Friday, June 02, 2023

Biotech, bioscience & human origins

I've been swampd with interviews on Artificial Intelligence and writing missives to try (in expected futility) shining some light amid the shrill, panicky harrangues out there. Few seem to grasp that we've created a vast, new ecosystem - akin to Earth's primordial soup - into which these AI systems are flooding, just like invasive species. 

I'll be back to let you know more. Meanwhile, let's talk about the older Earthly ecosystem.

First: apropos of this topic... It's 50,000 BC. Where are your children? Discover Tribes, the underground game favorite that thrilled players for years! Now updated by Steve Jackson and author David Brin, Tribes blurs the line between roleplaying and board games. Journey to the Stone Age with Tribes!

The game is IDEAL for a college or HS anthropology or history class to get a feel for how we - and so many familiar human patterns - came about. It's a VERY social game, best run with 6+ players with generous time allowed. 

We're running a Kickstarter for the new, boxed version. I'll add signed bookplates and books to the rewards. 

Now. Returning to science - recent updates and new insights into human origins...


== Re-examining human origins ==


Here's an interesting article on the life expectancy of ancient humans. About 30,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, the average lifespan began to push past 30 years. Other changes occurred in shifting from nomadic to more urbanized lifestyles, which often lacked proper sewage and hygiene.

Just released: Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting our Origins, by paleoarcheologist P. Petitt explores recent advances in our understanding how early humans evolved and innovated in developing art, language and tools.

When monkeys in Thailand use stones as hammers to help crack nuts, they often accidentally create sharp flakes of rock that resemble the stone cutting tools made by early humans. And now archaeologists may need to rethink their assumptions about some of the stone artifacts attributed to early human ancestors over a million years ago. No one has seen these monkeys do anything with the flakes. "Maybe that's a clue for how stone tools began in the first place." 

And some more recent re-thinks:  some researchers have recently called into question some of the earliest evidence in Brazil for when humans might have entered the continent, saying ancient sites from 50,000 years ago could have been created by monkeys instead of people. 

Apparently, humans still have the genes for a full coat of body hair. See my creepy short story "Chrysalis," found in my Best of David Brin anthology. It's about more than just body hair.

What makes us human: a look at the evolutionary origins of human imagination; neurologists are zoning in on the brain structures that enable us to envision new objects and ideas.

Some studies indicate that everyone with blue eyes may descend from a single genetic mutation, less than 10,000 years ago.

This coverage of the new corridor discovered under the Great Pyramid is better journalism than many others. Only a few years after we gave the inventors a grant to study asteroid interiors, at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC).


== Biotech updates ==

Scientists have created the first detailed wiring diagram of an insect brain The brain, from a fruit fly larva, contained 3016 neurons connected by 548,000 synapses. “Previous wiring diagrams, known as connectomes, were limited to worms like c. elegans and tadpoles with just a few hundred neurons and a few thousand synaptic connections.  It shows just how far they still have to go, to map a human brain, which contains more than 80 billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synapses.”  The team began by slicing a single tiny brain the size of a grain of salt into thousands of very thin sections….  

And now, shroom-boom! The Ecovative company grows huge slabs of mycelium (mushroom/fungi) which can be turned into styrofoam substitute packing material - or faux leather, or even vegan bacon. Scaling up fast, too. 


A new anti-fungal compound kills so effectively it’s been named after Keanu Reeves. Along the lines of The Last of Us. 


A fundamental stepping stone in biogenesis? Were there achievable self-forming stages in the early soup on the way to the earliest ribosome? 


== Ecological News ==


Massive blob headed to Florida: More than 13 million tons of sargassum, a brown seaweed, has been drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. This year's bloom is the largest ever recorded; such huge masses can create dead zones in the ocean, killing sealife. Sticky mats have been washing up on Florida and Mexico beaches. 


A new ocean climate solution - SeaChange - developed by UCLA engineers attempts to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by pulling carbon dioxide out of seawater, trapping it in calcium carbonate mineral, then returning the seawater to the ocean to trap more CO2.


There are indications that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide may alter the micronutrient levels in plants and kelp.


Hopeful news? Dolphins have been spotted frolicking in New York City’s Bronx River, an encouraging sign of the improving health of a waterway that was for many years befouled as a sewer for industrial waste.


But alas, less hopeful.... Climate disruption caused by a decline in marine biodiversity: “By 2045 if we do nothing then oceanic pH will be below 7.95, and the saturation index for Aragonite will be below 1.0 and most oceans will be dead. There is no adaptation to dissolving. Marine life cannot survive without plankton, terrestrial life cannot survive without plankton, humanity cannot survive. Ocean acidification is the only subject the IPCC report with 100% accuracy,” in research by H. Dryden and D. Duncan.


Above all, ocean acidification is the aspect of Carbon pollution for which the right has no glib, magical cancelation incantation. They've got nothing, whatsoever. YOU can invite a MAGA to come down to the pier and measure Ph levels yourselves. Demand a wager and a visit to your local, community college chemistry professor. It so fully corners them that Fox etc panic and change the subject, whenever those two words come up.


Researchers worry about a new variety of bird flu, the H5N1 strain, which has killed more than 58 million poultry in the U.S., but is also affecting wild birds across the globe. It has been reported in shore birds, eagles, owls, falcons, condors and pelicans.


Microplastic particles (largely from food packaging) have been detected in the brains (of animals) within hours after ingestion.



== Bio insights ==


Biotech firm Moderna has teamed up with IBM to explore the use of quantum computing as an aid in developing future medicines and vaccines.


In Blight: Fungi and the Coming Pandemic, E. Monosson explores the next possible frontier of disease, the rise of fungal pathogens resistant to antifungal drugs. Such pathogens have devastated worldwide populations of frogs, salamanders, bats, and chestnut trees; food crops are also under threat. Drug-resistant infections are passed to patients in hospitals as well. 

Strangely-shaped twisted-toroid propellers look like a revolutionary (sorry) advance for the aviation and marine sectors. Radically quieter than traditional propellers in both air and water, they're also showing some huge efficiency gains.


An added benefit. Look at the drone version. Its props will survive collisions and impacts vastly better than standard props, hence no need for a nacelle.


And yeah, then there's AI... more on that soon.


92 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

Acacia H,

Puberty blockers make a lot of us queasy and there is no arguing with that kind of gut reaction. The best you'll accomplish is getting is to stay the heck out of other people's business. We might look pained or feel ill, but if we aren't dictating rules to doctors they'll remain largely free to do what they believe is in their patient's best interest.

Musk's untimely demise would impact the ability of his companies to raise money during investment rounds. They WOULD be affected, so don't brush him off as if he was a leech. He's not.

scidata,

Because he once broke into tears at the lack of moral support for early SpaceX from venerable NASA astronauts.

Unfortunately, that is a necessary step on the path he was walking. I know a number of people who tried that same path (with far less money) and they all confronted the same issue. Realizing the nature of this reality is the KEY defining feature between old and new space advocates.

So… let him rail against the SOB's. He and his teams are succeeding where hundreds of others of us did not. Along the way, he's carving a path that is quite a bit wider than he is and letting in his would-be, some-day competitors. This is a good thing.

David Brin said...

Sorry, but the worst aspect of the left is not the blatant sanctimony or the self-defeating refusal ever to re-appraise failed tactics. Nor their active attacks on the allies they need, for a coalition to defeat the confederate madness.

No, the very worst is their refusal EVER to call conferences of wise people to discuss and argue over all of the above.

Around 1970 there should have been a conference to argue what to do about the word 'man". I would have argued against the insanely counterproductive and stoopid demand by Steinem & co that "man" should be male, instead of the obviously better alternative.

Al Franken should not have resigned, he should have said: "I demand a trial! Call a conference of the foremost, wisest, and CALM feminist sages to judge my past sins, my more recent good deeds for the causes of justice, putit all in context with how I might be useful in future, and assign me penalties and contritions. I will obey!"

It is simply stunning that no one in 40 years has shown this horrific negligence of a process that is utilized in every other field where humans have advanced, especially science. It is not done because (coming full circle) sanctimony is the beloved drug high and it hates calm deliberation and negotiation.

