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The Future Is Not American

Wouldn't you know, just as I put up a Kickstarter for a space opera set a thousand years in the (non-white-American, non-male-dominated) future, a new trailer came out for the latest installment in that great movie space opera series, Star Wars--and the screaming broke the sound barrier.

The latest outrage du jour? Black protagonist! Female protagonist! Cue Luke in anguish: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

There's even a boycott. Because Black! Female! Noooooooooooo!

Best/worst comment I saw on the subject was most hurt, hurt to the very butt, by the sheer unAmerican-ness of it all. "Luke is American. Han is American. Even Leia is American!" Because if you're not white and straight and either male or owned by a straight white male, how can you possibly be, you know, American?

Of course the dear boy was corrected. It is, after all, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Where unless one has access to time-travel technology, there really is no way for anyone in that universe to have ever heard of, let alone cared about, one very young country on a small planet in a minor solar system a fair ways out on a quite undistinguished, if rather pretty, galactic arm.

And that's the thing.

Americans (even the term is indicative--what about Canada, Mexico, or all of Central and South America?) have this hammered-in conviction that they are the one, the best, the only, the center, the perfect embodiment of all that is. (All right, I should say we, as a citizen of the country, living in that country, fighting the endless fight against all of this crap.) It's called American exceptionalism, and it's a worldwide problem. It's also a distinct problem in the science-fiction genre.

Science fiction is not an American invention, especially if you subscribe to the belief that the original science-fiction novel was written by a British woman, Mary Shelley. And yet there's a distinct sense within the genre that it's an American phenomenon, dominated by American writers, American readers and fans, and American publishers. Just look at how hard it is to get a "Worldcon" going outside of the United States, and how much to-do there is when one actually happens.

There's been a lot of pushback in recent years, and a lot of pressure to open up the genre to other voices--to the whole world rather than a single country, and within that country a single dominant ethnic and cultural group. And, in the way of such things, the dominant group has pushed in its turn, and defended, sometimes sadly, sometimes rabidly, and always angrily, with an undertone of fear, what it perceives as its hegemony.

There's reason for that fear. American here is taken to mean white and male-dominated. English-speaking. Heterosexual. The red-blooded American boy of myth and legend. James T. Kirk conquering the stars with his irresistible sex drive and his corn-fed Iowa values. Even Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations can't compete with the good old American way. It gets to have its say, but as the credits roll, it's the American who always wins.

The white, straight, male American with his white, straight, American beliefs and assumptions. He's progressive--he'll have women on board his ship. But they're all in subordinate roles, and their skirts are short, short, short. Same goes for the non-Americans, the non-whites, the aliens (but he's only half, and mostly it's about his acknowledging his human--by which read straight, white, American--side). The American is in charge, and that's how it's supposed to be. Even in a future that's supposed to be diverse, advanced, enlightened.

It's a fantasy. It's not even real now, when the U. S. of A. is a dominant power. That power is collapsing under the weight of toxic politics and global economic, social, and political forces.

A hundred years from now? A thousand? Supposing we haven't blown each other up or destroyed ourselves in our ongoing ecological disaster, we're very unlikely to live in a straight-white-American world. Earth alone is much bigger, wider, more complex, and more (dare I use the word) diverse than that. If and when we head out into space, our species will change and adapt, and that one arrogant blowhard of a country out of all those hundreds will turn out to have been a blip on the radar of a long and varied history.

Just look at human history so far. An observer in the year 1015 C.E. would recognize quite a few countries of 2015 by name and location, but the United States would not be on the map at all. Go back another thousand years, to 15 C.E., and the world is a different place again, with different politics, priorities, and cultural and philosophical views.

Now look a thousand years ahead, and extrapolate. We might see common cultural and religious or political threads, and countries or regional identities that have persisted, but the United States, if it still exists, will be just one of many. It's unlikely to be the dominant world power, and historically speaking, most probably won't be.

Empires fall. Cultures change. And the direction we're headed in, we're shifting away from the dominance of the white male.

If anything, we're more likely to see a future like the one in Firefly (putting aside for the moment the whiteness and Wild-West-American-ness of the show's cast and plots: yet another demonstration of the point here about science fiction and the dominance-by-default of the white American male), which has grown out of China, linguistically and culturally, more than the United States. Or some new entity will rise and form an empire--or something else altogether. We don't know. We can, as writers and readers and enthusiasts, guess.

My own best guess? It's not a white male future. There will be serious blowback, and the Republic of Gilead is a real possibility, but I don't think it will last. I don't think the United States will, either, at least in its current form, or at its current level of dominance. It's been eating itself from within to the point that it may not be salvageable. Certainly it's losing the ability to govern itself, and then there's the whole corporate-dystopia thing we've got going on. Not to mention the toxic levels of wealth and income inequality.

Fixing all that will take serious work, and probably a revolution. Leaving very little room for continuing to rule the world--even in its own mind.

I don't think that's a bad thing. The world changes. Figuring out how and in what direction is part of the science fiction writer's job--and so is seeing, and accepting, that the future won't be exactly like the present.

Especially if that present is a figment of the writer's imagination to begin with. That all-white, all-male, all-American world? Seriously not an accurate reflection of the planet we live on now or, frankly, ever.

882 Comments

1:

I'm certainly in favor of better racial and gender balance in our movies, but arguably the kind of racially balanced cast we'd like to see is no more "realistic" about the future than a whites-only cast. I can't remember which book made this point---Niven's World Out of Time perhaps? Or Brunner's Stand in Zanzibar? But if we posit that today's race-consciousness gets tossed, then presumably the boas toward like-with-like childbearing will disappear, at which point random mixing of genes would blur all races together into some middle ground. Arguably, a cast made entirely of mixed-race actors would be the most accurate way to portray a racially enlightened future.

3:

I remember reading a comment by Michael Flynn years ago, about his novel Country of the Blind, when it was serialized in Analog. Someone wanted to know why the protagonist was a black woman, because there didn't seem to be a reason for it in the story, and Flynn replied to the effect that there was no reason for her not to be a black woman.

4:

I know this is probably a digression, but it has always bothered me that a lot of European cousins seem to focus on American dominance sidestep and minimize their own culpability. Sorry if this is a tangent, but it's something that's bothered me.

Begin rant:

I see you James T. Kirk and raise you Picard. What was he, a mixture of French and British culture? How was he different from Kirk beyond him appreciating high culture? Notice that the high culture he seems to enjoy are Opera, Shakespeare, and Classical Music. Notice how many nonwhite cultures are emphasized in this show?

This dominance can't really be blamed on the US prominence. How many world states of early 20th century British sci-fi had a primary culture that was either Victorian English or Belle Epoque Europe?

You are correct that it is difficult to set a WorldCon outside the US. However, there has only been one WorldCon outside of the white world, and that was in Japan. Surely the European members have campaigned tirelessly to have a WorldCon on another continent?

I may get a few disagreements with calling it the white world instead of the Western World. For those of you who call it the Western World, I have a few questions? Is Japan a Western Country? South Korea? Mexico? Brazil?

I'm not a member of the WorldCon, but I wonder how many nominations you got last year from India? Latin America? Africa? Heck, David Brin was surprised when I mentioned some great sci-fi literature from Africa. How much of it are you familiar with?

Growing up I noticed that there were two main strains of contemporary science fiction. The first is the one you mentioned. The second is one combining the dominant European Union culture with that of the United States white male culture and calling it the new global culture. China is only added in if it's supposed to be an apocalyptic future. Alastair Reynolds did this. So did Gregory Benford. The only traditional great European sci-fi writers who have sidestepped this issue are Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, the latter just.

5:

I understand that this article was focused on white American culture, for good reason. However, it seems too many people use the dominance of US white culture to hide culpability. Maybe replacing a white heterosexual male American with a white heterosexual female American? Or with a white heterosexual European female (conveniently ignoring Europe's minorities, even ancient ones such as the Sami or Romani)?

My concern is that the dominance of American culture is used as a get-out-of-jail-free card for European writers with regards to their prejudice.

End rant and digression.

6:

China is only added in if it's supposed to be an apocalyptic future. Alastair Reynolds did this.

Are you talking about "Terminal World"? Because that's the only Alastair Reynolds' book which is both post-apocalypse and has a nod to China.

Most of Reynolds' futures are emphatically NOT white-American. In "Blue Remembered Earth" (set in 2151) China is old and moribund, nobody even remembers that Europe and America used to amount to something, and Africa is the rising star. I liked even more that in "Revelation Space" series the Demarchist culture which gives rise to most interstellar colonies is a fusion of Chinese and French-Quebecoise.

7:

Sorry I have a few more thoughts. I should learn to wait before I submit.

I have to give credit to Phillip K. Dick. He is one of the few 20th century who actually treated race fairly in his books.

In the novel "I Dream of Electric Sheep", most of the main characters were Asian. Too bad that was cut out of Blade Runner.

Few notice that in "The Man in the High Castle", the Japan-occupied Pacific States of America is no longer majority white. This is mentioned in passing when Frank Childan complains about "more and more (insert racist word for Chinese)". If you think about it, it would make sense. Even accounting for Japanese atrocities, China would still have the largest population in the Empire. Why would the Japanese keep Chinese immigrants out of the Pacific States, Australia, or New Zealand? Keep in mind that the Japanese were disciples of the British Empire in many respects. Changing demographics to emphasize ethnic conflict over anti-British conflict was used by the British Empire in Malaysia, Fiji, and East Africa among other places. In that world, the Japanese might see it as an effective way to keep the Empire loyal?

8:

I retract my comments about about Alastair Reynolds and apologize. I never read the novel "Blue Remembered Earth".

However, I remember that the Demarchist culture seem to me to be far too French-Quebecoise with relatively few Chinese influences. However, it has been a long time since I read that book. I haven't really read many works by him since 2001. Perhaps I was too hasty with my accusations, and I should reread that book?

When I wrote statement I was thinking more of Gregory Benford's Galactic Center saga and Stephen Baxter's Titan and Manifold series. I should have added two disclaimers. The first is that I this observation is limited to the sci-fi books I read, so there might be works by these authors which disprove my assertion? The second is that Greg Bear's The Way series manages to avoid this, at least for Asia.

9:

Oh wait, Star Trek involved, let's see, a Canadian lead, a Jewish second-in-command and a dude from Georgia playing a doctor instead of a cowboy. Lot of former cowboys on that set, actually.

In any case, anyone who wants to start pontificating on race really needs to read the following: http://www.physanth.org/about/position-statements/biological-aspects-race/

Still true after all these years.

10:

It might help the above points to mention works by other than white male authors.

Speaking of the hegemony thereof.

And yes, there's a white male English-speaking bias overall, but the USA! NUMBER 1! NUMBER 1! faction is particularly loud and, recently, boisterous. And seriously butthurt that Those People are taking "their" publishing slots, awards, etc. They don't like the present they see, let alone the future in which they will not be front and center.

11:

Setting aside the whole "American" thing, I have to disagree with you about the first sf novel. To my mind the first sf novel was Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift.

What makes it sf? Swift uses his little people, his big people, his talking horses, and the like to make satiric points. But along the way, he stops being interested just in those points, and starts thinking about the figures he's introduced to symbolize them, and what they imply. He talks about how much the Brobdingnagians way, and how high their blood pressure is; he brings up the physical mechanism of Laputan flight, instead of handwaving it as magic; he talks about the discovery of Martian satellites (an impressively lucky guess.) That's totall sfnal; it's like what Jo Walton says about the literary critic who reads a story with a dragon and gets all excited about what the dragon symbolizes, but misses the interest in exploring what the existence of a dragon implies about the world, and how the dragon functions.

And the quantitative detail is sfnal too. Gargantua and Pantagruel were of indeterminately huge size, and that carries on to King Kong, whose size fluctuates from scene to scene; but Swift tells us how talls his invented races are and sticks to it.

Now, this is science fiction as social satire, which isn't the dominant Anglo-American form. But no one would say that Stanislaw Lem didn't write sf, would they?

No disrespect to Mary Shelley, who wrote pioneering works in two sf subgenres (though I have to say I found The Last Man slow going compared to Frankenstein); and to be sure, Swift wasn't American either. But I think Swift has a legitimate prior claim.

12:

a Canadian lead

FWIW Shatner's also Jewish.

13:
Science fiction is not an American invention, especially if you subscribe to the belief that the original science-fiction novel was written by a British woman, Mary Shelley. And yet there's a distinct sense within the genre that it's an American phenomenon, dominated by American writers, American readers and fans, and American publishers.

There is?

I've never really considered it to be american; or americans to be particularly good at it. Sure you might get an occasional Asimov, etc. but looking at my bookshelf I'm much more likely to see Brits. Any americans that creep in there tend to be the 'unamerican' type of americans.

Sure, if you are talking big, brash, and noisy - hollywood fodder - you might see quite a few 'typical' americans. Otherwise it's the ones who've mastered subtlety, irony and wit that can cut it in SF proper.

And I don't think many outside the US of A really think the future will be US shaped - we just have bets on how long before the whole place implodes ... and hope that it doesn't explode.

14:

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15:

I think you're under-estimating the path dependency involved in institutional development. America may not be the dominant power in that arrangement (although we will be one of them - we're still one of the largest countries in the world, and one of the most dynamic in integrating new migrants despite the open xenophobia), but the one-two punch of British/American domination for the better part of two centuries means there's a very good chance that Governance In The Future will be heavily American-colored.

16:

The dominance of a certain type in science fiction my just reflect the makeup of the paying audience. But then, it may be something else. The iconic American may be almost a sort of totem for a culture that will live on long after the institutions that spawned it are gone.

America (the USA) is decreasingly American (heterosexual white male American). In fact, by 2050 it will be majority non white.

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2008/02/11/us-population-projections-2005-2050/

Then halve that 47 percent of whites and you get 23 percent white males and take out gay ones and you get somewhere around 20 percent of Americans being "American". And that doesn't even include the rest of the world, where they are even more scarce.

But think of it this way. There may not be many technically qualifying Americans in America, or the world, but there will be plenty of people who are Americans in all but name. There may not be Captain Kirk, but there will be black lesbians pretending to be Captain Kirk.

It will be like the late Roman Empire, very few actual Latins, with all kinds of barbarians playing the roles and functioning as parts of the machine. They may not really be descended from Romans but nevertheless they were Roman. Even the barbarian states that followed the fall went on copying Roman forms in many ways. The Roman Empire actually continues to exist, in a way. Ask PKD.

I saw a TV show about a guy trying to find the Arc of the Covenant. He traced it to some tribe in Africa that had been carrying this thing around for thousands of years, patching and repatching it and pretending it was the same thing. By the time he found it in Zimbabwe it was an African drum of some kind, with handles so it could be carried before the tribe. The memory of America will be like that. Or like the tattered flag carried by the Yangs, mumbling their holy words.

17:

"White in America" has expanded before, to include the eastern and southern Europeans in the early 20th century. It'll expand again by 2050-2100, probably including all but the most "indigenous"-looking hispanic folks.

That's assuming the whole thing isn't moot by then, because of people screwing with their future offspring in utero to get greater dispositions towards favored traits.

18:

Never mind the future, the present isn't American either. Or even WEIRD.

19:

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20:

I remember a talk where Flynn pointed out that in his story "Great, Sweet Mother," nothing was ever said about the gender of the protagonist or their intimate partner. And that was back in the early 90s.

I've never understood how such a smart guy can also be a climate change skeptic.

21:

If your attitude to a guest post is just to dismiss it without submitting any evidence against it, perhaps it would be best for you not to comment at all.

22:

Seems like the "boycott star wars" thing was a *chan trolling attempt, and it's not going anywhere.

Personally, I'm boycotting Star Wars because of the stupid flaming broadsword lightsaber.

23:

The first SF novel is more likely "History of the States and Empires of the Moon and the Sun" by Cyrano de Bergerac.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comical_History_of_the_States_and_Empires_of_the_Moon

24:

Maybe I'm not understanding something correctly? But Firefly doesn't strike me as "that USian". Yes a majority of the main cast are nominally white, but 2 of 8 aren't even visually white, and of the 6 who are, 2 have a Chinese surname. And that's without all the Chinese dialogue and a significant number of guest cast being ethnic Chinese...

25:

The future is large. Some of it will happen to white guys in America, and some of it will happen to other people. What particular part of the future you want to write about says more about you than it does about the future.

I'll also note that Chinese and Japanese chauvinism are rather similar to American exceptionalism, but less self-aware. When your country is large enough that most people rarely look beyond it, that's what you get.

26:

(Before I dive into the comments ...)

A point I like to make about American exceptionalism, speaking as a native of a somewhat smaller nation, is that the USA is tiny even today. With 350 million people, it contains roughly 4-5% of the global population. To put it in perspective, if the USA is your world, then a polity within that world with a similar population would be Pennsylvania, or maybe Illinois (the latter gives a better idea of it by also representing its geographical area).

Imagine if the entire media universe you inhabit is dominated by depictions of Illinois. Every movie is set in Chicago, the only ocean depicted is Lake Erie, and maybe 1-2% of the casting choices come from California. That'd be weird, wouldn't it? Or maybe WEIRD in its skewed lack of representation.

27:

Aww Vanzetti, diddums. Is someone talking about something that makes you feel uncomfortable??

Welcome to the real world. Judith's world, my world, actually it's the real world for most of the planet.

You poor little thing. Tough, isn't it.

It does crack me up that every time there's a guest who goes 'hey there are other voices that aren't straight white males and we'd actually like to be heard too' the way some regulars try to shut down those voices and pretend it's not real - and the effort they go to do this when all guests (by default) are invited here by OGH. Like 2 year olds with their hands over their ears going 'I'm not listening, I'm not listening' before being sent to bed without their pudding.

Your comment is like a textbook case to prove the point of the post little Vanzetti.

29:

The Chinese Empire has lasted for some 5000 years. Surely it can hang on for another 2 or 3 thousand?

