Friday, January 13, 2023

Science advances for a new year - We are (or can be) amazing!

Looking back at 2022: a roundup of scientific achievements... from asteroids to AI and (possibly) fusion. Science journal calls the initial data and images from the James Webb Space Telescope the 2022 Breakthrough of the year.

In light of my many past discussions of citizen science and the rising Age of Amateurs, here’s a list of existing citizen science programs and platforms. 

I was honored to participate in the 50th anniversary volume following up on Alvin Toffler's classic futurist work Future Shock, with the release of: After Shock—“Future Shock at 50” project. You can view the full list of essay contributors here

 

"The brilliant and insight-filled Closer to Truth TV series features David Brin in a few episodes on consciousness, on alien life, new parameters constraining religion... and whether we live in a simulation."


== Physics wow…==


Investigating the insides of a proton: Okay I may have my union card as a physicist. But the folks doing this stuff are way, way other-species-level smarter than me!  In large clouds of collaboration – and in isolated singular brilliance – particle physicists have been mapping the intricate inner complexity of the proton.


Yeah, the proton isn’t just made of three quarks (two ‘up’ and one ‘down’) but also a fantastic cloud of temporary ones popping out of and back int a gluon ‘sea.’ Plus two ephemeral ‘charmed’ quarks that each weigh more than the proton, itself.


The key concept is pair production out of stressed space from the background Dirac Sea. Almost all such pairs re-annihilate back into the sea, repaying the borrowed mass before the debt is called-in. This kind of thing is also the cause of Hawking radiation next to a black hole AND the 'strange' pair that flickers in and out, within the proton.


And there are those (including me in a pair of older SF stories) who claim that the entire Big Bang may have erupted when one such borrowing was never paid back (so to speak.)   Mind blown yet? See more if you dare. 


Meanwhile... Scientists simulate a black hole in the lab: Not quite the cavitron creation of actual massive micro singularities that forms the underlying premise of my novel Earth. Nor is this quite what the headline implies. This is not a ‘black hole’ but an ‘analog’ that replicates a few of the boundary conditions. Still, kinda cool results.


And... 


"A one-dimensional chain of atoms served as a path for electrons to 'hop' from one position to another. By tuning the ease with which this hopping can occur, the physicists could cause certain properties to vanish, effectively creating a kind of event horizon that interfered with the wave-like nature of the electrons," reports Science Alert.

 This in turn created an analog to Hawking Radiation… sort of. The model offers a way to study the emergence of Hawking radiation in an environment that isn't influenced by the wild dynamics of the formation of a black hole.

Well, well. Ain't we something.

== Bio World! ==


Okay let’s start (woof!) with uplift! One team of scientists examines prospects for how humans could artificially select for canine intelligence to such a degree as to produce canines with human levels of intelligence within a relatively short amount of time—600 years.  In other words, the ‘neo-dogs’ I speak of in my Uplift Novels. Um.


Then there’s the hippo who recently half swallowed a small boy!  Reminds me of one of the dumbest (of many) parts of Jurassic Park (a movie I overall love!) It is the insane scene of the kids feeding tree branches to a harmless "veggie" apatosaurus. Dig it, herbivores will snap up meat when they can! Cows who find a wounded cricket, heck even recent roadkill. Those kids woulda been a quick snack!  


Of course Spielberg is not above using some of the tricks I expose in Vivid Tomorrows. Like in the movie "Minority Report" punishing 'woulda' crimes far more harshly than 'did it' ones! In Jurassic Park, maybe some one could suggest they create only herbivores till the security system is tested? Pay for only the elegiacal half of John Williams's score!


A growing body of research suggesting that acetaminophen's (Tylenol’s) effects on pain reduction also extend to various psychological processes, lowering people's receptivity to hurt feelings, experiencing reduced empathy, and even blunting cognitive functions. And leading to increased acceptance of risky activity. While the effects might be slight, they add up, with nearly 25 percent of the population in the U.S. taking acetaminophen each week.


The latest CARTA (Center for Anthropogeny - or Human Origins) symposium was filled with incredible new insights, such as full results from comparing human to non-human primates, genome and effects.  One fascinating revelation, that certain mutations and duplication effects very clearly increased human density and distance-reach of dendrites and synapses, which (one assumes) had strong effects upon mental processing advantages.


But nothing is free! Some of those same changes are correlated or associated with developmental delay, irritability, epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism in human children.  The symposium can now be viewed by recording.


Do folks in Papua New Guinea benefit from immune system tricks in the 5% of their genomes inherited from Denisovans? “These findings dovetail with earlier work on the role of Neanderthal variants in living Europeans. Studies of both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in different populations are showing how mating with archaic humans—long-adapted to their regions—provided a rapid way for incoming modern humans to pick up beneficial genes.”


There's so much more (for another time).


What an age! As Zaphod put it... we're not just amazing. We're amazingly amazing!


Except when (as Marvin put it) we're just awful.


183 comments:

Tony Fisk said...

In his (deep) history of Europe, Prof. Tim Flannery points out the beneficial aspects of inter-species matings (eg 'ligers'). He even goes so far as to suggest it's necessary for long term health of a species.

Matt. said...

So theres been a bit more cool stuff in Biology, at least for SciFi fans. The glorious Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz lab can grow a mouse embryo that appears to be.viable from purified cell types. Huh? Awesome, huh. My personal favorite in Blastocyst complementation ala Hiromitsu Nakamuchi's lab, which could eventually allow humanized transplantable organs, kidneys or bone marrow, o be grown in a host. Jack Szostak's laboratory is developing fully synthetic cells and has some really keen advances lately. If you want to live in interstellar space you'll need to get out of your body, and someday it may be helpful to make a new one.

scidata said...

The impact of citizens (amateurs) on science is impressive, but the fate of the enlightenment itself rests on the impact of science on the citizenry.

"The scientific spirit is of more value than its products" - Thomas Huxley


and my personal favourite,
Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I remember,
Involve me and I learn.
- Benjamin Franklin


and Steven Pinker's The War on Rationality puts it in 'unkitschy' terms:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdzNKQwkp-Y

Matt. said...

The great Hiromitsu Nakauchi I deeply apologize for autocorrect fail.

Unknown said...

I just realized that Rishathra was a real thing.

Pappenheimer

P.S. - so part of our success as a species may have been the willingness to...oh wow. And here I thought we were KILLER apes.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Dig it, herbivores will snap up meat when they can! Cows who find a wounded cricket, heck even recent roadkill. Those kids woulda been a quick snack!


And yet, I can't convince my brother to eat turkey just once a year on Thanksgiving. Go figure.

Alan Brooks said...

Forgiven. Please comment more; you’re an antidote to a naysayer here.

Lena said...

When I was in 9th grade one of my teachers called me Marvin. I read some passages from the books and she thought I did the best Marvin voice. "Life, don't talk to me about life! You can loathe it, you can tolerate it, but you can never enjoy it."


PSB

Alan Brooks said...

‘Future Shock’, Bravo. And his follow-up, ‘The Third Wave’.
Around the same time I read ‘The Immortalist’, the title a play on Gide’s ‘The Immoralist’.

Lena said...

Matt,

I suspect that in the future we will go far beyond just replacing bits and pieces. Genetically modify the right mix of GABA receptors and future people will be able to retain memories at phenomenal rates, for one. My suspicion, though, is that it will start out with vanity projects, like adding glow-in-the-dark jellyfish genes to people''s private parts.

PSB

Lena said...

Pappenheimer,

"And here I thought we were KILLER apes."

Some are, and we all have that potential within us. But negativity bias rules. Anything we think is bad, we remember at three times the rate of good things. This makes pessimism a common condition, but an unrealistic one, and not mentally healthy, either.

PSB

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

Anything we think is bad, we remember at three times the rate of good things.


There has got to be an evolutionary reason for remembering what is harmful or threatening. Avoiding repetition would be my guess. My own life, especially when I was younger, was driven by a possibly-unhealthy priority at avoiding "missed opportunities". Or regretting the ones I didn't avoid. (I still believe that Stacey would have gone out with me back in '76 if I only had the nerve to approach her.)

Acacia H. said...

So. I'm sure we've all commented on the Karen Syndrome at some point.

It seems that some Karens have decided to use their power for Good instead of evil with the company "Karens for Hire". In short, going after companies that have forsaken good customer services and instead relies on fucking over customers and just finding new victims, or hoping people go away after being ignored long enough. Somehow this just brightened my day and has me smiling.

Acacia H.

Alan Brooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

Somehow this just brightened my day and has me smiling.


"More carin' than Karen." Heh.

Nice of the Washington Post to allow reading a certain number of articles without a credit card.

And what, is this the week for the return of missing posters? First PSB, and now you.

Alan Brooks said...

...it was the negatives in the books that were the most enlightening. We all knew from the space programs—just for one example—of the positives...

Acacia H. said...

Larry, I pop in here periodically. I just don't stick around very often. I disagree with some of Dr. Brin's actions in talking down to folk and his constant comments on how if only people listened to him then Republicans would be obviously doomed and their views cast down quickly (I am exaggerating for effect and humor purposes... somewhat) and decided to just pop in when I found something I thought would cheer folk up or was especially interesting.

For instance, a plant believed to have gone extinct two millenia ago, silphion, which was used in birth control, cooking, and all sorts of things, has been found again in Turkey? And scientists figured out how to get it to grow (you need cold wet conditions at the start of the growing season if I remember correctly) so hopefully its medicinal aspects may soon become known.

Acacia H.

Tony Fisk said...

Re: snacking herbivores.
It was 'Terra Nova' that went there, when the young daughter
has to be rescued from the clump of bracken she's hanging onto,
after she proffers it to a browsing brachiosaur.

Alfred Differ said...

PSB,

Our ultimate genetic vanity project will involve adding chromatophores linked to endocrine and other signals.

Makeup pigments are among the oldest things traded by humans across large distances, so I'll argue we've wanted this ability for countless generations.

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer,

We are much too closely related to bonobos for me to swallow a description of us as killer apes. 8)

On top of that, I have anecdotal evidence from when I was young that guys seemed to be willing to f@$k anything they thought wouldn't immediately kill them. "Rabbit or Duck Apes" was how I used to think of us. Sure... not all of us are like that, but it doesn't take many to ensure the viability of the technique for arranging for their genetic survival.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I have anecdotal evidence from when I was young that guys seemed to be willing to f@$k anything they thought wouldn't immediately kill them.
...
but it doesn't take many to ensure the viability of the technique for arranging for their genetic survival.


Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, but wouldn't f-ing non-humans be a waste of genetic material, doing nothing to insure genetic survival?

duncan cairncross said...

Larry Hart

It turns out that "species" are nowhere near as self contained as we were taught!

Larry Niven's "Rishathra" is nowhere near to being a good contraception gambit

Tony Fisk said...

While it's patently untrue, I've noticed that there is a persistent assumption that sex is performed purely for procreation. ('Wasting your time' is a humorous Catholic reference to unproductive sexual activities)

The point of Ringworld's 'rishathra' custom was to form specifically social bonds (and hence memes) rather than genetic ones (interesting to get Dawkin's professional opinion on whether the notion would be sound)

While a degree of inter-species sex will allow an exchange of fresh genes (if the match takes), it is also worth considering what exchanges via retroviral infections might achieve.

Tony Fisk said...

