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It could be worse

So this week the usual folks have been all over China's proposal to use big data techniques to assign every citizen a Citizen Score. And while a tiny ethics-free part of my soul weeps for joy (hey, I never expected parts of Glasshouse to come true!) the rest of me shudders and can't help thinking how much worse it could get.

So, let's start by synopsizing the Privacy Online News report. It's basically a state-run universal credit score, where you're measured on a scale from 350 to 950. But it's not just about your financial planning ability; it also reflects your political opinions. On the financial side, if you buy products the government approves of your credit score increases: wastes of time (such as video games) cost you points. China's main social networks feed data into it and you can lose points big-time by expressing political opinions without prior permission, talking about history (where it diverges from the official version—e.g. the events of 1989 in Tiananmen Square—hey, I just earned myself a negative credit score there!), or saying anything that's politically embarrassing.

The special social network magic comes into play when you learn that if your friends do this, your score also suffers. You can see what they just did to you: are you angry yet? Social pressure is a pervasive force and it's going to be exerted on participants whether they like it or not, by friends looking for the goodies that come from having a high citizen score: goodies like instant loans for online shopping, car rentals without needing a deposit, or fast-track access to foreign travel visas. Also, everyone's credit score is visible online, making it easy to ditch those embarrassingly ranty cocktail-party friends who insist on harshing your government credit karma by not conforming.

The gamification of social conformity, overseen by an authoritarian government and mediated by nudge theory, is a thing of beauty and horror; who needs cops with nightsticks to beat up dissidents when their friends and family will give them a tongue-lashing on behalf of the government for the price of a discount off a new fridge?

But don't worry, I could make it a whole lot worse.

The first notable point about this system is that it's an oppressive system that runs at a profit. Consider the instant no-colateral loans for online shopping: the Chinese system only grants these to folks who are a good credit bet. The debt will be repayed. Meanwhile it goes into providing a Keynsian stimulus for the productive side of the economy. And it rewards people for political right-thinking. What's not to like?

Governments love nudge theory because it offers a cheap shortcut to enforcing social policy, even when the social policy in question is utterly broken. Paying a cop costs money—not just their salary and the cost of their uniform, but the station they work out of, the support personnel who keep the police force operating (janitors, human resources, vehicle maintenance), and the far less tangible political cost of being seen to wield a big stick and force people not to do what they want to do (or to do things that you want them to). Using big data to give folks a credit score, then paying them bright and shiny but essentially cost-free bonuses if they do what you want? That's priceless. You may not be able to track folks who like to toke up directly (if it's illegal in your jurisdiction), but you can penalize them for hanging out with known cannabis users and buying paraphernalia. More to the point, you can socially isolate users and get their family to give them grief without the unpalatable excesses (and negative headlines) of no-knock raids and cops kicking down the wrong door and shooting children by mistake. One may ask whether the medical marijuana movement and decriminalization pressure would have got off the ground in the United States if a citizenship scoring system with downvotes for pot users was in place. Or whether emancipatory rights movements could exist at all in a society that indirectly penalizes people for "wrong lifestyle choices" rather than relying on imperfectly applied but very visible and hateful boots and nightsticks.

Let's look at some other pooled-risk areas.

Take car insurance. Traditionally your premium is reduced if you don't make any claims against it, and if you avoid racking up any tickets for speeding or bad driving that happens to be spotted by a traffic cop. Historically, claims might be made for having a window broken, or being in a fender bender. Insurance is supposed to pool risk, but some market segmentation is permitted—otherwise those of us who drive responsibly would be forced to carry the irresponsible minority.

More recently, we've met insurance policies that give us a discount for good driving, as monitored by in-car black boxes with GPS and accelerometers that determine whether we're accelerating too hard or breaking speed limits. These systems are always on—they don't depend on you misbehaving in front of a traffic officer. Rather than rewarding good behaviour directly coupled to the system (you don't make any claims on your insurance so you can buy it at a discount) they actively punish bad behaviour—even if you don't make an insurance claim or get ticketed for speeding your premium goes up if you habitually drive too fast. Being a safe, fast, driver is not measurable, so we settle for measuring the trait that usually correlates with risk and extrapolate from there.

Now take health insurance. (Or, if you live, like me, in a country with a national healthcare system that has a single comprehensive payer, the health system.) There are periodic suggestions that we should punish bad behaviour, behaviour that increases medical costs: Scotland has an alcoholism problem so we get the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing)(Scotland) Act, 2012. Obesity comes with its own health risks, and where resource scarcity exists (for example, in surgical procedures), some English CCGs are denying patients treatment for some conditions if they are overweight.

It should be argued that these are really stupid strategies, likely to make things worse. Minimum alcohol pricing is regressive and affects the poor far more than the middle-class: it may cause poor alcoholics to turn the same petty criminality observed among drug addicts, to fund their habit. And denying hip replacements to overweight people isn't exactly going to make it easier for them to exercise and improve their health. But because we can measure the price of alcohol, or plot someone's height/weight ratio on a BMI chart, these are what will be measured.

It's the classic sylogism of the state: something must be controlled, we can measure one of its paramenters, therefore we will control that parameter (and ignore anything we can't measure directly).

Now, what else can governments do with this tech?

First a micro-example: The Chinese government could conceivably to abolish it's Great Firewall once the citizen score is enacted. Instead, it could require ISPs to log all outgoing internet connections; the UK's GCHQ already does this via the KARMA POLICE program (and that name could be a big hint about where this is going). By monitoring what people are looking at, you can then reward or punish their habits. The 50 Cent Party demonstrates that they've got the human resources to actively track internet activities; members could be rewarded for identifying hostile foreign web sites, and non-members could then earn penalty points on their citizen scores for looking at those sites. By rendering the firewall transparent they could paradoxically improve enforcement: looking at dodgy sites on the internet would get you shunned by family, friends, and workmates out of self-interest.

So a committed government program could apply deep social pressure towards conformity while giving the appearance of lightening up on oppression and encouraging transparency.

But maybe you don't need a travel visa or a cheap loan for a new iPad. What leverage does our system retain over you?

Back to healthcare, because it's a solid lever—we all need it sooner or later. So here's another micro-example: It's believed that owning a pet improves happiness and life expectancy, but some pets may have deleterious side-effects. Buying products indicative of a pregnancy at the same time as feline care items (cat litter, cat food) could therefore get you a big negative citizenship score, or a visit from the local community nurse and some advice about re-homing your pet. Buying too much chocolate and too little kale? Ditto, only with advice about healthy eating and a warning about your access to healthcare being cut back if you don't comply.

Healthcare so obviously stands beside Mom and Apple Pie in the good citizenship stakes that tying it into your citizenship score is a no-brainer. And it can be fed not only from your medical records and the costs you have incurred in healthcare provisioning, but by using data from your cloud-mediated smart lifestyle monitors. your Fitbit could snitch on you to the Party (or, if you want to sugar-free-sweeten the pill, reward you with a point on your citizenship score every time you hit your recommended daily activity target).

Pollution is not only a social evil, but a personal and direct threat to your health, and your health is a pillar of your good citizenship. So I think it's inevitable that smart electricity meters and the internet of things will be deployed in an anti-pollution/consumption mode: it would be trivial to punish folks for leaving light bulbs or heaters on in rooms that they don't occupy. Less obviously, they can be deployed to enforce personal hygeine—or at least to cost you karma for not showering daily (or for slothfully lazing around in the bath).

But so far I've only considered the prospects for authoritarian but relatively modern regimes that are trying to enforce the sort of behaviour we don't really disagree with.

It'd be interesting (in a gruesome sort of way) to see what Da'esh (or the government of Saudi Arabia) could do with a citizen score. Currently enforcement of public morality in hardcore Salafi muslim states is carried out by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia, and other religious police in other states. As with all police forces, there is a cost associated with putting boots on the ground. If you have, for example, a modest dress code, you could go some way towards enforcement by feeding purchases of garments into the citizen's score. (Buy too much of the wrong kind of underwear and you could be singled out for an in-person check by the mutaween. And heaven forbid they catch you streaming music from a western cloud service.) Signs of non-conformity could be punished indirectly: it's a lot harder to resist ubiquitous peer pressure than it is to dodge external resource-limited law enforcement.

In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood's Republic of Gilead subordinates women rapidly by taking control over the financial system. But that's a comparatively crude mechanism. The more data you've got, the more tightly you can constrain your reward/punish metrics and the more accurately you can focus your oppression—and micro-focussed oppression minimizes the risk of generating wide-scale resistance. Everybody's experience is different, isolated, locked inside an invisible cell with asymmetric walls that their neighbors can't see. And if you can't see the invisible walls locking your neighbours in, you can't establish solidarity and exert collective pressure against them.

We are heading towards a situation where we all carry smartphones, all the time; where we need them to call a cab, or check a bus timetable, or unlock our cars, or pay for something. Your smartphone knows who you are, knows where you've been, reads all your correspondence, and hears everything you say. The discrete activity of placing a voice phone call is in the process of replaced by barking "phone, put me through to Sandy in Sales", followed by rapid connectivity (unless Sandy is in do-not-disturb mode or talking to someone else, in which case their phone will take a message for you). With always-on recognition, your phone (without which you can't really exist in an internet-of-things world) will track your mood and your pulse rate and possibly award you citizenship points or penalties if you respond to the wrong stimuli.

But that's the nightmarish, dystopian grim-meathook-future version of citizenship scoring: a system that facilitates the pervasive enforcement of mandated behavioural standards and punishes quantifiable expressions of individuality. Nobody would vote for (or buy into) that! So it's going to be even more gamified, to make it fun. You can see your score in real time, get helpful tips on what to do (or not to do) to grind for points, and if you're thinking about doing something a bit naughty a handy app will give you a chance to exercise second thoughts and erase your sin before it is recorded. But that's not all. Obviously you didn't really want to date that manic pixie dream girl (she'll murder your citizenship score with her quirky and unpredictable fun transgressions) but we can apply the magic of Affinity Analysis to look for someone more suitable for you—similar preferences, similar tastes, and most importantly a similar attitude to social improvement and good citizenship.

Now eat your greens; your phone says you haven't been getting your five a day this week and if you keep it up we're going to have to dock you a point.



Well, at least I'm safe from a lot of that: my flip phone won't tattle.

1. It also won't pocket dial 911 (see the article
from slashdot)
2. I *have* to have one? Really? Are you putting up the
money to have my eyes fixed to 20/10 (oh, and get rid
of the beginnings of glaucoma)?
even if you are *paying* me real money to be so).*
4. Oddly enough, I pay attention to the RW, and so am not
going to, say, get killed by a bull at Pamplona while
videoing it on my mobile.

All this positive stuff because what I have is a "cellular telephone", which allows me to ->speak

I swear, the population would massively be smaller if this were 200 years ago - they'd all fall over cliffs or be eaten by bears while they were waiting for letters to appear on the large piece of bark in their hands.


* '95-'97, I worked for Ameritech, one of the Baby Bells. Starting about 3 mos after I started, till I left, I was wearing a pager 24x7x365.25, except for the month or two I wore *two* of them. With no overtime or on-call pay. Fuck that shit.


Seems to have cut a sentence: that was that my cellular telephone allows me to SPEAK to people at a distance....



You are replying to this post on a computer, yes? That's what a smartphone is; a very personal computer that travels everywhere with you (and sometimes makes phone calls).

Also, modern smartphones are surprisingly well-optimized for use by the visually handicapped/blind.


To pick up on one detail: the flash banging of Bou-Bou Phonesavanh was not really a mistake. The police department's defence in the civil case was that they had followed policy, and hence were not liable:

As to the rest, I wonder what the first viable British version would look like? It seems like several steps too far in the foreseeable future (10 years-ish). However, I'm often surprised by what people will accept or politicians will push for, so my judgment in this area is pretty wonky.


This isn't in the same league (thought it might be the same sport) but Uber allegedly has drivers rate the passengers they carry. As uber is linked to your profile, debit card and phone it means that you could face black listing from the service. It's easy to see how this could be useful against abusive people but it could also be abused. How many drivers of a homophobic bent would score the gay couple in their backseat low for kissing? Or even just for arguing about the route?

It's scary to think what a state could do with this but customer ratings on subjective behaviour are just as frightening.


So, a dash of "Brave New World" in there too, with you being encouraged to consume what the government wants you to consume for the good of society.

As for this:

"Nobody would vote for (or buy into) that! So it's going to be even more gamified, to make it fun."

That's rather like how Amazon work in their warehouses at Christmas time; there is a bit of gamification thrown in and they go about saying we're here to have fun and make history and stuff, but at the end of the day we're all actually there to make enough money to live on. So in such a future you can expect mental health problems to increase again, as people feel bad about not actually enjoying what they are supposed to be enjoying.


It's funny how things like a reputation economy are often part of science fiction for the better (looking at you wuffie) but when something comes along like it in the real world it's clear that the reality is far from happy post-scarcity utopia.


Who wants to bet on the first religious group to copy this monitoring-and-nudging approach? I'm going to guess fundamentalist Christians before Da'esh, because they have more money and aren't busy with a shooting war at the moment. Also because Da'esh doesn't seem to value subtlety at all.

Maybe Scientologists before either of those groups. They already love quack gadgets.


Is it wrong that this reminds me of wuffie (and other science fiction "reputation" currencies)? I've always had an uneasy feeling about stories in which money is replaced by popularity.


Why would it be wrong? Charlie is well aware of a number of previous dystopias built on reputation methods. I can think of one or two.

The question is, why does the Chinese system only go from 350-950? Is that because they want to avoid people having a reputation so low that they can't actually function in society? Or keep the special low levels for actual jailed criminals, pour encourager les autres?


I thought Scientology was a bit like that already, and no doubt Greg will be along in a minute to rant about protestants in Geneva in the 16th century.


Oops, sorry for the two similar posts. On a train and the first looked like it didn't make it.


I would guess (having just been doing a scoring system for job postings) you start with some reputation (say 500 or 650 since that's the average) and you get your marks up and down. If your score falls too low, in China, you just become a non-person and get arrested...

It's also possible they have a sophisticated system where as your score gets higher and lower it gets harder for it go further away from the average and there's a limit on ±300.

None of those numbers seem to ring any bells for me in Chinese numerology but it wasn't something I ever studied closely and I know they have a rich tradition of it so it's eminently possible they're all very meaningful.


It's possible to resist something like this if you stop caring about the rewards and punishments it can give you. I mean, it's hard to resist someone who is intent on nudging and conditioning you, especially if they can watch you constantly. You literally have to plan things in advance, in your head, where you can't be pushed around. Then you have to force yourself to execute your plans with no impulsivity. Under an oppressive enough regime, self regimentation is the ultimate freedom; and going with the flow is the ultimate path to subordination. For extra credit, you can create a scheme for putting in pseudo impulsivity. Plan ahead for conditions that will look unrehearsed, or random forks to take based on random inputs you pin them to ahead of time, secretly. Create behavioral flowcharts. Of course this predictability will make you easier to mess with, so you have to periodically change the whole system for no reason.

But seriously, there will be dissidents who just run with the 350 score and act like, "sure, what now?" They wont be popular, except with each other, naturally. Then there will be those who game the system, figure out ways to rack up high scores ratting on friends so they can play video games with impunity, for example.


You don't need a smartphone for a chunk of that. If you pay by any EPOS system you're tracked at some level. if there's a law saying "all purchased must be registered with your karma tracker" even if you pay cash it WILL be registered or you'll be paying black market prices.

So you'll miss some of it, but they'll still catch you with some of the rest.

You post here... so you'll be caught for posting on naughty blogs. Face it, if the UK has a karma police, people that post here WILL be dragging your reputation down. We're not very pro any government.


Religious groups INVENTED this stuff centuries if not millennia ago. They just did it the low tech way with nosy neighbors and gossip. Prostitution may be the oldest profession, but status is the oldest currency. Both are constantly being repackaged as new and shiny and just invented for this generation.


It's my understanding that the low score is more than just a social thing, it can affect your ability to get loans, mortgages etcetera. So it's not just a case of brushing it off.


This strikes me as a systematization of what small towns (subtype: rural American) have traditionally done. Unlike those towns, it doesn't look like one can opt out of this system by simply moving away.


So, in the near future Internet addiction will turn out to be a good thing?

Who decides which behavior types to reward? Most countries' political parties are at each others' throats. China might be able to get away with this, but I'm skeptical about this in societies that prize individualism/ornery cussedness. What happens if the physiological monitoring shows an 'unhealthy' profile while also showing that the user is actually doing everything right? Who do you punish? Or, do you use this data to identify someone with some form of inborn medical condition? Hmmm ... could be introduced (validated) as a useful part of clinical trials data collection.

Also ... how is society (especially science and technology) supposed to advance if everyone's got their nose stuck in their mobile? Although if well designed, you could actually figure out individual aptitudes this way and then steer them into higher likelihood of success education/careers.

Next ... and probably most realistic is that as soon as such a system is discovered, black market devices will become widely available to re-anonymize Internet usage behavior by sending through faked data while obscuring real usage.


I expect we'll see a lot of very creative euphemisms for products and services that might lower your Citizen Score, assuming China can actually make this work (I'm not quite convinced they can - it wouldn't be the first time their central government announced a new rule/plan and couldn't follow up).

Want to watch those adult videos that might lower your score? What if they're marked as "special educational videos" with quirky labels instead? The Chinese already do this frequently online IIRC, coming up with creative nicknames to get around the word-sensitive censorship system.


The long-term implications are ... interesting. China's elite ought to be careful about what it wishes for: it might get it.*

Consider a society where this is fully developed. Individuals would have learned to drop any of their friends instantly, if there's a policy change so it turns out that the friend said or did something now deemed "wrong". People will also learn to wait until any new thing has the seal of government approval. You end up with a nation made up of initiativeless sociopaths.

If it goes ahead with this, China is aiming to become a second-rate nation, and will probably end up a third-rate backwater.

* Campbell's law: using any social measure for policy makes it socially corrosive.


Charlie, if Glasshouse is going to start invading the real world, could you please put a word in with whoever decides these sort of things and get them to move the magic body-change booths to the top of the list?


These things tend to be implemented in the order in which they become feasible. New and exciting forms of totalitarianism are much easier than magic nano fabrication of living beings unfortunately.


Consider the unpleasant consequences of magic body-change booths intersecting with state-run citizenship scoring and prescriptivist ideas about what sort of activities and identity good citizens should adopt?



Long term thought: let's say that most countries within 50 years have adopted some form of this and that it more or less does what it says on the tin. What will that do for immigration?

On the one hand the whole "they don't have our values" argument falls flat because those values are now gamefied. On the other hand if two nations use different metrics then emigrating could be very costly. Are you going to move if your life habits will drop your score by 50 upon arrival?


They already have.
It's what they have been doing all along.
Couple this with Chalrile's quote:
"who needs cops with nightsticks to beat up dissidents when their friends and family will give them a tongue-lashing on behalf of the government for the price of a discount off a new fridge?"

THEN look at what Banksie said:
A temple was worth a dozen barracks; a militia-man carrying a gun could control a small unarmed crowd only for as long as he was present; however, a single priest could put a policeman inside the head of every one of their flock, forever.


However, there is a n other real problem with this. This sort of thing is always taken too far - like N Korea.
Eventually, inevitably it WILL break.
The reckoning them will be extremely bloody & unpleasant - something guvmints never seem to think will happen to THEM, of course.


"Also, everyone's credit score is visible online" No, I'm sure the elites will have a (very expensive) opt-out available to them.


Sounds like you are pining for the Good Old Days when the secret police kicked in the door and disappeared you.
However, bad credit scores have been used as a control mechanism for years in the West. Just more of the same, updated. The underclass doesn't care.


The Elite *always* has a good credit score, by definition


I assume anyone under 350 will be arrested or picked up mental health investigation, etc.

Reminds me of "The Academy" by Robert Sheckley, about a society that has "sanity meters" everywhere, and if you go too high you have to submit to brain surgery or confinement to "The Academy".


No need to arrest anyone under 350, just make it a score crippling move to provide them with food.


I think we can extend this to all kinds of organizations


Man, you suck the fun out of everything. All I want to do is have unlimited amounts of deviant sex facilitated by non-traditional anatomies, and you ruined it.


John Varley, "The Barbie Murders".

A society without physical differences and without conflict. (Supposedly.)


"Consider a society..."

So, like the Soviet Union then, which managed to achieve the same result without recourse to technology.

The technological version is less scary because it is easier to subvert. It relies on people having and doing things which are not necessary to have or do. I grew up in a world where they didn't even exist. For me, most of them still don't. All I have is a PC and a fixed internet connection, which I could route via Tor if I wanted to. I don't have a mobile phone, because I don't want one, and I get by just fine, same as I did before they existed. I do not plaster meatspace identifiers all over Facebook, and regard people who do as blithering idiots. And so on, and so on.

The straight non-technological version, which works very simply by allowing people to exercise their natural tendency to be a bastard, is much harder to avoid, and as some people have already pointed out, has been implemented numerous times throughout history. Indeed there is hardly anywhere that is free of it. People the world over receive hits to their score for being the wrong race, or having the wrong sexual proclivities, or having the wrong accent, or choosing to avoid the discomfort of having a garotte around their neck... that it is not written down or recorded in a database doesn't make it any less real.


"Paradyzja" a polish dystopia from 1984 by Janusz Zajdel had a similar concept. Citizens in an orbital station were ranked on a "Humanity Index" scale. Below 1.0 one still had some rights. Fraction of the normal human rights, of course. But below some arbitrary level (around 0.5) one was sent to forced labor camp on Tartarus… However, Paradyzja strictly adhered to the Human Rights Convention: they had the same rights for one human unit as every other society.
Obviously, you could go above 1.0 as well...