What? you think just because you are on the good side you are immune to human nature? Dig it. THe good side would have fully won by now, if we weren't constantly undermined by ingignation junkies.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred

IMHO Musk does far far more than "enable fund raising"

From my POV it seems that one of his most important functions is as an "enabler" - he "enables" his engineers to do their jobs

In the older car companies the top ranks - from the CEO down - effectively STOP the engineers from doing their jobs

We can see that with the cars
The Model S from 2012 is only just being equaled by the older car companies

Meanwhile Tesla has disappeared into the distance

Companies all tend to move that way - the people who concentrate on getting promoted get promoted
So after a couple of decades all of the top positions are filled with people whose goal is their own personal advancement and the devil take the "good of the company"

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,

You'll get no quibbling from me. I recognize him as an enabler too, I just don't know how to explain that job function to people not familiar with entrepreneurial start-ups... or it's opposite like you describe in the old car companies.

Few people get close enough to upper management to really understand what it is they do. Judgement errors are made in all directions ranging from "they are worthless" to "they are gods". Pfft! The good ones have skills rarely found in lower management which is the layer most of us ever get to see.


David,

I LOVE those toroidal propellers! I wish I'd thought of that 20 years ago for our stratospheric drones.

I also perked up when I saw that max efficiency for ship propellers occurs at a slower rotation rate. That's an obvious fuel saver. HUGE difference for sea transport.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred/David

I also love those props - I was quite cynical until I read the article

But I don't see why they would be made using 3D printing

You use 3D printing to make the first one then use that to make the mould - then you spit them out by the thousands using injection moulding

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

THe good side would have fully won by now, if we weren't constantly undermined by ingignation junkies.


One might also surmise that Black Lives Matter would have "won" if they hadn't enabled and tacitly supported looting and mayhem. That Democrats would have won the House if they hadn't been tarred with "Defund the police!"

Is it possible that three times is enemy action?

In your own Earth, you have a character describe that in the lead-up to the Helvetian War, the sane voices of reason and compromise were bribed, threatened, or killed, insuring that only the crazy options remained possible. That sounds a lot like it was torn from today's headlines. Anthony Kennedy's sudden resignation? That North Carolina state senator who ran as a pro-choice Democrat but then switched parties to give the GQP a supermajority? Kyrsten Sinema?

Tim H. said...

"The genes for a full coat of hair" was suggested in L. Sprague de Camp's "Hyperpilosity" in 1938 (Not THAT old, Groff Conklin included it in an omnibus collection). I suspect if he was still this side of the grass he'd find that news amusing.

Larry Hart said...

Heh.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Jun03-1.html

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

J.C.A. in Shepherdsville, KY, asks: If the $1 trillion coin comes to pass, who or what should be on it and why?

And here some of the answers we got in response (which are moot for now, but you never know when the government will need some good ideas):
...
D.E. in Lancaster, PA: Oh, this is so easy. Hillary Clinton on the front drinking a Bud Light and on the back Cinderella's Castle in Disney World during the celebration of Pride Month on June 19th. OK, snowflakes, who just owned who, bitches? You can almost hear the veins in their foreheads exploding like a string of firecrackers on Chinese New Year. Ooh, that's a sextuple burn! Zing, I said "sex" so that's a septuple burn and since most Republicans are too stupid to know that word, I'm on to octuple owning!

Lena said...

Has anyone noticed in that article about the origin of imagination that it seems to have happened right around the same time as the Y-Chromosome Bottleneck? Also, it attribute the success of imagination to males, but this is mainly about sexual selection, and we can't presume that females were just passive receivers and not active participants. This was long before civilization and its rigid codification of gender roles.

Another paleo item: unmodified flakes of cryptocrystalline silicates are never considered proof of much of anything on their own. Even with conchoidal fractures, they could just as easily be ventifacts, and any archaeologist whose degree is worth the paper it is printed on knows this. Flakes with edge use is better, but resharpened edges are a dead giveaway.

PSB

Robert said...

Question for David about the Tribes reprint: are there any rules changes, or is it just nicer components?

Inquiries to SJG have gone unanswered. Or I missed seeing their answers in the deluge of Republican propaganda that threatens to overwhelm my inbasket every morning. Like, why does Ron DeSantis feel it necessary to tell me several times a day he's running for President? Why does Hillsdale College want to sell me a course on how the Second Amendment is Christian? And why does Google's usually-decent junk filtering not catch all this stuff?

Acacia H. said...

Here's more on Elon Musk's descent into transphobic commentary. Oh, and in response to an above comment... Puberty Blockers have been used in Cisgender medicine for some time. There are children who are exposed to testosterone gels used by parents and undergo precocious puberty - a very good friend of mine had her eight-year-old son suffer this from his father's use of medicinal testosterone to treat some medical condition. Puberty blockers are safe and effective at treating precocious puberty. This is established medicine.

The son of my friend was on puberty blockers for a bit and is now a grown adult, is married, and has at least one child. (I fell out of touch with my friend and she recently died, so I don't know much else.) There is no reason for "puberty blockers make a lot of us queasy" except for people buying into transphobic dialogue. PUBERTY BLOCKERS ARE ESTABLISHED MEDICINE. So then, why is it fine to use them to treat precocious puberty but not for children who are unsure if they are in fact their gender and want to wait so they don't grow breasts or chest hair and the like?

The ONLY thing that happens when a child is on puberty blockers is that they don't go through puberty to the extent that other children do. If they later as an adult realize "I am actually my gender" they can go off the puberty blockers, undergo puberty, and suffer no ill effect. This "queasiness" is no different from people who are "queasy" about diabetics using insulin because "these druggies are injecting themselves with drugs" (nevermind the fact the "drug" in question is a hormone they need so they don't die). And yes, there are people who oppose the use of insulin by diabetics. That includes child diabetics. If a child diabetic doesn't get medication, they will not survive childhood. Given the significantly higher rate of suicides by transgender children... it can be argued quite effectively that puberty blockers help save the lives of these children.

Take a long look at why the use of puberty blockers makes you "queasy" because it's a short step from that to "transpeople make me queasy" and joining the Republican Party in forcing me and other transgender people to no longer exist... as we can see is currently happening in a number of Red States. This is not conjecture. Florida's laws have "sex offenses against children is punishable by death" and "drag is a crime against children." It will soon be illegal to go out in public as a transwoman because a child saw me and the Florida transwoman is thrown in jail for "indecency" and a felony sex crime against children merely by existing.

Even if the State of Florida never puts any transwomen to death, you will see "vigilantes" rise up to kill transwomen because "we're protecting our kids." Because transphobic assholes dragged a transwoman to death behind a car 30 years or so ago. They want to return to those days.

Acacia H.

Robert said...

Acacia, this will probably be familiar:

It’s no surprise that since anti-transgender rhetoric exploded in the United States and beyond, reports are emerging about all manner of people being harassed in or removed from public bathrooms, from trans people to butch lesbians, to more recently, a mom escorting a disabled adult child into a women’s bathroom. Last year, an 86-year-old woman in Ireland was nearly beaten to death because her perpetrator, a stranger, assumed she was “a man dressed up as a woman,” and a “pedophile.”

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2023/06/03/how-a-new-contagion-forced-us-to-cancel-a-family-vacation-to-florida.html

David Brin said...

“Still on this side of the grass.” Terrific metaphor/

Duncan some shapes are very hard to mould.

Robert I think the rules are the same.

Acacia I know puberty blockers have a variety of uses. Alsom from personal experience I know that yes, transition is more successful before full puberty. I have been personally close to some who ‘pass’ and some who don’t. And starting on time is an issue!

OTOH Bill Maher is right that children are generally drama-idiots who have no sense and can talk themselves into anything. Anyone who denies that never knew a child.

What that suggests is a WINDOW of time… say from 11 to 13… when some kind of intense discussions, appraisals and sovereign decisions might make sense. And a compromise would be to leaves kids’ heads alone before that, including allowing the birth gender to be deemed default until age 10 because… well… it’s the default that doesn’t sterilize? And because EVERY previous generation somehow coped.

And I hope none of you will copy or report that I even expressed this tepidly cautious opinion.
Alas, I am forced to remain (mostly) silent by shrill demands for uniformity of outlook in a matter that calls for subtlety, tradeoffs and science and maybe compromise.

Look, SciFi predicted long before anyone else that this would become a thing. And right now new technologies enable the American dream that “I get to define myself!” to expand into realms our ancestors could barely imagine. There is nothing more American.

Those techs are also awkward, incomplete, problematic… especially when these things are largely irreversible. So yes, I am an ally. But one who asks inconvenient questions.

duncan cairncross said...

David
While some shapes are "hard to mould" that is mostly due to internal voids

A shape with no internal voids can be injection moulded - although the mould can get very complex! - and expensive

3D printing is great for one offs - Injection moulding for thousands - the more complex the mould required the more "thousands" needed!