30:

I can definitely say that SF&F fiction as available in the bookshops in the UK skews heavily White and 60/40 towards US/UK authors. In Australia and NZ it is a subset of that, with the addition of various local authors, and both have traditionally had a healthy balance of male and female which isn't reflected in the parent companies.

Part of that is the history of the genre - up until 2000 or so, there was next to no translation from other languages into English, unicorns like Stanislaw Lem aside.

Part of it is that the US is the largest English language market by a large margin. Naturally US authors will tend to dominate.

But much of the problems raised above are systemic failures and internal biases will have a steadily greater effect. We've covered that before in a previous post.

White America Hoo Rah is less of a problem in fiction than it is in visual media. Much of that is probably because there are far fewer points where meddling can occur - author conceiving a story, publisher accepting it, editor amending it, and the story finally appearing in print, you have a 4-5 step process. Compare that to a film being made where you can have a 10-20 step back and forth, and what is on the screen is utterly different to both the base idea and the early screenplays.

That isn't to say it isn't a problem, rather it is to say that conflating prose fiction with visual media is going to doom your argument before you get started.

31:

This dominance can't really be blamed on the US prominence. How many world states of early 20th century British sci-fi had a primary culture that was either Victorian English or Belle Epoque Europe?

Your traditionally dominant white christian-ish American patriarchal society looks to Europe for its historical continuity the way the Romans looked towards Greece -- a valuable possession with lots of neat philosophical ideas to carry forward but hey, we're bigger and better than them (and their descendants are kind of effete and weak which is why we rule them).

I'm guessing that if we look forward to 3015 from here, the cultural legacy of white male dominated 19th/20th century America will still be visible in the background -- something called "English" will still be widely spoken on a global scale and some of the cultural exports will still exist -- for the same reason that any globe-spanning trade empire leaves a mark that takes a long time to fade. But focussing over-much on it in a work of fiction set in 3015 would be like writing a 19th century historical novel that focusses exclusively on the Greek classics.

Worldcon: there was a serious bid for a Beijing worldcon in 2016, IIRC. It was defeated on grounds of being a first-ever Chinese bid and not fully-formed, but there might be a Chinese worldcon within the next 5 years, and almost certainly within 10. (It usually takes a few consecutive bids for a bidding team to get their shit together enough to convince the site selection voters that they've got all the bases covered and it's not going to be a horrible hot mess.)

On European SF writers taking China into account as a force in the future: so you're totally unaware of David Wingrove's massive Chung Kuo series? Or Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang? (Which was cheated of a Hugo only because it came out in the same year as "A Fire Upon The Deep".) This stuff is out there; there's not enough of it, but there are western writers who take the rest of the world seriously.

32:

You are absolutely correct, but if you don't kind, I'm going to radically moderate (with ban hammer in hand) any discussion thread that shows signs of veering in the direction of recent years' Hugo related culture wars.

33:

Also to Judith - I really enjoyed Forgotten Suns, so will happily support this kickstarter.

Are we allowed to laugh about how the idea that SF started outside the US has degenerated into squabbling about which one it was, completely ignoring the fact that they are all non-usian.

34:

the one-two punch of British/American domination for the better part of two centuries means there's a very good chance that Governance In The Future will be heavily American-colored.

Riiiight. Just like the massive Austrian tint to our global governance left over from the Habsburg ascendancy (they dominated Europe for five fricking centuries). Or the way that the Spanish Empire has dictated the shape of the world today. Or the Mongol empire, the largest in history.

Nope, I'm not buying it. The British/American empires are going to leave marks, much as the Spanish and Portuguese empires have left deep impressions on South America and elsewhere, but a thousand years out those marks will be about as deep as the Roman empire's marks today: even a century out from here, they'll be fading.

35:

Not to mention that the Eastern Roman Empire was effectively a new Greek empire in all but name. Greece, Thrace and Illyria - or the Balkans, Greece and Bulgaria - were the heartlands of the empire, with Turkey and Egypt as major secondary regions.

The continuity with the west was steadily broken by drastic changes in religion, language and administration, but the name Roman Empire was maintained throughout.

36:

I am a born and bred Nebraskan. I live with "American exceptionalism" every day and have for most of my life (65 years). I find it refreshing to read someone whom I respect from outside the U.S.A. completely nail where we are at and where we are headed. I guess I'm not crazy after all. Myself and my friends have started trying to find positive outcomes for America wherever we get together and talk politics and the future. It helps to fight off the ennui and the despair of living in America right now. It is so embarrassing and scary.

Btw, the Wikipedia article on "American exceptionalism" is very interesting.

37:

You can have nominative continuity in the absence of structural continuity. (Consider the Eastern Roman Empire as an example of this one.) And you can have structural continuity under some other name/nominal source of authority. (Consider the Chinese Empire today as an example of the latter.)

I suspect a major underlying prop for nominal continuity is a language group; hence the Chinese empire. And if there's anything that the UK/US hegemony is going to leave behind, it's a global trade language.

38:

The whole #boycottstarwars furore does look very much like a 4chan joke that actually worked and took on a life of it's own. I'd be surprised if the number of people in the whole world who would actually not go to see a film just because it has people with black skin in it as around 10-100 worldwide. Basically, it was an impressive bit of trolling, taking a made up issue and making it news internationally.
Still, it does a good job of showing up quite how white the first trilogy was.

39:

I don't disagree with your perspective on the dominance of any one culture or ethnicity, but I think part of the issue you're describing is based on looking at SF marketed to English speakers, of whom the US is a major market . Russia certainly has a large SF literature, and I imagine China and Japan do as well. Another commenter has already cited well-received African SF. Each of those regions no doubt focuses on genders and ethnicities favored by their audiences. Sadly, us limited linguists only get to see whatever small portions of those sources get translated. The world of SF is large, but we're only seeing a bit of it.

40:

Most people like to read stories about people like themselves, at least in the position of the protagonist. It's a matter of writing for the chosen audience, and if you have an eye on the numbers for marketing reasons you end up with the Usual Suspects in various cultures.
Do Chinese or Indian writers choose Americans in pole position in their novels? Do Africans? Or do they write about, and for, people like themselves?
Apart from that, any SF set more than 100 years hence with anything resembling Humans is IMNSHO utterly unrealistic, unless it's a Max Max dystopia.

41:

Dirk, we appear to be in violent agreement. :)

42:

"Sadly, us limited linguists only get to see whatever small portions of those sources get translated."

This is where the post falls into its own trap. The author seems to imagine that US SF is *World* SF - it isn't. Not by a long way.

43:

Yes, that is true, for a given value of true.

But there is a profound difference within the English Market to how the US writes SF and how the UK writes SF in terms of race and social status, let alone gender. What is important in one area is irrelevant in another.

Take Richard Morgan who is middle class white, but has multiethnic protagonists in near future SF. Takeshi Kovacs is of Japanese/Slavic heritage, put into a variety of skins. Carl Marsalis is literally a Scary Black Man, made so by genetic engineering. None of the stories give any indication of US exceptionalism - Black Man has the country split into a UN backed Republic and Jesusland.
The author is of the firm opinion that our future will be a crapsack world for the majority, run by the powerful and backed by thugs and private military groups. No idea where he gets that.


To that I contrast Ben Aaronovitch, a white middle class who writes urban fantasy about a young mixed-race protagonist of Jamaican heritage, from a lower class environment in London.

Yet what the author and the protagonist do share is both being profoundly British in outlook, and distinctly London in attitude. Class is more important than Colour, and the clash of old and new is intertwined in the story.

44:

I'd say the Spanish empire does have a large influence. Maybe not on Britain, but certainly in the Americas.

Perhaps the Nazis spoiled it for the hapsburgs?

45:

I live in New Mexico. The census bureau breaks down the state as 83% white American, yet only 64% speak English. I lived in Las Cruces for two years and there the white American number is below 50%. And I survived.

I think that is the biggest fear of the Republican party is that the country is becoming non-white, and that's inevitable. I suppose you could try to exile non-whites, which would so massively break the economy that it would be hilarious.

It's going to be a non-Caucasian world and the dominant religions are going to be Muslim, Mormon, and Catholic. It's a statistical trend that won't slow down. With two exceptions among my closest friends before I got married, none of them have had kids, nor have my wife and I. A wide variety of reasons exist for that, but it is a basic trend -- Caucasians are being out-bred. And I have no problem with that whatsoever. I would love to see racism die along with American Exceptionalism, it can't happen soon enough.

And Judith, I just backed your Kickstarter. I bought the Women in Science Fiction bundle and quite enjoyed it, it was very intriguing.

46:

Perhaps the Nazis spoiled it for the hapsburgs?

Nope, the last guttering embers of the Habsburg empire went cold in 1918. That's one decline you can't blame on the Nazis; although Nazis thrived on the rotting corpse like maggots.

47:

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but wasn't the International Lord of Hate's official response to say:

"Oh, that trailer was awesome. Hey, wait a second? You mean that storm trooper is the kid from Attack the Block? Sweet! Allow it, Bruv!"

48:

Wrong war - the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand really was the last nail in the coffin for the Habsburg Empire. The Austrian-Hungarian empire was dissolved after WW1, and Franz Ferdinand was the brother of one of the last kings. It's one of the main reasons the war happened in the first place - tensions between the Kingdom of Serbia and the Empire were high as the Empire was still expansionistic, and the fallout after the war was that the rest of Europe had had enough of them.

Ironically several of the descendents of the last Habsburgs have gone on to be integral in the formation of the EU, and the subsequent expansion into the east.

49:

I do think that a majority non white US will happen, but not in the time period envisioned. It will happen because nonwhite births already outnumber white births. The report you cite was from 2008, certainly using data and projections from 2007, before the recession. Since then a few changes have occurred.

First is the decline in fertility rate. The Fertility Rates for Blacks and Hispanics projected for 2050 already exist today. Likewise the Asian fertility rate is far lower than these projections. Although the white fertility rate has also declined, the lower starting base of minorities is such that a 0.2 decline in fertility rates has a much larger effect on nonwhite rates.

http://www.unomaha.edu/news/2015/01/fertility.php

Second, the report assumes that immigration will add about 2.5 million people per year, both documented and undocumented. This number has existed since the 1990s. Since the recession, the number has declined. Finally, President Obama deported around 2 million people. That should affect the projections.

Finally we have the biggest wildcard: the death rate. Will White Americans live longer or will the increase in life expectancy just be the nonwhite rate rising to meet the white rate?

In short, I do think that the event you mentioned will happen, but probably by 2060, or at least 2050.

50:

A conversation with my goyishe father about 20 years ago; the first time he came to Colorado, after reading an article about the future demographic shift toward Hispanic in the local independent newspaper.
"Well, son, looks like you're going to be a minority in a few years," he said.
"I already am."
Blank stare.
"I'm Jewish," I say.
"But your white."
"Then I'll be a minority in a minority," I add.
I don't recall him having a response.

Before coming to Colorado I grew up in the DC area. It was very multicultural. In one school I attended, if you named a country, there was likely a student from it (or rather their parents were). And my closest friends have been other ethnicities from me. Even Colorado Springs is reasonably diverse, probably because of several local military installations and tech industry. Yes there is that vocal, white evangelical minority, but it's having less influence now.
The idea of a homogenous America, that the conservatives espouse is a foreign concept to me.

But I don't think this discussion's really about all that, but more of an "American attitude" infecting SF. Not sure what I can ad to that. Most of the writers I read aren't Straight, White American Men. (SWAMs?) They don't interest me. Okay, I read Gibson and Rucker, but pretty much every other current writer I'm reading lately don't fit that description.

I don't want this getting too long, and I'm starting to lose track of my thoughts (migraine starting up) so last things:

As for the ridiculous Star Wars boycott, I had two thoughts when I first heard about it: You don't own SW white boy, and strictly speaking none of the characters are even Human, so please FOAD.
And darn it, did I miss some hissy fits overnight?

51:

Hell, give it a couple of hundred years and never mind American exceptionalism - HUMAN exceptionalism will seem ridiculous.

And I'm not talking about hypothetical ETs, although running into them (even if only by radio) would change things in ways impossible to predict.

I am fairly convinced that in 2215, the dominant intelligences in the Solar System won't even be biological. And there may well be quite a few biological but non-human sapients, as well.

Having said that, I think a few humans are probably going to be remembered for a very long time indeed. Armstrong and Aldrin, almost certainly - and maybe Turing, as well.

52:

Actually Charlie. Your examples have backfired, since the Mongol and Spanish Empires do in fact dictate the shape of the world today.

I'll start with the Mongol Empire. Central Asia and Iraq have not recovered from the Mongols. My understanding is that a part of the Deserts in Modern Iraq exist because the soil became saline due to the silting of the irrigation system. Parts of Central Asia also experienced this same effect. Would Russia have unified without the Mongols destroying the Kievan Rus neighbors?

For the Spanish Empire, I'll start with the obvious one. The population on Latin America didn't recover its population in 1491 until the early 20th century. Second, the economic system in that part of the world is descendant from the hacienda system introduced by Spain. Most of the wealthy in that part of the world are descendant from the Penninsulares.
https://books.google.com/books?id=C8C3AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA118&lpg=PA118&dq=latin+american+economies+hacienda&source=bl&ots=HN9u5O8jMD&sig=C76p_RmWMz3VaNQY1Xf3A0XG1ak&hl=en&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CDgQ6AEwBGoVChMI-JHDwLHgyAIVSNkeCh22KQD6#v=onepage&q=latin%20american%20economies%20hacienda&f=false

Likewise the racial caste system in Latin America is an evolution of the caste system the Spanish introduced.
https://repositories.tdl.org/ttu-ir/bitstream/handle/2346/17045/Gonzalez_Cesar_J_Thesis.pdf?sequence=1

53:

A point worth noting -- and the reason all those scare stories/conservative triumphalist pieces about "how Europe is going to turn muslim by 2050" are garbage -- is that the total fertility rate of immigrant communities arriving in the developed world converges with their neighbours within a generation (two at the most). (A secondary point is that the rate of Muslim/African immigrant inter-marriage with the majority in France is pushing 40-50%, wildly higher than in the USA; that's not called "taking over", that's called "being absorbed".)

You've got to be really skeptical about anyone drawing conclusions about our cultural future on the basis of first-generation immigrant community demographics. The same garbage was being traded in the late 19th early 20th century as an argument for keeping Russian Jews out of America, or Chinese out of California, and so on.

54:

But I don't think this discussion's really about all that, but more of an "American attitude" infecting SF.

I want to lay a good chunk of the blame for that firmly where it belongs: at the feet of John W. Campbell, Jr. (A less charitable view of his politics in the wikipedia article). Campbell seems to have been at least as much of a bigot as H. P. Lovecraft as well as a convinced right-winger. (If you've ever wondered about the racism in Heinlein's Sixth Column, Heinlein wrote it to an outline by Campbell (for the money) and actually dialed the racism down.) And during his >30 year tenure as editor of one of the foremost American SF magazines he was in a position to imprint his biases on a huge number of readers and writers.

55:

Some of that comes down to historic American views on race and culture, which heavily influences conservative views on the issue. For example, most Americans would view someone with one black parent and one while parent as black. Or one Hispanic parent and one Anglo parent as Hispanic. A majority would probably view a person with three white grandparents and one grandparent of another race as non-white.

So to them, intermarriage really is taking over, and not being absorbed.

The attitude is changing, though I'm not sure how it will end up.

56:

In terms of in-story future demographics in Space Opera, a lot would depend on the methods of interstellar travel and who gets their first.

Heck, if the first successful colony ships have a large Polynesian population then the majority of human planets will be nothing like Earth after a few centuries.

The culture and demographics of Earth matter less than the culture and demographics of those doing the colonizing. Going back to 1500 there were probably only about 7 million Spanish and 2.5 million English. Yet they managed to get their culture and language spread across the globe. At the time, it would have made more sense to predict that the future wold be Ottoman.

57:

Or one Hispanic parent and one Anglo parent as Hispanic.

On a cautionary note, there is an increasing (and, I think, wholly justified) tendency to decouple race and ethnicity where Hispanics are concerned. For example, the US Census Bureau says that my city, San Antonio, is 73% white and 63% Hispanic: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/48/4865000.html

As an aside, check out the composition of the SA city council: https://www.sanantonio.gov/council .

More generally, things are moving briskly toward "majority-minority" status along and south of a Los Angeles - Houston line and are already there in a number of places. The results, as far as I can tell, are not cause for panic.

58:

Had no idea that there was a boycott-Star-Wars effort going on. So what. Movie boycotts only demonstrate that the ole-book-burning thing is still alive. Same values/premises, just an updated modality.

The American Exceptionalism as practiced now is weird, and derailed. AE was based on the premise that the novel blend of cultures set AE culture apart: this culture's diversity of backgrounds essentially inoculated it against stupid culture/ethnic wars. Given this, Americans could therefore form the first true 'values'-based meritocracy.

As for how the early 21C AE will be remembered, I'm thinking a large chunk of the current AE stereotype may be headed for replacement by this stereotype (Pakled as seen in ST:TNG - S2E17, The Samaritan Snare).


Below is a link to a European cultural self-perception study/survey - about Europe by Europeans (mostly). Interesting in terms of understanding self-perception and possibly indicative of where Europeans think they're heading.

http://www.goethe.de/ins/be/prj/eli/erg/enindex.htm

59:

I thought Anatolia was the heartland of Byzantium, particularly after Egypt was lost.

60:

The culture and demographics of Earth DETERMINE the culture and demographics of those doing the colonizing. Unless Earth changes radically between now and the discovery of the matter-antimatter conversion beam the people colonizing the galaxy will be descended from USians, EUians, Chinese, and a few Russians and Japanese and maybe even Indians. Polynesia doesn't have a space program.

61:

Rome is pretty heavily present in modern Europe and European derived civilizations. If America has that much influence over millennia, I will actually be impressed.

