Friday, March 18, 2022

Is Russia triggering a cleansing surge against financial secrecy? And stuff about Crypto!

Sometimes it's the dog that didn't bark in the night. The expected thing that did not happen. 

For example, where is the Russian cyber war that everyone expected to be one of Putin's spasms, unleashed against the West when he grew desperate? Weren't all our banks and pipelines and power grids going to collapse, at the very moment he gave a nod? Is it possible that our nerdy protector castes and their tools - and even out utility companies - turned out to be better than expected? Or Kremlin basement-dwellers much less competent?

Moreover, has anyone else noticed a plummet in the number of trolls on social media, now that Moscow is cut off from most? Has the vast Kremlin agitprop machinery collapsed, as Wired suggests? 

"The Kremlin has spent millions in terms of dollars and hours in Europe alone, nurturing and fostering the populist right (Italy, Hungary, Slovenia), the far right (Austria, France, Slovakia), and even the far left (Cyprus, Greece, Germany). For years, elected politicians in these and other countries have been standing up for Russia’s interests and defending Russia’s transgressions, often peddling Putin’s narratives in the process." 

And even more important, networks of American Q-nuts and Fox-watchers who till now never questioned even Twilight-Zone-level absurdities and schism-ing previously verbotten things called ... 'facts.'

Interesting article and we can hope it is true. Though, even if the Kremlin's surficial agitprop webs are dissolving, that still leaves in place the part of the Kremlin's influence web that is most powerful at swaying big swathes of Western elite castes, and through them millions of our most gullible neighbors - a part that no one, anywhere, even slightly talks about. (Except me, duh.)
Going back to czarist times, Russian secret services always, always sought foremost to entrap and blackmail enemy elites getting them to then serve as agents and moles. If Borat could do it accidentally to Rudy Giuliani, how hard can it be? And do you have even a remotely-plausible alternate explanation for Lindsey Graham? Or Ted Cruz or (hell yes) Susan Collins?

Again, there is one thing that Jobee could do to overnight restore health and vigor to America and Western civilization, though amid a few months of painful, searing light. That would be to establish a truth and reconciliation commission charged with recommending clemency in exchange for folks stepping forward with revelations about bad-things. Especially turning tables on their blackmailers.

If I am wrong about that being a big problem, possibly a cancer on us all... (how can I possibly be?)... then where would be the harm? But if I am right?

A few dems - and a whole lot of goppers - would have to retire. 
We may see more women in Congress, as a result. 
We'll be saner, better... and clean.

== Is EARTH Coming True? ==

Are we seeing - as predicted in my novel - a Western Revival and push back against World Oligarchy? First came a landmark deal agreed upon by the world's richest nations as one of Biden's first endeavors - a global minimum rate of corporation tax placed on multinational companies including tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Late last year, finance ministers from the Group of Seven, or G-7 nations agreed to a global base corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent.  Companies  with a strong online presence would pay taxes in the countries where they record sales, not just where they have an operational base.

And now, amid the furor over Russia's insane invasion of Ukraine, Western nations are hunting down assets like yachts and mansions set up in London and New York and Paris by Putin's fellow "ex" KGB agent oligarchs, billions stolen (with Bush-Cheney collusion) from Russian citizens by those former, sworn Marxist-egalitarian*) commissars and sheltered behind shell corporations. 

Will the U.K. and USA actually end that dismally vile practice across the board? No way! Not yet, that is. These baby steps are far short of the general transparency of ownership that came (fictionally, alas) out of my "Helvetian War." And far, far from enough! But at last some of my large scale 'suggestions' are being tried. 

Now to get all fifty U.S. states to pass a treaty among themselves, banning 'bidding wars' for factories, sports teams etc... with maybe a sliding scale tilted for poorer states or low populations. A trivially easy move that'd save citizens hundreds of billions.

And while we're at it, let's overcome the treasonous GOP resistance to fully funding the IRS to audit the rich.

== Other transparency news ==

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.

Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.  

Over the longer run, what we need is the World Ownership Treaty. Nothing on Earth is 'owned' unless a human or government or nonprofit claims it openly and accountably. Shell corporations go only one-deep to real people.

Note that this would not be 'socialism'! No tax rates would rise, no confiscature. Just trillions in wealth cached out of sight by cheaters added to tax rolls while rates for law-abiding taxpayers would go down.

In fact, so much illicit property would likely be abandoned by criminals etc. that national debts could be erased and the rest of us could have a tax jubilee. Don't believe that? Do the math. Offer wager stakes.

== The Crypto era? ==

Is that proposal moot, in an era when ownership can be masked with digital, crypto-property?

Well, first, I actually know a little. I've consulted with a number of companies about the coming era and I speak at "NFT Con" in San Diego on April 9-10. 

All right, there is no way to "ban" crypto currencies in general! But there is an approach to making them much more accountable to real life law, though I see no one mention it. 

Let's start with an ironic fact. Blockchain-based token systems are not totally secret!  Yes, they use crypto to mask the identity of token (coin) holders.  But those holders only "own" their tokens by general consent of all members of a communal 'shared ledger' that maintains the list of coins and which public keys stand ready to be turned by each token's owner. In that sense it is the opposite of 'secret,' since the ledger is out there in tens of thousands of copies on just as many distributed computers. Attempts to invade or distort or corrupt the ledger are detected and canceled en masse. (The ecologically damaging "mining" operations out there are partly about maintaining the ledger.)

All of this means that - to the delight of libertarians - it will be hard to legislate or regulate blockchain token systems. Hard, but not impossible. For example, the value of Bitcoin rises and falls depending on how many real world entities will accept it as payment... and governments have been hammering on that, lately, especially China.

There is another way to modify any given blockchain token system, and that is for the owners themselves to deliberate and decide on a change to their shared economy... to change the ledger and its support software.... 

...and I'll elaborate on that in another posting. If the world lets us.

Meanwhile, hang in there. The enlightenment is fighting back. Be prepared for good or bad. Help those on the front lines.


Josh Freeman said...

Seeing that Michael Scott/The Office photo on that NFTCon page, I wonder how many of those screengrabs and stock photos were actually paid for. And "NFT-Con" is actually the perfect name for the event. Whatever happens with crypto currencies general, I'm hoping the nft part of it dies a quick and painful death.

Carolyn Meinel said...

Bravo! The Transparent Society can even survive crypto currencies!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

For example, where is the Russian cyber war that everyone expected to be one of Putin's spasms, unleashed against the West when he grew desperate? ... Or Kremlin basement-dwellers much less competent?

I almost hate to say this out loud, and I wouldn't recommend basing strategy on it, but at this point, I wonder if Russia's nuclear arsenal is obsolete enough to be a mere bluff, much like Saddam Hussein's WMDs?

Moreover, has anyone else noticed a plummet in the number of trolls on social media, now that Moscow is cut off from most?

I'm not on the big social media outlets, but even here, things seem to have quieted down now that the various Sergeis can't seem to post. How's it been in the gutters? Maybe you could go back to unmoderated posting? :)

(Kidding on the square)

duncan cairncross said...

Strangely I agree with Alfred

"Also, whether others like it or not, Pax Americana is actually the entirety of Western Civilization… which includes Canada"

Which is why it grates when America claims to "own" it

And when the USA claims to have led the movement that has got us here

Larry Hart
China and its "Zero Covid" policy
China grew by 2.27%
The USA shrank by 3.5%
Increased Death rate
China - about 4,000 deaths
USA - about 1 million deaths

Here (NZ) we went through the "Zero Covid" bit and we are currently re-entering the infected world
We had a 2.99% economic shrinkage - and a very low death rate
Our death rate will probably quadruple as we move back - which will end up at about 40 deaths per million
or about 1% of the US death rate!!!

China still has to negotiate the move back - but if the do it as well as they have done the start then they will do it better than we have
And even if they screw the pooch they will still end up miles ahead of the western world on deaths and on the economic hit

David Brin said...

Duncan, would I make Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of the world, if I could? In a shot! I set many scenes in EARTH on Aotearoa!
And such allies are very very important.

But there's a reason that the USA is leader of the enlightenment coalition. It is the one element that - if removed - ends all hope.

duncan cairncross said...

It is the one element that - if removed - ends all hope.

Does it??

If the Martians stole the USA at any point in the last 200+ years the "enlightenment coalition" would still be the most powerful on the planet

The period from 1945 - 1990 would be the most marginal but even then the "West" without the USA was probably more powerful
And if the USA had been "stolen" the "West" would have upped its game enough to make sure

Certain?? - no
Removes all hope? - not even close

gerold said...

Funny how the worst people can trigger the best results; the horrors of WWII triggered the third wave Western Enlightenment in 1945, and now Putin has brought the world together to oppose his war. Not the entire world of course, but it's sure separating the sheep from the goats - or perhaps more accurately the humans from the orcs.

We're seeing evil orgs like US Republicans and the CCP torn, trying to decide which side they're on. There seems to be indications that China is shifting away from supporting the war and Republicans can't quite make up their mind.

Wouldn't it be great if Putin managed to throw the 2022 elections to the democrats? Unintended consequences cut both ways.

Star_Dragon said...

@David Brin,
Were you referring to the relative ease of de-anonymizing the crypto wallets? Or the necessity to find an "off-ramp" to convert crypto back into regular currency?

As for the owners themselves getting together and altering the blockchain, that's generally called a Hard Fork, and it's happened several times. That is, multiple times to several of the major cryptocurrencies, if not all.

David Brin said...

Duncan that has got to be an utterly weird assertion. Please list for me the extant, functioning democracies on the planet, in 1942. The very concept was on life support.

After the brave solitary stand of the British Commonwealth, the US could have beat both Germany and Japan without help from anyone. Try envisioning the situation without the US.

Yes Star_Dragon I intend to talk about forks. And sporks.

scidata said...

I once called the half century 1945-1995 the "Asimovian Epoch" (several years before I stumbled on CB). Of course he didn't create it, but did personify it.

duncan cairncross said...

OK - WW2 - but different

The USA sits it out
Britain wins the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic
At that point there is no way for Germany to "win"

There is no possibility of "D Day" without the USA

So Britain has plenty of resources to convert the Tube Alloys Project into its own "Manhattan Project" (not expended on D Day preparation)

The Soviets only have British supplies - so they are not doing so well - but they still hold off the Germans deep in Russia

In 1945 the first British A bombs are produced
By 1946 there are enough to launch a decapitation attack on Germany - destroying the Government
Its successor (or their successor) surrenders to the British Empire

Japan comes later - and by then having been defeated on the continent (Burma)is a group of islands to be bombed into submission

The next step is the dodgy one - the USA had the "Marshal Plan" - a stroke of genius - not sure if the British would have been that smart

Alfred Differ said...

Pax Americana would be different with each historical excision. Timing matters a lot too.

One of my recent amusements involves reading alt.histories people imagine. Most of them are utter nonsense to anyone with some training in geopolitics, but they still speak volumes about what's going on inside the heads of their authors.


I agree with David regarding the central role the US plays in 'our' Pax. That USians cause others to grind their teeth over our claims shouldn't surprise anyone, though. We ARE barbarians. Deal with it.

The Pax is a combination of all of us, but we are not equals by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully so! I can list important things each of us have done over the decades, but that just means we've each been doing our parts.


The USian part of our Pax requires that we hold the economically most valuable portion of the North American continent. Sorry. Not California as much as I love it. What made the US wealthy was the Greater Mississippi River basin.

1) If the US was removed in the 19th century, WWI still would have ended with everyone exhausted and the wealth of the world in the 20th would be more impacted. The UK would have fallen in WWII. Fascism takes over and Germany doesn't have to face a two front war with what persists of the USSR. Western civilization would collapse on this timeline.

Don't believe that? Pfft. The USian contribution to WWII was largely economic. The Soviet contribution was mostly blood.

