Just in case anybody ever grazes in here without reading Transterrestrial Musings first ... Rand is trying to start a meme, one which I wholeheartedly support.
I report, you decide. ;)
Via Technorati: for George Orwell's 100th birthday, William Gibson writes The Road to Oceania, in which he correctly notes that "... reliance on broadcasting is the very definition of a technologically backward society."
He also alludes, perhaps unwittingly, to Matthew 12:36:
In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician and corporate leader: the future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did.
Read the whole thing.
-- says Troy Loney, via an e-mail, pointing me to this and this (see editorial reviews). This is contra my earlier post on the subject.
Well, sorta. This is where I admit that I truncated the quote from The Dragons of Eden; Sagan was actually in full-blown Silent Generation Trying-To-Understand Mode, speculating on what cannabis intoxication might be good for, and in the course of so doing, pointing out what it certainly is not good for.
Meanwhile, Juan Pablo de Mairena comments on "... the differences in art/languages and math evaluations (and concepts), perhaps the reason behind the results" -- again via e-mail; this is rendered as "diferencias interesantes en las evaluaciones de matematica y lengua" on his blog, which always makes me wish I had more Spanish when I read it.
On the usual recommendation, I grazed over to Phil Carter's excellent Intel Dump to read U.S. stands shoulder-to-shoulder with 'Old Europe' in Afghanistan, and shortly found myself reading the equally fascinating How best to end a war? Phil comments:
I think there are important analytic points to be made about what "victory" means, how we quantify such a thing, and whether we can achieve such a thing when our strategic goals are so amorphous and ill-defined. Until then, ask yourself this question: What are we really trying to do in Iraq? If you can't answer that question, how can you possibly define when you've achieved the goal?
Phil's post, and the Fred Kaplan piece in Slate to which it refers, are worth reading in their entirety; I wish to add only a few remarks from a project-management perspective.
Wars -- or "secular crises," in the parlance of Strauss and Howe, may be considered to have two major phases:
Alternatively, the second phase may be regarded as part of the project closeout (warning: 1.1 MB *.pdf), notoriously the most difficult phase of any project -- to the point where "professional closers" are sometimes brought in to ensure proper completion.
In any case, the two phases outlined above are very different tasks, and the relative success of #2 has varied widely in American history. Strauss and Howe point out (in effect) that it was enormously successful after the Revolution, thanks to the Constitutional Convention, and after WWII, thanks to American adminstration in Germany and Japan; but it was wretchedly unsuccessful in the American South after the Civil War. They might easily have added that we didn't do much for Mexico after 1848 or Europe after 1918. As Kaplan points out in Slate, the aftermaths of Korea and Vietnam weren't so great either (though in Korea a complete disaster was averted, and I would characterize Vietnam as more of a [temporary] Pyrrhic victory than a "rout").
All this suggests that we have, again speaking broadly, two alternatives:
As the brave actions of countless undirected Americans on, and since, 9/11/01 have demonstrated, we don't need a Department of Homeland Security; but we may need a Department of Defeated Former Enemies' Security.
The World Economic Forum, a global assembly of luminaries from boardrooms and governments, usually holds its councils in Davos, the Swiss ski resort. This time the forum's managers and King Abdullah II of Jordan determined that it should be held on the shores of the Dead Sea, 1,369 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth, where temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees.
The most obvious change from Davos might be the reception that any antiglobalization demonstrators or other protesters get if they try to come here. Instead of Swiss police officers with tear gas and water cannons, they would find at least six Jordanian Army roadblocks reinforced by machine guns mounted on American-built Humvees.
Notwithstanding my extreme disdain for the anti-globalization crowd, I don't actually advocate that they be machine-gunned in the streets, only that local people be allowed to defend themselves against rioters. I note, however, an emerging pattern of holding these gatherings in remote or inhospitable locations; the protesters are encouraging the very lack of transparency they so often decry.