62:

Yes, but do you speak Latin, worship the Lares, and consider yourself a plebian? Do you own slaves, for that matter?

A time traveller from Rome in the 1st century would recognize precious little from their home in 21st century Rome, never mind Denver.

63:

Re only transhumans by 2215. There were going to be interplanetary passenger ships by 1968 also. The future always comes a lot slower than envisioned, and looks a lot more like the present than you would expect. Perhaps there's a lot of chaos in it, so there could be a mad fad for adopting new forms as soon as possible, or perhaps there will be a reactionary regime resisting anything "unnatural". More likely the technology for machine and mutated intelligences will exist, but be used only by the two groups. One will be the top classes, who use technology to make themselves superior and to entertain themselves, and to keep power. The other will be the lowest classes, who allow technology to be used on them, and their children, to make them more useful and entertaining, and to serve power. The middle class may be very modest and cautious with few enhancements not strictly work related.

Race is on it's last legs in the developed world. Before the demographic trends make "whites" a minority, it will be possible to change your racial appearance. If you don't like the way you are treated as a black, get a treatment done and be white. African Americans already do this, hair straightening is a big industry. And Rachel Dolezal speaks to how it will also go the other way. People are changing gender at will these days, even before the technology is fully there. And it's being increasingly accepted (in America, maybe that's provincialism speaking). In comparison, "race" will be a snap.

64:

I am sure you can find American authors who do the same. For instance, Heinlein in Starship Troopers.

Second, there's a tension between being inclusive and exploiting/appropriating other people's voices.

Third, an author can only write what they know. There's value in seeing a diverse future for many different reasons. On the other hand, it's legitimate to ask if you are getting a new perspective or just a different skin on a perspective that's only slightly changed from the author's "default" by the protagonist's race, gender, etc.

65:

It's a balance. I thought you were slightly underselling Roman influence, but I don't want to oversell it either. Still, a Roman would recognize more in Denver or Moscow than a Hittite or a Mayan would at any rate.

Senates, vestal virgins, practically the same provinces and towns in most of the old imperial lands. I doubt America's unique contributions will be as far reaching and many of "our" (or Britain's or Russia's or Spain/Latin America's, etc.) influences will just be propagating variants of Rome's meme. Rome, on the other hand, added a lot that was not Greece or Egypt or Persia. They were busy, well organized buggers with a lot of luck.

66:

TV is supposed to lag decades behind written SF and yet SyFy channel's two recent new space opera series both have multiethnic female leads (Chinese/Canadian Melissa O'Neil in Dark Matter and Nigerian/Norwegian Hannah John-Kamen in Killjoys). As for written SF - I read new works by authors I already read and try and discover new authors (this blog is a great resource for that) I like but new SF novels are published at the rate about one a day (around 350/year) and have been for decades so I have had no idea what the field looks like over all since the 1980s. I think SF is now as fragmented as popular music and people just stay in their own zones whether that's Taylor Swift or Tool or kpop :-) And Cixin Liu won the Hugo for best novel.

67:

Third, an author can only write what they know.

Now that I disagree with strongly. SF&F is a genre of the imagination, projecting ideas into the future or transposing on an imaginary world.

The whole concept is writing what you wish could be, not what you know is so.

Knowledge is useful, and can help maintain the illusion, but certainly isn't the be all and end all.

68:

Thinking about it, some of America's main long term achievements will be as a force multiplier for African music and Italian cuisine.

69:

Well, there's Napoleonic Law? Or how the fact that the primary empire dominated by the Spanish still largely speaks Spanish? Or to get a little more obscure, go look up the "donor" system of property rights, which came out of medieval Europe and which is now ubiquitous in property rights systems worldwide.

Said two centuries of domination didn't come as just any random time - they came at a period when all of this was in flux, when the world was rapidly converging towards more of a global society with global forms of governance. That gave it (and continues to give it) a large "stamp" on the whole affair, which is why no one's thrown out the United Nations or dumped any of the whole plethora of post-WW2 institutions.

70:

I was too terse: an author can imagine all kinds of stuff, but they can only see those visions from where they are. On the other hand, someone who enters those visions can change their own perspective more than the author probably can. HPL can remain an old stick in the mud, but his many readers have changed who they are, a little, by incorporating his visions as part of their base and the world has changed a little because some of those readers had influence over popular culture.

71:

I'm not so sure you're right; it's subtle, but the majority of the characters in Starship Troopers are actually from Latin America.

72:

Maybe the way to predict what the future is going to look like is to see which culture are actively investing in the future vs. protecting the old guard.

In which case, China and India (barring wasteful wars with traditional enemies) are the future. Thankfully, English is one of the official languages in India, so North Americans should be able to stay connected as the world moves along.

Below is a link to a 2012 report re: science and technology, research and education spending by key countries.

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/overview.pdf

If education/R&D continue moving away from UNDER Western influence, there's no reason why legal systems shouldn't also shift. (Law/policy often follows money.) Consider what this might mean for patent law.

73:

Dark Matter is based on written material of course, in the comic book/graphic novel format rather than prose.

SyFy is also producing a series based on The Expanse series. While the on-going POV character is a Montana-born Earther, his crew is ethnically diverse and the other characters that make up the "world" (the solar system at first) are certainly very ethnically diverse.

Anglophone written SF is pretty badly under representative of the female voice (there are exceptions and have been for at least decades but if you do a pretty random sample you'll find more male protagonists than female), and worse on non-straight ones and I'm pretty sure even worse on non-white ones (I'd have to actually do the analysis but while I can find some examples on my book shelves it's a small number).

But despite that, written SF is loads better than SF film where you can still count the number of action & SF movies with a female lead on your fingers. I think you have to now say you need your fingers rather than fingers of one hand. LGBT leads in an action or SF film? I honestly don't remember one. It is changing in TV land - a lot faster in the UK than in the US according to at least one person who writes scripts for both sides of the pond and says things you can write without raising any flags over here just won't get approved at ALL in the US, even on "daring cable shows."

People complaining that the leads in the new Star Wars movies are a woman and a black guy? (First kudos to the script writers for doing it.) But I'm reminded of Grayson Perry's comment - when people protest it is the sound of their privilege being ripped from their old, white, claws.

74:

"Anglophone written SF is pretty badly under representative of ..."
And this is not true of Indian, Chinese, Latin American, African SF?

75:

Yea, I'm aware that history did not go directly from the Hapsburgs to the Nazis (not that I know very much about the austro-hungarian empire). I just meant in the sense of reducing the popularity of all things 'germanic' and leading to the soviet domination of a large chunk of it (which was, I believe, big on replacing institutions).

However, perhaps its just wrong and there is a big imprint. Hungary's current legal system is, I have just read, derived from the German-Austrian model. Perhaps I just don't know enough about the region to see the shadow of that empire.

76:

As a woman of transgender origin I hereby volunteer as cast member, extra or storyline character for anby upcoming Star Wars movies. Just trying to add some extra diversity, ya never know.

77:

...will be possible to change your racial appearance...

There was a novel built around that idea last year, don't recall the title or author off the top of my head. It got mixed reviews, and sounded like it had quite a few problems. Then there's Philip Roth's "The Human Stain" about an African-American professor passing as Jewish, so not really a new idea.

78:

but the majority of the characters in Starship Troopers are actually from Latin

But are they really? I refuse to read the book, and despise the movie. My impression is that the characters may have Latino names, but otherwise may as well be Anglos. Did Heinlein actually give the characters an ethnic background or did he stop with the names?

79:

Early 60s there was a movie and book titled "Black Like Me", though more of a documentary, and cosmetics were used. Doing this thoroughly, medically and cheaply is way too near future to be a main story idea or device. But such trivial appearance control should be in anything past a very near future setting or it will be like Heinlein's starfarers using sliderules. But everybody won't need to use it. It's mere existence will be a fatal blow to racism. Just as one of the main effects of transgendered persons among us is to dampen a lot of sexism. The cognitive dissonance in a bigot looking at a person and trying to figure out what race they originally were will be tremendous.

80:

Just back from reading comments about this on Twitter, our guest host pointed something out, so I'll try to correct it (and it sorta relates to one of my earlier comments). I'm currently nearing the end of Aliette de Bodard's fantastic "The House of Shattered Wings", I was going to binge read a couple of her earlier books along with it, but I'm a slow reader so they'll have to wait a bit. Up next is Novik's "Uprooted", which I got at the same time as "Shattered Wings".

81:

It didn't come up in the book, as I recall. In the movie, the protagonist is from Argentina. Buenos Aires gets an asteroid dropped on it and that makes him angry. But Heinlein was a conflicted right winger. Many of his characters and protagonists were described multiracial and/or female. But were basically Americans with tans.

82:

Bingo.

That's my point.

83:
Dark Matter is based on written material of course, in the comic book/graphic novel format rather than prose.
It was originally intended as a TV series, then developed as a graphic novel with the intent of getting a TV deal.

There has been a recent increase in token gay characters in TV shows of all genres with supporting characters randomly having same-sex spouses. There is also an increase in non-white supporting characters who just happen to be non-white. Two of the main characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for instance are portrayed by asian actresses Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennet (née Wang). Still under-represented compared to the real-world ratios of course, but improving.

84:

I'm aware of Cyrano's writing, but I don't think it's quite over the threshold. Cyrano is visibly just playing with goofy ideas without thinking about what they would imply if they were true. It's very much in the spirit of Rabelais—and after all, stories about giant people or creatures are also part of sf (see Wells's The Food of the Gods); if you accept Cyrano, why not Rabelais as the first sf writer?

Or, even earlier, a case could be made for the Odyssey as the first sf story. It takes off from the science of navigation and has Odysseus use it to visit strange new islands, encountering new life and new civilizations, and often killing or enslaving them. It even has him encountering the Phaeacians, who help him out with their incredibly advanced technology (self-steering ships that sail faster than a falcon flies—over 200 mph, which is fast even by 21st century standards). Perhaps Homer had heard an early periplus and said to himself, "Hey, I could turn this into a story!"

85:

Ah, no. Juan Rico was from Manila; he talked about his national hero being Ramon Magsaysay. He had relatives in Buenos Aires, and I think his mother was born there—but Heinlein envisioned a world where marriage across what are now international lines was commonplace. That in itself was a bit subversive, though it probably didn't jump out at his young American readers.

86:

Um, no. I could (and have) gone on about this at length, but continuity in "The Chinese Empire" is due to the concept of The Mandate of Heaven, which you really should read. Basically, the idea is that Heaven legitimizes the Chinese emperor, so any emperor is in direct succession to the ones of the previous dynasty, even if periods like the Warring States or The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms intervene. To put it more simply, China has seen a lot of upheaval and decided that sweeping it under the rug was a good idea.

The western myth of Rome's collapse is similarly misleading, because the Roman empire survived in the form of Byzantium until the 15th Century. The Western Roman Empire did in fact collapse, but there was another 1,000 years of empire after it. If there was a western version of the Mandate of Heaven, we'd be talking about the Byzantine Dynasties (and the Holy Roman Empire, and, quite possibly, the Russian Tsars) as legitimate heirs of the Roman Imperium.

87:

What you describe sounds a lot like what Hollywood and New York do to the flyover states. Now, if you want to talk about how New York City publishing and Hollywood business models disproportionately influence the world's science fictional view of the future, I think you've got a truly excellent point.

88:

No data so no speculation. I suspect it is but I have 0 data points. Whereas I have data points for anglophone SF.

89:

the majority of the characters in Starship Troopers are actually from Latin America.

It's been a while, but IIRC the protagonist, Juan Rico, at one point mentioned that his first and family language was Tagalog. Of course, at that time the Filippines were considered to be within the Hispanosphere. His mother was visiting Buenos Aires when the Bugs bombed it.

BTW, the book has little to do with the much later movie and, though you might well not like it, is worth a quick read to see how Heinlein was fairing at the time.

90:

If we're going to talk about Chinese influenced sf, I think Cordwainer Smith deserves a nod. Of course, his China was the Republic and not the People's Republic, but that's a relatively short-term issue. One of his prefaces acknowledged Romance of the Three Kingdoms (which I expect he read in the original) as an inspiration for one of his short stories, for example. . . .

91:

The issue though is that the characters might have been foreign, but their attitudes, behaviour and language was surely written to correspond to and appeal to teenage american boys. Which then makes it more unsuccessful as a multi-cultural message because there isn't any other culture actually represented.

92:

"To that I contrast Ben Aaronovitch, a white middle class who writes urban fantasy about a young mixed-race protagonist of Jamaican heritage, from a lower class environment in London."

.. for Sierra Leone values of Jamaica

The thing I really like about Ben Aarovitch's novels is his ability to conjure a sense of place and the people in it, whether its a South London tower block, or a rural burgh. His work is not really germane to questions about projection of our cultural norms onto the distant future, as he is doing the other thing, working in the here and now .

93:

Sorry about this derail, but we were discussing space junk not too long ago and this recent info mentions aspects that hadn't been raised by posters. (Nice update re: scientific nomenclature, too.)

Excerpt from Nature.com:

'Researchers call it sheer coincidence that a newly discovered piece of space junk is officially designated WT1190F. But the letters in the name, which form the acronym for an unprintable expression of bafflement, are an appropriate fit for an object that is as mysterious as it is unprecedented.

Scientists have worked out that WT1190F will plunge to Earth from above the Indian Ocean on 13 November, making it one of the very few space objects whose impact can be accurately predicted. More unusual still, WT1190F was a 'lost' piece of space debris orbiting far beyond the Moon, ignored and unidentified, before being glimpsed by a telescope in early October.'


94:

[ DELETED BY MODERATOR - Red card for trolling ]

95:

There's been a rise in non-token LGBT characters as well. The Russo Test attempts to provide an equivalent to the Bechdel Test for LGBT characters.

Film does terribly, generally speaking (I've seen 1 film released this year and one at the end of last year that passed the Russo test, plus 1 that got 2/3 steps. One of those was a lesbian love story and would really struggle to fail! About 90% of the films I've seen this year passed the Bechdel test).

Some TV characters/shows do terribly. Some do really well. What you see probably reflects what subset of TV you watch but roughly 1/3 of the TV drama I watch passes the Russo test, albeit not necessarily all those shows with characters in every episode, so it it out here. I probably select for TV that tends to pass though, at least subconsciously.

96:

Big difference between 'wanting' and 'being'.

97:

I think you've mis-parsed one of those sentences. "Toxic levels of wealth and income inequality" is a parallel construction: the actual meaning is "toxic levels of wealth [inequality] and [toxic levels of] income inequality." That is, the stated objection is not to wealth as such, but to wealth inequality. If you're going to argue against someone, you should be careful to identify what they were actually asserting.

98:

Is "surely" based on actually reading the book, or is it intended to say that you're making an inference from what you've heard about the book at second hand, what you think of Heinlein, when the book was published, or something of that sort? In my usage "surely" often conveys the latter.

I don't find it that big a surprise that Heinlein was writing to appeal to American boys in their teens; at the time he had not become an automatic best seller (that happened after Strange in a Strange Land), and he had a ruthless eye for commercial advantage. But you also have to note that in the 1950s, it was already an act of subversion to put non-white or non-American characters into a story for boys at all. And Heinlein very definitely intended that sort of subversion. As early as Rocket Ship Galileo, he said that a publisher wanting him to take out the Jewish character was a deal breaker; and his later juveniles included characters such as Charlie (a Chinese restaurant owner who's a figure of heroic defiance in Between Planets), Alfred McNeill (the embodiment of moral wisdom in Time for the Stars), Mei-Ling Jones (a Chinese-Peruvian telepath), and Carolyn Mshiyeni (the larger than life Zulu young woman in Tunnel in the Sky)—and possibly Rod Walker (the viewpoint character in Tunnel in the Sky). And, pointedly, having them in the cast was treated matter-of-factly; there was a sense of "of course they'd be there." In the terms of his own time, Heinlein was pushing the envelope on racial issues, and he looks bad now because what he was trying to do succeeded to such a great extent.

(Back in 1966, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress had a scene where the viewpoint character, visiting one of the southern states, showed a photo of his family—and got arrested for, among other things, miscegenation: too wide a range of skin colors. Loving vs. Virginia did away with such laws only two years later!)

99:

Arrgh, case in point. Anything not default White blends together in the memory. Plus I've had Jamaica on the brain of late. Good catch.

Agreed, not a reflection on the future, but more a comment on the different perceptions of every day life between the UK and US, which combined are effectively the English Language market and to an outsider are extremely similar.
The US has major issues with race.
The UK has major issues with class.
Each is a hot button topic not well understood by the other.

100:

If I recall correctly, Rico was filipino and Zim was Turkish - and Camp Arthur Currie seemed to have recruits from all over, including two Germans (one of whom could only understand english, not speak it) and possibly a Japanese guy.

101:

I've read it, several times, most recently a couple of years ago, and yes I am an adult, not a brainless teenager.
You correctly point out that in some ways he was pushing the envelope, but the point is that ultimately people with funny names who still act and speak etc the same as us isn't so transgressive, nor

hang on, you've already admitted my point upthread:
"But were basically Americans with tans. "

And Judith said Bingo.

The point being, that Heinlein wasn't that great, even if he was trying, and his work was still AMERICAN in character, even if the characters were deliberately foreign.

102:

I think there was some miscommunication there. I was referencing the fact that the narrator of Troopers is from the Philippines. I was under the impression the Mayhem was saying Americans do NOT write "others" and the British do. So I was saying even in the 1950's, libertarian super-mensch RAH was doing that; Richard Morgan is not that much of an outlier, etc. It could be I misconstrued their point. It's certainly the case that my comment was not Mega-clear.

103:

I believe the clue in the book is that the narrator's native language is Tagalog. The Philippines were a possession of Spain, but I would not call them Latin America.