@Duncan look up 'ring species': chains of semi populations who can interbreed with the immediate neighbours, but not the more remote ones.
Classic case is the atlantic herring gull, which can be followed all the way round the Arctic Circle to become the distinctly different spotted gull (the original probably spread from Bering Strait)
All species start off like this, with one intermediate population dying out.
I don't recall how the various hominid species separated out on Ringworld.
Geographic remoteness of isolated Protector breeders at interplanetary scales would be a possibility.

David Brin said...

I'm in Newsweek cause of a tweet. Sigh. I'll take what I can get.

https://www.newsweek.com/missouri-republicans-dress-code-women-blasted-so-many-questions-1773481

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Heh. You're going to tell me a puppy h*mping your leg isn't cute and likely to get him fed and cared for?

The point isn't about the delivery of any one genetic 'package'. It's about being ready to deliver them and then acting on the opportunity. If everything that doesn't run away or try to kill you is a possible opportunity, surely some packages will be delivered to useful locations. 8)

This method reminds me of our host's description of those 'messages' found in Existence. Send them everywhere!

Pollen from conifers is delivered like that as many allergy sufferers notice every year.

Unknown said...

Alfred,

Yes, my wife gets bad allergies every spring from trees trying to have congress with her.

Pappenheimer

Re: the inner secrets of nuclei, that sounds really interesting - I've heard before that this universe could just be a random fluctuation in space/time, and even iron has a decay rate. As long as it doesn't suddenly de-fluctuate while I'm in it, it's cool.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

While it's patently untrue, I've noticed that there is a persistent assumption that sex is performed purely for procreation. ('Wasting your time' is a humorous Catholic reference to unproductive sexual activities)


I could never be credibly accused of harboring that particular assumption. However, in context, I took "arranging for genetic survival" to refer to planting one's seeds far and wide. And it seemed to me that...narrowcasting to areas with "ground" that those seeds could actually grow on would be a more efficient strategy.

Alfred since cleared up that he meant much more than that.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. You're going to tell me a puppy h*mping your leg isn't cute and likely to get him fed and cared for?


To each their own, but point taken. That particular dog behavior doesn't endear them to me. However, I did marry a catwoman of sorts.

David Brin said...

Ukraine's homegrown battle innovations are impressive. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has also offered the United States and its allies a rare opportunity to study how their own weapons systems perform under intense use. Been saying this for months. It is likely why ALL kinds of NATO armor are now pouring in - e.g. small numbers of tanks freom Sweden, France, Germany, US - partly to help but also to be tested - instead of settling on one kind to send in. This is among the reasons Ta-i wan will be safe for a decade.

https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/15/politics/ukraine-russia-war-weapons-lab/index.html


A side note: Can we please be more selective re woked language reforms? I am okay when they make sense. But seeing "sevice members" all over the place is just plain dumb speak. In most situations, the word 'soldier" is fine. Non-gendered nowadays. I mean criminy.

Tony Fisk said...

Small numbers of NATO tanks, because that's all that are available.
Ukraine had about 800 tanks (T72s?) to begin with.
Russia has burned through 3000 mbts so far, plus 6000 apcs. And 114,000 people. Losses from appalling tactics to date, but you see who has the numbers...
British army only has 250 Challenger 2s on the books.
Germany has about 80 Leopard 2s in storage which will take a while to commission.
(Germany has been notably reluctant to supply arms to date. Poland and Finland have a better feel for what imperialist nutters they're dealing with.)

Alan Brooks said...

What happens to Ta-i wan a decade from now? The Dragon pounces?

David Brin said...

AB a decade is now a century

Tim H. said...

I wouldn't be surprised if whenever the dust settles between Taiwan & China, Xi's policies will be seen as what delayed settlement. Economically, their fates are bound, with patience, that can increase. Perhaps Xi has the incorrect cultural icon linked, not so much Winnie the Pooh as Verruca Salt.

Lena said...

Acacia H.,

No matter how hard people try, they are unlikely to ever get rid of either Republicans or Democrats. Sure, maybe those parties will disintegrate, but new ones will form with similar agenda. Neither side will persuade the other, in part because different people have different instincts. In the last thread I mentioned the work of Helen Fisher to Alfred (though now I think I may have mentioned it years ago, and IIRC he took the test - my memory is crap). Fisher identified four major neurochemicals that have a huge impact on human temperament, which is the genetic half of personality. Everyone has a natural mix of all four, but very few people have them all at the same level. For most people, one dominates to some extent over the others, and the dominant chemical leads people to having different drives. People with high Testosterone scores tend to be competitive, people whose are serotonin dominant are conformist. These two types are more likely to have conservative beliefs. Dopamine people are curious and thrill-seekers, while oxytocin people are nurturing and social. Those two are more likely to fall into the liberal camp. Unless our ability to modify our own brains changes radically, this variation will always exist.

Having said that, though, I'm completely on board with Dr. Brin. The Republican party has been grooming its base for fascism since the Nixon Administration, and the more I read, the more scared I get.

PSB

Unknown said...

Folks, please watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VURKY-447dk

No spoilers, but it's worth it.

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

I hope Bob Newhart won't sue.

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

Nicely critical and cynical... I've done that riff too... and talked Morgo into holding off for a while.

duncan cairncross said...

Re Taiwan and China

I just had a thought - about Ireland

Ireland was "split" into two parts about 100 years ago

For decades there was no chance of a reconciliation - there was the dirt poor majority (South) and a smaller richer minority in the North

Then we had Maggie Thatcher - her economic policies gutted the UK - which enabled Eire (Southern Ireland) to overtake the North in wealth

While a richer MINORITY (the North) would never dream of joining with a poor Majority a richer MAJORITY will accept union with a poorer minority

And so we had the "Good Friday Agreement"

Not a "union" - a single Ireland YET - but its inching closer

China and Taiwan
The poor majority and the richer minority

IF China becomes "richer" (wealth per person) THEN I suspect that Taiwan will move towards a union

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin, I've been trying to write every day (not that many years left to get better), and I wondered if I could post a vignette here. Totally off topic, but might be amusing. The subject is golf. And family.

Pappenheimer

P.S. saying no is cool

Alfred Differ said...

David,

I use 'service member' mostly because they use it. It sounds really weird in my ears, but so does 'war fighter' which is much more common than 'soldier' nowadays. 'Soldier' is really for the Army and the other branches look at it askance.

If I had my druthers, I'd say 'enlistedmn' and purposely misspell it each time for the non-officers. I won't win that fight, though. 8)

PSB,

I haven't tried any test, but I DO recall you mentioning the results of her study. I paid attention when they were mentioned in Sapolsky's book... which was pretty much everywhere in the first 2/3rds of the book.

What stuck for me was how we misattribute behaviors to various neurochemicals. I don't like to use the term 'toxic masculinity' anymore because too many people immediately equate it with excess testosterone. The truth is more about competition and the desire for it. The term has its meaning, but too many people use it wrong for me to use it.

Unknown said...

Alfred,

For a while the Army was calling troops "Warriors", even the ones loading trucks or holding bedpans. I started out as an "Airman", which I suppose sounds better than a "Seaman".

'toxic masculinity' might have had some value in spreading your genes back before the Maxim gun.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

Ok, at least someone besides me has noticed both of these options:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Jan16-1.html

When push comes to shove in the late spring, what will the Democrats do? Biden might address the nation and explain the consequences of defaulting on the debt—a worldwide depression, a stock market crash, millions of jobs lost, etc. Then he will try to find five sane House Republicans to nip the plan in the bud. Where is Diogenes when you need him? If that fails and the Republicans simply will not budge, Biden has two options left. The first one is to order the U.S. Mint to produce some number of trillion-dollar platinum coins. It's sneaky, but it is absolutely legal. If the coins are deposited in the Fed's bank account and stored in Fort Knox but not spent, this stunt won't cause inflation because inflation happens when too much money is chasing too few goods and services. That wouldn't be the case here. This is just a stupid accounting trick.

The second one is for Biden to cite the Fourteenth Amendment and say that the debt-limit law is unconstitutional, so he will just ignore it and order the treasury to keep issuing debt. Section 4 starts out as follows:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

...

Darrell E said...

duncan cairncross said...
"Larry Hart

It turns out that "species" are nowhere near as self contained as we were taught!"


Always good to keep in mind that "species" is an artificial thing that we made up. It's a useful model, or models rather since no single model works well for all types of organisms. The BSC is great for sexually reproducing animals, not so great for bacteria. The models do map to reality, that's why we created them, but not perfectly. And like any good scientific models they change over time to account for new data.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

'Soldier' is really for the Army and the other branches look at it askance.


Yes, I wouldn't recommend calling a member of the Air Force or the Marines "soldier".

And my dad was in the Navy in the fifties, and was never anything resembling a soldier.

scidata said...

I tend to see everything in terms of transistors, weird I admit. I'm still laughing about the 'scidata has gone bye-bye Egon' line. So why stop now?

Re: decade is now a century
Wouldn't be shocked to see HK as the Chinese capital in two decades.

Re: Arizona
Would be nice if I could get my SELDON I fabricated in Arizona (the desert Formosa).
(partly due to the fact that the captain of the Maple Leafs hails from there)

Calculemus!

scidata said...

correction: alternate captain

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

I'm still laughing about the 'scidata has gone bye-bye Egon' line.


I'm not sure how many people interpreted that exchange in Ghost Busters the way I did, but I found it absolutely hilarious that the other character's follow-up, even as he was claiming to be too freaked out to think straight, managed to express that as:

"I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought."

Darrell E said...

"Blogger Tony Fisk said...
@Duncan look up 'ring species': chains of semi populations who can interbreed with the immediate neighbours, but not the more remote ones.
Classic case is the atlantic herring gull, which can be followed all the way round the Arctic Circle to become the distinctly different spotted gull (the original probably spread from Bering Strait)
All species start off like this, with one intermediate population dying out."


Interestingly, it is beginning to look like there actually are no ring species, at least as per a strict reading of the ring species concept. The several most common ring species used as examples have been falling one by one due to data from newer studies, and the archetypal example, the greenish warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides around the Tibetan Plateau, has also recently been shown not to be a ring species, in the strict sense of the concept.

This paper in the journal Nature tells the tale. In brief the study found strong evidence of past breaks in gene flow (geographical isolation) in several places around the ring. Also strong evidence of hybrids where the ring closes, even fertile ones, was found.

But I don't think that really detracts from your point, just thought it might be interesting. Actually, it seems to me that there are no good reasons why ring species in the strict sense could not occur, except that it seems the time frames of significant environmental change and biological evolutionary change are such that complete and permanent geographic isolation between every subgroup around a ring is a very low order of probability.

Lena said...

Duncan,

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Taiwan is about where anti-Soviet sentiment was in America during the 1950s. I think more will have to change before Taiwanese people would contemplate uniting with China. Specifically, the CCP has to go.

PSB

Lena said...

Alfred,

On the misattribution of biochemistry, to be frank, Joe Average is about 50 years behind the scientific community in most subjects, and abysmally unaware of even the existence of many scientific fields. Toxic masculinity is not only a force that has the potential to reduce democracies to fascist dictatorships, it is genuinely more common among men than women, and that is an effect of testosterone. But it is not the testosterone by itself that does that, it's the cultural context. Testosterone encourages competitive behavior, but the culture decides what that competition should look like. Remember what Sapolsky said about injecting monks with testosterone? They would suddenly become extremely competitive over who could do the most random acts of kindness. Likewise T-scores are found to be quite high in chess masters and corporate execs. After WW II Japanese samurai traded their katanas for brief cases. People who are not T-dominant have less instinct for competition, and so are less likely to be attracted to concepts like toxic masculinity. The important thing here, I would suggest, is not to eschew the term, but to make a point of showing people how the common conception of what testosterone does is wrong - that and encourage people to find less toxic uses for their testosterone.