In preliminary results soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, Hubble astronomers report that the sizes of galaxies clearly increase continuously from the time the universe was about 1 billion years old to an age of 6 billion years. (This is approximately at half the current age of the universe, 13.7 billion years.) GOODS astronomers also find that the star birth rate rose mildly (by about a factor [of] 3) between the time the universe was about one billion years old and 1.5 billion years old, and remained high until about 7 billion years ago, when it quickly dropped to one-tenth the earlier "baby boomer" rate. This is further evidence that major galaxy building trailed off when the universe was about half its current age.
This increase in galaxy size is consistent with "bottom-up" models, where galaxies grow hierarchically, through mergers and accretion of smaller satellite galaxies. This is also consistent with the idea that the sizes of galaxies match hand-in-glove to a certain fraction of the sizes of their dark-matter halos. Dark matter is an invisible form of mass that comprises most of the matter in the universe. The theory is that dark matter essentially pooled into gravitational "puddles" in the early universe that then collected normal gas that quickly contracted to build star clusters and small galaxies. These dwarf galaxies merged piece-by-piece over billions of years to build the immense spiral and elliptical galaxies we see today.
As long as you're not looking for a real job:
Future engineers, mathematicians and economists beware. A new study finds that high school students who smoke marijuana are likely to see lower math scores, and ultimately, lower wages, than peers.
Poets and literary types may have less to fear however. Scores showed no difference on reading scores between potheads and those who abstained from the weed.
Marijuana is often described as improving our appreciation of and abilities in music, dance, art, pattern and sign recognition and our sensitivity to nonverbal communication. To the best of my knowledge, it is never reported as improving our ability to read and comprehend Ludwig Wittgenstein or Immanuel Kant; to calculate the stresses on bridges; or to compute Laplace transformations [permalink added at no charge ;) -- JDM]. Often the subject has difficulty even in writing down his thoughts coherently. (p 177)
The BBC's Dr David Whitehouse writes about When humans faced extinction:
Humans may have come close to extinction about 70,000 years ago, according to the latest genetic research.
The study suggests that at one point there may have been only 2,000 individuals alive as our species teetered on the brink.
An earlier genetic study - involving the Y chromosomes of more than 1,000 men from 21 populations - concluded that the first human migration from Africa may have occurred about 66,000 years ago.
The magisterial Alistair Cooke, still writing at age 94, does alt-hist in his latest Letter from America:
What if John Kennedy's hair's breadth presidential victory - what was it, a bare 120,000 votes in 60 million - had gone the other way for Nixon?
If Hitler had invaded England a week or two after the retreat from Dunkirk, would the whole country - as Churchill later believed - have been conquered in two weeks?
My own researches when young made me take a frankly prurient interest in the question: if Napoleon had kept his date with the Countess Waleska would he have won the Battle of Austerlitz?
All these questions tumbled out when, the other morning, putting one and one together, I dared to wonder where would we be with Iraq if President Clinton had not run into Monica Lewinsky.
Read the whole thing.
First of all, here's the definition, from Nivenisms in the News:
In Niven's Universe Flash Crowds occur when large number of people teleport into areas where news is being made at the moment, i.e. riots.
A "Flash Crowd" happens like this: Riot begins, more rioters transport in after seeing riot begin on the news, more news reporters transport in, every johnny-come-lately wanting a view of the riot transports in, every mad religious cultist wanting exposure transports in as well as looters who are coming in to take advantage of the overwhelming crowds. By this point, no one can transport out of the area as the transport booths are blocked by even more hawkers wanting to view the riot.
More evidence that we don't need transfer booths: "cheesebikini?" is reporting that Flash Mobs Take Manhattan. Read the whole thing, and check out the pictures. For background on other instances of this phenomenon, see Paging Larry Niven, and if you haven't already, read the Joel Garreau article.
-- for this:
I live in fear of the day I visit a website that gives me the idea to abuse and kill a child; I’d be powerless to resist such a command, because I saw it ON THE INTERNET.
Don't anybody tell the CWA. ;)
Looks like somebody's terrified of freedom:
The reason these net people get away with all kinds of stuff is that they work for no one. They put stuff up with no restraints. This, of course, is dangerous, but it symbolizes what the Internet is becoming.
