Saturday, October 29, 2022

The way to save the world is forward. About progress and PHILOSOPHY

A long (and somewhat intellectual) one, this time. But first an art-note.  My wife & I once visited one of the artist Christo’s massive (and massively wasteful-but-impressive) installations … the ‘umbrellas’ he erected north of Los Angles around 1991. The posthumous event in Christo’s honor - ‘wrapping’ the Arc de Triumph - looks to be impressive – this time made from recyclable materials, supposedly. Another artist - Stuart Williams - similarly large scale art installations can be viewed here. In some ways better!  

Today we’ll discuss pragmatic philosophy… as opposed to those who would use philosophical blather to justify an all-out war against science and pragmatism. 

Specifically, UCSD Professor Benjamin Bratton - author of Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World - is fighting for us on a front that would seem obscure to 99.9999%, but is actually very important.

One of those fronts is that of philosophical abstraction – for example the campaign waged by 'postmodernist' philosophers against the very notion of verifiable objective reality. I’ll get to that part down below.

But first I want to talk about a new effort that Bratton is heading, that aims at getting modernist civilization to buck up! To restore its confidence and can-do spirit.

== The way to save the world is forward ==

Without question, the greatest innovation of the Enlightenment Experiment has been unleashing millions of free citizens and competing interests to criticize. Because each of us has trouble perceiving their own delusions, but we are avid at pointing out each other’s!

Here’s my summarizing aphorism – familiar to many of you –

Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote to Error… 

...or CITOKATE. 

For 6000 years, kings and priests suppressed criticism, and thus imposed unquestioned whim-delusions on whole nations, leading to the long litany of horrific errors called history. We only started getting positive-sum outcomes – with progress lifting nearly all human children out of starvation, ignorance and filth – when systems to inherently favor criticism were established. These include not only freedom of speech and mass education and divided power and competitive markets…

… but also a mythic system that encourages each new generation to point and shout at the mistakes of the one in charge.  A mythic system that I talk about in Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood

Alas, no good thing happens without shitty side effects. And so, while our young folks in the West are perfectly right to chide their elders about everything from troglodytic gender assumptions to drug laws, to slowness at ecological action – (we must heed Greta Thunberg and obey!) – one toxic side effect is a demolition of our sense of confidence. Our can-do spirit that the problems they raise can be addressed. Even solved.

This problem seemed crippling to many of us. For example: Whole Earth maven Stewart Brand a decade ago pushed for efforts to develop new, safer forms of nuclear power and was savaged for it… until now Greta T herself has made the topic of nuclear power legitimate in a recent speech. (Assisted by EU concerns over a cold winter and the Ukraine War… and by some research we funded at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – NIAC.) 

Another example: any and all discussions of geoengineering - taking assertive steps to ameliorate global warming - were derided as judas-goat distractions from the puritan prescription of only curbing carbon emissions… 

...until soot from last year’s Australian fires showed that ocean fertilization can vastly expand fisheries and whale habitats. And till the Biden Administration – with recently earned environmental cred – just this week funded full bore research into ways to reflect stratospheric sunlight enough to cool Earth’s torrid poles.

In other words, solutions to save our world may involve positive-sum combinations. Both breaking those old, polluting habits and taking a hand in guiding the future, technologically. With science. And care. By utilizing Mother Gaia’s only source of science and care and forethought. Her prefrontal lobes.


== Moving forward with Antikythera ==

And so, now, we get back to Benjamin Bratton and his Antikythera Project.

“Instead of reviving ideas of nature, we must reclaim the artificial — not fake, but designed. For this, human-machine intelligence and urban-scale automation become part of an expanded landscape of life, information and labor. They are part of a living ecology, not a substitute for one. Put more specifically: The response to anthropogenic climate change will need to be equally anthropogenic.” 

Readers of my 1990 novel Earth know that I have both been a staunch, Gaia-preaching environmental activist and a champion of pragmatic, science as part of the solution. And while that notion conflicts with the generally self-flagellatory mien of some guilt-addicts, it resonates with one of the most-moving works by the great 1960s poet Richard Brautigan – perhaps the most optimistic future vision of all, until Luc Besson’s film Lucy… 

…the Brautigan poem “All watched over by machines of loving grace.”