BTW, there is also such a thing as toxic femininity. It tends to go hand-in-hand with the masculine variety, and is mostly a result of serotonin dominance. You would think that since there are four of these dominant neurohormones, they would be just about evenly distributed in any given population. T-dominance actually turns out to be only 18% (I don't remember what the % was for serotonin). Given how H. sapiens changed around 50K years ago, I think we're seeing a trend line.

PSB

Darrell E said...

Really looking forward to watching that symposium from the Center for Anthropogeny.

Bearing on the same topic, I came across some fascinating research a couple of years ago about new findings about a human specific gene involved with brain expansion.

Here is an article about the research, Scientists Make Bigger Monkey Brains With The Help Of A Human Gene.


There are several papers that have been published about the research. This paper is about verifying the function of a human-specific gene related to increased brain size, Human-specific ARHGAP11B increases size and folding of primate neocortex in the fetal marmoset unfortunately this one is behind a paywall, though you can read the abstract).

To summarize, researchers identified a specific gene unique to humans that causes an increase in size and folding of the neocortex, the part of the brain involved in higher functions such as cognition, spatial reasoning and language among others. They verified the function of this specific gene by inserting it into fetal marmosets (a small primate) which, according to the paper, . . .

“. . . increased numbers of basal radial glia progenitors in the marmoset outer subventricular zone, increased numbers of upper-layer neurons, enlarged the neocortex, and induced its folding.”

What is most interesting about this research is that this human-specific version of this gene is a result of a single point mutation. This paper is about that part of the research, A single splice site mutation in human-specific ARHGAP11B causes basal progenitor amplification.

From the article describing the research (1st link above) . . .

“The mutation of a single genetic letter, namely the change from a C to a G, in the ARHGAP11B gene leads to the loss of 55 nucleotides in the formation of the corresponding messenger RNA,” explained Wieland Huttner, whose lab led all the studies on the gene mentioned in this article. “This results in a shift in the reading frame, which in turn leads to the human-specific, functionally essential sequence of 47 amino acids in the protein.”

“Such point mutations occur relatively frequently, but in the case of ARHGAP11B its advantages of forming a bigger brain seem to have immediately influenced human evolution,” Huttner added”


The timing of this mutation is also very interesting. From the paper . . .

"ARHGAP11B is the first, and hitherto only, human-specific protein-encoding gene that was shown to increase BP generation and proliferation (23). It arose on the human evolutionary lineage ~1 million years after divergence from the chimpanzee lineage, existed in Neanderthals and Denisovans, and is found in all present-day humans (23–25)."

Given the verified function of this human-specific gene and the time frame in our evolutionary history during which it evolved it seems very plausible that this single point mutation was a very significant factor in the relatively sudden increase in human cognitive abilities that set us apart from other species.

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

BTW, there is also such a thing as toxic femininity

From a purely layman's perspective, I don't know that I agree with that. As the only male human in my household, there have been plenty of times (especially involving my wife's sister or either of our mothers) during which I have had to lament that, "There is way too much estrogen in the room." And back when my wife ran her own business office, she'd mention that (illegal as it was), she was going to have to hire some guys whose presence would act as cooling rods on the interpersonal nuclear reactions going on among the women.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Scientists Make Bigger Monkey Brains...


Sorry, but that immediately took me to the "Chilled monkey brains" scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Unknown said...

Re: Species as a human construct

If you want to set my biology-trained wife off on her "lumpers and splitters" rant, that would do it.

Pappenheimer

P.S. I found the "...terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought..." line quite believable. I recall walking up to my high school chemistry teacher, blood dripping from my right hand onto the lab floor, and stating, "I need to go to the school nurse. My test tube shattered. The pain is quite excruciating."

Lena said...

Darrell,

Fascinating stuff. I remember reading about this a couple years ago, but I did not pursue it very far. One thing bugs me, though. How does a single-point mutation turn into a frameshift mutation? As far as I know, frameshift happen when nucleotides are added or deleted. Simply replacing a G with a C shouldn't cause a frameshift. ?!?!?

As Ricky Ricardo might say, Please splain.


PSB

Lena said...

Larry,

I think your example supports the assertion that toxic femininity is a thing, though I suspect it has more to do with prolactin and oxytocin than estrogen.

PSB

Alan Brooks said...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eWjIkhMZu7s

Darrell E said...

PSB,

Genetic codes are arranged in groups of 3 nucleotides, codons, each of which codes for a specific amino acid. The first codon in the strand sets the reading frame. A type of single point mutation is when a nucleotide is inserted or deleted, rather than changed. This shifts the reading frame. Let me see if I can get this to make sense.

DNA: GATCTCAAA . . ., or broken into codons to make the reading frame clear,
DNA: GAT CTC AAA

which translates to

mRNA: CUA GAG UUU . . .

Now imagine a C is inserted into the first codon after the G. Then you have,

DNA: GCATCTCAAA . . ., or GCA TCT CAA A . . .

which translates to

mRNA: CGU AGA GUU U . . .

See how the reading frame has shifted due to that single insert? It's not just a single codon that has been changed to something different, every codon after the insert is now different because the reading frame has shifted.

scidata said...

Re: codons

It doesn't get much Forthier than ribosomes. Computation and evolution are two fundamental processes of nature. God isn't a mathematician, but it may be a programmer.

Lena said...

Darrell,

Your example is an insertion, which, as I said, is a type of frameshift mutation. A substitution shouldn't be able to do that.

PSB

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

God isn't a mathematician, but it may be a programmer.


My understanding is that the biblical word "Elohim" is technically a plural. So God's pronoun may very well be "They".

David Brin said...

The Royal We. Puritans got in trouble for using the singular "thou" at the king. The English singulars are waiting to be used adapted by some group.

scidata said...

Plural-individual pronouns are so interesting. Swarm intelligence (sometimes portrayed in ST-TOS/TNG), can be referred to as either 'they' or 'it'. TOS was way far ahead of its time. Remember Zefram Cochrane's reaction when it's suggested to him that the cloud entity may actually love him? "That's disgusting !!" - and of course the audience would strongly disagree. Genius. A nobler time.

Acacia H. said...

Here's a little something fun: Scientists have successfully redirected the path that lightning takes using high-power laser pulses. This works better in many ways than lightning rods, seeing lightning rods have a much smaller radius where they protect. High-powered laser pulses would not likely be used in areas where airlines operate due to the risk to pilot vision if they cross the path of the laser... but would be effective in areas that have No Fly Zones, such as space centers.

Acacia H.

duncan cairncross said...

PSB

Anti-China sentiment in Taiwan even if as high as the anti-soviet 50's is a pale shadow of the hatred that was in Ireland

And that has turned around completely
If they took a vote today I suspect the Irish would join into one country
Certainly the young people would and I think they would now outvote the old fossils

The same will happen in Taiwan - the people who hate the CCP are the old fossils who feel THEIR right to rule was "usurped"

Darrell E said...

PSB,

Your right, I had assumed that the article was simply being sloppy with "The mutation of a single genetic letter, namely the change from a C to a G, . . ." and assumed that when the researchers said that a single point mutation led to a frame shift that it must have been an insertion or deletion.

But reading further into the actual paper, it's much more complicated. Apparently a single substitution can lead to a frame shift. How? I admit I don't fully grok how because it's way above my pay grade. But here's how in this particular case.

" However, at the position corresponding to base pair 661 of the ARHGAP11A protein-coding sequence, in exon 5, a single C→G base change in the ARHGAP11B sequence creates a novel GU-purine splice donor site, 55 nt 5′ to the ancestral one (Fig. 1). Therefore, these 55 nt, which, in ARHGAP11A, encode amino acid residues 221 to 238 that are part of the GAP domain (amino acids 46 to 246), are spliced out from the ARHGAP11B pre-mRNA and hence are lacking from the mRNA (Fig. 1 and fig. S2). Thus, the single C→G base change in the ARHGAP11B gene is ultimately the reason for the reading frame shift that leads to the truncation of the GAP domain of ARHGAP11B and its novel C-terminal sequence (amino acids 221 to 267; Fig. 1 and fig. S2), which is unique to ARHGAP11B and not found in any other protein thus far described in the animal kingdom (23)."

I can sort grasp the gist of that after about 30 minutes of reviewing the paper but as someone once said, "It's complicated." And here I thought I had a good grasp of this. Ha.

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

Scientists have successfully redirected the path that lightning takes using high-power laser pulses.


Jewish space lasers?

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

High-powered laser pulses would not likely be used in areas where airlines operate due to the risk to pilot vision if they cross the path of the laser.


They also couldn't be used in areas where intersecting a shield might cause explosive pyrotechnics.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

If they took a vote today I suspect the Irish would join into one country


Isn't that because it's no longer about Catholics joining with Protestants, but about reconstituting a single Ireland?

Is that what the younger Taiwanese also want? I'm not asking sarcastically--I really don't know the answer.

Larry Hart said...

Darrel E:

But reading further into the actual paper, it's much more complicated. Apparently a single substitution can lead to a frame shift. How? I admit I don't fully grok how because it's way above my pay grade.


I know even less about the subject, but might the single change somehow affect the way it interacts with its neighbor, and so on in a cascade effect?

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, another one for you... a little story about what happens when you treat robots like people. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Acacia H.

Tony Fisk said...

I was going to link Larry's 'Jewish space laser' comment to the Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati card, but discovered it's a real conspiracy theory and now parody has died and joined the writhing mass of the zombie apocalypse (and the infected from 'The Last of Us' actually arose from the cookies baked in stoves powered by renewables...)

DP said...

Meanwhile... Scientists simulate a black hole in the lab: Not quite the cavitron creation of actual massive micro singularities that forms the underlying premise of my novel Earth. Nor is this quite what the headline implies. This is not a ‘black hole’ but an ‘analog’ that replicates a few of the boundary conditions. Still, kinda cool results.

I sincerely hope that when those scientists finally create a real black hole in the lab that they have all of their calculations correct...

DP said...

Forget about China invading Taiwan.

China is experience full scale economic system collapse, an exploding pandemic that is filling up morgues and hospitals, on top of a rapidly aging population.

Xi and the CCP may not be in power in 10 years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED_yPDdqG5Y
China Has 10 Years Left, Says Geopolitical Analyst Peter Zeihan

Perhaps we should think longer term about Chiang's KMT finally returning to the mainland.

DP said...

Future China is demographically destined to be the world’s largest old age home, one controlled by Orwellian social controls that will snuff out political opposition and dissent, while strangling innovation and initiative.

It will be the Sick Old Man of the World in the 21st century (like the Ottoman Empire was the Sick Old Man of Europe in the 19th century). It may not break apart in a new Warlord Era, but it will no longer be important on the world stage.

If China doesn’t end in a bang, it will end in a whimper.

DP said...

P.S. Then again, creating a black hole in the lab might be the perfect explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

David Brin said...

Acacia that story had many awkward infelicities but no worse than a talented beginner. The story arc was solid, if clichéd.

In fact, what makes me suspicious is that the infelicities should have been the easiest thing for a language program to master. They are the sort I see in a lot of beginners' work.

And hence this prediction. I am 50% sure this will turn out to be the work of a human pretending to be a chat-AI program in order to get published & publicity.

David Brin said...

Wait, I don't see anywhere where is actually says "This is a Chat-GPT story." Acacia did you just mislead me?

