Surfers, not plodders

 Academia Surf&Rock 2013

When she finished her pitch, the investor said he didn’t invest in women
[Via Boing Boing]

“I don’t like the way women think. They haven’t mastered linear thinking.

[More]

Idiots. Cutting off half of society simply reduces the possible solutions to a wide variety of solutions.

But the quote about linear thinking is right on. These guys simply do not understand the genius of real innovators and simply follow a linear approach themselves.

We need more non-linear thinkers, those that can adapt to things even as the conditions are changing.

These male investors know how to plod to the top of a mountain. They do not know how to surf a wave of change. But a  mountain does not change as you are hiking to the top. Today’s economies do.

A wave cannot be predicted. It is constantly changing. So we need surfers. But these investors will continue to fund plodders.

Arthur C. Brooks is a conservative who really understands Adam Smith

Adam Smith

Web Extra: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative
[Via BillMoyers.com]

This week on the show, Bill spoke with the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks. Their conversation was so interesting that they kept talking, and we kept our cameras rolling after the broadcast interview ended. In this web extra, the two talk about the failures of capitalism, who is to blame for the 2008 financial crash, food stamps and a whole lot more.

 

BILL MOYERS: You once wrote, that you shouldn’t talk about the poor unless you’ve been out among them and listened to them before you listen to experts at Brookings or AEI. And I’ve done that as a journalist.

And capitalism is not getting down to them.

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: That’s true. It’s absolutely right–

BILL MOYERS: Capitalism is not getting down–

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: It’s absolutely right. And that’s why we all need to be hawks for the free enterprise system.

And until we’re warriors for opportunity, pushed all the way down to the bottom, until we understand that entrepreneurship exists as a moral force for poor people, for my grandparents and yours, unless we understand that then we’ve repudiated the promise of our founders.

BILL MOYERS: Did you read the book “Winner-Take-All Politics” by the political scientist Jacob Hacker and–

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Pierson?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: They describe how Washington made the rich richer and turned its back on the middle class. They showed clearly to me how our political system, which once served the interest of the middle class, has been hijacked by the very rich.

That the great explosion of wealth inequality which preceded Barack Obama, of course, was politically engineered in Washington by decisions taken under both parties, in both parties, by the people who make policy, in response to the powerful interests. Have you seen that playing out since you got to Washington?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yes, sure. Absolutely. Look in the increasingly bureaucratized social democratic state that we’re building. You have greater levels of intricacy and complication. You have an explosion of statist ideas in Washington, D.C.

And what this is effectively is, metaphorically that’s a trough. And who comes to the trough? It’s people who feed there. And people who feed there are the sophisticated, they’re the wealthy, they’re the people who are well connected. We have an explosion of cronyism because it’s the illegitimate spouse of statism. If you want to get rid of cronyism that creates as winner-take-all politics, if you want a true democratic polity, you have to take away the pervasive statism that creates all of these incentives.

You know, the interesting thing is that the two populist movements that we saw over the past five years were the Tea Party and Occupy. They were both right. I mean the Tea Party talked about statism and Occupy talked about privilege and crony capitalism largely. I mean they– all of their solutions were wrong. You know, the problem with, you know, excesses of capitalism isn’t getting rid of capitalism. You need true free enterprise. That’s actually the solution to it, which is a highly populist thing to do.

So what’s happened effectively is– not for any ill intention. No. We have public policymakers, we have a president who loves his country. We have a Congress that’s gotten together and said, “What can we do to solve some of these terrible problems?” They’ve expanded the state. They’ve created greater complexity. And who has showed up to reap the rewards of that? It’s the most well connected citizens and corporations. And it’s left poor people, it’s left small entrepreneurs, it’s left ordinary citizens behind.

[More]

This was a real discussion, something that needs to be seen much more. They talk about where their views overlap and what underlies the problems/ I may not agree with everything but I can see where he is coming from and he is mostly correct.

That said, imagine if on the conservative side we have an examination of conscience where every night before we go to sleep we say, “Did all of my work go for the benefit of people with less power than me?” Then that could be a profoundly moral movement. I bet it’s one that even you could get behind.

I think that if you and I band together with all of our friends on the right and left, and we demand this collective examination of conscience, then we truly can have a better politics where we’re fighting in the competition of ideas specifically to help those who are the least advantaged.

If most of America could come together like these two, recognize the problems and come up with mutually useful solutions, much of our current problems would be fixed. Those in power recognize this and have worked so hard to keep the American people divided.