"The enemies of liberty have always based their arguments on the contention that order
in human affairs requires that some should give orders and others obey." -- F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (source)
Conservatism may survive the attacks of its enemies, but not the embrace of its friends. This is an ideology destined for the dustbin of history.
Previously unknown -- or perhaps merely previously unacknowledged -- reader Karl Hallowell wrote in to comment on New Found Lands (II):
My problem with this is the assumption that we'll have a wonder technology (nanotech) to rescue us from our problems. It reminds of the time I got into a Foresight Institute discussion about property. We decided that the US's old wild west method of allocating property would work here. Then we [started] discussing the obstacles. The obvious one was getting into orbit. The ultimate conclusion was that nanotech would rescue us by making it so easy to get into space that Earth-based powers couldn't keep people out of space. That seemed then and seems now a flimsy hope for two reasons. First, how long will it take to develop the necessary technology? Second, how do you know that when and if that technology is ready, that anyone will be able to use it to go into space?
We already know that we can get into space and that we can live there for a number of months once we get there. Rather than wait for technology to come or political systems like property allocation to settle, we should worry about that after we get there. Perhaps that's in synch with your main point.
Finally, I think nanotech will use metals pretty much for the same things we use them for since there is a lot of it around.
Like most nanotech fans, I regard its development as both inevitable and imminent -- imminent in the most personal sense, that is, within my pre-nanotech life expectancy. I also regard the problem of cheap access to space as a relatively trivial one once nanotech is available. What Karl points out is the obvious 1) molecular manufacturing is not yet in hand, and no one really knows how to do it; and the less obvious but crucial 2) unknown political constraints on its use.
It is just this recognition of the importance of the legal/regulatory environment that led Drexler to devote an entire chapter of Engines of Creation to a discussion of possible public decision-making processes for managing the introduction of nanotech. To simply assume, as many advocates of nanotech appear to do, that control will be impossible and a mass exodus from Earth will begin within years (or months) following a crucial breakthrough, may seem reasonable, but it is not good risk management.
I need hardly remind my readers (but I'm going to anyway) that the current Administration seeks a total ban on human cloning, a ban which would imprison anyone involved in any way with somatic-cell nuclear transfer (say, a young woman with no criminal record who donates an egg, or a $25,000-a-year lab technician) for ten years. Every Administration since Lyndon Johnson's has acted to enforce the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (which went into effect in December 1964), with strikingly counterproductive results. The technologies of cloning and narcotics production are pathetically crude by comparison with what nanotech will offer. We may be in for a very rough ride.
Assuming, for the purposes of this discussion, a happy ending, I'm still coming down on the organics side of the organics-vs-metals question. Existing resource-extraction technologies on Earth produce around 3.8 trillion kg of oil per year*, but only about 1 trillion kg of steel. Drexler envisions assembler feedstocks consisting almost entirely of acetone, perhaps with some trace amounts of dissolved minerals**.
For those living in space, the question becomes one of the abundance and distribution of C-type and M-type asteroids. C-types are 10 times more common than M-types, and also occupy a larger volume, averaging a bit farther from the Sun.
* this source says at least 75 million barrels per day; a barrel is 42 gallons; a gallon is 3.78541 liters; and the density of crude oil varies, but I'm using 0.87 kg/l.
** See, for example, this source, which quotes SciAm as follows:
The cost per kilogram of goods produced by nanomanufacturing would equal the price of potatoes. The resulting nanoworld, in which everyone is wealthy because of the drastic reduction in the cost of goods, would flummox economists, those scientists of scarcity. A jumbo airliner could be purchased for the current price of an automobile. A homeowner would pour acetone into a household manufacturing system, similar in appearance to a microwave oven. An hour later, out would come a computer, a television set or a compact-disc player. A home food-growing machine could rapidly culture cells from a cow to create a steak, a godsend to the animal-rights movement.
