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Crib Sheet: Iron Sunrise

This is going to be a relatively short "Crib Sheet" piece: turns out I've already written most of it:

Here are my memories of the history of "Iron Sunrise", including an excised section with a talking cat sidekick.

Here's an explanation of the structural problems with the Eschaton universe which blocked me from writing of a third book in the series. (Note that some of the ideas for "Space Pirates of KPMG" eventually surfaced in a highly modified form, in different space opera project of mine — Neptune's Brood, which is due out early this July. Which, ahem has a fan.)

Now for a meta-note: I made a contractual mistake common to first-time novelists with "Singularity Sky" and "Iron Sunrise", which I shall talk about below the fold, in case any other first-time novelists are reading these notes ...

When you sell your first novel to a major publisher, you will discover that they are not buying your first novel. Nobody knows who the hell you are (unless you're William Gibson) so it will probably disappear, and certainly won't be a runaway success. But the canny editor knows that if your subsequent novels are up to the same standard as the first, you will gradually acquire a following and begin to show a net profit around the second or third book. So rather than issuing a contract for just one book, they'll offer you a two (or even three) book contract, with an option (right of first refusal) on your next novel thereafter. Because what they're actually buying is a stake in your subsequent career.

These days, editors are workflow/production managers who work for (or at best, alongside) an all-powerful marketing department. They do not have the authority to sign off on an advance for a book (which may in a few cases be larger than their own annual salary, and is almost always more than a month's wages) without some oversight; in particular, there's no point buying a book if marketing think it's a turkey (because if the marketing folks lack confidence in the product, it almost certainly won't sell). So proposed acquisitions have to run the gauntlet of an internal committee meeting in which editorial, marketing, production, and finance all have to agree it makes sense to issue the contract.

It is much easier to convince such a committee that book #2 from an author is a safe bet if it is a sequel to book #1, because it is much easier to describe a sequel to an already-written book than an unwritten random-other-novel. So the contract offered to a first timer will typically be for Book One [insert title of the book that $AUTHOR is selling] "and a sequel, Book Two [title to be decided]".

Now, it's not hard to break out of this trap if you already have a chunk of book #2 written. If I'd said, "Book Two will be 'Iron Sunrise', a different and better space opera, and here's the first four chapters and an outline", my agent could almost certainly have decoupled "Iron Sunrise" from "Singularity Sky" in the contract — and, more importantly, given me a clean sheet to work with, rather than having to work with the design errors built into the universe of "Singularity Sky".

Unfortunately, at that time I still thought of "Iron Sunrise" as being book 2 in a series—rather than "Singularity Sky" as being a prototype for a space opera series, and "Iron Sunrise" as being the first book in the series I should have written. So I didn't object to the contract for "Singularity Sky and a sequel", and I wrote a sequel ... then subsequently tripped over my own first-timer mistakes.

The moral of this story is that if you're a first-time novelist, it's a mistake to assume that your first novel is the first book in a series. It's a first novel: there are probably flaws that you won't notice until you've written a couple more. Publisher try to lock you into a series because it's convenient for marketing purposes, not because it's mandatory: try to leave yourself some maneuvering room.

Finally, in 2007 I began writing "Saturn's Children". I was under contract to write a space opera: originally it was meant (per contract) to be that impossible third Eschaton novel. When I realized I couldn't do that, I didn't set out to design a multi-book space opera universe—but I tried to make the universe of "Saturn's Children" internally consistent. That helped a lot. A year after it came out, Jonathan Strahan approached me for a short story for a hard-SF anthology: I came up with a short piece set in the same universe as "Saturn's Children" and realized that, yes, this universe was sufficiently soundly constructed that I could set more stories in it without breaking things at random. Which is why "Neptune's Brood", due this July, was set in the same universe. (I have some reservations about the ending of "Neptune's Brood" which, arguably, changes everything—but it's a single-point change, and I don't think it introduces paradoxes in the setting that preclude further stories. In fact, it may even be a launchpad for other stories in its own right.)

220 Comments

1:

The other alternative is to ignore the parts of the continuity that are inconvenient, for example Niven threw out the original FTL drive from World of Ptavvs in later Known Space novels. If you do it after there's already some continuity, it's a reboot (as Varley did in Steel Beach), but there's no reason you can't do it right away.

2:

And there are authors who just rewrite the books they don't like.

3:

In case that was a jab, I did not rewrite the Merchant Princes because I didn't like them -- I rewrote them because I wanted to see them in the original form I had in mind for them.

(My issue with their editing in the first edition was that they were chopped up into short chunks, disrupting the structure of the stories they told. Which was essentially a marketing decision.)

If you want to read a book I rewrote because I had issues with it, you might want to read "Saturn's Children" back-to-back with Heinlein's "Friday".

4:

"These days, editors are workflow/production managers who work for (or at best, alongside) an all-powerful marketing department. They do not have the authority to sign off on an advance for a book (which may in a few cases be larger than their own annual salary, and is almost always more than a month's wages) without some oversight; in particular, there's no point buying a book if marketing think it's a turkey (because if the marketing folks lack confidence in the product, it almost certainly won't sell). So proposed acquisitions have to run the gauntlet of an internal committee meeting in which editorial, marketing, production, and finance all have to agree it makes sense to issue the contract."

This doesn't describe at least one of your publishers. We certainly have no such "acquisitions committee" gauntlet. And our marketing and sales department, while certainly influential, is not "all-powerful." An editor with a strong track record is also influential.

I'm not saying your basic picture is worthless; from what I can tell, it does describe life at a lot of large publishers and imprints. But not all of them.

5:

Whoops, sorry! I should have prefixed that with: "some of the large multinational publishers are ..." (etc).

Patrick is 100% correct to note that Tor doesn't work like that. (Tor marches to the beat of its own drum: a drum very firmly held by Tom Doherty, who founded the house.)

And, yes, the editor's track record at spotting talent counts for a lot -- even at a relatively corporate publisher, someone who discovered Terry Pratchett or J. K. Rowling would pretty much have a blank cheque for new acquisitions.

On the other hand, my experiences with Penguin and, to a lesser extent, Hachette imprints are along the lines I described. (Last time I asked, my editor at Ace reported to a VP in marketing. And the current publishing director of Orbit first appeared on my radar as a marketing manager, although he's also an editor.)

6:

No, what I'm saying is, you could edit SS and IS to remove the paradoxes and call it the 2nd edition. Just make sure all new reprints use the new version and you are set.

7:

Hmm, I see where you're going.

However, that would be a lot of work, and I'm not sure my publishers would be interested.

What made the Merchant Princes re-write possible was the fact that (a) the series tanked in the UK, so half the books were never published there, and (b) the arrival of an energetic and enthusiastic new editor at Tor UK, who used to edit me at Orbit and who saw an easy opportunity for a relaunch. (What I didn't let on in public at the time: while I'll be paid a royalty on the books when they're sold, I did the re-write work without an advance. Which is to say, I sank the equivalent of around £10,000 of my own money into the project, in terms of the opportunity cost of the working time it took. Given that without the re-write there wouldn't be a "Merchant Princes: the Next Generation" series coming in 2015, and given that I am getting a decent advance for those books, I can't say I regret the decision -- but it was a significant gamble at the time.)

8:

Potentially off-topic, but kinda related...

You've written a fair but about "how you got here", why you've written stuff, why you won't write stuff.

If I look around, I see books from the 40s and 50s (e.g. Asimov's "Foundation") still being widely today. Are there _any_ SF&F genre books from this millennium with that sense of staying power? What, of yours, will people still be reading them in 50 year's time?

What would you like to be remembered for?

9:

Are there _any_ SF&F genre books from this millennium with that sense of staying power?

I don't know.

(To some extent it depends on whether people will still be reading SF in 50 years' time -- or even, reading novels. Fashions in reading change wildly over time.)

I suspect "The Handmaid's Tale", "1984", and "Brave New World" will still be read (or at least remembered) in 2063. These are the kind of books that come along once in a quarter of a century.

I am not sure, but I suspect Pratchett, Rowling, and Martin's work will also be remembered. Volume of fans plus movie/TV spin-offs will see to that. Bestsellers of yester-year are often forgotten, but consistent multi-bestselling authors have a better shot, especially if they're semi-literate (like the three I mentioned: otherwise, who now remembers William Le Queux? (Apart from me?)(NB: I advise you not to look for his work on Project Gutenberg: he's quite dreadful.)).

I don't know what, of this decade, will survive the fifty year test. I can tell you what won't, however. I have a little list, of things that won't be missed:

* TV or film or game tie-in novels

* Formula genre novels that follow a well-trodden path (e.g. sub-Tolkien high fantasy, post-Rowling magic school yarns, cyberpunk written post-Snow Crash, vampire/werewolf/detective urban fantasy mash-ups)

* Works that are "deep genre" in John Clute's terminology -- i.e. you can't understand them without being overly-familiar with the previous body of work in their sub-genre

More speculatively:

* Space-fic that takes "manifest destiny"/"Earth is too small to keep all our eggs in one basket" as an ideological imperative

* Libertarianism/Objectivism (hint: political constants are variables in the long run)

* Mil-SF (it's a neurotic tic prefiguring an imperial power in decline; while we still read Rudyard Kipling today, 99.9% of his British imperialist contemporaries have gone to deserved obscurity)

... These are things that babies born in 2013 won't be interested in reading about when they're in their 30's.

As for my own work ...?

I really don't know.

I expect "Halting State" and "Rule 34" to be forgotten -- they're much too contemporary; HS already looks badly dated.

"Accelerando" is going the same way, as the memory of the techno-optimism and millennial fervour of the Great Acceleration fades and we get to deal with the panopticon/ubicomp surveillance hangover of the end of Moore's Law and the saturation-level integration of sensors into our world. ("Accelerando" is like a speculative novel about steam engine magnates, written in 1810, predicting steam railways to Mars!!!1!!!ELEVENTY!! by 1880, If This Keeps On.)

"Glasshouse" ... might be a candidate, except it fails to examine transgender issues as thoroughly as it could, and it's my slowest-selling/most obscure novel.

"Saturn's Children" and "Neptune's Brood" might still be readable, as broad farce. But I doubt they've got the staying power: and anyway, come the Singularity they'll look laughably pessimistic as we all go flying up to AI heaven. (Ahem.)

The Merchant Princes series (both the existing one and the one I'm writing) are unlikely to make it; they're too set in the present and a bit too workman-like. (I'm betting on some literary values like in-depth characterisation being necessary for endurance, and they're too facile and thrillerish.)

The Laundry Files might make it, much as Richmal Crompton's "William" books are still remembered and read decades after her death. But I'm not sure.

That leaves "Palimpsest" (the novel) which I haven't written yet, and another couple of iffy projects that might never happen if I'm run over by a bus first.

Seriously, I'd be startled if any book I've written to date is still being read in 2063. But I'd be very happy if I was alive to see it (not least because I'd be 99) ...

10:

A sequel to Iron Sunrise is I suspect your most frequently requested book, certainly on your blog. Publishers to an extent pay for an income stream, a series with scope for sequels....

11:
the ending of "Neptune's Brood" which, arguably, changes everything
Now you're intriguing.


(one month to go...)

12:

Are there _any_ SF&F genre books from this millennium with that sense of staying power?

I think it's too early to guess winners - anything since the millennium is too new and without a track record. (Older SF has had a chance to last; a few will still have Starship Troopers and Farenheit 451 on their shelves or phones, and SF fans will remember that Ringworld was written even if nobody reads it any more.) It's easier to predict losers, as OGH has done well above. He's right, of course; his list of what won't be missed is only the tip of the iceberg. I suspect most steampunk tales will seem strange in much less than 50 years - although now I must wonder if there could be a second cyberpunk in that era, speculative stories set in the strange and chaotic few years between computers appearing in the world and becoming ubiquitous (and clever); by then the idea of humans doing manual programming down in the bits & bytes will seem very strange and exotic.

13:

In general, I'm not in favor of rewriting books. The City and the Stars was a different book from Against the Fall of Night, but it's not clearly a better one; and the version of The Sword in the Stone that appears in The Once and Future King is decidedly inferior to the earlier one.

14:

" who now remembers William Le Queux? (Apart from me?)(NB: I advise you not to look for his work on Project Gutenberg: he's quite dreadful.)). "

Indeed he is, and Guess wot? Yep, I remember him too!

Which deserves the passing remark that of course since I am 64 and 3 months and a bit old it is understandable that I should have come upon his work in that, now nearly extinct, High Street sales venue the Second Hand Book Shop. Which same, once ubiquitous, Shop would contain such Stuff as a section on Theology and Sermons - Rev Gentlemen for the use of - as well as...lots and LOTS of...avert your gaze Charlie for fear of instant queasiness... Dornford Yates ..

And yet here he is in Amazon, bloody 'ell Guvener and touches cap to ..


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dornford-Yates/e/B001HD16NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1/275-4484042-4598048

I'd have sworn that his work would have become extinct years ago but here upon an instant trawl of the web in search of a memory...

" Product Description
A vintage thriller featuring the welcome return of Richard Chandos, dashing hero extraordinaire, who seeks to rescue a young girl who has been kidnapped and drugged by a sinister old woman in the mountains of the Pyrenées. A gripping read originally published in serial form, She Fell Among Thieves was a huge hit when it first appeared.
About the Author
Born Cecil William Mercer into a middle class Victorian family with many Victorian skeletons in the closet, including the conviction for embezzlement from a law firm and subsequent suicide of his great-uncle, Yates' parents somehow scraped together enough money to send him to Harrow. The son of a solicitor, he qualified as a barrister whilst still finding timeto contribute stories to the Windsor Magazine. After the first world war hegave up legal work in favour of writing, which had become his great passion, and completed somethirty books. These rangedfrom light- hearted farce to adventure thrillers. For the former, he created the 'Berry' books which established Yates' reputation as a writer of witty, upper-crust romances. For the latter, he created ther character Richard Chandos, who recounts the adventures of Jonah Mansel, a classic gentleman sleuth. As a consequence of his education and experience, Yates' books feature the genteel life, a nostalgic glimpse at Edwardian decadence and a number of swindling solicitors. In his hey day, and as testament to hisfine writing, Dornford Yates' work was placed in the bestseller list. Indeed, 'Berry' is one of the great comic creations of twentieth century fiction; the 'Chandos' titles also beingsuccessfully adapted for television. Along with Sapper and John Buchan, Yates dominated the adventure book market of the inter war years. Finding the English climate utterly unbearable, Yates chose to live in the French Pyrenees for eighteen years, before moving on to Rhodesia where he died in 1960. 'Mr Yates can be recommended to anyone who thinks the British take themselves too seriously.' - Punch 'We appreciate fine writing when we come across it, and a wit that is ageless united to a courtesy that is extinct'-Cyril Connolly "

I suspect that we should be very cautious before we dismiss any writers work as, say, outmoded and due for extinction.

How can we tell how human society might develop and what might be discovered as being deserving of revival in the ..." Holodeck " ? ..of the future?

Once Upon a Time and Long ago I met the late Great Jim Blish who told me that at that time - in 1975 I think that it was - all of his original work up until that time had generated a couple of box files worth of fan letters whilst all of his Star Trek Novelizations ..well, he was thinking about getting a second four drawer filing cabinet.


Hey Ho and Lack a Day! You Might like to entertain the possibility that on future Fan Fiction Trends a possibility for future AI/Intelligent simulation constructs would be a Genre for Fan Fic tm " Scripts " for Future ... WHY DIDN'T HE WRITE MORE -insert series of choice - or how about a HOLY Dreck version of FAVOURITE " BOOK " err, that is to say .. " Favourite Book tm “ Want a New Laundry Files Story as a Movie/Equivalent? Buy " SCREEN RITEer tm " ..insert in Form ..Plot developments of Choice and hit the return Key ..with 'YOU're -self tm ' as Character of Choice?


15:

Having been reading your blog a good while I accept that you probably find people asking for another Eschaton book as annoying as any popular band hearing their fans demand that boring hit song at every concert.
That being said, however, I think that saying the Freyaverse books are the replacement is not going to really help. Firstly, and this is a personal view, I found Saturn's Children the least satisfying of your books. By a long way too. Secondly, Friday was a book I read a lot as a teenager and like a lot of Heinlein it worked well then. As an adult I can see a lot of the flaws you tried to correct but it's definitely in what would now be called the YA category imo. Finally, I just don't identify with the characters like I did with the ones in Iron Sunrise. I suspect that character identification is the source of the deep affection your more hardcore fans have with the novel.
Just some musings from my point of view ;)

16:

"Neptune's Brood" is not a "sequel" to "Saturn's Children". It's just set in the same universe, 5000 years later and a long way away. It was easier to pitch to Marketing at BigPublishingCo because of that tenuous connection.