We have an explosion of cronyism because it’s the illegitimate spouse of statism. If you want to get rid of cronyism that creates as winner-take-all politics, if you want a true democratic polity, you have to take away the pervasive statism that creates all of these incentives.

You know, the interesting thing is that the two populist movements that we saw over the past five years were the Tea Party and Occupy. They were both right. I mean the Tea Party talked about statism and Occupy talked about privilege and crony capitalism largely. I mean they– all of their solutions were wrong. You know, the problem with, you know, excesses of capitalism isn’t getting rid of capitalism. You need true free enterprise. That’s actually the solution to it, which is a highly populist thing to do.

The statists, the reactionaries, are found in both parties, just as we find authoritarians. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street saw the right problems. But as he discusses, the solutions of both were wrong. The solution to the excesses of government isn’t getting rid of the government. You need a truly democratic one, truly beholden to the people, not to the connected, wealthy elite. Government is important and necessary. And capitalism is important and necessary.

He believes in government but recognizes it needs to be firmly controlled so that it does not become a feeding trough for the wealthy and connected, as we see today.

I will have to remember the name. He hits so many of the same points I feel.

The moral code of our free-enterprise system is neither profits nor efficiency. It is quote, “creating opportunity for individuals who need it most.” 

That could have come directly out of The Wealth of Nations. The creator of capitalism felt that empathy and sympathy would be driving the moral code of capitalism.

As Brooks notes, this is not happening today.

Opportunity does not mean food stamps. I believe in food stamps. I believe in them. I believe in the safety net. But it’s not the same thing. Why do we forget that entrepreneurship is not earning a billion dollars, it’s the dignity to live your life as an individual, to build your life up yourself. And why do we talk about dead-end jobs as opposed to making all jobs pay, and remembering that all work is dignified.

[…]

The problem that we have is that we’re actually not practicing capitalism. The problem is that the free-enterprise system is not allowed to flourish.

The main thing I disagree with him is that government was mostly at fault first. It’s a symbiotic one, a degraded collaboration between sociopaths. Running race to the bottom with little regard for the ability of people to have a living wage, much less any dignity.

He is absolutely right here – government is a problem but it comes down to people:

And I will not defend corporate governance. Because people– it does not matter how bad the incentives are and how corrupt the government is and how big and corpulent and immune to good ideas and morality the government is. We still as individuals, no matter what we do, we have a responsibility to not do dangerous things and to be stewards of both a good culture and the resources at hand.

SpaceX on path to save government huge pile of dough

SpaceX Falcon 9 1.1 Launch Sequence at Vandenberg AFB 

SpaceX wins intermediate victory over US in launch contract case
[Via Ars Technica]

The United States government has lost its bid to toss SpaceX’s lawsuit over lucrative national security-related launch contracts.

In two orders issued on Thursday, the US Court of Federal Claims said that the two parties have been ordered to seek mediation as a way to resolve their ongoing dispute.

Three months ago, the private space firm sued after learning that the Air Force had entered into exclusive agreements with government contractors that locked out private companies from competing for the launch contracts without providing suitable justification. As of now, the only authorized contractor to send up Air Force payloads is United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

[More]

The Air Force essentially rushed through a no-bid contract just a few weeks before SpaceX would have been approved to compete for the contract.

The Boeing-Lockheed company, ULA, has had a monopoly on government contracts and these actions smell of sweetheart deals that come from the corporate welfare of government cost-plus contracts. These often become huge boondoggles that cost the taxpayer more than it should.

SpaceX has shown it can produce rockets every bit as safe as ULA and for perhaps half the price, if not much, much lower. Their disruptive impact on the space industry is sending huge ripples. 

Ripples that Boeing and Lockheed hoped to avoid by the rushed contract.

We are on the cusp of a new space race and the ripples cannot be avoided.


The premises may be incorrect but I agree with most of the conclusions

Pericles 

There Will Be No Smooth Sailing
[Via Booman Tribune]

In the next couple of decades, America is going to have to grapple with two major changes. The first is that there are going to be new first-world powers, like China, Brazil and India, that we will have to reckon with. The West will not be driving things the way we have been accustomed to since the end of World War Two.

The second is that the American electorate is going to be more diverse and left-leaning, more like Europe.

In both cases, Hillary Clinton seems ill-suited to be our leader. The future is more Bill de Blasio than Andrew Cuomo, and the Clintons probably don’t get that. Still, Andrew Sullivan’s dripping contempt of the Clintons is irritating. He opposes them for all the wrong reasons and none of the right ones.