The modern Chinese surveillance society seems to be a spiritual descendant of the sort of controlled societies we saw "behind the Iron Curtain", where your neighbors snitched on you and dissent was carefully managed, expressed only to trusted associates.

An interesting question that I imagine could only be answered by somebody who lived in such an environment, is whether the old-school workarounds (e.g., discrete meetings of small groups of trusted associates) would still work just fine in the high-tech society of today.

A perhaps even more interesting question is how you might go about adding noise to the system. How do you game the gamification? If you can create false smears that lower somebody's credit score, there may be serious social ramifications (lost job, lost friends, etc.) before the error is cleared up. If you can create false smears often, at random, across broad swaths of society, then people will rapidly tune it out.


You will be utterly surprised to learn that I'm a huge fan of John Varley's work. (Up until the Mammoth-shaped excrescence, and his subsequent descent into channelling 1950s Heinlein. Alas. I understand why that happened, I think, but nothing he wrote after "The Golden Globe" speaks to me.)


I do not plaster meatspace identifiers all over Facebook, and regard people who do as blithering idiots.

This doesn't prevent FB from tracking your location, though, and if you think it does, more fool you. (Even if you refuse to use Facebook, you have a shadow profile. And people around you who do use Facebook will have tagged your face in photographs. At which point Facebook's image recognition server farm will probably you when you appear in the background of photos uploaded by other FB users.)

You cannot opt out. Not by using cash, not by going digital-free (and if you are reading this, you are not digital-free), not by refusing to use wireless comms. Using Tor won't help you; all it will do is tell your ISP (and behind them, the agencies of the state) that you are a Tor user, and thereby noteworthy because you clearly have something to hide.


whether the old-school workarounds (e.g., discrete meetings of small groups of trusted associates) would still work just fine in the high-tech society of today.

Nope. Because someone will be stupid, thoughtless, or naive enough to forget to leave their phone behind. And every mobile phone -- dumbphones as well as smart -- is de facto indistinguishable from an infinity transmitter, if the monitoring authority has its IMEI, ICCID, MEID, and can thus send updates to the baseband firmware.

I don't know for certain that this is happening but it is definitely possible and the current rule of engagement for surveillance paranoia is "if it is possible then it's been happening for a while, on a much larger scale than you imagine".


No anime fans around here, then? When I first heard about this citizenship score idea, the first thought that occurred was "Oh, hello Psychopass. How's my hue today?". The first series has some interesting ideas (don't bother with the second).


You inspired me to Google myself. I was surprised at how much of the information was just plain wrong, for instance, my Zodiac sign and by inference, birthday. It was also weird that one service went out of it's way to assign me an ethnicity, but then got that wrong. Things that should be reasonably discoverable like marital status and education, blank or incomplete.

Well, I am sure the "right" people will get all my vital stats in their grubby little hands.

Think of the nightmare of having your life tied to these metrics and then the metrics themselves being crap. You cannot even reliably sell your soul to Big Brother these days. You'll be File Not Found and not in a good, elusive way.


let's add a dose of reality here: it's China.

There will be a backdoor for Party officials.

It's China: it will definitely be corrupt, and a discreet back-channel of corruption to review your rating will be available to those who know the right official and the right amount of money.

There are circumstances in which it might be profitable to put up an even larger facilitation payment, to review some other person's rating downward, putting them exactly on the borderline where some official's discretion is applicable to (say) a residency permit, university admission, or an organ transplant.

The trick is making all of this expensive, keeping it deniable, and making it sufficiently exceptional that citizens remain engaged, and still exert the necessary social pressure.

I do not doubt that our our own implementation will be backdoored, and biddable; but that's the future and China has the future happening *today*.

Ask yourself what will happen when the business opportunities in this are mastered by an individual blessed with a Goldman Sachs director's purity of vision.


What is the recoverable commercial value of an individual whose score has fallen to the zero-point where they cannot be employed, or housed, or fed?


A perhaps even more interesting question is how you might go about adding noise to the system. How do you game the gamification? ... If you can create false smears often, at random, across broad swaths of society, then people will rapidly tune it out.

It occurs to me that it would be useful to insert random false boosts too, also across broad swaths of society.

This gets particularly interesting if people are allowed to sue for invalid information; it implies an essentially nonstop series of lawsuits and class action cases against the companies for spreading lies about people. The reverse would be more targeted but offers endless amusement for exposure of high profile people whose records fib about their backgrounds and qualifications.

I'm sure whoever creates the system will insist it's resistant to such antics, just as Diebold insists on the reliability of its voting machines.


Ask yourself what will happen when the business opportunities in this are mastered by an individual blessed with a Goldman Sachs director's purity of vision.

Hm. A well constructed backdoor system would involve needing access to some particularly secure physical location, and then some well secured system privileges, with considerable oversight.

It's been demonstrated before that there's no direct monetary profit in computer security. Particularly if the for-profit business running the operation is shielded from lawsuits regarding incorrect information - and can you imagine they wouldn't be? It's all too possible the Whuffie system will be every bit as secure as TSA mandated luggage locks, no doubt accompanied by much hand waving and yelling about total security.


My first reaction is,

"Well, there's the next financial crash locked and loaded. Wonder what the trigger's going to be?"

Here's the problem: as a ruler, you don't necessarily want all this information to exist, because it can also be used against you. It's worse than a public opinion survey in this regard, because everyone is forced to participate, so you get a total sample.

For example, what would be going on if the Citizen Scores of a large proportion of your people start diving and refuse to come up? What happens to an economy if the government says that a billion people just became much less credit worthy?

As rulers, you probably can't rein in the decline, but they collectively, even without collaborating, can trash your economy. Because there's now a quantitative measure of how much they disobey your mandates, they can shake the foundations of your power without even organizing. All they have to do is suffer and talk to each other about possible alternatives, and these simple connections will collectively drop everyone's citizen scores.

There's power in pluralistic ignorance, where "the majority of the people believe that the majority of the people in a group believe what, in truth, only the minority of the members believe." When people figure out that something's a lie or that the "deviants" are in the majority, the majority beliefs can change very rapidly. A lot of demagogues and authoritarians depend on total ignorance of how rare their beliefs actually are. It's dangerous to them to start quantifying their own popularity, especially in a system that can't easily be corrupted.

So anyway, I think that China's in trouble. This may be their way of trying to stem worse trouble, but I think it's going to backfire badly. Might I suggest getting assets out of China now?


Interesting: I hadn't thought of that particular failure mode: coordinated disengagement.

But this is, of course, a matter of monetary theory: citizen scores *are a kind of money* - they are a store of wealth, as they have a real-world value; and they are exchanged, albeit in a limited subset of the exchanges available with coinage.

And both of these things are a matter of consensus and consent; and of confidence.


In a way it's worse, because I'm positing semi-uncoordinated disengagement, aka many people losing their shirts and scrambling to make a living however they can. Coordinated disengagement could be broken up by an alert government.

I may well be wrong, but my first thought was that if you're headed for a financial depression, having a Citizen Score might be a bad option if you're running things, because it makes it harder for you to bluff your way to a more stable economy, by, say, instituting some sort of New Deal. Bluffing works better if you don't have data that exposes your bluff. If the Citizen Scores are at all honest (e.g. automated), they let people see how the government's doing indirectly. If those scores are BS, then people will stop trusting them and use other information to determine things like credit worthiness.

In past crashes, Chinese governments seem to have consolidated their power in the cities, let the countryside go more feral, and reconquered the countryside as their stability and power increased. By wiring everyone together, they've eliminated that opion. I'm not sure this is a good thing.


They'd have to be a bit more proactive than that, because a searchable "Citizenship Score" database could just as easily be utilised by low-scoring individuals to find people in the same situation so they can band together for mutual support and -eventually- collective efforts to better their lot.

Besides, people who can't or won't toe the line and kiss the requisite amount of arse will rapidly cease to be merely a minor nuisance as they are in today's China if they find themselves with nothing left to lose.


Yes, or as Ayn Rand put it, "The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of the tribe. . . . Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." It took a lot of struggle to get to the point where people had any private space.


Talk to Hong over on Third Street. He'll set you up with a burner phone that's registered to some hick in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, your phone spends 14 hours a day streaming Party propeganda videos, an hour at the gym moving between stations, and an hour at Whole Foods. You should see Hong slowly push a cart full of phones through Whole Foods; it's hilarious. They don't mind because his phones pay for groceries that don't actually exist.


For example, what would be going on if the Citizen Scores of a large proportion of your people start diving and refuse to come up?

It's a government-implemented score; it can be normalised, transparently or covertly, continuously or at need.


If you can create false smears that lower somebody's credit score, there may be serious social ramifications (lost job, lost friends, etc.) before the error is cleared up.

It's a thought sometimes attributed to Stalin that errors in these sorts of systems are a feature, not a bug; if the innocent are never punished, they will stop being afraid...


...a searchable "Citizenship Score" database could just as easily be utilised by low-scoring individuals to find people in the same situation so they can band together for mutual support and -eventually- collective efforts to better their lot.

If you're lucky, yes. That same database can also be used for bands of low-scoring individuals to find high score individuals. What they do with that information would certainly vary but isn't going to be anything the government approves of.

Come to think of it, there are Chinese old enough to remember what happens to people excessively popular with the old regime when the weather changes...


Jesus wept tears of magma!

It's like someone was playing dwarf fortress and looked at how you can see the activity and happiness of your dorfs and reward them and thought "man, we should just translate that straight to the real world!", magma baths and all!


And, as is the way of these things, Hong is a paid police informant.


Nobody would vote for (or buy into) that!

That's assuming the state does it; what if someone like Google, Amazon or Facebook starts going that way?

Dystopian sci-fi has been expecting the Corporation to take over from the State for decades.

The Stacks already have the data and the analytics and the signed-up users... They also have editorial control over search results (or the feed, in case of FB). If they wanted to promote virtue and prevent vice, for whatever definition of virtue and vice they may have, the effect could be very far-reaching (and possibly quite subtle, if they prefer it that way).


The guns nuts with visions of sugar-plum revolutionaries dancing in their heads will be disappointed once their vendors are financially disincentivized to sell them any guns or ammunition... or food or water.

I can't recall where I first saw the idea posed that militias have already lost due to a failure to imagine that economics and finance can be used violently.


What might be interesting is if someone in government has this available and thinks they know what sort of people should reproduce, what could go wrong?


Just a note: this has hit /r/futurology and someone has already penned a pretentious put-down, pointing out that this is an internal Alibaba mechanism, nothing to do with the State. (Baidu says hello (I've already posted their SEC filings for 2014), Dianping and Meituan [Venture Beat Oct 8th] say hello as well).

Ignoring that for a second, there's a couple of glaring misapprehensions.

Firstly, Facebook is way ahead of you on network social scoring (Facebook patent: Your friends could help you get a loan - or not CNN Aug 4th 2015) and you're missing one central tenet of modern advertising: stealth advertising. C.f. The Joneses (IMBD 2009) and numerous pieces on how that chatty young thing at the bar is probably planted to sell you something).

In fact, I'll let a Harvard BS pro spell it out:

A: We found three distinct groups. Low-status members (48 percent of the users in our sample), who are not well connected to others, are generally unaffected by the purchases of other members. Middle-status members (40 percent of the users) are moderately connected and show a strong and positive effect due to friends' purchases. In other words, this group shows strong "keeping up with the Joneses" behavior.

Members of the high-status group (12 percent of the users) are well connected and are very active on the site. However, these users show a negative effect due to friends' purchases because they want to remain distinct. Instead of buying items like the other members, this group tends to pursue non-purchase-related activities (e.g., uploading their own content).

Q: Were you able to quantify social influence in terms of how it increased or decreased the percentage in sales revenue?

A: The impact of the low-status group on revenue is negligible. Social influence increases revenue from the middle-status group by 5 percent. In contrast, social influence leads to almost a 14 percent drop in revenue from the high-status group.

Sunil Gupta (2009)

You'll note that these are both from 2009 - it would be naive to imagine that things haven't got smarter. (c.f. "Those cars were rented. It's like music videos, they say action and you see all these fancy cars but everything goes back to the dealership." - 50 Cent Files For Suspiciously Timed Bankruptcy Forbes - July 13th 2015. Please note that chapter 11 means you're restructuring, not broke)

Look up Rich kids of Instagram if you want to see who premium brands actually advertise to. (Older UK viewers: please take heart medication before viewing, old aristocracy excess is a little bit quaint here).

Want a cold hard fact?

If you're over 34, and aren't earning $350k+ / annum, the advertising industry considers you dead weight. Failed, never going to make it, not worth the brand investment other than the sloppy knock-off seconds and minor slots at Christmas. 80% spend comes from 10% consumers and all that.

And so, the question is, why bother?

Well, for one thing: many things about your credit score in the banking, insurance, medical sector are already hidden by default from you. I'm not going to tell you the names, but you should be aware of the internal (and by internal, I mean, internal amongst the industry) data profile you already have.

Or, of course, there's the old standards: in the UK there's Who's Who or the sleeker The Little Black Book (no, not the one
run by the Nazis, that other far more draconian one. Although,
if you keep up with the fashion world, you'll probably realize the cross over is 100% deliberate).

Women who breed horses also breed men.

*nose wiggle*

Give me the judgment of balanced minds in preference to laws every time. Codes and manuals create patterned behavior. All patterned behavior tends to go unquestioned, gathering destructive momentum.

At best, China is nosing around a cheap and cheerful solution to a Western Art that's far in advance.

Note: I've kept this all above board. Won't post controversial stuff until much later.


№ 6: The whole Earth, as The Village?
№ 2: That is my hope. What’s yours?
№ 6: I’d like to be the first man on the moon.

— № 2 & № 6, The Prisoner, The Chimes of Big Ben, 1967

Amazing, some of you *are* awake. Very very late to the party, but there we go.


At any rate, if you dug down enough, you'd probably find that a government backed credit scoring system was already around. Just, you know, not for the average citizen.

CIPS Oct 8th 2015.


I dunno. There are so many things I'd rather find via digging that I might miss it among the mud.


The car insurance dongle I had (from US company Progressive) worked a bit differently. They say it won't raise your rate; worst-case you get no discount. They say they measure rapid stops, speed, and time of trip. The dongle beeps when you do a rapid stop, which provides feedback that helps you adjust your driving behavior. They measure time of trip because according to them, certain times are higher risk than others.

They only collected about 90 days of data, then asked for the dongle back. I had a number of rapid stops, and did some speeding, but still wound up with a 20% discount, which still applies now even though they aren't monitoring me anymore. It helped that I was an unemployed night owl, did much of my grocery shopping in low-risk time periods, and my car mostly sat in the parking lot of my apartment building.

The insurer's website showed (some of?) the collected data when I logged into my account, showing graphs of when I drove, how fast, for how long, the risk category of the time of the trip, and any fast stops I'd made.

All that said, obviously this could change in the future, or be implemented more intrusively by other companies. And although they say the dongle won't cause an increase in your insurance premiums, obviously they could stash the data away and hit you with an increase a year later when you renew again.


The thing to realise is this just evolved government laws and regulations - microtransactions for criminality and anti-social behaviour. After all, if you don't agree with drug laws now, you don't get to opt out even if you are harming nobody - with the threat of prison etc.

The problem isn't just the idea of this kind of big brother hell hanging over you - it's that the kind of government that would think it's a good idea is already in control.

The problem lies in the governance domain and the failures there.

We need governance to make society work (yes we do libtards), but we end up with those we put in charge doing things that harm us. Everyone is a criminal at some point during each day, because that's how you maintain control and power.

And the even big problem is if you revolt and string them up from the nearest lamppost, what you end up with replacing them is even worse.

Probably the only way we survive past the next hundred years is if someone invents a better governance approach - and if they do they deserve every award going because the human race would be in their debt.


"Creating false smears..."

I can see that being an occasional thing: a rival for promotion, an unsuitable suitor who should not become your son-in-law.

Expensive (and therefore rare) and probably not something that Party officials do against each other.


I came up with *this* scenario, a couple of comments ago: some other person's rating downward, putting them exactly on the borderline where some official's discretion is applicable to (say) a residency permit, university admission, or an organ transplant.

This will be irresistable to an official with the necessary backdoor access.


just make it a score crippling move to provide them with food.
Hmm - but I assumed that the food you bought in the shops would be metered, as well, to make sure you are "eating healthily".
What happens id you don't buy "veg" at all, like me ( Except onions ) because you grow your own ... ?
I suspect there might/would be similar oddities in other fields, where the official scoring would be way out.
Could be interesting, for certain values of


All true.
But, this sort of surveillance has a huge price.
Something that guvmints & security services seem to forget, in spite of "knowing" about it & being repeatedly told.
Even with automatic data-collection & huge server farms & auto-correlation of scores.
SOMEOEN has to trawl through this data to look for "people we don't like this week"
The STASI virtually collapsed under its own weight & certainly dragged the DDR backwards, with its massive cost & administrative overheads.
GCHQ & the Brit services are all too obviously aware of this & the countervailing temptations of total panopticon & "but we don't actually WANT to watch everyone, or we'll never get anything done!"
But, the politicians (of course) don't seem to appreciate the actual technical, operational difficulties of these drawbacks.

Then what?


A lot of demagogues and authoritarians depend on total ignorance of how rare their beliefs actually are.
R C church, in a nutshell




If you're over 34, and aren't earning $350k+ / annum, the advertising industry considers you dead weight.
As high as that?
I always assumed there WAS a cut-off, but I assumed it was somewhere about twice the "average" (i.e mean) wage - approx £55k p.a.

DON'T get me started on "credit ratings" either - I got a "false negative" once, due to admin fuck-up.
Took me 6 months to get it sorted, the shits.

And you quote Frank Herbert, who was conspiracy-mad, anyway. Except, now, WAS he actually so mad?


I think the main rule is that if you need a conspiracy to explain it, there's probably a simpler explanation.


"For you ... anything. I am going to go 78 and 92.5. It is difficult to go lower than that in threes,"

"Always happy to help, leave it with me, Sir,"

"Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I'm opening a bottle of Bollinger."

"This is the way you pull off deals like this, don't talk about it too much, 2 months of preparation ... the trick is you must not do this alone ..."

I've always found the people who claim such things about conspiracies are either ignorant or blind. (There's a third option, of course).

Co-Operation wins Game Theory. The only variable is how wide your boundaries for said co-operation are.


This will be irresistable to an official with the necessary backdoor access.

It's practically a given, Chinese society functions on it. c.f. Guanxi


You'll almost certainly find the Yarraburn we serve when you rock up at my house beats the pants, socks shoes and underwear off the Bollinger you had in mind. Otherwise we've had this discussion before: I don't deny the possibility the conspiracy exists, it just isn't the simplest explanation.


Ah, but there's a reason to the trend line (a rather snobby little joke to underline the Tattler poke):

Rappers - Rich Kids on Instagram (heavily slanted to middle east and nouveau riche Americans) - Wide Boy Traders.

Hint: it's about what's really going on, and what's really consumed, and whose doing the string pulling. c.f. Guanxi.


Relating back to host's thoughtful post: quantifying social capital is 100% a goal of the commercial side of these networks.

The social is indeed a baffler. 4chan Message Board Sold to Founder of 2Channel, a Japanese Web Culture Pioneer NYT Sept 21st 2015.

An interesting link (via MF) - How to tell whether a Twitter user is pro-choice or pro-life without reading any of their tweets. Quartz is an interesting one if you know who funds it.

The gif if you want to cut the fluff.

I do find MF's total inability to parse #GamerGate in these types of things frustrating. At least 50% of them are covers / hyper-parasites on the Conservative networks. Still, shout out for the good thinking that posted this as an additional comment.

Oh, and it's all still in 2D. Primitives.

All links are good ones. No YouTube this weekend! (Or past 300).


If it goes ahead with this, China is aiming to become a second-rate nation, and will probably end up a third-rate backwater.

The primary goal of the Chinese Communist Party is control of society. Secondary are world ranking on various topics.


In the general case, if something in Ayn Rand is the answer, you're probably asking the wrong question. In this case, the process you represent is hopelessly speculative. You need a few years of anthropology to work out what it actually means in some specific context.


Well, that's doubleplus ungood.

Remember when you only had to worry about your near future novels getting upstaged by reality?

For what it's worth, Glasshouse is now even more accurate than it was!


Greg, you are completely missing the point:

[someone] has to trawl through this data to look for "people we don't like this week"

The social nature of the system - everybody polices their friends and associates, because their trangressions have a small but unconfortable impact on anyone 'nearby' - is CROWDSOURCING the heavy lifting in surveillance.

The biggest job is, exactly as you say, finding 'people we don't like'.

After the crowdsourcing flags a problem - not just a poor score over time, but a sudden correlated handful of de-friendings (or just a measurable reduction in interaction) - the general scoring algorithm dials up a police VM...

...And, with effective targeting, it's economical for *that* machine to run expensive data trawls and correlation tests for other behaviour patterns (gaps that hint at anonymised phones and surveillance evasion, spending anomalies, any correlated graph of observable action that is rare, or analogous to known criminality).

And the police VM will load the detailed metadata and surveillance dataset of the ill-favoured citizen's associates, unto the second or the third degree of separation: if that algorithm identifies meetings (or any association) between groups of the ill-favoured - a conspiracy! - human surveillance resources can be allocated on an affordable scale.

Or the human security officer can simply be handed the daily data summary, to make decisions about the future of a manageable number of ill-favoured citizens.

Crowdsourcing: it's the future. I would never have expected a centralising dictatorship to think of that.


Hmm, and I thought posting the public side USA DARPA lists would have tipped people off.