Character identification -- take it too far and you end up with Mary Sue.

17:

The retconning in Friday will bother someone who read "Gulf" around the time it was written. But then Heinlein had blown the very notion of consistency six ways to hell in The Number of the Beast.

18:

"Glasshouse" ... might be a candidate, except it fails to examine transgender issues as thoroughly as it could, and it's my slowest-selling/most obscure novel.

For what it's worth, it's (so far) my favourite of your works. It's stood up to multiple readings without getting stale, probably because I'm a careless enough reader that I keep noticing details I missed before.

19:

I think Accelerando may find readers a long time from now, because it's a fantasy that will show how the early 21st century felt to its future-shocked inhabitants.

20:

I agree with this -- or at least, while not my favourite, it's definitely the best and most rewarding of them. I think if any of your books stand a chance, that one does.
The main reason it might not, actually, is if the whole gender-role thing becomes outdated and incomprehensible. And if that happens a *lot* of other books would be more affected...

21:

Personally, Charlie, I suggest getting your own August Derleth and Arkham House if you want to keep your works in print.

Seriously. You could even do it for Singularity Sky.

22:

It sure seems to me that "Trunk and Disorderly" could be something of a prequel to Saturn's Children -- did you have something like this in mind or is that just coincidental?

Looking forward to Neptune's Brood.

23:

I agree with wanderingaengus. Although I don't know how well it will do with general audiences, I suspect Accelerando will at least be kept alive in the hands of grad students, since it makes for an excellent snapshot of that techno-optimism.

24:

>>>A sequel to Iron Sunrise is I suspect your most frequently requested book, certainly on your blog.

I think I know the reason. "Space Nazis Must Die", right?

Well, they AREN'T DEAD YET!

25:

When betting what's going to be read in 25 or 50 years, keep in mind that books won't go out of print or become physically hard to find, which is what has always happened to most fiction.(*)

I spent 10 years trying to track down one of Gillian Bradshaw's early ones and eventually got it from a second-hand store in a small town on the South Island of New Zealand. This sort of thing will no longer happen.

Also, human beings find it difficult, nearly impossible, -not- to believe that what they strongly dislike/think is wicked is crap and that other people must eventually wake up to the fact. It isn't, necessarily, and no, they won't. This is a sub-branch of the general tendency to confirmation bias. Reason is emotion's bitch, which is why science took so long to develop.

In our genre... remember that Edgar Rice Burroughs is still read. His books, particularly the early Tarzan and early Mars ones, sell consistently and in quite substantial, though not spectacular numbers; generations of new readers have embraced Tarzan and John Carter. Howard is still read. Lovecraft is still read. It's extremely likely that they will continue to be read indefinitely. Once a book has sold steadily for several generations, it's a good bet for long-term

(*) it's also important to keep in mind that we really, really cannot predict the future in most respects. The subconscious drive to project our hopes/fears on the future is irresistible, and that's just the first barrier.

26:

On buying habits: my agent and my publisher tell me that the reason for the (quite spectacular) jump in royalties is the increasing habit of people reading one book, liking it, and then going out and buying everything the author has written in one swell foop. Or at least buying all of that series. This is a new phenomenon; it's simply hard to impulse-buy that many books physically.

27:

Speaking of continuity errors... are there any glaring continuity errors in our reality?

28:

As for the science in science fiction... I've always assumed that it's basically bafflegab anyway. It should be consistent and, if it's science fiction, -feel- like science (no blood sacrifices and gnomes) and that's all you can really ask for.

So if you want a set of possibilities and constraints for an interstellar empire, just build 'em.

Assume that we don't know much about how the universe really functions and that much of what we think we know is wrong. Up ahead they find out X and Y, which look as 'wrong' to us as relativity and quantum mechanics would to a classic Newtonian.

What do you mean there's no luminiferous aether? How can there not be luminiferous aether?

As for the Singularity, I never found it to be a problem because I never believed in it or took it seriously for an instant -- it was so obviously a secularized version of religious yearnings for transcendence.

29:

Yes. Trunk and Disorderly was a dry run for a series of stories which could basically be pitched as "Jeeves and Wooster meet the Singularity", in Wodehousian style.

Alas, writing P. G. Wodehouse style social farce turns out to be much harder than it looks. Subsequent stories never made it past the first paragraph; but, just as some of the feel of "A Colder War" made it into the Laundry novels, so did some of the feel of "Trunk and Disorderly" make it into "Saturn's Children" and "Neptune's Brood". (Not to forget the missing link story, "Bit Rot".)

30:

Speaking of continuity errors... are there any glaring continuity errors in our reality?

I'm glad you asked. I'm drawing a blank googling for it, but there's a fascinating essay on the web explaining just how implausible world wars one and two were -- basically, the script writers painted themselves into a corner with that comic-book bomb-throwing anarchist fellow in Serbia (really? He throws a grenade at the Archduke's open-topped limo, and misses? But gets away? And later in the day, while armed with a pistol, he stumbles across the Archduke in the same open-topped limo?) and then threw in a rubber chicken to distract the viewers ("look! Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia! Russia takes Serbia's side! The Kaiser grimly mutters that he never much liked cousin Nickie anyway, and teams up with the guys his granddad fought a war with in the 1860s! Then France dogpiles in! And Great Britain! Hey, why not add the Ottoman Empire and Japan? Wait, where's the United States ...?"). The plot goes downhill from there until everyone is exhausted and have to take 20 years out to raise a new generation of cannon fodder. Then they bring on this frankly scary and insane psychopathic German dictator who invades Russia and declares war on America and shows worrying signs of winning, except, allies produce magic-tech super weapons at the last minute!

As for the cold war, don't get me started. Chicken-heated atomic landmines, nuclear powered bombers, and a race to the moon with magic space-tech we can't match today? All before they had computers or digital cameras to record it with? How convenient!

31:

Charlie
Indeed.
It is, in fact an almost text-book example of an industrial failure on a grand scale.
Every thing has to go worng in the "correct" order for the system to fail ....
There is a huge technical literature covering this subject, usually to do with railway accidents, but also other major industrial failures.

For WWI

Kaiser Wilhelm "drops the Pilot" & stops renewing the re-insurance treaties.

France stops worrying about/hating "England" after the very diplomatic conclusion of the Fashoda incident, & starts trying to get Britain to come on to their "side".

Germany starts building a High Seas Fleet that, when you look at their ships' operating parameters is deliberately restricted in range - so they are specifically for challenging the UK's naval sumpremacy.

Russia, having lost its' "Short victorius War" in the far East renews interest in ultra-nationalist Serbia, sends them money & assistance, which the Serbs then use to organise terrorist strikes against Austria-Hungary. (This last sound familar?)

Alfred von Schlieffen had already devised a "plan" to "win" a 2-front war, which relies on knocking France out first. This plan later becomes set into stone as the ONLY way the Kaiserreich can fight & win such a potential war, with almost no consideration given to alternatives.

German General staff develop very bad case of aggressive groupthink.

Series of incidents (e.g. Agadir) continue to raise tension, whilst enlargement of Kiel Kanal gives the HSF an inside track for fleet transfers.

Serbian guvmint-funded terrorists kill Franz Ferdinad.

Austria-Hungary demands humiliating climdown by Serbia (quite correctly, actually) ... Serbia almost comples, until prodded by Russia to defy last condition.

Mobilisations & threats follow.

War between the Central Powers & Russia.

France decidses to join in, partly because of old treaties, but mainly because they want Elsass-Lotharingen "back" ....

Germany starts to implement Schlieffen plan.

Kaiser, suddenly realising what is about to happen [ He realises that invading Belgium will bring the British Empire in ] tries to ask if it can't be "reversed" .. i.e. hold the line in the West, & knock Russia out. Only then would the Central Powers seriously go for France, & without invading Belgium.

KGGs tell Wilhelm that it is "too late" & "can't be stopped" - which was not true, as Barbara Tuchman has shown - after which it WAS too late.

At almost any of those points, the insanity could have been stopped - but it wasn't.
A clear warning, in fact.

And a clear warning that - you couldn't make it up, could you?

32:

I didn't find an essay of it, but I found a tounge-in-cheek review of the implausibility of the "World War II" series of programs on History Channel.

It was what came to my mind at least.

34:

And then they keep trying to fill in the blanks on Churchill by having him on the run from the law in South Africa, and then comparing his Wanted posters with an IRA terrorist.

Wanted poster here

I mean, it's so convenient that a poster from a foreign country, written in a foreign language, turns out to have built-in subtitles.

35:

A (half-serious) suggestion:

To stop people nagging you about the sequel to Iron Sunrise, how about commissioning someone else to write it? Perhaps John Scalzi?

36:

Iron Sunrise/Space Nazis must Die! - sequel/not-sequel
So, true FTL travel means time-paradoxes does it?
Doesn't seem to have stopped just about every other SF writer from carefully ignoring it, or making sure that the internal rules meam that "seriously curved" journeys (if you see what I mena) are forbidden.
Including The Culture, dare I mention it?
So why not?
Ignore teh crack, or work-around it using "within-the-light-cone" ftl to keep the play going.
C'mon Charlie, crank her up!

37:

I laugh in the general direction of that suggestion!

The way that kind of deal usually works is that the lead author trousers something between 10 and 50% of the royalties, while the secondary author gets a leg up -- a book with sales approximating those of the lead author, and a cut of the royalties therefrom.

Firstly, I just don't sell well enough to make that a cost-effective proposition. That kind of sharecropping requires a fair bit of input/guidance from the original author to make it work, and enough money going to both authors to make it worth their while. While readers say they want a third Eschaton novel, those two novels sold okay-for-midlist, but not as well as my subsequent work (with the exception that "Singularity Sky", as my first novel on the bibliography, continues to sell well -- it has a long tail).

Secondly, Scalzi is a New York Times bestseller, and I'm not. So you're suggesting that a bestselling author subcontracts to do the grunt-work for a sequel to something a less-well-selling author wrote back when they were midlist. Might as well ask for water to flow up-hill.

Third and final objection: you might well say, "well, find a young, hungry, but competent co-author." Trouble is, the universe those books are set in is over-complex and fiddly, and there's the humour thing, and there's the target quality level (they somehow hit a sweet spot that got them both onto the Hugo shortlist). Any young, hungry, competent author who can write a third Eschaton novel that stands up to them is going to be approximately as interesting in their own right as the 15-years-younger Charlie Stross, and I'd rather see them writing their own Hugo-nominated novels.

38:

That sweet spot.

They're space opera, that at the same time has an interesting background that isn't the 18th century Royal Navy.

They've got decent SFnal content for more sophisticated readers, but they're fun without needing to think about it. I've met at least one person whose first experience of your output was Glasshouse. They found it too much like hard work to be an enjoyable read.

They're upbeat, which seems to be an increasingly rare commodity in modern SF :-(.

39:

Hmmm.

I was watching Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" tour of Libya. One place he stopped was a museum to the revolution, where they'd taken what looked like a largish storefront and lined the walls with the pictures of all the "martyrs" (their term) who had died to bring down Qaddafi. They'd set up a large number of additional display walls (think bookstore) to hold all the photos.

The lesson there was that even when you have an incompetent nut job in power, that little "in power" bit means a lot of people are going to die getting him out of power.

WWI and (very definitely) WWII were great examples of this. I wouldn't call this a continuity error, but I would say that it's a great reason to love democracy. Much as I dislike elections, revolutions are worse.

As for continuity errors outside of politics, I'd say cosmology has a small one right now: not being able to account for 96% of the universe. Conventional physics is having a bit of an issue dealing with time and gravity, especially given how well the standard model and general relativity hold up as independent and incompatible theories. Kind of sucks that all these monstrously expensive supercolliders aren't turning up useful new unexplained phenomena to help make sense of it all.

Paleontology also has quite a few continuity errors, allegedly due to fragmentary evidence. If you look closely, the evidence for any mass extinction doesn't perfectly cohere into a single narrative. My favorite two examples du jour are the Jurassic/Cretaceous mass extinction and cause of the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum. Anyone want to take a crack at explaining either of these based on the sum of available evidence?

40:

hteromeles @ 38
Conventional physics is having a bit of an issue dealing with time and gravity, especially given how well the standard model and general relativity hold up as independent and incompatible theories. Yeah, and how!
Interesting factoid I heard re the K/T extinction.
No animal (land aniimal?) with a body-mass of over 70kg made it through the extinction period ......
But baby feathered dinosaurs (hello birdies!) did & small furry mammals & so did crocodiles .. err, don;t they mass over 70kg? But they live mostly in water, um, er....

41:

The lesson there was that even when you have an incompetent nut job in power, that little "in power" bit means a lot of people are going to die getting him out of power.

I wouldn't call Qaddafi incompetent. He led a coup and then ran his country as a personal fiefdom for nearly four decades, in the face of bitter enmity from the primary global superpower -- enmity which had no check on it after the collapse of the USSR. What brought him down wasn't a simple internal insurrection, but in part a regional wave of revolutions the like of which hasn't been seen since 1848 or maybe 1917-19, and the rebels had significant aid and comfort from overseas.

If not for 9/11 -- which triggered the massive US invasion of Iraq, and lit the fuse for the Arab Spring -- he might still be in power.

(Democracy as a vital solution to the problem of peaceful transitions of power: yup, absolutely. That's the main reason we put up with all its other weaknesses.)

Kind of sucks that all these monstrously expensive supercolliders aren't turning up useful new unexplained phenomena to help make sense of it all.

You know that the LHC discards about 98% of its experimental data without retaining it? The fire-hose -- no, hydropower spillway -- of data coming out of it exceeds their ability to store and process, so they only store observations that match the models they're exploring. This isn't entirely arbitrary; there are good reasons for it; nobody can store a petabyte of data per second. (Let's put that in 2Tb hard-disk equivalents: 500 disk drives filled per second, 15,000 hard disks per hour ...)

The trouble is, nobody knows what they're missing. And unless we increase our storage capacity by several orders of magnitude they're not going to be able to run the LHC in "non-lossy" mode.

42:

(Democracy as a vital solution to the problem of peaceful transitions of power: yup, absolutely. That's the main reason we put up with all its other weaknesses.)

Democracy, Separation of Powers and Freedom of Speech. The holy trinity. If one falls, so do the other two.

43:

Freedom of speech is optional -- within reason. (The USA fetishizes it; it's not obvious that it's as essential to running a herd on corruption as many seem to think. Or as effective.) Democracy ... take it too far, you have mob rule. That leaves separation of powers.

44:

98% is actually a vast underestimate — the LHC produces about 20 million collisions per second, of which they process about 350. (As of mid-2012, they also added the ability to save another 300 or so for later processing.)

See Matt Strassler's post on his blog:

http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/lhcposts/triggering-advances-in-2012/data-parking-at-cms/

45:

And a lot of Americans think that Freedom of Speech is an absolute right. It's not; to go with the cliché, you can't yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, or threaten someone's life.

A Free Press, on the other hand, I would say is necessary to any kind of free nation (whatever you think of modern journalism). That includes being free in that it isn't controlled by the government and won't be shut down if it has a negative story about the government, and free from the masses getting upset about a story and mobbing it.

46:

to go with the cliché, you can't yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, or threaten someone's life.

You know, if everyone had the right to yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, I don't think life would be much worse off. People would just learn to check if the shouter is correct before panicking. It could even be a benefit.

47:

According to the article, it looks like the LHC is discarding the explainable stuff and looking for the weird tracks, to whatever value of weird they can program the trigger programs to detect.

So saying that they're discarding 98% of the data is like saying gold panners discard 98% of the gravel and silt they put in their pans; yeah, I'd kind of hope they'd do that.

Problem is, we don't have anything bizarre like a photoelectric effect lurking in the LHC data that will give us a clue about how to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. It makes me wish for thiotimoline.

48:

Actually, crocs surviving the K/T is easy to explain: they can hibernate and can go for weeks to months without feeding if they absolutely have to.

Hibernators and small scavengers (especially those that could live underground) survived the K/T just fine.

Bird survival is a bit harder to explain, because they don't fall into any of the above categories.

One of the other things that's tricky to explain is why crocs didn't take over the Cenozoic. In the Paleozoic, they were the most common large vertebrates, and back before the dinosaurs took over in the late Triassic, croc ancestors were making a good bid to take over the planet.

As I said, mass extinctions are weird.

49:

you can't yell "fire!" in a crowded theater,

Actually, you can -- as long as there's a genuine fire -- per that USSC verdict.

However, we tend to forget the frame around that trial, which was an appeal against an Espionage Act conviction for speaking out against the draft. (For more info, start with Schenck v. United States). Per wikipedia:

The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck's criminal conviction was constitutional. The First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging insubordination, because, "when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right." In other words, the court held, the circumstances of wartime permit greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowed during peacetime.
I find it very interesting to note that the USA has been involved in one war or another pretty much continually since December 7th, 1941 ...