2) If the US was removed after WWI, western civilization still ends with Germany occupying most of Europe and a rump Russian state fighting them viciously.

Don't believe that? Pfft.

3) If the US was removed after WWII, Russia would have rolled to the Atlantic and Japan would be fighting Chinese for generations. Western civilization ends and you'd all be serfs.

Don't even try to argue against that.


Only one nation on earth won each of the world wars in the 20th century. The US did not because we have some kind of divine insight into how it's done. We did it because no one could hit our industrial heartland AND we had a huge population. Economics trumps guns and bombs.

The danger from WWIII that never materialized was that our industry COULD be hit. THAT is what moved us to spend so damn much money that our navy now outnumbers all other national fleets combined. We STILL spend huge gobs of money maintaining our fleets and because of that we can project power against anyone with a coast. Anyone.

The threat we faced from the WWIII that didn't happen also drove us to dominate space militarily. You won't see our weapons up there, but our eyes and ears are there in HUGE numbers. If you don't piss your pants at the thought, look up how far space is from you and think of the atmosphere is a coastline. Our navy floats in the water and reaches anyone with a sea shore. Our space fleet reaches all of you. Don't think for a moment we don't know what to do with that kind of power.


The Pax without its barbarian isn't the Pax. It's an eggshell to be cracked by fascists.

duncan cairncross said...

Please list for me the extant, functioning democracies on the planet, in 1942

New Zealand
United States

That was the nadir of democracies - down from 29 to 11

IF Britain had not been on the route (and five years ahead of anywhere else) to the atom bomb THEN losing the USA would have been a substantial risk

But Britain WAS on the route (and five years ahead of anywhere else) to the atom bomb

So one of the democracies would have ended up with the vast resources of the Empire + Nuclear Weapons

Larry Hart said...


Putin has brought the world together to oppose his war. Not the entire world of course, but it's sure separating the sheep from the goats - or perhaps more accurately the humans from the orcs.

Putin as a living gom jabbar ?

Larry Hart said...


Or the necessity to find an "off-ramp" to convert crypto back into regular currency?

That's the argument I keep having with Alfred here about crypto not being "real money". It's more like a commodity or a share of stock. You can make a profit by buying and selling it at the right time, but you can't buy milk or pizza with it. To do that with the proceeds, you have to sell the thing first for real currency. A ransomware attack might force me to pay someone off in Bitcoin, but what they're really doing is forcing me to spend dollars to buy that Bitcoin, and then selling the Bitcoin themselves for some form of currency that they can actually spend.

As for the owners themselves getting together and altering the blockchain, that's generally called a Hard Fork, and it's happened several times.

From the first I ever heard of cryptocurrency, I figured that something like this was the weakness in the scheme. I mean, before January 6 2021, we might have said that the count of electoral votes was something that couldn't be altered at whim, because all of the congresspeople and citizens in general had shared knowledge of the "ledger". Yet on that date, we saw how easy it might have been for enough participants to agree to an alternate reality which changes the outcome. Why wouldn't anyone expect the same with cryptocurrency when there is actual wealth on the table to be captured?

While I'm on a rant, I also marvel at the faith people are putting into a commodity that is so dependent on maintaining a particular technology. Imagine if the record of your wealth were stored on old VHS tapes or Laserdiscs. Gold and gems have always functioned as a store of value because even a refugee could carry it with them and be assured that they'd be accepted in trade for goods and services wherever they ended up. But in the post-apocalyptic Hellscape that certain Bitcoin enthusiasts seem to expect and even hope for, where do they expect to be able to make use of cryptocurrency stored on computer disk drives?

David Brin said...

Duncan, nice scenario but it does not capture the desperation of Churchill's appeals to FDR and the US Congress. "Until, in all its might and vigor, the New World comes to rescue the Old."

Even with massive US aid, the Battle of the Atlantic was almost lost as late as early 1943. Several hundred new M4 Sherman tanks arrived in Suez (at that moment by far the best tank in the world) EXACTLY when they were needed to keep Rommel out of Suez. The aid pouring through Iran supplied the very divisions that broke through and encircled 6th Army in Stalingrad. And I could go on.

Re technology. YES! to British breakthroughs in radar! My masters thesis advisor helped invent the centimeter wave rader that helped finally win the u boat war. Still it was US mini-carriers that took advantage and swept the Atlantic.

As for the A-Bomb, the Brits were net DETRIMENTS! Individual British scientists were great at Los Alamos. But at Oak Rigdge Leslie Grove believed their assurances that wasted billions on gas diffusion refinement of Uranium, overruling a minority who wanted centrifuges (the method still used today.). See Benford's THE BERLIN PROJECT.

I could go on. But this is silly. I have said before that America is an agglomeration of cultures and a federation, at most. Some of the component nations, like California and Canada are variously independent or else welded unhappily to the legal structure.

We in CA... not the other CA... might be the leading country on the planet, now, if granted our liberty to be loyal neighbors but free to plunge ahead without confederate anchors on our feet. Many of us so envy Canada's liberty to do that.

Alan Brooks said...

The Army headed the Manhattan project, it wasn’t until general Groves was told of the progress the Navy was making on thermal diffusion that he went ahead with it, but quickly. He was a bit worried about being imprisoned at Leavenworth if the ‘gadget’ didn’t work.

For some reason, such makes me wonder how many agents, of all types, Russia has in America.

Larry Hart said...

Bill Maher's guest Max Brooks to Maher on differences of opinion:

Look at us.

I'm married. With a kid. I don't smoke weed. And I read comic books.

My life is your worst nightmare.

But we're here.

To thunderous applause.

That could be me speaking, BTW.

David Brin said...

Alan Brooks wise guy.
Max Brooks was great on Maher. He said many VERY cogent things! Like that Putin did not have to invade Ukraine during Trump; time was then on his side. Now it's running out.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Max Brooks was great on Maher. He said many VERY cogent things! Like that Putin did not have to invade Ukraine during Trump; time was then on his side.

That actually tells me something I hadn't considered before. That Putin doesn't think he can just wait until 2024 for Republicans to be back in power and Trump to be president again. He's not confident in that sort of outcome, even with his massive disinformation campaign.

Another thing Max Brooks pushed back on was Maher's bugaboo about COVID, that vaccination is a personal decision which only affected the person deciding whether or not to get vaxxed. He made my point about the unvaxxed taking up hospital beds which might be needed by people in accidents or otherwise not related at all to COVID. Also, Maher thinks that young people he sees in Los Angeles still wearing masks are "not following the science" and "not enjoying their lives" because they are being more cautious than they perhaps need to be at the moment. He seems to think wearing a mask is so onerous that doing so only makes sense when the need is immediate and dire. Whereas I see it as something like washing one's hands or wearing a seatbelt--such a small inconvenience that it makes perfect sense to err on the side of caution.

David Brin said...

Maher angers me NOT because he takes on the splitter-preener idiots on our side who prefer sanctimonious purity tests over practical political victory. I wish other talk show hosts would at least dip a toe there!

No, I am angry Maher hurts his own position by poking at times where it just isn't necessary.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

I recommended the Berlin Project to my retired physicist uncle - it's quite likely that he knew some of the principal actors and used to work at Los Alamos (mostly in lasers, I think). I also liked the scenes involving Moe Berg, Red Sox catcher/international spy. The ending pointed out the problem of killing Hitler without going in at ground level or using local help - even if you use a nuke, which hidey-hole is he in?


gerold said...

Larry: the gom jabbar was nasty but Putin is more Baron Harkonnen; an evil troll commanding legions, seeking to dominate and control an expanding empire.

It is a little disappointing how many places around the world are cool with Putin and the destruction of Ukraine; not just the former Soviet Stans but countries that should know better like India, Pakistan, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico ... unfortunately violence and domination are still accepted as normal business practice by much of the world. It makes the work of the Harkonnen much easier.

David Brin said...

yeah, well, THE BERLIN PROJECT was fine up to the final chapter, where Greg went kinda loopy on the war's end.

He portrays the US & UK, with suddenly a much BETTER hand due to the bomb, abruptly deciding to make a separate peace with Germany so they could turn and stop the Soviets.
-That's exactly the deal Hess offered in 1940, when Britain was desperate and yet turned it down.

- It would have been spectacularly immoral and every Russian would vow vengeance, till the end of time.

- It would not have worked. in 1941,2,3 aid from the US plus the western front were essential to Russian survival. But by 1944 the Soviets were quite capable of demolishing the Nazis on their own. Slower, with more pain, but with utter ferocity that would only end at the English channel.

David Brin said...

What a Hitler-killing bomb MIGHT have allowed is the cravenGerman generals to order a phased surrender, slowly giving way in the east, say 20km per day, except on any day when Soviet troops raped and plundered. Western allies could have taken Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania. But saving Poland, E.Germany and the Baltics from Soviet rule simply was not in the cards.

Larry Hart said...


Larry: the gom jabbar was nasty but Putin is more Baron Harkonnen; an evil troll commanding legions, seeking to dominate and control an expanding empire.

My "gom jabbar" reference was in response to your "separating the sheep from the goats." By his actions and the world's responses to them, he's separating the humans from the animals. Which is what the gom jabbar test was all about.

Putin himself wouldn't be the gom jabbar in the analogy. He's the pain inducer which Paul had to endure in order to prove himself worthy of life. The gom jabbar itself is merely the penalty for failing the test.

Unknown said...

I agree about the final chapters of the Berlin Project - allying with Germany against Russia AFTER the Nazi regime dropped radioactive dust on US troops? Not hardly. The first part, showing the road not taken early, required much less suspension of disbelief. (Though the German physicists were still messing around with heavy water during all this - there was more than one wrong path.)

It's amazing to me how much less effective the Red-er, Russian - Army has shown itself to be recently - looks like it was indeed hollowed out by graft and corruption. It's also far more roadbound than the force that destroyed Army Group Center in 1944, and Colonel Climate Change appears to have given General Mud as assist.


P.S. Not sure about the US advancing beyond the line that was predrawn - Eisenhower historically withdrew units that had gone beyond it. The line of demarcation was drawn up at Yalta and unless you plan on nuking Stalin, too, might have immediately resulted in WW 2.5

Alan Brooks said...

Wouldn’t a Hitler-killing bomb have led to civil war in Germany? Churchill was worried about that. He said publicly he didn’t want to send anyone in to kill Hitler, as it would lead to quote “anarchy”. He wanted to avoid another ‘stab-in-the-back’ making the post war more difficult, and thought it better to defeat Germany on the battlefield ‘fair and square’.

What I worry about is Putin using tactical nuke artillery shells on Ukrainian forces in more remote areas. Vaporizing soldiers isn’t considered nearly as bad as hitting civilians. If Putin is as ruthless as his reputation, would he hesitate?

David Brin said...

Stalin was suprised we lived up to Yalta. He made it clear he would have dived to take Denmark if possible, stopped only by one eager-ahead British regiment in his path. He'd have howled over Hungary, but getting to Berlin was his top priority and Ike could have masked the lead elements as "UN forces under Brazillian command."

scidata said...

Re: Denmark
Are we talking about Operation Eclipse?

Tony Fisk said...

I look around the world (not just Russia) at the increasing levels of raving bat guano being flung around, and recall Chaplin's quote concerning a similar occasion: "The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed."
... greed seems to be getting desperate.

I *certainly* wouldn't assume the Russian nuclear arsenal is decrepit, especially when they've just started lobbing brand new hypersonic missiles at Lviv.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Hello all. I was at Command & General Staff School (Module 3) all day. Lots of talk about how 4 Russian general officers have been killed, including 1 who was killed when his HQ was attacked. Apparently they have been using unencrypted comms. Now I work till midnight for Turbotax before doing it all over again tomorrow.

gerold said...