104:

I was trying to say the same in my 16:22 comment, but I was attempting to avoid being overly dogmatic; so I ended up not really saying it. Thanks for just stating it explicitly. That's why you get paid the big Author money!

105:

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106:

White MALE dominance? ..Hum, well that depends on all sorts of sociological STUFF, but ? Here in Uk? Look up " In Place Of Strife " and focus upon Barbra Castle ..


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Place_of_Strife


and Here ..


" Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn, PC, GCOT (born Betts, 6 October 1910 – 3 May 2002) was a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Blackburn from 1945 to 1979, making her the longest-serving female MP in the history of the House of Commons, until that record was broken in 2007 by Gwyneth Dunwoody. She later became the Member of the European Parliament for Greater Manchester from 1979 to 1989. One of the most significant Labour Party politicians of the 20th century, she served in the Cabinet under Prime Minister Harold Wilson in a number of roles, including as Secretary of State for Employment, Secretary of State for Social Services, and First Secretary of State. " Who has rather faded into the Dark Shadow left by Mag Rat Thatcher but look here ..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Castle,_Baroness_Castle_of_Blackburn

Not so very long ago .. but women are still striving for equal pay long after the time of the Movie that is Set in Long ago and entitled ..

" Made in Dagenham "


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371155/


Times Change but they DO Change ever so slowly in terms of Human Life Spans.

But Day by Day? And a bit at a time ?


" Teen Raises Breast Cancer Awareness By Wearing Mum's Hot Pink Swimwear To School"


http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/10/26/teen-raises-money-for-breast-cancer-awareness_n_8388384.html?1445859141&ncid=webmail2


As for literature and such like stuff?


OH COME ON !! Anyone who wishes to make His /Her or ITs' living in the hard world of pounding a Hot Type Writer ..oops Sorry, PC/Laptop Tablet/Word processor ..well I am nearly 67 you know ..will have to learn to compromise, and given that we Euro/Americans have little knowledge of the Commercial Writers World of The Orient or ..insert Polity and Geography of your choice.. how do you approach the problem of becoming a successful writer?

So ..want to make a living in the Writing Game ? Well even if you have spent decades honing a natural talent for writing, then, if, say, you are British/US of American of the Anglic Speaking / Reading world then you will still have to write to the vast audience that is the US of Americas readership.

Before you get all Principled and Pious? I suggest that you have a look at Our Gracious Host Charlies Business plan and his Professional History?

It would be a Fine and Pleasant thing if Charlie were to become the latest ..oh, I don't know ..Rowling ? ...


https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=rowling+net+worth&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gws_rd=cr&ei=4YYuVrOSOofjU6DVq7gD

But?

Did Rowling set out to write a sequence of novels that would be carefully balanced between the various sexual genders so as to be fair to each and every one, and this only after studying all academic studies of the same ? ..Thus ? ...


https://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=sexual+gender+based+violence&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart&sa=X&ved=0CCIQgQMwAGoVChMIvL_h3PfgyAIVitYUCh3aFAEC

Lots of Violence in SF and F isn't there?

So, " The Future Is Not American "

Of course it isn't ..but then neither is it likely to be anything that we can easily predict given our present set of prejudices and assumptions.


But, well, look at the possibilities that are inherent in the genres ..the female writers who have essayed forth with strong female protagonists are all too well known to be worth mentioning here so I will allow myself one HARD Science Fiction Writer and a novel in the YA genre ..oh, just looked that YA thing up and theres this, that is so pompous as to be ..well, Look, See !! ..

Think that the Hugo Award " Puppies " were - and quite possibly are - pretentious Prats? ..See Here ..but be warned!!This puts them in the Shade.


"A few weeks ago, I finished reading the Library of America’s six-volume, sixty-eight-hundred-page edition of the novels of Henry James. I’m a sucker for completist projects, but this one came about more or less by accident. It took me a couple of years, and I didn’t undertake it in an especially devoted or systematic way. I had always considered James one of my favorite writers, largely on the basis of a few long novels (“The Portrait of a Lady,” “The Ambassadors”) and short stories (“The Aspern Papers,” “The Figure in the Carpet”). But I knew him less well than any other figure in my personal canon. "


http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/henry-james-great-ya-debate


Frankly I'd rather Read my suggestion..


http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1402932.Cycle_of_Fire


" (non-white-American, non-male-dominated) "

Well, perhaps, maybe.

Read it and see?

Post "Submit " or Erase? Never to be seen?

Wot the Hell.If it does no good then it is unlikely to do any harm and Moderator can always squish it flat with the Mallet of Doom.



107:

Not quite.
I'm saying there are few US authors who write colourblind SF. Weber's Honorverse is arguably one of the more prominent ones of late - his good guys have an explicitly dark skinned ruling class - but even his are White Americans with black skin.
There are a lot of authors who write socially egalitarian SF, where birth is less important than ability.

The UK and the commonwealth tends to be somewhat the reverse - race is less of an issue, and ethnic protagonists are relatively easy to pick out. However many works still pay heed to the social stratification of the British Empire and the aristocracy. Sometimes that is to promote it, and other times to actively subvert it, but the monarchy is part of the consciousness here where it isn't in the USA.

Heinlein as an example - he writes a lot about religion, politics, liberty, gender and cultural assimilation, but not much about race, ethnicity or cultural clashes. Most of his characters tend to be White Americans of his time superimposed on a particular setting, regardless of the minimal trappings that decorate them.

The other thing to keep in mind about Starship Troopers is we learn Johnnie Rico is Filipino right at the very end of the book. It's an afterthought, rather than a prominent feature. That may have been to get it past John W Campbell who was virulently racist.

108:

A few thoughts and questions.

I'm not from the US. I'm not sure American Exceptionalism (AE) is such a big thing in SF right now, I think it's rather one of the points the determined right fans that surely exist rally around. And I would bet (but don't have the knowledge to prove) that for them, AE is exchangeable with other narratives that put white, straight boys afraid to loose their privileges front and center. Today it might be AE, tomorrow islamophobia or whatnot.

I know the wider SF field mostly from anthologies. Books like Octavias brood or the Apex' books of world SF or The othe Half of the Sky obviously try to push different narratives and perspectives. The interesting thing is that IIRC many stroys in the mommoth books in the last years did not have this stromg tint of what Judith calls AE. Or the ratio of tranlated SF (not first published in english) in the Edge of Infinity antho (or was it reach for) was about the same as in one of Apex books of world SF. So I'd too say that the present of much of SF is not AE. Still work to do, though,

It's hard to write about race. Race does not have to matter, but it does everywhere. At first glance writing dark skinned WASPS is a fail because it does not take into account cultural differences. At second glance, it's not because after all we are writing about a future without racism so why should race matter? At third glance, it's a fail again: Living a relatively privileged life brings certain behaviors that you probably would not have in a more equal world.

109:

But Firefly doesn't strike me as "that USian".

I'd heard that too, which is why I bought it. But compared to Chinese movies or TV shows, it is basically an American show. There's some token (badly pronounced) Chinese, and not all the faces are white, but the character's act American.

I wish I could put my finger on why I think that, I really do. But something in the scripting, the body language, says "American" and not "English" or "European" or "Chinese". At least to me.

I'm glad I got it, the ship/setup is very Travellerish, but it's not what I watch when I'm not in the mood for an American film.

110:

Anent the relics of empire: my gym runs a kiddies spot called the Crazy Colosseum, where you can host your birthday party with the help of Ronnie the Roman. Two thousand years, and the greatest spectacle of the ancient world has become a brightly coloured rubber playroom.

111:

Editorial note: My thanks to Judith for posting something that I've thought privately, but couldn't really post on the blog myself without it coming across as either troll bait or gratuitous foreigner bashing. (Some kinds of constructive criticism are best delivered from inside the big tent rather than from people on the outside, lest they look like hostile carping.)

This thread will continue to be moderated more aggressively than usual.

112:

The census bureau breaks down the state as 83% white American, yet only 64% speak English.

Because of the rigid racial hierarchy of the Spanish colonial days, most Hispanics consider themselves white (or prefer to be seen as white, if you prefer). This tends to be true whether the Hispanic person looks like Charlie Sheen, Jessica Alba, or Faizon Love (all of whom are Hispanic). The US Census Bureau considers race and ethnicity to be independent (and the only ethnicities it tracks are Hispanic or non-Hispanic).

Overall, the U.S. population is about 5/8 non-Hispanic white, 3/16 Hispanics (all races, but frequently Native American), 1/8 non-Hispanic black, and 1/16 everything else. Local populations vary.

P.S. It's true that nobody in the Star Wars saga is American, or even Earthling. It's also true that the major characters were very relatable to American children, which is why George Lucas has so much of my generation's allowance money.

113:

Thanks, Judith. For the record, I agree with you, and I'm an American. It's long past time for Americans to pull their heads out and see there's a "whole rest of the planet" out there--let alone a galaxy. So, yes. More diversity. It's what makes things more interesting. Stories about white, straight, males are okay. However, we've plenty of those out there. Time to expand and explore! Exploring is what SFF supposedly does, right?

114:

What exactly is Capt. Picard? Did Britain finally win the 100 Years War and conquer France sometime in the future?

Or did centuries of British retirees to the south of France eventually create an Anglo enclave in the French wine country?

115:

Aww, Charlie!

I was going to respond to Sancho point by point, and you deleted his post. Well, your privilege!

116:

That bit of literary history is impossible. Starship Troopers was written long after Heinlein had stopped writing for Campbell. In fact it was written to be the thirteenth of his juveniles for Charles Scribner's Sons—and was then bounced and found a home at Putnam's instead, early in Heinlein's relationship with them. Its magazine publication was in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which was never edited by Campbell; I'm not sure who was editing it in that year, but their attitudes would almost surely have been very different from Campbell's.

117:

If you've ever wondered about the racism in Heinlein's Sixth Column, Heinlein wrote it to an outline by Campbell (for the money) and actually dialed the racism down.

I found SF in late 64 when I was 10 and found a copy of Analog at a grocery store magazine stand. The main story was into part 2 or 3 or 4. I was enthralled. But I was able to recognize it was over the top racist even at the age of 10. The point of the story was that the interstellar folks showed up they pointed out to the stupid earth folks that the white were supposed to be in charge and on and on and on.

I became a life long fan of SF even though my intro was so tinged.

118:

Might it be that the trappings are basically Space Western - including Chinese labour doing Important Economic Things in the background?

119:
The cognitive dissonance in a bigot looking at a person and trying to figure out what race they originally were will be tremendous.
Why does it matter what race they originally were? If they look like $disliked_minority you heap abuse on them (and if they were originally $your_minority you add 'race traitor'). If they look like you you administer cultural tests, then heap abuse on them if they fail.

This PSA brought to you by someone who lives beside Northern Ireland, where being named 'Patrick' fails one of those cultural tests.
120:
Just as one of the main effects of transgendered persons among us is to dampen a lot of sexism.
Also: would you care to expand a bit upon this, please? To me the main effect of transgendered persons among us has been that there are transgendered persons (there have always been transgendered persons*).

*I am wildly oversimplifying and squashing global experience into the Western binary, yes. Sorry.

121:

So the Chinese in Firefly were imported under short-term labour contracts, forced to leave their families at home, etc.?

If you're going for a China-dominant future, you need something more like this:

http://ghostswithshitjobs.com

(CHinese-dominant background, but with a mostly-white cast for decent in-movie reasons.)

122:

I'll tell you why the future won't be American.

It's due to these facts:

#1 Snapchat is valued at $16,000,000,000 (Bloomberg 29th May 2015)

#2 A rather sweet and horsey woman who writes interesting things has a kickstarter for $5,000 to write an entire book.

#3 Reddit discovers young child doing dinosaur videos, subscribers go from 30 odd to 70k+. Drama ensues. (We gonna raise this kid now? - running from those who ripped the kid off, to those who think it's viral marketing to those who imagine 4chan would destroy his channel - note: (old) 4chan has a record of not doing that, if you can ignore the spammed Hitler and cocks in the message tabs)

And yes, children, these are related.

$16 bil for an App (a billion billion "here's my food for today" or "these are my breasts / penis") vrs $5,000 for a book.

Which isn't even the point. It's close to the point, but not the point.

The real reason America is over is because the old Money used to spend it on culture and elitism, patronage and society (you can blame Hubbard for a lot of this disparity). Having MS drop $2 bil on Minecraft isn't quite what the aim was.

"We're going to need a bigger boat" isn't quite the same thing Larry.

America is over because QE kicked in and no-one got those extra $billions apart from... well.

You work it out.

They don't even know what society is, let alone how to make them.

~

Snapchat is worth more than many countries:

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD

And it has nothing to do with printing dollars?

Oh boy.

~


Back on track: The Stars (Are Out Tonight) [Youtube: music: 5:53]

123:

"Riiiight. Just like the massive Austrian tint to our global governance left over from the Habsburg ascendancy (they dominated Europe for five fricking centuries)."

While I don't completely disagree with you the example you give ... well the they did come up with a little political institution to solve their difficulties with religion. We call them sovereign states.

124:

And just as a random thought on the original topic looking at the world today I'd say there's a fairly good chance that if the future doesn't turn out to be American/European it could well be much more male.

(Not saying that's a good thing.)

125:

What is the point here?

That the level of influence the U.S. had in The 20th century over science fiction (and global culture in general) is not likely to be sustained in the 21st? Well. Duh.

That the US was somehow bad for featuring its owne citizens and dominant cultures in the entertainments it created ? Like, seriously, what do you expect?

Are we thinking the third largest country in the world by both population and land area is going to become totally irrelevant ? Not likely. The U.S. Is going to be a major player for the foreseeable future.

The future is not going to be American. It is not going to be Chinese. It is not going to be Indian. It is not going to be any one thing. The days where a single culture or country can dominate the entire planet are likely over . The future is going to be polyglot in the extreme

126:

Snapchat's "worth" is an ethereal thing right now as it is not being traded yet. It is worth what it's investors are willing to pay. So far they have raised around 1 billion U.S. of which 200millon came from Alibaba, a Chinese company.

I think the valuation of snapchat probably has more to do with lots of Chinese money sloshing around and not getting invested in the Chinese stock market then QE.

Also if that kick starter author got read by 100 million people every month, then they probably would make more then 5k. The reason apps are worth more then books is reach and utility much more then conspiracies. Anything that 100million people find useful is likely to turn some cash

127:

I think Picard is culturally British but raised in the region known as southern France under the government of The United Federation of Planets. There is no France or Great Britain, they're just open bordered provinces in a much larger confederation so he can be British and grow up in southern France the way an American might be culturally Redneck and grow up in California. I think.

128:

I think the point is that by simply being about Americans in SF settings, Science Fiction is missing out on a lot of interesting stuff it could be exploring and cool strangeness it could be injecting. Cordwainer Smith was mentioned upthread and his Instrumentality was truly a strange place with it's own vibe. He writes from some pretty alien points of view at times. But his only full novel (Norstrilia) was about someone not too unfamiliar voyaging into the weirdness, rather than about a native inhabitant of it. Is Rod McBan an "American"?

129:

Picard is culturally and ethnically French - apart from the tea (Earl Grey. Hot.) and his accent. Which is explained by the decay of French into a little used language. Hurray for Cultural Imperialism!

130:

Ok, I can't think of any relevant SF films but Action:-

1) Hollywood- Bound has one definitely Lesbian and one probably Bi-sexual (possibly Les) lead out of 3.
2) French - Baise Moi (Yes it does mean what you think) has 2 Lesbian leads.

I'm not suggesting this is representative, but I'm not claiming that my tastes in film are either! All I'm saying is that I came up with action titles with Lesbian leads with about 1 minute thought.

131:

Likewise; oh and I've got the film (Ok, but not really a book adaption IMO) and if I don't have the book it's because it's one of the ones my Mum threw out last year.

132:

I agree; the important point is certainly that the characters in ST are not "Middle America".

133:

I'm saying there are few US authors who write colourblind SF. Weber's Honorverse is arguably one of the more prominent ones of late - his good guys have an explicitly dark skinned ruling class - but even his are White Americans with black skin.
I'd go further and say that they're what a white American thinks upper-class white English are like, apart from where they're stated as having black skins.

134:

"Pink" world, please, not "white"
And "brown" not "black" - reall, actual black people, Melanesians, do exist, but they are thin on the ground .....
Sorry about the apparent nit-pick, but I use it, both ways, against people who are prejudiced ( both ways ) if you see what I mean.

135:

I understand your point, and suspect that the issue you refer to is probably founded in the cast all being North American irrespective of the ethnicity of the characters. My point was really about Joss Whedon's world-building not being "$1960s_Western_Show in Space".

136:

I sincerely hope we DO NOT HAVE ANY "dominant religion" of any sort.
That, of course, is one of the problems with american exceptionalism (Caps omitted deliberately)

137:

The idea of a homogenous America, that the conservatives espouse is a foreign concept to me.
But, the rethiglican party are pushing it, under a not too subtle cover & large numbers of people are conned into voting for them.
So, can someone explain this disconnect?

138:

PROVIDED
Equal & most importantly non-religious education is the norm, or even enforced.
That's the, err difficult bit.
Closing down all the Madrassahs & Catholic/Presbyterian schools ( etc, especially in NornIron. )

139:

And after the battle of Mazikert?
One of the truly significant, history-altering ones, that people have never heard of?

140:

BUGGER
"Manzikert"

141:

Agreed, why is anyone getting their knickers in a knot over this? Capt. Kirk was a character created by Americans for Americans. As for the short, short skirts for the female crew members of the Enterprise need I remind anyone that it was the groovy 60s and mini-skirts were still a thing? Given the context of its time, ST TOS was light years ahead of society in terms of tolerance and multiculturalism.

When British SF finally gives us a female Doctor Who or a black James Bond feel free to judge American SF stereotypes.

142:

Race is on it's last legs in the developed world.
Really?
Japan is a highly-developed country & incredibly "racist".
Is Malaysia a developed country?
Are the oil-rich "arab" states developed?
I think the terminology may be a little inexact around here ....