50:

@14:
[Blish] all of his original work up until that time had generated a couple of box files worth of fan letters whilst all of his Star Trek Novelizations ..well, he was thinking about getting a second four drawer filing cabinet.
---

Isaac Asimov mentioned something similar about writing the novelization for an obscure B-movie called "Fantastic Voyage." He also said that royalty checks continued to arrive for years afterward for some obscure reason.

51:

I find it very interesting to note that the USA has been involved in one war or another pretty much continually since December 7th, 1941 ...

And yet people spoke so much against the draft - during a war, no less! - that the draft is no more...

52:

@32 and @33:
a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin’ unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with.
---
Armies focus diffuse power into small places. Atomic weapons focus even more power into even smaller places. You can capture a city, or wreck a city, for example. Like a hammer and a bigger hammer.

Neither hammer is particularly useful against a diffuse enemy, like guerrillas. You need a target. A guerrilla war is like trying to nail jelly to a tree. A hammer, no matter how large, isn't the right tool for that problem. You need something like duct tape. The problem is, we don't have a military equivalent to duct tape, so if your only tool is a hammer...

We could have dropped nukes on North Vietnam, but most of it was barely above stone age to start with. The military infrastructure of the Viet Cong wasn't in North Vietnam, it was in the USSR and PRC, and it wasn't practical to do anything about that.

53:

You know that USA won against Viet Cong, do you?

54:

You know that USA won against Viet Cong, do you?

Remind me again, who won that war in your timeline?

55:

Men are still required to register for the draft.

56:

Charlie @49: I did say the cliché, which leaves out that important word falsely.

And now and old Smothers Brothers routine is in my head.
Cutting to the punchline:
Tom: I just yelled fire when I fell into the chocolate.
Dick: Tom, why did you yell fire when you fell into the chocolate?
Tom: Why I yelled fire because no one would save me if I yelled CHOCOLATE!!


Vanzetti @51: And yet people spoke so much against the draft - during a war, no less! - that the draft is no more...

Depends on whose version of history you read?
Here's a liberal columnist's proposal for bringing back the draft a couple weeks ago. TL;DR, Bring the reality of war home by insuring more people face to potential of seeing it first hand.

Also has the suggestion that the Nixon administration was happy to see the draft go:

Noting that "the draft is a major source of antagonism" toward the growing military-industrial complex, the report praised the fact that "an all-volunteer force offers an obvious opportunity to curb the growth of anti-militaristic sentiment."

57:

That is one of those pieces of not untrue silliness. The Viet Cong were not in the business of fighting battles against armies. The USA eventually gave up, and then the North Vietnamese Army won the war.

There were a huge number of tactical victories for the USA. But tactical victories do not win a war.

58:

"'Accelerando' is going the same way..."

I suspect Accelerando may have a bit more staying power than you think. It's just damn entertaining.

59:

There were a huge number of tactical victories for the USA. But tactical victories do not win a war.

See also the Iraq invasion. Operation Desert Shield in 1991 was an unambiguous victory, because its terms of reference included a designated goal: "kick Iraqi forces out of Kuwait." The invasion of Iraq, Operation Desert Storm (2003) was also an unambiguous victory ... but the war was effectively lost from the moment Rumsfeld ditched the State Department's plan for running Iraq after the invasion.

From that moment on, the occupation was conducted on a reactive, not pro-active, basis. Which, when you invade and occupy a country and fire the army but let them take their guns and ammunition home with them, is a bit problematic.

(The USA has a long history of fucking up occupations. Their military posture is designed to break shit and destroy enemies, not to support an actual imperial hegemony. Which is a major design flaw.)

60:

At this juncture, one has to look at, oh, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, and point out that however we Yanks feel about our country's imperialistic tendencies, we're still stuck cleaning up the mess left behind by the British Empire.

I think that "design flaw" you referred to was an attempt to create less of a mess than the British Empire made. So far, we haven't succeeded terribly well, but at least it wasn't a repeat of the first Anglo-Afghan War...

61:

'Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia'

We didn't rule any of these places. Pakistan did not exist under our rule and wasn't any idea of ours.

62:

"The USA has a long history of fucking up occupations. Their military posture is designed to break shit and destroy enemies, not to support an actual imperial hegemony. Which is a major design flaw."

Pournelle writes about this often. His view seems to be that, while being a republic is his favoured option, being a competent imperial power is preferable to the current strategy of being a thoroughly incompetent imperial power.

63:

Men are still required to register for the draft.

It's a non event. I'm not even sure there's a penalty for not doing it.

ABICR the original intent of the registration was to make it easier to re-implement the draft in times of need. But I suspect that was just a way to allow politicians of the day to vote for the change instead of the registration to have any real meaning.

Again, ABICR, the military at the time decided they would rather deal with a volunteer armed force than a drafted one with so many exceptions that were basically for privilege. This was creating a population with all kinds of anti-military sentiments from the non privileged.

What the anti-war folks never got was the best way to influence the military was to have EVERYONE take part in it. Not just those who wanted to be a part of it.

64:

So you're saying that none of these are trouble spots?

That's kind of the point that I thinked you missed: they're all creations of British Imperialism, and they're largely problems created by British Imperialism.

It doesn't matter whether we're occupying any of them. One can make a very good case that the majority of current trouble spots in the world are the result of the British Empire and its policies. Pakistan's instability? Check. Afghanistan? Yep. Iraq? Churchill cobbled that one together. Iran? Churchill started looting all its oil. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Outside Latin America (here's looking at you, Colombia), the only bonafide US imperial screw up (in my opinion) is North Korea. The only reason it exists is because the US absolutely refused to have anything to do with Korean struggles against Japan until 1945. In our absence, both the Russians and Chinese Communists were the only people to arm and support anti-Japanese rebels in Korea. Is it any surprise that the country tilted communist after the Japanese left? Even the partition of Korea was clueless, a line drawn by some US Army officers that bisected three well-established provinces.

65:

AFAIK, there are territorial empires, maintained by conquest and occupation, and there are hegemonic empires that go in for indirect control and influence. The US used to be in the territorial empire business, but that pretty much stopped with Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Now, we're in the hegemony game. Of course it looks rather stupid from the perspective of a 19th Century territorial empire, but it works pretty well in the 21st Century. Are there any wars of conquest being prosecuted at the moment?

66:

Failure to register is still a felony, though prosecutions aren't all that frequent. There's other consequences, such as automatically nullifying all eligibility for any federal student loans and grants. Some states impose further restrictions of varying severity; a common one is denying drivers' licenses to unregistered men.

67:

Yep. Forgot about those. But my main point was and is it is a non event. It means nothing based on it's title.

68:

After I turned18, I registered with Selective Service, wasn't worried about it, after all it was peace time. Certainly not worth going to jail over. Less than a year later the First Gulf War breaks out and I started to get reminders to register if I hadn't already. Enough to make you moderately nervous. Of course nothing came of that. As far as I know no reminders were sent out after 9/11.

Cue Pete Seeger's version of The Draft Dodger Rag

69:

The USA has a long history of fucking up occupations. Their military posture is designed to break shit and destroy enemies, not to support an actual imperial hegemony. Which is a major design flaw.

There's some thought that this is a feature not a bug. We're rubbish at turning conquered territories into profitable puppet states - which is not necessarily a bad quality in a superpower with enough military to smash anything else in the world.

Others have done it much better than America usually manages, which in turn led to them being empires at all.

70:

'Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia'

We didn't rule any of these places. Pakistan did not exist under our rule and wasn't any idea of ours.

If you overthrow a government and install a puppet regime, or have troops on the ground enforcing your laws, then arguably you do rule somewhere -- or are trying to.

By that definition the USA ruled Iran (see also: Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA, and the coup against Mossadegh -- to say nothing of the circa-WW2 allied occupation). The USA most certainly ruled Iraq for a good chunk of the 2000s. Somalia is more arguable but I certainly seem to recall US troops occupying large chunks of the capital city. Pakistan: not so much, but sending drones to patrol a foreign nation's sky and whack people you disapprove of with relative impunity -- despite that nation having an air force -- is quite suggestive, isn't it?

The USA is an empire but it's inherently stuck in deep denial, because its foundational myth is that it's a bunch of plucky colonists rebelling against a big bad empire. See also "cognitive dissonance". Can you imagine one Roman citizen telling another, "they hate us because of our freedom"?

71:

One can make a very good case that the majority of current trouble spots in the world are the result of the British Empire and its policies.

Yup. But the USA taking over the Imperial franchise in 1945 then refusing to face up to the consequences hasn't exactly helped.

Look at Latin America; how many centuries did it take to straighten out after the Portuguese and Spanish empires died? I'd say the process hasn't even run to completion yet ...

72:

Charlie @ 59
We've had this conversation before ...
What struck me as totally insane, was that they threw away the successful model from WWII.
Preparations for the (Brit & persumably US) CivMilGov of Germany were underway as early as February 1944 ... my father got his reference texts with that printing date-stamp, shortly after D-day, when they asked people with a knowledge of German if they would like a "different job" as soon as the war was over. { He was busy making explosives at the time, bieng an organic chemist by profession )
As you say, Runsfeld & Co threw the whole thing away...
Contrariwise - why didn't the US & everyone else just go for Bhagdad the first time round & knock Saddam off then?
The troubles would have been much less. As it was, it was allowed to fester for another TWELVE YEARS!

Heteromeles @ 64
Outside Latin America (here's looking at you, Colombia), the only bonafide US imperial screw up (in my opinion) is North Korea
Oh yeah?
What about all the OTHER states invaded & corrupted to keep the US canning-industries free from commonism er, decent working conditions?
Like: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicuragua, Costa RIca (?), Panama &, of course, Cuba.
And, er, HOW many times has the US intervened/invaded the last two, just for the record?


s-s @ 69
We're rubbish at turning conquered territories into profitable puppet states Again, oh yeah?
Well, you did quite well for the central American countries listed above, for nearly 100 years as puppet-states.
And I haven't even mentiond ... Mexico.

73:

Contrariwise - why didn't the US & everyone else just go for Bhagdad the first time round & knock Saddam off then?

Because the Saudis didn't want them to.

The first GW was fought not because Kuwait was invaded -- although that was at the root of it -- but because Saddam was off the reservation, on your traditional fascist dictator marching-boots road trip, and the next stop for his tanks was Riyadh, at which point he'd control something like 30-40% of the world's oil supply. This could not be permitted. (If Kuwait had been Nowherestan, with no sensitive neighbours and no oil, it'd probably be under Iraqi occupation to this day.)

The idea of western armies putting the bad man back in his box was just fine as far as the Saudi royal family were concerned. But the idea of the crusaders then occupying a major arab nation was an entirely different matter. And the Saudis provided the huge bases and logistic support for the Kuwait operation, so ...

74:

Charlie - our posts crossed ...
And even the US' foundational myth simply isn't true.
The founders were revolting to protect their commecial interests [ Pricipally slave plantations, which the far-sighted could see, even then, were doomed under British rule, following the Manfield decision. ] & the guvmint of Lord North was sufficiently grossly incompetent not to spot this

76:

We did defeat, in the sense of kill, the Viet Cong. The death rate for the Viet Cong was far higher than for Bomber Command and the U boat service, or the trenches of WWI for that matter.
All the power, graft, and privilege went to North Vietnamese carpetbaggers after the fall of the South Vietnam puppet government in 1975, until around 2000, when Vietnam went capitalist again and the South Vietnamese used their financial contacts in the émigré community to bootstrap industrialization.

77:

I think the point is rather that the USA is good at turning conquered areas into profit centres for multinational corporations. Thus a number of well connected people benefited enormously from the Iraq invasion and afterwards. Or certain banana shaped companies were very happy with central America for a long time.
The point is that since your imperial stuff happened under a more international, extractive system, you plebs aren't seeing any benefit at all from it, all the money is going to the rich folk, and they aren't even using it to build nice big public buildings, rather to buy whatever they want from abroad or indeed buy your politicians as they loot the state for their own benefit.

78:

Heteromeles @ 64
Outside Latin America (here's looking at you, Colombia), the only bonafide US imperial screw up (in my opinion) is North Korea

Greg:
Oh yeah?
What about all the OTHER states invaded & corrupted to keep the US canning-industries free from commonism er, decent working conditions?
Like: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicuragua, Costa RIca (?), Panama &, of course, Cuba.

You seem to be having comprehension problems Greg. Every single one of the nations you just mentioned is in Latin America.

79:

Being a good British resident alien, I have to add the Rule of Law. You can have Democracy, especially high-volume freedom of speech and some form of separation of powers and still make a royal mess of the place, if the rules of the game a subject to change without notice or individual interpretation.

80:

I expect "Halting State" and "Rule 34" to be forgotten -- they're much too contemporary; HS already looks badly dated.

I am not sure if you would consider this good news, but at least on a Scottish forum, both books will have great nostalgic value, especially if the referendum does not live up to Scottish Nationalist expectations. Retreating into one's home with a book warmly describing how it could have been so much better will certainly appeal (if marketed in that direction) ;-)

81:

Actually, I'd disagree with that, too. It was about keeping Saddam Hussein around as a bottled djinn that might *get loose* if the US didn't get to keep all those shiny new military bases in Saudi Arabia (not that the kingdom wanted infidels so close to Mecca, but, you know, there's Saddam next door, and he'd just been fighting a war so he had veteran troops). A bottled Iraq keeps Iran in check too.

The other thing was, Bush Sr. had actually been in WW2 and head of the CIA. While I'm not terribly fond of him, unlike his son, the dude has a clue. He knew there would be a huge quagmire if he went all the way to Baghdad, and he saw no reason to go.

Another reason Gulf War I was so simple was that we'd been arming Iraq against Iran for years. It's pretty easy to fight an enemy when you sold him a lot of his weapons, they're inferior to yours, and you've been arming your red force with similar weapons in war games for years.

It's possible that the US even provoked the Gulf War, since Brent Scowcroft (Bush I's national security advisor) had worked for the company that sold the side-drilling oil rigs to Kuwait that provoked the whole mess in the first place. AFAIK, what provoked the Kuwaiti invasion was Kuwait tapping oil out of Iraqi fields by drilling under the border. For some reason, that pissed Saddam off. It's also worth remembering that the Bush family made a lot of money in oil, so one might expect Bush Sr. at least to kind of, oh, understand these things pretty well?

82:

Um, there's a bit of a difference between a client state and a colony, if I understand correctly. That's why one is called a hegemonic empire, and one is called a territorial empire.

Right now, the US overseas colonies are Hawai'i, Puerto Rico, Guam, the northern Marianas, and a bunch of islands claimed for their guano production about 100-150 years ago. I believe that Britain, France, Japan and New Zealand own similar islands (Pitcairn, Tahiti, etc) for a similar suite of reasons?

83:

Actually the NVA won the VC got pushed out :-)

And arguably the US did win the military fight (Tet was a complete disaster for the north) but lost the will to continue.

The lack of a non corupt leader/political system that the majority of the south would suport was the real killer.

84:

Sir

"* Mil-SF (it's a neurotic tic prefiguring an imperial power in decline; while we still read Rudyard Kipling today, 99.9% of his British imperialist contemporaries have gone to deserved obscurity)"

I'm rather skeptical of this one. Firstly, even if America keeps slashing its military budget and stops using the bits and pieces of the British Empire it picked up, it is still culturally locked to the Imperial mindset through its westward expansion and seizure of native land. Cultural outlook plays into cultural tastes, so I expect there will still be demand for it in the US market.

Secondly, even if empire ends in the US, there will still be a demand for Mil-SF with the rising empires. China's neo-imperialism may be a different flavor ("we run things by controlling your infrastructure, not through controlling your use of force"), but as you've pointed out, the control of infrastructure is arguably more important these days.


On a different note, you mentioned you and Corey Doctorow doing an unauthorized sequel to Ayn Rand's works. Was that Rapture of the Nerds (and the Randian bits worked in it), or will that be a different work still forthcoming? The 2010 blog post where you mentioned it was a bit ambiguous.

Thank you

85:

bellinghman @ 78
Indeed - I badly misread what was in front of me & reversed the meaning.
However, openly admiting that all of Latin America was a company farm doesn't actually look good, does it?

ernstschnell75 @ 80
Not going to happen. Th psycopathic weasel & his party art quite unable to come up with a realistic, profiatble scenario for their supposedlly independant Scotland using the Euro/Pound/errr or where the money is coming from (especially if the banking sector effs off South) nor will any money from the UK guvmint be spent on defence manpower in Scotland, nor other employmnent, & they are going to close the nuclear power-plants & of course, for purely the good of the population every single one of them is going to be monitored by that government from birth just to make sure they don'r have impure thoughts ....
Vote Salmond - get Jean Calvin. Very nice.

heteromeles @ 81
But, contrariwise, since Bush Snr had seen WWII, he'd know about preparing properly (as per CivMilGov of Germany) for a post-invasion scenario & how to make it, you know, WORK?