While I think the Clintons are a bit “out of time,” I don’t necessarily think this is a terrible thing for a country that is going to have some serious difficulties adjusting to new realities. Clinton could serve as a bit of a buffer, allowing the country to adjust to the changed world in way that doesn’t put too much shock into the system.

We should not underestimate the threat that the reactionary rebellion against change represents in this country. They are on the verge of defeat, they know it, and they aren’t going to take it lying down.

[More]

I have not disagreed with a post I agree with quite this much in a long time.

I do not think that we will have to worry about the BRIC countries quite as much as others. In a battle between diverse, distributed bottom up approaches and single-minded, authoritarian, top down ones, no country in history can compare to the US. Two of the BRIC countries (Russian and China) are highly authoritarian and the other two, while diverse, do not have a long history of effectively dealing with that diversity.

The BRIC countries will be important, and Western influence may drop (I actually feel it may increase in some ways), I do not think the threat of BRIC will really impact the US. I think it is other. smaller pressures that will have a huge effect.

He hits one of these in the 2nd problem – diverse populations. One of the aspects of a successful society in the current age is solving complex problems, using a wide and diverse set of views to arrive at the best win-win solution.

We may become more diverse and left-leaning but not at all like Europe. Europe still has too little diversity and is having a very hard time adapting. The US while obviously showing signs of stress, has a long and successful history of dealing with new and diverse immigrants, integrating them into the most diverse culture ever.

And America has historically balanced this with an authoritative individualism that allows us to do things well, once we make the decision. Or decide to change what we are doing when conditions change. A decision that is almost always based on the democratic principles we were founded on.

Our culture is an amalgam of every other culture. It is one reason Hollywood movies do so well overseas (in fact, many movies can only make a profit by making a lot of money in a wide variety of countries). Our culture is a world culture.

No one else comes close. It is why I am confident humanity will solve our problems. We already have the beginnings of the culture that will lead us to success. It is America’s.

Not because we have some God-given manifest destiny. No top down authority makes us the model. It is due mainly to one thing.

Balance. Between distributed democracy and hierarchical authority. Those have helped make America as successful as it is. They will help even more in the future.

I do think Hillary may not be suitable for the next President. I actually think she would be better suited on the Supreme Court but that’s another story. But at the moment, there are no other  viable choices for continuing our transition.

Because, while I talk historically  presently the US is out of balance, with top-down, elites having too much political and economic power And as has happened others times this occurred, we are beginning to see the democratic processes re-balance the system,

Those in favor of the status quo, the reactionaries, the ones who want to maintain the concentrated power they wield, will not give up power easily or without loss.

I do think the reactionary elements of our society are where the real battle is at. As it is with reactionary elements being seen across the globe as they deal with distributed approaches. It is no coincidence that we are seeing multiple outbreaks of violence, driven in most cases by reactionary approaches being used. 

This will simply drive people to use distributed approaches to find solutions. The barriers to entry for much of this are so low that authority simply has a hard time stopping it.

As a quick instance, war zone reporting used to be highly restricted, with authorities only allowing certain things to be printed. Now everyone has a camera on them almost all the time, with the ability to disperse information in ways that have never been allowed before. Both for good and ill.

Finally, a key aspect to remember. Reactionaries here are not strictly conservatives. There are many liberals who want to maintain the status quo. The battle is not along economic lines – as our political parties are drawn up. It is along a separate axis. 

We have already seen this beginning to arise in our political leaders (whose votes have recently begun to reflect the battles going on).

As with any struggle, there will be setbacks and such. But, historically, the societies that did best at balancing hierarchical authority and distributed democracy were the most successful (Cordoba in the  900s vs Cordoba 150 years later; Venice in the 1300s vs Venice. 100 years later). The democracy of Athens still informs us, not the authority of Sparta.

Too much of the latter and a society is brittle and unable to adapt, ruled by an authoritative elite that extracts wealth for their own aggrandizement  Too much the latter and nothing gets done, as everyone talks about the problem.

But balance the two and you have the ability to adapt, to find radical solutions and then execute them. 

I see nothing yet to believe that America will not find the balance needed to produce solutions in this battle, and then help the rest of the world. That is also what we have done before.

If the dazzle camouflage works, I’m sure it will be made illegal

Liverpool LighNight 2014

Antisurveillance face camouflage
[Via Boing Boing]

Adam Harvey’s “Computer Vision Dazzle” is designed to keep facial-recognition computer algorithms from seeing the real face. But how to wear the dazzle for days while going about everyday life?