143:

IIRC
"Pakistan" has just gone totally mad, & dropped English as an official language ....

144:

Reports of America's death are greatly exaggerated.

It is the only industrial country with replacement level demographics (a total fertility rate, TFR = 2.1) and is welcoming of immigrants.

Demographics alone ensure that America will remain numero uno. Though other countries accept immigrants, America does the best job of accepting and assimilating foreigners (*)

Only America has a future.

Remember back in the 1980s when everyone was predicting the Japan would take over the world? Didn't happen. Why? for the same reason China is not going to take over the world: demographics.

Hard to imagine, but China is running out of people and workers. Like Japan before it, China has very poor fertility rates. Its so bad that the interior provinces are asking for a 2 baby MINIMUM policy:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/02/china-provincial-population-deputy-head.html

The decades-old one-child policy has skewed China’s population older, as well as resulted in far more boys than girls, due to some couples seeking to make sure their only child would be male. The aging problem is weighing on China’s pension system, while the gender imbalance has made it hard for some men to find wives. As a result, Mei said in his proposal to the provincial political advisory body earlier this year, the mere relaxation of the one-child policy isn’t enough, and two-child policy should be enforced.

But it's already too late. Easing its one baby policy won't alter China's demographic collapse:

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/easing-one-child-policy-may-be-too-late

As a result of rapid declines in birth and death rates over the past four decades, China’s life expectancy at birth has increased by more than 10 years to 75 years. With steep declines in fertility and increasing longevity, China’s population has aged rapidly over the past 40 years, with the median age nearly doubling from 19 to 35 years. The adoption of the one-child policy also accelerated the decline in the proportion of China’s children, falling precipitously from 40 percent in 1970 to 18 percent today.
In contrast, the working-age population aged 15 to 64 years jumped from 56 to 73 percent, higher than the 62 percent average for more developed countries. The extraordinary age-structure transformation allowed China to benefit from the demographic dividend, a short-term productive advantage due to a large labor force relative to small numbers of dependent young and old. Throughout the past four decades, China’s potential support ratio, or working-age persons per retiree, was high, early on 14 working-age persons per retiree, and now eight, versus three per retiree in Germany, Italy and Japan and five per retiree in Australia, Canada and the United States.

Also, before the one-child policy, China’s sex ratio at birth averaged around 107 boys for every 100 girls. Ten years after the policy’s adoption, the ratio reached 115 boys for 100 girls and may exceed 125 in some provinces, reflecting the strong preference for sons, especially in rural farming areas. China’s unusually high sex ratio at birth indicates extensive use of sex-selective abortion. The number of young males unable to find brides is estimated at more than 25 million.
The critical factor determining China’s future population is the level of fertility. If China’s current fertility of about 1.6 births per woman were to remain constant, its population would peak at 1.44 billion in a dozen years and then begin declining, reaching a population of 1.33 billion by mid-century and 868 million by the century’s end

In addition, constant fertility would reduce the proportions of children and the working-age population and nearly triple the proportion of elderly to 25 percent. As a result, China’s current potential support ratio of 8.3 working-age persons per retiree would fall to 2.5 persons per retiree by mid-century. China’s fertility could also decline further, perhaps approaching low levels of Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan. Further reduction in Chinese fertility to 1.3 births per woman – the low variant - would accelerate population decline, shrinking labor force and aging, with China’s population peaking at 1.40 billion by this decade’s end, then declining to 600 million by 2100. In 50 years, one-third of the population would be elderly and the potential support ratio would fall to an unprecedented 1.6 working-age persons per retiree.

145:

Over here some of the things most at threat from the TPP are local content rules for television and subsidies and tax incentives for local film and television production. Though the tax incentives have long been turned to favor the USian stuff in the Sydney and Gold Coast studio complexes. The problem is that distribution is completely vertically integrated and wholly owned by the US studio system, so even guerrilla local film production has no chance of cinematic release, other than in backyards and other private viewing venues. The 90s and early 2000s saw the closure of most of the remaining art house and small-scale cinemas. Maybe it's that the medium is dead or something, but apparently it's ossified to one source.

146:

Piquard is probably a part-Huguenot, like me.
(!)

147:

(con.t) It's just that the future America won't be dominated by WASP males.

As Ben Wattenberg noted in his book "The First Universal Nation" that Hispanic intermarriage rates with native Anglos is actually higher than that of Italian and Greek immigrants a century ago. As we argue politically about immigration, Hispanics are quietly mainstreaming themselves throughout American society - just like my Irish ancestors (whe had to face similar discrimination and read signs that said "No Irish Need Apply").

Wattenberg summarized his demographic observations in the following article:

WELCOME back, Israel Zangwill. In 1908 a Zangwill drama was the biggest Broadway hit --- ever. Its title introduced a phrase still with us, and that, according to a new Census 2000 report, is beating to smithereens a hardy modernist competitor, "multiculturalism."

Zangwill's play was entitled "The Melting Pot." In the climactic scene, the hero speaks: "America is G-d's crucible, the Great Melting Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk your 50 groups, with your fifty languages and histories, and your fifty blood hatreds and rivalries... A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians - into the crucible with you all! G-d is making the American."

Now comes the 2000 Census which says, yes, He is. Diversity is here. America is changed, and will keep changing, in some ways you might not imagine.

The first round of headlines about the Census' "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin" stressed that the Hispanic population had grown mightily and that blacks were no longer the nation's largest minority. The Washington Times front-paged "Minorities Gain Ground on Whites in '00 Census --- Hispanics Pass Blacks in Population."

Do not think that is the end of the story, or even the end of the beginning. The macro datum to watch concerns the category "Non-Hispanic Whites," commonly, if misleadingly, called "Anglos." (Has there ever been another country that describes its putative majority group by what it's not?) In 1990 Anglos made up 76% of the total population. In 2000 the rate was 69%. Recent Census projections show that the Anglo proportion should drop to 52% by 2050. It is that number, a weird one, that is driving some nativists nuts.

Why has the proportion of the Anglo population diminished? Not because their numbers are shrinking. Actually the number of Anglos increased by 6% during the 1990s. But Hispanics grew by 58%, (!) more than expected, to about 13% of the population. How come? The Census isn't speculating yet, but better counting methods and more illegals probably played a role. (And BTW I'd guess the Census has not been fully able to count the large stream of Polish and Irish illegals that came in during the 1970s and 1980s.)

But are Hispanics really the largest minority group? That depends on what the meaning of "are" are. Americans of English descent are not a majority, which would theoretically make them the largest minority. German-Americans finish second. Ah, you may argue, those European immigrations arrived so long ago, they're just plain Americans.

But in that case the largest minority group might be "Americans of Eastern European Ancestry," (AEEA) principally Italians, Poles, Jews and Slavs who arrived near the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, the EEs came from many countries, but so do Hispanics --- countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and even Spain.

It comes as a surprise to many of us AEEAs that we are "Anglos." Remember Zangwill wrote about "all the races of Europe." In his time the pillars of the American elite, including the most eminent social scientists, thought that AAEAs, were of inferior races, and even Catholic. Through the magic of cultural alchemy, all those races are now considered Anglo. From shtetl to WASP in a single century!

Zangwill doesn't even mention blacks in his thundering blast, so low were they on the food chain, beneath mere inferiority. And, of course, Zangwill's hero doesn't bother to list Hispanics, although Spanish immigration goes back to the beginning. And, for the record, in later life Zangwill, the great assimilationist, became an ardent Zionist! (Definition of the time: A Zionist is a Jew who tries to persuade a second Jew to convince a third Jew to emigrate to Palestine.)

So why does "multiculturalism" suffer? Because, as used these days, it typically stresses the idea of separatism. But while separatism may be trendy among foundation-supported "grass roots" advocacy groups, it is losing its war where it counts, between the sheets. The 1990 Census revealed that exogamy was booming. Just 13% of first generation Hispanics intermarry. The figure for second generation was 34%, and 54% for third generation. The corresponding rates for Asian Americans were 14%, 34% and 54%. About half of Jews intermarry. The black rates are much lower, but climbing rapidly. The final 2000 Census results will reveal this pattern more fully.

How to regard all this? With interest. Americans have had a tangled view of racial and ethnic skeins. Only a few decades ago the elimination of legal segregation was denounced by racists as a precursor to "mongrelization." But, when they're called "mutts,"Americans think mongrels are cute. When we hear that someone is "mean as a junkyard dog," we're not condemning dogs, junkyards or even meanness, only indicating that those half-breeds are plenty tough, maybe like Tiger and Derek.

From "The Melting Pot" to "Abie's Irish Rose," to "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," Americans have had a, uh, mixed attitude toward melting pottism. And we still do. Some Anglos fear that America will become "a third world
nation." In a world where Indian techies are worth their weight in semi-conductors, not to worry. We're becoming the first universal nation.

148:

And, if you think that's bad, try either Pakistan or India.
There's a very unpleasant & unspoken-of reason for the huge recent increase in violent rapes in India - the horrific bus-murder a year or so back was the tip of a very large iceberg.
Something like 120 - 125 male live births surviving to 1+ years compared to females.
"The boss" went round India as a undergraduate student at SOAS, back in 1982(ish), working in Tamil Nadu, then peregrinating to Ootakamund (steam railway!), Delhi & the Indian part of the Tibetan plateau in extreme N Kashmir.
She says she wouldn't dare do it now, even if she was 22 again - much too dangerous.

149:

Certainly. Within living memory, many parts of America were either segregated (the south) or all white by virtue of never having any blacks migrate there (the Midwest, plains, and northern rocky mountains). Many Americans grew up in a world where all faces were white and all houses had white picket fences, or something like them. There actually was a semi stable whitebread America for a good while that many people consider utopic. If you are raised to live in a certain environment you will fight to keep it, especially if you have made sacrifices or moral compromises for it. Whitebread land was of course stifling, stagnant, and built on exploitation. It was a bribe, a loss leader. Not "the norm" it is presented as. Nevertheless it is now a carrot being held out by the political equivalent of corporate raiders. It won't ever come back, but that will always be blamed on the liberals, and the answer will always be to work harder for the cause. "Pull the wagon harder, mule, pull that wagon harder; you've almost got it. But here they come, they're going to get you!" Plus they salt in some truths like the fact that indefinite deficit spending really is bad (so vote for me and I'll do it just to kill the evil government, it's OK when I do it because it's in a good cause). Yaah!

150:

If I were China, I'd be looking for solutions to this. The problem is that in a few decades time, I need a lot of people working to sustain my retired population.

First idea; increase fertility rate. A lot. Hard to do, and probably too little too late.

Second idea; immigrants. Get young people from other countries to come here to work and breed. Not a total write off, but China is still not an immigration nation; it's not people's first choice, and we rely on restricting how people think and act, and importing people who missed out on the first twenty years' of indoctrination won't help.

Third idea; get people in other countries to work for us, without having to have them here in China. This will involve a massive overseas investment programme.

I'm seeing the third option underway. I think they could do it.

151:

I've no interest in the book, but the movie is hilarious. Possibly not the funniest anti-militarist movie ever made, nor the one with the deepest subtext, but possibly unique in balancing both with a sardonic world view.

152:

The future looks grim for the indigent elderly in most of the world. Immigration helps for those places which can attract young people but that just makes it worse wherever they left. Pensions will fail to provide the promised incomes due to lack of taxpayers and shrinking markets. Japan is working on building helper robots for the elderly. Genteel euthanasia may become acceptable. Cultures with traditions of multi-generation households and people not moving far from home will fare better.

153:

*cough*Remissions*cough*
Immigrants supporting pensioners in their host country through taxes and in their home country through wage contributions isn't exactly new; and indeed multi-generational households is the structure likely to make it work - leave the kids at home looked after by their grandparents, go be a maid/builder's labourer in Dubai, send as much of your wage packet as you can afford home every month.

154:
"I'm guessing that if we look forward to 3015 from here, the cultural legacy of white male dominated 19th/20th century America will still be visible in the background -- something called "English" will still be widely spoken on a global scale and some of the cultural exports will still exist -- for the same reason that any globe-spanning trade empire leaves a mark that takes a long time to fade. But focussing over-much on it in a work of fiction set in 3015 would be like writing a 19th century historical novel that focusses exclusively on the Greek classics."

How many SF novels are out there today that have a "future" civilisation that looks like a whitewashed shiny version of monarchy, or the British Empire, or the English class system, or the French/British naval wars?

I wonder what the rose-tinted spectacle version of the 20/21st century will look like in future SF. Will the Great Galactic Corporation be run by a mashup of The West Wing, Air Force One & Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Without all of that nasty systematic oppression of course — because everything was so much better back then ;–)

155:

Possibly, but maybe not as guaranteed as you think. (hell, it could be better: the only North American leader listed there is... Queen Elizabeth.)

156:

The trouble with responding to flaming ass-hats is that it only encourages them.

I do not run this blog to provide a platform for flaming ass-hats.

(I will take a more relaxed view once we pass the point, somewhere between 200 and 300 comments in, where the discussion has achieved the same blobby grey consistency as a lump of plasticine exposed to the maw of an 18 month old rug rat.)

157:

Does the US have racism? Yes.
Does the UK have racism? Yes.
Does Europe have racism? Hell yes. (Ask a "Turk" who may be a third-generation German citizen, but is still considered a "Turk". Ask a Frenchman whose grandparents were from Algeria.)

Part of group identification is determining the boundaries of the group. Differences in appearance and speech are easy ways to define group status.

Will the US and UK continue to influence world economy, governance and culture? Certainly, for some unknown period of time.

Hell, look at James Bond, perhaps one of the most detestable characters from a multicultural point of view. He's a misogynist, racist, serial killer in the service of an imperialist monarchy (read the books). But millions of people globally will gleefully pay to watch him fuck and kill on the big screen, in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Why? Because he wins, and he wins with style. Watching James Bond, you can BE James Bond, and get rewarded for your darkest impulses.

Re: Star Trek (especially the Original Series). Remember this was a commercial project that had to be sold to broadcasting companies that were conservative even by 1960s US values. OF COURSE Kirk and crew came off as Americans. NBC would never have bought it otherwise. Was Gene Roddenberry a sexist (yes!), racist (probably not, in the context of his era) white guy? To an extent. But look at the "subversive" ideas he pushed - an international crew (in the middle of the Space Race between the US and USSR) dedicated (often unsuccessfully) to the peaceful exploration of the galaxy. Even "the kiss" was only controversial because of the reaction to it; within the show, it was an issue because it was a form of enslavement by the "gods" who were torturing the crew of the Enterprise for amusement.

Heinlein was a fascinating character in his own right, and FOR HIS TIME, both progressive and subversive. His attempts at multiculturalism may seem like clumsy whitewash now, but were groundbreaking at the time. His inclusivity probably has more to do with his libertarianism than anything; an able Heinleinian character is only bound by ability, not ethnic or national origin.

Any story is going to reflect the culture and the point of view of the author and the intended audience, unless the author makes a decision to consciously change the point of view ("Rule 34", anyone?). Read what you like; write what you like. If you don't like the perspective, change it!

158:

I've been biting my tongue over RDSouth's totally wrong-headed suggestion here, but I'd just like to mention that suggesting members of groups targeted by racism might like to change their skin color or other visible attributes to avoid said targeting is the worst kind of victim-blaming.

The problem lies with the racist, not their victim.

(Furthermore it's a desperately counter-productive practice, on a larger scale: it does nothing to diminish prejudice and may even inflame it, by convincing paranoid racists that people of a despised minority are moving among them, unseen. We saw this with the assimilated, urban Jewish community in Germany prior to 1933, we saw it with light-skinned "black" people passing as white in the Deep South during the Jim Crow period, we're seeing it today with the reaction of TERFs to the transgendered, and it keeps cropping up ... individuals may obtain short-term safety by using this strategy, but it doesn't fix the underlying problem and may well inflame it. When the problem exists between someone else's ears, the solution has to be applied between those ears -- whether it's education and insight, or the application of a half-brick.)

159:


I think the main thrust of the OP is undoubtely correct. The leadership of the USA in the world over the coming centuries will be relatively less and the leaderhip of white men in the USA will be relatively less.

I do think the transition is going to be slower than perhaps we expect. There is still going to be a large role for the USA for long time and I suspect that many of the cultural and political structures that we carry forward with us will be heavily influenced by the Anglo-Saxon model and that those structures will continue to influence the way the world shapes over the coming few hundred years.

I think demographics matter. I think institutions matter. I think synergies and adaptive fit matter. Human capital and social capital matter.

The USA is a large, rich country. The USA is in the habit of being a large, rich country, it is very good at it. Whilst there are a number of countries that are larger or about the same size they are, per capita, currently significantly poorer. Whilst many of them are getting richer per person I'm not convinced that they can all become as rich as the USA all at the same time and I think each of them faces some difficulties that mean that per capital economic growth might not continue at the cracking pace currently being set. I suspect many countries currently enjoying fast growth will stumble over the middel income gap for a period.

For me, a large part of this is about institutions. Courts, legislatures, police departments, weights and measures regulators, banks, commodity exchanges. These are difficult to set up, they take time to acquire the gravitas they require to function well. I don't think you can just create them out of whole cloth, walk away and expect them to work well and to help deliver sustained economic richness. Nor can you just plonk down a bunch of WEIRD institutions and expect them to work. I think creating these institutions is a multi-generational organic process.

(As a side note, those of us who live in states fortunate enough to have inherited well functioning and respected institutions should not assume that they just continue without protection or renewal.)

Many of the global institutions are set up on a WEIRD model, and they rely on a WEIRD cultural and political assumptions and language and narrative for the functioning and their preceived legitimacy. The IMF, the UN, WHO, the WTO seem to me to be pretty Western in conception.

