Saturday, January 13, 2024

News from SPAAAAACE! Oh, and Fermi Paradox & Comets & Uplift!

Some of you are crazy about space colonization now! I can dig it; it’s always been a dream for me, as well. Still, elsewhere I talk about the harm this mindset may be wreaking, upon the chances that our grandchildren may actually do it well! 


For example the “Artemis Program” aims to repeat a lunar footprint stunt that NASA accomplished 50+ years ago, on a useless sandbox of poison dust. Sure it was a proud feat, especially with 1960s tech and it set a new symbolic benchmark for what humans are capable-of!  But we should suck space budgets dry to check a few symbolic milestones, when the same funding could get us started with asteroid mining, where the actual riches are?


I say leave the 'bar-moonzvah' - ('today I am a man!!') - symbolism stuff to the Apoll-wannabe kiddies, while we raise our gaze much higher.


Now comes a book by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith, creators of one of the best online series of one page, science friendly comix – SMBC - Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Their earlier book - Soonish: The Emerging Technologies that'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything - was very incisive! Now they have A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?  

Hey!  I am not pissing on dreams here. I craft and peddle dreams for a living... and some come true! But this is gonna take some time. And lots and lots of homework, first.


== Wonderful 'casts online about this wonderful cosmos ==


As a former solar astronomer… (well, I worked for them 3 summers, at Caltech)… and as author of Sundiver, I highly recommend this gorgeous episode of Astrum, giving breathtaking views of our star across the spectrum.  By all means, be inspired thereupon to get the new, upgraded and re-covered edition of Sundiver!  And yes, it’s marvelous to be a member of such a civilization! 


I often recommend the series of very tight and scientifically grounded speculation podcasts by Isaac Arthur. And I’ll tout especially his latest episode about Comet Mining. After much important background about comets as a rich source of vast amounts of ice for fuel, water and air (far more than the pittance at the lunar poles), he gets into the good stuff. At 9:30 into this episode Isaac describes the dust-crust model of comets, the current, well-accepted model that I originated in my 1981 doctoral dissertation... and portrayed -with Gregory Benford- in Heart of the Comet


Later, Isaac discusses how comets may also be key to leapfrogging interstellar colonization via the Oort Cloud – another concept Greg and I introduced in that novel. And his tribute to my friend John Lewis’s Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from Asteroids was moving.


Oh, while we're at it, Isaac just posted a couple of even more lucid and comprehensive fact+speculation 'casts. One does a grand tour of concepts regarding the ill-named Fermi Paradox. (In my 1983 formal paper on the topic - in many ways the first one ever - I coined the much better term 'The Great Silence.')


Even more pertinent... at least to those inhabiting or visiting this space... is the recent extensive riff that Isaac Arthur did on 'The Ethics of Uplift.' He is very thorough... and yet I wrote to him with nine more aspects he might want to look at, should he ever revisit the topic!  Indeed, I will post some of these in comments, below.


More Space News!! ==


NASA spacecraft has high-speed asteroid encounter and finds a surprise. The LUCY probe, on its way to the Trojan asteroids at  a Jupiter Lagrange point, snapped this fascinating picture of another rubble asteroid that’s in fact  pair, barely kissing. Voyeurs!


The wonderful,11 year old Curiosity rover has just climbed past a region of small meteoroid craters to resume its arduous climb up the slopes of Mount Sharp.


A terrific interview with my friend, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. Excellent perspectives on Space, AI, and intelligence in the Universe.



== And finally…where are they? ==


Sixty years I’ve seen these UFO manias come and go, about twice per decade, with absolutely nothing ever to show for them, other than hearsay and fuzz and eagerness overwhelming almost nonexistent 'evidence.'


Please, will you pause and ponder the plausible. If we did have ‘crashed ships’ what would happen? We’d urgently ask tens of thousands of our very best people to study em, right? 


Well, I know many of the planet’s ‘best people’ - when it comes to qualifications to study such an important and fascinating thing as alien technology. And none of them were ever asked to ‘study an alien ship!’  They never moved with their families to a Manhattan Project urgency colony like 1943 Los Alamos. A very few flew in and out of Area 51 for a few years on secret stuff... but always 9-to-5 weekdays. 


Above all, this cult insults the best minds on the planet, dismissing them as gutless lemming drones - clich├ęs from a zillion dumb Hollywood flicks - instead of the free and rambunctiously individualist scientists and techies etc. that we taught them to be. 


Even worse, this cult never explains how – with 10 million times as many active cameras on Earth now, than in the 1950s (and I do NOT exaggerate!) the ‘images’ keep getting ever fuzzier


Look, I have studied the ‘alien’ all my life, not just in many sci fi thought experiments but in SETI and astrophysics. I would do a 180, if I ever saw anything but frantic/romantic jibber-jabber that detracts from our ability to seriously ponder our destiny in this vast universe.


If you have any actual, actual curiosity instead of cult fetishism, you might look at this:  What's really up with UAPs?  Re-linking my recent essay dissecting the “UFO Mania” from a dozen different angles that you’ve likely not seen elsewhere. 


Oh, side-note: while it is not my method to create glowing balls to flit around the atmosphere like a Cat Laser (and I could make every ‘tictac’ ever described), this patent by the US Air Force is also pretty cool, and likely could be more practical than my method.


This is not harmless! Amid the stoopid but harmless UFO mania, a worse cult - METI - aims to beam "Yoohoo to aliens!" from taxpayer-funded facilities, breaking laws, moral codes & basic standards of decency.  See my discussion.


Here’s one of my entertaining (I hope!) rants about why it is immoral, illegal and just plain dumb to shout “Yoohoo!” into the cosmos. 


And if you’d rather read a more cogently expressed argument, try this.

Shouting At the Cosmos” – about METI “messaging” to aliens.


Did that bring you down?  Hey, we are in 2024, fated to be at-minimum 'interesting times.' More likely a wild ride.  We need adults right now, more than ever!  Do NOT 'curb your enthusiasm!'  But try also not to be a sucker.



108 comments:

duncan cairncross said...

Just testing to see if the dreaded italics have gone away

Alfred Differ said...

A guy I know used to float big plastic garbage bags full of helium with glow sticks inside at night to prank the neighborhood into calling in UFO sightings. It's amazing what people claimed they saw. Good, clean fun. 8)

Nowadays we could probably put cheap digital lights on them and make them wobble more with inexpensive drones tied underneath. Maybe even some simple SFX.

What he pointed out to the others on the volunteer team was that even when he told people what he'd been doing, they didn't believe what they saw was related. He could show them too, but brains don't remember what actually happens. We remember what we think happens.

Anyway… I found it all to be a hoot, but I wanted the balloons to go up higher into the middle stratosphere. At that distance, no one notices them without a good radio beacon on them.

gregory byshenk said...

In the previous, I said...
Rather, when we see significant differences in outcome that are not attributable to differences in ability, then that should raise questions.

Alfred Differ responded

Please don't forget the luck effect. Many, many successful people I've met got there with a large helping of that kind of luck that requires one to do at least some work. Not Lottery luck. Opportunity Knocks luck.

This may be relevant at an individual level, but should not play a part at the societal level. If it is actually "luck", then it should be more or less evenly distributed.

But too often what gets called "luck", such as "opportunity knocks", is not 'luck' at all, but the results of wealth and power.

This may mean having the resources and connections to build an attractive elite college application, or the connections to get that application accepted. It may mean having the connections to get an unpaid internship that sets you on the road to success, along with the resources to be able to accept that internship without needing income. It may mean getting the job that sets one on one's way, due to being the "right fit" with the existing team. It may mean finding the mentor who helps one on their way, because one has the right connections or because one reminds him of himself at that age (and this is almost invariably a 'he', on both sides). It may mean having the right connections to find someone who will support you in your new business.

Even if it is only "being in the right place at the right time", it is important to recognize that many others might have been excluded from that place at that time, for reasons not at all to do with their ability.

Paradoctor said...

Dr. Brin:

In one of your anti-METI rants, you note that as the number and quality of cameras increases, the fuzzyness of UFO pictures increases. The classical explanation is that UFOs are nonexistent.

But just for fun, here's my quantum woo-woo crackpot explanation: that FTL requires quantum gravity, and therefore the UFOs materialize as quantum objects, subject to complementarity and uncertainty. Perhaps two such complementary variables are Fuzzyness and Cruddiness: delta-F * delta-C > h-bar

You proposed such a theory in "Those Eyes". We're too classical for them; we tend to collapse their wave functions.

David Brin said...

I've enjoyed Freefall. Also Saturday Morn Breakfast (SMBC) and XKCD.

Heh this is a good one!
https://xkcd.com/2879/

And this one
https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/jump

Heh.