Larry: quite right about the gom jabbar - I had forgotten the meaning of that scene. Thanks for the reminder - and you're right, the way we respond to this aggression is telling.

Alan: I hope Russia is able to resist using nukes, but as their situation deteriorates and Putin gets more desperate it's not impossible. Maybe the most likely use is a high-altitude airburst. It wouldn't result in much fallout but the EMP would cause havoc. Detonate over Western Ukraine and the spillover to Poland could be shrugged off; a way to get back at NATO with implausible deniability.

locumranch said...

In a recent speech, Joe Biden identifies Blackmail as a very common problem, but he also neglects to mention that the so-called 'Blackmail Victim' is most often a rule-breaking criminal who consents to Danegeld (extortion) in an attempt to avoid a much deserved social punishment.

Even so, our society could eradicate Blackmail completely [if it so wished] in the 3 easy steps of (1) Decriminalisation, (2) Decentralisation and (3) Opacification:

(1) Decriminalisation has already been attempted in popular urban utopias like San Francisco and New York, the end result being an explosion of drug abuse, theft, assault & murder;

(2) Decentralisation is also better known as the 'Defund the Police' movement as it involves the repudiation of -- and a loss of respect for -- the current Social Hierarchy; and

(3) Opacification which requires the reinstitution of strict social privacy standards and the repudiation of the omniscient Transparency model championed by Dr. Brin.

Luckily, our society does not wish to live this way. It wishes to keep what it has, a mix of Individualism, Collectivism & LIMITED Transparency, rather than risk it all on a foolish gamble for Omniscience & Everything.

It chooses to live with Blackmail, simply because Blackmail is an effective form of social control all by itself and its eradication must necessarily coincide with the eradication of our Social Order, the Rule-of-Law & our Moral Pretensions.

But, this Dream of Western Hegemony dies hard, so it's quite telling that our host supports a global New World Order and its so-called 'World Ownership Treaty', even though its appellation quite literally signifies a desire to OWN THE WORLD.

The East has also rebelled against this dream of ONE WORLD ruled by ONE CURRENCY:

It refuses to do business with us; it rejects our ONE currency; it unifies against us; and it is Russia, China, India & a growing list of others.

This is a WAR unlike any other war, even with limited violence in the Ukraine.

It is central bank fighting against central bank, imposing trade sanctions in a world where trade sanctions are not supposed to exist, like the baker who refuses to sell wedding cakes to non-traditional couples, the landlord who refuses to rent to groups that he deems 'undesirable', the employer who maintains the right to discriminate against any potential employee, or the country club that violates court ruling in order to remain 'exclusive'.

And, in the absence of a Nuclear Holocaust, it is a War that promises to free us all from the Tyranny of Good Intentions that is Western Hegemony.


Tony Fisk said...

Putin's rants about creeping nazism make sense from a Russian perspective:
My eyes look to the West, whence cometh the (*eek*) Nazis.
A simplistic view, of course, but when did that ever stop a politician?

A nuke on Lviv is one of my nightmare scenarios. A relatively unscathed population centre, an object lesson to Kyiv, and a vivid reminder to neighbouring ex-Warsaw Pact countries: remember these?
Holding the 'breadbasket of Europe' to ransom with a 'mishap' in a large nuclear plant is another (There was concern over the power failure at Cheronbyl, but the occupiers let that be fixed: either this was never the intention, or somebody checked the map and where Chernobyl is located...)

Ugly prospects, but Putin has backed himself into a corner. He's committed all of Z force, and how long did that take to put together? Reinforcements he's reportedly calling in from Armenia and the Far East(!?), if they arrive in time to avoid the looming logistical collapse, *might* be used to establish control around Mariupol.
As a goal, that might have sufficed for a 48 hour smash and grab, but the tough man's extended himself too far not to interpret anything less than total victory as a humiliating defeat.

Here endeth my squeak of armchair leather.

Alfred Differ said...


What I try to point out to you is that 'real money' isn't any more real. You believe it is and the belief is quite common among the people around you, but I know quite a few people who don't share that belief.

Besides, there are people who will take crypto-coins for milk and pizza now. I think that's a dumb way to buy milk and pizza, but I'm also disinclined to hold crypto-coins of any kind.

What is "special" about money as you know it is the common belief that it makes a good intermediate commodity in trades.

Gold and gems have always functioned as a store of value because even a refugee could carry it with them and be assured that they'd be accepted in trade for goods and services wherever they ended up.

See? It's the belief that makes a thing into money.

Hellscape that certain Bitcoin enthusiasts…

I don't think they expect or root for the collapse of the internet. As long as the inter-network is up, the ledger can be maintained.

We used to think the internet was a fragile thing, but evidence is proving it is closer to anti-fragile. For many of us, it is a single thing that happens to have screens and CPU/GPU's at a zillion nodes.

Alfred Differ said...

The Germans were winning the Battle of the Atlantic. The UK would have been choked into submission and its navy starved of resources without US intervention. Everyone involved in that battle played their necessary roles, but ours was to do the one thing Germans could not counter. We could flood the ocean with our equipment and they couldn't build fast enough to stop us.

I don't think atomic weaponry would have stopped the war in Europe. There are too many centuries of proofs that many of the peoples are willing to suffer to achieve their aims. Atomic weaponry would have poisoned Europe long before the war ground to a halt.

Atomic weaponry BARELY stopped the Japanese. If it weren't for obvious, overwhelming US conventional strength it probably wouldn't have been enough.

The ONLY war atomic weaponry stopped was WWIII. Barely.

David Brin said...

Lower level Ukrainians have declared “no prisoners” for RF artillerymen, understandable if not higher policy. They should say”Those RF troops who enter a city you have “destroyed, in order to save it”… if your hearts are not turned to resistance against the monsters who sent you, then you have no hearts. Tell your mothers and wives what you have seen and done in Mariupol, and about the searing hate in the eyes of your victims. And know then that you are choosing between a coward’s safety and the fate of your soul.”

Alfred, true the axis had to be defeated on the battlefield for it to take. But Brlin would not have been the target of choice for a scarce Bomb. The upriver Ruhr would have rendered the whole valley uninhabitable, along with taking out all the reserves behind the front facing the US1st and UK8th armies.

Amazing thing about the Battle of the Atlantic was that March 1943 was horrible for convoys... and by May the Kriegsmarine was on the ropes.

Gosh is locum able to string words together? And many of them polysyllabic! Of course not only do locum’s strawman screeches have nothing to do with anything I actually said, but they are completely unrelated to how blackmail works.

Yes, decriminalization of homosexuality and removal of baseline stigma ended one of the prime routes extortionists had for grabbing many victims… and other decriminalizations of victimless crime… e.g. ending the insane drug war… is entirely led by Blue America. That is one part of a solution... as is an offer of public forgiveness if the good you do - by stepping up and turning tables on the blackmailers - outweighs the bad.

Which is why Lindsey Graham musta been caught on film doing something VASTLY more perverse than just consnsual adlt gay stuff! Especially since he just got another 6 years and could ride out something merely embarrassing.

The rest, alas, is just a tirade of irrelevant sputum and ravings at wholly imaginary monsters from his own id. Alas.

gerold said...

Locum outdid himself with his latest.

First he defends blackmail, arguing that "we" choose to allow blackmail to exist because it serves a useful purpose as "an effective form of social control." And if your goal is to maintain systemic corruption enabling the "powers that be" to keep their privilege then it is "effective." It's used by criminal gangs ("organized crime") and by secret police (KGB, FSB, and (formerly?) the FBI) to prevent power from being distributed among ordinary citizens.

I'm actually surprised to see anyone advocating for something this sick. Obviously there are people who do profit from blackmail, but not even they will argue that it's a good thing. It's sort of funny in a creepy way.

Then locum goes on to argue that economic sanctions shouldn't exist; he doesn't mind the "limited violence" in Ukraine, but trade sanctions against the largest evil empire in the world? How terrible.

But he ends with a hopeful note, wistfully imploring his Strongman to end the "Tyranny of Good Intentions that is Western Hegemony" with his war on Ukraine. Incredible.

Got to break it to you locum: Putler is losing this war because his criminal gang is only good at terrorizing and murdering defenseless civilians. Free men won't put up with that shit. We're sending his orcs home in bags and Putler doesn't have much longer either.

That's a strange and twisted world you've got there.

Alan Brooks said...

RF propaganda straight from the Bear’s mouth; displays all the rationalisations in one place.

David Brin said...

Really? He said all that? Wow. Afraid I only skimmed to see if there were any assertions that could at least be argued with. Bad habit of mind. Insane and evil. Wonder if there's a picture in his attic.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

What I try to point out to you is that 'real money' isn't any more real. You believe it is and the belief is quite common among the people around you, but I know quite a few people who don't share that belief.

I will concede that point to you. The dollars in my mattress won't be any more useful than the Bitcoins on a disk drive if I crash land on a desert island or find myself in a post-apocalyptic world.

So fiat money as "store of value" isn't much better than crypto. Although US dollars have done very well over the long haul, so I'm more comfortable with those.

But fiat money as "currency" works (for now) in a way that crypto doesn't. Until I see people getting paid in crypto and expecting to be able to pay their bills in it, I don't think of crypto as currency. Investment, maybe, but the expectation there is that it will generate a profit denominated some other way.

Besides, there are people who will take crypto-coins for milk and pizza now. I think that's a dumb way to buy milk and pizza, but I'm also disinclined to hold crypto-coins of any kind.

What is "special" about money as you know it is the common belief that it makes a good intermediate commodity in trades.

I admit to a US dollar-centric view, and I do believe that the dollar is a good store of value for the years I will still be alive. I accept your point that this is not the case for all fiat currencies.

I wasn't always so keen on the dollar. In the early aught-aughts, I was wishing I had bought a bunch of Canadian money or Euros because I believed the forecasts that deficits would trash the dollar. I came to my belief that "You can't break these things if you try," applies to the US dollar as much as to babies. :)

In fact, were I inclined to quote Benedict Donald, I'd say the dollar could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any of its value.

But another reason I have for not believing in crypto over the long haul is its utter dependence on a particular technology. You can take gold or diamonds with you into the world of "Mad Max" or The Postman and still expect it to work as money (for what that's worth). Your crypto will be so much vaporware.

* * *

Tangentially, if "inflation is theft" and crypto is currency, then depreciation is theft.

Also, in the post-apocalyptic scenario, someone with billions of dollars (in whatever form) will suffer Wiemar-levels of depreciation of that value. There won't be enough of an economy available to buy with anything like that amount of money.

Larry Hart said...

Then locum goes on to argue that economic sanctions shouldn't exist; he doesn't mind the "limited violence" in Ukraine, but trade sanctions against the largest evil empire in the world? How terrible.

I do not hear the words of traitors.

Paradoctor said...

The trouble with acronyms is that they usually have several meanings. I keep reading RF as radio frequency. Also CRT is cathode ray tube, PC is personal computer, and BLM is the Bureau of Land Management.

Paradoctor said...

Pro tip for Locum:
Random capitalization is a twit signal. It signals that the writer is a twit.

DP said...

Alfred, the fire bombings of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo were much worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

What the atomic bomb did was give the Japanese an almost divine, god-like weapon to which a samurai could surrender to without complete loss of face.

I firmly believe that the a-bombs actually saved lives, not just the 100,0000s of GIs dying in operations Olympic and Coronet, but 10s of millions of Japanese.

P.S. I highly recommend "The Bomber Mafia" by Malcolm Gladwell on how American strategic bombing doctrine evolved to meet technical realities and adopt mass bombings of urban areas. The British RAF was there first under Air Marshall "Bomber" Harris but the US army air corps surpassed them under Gen. Curtiss LeMay.

locumranch said...

Moral Relativism is so confusing.