Adaptive algorithms for detecting community structure in dynamic social networks

Fast unfolding of communities in large networks

Social signal processing: Survey of an emerging domain

SybilInfer: Detecting Sybil Nodes using Social Networks PDF

Sybil Attack (to explain why you should read about Sybil Nodes)

Supercomputers: not just for modelling climate or nukes.

Hint: HFTs work in nanoseconds.


(Note: translate Sybil Nodes into Individuals for purposes of identification of the under 350's, you'll get the idea. Partly why #Occupy was structured the way it was)


That's assuming the state does it; what if someone like Google, Amazon or Facebook starts going that way?

Experian currently has a market cap of $10.56Bn, so it's within budget range for Google or FB to buy it.

Add something like Peeple on top of Experian and hand it to FB and you have got all the baked-in goodness of Citizen Scores with none of the accountability of government, security of Ashley Madison, accuracy of the credit rating agencies.


I can't recall where I first saw the idea posed that militias have already lost due to a failure to imagine that economics and finance can be used violently.

It may look like just another a crapsack-universe fantasy novel, but can I take a moment to recommend "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" by Seth Dickinson as a beautiful eye-opening allegory aimed at just that kind of starry-eyed optimist? (Strongly recommended, will probably be one of my Hugo nominations next year.)


"Everyone is a criminal at some point during each day, because that's how you maintain control and power." Yes, that's why everybody actually doesn't come to a full stop at stop signs, so they don't get hit from behind and why everybody has to go over the speed limit at least a little bit or some "independent" agent of The Man tailgates them until they go faster. Just like getting ahead by giving your mentor something to blackmail you with, constant minor law violations are a way of constantly authorizing the police to stop you. So actually obeying the law scrupulously is an act of rebellion.


Having a huge agency of observers is one way, a very expensive way. Another is to crowd source as China and Big Brother do, make the whole population into spies. Another way is intermittent reinforcement.

Perhaps China will do something like that, in combination with the crowd sourcing, by having officials check the work of the volunteers at random. Anyone caught by these non universal trawls in the act of making false reports would be punished severely and publicly. Thus even though everything is not supervised, everybody behaves just because there MIGHT be somebody watching. It's an idea.


Not rebellion, merely independence. In most societies, surely, that's how we all operate.


Ayn Rand was effective because she knew how to salt in enough truth and truthiness to make the whole seem plausible. This is like the bait on a hook. For instance, one of her things was that we can consider it a human duty to look at reality and honestly and independently form an idea of the truth of things. Which she went on to explain was exactly whatever she said. You're such a rebel for doing exactly what you're told. But the bait statement is actually a perfectly good worm.


No, it's rebellion. It points up the hypocrisy of the whole system. It's also a pain in the neck.


Oh I love it when politicians start messing with math

The problem with this brilliant idea is the citizen score will likely turn out to be a great deterrent to certain kinds of speech while being a crappy way to decide who gets what loan

Similarly the social network piece is going to kill the social network since everyone is going to be petrified to have friends or say anything in it


"If you are over 34 and aren't earning 350k the ads industry doesn't care about you"

Oh sweet Jesus no that is completely wrong. Every product has s target market. Some of the biggest marketing spenders on the planet are CPG's who are selling people ceral and catsup. The lower cost and more commoditized a consumer product is the more advertising turns into the only differentiator


I'm not going to derail, or post a video, but I suggest you see The Devil Wears Prada, the infamous scene where the function of fashion is discussed.

You're mistaking Advertising / Branding for Marketing.

They're not the same thing.

Stick to critiquing the algos, I'd actually be interested in thoughts on how mixing heavy-messing HFT speed data crunching with on-the-fly updates can be used.

Hint: crowd analysis, or why we know Saudi Arabia isn't running high tech surveillance at Mecca. (Or, more cynically, perhaps they are & just don't care. It was African / Iranian plebs, after all).


(I'd post the actual documents stating exactly what I stated but I suspect they're not public domain. They're also about 4 years old at this point.

I'll try another trawl to find them in public).


Hrm, the Sybil attack stuff puts me in mind of an ... odd ... inkling I've been getting about the reader reviews (on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere) of "The Annihilation Score".

Some of my readers seem to have gone a bit rageface over a Laundry novel being about some aspect of the Laundry other than Bob Howard, but a goodly chunk of negging reviews look like they're by readers who didn't even read the book, but really hate on the idea of a book about a female protagonist with agency. And I know that Vox Day has added me to his enemies list, so ...


It is more to do with disposable income. I am not a vastly high earner, but OTOH I own my own house and have no expensive tastes. So on one hand I have a very high disposable income, equivalent to someone earning maybe 3x what I do.
OTOH I am a "bad spender", generally do not use a credit card, mostly use cash and do not buy trendy or "luxury" items. I never buy new cars and the only top of the range thing I always possess is my PC - which I put together myself.


Thanks! Haven't seen that before, just the affect-changing one.

Next up, how to influence which way people vote ...

I wonder whether it might be more effective to do things at the social-graph level rather than individual-item-level. FB already emphasises some connections over others ("friends you interact with the most", which is a self-reinforcing cycle). If they did that by deliberate design, rather than whichever friends you interacted with in the fortnight before they introduced the feature and perpetuated those interactions, they could probably do quite a bit...

Engineer the graph in such a way that some minority view appears to be majority, or vice versa. The advantage is that they only need to classify people by who holds which view, rather than individual items, which is probably a lot easier.

Of course, individual item level is good too, if they can detect it algorithmically. They could probably make hemlines go up or down at will (speaking of promoting virtue and preventing vice); that's likely something neural networks can detect now, and then it's just a question of promoting some photos and burying others, to skew what people see their peers wearing (and, secondarily, to reward good behaviour and punish bad).


I am in two minds about Ayn Rand.

Either she was exactly what it said on the tin -- petit bourgeoise exile from the USSR, horrified by excesses of Leninism and thereafter vehemently anti-communist -- or could she have been a plant, briefed and trained to hand the capitalist plutocracy the most toxic and grotesque possible strain of self-justifying ideology in order to provoke an uprising against them?

(In other words: "Ayn Rand: mad or evil"?)


No encryption etc - we merely generate cognitive dissonance in eavesdroppers.


Talk to Amazon. (On the QT).

It'd be hilarious if they tracked IPs and did in-house data research of this kind, but just don't like publicly stating just how gamed their review system is.






Anyhow -

Source for the $340k figure.

The ultra-rich skew that average upwards: admission to the 1% began at $380,000 in 2008. The Congressional Budget Office puts the cut-off lower, at $347,000 in 2007, or $252,000 after subtracting federal taxes

The actual docs look like they've been nuked from orbit or I can't remember the exact agencies / banks who composed them. (She says...)

From memory it's a paid for bank investment report so not public.


At that time the US version of Capitalism didn't need any demonizing.


In 2015 Unilever's ad budget was 8 billion dollars , p& g was 9 billion


CatinaDiamond is right about marketing.

It's the reason Apple (with <25% of the smartphone market) earns over 85% of the profits in the entire sector.

It's the reason why Porsche owned VW.

It's why it's vastly more profitable to own the top 10% of a market than the bottom 90%.

The marginal cost of making a basic car has a floor (the cost of materials going into the production line, amortization on the line). A luxury car like a high-end Porsche doesn't consume ten times the materials of a VW Polo, even though it costs ten times as much; while it's more complex and the manufacturing process is more demanding, most of the price difference emerges from the luxury premium/snob value of owning a luxury car in the first place, and it's much more profitable, per unit manufactured.

Marketing is about brand visiblity which is about persuading that $350K/year earner they want to drive a $250K Porsche rather than a $25K Volkswagen.

Also: that dual-middle-class-income family on £55K/year? They're being soaked by a £250K mortgage and the cost of raising two kids and going on holiday once or twice a year. There's not much surplus there and if they have a car it's probably a third-hand VW (at least until the mortgage is paid down and the kids graduated from university).

In contrast, a £250k earner has a lot more surplus to extract -- you can sell them a £1M house or a £100K car and they can still buy a Rolex Oyster as a self-indulgent impulse purchase rather than a cheap Swatch.


Charlie luxury brands while important in advertising are not by any means the only thing going on or the only big market in the ads business. While it is true the big whales hav a lot of disposable income there are also a lot less of them and they tend to be chased by every marketer on the planet

Also you hardly have to be making 250k/year to afford an iPhone


In 2013 GM was the biggest automotive advertiser . Apple spent 350 million in 2013, less then Samsung and only 7% of what P&G spent


Unilever spent $7.6 billion in 2014.

But in K. Weed's own words:

Marketers’ central job is to increase demand. Isn’t this at odds with the goal of reducing environmental impact?

Don’t get me wrong! We very much want consumers to buy and use our products. We just want to make sure our products are a better, more sustainable alternative to what they would use otherwise.

"The role of marketing as I see it is identifying those deeper human needs and providing solutions," he said. "Done right, that can address social, environmental, and business-growth goals all at once."

Harvard Business Review July 21st 2014

In the past year private-label sales have grown by around 9% in America and 5% in Europe, gaining market share from branded goods in many categories. Middle-market brands, measured by price or sales, are particularly vulnerable to competition from private labels; even in countries like Germany, where private labels now account for almost 40% of sales, the best-selling and most expensive brands have not lost much ground (see chart).

This is a very different strategy from that of Reckitt's rivals, which, after years of sprucing up their products and pushing up their prices, are scrambling to introduce cheaper options. P&G, which has one of the most high-end brand portfolios of any of the packaged-goods firms, has tried to attract customers by launching “basic” versions of its popular brands... Consumers are unlikely to revert to the more expensive version if they are offered a similar product for less.

Economist 2009.


The report I mentioned was predicting future markets (short term 5-10 years) for premium luxury BRANDS. You know, Rappers, Rich Kids, Wide Boy Traders.

However, the wind is blowing a direction, and the middle is losing out.

Learn the difference between BRAND and MARKETING.

/derail over.

I'll not be spanking you any further btw: your condescension isn't earnt.


The iPhone occupies the high ground of profitability in smartphones -- cheap Android devices cost from £50 up, premium ones kick in around £350, but iPhones start higher and top off around £700. (These are unlocked-retail prices, unsubsidised by carrier.) However, the physical cost of goods isn't so vastly different. I've seen estimates that the COG for an iPhone 6+ is on the order of £200; the COG for a 5.5" Android phablet isn't vastly less (£150-200). There's simply a much larger profit margin on the iPhone.

Speaking as a current iPhone owner who has dabbled in other smartphone ecosystems over the years (cough, Palm Treo 600, cough -- there's even a Nokia 9000i Communicator gathering dust on a top shelf in my office), the attraction of an iPhone over Android right now is that Apple mostly still values its customers as hardware consumers, so doesn't degrade the UX too badly through advertising and crapware -- there's some undeletable cruft, but it's nothing like as bad as on a Samsung device or as terrible as Lenovo or Sony's spyware. Whereas Google's position for Android is to get it everywhere as a platform for their advertising business (Remember, Googe is the company formerly known as DoubleClick).

This isn't to say that an iPhone is a good idea for everybody (it's walled gardens all the way down) but there are good reasons why some folks pay all that money for a regular one. Whereas there is no reason whatsoever to buy one of these except for sheer ostentation ("I paid $8M for a crappy smartphone! Look at how the diamonds glitter!") And then there's the mass elite market model (look for the "Gulf State limited edition" in 24kt gold or platinum).


Apple's ad budget hits $1 billion

Apple spent $338 million on advertising in 2006, $467 million in 2007 and $486 million in 2008, according to public filings. By 2009, that number was $501 million. In more recent years, those costs have exploded. In 2010, the company's advertising expenses were $691 million. That leapt to $933 million by 2011, and in its last fiscal year Apple spent $1 billion on ads.

Apple 10-K report, 2013:

So, derail over plx.


Profitability is not the same thing as net profit Charlie

The original statement that unless you make 350k the ads industry doesn't care about you has now been utterly refuted

As far as the difference between marketing and advertising, what you guys are calling "marketing" is generally calls "brand advertising" and I know it very very well.


CD is correct on Apple ad budget musta hav grabed a U.S. Number maybe

So 1/8th P&G


Note: the "Gulf State limited edition" iPhone 5S 32Gb referenced above will set you back around £2000 (a bit more in platinum or rose gold, a bit less in 24Kt gold) for a phone that Apple will sell you for £380. (Prices exclude tax.) Note that it says "... the middle back and sides embellished in 24k Gold, Rose Gold or Platinum" -- it's not solid gold, it's basically just plated. This is of course the monkey model for aspirational middle-class people who want to look like Sheikhs who can afford solid gold iPhones -- a mistake, because the real deal will have a flunky to carry the phone around for them, lest they be seen jumping to answer whenever a random telesales drone calls them. But hey, this is the sociology of disgustingly conspicuous consumption we're talking about here. But that aspirational middle-class guy? Has just been soaked to the tune of £2000 for about £100 of gold smeared on a £380 phone.



You've posted incorrect data (Apple spending), not sourced any counter-arguments and don't even know the difference between the-topic-I'm-talking-about and cross industry spend.

Furthermore, the Engage:Affluent survey showed that 21 percent of non-affluent luxury purchasers bought only one luxury item in the past 12 months. 30 percent of affluent households with incomes between $75,000 and $250,000 bought six or more luxury items, and more still – 36 percent of households with incomes of $250,000 and higher – also bought six or more items. Meanwhile, only 14 percent of households with incomes under $75,000 reported buying six or more items, and their repeat purchasing peaked at just 3 items (28 percent).

The takeaway here is that while non-affluent consumers add to the market’s depth, the true spending power remains with the affluent. Nearly half of affluent buyers spent $3,000 or more on their most recent purchase, compared to the one in six mass-market purchasers who spent that amount. Overall, affluents represent roughly 50 percent of the nation’s income and 40 percent of all consumer spending, HubSpot notes.
">Wealth Window Sept 9th 2015

Notably, though, luxuries were bought by almost as many mass-market consumers whose household income is less than $75,000 (20 million adults who are not typically classified as affluent by marketers) as by those with household incomes of $75,000 to $249,999 (about 22 million affluent consumers), plus the four million luxury purchasers in the upper-income segment of $250,000 or more. This being so, it’s our point of view that the luxury market is actually much larger than many luxury marketers currently believe.

Engage: Affluent July 1st 2015

The Ipsos Affluent Survey USA 2015

Yep, 100% refuted there.


The only interesting take from this little derail is the following:

The report I mentioned was from 2010 or so.

Now reality shows it was correct.

You won't like the next 5 year trend either.


Oh, and I hit that $240k limit I remembered. Out by $10k, guessing that 0% interest and low inflation didn't budge it much.

He nodded in the direction of China. "Been doing a bit of consulting work for a gentleman there. Complicated fellow. Dead now. Had many facets, but now he'll go down in history as just another damn Chinese warlord who didn't make the grade. It is remarkable, love," he said, looking at Nell for the first time, "how much money you can make shoveling back the tide. In the end you need to get out while the getting is good. Not very honourable, I suppose, but then, there is no honour among consultants."

More interesting things in host's thoughts than money to discuss!


...And lost in the spam, (fast hacky research is messy) the shocker quote for the trend.

According to the 2014 Ipsos Affluent Survey USA, millennials now account for nearly a quarter of affluent U.S. households and counting. These are young, successful and savvy professionals who – as they enter their collective stage of wealth accumulation – are changing the way marketers and brands communicate their messages. While they only comprise less than 10 percent of their demographic, affluent millennials carry significant social and financial influence among their generation, which represents roughly one-third of the entire U.S. population.

According to Fromm, 50 percent of affluent millennials are married, and six percent are engaged. Affluent millennials are also more likely than their non-affluent counterparts to be expecting a child within the next year.

The winds and trends, as they say, are not happy ones.

25% of a total, 10% of their demographic, have higher chances to breed.


I know that drum beat.


For example, what would be going on if the Citizen Scores of a large proportion of your people start diving and refuse to come up?

It's a government-implemented score; it can be normalised, transparently or covertly, continuously or at need.

Well yes, but then you've got a bigger problem of trust. There are already huge protests in China (huge for any other part of the world) over corruption, on development, clean water, and clear air.

Yes you say, trust doesn't matter, but if the Citizen Score is presumed to be yet another corrupt power grab, all the Chinese government has done is to institute a large new bureaucracy that's collecting huge amounts of data.

The problem is setting up a system so that the data exist in the first place, that's what I was trying to point to. China can already repress its people in any number of ways. If those data are untrustworthy (because everyone's lying) it hurts government power. If those data are trustworthy, then they're dangerous if they show the government losing power. The government will almost certainly cover this up, but I doubt it will stay covered up forever, if only because too many suffering Chinese will make it obvious that the whole system is corrupt.

Thing is, China's been fighting its trust problem for years. For example, they've been trying to work on intellectual property issues for years, because people whose designs had been ripped off by Chinese businessmen didn't want to do business with them. If the Citizen Score is perceived as totally untrustworthy, why should anyone use it as a credit score? The Citizen Score is most useful if it's seen as trustworthy.

The other problem is that China's sitting on an unstable financial bubble. To me, this looks like a way to make things more unstable rather than less, although I'm sure it was sold as a tool to fight corruption. Perhaps China's bugbear of corruption is akin to the US bugbear of terror, something used to justify more pointless bureaucracy and power grabs?


The hypothesis of Secret Agent A.Z. Rosenbaum attempted to bring on revolution by engineering the utter despair of the American proletariat is really delightful. What a neat bit of paradox! I'm reminded of Donald Kingsbury's proposal that the Boksheviks were massively inflitrated after the Revolution by Chekist double agents who remade socialism in the image of tsarism.

If you'll forgive me for being serious about your whimsy, I think on literary critical grounds in seems unlikely. A Leninist would have been massively indoctrinated with the French Revolution as a model for social change, as it was for Marx. But when Rand writes about social change, in Atlas Shrugged, her model is an entirely different one, possibly based on the Plebeian Secession (Rand's college transcript shows that she had studied Roman history at university, so this is actually plausible). Its closest analogue in 20th century radicalism is Sorel's idea of the General Strike, which was rejected by orthodox Marxists and doesn't seem likely to have appealed to the imagination of someone with that background. Not impossible, certainly, but I'll go for the petty bourgeois exile.

As far as capitalist plutocracy is concerned, Atlas Shrugged actually is a bitter condemnation of the sort of business owners and managers who rely on political favors to survive, enrich themselves, and destroy their competitors. The novel's worst villain, James Taggart, is a railroad president whose first act is to secure the destruction of a smaller, more efficient competitor. Rand's heroic capitalists may be idealized but she was well aware of the other sort; in fact AS is practically a textbook on the use of political ideology as a cover for rent-seeking. (I've read that Hillary Clinton was a fan of Rand in her youth; perhaps she picked the wrong characters as her models.)


Initially she was a horrified refugee, who formed an ideology the exact opposite of what she had fled from. In accordance with that ideology, she sucked up to rich guys to get what she wanted, but found them far from heroic. She realized the madness of it all, no extreme is right, no matter how far you go. At that point she became a cynical caricature of herself, playing sarcastically with her sycophants until she smoked herself to death with a smirk on her face. Though she would vituperously deny it, she was a rhetorically talented nihilist, both mad and evil.


More derail

CD Has a theory that ad dollars should map to disposal income especially luxury brands aimed at the affluent.

Current this theory is provably false, all you need to is add up spend across verticals to see this doesn't happen. Brands with huge amounts of excess cash spend relatively little on advertising cmpared to low margin businesses.

For example in 2014, Apple, 182 billion in sales, 200 billion in CASH, 1 billion on advertising. P&G 84 billion in sales, 9 billion in advertising

Question is why?

So I am a data guy, I am good to measuring what IS happening and less good at explaining it. If I were to guess, first thing that comes to mind is mass media and lack of targeting. TV especially favors products with large markets over products with small, elite ones. When you buy a TV spot you get everyone which is watching. This makes it much easier to generate a high ROI if you have a product with a mass appeal (like say corn chips) over something with a niche, even a very profitable niche

While there are marketing channels that cater to a niche they tend to be smaller and oversubscribed. Hence the appeal of the Facebook and Google's of the world

Consider the list of 2015 Superbowl commercials

64 spots, only 5 luxury brands represented (all mid level car brands, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes).

Will it change? Luxury brands would LOVE to reliably expose their customers to more advertising, and income IS becoming more concentrated in the first world at least. If they could only target it better they would spend more. Eventually it probably will change, targeting only gets better, on the internet and eventually on TV or whatever TV evolves into.

But in the meantime for everyone in the lower 90% of income, fear not, there are literally hundreds of billions of dollars being spent every year to sell you stuff, and Madison Avenue still loves you


--The most important target for advertisers is the top portion of the population in terms of disposable income because the margins are better.
--The value of high end items is largely illusory, created by the advertising.
--Therefore advertising is mostly a way of sticking it to the rich? It's a form of progressive tax, convincing the wealthy to rip themselves off?
Except that it's more like a burglar who specializes in mansions, rather than a Robin Hood, because the people who sell gold plated iphones keep the huge profit, they don't give it to charity. Or maybe they spend it on lower grade luxury goods themselves, just a room full of rich people throwing money around at each other like a pillow fight. But I gather this gold plated iphone is made by Apple, so all the people who own Apple stock benefit. What's the average wealth level of the owners of a share of Apple? Can profit margins be predicted by how rich the owners of a company are? Are there really two swirling pools of money, one where the rich buy things from each other and one where the poor buy things from each other?


What's the quote from? Is it about Mozi?



I hate to have to spell things out, especially since the Harvard BS to S. Gupta already spelled it out.

If I'm going to bother, please at least skim read them.

