid practical advice...

... that alas seem to ignore the fundamental driver of potential conflict, which is a ticking cultural clock.  

Foremost, there is a reason that all the world's oligarchies are joining together in common cause, from communist hierarchs and "ex"-communist Kremlin lords to casino moguls, mafiosi, murder princes and inheritance brats. 

They all face only a very short window to re-establish quasi-feudal, inheritance-based rule, of the sort that oppressed 99% of our ancestors for 6000 years. And you can bet they are hoping that developments in AI will lock in their pyramids of power, forever.

== The fear all oligarchs share... a permanent end to pyramids of power ==

In Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood -  I describe out the memes preached and spread by Hollywood are especially infectious among the world's youth, especially when rising prosperity is accompanied with a sense of safety/satiation.  The most common Hollywood themes: Suspicion of Authority (SoA), diversity, individual eccentricity and empathy are tantamount to massive propaganda for Enlightenment values. Values that, should they fully take root, will be death to oligarchy, over the long run.

This is the real reason for the banning of most western entertainments in certain nations. It is the top reason for drumbeats of resentment and hate being pounded across their controlled media. Individualism and suspicion toward unaccountable elites will be lethal to pyramidal power structures and that must be prevented soon, lest those values embed in the world's vast majority.

Our danger does not arise from the lack of hot line conversations between heads of state. It is rooted in a certainty among oligarchs of all types that uniting to crush the enlightenment experiment is essential, if those oligarchs are to pass paramount power to their sons.

== Two crises of intimidation... that may not be backed by plausible threat ==

While our worried gaze is on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, let's keep a broad sense of danger. The annual Pentagon appraisal of China’s growing military might is most interesting. 

My amateur assessment: All the saber rattling from that New Power is counter-productive. It is not long-term effective to deeply offend and threaten all your neighbors, driving them into the arms of your more benign and historically friendly rival. Several of those neighbors - especially those in Oz - have respoded by digging in their heels.

I especially doubt the ability of any invasion force to cross the Formosa Straits if they are contested. Even if the nearby continental power gains utter control of the air and destroys all rival forces, denying those rivals entry, air superiority does nothing about hundreds of lurker torpedo-mines, waiting quietly in the mud. I doubt they could be cleaned out, even with underwater nukes. 

But what do I know? Indeed, the report notes that notion of an actual invasion seems beyond the New Power's capabilities. 

‘Large-scale amphibious invasion is one of the most complicated and difficult military operations, requiring air and materiel superiority, the rapid buildup and sustainment of supplies onshore, and uninterrupted support. An attempt to invade Taiwan would likely strain [NP’s] armed forces and invite international intervention. These stresses, combined with…the complexity of urban warfare and counterinsurgency…make an amphibious invasion of Taiwan a significant political military risk.’

This analysis seems to agree with my portrayal, and further notes that NP appears to have made a deliberate choice, when they took full control of H.Kong. They surely knew that would end all chance of political rapprochement with T'aipei or any major constituencies on the island.

== Final miscellany ==

New Zealand wants to ban all cigarette sales by gradually raising the legal smoking age.  Clever… it leaves current voter-smokers alone.  And ethically-politically problematic! Still, clever. Jacinda for world Premiere.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Science updates: A focus on biotech and biology wonders!

Ever more it is a world where biology becomes the foremost science. That is, if we can save science (and all other fact professions) from those seeking to impose a new Dark Age.

For starters: 

== Biotech updates ==

In the journal Neuron, a team of researchers expected to show biological neurons are more complex—they were surprised at just how much more complex they actually are. They found it took a five- to eight-layer neural network, or nearly 1,000 artificial neurons, to mimic the behavior of a single biological neuron from the brain’s cortex. They called this an upper bound to complexity, but I doubt that aspect, and predict we will find computational aspects to the glial and astrocyte cells that surround neurons in a functioning brain.

From where does this complexity arise? As it turns out, it’s mostly due to a type of chemical receptor in dendrites—the NMDA ion channel—and the branching of dendrites in space. “Take away one of those things, and a neuron turns [into] a simple device.” Alas, this model is actually theoretical. Measurement in actual neurons will have to wait.

And of course, all of this complexity is before admitting to the possibility that quantum effects are involved, akin to Penrose-Hameroff theory.

How are nerves controlled? Some invertebrates, such as the hydra, can regenerate their heads after decapitation. Researchers are studying "which genes are switched on and off during regeneration and how they're controlled."

Meanwhile, the origins of some of our ‘junk DNA” may go back to the origins of mammals, in ways creepily like my chilling-creepy story “Chrysalis.”

== More bio wonders ==

A decade after gene therapy, children born with deadly immune disorder remain healthy. 

An anti-aging vaccine? Japanese researchers are developing a vaccine to remove "zombie cells," senescent cells that accumulate with age - can can harm nearby cells by releasing chemicals that lead to inflammation.