86:

The lack of a non corupt leader/political system that the majority of the south would suport was the real killer.

McNamara early on did an analysis of casualty rates for the US and the NVA and VC. He determined they were willing to fight with their losses for a decade or more and we were not. At that point he knew it was over.

Of course he decided to keep that conclusion to himself for a few decades more. :(

87:

The founders were revolting to protect their commecial interests [ Pricipally slave plantations, which the far-sighted could see, even then, were doomed under British rule, following the Manfield decision. ]

Yes. But no.

In the south, yes, slavery was a big part of why they went along. But the majority of the country wasn't on that particular horse. Especially in terms of population. The south was very thinly settled. Especially if you only consider whites of European herritage.

As to it being a revolution driven by commercial interests, yes. The colonies in NA were in many ways extensions of England. And after a 100 years or more they wanted to be treated somewhat equally. Minor details like being allowed factories or banks. Being told no over and over got old.

As to seats in the Parliament, not sure if anyone really wanted that or that was just tacked on as another reason for severance.

88:

What struck me as totally insane, was that they threw away the successful model from WWII.

Well for one thing that model was dependent on a population that was reasonably well educated and understood how a democracy worked.

In Iraq getting the vote just means that what ever religious group/tribe in an area has the majority gets to win the election and then kick the crap out of the losers. Hopefully getting them to leave the area or be vanished by goons at night.

Now while this type of thing has happened in the US and Europe over time it has rarely been the norm. Germany in the 30s being a big exception.

89:

The other issue about WWII was the descending Iron Curtain. I'm pretty sure that a big chunk of the Marshall Plan was rebuilding western Europe as a pro-capitalist bulwark against Communism, just as Japan (and later South Korea and Taiwan) were built as bulwarks against Communism in Asia.

With Iraq, the only good reason to rapidly rebuild it was as an oil exporter. I may be wrong, but I think Halliburton tried that and kind of failed? That may also be why the Iraqis, in the closing days of the war, worked so hard to destroy their oil facilities, drilling records and the like.

90:

That may also be why the Iraqis, in the closing days of the war, worked so hard to destroy their oil facilities, drilling records and the like.

I suspect most of that was just like the violence now. The have nots figure that anarchy gives them a better shot a some control in the future than the status quo of "we're in charge so eat shit you losers".

With a dose of "we'd rather be broke than have someone else in control."

91:

As to the entire end of WWII rift.

In the end the populations and leaders (such as their were) in Europe and the US had similar goals in mind. And it had nothing to do with religion or tribes or wrongs from 700 years ago. It was basically "let's get over this crap and figure out how to live a better life". The middle east for the most part is no where near that. And the Balkens seem to more and more want to right wrongs from centuries ago and have that be more important that getting on with life.

Look at Greece getting all bent out of shape about what to call ancient Macedonia. Which at times seems more important to them than putting food on the table.

92:

The fact that Glasshouse is slow-selling and obscure does not mean that it will remain slow-selling and obscure in 2063. Books considered to be 'classics' tend to fall into one or two categories regarding popularity: either they were so immensely popular at the time they were released that they widely became part of recommended reading lists regardless of their more long-lived virtues (and thus become that part of required reading lists in schools that students universally dread, because the attributes of society that made them interesting have been gone for decades or centuries), or they are obscure at the time of their initial release and had a surge in popularity later when the stars were right and the zeitgeist embraced them. I tend to prefer the latter type, because works that gain popularity in a different time than the one in which they are written tend to be less likely to be tied tightly to a specific time period than ones that were popular when they were written.

However, it's also useful to note that books that are considered classics are not necessarily read, nor are they necessarily worth reading (except as a supplement to the perception of some era of history). Being considered a classic doesn't really mean anything one way or another, aside from some level of sterile esteem. It's questionable whether or not classic status is actually a desirable label for legitimately enjoyable books.

That said, I agree largely with your analysis. A lot of your books will require footnotes in ten or twenty years, explaining offhand references to evanescent social and technical situations. The ones set in the far future have the best chance of remaining understandable.

93:

The whole argument about they way books date got me thinking. Lord of the Rings (translated to contemporary language, of course), could be read and understood perfectly well in 1600s.

Hell, it probably could be read in 1600s BC. All the concepts were already in place.

94:

I'd vote for somewhere around 100 CE as the earliest date Lord of the Rings could be understood.

If the kids of 1600 BC heard Lord of the Rings (they couldn't have read it, except in Egypt or Mesopotamia), they would be thrown by the Rohirrim: AFAIK the horses of 16000 BC weren't big enough to be ridden. Since they didn't have iron, they might have been thrown by that as well, and the explosives used at Helm's Deep and the factories installed by Saruman in the shire might have seemed weird too.

At the height of the Roman Empire, I suspect that, at least in Rome and Alexandria, they would have had enough experience with things like industrial accidents to make sense of most of the Lord of the Rings.

It's a neat topic, though: how far back a story could be understood. For example, imagine reading Halting State (or Rule 34!) during Victorian times...

95:

Well, a bigger horse and a stronger alloy are concepts that are easy to explain. And the "explosives" can be filed under magic.

Then again, when you have a NEW concept that you need to EXPLAIN to the reader, we are back to science-fiction, aren't we?

Let's say a book about the Roman Empire is translated and sent into the past - should the Sumerians classify it as science-fiction because Romans have stuff the Sumerians do not?

96:

For example, imagine reading Halting State (or Rule 34!) during Victorian times...

Heh. Just rename the portals to Magic Doors and Cornucopias and you are half-way there. :-)

97:

PS. Disregard the last comment, I confused Halting State with Glasshouse.

98:

Actually, I was thinking about the small puzzle of having a married lesbian as the representative of the law in both Halting State and Rule 34. I'm sure that would go down, erm, extremely well amongst the penny-dreadful crowd (would the Queen be amused?), although I suspect that the well-heeled gentlemen in certain exclusive clubs would lap it up.

100:

In the name of stirring stuff up, I keep wondering whether Margulis' Serial Endosymbiosis Theory could be invoked in some metaphorical fashion to explain the origin of the Eschaton and get our gracious host out of the hole he painted himself into with Iron Sunrise. Obviously the answer is NO in the real world, so this is a hypothetical question...

101:

Auuuuuuggh!

Heteromeles, you just pushed one of my buttons.

Hawaii is a full part of the United States. It is not a colony. Period.

Puerto Rico is fully self-governing, populated entirely by American citizens, and retains the right to secede unilaterally whenever it wants to. (And while Congress retains jurisdiction over statehood, it would be very hard to resist a status change should the island vote for it.) P.R. is not much of a colony, although the residents cannot vote for President in the general election. (They do get votes in the primaries.)

Guam and the CNMI, same as Puerto Rico. The CNMI voted overwhelmingly against independence; they actually forced Congress to give them Commonwealth status. Plus Guam has the most fanatically patriotic population of anywhere inside the United States. Visit the place; you'll see what I mean immediately.

That leaves Samoa, populated by American nationals rather than American citizens.

(France doesn't have very many colonies anymore either: pretty much just New Caledonia, and only kinda sorta if-you're-pedantic. The U.K.'s remaining overseas territories are more colony-esque, but London has finally done the right thing and extended full U.K. citizenship.)

103:

Yep, I deliberately mashed on that button.

I was in Hawai'i not very long ago, and I listened *VERY CAREFULLY* to what the native Hawaiians were saying about wanting a reservation at the very least. You do realize that native Hawaiians are the only "Indian tribe" in the US that doesn't even have a reservation? Yes, Hawai'i is now a state, but it was effectively conquered by Americans before those Americans then asked to become a US territory.

While Hawaii's not unique in the way it was acquired (similar things happened in Texas and California, if I recall), it is unique in that Hawaii was an independent, recognized monarchic state before it was taken over. California and Texas were parts of Mexico before they seceded (under Americans) then became parts of the US.

It's hard to see Hawai'i's history as radically different from what Britain did to India. It's somewhat different than what Britain did to Fiji or New Zealand in that none of those people organized themselves along western lines before they were taken over.

While I don't support Hawai'i becoming an independent monarchy again (if only because native Hawaiians are a minority in their home islands), I do think they were shabbily treated and deserve better recompense than they've received to date.

104:

It's a neat topic, though: how far back a story could be understood. For example, imagine reading Halting State (or Rule 34!) during Victorian times...

Certainly! It's also an interesting test to see if an SF author has a story or just a gimmick. For example, Iron Sunrise could be recast pretty far back: a teenager is looking for a MacGuffin in the ruins of her destroyed childhood home, chased by antagonists and aided by mysterious helpers. Martin and Rachel pose no great obstacle. It doesn't matter if the home is an abandoned space station or a burned city. The plot wouldn't change if Herman were an angel and the ReMastered served a brain-eating demon - neither of which is all that inaccurate anyway.

A friend and I once discussed rewriting Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October into the 18th century; it could work. James Ryan, working secretly for President Jefferson, goes to sea after the HMS October...

105:

Whoa, Heteromeles!

Think about this statement for a second. "It's hard to see Hawai'i's history as radically different from what Britain did to India."

That is not correct, for obvious reasons. The U.S. annexation of Hawaii was radically different from the British annexation of India, not least because the Indians never got seats in Parliament, or even the right to vote for their own Viceroy.

Of course, I understand that what you meant to write is, "The U.S. had no more right to annex Hawaii than the British had to annex India." I have no disagreement there. My point is only that the United States did not govern Hawaii as a colony after annexing the archipelago.

For details on the politics, and why annexation took the form that it did, there's a link above to a book with a chapter on the whole sordid episode.

106:

Hm, while the lord of the rings itself is not displaying technical features too confusing for a bronze age readership, I think the modern outlook of the characters would be a bit confusing. I'm sure you're all familiar with theories on brain evolution and the bicameral mind and all that. It seems to me a cursory read through say, the Illiad reveals a far more alien mindset than a simple unfamiliarity with modern engineering.

107:

LotR generally - you have also to remember the "moral" setting of the story - entirely catholic christian, unfortunately.
When one incluses the whole mythos (Silmarillion) it gets much more complicated, because Numenor had a 20th-C tech-level, or maybe even slightly higher.
Um.

heteromeles/Noel Maurer
NZ & Fiji were treated differently bwecause the idegenes understood "Property Rights" in a very similar manner to the Europeans - hence the Treaty of Waitangi, for instance.
India is emphatically NOT like Hawaii ... there was a power vacuum, as the Mughal empire slowly collapsed - the only question was - was it going to be GB or France that stepped into the space?
Also, a huge part of "India" was (locally) still governed locally, by locals (the Indian Princely families) - provided they didn't argue with London's foreign policy, they were largely left alone. Reforms were slid into place, very carefully, but nonetheless both suttee & thuggee were eradicated, even in the areas where the Brits only governed externally. Caveat - there was always a "British Resident" (read - ambassador/minder) present at alll the princely courts ....
IIRC in Hawaii there was a straight power-grab ??

108:

I could see LOTR working as an oral tale way back to Homeric times only the anachronistic tech that the hobbits have clocks and so on might be tricky

Seeing as the Rohirrim are a directly based on Old English.

The scene where Aragorn Gimli And Legolas approach Meduseld is almost a word for word copy of a scene from Beowulf.

"Who are you that come heedless over the plain thus strangely clad, riding horses like to our own horses? Long have we kept guard here, and we have watched you from afar."

109:

I can see LotR working any time after Europe came out of the Dark Ages. And even then they would struggle with the strange society of the Hobbits. Gondor is essentially Byzantium, and Sauron's armies are the apparently all-conquering Muslims.

And the vague mentions of Numenor, the Elves, all the deep history, would fit with the idea of Rome.

110:

Actually, no, I don't see that. This whole bicameral mind theory only works if you make the rather hilarious assumption that Mesopotamia was the world, and that, as civilization spread like a virus out from it, people spontaneously became rational.

There's a much simpler explanation for the Old Testament, Iliad, Gilgamesh, etc seeming so strange: they are oral works meant to be recited from memory. They've artifacts of an older, non-literate, information storage system

Human memories are far from perfect, and champion memorizers have no better memories for random things (like where they left the car) than do the rest of us. The critical difference is that mnemonicists use a series of tricks and learned skills to commit information to memory, things like memory palaces and complex mnemonic systems. When such systems are applied to making a text memorable, the results can be odd to people who don't realize what's going on. It's like reading a FORTRAN program when you expect something in C++. Think of how many songs you know that use a twelve bar scheme with three verses, a bridge, and a chorus. It's lot easier to learn, say, "Satisfaction" or "Another Brick in the Wall" than something by Schoenberg, even if you don't like rock and roll, isn't it? There's a reason for that. Schoenberg's more unstructured and random. I've played some of his pieces, and I don't even remember which ones. Right now I'm humming Pink Floyd.

In the case of the Iliad, the mnemonic handles encoded in the text involve using things like repetitive phrasing, rhyme structure, and other parallelisms to make the thing more memorable. Athena's always gray-eyed for a reason: gray eyes are a memorable hook to help the bard as he recites. I'll bet that if you tried to memorize the Iliad and tried to memorize part of a phone book, you'd find the Iliad much easier to remember, strange as it is.

Many other myth cycles use variations on the theme of the memory palace (wherein you use a landscape you know quite well to help you remember lists and stories in order), and this system also occurs in the Bible (think of the salt pillar of Lot's wife near the ancient city of Sodom. There's a reason for that). The Australian Aborigines used this technique to make their famous songlines and dreamtime. The Dreaming describes the modern landscape in terms of past events, which is why the Dream is both in the distant past and currently occurring, and it uses colorful stories that tell people how to live properly on that piece of land. You have to walk across the proper landscape to fully experience and learn the myth. Conversely, if you know the myth, you can walk across the landscape and find what you need to survive, because the "long ago" story refers to current water holes, rock formations, and the like. It also contains hints about how to live properly on that land.

Many tribes around the world have used variations on this technique, which is why their myths sound so strange to us. Their stories sound strange, not because of any bicameral mind BS, but because you're reading the oral part of some part of a very large memory palace in a place it was never meant to be used. If you're not familiar with the landscape described, the story is not going to make a lot of sense. If you ever read Kroeber's account of the Mojave "dream time," he actually describes it in this fashion.

This system has a critical weakness, which is that if you remove the people from the land which they've turned into a memory palace, they lose their stories, their survival references, and their culture, all in one fell swoop. This has happened many times on reservations, especially in California.

111:

Strictly speaking, the US military did destroy the Viet Cong, which was an insurgency by southern Vietnamese. It was the conventional military of North Vietnam that won the war.
Also, replacing a genuinely vibrant revolutionary movement (Viet Cong) with a Stalinist dictatorship (unified Vietnam) did destroy Vietnam as any kind of alternative for anyone else, which was a major goal of the US.
In any case, the US invasion of Vietnam was evil.

112:

The existence of North Korea also reflects the massive invasion of Manchuria by the Soviets days before the end of WW2. (FDR had strongly requested that the Soviets attack Japanese forces occupying China within 90 days of the end of the war in Europe.)

113:

"Seriously, I'd be startled if any book I've written to date is still being read in 2063. But I'd be very happy if I was alive to see it (not least because I'd be 99)"

The odds of any of us making it to 99 years old are higher in a world that advances enough that most all SF of today is rendered obsolete.

I am finding that the world has been developing in ways that make Philip K. Dick seem more and more prescient, but I am hoping that that will stop. And also he is from the last millennium.

114:

The Vietnam war was not a total war like WW2 and the opposition to it was so widespread.
WW1 for the US was over before people could really turn against it. And the opposition to WW1 was led by groups who had already been trying to mount a full-scale challenge to the US elite, so the elite was more than happy to use any excuse that came along to crush them.

115:

The hegemony part is handled by multinationals and banks and their servants (IMF etc.)

116:

Also, replacing a genuinely vibrant revolutionary movement (Viet Cong) with a Stalinist dictatorship (unified Vietnam) did destroy Vietnam as any kind of alternative for anyone else, which was a major goal of the US.

Wait, now USA is also responsible for communism being terrible? That one I didn't hear before...

117:

It doesn't have to be a conscious objective, shaping the plans for a decade of bloody war, but it's a standard enough consequence of successful revolution, and a convenient example for a politician to point to.

