Saturday, March 04, 2023

Surveillance & technology

I was planning to publish today the final section (Part III) of "Aficionado" - a stand alone novella that's part of EXISTENCE. Alas, my website host has flaked on me and I want folks to be able to follow up to the book's page. (Suggested hosting alternatives are welcome, in comments.)

So, let me fill in with a little timely riff on surveillance tech.

First, many of you have already seen some of my postings about artificial Intelligence.  Here's my Newsweek op-ed on the Chat-art-AI revolution. TONS more on the topic. 

But let's zoom into...

== Light is coming... ==


UK enacts ownership registry for property held by foreign companies and to identify their true owners. It will seek to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies. Oh, this move toward transparency will have a myriad holes that need to be patched under future scandals. But it is a huge step toward what I’ve demanded since late in the last century.  

Even more important, it will help corner the US into doing likewise… that is, if the GOP shills for criminal oligarchy are defeated, somehow.

Moreover, and I did not know this part! If you can’t prove who owns it, because you set up too many shell companies, the state will hold the property for you for five years, so that the proper owners can come forward and claim their property. After that set time, the state will sell it and take the proceeds to cancel public debt, much of it incurred because of the huge social costs of unaccountable shell corps.

Wow. It looks more and more like my "Declare Ownership!" treaty proposal! Which - (I assert) - could do more to save the world from a terminally stoopid world oligarchy AND zero-out the crippling public debt held by most nations - than any other action, almost overnight. Without inconveniencing honest citizens (even rich ones) even a little bit.


== More on the power of light ==


Is this evidence for the power of transparency? 50 US embassies have air quality monitors and tweet out the readings publicly. Including the embarrassing truth in capital cities whose regimes don't want citizens to know.


Was it a useless gesture? “Cities that had a US embassy that set up one of these monitors and tweeted out air-quality data saw a decrease of PM2.5 particulates to the tune of 2 to 4 micrograms per cubic meter—compared to their air quality before getting the monitor and to other similar cities that do not have a monitor.”  


Moving on. An interesting article proposes that in an ultra-transparent world, we (humanity) could finally ban weapons of mass destruction, like nukes, because even average citizens could thereupon catch cheaters. 


In extremum, this is, of course one of only two solutions to the Ultimate WMD Problem: “what-if a technology is found that lets very small groups cheaply make world-wrecking weapons?”  


Indeed, this is often posed as a compelling possible explanation for the absence-of-any-aliens Fermi Paradox!  A theory that all techno civilizations wipe themselves out, when even teensy mad minorities can access the means to accomplish it.


Up to a threshold, universal citizen transparency would be one answer (though it requires some courage and wisdom that might be rare across the galaxies.) Alas, the only other solution is a total-surveillance despotism.  


Fortunately, that doesn’t seem imminent. And anyway, I doubt that the citizen equi-veillance prescription can be implemented in the near-future.


What can happen is for up-ratcheting sousveillance and empowered citizenship to render ever-increasing numbers of nasty plots moot. And yes, many of our current problems are happening because world elites see those days of transparent accountability approaching - as in the "Helvetian War" I depicted, in Earth. They are making desperate power grabs, while there’s still time.


Where I demur is when this author conflates a mostly transparent world of equi-veillance with an “end to all privacy.” 


Yes, that is a common leap of misunderstanding, and horribly wrongheaded, alack.


I have despaired over how difficult it has been to convey a simple truth… that preserving a substantial amount of privacy will be a SOCIAL decision. One that transparency can help, rather than doom.



== We'll have some privacy, even in a Transparent Society... if we actually want it ==


If the vast majority of citizens deem privacy to be a core desideratum -- that privacy-invasion by snoops, gossips, voyeurs and bullies is a nastiness that merits denouncing -- then those behaviors will be the ones first caught and denounced! 


Please, please try to wrap your mind around that assertion.


If we all can see well, and denounce bad behavior, the common fear is that this will lead instantly to denunciation of eccentrics and mob enforcement of social homogeneity. Indeed that IS the goal and effect in some nations' growing 'social credit' systems! 


(See an interesting (if somewhat suspect) survey of Chinese public attitudes toward the government run “social credit” surveillance system.)


But what about a society whose top values include “leave each other alone” and “mind your own business” (MYOB)? Isn't that what YOU would want? Yet you assume only a select few share that wish, I'll bet. Can you consider a possibility, though? That millions of your neighbors share that value system? 


Yes, that social value system of using transparency to protect each other’s personal space seems a reach beyond our current, immature and sanctimoniously denunciatory society. But the elements are already there, in most Hollywood films wherein suspicion of authority (SoA) and appreciation of diverse eccentricity are among the most-preached values!  I show that in Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood.  


You can see that value system in the mirror... in your reaction, just now, wishing “if only my fellow citizens shared my valuing of tolerance and eccentricity and MYOB and SoA!” I agree! Only consider perhaps that goal is closer than you think.


(One of the top stupidities of books and films that warn against privacy loss (e.g. the execrable The Circle) is how they rely on that very value system already existing in their audience, while preaching it at them, while insulting those audience members by claiming that – except for a few hero protagonists - none of us sheep actually have that value. Think about it.) 


Consider what a world filled with light might be like, if we also completed our build toward that MYOB value system?  If the FIRST people judged to be behaving badly are those caught bullying and snooping and not leaving each other alone?


Indeed, then we might not only have no despots and no WMD-nukes. We might also have few voyeur, conformity-enforcing bullies… and a golden age of eccentric diversity.


Please, please... speak up in comments if you know another way to get that. 



== Other Tech news ==


Interested in “Futuristic Design”?  I am, of course! And I’ve consulted with a lot of groups looking for the Next Thing.  One of those consultations, a few years ago paid me to offer scenarios for Earth 2050an attempt to portray planetary changes – especially social/economic/political -- a few decades from now. And as you’ll see, the effort was led by the Kaspersky company, based in Moscow and at the time a leader in computer security software. (Now? Not quite so trusted for varied reasons, some in the news. Still, this is a separate matter.)


As it happened, I gave them a lot more material than anyone else did, for what aimed to be a vivid zoom-in to various parts of the globe, in 2050… a time frame close to my own near future novels Earth and Existence


I do think you might enjoy some of the speculations, and/or find them thought provoking. Like a dive into the great Phosphate Crisis of 2050, making Morocco the richest country in the world. Anyway, it’s good to see at last something come of this project, and it aims to be ongoing.  Though the timing is thought-provoking in its own right.  And now some in the media are actually talking about it!


== and lagniappes ==


QAnon – The Game that Plays People. – Lee Stein.


Amazon – after firing 110,000 employees in time for the holidays – may also be firing … Alexa.


Perpetual drone surveillance… or at least during public events… combined with advanced vision systems… is proposed to deal with mass shooters.


Looking toward the future: My 2015 speech at COFES (Congress on the Future of Engineering Software) covered a range of topics, including the context for a society that actually welcomes and invests in new things and progress. 


91 comments:

Robert said...

QAnon – The Game that Plays People. – Lee Stein.

Was there supposed to be a link there, or is it just a pithy quote?

David Brin said...

Sorry Robert. Someone sent it to me and sometimes stuff just gets dumped into a proto-blog text file

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin's linked article on Alexa:

The report says that while Alexa's Echo line is among the "best-selling items on Amazon, most of the devices sold at cost." One internal document described the business model by saying, "We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices."


I can see why the company would desire that, but from a consumer POV, that seems woefully intrusive. Imagine if your toaster or your screwdriver were free to buy, but you had to pay for permission each time you wanted to use them.

scidata said...