[More]

See, even the person above begins to disappear from casual view. The use of dazzle camouflage started in WWI on navy ships. It made it very hard to determine speed or distance.

That is because it worked against the way rangefinders worked at the time. Today we have something similar based on how facial recognition algorithms work.

The authorities will not allow their surveillance to be flouted. They would never allow the distributed masses to use this on a regular basis.

If they are allowed to maintain that level of control. This could be one of the battle grounds.

People refuse to acknowledge climate change not because they are ignorant but because they do not believe it

micro-climate 

Are the people who refuse to accept climate change ill-informed?
[Via Ars Technica]

Polls relating to publicly controversial scientific issues often trigger a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from science advocates. When large proportions of a population seem poorly informed about evolution, climate change, or genetically modified foods, the usual response is to bemoan the state of science literacy. It can seem obvious that many people don’t understand the science of evolution, for example—or the scientific method, generally—and that opinions would change if only we could educate them.

Research has shown, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Ars has previously covered Yale Professor Dan Kahan’s research into what he calls “cultural cognition,” and the idea goes like this: public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.

That shouldn’t come as a shock, especially given the well-known political or religious divides apparent for climate change and evolution.

[More]

Cultural cognition * – “public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.”

How people answer polls about science like climate change tell us more about their cultural identity than whether they know the facts. They know the facts. They just chose not to believe them.

People are quite willing to ignore facts all the time. It can be a good thing. We ignore the fact that we will die in order to make living easier. 

It is what keeps a Cubs fan optimistic that this year they will win it all. 

This all fits into how human communities adapt to change. Most people will not change what they are doing unless told to by a community leader. They follow a hierarchical authoritarian model – they do not have to know everything as long as they can trust their leaders to tell them the right thing to do.

This approach can be very powerful when the leaders have a good idea of how to solve a relatively simply problem that affects small numbers of people. It can get things done quickly. At least at first.

It falls apart when dealing with complex problems affecting millions. Information flow slows. No single hierarchy can see the entire problem. No one authority can solve it.

Then the emperor is revealed to have no clothes. Those following an authoritarian model will continue to state he does have clothes on and they are beautiful.

Luckily humans also have another approach, one using distributed social networks to foster rapid information flow through the demos. It is through democratic processes in a distributed network that we can begin to deal with very complex problems.

We need to synthesize data across multiple communities to get a better picture of, say, the emperor. An adaptive, distributed approach will see that he is naked and take action accordingly.

A synthetic, distributed approach across multiple communities must be used to provide all the information needed. And turn that information into the knowledge needed to take action.

And that is why I continue to be disappointed in the inability of people, mainly conservatives, to provide their voices in solving this problem.

We need all our heads involved, including conservative minds.

But the inability to adapt cultural cognition, to continue to follow the clothes-less emperor, still seems to drive the minds of their leaders. It is closing their communities off more and more from an accurate view of the world around us.

Even as the military adapts. And insurance companies. Two communities grounded in hierarchical authority (anyone who has dealt with either knows this) that realise they need to adapt.

So it is possible to adapt. It makes one wonder what is preventing the political leaders who refuse to acknowledge climate change. Surely not national security. Nor deadly catastrophes.

*One of the things I enjoy with Ars – whenever they have a climate change post, you can guarantee there will be interesting comments, even from those who do not acknowledge the topic. Not necessarily nice or even intelligent but some interesting ones. Seven pages of comments! And I bet not one opinion changed. That is the cultural identity of those at this site. As it is at many websites who create their own cultures.

Bacteria that prevent obesity – can we get the FDA to fasttrack this?

Mycobacterium tuberculosis Bacteria, the Cause of TB 

Vanderbilt study shows therapeutic bacteria prevent obesity in mice
[Via EurekAlert! - Medicine and Health]

(Vanderbilt University Medical Center) A probiotic that prevents obesity could be on the horizon.Bacteria that produce a therapeutic compound in the gut inhibit weight gain, insulin resistance and other adverse effects of a high-fat diet in mice, Vanderbilt University investigators have discovered.

[More]

We will get there soon, I believe. Our understanding of how our microbiota affect our health is rapidly increasing.

So figuring our how to make this work will be really helpful.

New way to make water into steam from sunlight

Sponge Converts Sunlight Into Steam for Electricity
[Via Discovery News - Top Stories]

A completely new structure heats water and turns it into steam. Continue reading →

[More]

If this can be scaled up, it could find some real uses.