One week, Dr. Brin supports Free Trade as GOOD and condemns Trade Sanctions as BAD and, the next week, he supports Trade Sanctions as GOOD and Free Trade as BAD.

He demands severe punishments for Rule Breakers, but he thinks that punishment by blackmail is a bridge too far.

Larry objects to discrimination on the basis of race, nation of origin, religion & gender when others do it, but it's cool when his team does it.

And, Gerold advocates for violence against other human beings who he calls "Orcs".

Anything with which I agree is an apparent BAD, even when I agree with our GOOD host, and anything with which I disagree is an apparent GOOD, especially if & when I disagree with our GOOD host.

If it wasn't for inconsistency, there would be no progressive narrative at all, just self-interest & opportunism.


David Brin said...

ocum, this is not about your fantasies of our 'inconsistencies." It is about your outright clinical insanity, desperately attributing to us asserted statements and positions we never, ever made... in some cases diametrically opposite... plus the cowardice of evading the manly recourse of consequential fact checking.

I would argue with assertions that can be grappled-with. I did a while back, when I skimmed and saw you offer one. Alas, 95% of the time all you do is waste our time with maniacal cackles.

Jon S. said...

"I *certainly* wouldn't assume the Russian nuclear arsenal is decrepit, especially when they've just started lobbing brand new hypersonic missiles at Lviv."

Reports on the ground indicate those "hypersonic" missiles are just ALCMs with good publicity.

Larry Hart said...


Pro tip for Locum:
Random capitalization is a twit signal. It signals that the writer is a twit.

The signal is working fine in this case.

* * *


Larry objects to discrimination on the basis of race, nation of origin, religion & gender when others do it, but it's cool when his team does it.

Turnabout is fair play.

And, Gerold advocates for violence against other human beings who initiated the violence themselves."

I corrected your spelling. You're welcome.

He demands severe punishments for Rule Breakers, but he thinks that punishment by blackmail is a bridge too far.

You have a strange notion of what blackmail is all about. Blackmail hardly functions as a corrective for harmful behavior. In the rare case where the secret being protected is an actual prosecutable crime, then you might argue that the blackmail-ee is getting his just comeuppance. But blackmail is not about punishing bad behavior, but by using the threat of embarrassment to coerce someone into doing you a favor (though), usually having nothing to do with the object of the blackmail.

Let's take Donald Trump, for example (please). It's pretty obvious that something like the proverbial "pee-pee tapes" exist. Given Trump's proclivities and Russia's history of kompromat, it's almost impossible to imagine that they don't exist. A threat to reveal those tapes is not about prosecution of a crime. There's no crime to be involved. It's not even about revealing information, as most of probably already believe that such tapes exist, or that even if there is no tape, that Trump performed the activity. The effect of revealing the tape would be embarrassment. That's not something which is overcome by decriminalizing peeing on a bed. It's already not a crime. That's hardly the point.

Anything with which I agree is an apparent BAD, even when I agree with our GOOD host,

There's a theological question about whether what God does is good because He does it, or whether He does what is good because He's that kind of Guy.

Likewise, the statement above is correct--well, more often correct than not--but your sarcasm assumes the causation incorrectly. We don't claim that any position you take is bad because you take it. Rather, you're just so bad at decision making that no one is afraid to go bankrupt betting against you.

If it wasn't for inconsistency, there would be no white Christian nationalist selfish libertarian narrative at all, just self-interest & opportunism.

You're welcome, again.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

[quoting someone else ]
"I *certainly* wouldn't assume the Russian nuclear arsenal is decrepit, especially when they've just started lobbing brand new hypersonic missiles at Lviv."

I certainly wouldn't assume. so either, but I do wonder. And I won't be surprised if it turns out to be the case.

Reports on the ground indicate those "hypersonic" missiles are just ALCMs with good publicity.


Larry Hart said...

The counterargument to the notion that Putin is "denazifying" Ukraine.

Then we're on the side keeping out the Communist Menace>

Oh, what's that you dare respond? Russia isn't communist any more? And yet Ukraine is tarred with something that might have had relevance in 1943? I see.

Keep digging the hole.

scidata said...

Many ancient cave handprints are children's. Very encouraging.

Alan Brooks said...

For Japan, it was the one-two punch of the Bomb plus Russia entering the war. Perhaps the Japanese felt that no degree of hara kiri could erase the dishonor of Soviet Russia occupying a big chunk of the nation.

David Brin said...

"Russia isn't communist any more?"

Almost all current oligarchs and top RF officials grew up reciting Leninist catechisms many times each day. The these "ex" commissars - backed by Cheney + Saudi + Swiss cash - flipped to steal the very same state enterprises they formerly controlled 'for the people' and grabbed them up for themselves and their silent partners, without even a figleaf of 'capitalist' added value.

In other words, the names and symbols changed while the control structures sid not.

Anyone who stares past all that to claim Russia is no longer 'communist' is both a fool and a hypocrite.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In other words, the names and symbols changed while the control structures sid not.

Anyone who stares past all that to claim Russia is no longer 'communist' is both a fool and a hypocrite.

I'm not arguing with that, but to the Tucker Carlsons of the world, there is one important distinction.

Communist Russia was at least nominally egalitarian, and militantly atheistic. America opposed communism because of corporate interests, but also to defend white Christian privilege. To the Pat Buchannan wing of the Republican Party, the latter was more important than the former.

Putin may walk and quack like a communist, but he's made himself out as the defender of white Christian privilege against the multicultural west. That's how staunch anti-communists can back Putin without blushing.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

I would say that Russia is "no longer Communist" - as it never was!

Its an Autocracy - went from the Czar - as an absolute Monarch past a few bumps to Stalin as an Absolute Monarch
After Stalin there were a few more bumps before it was back with Putin as the new Czar

"Communist" was largely a matter of changing a few names without actually changing the structure at all

David Brin said...

Which is why the utterly romantic US right... which is totally about symbolism and never reality, going back to tories and confederates etc... fell to its knees before the Kremlin in less than a decade, after the KGB simply changed all its symbols... after 80 years failing utterly to suborn the US left.

Romantics don't care at all about pragmatic things, so long as they can clutch their symbolisms.

Tony Fisk said...

After reading this article, Putin's appeal to white wing evangelists makes more sense.

Alfred Differ said...


re: firebombings and avoided casualties…

You won't get any argument from me regarding all that. I'd go a step further and argue that atomic weaponry did more than stop WWIII. Those weapons and the horror they evoked stopped something much more vicious.

Various tribes of Europe have been fighting with each other since before recorded history. Much of that has stopped. Not all of it, but a lot of it. I suspect the realization that WWIII would have trapped them between the US and USSR and led to their annihilation has done something no King or Pope could ever have done.


My father was a cold warrior with the USAF. I grew up on airbases that had to be high on the list of nuke targets. For our bi-centennial, I lived near Grand Forks ND where the B-52's* engines were always on. We could hear them 24x7… always running.

* Funny thing about that plane. Even in the mid-70's, many of them had pilots younger than the planes.

David Brin said...

Alfred, our generation was scheduled to die in some 3rd phase of that wretched, ongoing world war. (And some of us did die, in offshoot proxy wars.) Whatever happened in parallel worlds that glow in the dark, in THIS one we owe so much to Saint Bomb.

David Brin said...

Tony that was a good article on Putin + the Russian Church...

Alfred Differ said...


store of value

Dollars have done remarkably well over the decades. A big part of that is a shared belief in the continued existence of the US and its role in the Pax.

Beware of thinking gold, silver, and gems would continue to be valued high in a post-apocalyptic world, though. Diamond values have a lot to do with the former manufactured scarcity and the artificialness of using them as love symbols. Truth is diamonds aren't as rare as people think and we can manufacture them now. Same goes for a lot of 'gems'. Your Wiemar-level scenario would apply.

Beware of people who think they know what trading values will be in the near or far future. Chances are they want to buy or sell something. For example, gold buying ads often show up on TV when big holders want to sell. They've made their profit on an upswing and need out.

I do believe that the dollar is a good store of value for the years I will still be alive.

Yah. I'm inclined to agree up to a point. I can see some people chiseling away some of that value through planned inflation. Even with that, though, there are ways to cope if you know how to play the game.

"You can't break these things if you try"

Ugh. I'm not even slightly convinced and don't want to try to find out. Sure. A dollar could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, but it still relies upon trust in its value as a storage bucket.

There HAVE been times when Americans did not trust our own currency. Look back at 19th century history a bit. A big part of why we don't do certain things today is we learned they don't work.


I don't worry too much about a post-apocalypse scenario. If we go there, the value of my money will not be one of my higher concerns. Billionaires who worry about such things are being stupid. The rest of us are simply failing to imagine what 'post-apocalypse' really means. Survivors will find a way to trade. They'll use something as money.

Nah. The most likely scenario is the dollar will go digital. It's already mostly there, but we need a few more pieces of infrastructure not owned by Visa etc. We need two and three factor authentication methods in place, an ID system not dependent on government or any single financial institution, and de facto short-term transaction encryption so damn tough half of the NSA will be very unhappy.

A digital dollar is far more likely a part of our future than the current crop of crypto-coins as stores of value. I want the crypto-coins to TRY, though. The force they apply in the market will drive the evolution of a digital dollar.

Alfred Differ said...

Saint Bomb

Heh. Yah.

One of my small, dark amusements involves telling people who like mystery novels that a forensic pathologist would have no trouble dating my burnt-beyond-recognition body to someone born in 1962.

T'was the year before a lone gunman.
T'was mere months before crisis and blockade.
T'was an inflection year for above-ground testing.

My teeth are records, but I would have died before my first birthday.


For our friends who don't understand the US role in our Pax, this is part of it.

Our job was to be the barbarian willing to kill you all if that's what it took.
Good thing it didn't.
We would have been very annoyed.

Think I'm joking?
The barbarian is building a space fleet.
You WILL stop fighting. Eventually.

Alfred Differ said...

The way I see it, Communist atheism in the USSR was mostly about denying the Orthodox Church its historical role in the power structure. It was really a separation of Church and State thing, but done in an autocracy where they could take it further than we could.

In the mid-20th, there was also a movement in the US forcing a wider wedge between 'church' and state. Our SCOTUS recognized that the old rule requiring 'active' involvement before they'd exercise that clause wasn't good enough. We had de facto support of 'church' due to the way government at various levels spent money. SCOTUS shifted to a rule better described as 'passive support is also bad' and the shit hit the fan.

Our Pledge of Allegiance being formalized and many other things in the 50's were part of a Congressional counter-reformation. They found the Communist's view of atheism a convenient tool and used it to defend a number of ugly institutions in the US while calling it a defense of our religious rights.

Buncha bullshit.

Liberals were forcing a wider wedge between church and state.
Conservatives reacted defending what they thought necessary.

Not just in the US. This is a 'western civilization'-wide event.

Paradoctor said...

Brin, Differ:

If nuclear peace prevails long after the Hiroshima generation dies of old age, and its lessons are absorbed into world custom deep enough to stop even the corrupt and the fanatical, then perhaps we can sanctify the Bomb. Until then, both it and us are in question.

In an earlier thread, I proposed the Backfire Effect, which I here repeat. Namely, that nuclear bombs operate by quantum mechanics, and quantum physics is 1) unpredictable, 2) nonlocal, and 3) observer-centric. But warfare between two nuclear-armed nations would quickly destroy human civilization, and thus never be observed by civilization. Hence, from civilization's POV, nuclear war is unphysical, and so is any system that would lead to it. Therefore the Backfire Effect: any system whose normal functioning would lead to nuclear warfare will be observed, by civilization, in a malfunctioning condition. Nukes are so destructive that they destroy retroactively, and unpredictably, to prevent their use.