There's a scene in "Pirates of Silicon Valley" (1999) that depicts the exact moment of the beginning of the greatest fortune ever amassed. Bill Gates tells the dazed and confused IBM suits that he doesn't want to sell MS-DOS, he wants to license it. The 'renter' caste has been well covered previously in CB.

Robert said...

Imagine if your toaster or your screwdriver were free to buy, but you had to pay for permission each time you wanted to use them.

Cory Doctorow used that as a plot point in one of his novellas.

Tony Fisk said...

Would work as tool libraries. As Alex Steffen put it: when hanging pictures you don't want a drill. You want a hole in the wall.

Alfred Differ said...

Even a carpenter wants to be able to put holes in the wall. They might not mind off-loading maintenance, repair, and replacement costs if it wasn't a PITA to do so.

Alexa makes them money if she directs you to Amazon for purchases, so you don't have to rent her for their model to work.

Alfred Differ said...

I ran into an example of the "if you want it" rule a couple days ago that I think exemplifies how it works, but first I'll just say I agree with our host about preserving privacy… if we want it.

———

I was driving through a neighborhood and was about to cross one of those school crosswalks with a flashing light kids can trip to get traffic to stop. Instead of a kid, there was a homeless guy being a little 'goofy' while he waited for us to stop*. I stopped. Oncoming traffic did not. I saw one oncoming driver look right at the guy, frown, and violate the crosswalk light. The Boy Scout in me decided he was a jerk. Then the driver behind him did the same damn thing! I pointed it him from my side and did not drive forward. Eventually the oncoming side cleared and the guy crossed without any recognition to me, but I was already expecting that.

In this case, it was obvious the local drivers did NOT want that crosswalk rule applied to someone they did not want in their neighborhood. It was a clear example of how unwritten rules dominate written ones when there is no one around to enforce them. More importantly, it was an example of conflict about what the unwritten rule should be and WHY we bother to write some of them down.

I wasn't in a position to do the equivalent of the restaurant eavesdropper scene from our host's book, but I WANTED to do it. Care to guess what I'd do if I had video showing license plates of the offenders? I know right where I'd post it.

Would I win the social fight over how the unwritten rule works? Probably not. Those folks still wouldn't want that guy in their neighborhood and would continue to violate the written one… unless there are consequences. Would I be enough? No. Thing is… I've seen exactly the same kind of fight occur over school crosswalks nearer to schools when actual kids are crossing. I've seen those videos get posted online and people identified. The feathers fly! Lawsuits get threatened regarding 'permission to record'! In the meantime, though, everyone finds out! The parents of kids almost run over find out! Boom!

———

Yah. This might be a bit too close to Little Brother for some of you. I get it. Tough though. Some of us took Scouting more seriously than you might like.



* Yes. He was actually waiting to cross. A lot of them don't so I appreciate it when they do.

Robert said...

I've seen exactly the same kind of fight occur over school crosswalks nearer to schools when actual kids are crossing. I've seen those videos get posted online and people identified. The feathers fly!

I spent decades working at schools. The people with the lowest regard for traffic safety laws involving children are the parents.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

The people with the lowest regard for traffic safety laws involving children are the parents.


Did you ever listen closely to the lyrics of "Rockabye, Baby?"

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Those folks still wouldn't want that guy in their neighborhood and would continue to violate the written one… unless there are consequences.


Back in high school, one of my English teachers impressed the point that there are different categories of grammatical rules:

+ Real rules: Violating them is noticeable; following them is not
+ Fake rules: Neither violating or following is particularly noticeable
+ Obsolete rules: Following them is noticeable; violating them is not
+ Obscure rules: These come up so infrequently that one cannot help noticing either way

To your point, substitute "consequences" for "noticeable" and you can see how this maps onto your written and unwritten social rules.

+ Real rules: Reward for following/penalty for violating. Most of society finds them valuable and worth enforcing.
+ Fake rules: No reward or penalty either way. The kinds of niceties that society gives lip service to, but doesn't care all that much about violations.
+ Obsolete rules: Informal penalty for following despite their being ostensibly on the books. Society has repudiated these rules, even if government has not.
+ Obscure rules: Not sure where to map these. Possibly those rules which everyone tends to break harmlessly at times, but can be selectively enforced for harassment purposes?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Even a carpenter wants to be able to put holes in the wall. They might not mind off-loading maintenance, repair, and replacement costs if it wasn't a PITA to do so.


A homeowner like me who uses tools once in a blue moon might be ok with licensing a drill or a saw when needed. My father-in-law who uses tools all the time would probably balk at not being able to own them himself, or at the inconvenience of having to pay each time.

A thought experiment: How this would play out if gun manufacturers were able to charge per bullet fired, or even an "unlimited firing" plan paid by the month. And your gun wouldn't work if you were delinquent in payment. How would the Second Amendment People feel about someone else actually owning their firearms?


Alexa makes them money if she directs you to Amazon for purchases, so you don't have to rent her for their model to work.


True, but there's a kind of Heisenberg uncertainty at work here. The more biased the product is in its suggestions (assuming this is generally known), the less attractive the product is to a user. It's the same with search engines. The paid suggestions go on top, but they are obviously propaganda, so caveat emptor.

Look at Elon Musk's "pay for the blue checkmark" thing on Twitter. In theory, that's a revenue stream which didn't exist before, but it also robs the blue checkmark of the value it had before.

Tim H. said...

Off topic, but since you've mentioned phosphorus recovery in the sidebar, a waste stream without the "Interesting" contamination that keeps it off fields would be a great help, any chance of that happening?

matthew said...

The oligarch caste worldwide thinks that they will be able to pay for their own personal privacy, all while paying to destroy the privacy of anyone that is not worth billions. They may be right, in the short-term. But, long-term, oligarchs need to control the means where damaging information could be revealed.

Jeff Bezos' ownership of the Washinton Post, Elon Musk's ownership of twitter, and the Murdoch clan ownership of Fox / WSJ / Sun etc. can all be understood as controlling the means of information warfare and oligarch secrets. If there are no large media independent of oligarchs, then oligarch privacy can be traded from one to another. Jeff Bezos' anger at MBS's attempted blackmail can be seen as a betrayal of the oligarch code of secrecy. Bezos was supposed to play along, and he went rogue instead. MBS killing Kashoggi was a message to Bezos as much as it was a message to Saudi dissidents.



Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

The people with the lowest regard for traffic safety laws involving children are the parents.

I've seen it at a few different schools.

I've also seen what happens when one of them puts the children of another in danger in a way that can be proven with a video. Obvious biases at play since the parents of an endangered child are probably guilty of the same… but the responses can be volcanic.

What I've learned from these interactions is a point our host makes in his Transparency book. The danger arises from being CAUGHT. That's what all the cameras and microphones create. Risk of being caught in the act.

———

Larry,

I've lived through the transition here in California where cannibis consumption went from real rule to obsolete rule. It's still not allowed by the feds, but they don't enforce it much making it a sorta fake rule.

The most obscure rule I know that leads to arbitrary enforcement involves jaywalking. What actually gets enforced is a different rule regarding the harmful consequences of damage occurs, but the root cause is jaywalking.

The homeless guy crossing that street was actually trying to avoid breaking both obscure and real rules, but the other drivers were making a case for them being obsolete based on the guy's social status.

If anyone had been hurt, I would have tried to nail them to the wall when I acted as an accident witness explaining things to the police. Cars are lethal weapons. I've lost people who were run down.

locumranch said...

In this thread, Dr. Brin assumes that universal honesty is both desirable & culturally feasible and concludes that we can use transparency to achieve an 'end to secrecy'.