Making a better world = Separating Sheep from Goats

Ellis Island

The parable of the sheep and goats – to me, one of the defining Biblical passages describing the underlying principles of Christ’s teachings. (with the Sermon on the Mount being the other major one).

As I have written before:

Whether it is the New Commandment to love one another, the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbors, turning the other cheek in response to evil, or how to love one’s enemies, His teachings show a path that breaks cycles of violence that often reverberate during times of change and strife.

This parable catalogs some of the actions that can be taken by those following his teachings – the sheep. It details how they separate themselves by how they treat others.

Seeing a person in difficulty, having compassion and acting to remedy that difficulty is one of the defining teachings that Christ provided.

They are about how to treat other humans, how compassion is required. Empathy and sympathy are what constantly drive successful societies and simply slow down cultures doomed to failure.

Time for us all to be separated – so many goats and so few sheep. From Matthew 25:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

In reality, few geniuses did it alone. Perhaps none.

Genius

[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

The End of ‘Genius‘.

[More]

Edison was wrong. Or at least the picture is. He was not a solitary genius working by himself, alone in the lab. He had the help of many, many others.

The perspiration did not come only from Edison. It came from over 200 researchers working on his ideas. The number should be 0.5% inspiration (his) and 99.5% perspiration (theirs).

One of the great debates between those who are of the Age of Reason and those of the Romantic: does genius come from the friction between individual drive and social requirements or does it come fully formed from the natural state of a solitary human?

Data supports the former view.

We all live in a social setting and almost all the things we call genius came about through discussions, debates and simple interactions in a community. Even if that community is a simple pair of people.

The idea of a solitary genius was  a construct of the romantics, an authoritarian group that arose as a reaction from the distributed democracy of the Age of Reason. The latter based itself on logical actions of the head – that Nature could be understood – giving us social changes embodied in things like the Declaration of Independence and the Industrial Revolution

The former based itself on the emotional affairs of the heart – that Nature could simply be observed, never understood – giving us artistic changes embodied in people such as Coleridge and Beethoven. The latter championed the connectedness of people, while the former championed the uniqueness of a solitary genius.

Recent research suggests the view of the romantic does not actually match reality; that every genius stood on the shoulders of giants; that social interaction drove and modified the results of a genius; that we often only know of genius because of the very same social interactions that romantics try to pretend are not there.

So why do we continue to support, if not actually require, a view that a single person can drive creativity by themselves, that they  can innovate alone?

I would suggest that we seek a balance – the fame of the individual against the anonymity of the group.. While we value the importance of community, we desire to be seen as more than a node in a network. Things move ahead because a small group (perhaps staring with a single person) change the way a community acts. It is the friction of the individual drives and the community needs that produce the best solutions.

A creative individual alone does nothing. A community without creativity  does nothing. A successful society requite both innovative individuals and communities that value innovation. They need both the head of Reason and the heart of Romantics.

In the end, though, we are social animals and everything needs to be seen through the prism of communities of humans.

As the article states: 

This is just one piece of an impressive body of research in social psychology and the new field of social neuroscience, which contends that individual agency often pales next to the imperatives of a collective.

Or, writing at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, from Thomas Done:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

[…]

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: 

 We are all connected. No one does everything by themselves.

A treasure that exists only for one person has no value. What a genius provides must be valued by a community, otherwise it is no treasure.

 



Telling people how we will horribly mess things up probably won’t change anyone’s views

 Star Trek: Spock

How Western Civilization Ended, Circa 2014 |
[Via  Mother Jones]

You don’t know it yet. There’s no way that you could. But 400 years from now, a historian will write that the time in which you’re now living is the “Penumbral Age” of human history—meaning, the period when a dark shadow began to fall over us all. You’re living at the start of a new dark age, a new counter-Enlightenment. Why? Because too many of us living today, in the years just after the turn of the millennium, deny the science of climate change.

Such is the premise of a thought-provoking new work of “science-based fiction” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, two historians of science (Oreskes at Harvard, Conway at Caltech) best known for their classic 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. In a surprising move, they have now followed up that expose of the roots of modern science denialism with a work of “cli-fi,” or climate science fiction, entitled The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. [SPOILER ALERT: Much of the plot of this book will be revealed below!] In it, Oreskes and Conway write from the perspective of a historian, living in China (the country that fared the best in facing the ravages of climate change) in the year 2393. The historian seeks to analyze the biggest paradox imaginable: Why humans who saw the climate disaster coming, who were thoroughly and repeatedly warned, did nothing about it.