Therefore the greatest danger that nuclear bombs pose is to their owners. Backfire wrecks weapons, delivery systems, communication systems, bodies, brains, and minds. I strongly recommend that you never even think in favor of bilateral nuclear warfare. Such thoughts are bad for your head. Best-case scenario, you observe yourself on a world-line where your thoughts are ignored. Or, you find yourself on a worldline where your brain cannot make thoughts. For instance, Reagan.

Take Hillary Clinton. Please. I think that the 2016 election stank of Backfire. So much weird stuff happened, and nobody expected that outcome, least of all Trump. So I suspect that the President Hillary worldline wound up radioactive. Instead, lucky us, we're on this worldline. It's not the best of all possible worlds, but it's the best of all sufficiently similar possible worlds.

One need not evoke full quantum woo-woo for the Backfire Effect: it also has a classical explanation, namely that human beings have foresight, a survival instinct, and the capacity for incompetence, corruption, and sabotage. Therefore global suicide missions tend to meet with mysterious setbacks.

I hope.

Der Oger said...

Anyone who stares past all that to claim Russia is no longer 'communist' is both a fool and a hypocrite.

I have two objections to this line of thinking.

First, it shows that different axes of political systems are mixed up here. Communism vs. Capitalism is not the same as Authoritarianism vs. Anarchy. Russia has become capitalist, but retained the authoritarianism. Germany is more communist than China in some aspects (universal mandatory healthcare, for example). Equating leftism with state suppression as propaganda is what brought us an ever-steepening social pyramid.

Second, the situation is more dangerous now. After Stalin, the true power was more or less divided between the members of the politbureau and the party, military and KGB. They might have been opportunistic bastards, yes, but nowadays, all power is in the hand of one person only.

Don Gisselbeck said...

77 years is the longest time the human race has ever gone between the second and third wartime use of a new technology for killing people.

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

This may interest you. One of the technos on Stephanie Miller's radio show is prepping for a colectomy, and they've made the "semi-colon" joke several times.

Don Gisselbeck said...

I may have linked to this before. Here's Mark Twain blaming Sir Walter Scott's romanticism for the Civil War.

David Brin said...

Paradoctor’s Backfire Effect is cute. Good SF premise.

“Russia has become capitalist, but retained the authoritarianism.”

Sorry der Oger, but what’s in Russia bears zero underlying traits in common with entrepreneurial, competitive market enterprise that Adam Smith talked about. Soviet State companies simply changed their symbols, titles and faces, becoming new monopolies led often by the very same commissars.

Neither do I accept the following: “After Stalin, the true power was more or less divided between the members of the politbureau and the party, military and KGB. They might have been opportunistic bastards, yes, but nowadays, all power is in the hand of one person only.”

Seriously? Breszhnev may have had a bit more power-sharing with Andropov and a couple of others. They still engaged in the same mythologies and circle jerk rationalizations, leading to the invasion of Afghanistan.

scidata said...

Re: Sir Walter Scott

Imagine growing up steeped in Highlands Presbyterian romanticism, and having to discover then break through into Asimovian scientific humanism. It's been a hard life :)

I hope that Asimov's "Breeds There a Man" is a jab at "Breathes there a man...". Don't know because I never read it.

David Brin said...

I'm inserting here part of a back and forth I had with an Asia expert who reflexively tried to blame the US and the West as much as possible. Think an actually-sane and knowledgable locumranch, if that weren't an utter contradiction in terms!

Criticizing NATA 'cowardice', he suggests:
“The policy is to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian”

Alas, yes, Scott. The adults who took power back from Putin’s agents, in DC, 14 months ago, must look to long term consequences. NATO must stay physically out of Ukraine (for now) not only because of the risk of Putin unleashing a frantic “pull the temple down around me” nuclear war… though that is reason enough.

A second Big Picture reason is to prevent an aftermath Versailles Complex among Russians. They must not be allowed to nurse an underdog image, that they had heroically resisted bullying by the western world. They must come away from this knowing they were Goliath, defeated by brave Davids and that this was their fault, for accepting orders from a crazed czar strongman.

Is that harsh on Ukrainians? Sure. OTOH we are ALL descended from generations of heroes who suffered and died far worse for lesser causes than setting the example they are setting.

EVERY generation, citizens of democracies must disprove yet again the reflexive-masturbatory rationalization-incantation chanted by tyrants — that ‘democrats are weaklings and cowards who got their comforts by trading away qualities like manliness.” It’s what redcoats sneered in “Yankee Doodle” and Confederates snorted and Nazis and Stalinists and bin Laden etc. There is a Rising Power in the far east whose leading clade emits such rationalizations and chants, daily. And Ukraine’s resistance is particularly shocking to them…

…along with the alacrity of the enlightenment’s rebuilt alliances, both in the west and in the east. (Right now Sweden and Finland are participating fully in NATO exercises, in Norway, alongside teams from the Baltic States.)

“Most of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America do not support sanctions. They do not want to get dragged into our fight and do not see a clear division between good guys and bad guys.”

And I should care about the opinions of local, petty murder sheiks and caudillos, who feel daunted by recent moves toward financial transparency, and who fear that light might actually (as I predicted in two novels) shine even into kleptocracies?

Likewise, any clearcut split over SWIFT etc. and the dollar as world reserve currency is fine by me! Why should I fear the end of soda straws that parasites have pushed into the carotid arteries of Creative Nations? You think the world’s investors won’t still prefer (as did all Russian oligarchs) the West’s property-protecting rule-of-law? Even now, most of them know they’ll be able to sue and get some of the property back, unlike in any autarchy. Those who go out of favor in Putin-land or MBS-land lose far more than property.

In-shoring production back home is (after years of talk) accelerating, party from politics, partly technology… and partly from realization that maquiladoras in Mexico provide both cheap labor and low transport costs/disruption…WHILE making our unstable neighbor a middle class country. A win-win-win we should have done decades ago.

He goes on to cite a Delhi pol who claims the West has no higher moral stance. “These [the West’s] interventions have spanned the tragedies of the 21st century,…”

What a crock. The period since 1945 has been by far the most peaceful in all the annals of our species. Even now, 90%+ of humans have never witnessed war with their own eyes. More like somewhere north of 95%. Similar ratios of children are in school daily with full bellies. The American Pax did commit some crimes, sure, but name one… just one… even ONE… past nation that was ever tempted with imperial power, who had a better RATIO of good deeds and outcomes to bad ones.

locumranch said...

Sanctify the Bomb?

Heh. I love gallows humour.

It makes me feel all nostalgic for the 1970s, including the final scenes from 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes' and 'Twilight's Last Gleaming'.

Plus there's a certain Tom Lehrer song about 'knees', 'rosaries', 'in great respect' and 'genuflect, genuflect' that's worth a revisit.

No worries, though, as your randomly capitalized 'Backfire Effect' God might just answer the desperate prayers of pseudoscientists & other twits, especially as they bravely "fight Russia to the last Ukrainian”, while openly mocking & jeering an embargoed egomaniac with nuclear weapons & little to lose.

It is to laugh.


Der Oger said...

Dr. Brin:
Yeah, but what was communism in it's core mainly was about?

The workers owning the means of production.
To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities.
Abolition of social classes.
Science and technological progress instead of religion and superstition.

Citizens instead got five year plans, quotas, suppression of dissidents and ethnic miorities, and the nomenclatura. And a new religion complete with mystical incantations. At least, they had free healthcare.

I would even grow bolder and say that all the USSR was about was replacing boyars with commissars (and then with oligarchs who may or may not have been commissars before). The symbols only were a charade. It was all about authoritarianism, cloaked in communist (but meaningless, faithless) facades. And now they returned to it.

We should not look at "right vs. left". We should look at "up vs. down".

Paradoctor said...


I'm glad that you like the Backfire Effect as an SF premise. Steal this idea, and use it in good health. I envision it as the premise of a political horror tale, with nuclear fire getting way too close for comfort, and backfire-ish strangeness starts to eclipse normalcy. Eventually things get so weird that we, the readers, get to see what's _really_ going on in that world. Sort of like the 60s, which also stank of backfire. Robert Anton Wilson was not shy of showing people jumping from one worldline to another. In the end, the world suddenly takes on an entirely different configuration.

To that world's hapless inhabitants, the backfires will seem uncanny; not truly random, but not in line with any human plan, especially not of the major players. And rightly so: the backfire effect is not the universe protecting us, it is merely balancing its books. It does so by an intensified Murphy effect. Those most entangled with the virtual holocaust will suffer in strange and terrible ways. Hey, does Putin look okay?

I repeat that classical backfire is an equally valid explanation. If you threaten the lives of everyone in the world, then they might do something unexpected. In fact, a truly quantum backfire effect will be indistinguishable from classical, except for the weird nonlocal coincidences. Hey, weren't some close calls stopped by weird randomness?

I mentioned the backfire effect to Rudy Rucker. He said that my theory is correct. That did not reassure me.

Locum: if you want to mention Lehrer in this context, then of course you should also mention "So Long, Mom", "The MLF Lullaby", and of course "We Will All Go Together When We Go".

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

I'm no fan of political axes in general, but this is especially true of the commonly used ones where their meanings are "common sense". Ain't no such thing.

"Capitalism" is so poorly defined in common use that it means almost nothing. Are mercantilists also capitalists? What about HG tribes who trade with each other, but have no sense of land property beyond 'We hunt here"?

Russia is partially capitalist in the way it interacted with the West, but it operates with many of the large players obeying state directives. The main difference between then and now is more of us interacted with Russians in world markets up until recently. I remember heated debates about US wheat purchases made by the USSR way back, but today I've got a notification from my stock broker app telling me Russian securities aren't as liquid as they used to be and this may affect settlement times and prices.

Russia is operated at the highest level as property owned by a few at the top. Kings and Dukes once did that. Everyone on the land is allowed to do a variety of things, but there was no confusion as to the purpose of the state. It was owned as a Crown was owned. When that is the case, that region is not really one of the 'capitalists' operating in western markets even if they do have access to them.

Your universal health care service makes your nation more socialistic than communistic. [Let me know if Deutsche Bank starts following strict orders from your top leaders, though, and I might change my mind.] I just shrug and figure most of you want that service and are willing to pay for it in a way I find kinda weird. No harm it that, though.

Alfred Differ said...




Lately I've begun to extend the joke to semi-colons getting their little pointy bits snipped off.

Why does the curly part of the symbol have three comma-like tails?
Oh… don't worry. Those will be removed as biopsy fodder during the colonoscopy.

Heh. I just got probed again* a few days after my 60'th birthday. If they stick to a proper schedule, I'll have to drink 4L of the prep goop as an occasional birthday gift. Yah. It's a gift of life.

* Pandemic delayed things, so they wound up taking five samples. I have pretty pictures from inside my own colon showing how things are going. Nothing serious to report except… I live in a civilization capable of doing that.

Star_Dragon said...

This proposed Backfire Effect is only doable in soft-ish SF, as it depends on at least two false assumptions: a common misunderstanding of what observers are in QM(Geiger counters, U-235 bombs, some CCD systems, cats(owned by Schrodinger or not), certain high explosives, and quite a few other things, inanimate or not, are perfectly valid observers), and that nuclear war would inevitably smash all human civilization(not that bad of an assumption, except that both the US and Russia have plans for continuity of government, there are disturbing signs that the Russian government(and the Soviet one, in the past tense) has arguments that nuclear war is at least theoretically winnable, and smashing civilization across the globe takes a lot of deliberate effort and warhead expenditure, and the nuclear winter concept is based on 1-D simulations which assumed that all cities are like either forests or Japanese cities in WWII.)

Tony Fisk said...