I disagree as I've found that most human beings are habitual & compulsive liars who prefer falsehood over reality. Our society is literally built on lies and our civilization engages in a never-ending game of pretend in order to function.

Sure, I like you. You're not fat. 70 is the new 30. I care about your feelings. All are special. All are equal. I don't see race. You can trust me. I'll love you forever. I love you but I'm not 'in love' with you. I never get jealous or angry. I'm happy for your success. I'd never lie. #BelieveAllWomen and men can have menstrual periods, too.

The global beauty industry generates $570 billion dollars in annual sales, and the US alone spends almost $90 billion dollars per year on cosmetics for the sole purpose of hiding, covering up & spackling over physical flaws:

Does this sound like a society that desires transparency?

Like Communism, transparency & honesty sounds like the basis for an eminently fair & rational system, but only if you ignore the irrationality & perversity inherent in human nature.

These utopian schemes invariably fail, yet there are many who will pursue these noble & idealistic goals obsessively after concluding that they must first 'fix' & perfect human nature in order to ultimately achieve their perfect order. In effect, they have embraced the Nazi √úbermensch model in their pursuit of a 'new & improved' utopia-compatible humanity.

As sure as I know anything, I know this:

They will try again. Maybe on another world. Maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people 'better'... and I do not hold to that.


Who will misbehave with me?


Best

David Brin said...

Sigh. Normally I credit at least any ATTEMPT to paraphrase in argument. But the act of mature discourse only works when you listen, if someone says 'that's not an accurate paraphrasing! In fact, you assign to me things and beliefs I never said or held."

----

Way back in the late 90s, I discussed millennialism: eager cult-ravings about imminent milestones for the End. Yes, that ranged from "Y2k" doomsters to techno-transhumanists to Nostradamus to fundamentalists doing what every generation has done for 1700 years - perceiving every aspect of the patmosian Book of Revelations - BoR - in each year's contemporary news. Here's one of my essays about that.
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/05/whose-millennium.html

One side point I made was that any rhythm based on a Christian anniversary would NOT (as some then howled) end our world 2000 years after the birth in Bethlehem. More apropos (if still nuts) would be the 2000th Easter. Think it through.

Though ignored at the time, my forecast - THAT some would start raving about the 2000th Easter - is now coming true, as apocalypse fans are now starting to argue joyfully over which year, in the span from 2027 to 2034, will see them lifted into luxury skyboxes to sip ambrosia while watching the rest of us get tortured in all the sick ways depicted here....
https://www.electricsheepcomix.com/apocamon/

...In vivid pokemon style. If you know nothing about the BoR, you really should see what your neighbors want and pray for you.

Do I get cred for predicting that an old-nasty prediction would be revived to new heights in a certain time frame? Naw. It was (or will be) obvious, alas.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

I disagree as I've found that most human beings are habitual & compulsive liars who prefer falsehood over reality. Our society is literally built on lies and our civilization engages in a never-ending game of pretend in order to function.


Polite exaggerations or falsehoods in the cause of not gratuitously hurting others' feelings is a different thing from lying under oath in a court proceeding where uncovering the facts of the case is of paramount importance. As in most things, the circumstances matter, and the fact that disobeying some norms can be a kindness does not imply that breaking all rules is a virtue.


In effect, they have embraced the Nazi √úbermensch model in their pursuit of a 'new & improved' utopia-compatible humanity.


Funny how those who actually embrace the Nazi cause like to accuse us of embracing the Nazi cause with the recognition that doing so is a bad thing.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

One side point I made was that any rhythm based on a Christian anniversary would NOT (as some then howled) end our world 2000 years after the birth in Bethlehem. More apropos (if still nuts) would be the 2000th Easter. Think it through.


You're speaking of the 2001st Easter, I would think. :)

But why would 2000 years be so significant, other than the fact that we're approaching the time? If God really cares about powers of 10, wouldn't the 10th, 100th, 1000th, or 10,000th anniversaries of the Resurrection be more plausible dates for something to take place? Why would the 2000th be any more significant than the 3000th or the 500th or the 666th?

That the second millennium of the Resurrection is being noticed now is not remarkable. It is simply the next such seemingly-significant anniversary in the near future. Doubtless, there will continue to be new ones on the horizon, including the day in 2239 when the Jewish year 6000 begins, or the date in 2240 when the Jewish year 6000 ends.

Larry Hart said...

Given that it is pretty well accepted that Jesus of Nazareth was not born in 1AD, is there any authoritative record of when he actually was born? I've heard 4BC mentioned a lot, but am not sure whether that is definitively supported by evidence.

More to the point, is there any secular historical record of when his crucifixion actually took place? Was it really in 33AD, or is that just assuming he was born along with the calendar?

scidata said...

I'm not generally a Plato fan, too abstract and theoretical for my taste. Which is why this quote caught my eye.

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers. - Plato

David Brin said...

LH "wouldn't the 10th, 100th, 1000th, or 10,000th anniversaries of the Resurrection be more plausible"

Actually, they rationalize 2000 years from Creation to Noah, then 2000 to Jesus, then 2000 to the End.

Who said:
"Anyone who is not a socialist at 17 has no heart. Anyone who still is at 30 has no brains."

I say
"Anyone who likes to read Plato at 17 is developing impudently questioning logical skill. Anyone who still does at 30 has no logic at all and has substituted incantation for brains."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Actually, they rationalize 2000 years from Creation to Noah, then 2000 to Jesus, then 2000 to the End.


Yes, but those aren't exact periods. According to the Jewish calendar, which I believe claims to start with Adam and Eve, Jesus was born in the vicinity of 3760 and would have died (for a long weekend) somewhere around 3790-3800. Hardly evidence that periods of exactly 2000 years mean anything.

They can rationalize all they want, but I hope I live long enough to see them have to metaphorically come back down the mountain and go, "Now, what?", as apparently happened in AD 1000. I'll be in my mid to late seventies, so it's entirely possible.

David Brin said...

Bishop Ussher's chronology differes from the Hebrew calendar by a prim quarter of a millennium, Those WANTING it naturally use his calc.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin redux:

Actually, they rationalize 2000 years from Creation to Noah, then 2000 to Jesus, then 2000 to the End.


Even that isn't accurate by any means. I'm not going to sum up all the begat dates in Genesis again, but I did once, and I'm pretty sure Noah was closer to 1500 years after Adam.

Unknown said...

"wouldn't the 10th, 100th, 1000th, or 10,000th anniversaries of the Resurrection..."

As long has he beats the Great Prophet Zarquon back. That guy ran way late.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Bishop Ussher's chronology differes from the Hebrew calendar by a prim quarter of a millennium,


That led to a neat story about the making of Cerebus. I'll mention it below the asterisks, so anyone who doesn't care can skip it.

If I recall correctly, Ussher had the beginning of the world in 4004 BC, which if we accept that Jesus was actually born in 4 BC does make the world exactly 4000 years old. I suspect he fudged his calculations for exactly that end. But even so, the other data points won't be exact. The additional 2000 years ended in 1996 or 1997. Yeah, yeah, the crucifixion is the important date, but then that's not exactly 2000 years after the beginning.

And Noah still doesn't come in at 2000 years from the start. Sure, it's close, but if we're allowing "close", then a particular year is still meaningless.

* * *

In an early issue of Cerebus, when the title character was 29 years old, a seemingly-omnipotent character told Cerebus he only had a few more years to live. That character also proclaimed that Neil Armstong's moon landing would take place in "Exactly 6000 years." Readers figured that Dave was familiar with Ussher, and was making clear that Cerebus's world of Estarcion would give way to our familiar history in 4004 BC, 5973 years before the moon landing. So Estarcion--and therefore Cerebus himself--only had about 27 years left before the next Big Bang or whatever brought it to a close and our history to a start.