David Brin said...

Paradoctor. See Greg Egan's novel QUARANTINE!!

scidata said...

Can you imagine DT ever referring someone to another businessman he admires?

Alfred Differ said...

gregory byshenk,

But too often what gets called "luck", such as "opportunity knocks", is not 'luck' at all, but the results of wealth and power.

Granted. The challenge, though, is that sometimes it IS luck. I've seen it often enough to realize that success sometimes has little to do with skill OR privilege. Sometimes it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

For an example of the lottery luck type, imagine I'm up in the mountains hiking around when a massive tsunami arrives and wipes out my home town. I think we can reasonably say no skill (thus hard work) OR privilege was involved on my part. I get to succeed at living because I was NOT in the wrong place. There are SO many business examples like this it is painful to relate them, but one that will likely prove to be true is Virgin Galactic's suborbital tourism business. A few years ago was the right time to come out with their hard work. They didn't. Instead they arrived along with the SpaceX tsunami.

A different example I can relate involves my father. He was born in southwestern Pennsylvania and got identified as a hillbilly when the family moved to Baltimore. He was born in the 'wrong place' in social terms and might have had a legitimate beef with his 'betters' who exercised privilege to ensure he didn't take what they already had. Instead, he left Baltimore, joined the USAF, and created for himself a completely different life. He never went back. Because of his hard work he side stepped the privilege of is 'slightly betters', but it would be a mistake to attribute that to his skill. Any of them could have done it with roughly equal skills, so is improvement of his income (relative to his peers) many years later was more about being in the right place. What my father ACTUALLY did is follow the example set by his brother who fought in WWII and Korea, but he lucked out in that he survived. His brother did not.

I leveraged my father's success and went further making it through grad school and into a life where my income hangs out somewhere around 5X what retail clerks make. I know in my bones my skills don't account for that multiplier. What DOES is the hard work my father did that I built up higher with my own and NONE of that is anything but 'opportunity knocks' luck.

———
So… you said…
Rather, when we see significant differences in outcome that are not attributable to differences in ability, then that should raise questions.

… and my concern is that my income should raise the question because it is not about differences in ability. It is about differences in preparation over generations. My father's father was a coal miner, but my father got away and used his vet benefits (what a stroke of luck!) to earn a college degree at a time when I was VERY impressionable. My mother who earlier had a very, very sour attitude regarding formal education was also moved to work on a college degree AT THE SAME TIME. See opportunity knocking?

There are very definite cases where those who succeeded in a previous generation try to lock out future generations. My father moved to escape that danger. I get it. There are still a large number of situations, though, where opportunity legitimately knocks on your door. Raising the question, therefore, should be done was a qualification testing for exactly what concerns you… because I've seen too many cases where opportunity luck wasn't a euphemism for cheating peers.

Paradoctor said...

Ecclesiastes 9:11:
"...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all."

Alfred Differ said...

Paradoctor,

I think there is a (possibly apocryphal?) story involving Bohr giving a public lecture where he discusses complementarity. When asked for the complement of Truth he offered Clarity. Funny. Snare drum roll please.

That's how I look at the UFO pictures getting more and more fuzzy. The more we claim to know the truth, the more they MUST muddy the clarity of their evidence.

You don't even need quantum nature for this. Infinite precision is just fine as long as the information needed in one test muddies the other. 8)

Fun!

Unknown said...

Alfred,

RE: GI bill

Things are better now, but...

From a history channel article, https://www.history.com/news/gi-bill-black-wwii-veterans-benefits:

"While the GI Bill’s language did not specifically exclude African-American veterans from its benefits, it was structured in a way that ultimately shut doors for the 1.2 million Black veterans who had bravely served their country during World War II, in segregated ranks."

No disrespect to your father for carpeing that diem, but a lot of vets from that period didn't get that chance, for reasons most of us (I hope) would consider abhorrent today.

"...some Southern Democrats feared that returning Black veterans would use public sympathy for veterans to advocate against Jim Crow laws. To make sure the GI Bill largely benefited white people, the southern Democrats drew on tactics they had previously used to ensure that the New Deal helped as few Black people as possible."

Pappenheimer

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer,

No doubt about that. That's why I partially agree with Gregory. One shouldn't use an argument suggesting that opportunity knocks equally. It didn't. But... it did knock... and some who were ready lucked out.

I could try to argue that Opportunity does knock equally, but if others lock the door to prevent your passage, it's rather moot. This gets too close to a kind of mysticism for me, so I don't. 8)

------

My father's family actually split when it came to Jim Crow laws. Some grew up to see the Baltimore White Man's view of things. Others opposed it. It's messy because the split occurred in each of the next two generations as well. Children disagreeing with parents, siblings disagreeing with each other, cousins disagreeing with cousins, etc. It's simplest with those of us who got out of Baltimore earliest with most of us opposing.

So... I've got cousins who are inclined to listen to FOX, but the ones in Maryland are heavily outnumbered at the ballot box. An ASTONISHING fraction of federal workers prefer blue. 8)

gregory byshenk said...

Alfred Differ said...
So… you said…
Rather, when we see significant differences in outcome that are not attributable to differences in ability, then that should raise questions.


And I think it was clear when I said that that I was talking about societal differences rather than individual ones, something that I made quite explicit in my previous comment.

… and my concern is that my income should raise the question because it is not about differences in ability. It is about differences in preparation over generations. My father's father was a coal miner, but my father got away and used his vet benefits (what a stroke of luck!) to earn a college degree at a time when I was VERY impressionable. My mother who earlier had a very, very sour attitude regarding formal education was also moved to work on a college degree AT THE SAME TIME. See opportunity knocking?

If I am reading your example correctly, this is the "luck" of being born to the right parents. (Who also, as Pappenheimer notes above, had the "luck" to be of the right ethnic background to partake of the "opportunity knocking".)

This is no criticism of you or your parents for taking the opportunities; it would be foolish not to do so. But only a recognition that, as long as those opportunities are distributed unequally on a discriminatory basis, we haven't achieved "equality of opportunity".

Larry Hart said...

On equality of opportunity...

My daughter gives the bemused "Oh, Daaaaaaaaad!" look when I mention that she's free, white, and over 21. Politically incorrect for a liberal, I'm sure, but there's a reason that phrase exists.

Larry Hart said...

What we alrady know. Trumpists are no longer even Christians. They worship Trump in place of Christ. Their savior no longer expects morality from them. They get to be saved and be assholes. A win-win.

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/12/opinion/donald-trump-culture-decline.html

...
But most consequential of all is the religious response to Trump. On Dec. 20, The Economist reported on the astonishing number of Christian Republicans who believe Donald Trump is God’s chosen man to save America. Writing in The Times just a few weeks later, my colleagues Ruth Graham and Charles Homans reported on the ways in which, during the Trump era, evangelicalism has become more cultural and political and less pious, theological or concerned with church attendance. Graham and Homans spoke, for instance, to a retired corrections officer named Cydney Hatfield. “I voted for Trump twice, and I’ll vote for him again,” she said. “He’s the only savior I can see.” Capitalizing on sentiments like these, Trump himself shared a blasphemous video modeled on Paul Harvey’s famous video “So God Made a Farmer,” that proclaims “God Made Trump.”

The result is a religious movement steeped in fanaticism but stripped of virtue. The fruit of the spirit described in Galatians in the New Testament — “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” — is absent from MAGA Christianity, replaced by the very “works of the flesh” the same passage warned against, including “hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions” and “factions.”

But in the upside-down world of MAGA morality, vice is virtue and virtue is vice. My colleague Jane Coaston even coined a term, “vice signaling,” to describe how Trump’s core supporters convey their tribal allegiance. They’re often deliberately rude, transgressive or otherwise unpleasant, just to demonstrate how little they care about conventional moral norms.
...

scidata said...

I was raised in stern Scottish Presbyterianism. Oddly, my rationalist, secular, scientific self is now intensely disgusted by churchy demagogues who hate, lie, cheat, steal, philander, and would hurt the whole world for their own personal comfort and luxury.

Larry Hart said...


https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/11/opinion/columnists/donald-trump-election.html

And he [Trump] shared the law-and-order instincts of normal Americans, including respect for the police, something the left seemed to care about on Jan. 6 but was notably less concerned about during the months of rioting, violence and semi-anarchy that followed George Floyd’s murder.


Sorry, but there's no contradiction here, and the liberals are on the correct side both times. When the police act like stormtroopers, you don't respect them. When the mob acts like Brownshirts, you don't respect them.

Alan Brooks said...

Divine retribution:
‘Republican Voters Face
Frostbite In Iowa Caucus’

David Brin said...