Prop blades for quadcopters - will get into the millions very quickly

Tim H. said...

"Transphobia" seems to be a thing because outrage merchants wanted something different to wind up their followers. In time the outrage du jour will change again, damaging another group who's just trying to get from one end of this life to the other.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, Puberty Blockers are not irreversible. Thus allowing children to take Puberty Blockers until they are older and have a better view of themselves and what they want in their lives is not a bad thing. Seriously. The fact there is so much uproar against their use for children who are unsure if they are transgender or in fact know they are transgender so they are not forced to undergo puberty until they are 18 and can undergo HRT just shows there is considerable fear and disdain against transgender people, including people who are educated and claim to have an open mind.

And given that forcing a child to undergo a puberty as a gender they do not want to be can result in those children committing suicide because they are being forced to be something they do not want to be... this is life-saving therapy. Refusing a child this therapy is in fact treating children as property rather than as people.

-----------

A small question on the new prop design, might these be more effective in the thin Martian air? Or for that matter, in the atmosphere of Titan... Venus... or even in the gas giants? Why not have drones used to study the atmospheres of the gas giants and send signals to outlying probes?

Acacia H.

Alan Brooks said...

It’s their whole idea, boiled down: sacrificing such groups.
They often take what we say about their damaging other groups as a compliment.

Robert said...

It’s their whole idea, boiled down: sacrificing such groups.

Gotta have a target for the Two Minutes Hate.

Tim H. said...

Might one say fascists are defective conservatives? Lacking patience, empathy & impulse control, they've failed to achieve maturity.
Note to OGH, glad you liked the metaphor.

scidata said...

I may have a snag waiting for me in the future if I ever want to fabricate SELDON I processors: culture shock. To JB: may I suggest Canada?


TSMC needs to hire 4,500 Americans for Arizona plant, not going well:
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/chip-maker-tsmc-needs-hire-100000012.html

Larry Hart said...

Rachel Maddow did a series on German fascist sympathizers in high places including the US Senate and many local law-enforcement agencies in the early (pre-war) 1940s, and even late into the war years. Their tactics were all too familiar to a 2023 audience--"witch hunts", "politicized DOJ", tolerance for pro-fascist violence. And always, always the claim of patriotism and of saving America from the depravity of Jews and socialists. Oh, and a defendant giving Nazi salutes on the courthouse steps and writing speeches for a North Dakota senator in praise of Hitler in 1944.

I had no idea the extent of the Nazi sympathy and official tolerance that existed here in the US before and even into the war. What's even scarier is how faithfully the same dynamic is playing out before our very eyes.

https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-presents-ultra


Sitting members of Congress aiding and abetting a plot to overthrow the government. Insurrectionists criminally charged with plotting to end American democracy for good. Justice Department prosecutors under crushing political pressure. Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra is the all-but-forgotten true story of good, old-fashioned American extremism getting supercharged by proximity to power. When extremist elected officials get caught plotting against America with the violent ultra right, this is the story of the lengths they will go to… to cover their tracks.

David Brin said...


Tim A. Fascists are feudalists who thnk that they can shape the new ruling aristocracy based on their hates. Leninists are feudalists who believe the ruling aristocracy can arise out of purity of idealism. The Bei-ging version is a ruling aristocracy that combines Leninism with the 3000 year traditional Mandate of Heaven. All deny the enlightenment notion of Locke and Adam Smith… that aristocracies are always delusional.

LH my dad fought Nazi thugs in late-thirties Chicago. So much so that he was featured in a book about that.

Acacia, NONE of what follows has anything to do with you. I am glad science and a liberal society helped you to find your path. Indeed, I have several in my life who have made the leap. Moreover, as you say, use of blockers to delay puberty till a cogent decision can be made makes some logical sense, widening that window I spoke of and allowing deferred decision when the brain is better developed.

Sure. Makes sense. Only dig it, it’s a theory! There have been countless theories that worked and others proved wrong or ‘it’s complicated’ and this one is almost certainly in that last category.

You are asking for a hugely invasive experiment to be performed on tens of thousands of live human subjects – children. In fact, I am willing. But in return, a little humility, admitting THAT it is a huge experiment? And we don’t actually know what we are doing?

Also there’s kind of an implied contempt for 10,000 generations of our ancestors who had no such options, who had to cope… and did cope… with playing the binary hand they had been dealt… Yes, many lived their lives with dysphoria and confusion. It’s good that we’ve begun to offer options that never before existed! But still, we are all descended from those who persevered and coped and got us here.

While now we CAN and SHOULD offer folks a brand new chance to choose their own path – the American dream of ‘I can choose what I’ll be!” -- it is bizarre to demand that it be the default and that all discomforted neighbors are automatically horrid bigots, while the processes are new and hugely, hugely awkward and drenched in pain.

By all means, let’s move ahead to that sci fi world of universal self-remaking! But I assert that the DEFAULT should remain what it was for 10,000 generations…

If you are really sure, great, let’s help – experimental or not. But if you are on the fence or iffy about it, then the default should be the hand you were dealt. The hand that might give your parents grandchildren and continue the chain.

--

David Brin said...

And I ask on community honor that no one repeat what I say here (informally) anywhere else. It WILL be misconsrued. You know damn well it will be.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH my dad fought Nazi thugs in late-thirties Chicago. So much so that he was featured in a book about that.


I think I bought that book after you described it once. Could you repeat the title?

I knew there was such thing as support for fascism over here--especially before America joined the war--but I had no idea the extent of it and the support it received from various law-enforcement agencies and senators.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

While now we CAN and SHOULD offer folks a brand new chance to choose their own path – the American dream of ‘I can choose what I’ll be!”


Dave Sim used to throw out as an anti-feminist "gotcha" trump card the assertion that "Nobody wants to be a woman." In other words, men are self-evidently the superior gender, and the proof of that is that anyone who could magically pick their own gender would of course choose manhood. Why volunteer to be a silver medalist when you could go for the gold?

The corollary, of course, is that because the species depends on there being plenty of both men and women, women have to be prevented from trying to be men.

I lost touch with Dave back around 10 years ago, so I have no idea what his thoughts are on transgender issues, or on Donald Trump for that matter. But I would say now that the fact that there is even a controversy over what to do about transgender girls and women proves his assertion false. Even back then, I used to argue that Ayn Rand (of all people) exemplified a certain female attitude of extoling the virtues of men, but at the same time, enjoying the fact of her own womanhood. In fact, I believe a direct quote of hers (or something very close) was, "I can't imagine being a man, because I love men so much."

Authoritarian fascists' entire structure is based upon there being an untermenshen class of people to exploit and vilify. Allowing people to choose who and what they want to be is anathema. They need to be able to assert--and back up with threats and violence--"You are vhat ve say you are, und you vill like it!" How are you going to keep them down in the lower classes if they've seen Par-ee.

Robert said...

there’s kind of an implied contempt for 10,000 generations of our ancestors who had no such options, who had to cope… and did cope… with playing the binary hand they had been dealt

The "just cope" argument also applies to physical disabilities such as lameness and vision problems, but our ancestors have been using technology to correct those for a long time. (Cataract surgery goes back a couple of millennia, for example. Crutches and other mobility aids are even older.) Our ancestors coped by using technology. It's what humans do.

The binary hand has more than just two fingers. Intersex is a real thing, for example. Among indigenous peoples, there was an acceptance that someone's societal role didn't have to match their anatomy. (Called berdaches by Europeans, as a pejorative term.) This was one of the things Christian missionaries tried hard to stamp out. And I assume we've all heard of the Chevalier d'√Čon, who managed to blackmail the authorities into letting her live as her preferred gender…

I will note that the right-wingers who are most outraged about "protecting children from trans-xxxxx" are apparently perfectly OK with children being regularly shot at school, learning how to hide from mass murderers, etc. How many kids might be affected by puberty blockers? Because over 6000 were shot last year… and many more were affected by the violence.

David Brin said...

"Dave Sim used to throw out as an anti-feminist "gotcha" trump card the assertion that "Nobody wants to be a woman.""

What stunning crap!

OBVIOUSLY when life is bad for a woman it is worse than males can imagtine...
...but when life is GOOD for a woman it is vastly better than we can even picture!

I am perfectly channeled and contentedly ortho human male without even hints of other inclintations. But I also have an imagination and if we do live into a sci fi future, I can promise you that by age 250 I will certainly have taken a turn around that wheel.