It sounds as if Paradoctor's Backfire Effect is a specific form of my 'Panglossian Proposal', which suggested the QM 'Many Worlds Hypothesis' would quickly hone in on the most survivable realities, which would be the only one(s) we observe (not being around for any others).
At present, we seem to be teetering along Frank Herbert's precarious 'Golden Path' scenario, so I can only offer a pious hope that no sandworms will need to be harmed for the greater good.

One of the reasons cited for the Russian's 'carelessness' with high ranking officers is that they have to be close to the front line in order to keep a tight rein on military discipline, including looting.
It prompted a memory of a scene from 'Waterloo' where Wellington catches a 'plunderer' red-handed. It ends with the deliciously ambiguous line "I don't know what the enemy will make of them but, by God, they terrify me!"

reason said...

Alfred - der Oger is German. Germany doesn't have a universal health service.

Robert said...

Germany is more communist than China in some aspects (universal mandatory healthcare, for example).

In Naomi Wong's Red China Blues she describes going to Maoist China as an eager student, and discovering while living there that her home country of Canada was actually more communist than China in terms of supporting people. It's a book worth reading*.

I have a friend whose teacher was a famous (in China) guerrilla fighter. According to him the reason so many peasants supported the communists was that they applied the same penalties to their own forces that they did to the peasants. Nationalist soldiers stole food or raped a woman? It's a war. Communist soldiers stole food or raped a woman? Shot in the village square. What attracted people was the notion of fairness - that the rules applied equally to all. (Teacher left China when it became obvious that they didn't.)

*If only for the airport scene at the end where her American-defector husband argues with an American security officer and she realizes that she isn't in China because the security officer doesn't retaliate — because after 9/11 that tolerance disappeared. (As evidenced by my students getting hassled by TSA for reading "liberal" magazines on a bus trip, and having to throw them away at the border.)

Alan Brooks said...

@Der Oger:
“...We should look at ‘up vs down’ “

Also urbane values versus rural values. Such as more peasant-oriented Russia vs more urbane central/Western Europe.
In the US during 1861-‘65, the CSA was concerned with retaining slavery and dissolving the Union—and also rural values. Today, taking two rightist intellectuals as exemplars of less urbane values, Newt Gingrich and Victor Davis Hanson are emblematic of modernized-but-still-rather rural-oriented values.
Gingrich hails from Georgia, and champions syncretizing tradition with “conservative futurism.” Hanson grew up on a ranch in California, and is a Classics scholar. What they have in common is a somewhat paranoid worldview of traditional, more-rural-oriented values being attacked by urbane modern/postmodern values.

Robert said...

David, from an earlier post, asked about naming an empire that did better than America…

I can't. I freely grant that you're the best. But I think that "best of a bad lot" applies, given numerous examples that Duncan and I have posted.

It's like the principal of Ermine Skin Residential School bragging that their students were treated better than at other schools — a 10% death rate is better than 20% or 60%, but I don't see it as something to brag about.

So I'd rather be the subject of an American empire than a Russian empire, but I'd rather have been taken to Ermine Skin than Sarcee too, if those were the only two options.

Paradoctor said...

Star Dragon: the role and nature of the observer is not a settled question in QM. For instance there's the Wigner's Friend problem. Who observes the observer?

In any case, the classical backfire effect is fearsome enough on its own. Note how the Cuban Missile Crisis was followed by Khrushchev's forced retirement, JFK's assassination, and the 60's.

Fisk: "This is the best of all sufficiently similar possible worlds" is my local maximum correction to Leibnitzian optimism. I call it "local optimism". Local optimization is a settled principle in physics, biology, and psychology.

locumranch said...

It's what the Urban Dictionary calls 'Cope', also known as a psychological defence mechanism which involves the creation of a comforting belief in order to deal with a harsh truth or reality.

The Backfire Effect is just another euphemism for Divine Providence, much in the same way that COVID Emergency Powers, the Green New Deal, Build Back Better and the 1619 Project are just new euphemisms for Authoritarianism, Communism 2.0, production quotas, ethnic loyalty tests, the suppression of political dissidents and the elimination of Kulak analogues.

Next on the progressive agenda?

Social credit scores, ephemeral digital currencies, universal ID with realtime positional monitoring, party membership requirements, restricted mobility, artificial famines and gun confiscation.

No worries, though, because the Backfire Effect (and/or Providence) will most assuredly protect you & yours when things get ugly because He/She/It is firmly on your side.


Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

What they have in common is a somewhat paranoid worldview of traditional, more-rural-oriented values being attacked by urbane modern/postmodern values

That sort of echoes this excerpt:

Where did Ukraine figure in this imperial revival? As an obstacle, from the very beginning. Trubetzkoy argued in his 1927 article “On the Ukrainian Problem” that Ukrainian culture was an “individualization of all-Russian culture” and that Ukrainians and Belarussians should bond with Russians around the organizing principle of their shared Orthodox faith. Mr. Dugin made things more direct in his 1997 text: Ukrainian sovereignty presented a “huge danger to all of Eurasia.” Total military and political control of the whole north coast of the Black Sea was an “absolute imperative” of Russian geopolitics. Ukraine had to become “a purely administrative sector of the Russian centralized state.”

Mr. Putin has taken that message to heart. In 2013, he declared that Eurasia was a major geopolitical zone where Russia’s “genetic code” and its many peoples would be defended against “extreme Western-style liberalism.” In July last year he announced that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people,” and in his furious rant on the eve of invasion, he described Ukraine as a “colony with a puppet regime,” where the Orthodox Church is under assault and NATO prepares for an attack on Russia.

Autocracies and theocracies seem to like to push the idea that they're "protecting" their subjects from their own values by forcing them to comply with the state's values instead.
That differing from what the State claims is important is a weakness which must be conquered. It reminds me of the quad preachers on my old college campus whose preaching against homosexuality seemed to presume that absent punishment and ostracism, everyone would naturally indulge in homosexuality--that only the heavy hand of religious authority keeps heterosexuality alive. It's a strange way of describing one's own "values"--that no one will adhere to them unless forced against their will.

Here in the west, at least in America, when someone seems to be too outside the herd, they're chided to leave--to "go back to" some place like Africa or Russia. I think such taunting is a bad thing, but it does reveal something of our sort of character that even the bad thing that we do to people we don't want to associate with is to attempt driving them away. In the Soviet Union, as in Nazi Germany, dissidents were prohibited from leaving, lest they actually get to live in a society more to their liking. Rather, they were required to stay where the authoritarian State would always be there to...protect them.

Putin's Russia and those right-wingers who defend him certainly agree with that philosophy.

Larry Hart said...


I have a friend whose teacher was a famous (in China) guerrilla fighter. According to him the reason so many peasants supported the communists was that they applied the same penalties to their own forces that they did to the peasants. Nationalist soldiers stole food or raped a woman? It's a war. Communist soldiers stole food or raped a woman? Shot in the village square. What attracted people was the notion of fairness - that the rules applied equally to all. (Teacher left China when it became obvious that they didn't.)

That's what's making January 6 and its continuing aftermath so disturbing. It's becoming clear that the rules don't apply equally to all here in American either. And at least a third of my fellow citizens no longer even feel the need to pretend that they should apply equally.

scidata said...

Cryptocurrency will never be 'solid' until a major central bank issues its own. Canada is looking at this with aid from MIT (we don't do anything without input from Americans :)

David Brin said...

Robert, at what point does the “best of a bad lot” become “the first to deliberately foster conditions for a transition to an end to the age of empires”?
- fostering effective international institutions
-fostering widespread rule-of-law
- unevenly but incrementally fostering democracy
- a protectiveumbrella allowing 100+ nations to shift funds from defense to development
- non-mercantilist world trade patterns that uplifted other nations, rather than enriching the pax power.
- but most important, fostering a non-centrally controlled propaganda system to spread individualism, pluralism, tolerance, diversity and accountability… values that YOU suckled all your life and that are now reflected in your criticism of the empire… which is exactly the process by which citizenship shall replace crude empires, forever.

someone tell me if locum says anything that is not raving based upon hallucinatory premises.

LH: “I think such taunting is a bad thing, but it does reveal something of our sort of character that even the bad thing that we do to people we don't want to associate with is to attempt driving them away.”

“Our?” that is our cojoined twin, the Confederacy’s thing.

Larry Hart said...


In any case, the classical backfire effect is fearsome enough on its own. Note how the Cuban Missile Crisis was followed by Khrushchev's forced retirement, JFK's assassination, and the 60's.

You guys would love reading some Dave Sim. He sees causal connections in the strangest of places, although he only credits the ones which back up the beliefs he already has.

For example, although Canadian himself, Dave was a big fan of George W Bush's wars in the Middle East. So when SARS hit especially hard in Toronto shortly after the start of that war, his take was that God was teaching Canada--Ontario in particular--a lesson about the fact that, by opposing the war, they were taking China's side against America's (and presumably God's) side. Therefore, a Chinese disease in the provincial capital was Ontario's just deserts.

I was writing letters to Dave in those days, and so I posed the question as to whether a power outage in New York (which also affected Ontario) almost immediately following an outage in Baghdad caused by American bombing was God's way of telling Canada that as its infrastructure was so thoroughly intertwined with America's, they deserved to suffer God's comeuppance on America for bombing a Muslim country. Dave accused me of willfully misunderstanding his point, and merely using it to play parlor games. Which I kind of was, but only to perform an indirect proof. I thought my theory made more internal sense than his, so if mine was ridiculous, his certainly was.

David Brin said...

I have enjoyed - if appalled - by your description of Dave Sim, a fellow I clearly should not meet, any more than Frank Miller.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Like Frank Miller, Dave Sim also had his moment which "changed everything" for him. In Miller's case, it was 9/11. In Dave's, it when he first read the Bible in order to lampoon it and instead falling in love with Scripture, insisting that all other writing was a mere shadow of the holy books of Abrahamic monotheism.

While neither a Jew, no a believer in Christ's divinity himself*, he became a believer in the general sort of monotheism which insists on the masculinity of God.

* If pressed, he claims to be a Muslim, but only in the sense that the word "Muslim" means "One who submits to the will of God."

Paradoctor said...

I suspect (well, actually, I hope against hope) that all nuclear weapons systems, worldwide, are deeply corrupt. Locumranch may call that divine-providence-coping, but my reasoning is material and secular. If you threaten everyone's lives, then some people might act out.

For instance, what motivation has a bomb-maker for paying 1 cent extra, or 1 ruble extra, to make sure that the nuke will go boom? They'd be in legal trouble if it didn't, but if nukes were being dropped, then lawsuits would be the least of their worries.

My friend Stan Tenen, recently deceased, once told me that during the Cold War, he stood up at a board meeting, for a defense corporation, and said, "Gentlemen, you know that the device we're contracted to build is supposed to do something physically impossible. You know this." They replied, "Yes, we know that, but we signed the contract, and we will deliver the product." That was when Stan started to drift away from corporate technocracy to visualizing Kabballah in four dimensions. Nerds gotta nerd, but garbage is garbage.

Paradoctor said...

LH: “I think such taunting is a bad thing, but it does reveal something of our sort of character that even the bad thing that we do to people we don't want to associate with is to attempt driving them away.”

Jared Diamond asked; what happens to the losers of wars? He said; in hunter-gatherer societies ("savages"), they are driven off the land into exile. In early agricultural societies ("barbarians") they are slaughtered. In empires ("civilizations") they are enslaved. So by Diamond's standards, we Americans still have a savage heart.

Robert said...

It's becoming clear that the rules don't apply equally to all here in American either.

That's been clear for a long time, to those who aren't white.

Alan Brooks said...