“An ASTONISHING fraction of federal workers prefer blue. 8)”

Less astonishing when you consider MAGA’s all-out war vs ALL fact using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror.

LH re that incisive NYT article:
Hm, but what DO they want? ONE thing. To infuriate the urban/university types who STEAL THEIR BRIGHTEST CHILDREN after each high school graduating class. That annual trauma is (in my view) the biggest underlying psychic force driving red-r

David Brin said...

red-r = red rage...

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

“An ASTONISHING fraction of federal workers prefer blue. 8)”

Less astonishing when you consider MAGA’s all-out war vs ALL fact using professions, f


That line made me think that Republicans would interpret it as "Federal workers are biased against Republicans," while non-cultists would see the more obvious interpretation, "Republicans are at war with federal workers."

"An ASTONISHING fraction of Jewish scientists have fled Nazi Germany."

Alan Brooks said...

High symbolism:
https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/WzhyAquLH0ggaGjx.RIe9w--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTEyODA7aD03MjA-/https://s.yimg.com/os/creatr-uploaded-images/2024-01/f3a990e0-b3b6-11ee-bbd7-5d8721cb4dfe

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

‘Republican Voters Face
Frostbite In Iowa Caucus’


Trump actually told them at a rally that it's ok if they freeze to death as long as they get their vote for him in first.

And the MAGAts are all like, "Yeah!"

reason said...

So he doesn't need the vote in the general election.

Alan Brooks said...

Paul of Tarsus:
“We rejoice in our sufferings...”

David Brin said...

Check out this article: "Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” predicted devastating climate change, inequality, space travel and “Make America great again” 31 years ago." I miss her.
https://wapo.st/3tQ77TL

len said...

PBS-affiliated YouTube channel "Be Smart" published a video on METI today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC5Npnub6Qw

It repeats some things that I was under the impression were falsehoods, but as a CS graduate, electromagnetism and RF engineering are still black magic to me, so I kept my mouth shut in the comments. Maybe someone can take them to task?

I am rather annoyed at how it straw-mans the arguments against METI.

Paradoctor said...

"Red hat" is an anagram for "hatred", and also for "dearth".

scidata said...

Red Hat is a nexus of Linux development. It's also an anagram for "thread", the key concept at the heart of FORTH.

Alfred Differ said...

I think the high fraction of federal workers who prefer blue is the best hard evidence that the fact-user war is underway… and has been for some time. The MAGA phase turned it into a Total War.

———

My attitude on the lop-sidedness of federal government (favoring on party) has evolved over time.

I used to brush it off as a selection effect, but federal agencies tend to do well enough no matter who is governing. They find ways to remain relevant, no? I think there is a pretty solid political science 'Law' about that.

I moved on to it being a different kind of selection effect resulting from big cities being strongly blue, but DC isn't that much more blue than many California big cities and our local government employees can be quite purple depending on the agency.

Now I see it as yet another kind of selection effect where possible red employees choose to leave or not seek those jobs in the first place. This isn't a perfect explanation because I know it doesn't affect DoD civilian staff all that much, but I think it IS going on in many other agencies. Even in red districts, a federal agency might be predominantly blue this way.

So yes. Even without Fox and others beating the drum, I think the war is underway and has been for about a generation.

———

Larry,

"An ASTONISHING fraction of Jewish scientists have fled Nazi Germany."

Precisely.

I'd go a step further and point out that anyone who thinks reality has a liberal bias is probably at war with reality. THEY might qualify as semi-sapient. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Gregory,

"…recognition that, as long as those opportunities are distributed unequally on a discriminatory basis, we haven't achieved "equality of opportunity".

Granted with enthusiastic support.

However… I don't think we will ever get there. Those goalposts move each generation.

My father faced a form discrimination he could get around… but he had to leave. I did not face that discrimination and would not have even if I had returned because standards had changed by then. They will change again making former 'lower classes' into something else if our historical trends continue, but on a timescale of generations instead of years.

I'm fairly certain the generation in power at any one time will always fail to achieve equality of opportunity by their own liberal standards, but will have achieved useful improvements by our previous standards. It's slow progress that I want to make sure continues in the absence of miraculous, utopian solutions.

David Brin said...

Alfred, civil servants certainly are a locus of power than can become 'oppressive bureaucrats' at the elvel of a Kafka story. I have no problem with normal conservatives in normal times turning the compass needle of their American Suspicion of Authority reflex toward potential bureaucratic oppression...

...but these are not normal times. Civil servants are under attack - along with the FBI, intel agencies and even military officers - because they are fact professionals who tend to - fearlessly - say to aristocrats and their factotums and politicians "Sir, that is simply not true."

And yes, that is another reason the neo-brownshirts hate universities and all who attend them.

Alan Brooks said...

the Big Enchilada won in Iowa:
51 percent. DeSantis in second, 27%

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Civil servants are under attack - along with the FBI, intel agencies and even military officers - because they are fact professionals who tend to - fearlessly - say to aristocrats and their factotums and politicians "Sir, that is simply not true."


In normal times, that's not considered insubordinate. Such professionals are helping their bosses avoid pitfalls and embarrassing failures.


And yes, that is another reason the neo-brownshirts hate universities and all who attend them.


So did the original Brownshirts.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'd go a step further and point out that anyone who thinks reality has a liberal bias is probably at war with reality.


In the present political environment, reality seems to have a liberal bias because the other side has abandoned reality as a consideration. The right-wing thinks reality is biased against them because it is not biased for them.

Liberals consider aligning with reality to be a positive characteristic of liberalism. Right-wingers consider non-aligning with themselves to be a negative characteristic of reality.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

In normal times, that's not considered insubordinate.

I'm probably picking at nits again, but I think this is an overly rosy view. I think of guys like J Edgar Hoover and what happened to others who might have tried to point out reality to him.

I think a better way to say it is...

In normal times saying "Sir, that is simply not true." might be enough to get you fired, but you won't be unemployed for long. Your integrity will speak for you in your next job interview.

So by that standard... J Edgar Hoover's reign at the FBI should not be considered normal times. 8)

Unknown said...

Alfred,

I never thought I would be the cynic here...

"...might be enough to get you fired, but you won't be unemployed for long. Your integrity..."

This does not jibe with what I remember of history. Anybody's history. People in power keep close associates to tell them unpleasant truths - this is why Stalin survived for so long, and how Marshall Zhukov stayed unshot. But if you aren't in the inner circle, you are inconvenient, and there often IS no next job interview. You get handed the metaphoric Black Spot, and never eat lunch in this town again. I guess you could change allegiances, but that's tricky...

Better response - could I have an historical example of what you describe? I could well be wrong....

Pappenheimer

gregory byshenk said...

Alfred Differ said...
However… I don't think we will ever get there [to equality of opportunity]. Those goalposts move each generation.
[...]
I'm fairly certain the generation in power at any one time will always fail to achieve equality of opportunity by their own liberal standards, but will have achieved useful improvements by our previous standards. It's slow progress that I want to make sure continues in the absence of miraculous, utopian solutions.


Two things.

1. You are surely aware that there are some "in power" who oppose equality of opportunity.

2. You should also recognize that your idea of "slow progress" toward a goal that we will never achieve may be less consoling to those who continue to suffer from discrimination than to those who no longer do so. And that - absent some indication of what non-"utopian solutions" you prefer, such comments can come across as a call for inaction.

I am reminded of MLK's comment:
Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied.".

To be sure, things have changed since 1963. But sixty years later racism (and other forms of discrimination) continues to affect the lives of those discriminated against, while some try to claim that it does not, and while others openly embrace it. In the absence of other solutions, some people will embrace the "utopian" ones.

Darrell E said...

On racism and other forms of discrimination, and the long term affects they have had, I think we need to really focus efforts at the beginning of people's lives. We've made efforts aimed at every age from early childhood to working adult with varying degrees of effectiveness, and made some progress. But it seems to me that what progress has been made has actually made it easier to see that in order to improve the long term negative affects, the kinds that create and mold major long lasting aspects of cultures, we need to find better ways to affect positive changes starting in the early years of life.

And it should go without saying, at least I think it should, that any efforts should be guided and informed by verified facts, data and observations, not ideology. Ideology can be okay for motivation, but when it comes to devising and implementing plans what can be shown to actually work should govern.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"In normal times, that's not considered insubordinate."

I'm probably picking at nits again, but I think this is an overly rosy view.


Maybe "disloyal" is a better word than "insubordinate". But it depends somewhat on the circumstances of the advice. An underling who embarrasses his boss by questioning his judgement in a group or public setting is probably due a pink slip. But quietly letting him know that he might be setting himself up for an embarrassing failure (often on a battlefield)? I would think that's what underlings are there for.