Researchers discovered a bizarre way that a cancer cell can disarm its would-be cellular attackers by extending out nanoscale tentacles that can reach into an immune cell and pull out its powerpack mitochondria. One more reason to believe there must be something more to cancer than just wild, malfunctioning reproduction. Again, see my story "Chrysalis" for a theory about that... one that triggered correspondence with researchers

Almost yearly, we learn of yet another promising treatment for spinal injury and paralysis. This one using ‘dancing’ molecules appears to have truly breakthrough effects on neural connection restoration. 

The rise of multidrug-resistant bacteria has already led to a significant increase in human disease and death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 2.8 million people worldwide are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, accounting for 35,000 deaths each year in the U.S. and 700,000 deaths around the globe.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have identified nanoparticles released from cells - supermeres - which transmit chemical 'messages' between cells. These may serve as biomarkers for disease.

Nanome is a UCSD spinoff that uses VR and Augmented Reality to visualize complex molecules for science, pharma and other advanced uses. Take a look at their great new demo video. Full disclosure: I am on the advisory board. 

Gradually, some companies are coming to realize what some of us forecast long ago, e.g. in novels of Vernor Vinge – that the ‘neurodivergent” or folks along the autism spectrum often have traits that make them superior employees at many kinds of tasks. Adjustments to interview processes have opened doors and assessments show good results and now the trend is growing in India. Oh, but there are five very different "spectrum people" with roles in my novel EXISTENCE.

Can poor nutrition and ultra-processed foods contribute to irritability and outbursts of angry rhetoric? 

== Adaptive animals ==

Increasingly, researchers are gaining up-close insights into animal behaviors in the wild - using bio-mimetic robots, realistic-looking programmed versions embedded in the swarm, herd, flock or school of animals. Robotic bees, falcons, termites and fish are some of the early experiments that have yielded fresh insights into animal's social behavior.

While it’s long been known that some fish and amphibians can do parthenogenesis… females producing young without contributions from a male… it is very rare among warm-blooded creatures. But lately it’s proved that California Condors have done it recently, much as in my novel Glory Season.

A fascinating article on The Post-Human Dog: Much like the History Channel show Life After People, a new book - A Dog's World: Imagining the lives of dogs in a world without humans - by J. Pierce and M. Bekoff imagines possible future evolutionary trajectories for how our canine friends would adapt and survive in the absence of humans. Though large numbers would die off in the beginning, others would go feral and spread to newly changed ecological niches across planet earth.

And a fascinating look backward: The bizarre dog types that time forgot: a vast variety of canines that no longer exist: wooly dogs, vegetarian dogs, lion-fighting dogs and other working dogs - chronicled in The Invention of the Modern Dog, when the Victorians instigated and propagated rigorous 'breeds' of dogs.

Talking with cetaceans? A project is underway, using advanced machine learning methods to parse the language (if any) of sperm whales. It will be an ambitious undertaking, calling for drones and robots to collect data on whale actions, to correlate with the utterances... hoping the robots won't interfere or bother the creatures, lest most of the translations turn out to be stuff like "I knew I shouldn't have swallowed that thing; it complains more than Jonah did!"

== And pig hearts... ==

Yes, sure. Xenotransplantation is a big deal. More later.

And finally....

The rapid progress true Science now makes, occasions my Regretting sometimes that I was born so soon. It is impossible to imagine the Height to which may be carried in a 1000 Years the Power of Man over Matter. We may perhaps learn to deprive large Masses of their Gravity & give them absolute Levity, for the sake of easy Transport. Agriculture may diminish its Labour & double its Produce. All Diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, not excepting even that of Old Age, and our Lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian Standard. O that moral Science were in as fair a Way of Improvement, that Men would cease to be Wolves to one another, and the human Beings would at length learn what they now improperly call Humanity. 

                        —Benjamin Franklin

Friday, January 07, 2022

Politics, polemics, but especially... prediction!

First, an item from the news.
So, only the Cheneys sat on the right side of the Aisle as every Republican member of the House boycotted… um, found ‘important business elsewhere’… when the House met to memorialize the officers killed by the rioters on 1/6/21. 

When the Cheneys - who stole billions from us in the Great Iraq Logistics Scam that was the sole real purpose of the Second Saddam War - say THEY have had enough of the Trumpist nightmare they helped create?

Sigh, history repeats. Like the Prussian "Junkers caste" lords who in the 1920s were SO sure they could 'control' the brown shirts they had subsidized. And around 1936 started murmuring: "what have we done?"

Heed this from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Oh, here comes my master! Help me Lord, I plead!

Spirits I have conjured, no longer pay me heed.

== Prediction time? ==

It’s ‘prediction season' again! For example Mark Anderson of the Strategic News Service has one of the most brilliant predictive success records around. See Unveiling SNS's 2022 Predictions

I’ve dribbled-out my own across the years and have written extensively about the need for predictions registries and the use of wager demands to hold blowhards accountable.

But for years I’ve gone on record in many places calling 2023 the Year of the Flying Car… though at first it will likely be hobbyists away from town… plus licensed air-limo services in cities. For the Rich, of course. And watch how that works out!