Later on, when Dave turned religious, he became familiar with the Jewish calendar. If our world were to begin as that calendar does in 3760 BC rather than 4004 BC, then the pronouncement of 1969 being "Exactly 6000 years from now" placed that scene not 27 years before the end/beginning of history, but 271 years before. With Cerebus being 29 years old, it meant his world would give way to ours when he was 300 years old.

This was a big deal to readers, because the number 300 loomed large in the series, Dave having long ago decided that he would complete exactly 300 issues of the book. The fact that the numbers worked out that way in a story he had written long before he read the Bible--well, "What's the significance to you?"

Or, "How much longer can I go on being an atheist?"

scidata said...

Moshe Vardi's take on social responsibility regarding the awesome power of computation in general and AI in particular. He even pits Adam Smith against Alan Greenspan at the end.
https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2023/3/270214-who-is-responsible-around-here/fulltext?s=09

I have some thoughts regarding this and WJCC, but I'll post them in my own blog, not CB. I'm honoured to be a guest here and will behave myself.

Paradoctor said...

Why powers of 10? Why not powers of 2? Like, say the 2048th anniversary?

Alan Brooks said...

Also China will reach its peak around the 2000th anniversary of the Crucifixion. Thus we ought begin stocking non-perishables in the cellar.

David Brin said...

scidata your (summarized/brief) notins are welcome here.

scidata said...

Thank you Dr. Brin. I just meant that my constant prattling on Forth and WJCC is not cool on someone else's blog.

Acacia H. said...

I was chatting with my late spouse's mother-in-law (from their first wife) and we were chatting about gay marriage and the swinging of the pendulum and she was talking about how she was hoping the pendulum would start swinging back from the hate and back toward decency again and hinted a tad that by pushing too hard, the LGBTQ+ community kind of encouraged the current transphobic and homophobic sentiments among the Far Right.

In response, I talked about how when I went to my father-in-law's funeral, I was very likely the first transgender person that their conservative extended family had met. I was quiet-spoken, polite, talked about owning my own home which I was rebuilding and the fact I was working on my own electrical wiring rather than hiring people. In short, I exposed them to "one of the good ones" and she thought that was a good thing compared to the people shouting about rights. But I had not finished my story.

I went on to talk about this undocumented immigrant who was thrown out of the country during the Trump Administration. This man had come into the U.S. over 20 years ago. He was a property owner and a business owner. He was the pillar of the community, and was fairly conservative. He was "one of the good ones" and yet when Trump went after "the illegals" this man was rounded up and thrown out. And the people in town spoke up about it and even commented on wanting Trump to exonerate him. (No, that did not happen.)

In short... if Trump gets back into office then transgender people will be rounded up and thrown in concentration camps. We will end up dying. And you will have people like my father-in-law's family who will be shocked that I would be thrown into a camp. But they won't raise a finger to stop it. Because it doesn't matter if there are "good ones" or not, they will let hate rule their views and decide "it's for the best."

This is what folk like Locu are quietly hoping for. They will claim that "it won't come to that" but when it does, they will not rise up in armed rebellion against the government. They will say "it's for the best" and "these people were sick" and "society is better getting these sickos out of here" and march to the same beat as other Trumpists.

This is the power of religious thinking. It's not about religion but rather the blind faith and following of demagogues. Or as Terry Pratchett put it in his Discworld books, "Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees."

Acacia H.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

constant prattling on...

That's how we would know if someone was trying to pretend they were you. They'd have to be a very particular brand of Forth Fan where everything reminds them of something related to Asimov or Seldon. 8)

When you get tempted to write something so large it breaks the 4096 character limit for comments a few times (been there... done that), save your sanity and post it to your blog. That way you can point us over there to read the unbroken version. I'd do it! 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Acacia H.

...people will be rounded up and thrown in concentration camps.

I get the worry. I see the evidence. However, I don't think that is the way it will actually go down.

You might not be aware of how different states reacted to Trump in different ways. In my neck of the woods, there were local efforts to hide the illegals AND an uncooperative State when the Feds asked for help. It wasn't a perfect defense, but part of why it wasn't honed further was the ineptness of the federal effort that had as its source the fact that the civil service wasn't fully behind Trump's policy.

I'm not suggesting everyone relax because nothing bad will happen. Not at all. I'm suggesting we recognize the use of a divide-and-conquer strategy and that we already saw it in use very recently.

In other words... relax because we have useful ways to fight this. AND many of us will fight.

Alan Brooks said...

(I’m joking—but who knows. Reality is becoming stranger than SF.)

Alan Brooks said...

Conceivable how external war will distract the populace somewhat from internal fighting. From reading ‘40s magazines in the library stacks, it strongly appears to me that such is what happened during the Big One. National woes were bundled into the Big One.
I read that the ‘39 invasion of Poland largely caught the US public by surprise, as they vaguely assumed another Sudetenland territory-ceding would likely occur in Poland. Wags wrote that pessimists were hysterics and war-mongers.

Tony Fisk said...

In between bare headed Iranian schoolgirls getting poisoned for their efforts, and South Carolina goppies proposing the death penalty for abortions (and possibly even miscarriages), one can see that misogyny bridges the divide between fundamentalists of different stripes.

If it comes to that, it will be too late, so don't let it.

Alan Brooks said...

Reality is stranger than fiction.
Someday we’ll be able to view SF by simply watching the News.

scidata said...

Viva inclusivity. Here's a rainring. Proof that despite not being given wings, we were indeed meant to fly.

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7038402560872873985?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop

Larry Hart said...

I would not know who to root for.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Mar06-4.html

It's still early and Fox might not go all in for DeSantis, especially if it looks like Trump might get the nomination and have a chance to win the general election. Murdoch knows that Trump is exceedingly vindictive and if he becomes president, would do everything he and Stephen Miller can think of to punish Fox.

Larry Hart said...

Paradoctor:

Why powers of 10? Why not powers of 2? Like, say the 2048th anniversary?


Because if Evangelicals even know what powers of 2 are, they probably think that any such "powers" are evil.

Nevertheless, after the world doesn't end in 2029 or 2033, you can bet someone will come up with 2048 next.

* * *

Funny story. When my daughter was about kindergarten age, my wife and I (both nerds) somehow taught her powers of 2 pretty high up in the sequence. I don't even remember why she was interested enough to retain the knowledge, but she was.

So one day on the playground, some older kids were trying to make fun of the kindergarten baby by asking her "hard" math questions. They started with "What's two times two". When she correctly answered "Four", they went to "What's two times four?" And they kept going in that exact vein. And she correctly answered each one without batting an eye. She probably didn't even know they were making fun of her. Anyway, when it got to around 1024 and 2048, the older kids had to keep asking themselves, "Is that right?" before moving on to the next one. And they gave up before she ran out of powers of two that she knew.

The thing is, they probably could have asked her any other math question of reasonable difficulty and she wouldn't have had a clue. But they just kept digging the hole.

Robert said...

They will claim that "it won't come to that" but when it does, they will not rise up in armed rebellion against the government. They will say "it's for the best" and "these people were sick" and "society is better getting these sickos out of here" and march to the same beat as other Trumpists.

Also probably comment about eggs and omelettes too?

I find it also instructive to see what they think about systemic prejudice in police and the courts, and cases like this. Does it affect their belief that we need more policing and tougher sentencing?