Tim H. said...

Off topic, but perhaps worth thinking about, holding prejudice rather than evaluating people individually implies mental laziness*.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7CJovhhVq8 Seems appropriate for the day.

*It might also imply someone is using Dennis Leary's novelty song "Asshole" as a life guide, but that's a different malfunction.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Wait, I don't see anywhere where is actually says "This is a Chat-GPT story."


I'm not sure where you got that idea from in the first place. Wasn't "when you treat robots like people" a reference to the plot of the story itself?

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

I'm not sure how relevant the comparison is, but this story reminded me of your stories about your father:

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/09/world/europe/adolfo-kaminsky-dead.html

Adolfo Kaminsky’s talent was as banal as could be: He knew how to remove supposedly indelible blue ink from paper. But it was a skill that helped save the lives of thousands of Jews in France during World War II.

He had learned how to remove such stains as a teenager working for a clothes dyer and dry cleaner in his Normandy town. When he joined the anti-Nazi resistance at 18, his expertise enabled him to erase Jewish-sounding names like Abraham or Isaac that were officially inscribed on French ID and food ration cards, and substitute them with typically gentile-sounding ones.

The forged documents allowed Jewish children, their parents and others to escape deportation to Auschwitz and other concentration camps, and in man
...


And this part reminded me of Oskar Schindler, at least the way he's depicted in the movie:

He toiled for two straight days, forcing himself to stay awake by telling himself: “In one hour I can make 30 blank documents. If I sleep for an hour 30 people will die.”

Tony Fisk said...

@David, Acacia didn't say the story was written by AI, just that it was about AIs.

David Brin said...

LH thanks and sorry for misunderstanding, Acacia! But it was actually a very interesting exercise in seeing cues of human vs GPT authorship and drawing correct conclusions!

duncan cairncross said...

DP

That's bollocks - China has less old farts than the west - for the simple reason that until recently they were very poor and the old died

China and COVID - I think they are experiencing the same as we did (NZ) after keeping the virus out we opened the doors and had thousands die
When it all settled we had a death rate of 710 per million - compared to the USA with 3,200 deaths per million

If China does as well as we did that would be about a million dead
- 60,000 per month was the last figure I heard and that would probably mean that they will do BETTER than we did
If it takes a year (sounds about right) and they lose 1 million people then the peak death rate would be closer to 200,000 a month

Lots of predictions about China - mostly by people with axes to grind and an alarming inability to run simple numbers

Alfred Differ said...

PSB,

I do recall Sapolsky's story about the monks competing. That made me pause and re-think certain situations I saw underway in the office at work. It also made me re-think some of the personality tests I've seen employers glom onto when they want to make adjustments to office culture.

The important thing here, I would suggest, is not to eschew the term, but to make a point of showing people how the common conception of what testosterone does is wrong - that and encourage people to find less toxic uses for their testosterone.

I admit to be both exhausted and 'the wrong guy' when it comes to teaching about this misconception. Exhaustion comes from my perception of the futility of advocating changes in language. For example, the term 'liberalism' is heavily mis-used in the US. People who understand its historical roots realize the drift that has occurred and we occasionally point this out to others to no avail. Modern use in the US equates progressivism with liberalism and the old-school liberals as libertarians. Well… actual libertarians aren't all that liberal at times as I've come to learn and I'm getting too old to give a damn about correcting their errors.

I'm also the wrong guy… meaning I'm a guy. I open my mouth about T-dominance and most listeners near me will quickly jump to an incorrect conclusion. Either I'm not 'guy enough' or I'm too much are the usual two beliefs.

So… I'll respectfully decline a frontal assault and suggest a trojan horse. Why? That 18% number means a whole lot of people fighting anything I can bring to the battlefield. A better approach is to sneak into the city and lock the inner gates while they are outside dealing with the fools who try frontal assaults.

Seriously. 18% is absolutely huge. It's way too large to fight directly.

———

I know fascists leaders and 'toxic masculinity' have something in common. A lot in common. Those leaders aren't going to add up to 18% of the population, though. The ones who will actually be persuasive enough to gain support aren't all that numerous. The danger they represent… is that people will follow them. The assault should be aimed at the followers, but done in a manner that discourages them from unifying under a leader.

Consider how many other people like Trump are counted among the GOP. Could any of them lead his followers? If we are going to suffer any of them, might it be to our advantage to have more than one? Dividing the Deplorables is an indirect assault, no? Generals have done this on battlefields since the dawn of civilization.

Lena said...

Darrell,

Thanks for explaining, or trying, anyway. This stuff's beyond my pay grade, too. I used to teach genetics, but only at the high school level.

PSB

Alfred Differ said...

China will survive in some form. They are the oldest civilization on the planet and have been through far worse than what they face today.

They'll survive the century.
Predictions of their demise involve wishful thinking.


Ummm... We'll survive it too.

Lena said...

Alfred,

I'm not suggesting a fight, just gentle persuasion and education. When you think about that 18% figure, you realize that they are neither a unified force nor are they all in competition with one another. While a chess master and a line-backer might have the same t-score, they are neither in competition nor in cahoots. And many Trump voters are the quieter but far more rigid serotonin types. The toxic males are the ones waving the guns around, while the s-types are banging the Bible at everybody. T-types don't care about rules, they care about results, but will pretend to be about "law and order" if it wins them votes from S-types.

While it would be a good idea to divide the deplorables, it would be better to show them that they don't have to be assholes to be "men" - and women don't need to marry men who are assholes. Remember, there are far more men who are serotonin types, dopamine types, and oxytocin types, which means there are many ways to be a "man", not just one way. Ditto women. Too many people think that you have to be hyper-competitive to be male and if you are female you must be a passive, weak thing that always obeys your "man." It is not natural for all of us to be the same.

PSB

Lena said...

Alfred (again),

Regarding the link between fascism and toxic masculinity, fascist leaders are always strongmen, and every time you hear someone talk about how we need leaders to be strong, you have spotted a fascist. Umberto Eco wrote a book called, "How to Spot a Fascist" in which he gives 14 characteristics of fascists. A belief in rigid gender roles is among them. Eco, who grew up during the Mussolini regime, said that you only need any one of the 14 to build a fascist program around. I went through them, and Republicans typify all 14. You can find the list on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definitions_of_fascism

PSB

DP said...

America's population pyramid out to 2100:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5LMl9o3Ofs

China's population pyramid out to 2100:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uWOl1fdNSI

Note America's growth slows down but never declines.

China's population starts shrinking in 2031, peaking at 1.464 billion (it probably already has begun to decline - they admitted to overcounting their population by 100 million last year) with a 60 year old to 5 year old ratio of about 2:1.

China's population declines to 1.065 billion by 2100, and almost 30% decline from its peak.

Demographics say that China won't have a functioning society or economy by 2100.

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...
"Darrel E:

I know even less about the subject, but might the single change somehow affect the way it interacts with its neighbor, and so on in a cascade effect?"


If I understand the explanation from the paper, in the quote I pasted, the single substitution, a . . CU . . changed to a . . GU . . ., and GU is the code for a splice site. But, GU only codes for a splice site when it occurs in certain regions. That's what the "in exon 5 is describing.

Note that the splice site code is only 2 nucleotides while a typical codon is groups of 3. That's what caused the frame shift. In order to cause a frame shift the change has to be something that involves a number of nucleotides that is not divisible by 3. In this case the change led to a break in the middle of a codon, or what was previously the middle of a codon.

But then, that could be anywhere from partly to wholly wrong, as I have only a very, very basic understanding of genetics.

DP said...

It turns out that China's demographics are even worse than Zeihan predicts. Their population has already started to decline, something that was not supposed to happen for another decade:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/chinas-population-shrinks-for-first-time-in-60-years/ar-AA16q7ZJ

China’s first population decline in 60 years sounds demographic alarm

China’s population shrank last year for the first time since a devastating famine in the Mao era, in a clear sign that the country is facing a looming demographic crisis worsened by decades of coercive policy that limited most families to a single child.

The National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday announced a decline of 850,000 people to a new total population of 1.4118 billion — the first such decline in 60 years. The birthrate reached its lowest level on record at 6.77 per 1,000 people, down from 7.52 in 2021.

China faces a shrinking workforce that will struggle to support a rapidly aging population. Its centuries-old position as the most populous nation in the world is likely to be assumed by India this year, according to projections by the United Nations.

Although long predicted, that reversal has arrived far earlier than expected. Leading Chinese scholars and the United Nations estimated as recently as 2019 that the downward trend would not begin until early in the 2030s.

If not addressed, Yi argues, China’s rapidly aging society will undercut Beijing’s vision of itself as an ascendant power poised to overtake the United States. A loss of economic dynamism undercuts the country’s current cheap labor-reliant development model, while the lack of a robust social security net or pension system could “evolve into a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

Among the policy’s many unintended consequences has been a steep gender imbalance, as pregnant women had sex-selective abortions. That resulted in China having a sex ratio of 104.69 men to every 100 women as of 2022.



Lena said...

DP,

Something to worry about: when a nation finds it has more men than women, the typical response is to start sending huge numbers of men off to fight and die in wars. That's exactly what set of the Conquista.


PSB

Lena said...

Larry,

Your explanation makes sense, but I've never heard of a start codon with only two nucleotides.

PSB

DP said...

Lena

Few things more dangerous than lonely young males.

They are the one who join the Taliban, the Proud Boys, or commit mass shootings.

Darrell E said...

Lena said...
"Larry,

Your explanation makes sense, but I've never heard of a start codon with only two nucleotides.

PSB"


Which nucleotides signal the 5 end of an intron splice site?

"Introns always have two distinct nucleotides at either end. At the 5' end the DNA nucleotides are GT [GU in the premessenger RNA (pre-mRNA)]; at the 3' end they are AG."

Darrell E said...

Should have included the following sentence in that quote.

"Introns always have two distinct nucleotides at either end. At the 5' end the DNA nucleotides are GT [GU in the premessenger RNA (pre-mRNA)]; at the 3' end they are AG. These nucleotides are part of the splicing sites.:"

reason said...

By my calculation China had 10 million births last year. Germany for comparison had about 800,000. Fewer people means more capital per worker. And more intensive investment in each child. I don't see the problem. The dependency ratio, includes not just the old but young mothers and young children. If one goes up the other goes down.

reason said...

Oops - that number of births for China should read 100 million.

reason said...

Sorry strike that it is 10 million. If they keep up that rate for 80 years their population will fall to "only" 800 million.

Larry Hart said...

Both sides don't do this:

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/16/us/albuquerque-democrat-officials-shootings-arrest.html

The authorities in Albuquerque said that Solomon Peña, who lost his bid for a State House seat in November, was behind a series of recent shootings targeting Democratic elected officials.

David Brin said...

The notion that a tip over in max population at 1.4 billion means China will go extinct by 2100 is like those nuts saying Clinton’s surpluses would pay off every bond by 2020 and kill the economy. A trend that cannot continue forever won't.... tho sometimes longer than reasonable.

PSB “and women don't need to marry men who are assholes.”

If radical feminists truly were in it to reshape a better society, instead of sanctimony drug highs, they would focus on the one thing that would make the biggest difference… scientifically studying the differences between good and bad men and teaching girls how to choose better. The ripple effects upon every complained about behavior would be overhwlming.

Lena said...

DP,

Agreed that there are few things more dangerous than lonely young males. Unfortunately, even when those lonely young males manage to settle down with a (semi) permanent partner, they often retain bad habits and bad ideas, like the idea that men are "naturally" violent. This usually translates to as soon as spousal unit says, "Not tonight, Dear, I have a headache," Dear turns into wife beater and philanderer.