Victor Davis Hanson is a prime example of a neo-neo confederate. A military historian and Classicist, who draws parallels, e.g.with Athens v Sparta-> US v China.
His sort don’t defend the Olde Confederacy, but they defend the religious underpinnings of the US as being necessary for law and order. Little or no attempt is to be made at rehabilitation—‘put them behind bars’ is a core belief. Capital punishment is a lesser belief, yet not unimportant to them.
Highly educated neo-neo confederates don’t necessarily believe in their own propaganda. I met Dinesh D’Souza twice, he admitted that he had to communicate with uneducated rightists in their own language. Not that he isn’t a rightist, but his sheep must be led properly, lest they become goats.
Educated neo-neo confederates utilize their Manichean creeds to communicate with their followers and potential converts. D’Souza, Gingrich, and Hanson postulate a struggle between Western-religious patriarchal nationalist Light versus agnostic/atheist ‘feminazi’ (Limbaugh’s term) internationalist Darkness.
Erudite neo neos are themselves agnostic/atheist; however they believe in inculcating their benighted followers with religion—as the poor dears would have no anchor otherwise. Naturally, such is updated Burke and so forth.
The new twist is the Internet of circa a quarter century, and neo neos moving away from the overt religiosity of WFB. The intramural conflict is paleoconservatives versus “RINOs”. Nationalism plus tough-on-crime-build-more-prisons are shared central beliefs; “draining the swamp” is the new catch-all.

Alfred Differ said...

The "observer" is very much NOT settled territory in QM theories. It's better described as no-mans-land as many of them won't go there.

Usual responses from my teachers were "It works", "Don't ask", and "Shut up and calculate."

Best response from one of my teachers was "Don't believe everything you read in the textbook I chose for this class." I had NO idea how important it was that he said that until many, many years later.

My personal beef with many-worlds theories is they easily slip into non-science territory in that they become untestable. It takes talent to avoid that trap. Some researchers have it. Most popular readers/advocates do not.

Backfire Effect might be fun to read about, but it's too much of a faith statement for me to use when making decision. Y'all are welcome to use it, but I think we'd be better off with self-preventing prophecies. A good story causing a bad future to de-cohere with us I can accept. No quantum hand-waving is needed for that.

Star_Dragon said...


So there's a debate between 'shut up and calculate' and simple sensors counting as observers. 'Only Sapients can be observers' is not a serious position, and comes from an unfortunate choice of word, where 'detector' or 'sensor' would be better suited than 'observer'. And it's trivially true that Sapients can observe themselves. It's also technically not relevant, because it requires another false premise(No, even all-out nuclear war will not END civilization across the globe. Too many places that can re-spread civilzation.).

I'm also calling bullshit on your 'classical backfire effect'.

And to your 'local optimism': The closest thing possible to the optimizer required is sapient life, and there is no serious reason to believe that anyone currently has the ability to mess with timelines like the MCU's TVA. Or black holes creating new universes when they form, but that only operates above a cosmological scale, if it operates at all, and even if it does, it optimizes for making as many black holes in a universe as possible, not even sapient life specifically.)

Oh, and in your given example, not spending that extra cent increases the odds of nuclear war occurring, because, if discovered by the other side, it results in the situation you described as "lawsuits would be the least of their worries."

There is a solid logic to deterrence, which sometimes produces counterintuitive results.

And I'm also calling bullshit on Stan Meru actually being able to know that the thing was actually physically impossible. Especially if it involved the very primitive laser technology of the 1960s.

As a general note, it takes very specific(usually very cold, among other things) conditions to produce macro-scale quantum effects. Biochemistry as we know it would be impossible otherwise(which says nothing about biochemistry as we don't know it). Decoherance applies very very quickly, unless steps are taken to prevent it.

Paradoctor said...


I agree that many-world theories, including the Backfire Effect, are hard to confirm. But perhaps someday someone will figure a clever way to do so. David Deutsch asked, where does all the extra computational power of quantum computing come from, if not parallel worlds?

I repeat that you need no faith statement or quantum woo-woo for the classical backfire effect. If a political system alienates everyone in the world by trying to get us all killed, then people will attack it, consciously or unconsciously, by silent sabotage, quiet corruption, or loud rebellion.

Here's a positive version of backfire: the Breakthrough Effect. Namely, that any system or event that prevents or avoids nuclear war will tend to have enhanced probability. This too comes in quantum or classical versions.

You want fun with backfire? How about this story: they finally fire the damned things, but none go off, because of massive overclass incompetence and corruption. Then all of Earth's political elites have some 'splainin' to do. They wind up _wishing_ they'd gotten vaporized. This isn't a plan, but it is a tale that could cause some other people's plans to de-cohere.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"Our?” that is our cojoined twin, the Confederacy’s thing.

Hey, I haven't thought of it this way before, but do we need each other the way Good Kirk and Bad Kirk did? If we managed to slough off the Confederates the way we fantasize about, would we become weak and indecisive like Kirk in that episode? Would the festering remnants end up killing Tasha Yar?

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Victor Davis Hanson is a prime example of a neo-neo confederate. A military historian and Classicist, who draws parallels, e.g.with Athens v Sparta-> US v China.

Want to know something really weird? The aforementioned Dave Sim used a fictionalized version of himself within his story to say all the socially-unacceptable things about women that he wanted to put out there. The character's name was an inversion of his own first and middle names (David Victor), Viktor Davis.

And yet, the real life Victor Davis Hanson sounds very much like the fictional Viktor Davis. It's like Dave made him up and he came true anyway.

* * *


"It's becoming clear that the rules don't apply equally to all here in America either.

That's been clear for a long time, to those who aren't white.

It's been clear to Jews since before there was an America. But what seems threateningly new is that, until recently, conservatives felt the need to at least give lip service to equality and equal justice, however more-equal-than-others they felt themselves to be. Lately, they've stopped showing the slightest deference to the notion that America aspire to such a thing. They've become more like Treebeard, insisting that America is the homeland of White Christianists, and everyone else is the hired help, an unwelcome guest, or a trespasser--that the rules and the Constitution aren't meant to apply to "those people".

Back around the early Bush/Cheney days, my brother said something like, "They're not even pretending any more. All they do is pretend to pretend." He wasn't wrong, but now I look back on the good old days when they at least still pretended to pretend. They don't even do that any more.

David Brin said...

Paradoctor’s Backfire always reminds me of Piers Anthony’s A SPELL FOR CHAMELEON.

“Hey, I haven't thought of it this way before, but do we need each other the way Good Kirk and Bad Kirk did?”

Damn good fighters, them rebs. Confeds sign up to serve more than blue folk. Their ONLY superior virtues are martial ones. Hence keep them away from policy.

Star_Dragon said...

Your 'backfire effect' is actually quite possible to disprove. It's based on some unholy combination of Many-Worlds(which negates any need for observers or even wave-function collapse) and quantum woo(even the nuttiest of QM interpretations don't require an entire civilization for observers), nuclear fearmongering(an all-out nuclear war will leave a United States and a Russia, both terribly(in both senses of the word!) devastated, not at all intact, but still existing, let alone the rest of the world), and a backwards understanding of what makes nuclear war more or less likely.

I'd like to tender a proposition: humans can't be quantum observers, at least without cybernetic augmentation. Quantum observations generally involve bonking something with a particle, and humans aren't equipped to directly observe such results. Sure, we can use instruments, but then it's the instruments doing the observing. If instruments couldn't cause decoherence, there would be no need for quantum non-demolition sensors, quantum computing, cloning, and teleportation, would be very easy, and the delayed-choice quantum eraser wouldn't work.

Sure, "classical superposition" makes sense as a mental model sometimes, for situations like Schrodinger's Cat, but it's either just a mental model, or Wigner's Friend isn't an observer either.

As for quantum computing, it's complicated. Trying to pull computing power from parallel timelines wouldn't work, because they would also be pulling and using the computing power. A QPU is also only better than classical at some tasks(including some very useful ones, granted), not all, and while it's technically capable of doing classical computing as well as a CPU, QPUs are so much harder to build that you want a regular CPU for those jobs.

As for your "classical backfire",
a) nuclear weapons are primarily for preventing war, and are doing a good job of preventing US/NATO entry into the Ukraine invasion right now.
b)Again, nuclear war won't kill literally everyone (yes, most people is quite plausible, if doing so is a goal of somebody throwing nukes around)
c)People aren't that good at evaluating non-immediate threats
d)Any 'success' anti-nuclear movement has had has made nuclear war more likely by making it seem more survivable, which lowers the threshold for use.
e)The unconscious is even worse at threat evaluation

No, your "Breakthrough Effect" is the exact same thing as your "Backfire Effect", just worded differently.

As for your your scenario:
a) even assuming all of your false premises are true, your 'Backfire Effect' doesn't need to knock out all the nukes. Or even most of them. Just enough of the right ones to leave a patch of civilization intact. Which may well be none, if nobody cares about trying to be the mostly-burned king of the ashes.
b) The only way any elites have any "'splaining" to do is if Western leaders somehow try to fire them off for funsies. Western populations will understand launching nukes over WMD use on NATO territory or an otherwise unstoppable invasion. Autocracies don't actually have to explain themselves to anyone, especially not their own people, as Putin is demonstrating right now.
c)Congratulations, it's conventional WWIII! Like WWII, but so much bloodier! What sarcastically wonderful fun!
d)Plans which were always classical in the first place can't decohere. There's no wave-function to collapse, or quantum entanglements to break.


Paradoctor said...

Star Dragon:

The classical backfire effect is basic common sense, namely "what goes around comes around". No gods or woo-woo needed, just human psychology. It's true that making the world fear you makes Machiavellian sense; but making the world hate and despise you does not. For instance: Putin's army is falling apart because his oligarchs were all skimming, and his surviving advisors are all yes-men. How's that for karma?

"The closest thing possible to the optimizer required is sapient life..." I beg your pardon? Light beams refract at an air-glass boundary in a way that minimizes transit time. Is light sapient? Local optimization is foundational physics; you can cast Newtonian, Einsteinian, and quantum mechanics in terms of the law of least action.

O thrifty, lazy universe!
Each mote and man and beast
Shall find a path it may traverse
Whose action is the least!

Oh, all right, it's not really the law of _least_ action, it's the law of _stationary_ action. Maybe this is the _worst_ of all sufficiently similar possible worlds!

Not spending that extra cent would be done in secret, hidden even from their own side, so it wouldn't change the probability of the defective nuke being used, just the result if it were used.

Stan Tenen told me that the physical impossibility that management corruptly promised was for the device to violate the conservation of energy.

I see that the Backfire Effect has provoked people here to think and argue. Good!

Alfred Differ said...


I'd call your classical backfire effect by a different name. Feedback loop.

I have no issue with feedback in processes eliminating or re-enforcing outcomes. We know some are recursive. Some are so strongly influenced that they become winner-takes-all processes.

As for quantum 'feedback', we take a step too far with our deterministic analogy.

Double-slit interference occurs. Period. The model used to describe how it works has to be responsive under a number of conditions, but there are no requirements that force non-determinism or disallow it. *

Single-slit diffraction occurs. Period. Pretty weird actually because waves are not required in a useful theory.


As I learned it…

"Observer" is better described as "measure". A balloon full of air measures the air pressure outside it by changing shape. A bazillion possible microstates are aggregated into a macro 'measure' with the balloon's surface separating the system into the parts. "What is measured" and "What does the measure."


My beef with many-worlds isn't really about confirmation. In many popular depictions, it self-confirms. I have issues with it ever being possible to falsify it.

I feel much the same way about the anthropic principle. Obviously we live in a cosmos compatible with us. I'm deeply wary of letting that fact imply much about anything else. Allowing it strikes me as circular at best and non-science at worst. Might be fun, but not when I'm in a mood for doing science.

* Bell's work only disallows the combination of determinism and locality. Give up one and you can keep the other. Most of us give up determinism, but that isn't the only choice.

George Carty said...

Larry Hart:

In the Soviet Union, as in Nazi Germany, dissidents were prohibited from leaving, lest they actually get to live in a society more to their liking. Rather, they were required to stay where the authoritarian State would always be there to...protect them.