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-03-02/maurice-hastings-los-angeles-wrongful-murder-conviction-found-innocent

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

Also probably comment about eggs and omelettes too?
>

My current response to "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs," is "You also can't make an omelet without mixing the white part of the egg with the colored part and then adding in plenty of other diverse objects."

(Reposted because of a fat-finger which sounded really stupid)

Alan Brooks said...

Re: End Times.
A spiritual master (Swami Fuktananda, or whomever) said that the cosmos may be ending and beginning all the time—yet such is beyond our consciousness. Like, if if a light flickers extremely fast you don’t notice that it is flickering.

But perhaps that’s merely Swami-bait.

Unknown said...

Seriously off topic -

Just finished* a 50+ page fantasy novelette based around D&D rules. Mostly to see if could actually finish anything but short shorts, but is there any kind of market these days? The last time I sold fiction I sent it off in a manila envelope...can take any reply by direct email

*well developed worlds are messy and not all plot points were completely tied up

Pappenheimer

reason said...

Larry Hart,
Re Murdoch, Trump and Fox, Trump is vindictive but SO IS Murdoch. Some people have found this out the hard way.

Unknown said...

RE: end times

I don't waste time worrying about eschatology. I worry about the people who fervently worry about eschatology

Pappenheimer

P.S. Alfred is right that there is pushback against the current GQP partial takeover of the US government, and even if it reaches much further extremes the US is not doomed. Fascist states can be very unstable and provoke their own thermidors. But the damage inflicted in the meantime may be extreme.

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

I don't waste time worrying about eschatology. I worry about the people who fervently worry about eschatology


Yes, the whole point of concern over the next "end times" year is the damage that evangelicals will do, not what God will do.

They do reveal their complete lack of faith in God taking care of business His own way. The Old Testament that they adore more than their own Scripture tells us that vengeance is God's, but they seem to think He needs a lot of help.

Tim H. said...

Saw an amusing link @daringfireball.net:

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-deep-archeology-of-fox-news/sharetoken/yA5t0jXPM5sN

In short, the reactionaries seem to have built the Bizarro world to reality's Metropolis. The standards for "Conservatives" have declined, they used to have to at least pretend to be educated.

locumranch said...

If transparency, sousveillance, illumination & an 'end of secrecy' are not about improving one's ability to honestly assess reality in order to allow rational & well-informed decision making, then they most likely do not serve any material purpose whatsoever.

But, if the goals of transparency & illumination are about improving one's ability to honestly assess reality in order to allow rational & well-informed decision making, then my paraphrasing of our host's position is indeed accurate.

Transparency then becomes an attempt to compel honesty in order to insure an enforceable social contract and secure the fair-level-equal playing field of our host's fondest fantasies, and I challenge his assumptions about whether or not honesty serves this purpose.

Social contract theory says that 'people live together in society in accordance with an agreement that establishes moral and political rules of behavior', and nowhere in this definition is the quality known as 'honesty' specified as a prerequisite.

Honesty could help, sure enough, but there are plenty of social contracts that do not require honesty, as in the case of taqiyyah and transgenderism. Furthermore, there would be no need for transparency-based honesty at all if our current social contract already possessed functional amounts of honesty.

This is classic circular logic, the (false) argument being that all social interactions require honesty because 'all social interactions require honesty', including the social interactions that don't.


Best
____

The left is just as obsessed with 'end times' as the right is, as both hope for 'an end of history' that will legitimize the superior nature of their worldview FOR ALL TIME. Too bad, so sad, that the 'end' didn't happen, which means that liberal democracy & its fetish for DEI will wax, wane, rise and fall along with its more conservative opposition on our host's fair-level-equal playing field, forever, without resolution.

David Brin said...


LH: Let’s wait and see what settlement the Murdochs work out with Dominion, in addition to heaps of cash. My favorite? Agreement to reinstate “fair and balanced” and the Rebuttal Rule, where every 20 minutes of rant-lies gets at least a minute by an adversary chosen by trusted neutral parties.

Acacia you know this is a friendly place. So it is with love that I say – um – chill a bit? Or at least “Don’t Panic!”

1) The MAGA loonies do have a lot of guns in their basements… and have been busy offending and driving away a vast majority of the skilled and fact and law-focused men and women of the FBI/Intel/military officer corps. Hot war would not go well. …

2)… AND the cultists are in demographic collapse as their brighter daughters & sons migrate to universities and cities. And red-run states (except Utah) wallow in STDs, domestic violence, gambling and every other turpitude. In the event of ‘national divorce” we’ll keep those blue islands.

(And not one MAGA I have ever confronted with that pure fact has ever done anything other than cringe and flee. They know it is true, and that their movement is owned by murder sheiks, "ex" commissars and gambling-mafiosi.)

3 – Acacia, there is zero chance that a large majority would not fight and prevail over any idiots trying to make those ‘camps.’ HANDMAID'S TALE is a morality fever-dream, not a realistic projection. I fear other, less overt terror campaigns.

4- the masters of the world Oligarchic Putsch do NOT want all the nerds and protector caste etc fully wakened. And nothing will waken us more than the scenarios you describe. Recall that those oligarchs use dog whistles of prejudice as POLITICAL tools. The masters don’t hate you. Why should they? They use you as a dog whistle, you are of no use to them as a martyr.

Might our Nazis break out of control by oligarchs, the way Hitler's did from Prussian aristo control? Could happen. But we are not reflexively obedient 1930s Germans,


====
L really tried to focus this time and I did skim, and he has no idea (again) that his logic is skewed. ABove all, he either did not read or could not comprehend my essay's core point about values.


duncan cairncross said...

Cultists in demographic decline

At least a part of that is the removal of lead from petrol

My generation (boomers) and half the next were poisoned as children - the brain damage does not heal and reduces our empathy

But we are now in our 60's - NOT a good age for violent rebellion

Alan Brooks said...

“FOR ALL TIME”?

Loc, do you mean for All of Eternity? Now such would be ambitious to say the least!

“ensure an unenforceable social social contract”

Not ensure. Ensure is a vitamin shake for seniors. As you wrote, it is an attempt. Attempt according to time and place. It’s attempting to keep things from getting wildly out of control. Though sometimes it is ‘shoot for the Moon’.
You used to write that CB had bloggers who stress absolute equality. When did anyone here write absolute?

locumranch said...

As always, Dr. Brin is a class act and I thank him for conceding that honesty has no place in the current western social contract, as evidenced by his endorsement of Arcadia's transgender argument which posits:

(1) Gender as an arbitrary & imaginary social construct;
(2) Gender identity as a matter of individual choice; and then
(3) Gender identity as a legally enforceable & indisputable FACT, all while condemning anyone who commits the antisocial 'hate crime' of suggesting that gender is either arbitrary or not arbitrary.

It therefore follows that 'transgenderism' represents a polite fiction at best and a state-mandated lie at worst, but proves that our enlightened western social contract has become a flimsy & delicate tissue of falsehoods that cannot withstand plain talk or reasoned argument.

As to transgenderism's morality, social relevance, biblical precedence or relation to individual liberty, I care not a whit. All I care about is that it seeks to self-justify through the use of an illogical circular argument, one that is entirely & most sincerely false from a tautological perspective.

I do find it fascinating that the Transgender Cult of Cybele should choose to reappear at this particular moment in time, especially when the historical parallels between Late Stage Roman & American Empires become increasingly obvious.