Sim is/was a jibbering loony.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

a jibbering loony.


Don't get the idea that I agreed with his politics just because I was a fan of his art.

Before Dave became a religious fanatic, he was more of an iconoclast. One might have even said "contrarian". He saw things from a perspective that almost no one else shared, but I thought I could understand better than most. He used to ridicule "family values" and Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as much as he did feminists.

When he read and fell in love with the Bible, he became convinced that his immortal soul depended upon him never allowing himself to be tempted away from God's team. That's when his wit turned strictly against feminists/homosexuals/Marxists/liberals who he perceived as God's Adversary's team. He railed against even the suggestion that there was common ground to be had between liberals and himself, lest he spend billions of years burning in the sun.

There was a long-standing debate in fandom as to how loony he actually is. He has rock-solid fans who treat his every utterance the way MAGAts do with Trump. Most of comics fandom has concluded that he is "bat-s%%% crazy" and largely moved on. One might even say "cancelled". My own attitude is a sigh of, "What a waste of an intellect," similar to when Cat Stevens decided music was evil. Still, he shaped so much of my thinking in the 1990s that I can't help referencing the guy.

Alfred Differ said...

The argument that Group X is outraged by Y and not by a worse thing Z doesn't really work. They can accept Z as acts of God and reject Y as acts of humans... especially when those acts involve children.

I get argument, but it doesn't work with as many people as we'd wish it would.

------

All medical procedures are experiments of a sort. For some of them we have lots of practice and statistics. For many, we have lots of hopes and theory. Ultimately, though, we are experimenting on ourselves to figure out what works more often than it harms and kills.

------

And then there are trade-offs. My vision is correctable, but I have to give up peripheral vision due to the strength of my lenses. It's an easy trade for me that I've made since I turned 4yo. I'm so used to it I just chuckle when something bounces off my head that I didn't see and everyone else thought I could. Lenses have been around a LONG time and people still don't understand the trade-offs. 8)

There is no arguing with the queasiness we experience when we do these experiments on ourselves and our children. They are what they are. At best we can avoid spreading and legislating our fears and let doctors work with their patients as best they can.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

I will note that the right-wingers who are most outraged about "protecting children from trans-xxxxx" are apparently perfectly OK with children being regularly shot at school,


That's not a contradiction. They want everyone to learn helplessness and rely on a strong Daddy figure to protect them, even if that "strong" man is Donald Trump. The whole FOX methodology is to convince viewers that scary things are everywhere. They pose as tough guys, but as Hannibal Lecter put it, their "essential nature" is cowardice.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

There is no arguing with the queasiness we experience when we do these experiments on ourselves and our children.


Yes, but the argument seems to be currently framed as insidious actors perpetrating harm upon defenseless children rather than desired by the children themselves. I see more of the contentious uncertainty that you and OGH describe in the cases when the children are acting against parents' advice. But the authoritarians aren't leaving it there. They want to criminalize parents, teachers, doctors etc attempting to help youngsters. That's where the cruelty which is also their essential nature* is laid bare.

* It can be two things.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ after a double-take:

They can accept Z as acts of God and reject Y as acts of humans...


So mass shootings can somehow be considered to be acts of God, terrible in their own way, but nobody's fault, not even the Romans'? When I suggested we name them like hurricanes and react to them the way we do after tornadoes and floods, I was only a little bit serious.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

We saw a round of this in California around 2008 where the opposing forces managed to get an initiative on the ballot (Prop 4). They argued that parents should be involved in the abortion decisions made by their underage daughters. On the surface, the initiative sounded reasonable, but there was a lot of opposition and then attempts to criminalize parents, teachers, and doctors who would help these minor girls keep secrets.

Authoritarians tell you what you should believe and do... and they come in all stripes and colors.

------

I was inclined from the start to vote against Prop 4 because I could see the authoritarians trying to dictate beliefs to children and their caregivers. However, a doctor I know gave me an even better reason to vote against it when he argued that we had no f@$%ing clue how bad it was going to be when a majority vote could dictate how he was allowed to dispense care. He usually sided with conservative thinkers, but for that Prop he practically ranted against them. It was a wonder to behold.

------

I recognize you are pointing to authoritarians. What I'm more concerned about is the people they persuade. We have to be able to counter the rhetoric effectively... and some arguments just don't work.

David Brin said...

A raped minor seeking an abortion is attempting to retain options under a status quo that was robbed from her. The more recent gender topics are far more complex.And if one starts with an extremum... telling a six year old it's time to discuss their gender choice options or a teacher saying to kindergartners 'there's no such thing as Boys or Girls"... well, those extrema should be rejected by decent folks of all kinds and sincere negotiations take place over where we define 'extrema' and where we say "okay, now you are old enough to ponder these matters."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

telling a six year old it's time to discuss their gender choice options or a teacher saying to kindergartners 'there's no such thing as Boys or Girls"... well, those extrema should be rejected by decent folks


I know there must be real-life examples of that taking place, but it sounds to me like a right-wing caricature of what liberals do. I just went through raising a child to the age of 21 in a prosperous, socially-liberal suburb of Chicago, and never heard of a teacher saying anything like that to their charges. Every expecting couple I know of in recent times (except my wife and myself who didn't want to know ahead of time) has a gender-reveal party, not an "optional temporary gender assignment" reveal.

What people like Acacia are talking about is when a child or teenager begins to realize that he/she/they are not comfortable in their assigned role. The questioning begins with the child. And at that point--whenever it is--discussion of options feels like a better choice to me than rigid shaming and ostracism. I don't know who besides the fear-mongers is suggesting that the adults be the ones to talk a child into rejecting or changing genders out of the clear blue sky.

David Brin said...

In fact the teacher saying 'there's no such thing as Boys or Girls" was documented news a month or two ago,

And I support Acacia's general argument that a 'minor' should be allowed to make these decisions befor puberty makes the whole thing hUGELY more difficult and problematic. I've seen the difference in person. But where do we open this window? I assert that no person under ten should have this stuff messing with thei heads. But 14 is very late, unless puberty blockers are available to defer the decision for a bit.

What I am saying is that our PRESENT levels of technology allow for windows during which outcomes might be optimized and it's a matter calling for reasonable arguments and negotiation with minimized polemic and maximized willingness to adapt from new data. And yes, the GOAL should be "I get to design my own life."

Lena said...

I have found that on any scientific or medical subject you care to name, the average American (I can't say this about other countries I haven't been to) is decades behind the science, and in some cases, centuries behind. I see this all the time with the anti-evolution mobs, who are always pointing their pitchforks at Darwin (whose work they have never read and only know from their preachers' words), and are completely unaware of not only the mountain ranges of data but how the theory itself has evolved. The fact that most people think that race is an actual thing puts them way in the past, and their ethnocentric conflation of sex with gender goes back to ancient times.

Scientists are experimenting with transforming any cell type into spermatids or ova, a process that would allow same sex couple to produce their own genetic offspring. That may be just around the corner. In the more distant future, it's likely that it will be possible to use somatic gene therapy to literally and functionally change the sex of a person. If the process becomes widely available, well any good sci-fi person can start imagining how that might change society. And of course, if the Genies can do that, they could just as easily reverse the process. People could literally sample life as both sexes, probably settling on one or the other before they get beyond their reproductive years (which sounds a little bit like a James Alan Gardner plot). Perhaps if people experience life as both sexes, they might start to realize how much more we have in common than is different.

As far as modifying the bodies/hormones of children goes, it probably needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis. If gender dysmorphia is causing clinical depression in a child, then start up the puberty blockers and allow them the choice of hormone replacement (or whatever procedures are available) once they are legally of age. If not, monitor the child until legal age, when the right to choose becomes unambiguous.

On teaching gender in the schools, it can be done well, but it's likely to be done badly, especially when most people think that sex and gender are the same thing. I have heard elementary schools teachers in Florida make the point that sometimes they have students who have two dads or two moms, and though it has nothing to do with the curriculum, it comes up in conversation in and out of the classroom. Teaching to those ages can't be nothing but stand and deliver. The emotional needs are far too critical to their development for teachers to just ignore. Teachers need to be able to explain that there is more than one kind of family, and there's nothing wrong with that. Otherwise the scapegoating starts at a very early age. That is, of course, what the self-servatives want, but pretty much everything they want is disastrous at all levels of society.