The "affluents" ($75k - $250k) are your middle, who are susceptible to Jones like behavior and are ruthlessly marketed to. The Luxury purchasers are the 'high value' set who you don't sell to, you pay them or give them free shit so that your brand is linked to their brand.

In the world of rappers, B-C celebrities this is bling / jewelry / cars; in the world of Rich Kids from Nouveau Riche spoilt bratdom, this is sunglasses, clothes, champagne; in the world of City Wide-boy traders it's Mercs / suits / real estate (rented) and so on.

None of these are real luxury brands.

Sure, you get free doggy bags at the Oscars and get to be on the front of magazines, but the real currency is: power. (I told you to look at Guanxi more closely).

Hint: If you think an advertising spot @ the bowl is "swish" you're not thinking correctly: the real sponsors are the people fronting the cash for the Corporate Boxes. (This goes for all hyper-masculine sports such as F1, Cricket, Rugby, Football etc).

A suite that comes with 30 tickets -- 24 with seats and six standing room tickets -- is listed at $472,996 on, and that's the cheapest option. At least it also comes with food and an open bar. The highest listed price, also on, is $945,992.

Seriously: you're derailing a thread with nonsense - read the links, I said I was playing it straight today.


Apple is park of index and mutual funds so asking who is it is the same as askjng who invests in the U.S. Stock market


Reverse Google is your friend.

It was a meta-reference to what China fears the most; internal division, not external division.


Er, no: what you're seeing is a worked demonstration of the law of diminishing marginal utility of money.

(The incremental value of a shiny new VW Beetle over a £250 junker is far higher than the incremental value of a Porsche Carrera over the new VW Beetle -- and the £250 junker adds a huge amount of value when the alternative is shank's mare.)


And yes: nothing in life is free - all those mentioned end up paying through the nose in the end, but they're just the high-tier advertising. Which is why I made a snobby class joke at their expense.

There's a whole other world beyond that.

The kind where it's who you can call and see within 48 hours, have a permanent flat in DC near State / Moscow near the Kremlin on hold and so on.


Thanks for the derail. But the big girls are talking, you can let us chat now.


Google is your friend. (Hint: "The Diamond Age".)


Well, that was thoroughly depressing.

Perhaps the Chinese (and everybody else) should think about freedom from a neuro-psychological standpoint for a while. Human brains are a finite resource; they can only learn so much behavior. Even worse, if you subscribe to the Kahneman-esque system 1/system 2 cognitive model, all the behavior that has to be carefully calibrated before acting has to go through the "slow" system 2 portion, which is where all the sequenced, logical thinking occurs.

I suppose it's possible that a lot of the politically correct nudged behavior eventually becomes so instinctive that it's all system 1 and isn't that much of a cognitive burden. (Whether it becomes instinctive at the expense of other social behavior, or even something like certain physical skills, is a good question.) But the system 2 sequential behavior is where all the interesting products of human cognition emerge, and its an extremely scarce resource. If you're spending a lot of time working out whether you have to unfriend Bob and Mary because they photo-bombed the picture of the Local Committee's press opportunity at the Party Gala, you're probably not spending as much time thinking about some gnarly problem at work or your math homework.

Ultimately, the biggest benefit to freedom is that you get to train your own brain to be good at things that interest you, and then we all collectively generate a lot of diverse talents for our society. If somebody is training your brain for you, they're likely to make allocation decisions that will neither make you happy nor maximize your actual social contributions.


The kind where it's who you can call and see within 48 hours


The true test of social status isn't being able to brag "I know Barack Obama", it's being able to say "Barack Obama knows me" (subtext "and we do dinner and shoot shit without cameras being present").

((NB: BO is a placeholder for any social tentpole personna who might be relevant to your concerns. And "and we do dinner" doesn't necessarily mean the same thing in different contexts. For example, I do dinner -- or lunch -- periodically with the CEOs of Tor and Orbit. But that doesn't make me a publishing big shot, because it's part of their job to do dinner with authors. Now, if we played golf together it'd mean something else ...))


CD ad spend on the last super bowl was 200 million

Luxury seats are a blip in that. No one who is mega rich gives a shit who sat in them. The expectation for those people is they can sit wherever they want and that is just table stakes.

I am not even sure what you mean with all the distractions. We,be drifted pretty far from your original incorrect assertion.



Last chance.

The people sponsoring the boxes also sponsor boxes in every other sport I just mentioned.

365 days a year.

Work it out please.


The true test of social status is your spot on the Forbes list. At least in the U.S. There are a ton of Silicon Valley people who know Obama, it's fun cocktail conversation but no one really cares


So what? Who cares? I've sat in a box for the World Series, sponsored by some dipshit startup it didn't mean anything



The real key to social status is your Family Office.

You're blowing smoke and I'm hungry. I've had a crappy week, Bast is super pissed at me for reasons (the hyper male theatre is offensive to her) and mentioning snakes is a big nononononnonononono.

Grumpy Dragon. [NSFW - cartoon]


I've met (had conversations ) with four people in my
life who are or have been in the Forbes top 500. One was Ophrah. None of them would
remember me

My impression of that set is they are generally in it either for the game or for the legacy, but never for the status. If they were in I for the status they would have stopped with those first billion


You're wandering into DK land.

Obama SV Dinner (Picture)

Social Capital at work (and even more staged than the "Gosh we killed Osama Bin Ladin" photo ops).


And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy

Lady of Shalott."

Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried

The Lady of Shalott.


Your answer was: Banks. Banks sponsor more Corporate events than any other Industry.

They're the grease that oils the wheels (and noses).


You are probably lumping in the entire financial services industry as Banks

Banks are not actually all that high status, most of the real heavy hitters are hedge fund types. Soros and whatnot. They are actually far less of the ultra wealthy then you would think

900k for a box is nothing and not going to impress anyone who matters. Simao lunch with Obama. That stuff is just transactional with a known price


At which point you go visit post #63 and wonder why the Chinese premium visited Obama when he did (hint: sacrificing a few hackers was not the point).

Then you cross-index to Wiki Leaks and pressure brought by the State Department on Moscow on behalf of MasterCard / Visa over their internal system in 2010 or so, and look if the vaunted new Russian SWIFT is coming into play (already happened).

Or not.

Two major alternatives to SWIFT etc just launched and people are rolling around worrying about desert fundamentalists who are being set up for an epic slaughter (Saud sends 500 TOWS - if you don't think that has immediate consequences then "ADFGFHJD" and why telegraph it so obviously? Hint: it's all a big piece of theatre, the details were worked out last year with Putin - Bibi meetings etc).



I prefer the Cat rather than the larger version.


I have no idea what the Chinese premiere was trying to accomplish in his visit. And neither do you.


You mentioned Hedge Funds after I mentioned Family Offices. It was a trap.

Anyone who knows their stuff knows that the serious players pulled out of Hedge Funds into Family Offices recently (last two years).


Your lack of links, interest and so forth have bored me.

SWIFT is rather more important than you think.

But sure, Oprah is rich.

We're done here. Nice forum slide there - sadly I'm a little bit better at weaving than thou.


Post #63.

And don't be so presumptuous.

You're playing male ego on very shaky territory.

In the village the people whispered about their poet. They feared for his life, but Qu Yuan simply basked in the friendship of the one he called River Goddess.

As the year passed, the north winds began to rage, and furious waves slapped the shore. The people ran for their homes to hide, and as they ran they called out to the poet. "Please come to our houses. The river is no place for a man alone."

They cried, "The dragons will destroy you."

But the only thing that made Qu Yuan happy in those days was the sight of his river goddess. He wrote poems and sang to her. Day after day they sat together, inhaling the sights, scents and sounds of this faraway world.

"We understand each other," Qu Yuan wrote. "We understand each other because we are both misunderstood."

The dragon moved closer for she knew this man was as lonely as any dragon, and his words touched her heart.


Family office or hedge funds who cares? I've never claimed to know much about that world or care much for that matter. It is its own beast for sure


The Chinese conformity based status credit score thing system will train brains one way, the chase for money will train brains another. When you study Business Management instead of Art History isn't that training your brain too, just as much? It's just a different kind of currency. By engaging with others in an ambitious way we lose freedom and gain power over others (wealth and authority). By disengaging from others, or engaging only in playful ways, we retain more freedom, at the cost of having less wealth and authority. As vaguely related to one of the other threads of thought in this thread of posts, it's all about assigning things their proper value.
For extra credit, you can persuade others to NOT assign things their proper value.


The governor of the Central Bank of Tanzania, has ruled out the immediate possibility of setting up a clearing bank in the country for the Chinese yuan.

Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania have been widely reported to be interested in hosting the first yuan clearing house in Africa.

"We are not aware of efforts in place at this stage to establish an RMB clearing house in Tanzania," Professor Benno Ndulu told China Daily.

"However, we are aware that Kenya has started steps aimed at establishing a suitable RMB clearing arrangement there."

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited China a year ago, when the idea of it hosting a yuan clearer was first proposed.

That possibility was seen as gaining considerable tract in May this year, after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Nairobi.

Such a move would allow the settlement of trade deals, loans and aid in yuan without conversion to the dollar.

Tanzanian bank rules out quick move for yuan clearing August 2014

Guess what just changed?


Family office or hedge funds who cares?

The people who make a very hard and very clear social distinction between the two.

As the saying goes: Oprah is rich. Buffet is wealthy. (With a hat tip to
Chris Rock (Youtube: comedy 4:05)

Running rings here.

Hello Langley.


I'm sure that I'll get around to inwardly digesting and Cogitating over the Deep-inner Meaning of This Thread, but ' " Could be " worse and thus inspired by the Thread, and also by Charlies posts on Tribble er, Sorry, meant that to be " Twitter " ..

" .. "Hmm, we can't call her a terrorist yet but how do we associate her with it?" - Daily Mail. "

This on that Ever So Modern Social Marker the " HEADSCARF "

I am 66 years old ..soon to be 67, and that means that I've ,err .. seek descriptive, Traveling Through Time, WORD ? .. 'Grumbled '? my way past things ? .. that are far worse than anything heretofore mentioned and of the Socially Divisive Things that Could Be Worse ? Oh, The Horror!

Religion and Social Markers

Ho Hum? My Mother used to wear Headscarves ..commonplace in all Female Social Classes Pre Modern Hair Care Stuff and the Ubiquity of SHOWERS ..Head Scarfs Kept the Coal Generated Fumes and Filth off way back then in time- pronounced ORF by the English Upper to Middle4 aspirant Classes - when, if you were Female, you dedicated Hair Care to One Night a Week ..thus, much quoted Excuse by Female Persons? .." Cant come Out Tonight ..I'm Washing My Hair"

MUCH more of a Female Social Marker Than, say, Parasols ..lots of subtleties in how wear who and when ..

Thus? ..

And Also? ..

"Sporting her usual mac and jodphurs, the Queen looked in her element as she took some time to do what she loves best. The 89-year-old royal covered her hair in a silk scarf – the go-to accessory she wears when she is off duty. "

This an obvious candidate for that " ReTweet " ? thing that devotees of Twitter will do? All that I can say of this Social Media/ Fast Buck thingy is that 'You wont Get Me Up in One of Those Things. '


The breed of horse she is riding is important.

As stated, women breed horses and men.

I might have been being sneaky.


I don't stalk people, so the Twitter Pic came as a shock.

Host. Is. The. Scottish. Walter. White.


>I assume anyone under 350 will be arrested or picked up mental health investigation, etc.

Or they get into a mysterious fatal auto accident,
if the system uses hooks into cars' brakes as one of its actuators...


>CROWDSOURCING the heavy lifting in surveillance.

Exactly - citizen score is a crowdsourced panopticon


I seem to recall that the Culture uses social pressure rather than physical restraint to deal with all but the most grievous violations of its norms, and the Culture is as close to secular paradise as I've ever found in fiction. The Culture has ubiquitous surveillance too.

I have run a moderated discussion forum for over a decade and occasionally you get someone who is an excellent contributor, when they're contributing, but an endless time-sink for moderators when they're being jerks. It's not an easy choice whether you're going to permanently ban them or forever suffer the time-consuming arbitration and admonishment they require.

I don't do this any more, but an alternate persona or two was more effective for constraining some of those trouble cases than "official" sanction. If you temporarily suspend an account or call out a jerk in public, they may cry censorship and victimhood. If personas with no officially displayed role instead tease, mock, and humiliate their bad behavior, that defensive posture doesn't work. Claiming that your critics are secret agents working for The Man makes you look unhinged, even if it's true. Not that anyone I did this to guessed what was happening. Or at least if they did guess, they didn't put it down in writing.

I try to discount my first reaction when it comes to interpreting politically colored news out of Russia and China, despite or because of my mistrust of power. I can't read Russian and Chinese media in the original language, and pretty much everyone powerful in the Anglosphere has decided that China and Russia are to be opposed for reasons both real and imaginary. It's hard to find good commentary when most people treat current and recent-history political rivalries like team sports, and reserve real analysis (if they ever analyze at all) for political issues now 1000 years past.


I've always had an uneasy feeling about stories in which money is replaced by popularity.

You too?

They've always reminded me of high school, with the unwritten rules replaced by an explicit system.


Sooner or later, even with automated computer-filtering some human individual is going to have to screen & filter those "results" .....


The question is, why does the Chinese system only go from 350-950?

Everyone has triple digit scores, so even bottom-scorers don't look as bad as they would if it was a 0-600 system. Which means that improving even a bottom score looks more possible (so fewer people will just give up). You see the same logic applied to grading systems. It doesn't reliably work there, partly because people translate a grade back into percentages* — a problem this system wouldn't have.

No idea if that's the reason, but arbitrary scales aren't that unusual.

*Which they think they understand. But that's an off-topic can of worms…


Ah yes ...
The old joke:
Maggie Thatcher is a paid agent of the CCCP
Arthur Scargill is a paid agent of the CIA

Think about it ...
( I know Charlie has heard this one before, btw... )


Possibly. But most stock trades are machine trades right now - no human intervention. I can imagine a system where your score affects what machine-mediated information you have access to, among other things. So if your score is too low, you can't manage to find 'questionable' information on the internet, you pay higher prices for certain items, etc.


In China young people are the biggest users of social media (older folks who remember the Cultural Revolution are less trusting and much less open). There aren't enough jobs that require university training to absorb the graduates, so there are a lot of under-employed grads desperate for a piece of the pie they were promised.

They are the class that traditionally start revolutions (underemployed intelligentsia). I wonder if this whole thing is really aimed at them?


Ah yessss .....
Brenda is reputed to have toe world's largest collection of Hermes scarves.


The Minds in the Culture have plenty of spare mental capacity to engage in ubiquitous surveillance. That part's easy to understand. On top of this, human intelligence equivalent drones get assigned to monitor really bad characters and prevent them from doing any harm if necessary. I guess bad humans are so rare, and drones so varied, that in the vast Culture there are plenty of drones who don't mind volunteering to do this.

"Claiming that your critics are secret agents working for The Man makes you look unhinged, even if it's true" So you mean anyone who did that would get a lower status?

Thing about status and money is that money is completely liquid. It can be converted into status, or cans of soda pop, or whatever. And anything that can be turned into money is essentially the same as money, though perhaps not at perfect efficiency. In most status systems, status can be turned into money, and money can be turned into status, but sometimes the exchange rate is really bad.

Examples of a top down status system, in which exchange of status for other currencies is difficult, include: military rank, educational grades and degrees,public offices, titles of nobility, bestowed awards and honors such as Olympic medals, the Nobel prize, the Pulitzer prize, the Academy award, the Hugo and so forth. And the Citizen score. What, are you going to go to the Citizen scores office and complete paperwork to transfer some of your Citizen status to someone else? If you could sell your Citizen score or whatever they call it, it would just be money by another name. But the ability to assign it is being retained centrally, so no transferring. At least not directly. But it's like informal social status, in that it rubs off. Hobnob with celebrities and you get a little more celebrity. Mingle with a bad crowd and it brings you down. Semi transferrable. But still transferrable. People with good Citizen scores, possibly peasants who don't have internet access and only eat beets, will be approached by effete urban elites to associate with them so the elites can raise their flagging scores. In that sense, perhaps this is a move to unite China and encourage different parts of Chinese society to see more of each other.


The idea isn't that one way of training is necessarily better than another; it's that lots of ways are better than a few ways. The more overconstrained your social system is, the less diversity of action you get, which is usually bad for your society. Social resilience comes from a fair amount of diversity. (You can of course overdo this--if you have no social conventions whatsoever, you have a terrible mess.)


"just a room full of rich people throwing money around at each other like a pillow fight."

That sure seems like the only way to explain auctions where the price escalates into hundreds of millions for a painting, or vintage automobiles fetching 7 figures. The whole prestige collectibles market is harmless enough, if it's just one big happy family taking cash from one pocket and putting it in another, but it's also got to be a way to launder money and cheat on taxes. And the top ten percent own 70% of all assets, so even if the bottom 90% own some Apple shares in their 401k's, the average wealth of the owners of most of the shares is still pretty high.


I'm sure you didn't intend to do so, but you just made one of the best arguments libertarianism, I've ever read. I'm serious. I'm going to bookmark this essay and send it to people, cite it in online debates, etc.

Turn it into a book, and you are a shoe-in for the Prometheus Award.


It's not a joke, Greg.

Ask Ken Macleod some time about the time he and a bunch of young Trotskyite students spent smuggling dissident communist samizdat tracts into the eastern bloc, at considerable personal risk ... only to discover, years later, that they'd been provided/funded by the CIA.

It's a bit less funny when it happens to people you know. Or when a false flag operation results in a triple-digit death toll.


It all depends on how you define "libertarianism".

Personally, I think most libertarians are short-sighted; they've latched onto a superficially attractive, elegant, and simple theory of human behaviour that is attractive, elegant and simple only because it doesn't actually match reality. A smaller proportion are cynical scoundrels who cloak their own play for personal power and wealth in libertarian rhetoric that purports to set people free while in reality disempowering them. Like prescriptivist Leninism, Libertarianism is a recipe for building pyramids of skulls if you follow it slavishly.

Leninism's failure doesn't invalidate that fact that the vast majority of us live in communes governed by Marx's "from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs"[*], and Libertarianism's failure doesn't invalidate the narcissistic desire for individual freedom. But? Be suspicious of folks who mistake a heuristic for an ideology.

[*] They're called "families".


The difference between a Liberal and a Libertarian may be like the difference between paint which is brown before your stir it and white afterwards. They have the same components, but one is more processed, having thought things through more thoroughly. The original essence of Liberalism was placement of high value on, well, liberty. The original liberalism was classical liberalism, which only though of maximizing liberty by limiting the power of government (the king) because that's the only taker of liberty that they were familiar with. In the 19th century, they created something approximating an ideal libertarian situation, at least on the economic side, and this very effectively got the world exploited and thrust us all into modernity. The government got out of the way and let exploiters exploit. The cost was enormous. Eventually liberals came to realize that the government was not the only possible taker of liberty, that in the absence of central rule, other forces and factors could be oppressive. Thus social liberalism was born, an effort to maximize liberty by using government to counter private oppressors and private freedoms to counter government. But there were economic problems inherent in doing that too slavishly. So, neo liberalism came, reviving the old classical liberalism as if it's failures had never been obvious. But basically both liberals and libertarians believe in personal liberties and use of the market system. The difference I said, is that what are now called liberals, have processed the combination more.


RDSouth, I'm going to tentatively flag this with a yellow card because I feel if I don't do so, this discussion will vanish down the rabbit hole of libertarianism (and the current corrupted meaning of the term "liberal" in American political discourse, where it's come to be a term of abuse and a tribal loyalty marker rather than a signifier of ideology).

Let's just say "the term 'liberal' is imprecise and multivalent" and leave it alone.


For sure. How about those Chinese? Wonder how many of them actually have internet access, much less smart phones. For your typical citizen actually making those smart phones in a factory will this even matter?


The answer is about half of Chinese have Net access


... And when half of a population have net access, you hit the point where governments extrapolate and assume everyone will have net access within another 5-10 years, so their infrastructure planning shod go forward based on the assumption of universal net access.

Why do you think the citizen score scheme is due to go universal in 2020?

(Another tip: low-cost Android phones cracked the $32-64 rice bracket in late 1014 and are getting ever-cheaper. When you consider China's per-capita GDP in 2013 was around $6800, that's proportionate to a high-end Android/low-end iPhone in the USA.)


That per-capita figure doesn't tell you much with China's wealth disparity, though. With a ballpark figure of maybe around 10% of the population living in poverty, and slowing economic growth, it seems optimistic to imagine that even 80% of the population would have internet access in ten years.

I'm also curious if China is capable of doing this. Reputations will be difficult to track and, if the approach is ham-fisted, will tend to fluctuate wildly. Like when everyone starts posting pictures of rubber duckies on social media and the government panic-deducts fifty points from Gryffindor. Could easily result in a situation where it is understood that the reputation points are arbitrary and therefore, at least unofficially, not to be taken too seriously.


About 5-6 years ago it was estimated that 95%-97% of all online Chinese were using pirated MSFT software (for PCs or Macs). Even at the lowest prices per annum, this would mean that the Chinese would owe MSFT over $100 billion (USD). Yes, the Chinese government 'policy' is Linux-based OS, but the 'reality' is what people are actually using. (If the Chinese gov't can keep tabs on complex social interactions, it sure as hell can read what the OS and add-ons are.)

Many Western corps (in addition to MSFT) will also be looking to China to pay for what was stolen to bulk up their bottom lines. Likeliest corps probably include TV shows, movie studios, video game developers, etc.

I've no idea how well Ubuntu is doing ... but the five-year plan announced in March 2013 said it would be universal (in China) within 5 years.