PSB

Lena said...

Larry,

Well, there was that one time at the baseball game, but that's the exception, not the rule. It's also an example of toxic masculinity in action, and points to the fascist tendencies of American conservatives. The #1 most salient feature of fascism is the use of violence and intimidation to enforce conformity. Early in the pandemic I heard an interview with the director of the local health department, who was asked about all the death threats she had been getting. Hundreds each day, and many of them were quite graphic. One proud Republican sent her a picture of four bearded men holding up the naked body of a women whose throat had been cut, and they were draining her blood into a bucket.

I finished reading the "Strongmen" book, and it was quite disturbing in places. The author quoted a survivor of Pinochet's dictatorship who was not only raped multiple times a day, but the torturers gave her electric shocks to the vagina, and shoved live rats and spiders in there. Remember that Reagan supported Pinochet with millions in American tax dollars and said he was a fine human being. Given the extent to which I hear about death threats coming from the right wing, I have no doubt in my mind that there are millions of Americans who would proudly do this things if the right people ran our government.

PSB

Lena said...

Dr. Brin,

I have been out of academia for a long time, so I haven't read any of these radicals. Most women I know are just fine with being treated like human beings by men, but far too many of them fall for the old ploy that they need strong men to protect them from strong men. I suspect that if women truly got the difference between good and bad men and only chose good ones, there would be a whole lot of lonely women out there.


PSB

DP said...

With all due respect nobody s saying the the Chinese are about to go extinct.

What matters is dependency ratios, (retirees + children) / workers.

A normal demographic pyramid is well... a pyramid. Lots of kids with fewer workers and even fewer retirees. This is the normal configuration that represents a growing population.

When you stop having babies, either due to a one baby mandate or for a host of other socio-economic reasons (women being educated and having careers precluding large families, people living in cities where children are an economic liability, forever chemicals reducing fertility, etc.), the pyramid becomes a middle bulge.

It has fewer kids large numbers of workers while keeping relatively few retirees. The result is a very low dependency ration with massive numbers of available workers and few resources going to non productive children and seniors. It's the foundation of China's economic success.

But this sweet spot only lasts a couple of generations and the massive worker bulge ages out of the work force and become retirees in turn. But now there are fewer workers than retirees. Fewer children's don't help since the former worker bulge was so massive relative to the generational cohorts that replace them AND retirees cost society/government 2x to 7x what children cost depending on how you count social security and medical care of seniors (US data, Chinese data is scarce and untrustworthy.

https://www.epi.org/blog/kids-seniors-urban-myth/

In addition to the huge care burden presented by an aging population, fewer kids means fewer consumers, fewer workers, fewer researchers, less capital formation, less market demand, higher real labor costs ...

Economies that have shrinking populations cannot physically grow (Japan stays in the game by going massively into debt every year).

And no-growth capitalism is an oxymoron.

Unknown said...

As you say, Japan is having something of the same problem due to low birthrates and a hard no on immigration. I wonder if the social phenomenon they call "hikikomori" will become more and more pronounced in the world at large - young people basically cutting themselves off from society.

Pappenheimer

P.S. - ran across this quote from an old lefty, Bookchin, on the intertubes today - "Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing"

David Brin said...

" I suspect that if women truly got the difference between good and bad men and only chose good ones, there would be a whole lot of lonely women out there."

Sorry but noting could even possibly be sillier.

1. If women were (with excellent tools and training) preferring decent men, then WORD WOULD GET OUT.
While beasts would likely remain beasts, the vast middle of almost-decent males would ADJUST THEIR BEHAVIOR ACCORDINGLY! In order to better mimic the ones who are getting-it. Instead of (today) mimicking the successful jerks.

2. All human societies practiced polygamy. Name one exception. Some versions were run by/for women (e.g. the Cherokee in which women hired and fired the chiefs).
Many (alas) were male-run harem systems.
Our own contemporary VERY common version of polygamy is dismal SERIAL ABANDONMENT by jerks who leave one wife & kids and talk a next one into the same deal. And sometimes a 3rd or 4th time. That's who is getting preproductive success.

Even if you are right, and 20% of women wind up amicably sharing a fine fellow, in preference to settling for a jerk... so? That would be a version of polygamy run by and FOR women.

3.' Lots of lonely wome'n sounds like a match to the 5% excess males in some countries. Though #2 is a better solution.

In fact, I have never seen a documentary about what happened in Russia and Germany with the tens of millions of spare women. Yes, there was a baby trough... but I bet there were all sorts of 'arrangements' that'd be great grist for a movie.

---
DP Japan is heavily into robotics in part to compensate for an aging society/

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

Well, there was that one time at the baseball game, but that's the exception, not the rule.


Took me a while to figure out what you were referring to. Ok, one lefty with a gun tried to shoot Republican congressmen at a baseball game. That's not what the Albuquerque story was about. An actual Republican candidate for state office hired people to shoot at Democrats after he lost an election. Both sides' officials don't do that.

duncan cairncross said...

DP

The numbers don't add up

Children are more expensive than pensioners - so the reduction in kids easily compensates for the increase in retirees

The nation that MAY have a problem is the USA - in the USA the last six months of somebodies life eat a huge amount of resources as the medical engine squeezes the last drops out of them

The other thing is simple
The reaction to wealth and education shows that people (especially women) are "rational consumers" when it comes to children
They do a cost/benefit analysis
Which means that if a society does want more children it merely has to reduce the COST

Finally "No Growth Capitalism"
If the only growth is due to population you are NOT actually growing
Instead REAL GROWTH is wealth per capita
And that is what we all do - I spent my career "doing more with less"
We all do that to some extent - engineers do it more obviously

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

You should add France to that list of countries with populations imbalanced by war dead - in WWI, France lost about 13% of its young men to Germany's @12%. I'm not sure just how badly Napoleon's adventures cost early 19th C. France, but I've read that he shortened the country's average male height. The largest recorded loss, as a percentage of males, may have been Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) with an estimated 90% of the country's male population not surviving the war. Please note that there was no Pratchett-like "Monstrous Regiment" at the end; they just ran out of men and lost.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

I have been out of academia for a long time, so I haven't read any of these radicals.


Well, I have, and what I believe Dr Brin is decrying is the tendency to disassociate themselves from men altogether rather than distinguish beneficial men from toxic men. "All men are potential rapists," was a common slogan on campus in the 80s.

DP said...

Duncan

https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2017/01/18/families-spend-more-to-care-for-their-aging-parents-than-to-raise-their-kids/?sh=2ab38d0d6f4a

Families Spend More To Care For Their Aging Parents Than To Raise Their Kids

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Our own contemporary VERY common version of polygamy is dismal SERIAL ABANDONMENT by jerks who leave one wife & kids and talk a next one into the same deal. And sometimes a 3rd or 4th time. That's who is getting preproductive success.


A variation on the theme is the guy who murders his wives and then manages to find new ones. I don't know how much press the Drew Peterson story was getting outside of the Chicago area, but the disappearance of his fourth wife caused a re-opening of the investigation into the death of his third wife. I had to ask myself, "Who the heck would want to be that guy's fourth wife?"

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

You should add France to that list of countries with populations imbalanced by war dead - in WWI,


I was going to mention Britain myself.

duncan cairncross said...

DP

That is the USA

And America is a major outlier in this - the rest of the world does not have that pattern
In other countries the sick are NOT treated as a source of easy money

I did mention that in my comment

I would also add that the money that families spend on kids is the tip of the iceberg - the actual spending including the fact that youngsters commit most crime is much much more than the spending by family

From the article
Cost per kid - $234,000
Cost per adult - "who needs lots of care" $140,000
Its only SOME adults who "need lots of care"
And about 30% of people don't reach 65 anyway

So that article supports my view that Kids are MORE expensive than pensioners

Even in the USA




DP said...

You left out apart

The other day, the federal government released a headline grabbing report: The average out-of-pocket cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is about $234,000. Among families where an older adult has severe long-term care needs and uses paid care, out-of-pocket costs average $140,000, according to research by my Urban Institute colleague Melissa Favreault. That enormous cost is generally spread over much less time, typically four years in contrast to 17.

duncan cairncross said...

DP

the $234,000 over 17 years is for ALL kids

The $140,000 over 4 years is for SOME old fogeys -

And have you ever heard of things called financial institutions - they lend for short periods so its the TOTAL cost that is important NOT the cost per year

Unknown said...

"the guy who murders his wives and then manages to find new ones..."

It's weird that the one guy everyone's mind jumps to (Bluebeard) seems to be based on Gilles de Rais, who was recruiting, torturing, and murdering mostly young and male pages, rather than women. The book I read on this suggested that folklore couldn't handle the homosexuality and converted the victims to female.

Of course, James Branch Cabell had his noble character Florian do both - equal opportunity evil, as it were.

Pappenheimer

Lena said...

Dr Brin,

Well, of course diachronic variation will happen. Cultures change, and do so constantly, but rarely very quickly. Most cultural change is generational. In fact, the standards have been changing, but we are in a transition, not there yet. Remember Steven Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature?" You wouldn't get people like Clint Eastwood ranting about the "wussification" of America if everybody was still trying to emulate John Wayne. But with such slow change, there will be a lot of pain, and reversals are always possible - which is why we can't keep our mouths shut.

If we go back in time 4 million years ago, male hominids averaged about 60% more mass than the average female hominid. That's about what we see in gorillas today, and look at their societies. Fast forward 2 million years and we get male hominids weighing in at 40% greater mass, similar to modern chimps. Today the average male hominid is about 20% bigger, which makes it easy for them to bully female hominids. If we follow the trend line, hominids should equal out (like marmosets) in another 2 million years. I doubt it will actually take that long, because hominids are working on genetic engineering. Perhaps in a century or two parents will choose to engineer their female offspring to be about the same size as their male offspring. Then the ability to physically abuse goes out the window.


PSB

Larry Hart said...

Sad, but unfortunately true:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Jan18-6.html

There was a time when this story would have been at the very top of the page. But in the current milieu, it's approaching dog-bites-man territory. Consider the following sequence of events:

1. Republican runs for office and loses
2. Republican is convinced his "victory" was stolen from him
3. Republican is unable to overturn the results and reclaim his "victory," because he didn't actually win
4. Republican decides to take matters into his own hands

Which part of this is even a little bit implausible in the year 2023?
...

Bill_in_the Middle said...

Off topic but this is how I'm going to refer to the Republican majority in the House of Representatives from now on:

"...what might well be called the Dead Dog Caucus. What else should we call legislators who have no interest in legislating?"

From
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/16/opinion/nashville-city-council-tennessee-republicans.html

Larry Hart said...

Bill_in_the_Middle quoted:

"...what might well be called the Dead Dog Caucus. What else should we call legislators who have no interest in legislating?"


Unfortunately, they are not so benign as to be merely uninterested in legislating. Their intent is to prevent useful legislation from passing at all, and if possible, to crash the system of governance itself.

Maybe "Rabid Dog Caucus" would be more appropriate. Not content to die, but taking the rest of us with them.

scidata said...