To advance this idea, the Berggruen Institute has joined with Bratton to incubate a project he calls “Antikythera,” named after the “first computer” used by the ancient Greeks around 200 B.C. as a device to navigate the known world based upon the celestial movement of planets and stars. The project's aim is to discover how today’s “planetary-scale computation” in 2022 A.D. can align with and contribute to the kind of self-regulation of terrestrial space proposed by the late French thinker, Bruno Latour. 

(And yes, not every contemporary French philosopher is anti-modernist. The noisy bullies just make it seem that way.)

As explained on the Berggruen magazine site Noēma: “Latour’s project was to dismantle the conceptual division between humans and nature in the modern mind and understand the world as one hybrid “terrestrial” unity that includes animals, plants, topography, climate, the biosphere, human invention and the interactions among them. 

I mentioned Stewart Brand, whose new biography by John Markoff is inspiring. Brand's endeavors like the Long Now Foundation have long had similar aims. Also Neal Stephenson has led (I’ve helped) a campaign to promote optimistic, can-do science fiction via the Hieroglyph Project, sponsored by Arizona State’s Center for Science and Imagination.   And then – of course – there’s my Out of Time series of novels offering such of can-do spirit to YA readers.  

“From this new perspective, he saw that the influence of human endeavor within the terrestrial space had grown to such proportions that it was upsetting the self-regulating natural system of the planet — “Gaia,” so named after the ancient Greek Earth goddess — that had maintained homeostasis for the last 3.5 billion years.

Bratton’s hope is to one day reach what he calls “planetary sapience” — in essence, the synthetic intelligence of all lifeforms that are part and parcel of one self-regulating system.”

In other words, everything I portrayed in EARTH!

So yeah. Deserving of a closer look and support.

== Bratton’s Abstractions ==

In his life as a philosophy prof, Ben takes on another battleground, one whose airless heights would deter all but the best-trained and most dedicated warriors. I refer to the ongoing effort by 'postmodernist' philosophers (especially on French and US campuses) to denounce and discredit science, democracy, so-called 'facts,' or indeed the very concept of objective reality. I recommend his article for those who would blink in amazement over Ben's depiction of the rage-howls that fulminate from elite subjectivity spinners, who demand that their incantations get paramountcy over the evidence and models we laboriously build out of a clay called 'reality.'

 I was only familiar with a fraction of the names he cites… though utterly enmeshed in the same overall fight. At times I was reduced to amazed blinking over Bratton’s eloquent descriptions of how deeply mad that clade of physics-envious intelligentsia has gone.

(Decades of sampling postmodernist anti-science jeremiads prepared me as I stumbled through his essay… the same weekend that I attended  a zoom-festschrifft for recent nobelist Roger Penrose, proud that I was able to follow notions at the fringes of physics. Talk about a challenging weekend!)

I love many of Ben’s zinger turns of phrase, e.g. “Even so, the reckoning with legacies of his and other related projects is long overdue. His mode of biopolitical critique blithely ventures that science, data, observation and modeling are intrinsically and ultimately forms of domination and games of power relations. Numbers are unjust, words are beautiful.”


== daylight romanticism? ==

Okay, then. At risk of extending this post too long, may I explain why I call the cult of spite toward objective reality “daylight romanticism?”


A major schism in the West has long been between two powerful currents.  One of them - historically-rare, though provisionally dominant today - is evidence-based rationality, rooted in contingent and perpetually evolving models of objective reality. Models that are always assumed to be at least partly wrong or incomplete - a system that has long ago proved not only its explanatory power and spectacular productivity at addressing human needs…

…but also encouraging an egalitarian openness and - yes - utility at improving overall justice, by allowing long-held social prejudices to be challenged by devastatingly convincing counter examples. (e.g. the way just the existence of a person like Frederick Douglas shattered every incantation that supported Confederate slavery.)


 Impudently, this system transfers the locus of better humanity from its long held throne in some purported past golden age to a series of future times when our wisdom will be greater than it is now, then greater still, and hence all current incantations will at-best be recalled with indulgent smiles. 

It is hard to overstate how disturbing this reversal of the depicted time flow of wisdom has been to the other, much older set of ideation/incantation reflexes. Even if one seldom sees it discussed the way I just put it.