PSB

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In fact the teacher saying 'there's no such thing as Boys or Girls" was documented news a month or two ago


I don't doubt the existence of anecdotal examples. I do question them being emblematic of any liberal movement. And I doubt the conservatives who clutch their pearls at telling a young child that genders aren't rigid or permanent blink twice at a teacher telling a Jewish child of the same age that they are destined for Hell unless they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Robert said...

People could literally sample life as both sexes, probably settling on one or the other before they get beyond their reproductive years (which sounds a little bit like a James Alan Gardner plot).

Commitment Hour, second in the League of Peoples series.

Also shows up in Vernor Vinge's fiction (Steel Beach among others, IIRC).

Tony Fisk said...

Several species change sex as they age: the frivolous males turning female, once they've shown some capacity for existence. That really would alter human sociology!
(Of course, Niven's Pak Protectors avoided the issue entirely)

I have very little personal experience with issues concerning gender identification. My first exposure to it was via an account of their journey by a trans-sexual that appeared in... Readers Digest.
The only message to take away is that, yes, it was once OK to talk about these things without feeling threatened.

David's advice on the matter of childhood choices is pragmatic and sensible. The main thing that I'm finding makes my hackles rise is that the issue of biological gender is often presented as a strict binary division: boy or girl. Sure, keep it simpler for the younguns. Unfortunately, real biology can sometimes be a bit more corkscrewy than that. Even leaving aside clear cases of hermaphroditism, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that chimeraism is a little more common than realised, and that there's no reason for the merged zygotes to be of the same gender.

Other Thoughts
The souring seas: one idea for carbon sequestration involves growing seaweed. Giant kelp has a phenomenal growth rate. It would draw carbon from the oceans rather than the air, so would tackle the problem of ocean acidification directly. I do wonder whether sequestration by air or ocean is more efficient? I also wonder how much phosphorus would get tied up as well.

Alfred Differ said...

Before we give our host an accidental and unwelcome 15 days of infamy, I'd like to change the subject by noting that Pfizer started stage 3 trials last September for an mRNA vaccine aimed at influenza. They say they've been working on it since before COVID-19 hit, so I wouldn't be shocked if we might have some defense if H5N1 crosses over.

Robert said...

The main thing that I'm finding makes my hackles rise is that the issue of biological gender is often presented as a strict binary division: boy or girl. Sure, keep it simpler for the younguns. Unfortunately, real biology can sometimes be a bit more corkscrewy than that.

Jared Diamond's book Why Is Sex Fun? is a good overview of the biology. It's a lot more complicated than I learned in school (and they are still teaching that version in many places). Even in humans…

Consider androgen insensitivity syndrome. Someone's body is insensitive to androgens during development and so even though they are XY genetically they develop as female. No actual uterus and ovaries, instead they have undescended internal testicles, but to an external exam they appear female. Diamond cites a case where the woman (a model) only discovered this when she went for medical treatment because she was infertile. How does that fit into the right-wing worldview? (Actually, I suspect I know the answer to that: "She's an abomination!" would likely be the response.)

And then there's people who are XXY or XYY.

Chimeras, as you mentioned. Women who've born sons have chimeral fetal tissue in their bodies (XY cells) that they didn't have before childbearing. Do they also have this for daughters? I don't see why not. It's fascinating, and totally absent from what most people (possibly the vast majority of people) learn in school.

(Diamond's book is a couple of decades old now; I'm certain we've learned more since then. But it's well-written and non-political, so a good way to begin stretching the mind past the "everybody knows" stuff we learned in school.)


In response to David's story about the teacher declaring there are no boys and girls…

I've known teachers who declare that God created the world, that essential oils work, that NASA never reached the moon, that… Teachers are people, with the same number of loons you find in the general population.

But at one level she's right. When kids are in kindergarten, they are children — "boys" and "girls" are labels and roles society assigns them, but that isn't what they are. If a boy wants to skip rope or a girl wants to wrestle that shouldn't be an issue, but it usually is because that isn't what they 'should' be doing. Getting rid of the labels can be a first step to letting children be who they are, rather than forcing square pigeons into round holes.

Larry Hart said...

MAGAdonians???

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/trump-coins-followers-magadonians-twitter-171807572.html

The former president posted — in all caps of course — “WE ARE MAGADONIANS, WE ARE VERY SMART, WE STICK TOGETHER AS ONE, WE FOLLOW TRUTH SOCIAL, WE PUT ‘AMERICA FIRST,’ AND WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!’”

Lena said...

I love how he put America First in quotes ...

PSB

Lena said...

Robert,

I'm glad to meet another Gardner fan. When I read his first book, I thought it was okay, but if his second book wasn't any better I wouldn't bother reading more. Wow was I surprised! I haven't read the Vinge, though, but I'm more interested in the Diamond at the moment.

My own experience with teachers is: Yeah, there are certainly a proportion of looneys, and many of them don't have a problem with violating their trust to push their agendas - and more than a few of them are right-wing hate mongers, contra the stereotypes.

While I agree that we shouldn't be forcing square avians into round prisons, I think it would be more useful to teach about the natural diversity in hominids than to deny the existence of a pretty obvious category. The hate people will call us lunatics, and normal people could easily be swayed by that. Better to dramatically expand the number of categories, and pound it into peoples' minds that most of our diversity is a matter of proteins and enzymes, not gross anatomy. The lazy brains need to be shamed for their unwillingness to use their brains.

PSB

scidata said...

The Pakleds are coming

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7PZKzKPFfE

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

I've known teachers who declare that God created the world, that essential oils work, that NASA never reached the moon, that… Teachers are people, with the same number of loons you find in the general population.


I think the religious proselytizing is in a more serious category of its own, and more than the other examples, analogous to telling kids about fluid genders. The right-wing argument is that teachers have no business confusing and scaring kids and "grooming" them to question their own sexuality before the kids' parents wish them to be exposed to such ideas.

The same is true when teachers confuse and scare non-Christian children by telling them as fact that they must accept Jesus or burn for eternity in Hell. The same logic which requires children to be protected from scary, confusing ideas would argue for not "grooming" kids as Christians.

Robert said...

I'm glad to meet another Gardner fan.

I thought the League of Peoples series was OK. I'm really waiting for the rest of the Sparks vs Dark series. His writing has got better (as one would expect, with additional practice) and the premise is a neat one…

Lena said...

Robert,

I've read the first of those, and it reads like it could easily fit into the League of Peoples series, which I thought was quite hysterical.

PSB

Don Gisselbeck said...

My first encounter with virulent transphobes was from flatearthers.

David Brin said...

A vitally important interview with my esteemed colleague Kim Stanley Robinson about the climate crisis and "all hands on deck" to save our world.

https://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001cjSbQD3CUSzc6B6gTa1u82LKoUGUl47K7fY0F3Avl5rG1sFse-HTNAyWORxK2ksmOvKXvoa6DT9R9BqkNX4CIxaucxkMk86NmwmrJV1b4JhoKioNzsO89lktDAg0DXJr5swl579L7ZZkOYh9_LfQgq_MuEebjglrKM09lTxbcRgr571mjVABLNvDWeDfVSjRvcQ8I-T4tJLh32Al6a9gZkLB0aRSAxBu&c=oM_vzX94og8YZKy9g0rXa7Sh09Pv4CLEq46Pn1ZiveXkAzSlrBOKWQ==&ch=tGt3vu--gt3PWxZO1eSC68v6LxFeoSeMv7rDlddDLexZuzvp2vvzNw==

Robert said...

I will just note that according to the Canadian census we have about 60,000 transgender people. According to Wikipedia we have about 7000 priests. If transgender people, committed sex crimes at the rate of priests (4%) we would see nearly ten times the rates of pedophilia from transgender people as we do from priests. We don't.

Yet Republicans (and Canada's right-wingers) are throwing a fit about transgender people being groomers while ignoring the clergy. If I was charitable I'd assume they were just unaware of the actual numbers, but I've seen little evidence that inclines me to be charitable…


https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220427/dq220427b-eng.htm

https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/sxbs-cthlchr/index-en.aspx

matthew said...

To clear up some confusion upthread, there most definitely are shapes that can be 3D printed and cannot be made by injection molding.
I'm professionally active at the cutting edge of possibility in both fields.

scidata said...

Re: Ministry for the Future

Dr. Brin, perhaps nudge your colleague to free publish chapter 85, and/or the audio. Painfully slow readers like myself may not get that far. Maybe even just a snippet on CB. Sounds 'uplifting'.

scidata said...

So I bought the audiobook. Wow. I recognize the Canadian and Costa Rican projects, I'll explore the others soon. Thanks to Kim Stanley Robinson and the array of wonderful narrators.

kvs said...