Two thoughts on Apple's FOUNDATION. First, grokking the whole Asimov & John Campbell history is crucial. Young Asimov was one of the most brilliant minds of the last century IMHO, and that partnership illustrates it well. Second, the Mule is the most important element in the original trilogy. Without this nod to chaos and what Alfred Differ might call 'evaporation', psychohistory is just Marx-by-number - boring and pedantic. David Goyer appears to be actually expanding the tale, not paring it down for TV. Never met him, but I'd like to have a short conversation, to mention OGH's work and my own computational psychohistory work. Both of these, and perhaps more, will be req'd if the series is to go the full eight years. Would love to see Villeneuve get involved too, if only to use DUNE as a foil, often helpful in sorting out a theme. Season 2 may be worth the wait. It feels like a movement forming.

https://www.inverse.com/entertainment/foundation-season-2-trailer-the-mule-theory-books-asimov

Larry Hart said...

@scidata,

If The Mule shows up in Season 2, what are the odds that "he's" a woman? Hope that isn't a spoiler--just a guess.

Some of the text of that link you posted seems a little off. For example"

There’s also a monster in the trailer, which is interesting, too. In the books, the Mule can change his appearance, and initially, disguises himself as a clown. Is this monster also the Mule?


First of all, that's a huge spoiler.

But aside from acting and dressing as someone lower than his rank, The Mule's going under a secret identity is akin to Superman disguising himself as Clark Kent by donning glasses and slouching. The Mule in the book does not "change his appearance" in any manner that could make him into that monster in the trailer.

IMHO, to do justice to the novel, the season would have to end with the big reveal of the Mule's identity pretty much as it played out in Foundation and Empire. But if most of the audience already knows the book, that won't create the payoff one would expect for a season finale. So some other big reveal would probably need to be added.

scidata said...

@Larry Hart

Yes, you're right that the Mule wasn't a changeling. I'm not really a Foundation purist, but neither was Asimov! (he struggled mightily to square the circles)

I'm more interested in its theme. Namely that humanity's future depends on men, not supermen. The laundry room in season 1 where Seldon explains the real mission is the most touching and heroic scene since TOS. They had me at "What's your name?"


David Brin said...


Bayta and Arkady Darrell should be icons of feminism who broke ground in SF.

=

THis essay about conspiring oligarchy is about 50% cogent/informative and 50% drooling idiocy, alas. Though it's pretty much the 1st half that's informative. A pity, since I agree with the overall point that the world oligarchy is simultaneously dangerously/conspiratorially powerful and deeply stupid.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2023/1/18/2147852/-Is-the-Reason-Some-Wealthy-People-Oppose-Democracy-Deeper-Than-We-Think

scidata said...

Heh. One of the best essays on Forth I've ever written was based on the travels of a hiker named Arkady.

David Brin said...

re that article: There is nothing truly secret about the collusion of inheritance brats, casino-mafiosi, carbon lords, hedge cheats, murder sheiks and "ex" commissars against the Enlightenment Experiment. That's where the 1st half of the article is on target. Especially Eisenhower's comment on the stupidity of those aiming to restore 6000 years of insipidly incompetent feudalism. In EXISTENCE I tried to show how actually smart trillionaires might try to do it. But sycophancy pretty much guarantees foolishness.

It's in the latter half where the writer mixes apples with oranges. Some of the Reagan era reforms were necessary! And intransigence on the part of the US left - plus raging sanctimony - has made it - in turn - incompetent at opposing the neo feudalists.

duncan cairncross said...

Some of the Reagan era reforms were necessary!

Really??
Could you list them as all of the ones I know about were unnecessary and disasterous

Unknown said...

"intransigence on the part of the US left...has made it...incompetent at opposing the neo feudalists."

It's very hard to prove a hypothetical, but I suspect the neoliberal slide of centrist democrats in the 80's and 90's has more to do with the left being unable to stop neofeudalism. Hard to get traction when your allies are undercutting you. The coup de grace was IMHO Citizens United.

I read the same article and did not reach the same conclusion. On the other hand, I doubt the US is going to actually develop a social democratic wing/party of any strength within the next 15 years; there is way too much power and wealth arrayed against its formation. We're stuck with the Democrats we got. Maybe if the the GQP manages to crash the world economy, but that's fallout from a catastrophe, not a means to an objective. Was the New Deal worth the Great Depression?

Pappenheimer

Alan Brooks said...

Next year will see radical political change. Read the anger in this Uncle Tom’s article:
https://spectator.org/mccarthy-will-yank-dems-from-committees-give-left-stiff-dose-of-its-own-poison/
The tension is building up as never before.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Read the anger in this Uncle Tom’s article


If right-wingers are so angry, they must be getting tired of winning.

Lena said...

Larry & Pappenheimer,

Do you remember when Dr. Brin drew our attention to those studies that show that conservatives have hypersensitive amygdalae? That' s largely a result decades of propaganda, and an education system that will teach facts but won't teach thinking skills. No matter what happens, they will always blame, and they will always need scapegoats to blame. Bill Clinton worked to get people off of welfare, something the Republicans never did and never will. Reagan showed that you could really motivate voters using Hitler's tactic of calling your chosen scapegoat "lazy." Scapegoats are too useful.

Likewise, if Republicans crash the entire world economy, they will just blame Democrats for it, and all those fools whose brains have been damaged by listening to their hate-aganda since they were feeding from the bottle will believe it and get even more angry. Economic policies rarely have effects immediately and only during the term of the regime that instituted those policies, so when Republicans do stupid things they affect the nation through the early years of the next Democratic administration (and vice versa - the booming economy in the Grope's first year was entirely the consequence of Obama-era policies).

PSB

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

Likewise, if Republicans crash the entire world economy, they will just blame Democrats for it, and all those fools whose brains have been damaged by listening to their hate-aganda since they were feeding from the bottle will believe it


Their big donor's will know who did it. However, that realization might come too late.

Unknown said...

Not entirely off subject, I recently delved into what is now called the Boots theory (or "Sam Vimes "Boots" theory of socioeconomic unfairness"). That would apply to economic turmoil, too - the people with access to cash reserves or cheap credit (i.e. the rich) can weather such periods much better than those living paycheck-to-paycheck, and might have the opportunity to increase their wealth by buying up property at low prices from those forced to sell. People like Trump may see opportunity where the lower classes see looming disaster.

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

"Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness."
-Pratchett, T

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

Duncan from the article:
— To accomplish this, Reagan massively cut taxes on rich people and raised taxes on working-class people 11 times. GENERALLY SPEAKING, THIS IS TRUE AND YOU KNOW I DESPISE IT... BUT...

— He put a tax on Social Security income and unemployment benefits and put in a mechanism to track and tax tips income, all of which had previously been tax-free but were exclusively needed and used by working-class people.

COMPLETE BS. INCOME IS INCOME AND SHOULD BE REPORTED. HELP THE POOR WITH TAX RATES AND CREDITS.

— He ended the deductibility of credit-card, car-loan and student-debt interest, overwhelmingly claimed by working-class people.

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO JUSTIFICATION FOR CREDIT CARD AND CAR LOAD DEDUCTIBILITY... AS THERE'S NONE FOR MORTGAGE DEDUCTIBILITY FOR 2ND HOMES OR ABOVE THE AVERAGE MIDDLE CLASS HOME MORTGAGE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY. STUDENT LOANS ARE ARGUABLE BUT THE GOP WAS CRIMINAL FOR FORBIDDING THEM BEING REFINANCED.

At the same time, he cut the top tax bracket for millionaires and multimillionaires from 74% to 27%

YOU KNOW I DESPISE "SUPPLY SIDE" BS. But inability to adapt and pick your battles has hurt our ability to expose such scams.

---
Likewise: ""intransigence on the part of the US left...has made it...incompetent at opposing the neo feudalists."
"It's very hard to prove a hypothetical, but I suspect the neoliberal slide of centrist democrats in the 80's and 90's has more to do with the left being unable to stop neofeudalism. Hard to get traction when your allies are undercutting you. The coup de grace was IMHO Citizens United."

I find it hard to believe how ironic it can be when the left proves its intransigence by proclaiming it makes no mistakes. The entire Rooseveltean coalition was assassinated by the 70s-80s psychotic push for integration via forced school bussing, that empowered Reagan, drove the white workers into the GOP and shattered our ability to do more sensible reforms. The same priggish inflexibility hobbles us now...

...though AOC + Bernie and Liz and have done miracle work the last couple of years, herding leftist cats into line to support the great work done by Pelosi & co.




Unknown said...

Welp, I can't speak for "the left" because many of my college acquaintances would consider me a squishy moderate - one of them a Saudi of wealthy family who had become a Marxist - but I've never met one of them who would insist that they made no mistakes. I'll point out that inflexible socialist doctrine in Chile paved the way for Pinochet's vile and murderous reign. Re: school busing - do you have a method for improving minority educational outcomes, a very important step in allowing fair competition re: race, that would have succeeded? It's obvious that busing hit a tripwire...I'm not going to blame it all on institutionalized racism, but that was a strong component.

Pappenheimer

Alfred Differ said...

Busing was an attempt to fix the last remaining vestige of segregation. School Districts. Where you live limits where your children can be educated unless you have the money for private schools. "Separate but Equal" is still alive today in how district boundaries and drawn and budgets are met in those districts.

District boundaries coupled with local funding (like property taxes from within a boundary) move and trap the money creating analogies for 'colored' schools.

Fixing this requires the citizens of a community to act since they are the only ones with the voting power sufficient to undo districts or the way cash flows are limited at boundaries.


Busing doesn't work because it moves the children.

State level cash flows help, but are vulnerable to election outcomes with shorter time horizons than the time it takes to educate children.

This ends ONLY when we get sick enough of segregation.

David Brin said...

Pappenheimer, it's one thing to ask white liberal working folks to help pay to fund vastly better schools and services for previously neglected minority kids.

It is another to say "We are grabbing YOUR kids and throwing them onto stifling buses for an hour each way through a ghetto."

That was the best way ever tp make working class folks NOT liberal. It was a spectacular insanity gbut there have been others. Like today's woke-is bullying over symbolisms instead of pragmatic substance.

duncan cairncross said...

— He put a tax on Social Security income and unemployment benefits and put in a mechanism to track and tax tips income, all of which had previously been tax-free but were exclusively needed and used by working-class people.

COMPLETE BS. INCOME IS INCOME AND SHOULD BE REPORTED. -

No!! the old Social Security and unemployment benefits were effectively income AFTER taxes - and adding them into the tax system simply REDUCED the money the poor got

— He ended the deductibility of credit-card, car-loan and student-debt interest, overwhelmingly claimed by working-class people.

Deducting taxes for student loan interest sounds like bloody good idea to me

Car-Loans - That does SOUND like a good idea - but in this world removing the ability to deduct interest on car loans simply caused a huge plague of dangerous and smelly SUVs - you could not claim for a "car" but you could claim for an "SUV"

Along with the interest on mortgages the Reagan tax changes simply fed huge sums of money to the very rich and INCREASED the taxes on the poor and middle class

Second homes is a good example - Who has mortgages on their second home?
Not the very rich

The people who have mortgages on their second home are the upper middle class - with a house and a holiday home - these are not the "Rich" - they are mostly the sort of well off professional that we should be looking after

Reagans giveaways were for the rich - while his tax increases were targeted at the poor and middle classes

School Funding

The solution is simple - do what we do here (NZ)
All schools get funding from the Central Government
AND - schools in "poor areas" get ADDITIONAL funding depending on the overall poverty of the area that they serve

This just helps the school to give additional assistance to children who are not getting that assistance at home

Alfred Differ said...

This here libertarian is highly amused when y'all debate what should and shouldn't be taxed as though something was being stolen from people who can't defend themselves.

Very highly amused...

You've no idea...


