April 2014 Archives

The current buzz-topic of the month is Thomas Piketty's magisterial tome, Capital in the 21st Century—currently at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, #5 in the UK, and in the sights of every right wing pundit, goldbug, and economic quack globally.

I have not read Piketty (yet) so I am about as unqualified to comment on his central thesis as anyone. But I've read the reviews, so I'm going to bloviate anyway—about the implications for a topic I occasionally obsess over, like a diseased cur chewing on an ulcerated hernia.

Piketty's central thesis (at second hand) appears to be that in an era of slow economic growth (like the 21st century to date) characterised by high rates of return on investment (ditto) the rate of capital formation outstrips the rate of wealth creation, leading to centralization of wealth and an increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us. Marketization and trickle-down economics have signally failed to close this widening divide, and so it follows that the deregulation of trade and investment and the reduction in taxation of assets that have typified the past forty years are damaging to the social fabric; if we want to reduce inequality we will have to go after the capital concentrations with a pointy expropriative stick. (Cue right-wing/libertarian meltdown in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...)

This interests me because it looks like a really fascinating opportunity for an experiment in libertarian paternalism.

Sorry I've been quiet: blogging took a back seat last week because I needed time to recover after Satellite 4, the Eastercon, and had some additional travel—family time—and then a different writing project bit me hard and wouldn't let go.

I've been quiet for the past few days because I've been at Satellite IV, the 65th British Eastercon, held this year in Glasgow.

In other news: the 2014 Hugo award shortlist has been announced (along with the 1939 retrospective Hugo award shortlist—these are held for years in which no Hugo awards were awarded at the time). Equoid is on the shortlist for best novella, and Neptune's Brood is on the shortlist for best novel.

Less happily, there's considerable controversy over some items on this year's shortlists. I don't want to speak about this until after the awards (not because I'm forbidden from doing so but because, as a shortlisted author myself, it would be a dick move). All I can say for now is that my personal reactions to some of the categories was, "who ordered that?" So here are three sensible opinion pieces on the subject from people who are less constrained than I:

* John Scalzi's thoughts on the 2014 Hugo nominations
* Abigail Nussbaum's view of the shortlist
* Brandon Sanderson's opinions about the shortlists

And now I'm going to shut up about it, except to note that discussion of the shortlists in the comments on this piece is strongly discouraged and may result in the ban hammer getting an outing—and to offer my congratulations to all the first-timers on the shortlists, who must be thrilled to see their names there.

I've been spending a little time lately asking myself questions about the near future. And in particular—this is especially relevant if you're planning on writing a near-future SF novel set maybe 15-30 years hence—what it's going to be like as an experience for, well, not for my generation (I'll be 65-80 if I live that long: of declining relevance) but for the next generation on. And I suspect it'll be pretty shitty.

I was born in late 1964, the youngest child of older-than-average parents who married late: my cousins are (or were) part of the baby boom generation, but culturally I'm an early type specimen of Generation X.

So, I was making slow but steady headway on "Invisible Sun" (Merchant Princes: The Next Generation #3) when I got bitten this morning by an Attack Novel. I mean, a rabid one. So far, I've confined myself to writing the first 2500 words of an outline; I plan to finish it today, stick it in a drawer to cool (or until the urge to create becomes irresistible), then go back to "Invisible Sun".

This isn't a unique event. You might have noticed Wednesday's wholly inappropriate blog entry about a political satire/thriller that is utterly unsaleable, revolving around the identity of the 2016 Republican Party Candidate for POTUS.

But there's more.

Some of you might have noticed something called heartbleed generating a lot of tech news smoke and heat this week.

This web server runs on Apache, yes. But I don't provide an encrypted server connection over SSL—it's an unencrypted set-up because I'm not in the business of selling you something or handling your confidential information, and I don't see a pressing need to make your life and mine more complicated in order to provide an illusion of (non-existent) security. If you're not running an SSL encrypted service in the first place, then you're not vulnerable to a particularly nasty zero-day hitting OpenSSL. QED.

One of the problems with spending an evening in the pub is that I get ideas. Some of them are viable and useful—the core of "Glasshouse" more or less congealed around three pints of Deuchars IPA in The Standing Order in Edinburgh one rainy Tuesday afternoon in early 2003—but others should be tagged "back away from the keyboard, put down the mouse, and nobody needs to get hurt".

Last night's was one of the latter. And so instead of hunting for a collaborator and then trying to pitch and/or write the sucker, I'm going to exorcise it right here on my blog (so that I lose any urge to pursue it further).

George Osborne has committed the Conservatives to targeting "full employment", saying that tax and welfare changes would help achieve it.

Firstly, this is impossible. Secondly, explaining why is ... well, George Orwell coined a word to describe this sort of thing, in 1984: Crimestop

The faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.
Today, in the political discourse of the west, it is almost unthinkably hard to ask a very simple question: why should we work?

See subject.

Sorry folks, there's nothing funny to see here (unless you want to get painfully, recursively meta about it.)



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