There is a very good article from the Scientific American summarizing the current evidence surrounding gender-affirming care.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-the-science-on-gender-affirming-care-for-transgender-kids-really-shows/

It clearly states that pre-puberty, noting medical is needed.

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

Is that difference related to interior voids or is there another way that injection molding faces limits?

matthew said...

Alfred,
Interior voids, thin wall thickness, and twisting shapes are all a huge problem to injection molds.

I've dealt with interior voids with temporary shapes in soluble wax (in investment casting) and soluble solids (in metal-injection molding [MIM]). Support for the temporary shape is a major restriction on what can be done.

I've pushed the limit for thin wall sections in both investment and MIM. I cannot comment for legal reasons about the investment casting limits, but I've successfully shot a thin wall of .007" in MIM.

I've used slides with servos to achieve twisting shapes in molds but there is a limit with the cross-sectional shapes that vary.

I've done insane shapes in 3D printed metal. Things that are many orders of magnitude more complex than can be done with injection molding. Limits are generally what I can sinter and retain tolerance or predict the shape of distortion. . A lot of very complex modeling in material behavior at temperature.

My team's MIM material properties are generally better than investment cast shapes' material properties in the same alloys.
MY 3D metal properties are best in world unless some national lab has me beat in secret. I'm *very* good at manipulating microstructure and alloy chemistry.

It's a fun time to be a metallurgist.

Slim Moldie said...

Curious to hear out host's thoughts on this one... https://futurism.com/us-recovered-non-human-vehicles.

My first question for David Grusch would be: have you read Existence?

duncan cairncross said...

Alien spaceships

If the USA did recover anything like that it would become a major project

Hundreds of engineers and scientists involved!!!!

Two people can keep a secret - if one of them is dead!

There is no way that a major project could be kept under wraps - even if you sequestered all of the engineers and scientists for life their absence would make a visible hole

Tim H. said...

More science fiction tech showing up in the real world:

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2023/06/hands-on-with-apple-vision-pro-this-is-not-a-vr-headset/

"True View" glasses?

David Brin said...

LimM, what Duncan said. This 'captured alien ship' crap is the very worst crap of an utterly crappy cult.

Keith Halperin said...

@Tim: A good thing to bring up.
Besides the countless benefits "TV" glasses will bring, consider:
1)There will be advertising.
2)Assuming they're internet connected (IMSM Charlie Stoss indicated):
a) they'll be used to spy/collect data on you.
b) they'll be hacked to do things you don't want them to do.
3)Long-term use may harm your vision.
4)They may be addicting.
5)They will lead to what I call "curated reality," further weakening the concept of "objective reality" shared by all.

Along these lines,I suggest the creation (by whom?) of "Red teams" with governmental, corporate, non-profit members to explore the posible negative aspects of important developments (technological, social, political, economic, etc.)

In addition, I suggest similar "Yello teams" whose role would be to anticipate how the positive developments might be neutralized, delayed, etc.

Alfred Differ said...

Matthew,

I learned a deep appreciation for the skills others have at building molds and the related tech after helping at building them for propellors designed to work in the middle stratosphere. One meter blades very wide at the base and they had a strong twist. We wound up with a convoluted thing that supported composite lay-ups and the vacuum bags in which they had to reside in the heater. What a mess… but it was very rewarding when the finished product actually worked.

A space entrepreneurial friend of mine pointed out the need to sinter pretty much everything on the lunar surface. No complex shapes involved, but the equipment had to be high powered and beefy enough to roam while sintering roads and landing/launch pads from the regolith. Mostly refractories. The equipment he described sounded like big industrial vehicles instead of the fancy, science-looking instruments we imagine in fiction.

Anyway, I've mostly given up on the Hollywood imagery many associate with science fiction as a result of all this… and I like a dirty, grungy vision better. Dirty Falcon 9 rockets fit right in.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding TV glasses…

1) There will be advertising.

Oh dear. However shall we cope?

2a) They'll be used to spy/collect data on you.

No kidding. Much like our watches, phones, computers, and cars do now. However shall we cope?

2b) They'll be hacked to do things…

Cracked, but yep. Much like our… Well… However shall we cope?

3) Long-term use may harm your vision?

Seriously? Much like our computers now and TV's of the past? However shall we cope?

4) They may be addicting.

Sigh. This is the evergreen fear associated with all new tech.
It confuses novelty and fads with long term maladaptation.
It also minimizes the cost-benefit trades we always ponder when faced with these innovations.

5) They will lead to curated reality.

No kidding. Much like our TV's, radios, and newspapers of the past.
Like our social media of the present.

However shall we cope?

------

I don't trust red, yellow, or whatever teams to know what's best for me. I DO appreciate people engaging in well-thought-out discussions, though. I'm not quaking in my boots, but I'll listen to fears as long as no one tries to turn them into regulation just yet.

scidata said...

Soma and Feelies have been around for some time, yet most of us still look up at the stars at night. It must be endlessly frustrating for the powers that be.

Larry Hart said...

Too little too late, but I'm not going to pretend I'm not happy about it.

https://www.npr.org/2023/06/08/584849772/pat-robertson-dies-televangelist-and-a-leader-of-the-religious-right

Pat Robertson, televangelist and a leader of the religious right, dies at 93

Darrell E said...

I've got a matchbox. Anybody have a case of enemas?

matthew said...

Alfred,
A big part of my mid career was investment casting of Ni / Fe maraging steels and superalloys.

I've pointed out here in the past that these types of alloys will be the first candidates for space-based processing due to the chemical makeup of a lot of the asteroid belt.
Invar is a good candidate and has very low thermal expansion so it can be glassed-in. Good use for M-type / S-type mixed materials. S- type for the glass and M-type for the invar.

The two elements that may be the most valuable to space- based metallurgy are Cr and Mo. Cr is around 500 ppm in examples I've seen and Mo around 40 ppm. A whole lot of modern metallurgy depends on Cr and Mo. That's a lot of Ni/Fe to process to get Cr and Mo.

David Brin said...

I'm reluctant to cite the infamous neocon (excuse me: “ex”-neocon) David Frum. But sure, he makes a strong point about these lunatic ravings going around, about "SECRET UFOS GRABBED BY THE US GOVT!" Frum says to follow the money! And NASA budgets went DOWN during the era when UFO faddists now yowl that “the government got a captured UFO!” While I despise that idiotic cult, I am always happy to pull at almost any what-if fantasy tail! E.g. during the Reagan era I wrote a story about how Carter’s and then RR's defense budgets might have masked a secret project to urgently study 'alien stuff.' Guys, it's called SciFi.

Today? Is there ANY kind of cash flow that might conceivably (if implausibly) mask such an endeavor? NOT the Defense budget, scrutinized (even black projects) by hundreds of skilled officers. In fact, there IS one huge cash flow that currently might be so dark and un-audited that it could be applied to major secret purposes!

It’s the tsunami of $$$ that has been is flowing into the billionaire caste via Bushite and Trumpist “supply side” giga tax grifts. It's a carotid artery gusher of cash sending wealth disparities past French Revolution levels! (And those insatiable oligarchs are enraged that the IRS will now be able to sniff at them.) Blatantly, Supply Side has been an utter lie by wretchedly vile traitors who are stoopidly waging war on all the smart/nerdy castes and inviting themselves to eventual tumbrel rides.

But sure, wanna talk a sci fi scenario? OK I’ll bite. What if instead they are patriots! Using the supply side thefts to launder trillions into a desperately vital emergency project?Perhaps (say) to finance studying those captured UFOs? And thousands of the smartest sci-tech folks are also staying involved and keeping mum?

Riiiiight... Not plausible SF... or even Hollywood thriller... material. But a good way to show how open (sieve)-minded I am...


https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/1666257862312579074?s=46&t=EeYMjSJ069m39Sc1LclfeA

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

I've probably read your points about asteroid composition… and skipped right past them. I'm so used to dealing with people who fall for multi-trillion $ platinum asteroid concept that anyone not talking about volatiles gets lumped in.

My early research (about 30 years ago) on platinum group metals pointed out that they weren't really mined directly. They were separated if prices were high enough from places that were mining nickel… and most of those were primarily after iron. The point of those authors was making the distinction between mineral and ore and how the economics of futures contracts drove it all.

I did run into the bewildering variety of alloys that industry produces and started looking for futures on some of those. Things quickly got murky and then proprietary, but it was a lot of fun realizing there was no such thing as an aluminum can. Everything is an alloy of some kind.