In sharp contrast, Romanticism in varied forms dominated most tribal and agrarian and feudal societies and seems to be a human default. It is, as Bratton describes, often a wallow in nostalgia and the paramountcy of emotion over rationality. “Will” triumphing over mere evidence. There were no more romantic movements than Naziism, Stalinism and the Confederacy… you have only to listen to their music and read their favorite stories. (Mark Twain blamed the Civil War on the novels of Sir Walter Scott!)

Side note: you all know that a lot of Eastern Mysticism chidings proclaim that these two parts styles of thought - rationality and romanticism - should be blended… but they should NOT! Nor should one extinguish the other! I’ll explain.

== Romanticism has its place… after dark ==


Given how I just polemically put my thumb on the scales, in favor of rational contingent-pragmatism, I will now surprise you by saying I would never root-out or expel the romantic side, even if I had that power! 

Indeed, a wholly-imagined plot by rationalists to do just that - and turn humans into robots - is one of the top, raging plaints one finds in romantic screeds like "The Gernsback Continuum" -a 1981 science fiction short story by William Gibson, and in Iain Pears’s novel “The Dream of Scipio,” which I reviewed and compiled in Through Stranger Eyes

The notion that one must kill one side of ourselves, in order for the other to flourish, is zero-sum (or even negative-sum) thinking at its very worst.


Very few scientists I know want that! In fact, many are devoted to artistic pastimes!  Indeed, I believe it is their polymath breadth that most daunts the postmodernist incantation-weavers, knowing we can do their thing, while they cannot do ours. 

As you know, I make plenty of use of my romantic side… mostly at night, when I get down to pounding out some story filled with emotion or terror, things that we’d forsake only at peril of ceasing to be human!  


So yes, I revere romanticism as the most deeply human part of us. 

But I also know where I stand if/when I must choose. Because romanticism can be deadly and spectacularly unjust. It has long been the paramount source of rationalized injustice. 

Romantics controlled policy for 6000 years, used incantations to justify every power-abuse, and wrought only hell-on-Earth for the peoples and nations of those benighted centuries. Indeed, it is their desperation not to look at that dismal track record at governance that most disqualifies these fanatics from prescribing to us now. 

Sure, Romanticism gives us great art! And we need that! But romanticism deserves no part in our ‘daytime work’ of striving to treat each other fairly, arguing decently, negotiating, experimenting, improving our models of the world, discarding the untrue and coming up with incrementally improved policy! 


As Benjamin Bratton so eloquently expresses, it is the ‘daytime’ realm of fact-informed exploration of the contingent that led to our modern projects in expansion of horizons of inclusion!  Indeed, the meme-generating system that is arguably the vanguard of this entire endeavor is science fiction - a genre dedicated to gedankenexperiment ponderings of "How might we change? or “What might it feel like to be the other? Or even more other?”


Alas, those who would bring romanticism back into command over the daytime activities of fact-adjudication and negotiation and justice and policy include nearly all of today’s mad right, of course, as well as elements of the left that you all know very well, if you pause and strive for honesty. 

These are champions of an old, old zeitgeist that will only bring us all crashing down in desperate pain… 

...while they sing about how glorious it is to feel! 

And of course, in order to feel, there must be vast amounts of pain. Right?


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Danger to LEO... and Siberia! Strategic reserves and Red/Blue death rates! How Fetterman/Oz recalls Lincoln/Douglas... and that's just today!

I'm rushing out a midweek posting because just today(!) there are too many items that need urgent attention, starting with several I’ve only been warning about for a long time. Years, in fact. (Though I save the most egregious for last):   

1. 'Amid fierce battles, Russia warns it could hit US satellites'… especially the Starlink system that Elon Musk deployed, that has proved crucial to Ukraine - but Putin’s real goal would be to degrade the spectacularly successful support from US spy/intel sats. And if he blew up Low Earth Orbit (LEO) we would all suffer in a myriad ways.  Except that our armored spy-sats would continue unimpeded.  And you'll recall me talking about this many times.  