And, while the death toll isn't the same, the post-1990 changes in Eastern Europe have some of the same nature: a revolution that gets taken over by outsiders, with the revolutionary movement being a heady mix of capitalism and democracy.

I can remember there being a lot in the British farming press about the opportunities to invest in agricultural land in Eastern Europe. The ownership changes of the Communist era were reversed, but there was no way that a reversion to peasant farming could work. So people with money went East, bought land, set up large farms which could support modern mechanised farming (large farms, but not central control), and profited.

It's a sign of how bad the management could be, in the communist era, that so much food came from the land the former peasants were allowed to control. But I am not so sure that the reality of that matched the Cold War propaganda.

Ten years ago, in the UK, it maybe needed 400 hectares of good arable land to support one worker, and that was with higher crop yields than were commonly attained in the USA. The accounts I have read suggest that many of the problems of the Soviet era could be blamed on inept management of such infrastructure as transport, logistics rather than agriculture.

And I am not sure that I would trust the stories that come through people such as "Viktor Suvorov". We have plenty of instances, post-1990, of defectors spicing up their stories, and when he tells you of some agricultural cock-up involving a fertiliser factory, you can wonder just how much is true, and how much is mere corroborative detail intended to lend verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

Capitalism doesn't have the government of North Vietnam to take over and deal with the revolutionaries. It has the IMF and the bankers.

118:

@ 107
Yes, that's been noted before, that the highest tech-level in Middle-Earth in 1490-92 of the old reckoning was ... in the Shire!
However, one has (again) to remember that Numenor had certainly 1960's technology, as is apparent from both "Silmarillion" & Unfinished Tales".
LotR is in medias res of a much greater epic, just like "The Iliad", in fact. JRRT was no fool.
And, yes, the language of the Rohhirm IS "OE", actually.

ATT @ 108
and Sauron's armies are the apparently all-conquering Muslims. Disagree - Mongols, actually.

jessicayogini @ 112
Not even wrong, and apparently totally ignorant of history.
I suggest you look up (Or better still, read Barbara Tuchman's book on) The Zimmerman Telegram & have a very careful think, after that!

also @ 116
Ten years ago, in the UK, it maybe needed 400 hectares of good arable land to support one worker..
Utter, total codswallop.
I have an allotment. The only vegetables we buy, normally are onions. We have a vegetable surplus - even last year (though only just!)
FYI an standard allotment is (approx) 30x10 metres, or 1/33rd of a hectare.
So, what food do we buy?
Meat, flour, eggs, oil, milk & other dairy products.
A hectare is 100-metres-per-side square, right?
So 100 hectares per km^2?
So 4sq km per worker, really?
Either you've dropped/added a decimal place or two somehwere, or someone's telling you porkies, & you've believed them .....

119:

Oops!
@ 64, 69, 78, 85
I don't believe that everyone, including me, missed the obvious example...
The CIA-backed coup in Chile, 1973.
Which was a re-run of the same lunacy in Greece in 1967.

120:

Pure swank here ....
The Pinochet/Greek colonels coup was used as a model for the recent ROH productions of Fidelio
Truly scary, as the plotting & arms-smuggling by Don Pizzaro (chief baddie) was very Pinochet-like.
Being that story, there is (just) a happy ending, seen here with yours truly, 4th adult ( & a prisoner) from the left, just behind the child in the orange dress!

121:

I should hope LotR would be seen as a load of tosh, really. It meshed with a particular time and mindset and turned on the gusher for epic fantasy. We'll never be rid of it.

122:

Modern farming requires scarily few workers - your allotment is, in terms of output per worker, hideously inefficient.

(In terms of output per hectare, I would expect it to be pretty good. But we're not talking about output per hectare.)

Actual figures for the UK indicate '594 ha/AWU' - that's almost half as much again land area per full time employee as Antonia's figure. ('AWU' is an attempt to account for the fact that many agricultural workers don't have full time jobs with a single farm, but end up splitting their work between multiple places.)

So yes, 400 hectares may support only one worker, even though it feeds far more.

123:

(Checking in from sunny Tallinn, where I arrived an hour ago ...)

Greg, you're talking bollocks.

1. Antonia is a (former) English farmer and knows whereof they speak.

2,. Yes, your allotment generates most of the food for your household. However, your allotment is not a commercial business. It does not have to generate enough food, to sell, at wholesale prices, to cover salary and tax overheads for a full-time worker; much less to cover wear and tear on a suitable proportion of a farm's out-buildings and working machinery (JCB's don't grow on trees) or to pay for fertilizer and insecticide and seed, and to cover the cost of doing all the DEFRA paperwork and paying the accountant who keeps the books because a farm is a business.

You're in the position of a tinkerer saying, "I can maintain my own 1960s vintage car and even make replacements for many of its components using a machine shop; why does it cost so much more to build and run a modern SUV production line?"

124:

Chrlie
I may, indeed be talking bollocks, but I still don't believe that figure of 4sq km for one worker ....

At subsistence farming levels or just above, say medieval England, it was reckoned that 2 acres ( = approx 1 hectare ) was enough for one family. Now crops & yields, including animal productivity, have improved dramatically since then, so one would expect that the necessary area would average out somewhere below half-a-hectare.
Antonia is claiming (assuming it wasn't a typo ) 400 hectares per person, a difference of approx 3 orders of magintude (!)
There reallly absolutely has to be an error in there somewhere, surely?

go-captian @ 119
Ooh, can't resist it ....
I should hope the Iliad/Odyssey would be seen as a load of tosh, really. It meshed with a particular time and mindset and turned on the gusher for epic fantasy. We'll never be rid of it.
/snark .....

125:

There reallly absolutely has to be an error in there somewhere, surely?

Yes. There is. You're suffering comprehension errors again. You're confusing how many workers the land supports (i.e. how many people it provides full time job equivalents for) and how many people it can feed. Antonia was giving a decade old value for the former which, since the 2011 figure is one full time worker for 594 hectares, is rather conservative by today's figures.

This is an astonishing figure even for someone who grew up on a farm — our neighbours in the 70s employed an order of magnitude more people. And it's why the countryside is so depopulated these days, and there's so much rural poverty.

(What area of allotments could one full time worker run? Goodness knows, but knowing how much effort it took to run a half-hectare plot of vegetables on a part time basis, using Soil Association rules, I'd be very surprised if it was much above a single hectare.)

126:

Bellinghman & Charlie & Antonia ...

Someone, somewhere has given a very muddled presentation.

I interpreted Antonia's numbers as meaning that it .. excuse caps:
REQUIRED 4sq km OF LAND TO SUPPORT ONE WORKER. i.e to provide all of his/her food because that is what she said - see quote below.
Now, Bellighman is saying that that is the area "cultivated by one farm worker on average", or something like that.
Which is, of course, an entirely different measure.

Agree re. area one person could "farm" on their own.
After all a mediaeval subsistence plot would have included pasture for the cow(s)/goat(s), chicken-runs, wheat + vegeatble plots.

I will quote Antonias words directly:
..it maybe needed 400 hectares of good arable land to support one worker,
Now, how would YOU interpret such a sentence?
I took it to mean EXACTLY WHAT IT SAID, namely that 4sq km of land was needed to keep ONE WORKER in food.
Now you are teliing me that it means, quoting Bellinghman: Antonia was giving a decade old value for the former for something else, entirely; "how many people it provides full time job equivalents for" (!)
Now compare that with what Antonia said, quoted above.

Who has the comprehension problems, please?

127:

Who has the comprehension problems, please?

Still you.

The moment you're talking about workers rather than people, you're talking about employment, you're talking about economics. to support one worker is about working and earning money, it's not about feeding people.

Modern British farm economics are about producing the cheapest possible food, because that's what the supermarkets are asking for. Tesco and Sainsbury and so on will go to your neighbour instead of you if you're not at least as cheap as your neighbour. This means you have to keep your overheads as low as possible, which means lots of machinery because that's the way whoever you are employing can do as much as possible.

(I do know one farmer who uses horses to plough. He also uses hand scything. But he farms for the National Trust and does that for the visitors to see, not as an economic choice. Even so, he works very long hours and his wife recently gave up on him and divorced him.)

The net margin per hectare is very low, and it's only when a farm gets some hundreds of hectares larger that it then makes economic sense to hire the next farm worker.

Were we talking about the land area required to feed the one worker, it'd be about a thousandth of the amount. But the meanings of 'feed' and of 'support' are different, and that's what's tripped you up.

128:

Communism was a pretty broad spectrum if you look at the whole thing, with let's say Prague 1968 (pre-invasion) at one end and the height of the Stalinist purges or Ukrainian or Chinese Great Leap Forward famines at the other end.
The US brutalized and traumatized Vietnam and this shifted Vietnam to a different, more inhumane point on that spectrum. My guess is that without the US invasion, the southern part of Vietnam at least would have gone pretty quickly to where it wound up around 1990.

129:

That is a lot of conclusion to draw about me as a person from one post.
I will spell out more explicitly what I mean.
WW1 for the US was over - in terms of what ordinary people knew about and cared about, in particular their sons coming home in boxes - before people could really turn against it. The national leadership was involved in all sorts of fun stuff from long before and long after, but for the ordinary people, as late as the November 1916 elections "he kept us out of war" was what they cared about.
The opposition to US participation in WW1 after the US had entered the war was led by groups in the US labor movement who had already been trying to mount a full-scale challenge to the US elite [such as the IWW and the Socialist Party and the people who would go on to found the Communist Party USA at the end of WW1], so the elite was more than happy to use any excuse that came along to crush them. Active US participation (i.e. dying) ended before mass opposition could arise, to some degree before the initial (i.e. pre-dying) enthusiasm could wear off. And that enthusiasm was highly amplified by the first use in the US of modern PR and propaganda techniques(Bernays). So those people who did oppose WW1 were left isolated and exposed and they were crushed.
In the case of Vietnam, the coming-home-in-boxes went on for years, longer than WW2 for the US, so there was extremely widespread opposition, even some opposition within portions of the elite itself. Therefore, it was not possible for the elite to crush opposition to the Vietnam War in the same way as it did after WW1.
The post-WW1 Red Scare was far more intense than the post-WW2/Korean War McCarthyite campaign. And whereas McCarthy himself was disgraced, the top man in the Red Scare (Palmer) came close to becoming President and his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, became the head of political suppression by the US government for decades.

130:

bellinghman @ 125
No, I wasn't tripped up ... "support" in the context meant "supply with food" we were talking about subsistence, IIRC, not about economics.
OK I can see where the disjoint came from, now, but it was sappallingly badly phrased!

@ 126
You don't metion the wierd democratic communists of Kerala - who are more of an old-socialist-labour/Aneuirin Bevan mentality, actually.
N. Vietmnam was still a clssic communist state - imprisoning dissidents without trial, I'm afraid.

jessica @ 127
It would halep if you actually read what I wrote.
PLEASE look up "Zimmerman Telegram", before you go on about "anti-war sentiment" in this context.
After all the Imperial German Guvmint was trying, very hard, to get Mexico to invade the US as an ally of the Central Powers. The US was, quite naturally, somewhat miffed by this!
I note you don't mention "anti-war sentiment" in WWII.
I wonder why that might be?
Agree re "red scare" & Palmer/McCarthy, but that isn't what we were talking about - was it?

131:

I'm not going to disagree that the Vietnam war was evil, but I will put that in context two paragraphs down.

I'd also point out, incidentally, that US sentiment to cut a deal with Japan rather than invading was running around 20% in the US in early August, 1945, prior to the US dropping the atomic bombs. The problem was that would have been the wrong choice, for a number of reasons having to do with the way Japan was treating its people, and what the Soviets were about to do to Japan (the tl:dr version is that, if the US and/or the Soviets had invaded the islands, the death toll for Japanese civilians would have been somewhere above 5,000,000. That's not counting military deaths or invader deaths). It's one of those sick ironies of history, but by the time Japan got to August 1945, the atomic bombs were probably the least bloody option for ending the war. As a side note to certain libertarian commentators, Japan from 1935-1945 is a case study in government by assassination, as well as a graphic warning why it's a really bad idea.

But this sets the scene for Vietnam, via the mess that happened in Korea (which basically got the invasion that was slated for Japan), the mess that happened as the Iron Curtain descended across Eastern Europe, and even (to a lesser extent) the mess that happened when the Soviets took Japanese Manchuria (hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians and soldiers died in the gulags), as well as the mess in China.

We should also add in Cuba, where Fidel Castro was originally recognized by the Eisenhower government as "Free from communist taint" for its first year, before the US started opposing it when (among other things) the Castro government started expropriating private property without compensation.

Yes, the Vietcong cribbed from the Declaration of Independence when they set to work ousting the French. Problem was, they were backed by a communist system that the US had grown to intensely distrust, and with reason. I've often wondered what would have happened had the US sided with the Vietcong. Certainly they would have antagonized their French allies (remember that Iron Curtain), and it's unclear whether they would have kept Vietnam from going communist regardless.

So evil? Yes. Avoidable? I'm really not sure. In WW2, the US learned a lesson that it can be horribly costly to dislodge well established monster systems, both for the liberating force and for the population being liberated. Given that lesson, and given that Communism was the biggest monster going for quite some time, it's not difficult to see why they would have opposed the Vietcong.

132:

My point from the start has been the difference in the nature of opposition to WW1 compared to the opposition to the Vietnam War.
I know about the Zimmerman telegram. In the US (at least when I was a girl), they still taught that even in primary school: Archduke assassinated in Sarajevo and away they go, Lusitania, Zimmerman telegram, US enters the war, USA USA USA! Skip to the weird guy with the mustache (who nowadays we all know from multiple Spielberg movies anyway). (They do add a bit more in when one reaches high school.)

The opposition to WW1 within the radical labor movement was hardly impressed by the Zimmerman telegram. From their perspective (which is the one that counts if one is talking about opposition within the US to US participation in WW1), it was just another piece of maneuvering among the imperialists.

And since I have posted so much on this thread, taking it back to the original thread itself: Thank you, gracious host, for giving so many details of your experience with the nuts and bolts of turning writing into an actual book. In particular, your experience of the publishing industry contains some good experiences, which is a useful perspective to add to the more common ones (i.e. horror stories). Also, the comment about the first book one writes not necessarily being the start of the multi-volume series. That it make take a few books to get the hang of things well enough to then start the prolonged series.

133:

That's fine by me. I'd add that, if I recall properly, opposition to WWI was scarcely limited to the far left.

134:

@94:
how far back a story could be understood. For example, imagine reading Halting State (or Rule 34!) during Victorian times...
---
Or for an extreme example of the other way around, I saw an audiobook of the Epic of Gilgamesh go by on one of the newgroups a while back.

Four-thousand-odd years after someone inscribed it onto clay tablets, I can reach into the aether and have the voices of the djinni read it to me...

And as another aside, consider both clay tablets and papyrus are far more permanent storage methods than any digital media. Even "archive grade" optical media have a proposed lifespan two orders of magnitude less than papyrus.

All of the digital world relies on riding the economic tiger, replacing decaying storage media on the fly. If anything happens to upset that involved industrial process, it's gone forever...

135:

Charlie, a few days and a ways back:
Third and final objection: you might well say, "well, find a young, hungry, but competent co-author." Trouble is, the universe those books are set in is over-complex and fiddly, and there's the humour thing, and there's the target quality level (they somehow hit a sweet spot that got them both onto the Hugo shortlist). Any young, hungry, competent author who can write a third Eschaton novel that stands up to them is going to be approximately as interesting in their own right as the 15-years-younger Charlie Stross, and I'd rather see them writing their own Hugo-nominated novels.

Would you be willing to entertain proposals, even if you'd rather see them doing something else?

136:

Well said.

The biggest difference between Vietnam and Iraq is that is that when you put yourself in the position of a decision-maker in 1964, with the information they had and the constraints they faced, it is frighteningly easy to imagine making the same mistakes.

That was not true in 2002. Thus, the much greater anger. Too bad that the United States did not still have the draft; too bad that we do not have it now.

(Sadly, even conscription might not matter by 2040, but limited war still has a few more decades of labor-intensity left in it.)

137:

Yes, you are right. Before US entry, there was a great deal of opposition to US entry into the war, particularly from Irish-, German-, and Scandinavian-Americans. And after the dust had settled and the Versailles Treaty completed, most of the country reverted to the more traditional isolationism. But I think there was a time in between when at least the appearance of widespread support and intense antagonism to opponents of the was created and it was in that period that the Socialist Party candidate for president was jailed etc.

138:

Yep. As I said on another forum, between sea level rise and the fragility of our records, we're on a very good course to become Atlantis 1.0 as far as future history is concerned. Our artifacts will be ubiquitous (such as the plastics layer buried in sand on every beach on the planet), but all but a tiny part of our records will be lost, possibly within our lifetimes.