———

Carbon is a lot more common out there, but I suspect when we finally get to a large number of these rocks we will find enough variety to make good use of all the skills we picked up on our home world. We shall have to learn a few things over again, but I don't doubt many will try. For example, getting gas bubbles out of molds will be interesting in a low/no g environment, but there are trade-offs I'm sure you can imagine.

———

I hoped to see us get out there to do all that in my lifetime. Seems unlikely now.

Then I hoped to contribute directly to making it happen in the next one or two lifetimes. Not likely now.

I did my bit for indirect causation, though. Lots of us have. That will do for now.

Go Psyche Mission.

Alfred Differ said...

The only way I've seen secrets kept in the US involves sequestration of the people involved. That lasts up until you let them go home.

———

My father was a Cold Warrior. Didn't talk much about what he did, but he obviously had no qualms with any of it. Most of his work in the USAF involved short-run tech development that got used in whatever the next conflict was. Cannons on large aircraft. Comms, optics, and maybe a smattering of other stuff later. After retirement he did the double-dipping thing and worked on stuff out at the NV Test Site. Nothing nuclear, though. We knew that much.

There was a time when one project was so tightly controlled that they flew the staff in and out of the site and it wasn't the short hop to the nearest major location on the test site. Something way, way out there relative to Vegas. All he'd say about it is it was one of those places where they shot first and asked questions later. He'd be gone for a week or two and then be flown home again, so he could have been anywhere.

Turns out that kind of sequestration was pretty good, but not perfect. One day he asked me if people could see the Shuttle coming down from orbit. I pointed to a FLIR image in Scientific American and described how the tech for that was getting cheaper. Eventually it would be in the hands of amateur astronomers (like me back then) and that wasn't far in the future. He was curious enough about the article to try to read it. I didn't think much about his curiosity at the time (he was curious about many things), but later it clicked in my head. He was responsible for helping to find heat signatures on aircraft. The tech for that had been around for quite some time, but for HIM to be curious meant his team was doing something about it. Whether it was an effort to hide or detect didn't matter because that kind of stuff would definitely get classified.

During the first Gulf War he pointed at a stealth jet and said he had helped make that happen. Made sense. His team was responsible for finding them. He played the adversary role and looked into what might be available to our actual adversaries if they had access to US markets. He didn't say anything more than that he had helped, but his brief unclassified question to me was enough for me to piece together a bigger picture.

This lesson came to serve me later when I got involved in DoD contracts. Even little things you say can speak about the things you don't say. OPSEC, INFOSEC, and all those other things they teach us try to impress upon us who rapidly secrets can unravel in the presence of curious minds. I don't need their fabricated training examples very often because I can think about my father's tiny slip… which wouldn't have been counted as a slip back then.

So, the notion that giant secrets are being kept about alien spacecraft is worse than fiction to me. It's fantasy. People don't work that way. Even the folks who intend to keep secrets (no bragging to your mistress) can still slip up. Aggregates of unclassified information CAN paint a picture of classified details.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Then I hoped to contribute directly to making it happen in the next one or two lifetimes. Not likely now.


Heh. When I first read that, I thought you were talking about reincarnation. "Making it happen in my next one or two lifetimes."

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. If I can’t fatten my own wallet I’ll settle for our kids or theirs. As long as it’s spread around I’d be happy enough.

scidata said...

The fires in Canada are truly disastrous, but at least we get to see what civilization looks like. And many thanks to American fire fighters too.

https://www.reddit.com/r/nextfuckinglevel/comments/144l14g/a_powerful_scene_of_humanity_plays_out_as_200/

Slim Moldie said...

RE following the fantasy of money "SECRET UFOS GRABBED BY THE US GOVT!"

What's insulting to me is that the "credible source" cribbed the details of their "story" from the ubiquitous low budget discovery channel-ish tv shows that themselves are regurgitations of juvenile second-hand UFO books we had laying around the house in the early 1970s. It makes me wonder about the intended audience.

The story IS unoriginal enough to be part TFG's legal defense against the accusations of hoarding secret documents at his properties to sell for profit to our foreign adversaries. The plot to suppress the existence of stoopid aliens that crash spacecraft in US-exclusive territory while simultaneously lacking the technology to keep their elderly meat pilots alive has been perpetuated by all the former presidents and lying scientists, which is what necessitated the greatest American's patriotic rescue of the boxes of documents from falling into the corrupt hands of the national archives where they would have been mothballed in the alien flight museum located at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, housed between water features, and the orchid room where they keep the ark of covenant. Wanna know more? TFG WILL reveal these secrets only if enough patriots can summon the courage to pitch in, with a diamond club membership starting as low as 3 easy payments of $99.95 made payable to his legal fund. Once reelected we will replace the lying scientists with Cyber Ninjas and T.U. grads who will use alien technology to re-masculate our domestic fleet with Concordes and DC-9 where passengers will once again be able to smoke and play grab ass with the high-tailed stewardesses.

The best I could do to come up with a scenario where the whistle blower's account could be true would be something along the lines of Philip K Dick's protoplasmic drifters in World Jones Made. The "spacecraft/aliens" are so low-tech that nothing of technological value is to be gained from them. Or maybe they found some dysfunctional crystals :)

Keith Halperin said...

@Albert Thank you, Albert. I hear you.

Let me address your rsplies to my points:
1) There will be advertising.
Oh dear. However shall we cope?
Ad blockers?

2a) They'll be used to spy/collect data on you.
No kidding. Much like our watches, phones, computers, and cars do now. However shall we cope?
Possibly/probably much more than now. TTBOMK, here in the US, we still don’t have a clear legal framework about ownership of our personal data.

2b) They'll be hacked to do things…
Cracked, but yep. Much like our… Well… However shall we cope?
Again, much more so than now. A recent episode of “The Blacklist” showed where a very convincing hack was made portraying an imaginary disaster convincing enough that authorities showed up. Imagine that happening with 100 or 1,000 or 1,000,000 individuals using A/VR- think what a 2038 Orson Welles could do with A/VR. An important question here is: how can you be sure what you see is not what someone else wants you to see? (Also: is it to your and others benefit for you to see and hear only what you want to see and hear at all times? If not: who gets to decide what you see and hear?)

3) Long-term use may harm your vision?
Seriously? Much like our computers now and TV's of the past? However shall we cope?
Who knows? It might be more, it might be less- shouldn’t we try finding out before they’re largely introduced?

4) They may be addicting.
Sigh. This is the evergreen fear associated with all new tech.
It confuses novelty and fads with long term maladaptation.
It also minimizes the cost-benefit trades we always ponder when faced with these innovations.
Valid points. At the same time, some new technologies ARE addicting, and are designed (if not to be actually addicting) for people to use A LOT, and for some people, this becomes addiction, e.g., social media (SM) platforms whose algorithms provide content which triggers anger and righteous indignation. I would say that TV is more addictive than radio, SM is more addictive than TV, and what may come in the near future may be more addictive than SM. (I believe in a harm reductionapproach to addiction, with a public health- and not a criminal legal approach.)


5) They will lead to curated reality.
No kidding. Much like our TV's, radios, and newspapers of the past.
Like our social media of the present.
Once again, the newer technologies and the behavioral analyses behind their development and marketing has resulted in greater polarization than any time since the Civil War- and I see no end to this trend.

I do not believe new technologies and social developments should be prohibited, even if that were possible. Rather I believe they should be carefully and thoroughly discussed analyzed and debated by all stakeholders for possible unintended (and/or deliberately negative) consequences (“*Red Team”) and possible ways the good can be neutralized/delayed (“Yellow Team”). When a new drug is proposed the FDA requires companies to not only see how well it works but what its potential side effects may be.

I’ll give you a non-A/VR example:
Assuming Level 5 autonomous vehicle technology is perfected and is affordable-
1) Millions of drivers will become unemployable: perhaps quickly, perhaps gradually.
What should we do about that?
2) We’ll have millions of mobile surveillance cameras on the streets. Who will have access to the data- Waymo, the police, a data aggregator, anyone? What if I don’t want Waymo to identify me crossing a street at 3:25 PM on June 15th- would you prohibit Waymo from having access to face/gait recognition technology?
3) We could have large numbers of “Christines” being used by terrorists. Who will have access to the “kill switch”? Police, Tesla, some other organization?

Should we put a ban/halt on Level 5 AV technology research? No, but I think we should thoroughly discuss these and other issues before Level 5 tech reaches the market….