I think human capital and social capital will tend to keep those who are currently rich and influntial rich and influential for a while. Again, it takes time for individuals and communities to build up skills and knowledge and the networks of relationships to deploy and exploit them.

And, importantly for me, I think in the immediate future many individuals in non-white, non-male demographics will find it easier to join in with the currently prevailing institutions and institutional models and adapt themselves to fit what is already working rather than try to change those institutions to better fit their own heritage. For a few generations to come I think.

I expect that we'll have an Indian head of the IMF in the not too distant future but that that person will be an English speaker educated at Oxford or the LSE and he or she will still do deals on the golf course.

And if you already come from the countries that set up these global institutions or are the hosts of the models for the local institutions that are being used as a template, and particularly if you are from the demographic group which is already plugged in to running those sorts of institutions, white, male USians or Western Europeans then you get a head start and retain an disproportionate influence.

The above is the result of some thinking I did after a conversation I had about women's represation in the UK Parliament. I'd suggested that as the trend was solidly towards equal representation the game was in the bag. My interlocuter pointed out that at current trends my own daughter would be in her 70's before equal representation occured. After I'd gotten over my dismay I got to thinking why.

So, I think the decline of the relative (over) importance of white, male USians and their culture will be slower than expected. There's a lot of ruin in a nation and the USA and the culture of its dominate demographic have proven pretty robust over the last few hundred years.

Over the scale of a thousand years? Well, the Marxist in me notes that the rich are still powerful and the powerful still rich.

160:

It's likely that Picard grew up in The Duchy of Grand Fenwick. The DGF is (1) a wine-producing region; (2) bordering southern France; (3) English-speaking.

For true sfnal kudos, the even beat the USA and USSR to the moon in the 1960s!

161:
"Maybe I'm not understanding something correctly? But Firefly doesn't strike me as "that USian"."

As a UK viewer the whole freedom loving Browncoats vs single-governance Alliance civil war seemed a pretty blatant riff from the various media tropes around the US Civil War.

162:

Less with the cut-and-paste boilerplate, please: supply URLs to sources instead.

I will note that this is the immigrant-friendly USA where in the past decade around 2 million undocumented immigrants have been deported and one of the two major parties wants to slam the doors shut completely. It's not much easier to get into than the UK, unless you can wave a couple of million bucks under the INS' nose for an investor's visa. (This works almost everywhere, by the way: one rule for the rich, another rule for the rest of us ...)

It's becoming clear -- especially from the current Syrian/Mediterranean rim crisis -- that immigration from war or climate-hit countries is going to be one of the biggest political problems of the 21st century. If you think the USA is doing well now, wait until the residents of the mid-west and deep south begin to realize what climate change really means (non-survivable heat emergencies every other year) and start trying to move north and east. Whether the USA even survives as a unitary republic without stuff like internal passports and checkpoints at state borders is going to be an interesting question by 2065 ...

163:

"But were basically Americans with tans."
The flip side being, presumably, politically correct liberal Americans with tans.
Inside every Islamic State thug is a liberal trying to get out? I don't think so.
We are still stuck with "Americans" and their mindset, whichever side of the culture wars they might inhabit.

164:

Nevertheless, it's already happening in a sense. When stationed in the south, many African American soldiers get the windows of their cars tinted as darkly as possible so they can't be arrested for driving while black. They've told me so. They shouldn't have to do this, but reality is reality and if we are to predict things we can safely assume that the medical version of window tinting will also be popular on the market, once perfected. Michael Jackson's version was NOT perfected, more of a statement. Your points about past instances efforts to "pass" only inflaming paranoia are persuasive, but is not paranoia the first step to reform? If your faulty mental constructs make you uncomfortable (and paranoia doesn't really feel good) then there's a chance you may eventually reconsider your thinking.
So telling a black friend to "just get a race change" is more practical future advice than advising him to "change those bigots heads." If the bigots are in power, their discomfort will be constantly reinforced and bad for others, but if they are a skulking, generally looked down on minority (as they really are in the US), passing as normal, then exposure to the unimportance of superficialities is good. I heard a radio program about a black FBI agent who busted a Klan cell by simply talking to the leader on the telephone and leading him on about his interest in the organization, milking him for all kinds of information. And how about those DNA tests. There was a big story recently about some racist radio talk show host who got himself tested by 23 and Me and found he had lots of African ancestry. You can't criticize a method on the basis that it shouldn't be necessary. That's like comparing an unreal ideal to a real improvement in order to shoot down the real improvement. On the other hand, if a technique just copes with a situation without really challenging it much, then it just allows it to hang in there. Maybe window tinting fits in that category.

165:

Your points about past instances efforts to "pass" only inflaming paranoia are persuasive, but is not paranoia the first step to reform?

No, the first step is to delegitimize, criminalize, and punish overt racism. Starting with identifying those cops responsible for the majority of "driving while black" arrests and slinging their sorry asses in prison for false arrest. Oh, and mandatory murder charges when a cop shoots an unarmed individual, tried if necessary before a tribunal of judges if an unbiased jury can't be found.

Seriously, this shit isn't going to clean itself up: the sledgehammer approach is a necessary but not sufficient part of what's needed.

166:

Solutions are real SF - Liz Parrish genetically engineered herself a few weeks ago.

167:

Oh yeah, "just stop existing" isn't a solution. I was merely pointing out that not only is it not a solution, even if it was it won't work.

168:

So if Black drivers in an area tint their windows to avoid DWB stops, 1) any Black driver who doesn't (for reasons up to and including "not being from here") is going to get all sorts of hassle, 2) THEY'LL START STOPPING TINTED CARS. DWB is cops doing ad-hoc, confirmation bias-filled profiling; changing the indicator for that profiling is trivial.

169:

According to the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database the Analog serials in 1964 in order were:

Dune World by Frank Herbert (an early version of Dune)
Spaceman by Murray Leinster
Undercurrents by James H. Schmitz (Telzey Amberdon series)
Sleeping Planet by William R. Burkett, Jr.
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Princes by Mack Reynolds (Joe Mauser series)

In January 1965 another part of Dune was the serial.

I haven't read Spaceman or Undercurrents. Dune doesn't match your description at all. I wouldn't expect a story like that from Mack Reynolds.

Sleeping Planet certainly qualifies as racist SF, but I don't recall anything about the aliens saying that white people should be in charge. In SP a thinly disguised version of 1930s Imperial Japanese (IN SPACE!) conquer the Solar System with sleep gas but are thwarted by a handful of brave humans and their own superstitions.

170:

Maybe it was a year later. Or two. It WAS more than a few years ago. I have a strong memory of the Kroger grocery store in winter. Definitely still in grade school.

The story involved earth showing off it's worth by performing various cultural things to the aliens from which we decended. The main character was doing a bull fight. (Yes I thought that was strange also.)

Never heard of this DB. Have to explore it when I get a chance.

171:

I've no interest in the book, but the movie is hilarious...

Yeah, I've heard the argument that the Starhip Troopers movie should seen as a satire. But it's sooo bad. No subtlety at all. And it commits the (to me) unforgivable sin of ruining a favorite Bowie song.

172:

Re: 'Third idea; get people in other countries to work for us, without having to have them here in China. This will involve a massive overseas investment programme.'

You mean Africa... as in Africa is the new/next China with above average GDP growth until it develops a substantial middle class. This assumes that the tribal wars stop at some point. What I find really interesting is that it's the foreign Chinese rather than the local Arabs who're doing the heavy investing. The Arab nations have had scads of money to invest for decades, and they've done absolutely nothing. China meanwhile seems to have acted as quickly as possible. (Okay after decades of failed Maoism.) Tribalism has been around for millennia, with the American version of tribalism being North vs. South, educated East Coast vs. uneducated Bible-belt red-neck.

About the original Star Trek ... I was of the impression that this show was sold as a space-age western. The timing coincided with Kennedy's speech about going to the moon. So Star Trek was intended to sell the fun, adventure, and the belief that any problem could be solved with the can-do, pull-together, American attitude. ST: TNG was in comparison more grown-up but less optimistic about the ability of humans (Americans) to easily solve any problems thrown at them using the same-old (AE) formula.

173:

It took 20 years for the general movie-watching public to figure out it was satire, so apparently it was still too subtle.

174:

I think @notsam has quite an important point which is being a bit neglected in comments - that, despite significant effort, the idea that women are in all ways human is a good deal more solidly in place in the Anglosphere than elsewhere.

My fear is that the strong communist belief that women were human got into the set of 'Communist things to be washed away', and there's been a substantial decline in female status in former-Soviet-Union and China since the end of very-explicit Communism.

You still get people in the Anglosphere wanting to hire a pretty secretary, but mostly they feel a bit guilty about it and think of the rules making it difficult as nannying which they have to grumpily submit to.

175:

Go look at the list of current women political leaders I linked in response and count how many are in the "Anglosphere." We may not be as far ahead as we presume...

176:

The Arabs aren't terribly much more local to, say, Ghana than the Chinese are (Accra is only half as far from Riyadh as it is from Beijing), and the history of interactions between Arabs and black-Africans is long, horrible, and still ongoing in the few places (South Sudan being the obvious one) where there is a border with one group on one side and one group on the other.

I can readily understand an objection to foreign direct investment from people whose ancestors were literally buying and selling your ancestors not three hundred years earlier; there was very little interaction between west Africa and China until after Deng Xiaopeng.

Zheng He's fleet got to Mogadishu and Mombasa, on the other side of the continent, but seems to have left a couple of tombs and a genetic legacy only detectable with modern equipment.

177:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is definitely a counterexample, thanks; as are Dilma Rousseff and Michelle Bachelet in South America.

Hasina Wajed and Park Guen-Hye are female members of political dynasties; the idea that descendants of the monarch might be human despite their gender is a rather older one.

178:

That could be Your Face in Mine by Jess Row.

179:

"Anglosphere" clearly isn't quite what I meant; there's a three-way distinction between Europeans going to countries to settle them and essentially overwrite the population that was there before (US, Australia, Argentina, the Caribbean though the settlement there was by imported African slaves), Europeans going to countries to rule over the population that's there by integrating into its ruling classes (most obviously India, though I think I can squeeze much of northern South America into this model) and Europeans going to countries for pure exploitation (much of Africa).

I think I'd call much of the first two categories Anglosphere. I can certainly imagine a series of events not very far from contemporary history in which Algeria was in category two.

180:

To degree it will, but that doesn't mean that it will be an exact match. Assuming we discovered FLT in the next century and start colonizing, we'd have a lot of White and East Asian colonies and very few with people from Africa and India compared to their numbers on Earth. And English and Chinese would likely be the base languages for interstellar humanity.

But it's also possible to come up with scenarios where things are different. We could have a comfortable and advanced society with a huge degree of automation so that people don't really want to colonize. Those that do might be odd religious-political groups or refugees. If overpopulation and global warming hit the island nations the hardest, there could be a lot of Polynesians moving off Earth.

But that's just looking through a fiction lens, who knows if we'll ever get interstellar travel. But it's not impossible to make a believable universe in a story where most people are of Polynesian descent and practicing some future version of Mormonism.

More realistically, absent FTL we'd probably get automated colony ships creating colonists on other worlds artificially. In a case like that, their cultural and genetic background is entirely up to the people planning the mission centuries earlier on Earth. They may opt for a racially balanced genetic stock and an optimized culture drawn from all over the planet. Or they may be ultra-nationalists creating an idealized version of their home country.

181:

"Heck, if the first successful colony ships have a large Polynesian population then the majority of human planets will be nothing like Earth after a few centuries."

Well yes - but, unless you start making assertions about Polynesians being natural astrogators which would be considered at best unreconstructed if you read them in mid-period Heinlein, you need an awfully contrived explanation as to why a population of two million people from a region whose major income potential is tourism ended up on the first successful colony ships. If colony ships are cheap enough that Tahiti can afford one they're cheap enough that China can afford a thousand.

182:

Just read up a bit about Zheng He ... according to Wikipedia he was of Arab/Mongol descent and a Muslim. Anyways, his travels to Africa were a continuation of a manhunt, some military posturing plus business ... and mostly along trade routes dating back to the Han dynasty. (Frankly, this character comes across like Sir Francis Drake.)

IMO, the best strategy for promoting widespread cultural/sexual inclusiveness is to Disney-fy it. (Or to Sesame-Street it ... as with the newest cast member Julia who's autistic.) Little kiddies watch/read their favorite stories over and over again, and they do pick up on/internalize the interpersonal relationships/values.

183:

This ends up as the kind of question where the research required before you can think of answering it includes holing up in a hotel room in Chongqing watching CCTV-14 (Chinese state television's answer to CBeebies), notebook in hand, for a statistically significant period. The first thing I notice in two minutes of looking at CCTV-14 is that the characters in the cartoons seldom look particularly Han.

184:

Notice the Chinese recently launched CCTV Africa ...

From Wikipedia ...

'CCTV Africa is China Central Television´s news productions center which was launched in Kenya on 11 January 2012. CCTV Africa focuses on African news and perspectives as well as international news... CCTV Africa will provide a platform for its Chinese audience to better understand Africa and promote the China-Africa friendship so that the real China can be introduced to Africa, and the real Africa can be presented to the world.'

Wonder how it compares to current US/Western TV journalism in terms of types of coverage, analysis, bias.

185:

As I recall from anime discussions, the apparent ethnicity of cartoon characters can be tricky because their faces are greatly simplified compared to real human faces, and people will tend to see them as whatever the default ethnicity of their culture is.

Unless you go for really exaggerated stereotypical facial features, which will be difficult to tell from a racist caricature.

186:

China's investment in Africa is fascinating, because it is extremely targeted.
What they are often building are the first real modern roads in the area, but they don't go where the people are. They go from Resource area to Port area. Most of the investment is focussed on either mineral exploitation, or creating enclaves for Chinese trade, predominantly owned and run by Chinese migrants.

What Africa gets out of it is quite different to western involvement. Westerners tend to try and bring universal education, technology, and political stability. Chinese bring underlying infrastructure, and ignore the people or buy them off with very specific investment.
And we're starting to see some demographic shifts, such as in Ethiopia, as people move to take advantage of the roads.

187:

This is a very loaded comment/interpretation: 'Westerners tend to try and bring universal education, technology, and political stability.'

188:

Westerners tend to try and bring universal education, technology, and political stability.

Fascist dictators with tanks can be seen as political stability with technology. As for universal education, one might question the accuracy of this statement.

189:

There are many more Chinese people than Westerners who have both the skills required to run a general store, and a set of alternative prospects in life such that running the general store in Mwinilunga appears the most attractive option. So there is a fair amount of individual-Chinese-business activity in Africa, as well as the large-scale resource-extraction efforts.

There's also a good deal less anti-Chinese sentiment than there is anti-Western sentiment, because these are places which scarcely had a Chinese visitor before 1995.

190:

Fair point, I'll rephrase that as westerners tend to build schools, basic sanitation, hospitals, and try and arrange for more congenial political structures (Bringing Democracy™).
They support gender equality and the education of girls, and often focus on improving life expectancy and development.

The Chinese investments are more focussed on roads, rail, telecommunications. They are less interested in who is in charge other than to ensure they are left alone.

It can be argued that this is actually having a better effect on the population in certain parts of Africa, because the good roads mean people can *get* to the hospitals etc.

At least, that is the message I got from friends working in Ethiopia and Madagascar, and it makes sense when you look at other parts.

191:

I'm a bit confused by an argument that Chinese investment in Ethiopia is primarily resource-driven - as far as I can see the main push has been to get Chinese heavy-industry companies to build the big new dams which will increase total Ethiopian electricity production to still somewhat less than the electricity produced by Drax when two of its six boilers are down for servicing.

I am almost inclined to think of Chinese investment in Africa as yet another example of the Global Savings Glut; the Chinese have some spare money, the Ethiopians are willing to let them invest it, individual Chinese businessmen are willing to run stalls at bazaars in Addis Ababa.

But I haven't been there and looked yet, and it may be that there's something which would be absolutely obvious on the ground and doesn't show up in random perusal of world media./

192:

Building and staffing hospitals is in some ways the straightforward thing to do. A hospital needs some money, some land, hiring a few dozen Chinese doctors willing to work overseas in a highly prestigious project at a good salary for a few years, and a contract with the School of Medicine at Jiaotong University to arrange a ready supply of interns. And so you get the Tirunesh Dibaba Ethio-China Friendship Hospital a bit south of Addis Ababa: http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-11/18/content_14115427.htm

Building and staffing primary schools is much harder - you need many more for a given population, and whilst interning at a hospital in a developing country is a standard rite of passage for a medical student's career, interning at a school in Ethiopia isn't something a trainee teacher usually contemplates. Similarly, whilst being a foreign senior surgeon teaching local junior surgeons isn't straightforward, being a foreign senior teacher trying to train local teacher-trainers is a whole new level of cultural difficulty.

Building basic sanitation is a nightmare, because you have to dig trenches. Vast lengths of trench, across land owned by vast numbers of people whom you'll have to negotiate with. Building a sewage-works and staffing it with secondees from the Ministry of Public Works until you can get local staff trained up is trivial in comparison with trying to build a local plumbing industry.

193:

And if that general store manager is male, his chances of finding a bride in Ethiopia may be significantly higher than in China.

194:

To be fair, a lot of it comes back to we will give you a loan to build the infrastructure - in return you will use Chinese companies to do it.

China has the cash, the countries need the construction, China gets skilled workers working. It is effectively win win, but there is no knowledge transfer to the destination.
On the other hand, there is a huge increase in efficiency and much less corruption.

Also see this for some of the free trade areas being created. They are staffed by predominantly Chinese migrants, and hire locals for low level work only. The huge development in Mauritius is mostly related to fisheries in the Indian Ocean.
I've heard it argued it is pseudo-colonisation on the British model a la Hong Kong - set up enclaves on the coasts and funnel trade through them.