And, as the Cybelean Festival & its 'Day of Blood' fast approaches, I suspect that Arcadia has much more to fear from her own cult than she does from any hypothetical rightwing nazis:

Data indicate that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32345113/


Best
______

@Alan_B:
Good points. I was referring to Fukuyama's 'End of History' which declared it 'resolved' that liberal democracy was the best form of government for all eternity. Ensure is oily swill; Boost is mostly sugar; Coke (dba Fairlife) now produces the superior protein shake; and merit & equality will forever be irreconcilable.

Tim H. said...

Over at "robertreich.substack.com" there's an essay posted that takes issue with Warren Buffet's views on stock buybacks. I side with Mr. Reich on this, thought must be taken for the entire Nation, which may mean compromises will be taken, they are the tools available. The essay brought to my mind a firm* that usually found resources for buybacks, but insufficient to execute their road map on schedule. I suspect the stockholders of the firm might've been better served in the long term if the road map had been executed in a timely manner.

*No, I won't name them OGH doesn't need the heat.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

merit & equality will forever be irreconcilable.


Actually, merit means nothing without equality.

Using a sports example, all teams are treated equally. That doesn't mean that all games must end in a tie. It means that the same rules for deciding who wins apply across the board. The Yankees don't get to start each inning with three men on base, the Astros don't get four outs before being retired, and the Cubs don't get to win just because they're ahead in the eighth.

Lena said...

Larry,

I am tempted to say that a major issue between the left and the right is a failure to communicate. I think, though, it is more specifically a failure to define terms. Equality is one of those terms. The Founding Fathers treated equality as a legal issue. The law must apply to all citizens in equal measure in all things. Whether the criminal is a president or a wealthy donor, they must be subject to the same laws and punishments as everyone else. That is how the libs use the term. Conservatives claim that equality must be clonal. Everyone must be exactly the same, and must therefore be allotted exactly the same resources - a definition that the FFs would not even recognize, and likely laugh at. When you explain this to conservatives, they insist that you are wrong, and that it is the libs who are pushing for this kind of equality. It fits with their gross misrepresentation of Communism, and more important, it can be used as a bludgeon against anyone who is actually for equality as the FFs use the term. They don't want equality of any kind at all. They want the rich and powerful to have the kinds of privileges that the Aristocracy once enjoyed. To them, humans aren't naturally equal, and only the "good" ones deserve to be treated better than criminals. Naturally they define "good" to mean rich. Here again is a term where the two sides mean completely different things, and will never be able to have a useful discussion until both sides get this.

Gender is another hot topic that suffers from definitional difficulties. The conservative definition is basically Hitler's definition. To fascists, all males are the nation's glorious warriors, endowed with the "manly" traits of strength and aggression. All females are incubators of those manly men, and are endowed with caring instincts. Gender, to them, is just another word for sex, and sex is decided by whatever god they choose to bend their knees to. Libs, on the other hand, get that gender is arbitrary. Sex is a matter of what dangles between your legs, or if you prefer, whether you have a y-chromosome or not (except that there are polyploid conditions that defy this definition). Gender, by definition, is the set of rules and expectations that are assigned to individuals based on their sex. Think of the related verb -to engender. And since this is arbitrary, cultures will in time change their definitions, as is happening right now. But don't try to explain this to conservatives. They seem pretty convinced that they are right about absolutely everything, and having Christian humility means that they have god-like powers of observation and comprehension.


PSB

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

Naturally they define "good" to mean rich.


Not any more. Now, they define "good" as white, heterosexual, and "Christian". And "'Christian'" does belong in quotes there, because as we've just recently discussed, they have no regard whatsoever for the teachings or injunctions of Jesus Christ. It mostly means that they conduct their public life in such a way as to pass for someone who sides with Jesus against Satan. They also seem to think that punching down against weaker people they don't like is what defines them as "Christian". But most of all, "Christian" in this day and age seems to mean rigid enforcement of hierarchical sex roles.

A.F. Rey said...

Gender as an arbitrary & imaginary social construct

You seem to question this assertion, locum, but I would think that you would recognize it as being obvious.

As a doctor, you know that sex is not absolute. There are males, and there are females, and then there are all those other variations--hermaphrodites, those with undeveloped genitalia, males with XX chromosomes, females with XY chromosomes, etc. Two sexes and those in-between.

But gender, according to certain Republicans, has only two categories, male and female. No in-betweens. Black or white. One or the other.

So obviously they are not physically, biologically determined constructs. Which really leaves only social constructs. One where the exceptions can be--in fact, must be--arbitrarily designated as one or the other.

Since sex and gender don't, and can't, always agree, then it is obvious that sex is a biological construct and gender is a social one.

Lena said...

Larry,

"Not any more. Now, they define "good" as white, heterosexual, and "Christian". "

I think it is more that these people are good enough. They are the people who deserve to live, and the leaders can only be drawn from their pool. It's like how "good families" used to be defined. Ultimately, though, the people they all admire and strive to be are the Martin Shkrellis and Robert Sacklers of the world.

Don't forget to add "male" to the list, as they deeply disrespect anything that they define as feminine.


PSB

Larry Hart said...

PSB:

Ultimately, though, the people they all admire and strive to be are the Martin Shkrellis and Robert Sacklers of the world.


The Donald Trumps too. Oh, he identifies as rich, but that's not what they admire him for other than what his perceived wealth allows him to get away with. They admire someone who allows them to vicariously live sinful fantasies. Someone who doesn't let anyone tell him what to do, not even Jesus.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman says several true things...

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/06/opinion/city-walkability-culture-wars-conspiracy-theories.html

...
And as usual the people who yell loudest about “freedom” are actually the ones who want to practice coercion, preventing other Americans from living in ways they disapprove of.
...
But very few promoters of the 15-minute city would advocate imposing that lifestyle on the population at large. It’s more a matter of making it possible for people to live that way if they choose.
...
I’ve noted before that there’s an unwritten rule in American politics that it’s OK for politicians to disparage big cities and their residents in a way that would be considered unforgivable if anyone did the same for rural areas.
...
The big budget document currently popular among House Republicans takes time out to support local bans on multifamily housing, contending the bans help preserve our “beautiful suburbs.” (These days even dry fiscal documents sound like Trump speeches.)
...

Robert said...

Just got an email from Senator Ingoglia (Florida). He's introduced a bill to eliminate the forced deduction of union dues from paycheques. It's apparently leftist and antidemocratic.

Unless the unions are police and firefighters. They would still have their dues deducted from each member's paycheque, rather than having to chase them.

Larry Hart said...

@Robert,

Shortly after several high-profile people were shot in 1981, Eddie Murphy did a routine in which he asked rhetorically why anyone would shoot the pope. The answer he came up with was, "Maybe he figured, 'I want to go to Hell, and I don't want to wait in line with all those people. I want to take the Hell Express.'"

More and more, I feel like that's the answer to the question of why anyone would vote Republican or support Republican politicians.

Alan Brooks said...

Yes. And also, if the Apocalypse occurs, they’ll feel vindicated. They’re covered both ways: if no Armageddon, they can remain riding on their gravy trains. If the Apocalypse does occur, the survivors conceivably could band together in religious communities—and such could be reified as the Spirit returning to Earth. That’s not what they say, but reification can lend to many similar interpretations. There’ve been nineteen centuries to work all sorts of hermeneutics; a portfolio of psychic-insurance policies.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

…merit means nothing without equality.

Heh. You might be a re-incarnated Leveler. Lots of us Enlightenment types are. In fact… too many to have been actual Levelers.

The vast majority of humans who ever lived would disagree with you, though. Allow for social classes and parentage infers merit.

———

I know there are stories that portray something like the following test. I've seen them done as movies occasionally. I think the abstracted idea shows what we ultimately mean by 'equal', though.