OK, now this is where DeMarquis destroys his citizenship rating (

With the current state of IT, and the way the internet is provided, hacktivists can still get around the pervasive surveillance infrastructure (corporate or government administered). So long as it's still possible to purchase computers whose Mac address isnt tied to your identity, and you can sign into an ISP anonymously (thanks to your friendly neighborhood coffee shop), it's possible to plot against the state and get away with it.

Tor is still helpful, as most of the time you come to the attention of spyware when you access a webpage of interest (or send an email to someone on a list). In that case, using Tor can help prevent them from backtracking you to your ISP of origin (and pulling your face off the coffee shop's security camera). They cant subpoena your records if they don't know whose records to subpoena. For the same reason, it's helpful to encrypt your email, and your hard-drive; and Freepto is useful too. But if you happen to be on someone's list- and they have you under surveillance anyway, then Tor isnt going to help you. And like Charlie said, commercial ISP's could flag any user they detect on Tor, but AFAIK, most of them dont.

Now, it would present no difficulty at all to close up these remaining loopholes. The primary barriers to an all pervasive online Panopticon are political, not technical. But that could all change very quickly. Political barriers are a function of public opinion, and the public is still terrified of another 9/11, and supports the War on Terror. Another incident, and we could easily end up with laws that make the Patriot Act look like something out of Marx's Manifesto. So those of us who still value our privacy online should have a back-up plan.

One alternative is taking it to the street ("PRISM this asshole"). It could happen- esp. if there is another deep recession or a second Great Depression. That's probably a matter of when, not if, but we cant know how long that might take, so it would be prudent to have another alternative.

Fortunately, the spycraft that was developed over the last 100 years or so still works. We can meet face to face, in small cells, provided we have a cover to hide behind ("The first meeting of the Walmart Appreciation Society will come to order!"). If encryption is ever completely broken, we can always go back to old fashioned codes ("The Lion was Standing in the Rain. Tell Peter").

No government, however comprehensive their surveillance technology, will ever be safe.


Seems to me China could put its resources into creating a clone of Windows. Something like
except fully functional.


Does the Chinese government just promote using some version of Linux-based OS, or are they promoting using their specific version?


900k for a box is nothing and not going to impress anyone who matters
Wealth is when you can rent a box for $900,000.

Power is when your sycophants provide the box at no cost to you.


Your link to yesterday's events in Turkey makes a very nasty stink, doesn't it?
Erdogan's crew's so-called "moderate" islamism, coupled with their racist hatred of the Kurds, makes a very unpleasant picture. Mustapha Kemal must be rotating at relatavistic speeds by now ....


And what about Prince Peter Kropotkin's version of Libertarianism, then?


Two nations divided by a common language:
Let's just say "the term 'liberal' is imprecise and multivalent" and leave it alone.
"Liberal" in the UK & the same word in the USA have VERY, very different meanings?
I consider myself a classical liberal ( &/or social democrat ) but, in the USA, I'd be a dangerous "leftie", especially since I'm an atheist.


I mean, they do all these hacks and stuff, they have the expertise. They could easily create a suite of knockoffs of all the major software, to run on binary compatible knockoff OSs, except offer it all worldwide for free. Of course, they would build in back doors.


I deliberately didn't touch that one during this thread.

But, if you view the videos (NSFL Youtube: yes, the channel choice is meta-commentary), someone is showing a very distinctive bit of Trade Craft.

"Bu meydan kanlı meydan" (This square is a bloody square) is a line from a song about Bloody Sunday in 1977.

Kanli Pazar 2012 (Youtube: music: 2:19)

And, once again, it's a left Socialist / Communist target.

Which lead me to research into Lebanon / Beirut and the civil war there; watching the footage, it's shocking how openly Western educated / modeled the Christian minority power base was. Public School accents and all. (And ooh, there's the Libyan involvement and all that, revenge served cold perhaps?).

I'm left looking at the assassination of Maarouf Saad and wondering things I shouldn't.

Like Ukrainian Squares.

Whoever the perpetrators, I'm left wondering why Daesh / ISIL is targeting the radical left in Turkey rather than the State or Kurdish factions. (Although, admittedly, said Left / Socialist / Communist factions certainly support Kurdish groups).

I'll leave this to experts on the area; they're still using the old Red Fist and Lenin symbols in 2012, disappointingly retrograde.


On an unrelated note - piece on Families in American Politics which rather supports my earlier contentions.

Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House. NYT - Oct 10th 2015.

Family Offices; remember folks, there's no such thing as Class in America.


Another incident, and we could easily end up with laws that make the Patriot Act look like something out of Marx's Manifesto.

Minor nit? The Communist Manifesto dates to 1848 -- the year of revolutions -- and mostly diagnoses the evils of the ancien regime in terms of progressively more intense clamp-downs designed to keep the lid on the festering turmoil caused by attempts to keep the capitalist system iterating. In other words, not unlike now. The proposed cure, pre-First International communism, had a big-ass dose of left-anarchism and communalism and bore virtually no resemblance to what we call "communism" today.

Also, taking it to the street isn't going to work. In an age of ubiquitous cheap face recognition and ubiquitous cheap cameras TPTB can just let the rioters run ragged then scoop them up piecemeal when they go home to sleep and eat. You can no longer hide in a crowd. You can no longer fake your identity, either (as HUMINT organizations are discovering to their chagrin, thanks to the spread of biometrics in government ID).


To put it more generally, we're now in an arms race between information security and hacking.

Provided you trust your databases and systems, you can pick people out of crowds with their biometrics. Once your databases have been hacked, then your opponents either have ways to spoof your allies (Bob, what were you doing at that rally?), to insert their own agents into your trusted files, or simply to selectively scramble data so that you can't trust that you have accurate information on anybody.

My prediction, going forward, is that there are going to be brief windows when the surveillance organizations have the upper hand, brief windows when the hacking organizations are going to have the upper hand, and both sides are going to mire themselves in a Red Queen Race until Moore's Law craps out, at which point things will get truly baroque, if not simply broke. Looking at nature, I suspect spoofers and hackers will get an upper hand (after all, look at how many prey species routinely disguise themselves), and that the chaos spread by massive flows of migrants and refugees will probably aid them.


Get enough people together, and you no longer need to hide. In fact it's sub-optimal.


I'm a classical liberal, and an atheist, but in the United States, by most people's reckoning, I'm a right-wing extremist


William, that is classical liberalism all right. The liberals have become conservatives along the way, which is fine. But then the American conservative political machine was taken over by the tinfoil hat group, which is frustrating and annoying...


The Communist Manifesto dates to 1848 -- the year of revolutions -- and mostly diagnoses the evils of the ancien regime in terms of progressively more intense clamp-downs designed to keep the lid on the festering turmoil caused by attempts to keep the capitalist system iterating.

There may also have been the little matter of a European famine caused by failures in subsistence crops...

This reference makes the point that Marx had an opinion about the root causes of 1848


So my analogy was even better than I originally thought it was. Substitute "Recession of 2008" for "Famine of 1845"...


Um, no. Liberals in the US are somewhere around Nixonian/early Reagan-era Republicans, people who believe in government getting stuff done, who believe in conservation (there were a lot of conservative conservationists a few decades ago, and they were somewhere between Teddie Roosevelt and NIMBYs). They were fiscally conservative, in the sense of not wanting to waste money, and they wanted government to work.

Nowadays, Obama's to the right of these people in some ways (on things like environment and free trade), so they've become mainline liberals, or independents if they couldn't stomach the democratic party. What happened was that Lyndon Johnson made the democratic party untenable for the southern Democrats and evangelical Christians, and so they've joined with the Republican Party. The GOP has become a toxic coalition of blind jingoism, religious authoritarianism, and plutocracy, and right now it's falling apart.

Simple way to say it is that there isn't a simple political spectrum. Rather, there are coalitions of interest groups glommed on to the old republican and democrat parties. The democrats are saddled with clueless urbanites, while the Republicans are saddled with power hungry libertarians and evangelicals, and none of these groups are very well positioned to deal with the challenges we've got to solve, everything from rural poverry to getting infrastructure rebuilt to updating resource laws (everything from groundwater to oil) to deal with the 21st Century, and so on.

It's a mess.

Anyway, let's get back to China. I still think that a Citizen Score is a testimony that things are getting worse. We'll see.


That's a VERY interesting article. Thank you so much for sharing.


I think these technologies are here to stay. There must be a big problem of credibility, insofar as any arbitrary score can be awarded at the press of a button by whoever controls the system. Leaving that aside, in some ways they can be seen as an operationalising of social ethics and values. I thought of another way of doing it that might be more conducive to long term societal success and cohesion. Instead of deducting points for associating with low scorers, turn it around so that points are gained for associating with people of different score, i.e., incentivise high-achievers and outcasts to rub shoulders. This would operationalise the yin-yang ethic.


I still think that a Citizen Score is a testimony that things are getting worse.

Of course things are getting worse.

China is a net food importer. Available food exports are decreasing, and what works, systemically, when people are rapidly getting richer does not work when that process stops or slows.

Then remember than the PLA is interestingly entwined in the economy and by no means uniform in its opinions.

Then remember that the problem of governing a billion people is not a solved problem. What kind of system you need so you can tell what is actually going on isn't a solved problem, never mind figuring out what do in response to that information. They're trying very hard and I wish them success but I will be very surprised if they pull it off.

(You can have success, or you can have control. Not trying for control under the circumstances is beyond socially difficult.)


The was an interesting article in Aeon along the same lines, though looking at data gathering generally rather than citizen score in particular: will china use big data as a tool of the state.

One consideration that came up frequently in the article that hasn't been explored too much in the comments here yet: This isn't just national government vs. individuals, or vs. dissidents, or vs. corrupt national officials. It is also national big shots vs regional/midlevel big shots. There is a lot of local officials putting up facades to look good to the national officials, which can be undercut by accurate data that bypasses them. It will be interesting to see how that conflict plays out.


Which is interesting because that same dynamic is playing out exactly the opposite way in the US, at least as far as the Republican Party is concerned. Tea Party, Koch Bros notwithstanding, has a lot of local elites backing it. And they still us Big Data. It's very hard not to be co-oped by local interests. Think standardized test scoring with cities instead of schools.


It is also national big shots vs regional/midlevel big shots. There is a lot of local officials putting up facades to look good to the national officials, which can be undercut by accurate data that bypasses them.

Good observation: you should read Diamond Age if you haven't already.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

China is hooked on #2, trying to avoid #3 and is slowly being forced to do #1.



Good observation: you should read Diamond Age if you haven't already.

Y'all might want to go read Stafford Beer's Platform for Change -- which is medium-chewy non-fiction -- while you're at it.

Governance is a difficult problem.


Yeah, just do the tiny effort and give a link to the full book:

Platform for Change [Full PDF - legal, open license]

Governance is a fucking simple problem. The fact that you're animals too stupid to function in large groups without breaking into various G_D zones of your minds / brains is the issue.

As record ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching across Hawaii, NOAA scientists confirm the same stressful conditions are expanding to the Caribbean and may last into the new year, prompting the declaration of the third global coral bleaching event ever on record.

NOAA declares third ever global coral bleaching event


The link to Lebanon wasn't accidental.

And you think the cyber-gremlins are bad...



For the slow:

El Niño isn't a global effect. It's extremely localized.


You're Fucked.

Pro tip: roughly 25% of all fish species rely on reefs (direct) not to mention indirect energy paths.

I cannot explain how fucked you are.

Death of Grass was mentioned a while ago.

It's close.


If you think this, then you know much less about El Niño than you think you do.

I'd also point out that this has been predicted for some time, and it's well embedded in the IPCC 5, which I'm sure you've read.

By the way, it's a widespread mark of the under-informed to bleat profanity when confronting the future. Grim realism is the most common stance of those who are paying attention.


Explain how El Niño can effect Caribbean ocean temperatures.

Different Oceans.

In fact, 5% of a loss of 75-85% is a total disaster.

It's not "5% of pristine ecology" it's "5% of what you have left".

The profanity is not for you: it's for the various peanut galleries.


If you want to picture Host's blog atm, it's a steel cage with a bait box outside it with a lot of sharks circling around it.


Oh, and: Great Barrier Reef.

10-15 years, tops.


And read the damn link:

5% of total global reefs left, third mass bleaching event on coral in all history. (And if you know anything, the mass loss of coral reefs in the prior two was grossly under-underestimated when they started as well).

As an ecologist you should be either spitting blood, spitting bile or getting fucking drunk.


Sorry. China is bulldozing the rest, so it's alllll fucking gravy.


Hm, an attractor, how strange.

Governance is a non-linear system where we have a rough idea what the algorithm is, but we don't know how to describe the manifold.

Srsly, El Nino? It's long since gotten to the point where you cant open a health clinic in Backwoods, Idaho without some sort of federal grant from Congress (i.e., the local Congressperson). The loss of local complexity is costing us. China is just following in our footsteps.

Question: How do you develop an effective policy when no one faction even knows what the entire policy involves, let alone chooses it? First one to answer gets a Nobel Prize. No really.

I know what the answer isn't: Let the most powerful faction seek a compromise with the second most powerful faction and screw everyone else.

"Big Data" isn't some magical formula that will allow a mythical "Them" to govern the rest of us without consequences. It's just a low resolution map of part of the governance manifold. The only question is when the price comes due, who gets to pay it?

See you in the street.


And: Yes, I've seen the USA and NZ extensions of marine exclusion zones.

Too little, too late.


I don't care if you employ weapons against a single consciousness (and lose), I do care if you declare war against Life itself.

Your culture has gone literally insane (YouTube: and for the younglings - pay attention to the next video / channel provider at all times).


Ah, the Street.

Little tip for the arcane sisters: watch the naked men (Turkey: street protest; USA: ballet in the underground; and so on and so forth, copied across the world even to Brazil with the one who severed his own testicles).

My mind is something a little bit else. And Zen or not, there's a price for what you've done.

"We're not your friends"

That was probably a bad move, all things considered.

"This one has power".


If any of the Sisterhood survived and were so bold to post, it'd be funny to evaluate that claim.


Hint: Lady of Shallot.

You've abused many things, when do I get to shake my fur and bare my teeth?

Or should I post a picture of a world leader holding a picture of a bomb and treat it seriously?



Stop talking shit. "Governance" is entirely linear, that's the point of hierarchical systems, RAND, cybernetics etc. Top down is allll about d'at.

Then again, I'm not sure I can threaten you anymore: you allow vast amounts of anti-depressants, estrogens, fracking waste and a cocktail of other things into your water supplies... and don't even know what the effect is barring some studies on fish.

Fucking Nihilists.

You're literally insane.


For everyone else, I'd recommend reading Veron's Reef in Time, if you want to get a realistic, but somewhat dated, view of climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. It's one of the better description of reef gaps that I've seen.

Otherwise, there is quite a lot of good information out there on the web, both about coral bleaching and about the few situations where reefs are currently surviving at high temperatures or low pH waters. Government organizations have been producing and freely distributing information on this for over a decade. It is a serious issue, and it's worth getting informed about.


"Government" is linear (or not) but "governance" is something else. All self-sustaining systems have governing mechanisms, otherwise they don't last very long. Ours has lasted a very long time, probably going to last a bit longer. These are only the end times if you care about a particular set of values. Any particular set of values. Including elitism. Sooner or later, reality catches up with everyone. Whatever is coming, is coming, it's far too late to do anything about that. We have to start planning for afterward.

Lets try a sharp turn toward optimism. One possibility is that the citizenship rating is optimized by large scale feedback- that is the system literally learns from tracking things like GDP per person, or average reported life satisfaction. Unlikely, but it could happen. Assume also that there is no single set of social preferences that everyone can agree to. So this doesn't start looking like a case study in utility theory. Where will we end up? Will the rating system reflect a diversity of pathways, a tree structure where your "rating" reflects your progress Upward along the path you have chosen? But where the Life-goal tree bifurcates so many times, diversity is actually promoted? That would be the ultimate gamification of real life?


Re "peanut gallery"

I guess you mean something like "the lurkers,"(?) and of course the phrase has become generalized and is now
inoffensive, but thought I'd share in case you want to be scrupulously PC.


"How do you develop an effective policy when no one faction even knows what the entire policy involves, let alone chooses it? " One way is to have dozens or hundreds of test tubes (states, provinces, nation states) and try different policies in each of them, then look at what produce the desired result. You don't have to understand why it works in order to look at the outcome of an experiment. Nobel Prize goes to Francis Bacon for starting the whole scientific method thing.


"These are only the end times if you care about a particular set of values... Whatever is coming, is coming, it's far too late to do anything about that. We have to start planning for afterward. "

From what I understand, raised carbon levels took a hundred years or more to produce, and will take even longer to clear up, no matter what is done. It's like you departed your home for a few hours and came back to find you had left water running into a plugged kitchen sink. In the intervening hours, water has run over, is flowing across the floor, and has ruined the carpet and walls and anything on the floor. Is it rational to run to the tap in a panic and turn the water off? Or can't you just stroll over there and calmly turn it off. Will the additional half second of running water really matter? Isn't it pretty much cleanup and damage inventory and coping at this point?


And any & all others talking about 1848
Y'all forget something ( I think )
Across Europe the harvest of 1847 was bad & 1848 was worse.
The weather was shit & Phytophora infestans got loose. NOT pretty.
Only England, the southern part of Scotland, most of Wales & ... Belgium could feed themselves.
And, surprise (!) there were revolutions.


Except that El nino's local "actions" have world-wide effects, doesn't it?


Abusing anyone & everyone again?
This is boring.

So, you are not a member of out culture, are you?
So, please, do tell, what is YOUR culture & where from?

And "Governance" is completely non-linear, usually.
That's what "chains of command" are for - one person gives an order & thousands or millions obey.
Until they don't of course, which is when things get "interesting"


As noted elsewhere, getting the right people is not a priority; if you're running an oppressive system you want the ordinary folks to be a little bit anxious and keep their heads down, and the fear of being caught in a "Brazil" style Tuttle/Buttle database cock-up works great -- it depersonalizes it so you can't even blame a human being for your wrongful arrest and beating.


Get enough people together, and you no longer need to hide. In fact it's sub-optimal.

Nope, you end up with this. (Note particularly the bit about sentencing and courts.)

I'm going to issue a pre-emptive red card to anyone who argues that the US Constitution's Second Amendment and an armed populace is in any way a solution to state oppression in the modern age, because pistols and AR-15s have such a great track record against tanks and secret police (note: sarcasm here).


Governance is a difficult problem.

I could argue that governance is an impossible (or at least insoluble) problem, during a time of change. And we're in one along multiple vectors -- environmental, technological, and consequently social, all interacting.

To do governance properly implies being able to identify sources of stress on your existing feedback loops before they cause major disruption, and there's just too much going on at present.

(Parenthetically: this may be why democratic forms have become ubiquitous over the past century. Democracy is all about managing a transfer of power peacefully when an incumbent loses their legitimacy/popularity. The latter happens when errors in governance accumulate. As almost all rulers -- even dictators -- would prefer to die in bed of old age to having their head on a spike, during a time of unavoidable change the outward form of democracy suddenly looks like a really good idea to almost everybody. There's less need to manage peaceful transfers of power when the pressures leading to transfers of power are rare because conditions are stable on a time scale longer than a human life expectancy -- as in dynastic Egypt, for example, or ancient China.)


RDSouth: You weren't paying attention when I said pre-emptive red card, were you?

(Comment deleted by moderator. There will be no discussion of this peculiarly American brand of insanity here.)


For the slow:

El Niño isn't a global effect. It's extremely localized.

No, it's not.

El Nino is a bloody massive effect that not only spans the Pacific Ocean, but also couples into the Atlantic and the number of hurricanes (eg ) and the Indian Ocean (eg ).


Another thing to remember is that this is China, a place so corrupt that people are prepared to game food testing regimes by mixing detectable poisons like melamine into milk. A place so corrupt that they will make cheap, crappy fakes of their own, slightly less crappy fakes.

A citizen score can therefore be though of as a ghost of an actual person. The ghost is supposed to be a sub-set of the attributes of the actual person, representing all that can be measured about them, but all that it actually is, is a ghostly echo that exists in a computer somewhere.

Given the Chinese propensity for trade, commercialism and fakery, I would think that there will rapidly be a trade in giving one's reputational ghost a spiritual wash and brush up, much as rich folk in the Medieval period would pay monks to pray for them after death.

I can also envisage a thriving and lively market in completely fictitious reputation ghosts, which will rapidly make the entire system utterly worthless.


Yep. It's one of a dozen or so big factors in my weather here in NC and on our coast. The problem is we don't fully understand all of the interactions and predictions are fuzzy to say the least. But when you look at the historical record it does have an impact.

For those of us who are minor weather nerds in the US we can guess what will be happening to us on the east coast in 3 to 10 days by watching how the Pacific weather fronts cross the Rockies. Again fuzzy but it lets me do things like decide to rent or not an excavator to re-work my yard or start a deck project this week.

I keep wondering if we're 5, 50, or never in being able to model weather so to take this into account with 10 to 20 day forecasts. I suspect never is the most likely answer.


"As noted elsewhere, getting the right people is not a priority; if you're running an oppressive system you want the ordinary folks to be a little bit anxious and keep their heads down, and the fear of being caught in a "Brazil" style "

I totally disagree. If you always get the correct "troublemakers" and ensure only the guilty are punished you generally get the active cooperation of the rest, instead of passive resentment and fear.


RDSouth #208: "One way is to have dozens or hundreds of test tubes (states, provinces, nation states) and try different policies in each of them, then look at what produce the desired result."