2. For 15 years I’ve said that Taiwan and the S. China Sea are diversions from the real goal

3. Under Bush and then under Trump, the US helium reserve was given away - at steep discount - to Republican Party donors… and now we don’t have enough to run medical equipment. Republicans also raided the oil reserve and strategic metals reserves to give away at sweetheart deals.  In contrast, Biden (and Clinton) sold oil from the strategic reserve when prices were at maximum and used the profits later to buy and refill the reserve, when prices plummeted. It’s called "buy low and sell high” and duh? Supposed market enthusiasts should approve. And of Keynesian stimuli that work, when "supply side" never did. Once. Ever. At all. Even one time... unless the aim was (of course) to skyrocket wealth disparities. If so, mission accomplished.

4.  That and the pure fact that federal deficit-to-gdp ratios always go DOWN under democrats and skyrocket under Repubs. Always. And I mean that. Always.

5. US economy rebounds in the third quarter as GDP growth of 2.6% surpasses expectations.

6. More Trump Hotels Charged Secret Service Exorbitant Rates.

7. Americans die younger in states run by conservatives, study finds. Well, again, duh? GOP run states (except Utah) suck in far more federal tax $ than they contributes and have for 150 years. And the reddest dominate the charts in every turpitude. 

8. If We need any more evidence and proof of the derangement of Putin’s mentality the following link to an article gives it: “Why Russia Stole Potemkin’s Bones From Ukraine.” Especially since we in the west know the word "potemkin" primarily for one thing.  As a synonym for putting up a false front. (Look up 'Potemkin Village'.)

9. Enviro bad news... but some really good news, too!  

Consider what we have seen just this year: Deadly flooding and heat waves spread in the U.S. In Europe and China, droughts dried up rivers, exposing sunken warships and cutting off supply routes. In Pakistan, a heat wave sent temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and monsoon floods submerged a third of the country. In the U.S. we are seeing dozens of '500 year" events every single year.

Even under the most optimistic climate forecasting models, such extreme weather will get worse and become more common in the coming decades.

And yet... 

While 5 degrees of warming once seemed possible, scientists now estimate that the Earth is on track to warm by 2 to 3 degrees. That difference might not seem huge, but it translates to fewer record-breaking floods, storms, droughts and heat waves and potentially thousands or millions of lives saved in the coming decades.

“The window of possible climate futures is narrowing, and as a result, we are getting a clearer sense of what’s to come: a new world, full of disruption but also billions of people, well past climate normal and yet mercifully short of true climate apocalypse,” explains this cogent article.

10. And finally (for a rushed, mid-week posting), media fulminate over the PA debate, wherein Fetterman saying 'good night' at the beginning and read from a closed caption screen. In fact, Mr. Fetterman reads and writes fine, but has a slight hearing aphasia. Hence the closed caption screen. And guess what, we elect Senators to innovate and vote on POLICY, which is mostly written. 

MAGAs' mean-minded prejudice attacks on Fetterman's health is belied by their support of the obviously insane H Walker and MT Green and D Trump, who crowed that he had 'passed' a mental acuity test that was designed for extreme stroke victims, that a five year old would score better on. He refused any sort of normal mental capacity test by neutral parties.

And dig it, even if JF dies in office or has to retire he won't be a dictator loving, lying lunatic like Mehmet Oz.

Meanwhile, though, there's a far more important take away from the Oz-Fetterman debate.  I bet no one commented on how the Oz-statement on abortion (that the federal government should leave it all to the states) exactly echoes the position of Stephen Douglas, in the 1858 Lincoln Douglas Debates.  In some places almost word-for-word...

... so let's remember what Douglas said should be 'left to the states.' Slavery. And for a cheater minority who seized power within some states to anchor in their dominance forever. Today, it is about more than abortion. That 'states rights' excuse for oligarchy and oppression includes gerrymandered permanent GOP power ignoring the populace, supported by the Roberts Doctrine.

And that  is the real reason why you need to grab every insipid 'they're all the same' splitter by the scruff and tell them what you'll do to them, if they don't spread the word to every lazy-rationalizing Stein-Naderite. To vote.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Space tech updates

My friend Frank Drake passed, at age 92. We served together on the advisory external council of NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC)... and corresponded for decades about SETI... the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent civilizations. His famed "Drake Equation" was more of a tool for organizing conversations and discussions of SETI, rather than to actually determine anything. But in that purpose it served very well and won Frank deserved, longstanding fame and memory.

So many other accomplishments. Like working with Carl Sagan to concoct the Pioneer Plaque and Voyager Golden Record.  Then there's the science. Need to digest this while pondering a fine and transformative human.