I was trying to distinguish leaders who actually want to accomplish stuff from Donald Trump for whom stoking his ego means more than any other goal. I described the former as "normal times." Maybe that is an overly rosy view. :)


So by that standard... J Edgar Hoover's reign at the FBI should not be considered normal times. 8)


The danger with Trump, as it was with J Edgar, is that longevity can normalize anything.

Darrell E said...

I wonder, has the ideological orientation of civil servants really changed all that much? I'm not so sure it has. Seems plausible it hasn't but that the spectrum has slid to one side while they haven't moved much.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

the spectrum has slid to one side while they haven't moved much.


True. Only one party now considers bi-partisanship and non-partisanship to have value.

Darrell E said...

And facts too.

scidata said...

Darrell E: I think we need to really focus efforts at the beginning of people's lives

Yup. We spend so much time on indoctrination (mostly religious), and/or telling the little darlings how special they are. That can and should come later.

First, they should be shown how to live with other people: civics. Show them a world with no hair pulling, stealing toys/food, or cruelty. Once they have that, the rest can be bootstrapped and largely self-taught. Same goes for A.I.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

Show them a world with no hair pulling, stealing toys/food, or cruelty.


Don't you also have to show them the world they actually have to live in?

Alan Brooks said...

DeSantis received 21 percent, yet such might be reflecting his weakness—rather than Trump’s strength. Today Trump was termed by a pundit as “populist, nationalist, nihilist.”
Nihilist is correct.

scidata said...

Larry Hart: Don't you also have to show them the world they actually have to live in?

Show them a world, not the world. Small steps, Ellie.

Alan Brooks said...

Few are serious regarding the southern border, they’re not as interested as they claim; they’re probably more interested in Jose Cuervo than anything else to do with Mexico.
When there’s a call for volunteer border guards, few, if anyone at all, shows up.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Few are serious regarding the southern border


Republicans aren't interested at all in fixing the border. They're interested in blaming Biden for it. They will not agree to fix anything because that gives Biden a win.

Same with the economy. When Trump was in office, he insisted that the fed keep rates low and that congress never default on the debt. Now that a Democrat is president, he insists that they do the exact opposite. His goal is not to strengthen the economy, but to make presidents either look good or look bad.

The Republican Party is learning that emulating Trump is a winning strategy, and they don't get tired of winning. We have to keep the presidency and the Senate and take back the House to make it clear that they're wrong--that Trumpism is a looooooooooooooooser. Only then can we maybe cut the head off that monster and bury the body parts at separate crossroads.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

they’re probably more interested in Jose Cuervo than anything else to do with Mexico.


Given their anti-vax position on the corona virus, they should drink more Corona Beer.

You take "cold medicine" to alleviate a cold. Maybe Corona Beer alleviates COVID.

David Brin said...

I have never seen a single pundit point out that till 9/11, ALL GOP presidents sabotaged the Border Patrol and Dems bolstered it. Because dems benefit from legal immigration that can join unions and someday vote. GOPpers benefit from cheap labor that can't complain.

None of that changed but the facts on the ground and need to rile MAGAs altered surface behavior.

A.F. Rey said...

In case you missed it, CBS Sunday Morning had a segment on the current utilization of human urine for agricultural purposes:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/pee-cycling-turning-human-urine-into-fertilizer/

As you predicted, it has begun. And even without a phosphorous shortage! :)

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer,

You are definitely describing the feudal norm well. Unpleasant truths had better serve the local lord well and quickly. One had better hope that local lord was an earlier product of inbreeding than a later one. Still, as we saw with Stalin, it wasn't always enough to survive.

The example I had most in mind was a personal one involving a friend who revealed to the CEO a mistake that was going to cause the company to have to restate their earnings. Such events are disasters for the stock price. My friend had been warned to 'shut it' by a VP who obviously intended to conceal the error her team had made. He went ahead and revealed it and got escorted from the building by security IMMEDIATELY. That VP whitewashed the whole thing, avoided all consequences, and eventually moved up the ladder another notch. I'm not sure if the CEO understood the drama, but we never restated earnings.

My friend… found work elsewhere. There are people who will hire such a person and value their honesty. At least… that's what they say when they make the offer. 8)

For a recent history example, though, look up what has happened with Alexander Vindman.

———

Larry,

Maybe "disloyal" is a better word than "insubordinate".

I think you may be right here. Disloyalty demonstrates a lack of faith in the qualities of a leader. That is far worse than being insubordinate.

I described the former as "normal times." Maybe that is an overly rosy view.

Heh. They all SAY they want to accomplish stuff, though. Recall the perpetual return of "infrastructure week." I get it, but some of them DID accomplish things. Cheney sure did about 20 years ago.

———

Darrell E,

…has the ideological orientation of civil servants really changed all that much?

Hmm. Sounds plausible in my ears.
If so, the 'deep state' is just the 'old state'. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Gregory Byshenk,

1. (Granted)

2. (Granted) I'd add that I've been accused of calling for inaction quite a few times. SO often I have a ready answer for it involving tortoises, hares, and hungry hawks.


In the absence of other solutions, some people will embrace the "utopian" ones.

Yep, but they don't work.
Neither does waiting.
What does work looks a bit like boiling a frog.

Alfred Differ said...

(sigh)
Another of my posts got nabbed by the spam filter monster I think.

I shall ponder why their algorithm thinks I'm a bot tonight. 8)

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: Another of my posts got nabbed by the spam filter monster I think

Being a Bayesian means constant adjusting.

David Brin said...

At surface, no one in the GOP clown car lost their Iowa caucus! (1) Nikki Haley is cannily* lining up for 2028.** And to be the backup go-to, if Trump evaporates, this year***. (Trump will pick a woman as VP candidate but not her.) 2) Ramaswamy? He's angling for a high cabinet post - the un-Buttegieg. Chris Christie? No future in the GOP but gets his wish to be a paid TV face on many networks. 3) De Santis just wants vindication - not to be humiliated - and that narrowly happened. But --

*Amid the uproar over her omitting mention of slavery as the top civil war cause, no one commented on her narrative ON ITS OWN MERITS. She was essentially portraying the confeds as the good freedom-loving folk! Everything since 1865 was a mistake and decline in freedom. No one mentions that the South owned the US federal govt & used it fiercely for 30 years till Lincoln's election made them storm off screeching "steal!" See link about that in 1st comment.

** If DT is re-elected, of course he'll try to brownshirt the nation. Then, when he runs again in 2028 it will be "The Constitution only forbids two CONSECUTIVE terms!" Hey it worked for Putin.

*** Give me odds, someone, if you actually believe the oligarchy will allow the November election to be about giving Trump another term. They can see that if he loses, they lose... AND if he wins they will lose even harder. Their only option may be martyrdom. God bless the US Secret Service and the FBI.

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/after-supporters-greet-vivek-ramaswamy-with-vp-chants-trump-says-this-4879284

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:




While I don't doubt that he'd try something like that and even possibly get away with it as he gets away with violating the emoluments clause, in the interest of asserting that two plus two is four, the 22nd amendment is pretty unambiguous, and does not mention anything about consecutive terms:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.


I suppose that, since the amendment talks about limits on being "elected to the office", he could be elected vice-president, then kill the president, assume the office, and then pardon himself for the killing. As long as there are 34 or more Republicans in the Senate, impeachment wouldn't be a problem for him.

duncan cairncross said...

LH

Those all talk about being "elected" - the Orange one would sidestep that by simply appointing himself

Larry Hart said...

@duncan cairncross,

Actually, he could probably find a toady to run for president (with himself as VP) and then resign. No need to even resort to murder. Vivek Ramaswamy would probably be first in line to volunteer.

Unknown said...

GQP is following the Orban neofascist playbook, which isn't some 11-D scheme. Grab the courts, rouse a reactionary and vocal segment of the population by scapegoating immigrants, subvert the laws. Orban loses the vote in Budapest but wins in the countryside. His autocracy is trump's dream, and trump's key followers make pilgrimages to their Hungarian shrine. (I do think, though, that Orban best take a long spoon to sup with Putin.)

What's even more worrisome is the support neofascists in one country get from another - Putin pushes for a trump election victory and, even before the election, trump's cadre in the House of Representatives is cutting off support for Ukraine.

I still think trump only has about 1 in 3 chances of winning again, but that's far too much. Sooner or later he or someone like him will walk into the White House. There is a novel to be written there but I don't want to write it. Not seeing a happy ending, unless it's a "Revolt in 2100" - style revolution - and war is one thing no sane historian invites into his own country.