------

Don't deduct interest for mortgages on second homes? That serves the rich? Okay. It wasn't all that long ago, though, that you had to be relatively rich to own a home at all. Someone(s) decided that should be part of the American Dream, though, and I don't object.

Allowing for deductions on interest of any kind, however, serves the banks by making a marketing argument for them that goes like this... "You are better off financially by owning instead of renting and here's why."

Larry Hart said...

The deductibility of non-mortgage interest was eliminated before I was out of college, so I never filled out returns where it mattered to me. If I may guess, I think the reasoning behind treating interest as a deduction went like this:

"A loan isn't taxed as income because the presumption is that you owe that money back to the lender. However, since you also pay interest on the loan, you actually owe more to the lender than the amount you borrowed. So the interest turns the loan into a net loss/"

In a sense, it treats the interest as depreciation.

* * *

More cynically--mortgage interest is for middle-class (mainly) white people. Maxing out credit cards and payday loans is something blacks and Latinos do. The tax code reflects what it always does relative to racial and ethnic groups.

David Brin said...

"No!! the old Social Security and unemployment benefits were effectively income AFTER taxes - and adding them into the tax system simply REDUCED the money the poor got"

Baloney! It meant very comfy people got a tax break that should have been for the poor. If you want to help the poor, then HELP THE POOR,

The rich surae as HELL do mortganges for 2nd homes, for the tax subsidy.

Geez Duncan, this is unusual. There's not a single thing in this last missive of yours that stands up to any logic or examination. The SUV thing was fixed a year or two later. Except for the last part. Carumba.

Unknown said...

Duncan,

"All schools get funding from the Central Government" - yeah, unfortunately not an option in this federal paradise. Plus, most school systems are funded by local property taxes re Alfred's comment, which perpetuates economic inequality.

Off to play Scrabble with wife. Last time got to use "thole"

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

I meant that the 'last part' of Duncan's missive was of course correct.

duncan cairncross said...

Dr Brin

I think the part where we differ is where "the rich" start

IMHO somebody who is earning say $150,000 - or $200,000 is comfortably off - that is the sort of money that most professional people can earn

But not "Rich"

Rich is the next level

The taxation issues that you mentioned helped the "well off" - not the "rich" and IMHO it was a mistake for people who wanted to help the poor to object when the merely "well off" benefited as well
Its the "well off" who take out a second mortgage for their holiday home - the Rich are operating at a completely different level

A classic example is our (NZ) pension system
When you get to 65 you get the "super" which is a fixed benefit based on 40% of our average wage

Its "Universal" - everybody gets it
That has a LOT of advantages - much much less administration, no "stigma" - most importantly nobody misses out
"Benefit" systems always seem to miss the people who actually need them the most

YES - people that are "well off" get it as well - even the very rich get their "super"

But the benefits outweigh the minor issue of some very rich people getting it as well

As far as the USA is concerned - I thought the tax benefits of having an SUV continued long long past that point ??

Grumping at the "well off" getting a small benefit does not help the case for the Democrats

Der Oger said...

I always find it amusing if someone says "The Left", as if where a monolithic organization without vastly differing views on different topics.

Worker's Rights. Climate. Race. LGBTQ+. Armed Services. The Death Penalty. Immigrants. Taxes. And even Antisemitism.

Almost every commentator overlooks or ignores that there additional political coordinate dimensions (especially the "authoritarianism vs. liberalism" axis, but also "nationalism vs. internationalism").

Also, I have gained the impression that, when electoral success does happen to "leftist" parties, government responsibilities weed out the more extreme elements, until they become more and more "centrist".

Also, it is easy to snark at the "Left", but remember, they usually do not have a multi-billion dollar media empire behind them, forcing them to speak louder than other camps who gain this support. So, only those personalities who are able to keep up the fight remain.

Alfred Differ said...

Anyone drawing a line between the rich and well off invite the other player to ask why not add a few more lines and increase the number of brackets. Follow that path a while and you have our progressive income tax approach along with the usual debates on how many brackets, where to draw them, and the applicable rates.

THEN we add like whipped cream on top discussions of what counts as income. That inevitably leads to people with very good intentions trying to reward good behaviors and punish bad ones. We all get judgemental and vote accordingly to ensure our reps push our judgements on all the rest of you.

This stuff isn't simple except in the minds of those who simply reject all other solutions their friends and neighbors think might be better. Simplicity is found in MY WAY which means my judgements.

Y'all keep debating where lines are drawn if you like, though. You're stealing from someone no matter what. You'll defend the people not deserving of judgements, but we won't all agree on who they are until we shift from tax law to criminal law.

Larry Hart said...

Pretty bad when these are the optimistic options:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Jan20-2.html

...
Ultimately, we find it unlikely that the U.S. will actually default on its debt. Either a coalition of House Republicans and Democrats will overrule the MAGA crowd and get something done, or Joe Biden will declare that the debt limit is unconstitutional and he won't abide by it, or Biden will order the minting of a $1 trillion platinum coin. But it is entirely plausible, at this point, that one of these extraordinary measures will become necessary because the MAGA crew refused to blink.

Tim H. said...

Duncan, if the SUV inquisition can be classified as a light truck, a benefit accrues to the manufacturer, who doesn't have to include it when calculating average fleet efficiency, plus it may be subject to less stringent emissions standards. The original intent was to relieve small businesses and farmers from the (Then) burden of first generation emission controls*.

*Fifty years ago American emission controls, especially on large vehicles, was pretty ugly.

Larry Hart said...

Gotta love the snark:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Jan20-5.html

As long as we are on the subject of committee assignments, Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) has now received his. He'll be on the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Those are undoubtedly fitting choices for the man who built McDonalds from a small hamburger stand into a global empire and then served a 5-year mission as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
...

scidata said...

In fairness, any GQP committee on Science, Space, and Technology is a scam/joke/fantasy/lie/travesty regardless of who's on it.

Larry Hart said...

@duncan cairncross,

You're in New Zealand, right? What's the deal with your prime minister resigning? I thought she was popular and doing well.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

any GQP committee on Science, Space, and Technology is a scam/joke/fantasy/lie/travesty


They could put "Simpsons" Mayor Quimby on the committee. He's the one who introduced Leonard Nimoy with "And let me say, 'May the Force be with you.'"

Nimoy: "Do you even know who I am?"

Quimby: "I think I do. Weren't you one of The Little Rascals?"

Lena said...

I'm not sure that Libertarian ideas about taxation are useful for any time after the 19th Century. Before WW 1 the government mostly funded itself through selling bonds. A really big war requires more reliability than a bond market (or any market) can provide. The 13th Amendment was a necessary step as the nation grew in size and complexity, and as society came to demand more and more services from government. Libertarians would say that everything can be accomplished through privatization, but you only need to listen to the news on a regular basis to see how trustworthy and reliable the private sector is. Every day we hear new atrocities committed by the executive caste. Just yesterday I heard that the producers of insulin in America all conspired to raise the price of insulin by 600%.

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
― Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

“It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”
― Adam Smith

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable. ”
― Adam Smith

“Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”
― Adam Smith

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”
― Adam Smith

“The interest of [businessmen] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public ... The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ... ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined ... with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men ... who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public”
― Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Volume 1 of 2

PSB

Larry Hart said...

Gun proponents like to trot out lines like, "An armed society is a polite society," but even at face value, that notion relies on everybody being (more or less) equally armed and able to defend themselves. In the real world America, white men can point guns at federal agents with impunity, while black men can be shot dead just because a cop sees a gun in his possession. That sort of discrepancy leads not to a polite society, but to a society cowed by a small but violent faction backed up by unequal law enforcement.

Would this work as a jiu-jitsu move? Instead of trying futilely to fight the Second Amendment, push for a logical conclusion. If the right to bear arms is sacred and necessary to our freedom, then shouldn't the government provide firearms to anyone who wants them, the way they currently provide free COVID vaccines?

Unknown said...

Larry,

Your social experiment is one I would follow with great interest - in some other country.

Pappenheimer

reason said...

Duncan, I am generally with you on most things, but deductability of interest payments is a bad idea in general. It just encourages people to get in debt and is a gift to the very rich. It also pushes up land prices, which caused generational inequality.

reason said...

In general I'm for a universal basic income (prefer to call it a national dividend) and against income tax deductions which are in general regressive. Getting rid of most deductions would help substantially to pay for a UBI which would make the whole system more progressive (particularly with higher rates of tax in general. If you want to subsidize something subsidize directly with a capped benefit.

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

...in some other country.


I'm reminded of Homer Simpson and, "This would be more enjoyable if they were laughing at someone who wasn't me."

BTW, my suggestion was in the spirt of Dave Sim's "Sometimes, jumping on the bandwagon is the best way to demonstrate that the wheels have already fallen off."

matthew said...

Taxation is not theft, no matter how many times Alfred insists that it is theft.

Residents of a political area receive benefits from their taxes. Some of these benefits are wanted, some are not, but there are benefits.

If Alfred wants the benefits changed, he is welcome to change his representation in government.

Or leave.

If taxation bothers, then *leave* to someplace without it. There are no taxes in Somalia, for instance.

But do not lie and call payments for services rendered by the government "theft."

David Brin said...

Jacinda is a marvel and (as seen from afar) very popular. She will very likely remain in Parliament (Duncan?) My best guess is she wants another child and also has confidence in her successor. Life has phases and when the next child is in school I expect her to be UN Secretary General.

---

Re debt and deficit, will ANY democrat EVER respond with killer polemic to devastate the insane Republican claims of fiscal responsibility? McCarthy and the House goppers are raving now about discretioary spending and total debt... while never mentioning that 25% of all US federal debt was incurred under the Trump Administration. Further, the Budget Office now shows that the Pelosi 2021-2 bills will result insteep DECLINES in the federal deficit from the Trump era.

How, when Dems have increased spending? First, by rescinding just part of the massive Supply Side tax grifts that the GOP has spent 40 years giving to the top 0.01% world oligarchy... a cult whose predictions of positive outcomes have never, ever, even once, ever come true. Second by fully-funding the IRS to modernizze its tools and send fresh agents after top tax cheats.

In fact, I will accept escrowed wagers over my assertion that - across the span of any and all administrations - Democrats are (almost) ALWAYS more fiscally responsible re deficits than blowhard-lying Republicans.

And I don't get why no dems ever, ever make these points.

Lena said...

Jacinda Ardern is quite the contrast to American leaders, isn't she?

PSB

GMT -5 8032 said...

After looking at what recently happened in Hong Kong, there might be opposition to mainland rule in younger residents of Taiwan.

David Brin said...

matthew you know that Alfred is reasonable. He knows that consensus-agreed group projects must be part of the mix, but his suspicion of authority reflex is aimed at government over-reach... so? We ALL have a SOA reflex! And Alfred knows (perhaps a bit reluctantly) that in the enlightenment west and USA 'big government' while worrisome and needing relentless scrutiny, is not the Big Problem right now.

In fact, under scrutiny, it is the best tool we have for dealing with the world oligarchic putsch.

Have a wide stance, son. YOUR elites may not be the problem now. But they always have the potential.

Paradoctor said...

Pappenheimer, 12:17 pm:
You remind me of a tale from Yiddish joke-lore. Back in the Old Country, students at a yeshiva asked their Rabbi, "Which is better, international socialism or socialism in one country?" The Rabbi replied, "It is better to have socialism in one country, and live in another country."

GMT -5 8032 said...