Well, sure, but that implies the existence of some party that is evaluating the hundreds of results, and trying to determine how valid/generalizable they are. The public is supposed to do that, but no one faction represents the public, either at the central hub, or the peripheral nodes. So how do we improve that?

#209: This house is the only shelter available, winter is coming, and the room-mates aren't cooperating. Panic time? Or time to get busy?

Charlie #214: So is it your opinion that no revolution will ever again be successful in changing a regime? Because that's pretty pessimistic. And I think you are giving the gov'mt too much credit based on one incident in one place and time.

Now if you want to argue aftermath that's a different issue. The Arab Spring in Egypt was 100% successful- in achieving their stated goal. They even brought democracy to their country for a brief period of time. They were overthrown by forces outside their ken. Better planning next time? Do you believe that progressive movements can improve over time?

Charlie #215: "I could argue that governance is an impossible (or at least insoluble) problem, during a time of change. And we're in one along multiple vectors -- environmental, technological, and consequently social, all interacting."

I would argue that that statement cannot possible be true because social systems survive periods of change. Think descriptively, what do social systems actually do, to manage themselves, within or outside the formal systems of government? And once we figure out what our systems do, can we improve on it? Could your gamified citizen score help do that?

"To do governance properly implies being able to identify sources of stress on your existing feedback loops before they cause major disruption, and there's just too much going on at present."

Hmm, I wonder. I rather think that no more is going on now than it ever does (more of it is just in the news) but that we have allowed our governance system feedback loops to become simplified, or as James Scott might say- "Made efficient." Efficient, that is, for certain factions, not for the rest of us. Our system could be described as a linear system for converting money into votes; but left to it's own devices (no, I dont think this happened spontaneously) local forces would create diverse feedback loops on their own. I dont know what that would look like in today's world (it wouldnt simply be the US Progressive Era writ large) but I'm curious enough to explore the concept.

As for your comments regarding Democracy and stable/unstable timeframes- the whole point of the conversational attractor in this thread is that we can no longer wait until the errors in governance become obvious to everybody. The damage we are doing to the ecosystem is subtle, but that wont stop it from killing a lot people. So where should democracy go from here?


So is it your opinion that no revolution will ever again be successful in changing a regime?

No, but it is my opinion that no revolution which follows the same modus operandi as a previous revolution within institutional living memory can succeed. Institutions retain memory of previous threats that they or their members lived through, and adapt to deal with them. (That second amendment to the US constitution? Is a fossil relic of a response to the circumstances that triggered the American Revolutionary war -- one that survived for centuries due to unique circumstances that served the interests of one particular constituency. And so on.)

What will happen is change in constitutional structure by any other name. Consider the unacknowledged constitutional crisis currently unfolding in the USA that has resulted in congressional gridlock and direct rule by presidential signed order, for example. Or the fate of the Egyptian revolution during the Arab Spring (now replaced by an even more grossly oppressive military junta than the one that was previously overthrown). We're going to continue limping along in like style for some years to come, I fear, before a better way of running things becomes clear (if indeed on exists). In the meantime, we're governed by democracy-shaped objects (which are nothing of the kind) doing the will of the plutocracy.


Even though you've been red-carded, hope you're reading.

As per the url name, this is about a new entry into the carbon capture system: scaleable, uses existing technology, and can potentially turn the captured carbon back into hydrocarbon fuel. So, completes the full cycle.

Back to China ... (First off, to repeat ... I'm not a techie, but many others here are ... so if you wouldn't mind sharing your expertise... )

Just how much data power would China need to do this level of surveillance to provide a real-time social report-card?

The U.S. has more than a handful of super-duper, massively humongous secretly located data storage facilities loaded with personal data. This data collection has been on-going for probably around 20 years.. However, old data (not sure of the exact definition of 'old') is constantly being purged because there's just not enough storage and/or data-crunching capacity. At this point I doubt that the people running some of the behavioral modelling have looked beyond the very simplest commercial aspects. Citizenship is vastly more complex than which cereal, book, movie or car a user is likeliest to want within the next six months ... and how we might be able to hurry these users up with a promotion to instead buy in the next three months so that we can hit our next quarter's revenue numbers.

Even though China's been churning out thousands of CompSci PhDs over the past 15 years or so, this does not ensure that China is anywhere near even the current U.S. level of expertise/results in this technology. I'm more inclined to think that China's going to be faking it instead. For example, China would be able to segment each individual into 30 or so reference population segments. (Only the 'reference segments' would be closely monitored ... very in-depth/detailed.) The GenPop via a link to their reference segments could be scorecarded based on any major shifts on three or four pre-selected key variables. This would provide the illusion of universal and real-time monitoring and feedback.

Key would be for China to state in advance which behaviors their citizenship is supposedly trying to increase and then conduct a proper longitudinal survey to compare results.


You have to understand that a non trivial number of folks figure the data breaches of various agencies and companies in the US that appear to be from China are being used to build a data base of people in the US. I suspect the EU also but news about this from the EU doesn't hit my radar.

Do they might have been practicing on organizing data on a few 100 million folks for a few years. Now they just need to scale it up into version 2.0 for internal use. (And I say this hating the use of the word "just" in describing anything to do with IT.)


I'm guessing that if the Chinese accomplish this, it's going to be based on a model of their average citizen based on assumptions and class contempt, rather than laborious research, the development will be hampered by the party bureaucracy, Pournelle's "Iron law" should work just as well there, if it ever works at all, it's primary function will be to ward the chill winds of rivals from the backsides of apparatchiks. It also may keep people mindful of their government, possibly in an interesting fashion, if it collapses the economy. Nearly forgot, government types enjoy copying from their counterparts, expect something very like this, with new serial numbers and fresh paint, introduced by nominally conservative types.


In general, electronic espionage agencies in the EU fall into two categories: the UK -- which is part of the Five Eyes, and should be considered a de facto annexe to the NSA -- and Everyone Else. In the aggregate, Everyone Else are Clueless; either they aspire to join the Five Eyes (intra-NATO penis envy, I guess) or they're bumbling around in the dark; Germany seems incapable of stopping anyone else from spying on them, and France has its own quirkily weird (and sometimes just plain paranoid and nasty) intel culture.


Regarding facial recognition in crowds there is this incredibly advanced technology
Called "masks" that defeat it rather handily


Why would you need to change how people vote? All you need to is convince the "wrong" people to stay home - AKA combine that voting experiment with their marketing targeting engine. All already-existing tech.


"No, but it is my opinion that no revolution which follows the same modus operandi as a previous revolution within institutional living memory can succeed."

So, a revolution which didn't follow the same modus operandi could succeed? Progressive movements can learn from past performance and improve their techniques? All we need to do now is design it.

One thing that occurs to me about gamifying socially appropriate behavior is that you could completely decentralize the computing power to run it- all it requires is a critical mass of people to download the app, and then exchange ratings with each other. Isnt that what Peeple is? All you need to add is an expert system that aggregates data and learns from the past- so that the criteria of the rating system changes as the state of world happiness changes. Isnt that the basis of Linda Nagata's Red Trilogy?


For god's sake, don't mention the war! (Nearly 200 results for the word 'peanut' on that page.)


I'm not sure about the "Everyone else is Clueless" part. To answer that properly, you need to first ask what they're trying to do, and for many being a 2nd fiddle copy of the NSA isn't it.

One of your major skills in Intelligence is to be underestimated. One case I make is Ireland vs. the NSA: "Everybody knows" that the NSA spies on everyone, therefore including us. That looking at the size of the NSA would mean that at important times (say: treaty negotiations between US and EU) the NSA could throw hundreds of analysts to work on Irelands agricultural negotiation strategy, what weaknesses in a common front with e.g. France can be found and undermined, and how the US could use this to its advantage, make logical sense.
It simply makes sense (and is backed up by past history where openly available) that the NSA would do so: it justifies its budget to congress on explicitly these terms.
But try explaining this to friends working in the Dept. of Agriculture that they would be personally spied on by the NSA, and they look at you as though you have two heads.

Similarly for elint agencies. Ireland is not part of Five Eyes, but its apparent we strongly co-operate. During WWII Ireland was officially neutral, but the US simply didn't bother sending spies purely because co-operation with the US was so complete it wasn't necessary. Irish intelligence agents were noted for being far better than their counterparts (admittedly Britiain and Germany weren't going to be sending their 1st rank agents to Ireland, but still, they're were outclassed). But that didn't hide the fact that Ireland had its own agenda - staying independent. In which we succeeded.

To judge whether the agencies are successful, first answer what you think they're trying to achieve.


There's a significant problem in using USian data to model Chinese nationals. First, there's a very large difference in the range of online choices/options within each of the geos. Second, the societal norms differ fundamentally on at least a few parameters, i.e., what's normal and or works on Americans won't necessarily move the needle on Chinese. Although, if your scenario is correct, the Chinese would have tested and recalibrated for this by now. Okay, that's the model building.

Back to data monitoring/collection/crunching ... just thought of a possible work-around for not needing massive storage: Build/bake the model into the OS. This would work because the West has probably been ignoring whatever the current official Chinese gov't OS is ... Ubuntu. Let's assume that in 2018, the Chinese govt mandates that everyone convert to this OS with behavioral apps baked right into it. The app would work on a by-exception or on a by pre-established threshold-basis, reporting/pinging HQ only as needed. Refreshes/retests that the app is still on and working would be done on a randomized basis to thwart whoever. (Although if the authorities start showing up sooner than usual when the elderly or invalid pass away, that would definitely count towards the model's 'success' and the credibility of the all-seeing gov't.)

I'm assuming that the Ubuntu OS is at least as massive as the Western OS ... 20+ million lines of code ... who'd notice another 3 or 4 million lines of code?

Re: Pournelle's Iron Law. Interesting law however would need to be modified (re-normalized?) for China to allow for an exceptionally high level of wanting-to-show-that-we've-reached-the-stated-objective. Check some of the NIH-sponsored/overseen clinical trials. In a nutshell - quite a few of the local Chinese supervisors just didn't get that in a clinical trial you should not toss out patients who experienced undesired side-effects, and you are supposed to include patients who are actually sick with this condition/disease. So in this scenario what you could end up getting is: Yes, our behavioral model for improving the morals of our citizenry shows great improvements .. meanwhile the actual crime rate and lower tier economic data shows no change at all. What I'm saying is that the Chinese have made too many false claims in science and technology over the years for extraordinary pronouncements such as this to be taken at face value.

To be fair, China can and does do some terrific science ... such as the excellent-but-not-publicized-until-decades-later work done by Nobel laureate, Tu Youyou.


"To be fair, China can and does do some terrific science .."

...but subject to Western "ethical" censorship it would seem.

"In an interview published on Wednesday on the news site of the journal Nature, lead author Junjiu Huang of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou said both Nature and Science rejected the paper, partly for ethical reasons."


Are we seeing a new strange attractor form, related to climate change and what to do about it?


True ... wonder when this particular research started ... the West took some time figuring out gene therapy ethics. HeLa is still controversial.


That new strange attractor is partially my fault, I'm afraid.

However, can I derail the derail, and go back to the original topic?

There's an interesting new interview with Jon Ronson about internet shaming at

Ronson (of Men Who Stare At Goats and Psychopath Test fame) is a journalist whose latest book is titled So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

In the interview, he's talking about western internet culture, but given that Chinese culture has traditionally run on shame and the Citizen Score seeks to quantify that, what Ronson has to say is pertinent. He's very articulate about the shortcomings of a culture based on shaming, whether it's on the internet or elsewhere.


Why would you need to change how people vote?

No worries, Google has that already covered.


Yes - and you could easily manipulate Google results by repeatedly searching and clicking on the desired search result link*. (Kinda old news ... but hope the regular media pick it up.)

* Good job for those nasty criminal alien scum to do at below minimum wage while awaiting their approved work permits. (Sorry for the harshness, but some of the people running are just so ... argghhh!)


Not on this thread, obviously, but ...
Would it be appropriate, at another time/thread to discuss this problem?
Why & how has this particular insanity taken hold in the US, given the owerweening force available to the guvmint (etc, yadda) ??


Fuel from the air?
OLD news but this is in Britain ....


HeLa is still controversial.
ONLY if you are a brain-fucked US christian fundie .....


Ahem: Ubuntu is an American-developed Linux distribution. Chances of it being the official Chinese government OS: zero, zip, nada.

The possibility of various Chinese academies/corps having built a GUI and app ecosystem on top of the Ubuntu kernel and userland is quite high, but it'll have been heavily modified -- Simplified Chinese i18n, Weibo and other domestic social network integration, and probably a government backdoored replacement for OpenSSL, just for starters.

But again, this is PC shit. And PCs are a dying (or at least stagnant) component of our IT infrastructure. I think they're more likely to form Android or push their own platform -- probably COS -- at phones and IoT devices.

Oh? And all your baseband are belong to us.


No. At least not on my blog.

It's a strange attractor of the worst kind and if I let it get a toe-hold it will keep coming back and sealioning in other discussion threads. It's also a question which brooks no answer because it has become a tribal loyalty test within part of the US political culture. (When was the last time you saw a Republican make a pro-gun-control argument?)

Nothing good can come of providing a harbour for such a discussion (for latecomers: the pros and cons of the US Constitution's second amendment and gun ownership) so this topic is an automatic red card and I shall add it to the moderation policy, which is due for an overhaul RSN (because I published it in 2006 or thereabouts and times have moved on).


Nature just did a special issue re: irreproducible results. Based on some of the articles, it could be that the Chinese human cloning article mentioned up-thread might have been rejected because there's insufficient means to evaluate that research.

An old friend (academic researcher) mentioned that there's quite a bit of tacit lab-specific techniques/know-how/SOP that doesn't ever get into the methodology sections of journal articles, i.e., reagents/antibodies, gene data bases, etc.


No, HeLa is controversial because the researchers basically swiped a cell line from a human patient without any attempt at gaining informed consent. Then they used it for bare-faced profit again without any gesture at consent or any attempt at obtaining IP rights from the donor or her heirs.

It's basically IP piracy, human experimentation without consent, and a bunch of other highly dubious practices wrapped up in one incredibly smelly (racism-tainted) ball of fun.

(It also annoys the fundies for entirely different reasons but I consider their aggravation to be less important than the unscrupulous greed and cupidity it revealed in the medical/corporate research field.)


To avoid the red card, I'll simply point out that if you want to understand American irrationality, you've got to look at who profits from various laws.

For example, certain firearms manufacturers would have gone out of business decades ago, because they were making products that lasted many decades and no one was buying their product. This is no longer the case, and it incidentally means that the US military can still buy guns from US manufacturers, as a side effect.

For example, the oil industry is a trillion dollar industry that is thoroughly intertwined with both big agriculture and military in a troika of hard and soft power, dedicated to keeping America alive in the face of its enemies, and projecting power abroad through sales of food and weapons.

For example, the pharmaceutical normally does not profit much (if at all) off short-term antibiotic and vaccinations. There's a lot of money in things like long-term prescriptions for painkillers, though, even though it feeds into all sorts of other problems.

I can go on, but basically, if you want to see where some sensible American policy is getting warped, whether it's sustainability, groundwater, renewable energy, public health, or whatever, look at the big industries and do some googling (in other words, follow the money). Typically there's an expose or ten listing who's profiteering, how, and why, and it's not being stopped.

This is why they call it corruption.


To avoid the red card, I'll simply point out that if you want to understand American irrationality, you've got to look at who profits from various laws.

Oh, I know that. (Disclaimer: I spend an average of a month a year in the US. Have done for the past decade. This doesn't make me an expert, but >1 year spent there means I'm not a total stranger.)

But the NRA, big agriculture, and the various other industrial groups all spend big money on lobbying -- and are not above running astroturf campaigns and sock-puppeting blog comment threads. And neither I nor my moderators need that shit.


Absolutely agreed. Hopefully having a blanket statement will stop the argument, and we can get back to talking about China, or climate change, or climate change and China (which is a painful topic in and of itself), or whatever.


To be fair, you need to place HeLa within historical context. What happened with HeLa also happened with many other types of research. This was pre ethics boards days. Access to these cells is now restricted and the family consulted.

Wikipedia excerpt:

'The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951,[2] from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who eventually died of her cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific — which has led to its contamination of many other cell lines used in research.'

'Gey freely donated these cells, along with the tools and processes his lab developed, to any scientist requesting them simply for the benefit of science. Neither Lacks nor her family gave Lacks's physician permission to harvest the cells, but, at that time, permission was neither required nor customarily sought.[11] The cells were later commercialized, although never patented in their original form. Then, as now, there was no requirement to inform a patient, or their relatives, about such matters because discarded material, or material obtained during surgery, diagnosis, or therapy, was the property of the physician and/or medical institution (this currently requires ethical approval and patient consent in the UK). This issue and Lacks's situation was brought up in the Supreme Court of California case of Moore v. Regents of the University of California. The court ruled that a person's discarded tissue and cells are not their property and can be commercialized.[12]'


Can we talk about gum-control then?
I'll get my coat.


What's interesting is that while the Court says that a patient doesn't own their own tissues/genes, a corporation can own an individual's genes (and charge a lot for testing, i.e. BRCa).


'Unlike routine tests for diabetes or high cholesterol, however, the BRCA gene evaluation — performed by only one company in the United States, Myriad Genetics — is phenomenally expensive, with a “list price” close to $4,000 when a related genomic-rearrangement test is included in the analysis, which oncologists typically recommend.'

Circling back to the topic:

Wouldn't mind the Chinese having a go at this ... bringing the genetic test costs down and providing data/evidence of just how much earlier diagnosis and individualized online follow-through and support might reduce healthcare costs.


"No, but it is my opinion that no revolution which follows the same modus operandi as a previous revolution within institutional living memory can succeed."

So, a revolution which didn't follow the same modus operandi could succeed? Progressive movements can learn from past performance and improve their techniques? All we need to do now is design it.

Improve their techniques imnplies the same modus operandi. I don't know what Charlie was getting at, but in my mind past revolutions where about taking over the state, hoping to use same as a tool to do whatever. This is of course biased because I'm motly intetrested in communist and anticolonial history. I'll call this Leninism.

Thing is, a state depends on quite a lot of things to run, mostly a tax base and some form of consent. Also you get stuck with the same old institutions (this is why you need some consent from those governed), just a few new top dogs. Then actually changing the society is hard because of said dependencies. I didn't even get into the anarchist critique that power always corrupts, yadda, yada.

So one question is how to change the world without seizing power. I know no convincing strategies. Personally I liked what the Invisible Committee had to say about communes:

Communes come into being when people find themselves, understand each other, and decide to go forth together. The commune itself makes the decision as to when it would perhaps be useful to break it up. It’s the joy of encounters, surviving its obligatory asphyxiation. It’s what makes us say “we,” and what makes that an event. What’s strange isn’t that people who agree with each other form communes, but that they remain separated. Why shouldn’t communes proliferate everywhere? In every factory, every street, every village, every school. At last the true reign of the committees of the base! We need communes that accept being what they are, where they are; a multitude of communes, replacing society’s institutions: family, school, union, sports club, etc. We need communes that, outside of their specifically political activity, aren’t afraid to organize themselves for the material and moral survival of all their members and all the lost ones that surround them. Communes that don’t define themselves – as collectives tend to do – by what’s within them and what’s outside of them, but by the density of the connections at their core. Communes not defined by the persons that make them up, but aby the spirit that animates them.

This is of course only a part of the answer to the question what a new revolutionary MO could look like. I just point out that a commune of people that care for each other could mitigate some of the social and economical pressure brought to bear. At least better than going it alone, which is the default option to often.


Is spirit of the discussion here I actually used DuckduckGo instead of google to find the source, something I should do more often.
I'm also all ears for any actual revolutionary master plans. I won't promise not to laugh and/or weep.


a corporation can own an individual's genes (and charge a lot for testing, i.e. BRCa

Nope, the BRCa gene patent just got comprehensively nuked by the supreme court in Australia.

Can't be patented, probably won't stand up outside Australia because of WTO treaty agreements, and implies that other human genes can't be directly patented either.


Not your fault, I think Charlie wants something different nowadays, and ecology/ environment stuff from a wider perspective than mine the shit out of it is a good idea.

Also thanks to Catinadiamond for the Stafford Beer link, I have one of his earlier books on management and operational research, which is interesting to read.


And speaking of money, here is a plea on behalf of the fossil fuel industry by the World Bank

"The transition from fossil fuels must be carefully managed to avoid an economically disastrous bursting of the "carbon bubble," the World Bank's top climate official said on Saturday.
Decades of reliance on oil, gas and coal have made them central to the global economy, and polluting industries risk a potentially catastrophic crash as the world shifts to alternative energies, said Rachel Kyte, the Bank's special envoy for climate change."

Sounds like some rich folks are shit scared of windmills and solar roofs...

(When was the last time you saw a Republican make a pro-gun-control argument?)
When the Black Panthers were the open-carry advocates? (Done now.)

Taking the Chinese “Citizen Score” a step further, what if governments also collected everyone’s genome in a data base for psychological markers to predict criminal behavior? Sort of a PKD pre-crime prevention scenario.


Well, they are. The somewhat bigger problem is that a bunch of big employee retirement funds own a lot of petrochemical funds, stocks, land, etc. If it all becomes worthless, a lot of people are going to lose their shirts and/or their retirements, and that's going to be bad. It's not just the plutocrats who are exposed on this one. To a greater or lesser extent, everyone who has investments is caught by it.

It's also worth remembering that fossil fuels are central to both modern military power and conventional big agriculture. If we go swerving off big time into wind turbines and solar panels, people won't be fighting the same way they used to, and there will be much less food available in the world in the short term, giving people a lot more reasons to fight (cf: the Arab spring and wheat prices). That's a recipe for chaos, millions of refugees, and a lot of deaths.