A balmy moon: “Scientists have discovered shaded locations within pits on the Moon that always hover around a comfortable 63 °F (about 17 °C),”  reports SciTech Daily

While I am notorious in my intense dislike of the “Artemis” push to send US astronauts to shuffle footprints on a useless plain of poison dust, repeating a rite-of-passage we completed 50 years ago – (let other nations and zillionaire Apollo-wannabes race to get their Bar-Moonzvahs there!) I do support continuing NASA robotic studies of Luna, including both pockets of polar ice and these incredible cave pits, that might offer future habitats and the seeds for lunar cities. In fact, a quickie rover to explore one of these pits is funded by NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC). (I am on the advisory External Council.)

An out-of-this-world photo of the moon, as two astrophotographers, Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne collaborated to combine over 200,000 shots to create a single lunar image of resplendent color and detail.

== Lunar can be Loonie ==

Same general topic: An amazing truth-telling by former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver about the insanely wasteful “Space Launch System” or SLS. 

As a patriot, I hope the SLS launch finally goes well. And the 2nd and 3rd rockets we’ve paid for. But then be done with this incredible dinosaur.

 Garver: "I felt like the five years, and the $10 billion, was too much to begin with, and we wouldn't even make that. And if I had known it would be more like 12 years, and more than twice that much, I probably couldn't have even stood silently against the wall. But I don't know what else I was supposed to do. I still don't know to this day if my boss, Charlie, was in on the whole deal early or just dragged along. I really think that meeting with the senators was just probably to burn me, because I think Charlie was in on it, too. I thought it was silly because, you know, I didn't have a vote that was going to override the Senate. My issue is that the whole point of the space program is to align with the nation's goals. And so having a handful of senators earmark a rocket program to contractors that have already proven they weren't able to deliver was not right.”

== A better target for our ambitions ==

Wow, amid our justified pride over the Perseverance rover and her sidekick helicopter, let’s not forget that Curiosity has been there for 10 years(!) providing stunning mages – such as those here – along with heaps of science. And your civilization did this. Try a little confidence?

Speaking of Red Planet stuff… NASA and ESA spacecraft have created a water map of Mars. ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have teamed up to collect data for the last decade, creating a global map of aqueous minerals (rocks that have been chemically altered by the action of water in the past). Because aqueous minerals still contain water molecules, this information, along with known locations of buried water-ice, will be essential to planning landing sites for human exploration of Mars.

So cool. My friend astronomer Leslie Young and her colleague brother were featured in this web feature about their mission to the Northern Australian outback with 12 sophisticated NASA telescopes. Exactly where calculations predicted Pluto could be seen passing in front of (occulting) a star. (None of the scopes could actually see Pluto.). If all went well, most of the them would measure dimming of the star as data about Pluto’s diameter and atmosphere… and just one scope might see that atmosphere suddenly flare brightly! Weather threatened and two scopes failed… but… but… well, have a look!

By coincidence, around 1965 I participated in grazing stellar occultations by the limb of the moon! All done analog by observers. We’d shout the star was "on!" and "Off!" while WWV recited time in the background, providing data to map polar mountains. Crude stuff! And I hear that it’s still (less crudely!) done today.

In trying to understand why Ceres’ misty exosphere contains ammonia, simulations find that the dwarf planet formed past Saturn and moved inward.

== Space Tech updates ==

This Ukrainian company has a new take on the old concept of a ‘hybrid rocket’ – in this case one in which the rocket’s very body provides the fuel, consuming itself.

It’s been shown to be possible to decelerate a very large, inflatable entry vehicle to enter Earth’s atmosphere and finally descend to land. The opposite direction – from the ground (or upper atmosphere) accelerating into orbit – is much harder. But is it impossible?  

After analyzing data gathered when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a sample from asteroid Bennu in October 2020, scientists have learned something astonishing: The spacecraft would have sunk into Bennu had it not fired its thrusters to back away immediately after it grabbed dust and rock from the asteroid’s surface.’ Loose” seems inadequate to describe the surface.

== Way farther out! ==

In this fantastic James Webb Space Telescope image, the Cartwheel Galaxy sports two rings — a bright inner ring and a surrounding, colorful ring. These two rings expand outwards from the center of the collision, like ripples in a pond after a stone is tossed into it. The galaxy is located about 500 million light years away. 