Imagine being plucked from life too early. Oops. Your time wasn't really up, but we can't put you back in the life you had before. Too many issues arise from actual evidence of resurrection. (See also 'Easter'.)

So we are going to put you back in someone else's life who doesn't want it. No harm done, right?



In an Equal world you might have preferences where you'd like to be inserted, but you wouldn't be screwed if they did it randomly. You might not have all the physical gifts you once had (no pro basketball options for you if you are too short, but you'd fit better in the cockpit of a fighter jet), but at least the social rules wouldn't be biased against you. With a bit of time and effort on your part, you could build a reasonable life again. No harm done, right?

In an Unequal world you might have additional preferences concerned with ensuring you aren't screwed right out of the pearly gate. Returning as a black man in 1890's Louisiana might be something you'd rather avoid. These additional preferences would look like a list of negatives. Don't want to be a slave in pre-Civil War era US, a woman in a Hand Maid's Tale world, a Jew in Poland in late 1939 (or in any other pogrom for that matter), or a heretic in any time and place where the Inquisition dominated. This list of negative would be quite long if the offer to re-insert you allowed for time travel. Most importantly for us, though, the list of negatives would show what we mean by Equal by a process of elimination. It provides a negative definition for it much like the best definitions for Liberty and Freedom. You know when you don't have it.

———

US Baseball isn't equal, though. My Dodgers have freakishly huge amounts of money and can buy their wins at a ridiculous price. Your Cubs can't and it shows in the pennant race. NFL tries to deal with that distortion but MLB does not. Not really. Adding a few wild card teams to MLB playoffs is a sop revealed by trades that occur just before the season deadline. Too many MLB teams are financially limited making them glorified AAA teams at best.

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

I appreciate your running with the notion in the directions that it takes you.

I was not claiming that equality is a truism, but it is an ideal to be striven toward. My point to loc was that neither the reality nor the ideal is in conflict with unequal rewards in exchange for unequal value provided.

Unknown said...

Alfred,

Trying to remember the name of the person who wrote that a fair society would be one you would be willing to be born into as anyone's child's (before you just said it, I mean.) That's so old that Plato had it as part of his ideal republic. DeCamp put that into his Republic of Mikardand, where the egg-laying locals hatched their eggs in a communal clutch so that theoretically no-one knew who had laid which egg, but was enough of a cynic to suggest that even then people would cheat or favor those young who looked like them.

And he's right. That's what people do. Doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying to make society fairer; it just means there will never been an end to trying.

Pappenheimer

Alan Brooks said...

Did Fukuyama write that liberal democracy has been resolved as the best for all eternity?

Unknown said...

By Bane, Meilikki, and Tempus, there is apparently nowhere on the internet right now to submit 23,500 words of D&D based fiction. BTW, Clarkeworld's restrictions on submissions are a hoot and I recommend reading them. A selection -

the following are likely hard sells:

zombies or zombie-wannabes (seriously, I’m not kidding)

sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, wicked witches, or demonic children

stories about rapists, murderers, child abusers, or cannibals

stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines

stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory

stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or . . . (insert any political party or religion here) take over the world and either save or ruin it

stories in which the words “thou” or “thine” appear

talking cats or swords

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

Now I want to write a story about a talking cat who spends the entire story arguing with her talking sword.

Pappenheimer

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer,

Agreed. It is an ANCIENT idea. Squint enough to see only the abstraction (Who would you NOT want to be?) and you get it as an element in a whole lot of stories when reasons for those preferences are revealed.

I like to trot out variations on it whenever I encounter someone who argues for equal outcomes (VERY rare) or argues that fans of Equality are arguing for equal outcomes (MUCH more common). We are NOT equal, so preferences are reasonable, but we are a lot more equal than many of us are willing to admit… so most preferences are not reasonable. They are technically irrational (not supported by reason), but they make perfect sense once biology is taken into account.



In a fair society, preferences will still exist. Parents will still promote their children and impact the options of competing children. What we can't tolerate is them biasing the system 'too' much.

In practice, this bias is impossible to define. We won't all agree that any particular bias is too much.* However, if 90%+ of us agree, I'm content to accept their narrowly defined counter-measures until their support drops below 80%. That doesn't mean I'll agree with them if I'm in the opposing minority, but I am willing to step aside if they want to use force. Well… I'm probably willing. There might be exceptions where I'm willing to take my lumps as an opposing force.


———

* Some here argue that billionaires shouldn't exist. My brother-in-law is inclined to agree. I recognize that great harm can be done by people with tons of cash to buy action, but taking their money to prevent the harm is not something I can accept. It's not a narrowly defined counter measure because it sends VERY strong market signals to everyone inviting gamesmanship.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Locumranch's usual strawman has Equality fans arguing for equal outcomes. To me it looked like you were arguing against the lame strawman AS a lame strawman. I didn't think for a moment you'd nibble at his obvious hook.

However, I don't think there is a way to measure 'value provided' except as the material exchanged for it. Unequal rewards is proper evidence for a whole lot of entangled 'values' that we won't disentangle.

No doubt we can talk at each other and discover yet again (after the semantic dust settles) that we mostly agree. This time we have locumranch as a catalyst for it. Seems to happen every year before Easter. 8)

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

The only argument in favor of Billionaires is that the very rich can get things done that the "bean counters" would never try

Unfortunately Elon Musk appears to be the only example of that

Does that disprove the argument - or prove it???

David Brin said...


“Imagine being plucked from life too early. Oops. “ = the movies “Heaven Can Wait.”

Duncan Carnegie’s libraries changed America. The barnstorming millionaires like H Hughes advanced aviation. Farther back were the Wonders of The World built by robbing peasants.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

I could argue here that the Carnegie fortune was built by robbing peasants. There's an old Bill Mauldin cartoon that asks whether the Carnegies' philanthropy can justify the business practices used to amass the fortune in the first place.

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

Pappenheimer Marx would approve of Carnegie. He was just doing his class job, building huge amounts of industrial capital, then later enabling the prols to get educated enough so their kids could topple the last capitalists and use all the capital they built.

duncan cairncross said...

and use all the capital they built.

Some (very few) "built" the capital - most simply stole the capital from those that actually built it

Larry Hart said...

I disagree with my fellow liberals demanding that FOX repudiate Tucker Carlson's lies about the Jan 6 insurrection. The correct response is to demand that we accept FOX's own defense narrative that they are an entertainment venue, not a news outlet, and stop treating and credentialing them as a news organization.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

This sounds like a re-run, but I'm right now listening to Malcolm Nance on Stephanie Miller's radio show, forcefully describing how he deals with trolls who assert that he never went to Ukraine or that he only went for photo ops and never fought--he bets them. Ten thousand dollars to be given to a neutral party and then find impartial judges. He didn't use the word "escrow", but otherwise, he sounds as if he's been reading this blog. And coming from him, it doesn't sound effete or Romneyesque.

You may not be getting the credit, but someone who is much less ignorable in right-wing world is using your playbook.

A.F. Rey said...

Elon Musk is crashing and burning.

The latest embarrassment comes from an employee, Haraldur Thorliefsson, who asked if he was still employed. Elon fired him, and sent out this tweet:

The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet he was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.

Can't say I have a lot of respect for that.


https://twitter.com/kenklippenstein/status/1633261069534724096

Unfortunately, Elon didn't understand the situation before tweeting.

As P. Z. Myers summarized:

The man’s disability is muscular dystrophy — he’s going to die from it. Also, one of the reasons for the confusion is that his employment was a special case. He’d founded a company that Twitter bought for $100 million, and he’d generously taken his buyout in the form of wages over an extended time, and the whole sum will come due when his employment ends. Like, when Musk fires him.