Keith Halperin said...



*You mentioned that your father late in his career was in a role in which he considered the possible effects of an adversarial nation obtaining the technology his group was working on, which sounds very much like the “Red Team” concept I mentioned.

Larry Hart said...

Happy Indict-mas.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/08/us/politics/trump-clinton-classified-documents.html

The indictment handed down by a federal grand jury on Thursday at the request of the special counsel Jack Smith effectively brings the Trump story full circle. “Lock her up,” the crowds at his campaign rallies chanted with his encouragement. Now he may be the one locked up if convicted on any of the seven reported counts that include conspiracy to obstruct justice and willful retention of documents.

Alfred Differ said...

Keith,

Most of my responses to your responses can be summed up something like this.

We've been here before and learned to cope. There was some pain and dislocation. For some innovations there was a LOT of pain and death… but we learned something each time and grew from it. We can't dismiss the pain and death, but we can't ignore the lessons learned either. The biggest of those lessons is that we CAN cope AND act in ways that mitigate the damage if we keep our eyes and minds open and discuss the dangers.

Let me pick on #5 for a moment. I disagree that we are so polarized that nothing short of our civil war compares. I think 1968 has 2023 beat by a LONG way. We were burning cities in '68. There was a generational war underway that three years later resulted in a Constitutional amendment being proposed and ratified in THREE MONTHS. Can you imagine that happening today? So… no. Today seems scary, but we aren't even back to '68 let alone Civil War.

———

As for #4, people have been claiming TV is addictive for at least two generations now. It isn't and the evidence is all around you. What happened is the first TV generation had gobs of free time and nothing much to consume it. Before TV it was consumed by bowling leagues and other social events, but TV is far cheaper and easier. TV consumed loads of free time until something more interesting came along… which finally began to happen around 2000. Now TV competes with social media and easily organized projects like Wikipedia.

Putting your free time into something does not indicate addiction. Being unable to re-allocate your free time to something else later just might. I don't see that happening just yet. In fact, I OFTEN see people re-allocating when someone on social media pisses them off enough

I agree there is an issue wrt righteous indignation, but that's more about us than it is the tech we use to get that high.

———

You are waffling on #3, so I'll stop here just long enough to point out that my Apple products report to me about excessive screen time, decibel levels, me sitting on my a$$ too long, not getting enough exercise, and a slew of other things in their Health app. I can ignore these warnings… but I don't. In fact, I've combined them with a change in my diet and dumped my old weight control approach saving me about $180/week. For the risk you mention to be credible, I'd have to see Apple abandon their current health kick. Instead, I see them buying small companies to expand their health monitoring capabilities. My watch has a blood-O2 saturation measurement feature because they did that. What do you suppose they'd monitor if I had one of their devices hanging off the end of my nose?

———

I look forward to the day when autonomous driving tech is perfected. I've driven most of my life and I've had quite enough of it. It bores the f@$k out of me… and that makes me a danger to the people on the road with me. PLEASE get me out of that ASAP!

Yes. It will unemploy a lot of people. So be it. I am willing to help get people trained for something less robotic. I'll even help pay for it.

Yes. There will be security risks. Contrast that to the health risks you face being on the road when I'm driving and bored out of my skull. Ponder the current statistics for people killed and injured in road 'accidents' that are only called accidents because we are generous enough not to point out how many of them are better described as negligent manslaughter.

Buckle up. The future has arrived.

Alfred Differ said...

Slim Moldie

Ha! Urgh…

I read that whole thing with the giant run-on sentence. I could see the Ark tie in before you got to that part of the story too. Now I feel so unclean I need a scalding hot shower. 8)

I'm sure there is an official diagnosis for the people who believe such crap, but my informal name for it is "The Lure of Knowing you Know" and I personify it as a seductive woman.

———

Apologies to the real women of the world, but Lure really DOES hit us guys on that level. She makes us feel like Real Men.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

people killed and injured in road 'accidents' that are only called accidents because we are generous enough not to point out how many of them are better described as negligent manslaughter.


We do the same whenever a kid finds his parents' gun and accidentally kills his younger sibling, or all those times someone's gun accidentally goes off while he's cleaning it. I think it was Malcolm Nance who said there are no gun "accidents" because negligence is always involved.


PLEASE get me out of that ASAP!


Since guns don't kill people (people kill people), maybe it's time we introduced self-firing guns and took human decision-making out of the equation.*

* I began that sentence as a joke, but by the time I finished typing it, I was totally on board.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Apologies to the real women of the world, but Lure really DOES hit us guys on that level. She makes us feel like Real Men.


I'm not going to ding you for the gendering, but that sort of thing always does make me wonder. Does the Lure you describe not call to (hetero) women too? And if so, what is the appropriate metaphor from their POV? I mean, do female writers have muses? Assuming so, what form do they take?

That's a serious question. I somehow doubt that it's as simple as "Men with hot abs in Speedos".

Tony Fisk said...

This 'lure' of Alfred's (not exclusively his, of course!) reminds me of Sean McMullen's Mirrorsun series, which tells of a future society beset by a periodic psychic 'call' which sends all who encounter it shambling mindlessly off into the ocean.
While this serves as the basis for some quite imaginative world building, the reason I mention it is that the 'Call' is found to be based on surrender to the 'lure'.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

I've noticed women are just as affected by Lure as we are, but I've never had the courage to ask them how they perceive her. I doubt there are any hot abs involved, though. Lure hits us by making us feel powerful... so it should be something analogous.

Is it time to risk our necks and do some science on this? 8)

------

I was watching a You Tube short the other day that showed two bro's explaining gun safety. One was explaining that you shouldn't thumb the hammer back when a round is loaded in the chamber. Thumbs slip all too often. The second nodded sagely.

I couldn't watch without seeing the first bro essentially fondle the gun and the second watch intently. Good thing it was a short or I would have busted out laughing. 8)

scidata said...

So he stole nuclear secrets, possibly to traffic them for profit.
Make America Glow Again.

David Brin said...

I am concerned that Acacia might have been offended by something I said, when I suggested a compromise of leaving kids under ten entirely alone(except in unam,biguous cases) then starting serious conversations at that point, still well before puberty.

While I am not sure how that would be hurtful... just a troglodyte's 'logical' opinion that I am not pushing on anyone... I stand open to rbuke and possible correction.

I am on the side of progress. I want the best futures portrayed in optimistic science fiction ! And those almost always portray vast expansion of the core American dream... "I get to define who I will try to become."

kvs said...

I'm not Acacia, but I am in PFLAG. I posted an Scientific American article earlier with the latest studies, but I don't know if anyone saw it. I don't see why we need a minimum age for social conversions, if the child feels strongly about it. The biggest worry is boys being teased or bullied for doing "feminine" things.

Unknown said...

Alfred,

I'm sure you didn't miss the recent spate of ammosexuals posting images where they held small arms to their shortest arm. My reaction was, "Welp, we need to get rid of most of the pistols in the country, or most of the stupidity, and as Americans we have the right to be stupid, so...."

Pappenheimer

P.S. As for the recent FL indictment of an ex-prez who should never have been, it shows a level of 'found out' I wasn't sure I should expect of our timid (when it comes to republicans) deep state. No happy dance yet, but I'll buy some ice cream. And popcorn. I just hope the future will not bring some sort of 'Charlie will you no come again' mythos, because at least the Bonnie Prince was willing to show his *rse on a battlefield.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I've noticed women are just as affected by Lure as we are, but I've never had the courage to ask them how they perceive her.
...
Is it time to risk our necks and do some science on this? 8)


A direct question would most likely be deflected, especially if you didn't hide the fact that the answers would be public. That goes for men as well. Some things are too personal or too potentially embarrassing to reveal to anyone else, even those we trust. There are things about me that I will never commit to writing or even to another person's brain, lest some future authoritarian government decide to go all Room 101.

I suspect that to get any kind of decent result, one would have to ask obscurely-related questions of the type that surveys ask when they're trying to determine respondents' levels of racism.

David Brin said...

kvs hi and thanks for your sincere position. I typed out a response explaining why children under ten should be left alone with the default condition and then invited to discuss the trdeoffs, with puberty still some years away. Then I realized that I cannot 'win' by opining on this matter. Even the first sentence above is likely to be misquoted out of context with intent to harm me as an enemy of righteous positioning, instead of a sincere ally in the long term goal of a humanity where each individual gets to self-define.

Self-censorship seems best. And that is a statement, in itself.

David Brin said...

onward

onward