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

Alfred,

Will concede your point, but what do the inhabitants who remain in the original chain of command learn? That you might be able to join at the bottom of some other organization, but you'll be toast if you blow a whistle in this one? With no guarantee that the new folks aren't as corrupt as the old? There's as old entry in TVtropes that "No good deed goes unpunished".

Thinking of Billy Mitchell here. He might have overstated his case - warships in WWII weren't particularly vulnerable to level bombing* - but he didn't WANT to go anywhere else. He wanted to serve his country. It took the sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, plus the destruction at Pearl, to prove his case for him. (With an assist from what the Brits did at Taranto, but it's often easier to realize the enemy is vulnerable to your new tactics than to realize he is smart enough to adapt them against you. Pearl Harbor -> Midway).

Pappenheimer

*Not until the Germans rigged up a TV-guided glide bomb, at least...

Don Gisselbeck said...

When a MAGAloon shouts "It is the voice of a god and not of a man" will there be worms? (Obscure Biblical reference. )

Paradoctor said...

Pappenheimer 4:42 pm:
Heinlein didn't want to write that novel either. Why give them ideas? On the other hand, the Berkeley street poet Julia Vinograd* pointed out that poems unwritten get even by turning real.

Alfred Differ 11:38 pm:
I get the tortoise and hare reference, but hungry hawks?


* She was 'the Bubble Lady of Telegraph Avenue': a survivor, a brilliant poet, and as nutty as a jar of Planter's. During the People's Park police riot, she saw a cop beating a student, so she blew bubbles at them. The cop started swinging his night-stick at the bubbles. I see in this a Sign.

Unknown said...

Paradoctor -

Maybe a hungry hawk mistakes a bald philosopher's pate for a rock and drops a tortoise on it?

Pappenheimer

locumranch said...

News on Uplift, courtesy of NPR & the January 16th episode of Fresh Air:

NASA funded an experiment giving psychedelics to dolphins in an attempt to teach them to speak. One of those dolphins even appeared on the TV show "Flipper", culminating in its eventual suicide & the CIA's infamous psychotropic mind control experiments of the 1960s codenamed MKUltra.

https://www.npr.org/transcripts/1224894129

From Dolphin Uplift to CIA skullduggery to NASA rocket science, all-of-the-above 'western scientific advancements' are literally Fruits of the Poisonous Tree which spring directly from Operation Paperclip & the postwar importation of 1,600 Nazi scientist war criminals who have long since remade the USA in their own technocratic image, the ultimate irony being that it was American Jewry who have championed & continue to champion the postWW2 nazification of American Science, as was the case with Sidney Gottlieb & the MKUltra project:

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/20/937009453/the-cias-secret-quest-for-mind-control-torture-lsd-and-a-poisoner-in-chief

It has always been & will always be a predominantly leftist trope, the identity group that considers itself superior to all others and best fitted to rule over everyone else, as in the case of the masterful professional managerial caste, the 'smart people who know things' group & the much ballyhooed US Democrat Party. They have many modern names but they were known as 'Herrenmenschen' in the original german.


Best

scidata said...

I'm not worried (but still vigilant) about the fascists winning. What I'm worried about is that they might succeed in hardening and narrowing hearts as others have sought to do, especially in this century. That might result in a 'Scientific Empire' supplanting the Enlightenment. We'd inherit the wind and join the Great Silence.

Larry Hart said...

"Trump is already changing the world (for the worse)"

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2024/Items/Jan18-3.html

...
Many ambassadors criticize coupling the aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan to funding border enforcement. In every other country these issues would be considered separately on their individual merits. By coupling them, the relatively popular aid for three friendly countries is tied to the toxic issue of border enforcement. As a result, (potential) wars in three regions might end up with the U.S. ally losing due to partisan politics not related to any of the three countries.

Many European diplomats have the sense that moral or national security issues about a big country simply invading a smaller and weaker neighbor that did nothing to provoke the invasion carry no weight with the American far-right. Thus any claim America might have to moral leadership in the world are vanishing down the drain. Why should anybody listen to what America wants when it is just another big country that likes to throw its weight around when it can? How does that make it any different from Russia or China?
...

Darrell E said...

scidata said...
"I'm not worried (but still vigilant) about the fascists winning. What I'm worried about is that they might succeed in hardening and narrowing hearts as others have sought to do, especially in this century."

Me too. I'm also worried about how the Big Lie tactic so constantly wielded by the RP and its operatives over the past 20+ years has changed the perceptions of even those that oppose them. I've watched as over the past 3ish years a website that I've participated in for 12 + years has changed. The proprietor and many of the commenters would probably have been called hippies back in the 60s and the tone of the place used to be unmistakably liberal. Articles and comments on political and social issues were mostly of a liberal bent, with a smaller number of right wing folks ranging from moderately libertarian, to old-school conservative, to a few Tea Party / Trumper types.

But it has changed pretty drastically in the past few years, towards more right wing views. It's not from turnover / new commentors, though there is some of that. It's the proprietor and some long time regulars that seem to have started using only right leaning sources to inform their views on the issues of the day. To one degree or another they've come to believe the lies, even if just enough to have become pessimistic of anything the DP says or does. More often they take what right leaning sources say at face value without doing the added work of validating them. And the place has become very cynical, damn near fatalistic, as in "life sucks and there's nothing to be done about it. It's really disheartening to see.

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer,

Whether one stays and fights from within or leaves and starts elsewhere at the bottom is often a measure of a person's character. We saw people doing each of these things while Trump was in office and I won't pretend to know which was the Right Thing To Do in each case. Obviously Vindman chose to obey a Congressional summons and while some did try to defend him afterward, that choice cost him and his brother their posts.

Starting at the bottom isn't really what happens, though. If one gets hired by another company as the equivalent of a mail clerk… then sure. That's not what happened to Vindman. He got snapped up.

The "No good dead goes unpunished" trope can be a whole lot more than that if the good deed reveals a persons character. That matters in job interviews. A savvy interviewee will leverage that.*

———

Billy Mitchell had a point, but the way he went about making it showed an aspect of his character. The US Army isn't all that good at recognizing and rewarding good character traits, but it can (sometimes) deal with bad traits. It is a behemoth with respect to internal procedures much like its old rival the US Navy. Both have problems that way. Mitchell's approach, though, created yet more problems.

———

* I work for a US Navy contractor. One of our program managers used to fly fighters jets on aircraft carriers and train the next generation. He was my mentor when it came to interviewing people for jobs. One question he ALWAYS asked people was "What does integrity mean to you?" Someone who waffled on that had to have excellent IT skills to be considered. Someone who had a solid answer could be weak in other areas and still get hired. My mentor listened very carefully to their answer.

Turns out it is easier to teach someone IT skills than it is to teach them to be a person of integrity.

David Brin said...

Well, it was too much to hope for, that Locumranch's return would non-delusional and non-fanatic. BUT I will concede that on this occasion he's neither rude nor strawmanning us as having loathesome positions we have never taken. In other words, he is back to being a useful member of the community, by conveying to us - without noxious personal toxicity(!) - some of the nutty views roiling in his cult.

I won't discuss the long-disproved untruths and exaggerations he refers-to. Rather the fundamental logic. His cult wages all-out war vs ALL fact using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror.

The REASON for doing so is simple.... these are the professions that "made America great" and the titan of the globe. They are also the American elements OPENLY despised by Vlad Putin, along with western NGOs, whom he blames for the collapse of the USSR.

The overlap of the MAGA enemies list and the Kremlin/KGB enemies list is almost perfect. That should cause discomfort. What kind of jibbering delusion does it take, for it not to?

Of course poor locum's paranoid fantasy depends on all of those folks in the US fact castes being perfectly aligned, in secret communication, conspiring against all of the American values that THEY grew up absorbing and devoting their lives to... and that many of them have since promoted at home and around the world: e.g. individual worth, autonomy, tolerance, accountability and above-all varying degrees of Question Authority. (Which locum NEVER does toward his OWN authority figures.)

The'liberal conspiracies' that his cult now raves about would require & entail perfect coordination among thousands... MANY thousands... of highly diverse, skilled, RECIPROCALLY COMPETITIVE and confidently individual Americans... and all of it taking place without any leaks of substance - despite VAST whistle blower and protection rewards offered repeatedly by Fox and the Kochs etc., seeking any evidence - any at all - that such a vast cabal ever happened. Over a HUNDRED judges, juries and grand juries have responded to these ravings with "What? What a fizzing foam of jibbering, utterly fact-free raving nonsense."

Tens of thousands of liberal drones (including the military officer corps and entire FBI!) united in perfect conspiracy, despite many of them bitter rivals... Jesus. That is QUITE an imaginative scenario! And I blame Hollywood for anyone swallowing it, because Hwood all too often convey's its Question Authority tales based on insipid plot premises of vastly uniform incompetence or venality of the skilled castes. Witness the wretched recent flicks THE CREATOR and LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND..