IIRC the Nazis didn't outright prohibit dissidents from leaving until after they started World War II. Before then dissidents could leave Germany: they just couldn't take any property with them (because Nazi Germany was for its entire existence desperately short of forex).

JeremyA said...

When I heard Putin threaten to "put the US in its place", my second thought was that this is a perfect time to put ourselves in our place and reflect on what we stand for. We have an excellent object lesson on what the anti-enlightenment looks like in operation.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman on Odessa:

I don’t think it’s silly or anachronistic to say that the things that made Odessa special, that should have made it one of the world’s great metropolises, were precisely the things that ethnonationalists, then and now, hate: ethnic and religious diversity, intellectual curiosity, openness to the world. On the eve of the Russian invasion, it looked as if Ukraine was finally managing to recover some of those things — which is, in turn, surely part of the reason Vladimir Putin decided it had to be conquered.

And maybe remembering what Odessa might have become will help remind us how important it is that this attempt at conquest fail.

Larry Hart said...

Others on the right refuted some Kremlin talking points, including that neo-Nazis are rampant in Ukraine and that President Volodymyr Zelensky is a “drug-addled Nazi.” On Feb. 26, the Fox News host Neil Cavuto said those accusations were “incredibly over-the-top crazy criticisms.”

They're probably afraid that their it will confuse their viewers with a narrative that casts Nazis as the bad guys. I mean, if Putin is warring against Nazis, who are they supposed to root for?

David Brin said...

What this comment community lacks in numbers it has in cogent, alpha-plus discussions! Had opinions on all the stuff abotve!. But no ditto to deputize to spend the time, alas! But interesting stuff!

scidata said...

Larry Hart: Hey, I haven't thought of it this way before, but do we need each other the way Good Kirk and Bad Kirk did?

Really? That's one of my main riffs. I feel ignored (or maybe skimmed :)
This is one of the pillars of my 'everybody gets to the stars or nobody does' argument.

Larry Hart said...


I feel ignored (or maybe skimmed :)

If anything, more like "missed the point" on my part.

locumranch said...

Nuclear Deterrence has always been and probably will always be a matter of Mutually Assured Destruction [MAD], the implicit assumption being that no sane human group (and/or individual) would initiate a suicidal conflict wherein everyone on the planet loses.

Of course, Game Theory and the term 'Pyrrhic Victory' say otherwise, as Dr. Brin well knows, hence his incessant harping on the less probable Positive Sum (Win-Win) outcome, as opposed to the more statistically likely scenarios which involve Zero Sum (Win-Lose) and Negative Sum (Lose-Lose) outcomes.

The end result is COPE, the manufacture of imaginary & improbable scenarios wherein some unlikely power intervenes at the last minute 'Deus Ex Machina' to force a more desirable outcome and allow everyone to live happily-ever-after.

For a blog frequented by so many capable & experienced intellectuals, the COPE here is off-the-scale, and it matters not if this COPE takes the form of a Divine Parent, a Sentient Blackhole at the Earth's Core, Pixie Dust, MMT, International Law, Predestination, Psychohistory or the Backfire Effect.

As in the case of MAD, it's time to accept that no higher power is coming to save us from ourselves, and the sooner humanity accepts this truism as fact, the more likely that humanity will survive long enough to reach the stars.

In terms of the current Ukrainian conflict, it's time for the West to grow up, sit down & shut up, lest they provoke a MAD suicidal nuclear exchange that "no sane group (and/or individual) would initiate".

Q: Is the West & its decrepit leadership still sane?

COPE if you've got them, but it's looking less likely with every passing presidential ultimatum, nasty jibe & empty threat.

The fate of humanity appears to be in the hands of fools & madmen.


DP said...

A successful Operation Valkyrie with Hitler dead would have resulted in the Heer taking over the Reich (after crushing the SS, which the Wehrmacht hated, in a brief civil war).

However, von Stauffenberg's planned government probably would not have survived the street fighting.

Some military junta takes charge putting Rommel in command in the west and von Manstein in the East. Maybe keeping Goering as a figurehead fuhrer acceptable to both the Party and the Wehrmacht.

The Germans put up token resistance as they withdraw from France and the Allies race toward the Rhine. They continue a hard fighting withdrawal in the east against the Russians to keep the Red Army out of Germany (though the Destruction of Army Group Center that summer would still probably happen).

Negotiations result in Western Allied occupation of Germany, Finland and the Balkans (minor Axis states switch sides and save their skins), the rest of Italy and central Poland. Eastern Poland and the Baltic States are probably lost to the Red Army.

Germany is purged of Nazis especially after the camps are discovered. Nuremberg trials still happen (though most of the SS criminals have already been killed in the street fighting).

Does Stalin dare attack the Western Allies plus a Wehrmacht that could be reactivated (Churchill's plan if the Russian attacked)? Probably not.

Now the bad news.

Having ended the war in Europe almost a year early, America can shift its resources to the Pacific. We arrive at Iwo Jima and Okinawa a year sooner and prepare for the invasion of Japan in early 1945.

The a-bomb isn't ready yet.

In the resultant slaughter, 10s of millions of Japanese die and American casualties are in the 100,000s. Japan is a wasteland that never recovers economically or demographically.

While America spends a year conquering Japan, Russia takes Manchuria, all of Korea and helps Mao take China creating an Asian leaning East Bloc.

America might invite the world to witness an a-bomb test after the war, but it just doesn't have the same horrifying psychological impact as its use on a city. H-Bomb development is delayed until the 1960s.

Possible atomic war later in the 1950s with a dozen cities destroyed before both sides pull back from the brink.

After the bloodbath in Japan, America is sick of the rest of the world and returns to isolationism under the MacArthur presidency.

Europe faces Russia almost alone and forms its own defense pact. Given its inherent technological prowess, industrial might and demographic superiority, the leadership of this new Europe falls (ironically) to Germany.

Having been spared another year of destruction, Europe's economies recover faster and allow them to hold their overseas colonies longer, many of which don't become free until the 1970s. Most remain subject to neo-colonial economic control.

DP said...

P.S. And what of Israel after a successful Valkyrie?

Ending the war a year sooner saves millions from the Holocaust.

Do they return home to their towns and villages in a now united liberal Europe?

Or do they flood Palestine AND Transjordan in vaster numbers to create a Greater Israel at its inception?

Alan Brooks said...

If the West were to “sit down & shut up” Ukraine would be digested, then the Baltics could be next on the menu. For dessert, perhaps a slice of Poland.
Russia has to be kept out of Europe. It used to be keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and America in Europe. Today 2/3 of the equation is valid. However, now we need Germany Up—and America still In; Russia still Out.
This isn’t a parlor game, it is real: war versus peace, a life and death struggle. You’re a smart guy, LoCum, and you wish for peace; yet you’re getting some very bad advice from somewhere..the worst sort of advice. The kind Lindbergh (who meant well) received: ‘stay out of Europe and things will balance-out’. But things don’t ‘balance-out’. After Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh offered his services, but his services were refused, as he was deemed unreliable. Perhaps he wasn’t, but he’d ruined his reputation via bad advice & bad judgment.
Chamberlain wanted peace, but his advisers gave him bad advice; so he looked in Hitler’s eyes and thought that behind Hitler’s hardness was a man who could be reasoned with. Bad judgment. Hitler prided himself as “the hardest man Germany has produced.”
Putin might be the hardest man Russia has produced—we’ll find out soon enough.

David Brin said...

DP, sorry, your scenario while well thought out assumes western leaders are fools. Yes to the likelihood Rommel etc would get around the Unconditional Surrender! vows and alliance with the USSR by staging a ‘ten miles per day’ staged retreat in the west. Stalin might scream. But we could say “as soon as you pledge no-rape, no-pillage and all prisoners go home in one year, we’re sure Manstein will do the same for you. Stalin would eventually give in, if only to get first-boots in Berlin.

No way on this green Earth that Poland doesn’t become a Soviet puppet state. In any scenario. The rest? Maybe.

But Truman & Marshall knew the bomb was coming. They could focus on Formosa and China to delay Kyushu invasion till it was ready, at which point the USSR also invades Manchuria.

Sorry. The effects, while major for Finland, Hungary etc, remain geopolitically similar.
locum’s first 2 paras looked almost worth discussing or arguing. You betcha life in nearly all human generations was zero or negative sum, in large part due to brutal ignorance but mostly because strong human males got away with exaggerated versions of what males do, in nature. Building harem situations for their own animal-reflex benefit, instead of building for the sake of their descendant ten or more generations ahead.

Eventually, we did learn one way out of that utterly lobotomized and ALWAYS stoopid form of governance and began win-winning not just linearly but exponentially.

. Which of course makes - as expected - the rest of his strawman ravings at things wholly concocted in his hallucinations especially sad. Coulda been maybe interesting. Never will be, alas.
“The fate of humanity appears to be in the hands of fools & madmen.” Well, all the loonies YOU support, certainly.

Alan B… you waste breath. I only answer now and then because it give me a chance to type out something of interest to the rest of you.

David Brin said...



Star_Dragon said...


1.Common sense isn't common, and is often wrong when applied to things outside of everyday life. You're better off ignoring it entirely when it comes to quantum physics and relativity. Humans don't think as would be required for your classical backfire effect, as demonstrated by the fact that the temperature of the planet is still going up. And the fact that people afraid of radiation protest fission plants instead of coal plants. And the fact that nobody's put in the serious effort required to build an ICBM defense network, which would be literally required by the laws of physics if you were right about quantum physics.

2. Oligarchic skimming(and it's not just the oligarchs skimming. It's also part of their military culture) is only part of the problem Russia is having. They've got other institutional problems, like using junior officers for NCOs, meso-officers for junior officers, and I have no idea what mess is above that, but the point is that they're terribly short on actual officers, forcing them to rely on more rigid planning. They've also got a problem with over-prioritizing tooth over tail, resulting in them not bothering to even try to buy enough trucks to support their wonder-waffles and regular waffles. Then there's the lack of experience in their army, whereas the Ukrainians had been fighting a trench war for seven years. And most of the rest of the world is pouring support into Ukraine, and denying Russia most trade.

Oh, and belief in the 'just world hypothesis' has been shown to correlate with not seeing existing injustices. If karma was a thing, things would be so different as to be unrecognizable.

3. "Best of all possible (local) worlds" requires an arbitrary objective function to define which one it is, as "best" isn't defined by any law of physics, but rather subjective perceptions. Science technically cannot do anything to determine what this objective function is, as this is an 'ought' problem rather than an 'is' problem. I've learned enough calculus of variations to know exactly what you're talking about.

4. There's a bunchton of quality checks, which include basically everything short of actually testing them(and actually testing the non-nuclear components, including ICBMs). Done by other people. Then there's the fact that enemy intelligence is a thing, and there's enough espionage going on that some spy somewhere would pick up on "hey, this guy is somehow sabotaging every nuke he can.", as your proposal requires everyone to sabotage their own side's nukes. Oh, and that's actually highly counterproductive for surviving a nuclear war, as the most likely target for a nuclear warhead is an enemy warhead, and 'launch-on-warning' means that any massed launch will result in retaliation, even if they're filled with duds or decoys or presents or commandos instead of live nukes.

5. OK, conservation of energy is almost certain to be absolute, but can be gotten around by the simple matter of adding in more energy.

6. Bah. You're mainly getting me to practice my recall and looking-things-up skills, and we could be arguing about something more productive. Still, I'm doing this arguing of my own free will, so I don't have much room to complain.

On a related note, game theory is the thing that says that "that no sane human group (and/or individual) would initiate a suicidal conflict wherein everyone on the planet loses." It's literally what it was developed for.

David Brin said... stuff Star-Dragon.

But we generally move the discussion to next blog after the...