... lack of leadership from properly informed opinion leads to the development of the precautionary principle.
This principle should never be used when evaluating data relating to large populations and low risks. The precautionary principle arbitrarily changes the weight that is given to evidence from different investigations on an uncertain basis - and it represents the antithesis of science.
Read the whole thing. And to find out about what's really killing us, read this.
This one's for Pejman -- and a few million brave people in Iran.
The Ayatollah blames the US: "In a nationally televised speech on Thursday, Khamenei accused the United States of trying to foment disorder here ..."
He's right, of course. And here are the American fomenters of disorder:
If the mullahs had a deck of playing cards, these 56 guys would be on it.
Few People Likely to Escape Higher Taxes, notes AP National Writer, Robert Tanner:
Fines, fees, surcharges, taxes: Whatever you call it, the bottom line is that cash-strapped states are seeking billions of new dollars from their citizens, enough to potentially double the load of new taxes this year and erase much of the windfall American taxpayers enjoyed in the 1990s.
The assault on taxpayers' pocketbooks is just beginning, and it doesn't matter where you live -- you're going to get hit:
So far, of the 21 states with budgets signed into law for the fiscal year that begins in July for all but four states, Americans will pay $4.3 billion in new taxes and $2.3 billion in new fees.
Another $14 billion in proposed taxes and $2.4 billion in possible fees remain on the table in 29 states, including some of the most expensive proposals in states like California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. In 10 of those states, legislatures have passed spending plans but governors have not yet signed them.
The hikes are chipping away at the $35.7 billion in state taxes cut during the 1990s. Since the economy went sour, states raised $9.1 billion in new taxes; this year, more than twice that is possible now — some $18.3 billion in new and proposed taxes.
Since that makes it sound like they're just making up for past cuts, let's do some digging and find out what's really going on. I will assume my home state of Missouri to be sufficiently representative of the nationwide trend; I note that any numerate person with a calculator and Internet access can perform the following analysis in a matter of minutes.
Turning to this handy site map and selecting the various fiscal year budget pages; drawing CPI data from this source; and drawing population data from this source -- we find:
(2003 population figure assumes 0.7% growth over 2002).
Corrected for inflation and population growth, Missouri's state government is one-fifth more expensive than it was in 1995 and more expensive than it was in any year prior to 2002. And that's with the situation being decried in this bizarre editorial in the KCStar, which seems to rely on the bureaucracy's ability to conceal the reality of galloping increases in state government from the electorate.
Readers are encouraged to perform their own analyses. Expect to find similar evidence of political parasitism and crass opportunism in your state's budget "crisis."
Currently at #40 on Blogdex, Magic Cube 4D, which has
possible states, whereas "the normal 3D Rubik's Cube has only 43,252,032,274,489,856,000 unique positions." Puts me in mind of this story ...
Actually, about 33 priceless vases, statues and jewels were missing.
On Saturday, a team of U.S. investigators from the Customs Service and State Department released a summary of a preliminary report that concluded that 3,000 pieces were missing.
Watch this get spun as "the looting never happened" or "a rape of civilization," depending on which part of the curve the commenter chooses to ignore.
In my new-found role as a backup source of frequent "space business fix" posts for Rand Simberg fans -- Transterrestrial Musings (see left sidebar for link) is having a mighty struggle with Moveable Type just now -- I unreservedly recommend that you read this item over on The Laughing Wolf, which accurately characterizes the problems with much of the commercial-space subculture. Many thanks to Joe Katzman for the tip.
This may be of more interest to locals than others, but anyway, here goes.
We've actually been meeting every month for a while now, thanks to Jessy (language warning), a transplanted Californian who looks to be a classic connector. We met at "The Other Place," a joint in downtown Overland Park (I note that "downtown Overland Park" sounds pretty funny to someone from KCMO, as Overland Park is a suburb in the mold of Orange County [CA], Plano [TX], or Schaumburg [IL], but it really does have one). Attendance was lighter than usual, perhaps because many of the locals are college students and are elsewhere for the summer.