But sure, I'll heed, if he ever brings us here any such evidence that's not hoary old nuttery-fizz. No, what bugs is the fact that other cabals and conspiracies are VASTLY more plausible! And he won't look at them, why?

Putin's "ex" KBG agent cabal is led by all the guys poor L used to hate, when they wore different lapel pins. The same guys! But today's MAGAs swarm around a man who is the dictionary model for all 7 deadly sins and "fell in love" with Kim Jong Un and sabotaged US Defense when he was president and tried to shred our science and went a long way toward demolishing NATO, just as Vlad ordered.

But no. No. Never look at any of that. Alack

David Brin said...

Biden & co should judo the Ukraine Aid vs border thing and offer $1Billion to build border wall. And another billion to buy up small, dying towns in rural America for processing legit refugees.

It would actually be a return to sdtandard Democratic Party policy and really anger the GOPpers who rely on cheap illicit labor.

scidata said...

Logic, rationality, or even greed and self interest do NOT explain human passion. This has stymied students of history and psychohistory: some men just want to watch the world burn.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

More often they take what right leaning sources say at face value without doing the added work of validating them. And the place has become very cynical, damn near fatalistic, as in "life sucks and there's nothing to be done about it. It's really disheartening to see.


When I was a little younger, I grew increasingly frustrated with the right-wing control of the narrative. In arguing and in just thinking about the future, I developed the habit of "Ok, let's accept that framing, and then you'll all see how it doesn't lead where you think it will." For example, cracking down on immigrant labor results in food shortages and higher prices (and/or lower profits). Or impeaching Bill Clinton doesn't result in more support for Republicans. Essentially, my strategy was to perform an indirect proof by accepting the right-wing premises and then demonstrating--possibly through logic but more often through experience--that they lead to absurdity.

What I was not prepared for was the deluge of new right-wing premises that this forced me to accept even before the earlier ones could be disproved. I was getting further and further down the rabbit hole and taking more steps downward than back up.

Eventually, I grew disheartened with this approach and gave it up, but the habit of accepting their premises and proceeding from there is difficult to break once acquired. It requires conscious effort and eternal vigilance.

I wonder how many of the people you're talking about have gone down this same path. It would explain how they can simultaneously be accepting of right-wing media sources and despondent over the state of civilization that those media portray.

Alfred Differ said...

Paradoctor,

The stories in those fables have been told in so many ways I think of them as story families. Imagine changing why the hare stops for a while. Swap out the hare's pride for sloth or foolishness or distraction by a pretty bunny. There are lots of ways to tell it with a small change in order to teach a slightly different moral lesson.

One I kinda like involves having the hare do as we believe he should. He focuses on the race and plows ahead with no stops. Good behavior, right? Well… watch cats, hawks, and other top predators and you'll notice how they notice fast moving prey. Our well behaved hare gets picked off not for any particular vice, but because he got noticed. The hawk swoops down and has a tasty mean for its chicks in short order.

———

Fortunately for us, we have people who are inclined to be a hare and others inclined to be a tortoise. The ones who call for inaction are inclined to be stones in the path. All we need, though, is for someone to finish the race. We'd prefer it was the hare so things are over quickly, but the tortoise will suffice.

What I hope for when discussing the pace of change with progressives is they will recognize the tortoise next to them as a backup in case they get picked off by reactionaries. This is important to me because I think it is the tortoise who is accomplishing most of the greatest changes our Enlightenment civilization has managed. For example, abject poverty (sub-subsistence living) is almost gone from the world because of a tortoise.

Alan Brooks said...

From a religious perspective, Loc is correct. But such is the extent of it.
It’s the Solzenitsyn lament: through great suffering, a Russian peasant is supposedly more spiritual than an urbane Westerner.
An American wants to go into business; a German wants to be an engineer; a Russian wants his neighbor’s cow to die.

David Brin said...

Ironically, one of my very best short stories -- "The Logs" -- is about Russian endurance! It's in my Best of anthology.

“Eventually, I grew disheartened with this approach and gave it up, but the habit of accepting their premises and proceeding from there is difficult to break once acquired.”

Be patient. Even when they reject you, in rising frantic-panic, the heart message gets through. “I am the mature one who is attempting to paraphrase you and find common ground to then work from.” They KNOW that a person who does that is more mature/grownup… and more likely to be right. You are chipping away.

Alfred interesting metaphors. Those howling at Pelosi & co for MERELY achieving miraculous progress in 2021-2 are those whose all-at-once! Demands never, ever accomplished anything in the past …except the primary desired aim of their own sanctimony high.

Alfred Differ said...


Life sucks and there's nothing to be done about it.

Yah. I've got a story for that one. 8)

One non-profit I used to love enough to help directly was circling the drain one year. One of the founders messed up financially and all donors reacted poorly to the discovery. We came together at a workshop where leadership had hired a basketball coach to talk to us about 'things'. We had lots of visionaries, but few who knew how to turn vision into strategy and then into tactics, so the coach's plan was to lead us through the process. Turned out, though, that we had a lot of difficulty talking to each other so he had to address that first.

He gave us a very simplistic theory of human emotional groupings. In any large group, people were likely to lump up into five subgroups whose basic beliefs could be summed up as follows.

1. Life sucks.
2. I suck, but you might be okay.
3. I'm great, but you suck.
4. We are great.
5. Life is great.

His theory was that people in one group could talk to others in a neighboring group and be understood if not fully believed. If two people were too far away, though, they wouldn't even understand though they spoke the same language. For example, a person in group #3 thinks they are great while someone in #1 simply rejects that premise. Most likely the #1 person would take it as a lead-in to some kind of trickery… because we all know life sucks.

The typical kids he got for his basketball teams were in #3 and could be quite skilled, but until he'd coached them to consider moving to #4 they'd never be team players. He showed how easy it was to point to pro's who had made that transition and the impact they had on their team's winning percentage.

Many successful CEO's are in #4 or #5, so when they speak to the staff about employees being their most valuable resources, everyone in #2 rejects the premise as nonsense and the #1's know it in their bones as fraud aimed at exploiting them.

His theory also pointed out that #2 and #3 were co-enablers in the dark sense. I'm great… and I agree with you when you say you suck.

———

This was all a simplistic theory, but the point of the lesson was to get us to listen to ourselves and ask whether we had a chance of being understood. Did we need someone in the middle to help translate? No one lands perfectly in any of these buckets all the time and we can be pulled up or down by co-enablers, but knowing roughly where someone is informs you of how to change your pitch so you stand a chance of being heard. CEO's might be better off with fewer MBA buzz terms, no? Team managers might help their team by letting go of the depressing fellow who is obviously a #1 and won't change anytime soon.

Years later I understood this as a re-statement/corollary of Pareto's principle recognizing 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes.

duncan cairncross said...

Dr Brin asked about "Uplift" in Mark E Cooper's Merkiaari Wars

Nope nothing like his Uplift - the Merkiaari have had their genetics altered by another race but no implications about uplifting to sentience

But I do have a grumble
The first three books were listed together and made a sensible "unit"
Number 4 - and 5 don't so much leave some loose strings as some loose bridge support cables - and its been 8 years since book 5

I like the books but I wish that authors did not DO THAT - if I buy a book I expect it to finish without leaving half of the story untold

OGH does complete the story - even with his trilogies each individual book is capable of standing alone

On a completely different subject

Alfred's CEO's in #4 or #5 may well be the case for start-ups - for large existing companies they are #3 with awesome skills in backstabbing and very little else

David Brin said...

Hmmm. I’ve collected ‘fermis’ … or hypotheses to explain the absence of visible alien tech-civilizations… since my “Great Silence” paper in 1983, way-preceding popular use of ‘the Fermi Paradox.” See Isaac Arthur’s almost-thorough rundown of most of them, including a few (e.g. water-land ratio) that I made up first. Still, new ones occasionally crop up. Here’s one: “"To create advanced technology, a species would likely require the capability to increase the temperature of the materials used in its production. Oxygen's role in enabling open-air combustion has been critical in the evolution of human technology, particularly in metallurgy. Exoplanets whose atmospheres contain less than 18% oxygen would likely not allow open-air combustion, suggesting a threshold that alien worlds must cross if life on them is to develop advanced technology."

https://bigthink.com/13-8/oxygen-bottleneck/

Hence my call to chemists out there! Is it true that “an atmosphere with anything less than 18% oxygen would not allow open-air combustion”? The assertion is that only the most recent 20% of Earth history offered those conditions.

duncan cairncross said...