Regarding the discussion of tax policy above, this is the one area where I have expertise. The primary purpose of a tax system is to raise revenue for the government. The more complicated a tax system becomes, the harder it is for people to comply with it (to do their transactions properly and to report the transactions accurately) and for the government to enforce and collect the taxes. I spent most of my career working for the government trying to separate millionaires from their money. It was not easy.

My home state of Ohio has several different local income taxes; it also has different sales tax rates in each county. Add in the school district income tax (that even government finance offices don’t report correctly), real property taxes, commercial activity (CAT) tax, and corporate franchise tax (that was supposedly replaced by the CAT tax but still exists for insurance companies and banks). The Department of Taxation has divisions for each tax. The CAT tax and franchise tax raise less revenue than expected and the cost of enforcing the tax and collecting it are much higher than expected. There are also a variety of other small excise taxes that we can ignore for this discussion.

Sigh. Ohio could probably raise more tax revenue with fewer tax systems. The state could spend less enforcing and collecting these taxes if there were fewer of them. But bureaucratic inertia is powerful. The end result of this would be more net tax revenue available for the state budget.

There are a lot of good reasons for simplifying the system and eliminating most tax deductions. People will be angry if they lose their favorite tax deductions…but we are almost there already. I am working for Intuit/TurboTax again this season (though not directly working with tax returns this year). Since tax year 2018, the vast majority of home owners claimed the standard deduction; they get no benefit from the home mortgage deduction.

I was studying for my LL.M. (Master of Laws) in tax law at an elite program while Congress was holding hearings in 1986. There was bipartisan support for the law. They eliminated a lot of the complexity in the system and it destroyed the tax avoidance planning business. I know; I was in that business. Why use aggressive (and expensive) tax avoidance planning that puts your money into lower profit investments that reduce your effective tax rate to 21% when the top income tax rate was 28%? Lucky for my private sector colleagues, the top rate soon went back up to 39.6%.

The system is worse now. The internal revenue code (title 26 of the US Code) and regulations are more complicated than ever. This is filled with opportunities for the very wealthy to plan around reporting and paying taxes on their income. The accountants and lawyers working for them run circles around those working for the government (including me). I hate the fact that the very rich pay less than they should.

There is no right answer. Over time, the rich will figure out how to game any system you create. But after a few cycles of adjusting the law to close down avoidance opportunities, the system becomes so complicated that they only people who understand it are rich taxpayers’ tax advisers (and a few government types like me). The judges did not understand it and they were biased in favor of the taxpayers (mainly because the government auditors and litigators were boneheaded).

David Brin said...

GMT thanks.

Of course one recalls Trumps grand promise "You'll do your taxes on a card!" And there was never even a vague proposal put on the table. Like his vapor "terrific health plan!" that never appeared, or his tax audits.

In fact, citizens in Estonia spend 15 minutes on their national taxes. It's all attached to a national account that would never be politically acceptable among US citizens paranoia toward national ID. When India gave every citizen an "Ardhaar" ID, corruption droped 90% down to merely obscene levels. To some extent, that will happen now in the US as the IRS gets to update its computer systems.

But yes, tha tax code itself is insane. No interest group will let their portion be reformed. Hence... I came up with an idea called "no losers" to simplify the tax code without generating rage from any large groups. It'd work! Your opinion is welcome. See https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/taxsimplification.html

Unknown said...

Alfred's right about taxation being theft. Money is theft, too. The two go hand in hand when establishing a government - you have to inflict a tax debt on recently incorporated citizens (conquered tribe A, for instance) so they are willing to sell whatever they have in order to get the money to pay the tax, thus incorporating them into your political economy. The tribe has to sell what is of value to get currency that the government sets the value of. It's a system originating in violence. Taxation is 'protection money' to protect you and your family from the depredations of foreign enemies, via a local armed force.

Where I part company with libertarians is that they have a dream of a society where violence is not used freelance to compel others to submit to the will of those with weapons. That is about as likely as The Great Pumpkin showing up. Individual violence causes gangs to form, gangs get organized either defensively or offensively, and you have a government which needs TAXES. Alfred may not think of us as killer apes due to our bonobo cousins, but the other chimp species have been observed going out in gangs of young males and killing other bands' males and driving bands out of foraging grounds...

Must get back to work

Pappenheimer, mid-harangue



Alan Brooks said...

Young males’ energy translates into bravery: George Santos fought bravely with Napoleon at Austerlitz.

GMT -5 8032 said...

I will miss Title 26 if they ever amend it. I had ChatGPT write a psalm to the Internal Revenue Code in the style of the King James bible. It was hilarious.

I understand the opposition to national ID numbers, but you may be right that we need it.

I remember the Ohio Department of Taxation was just transitioning to Windows 7 when I left in 2015. We were usually 2 operating systems behind. The feds are even worse. I don’t know what the IRS is using, but I would be surprised if they were not in the same boat. There are rumors going around that the IRS still has computers that use Windows 95. If true, it may be because they have some bespoke computer apps designed to run on Windows 95. The Ohio Dept of Taxation spent tens of millions of dollars on a custom made program called STARS that was designed to run on Windows XP…the OS the department was using back when the contract to create STARS was awarded.

Speaking of boats, I’ve heard that some of our submarines still use Windows XP…I just found a news story saying that the Navy issued an agency wide memo in July of 2014 mandating that all of its PCs be updated to XP by April 30, 2015. Oy vey!

I will look at your proposal David. But don’t expect many posts from me until after April. I am working 64 hours per week plus my military reserve duty…I am the new S-1 for my brigade…I get to be the evil HR guy. And a new crisis just reared its ugly head when one of our battalion commanders is locking horns with the brigade’s command sergeant major. Such fun.

Tomorrow is my day off. My wife and I will be taking a medical researcher we met a few weeks ago out to look at new cars. He is PhD from Egypt and I like the idea of having a Muslim friend to talk with about world events. We met him for coffee last Saturday; we only planned to spent an hour or so with him and we together from 2pm until 11pm. Such fun. He needs a new car because he totaled his old car when he crashed into a tree in our front yard. We were so nice to him that he felt obligated to thank us by buying us coffee.

Treat yourselves to friends who are different.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

George Santos fought bravely with Napoleon at Austerlitz.


It was pretty cool when he chopped Thanos's head off, though.

Paradoctor said...

"George Santos", if that's really his name, has called himself:

Anthony Santos, Anthony Devolder, George Devolder, George Anthony Devolder, George A.D. Santos, George Anthony Santos-Devolder, and Anthony Zabrovsky.

When I heard of his many names, I wondered, "where have I heard that before"? So I went to my bookshelf and got my copy of "The Book of Dreams," by Jack Vance. It's the 5th and final volume of his thrilling revenge-quest series, "Demon Princes". Near the end of Chapter 3, on page 44 of the DAW paperback, we see some of the names used by the book's crime-lord villain, Howard Alan Treesong. The Demon Prince also went as:

Bently Strange, Fred Framp, Kyril Kyster, Mr. Wharfish, Silas Sparkhammer, Arthur Artleby, and Wilton Freebus.

The Demon Prince had more imagination than the Republican Congressman.

Alfred Differ said...

Matthew,

I've said it here before, but I'll say it again. I'm actually a little soft on the 'taxation is theft' rant in which many libertarians engage. I can see their argument because I've felt it at times, but I can also see the 'benefits' argument… especially as it relates to my autistic adult son.

I'm not a hard-liner, but the truth is that some of the posts up-thread were going on about how it is immoral to tax income gleaned by the poorest of us. My gut response to their complaint was "yes… of course it is", but my feeling likely doesn't derive from the same source. As far as I'm concerned… income is income. If income is going to be taxed at all, please don't make exceptions which invite others to play the same game creating other exceptions. Don't play the "already been taxed" game either because we tax income as cashflows between 'people.' Every twist and turn invites others (with possibly good intentions) to play the same game. Before long we wind up with the system GMT describes that can only be understood by well paid people working for rich people. It doesn't take genius to understand who wins in the scenarios with high complexity.

As for going anywhere, you should know better. I'm an American who would likely side with your folks against a common opponent on election day. You need people like me to stick around and stay friendly.

As for benefits, some of them simply aren't. This was especially true (for example) when the previous administration spent my tax money creating concentration camps for people crossing the border. I DO benefit from many things paid for by my taxes and won't complain. Some of it, though, bothers the crap out of me.

———

David,

I think my SOA reflex is roughly even in targeting threats, but there are a lot of progressives here… so my worries about government surface more often. Around libertarians I point out the threat posed by government is mostly due to how it gets controlled by outside money which means your golf-buddy clade. The Mises caucus folks tend to recommend doing away with large swathes of government since that fixes both issues (nothing for the clade to control), but I don't think that's wise. The golf-cart brigade will just control things through their corporate activities and face less opposition.

The ideal I love is closest to what minarchists advocate, but it's an utter fantasy. Anarchy is inherently unstable in human communities. If I advocated for it I'd be pitching my variation of utopia for which I am absolutely certain few would find equally appealing. I get it. I'll keep it where I keep my other fantasies and work on incremental improvements instead.

At present I think our best defense against the oligarchic putsch is the rate of acceleration regarding innovation. What they want to control changes. I'd like to amp that up so far that they can't keep up. That requires a system somewhat like the US where what is not expressly forbidden is allowed. Many western civ nations are close enough to the same for explosive innovation to disrupt methods of control, so I'm not arguing for a strict US approach. This is dangerous, though, and is the primary reason why I think we absolutely require transparency. Disruption processes can help or harm, so we must be able to see.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'm actually a little soft on the 'taxation is theft' rant in which many libertarians engage. I can see their argument because I've felt it at times, but I can also see the 'benefits' argument…


If taxation is theft, isn't freeloading off of civilization also theft? I'd say a certain amount of both is allowable--even necessary--when it would cost more than it saves to prevent.

As usual, the devil is in the details. Taxation which prevents you from feeding or housing your family is abhorrent. But in this day and age, the vast majority of Americans are wage-earners of some sort. And taxes on them are really taxes on the companies who pay their salaries. Because my willingness to work is based on what I perceive as my net (after tax) income. If taxes go up, I expect (and will usually get) a cost of living increase to more-or-less offset it. If taxes go down, my employer can reduce what they pay me and keep my paycheck the same.

That's income tax, of course. If sales taxes increase, the effect on the consumer is indistinguishable from inflation. If the House Republican Freedom Caucasians somehow manage to pass their 30% national sales tax, no Republican will ever be elected again once prices at the grocery store (and gas pump) went up by that much over night.

David Brin said...

Where I am most libertarian is asking "Is there a competitive market solution to this problem that is addressed by govt regulation?

Goldwater once said roughly "Maybe half of federal regulations might not be needed if the insurance industry did its job, making its sole profit by getting its policy holders longer, healthier lives."

--

okay then.

onward

onward

Lena said...

Larry,

"If the House Republican Freedom Caucasians somehow manage to pass their 30% national sales tax, no Republican will ever be elected again once prices at the grocery store (and gas pump) went up by that much over night."

To which I quote Robert Heinlein: Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Remember that 70 million Americans voted for The Grope after 4 years of him lying an average 21 times per day. There is literally nothing Republicans can do to lose their base, because their base has been literally programmed to make any excuse for them rather than admit that they could be wrong about anything. Our only real hope is that the oder generation of fools will eventually die out, and the younger generations will skew heavily away from sanctified bigotry and fascist ideology.

PSB

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Guides to Adventures said...

In a simulation? We are a simulation.

Guides to Adventures said...

Speaking of J Park and friendly animals, have you considered domestication syndrome?