Besides me, there was Andy, Janet and Keith, Jim, Ryan, and Mike. (Jim, Ryan, and I all have the same employer, whose name I do not mention on this blog but which anybody who lives around here can probably guess on the first try, as they are the largest employer in the metro area, with the possible exception [thanks to recent layoffs] of the Feds.)
Janet told a great story about going to see The Fellowship of the Ring very late on opening night, never having read the book, surrounded by Tolkien fanatics, and deliberately asking stupid questions so as not to be dragged off to the other two films in similar fashion.
After a while, the remaining hard-core attendees got into a (thankfully congenial) political discussion; all appeared to agree that the Libertarian Party needs more gradualists and fewer abolitionists (sentiment I have heard so many times that I can't help but wonder when it will reach critical mass and result in a takeover by moderates); and I made the usual mention of GENERATIONS and shamelessly promoted my situational citizenship model.
Completely unrelated coda: Not sure I'll have another chance to post today, so here's an observing tip for locals, namely that the International Space Station will fly over tonight at 9:25 PM CDT, moving from northwest to southeast; it will be visible for 6 minutes and will reach a maximum altitude of 75 degrees above the horizon.
UPDATE: Spectacular -- at least mag -2, and it flew right through the Big Dipper! A good source of sighting info (not the one I got the above version from) is here; I note that appearance was actually no more than 40° above the horizon and was more in the NW.
-- of cathedrals in England may be found over on A House at Pooh Corner. Gratuitous Arcturus reference to the Dissolution of the Monasteries is embedded in this post from thirteen months ago (part of my time-travel contest).
If they're named Mike, they build an IMike. Found via Blogdex; I had the self-referential experience of first viewing these pages (slowly, as I've only got a dial-up at home and they're full of pictures) on a Samsung SyncMaster 570V, the LCD monitor he used for the display. Cute cats, too.
Via this post over on The Future is Retail -- to whom I owe a permalink -- a pointer to the T.P.S. Report Cover Sheet. This will not mean much to you if you haven't seen the movie. But if you have, being able to print it out will seem like purest serendipity.
Via this week's Carnival of the Vanities, we find this post by Jeff Medcalf (who agrees with me about best outcomes) over on Caerdroia. Read the whole thing, and wonder again why philo-Semitic evangelical Christians still support the Bush Administration.
Over on Due Diligence, Tim Oren has a dense posting (in the idea-rich sense) suggesting that "we're seeing the reemergence of space as a technology driver, fueled by an arms race in both the original and business senses of the phrase." He kindly references my Space War posts as an account of new policy formulation.
Already at #21 on Blogdex, Clay Shirky says: "For people arguing about an ideal media landscape, the tradeoffs are clear: Diverse. Free. Equal. Pick two." Read the whole thing.
Troy Loney wrote again to 1) remind me that he had written in about the polynyas in January; 2) to note that he has commented further about space colonization here; and to note the, as it were, topological properties of the situation:
The example of the Plymouth Rock colonists didn't escape me; a major problem they faced, though, was that it was easy for them to acquire neighbors with different views, since the New World is contiguous.
Basically, I think the South Pacific islands are a better model of Solar System colonization than the New World. While Mars and the larger gas-giant moons are large and contiguous like continents (and therefore subject to encroachment from population sprawl), the far-more-numerous asteroids are not. Further, they don't have the gravity-well problems which Mars et al. have (so they're easier to settle), and travel between asteroids will always be expensive in either time or delta-vee.
I suggest this will tend to enforce the deliberate isolation of groups: unless spacecraft are readily available to all members of the group, it will be difficult for them to leave the group. Contact the other way will be discouraged simply because it will be difficult for members of a small, closely-knit group to buy outsiders' goods (just as the Amish can't easily buy telephones and televisions).
As technology improves, of course, this will tend to change, just as aircraft have made all the South Pacific islands easily accessible and destroyed the relative isolation of their peoples. (I project that the isolationists' response to this may be to move the asteroid elsewhere, perhaps to the Kuiper Belt, or even -- very slowly -- to another star.)