More galaxies than even Sagan envisioned“Our most detailed observations of the distant Universe, from the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, gave us an estimate of 170 billion galaxies. A theoretical calculation from a few years ago — the first to account for galaxies too small, faint, and distant to be seen — put the estimate far higher: at 2 trillion. But even that estimate is too low. There ought to be at least 6 trillion, and perhaps more like 20 trillion, galaxies.

Woof. Somehow, billions-and-billions didn’t quite daunt me. Twenty Trillions does.

Astronomers believe this ‘super Earth’ could be an ‘ocean planet,’ a planet completely covered by a thick layer of water. TOI-1452 b is nearly 70% larger than Earth “and its density can only be explained if a large fraction of (its) mass is made up of volatiles such as water.” The surface of the earth is 70% water, but water makes up only 1% of the planet’s mass, scientists say. A computer simulation of conditions on TOI-1452 b revealed “water could make up as much as 30% of its mass,” NASA reports.

== And yeah… aliens ==

A cogent essay by astrophysicist Adam Frank on how ‘standards of evidence’ should apply to UAP/UFO investigations and those in the public who desperately clutch at any excuse to shout ‘aliens!’

I know concepts of the 'alien' as well as any entity on this planet. And while UFO fetishism tends to be dumb, I keep looking at the 'evidence’ with an open mind. Still, I offer a much better explanation here.

  "Avi Loeb, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is planning an expedition to retrieve fragments of the meteor from the ocean floor. By analyzing the debris, he is hoping to determine the object's origins — even going so far as to make the extraordinary suggestion that it could be a technological object created by aliens."

 The notion of alien relics underwater is ancient. But very close to his description is a scene in my novel Existence.

Finally... Currently, Saturn is at its closest point to Earth.

LOTTA cool stuff.  Now go forth with confidence in a bold, smart, scientific civilization...

...and vote!  Get others to get off their duffs and defend that civilization from lobotomization.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Democratic Centralism?

 Before we dive into political philosophy, how about word from science, wherein we prove daily that at least some parts of this civilization are smart and not-insane!  For excample...

...For your science listening pleasure on Planetary Radio! Now posted are Mat Kaplan’s interviews with bold teams presenting at the 2022 Symposium in Tucson of NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC). Amazing endeavors, just this side (and sometimes not!) of science fiction. It can also be found on Apple Podcasts and from all the other major podcast providers. 

== Democratic Centralism? ==

Sometimes it is important to pause in our immediate struggles for a little perspective. Remember that all 'sides' of the 'spectrum' can be hijacked by monsters. George Orwell's books, especially Homage to Catalonia, show how the left can dissolve into a circular firing squad of impractical purity-ism. (Orwell was a lifelong socialist, btw.)

 Likewise, today's utterly crazy-treasonous Mad Right slavishly follows the 'Hastert Rule' that forbids Republican lawmakers from ever, ever negotiating or finding compromises or even making friendships with Democrats. Whatever is declared GOP/Fox policy must be maintained by all members of the most tightly disciplined movement in US history. Even when it is starkly insane. (Look up Dennis Hastert. Head of the entire GOP for a decade, whose 'rule' is rigidly enforced. I mean it: look him up.)

Look up, also, Democratic Centralism. Ironically, this began as a dictum of the left! , a modus invented by Lenin, enforced brutally in Spain, and maintained today by both Putin and the Dear Leader to the south.  

The difference between the left's version of party "centralism" and today's Republican Party is that the Never Negotiate rule established by Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert is likely enforced not by ideology... or even the drive of anti-intellectualism that was denounced by Robert Heinlein... but by blackmail. Just the documented cases of GOP pols exposed as child predators would make that pretty obvious.

(Do you honestly think Lindsey Graham is anything but the tip of the toxic iceberg?)

On today's left, attempts to enforce 'democratic centralism" face two problems. (1) there is no argument or discussion permitted - whatever the loudest voices declare to be 'woke' automatically is the only point of view allowed. Ironically, this means that all the bullies are so focused on symbolism that boring policy matters are left to the pragmatists.

Also (2) the vast majority of Democratic voters simply don't want Leninist bullying. They want practical progress. Moderate liberals are the only large clades in American life who now care more about progress than symbolism, alas.