In my opinion, it is predominantly a good thing for the countries, because they've had chronic underinvestment in basic infrastructure for decades. It is a very different approach to the western models though which was my original point.

195:

Oh, honey, that's such a lovely challenge for a working writer.

196:

Those of us who did geography at school last century will recall that building roads and railways to the mines etc is the classic imperialist behaviour that was castigated for much of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Now of course as long a you pay off the local elite it's all fine.

197:

I imagine I could catch the 20:15 from Heathrow to Addis tonight and be married by Halloween. The aphrodisiac effect of "I have a million birr in the bank and an EU passport" is not to be sniffed at.

The question of why the kind of Briton who thinks this is a good idea tends to go to Bangkok instead is an interesting one, I imagine it's down to ultra-stereotyped portrayals of the submissive Thai versus the sassy African-American.

(yes, yes, African-American stereotypes could not readily be less relevant to Ethiopian Ethiopians; but the stereotypes exist to hit people before they've thought that far)

198:

The big question is whether paying off the local elite is better than using your gunboats to become the local elite. It may be.

The interesting time will be when we see the first anti-Chinese pogroms, and the first nationalisation-without-compensation of Chinese property; and in particular when we see how Big Brother Chang in the East reacts to them.

199:

I think it pretty clear from the last century or two that it is. When things happen in the country, you can just evacuate people and some money and their economy collapses and they come crawling back to you. It's also less hassle, because someone else gets to inflict the beatings on the populace.
Of course it works best in a global interlinked world; if your country is self sufficient and doesn't care about money then it won't work, you'll have to do it the old fashioned way.

200:

The Chinese don't respect the current population distribution. Most aid agency plans assume that people would continue to live in their ancestral villages (where the people currently are). Most Chinese development plans assume most people will move into large urban areas. As it's happening in Ethiopia, the Chinese are building roads to where the cities would best be located, and then reap the profit when the people come. In a lot of ways, the current Chinese regime is very anti-rural, both in China and abroad.

201:

"mid-west and deep south begin to realize what climate change really means (non-survivable heat emergencies every other year) "

In actuality the US is probably the best situated out of all major nations to ride out climate change. One of life's little ironies

That's pretty unlikely and if it is, the rest of the planet will be totally screwed. Almost all of of the US is temperate. You're probably going to see some migration from the low lying southeast, especially Florida. However those coastal areas are generally low population density, and around 7 million Americans move every year normally, it's not going to be super hard to absorb

The bigger worry will be migrants from mexico and Latin America. However these migrations are going to be NOTHING like what China and India are going to get to deal with when places like Bangladesh and coastal India and China flood and a billion people get to move. That migration is going to be the biggest movement of humans the world has ever seen and is likely to spill over heavily into Europe (just like Syria is now)

202:

Have you considered why "Malaya" became "Malaysia" and "Singapore" in 1965?

Essentially because the ethnic Chinese community didn't feel comfortable that they were going to be treated equally by the ethnic Malay population.

203:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_race_riots_in_Singapore

Granted, the People's Republic was rather busy at the time - still getting over the Great Leap Forward, and about to embark on the Cultural Revolution...

204:

Good luck finding judges who are not members of the Tea Party though. In most US states, judges are an elected position.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poL7l-Uk3I8

In a lot of Southern Counties, judges can't be elected unless they're members of the Tea Party.

205:

Sigh...
I guess I have only myself to blame for being pissed off about a declaration of faith without any arguments, especially when good arguments can be easily procured.

Anyway, what kind of future are we talking about? Future is big.

Near-term future:
The shape of the immediate future is a first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, landing in one piece and ushering a new era of truly reusable launch system. This impending revolution is completely Americans, thanks to ITAR.
Looking on the broader picture, the bulk of the scientific output of humanity is American. If we decide to look on Western World, instead of just USA, the dominance in science and technology becomes even stronger. The vast majority of the world's top universities are American. Those are, if I have to remind you, are the places where scientists work. You know, the people who actually make the future (as opposed to, for example, science fiction writers, who provide valuable entertainment in the present).
Everyone else is playing catch-up, and will be for a while. In particular, boosting your scientific output by producing a lot of crappy articles in crappy journals is a bad idea. Yes, Peoples Republic of China, I'm talking to you.

Medium-term future:
Sure, China and India may overtake USA. It won't be as easy as some imagine, because social institutes might play a big role. Are you sure you can have an independent researcher (academic or industrial) without having a real rule of law in place? Are you sure you can have rule of law without independent judges? Are you sure you can have independent judges without a system of checks and balances that permeates the entire society? Those things take a long time to build.
Never mind, let's say the rest of the world will catch up. Founders effect is still in place. The future continued to be Roman long after Roman Empire collapsed, as people continued to use the Latin language as lingua franca. And the position of English language is stronger than Latin once was. English is the language of science all over the world. If USA collapses tomorrow, scientists will continue to talk to each other in English.
English is also the native language of the Internet (another American invention). UTF-8 is ASCII compatible - how's that for symbolism?

Long-term future:
Is not American. All people are finally completely equal. And dead.

206:

HAHAHAHAHA.

Now I've got that off my chest.
ITAR. Is irrelevant, as the relevant nations - China and India in this case - can just steal or purchase on the quiet what tech they need. Hell, most of it is manufactured in Taiwan anyway.

Elon Musk has a US based space program, but his goal is cheap access to space, not restricting competition to national players.

The Highest rated universities are in the west, but the makeup of nationalities that attend them? Significantly different. China has spent the last 30 years sending large numbers of students to the west to study. They are now coming back and taking up posts in Chinese universities, rather than continuing their research in the west. And that is across the board - medicine, engineering, software, you name it. Give it 30 years and the rankings will significantly shift east. India is probably 20 years behind the curve, but it too is upskilling its population to take on the more advanced work.

Manufacturing is almost entirely done in the east, global finance is backed by eastern money, and as for your comments on The Rule of Law ... the USA is a society where those you employ to protect you can kill your own citizens without repercussions. At least in the UK they get in trouble for it.

English is likely to stay on as the international trade language, much the same way that French was used up until quite recently. But it won't be the English you know soon. Hell, it isn't the English I grew up with any more.

207:

wait until the residents of the mid-west and deep south begin to realize what climate change really means
Nah
You think they will really wake up, unless & until the sea-level rises, & maybe not even then.

208:

Also the ethnically Chinese people in Singapore were, quite correctly afaraid of th base religion & it's prejudices in Malaya - islam.
Which was very "moderate" then, but, as is the current trend, is becoming less so & more authoritarian.
Yuck.
Note: This is not to say that Lee Kuan Yu (sp?) was just everybody's favourite uncle.
He was definitely a steel fist in a thin velvet glove

209:

I'm don't claim its guaranteed but;

1. North America is only three countries its a pretty small sample - zero is still not great but Clinton was close before Obama got in first.

2. the demographic sex selection issue already noted by other commenters

3. Elites often have a different culture to the general population - Call it Saudi Princess Syndrome here, highly and often western educated women with a generally more liberal outlook than their native culture - on the ground though things look a lot less equal.

210:

The vast majority of the world's top universities are American... (exceptionalism continues)

Vast majority, you say? Vast is such a nice adjective, but 63 out of the top 200 (Time HE Supp rankings), or 18 out of the top 50 (QS rankings) is hardly "vast". It certainly isn't a majority.

You will no doubt be surprised to hear that the Times Higher Education Supplement titled this year's tables The world dominance of universities in the US has further waned...(link)

211:

Perhaps he means "World's Top Universities" in the "World Series" sense.

212:

fivemack wrote: you need an awfully contrived explanation as to why a population of two million people from a region whose major income potential is tourism ended up on the first successful colony ships.

Future space travel extrapolated from where we are now will continue to be restricted to Westernized, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democractic countries. (People may argue that Russia and China aren't democratic, but compared to what they were less than a century ago, hell yes they are.)

That only gets us into the solar system at best. (See the High Frontier, Redux post by Charlie in the sidebar.)

Any kind of interstellar travel needs an "awfully contrived explanation". A Maori shaman discovering that a particular mix of Kava and Nurofen grants the power to open an interdimensional tunnel to other worlds is, with our current scientific knowledge, just as likely as discovering warp drive.

213:

This line or discussion has a risk of heading into "no true Scotsman" territory, and since I'm out-ontologied on that front I'll leave it be, but did want to pick up the thread not to argue or unravel but for fun.

We don't speak Latin, but most of western and southern Europe does (speak a dialect of it), as well as much of South America. Our germanic language has a bi-modal vocabulary where the Latin-derived words (a huge proportion of the total) have a higher status than the germanic-language-derived words. There are at least a half-dozen locations or objects in my house that could be considered its Lar. Even though historically it was all christianised and stuff. You could start with the television and work around from there...

Funny talking about traces of empires... I have lately found reason to ponder the historical situation of the stans in particular and the middle-east in general as an outcome of the destruction of the Khwarezmian empire by the Mongols. Which means it sort of embodies the lingering traces of both empires.

I think the point I'm making is that continuity is more like a "soft" power thing and who really knows what lasting aspects of the culture of the anglosphere will still be around in the distant future. Which is probably the same thing you are saying, now I think of it.

214:

[ DELETED FOR TOTAL SHIT-HEADEDNESS and failure to check privilege. Remember whose soapbox this is! ]

215:

So far they have raised around 1 billion U.S. of which 200millon came from Alibaba, a Chinese company.

I think the valuation of snapchat probably has more to do with lots of Chinese money sloshing around and not getting invested in the Chinese stock market then QE.

Well, are you surprised that my examples continue threads of thought from prior conversations? The why of that particular company choice should have been self-evident. Have a little faith in my ability to know things already.

Dig deeper into IPO land, unicorns and recent news from JP Morgue (hint: it's a statement of weakness and SHTF in a structural sense).

Also if that kick starter author got read by 100 million people every month, then they probably would make more then 5k. The reason apps are worth more then books is reach and utility much more then conspiracies. Anything that 100million people find useful is likely to turn some cash

Firstly, that kick starter author is the OP. She is asking less than 10% of what high rollers (The C list) spend on a night out. Less than a decent set of tack, saddle and gear. And far less than what a single horse costs to keep for a year. [Note to PG: to expect a properly bred English Lady to not know these things is gauche in extremis].

Secondly, the Reddit and Dinosaurs link was deliberate. (Popularity =/= monetization, despite the broken VC churn and burn model that's working at the moment through artificial stimulus).

Thirdly, apps are platforms for advertising (c.f. prior tangles we've had), so why would Alibaba want anything but a window into Amazon land? (And Amazon really do not play nice).

Add the three together, can you see what I'm saying?

It's not exactly subtle, but there we go.

~

When the problem exists between someone else's ears, the solution has to be applied between those ears -- whether it's education and insight, or the application of a half-brick.

Be careful.

This is a lot less fun in practice than expected[tm].

And, to bring a little Derrida to the battle, be careful, oh so careful, of defining your self by opposition to the Other:

There are a you and an I, and there is no mine and yours! For without a you and an I, there is no love, and with mine and yours there is no love but "mine" and "yours" (these possessive pronouns) are, of course, formed from a "you" and an "I" and as a consequence seem obliged to be present wherever there are a you and an I. This is indeed the case everywhere, but not in love, which is a revolution from the ground up. The more profound the revolution, the more completely the distinction "mine and yours" disappears, and the more perfect is the love. "Works of Love" Søren Kierkegaard


Act / Phase III is always a dull one.

216:

Mm hmm. (taking notes)

217:

Thank you, you demonstrate my point nicely.

218:

This is a lot less fun in practice than expected[tm].

Oh yes, absolutely. Half-bricks should be a last resort, reserved for situations where rhetoric has been -- or is about to be -- replaced by the other side escallating to fists or half-bricks.

I don't advocate violence as a way of proactively changing the other guy's opinions -- except insofar as it may change their opinion that you are a defenseless target they can physically destroy. And even then? A good pair of running shoes should be tested first.

219:

Sorry for ruining your demonstration case, but he just took a big dump all over Clause 3 of the moderation policy, and I am not feeling terribly tolerant right now of people who think "social justice" is a pejorative.

220:

Islamaphobia wasn't really a thing in the mid-sixties.

Malaya became Malaysia as Malaya incorporated the statelets of Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo (and their oil reserves). Indonesia wasn't best pleased at this (see Borneo Confrontation)

Singapore left, or was thrown out, due to irreconcilable political differences, primarily communal. The majority Malay parties favoured pro-Malay affirmative action to, while minority (except in Singapore) Chinese PAP were for non-racial meritocratic government. The economic dominance of Chinese owned businesses may have had a lot to do with this.

Post-split, the Malay population of Malaysia has constitutionally guarranteed advantages over the minority Chinese and Indian .. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumiputera_%28Malaysia%29

221:

Elon Musk has a US based space program, but his goal is cheap access to space, not restricting competition to national players.
He's also on his third nationality.

222:

Any kind of interstellar travel needs an "awfully contrived explanation". A Maori shaman discovering that a particular mix of Kava and Nurofen grants the power to open an interdimensional tunnel to other worlds

Would you take American Indians finding a small patch of clay on the Mississippi lets them paddle their canoes between the stars?

223:

The interesting thing about the U.S. Is that a lot of the amazing things that happen are not being done by native born Americans. They are being done by immigrants. One of the special things about the U.S. Is its ability to attract the best and brightest from other nations.

If there is anything to American Exceptionalism it is this and nothing else. It's an immensely powerful thing

As far as Alibaba Unicorns and Chinese investment I have no idea what is going on CD and frankly neither do you. If you really had a handle on that particular line you
would likely be sitting very expensive champagne on a yacht somewhere not replying to posts on Charlie's blog.

224:

Yeah, I've heard the argument that the Starhip Troopers movie should seen as a satire. But it's sooo bad. No subtlety at all.

Sooooo bad it's sort of fun to watch. Sort of like the movie Rhinoceros.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070605/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

A group of us went to see it in college expecting a comedy. Boy did we miss the boat. Plus the print the movie theater had had a loop where we got to see about 15 minutes of the movie twice. And we really couldn't tell if it was intentional or not. Turns out it wasn't.

225:

"Most people like to read stories about people like themselves, at least in the position of the protagonist. It's a matter of writing for the chosen audience, and if you have an eye on the numbers for marketing reasons you end up with the Usual Suspects in various cultures."

I agree with the first sentence, but I can't help wondering whether those whose concern is with the second sentence may be using an excessively restricted definition of "people like themselves" based only on obvious external characteristics.

I can only comment from my own point of view, of course, but that is that the definition I seem to use when enjoying or not enjoying a story has very little to do with any physical characteristic. Sex, race, species, planet of origin, nature of their consciousness's hardware platform - none of these, of themselves, make any noticeable difference to how well I can identify with the protagonist, or to what extent I can have positive hopes about what is going to happen to them.

As far as I can manage to self-analyse on this point, the main factor is simply how well the author presents the character as someone worth caring about. Consider George McDonald Fraser's Flashman, and Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever in "Eyes of the Overworld" (I haven't read any further in that series). They are both fairly similar characters - horrible weaselly arseholes who screw over everyone they meet - and both have similar simple motivations along the lines of "get out of this crap in one piece". But I enjoy reading Flashman and can't help putting myself in his position and hoping that he does manage to get out in one piece even though I don't like him as a person, whereas with Cugel I just don't care what happens to him and so find the whole tale boring (hence why I've not read the sequels).

The difference, I think, is partly how well the characters themselves are presented, and partly how the backgrounds and the other characters contrast with them and make sense of their actions. Those of the Flashman novels whose historical background I am unfamiliar with are similarly "alien" in setting to the Dying Earth, but they are well-drawn, colourful, make sense on their own terms, and contain adversaries who are clearly very nasty pieces of work themselves and so worthy of the position. The Dying Earth setting is pervaded by a grey and miasmic unpleasantness that lacks clear reason, the characters are random and unconnected agglomerations of attributes just plonked down here and there for Cugel to encounter who do what they do for little apparent reason, and there is a strong overall sense that crappy things are just going to keep on happening no matter what anyone does - so the "downer ending" is a failure as a twist, because it's nothing more than the sort of thing you expect to happen by now.

So, for me at least, whether a protagonist counts as "like myself" in the sense of being able to identify with them and care about their adventures is very much a matter of how well-written the book is, and it is far too simplistic to try and pre-judge it on simple and obvious external attributes of the protagonist. I suppose it's a matter of publishers thinking they do not have the time to actually sit down and read the book and so they use simple criteria to reject most submissions without having to bother, because it's easier that way. Like employers with CVs.

One thing that I do find grates badly in any book is the introduction of characters who are explicitly "non-WASP" (or similar) just to make some sort of point. EE "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" series presents as the ultimate good two galaxies being organised on the basis of right-wing white American early-twentieth-century values, which is pretty dodgy, for sure, but it's far easier to cope with than the sole black character in the series and the great big illuminated "LOOK! IT'S A BLACK GUY!" sign flashing on and off over his head.

226:

About the original Star Trek ... I was of the impression that this show was sold as a space-age western.

People involved in the show have stated this was the point. Take the popular TV westerns of the time and set them on a space ship.

Hey it was soooo much better than Space 1999.

227:

A herd of space whales feeding in a star nursery.

Not many people understand The Algebraist (it has the lowest quotation online presence of all of Bank's novels; it doesn't help that the punch-line is that AI are hiding as aliens who are deliberately aping European attitudes circa 19th C to mock those who are studying them with a silly subplot about "ze ultimate evilz") but it does contain such things.

'Space Whales' who feed on the youth of stars need serious hides, biology and maws. And probably access to brane topology amongst other things. (Space Whales who skip between the branes; now, there's a thought. The Culture is ever so planar and bound in 4D in that way; sadly he died before knowing the surface tension wasn't a bubble but a chaotic knot of fractal coastline).

It's funny though, it was recently Moby Dick's centenary and I stopped myself from that line of thought.