I note only that enforcing isolation will devolve to attempts to control replication technology (nanotech) so that group members cannot easily acquire spacecraft; or perhaps the inculcation of a "Daniel Boone" meme, in which the appearance of any new nearby settlement induces the isolationists to pack up and move on.
The hypodermic needle model postulated that the mass media had direct, immediate, and powerful effects on a mass audience. The mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a powerful influence on behavior change. The omnipotent media were pictured as conveying messages to atomized masses of individuals (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955). Evidence of the power of the mass media was drawn from such historical events as (1) the role of the Hearst newspapers in arousing public support for the Spanish-American War, (2) the power of Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels' propaganda apparatus during World War II in Europe, and (3) the influence of Madison Avenue advertising on consumer and voting behavior in the U.S.
Eventually, when more sophisticated methods were used in communication research, considerable doubt was cast on the hypodermic needle model. This survey research was directed by Paul F. Lazarsfeld of Columbia University, a pioneering mass communication scholar (Rogers, 1994). The hypodermic needle model was based primarily on intuitive theorizing from unique historical events and was too simple, too mechanistic, and too gross to give an accurate account of mass media effects. (pp 284-5)
The author of the National Review Online piece says, "pray," without specifying what for (and immediately prior to saying "spread the word by giving copies of this article to others where you work, live, and worship" -- translation: "forward this scary urban legend to everybody you know"). But I'll tell you exactly what to pray for: that the CWA start demonstrating this and learn something about diffusion theory.
-- would probably be to become the 51st, 52nd, and 53rd states. Well, we're not going to do that, but careful consideration of the deliberate memetic engineering recommended by the Rev Ken Joseph Jr is in order (I don't agree with the ban on Islamic headdress, but the rest of the list looks pretty good). Tellingly, he also notes:
The answers come from the common people. I will never forget discussing with many of the peace activists I originally supported before the war, asking whether they had talked with the common people to ask what they wanted. "No, we don't have to. We know what they want," was the response.
What do the "regular people" in Iraq want? Just like they wanted the Americans to save them from Saddam and were ready to pay any price personally to do so, their advice is simple and we ignore it at a price.
The G-8 meeting next year is in the US. Here's what the host city can expect:
Most of the 1,000 or so demonstrators were peaceful, but an aggressive core of about 200 wearing black ski masks and other face coverings knocked down phone booths and tore down signs. They threw large rocks at the Hotel Royal and at police guarding the Olympic Museum.
They also looted a construction site for scaffolding and bars, presumably to build the barricades they were constructing on several streets. Rioters ransacked an Esso gas station, stealing candy and cigarettes that they then handed out to people watching the demonstration, and broke into a supermarket.
I note that the above text has unfortunately already disppeared from the original AP article -- the emphasis is changing before our very eyes, to the supposed plight of injured protesters. Anyway, a while back I had a suggestion about how to manage the risk of anti-capitalist* looters at the next American-hosted summit -- one of those "a pack, not a herd" things. It's unlikely that any serious decision-makers in the Bush Administration read this blog, but hey, I can dream, can't I?
* For lack of a better term. "And what is true of the leaders is even more true of the rank and file of the movement. The relative ease with which a young communist could be converted into a Nazi or vice versa was generally known in Germany, best of all to the propagandists of the two parties. Many a university teacher during the 1930's has seen English and American students return from the Continent uncertain whether they were communists or Nazis and certain only that they hated Western liberal civilization." -- F.A. Hayek
Randy McDonald comments further on space colonization, with special attention to the selective pressures operating on small colonies, here and here. Replace the guns, germs, and steel of the 16th-19th century Europeans with the political and cultural memes of 21st-century Terran bureaucrats, and some awfully interesting scenarios present themselves.
-- if The curse of the quarter holds up. Thanks to my sister for sending the link; she lives in Jacksonville Beach and points out that "the new Florida quarter has the Space Shuttle in addition to a palm tree and an old Spanish ship. What next? Will the palm trees die?"