== Questioning the only tribe that ever encouraged questioning ==

There's an irony here. Both white supremacists and lefty woke-ists are expressing fierce tribal patriotism, hormonally no different than those who chanted loyalty to flags or crowns or totems in Sparta, Dahomey or Delhi or Akkad, across 6000 years. 

What differs is the tradeoff between fear and horizons of inclusion in the definition of 'my tribe.’  Anthropologists have shown that fear is the strongest factor determining where those borders set.

In those whom fear is strongest, tribal borders or 'horizons' lie close-in, as was the case for most of our ancestors (hence 'history.') The totems of your nation, or sub-set or ethnicity. Or cult.

But as fear declines, those boundaries of inclusion tend (depending also on culture) to spread wider and include more kinds of people, then more, until 'people' itself becomes a broader term.

I describe it all here...

...and no question I am loyal to this general process, since my own 'kind' were a pariah type, just a generation ago.  Moreover, I deem this historically rare reflex - to expansively include the next and then the next previously marginalized group - to be humanity's best hope to achieve our potential, and possibly be first to reach the galaxy. By enhancing justice and freedom. By ceasing the insanity of prejudice, whose main outcome is the waste of talent. By expanding horizons.

Hence - though many on the Left would vomit, thinking of me as an ally, I nevertheless am one... and a vigorously effective one who shares the same set of long term goals.

Our problem with today's Mad Right is that they are so drenched in fear that they think their loyalty borders must be defined by insipid things like skin color or lack of education, along with frantic obeisance to a restored feudal oligarchy, as in times of old.  Even though 60 centuries show that approach was tried and it never, ever worked.

The problem with the woke left is not the direction they want us to travel, toward ever-widening horizons of inclusion! It is their stunning lack of perspective. Historical, scientific, cultural. They have one loyalty, as fiercely and emotionally clutched as any past patriotism to country, tribe or flag. 

That ferocious and vehement loyalty is to the otherness endeavor itself! Today's - this year's - forward edge of the project of inclusion. 

Ironically, of course, NONE of the other tribes, nations, cultures that they now extoll as being so much better than the West ever had such an outward/inclusive cultural mania, or ever taught children to be so critical of their own tribal elders. Only the culture that raised them - with Hollywood's relentless century of diversity/tolerance/eccentricity/individualist memes - only that culture ever pushed this Otherness Project.  

Hence, while pouring spite toward all the older symbols of the West and America (flags, anthems and such) their every waking moment is spent chanting incantations that are almost entirely unique to the culture that raised them.

== Who taught you these values of tolerance and inclusion and all that? ==

The answer is Hollywood. In the greatest propaganda campaign of all time, Hollywood flicks and associated musical and story-memes, have pushed Suspicion of Authority, Tolerance, Diversity and appreciation of individual Eccentricity in almost every work we've watched or suckled since we were toddlers. A vast campaign that I appove-of! Naturally, since I was raised by it, too.  An irony I lay out in my recent - highly rambuncious and entertaining nonfiction book VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.

I have found that this irony - it loops around on itself in brain-hurting ways - is almost impossible for reflexive partisans to grasp. They suspect a trick. They assume I am arguing against the project! Trying to undermine it!

In fact I am as loyal to the Diversity and Inclusion Project as they are, and arguably more so! Because I care deeply about how self-righteousness and addictive sanctimony cause so many to lose perspective, or any ability to appraise - and re-appraise - tactics! In order to discover which tactics will work best to protect the Enlightenment Experiment against resurgent feudalism.

Re-appraising and replacing failed tactics is how to succeed at moving toward those great strategic goals.  

On the other hand, rigidity, obeisance to symbolism instead of pragmatic victories, the spurning of allies and narrowing of purity standards for coalition... these are sicknesses that have hamstrung the movement so often in the past - since long before Lenin or Orwell - and threaten its very survival, today.




Open call! Would your school system or military base like several hundred copies of a David Brin novel? One loaded with science and action and interesting concepts? I can arrange it for EXISTENCE!

See the beautiful and hugely fun 3 minute video trailer!

(Anyone know a system to get books to multiple military bases and units? I tried years ago and it was astonishingly hard. Can do more than just Existence.)