Atlantis 1.0? Well, considering how past history telescopes, I'm willing to bet that in 10-20,000 years, people won't be able to distinguish us from any remaining remnant of Plato's myth. Indeed, our archeological remnants will better match Plato than anything from ancient history.

I guess the message is, if any author wants their works to be read after their lifetimes, the best way to do it is to inscribe the stories on some sort of highly durable medium (aluminum plates?), and plant them somewhere in central Canada, northern Scandanavia, or Russia.

139:

heteromeles writes:
Yep. As I said on another forum, between sea level rise and the fragility of our records, we're on a very good course to become Atlantis 1.0 as far as future history is concerned. Our artifacts will be ubiquitous (such as the plastics layer buried in sand on every beach on the planet), but all but a tiny part of our records will be lost, possibly within our lifetimes.

There's a difference between "what would happen if humanity communally dropped dead?" and "what will our records legacy be?".

Unless civilization ends in a poof, we're going to maintain all the records we can. Which are a lot. We have the technology to make diamond or BN or metal records with gigabytes of data on them in quantity and archive them in a long-term storage. Our technology allows us to archive the sum of collected knowledge in new storage on regular intervals, if you leave out tapped phone conversation archives in certain basements (and possibly, if we include them...). It's just too easy.

Sea levels aren't going to jump up 100 meters even if there's a catastrophic warming, these things take time. Humans will retreat up into the mid altitudes. There's not enough water to wash us off the planet. Yes, my house would be underwater at that point, but there are perfectly habitable hills behind us that start at 100 meters up and keep going back for dozens of miles. If the rate of sea level rise exceeds the usual rate of economic replacement of property (20-50 year lifespans for utility purposes and economic purposes) we'll regret that, but the 2080 numbers look like a meter, not ten or a hundred meters. Even if they were six to ten meters, the catastrophies are easily predicted. Miami goes away, as do large chunks of Manhattan and other lowlying areas. My house is 25 meters above sea level (though the other side of the road is only 21, and we'd probably want to move out if the water broached the freeway at 20 meters)...

140:

Yep. As I said on another forum, between sea level rise and the fragility of our records, we're on a very good course to become Atlantis 1.0 as far as future history is concerned.

The 20th century as a dark age due to electronic media loss? That's not a bad idea; I'm sure a SF writer could do something with that.

Slightly more seriously, one of my Comp Sci classes handed out a 'proven durability by media' list once (for us studying to be BOFHs). There was acid-free paper, good for 200 years. And there was everything else, magnetic and optical media, for which you should burn multiple copies and hope you'd moved on to another job by the time it went tits-up.

141:

Why should we save everything? Seriously, it's a non-trivial question.

If we hoard every memory, we'll pretty quickly become non-functional. Even assuming we can (and my experience is closer to Scott Sanford's--meaning that every few years, we have to recopy everything), all a universal memory means is that we'll all end up living in a global small town where everyone knows every single way we've screwed up for our entire lives, and our history as imperfect, too-well known people will inhibir us from ever risking further ridicule.

After all, the great thing about cities used to be that you could be anonymous and reinvent yourself until you succeeded. Now, with the web, everyone will live in Lake Wobegon.

This is another variation of the old physics canard that, if it isn't impossible under the laws of physics, it is inevitable. In the case of keeping records, I think the Buddhists got it more right is this: existence is impermanent, imperfect, and self (as independent entity) is an illusion, because everything inevitably breaks down and changes.

142:

Heteromeles:
Why should we save everything? Seriously, it's a non-trivial question.

why delete anything?

You're ascribing negatives of an omnescence to a reality of humans with Google 3.5. We will just not be able to manage enough info to doom us. Casual deception will probably die, perhaps dooming monogamy, but what else is it going to do?

143:

Noel Maurer @ 134
Sadly, even conscription might not matter by 2040, but limited war still has a few more decades of labor-intensity left in it.
Particularly if you are shall we say, religiously-inspired loonies, bent on racial extermination, or alternatively holding on to, the same piece of land that "God has given us".
Casualty rates don't seem to matter, at the moment, to these nutters.
One wonders how bad it has to get, before they consider surrenduring.
Even the IJA started to get individual soliders giving in, after casualty rates of worse than 100:1 against them; as happened when Slim's forces got ahead of them & slaughtered them trying to cross a river ....
Does it really have to get that bad, again?
Viewing the casualty rates of the Iran-Iraq war of 20 years back, perhaps it does.
Euw.

Memory storage.
It was ever thus.
Records had to be, and were copied.
There's a news-piece, today, about the U of Bologna "finding" (re-classifying) the oldest complete copy of the Torah on the planet.
850 years.
Book of Kells, one of the oldest pieces of wrting on the planet - approx 819 CE. Oldest copy of the "recital" ia about the same age.
Books are re-copied. It is how they survive.
Provided someone thinks it worth while.
So, we only have a little part of the Greek playwrights' works ....

144:

how far back a story could be understood. For example, imagine reading Halting State (or Rule 34!) during Victorian times...

Why go back that far? I (and Charlie) were young adults (meaning late teens/early to mid twenties) in 1978 to '83, and "a computer" meant something like a Commodore PET, Apple 2 or a mainframe hard-wired to a bunch of VT-100s. The idea of something as virtual reality as Liz's "copspace" hadn't even been invented as fiction until William Gibson's Neuromancer was released in 1984. Even then, the technology still needed to catch up with the ideas and some of them are still bleeding edge.

145:

One of the other things that's tricky to explain is why crocs didn't take over the Cenozoic. In the Paleozoic, they were the most common large vertebrates, and back before the dinosaurs took over in the late Triassic, croc ancestors were making a good bid to take over the planet.

Crocs appear in the Late Triassic. There are none in the Palaeozoic. (There are possibly a couple of Palaeozoic archosaurs, depending on where you draw the line at "archosaur"). And tertiary crocs did pretty well- there was the galloping terrestrial predator Prsitichampsus, some of the maine crocs did make it through the K/T boundary, as did the unusual deep-skulled sebecids which made it into the Miocene.

146:

Charlie, my phrasing was careless, but I didn't think I might be talking to a politician.

I just had a run-in with Jordan Bassior, so I'm a bit sensitive on apparently willful misinterpretation, and the general feeling of somebody pig-headedly missing the point.

In Usenet days, I would have killfiled Greg.

147:

Antonia
That is grossly unfair.
I quoted your words exactly & was using the normal interpretation of "land required to support a worker/person/family" meaning just that, namely: how much land is need to produce the food to supply said unit(s).
Not: "minimum area of land required to supply enough suprlus money from output to economically employ a farm-worker".
Which is, err, very slightly different in both interpretation & practice.

OK I'n not an economist, myu background is physics/engineering & I take a very practical interst (for obvious reasons, stated above) in how much food/sustenance can be got from given land-areas.

In NO normal circumstances could I be mistaken for a politician, I'm just no good at weaselling, for a start!
All I was doing, as an Englisman, was reading the plain English in front of me, OK?

Now, shall we agree to drop it?

148:

all a universal memory means is that we'll all end up living in a global small town where everyone knows every single way we've screwed up for our entire lives, and our history as imperfect, too-well known people will inhibir us from ever risking further ridicule.

I'm playing devil's advocate here but the argument against this is that in a society with ubiquitous recording and memory culture will shift (especially thanks to those born into it) to a more accepting one due to everyone being used to seeing each others mistakes and imperfections. It might seem a world intolerable to those of us that come before but the positives outweigh the negative.

Now to speak for myself I think that argument partially holds (it will force people out of the weird cultural practice of criticising people for mistakes or actions that they, and many other people, have also committed) it fails to recognise the asymmetry of many situations. Unless the whole of society became very liberal it's likely to favour the status quo as marginal groups can't have a safe place to practice whatever it is that is frowned upon. Simple example: if you're a LARPer will the world be more accepting of you as an adult dressing up and playing fantasy games or will it mean you limit your actions and pretend it was just a phase to avoid it being more obvious in your digital history? A more serious example would be a company scrutinising everything about you in order to determine a price or a continuation of the harassment of women who speak out against harassment.

Total surveillance and recording might foster a culture of realism in regards to judging people by their past but it tips asymmetries of power that currently exist even further.

149:

I'm playing devil's advocate here but the argument against this is that in a society with ubiquitous recording and memory culture will shift (especially thanks to those born into it) to a more accepting one due to everyone being used to seeing each others mistakes and imperfections.

Some things will be accepted. Other will just have to go. Like littering. It is easy now because no one sees you, but once you start to get fined for every piece of paper you drop, you'll stop it pretty fast.

150:

Some things will be accepted. Other will just have to go. Like littering. It is easy now because no one sees you, but once you start to get fined for every piece of paper you drop, you'll stop it pretty fast.

I was thinking more social than legal consequences e.g. Posting a racist/sexist etc joke on a social network and regretting it later or drunkenly exposing yourself and having a picture taken.

The legal ramifications are a related issue with their own concerns. On the one hand it is bad news for people who commit minor crimes or even worse crimes that shouldn't be so e.g. Sexual orientation. On the other hand it might force more reasonable solutions to problems. In essence though the whole process of law making would be in for a radical change because now it is implicit that the vast majority of crimes will be discovered in real time which is a huge change from the current understanding. The concept of deterrent sentences could change because of this for example, if risk of capture increases consequences of capture can decrease. That's a simplistic overview though.

151:

There's a bigger problem, which is that there's no conceivable way to pay to punish all the crimes committed. The consequence of having all crimes recorded but only a small fraction punished is to create a permissive crime culture. After all, if you're never going to be punished, why obey the law?

I'm dealing with this right now. I volunteer in a local (wildlands) park where I pick up litter, fix vandalism, and record damage to the local plants and wildlife (which include a number of state and federally endangered species). I've been recording vandalism and deliberate killing of endangered species for years now, but there's no enforcement budget, and no will at city hall or amongst the state or federal wildlife to do anything about it. As a result, the local mountain bikers vandalize the park with impunity. Some of them think that, if they kill enough endangered plants and animals, they will go away, and the authorities will then open more trails to these bikers.

So yes, let's record every minor crime and then not punish them. This will stop about 10% of people from littering, but they probably wouldn't litter either. The rest will realize they won't be punished, and start littering more. Or vandalizing cameras and drones in the name of freedom and privacy.

152:

Unless civilization ends in a poof, we're going to maintain all the records we can. Which are a lot. We have the technology to make ...

The most likely scenarios are neither "civilization ends in a poof" nor "information technology continues to progress" but closer to "energy shortages, environmental deterioration, and the resulting human conflicts roll progress back a ways for the forseeable". When you think about how many raw materials went through how many process steps to make the computer I'm typing this on, it wouldn't take much disruption to render the manufacturing process unfeasible. I'd expect that people fifty years from now will use whatever storage is still working for whatever seems most urgent, overwriting anything that is not immediately useful.

153:

There's a bigger problem, which is that there's no conceivable way to pay to punish all the crimes committed.

Oh, come on. In a cashless society with centralized banking, punishing crimes is trivial.

Alternately, you could punish the 10% in the most brutal way possible. Caught littering - into the wood chipper you go! 8-)

154:

I have to disagree. For example, what's the punishment for killing an endangered butterfly? Technically it's a felony, but if someone accidentally steps on one that's off the reservation, do they deserve to go to jail for a year (at $50,000+ to lock them away) and have various rights temporarily or permanently taken away from them (not counting the cost of losing them as productive citizens basically forever, since they'll be labelled felons for the rest of their lives)? Moreover, will doing this keep anyone else from accidentally stepping on a butterfly? Or, conversely, will it cause a bunch of people to try to kill off the butterfly entirely so that it's no longer a problem, and lobby their congresscritters to repeal the Endangered Species Act because it's not saving butterflies, but it's sending innocent people to federal prison? In the later case, it verges on civil disobedience.


How many millions are we willing to spend to punish what seem to us to be trivial crimes? In the US, we spend way too much keeping people in prison for non-violent drug crimes as it is. Why add more?

This is a real problem. I'm one of a fairly large number of people who believe that species have a basic right to exist, unless that species is an exclusive human or domestic animal pathogen (see smallpox and polio). Unfortunately, most people don't know what their local endangered species look like (do you?), and most jurisdictions don't have a good system in place for determining how much each endangered plant or animal is worth. We're in a state where abstract moral theory for the most part hasn't become a concrete policy that people understand.

And it's just one of many problems. To pick another environmental issue: most of us agree that global climate change is a reality, but equally, most of us aren't willing (or even able) to recompense the planet for our person contribution to that changing climate.

Shouldn't we? It's only just. We're screwing things up for the next 100,000-400,000 years of our descendents. We should be made to pay, right?

I can continue this list at great length. The point is that we simply can't punish everyone's crimes. In many cases, we can't even determine what a proper punishment or compensation is. Recording these crimes does nothing. It's little different than the RC Christian idea of purgatory, where God(rather than the Internet) records your sins and you've got to work them off or face eternal damnation. Given how well that has worked I'm pretty sure that recording all crimes will be equally ineffective at forcing everyone to live virtuous lives.

155:

There's a bigger problem, which is that there's no conceivable way to pay to punish all the crimes committed

I agree. The most that could be done is some sort of automatic fine feature based on biometric identification but that requires really sophisticated software to determine when a crime is committed (easy for something like trespassing, non-trivial for killing a butterfly) or human monitoring. And even if we posit some fantastic automated systems for detecting crime we'll still have to fund an appeal process stocked by real humans for those times when the software makes mistakes along the lines of fining someone for trespassing when they were running from a fire/attacker/earthquake etc

156:

ryan @ 146
Problem with a total surveillance society ...
handling all the data.
There's so much of it. This is the problem that is carefully ignored by the control-freak idiots pushing for the comms data bill.
How will you find what you supposedly want, from so much, "Intelligent" search-engines or not + false positives?
The same argument apllies to all data on everyone fully available.
Something will always get missed, & the signals you do get may not peresent the true state of affairs.
Um.

heteromeles @ 149
Yes.
ONLY enact laws that you can realistically enforce &, most importantly, are actually interested in enforcing.
... & @ 152
Agree.
Horrible dilemma, isn't it?

157:

@149:
There's a bigger problem, which is that there's no conceivable way to pay to punish all the crimes committed. The consequence of having all crimes recorded but only a small fraction punished is to create a permissive crime culture. After all, if you're never going to be punished, why obey the law?
---
No problem. States always evolve to greater restriction; in the not-too-distant future the USA and UK will be practically indistinguishable from the USSR during the Terror. Everyone will be guilty of something; "they" can just pick anything at random and use it to yank your chain. And ubiquitous surveillance beats having to process and file all those reports from informers... though those probably won't go away either.

158:

Everyone will be guilty of something; "they" can just pick anything at random and use it to yank your chain

If things were to come to pass as you say then IMO "they" are likely to be private agencies rather than governments, a big difference to the past. Smoked a cigarette whilst drunk last week? Increased health insurance. Haven't checked your tyre pressure in a few months? Increased car insurance. Didn't check every window was locked when you left the house? Premium contents insurance.

I'm being a bit OTT here to illustrate the point that the asymmetric, non-democratic power balance between consumers and business stands to get a whole lot worse under such a system.

159:

Smoked a cigarette whilst drunk last week? Increased health insurance. Haven't checked your tyre pressure in a few months? Increased car insurance. Didn't check every window was locked when you left the house? Premium contents insurance.

I think you are giving the wrong examples here. The things you list will make life better. The same system that can fine you for not checking the windows can also remind you to check the windows.

160:

TRX @ 155
Everyone will be guilty of something Too late, we are effectively, already there ....

161:

Sure, but which do you think is more likely to happen in the current economic, cultural and suchlike setup?

Answer- the punitive version.

162:

@156:
"they" are likely to be private agencies rather than governments
---
In the USA that is already well entrenched. "Privatized" prisons are becoming increasingly common. Some states also outsource basic governmental functions like their motor vehicle registration systems. The Internal Revenue Service outsources some of its functions. A nearby city has fake cops; they're dressed and armed like policemen, but they work for a private security firm, and handle mostly traffic violations. And of course the military has oursourced a vast amount of its maintenance and logistics.

Of course, none of the government structure shrinks; the previous employees simply become a layer of supervisory insulation, while the chains of command and responsibility are broken at the junction.

I once read an SF story where all government functions had been split up and auctioned off to high bidders. Ugly, but even that would be preferable to the "body snatcher" organizations that hide behind official masks.

163:

That's the exact type of process that I worry will lead western democracies into post-democratic states. We'll have elected governments but they'll be so disempowered and wrapped up in contracts that they'll have very little capability for protecting the people or enacting their wishes. Unlike previous ages though the veneer of democracy will keep most people feeling like they do have som semblance of control over their lives.