[More]

Dystopias like 1984 are popular because they show us what will happen if we stop doing something we are already doing  (like resist authoritarians). This one seems to be trying to show us what will happen if we keep doing what we are  already doing. 

Not really helpful, in my opinion. We need narratives that help us learn how to act successfully, not stories that show an Apocalypse. The most popular fiction recently have examined how people can fight against a dystopia, not just accept it.

Here they seem to just tell us  that everything we try to do will be a failure. Hard to get people energized to chance.

Scaring people accomplishes little and is actually the fundamental reason people will grab onto any competing narrative, no matter how many lies are part of the narrative. They simply stop hearing the truth because of fear.

The Original Star Trek is the most influential SF show of all time because it was optimistic, even while showing many continuing problems. It showed people how to act. 

Real science fiction authors have done a much better job.

The “outsourcing” of Chinese jobs to robots begins in earnest

Tesla Autobots 

10,000 robots to help assemble Apple’s iPhone 6; robots expected to impact low-skilled workers worldwide
[Via MacDailyNews]

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“Foxconn parent company Hon Hai is set to deploy an army of 10,000 assembly-line robots to help meet the demands of producing the highly anticipated iPhone 6,” Reilly Dowd reports for The Fiscal Times. “Hon Hai CEO Terry Gou revealed in a recent shareholder meeting that Apple would be the very first customer of Foxconn’s latest robots.”

“‘Robots are going to enhance and speed up the manufacturing process,’ said Tim Bajarin, CEO of market research firm Creative Strategies. ‘The really big issue here is that the demand for the iPhone continues to grow. It’s grown every quarter since it came out,’” Dowd reports. “From a business standpoint, it makes sense. ‘When you are dealing with creating millions of smart phones per month, efficiency is critical,’ said Bajarin in an interview. ‘Robotics gives you that level of efficiency, which in the end, is very important for the bottom line.’”

[More]

This is only 10,000. But they work 27/7 with no need to eat or take breaks. As the use of these expands, expect to see many of Foxconn’s 1.3 million employees be put out of work. No more relatively high-paying jobs  for people with limited technological skills (ie not programmers).

Many manufacturing jobs in the US were moved to China because human labor was cheaper. What happens when robotic labor destroys those jobs?

The average person willnot have many options for living a middle class life.

The perfect murder – using ultra-pure water

 Water Drop....,

Ultra-pure water can kill you
[Via Boing Boing]

David Rees, author of How to Sharpen Pencils and creator of the Get Your War On comic strip, learns how to make ultra-pure water. He learns that ultra pure water does not like to be pure. If you drink it, it will try to grab electrolytes from your blood.

[More]

Those of us who work with ultra-pure water know this but it would be a great to see this used in a murder mystery – watch the CSI guys figure out that the victim was killed by water ;-)

Foxconn preparing robots to replace people

FANUC Robot Assembly Demo

 

Foxconn prepares to replace workers with robots in iPhone 6 assembly process
[Via 9to5Mac]

Foxconn is preparing to enhance its assembly process with a new line of robots, the CEO of the iPhone manufacturer’s parent company said during a shareholder meeting. According to the executive, Apple will be the first company to reap the benefits of the new process, likely indicating that the iPhone 6 will be the first phone to be produced by the new machines.

Each of the planned 10,000 robots will cost the company between $20,000 and $25,000, and will be capable of churning out 300,000 smartphones on average. The machines, which are said to be in the final testing stages now, won’t be available for sale to other companies, according to CEO Terry Gou, as Foxconn will likely not have enough to meet its own needs.

Foxconn recently went on a hiring spree in preparation for the upcoming Apple smartphone, reportedly hiring as many as 100,000 new workers. There’s no word yet on how (or if) the decision to implement a mechanical solution on the assembly line will affect those jobs.

[More]

This has been coming on for some time. I expect in a few years, Foxconn will have far fewer human employees. Then what will all those people do?

On our way “marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century”

Stones

Clarence Darrow told us what happens when ignorance takes hold in a country.

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Catholic and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one, you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

My nightmare:

First they subjugated women’s health concerns beneath men’s and I did nothing. Then they decided that women did not need insurance at all.

They mandated that companies could remove the homosexuals from their workplace. Along with the Blacks, Muslims and Mexicans. Then they allowed corporations to decide that a minority’s extracurricular activities could be totally monitored for apostasy. 

Then the stonings began.

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