Not a chemist - but I suspect that the oxygen requirement will depend on the materials

So a planet with less oxygen than ours - and is it percentage that is important or partial pressure? - would have evolved more flammable vegetation

Here on earth the "flammability" puts a limit - vegetation that is a lot more flammable would burn too easily

In the ultimate extreme a compost heap is "burning"

John Viril said...

Well, I have returned.

This might be a bit off topic, but i was a wondering if anyone here might be interested in looking at my baseball novel manuscript, "The Unnatural, " which Is set in the late 90s and tells the tale of Jordan Gil, a 26-yo career minor leaguer who finally gets a shot at making a MLB roster.

Here is the Google Documents link, which should give users the ability to comment on the text. Feedback is welcome, and this book has already been workshopped by my writer's group. I'm curious what people here might make of this story:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aiD1QfIG0c_WFTTlVwg7J_Q4Ejkx0BMY5xwcD9bhsss/edit?usp=drivesdk

Please tell me if u have trouble opening it or can't comment.

Oh, and here is a full n fact about the civil war: baseball basically, it was the civil war that popularized baseball. The story goes that back in England, there were lots of regional bat and ball games---that colonists brought to America.

When the union generals were marshalling their armies bf the war, the soldiers got stir crazy sitting around. They started playing something called base ball (two words) bc NYC athletic men's clubs had created a written set of rules.

Pretty soon, the whole army was playing using this common set of rules, and their generals actually encouraged it bc they thought it helped morale. As the war went on, captured union soldiers played it in prison camps and the confederates picked it up from the Union prisoners.

By the end of the war, both armies were playing and took the game home with them---which was how baseball spread across the country.

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,

I'm sure you've met a few #3 CEO types and I suspect you are correct that they can make it to the top while still behaving that way.

Most I've met were #4's and only one was #5, but when I've been employed by large companies (big banks) I mostly never met them to make the judgement.

It's amazing what a good #4 can do at the top, but I've never seen them convert a #1. Usually best to fire them when they give any reason to do so.

David Brin said...

I encourage anyone to comment on JV’s ambitious baseball novel via the Google Doc.

If any of you would like to read and comment (heckle?) on other terrific works, email me via http://www.davidbrin.com and I will add you to the list of “Brin’s Irregulars” who carp and crit my own works… and those in my exciting YA SF series.

gregory byshenk said...

I said
In the absence of other solutions, some people will embrace the "utopian" ones.

Alfred Differ said...

Yep, but they don't work.
Neither does waiting.
What does work looks a bit like boiling a frog.


Even granting that this is true (and it is not obvious that it is, seeing what is happening now), there has to be some real sign that the water will boil at some time in the not-too-distant future. If not, then it tends to look the same as "waiting".

MLK noted that ""justice too long delayed is justice denied", but just as true is that justice seen to be too long delayed will be seen to be justice denied.

I have a fair number of "moderate liberal" friends. When they complain about young people being "woke" I point out to them that the best way to counter extreme positions is to help make the dream of a fair and equal society a reality instead of just a dream.

John Viril said...

The problem I have with the "woke" cultural values that are being propogated by university culture, is there are real problems baked into its core presumptions.

Now, the rw is correct that CRT was the intellectual seed kernal that has crystalized this entire cultural model. I don't vilify it as they do, but BOY there are legit issuess with the methodology CRT has spread throughout multiple fields within the high manities.

Lena said...

Darrell,

The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans - and How We Can Fix It
Dorothy A. Brown (Author)

I heard an interview with the author of this one a few days ago. It might be worth checking out.

Paul SB

Alfred Differ said...

Gregory Byshenk,

...best way to counter extreme positions is to help make the dream of a fair and equal society a reality instead of just a dream.

Then I'm sure you'll be accepting of those of us moving at the pace of a tortoise. If we have difficulty believing the hare's approach will work best (if at all), our pace is still better than waiting.

If you can do that, there is no issue between us regarding what constitutes a better world.

Joe said...

Dr Brin,

It's been 50 yrs since I studied chemistry and 25 since being a librarian, so I asked Google:
"how much oxygen required for combustion?". 16% was the answer given, but the highest altitude for combustion is under 12,000 ft for wood, 17,000 ft for oil, and 26,000 ft for butane/propane. An IC car has been run at 22,000 ft. It's a bit late for for me giggle altitude, pp, and oxygen percentage. 18% might be correct for wood.

scidata said...

Re: hare and tortoise

The description of the two sides of The Force using the 'quicker vs steadier' comparison was one of the few things that Star Wars got right. Blitzkrieg is for nazis.

I watched an almost 50 year old performance of "Beast of Burden" the other day. Although Mick and Keith wrote that song, they let Ronnie take the lead through most of this performance. Not because Keith couldn't play it, certainly not because Mick couldn't take the lead anytime and anyplace, but because they'd rather showcase the timeless brilliance of that song and of that band. That's how you build to last.

The arc of history bends (very slowly) toward justice.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm all for the hares of the world to run the race. Maybe they can win it. I'd like it (probably) if they did.

All I ask is they not mistake a tortoise for a stone in the road.

Lena said...

scidata,

The "slow and steady wins the race" interpretation completely misses what the story is about. The hare goes around bragging his tail off, pissing off everyone in the forest. But since they all know he really is fast, no one wants to take him on. Until the slowest animal gets pissed enough to take him on, and wins - the ultimate humiliation for that hare. Isn't it obvious that the intended lesson is that if you brag, someone is going to put you in your place, and likely in a really embarrassing way? I suspect that whoever came up with the "slow and steady" claim was a braggart who wanted to distract people from the more obvious meaning.

Paul SB

Lena said...

Alfred,

All the stats show that CEOs actually have very little effect on the success or failure of the businesses they run. The effect size is 0.60, where a 0.50 is pure chance.

Paul SB

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB,

0.60
I know. With a significant standard deviation too.

Thing is... a decent company with a piss poor CEO is in trouble. If they don't have some savings, that small effect (0.40) could drive them under.

I've met some real wanna-bee's. If you look at the smaller, early entrepreneurial efforts, that kind of CEO can destroy the smoke and mirrors that are necessary to get the company started. Even a 0.6 CEO for one of them is a blessing.

------

My experience says a mediocre CEO does little, but someone else is usually filling that strategic leader role if the company does well. Someone is being strategically effective... or lucky. Either will do.

Still, I don't expect the good ones to be much above 0.6 because I'm one of those firm believers that the assets of real value in a company are its people. They can often muddle along without a strategic leader for a while.

duncan cairncross said...

I go along with Alfred a CEO can KILL a company - but its very rare for a CEO to have an actual positive effect

scidata said...

@Paul SB

I'm not sure that the braggart interpretation is entirely different, but in fact it fits my Stones example even better. Reaching way back to my kindergarten days, I remember it being a 'don't judge a book by its cover' tale.

Seymour Papert was good at using animals to introduce complex social behaviours like syntonicity. The avatar in the Logo language was a turtle.

gregory byshenk said...

I wrote
I have a fair number of "moderate liberal" friends. When they complain about young people being "woke" I point out to them that the best way to counter extreme positions is to help make the dream of a fair and equal society a reality instead of just a dream.

David Brin said...
False dichotomy.

Much of the woke stuff is bullying aimed at stoking sanctimony over symbolic, not practical reforms. It is especially noxious and harmful when used to deliberately attack and offend allies, splitting the only coalition that can save the world and push for progress.


I don't see that.

Yes, some people are just interested in sanctimony. But the force of their claims comes from the fact that we (where I can use 'we' to describe both the USA and my own state) are still a long way from a fair and equal society, and in some ways appear to be moving backwards. If it were not so plainly true that some people continued to be the victims of discrimination, then the sanctimony would find no purchase.

As for "hurtful words", there is an important distinction to be made. MLK and the freedom riders shrugged off the hateful expressions of those who fought against them, in part because these people knew that those using them hated. But a constant thread of such "words" serve to show that - in a world that pretends to equality - the hearer is not considered equal and will not be treated as such.

As for what "harms the cause" - and "the memory of folks like MLK" - I am reminded of the fact that, in a 1966 poll, 50% of white Americans said that MLK was doing more harm than good for civil rights.

gregory byshenk said...

I wrote
...best way to counter extreme positions is to help make the dream of a fair and equal society a reality instead of just a dream.

Alfred Differ said...
Then I'm sure you'll be accepting of those of us moving at the pace of a tortoise. If we have difficulty believing the hare's approach will work best (if at all), our pace is still better than waiting.

If you can do that, there is no issue between us regarding what constitutes a better world.


Well, I would probably want to know a little bit about what exactly "the pace of a tortoise" is describing, but in general I have no disagreement. Then again, as a middle aged white male, I am not one of those suffering from discrimination, so I am probably not the best person to ask.