164:

Greg,

Just disclaimer first, I am sitting on the fence on this one. But...

Alex Salmond has his roots in Edinburgh banking, so he might be able to pull something there.

and..

MoD has already massively reduced their footprint by reducing a whole regiment to one ceremonial company, damage done, and there is no other enemy in sight up here that would justify a change

and (main point)...

So it does not happen, and the referendum says the UK stays U, and the significant population of romanticizing Nationalists will see the whole idea disappear in the gilded rear-view mirror of nostalgic history, just in front of William Wallace, and dram in hand will pick up Halting States and dream of what could have been. I see a market there.

165:

@ 162
Yes
Pity.
What we really, badly need is a confederated Union of the Isles - including the whole of Ireland, each section with its' own Scots/Stormont-style local parliament, with very little actually run from Westminster, apart from defence & co-ordination between the constiuent countries.
Outside the EU, of course, since that body has already fallen victim to the iron Law of Bureaucracy.

Which brings us back to real democratic accountability, of course.

166:

I think you are giving the wrong examples here. The things you list will make life better.

But the concept is valid. Does government get to decided which aspects of your entire life are good vs. bad and fine you for the bad ones?

Too much chocolate today? $1 fine.
Waited too long to pee? $1.
Had 3 glasses of wine instead of stoping at 2? $1

Just where do we draw the line?

I'd prefer it to be draw more on the side of letting me make my own mistakes. Others want it to go the other way.

167:

Hi Greg,

Romantically, a confederation sounds great. Given the US experience with the Continental Congress and the the Confederacy, I'd say it's not that great a system in practice. Is Switzerland a better example?

168:

Ok, not Greg (not even slightly), nor Swiss, but all the Swiss I know think that the Swiss Confederacy works.

169:

I'd amend that to: Stormont with grown-ups, and not the current batch of still-living-in-the-17th-Century children, who have a bit of a huff and throw the toys out of the pram because someone said something a bit mean to them (or flew the wrong flag on the wrong day, or will/won't walk on a particular bit of road, or don't agree on the same brand of Big Sky Fairy, or, or, or ...)

170:

But the concept is valid. Does government get to decided which aspects of your entire life are good vs. bad and fine you for the bad ones?

You may have missed it somehow, but yes, the government decides which aspects of your entire life are good vs. bad. This is one of the purposes of the government. It is called "laws". In a representative democracy, they are supposed to represent the will of the population.

171:

Had 3 glasses of wine instead of stoping at 2? $1
Just where do we draw the line?
I'd prefer it to be draw more on the side of letting me make my own mistakes. Others want it to go the other way.

AFAIK, most governments of the world already penalize alcohol drinking via alcohol taxes. Only currently they do it disproportionally, because the damage from alcohol does not scale linearly, while the tax does. In the future, the will just tax you for drinking too much and putting a burden on the health care system. :-)

172:

Greg: in the nicest possible way, take your Reconquista and shove it. We don't want any.

173:

To me, as an ignorant American, your statement is needlessly rude and context free.

174:

We fought a war to leave the United Kingdom 90 years ago.

Nationalist sentiment in Ireland varies, but the flavour of it can be gathered from the fact that when an Ireland versus England rugby match was played in Croke Park (the Gaelic games home stadium, lent to the rugby union because theirs was being rebuilt) the joke was "the last time the English were in Croke Park they fired into the crowd." Our joining the Commonwealth (a much looser association than Greg suggests) is regarded as a ridiculous - and somewhat offensive - suggestion.

Basically, this is Serious Business, and Greg has shown his disregard of "our shared history" before, so I felt it unneccessary to treat him with kid gloves. I was perhaps overly harsh; I apologise.

175:

You never know. With the fullness of time and the proper amount of sea level rise, the capital of the Confederacy of the Isles might indeed end up in Dublin. AFAIK, it's a little higher off the water than London and Edinburgh are...

176:

Not a bit. The Liffey is tidal up to Heuston Station at least, which means the entire city centre is vulnerable. Edinburgh's probably a better bet. Dublin has the Wicklow Mountains to retreat up, if it comes to it - the suburbs are already in the foothills - but there's a tearing lack of impressive castle (Dublin Castle being more of a very grown up administrative fort).

177:

Ah well, it was a thought. Perhaps, by that time, the Edinburgh Festival can evolve into an emergent form of government, with the Festival Fringe as either a lobbying collective or one of its legislative chambers. The Scottish Emergency, as it were...

178:

In context, it's Greg being impolitic. I can only assume he knows no Irish natives.

As a solution, it might have worked a century ago, barely. But the history of Ireland then wandered off in a different direction, and you can't retrace that path now - too many on both sides have too many grievances. You can only try to find new solutions.

I personally think the only real hope of a reunification of Ireland is for it to happen within the EU, two nations eventually realising that they speak the same language (well, mostly), use the same currency (this requires the UK to enter the Euro, which the current Little Britain xenophobia rather prevents), and follow much the same laws and rules. At that point perhaps, a new generation will start to wonder why on earth an artificial boundary still cuts across their island, and they'll reunite. It basically requires both sides to no longer feel under threat from the other side.

(Germany stayed split for decades, and that was external forces that split it. In the case of Ireland, it was two almost equally powerful factions that tore it apart.)

But at the moment, since there's a fairly good chance that Scotland will go 'fuck off' to the Tories (and the repellant You Chicken party), I wouldn't like to try to predict 20 years ahead, let alone as far ahead as a one nation Ireland would require.

179:

And from the bridge at Heuston, you can almost see ships on the open sea in the distance. I have walked from Phoenix Park - uphill from Heuston - down to the Ferryman Hotel on Sir John Rogerson Quay, a few hundred metres from docked container ships. Central Dublin is really quite a lot closer to the sea than London is.

180:

Come now, Edsinburgh is safe from sea level rise unless we get 100 metres at least. It's London and Dublin that are in danger. In fact there was some flooding in Dublin a couple of years ago, due to high tide and onshore winds and a full river, or was it just that the river was very full after a cloudburst? Anyway, it's flooded central Dublin before, although unsurprisingly, the medieval part is maybe 4 or 5 metres above the river anyway, it's all the 'modern' parts that aren't.

Greg is well known for his bone headedness re. Ireland and is not worth engaging on anything to do with it.

RE. TRX #160 - we are already mostly there- the differences between the main parties in the UK are small- all are wedded to neo-liberalism, all are for government security apparatus spying on people, all are for selling off public services and assets, all are penetrated and bribed by the people and corporations that will benefit from these actions. And there's no alternative. See also private finance initiatives, and lots of other contracts which already impede the proper functioning of the state on our behalf whilst shovelling money to private companies.

181:

I have to disagree. For example, what's the punishment for killing an endangered butterfly? Technically it's a felony, but if someone accidentally steps on one that's off the reservation, do they deserve to go to jail for a year (at $50,000+ to lock them away) and have various rights temporarily or permanently taken away from them (not counting the cost of losing them as productive citizens basically forever, since they'll be labelled felons for the rest of their lives)? Moreover, will doing this keep anyone else from accidentally stepping on a butterfly? ...

How many millions are we willing to spend to punish what seem to us to be trivial crimes? In the US, we spend way too much keeping people in prison for non-violent drug crimes as it is. Why add more?

Consider traffic rule violations caught by automatic systems with sensors and cameras: failure to stop completely, speeding, running red lights, etc. These systems bring in more money than they cost, and they don't put people in prison.

There's a mistaken logic throughout the US legal system that deterrence = enforcement * penalty. If enforcement is rare you can just crank up the penalty knob to compensate -- hence a $100,000 fine for illegally copying one song for your friends. The reality is that people would be far more deterred by a $20 fine and a 10% enforcement rate than by a life-ruining fine and a microscopic enforcement rate.

If you can catch a double-digit percentage of unlawful butterfly killings on camera and assess a modest fine like for a traffic violation, perhaps even with appeals based on intent (like you can plead your case in traffic court), endangered butterflies can be better protected without asking voters for more tax money, building more prisons, or ruining anyone's life.

Sometimes I think I'm the only person reading SF who thinks that ubiquitous public recording and image analysis would be positive on balance as long as the legislature is still elected and there's still a broad franchise. When rational deterrence works, improved enforcement can produce higher compliance with lower penalties. When it doesn't work -- the act of passion, the act of idiocy -- we can at least identify the involved persons without relying on notoriously poor eyewitness recollection or dubious forensic science. If substantial parts of the recording infrastructure are in private hands, it's also a check against bad police exercising the traditional privilege to misbehave on the street and dare their victims to get anyone to believe.

182:

The 2011 floods? We got an average month's rainfall in three hours. I think everything burst its banks; definitely the area around the cathedrals and the Castle flooded, because I had to get through it. I think even the Poddle flooded, which is an accomplishment for a river that's underground for its lower course. (Dublin has 4 main rivers; the Poddle's probably the best behaved of the lot).

183:

Well, idealism runs smack into reality. For the Endangered Species Act, many people have issues with it. I mean, it's great in theory, but it's a real problem when developers donate major amounts of money to get politicians elected. After all, the law primarily hurts them, especially if they didn't do due diligence and look for endangered species on the land they own. I mean, who's going to blame them for taking a bulldozer some weekend and wiping out that stupid little butterfly so that it's no longer a problem?

I'm actually not being facetious, and I'm surrounded by areas where property owners did similar things to inflate their land values about 10 years ago.

Again, perfect surveillance won't solve what's effectively a social problem. It never has. I've been using the ESA as an example of a problematic law (one that people don't believe in, which exists primarily because it's very selectively enforced). Even if you look at some uncontroversial crime (say murder), people can still get away with it if they are sufficient powerful, or the victim is hated, or foreign, or did something to "deserve what (s)he got." Knowing what happened does not cause automatic punishment.

184:

Doesn't that make the parallel to automatic machine enforcement of traffic laws more compelling, not less compelling? The traffic camera doesn't know if it is taking a picture of a wealthy local from a connected family or a poor immigrant. It doesn't know or care who donated how much money to whose reelection campaign. Punishment isn't quite automatic, because there is a chance that the ticket recipient can successfully fight it in court, but it puts the onus on the violator to give a defense.

Most people have been inconvenienced by traffic laws, many if not most have actually been penalized for violating them, yet I see no great movement to eliminate them. I doubt that better enforcement of the Endangered Species Act would precipitate its wholesale repeal either.

185:

You may have missed it somehow, but yes, the government decides which aspects of your entire life are good vs. bad. This is one of the purposes of the government. It is called "laws". In a representative democracy, they are supposed to represent the will of the population.

Did you read all of my comment?

Just where do we draw the line?
I'd prefer it to be draw more on the side of letting me make my own mistakes. Others want it to go the other way.

186:

Paws & others – yes a Swiss model might be good, or something like the ORIGINAL US constitution of states, perhaps … (??)

Dave the Proc @ 167
I meant Stormont the PLACE, not the present collection of intellectual pygmies - & thank you for helping to make that clear, my bad at the time, I suppose.
You also carefully didn’t mention the corruption, I note!

Anonemouse
SIGH
How many times do I have to say it?
The whole period from (at least) the failure of Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill to the Good Friday agreement was a disaster – for all involved. Each of the (at least) three “sides” involved seemed to take it in turns to screw the situation up worse & worse.
I want to bury the whole thing & - start again.
Also, in a hostile & unfriendly world, I would much rather have ALL of the Irish on the inside, pissing out! Servitude to the EU commission & the catholic church ( as opposed to the “horrible brits” ) hasn’t done Ireland any favours, either has it?

And then you fought a war amongst yourselves, in 1923, didn’t you, with the murder of one of your own independence heroes – Michael Collins, by De Valera’s men …
And before that you were PROMISED independence (“Home Rule” ) just before WWI & the Brit guvmint was prepared to use military force against sections of its OWN ARMED FORCES – look up “The Curragh Mutiny”.
Ireland would have had Home Rule in 1919 – except that they then took it as “their turn” to shaft it, by accepting arms from Imperial Germany – in 1916, which classes as terminally stupid. And so it went on.
Yes, it is entirely serious business & a tragedy, & it’s time it was OVER.
Rather than hugging your hurt to yourself for ever.
Err.. correction
Not a bit. The Liffey is tidal up to Heuston Kingsbridge Station at least, As a railway enthusiast ( I’ve been around Inchicore works ) the principal stations in Dublin are still, going clockwise from the ex-GNRI one ….
Amienas St, Westland Row, Tara St, Kingsbridge.. … Harcourt St is now on the tram (LUAS) line, hooray! & Broadstone closed long ago….

Bellighman @ 176
I do, actually, N & S … Been to the N 3 times & the S twice –all before 1969, incidentally. Rhona has been to Dublin several time, recently, & I hope to re-visit next time – beautiful city.
Wrong about the EU though. It has become a bureaucracy, following Pournelle’s Iron Law. When some Irish trades unionists start saying that the EU is “worse than the brits” (as recently happened) then one starts to wonder. It IS a horrible mess, but then, I already said that, didn’t I?

Guthrie @ 1787
I suggest you read what I wrote above. I already know far too much about Ireland’s tragedy, & the collective insanity that seemed to grip everyone involved
It’s time to close the doors on said tragedy, & start again.
London is, temporarily ( next 25-50 years) much freer from flood danger than it has been for many years – it’s called: “The Thames Barrier” (& accompanying down-river flood defences, of course )

Zorro @ 179
For example, what's the punishment for killing an endangered butterfly?
Err – Ray Bradbury – “A Sound of Thunder” ??

heteromeles @ 181
We have that problem, usually with buildings, rather than SSSI’s, but it happens.

187:

But is littering going to go?

A side-effect of ubiquitous surveillance and ultra-cheap robotics is that it becomes trivially easy to track discarded items of litter and assign a municipal Roomba-like bot to collect the item and deliver it to the correct local recycling repository. So we might end up, instead, abolishing public litter bins (too easy to hide a bomb in them) and deploying ubiquitous continuous litter collection robots.

Another issue: smoking. Currently smoking is frowned upon because (a) non-smokers hate getting a faceful of stale exhaled smoke, (b) it's carcinogenic, and (c) causes heart disease. But if we get advances in medical techniques for cardiovascular risk reduction and combating cancer, that leaves just argument (a), the antisocial behaviour issue. And e-cigarettes aren't carcinogenic and, speaking from my own experience as a non-smoker with mild asthma who hates cigarette smoke, they aren't offensive -- secondary smoke from an e-cig is barely noticeable. Now, with ubiquitous surveillance one's personal smoking habit will become transparent to everyone else -- but are insurers or employers or blue-nosed busy-bodies going to care about smoking habits if there's a general shift to relatively harmless e-cigs?

I think the worst aspect of u-surv society is that it panders to the worst instincts of the instinctive social organizers among us -- the people who are only happy if they're enforcing restrictions on other peoples' permitted behaviour (be it going to church every Sunday, or not having illicit sex, or eating too much fatty food and drinking the wrong kind of liquid).

188:

Sean, to me, as a native of the British Isles who has on occasion visited Ireland (both North and the Republic), it sounds like an entirely proportional response.

(Hey, how about you guys disclaim your Declaration of Independence and do the right thing by accepting that Elizabeth Windsor is your rightful queen?)

189:

Greg, you may want to bury the whole of Irish history from Gladstone to Good Friday, but several thousand families with dead or maimed or jailed members -- and the hundreds of thousands of people who know them personally, and the millions more who live in a climate affected by them -- won't let it happen. You're asking for collective amnesia in favour of the side with the entrenched privilege, and it ain't going to happen. Maybe when everyone who was alive at the time of the Good Friday Agreement has died, and it's all ancient history with no personal first-hand resonance, it'll be possible to make something like that work. Until then? Nope.

Meanwhile this is an annoyingly off-topic subject and I don't want it to continue here. I'd just like to remind you of Rachel Mansour's words in "Iron Sunrise" (paraphrased from memory): "where I see planets with one-world governments, I go looking for the empty areas on the maps, and the mass graves." People, collectively, don't aggregate well.

190:

A side-effect of ubiquitous surveillance and ultra-cheap robotics is that it becomes trivially easy to track discarded items of litter and assign a municipal Roomba-like bot to collect the item and deliver it to the correct local recycling repository. So we might end up, instead, abolishing public litter bins (too easy to hide a bomb in them) and deploying ubiquitous continuous litter collection robots.

This is not fair, Charlie, now you added ultra-cheap robotics to the equation. Of course, if litter just evaporates the moment you let go of it, laws against littering are not needed anymore because the whole CONCEPT of littering just CEASED TO EXIST. Littering is no longer possible.

The same applies to smoking. The moment smoking ceases to be dangerous and annoying, the laws against smoking no longer make sense.