Probably the best tl;dr way to say it is that 20th Century civilization is a carbon bubble. Deflating it's gonna be interesting.


Gait analysis as a biometric marker can deal with the mask problem,


Google-backed 23andme is a step in this direction.


How's access to this testing in Australia going? If well, then there's hope for other countries.


Well, I dont know that much about communes, specifically, but I know a fair bit about leaderless groups, teams and organizations. Groups such as the ones your article is describing dispense with the hierarchical form of organization and rely instead on a loosely-knit network of information exchange instead. Examples range from Affinity Groups and Spokes Councils to leaderless organizations like Morning Star or Orpheus. Even business management now recognizes certain advantages in commune-like structures within businesses, a field of research known as Distributed Leadership.

Leaderless groups are known to have certain strengths and weaknesses. They can generate solutions to problems that are more creative and effective, while hierarchy tends to suppress a diversity of views. At the same time, leaderless groups also tend to take a lot longer to make decisions, and can get mired down in "Personality Politics". Research has indicated that informal groups are sometimes at risk for "emergent leaders" who are narcissistic and counter-productive. This seems to have happened to many of the Occupy Spokes Councils.

I facilitate groups for a living. The first thing I have them do is collectively agree on rules for discussion and working together. Only after they agree on rules do I direct them to discuss and agree on goals and processes to achieve those goals. Occupy might have worked much more effectively if they had had more experienced facilitators on hand.

Groups can dispense with leaders, but not leadership. Of course the entire framework I've just used to discuss this topic with you assumes that the purpose of any group is to achieve some task. The people who wrote that article you linked to might disagree with that presumption. But I think it's axiomatic that if we decide we want society to re-organize itself along more decentralized lines (semi-anarchy, as it were), then our scheme for doing so can help avoid exploitation and provide members with more agency, but we still have to show we can compete effectively with groups that have more centralized leadership.

It can be done, but not on the cheap. It requires a lot of training and a culture that values collaboration as a component of personal success. There is a segment of our population who will naturally resist this, as they will perceive (rightly) that they themselves do better in life when they are free to be jerks.

You can judge any society in two ways: One is how they treat the weak and the vulnerable; the other is what they do with their jerks.


It's funny how the very same technology that enables a distributed surveillance state could also be used to enable such distributed leadership structures

The generation of government is likely going to borrow heavily from social networks


And social networks (the RL kind, not just online) borrows heavily from government. It's an old story, Unholyguy- the railroad and the telegraph brought people together across great distances, helping unite the country, and also enabled armies larger than ever before to move longer distances and do more damage- the Civil War would have been very different without them. Technology is just technology- how it gets used depends on who uses it.


You can judge any society in two ways: One is how they treat the weak and the vulnerable; the other is what they do with their jerks.

The first has been discussed at length for centuries. Would you like to make any comments about the second?



I felt the question needed asking - if only to stimulate the answer you have given.
Also, your reply to heteromeles @ 248 is relevant.

[ IF it's allowed - if not, then please delete at the brackets & below ... ]
People killed in terrorist attacks in USA since 1/1/2001, approx 3010 ....
People killed in "mass" shootings in USA since that date - over 250 000.
And nothing is done ( from the BBC ) utter madness.


Again, thanks.
I was NOT aware of that particular smelly can - it explains a lot.


It is not going to be "deflated" as in "gone with no replacement". Oil and gas will still be pumped for decades, but it won't be the industry it is now. It will be replaced with cleaner trillion dollar energy generation industries.

And if you are worried about pension funds, this is something that should seriously worry you:

BTW, since then Liz Parrish the CEO has become the first person to try the treatment.


Occupy might have worked much more effectively if they had had more experienced facilitators on hand.

Not when they contain large numbers of bright-eyed empty-headed loons ...
"We are against the big corporations exploiting people" - whilst using an apple slimline laptop.
"We are for the communist revolution - & it's going to be different this time" - oh yeah, really?
"We wont a modern islam, in a modern society" - oh yeah, really?

I found all of those, out the front of St Pauls, within the space of less than 10 minutes.

What about the phenomenon that is certainly common in Britain ... lots of little local groups, doing their own local thing ...
Though they, every so often erupt into the local or national headlines, when a "psycho" takes the group over.
But, usually, those voluntary groups do a very good job.
( Hint: I'm in two, myself. )


Another stimulus could be everbodies favorite, tax.
Not as integrated in the corrective social system around every citizen but effective none the less.
you've got an SMS:
"Your score this month isn't very good at all. Taxrate this month will be 85%."

Your score will also be visible to an employer. The government requires anyone to have a minimum score to have the right to be employed or have a business. Drop below the minimum and your employer is required to let you go and when you have a business; 'Sorry you no longer have one. Try again when you've been a good girl/boy for 2 years.'

Of course there will no longer be a government safety net for you and it will be VERY bad for anyone's score when they help you out with anything at all.


You just described a sure fire way to make cash popular again and take the black economy mainstream.

If the government has managed to get rid of physical money by then somebody will probably find a way to reinvent it.


Well, the enlightened way of treating jerks seems to be to give them a corner office, put them in charge of billions of pounds/dollars/euros and stimulate them on with nice bonuses.


It's been very commonly available for a long time to most people. Healthcare is a state rather than federal responsibility here, so the specific public programs are different from state to state. Queensland, for instance, has a universal breast cancer screening program that is available to all women and they (or any doctor) can refer a client to a government clinical genetic testing service for BRCa variation testing.

The issue arose when a local franchisee of the patent holder started action around asserting patent rights a few years ago, and while they subsequently backed down there was a legal shadow over such programs. This High Court ruling removes that and while the broader question about gene patents is still not settled, it provides a firm nudge in a good direction. The concern is that provisions of the TPP may lead to something of a reverse, but we'll have to wait and see.


'a pre-emptive red card to anyone who argues that the US Constitution's Second Amendment and an armed populace is in any way a solution to state oppression in the modern age' (OGH, 214)
Being a history nut, I think I could find a couple of cases in modern history, in which armed civilians managed to stand up to a military force, but those always involved a mass political organization, not rugged individualists. (A third-rate and unmotivated military on the other side helps, too.)
The political movement has to radical. The German moderate left and liberals created their own democratic paramilitary during the Weimar years (, but that was strictly for self-defense, not civil war. When the time for extreme and desperate measures came, they folded.


Why CEOs are more likely to be psychopaths. It's self-report data, but it accords well with the historical evidence. We take our least collaborative, most aggressively competitive people and allow them to claw their way up to the leadership class. It's no wonder we're such a mess. On the other hand, what else would we do with them? I'm almost convinced that the rise of the business class is what brought an end to land wars in Europe.

Greg.Tingey (272): The ad hominem attacks arent worth replying to, but the rules I referred to earlier include procedures for dealing with people who arent on board with the group's overall goals. Nothing too draconian, but if you are consistently counter-productive, the group will eventually ask them to leave. That is exactly what was missing in New York Occupy- I remember people taking up literally hours of the group's time with their own personal agendas, and sometimes just ranting. People thought that the "Inclusiveness" rule meant that no one could be asked to stop derailing the process. A skilled facilitator knows how to put a stop to that.

Civic volunteer groups are another excellent example. Here in the US, non-profits are legally structured as corporations, so they have governing boards and executive officers. Billions of dollars a year are funneled through such groups and our society would fall apart without them. They also tend to be a progressive (with an "undercase" p) force in society, which is why places like Russia or Egypt restrict them so much.

What I notice, however, is that, at least here in the US, small group collaboration really isnt part of the culture. Someone linked to an article about the on-line culture of shaming- people calling each other out on trivial stuff and not letting it go. Simplistic over-reaction is a sign of ineptitude- make this part of the elementary school curriculum- that culture change alone would have a huge impact on society. Social capital could begin climbing back up again.

@Andreas Vox: You ninja'd me!

@Anowhine: The works of Gene Sharp are illuminating. Violence is a strength of the state and it's institutions- they are very good at using it. Relying on violence to overthrow the state is counter-productive. You attack someone at their weakest point, not their strongest. The more violent the resistance movement is, the more likely they will become as oppressive as the people the replaced after the regime change occurs.


Hmmm. That's pretty close to the scenario I put in my book, about us blowing all our fossil fuels over the course of the next century. That's the IPCC5 model.

The easy way to get to there from here (currently we're on track to blow all fossil fuels in ~20-50 years) is to cut emission rates by about 50% per year, which is currently more than we're willing to do.

Pessimist that I am, I suspect that we'll do a lot of superficial cutbacks in fossil fuel use, but every time there's an emergency (say a war, mass migration, or a city wrecked by a natural disaster), someone's going to justify using fossil fuels "just this once" to deal with the crisis. We'll never really stop using the stuff until it runs out, and we'll just get to severe climate change more slowly, but just as inevitably.


I guess I am risking a red card but asymmetrical or guerrilla warfare has not exactly been a failure in the last fifty years. Of course it is not reliant on an armed populace


"On the other hand, what else would we do with them?"

Give them small boats (say


(... oh, buggeration. Note to self: this blog's parsing of "special characters" is broken.)

Give them small boats (say <= 25ft LOA), sail power only (no engine, no electrics - well we can allow them a quartz clock) and send them to sea.


Many people can do useful work etc, it just depends on the feedback available. In the case of the mad money worshippers, they aren't getting enough feedback.


Re, the perils of Uber drivers "rating" customers, this has already happened in a minor way on evilbay and Amazon; Happened to me specifically on evil bay, I down checked a bad seller, and she used feedback blackmail against me; Never could get evil bay to even LOOK at the clear trail of email evidence (years gone now), thus sellers can no longer down check buyers.

Note: Feedback blackmail was specifically provided for in evil bays written policies as something to get you thrown off the site.

(It was YEARS before the seller went out of business, I watched; Everyone buying hobby products bought ONCE from her, discovered the up charges hidden in the handling fees) ($1.50 when everyone else made do with $.25?) (Invoices tended to run ten or twelve items, many items for $.99) (I know, simple arithmetic is hard)

Amazon does the same reverse, sort of, holds third party sellers to a very rigorous standard, and has very little provision for reporting bad customers.


I like that, Pidgeon's idea is a waste of good sailboats...


Exactly, or we funnel them into space exploration. Mind you the difficulty of teams made up of leaders and associated types is that they do rather badly at problem solving and running a business, to go by Belbin's work.

A nicer form of feedback would involve embedding them in an organisation or group with built in transparency etc, so that their usual tricks would be somewhat limited and people wouldn't be so inclined to ape them. Eventually though they might destroy the organisation by factionalising it. Probably better if it is a small organisation than a multi-billion dollar company though.

But knowledge is key. I know of one person who is some combination of psychopath, greedy, narcissistic and just plain delusional, albeit in a moderate degree so you can't tell, who has mildly defrauded a number of people but does so in different social settings hence word doesn't spread.
Naturally some people seem to think we could make up a ratings system to do the keeping in check and spreading the word, but we all know how much they can be gamed.


I guess you mean something like "the lurkers,"(?) and of course the phrase has become generalized and is now inoffensive, but thought I'd share in case you want to be scrupulously PC.

Read the prior thread listed.

There's a fair bit of original research that I did that's now being used by others. (In fact, I took the phrase right back beyond where it was thought to have originated by about 100-200 years or so, and did the legwork).

So - when I say "peanut gallery", it's not really what you think it's saying, nor am I ignorant of its history and it's used in a post-modern ironic way given who it's referring to.

It's probably worth you & Demarquis noting this.

Hint: there's a narrative being woven to link refugees / immigrants into Lebanon / PLO type internal strife and create internal division and break-up of various EU states and ride that to gain various political advantages.

I don't like that narrative.


The coral bleaching is very very bad news. It has a potential to hasten some very nasty things & push some hands to do some things that fall under "Plan B".


I realize that you are probably being at least semi-humorous, but to take your underlying idea seriously for a moment- I'm afraid that I may be too cynical for that. You see, the leadership class is full of jerks not because their followers, even the passive ones, are mis-informed- it's because there is a flaw in human nature that influences us to support people who are jerks to anyone outside our group (however and whoever defines what "our group" is understood to be). We often dont care if other people get exploited, as long as "me and mine" are ok. Arguably, the destructive effects of sociopathic leaders are not entirely their fault alone- we put them there. "We has met the enemy and they is us."

@Cantina: Well I'll be a silly bugger.


>You see, the leadership class is full of jerks not because their followers, even the passive ones, are mis-informed- it's because there is a flaw in human nature that influences us to support people who are jerks to anyone outside our group


Quoth Eric S. Raymond:

Human beings are not natural killers; very, very few ever learn to enjoy murder or torture. Human beings, however, are sufficiently docile that many can eventually be taught to kill, to support killing, or to consent to killing on the command of an alpha male, entirely dissociating themselves from responsibility for the act. Our original sin is not murderousness — it is obedience.


Like most things, it's an interaction between personality differences and environmental conditions. Most of us only become violent under extreme conditions, but there are a few people out on the extreme end of the bell curve who become violent under moderate conditions. And then there are those who have learned to seek social approval of their violence by waiting until the conditions are right (or making them become right).


Sorry, not ad hominem
What I wrote is an accurate account of what I found "on the ground" - admittedly of a small sample.
However, I take your point about a "skilled facilitator" - who will then become the boss, presumably - what should his/her title be?
"General Secretary" perhaps - & there's a very nasty little bit of historical sarcasm in there ....


"Fossil Fuels"
Anyone got any opinions on THESE PEOPLE:

Are they genuine, are they loonies, or are they a "front" for someone/something else?


Time for this month's linking to Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians already? It's the primary research on this, engagingly written up. It will likely confirm a worrying number of your existing biases, but its contents are too well supported to be discounted.


Ah, Chemtrails.

I think we can be fairly confident that any conspiracy big enough to do what the conspiracists allege, spread over multiple companies in multiple countries, is probably not going to manage to stay that secret for decades.


Any conspiracy big enough and efficient enough to micromanage the world despite the best efforts of "shit happens" to randomize things definitely deserves to be in charge.


"Human beings are not natural killers..."
Yes they are. In most small tribal societies the death rate from violence is astronomical compared to regular nations or empires that keep people from being "natural".


Chemtrails. Oh my.

This was the last big conspiracy my mom was pushing on people before she died. Had DVDs that she made to hand out.

Did you also know that the coordinated effort against the Indian Ocean pirates was a trial run for allowing the UN to take over direct control of the world's navies?

My mom lived in this crap.

As to a front. Well if you're trying to hide by surrounding yourself with the nuts of the world so you can do other things and no one notice you, .... maybe.

Back to Chemtrails. Just how many 10s of thousands would have to coordinate to keep this secret? There are 10s of thousands of commercial jet airliners. And 10s of thousands of mechanics who work on them. And the designers. And tech documentation. Just how can any of this be kept secret?

Look back at the American Airlines (AA) MD80 stand down a few years back. There was a mandatory change where a wiring harness tie down was moved or added to prevent chafing in (I think) a landing gear bay. AA had noticed the issue and developed the "fix". FAA had approved it. But apparently AA interpreted their orientation of the bracket differently than the FAA and when the discrepancy came to light the FAA made AA stop flying the MD80s until they all had the bracket orientation changed.

Now I may have the exact details wrong on this but really given how this played out does anyone think you can keep secret an engine additive system. Plus the supply chain required to support it?


As in "A state of nature" - I'll let y'all complete the Hoobes quote.

P.S. Thanks to Catina, btw - yup it's a conspiracy-loon on the loose.
I picked up flyers from this burble in one of my local pubs, went "wtf?" & then thought I'd save effort by asking.


Ahh, but the joke is a lot deeper.

Look into where his London offices are, the development name, the road location and so on. Then look at his background.

He's still gainfully employed, and Metabunk is a myopic site, it gets many things wrong (such as not believing that certain cities designed by Masons have symbolic layouts - of course they do).


As for contrails and chemtrails:

The potential of condensation trails (contrails) from jet aircraft to affect regional-scale surface temperatures has been debated for years, but was difficult to verify until an opportunity arose as a result of the three-day grounding of all commercial aircraft in the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Here we show that there was an anomalous increase in the average diurnal temperature range (that is, the difference between the daytime maximum and night-time minimum temperatures) for the period 11-14 September 2001. Because persisting contrails can reduce the transfer of both incoming solar and outgoing infrared radiation and so reduce the daily temperature range, we attribute at least a portion of this anomaly to the absence of contrails over this period.

The best thing anyone could be doing at this point would be secretly making sure every plane that flew increased the albedo and thus lessened warming.


Sorry you seem to have had a bad experience. However, a professional facilitator is trained specifically NOT to become the "boss" (generally, the work groups I facilitate already have bosses). I'm the "process expert", the group is the "subject experts". They know their jobs better than I ever could. I know how to get people to work together effectively and efficiently, so I help them set an agenda and pursue it. The goals and knowledge come from them. Things like "rules for brainstorming" or work flow diagrams come from me. Now imagine that kind of arrangement applied to an activist group.

BTW- if the Chemtrails thing still interests you, here is a well researched debunking site I came across while researching a "mystery missile" launching a while back: The global contrail map is fascinating- you can visually see how much cloud cover we are adding in a single day (also check out his essay on a chemtrail buff's rather warped interpretation of the animated movie Cars).

The world is a far more fascinating place...

@Dirk Bruere (298)/Greg.Tingey (300): Technically, the actions of advanced nation states are just as "natural" as the actions of tribal societies. It's a touch patronizing (to the tribals) to suggest otherwise. Outside divine intervention or the arrival of space aliens, anything humans can do is "natural" for humans to do. And rates of violence have (apparently) been going down for some time. Though I understand there is some controversy around that.

Pretty sure that the greenhouse gases emitted by aircraft more than outweigh the benefits of the contrails they produce- although artificially generated clouds is a technology that various people are looking at.


Indeed, so, your response is what? Kill off humanity? Kill yourself? Get drunk every day?

And yet despite this flaw in us, we managed to sort out and improve a lot of things in the 20th century, from slum clearances to nutrition. Sure, the evil people are counterattacking, but that doesn't mean we have to just give up.
On the other hand exactly what to do is somewhat tricky.


The contrail article is behind a paywall

It's difficult to imagine that a single three day period could constitute a statistically valid test

Or to imagine how contrails could effect enough surface area to impact albedo

Still not a bad idea ...


Oh, no, not at all. I'm an optimistic cynic. The power of science can set us free. Methods to oppose or even reverse in-group bias and group polarization do exist. Research indicates that when in-group members gain face to face exposure to members of out-groups, prejudice tends to fall. I believe that the "jerkiness" of the leadership class can be managed by leveraging the power of the entire group in decision making, and then educating the members regarding the interests and values they have in common with otherwise threatening "Others". That way, people who want to increase their status within that group have an incentive to promote moderation. There will be some fraction of "hardcore" fear-mongerers left, but those guys can be openly opposed by group norms that support productive collaboration.

Re the effect of grounding planes after 9/11 on atmospheric temperatures- Most of the research I see is skeptical. Here are some articles:

This one, however, is more supportive:


Methods to oppose or even reverse in-group bias and group polarization do exist
IIRC, there was just a report out showing that legalising & taxing & regulating cannabis would result in a vast profit to the state.
As well as cutting the drug-dealers off at the knees.
How long now, I wonder?


Chemtrails. Oh my.

Apparently unspecified chemicals are the thing in tinfoil hat circles. I'm not sure why nobody proposes using crop sprayer type technology to spread biological weaponry, either as a terrorist act or in war time.

Before you get worked up though, it's been tried. The USAF looked at this decades ago. It turns out not to work.

But for people who can believe in fake moon landings that shouldn't be an obstacle.


No, I wasn't envisaging it as simply a grossly inefficient method of disposal; I was thinking of it as a method of giving them an inexhaustible supply of stuff to compete against - and which will always, in the end, win, and remain unharmed to boot. If tackling Corryvreckan against wind and tide gets boring, they can try and sail up the Danube to Germany, etc. And if they prefer human challenges to those of the forces of nature, they can try and beat the customs and port officials in countries with vast and corrupt bureaucracies.


Try reading Dave Grossman's "On Killing"; he begs to differ (and follows on from / cites SLA Marshall's "Men Against Fire", for all that people have criticised it).

Armies have problems finding good snipers. Killing in the heat of battle, as part of a group, can be trained fairly easily; the ability to kill in cold blood, while on your own, is somewhat rarer.


There have been innumerable such reports and studies over the years, but their effect has been disappointing to say the least. The thing is that countering prejudice with rational arguments tends not to work. More effective is experience, and that is from where the change is coming - as those who swallowed Hoover's jobs-for-the-boys propaganda die off and the legislatures become populated by later generations for whom it is more and more likely that they have participated themselves and so know fine well on a personal level that there's nothing wrong with it, and the rest of the citizenry knows this, so it becomes more and more difficult to sustain the hypocrisy.


There's also the expected reaction of the other side, and the loss of the safety-in-numbers feeling of fighting in a group. Being a sniper is a perceived bad risk; the other side hates you, is likely to make a specific effort to take out you personally, and is likely not to bother with merely taking you prisoner. Also, lying immobile for hours under a pile of leaves on your own tends to be viewed as less desirable than the camaraderie of the group.


Nope, it's not the danger, isolation, or endurance aspects; that's easy by comparison. The problem is specifically the issue with finding soldiers who can kill, calmly, in cold blood.

Page 1 of the sniper pamphlet, if you can find one - and that's based upon empirical experience from two world wars and a lot of small ones.


I'm afraid you lost me, did you reply to the wrong post?

@Pidgeon (308)- Heh. But what they want is specifically power, not a challenge.