Haraldur has also won multiple Icelandic person-of-the-year awards to boot.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2023/03/08/twitter-will-not-fade-away-in-a-controlled-demolition/

Insulting and firing someone with MS who is trying to find out his status after a take-over is a very bad look, and a rookie mistake. This does not bode well for him. :(

scidata said...

I'm not an apologist for Musk, but apparently the first Starship orbital flight is weeks away. Tempers are frayed. And I don't think he was ever known as a nice, stable, polite person. But a sincere apology to Mr. Thorliefsson would certainly be in order.

And P.Z. Meyers is a hero of mine because says beautifully what I just mumble and stutter about regarding human foibles and to not anthropomorphize nature.

scidata said...

We've covered my misspelling of Myers before, and spelling is not what people come to CB for :)

locumranch said...

AF Rey has done us all a great service, not necessarily for his pedantry in regard to the currently accepted definitions of gender & sexuality, but in regard to the rhetorical process known as normalization:

As a doctor, you know that sex is not absolute. There are males, and there are females, and then there are all those other variations--hermaphrodites, those with undeveloped genitalia, males with XX chromosomes, females with XY chromosomes, etc. Two sexes and those in-between. But gender, according to certain Republicans, has only two categories, male and female. No in-betweens. Black or white. One or the other. So obviously they are not physically, biologically determined constructs. Which really leaves only social constructs.

What AF does here is bring up the extremely rare genetic exceptions that are Turner's (XO), Klinfelter's (XXY), Jacob's (XYY) & (XX/XY) chimerism, even though these are statistically insignificant occurrences, in order to invalidate a statistically derived rule. He then states that these aberrancies are 'natural', as indeed they are, and concludes that these extremely rare natural occurrences are therefore 'normal' (as in 'mathematically average') which is a blatant lie.

He then embraces the 'Gender is a social construct' argument, asserts that gender is an arbitrary & specious 'preference' and attempts to 'normalize' the arbitrary & specious as real (which is a huge lie).

This is the very same rhetorical gambit which was used so successfully to normalize aberrant sexuality (first) by arguing that 'sexuality is an arbitrary & specious 'preference', (second) by misrepresenting 'natural' as statistically 'normal', (third) by falsely redefining the arbitrary & specious as 'real', and (finally) by arriving at our current 'Sexuality is biologically predetermined' definition.

Larry_H attempts to do exactly that same thing when he tries to redefine Merit (aka 'superiority') in terms of Equality (aka 'identicality'), proving only that we live in a disgusting empire built on lies.


Best
_____

Again, I have no problem with Arcadia's gender identity as this amounts to little more than an 'arbitrary & specious preference'. What I object to are the obvious falsehoods used to normalize this 'arbitrary & specious preference' as a new & improved biological fact.

A.F. Rey said...

He then states that these aberrancies are 'natural', as indeed they are, and concludes that these extremely rare natural occurrences are therefore 'normal' (as in 'mathematically average') which is a blatant lie.

Funny how you say I conclude "natural" is therefore "normal," when I never used the word "normal" at all! :D

But the bigger problem is that no one (even you) is using the word "normal" in the mathematical sense.

When the anti-trans people say that trans people are not "normal," they don't mean to say that they are "outside the statistically significant majority." They mean it as "you're a pervert that shouldn't be allowed to show your face on the street!" (as in the recent bill signed in Tennessee). No one makes laws against behavior just because they are outside the mathematical average, for Heaven's sake! :D

"Normal" is used in the sense that something is "not perverted."

But perversion is a social construct, as is seen by different societies having different definition of what is "perverted," aka socially acceptable. Which brings us back again to the fact that gender is a social construct, and not something that is biologically determined.

You have still not addressed the main thrust of my argument that gender cannot be biologically determined, but must be a social construct, since there are only two genders according to Conservatives, and sex has more than two sexes.

(Thank you for the list of some of the other sexes, too, although I was thinking of sex reversal from de la Chapelle syndrome rather than Jacob's chimerism. Biology is so strange!)

David Brin said...

“Some (very few) "built" the capital - most simply stole the capital from those that actually built it”

That’s why Marx praised Adam Smith for distinguishing actual industrialists from aristocratic rentier-caste inheritance brats, against whom the US Founders rebelled. Marx thought the industrialists would dominate, ignoring the fact that cash manipulators would tend to dominate and industrialists would have inheritance brats of their own. (Carnegie notably evaded that flaw.)

That Marxhad many delusions looking ahead shows how little use his historiography of the past was for prediction. But it is not wise to ignore how very much industrial capital was built that helped defeat the neo-aristocracy of the Confederacy… and the vast capital we’ve built today.

“a new & improved biological fact.”

That sci-tech may allow people to pursue the American dream of perpetually fine-tuning and redefining themselves? As oft portrayed in sci fi? Yeah sure. The dismal idiocy of the left is to scream “OF COURSE!” at anyone who so much as blinks in surprise or discomfort at new ‘inclusions’ that last year were impossible fantasies.

That’s not how you build a consensus of inclusion. It IS how you arterially-inject an impractical but lusciously orgiastic sanctimony drug high.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

Larry_H attempts to do exactly that same thing when he tries to redefine Merit (aka 'superiority') in terms of Equality (aka 'identicality'), proving only that we live in a disgusting empire built on lies.


Should I talk...slower...so...you...can...understand?

I consider it a desired thing for society to treat people as equals in the sense that the same rules apply to all. When playing by those same rules for all, I also consider it a desired thing, or at least a tolerable thing, that someone who produces more value merits more reward than someone who produces lesser value.

You apparently see no difference between "Playing by the same rules, the better team won," and "My team was allowed to write the rule-book in a way that always favors them." The former demonstrates merit in the context of equality. The latter makes clear how lack of equality devalues the concept of merit itself.

matthew said...

Alfred, your discomfort with the idea that markets may gamify ways to avoid progressive taxation rates for billionaires is basically true. Markets are gonna gamify no matter what. That is true for *all* markets, not just for billionaires. Show me a market of any type with static rules and I will show you a market that has ceased to innovate.

Where you and Dr. Brin are wrong is in the idea that *any* billionaire* can be an overall net positive. So far, the only examples of a billionaire being a net positive are billionaires that are actively giving away their wealth, and I still deeply suspect those are doing more harm than good.

Market-based economies vest power in wealth.
Too much power or wealth in *any* one individual is corrosive in the long run. Saint or sinner, it diminishes the health of the market.

So, yes, progressive taxation ("make the second billion $ harder to accumulate than the first") will be gamified. Still, it is better than the current alternative, even Dr. Brin's "good billionaires."

Unknown said...

Larry,

Your arguments re: Loc are pointless. S/He is intent on telling others what they mean by words, whether or not those are the correct meanings, such as "Equality (aka 'identicality')" a la "Harrison Bergeron", which is not only NOT what I mean by equality, but what many others have already specifically stated is NOT what they meant, either. To quote the famous Admiral Ackbar, it's a trap. It's not a debate. S/He is trolling you.

Dr. Brin,

In my recently completed fantasy story I referenced a mage who decided to take a year off from Wizard School as a dolphin (he took an aquatical). Similarly, when the biotech becomes good enough to be completely reversible, I'm sure there will be people who swap to the other sex out of curiosity or just deactivate their sex drives to get through grad school. Will there still be folks like Loc-Nar launching Jeremiads? Sure. The key fact is they won't be compelled to do any such thing to their own tingly bits.

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

onward

onward