Also, if terrorists are hiding bombs in garbage bins and you ban bins, well, the terrorists win. You should ban terrorists instead (from life). Then the garbage bins win. :-)

191:

That sounds like a "100 years storm"?

If so, I've actually experienced 2 of those in my lifetime (but in different places and years, and neither place was affected by both of them). I don't think we can blame these events on a rise in sea levels.

192:

Greg, I'm not advocating the Swiss model for a UK population some 8 or 9 times larger, never mind a USian one at least 40 times larger! All I said was that the Swiss seem to think that their model works fo them (so it might work for Ireland and/or an independant Scotland).

193:

"There's a bigger problem, which is that there's no conceivable way to pay to punish all the crimes committed. The consequence of having all crimes recorded but only a small fraction punished is to create a permissive crime culture. After all, if you're never going to be punished, why obey the law?"

The other consequence is that everybody has multiple well-documented felonies, and can be quite legally destroyed at any time

194:

"
ryan @ 146
Problem with a total surveillance society ...
handling all the data.
There's so much of it. This is the problem that is carefully ignored by the control-freak idiots pushing for the comms data bill.
How will you find what you supposedly want, from so much, "Intelligent" search-engines or not + false positives?
The same argument apllies to all data on everyone fully available.
Something will always get missed, & the signals you do get may not peresent the true state of affairs.
Um."

So? You seem to have a bad case of 'if it can't be done 100% then we can't/shouldn't/won't do it at all'.

195:

"That sounds like a "100 years storm"?

If so, I've actually experienced 2 of those in my lifetime (but in different places and years, and neither place was affected by both of them). I don't think we can blame these events on a rise in sea levels."

One effect of global warming is that '100 year storms' are going to be much more common. If 100 year events occur at least once a decade, and millennial events occur every 20-30 years, and decadal events occur yearly (or 2-3 times per year).....

196:

@ 193
Yes
Because a warming, means more energy in the system & therefore greate extremes (in both directions) like the ridculously cold "spring" we have just had.
Fist time EVER I can remember, no "May" on May-Day - didn't come into bloom until the 12th, in fact....
Also, if the green land ice-cap starts to go, it could shut down the N Atlantic conveyor & return us in the UK to the conditions of the Yuonger Dryas.
Not a pleasant prospect.

197:

Worth reading the Wikipedia entry on shutdown of thermohaline circulation. It might happen, but it's probably a slow effect, possibly slower than the increase in global temperatures. In other words, by the time Europe starts getting temperatures like Siberia, Siberia may well be growing palm trees.

So far as this 100 year storm thing goes, AFAIK there's a problem with the whole concept. The problem is that storm severity is *assumed* to follow a normal distribution curve, and this curve was used to determine "what would happen once every hundred years," likely for actuarial purposes.

AFAIK, there's no evidence that storm severity actually follows a normal distribution, and there are (by definition) so few rare huge storms that it's very difficult to know how often they really occur, or if calculating their intensity distribution is even a meaningful exercise in a changing world.

In general, when the atmosphere is warmer, it holds more moisture, and that tends to lead to more storm activity. There was an argument about whether this would lead to more storms or bigger storms, but AFAIK, the consensus is that it will lead to bigger storms, but not necessarily more of them. This is bad, because big storms and big droughts are more of a problem than more middle-sized storms. There are also arguments about what kinds of storms this will lead to. There's a general consensus that this means more rain per storm, but there are arguments on whether tornadoes will become more common, because tornadoes depend on a confluence of conditions, some of which supposedly will become more rare with global warming.

198:

One effect of global warming is that '100 year storms' are going to be much more common. If 100 year events occur at least once a decade, and millennial events occur every 20-30 years, and decadal events occur yearly (or 2-3 times per year).....

The actuarial problems noted above aren't the only difficulty. It's also easy to forget just how brief our meteorological records really are. Even if we had a really good idea how often such events should be expected, there's another factor.

We now have modern communications. Only well into the 20th century would you expect to hear anything about the weather outside your own area - even the natural disasters might not make the news elsewhere unless they were particularly notable.

Today, we hear that Florida's having a chilly spring or that Tuscany needs more rain. Checking, I find out that it's 15 degrees and partly cloudy in Edinburgh - at the moment I'm typing this! Since there are far more than 5,000 locations reporting, it's inevitable that anyone who wants to can read about 100-year weather events every single week, even if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

199:

Of course, if litter just evaporates the moment you let go of it, laws against littering are not needed anymore because the whole CONCEPT of littering just CEASED TO EXIST. Littering is no longer possible.

The same applies to smoking. The moment smoking ceases to be dangerous and annoying, the laws against smoking no longer make sense.

That's pretty much the point. The law becomes pointless as a civic game rule, but remains as a constraint on human behavior. There are people who are really into making rules and getting into other people's business; what behavior is being regulated is secondary to the point of regulating.

Fixing this looks to be a Hard Problem. Some people approach governance as a LARP, trying to score points by being a more prolific lawmaker than the competition, either by making more laws or blocking proposals from the others. (American readers will have noticed a political faction more concerned with 'Obstructing The Opposition' than 'Good Governance.' I wish they'd stop.) The game doesn't let them score points by repealing laws or granting more freedom to the populace. As a BOFH would say, there's not only no automatic garbage collection but no reward for the sysops to do it manually; cruft collects indefinitely.

I agree about garbage bin bombs, by the way; it seems to me this is a transient fashion among the homicidal wingnut set.

200:

@179:
as the legislature is still elected and there's still a broad franchise.
---
You need much more than elections and a franchise. In the USA, even noncitizens can vote in some states; that's a pretty broad franchise. But you can only vote for people who are nominated by one of the two (or in limited cases, three or four) party congresses, which are technically not part of the government structure, not accountable to the public, and have their own invested internal power structures.

In the end, you are able to pick from a short list of people you didn't get to nominate and don't want. Which is really no choice at all...

201:

hteromeles @ 195
That's interesting.
I recently read a book called "The Wave" which followed both surfers & marine biologists etc, across the oceans, & both of these groups realised that the scaling wasn't what peole thought, & there rally are some utter monster waves out there.

TRX
The problem of picking the "laest worst" option, in other words.
This is where: "None of the Above" would be sooooo useful .....

202:

The same applies to smoking. The moment smoking ceases to be dangerous and annoying, the laws against smoking no longer make sense.

Obsolescent laws, alas, tend to persist long after they should have been abolished. Never mind the war on drugs (a classic, and stupidly counter-productive example, but one that is just barely still arguable); it wasn't until the 1990s that the local by-law in London requiring all taxis to have a bale of hay in the luggage compartment at all times was abolished. (Why hay? Well, you need to be able to feed your horse if it gets hungry ...!)

203:

I think the worst aspect of u-surv society is that it panders to the worst instincts of the instinctive social organizers among us -- the people who are only happy if they're enforcing restrictions on other peoples' permitted behaviour (be it going to church every Sunday, or not having illicit sex, or eating too much fatty food and drinking the wrong kind of liquid).

My original examples of smoking etc were poorly thought up (it was posted late at night) and as others have pointed out u-surv would be a benefit for most of them*. But this point quoted above is one of the things I was trying to get at. I'm reminded of Glasshouse where a point system was designed to foster social conformity and oppressive heirachy amongst the inhabitants of the experiment. It's entirely likely that that kind of thing could occur, especially if everyone has access to u-surv infrastructure as some argue they should. You might not opt-into a voluntary system run by a company/religion/social network that gives you a score based on your actions but sometimes you might not have a choice.


*although on the subject of smoking and healthcare: if you carry that logic on it leads to a situation where any dangerous activity leads to higher healthcare costs. This includes reasonable things that are fun e.g. extreme sports. I'm firmly an NHS supporter but in a healthcare insurance setting I worry that u-surv would result in the poor having to live very careful lives and limit their risky but fun passtimes. It essentially leaves things like mountain climbing, skiing, drinking alcohol etc to those with money.

204:

The Wave is a good book, highly enjoyed it.

205:

Obsolescent laws, alas, tend to persist long after they should have been abolished.

OK, but the right way to fight this problem is not to oppose making new laws, but to work for making laws more easily abolishable. It's the garbage bins vs. terrorists again.

it wasn't until the 1990s that the local by-law in London requiring all taxis to have a bale of hay in the luggage compartment at all times was abolished

Are you telling me it was also ENFORCED until the 1990s? Because I find that rather hard to believe.

206:

There was a story in my local paper, this week, warning of smuggled cigarettes (yellow pack and cyrillic labeL) which were dangerous because they didn't comply with new fire regulations.

(TL:DR cigarettes are now supposed to go out if you don't inhale.)

207:

Greg. Tingey wrote:
I recently read a book called "The Wave" which followed both surfers & marine biologists etc, across the oceans, & both of these groups realised that the scaling wasn't what peole thought, & there rally are some utter monster waves out there.

Naval Architects and ship operators and offshore platform operators "knew this" at least back into the 80s; we were documenting rogue waves (and considering what design consequences) when I was in school.

At one level, this goes back even further; the Queen Mary was hit by a 90-100 foot tall rogue wave in December 1942. It was unusual in that it was one of the few ships of that (or any) era which would have survived that wave. She barely did; she rolled down to about 52 degrees, which was about 3 degrees short of the angle at which she would have capsized.... Again, known both to professional mariners and naval architects, but thought to be bogus by many scientists studying waves.

Nobody had a good theory at the time.

Finally they've been getting both buoy and platform data on 100+ foot waves and started to make models that predicted them.

208:

" (TL:DR cigarettes are now supposed to go out if you don't inhale.) "

Really? Ah, yes from the link I see that it's true!

Bloody Hell!

Now this is evidence of how The Law can change to suit Reality...non Advert Land - Cigies are Good For The Lungs look you can belive in US for HERE is an Ever So Macho Cowboy and HE is smoking Our Product with never a sign that his Actor will shortly Die of Lung Cancer. Only Believe and Smoke OUR Brand - Reality is, err...Flexible?

Back when I was a child I was SO virtuous that despite my British working class background I heroically refused to Smoke! Oh, all right it turned out that when my friend the next door neighbours boy smuggled out a purloined cigarette - age about 10 as was usual for that sort of thing - and I tried the same it turned out that I was horribly allergic to cigarette smoke and I swear that I thought that I would never stop throwing up. This turned out to be a bit of a grown up disadvantage because way back in the 1960s of my youth just about everyone in my social circle of whatever class smoked and just about every public venue for social gatherings ..Pubs /Clubs /Classrooms and social spaces of Technical Colleges/universities everywhere had an atmosphere that resembled that of the planet Venus: sometimes I'd take a deep breath outside of a room and gallop in to do whatever I needed to do -opening windows along the way - and then dash out again. Ashtrays were utterly ubiquitous in every social setting and they were expected to be in place and emptied by the cleaners at the end of the working day.

So, not so very long ago the sad huddle of Smokers outside of just about every public working or social space in the U.K. would be a strange and alien sight to any passing near future time traveller...and this really was not so very long ago with the ban on smoking in enclosed spaces being pretty close to Now.

Granting a little space for the Language of warning to emerge then just about any warning notice about “No Smoking " would cause up-stream traveller to pause and cry eh? Wot The F ? Whilst lighting up for a soothing Drag.

This has been a profound change in the social habits of Humanity in a fairly short space of time.

I submit that the most deadly artefact in Human History has been the Cigarette...it puts the Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle Far, Far in the shade in terms of lethality. So much Death from such a simple thing and such a weight on the scales of commerce and industry in such a short space of time.

209:

American readers will have noticed a political faction more concerned with 'Obstructing The Opposition' than 'Good Governance.' I wish they'd stop.

The last few times our government got unobstructed, we got the Department of Homeland Security, the war in Iraq, and bank bailouts worth roughly $3000 per US citizen with no meaningful oversight. I prefer them obstructed, and would prefer most of them be completely obstructed in some sort of prison.

210:

The last few times our government got unobstructed, we got the Department of Homeland Security, the war in Iraq, and bank bailouts worth roughly $3000 per US citizen with no meaningful oversight. I prefer them obstructed, and would prefer most of them be completely obstructed in some sort of prison.

Are you a libertarian? Just curious.

211:

This ties in with the response to Eric Weinstein publicising is Geometric Unity approach to reconciling General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.

Briefly, he's attacked the problem from the direction of mathematical beauty rather than from trying to explain hard data, and then asking whether the data fits the maths.

Some people have been saying that the LHC should already have been showing up events his maths predicts.

But if the LHC is only looking at the data for the events they expect to see, and throwing away the rest, that criticism is seriously weakened. If Weinstein's math makes a prediction, they can go and look.

This is a lot like Dirac and the positron. He had math and no data, but people started looking.

We're at the "watch this space" phase.

212:

Are you a libertarian? Just curious.

No. I'm not against government in principle, but I spent about five years in Washington DC. I gradually came to the conclusion that the system has completely lost touch with reality, and that the federal government of the United States is simply not a realistic channel for any sort of positive change in our society. If any social progress happens in America, those guys will be the last to hear about it and they won't like what they hear.

213:

Charlie @ 200
Yes.
The delightful "commonwealth" being true christians, banned Christmas, & passed a law forbidding the consumption of mince pies (which are a sweet concotion - no meat) on 25th Dec.
When was this repealed?
Some time in the late 1960's IIRC.

Vanzetti @ 203
Urban myth ..
Oxford student found ancient reg, saying he should have free beer with all his meals (from when water wasn't safe to drink) .. college grumbled, complied ... & about a week later, having burrowed in said ancioent regs ... fined him for not wearing his sword ....

jay @ 210
I gradually came to the conclusion that the system has completely lost touch with reality
Here, too!

214:

Mince pies did contain meat. First, an actual recipe:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/pdf/doc_15.pdf

Second, a history of them, although since it's in a newspaper it probably contains errors, nevertheless fits with what I have read elsewhere:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/sweet-delight-a-brief-history-of-the-mince-pie-6270572.html

215:

Today, in Britain, the BBC rebroadcast its coverage of the Coronation: hour upon hour of live TV recorded on film, and now digitised and cleaned up. It was a remarkable technical achievement for the time. There was only one TV channel and, even in London, it was difficult getting the signals back to the Alexandra Palace from the cameras.

Nothing quite broke, and copies of the film were carried to Canada by jet bombers.

I kept getting interruptions, but one thing said made me cringe. There was a contingent of the WRAF in the parade, and commentator described them as "gorgeous", for which I can forgive him, on account of their nylon stockings.

Sixty years on, the WRAF has gone. Men and women are all in the RAF. And, as the Daily Mail reported in 2010, there are women flying bombers in the RAF. The way they write the story makes me cringe, but they tell the story. (The comments are worse.)

Sixty years ago, the only 'planes with swept wings in the flypast were some RCAF Sabres. The RAF has been operating the Tornado for more than half the Queen's reign. The Canberra stayed in RAF service until 2006.

The technology doesn't always change as quickly as we might think.

216:

Earlier today I was listening to an interview with an officer in the USAF Reserve unit that does B52 crew training. He mentioned (besides the standing joke instructions to look after the aircraft so that they are still running well for your kids) that unexpected things are breaking. The ones in use have been around since 1962, and there are toggle switches that are flipped half a dozen times in each flight...

217:

Are you suggesting that any of Jay's cited actions were some sort of Good Thing?

218:

These things are almost as old as me. And I certainly feel a bit more "creaky" than I used to. And odd things do seem to be breaking that I never thought about before.

:)

219:

Sixty years ago, the only 'planes with swept wings in the flypast were some RCAF Sabres.

...and the 7 Swifts, the Valiant, and the Victor and the Hunter, plus the Vulcan and Javelin deltas

The Canberra stayed in RAF service until 2006.The technology doesn't always change as quickly as we might think

the PR-9 phased out in '06 was very different to the EE Canberra B.2s in the 1953 flypast, different wings, more powerful engine, revised fuselage, different role

the Tornado may be thirty years old, but the ordnance it drops and the avionics it uses to drop them are not - the RAF's Tornados have been rebuilt two or three times - and five of them in their 2013 form could do the job of all 48 of the Canberras and all 45 of the Avro Lincolns in the '53 flypast

in one sortie ;-D

something like the
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_Shadow
was a science fictional then as it is now.

220:

I checked.

The flypast over Buckingham Palace on the 2nd June 1953, Coronation Day, was made up of 144 Meteors and 24 Sabres.

Have you confused it with the Coronation Review of the RAF?

The first production Valiant flew in December 1953. There were prototypes in existence of all three V-bombers, but the Vulcan prototype was being modified. The Supermarine Swift entered service in February 1954: again, there was only a prototype flying in 1953.

The way that prototypes in general fell out of the sky in those days, I hardly think you would see them over the middle of London.

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