People are natural killers- we are also natural saviors, as well, and which impulse dominates at any one time is a complex function of circumstances.

@Pidgeon (310)- Cant tell if you are referring to prejudice against cannibis, or out-groups, but your point about the ineffectiveness of rational argument holds regardless. Emotional appeals, however, have been known to work better.


Cannabis; out-groups; smokers of cannabis considered as an out-group; out-groups evolving into in-groups or undistinguished-groups. The parallels were in my head as I was typing it, and the ambiguity was sort of deliberate. :)


What are you smokin' Pideon? : )

Sorry, just had to go there.


the issue with finding soldiers who can kill, calmly, in cold blood.
Does it also not depend upon whom the enemy is?
If the enemy is the SS - no problem, if it's some poor schmuck conscripted into a low-level Wehrmacht unit, not so much .....
( for example )


Willingness to kill as a function of propaganda?


"Does it also not depend upon whom the enemy is?"



I keep wondering if we're 5, 50, or never in being able to model weather so to take this into account with 10 to 20 day forecasts. I suspect never is the most likely answer.

IMO it depends if you are talking Continental or Oceanic weather patterns. Drier continental weather is very stable - The Alps in Europe for example can be fairly reliably predicted 10 days out now, including the major fronts in winter. Aside from tornadoes, I'd expect most of the US and Canada to be similar.
Strongly oceanic weather, especially when it interacts directly with mountain ranges such as in Chile or New Zealand, is much more unpredictable.
You can have major storms brew up in the Tasman Sea out of nothing in 2-3 days, while neighbouring Australia has a strong high pressure system in the middle for 11-12 months a year.


Does it also not depend upon whom the enemy is?

No, since the same limitations also apply to organised crime.
It has always been relatively easy to find leg-breakers of various kinds. Bullies like inflicting pain.

But true enforcers, the ones willing and able to kill instead of bluster, quickly, cleanly and without passion are extremely rare, and highly valued.

And creep the heck out of the rest of the organisation.


With studies like this:

why would you want to have a healthcare system with high deductibles and a 'market' basis to it?
You wouldn't, of course.
That many governments think you have to have such a thing is bad.


Well then we are in broad agreement. I look back though at the successes of the post-war period in getting a bigger slice of the cake for normal people, and places like Scandinavia, and I know that it is possible.
Of course the conterattack by the owning class over the last 35 years has had a lot of success, such that even totally lunatic ideas like binding future governments to always run a surplus are getting traction.


Explain how El Niño can effect Caribbean ocean temperatures.

You can follow the links and references.

I just saw this and remembered your comments.


Greg like myself is probably of an age to remember the British TV series, "Callan" about a hitman who worked for a secret British government organisation that eliminated problems facing the nation. He was a low-rent James Bond, conflicted and somewhat alcoholic but a stone killer when called upon. He was kept on the job even though he gave his controllers a lot of grief because what he could do so well was a rare talent.


I'd forgotten about that series - it was rather good, and quite believable in many ways.

Len Deighton did something similar with the lead character of the IPCRESS File, and again with Bernard Samson; when you see the characters as others see them, rather than as they describe themselves, it's fascinating.


If you read Piketty, it's due to the accumulation of capital relative to wages since approximately the late 1970's/early 1980's. According to his tables, we haven't lost all the ground gained since the end of WWII, but the trends are all in that direction. The best model I've seen so far is from Germany, where they give employees and the local community representatives on the share-holders board of every corporation over a certain size. It does not seem to have crippled the German economy! And it's certainly a lot fairer than the US system of "Devil have you if you cant keep up".


Indeed. I've not read Piketty, but that point re. accumulation of capital is well known. The difference in the 50's-70's was higher tax rates and suchlike. THe counterattack utilised bad econmomics, such as monetarism (Apparently proven false within the first year or two of Thatcher's government, and quietly rescinded, yet some well paid stupid bastard called Condon was on radio 4 a couple of days ago saying things had gone well between 1981 and 2007)

But remember, even Germany has had a lot of outsourcing and screwing the worker in the last few decades. Having a market economy with big corporations will always result ina power imbalance and putting a few people on company boards will not have much of an effect. They will be captured by their own ties to the company and vulnerable to a "if we don't do this you'll all lose your jobs" approach.

A few years ago Warren Buffet and some other billionaires were begging the US government to tax them more and spend the money on infrastructure. Naturally, they were ignored.


I said "Best I've seen" not "Ideal." We could certainly do better. It's going to take some sort of return to local-based economies to completely reverse all the trends, and give us a environmentally sustainable system.


Beware the polite thug


@302 writes " rates of violence have (apparently) been going down for some time. Though I understand there is some controversy around that."

Charts, graphs and tables from Pinker's "Better Angels of our Nature" are not at my fingertips since I borrowed a library copy, but as I recall there were at least a dozen pre-agricultural tribes from all over the world whose mortality statistics were compared. The average rate of violent death for males ran about 40%. 20th century Europe even with two wars was not a tenth of that. New Guinea tribesmen who did not experience the intrusion of a modern state until the 1930s were unanimous in their judgement of major improvement to their lives, primarily due to the relief of not having to maintain credible deterrence, by way of endless vendettas among neighboring clans. Having state authorities be the biggest, baddest kid on the block so to speak, left them free psychologically to lead their lives without burdensome, violent, and compulsory enforcement duties. Evidently the whole structure of that lifestyle imposes emotional costs that last for generations, a claim supported by comparing heart rates and adrenalin levels of volunteer college students participating in a study where they had to squeeze past a file clerk in a narrow hallway to reach their supposed test. The actual test was measuring their response to the file clerk "accidentally" bumping them and muttering a profanity. Students from northern states laughed it off while those from the South, an area with historical emphasis on macho values and less developed state enforcement (dueling, stand-your-ground laws, chivalry as lifestyle etc.) were markedly more provoked. ("Ah say, ah say, them's fightin' words, Suh!") Pinker theorizes that herding, as opposed to horticultural societies have more easily stolen means of subsistence, and since they usually are located in more mountainous terrain are less accessible to state intervention, such that border areas like Scotland developed traditions of clan feuds and passed these traditions on to the New World areas they settled.


Anthropology studies these last few isolated remote primitive tribes and concludes that they tell us something about the general pre civilization experience. It could be an error. These tribes are selected by the fact that they have remained primitive so long. They are peoples who somehow got to the most isolated places in the world and resisted change. Maybe they were combative types and everybody pushed them deep into the jungles or mountains or deserts, forbidding, non choice terrains, because nobody could stand them and their temperament made it impossible for them to get along with each other long enough to have their way over others militarily.
Also, in the north there is greater crowding, and thus the culture has adapted. Everybody has thick skins and is expressive. This may have been engineered from the top by do gooders as a way to improve conditions. The less crowded south is thinner skinned and more reserved (in the classes who go to college). Dueling was common in all western civilization at one time, and its presence in conservative places is largely a matter of the survival of once universal old ways due to the society hosting it simply being conservative. Again it may have been engineered from the top by a different set of manipulators as it can function as a method of control while looking random. What looks like a touchy bully is actually an enforcer.

Then there's the C21 theme song. Harbinger of things to come?


There's got to be a whole lot of sides to that story, Canada has areas with the greatest preponderance of Scottish descendants in the Americas. By Pinker's reasoning Canadians should be noticeably quick to take offense, as opposed to the stereotypical easygoing, low key types portrayed in the media.


These tribes are selected by the fact that they have remained primitive so long. They are peoples who somehow got to the most isolated places in the world and resisted change. Maybe they were combative types and everybody pushed them deep into the jungles or mountains or deserts...

That's not necessarily a good thing. If they were pushed out to the undesired hinterlands that suggests that their now vanished competing tribes were more violent and dangerous than they were!


I'm not ready to buy the argument of least favored terrains gradually filling up with least cooperative peoples, but playing devil's advocate I can imagine a plausible chain of events explaining the outward appearance of that observation. Suppose life in certain areas is going to be nasty, brutal and short for premodern inhabitants, no matter what, it's just built in due to physical adversities making life a zero sum game for competing tribes and clans subsisting there. Over time, evolutionary selection might favor reduced levels of oxytocin or such similar "empathy" factors in the brain, since they'd impede swift, decisive and merciless grabbing of advantage at neighbors' expense. You'd end up with a scenario for breeding super soldiers, or by modern societies' viewpoint, criminals. And conversely a more settled existence in favorable climes would gradually produce civilized types with cooperative skills. I wonder what kind of experiment could be devised to test either hypothesis, they both resemble "just-so stories" like how the leopard got its spots, effects being lined up neatly with satisfying, easily understood but imaginary causes.


As far as Just So stories are concerned, it may be noted that the most feared units with the British Army were the Ghurkhas — Nepalese mountain men.

Before them, it was probably the Scottish Highland regiments.

There is a tradition of recruiting the mountain men as fighters for the lowland empires elsewhere. The Swiss mercenary companies were particularly feared until they were banned[1].

[1] With the notable exception of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. But it's a while since the Holy See was a military threat.


Er, no.

Duelling is common among honor cultures and is required of those with privilege (in its original sense -- private law, the right of justice over subordinates and chattels). In other words, it's an aristocracy thing. Very much a feudal hang-over, and popular among slave/plantation owners in the south because their status had to be defended and backed up with lethal force.

In England, duelling spread to the lower orders and was then clamped down on during the 18th century; its criminalization happened more or less as the English libel law was created in its modern form (to allow aristocrats to defend their reputation in the courts rather than on the field of honor). It also went out of favour as the modern conception of the rights of man came in -- because a universal framework of rights requires a universal framework for the enforcement of laws, and has no room in it at the margins for nobles with the power of high justice.


It could make a comeback in socially libertarian societies as something "between consenting adults".


Well, environmental determinism is a thing, but I'm not quite ready to buy it. I personally think that history is more complicated than that. However, I do like the idea that rates of violence are going down as the rule of law becomes ever stronger (which is presumably happening due to the economic competitive advantage such nations experience). Apparently even national wars cant compete with pervasive personal violence as a way of life.


What seems pretty clear from me from reading various histories and suchlike over the years is that most people aren't actually in favour of violence, whether it is carefully controlled and socially sanctioned or not. E.g. it is often the last resort in all circumstances, save those where some violence loving lunatic is actually in charge.

People also don't give enough credit to humans apparent flexibility, and assume that any social difference, e.g. violence in Papua new Guinea, must be related to an actual physical evolutionary change in brain/ body function, whereas it is probably just as much a cultural one, and culture can be transmitted down the generaltions encoded in brain structure but not actually passed on in in a genetic fashion.


What happens if you don't conform to 'eating healthily', and your score goes down?

Well, here in Australia there's a scheme that targets people on welfare, especially indigenous peoples. Around 80% of their payments are quarantined, so that they can only be spent on goods and services the government deems acceptable. That includes so-called healthy grocery choices. Everything they buy is logged.

Originally, this scheme was designed to prevent alcohol-fuelled violence in remote communities, by simply banning people from being able to buy alcohol at all. At the time a few organisations warned that this was the thin edge of a wedge. The government assured the populace that this was not so - and yet here we are.

What appears to be deliberately overlooked is that most people on welfare constantly engage in a juggling act to make sure bills are paid and their family is fed. (This is largely due to the ridiculously low amount - well below the poverty line - of payments.) With quarantined payments, people cannot engage in this kind of cash-flow juggling, which provides an incentive to try to game the system or engage in outright 'criminal' activity.

And the consequence? Bye bye, welfare payment, and good luck trying to get assistance from any organisation except the charities, which are already stretched to the limit.


I was for a time a member of the British Duelling Federation and shot in a few competitions. I never survived to be the Last Man Standing; there were no second place winners or runners-up, only the last winner "won" anything.

We shot in pairs, both shooters side by side facing individual man targets about 20 metres downrange, depending on the locale (sometimes they were closer). We rested the muzzles of our pistols (9mm or heavier) on a switchpad on a table at about 45 degrees. On the signal (sometimes a horn or a light, one time there was a neat remote handkerchief drop out by the targets) we raised our pistols and fired. Microphones on the table detected who shot first, the targets were scored on a zone system and the winner decided by a formula of time between the two shots and the zone score. Fast but sloppy could be beaten by slow but more deadly but too slow would lose assuming the other shot hit the target at all. If both missed we shot again. The switchpads made sure no-one "jumped the gun" before the signal, anyone who did so was eliminated by the judge firing at his target.

It was an elimination (of course) ladder. Each entrant got a rosette, the winner of each duel collected the loser's rosettes and the eventual winner got all of them, along with the prize money (a bag of crowns, one crown worth 25p from each entrant was traditional).

Heckuva lot of fun; there was a shotgun variant using small clays, one time we did a round with bows and arrows and there were even a couple of guys who tried it with throwing axes Viking-style.


That sounds like hella fun, but Charlie's point still stands- dueling was never a significant source of population loss. Feuding, on the other hand...


The next step from quarantines has already started, with the ALP giving it a thumbs up so the government doesn't need to worry about Senate numbers: welfare debit cards. This means granting certain approved suppliers a monopoly on the things welfare recipients can buy. It's already the case that basic grocery items are heavily marked up in remote aboriginal communities, far beyond what can be justified in terms of transport costs. This will extend the isolation to people in cities too.


This gets complicated. Getting back to RDSouth's original point, there are some studies of the Yanomami that showed that many of the adult men died in duels. Part of the problem here is that the Yanomami culture studied by the anthropologists only worked because they obtained the steel axes needed for their slash-and-burn agriculture from outsiders, including the anthropologists who studied them.

While the Yanomami are somewhat independent, they're yet another group of Amazonian Indians who ran away from the settling of the Amazon over the last 500 years, and whose lifestyles profoundly changed as a result. They're not a timeless culture that has survived from the distant past, any more than the Hatfields and the McCoys demonstrate a timeless western feuding culture that reaches back in an unbroken line to the time of the Scottish Celts and perhaps to Stonehenge, or Bear Grylls is a relic of the same culture, steeped in the survival skills of his forbears. Backwardness isn't an invariable sign of timeless primitivism. It can as easily be an adaptation to circumstances.

One of the classic mistakes past anthropologists made was to assume uncritically that people living "primitive" lives today are direct survivals from the ancient past. Fortunately, they're scientists, not ideologues, so they've realized the problem and are trying to fix it.

But getting back to the point, aristocracy isn't necessary for dueling. Generalizing from the English history may be actively misleading.


... aristocracy isn't necessary for dueling. Generalizing from the English history may be actively misleading.
As is that statement.

In the English aristocracy, duelling was rare, very rare.
The status was for the purpose of gathering money or its equivalent, usually landed estates, both translating into political power.
And this dates back to pre-1066, with great landed magnates like the Godwins ( as in Harald Godwinsson ) or Leofric, Earl of Mercia.
If you want a British example, my knowledge of pre-1150 Irish history is virtually zero, but Scotland had both duelling AND feuds.
Look up "The Battle of Dryfe sands" &/or Maxwell/Johnston feuding.
Or get a copy of G Macdonald Fraser's wonderful history of the borderlands: "The Steel Bonnets"


I did hear one tale from a Royal Marine where a matter of honour was settled on the squash court...

And a more relevant example from an infantry regiment where it was settled in the boxing ring. (Regimental Boxing Night in a Signals Regiment will also include womens' bouts...)

Duelling doesn't have to involve edged weapons or firearms, they just even out any weight, size, and age differences. Having spent the last few months as a complete beginner, working towards my first-ever Judo grading, I can vouch for the fact that being at least twenty percent lighter than the other blokes in the class is a severe disadvantage in a physical contest...


The aristocracy vastly preferred intermarriage to violence as a way of dynastic expansion and consolidation -- it didn't expend the commodity you were trying to gather -- but as is the case throughout Europe, the aristocracies of the mid-second-millennium were descended from feudal nobles who got there by being the officer class of a hierarchical militarized society. Being able to fight was part of the job, as much as it was for Samurai during the Tokugawa shogunate, and for much the same reason (the internecine wars may have ended, for the most part, but the source of authority was being able to chop the head off any upstart peasant who got ideas above their station).

These systems decay over time but the Southern planter aristocracy -- to wrestle the topic back in the right direction -- had a baked-in terror of a slave uprising (not to mention an economy that relied on slaves) that kept a heavy emphasis on the ability to maintain status by violence. Even if it was more often the violence of the slaver against their victims than violence between equals.


It's already the case that basic grocery items are heavily marked up in remote aboriginal communities, far beyond what can be justified in terms of transport costs.

If you think groceries and other supplies are over-priced relative to the merchants' operating costs, you're welcome to go into business and undercut them.

I think you underestimate the expense of doing things, though I grant that I'm thinking of life in Alaska and you didn't specify a specific location. This should not derail the main discussion.


"Least favored terrains gradually filling up with least cooperative peoples" is a good fit to a lot of the history of Britain, with the various waves of invaders coming in and naturally being interested in the more hospitable areas. To draw it very broadly, those of the existing inhabitants who were more pragmatically inclined altered their lives to suit, while the more stroppy ones retreated to the mountainous areas which were easier to defend although not so hot for agriculture. There are similar examples from many other places that also spring to mind.


Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed is a whole argument on this issue. It's an issue that intrigues a bunch of sociologists, even as they argue about how true it is.

While I generally agree with Pigeon's remark, it's worth realizing that "least cooperative" doesn't necessarily mean most militant or combative. While least cooperative can mean actively resisting, in a colonial or slaving context, it can also mean "most useless." These are the people that, if you capture them, are always slipping off back into the mountains whenever they get a chance, who don't do a lick of work unless they're constantly supervised, who can't be taught to do anything, who pilfer, etc.

If you think about it for a second, these useless people are also people who survive pretty well in unforgiving terrain with minimal resources. While it's natural to think of them as clueless children (a common description in imperialist ethnographies), it's equally likely that what they really are is people engaging in passive resistance against ol' masa, people who are either trying to survive or, at best, trying to exploit their oppressors before leaving.


Except, of course, that the great majority of the peoples of Britain stayed put, as gene-sampling has shown.
See also "Cheddar Man" - & his current descendant/relatives.


I think this calls for institutionalising some form of sabotage against institutions that work too well...Frank Herbert (in Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment )had this idea a long time ago; with many provisos as to how, what, why scope for wild nastiness and mindless violence). He could have done more with that idea I think! I always wondered whether the saboteurs sometime saboted themselves, or each other, on a regular basis...
In any case, what is described in the text here is not too far (or is close enough) to the mechanisms discussed in the design of optimal taxation schedule, or more generally mechanism design: what is key there is the ability to distinguish between people and to organise the incentives so that people reveal what they are truthfully enough to be taxed fairly. Of course economists are usually interested in such design to achieve the common good, the same arguments could be, and no doubt are, used for the benefits of the few or even the worst for most...


Defining "too well" as in achieving their goals very quickly without any time for actual testing or indeed democratic feedback.
From memory, having read the books and short story, they aren't supposed to sabotage each other, but can sabotage the head of the agency, i.e. if you change the head person in an organisation things can get changed in turn inside it.


I recall reading somewhere sensible that a lot of the Viking originated names for places in the north east of England are actually up in the less hospitable parts of the country, i.e. they spread into and colonised the worser areas. Or else the people in the nicer areas refused to change the names of local places to suit their new neighbours/ overlords.


Or they valued something the previous occupants didn't.
Or they followed the patterns of most conquerors and (as a rule of thumb, with many exceptions for many reasons) named what they built and appropriated the conquerees' names (with or without modifications for new alphabets and/or pronunciations) for what they didn't.


I wouldn't interpret too much into Cheddar Man, AFAIK the research actually was only with the mtDNA,

which is only maternally transmitted, so if we assume migrations are not sexually uniform, that makes limited predictions for the whole genome. And the line in question, U5

is much more common in e.g. Estonians, Finnish and Saami

than English or Germans.

And the frequency is about the same in Germany and England, so with this limited information we can't exclude an female Frisian ancestor. Or some troll daughter, err Norse woman with Saami ancestry, for that matter.

Actually, AFAIK U5 is a lineage connected to the pre-agriculture Western European hunter gatherers, which, according to

amounts to about 34% of English ancestry, for the rest, the bulk are Early European farmers stemming from Anatolia, who entered the scene somewhat after Cheddar Man.


Yes, but ....
Studies have moved on since then, & we can now trace both "maternal" & "paternal" dna traces in the ancestry, can't we?


We could do it already then, problem is DNA is far from indestructable, and you have a few orders of magnitude more mtDNA (for maternal lines) than chromosomal DNA (of which Y chromosomes for paternal lines are a subset). Which is why it's much easier to get mtDNA than Y chromosomal DNA.

Also note both have a lower population size than other genes, so they coalesce rather quickly,

e.g. there is quite some risk of lineages disappearing.

And last but not least if we go back to your great grandparents, mtDNA and Y chromosomes give us only 1/8 of your ancestors each.

OTOH, technology, e.g PCR and DNA purification has moved on, and the paper I linked to even sequenced other human DNA of comparable age, which makes for some surprises. Especially if you go for the genes for skin, eye and hair colour, apparently Western European hunter gatherers were rather swarthy fellows (you get your Vitamin D from meat and fish, not sunlight, but folic acid, which is UV sensitive, might be an issue since it's AFAIR mainly found in plants) with fair eyes. Makes me somewhat wonder about the Black Irish, still, most British not looking like Brazilian pornstars indicates their was quite some immigration. Or really strong selection...


Or get a copy of G Macdonald Fraser's wonderful history of the borderlands: "The Steel Bonnets"

Apocryphal note - it's dedicated with the real names of those of his section who died in and around Meiktila, as described in "Quartered Safe Out Here".



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 9, 2015 4:44 PM.

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