One of my better recent items: Repairing the World: is that creative, preserving power in human hands?” I am interviewed by the legendary John Elkington for Green Swans Observatory. (October 2021).  A PDF transcription is available.

I participated in this report by the World Economic Forum on Positive AI Economic Futures. "Many computer science experts believe that, in this century, machines will be able to do most tasks better than humans. Given these sorts of predictions, it is important to think about the possible consequences of AI for the future of work and to prepare for different scenarios. Continued progress in these technologies could have disruptive effects: from further exacerbating recent trends in inequality to denying more and more people their sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, given that work is much more than just a source of income."

One of my most biting essays about politics and economics has been updated and reposted on The Street. As is my wont, I pause often to demand wagers, e.g. whether Supply Side/Thatcherism ever made a successful prediction of positive outcomes. No one ever steps up to bet, proving the cowardice of adherents of that mad cult... but also the polemical stupidity of Keynesians, for not using this simple method to highlight who's been right a lot... vs. who is always, always wrong.

Oh, any guesses why the Street folks chose to conclude the essay with an image of the grave of Karl Marx?

"Former White House strategist Steve Bannon on Monday dug in on this threat that Donald Trump-loyal “shock troops” will move to “deconstruct” the federal government the minute a Republican takes over the Oval Office again.

“We need to get ready now,” Bannon said on his “War Room” podcast. “We control the country. We’ve got to start acting like it. And one way we’re going to act like it, we’re not going to have 4,000 [shock troops] ready to go, we’re going to have 20,000 ready to go.""

== we’ve got anti-vax & climate denialism backwards! ==

Everyone (it seems) gets this backward. It's accepted that our fact professions - from science/teaching/journalism/medicine to the 'deep state' intel/military officers - are attacked by the Mad Right in order to prevent action on climate change. 


Instead, climate denialism... and anti-vax and the rest ... are agitprop used to rile up confed/MAGAs, getting hem to aim their resentment at 'elites' of knowledge, rather than the elites of money/lordship who are actually stealing from those poor schlumps. In other words, oligarchy is applying exactly the same trick used by plantation lords in the 1860s to get a million poor whites to march and die for their class oppressors. 

Just watch Fox for a while or listen to Sinclair radio (kremlin) jocks. Vastly more time and energy is spent explicitly attacking nerds in the various fact professions than explicitly attacking races/genders etc. Make that a wager. Moreover, there's a reason for that. While disempowered victims (races/genders/the poor etc.) are hurt most by Mad Right policies, they are not the ones standing in the way of oligarchy's current putsch to grab all world power.

(Think. The powerless aren't the chief worry of the powerful. That is a tautology.)

The empowered clades who are blocking that ambition are the fact and knowledge professions. Including law and civil service and the officer corps and above all scientists. Discrediting the boffins is among the very top oligarchy priorities.

Hence, the anti-vax 'movement' and denialism and all that are inexplicable except in this context, where it suddenly becomes clear WHY the Foxites are deliberately killing thousands of their own followers with a campaign to divert them away from life-saving medicine. If they did not have climate denialism and anti-vax and abortion, they would have to concoct some other cult mythologies to use in the war on nerds.

Stop fracturing the coalition to save democracy and the enlightenment! See "Democracy Cannot survive the fracturing of the Democratic Coalition" by Ian Bassin in The Bulwark: “In the early days of the first Trump presidency, our organization cohosted a “Summit for Democracy” at which the keynote speakers were a Democratic senator, a Republican senator, and opposition leaders from Russia, Poland, and Egypt who had experience facing off against autocrats. At the end of the event, the foreign opposition leaders were asked to each give one piece of advice to Americans now facing the specter of authoritarianism. 

The Polish MP Agnieska Pomaska said this: “Don’t let the opposition fracture.” Her advice was born of experience. In Poland, the increasingly autocratic ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), initially rose to power in 2015 on only plurality support (35 percent in the first round of voting) because the opposition could not stay united. In Hungary, the autocratic Fidesz Party managed to translate its own plurality support into legislative supermajorities in large part because the Hungarian opposition fractured in the lead-up to both the 2014 and 2018 elections. Once in power, both PiS and Fidesz then engaged in a program of dismantling democratic institutions and checks and balances. …”

The conclusion of the Bulwark article: Bassin notes, “In their book How Democracies Die, the Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt compared four countries’ experiences in interwar Europe. In Belgium and Finland, far-right extremist parties gained some traction after World War I. In both countries, the center-right united with the left to block those anti-democratic parties from ascending further to power. 

In Italy and Germany on the other hand, the center-right in both cases chose not to do that, and instead sought to co-opt the political appeal of rising far-right movements by incorporating them into their ranks. We all know what happened next. Thus far, most pro-democracy Republicans have chosen to try to tame, or co-opt, the rising authoritarians in their midst. This is a mistake. Stopping the next authoritarian attempt will require a broad, united opposition. This unity of purpose is more crucial than any legislation.”