But that is not really the issue. As I noted earlier, my point is that, if "the pace of a tortoise" is sufficiently slow that it is hard to see any actual movement, then one should not be surprised if some people (particularly those still suffering discrimination) go looking for other options.

Lena said...

Alfred,

Your CEO that's a real blessing is a mighty low bar. That definitely argues against all those CEOs who demand 7- and 8-figure salaries and golden parachutes. Apply Sturgeon's Law to corporate management - 94% of everything is crap. Why should we trust big business with our lives when they so consistently show that not only do they not care whether we live or die, the "smartest people in the room" consider the vast majority of people to be so inferior to them that they don't even deserve to live. Suck their money away and let them starve.

Way back in the '70s Maynard Smith ran a bunch of experiments in Evolutionary Game Theory, beginning with simulations of "hawks" and "doves." The conclusion he ultimately reached is that the optimal mix in any society is 25% hawks, 75% doves. If there's too many hawks, they run out of prey and kill each other in competition. Many civilizations have fallen because of internal factionalism. It almost doesn't matter whether the factionalism is in government, business, and/or religion (usually it's all of the above). When a culture glorifies competition and feeds the narcissism of its most successful competitors, then a whole lot more people than 25% want to fight for dominance.

I'm not sure who did more to jack up America, between Newt Gingrich, Milton Friedman, Jack Welch, or St. Ronald, the Patron Saint of Jellybeans.

Paul SB

Lena said...

Gregory,

"... But a constant thread of such "words" serve to show that - in a world that pretends to equality - the hearer is not considered equal and will not be treated as such."

- It does much worse than that. The constant use of such words forms the backdrop for the memes in people's minds, perpetuating the belief that inequality is a good thing, that certain people deserve to be treated like something less than human. Everything we hear and see impacts our brains, even when we see or hear things we dislike, disagree with, or are even disgusted by. Friends of Mel Gibson swear that he isn't really an antisemite, but when he was drunk quite the rant emerged. When someone is drunk, their frontal lobes, which have the most influence over what kind of person you are, go offline, and other parts, parts that would disgust us to know we have inside of us, get their chance.

It may be that the only way we will be what we aspire to be - a truly equal society - it is going to be necessary to do to those who perpetuate that crap what was done to the most aggressive foxes in that Russian breeding experiment.

Paul SB

Lena said...

scidata,

I can totally see the 'book by its cover' interpretation. It seems to me, though, that they are entirely compatible with each other. The 'slow and steady' interpretation, not so much.

When I taught evolution the science v religion question always came up, and I often answered it with the Hare and the Tortoise as an explanation. Science is mainly about how things work, religion is supposed to be about moral values, but people often confuse the moral tales (fables) for literal truth. Once I gave them Non-Overlapping Magesteria, most kids stopped having a problem with science.

Paul SB

David Brin said...

“I go along with Alfred a CEO can KILL a company - but its very rare for a CEO to have an actual positive effect”

C’mon, it’s a bell curve. Steve Jobs & Gates & Buffett at one end and at the other are imbeciles like ran Kodak, Xerox and especially Sears. Alas, the MIDDLE of that curve is “paid vastly, vastly too-much based on zero accountable metrics.”

GB we are talking past each other. You seem to feel that my preferring action over symbolism-fetishism makes me tepid about fighting for a better world. Yet everyone knows here that I put more time/energy into that fight than anyone they know. And yes, some symbolisms matter…

…as I show in VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood – http://www.davidbrin.com/vividtomorrows.html

You badly need to read Orwell’s HOMAGE TO CATALONIA to see how often the Left eats its own over matters of symbolism and litmus test wording. It is happening now. Pelosi’s miracle bills in 2021-2 were almost sabotaged by lefties howling about ‘partial steps!!!’ It took herculean efforts by Bernie, Liz, AOC etc fighting in BOTH directions. Pushing for more… while riding herd on their own flank of preening-poseur sanctimony junkies to hold the coalition together.

Such preeners are THE reason for Bidens low poll numbers. Care to bet, if we dig into it?

I agree that Alfred’s metaphor was a poor one. Tortoise implies slowness and willingness to accept gradual change in blatant injustice. We need to be insistent and forcefully determined! But NOTHING gets accomplished without POWER. And that means building on the possible, gathering a coalition atop that newbuilt plateau and then pushing up to the next. I want a LOT more than was in those 2021-2 bills! But they helped save a nation that will be capable of doing more….

…and the far left was almost utterly useless in that process!

Dig it. Putin found a great tool to destroy the Western Liberal Consensus. Drive crowds of refugees across borders and the liberals will lose the next election to populist-paranoid proto-Nazis.

Simple… and you have no answer to that. Except that we must prioritize. Progress demands we pick our fights and Open Borders guarantees we will never have power, ever again. Biden should build,… Trump’s …wall. Then declare war on the Guatemala etc elites who are turning their people into refugees.

Candice said...

A bit over 15 years ago, I was piloting my Piper Cherokee over eastern Oregon in excellent visual conditions. I could see for over a hundred miles. I spotted what looked like a white building a long distance away on the horizon along my desired route so I used it as a visual point to fly a straight line toward it. As I flew along, the “building” seemed to be getting bigger far too quickly. I revised my estimate of how close it must be but couldn’t grasp what it was. It suddenly grew much larger than it could possibly get and I suddenly realised it was flying at the same altitude as I was. OH MY GOD! I’m going to crash into it so begin to turn away when it flashed past me at high speed….

What was that thing? A UFO?

Well, as it flashed past me only feet away, I finally understood… it was a white rubber toy helium balloon with a string hanging from it. It was my first encounter with a toy balloon but not my last. Each time my heart skips a beat then catches up with a rapid pounding as they flash past. The ones that are really freaky are the metallic ones that shine brightly in the sunlight and appear to be bobbing flying saucers that nearly collided with me. So please, hang onto your balloons lest they terrify some poor pilot half to death and give rise to yet more silly reports of “Unidentified Flying Objects”.

Yes, UFOs are real… I’ve seen ’em !

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

I find myself in sad agreement with you re: immigration (not to the extent of building a useless wall* - hopefully you are not in favor of adding an alligator-filled moat as trump got some of his flunkeys researching) but that refugees entering the US and Europe while being brown or black helps to fuel the fascists' fear-mongering.

Also, not quite sure how the US should swing its mighty...economic power...in Guatemala et al. "Declaring war" is facile. The OAS takes a dim view of US military intervention in any of its member states for good historical reason. My personal idea that the US might sponsor a general disarmament of S and C America a la Costa Rica - basically, guaranteeing against foreign invasion - foundered when I remembered that the elites and dictators want to keep their shiny weapons for use against the lower classes and particularly indigenes, not against their neighbors. Drug legalization here in the US on a national level would actually do more for Central American political stability than any one single measure I can think of.

Pappenheimer

*unmanned walls are useless, and the GQP seems intent on cutting personnel funding at the border - even during the trump term past. Not sure if that's because the GQP's corporate sponsors needs to ensure a constant flow of cheap illegal labor into the US, or just general penny-wisdom/pound-foolishness.

Unknown said...

Candice -

My job back in the late 80's was releasing a weather balloon at 00 and 12 Zulu on the dot, then monitoring and submitting the data feed report in TTAA/TTBB/PPBB form. All across the globe, hundreds* of other weather techs were doing the same thing at the same time: all of us generating data for the weather computers to crunch synoptically. My launch point was a hill overlooking Panama City, Panama.

Pappenheimer

*Google says @ 1800/day, so @ 900 for each launch time, not counting launches from other research fields and spying/military agencies; lots of inflated passersby up there.

David Brin said...

It is long past time to note that we the living are not the primitive colonialists of 100 years ago. If the Italians are shy of repeating their colonial crimes in Lybia, NOW that is preventing them from doing the obvious and crossing over and HELPING Libyans get some peace and food and a chance to elect real leaders.

Same in Guatemala and Nicaragua. WHICH is the better way to make up for the 1920s banana invasions. Sitting on our hands and saying "we are now too noble to help you?"

... or siding NOW with the peasants and middle classes down there whom we betrayed in the 1920s?

Lena said...

Dr. Brin,

"C’mon, it’s a bell curve."

- Sure, most things are bell curves. But bell curves shift. Where's the mean, today, vs where it was 40 years ago? Are we seeing a directional selection, and if so, is it getting better or worse? Or it could be undergoing stabilizing selection, flattening the curve. Then there's the opposite, disruptive selection, causing the mediocre middle to disappear while the extremes on both sides grow. Given that this is what is happening to social class in America today ...

Paul SB

David Brin said...

onward

onward