52 Hz Whale might not be so lonely after all BBC 15th April 2015

The Brown note: gentlemen, know what is done in the names of "national security" and deep sea sonar. (Ahh, see? Always thinking it's for the Homo Sapiens, when it's not).

~

I don't advocate violence as a way of proactively changing the other guy's opinions -- except insofar as it may change their opinion that you are a defenseless target they can physically destroy.

It's not happened yet (Israel is the closest, followed by the UK then the USA), but the future of war[tm] isn't what most think.

Bernays and so on are cavemen.

And by "closest" I mean: little children running around with mud on their faces.

c.f. plasticity; belief structures that are strengthened, not weakened by predictive failure (esp. Apocalyptic prophecies) and so on.

Radical Transformation: for a bunch of transhumanists, you sure hide it well. *nose wiggle* [And no, you're all children. It's a geometric resonance attack and full on gut bacteria model).

Biologists Discover Bacteria Communicate Like Neurons in the Brain UC San Diego 21st Oct 2015

Oh, and Chimeras. But it's boring front-running when not growing myself.


But I wouldn't give that to people who think waterboarding works.

~

Anyhow, a nod to the deleted. You're trying, so we respect that.

For the older Gentlemen [YouTube: music: 3:00, Vietnam version]

228:

As far as Alibaba Unicorns and Chinese investment I have no idea what is going on CD and frankly neither do you. If you really had a handle on that particular line you would likely be sitting very expensive champagne on a yacht somewhere not replying to posts on Charlie's blog.


Ahh, well now we can all spot the fool.

Racking up a high score in a broken game is the purview of the C and B types.

Mouse wheels for the lazy. You've not read The Peripheral have you? (I referenced it... a while back).

Honey: if we want, we just fucking cheat the cash into pockets. (c.f. In-Q-Tel

*shrug*

Nice to out yourself as that. Rare to see a born-n-bred ex-Mormon believer in the wild. Shame your kind had to piss all over the beauty in the name of ideology.

~


However, this thread is not by Host, it's by someone else. Take the faux-cluelessness elsewhere for a while.

229:

Would you take American Indians finding a small patch of clay on the Mississippi lets them paddle their canoes between the stars?
Or a Navajo sandpainting that when properly triggered opens a gateway to another world?

230:

It's easy for people who don't play the game to sit on the sidelines and tell everyone how say it is and how great a player they would be if they only bothered to play

It's obviously a much better use of your time spending countless hours posting crypticlly on this blog trying to score some points. That is sure to change the world

231:

You've assumed three things incorrectly already in this thread so far:

#1 I've never played the Game (your version, which is the silly childish electronic 401k / stocks / shorts and HFTs thing) and won heavily.

Playing that Game is dull: esp. if all I ever needed to do was flirt and flash cleavage at City Traders. (c.f. great little story behind some of the 'greatest' market players of history revolve around their wives, high class prostitution and pillow talk. I've heard the Chinese are now world class at this)

#2 That my analysis even when it's front-running your thoughts by weeks is suspect.

Which it's not: your constant poo-poo'ing is frankly dull at this point. All mouth, no trousers, Langley.

#3 I give a shit what you think

Oh. You've hit my super-secret weakness. It's for the PG, not you.

Hint: #3. Host is probably a little surprised by the IP locations if nothing else.

*shrug*


Give me a Link, Any Link, to prove you're interesting.

233:

Charlie, Judith,

Thanks for proving my point. You are on an ideological jihad where you identify a group as your 'enemy' and implicitly consider the enemy of your enemy to be your friend. It ain't so.

You aren't taking a dispassionate standpoint and you've got caught in a loop of dismissing out of hand ('check your privilege') anything that doesn't fit within a narrow ideological position. It's dangerous and destructive - as is generally the way with ideologies.

If you want to make progress (and evidence suggests you don't) then define what culture you would want to live in, and on the basis of evidence score your worldwide options as they stand.

You might be shocked. You might find that culture you so gleefully dismiss is closer to your ideal than you think.

Having said my piece, I'll bow out here.

234:

Thanks for proving my point. You are on an ideological jihad where you identify a group as your 'enemy' and implicitly consider the enemy of your enemy to be your friend. It ain't so.


Actually, I'll warrant a RED card and riff off the interesting thing you said.

No, no-one is on a Jihad.

What you stated about relative merits of Cultures is actually entirely benign... If it doesn't come packaged with a whole shit load of other prescriptive elements.

Here's a thought experiment: ignoring all the Other crappy shit in the world, imagine your own Culture in a vacuum, then see what could be changed.

That's not saying the Twitterati are correct (they're not; Trust Fund Kids alllll over the shop and slights of hands where old Money and Power is doing the same old tricks).

~

So: the trick is to lose the baggage.

The question is if you can. (And no, PG, I wasn't too impressed by Sweden. You want to play it hard, we'll play it hard. The Bacteria are now weaponized - then again, after 50 years of ridiculous annihilation leading to Crones disease, massive obesity and dull minds, it's not what you think it's like).


And yeah: don't despair. Sometimes we need monsters to fight monsters, don't think we don't love you too.

235:

Surely the main factor determining what culture might be most represented in a galactic colonisation scenario is what culture is most likely to be interested in it.

It is, after all, an utterly pointless endeavour. Absent FTL travel you could achieve the same practical result from the point of view of those engaging in it by building a prison with spaceship-style interior decoration and fake starfields outside the windows, and locking people up in it until they die. Even with FTL there is still the objection that the number of ships multiplied by their passenger capacity would have to be impractically vast to make any difference to Earthly conditions. (And is there any point thinking about FTL anyway? Its present status is "theoretically possible but requiring the mass-energy equivalent of anything from half a galaxy to several universes", and to change that would require discoveries in physics so unlike current knowledge that there is no basis on which to even speculate about their possibility, let alone their timescale.)

So it comes down to who has a sufficiently strong mythology of space colonisation to want to bother with it despite the lack of point. To me, right now, that looks like it puts America at the top of the list (although this might be wildly wrong in the light of stuff I don't know about other cultures). And, after all, it is still only America that has put humans on the surface of another celestial body; note also the spelling of the slogan "Get Your Ass To Mars".

So the question is how the distribution of followers of that mythology might change as Earthly cultures evolve over the period between now and whenever the technology becomes available. To me, again, that mythology seems deeply American in its nature - it is what the "call of the frontier"/"pioneer spirit" thing evolved into when the local frontier was no more. So it seems natural to think of its survival as being connected with the survival of the elements of current-American-ness with which it is bound up. On this basis, future space colonisation would show a significantly recognisable current-American influence. Not a conclusion I'm particularly keen on, but there we go.

Certainly there is the possibility of a similar mythology taking hold in some other culture to cause a different conclusion, but on this aspect I have no data upon which to speculate.

236:

I think one of the surprising things about getting to live in the states is how small c conservative it is. Change can and does happen, the change from Same sex marriage being a reliable republican tactic to energise the vote, to it having broad acceptance, in a very short time frame is an example of this.
But on the other hand, predict the date the USA will adopt the metric system.

237:

CD I don't have to prove anything to you at all, ever

The only thing you front run is your own ego.

If you would like to claim some special insight / knowledge / background the burden of proof is on you. Whenever you wander into areas that I personally happen to know something about you seem naive, so those I call you on.

I can't judge you on the rest of the things you claim to be so expert on, but so far, I am not seeing much of anything other then someone who continually mistakes being obscure for being insightful

238:

"I will note that this is the immigrant-friendly USA where in the past decade around 2 million undocumented immigrants have been deported and one of the two major parties wants to slam the doors shut completely."

Nothing new there. The Tea Party is just the latest incarnation of that vile strain of American nativism that goes back to the founding of the republics. Tea party, John Birchers, the Klan, the Know Nothings- its all the same thing. If anything its less virulent and violent than it used to be. If my Irish ancestors could survive the Know Nothings, Hispanics will get past the Tea Party.

As for the illegals, demographics will solve that problem as well. Mexican birth rates are falling. In less than a generation there won't be enough Mexicans tying to cross the border - and a head of lettuce will cost $20.

And its Obama that has done most of the sending back. It all goes to the basic hypocrisy both parties practice on this issue. The Republicans are the party of law and order and talks tough about illegal immigrants. But the corporations that back the GOP like having a cheap workforce without any rights. So W actually sent back relatively few illegals. The Dems are the party of inclusion and caring so they are more accepting of immigrants. But the unions that support the Dems don't want to compete with a cheap workforce without any rights. So Obama send much more back than the GOP.

If Mexican birth rates are falling so are Muslim birth rates. France has a higher fertility rate than Iran. War refugees not withstanding, Europe is not going to be flooded by Muslims. At most the Muslim population of Europe will be similar to that of the Christian Copts of Egypt, a large minority - but a powerless minority. But Europe does a sucky job of assimilating Muslims. In France they are forced to live in isolated banlieues. In America they open a restaurant down the street from where I live.

And if Mexican and Muslim birth rates are falling, Chinese, Russian and Japanese birth rates are collapsing.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/05/russia-is-finished/302220/

By mid century there will be 50 million fewer Russians and 20 million fewer Japanese. As I noted above China is not going to take over the world - it's about to be come the largest old age home in history.

Ironically Europe's birth rates are holding steady and pro natal policies in France appear to be working.

Africa will be the next China - not in power but in industry - since it is going to hit the same demographic sweet spot (low dependency ratio with high numbers of working age people) that China did a few decades ago.

And China never was a threat. Their economy consists entirely of cheap labor making cheap crap for sale at Wal Mart. When was the last time you saw a Chines automobile not to mention one with the same superb engineering the Japanese used to almost destroy the American auto industry? Chinese pharma? Chinese laptops? Chinese Nobel prize winners? Chinese genetic engineering? All they ever had was cheap labor and they are about to run out.

And in the meantime they have turned their country into a cesspool. Their people are sick, their rivers are open toilets, their soil is poisoned with heavy metals, and their air consists of unbreathable carcinogens:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/11/our-real-china-problem/376989/

By default American dominance will last for centuries to come.

239:

Not really, the Maurai have high technology but are very into sustainable low-energy civilization. They are opposed to any kind of high-energy technology like nuclear power, no matter how safe and clean.

They aren't going to get very far into Solar System space that way, much less send out interstellar colony ships.

Not without some kind of magic tech.

(I favor irradiated cheese, but that puts me back in the White Male American Heroes with Token Black Guy category. Albeit with token LGBT content in the last chapter.)

240:

Note that the reaction that the US is currently having is to unlicensed/illegal immigrants. Which are almost all unskilled labor from Mexico and Latin America

The same party (Republican) that is trying to close the door on that is trying to massively increase the licensed/highly skilled immigrant pool, and is facing opposition from the Democrats.

So generally, things are more complicated then they appear.

241:

I must say that if I had the insider knowledge to play Unholyguy's "Game", I would not do it...
- I would not enjoy either doing it myself or coding a bot to do it for me.
- I despise the system under which it is even possible.
- I do not care about the "rewards".

Yacht, fine. Luxury yacht, absolutely not. If a casting flaw in the seacock for the head outlet causes it to fall off in the middle of the ocean, the last thing you need is to have to strip out half a house's worth of decorative junk just to get at the thing before you sink. KISS: be content with a bucket.

242:

CD I don't have to prove anything to you at all, ever

The only thing you front run is your own ego


Says the Man at Langley.

The Mirror Broke.

Hint: You've not said anything interesting. That includes "knowing" that Unilever spends $7.6 bil a year on advertising.

Hint: You missed the part where you should have split that into Western / Developing market share, what Brands mean in non-Western markets and how positioning as an "Elite" Brand determines % spend, not actual $ spend and so on and so forth.

Then you might have gotten some interesting data on how Western Corporations shape local markets, how Brand positioning stifles local economies and so on and so forth.

But you didn't.

Hint: I don't have an "ego" in the same way that you imagine in your mirror-my-self-world-is-me model.

Oh. And. Blood for the Blood God. I warned you not to invoke things best left unsaid.

You're Mine [Youtube: music: 3:31]


Oh. And no interesting links. Shame.

243:

"If you think the USA is doing well now, wait until the residents of the mid-west and deep south begin to realize what climate change really means (non-survivable heat emergencies every other year) and start trying to move north and east. Whether the USA even survives as a unitary republic without stuff like internal passports and checkpoints at state borders is going to be an interesting question by 2065 ..."

As someone else pointed out America is ironically in the best position of any industrial nation to weather the storm of climate change. Agriculture will adjust and be augmented with vertical farms and bio-printed meat factories. We can lose a lot of coastal area and still relocate further in to a nearly empty interior. Europe OTOH is crowed everywhere and far more vulnerable geographically. Most of Europe, especially the Low Countries and the British Isles are totally screwed if the ice caps melt.

244:

Islamaphobia wasn't really a thing in the mid-sixties.
Oh dear
A PHOBIA is an IRRATIONAL fear, right?
One should be afraid, very afraid of all religions & especially the "Abrahamic" ones.
This is NOT irrational.
I suggest you look at history & the current news papers before you even think about repeating that false accusation.

And the Malay constitution has very little to do with what happens in practice, I'm afraid.
Think MH 370, the incompetence & arrogance shown simultaneously in that case & DO NOT MENTION Anwar Ibrahim, ok?

245:

Agree yachts are lame. The point being, people that can afford them are likely not to be found posting on this forum 24/7

It's true rich people do get bored and anything can happen, but odds are low...

CD says "You've not said anything interesting."

Not here to entertain you. Don't care what you find interesting If you want to keep babbling ignorant bullshit about things you don't know anything about have at it. Occasionally you will wander into my subject area and I will probably mock you.

246:

Not here to entertain you. Don't care what you find interesting If you want to keep babbling ignorant bullshit about things you don't know anything about have at it. Occasionally you will wander into my subject area and I will probably mock you.

All

Mouth

No

Trousers


Hint: your "20 years in the Valley" mean three things:

#1 Hello Langley

#2 Stupid didn't get in early enough to Vest / low engineer type who now talks hard about the things he missed

#3 A Janitor AWAKES


Irony.

It. Burns.

Still no links.


Nice forum slide going on though. Notice that pattern? The one thing you're good at is Sliding.


Hello. L.A.N.G.L.E.Y.

All Mouth, no trousers, all bullshit, no links.

Oh. Apart from ones from 2012. Cutting Edge Valley Knowledge There Kids.

It's an old Meme, but it checks out [Youtube: music: 2:41]

~

Oh, and the Space Whales quotation? Am I the only one who actually read the Kickstarter, pledged and so on?

247:

CD gods, oh egoless one, what is the deal with all the whitespace already, I think I must have been wrong, you aren't autistic you are some weird kind of performance artist. I wish i could figure out a way to charge you for whitespace, that would be a startup for sure

On the off chance that you actually want to learn something and not just toot your own horn, what links are you looking for? And you do know not everything you read on the internet is true right?

248:

Aww, we're descending into farce now.

Here's a better game:

For every slide, you hit $5 on OP's kickstarter (that you manifestly insulted and hadn't even followed from your comments).

By the end of your shift, OP could have an extra $50 to her book.

Yes.

You're sliding so hard you can't see the point.

~

Oh, and learning things.


Yes. I do it every second I am still alive. Not from things like you though.

The challenge was: an interesting link, pertinent to the thread that we've not read already.

I'll bet you $100 on the kickstarter you can't provide it.

249:

Boy j would be pretty stupid if I let you control where my money goes

I'm not donating to her kickstarter kinda don't like her attitude

250:

Why don't you just buy her out its only 1500?

251:

I'm not donating to her kickstarter kinda don't like her attitude

The Future Is Not American


Thanks for playing.

We got to honesty eventually.


As stated, $5,000 is not enough to support a single horse for a year (even with your own land).


I'd be surprised if there wasn't some Balanced out Karma coming her way though. *nose wiggle*

252:

p.s.

Blood for the Blood God

One thing our kind don't do is lie.


Should have spent the $100, it's probably worth less than your soul in the long run.

253:

I'll tell you what CD I will buy her out if you promise to not post here for three months

That is money well spent

You in?

254:

"Europe OTOH is crowed everywhere"

No, it really isn't.

255:

I have to disagree, London and the Low Countries have done extensive flood defence since the event in the fifties, cf the Thames barrier etc, it would be expensive but they could just raise the walls higher
The greater NYC areas response to Sandy has been different

256:

Oh, Honey bun.

My heart bleeds.

You cashed a rather larger cheque than that.

Given your 24/7 approximations of my time (so not posting from my yacht in the Seychelles), my time / hr is costed at $700 at the moment. Not even joking.

But, no.

We don't do that.

You played a Game, honey-bun. And you lost.

You should probably go Home now [Youtube: Tv Series: 3:20]

257:

So it comes down to who has a sufficiently strong mythology of space colonisation to want to bother with it despite the lack of point. To me, right now, that looks like it puts America at the top of the list (although this might be wildly wrong in the light of stuff I don't know about other cultures). And, after all, it is still only America that has put humans on the surface of another celestial body; note also the spelling of the slogan "Get Your Ass To Mars".

So the question is how the distribution of followers of that mythology might change as Earthly cultures evolve over the period between now and whenever the technology becomes available. To me, again, that mythology seems deeply American in its nature - it is what the "call of the frontier"/"pioneer spirit" thing evolved into when the local frontier was no more. So it seems natural to think of its survival as being connected with the survival of the elements of current-American-ness with which it is bound up. On this basis, future space colonisation would show a significantly recognisable current-American influence. Not a conclusion I'm particularly keen on, but there we go.

In the 20th century people thought that colonizing space was going to be an exotic new way to make a fortune, like European colonial land-stealing. Now we know it's actually an exotic way to dissipate a fortune, like playing elephant polo matches aboard a giant zeppelin.

Extremely wealthy Americans with a space fixation are likely to be prominent in space colonization efforts, because only the wealthy can afford to go up there. Or extremely wealthy space enthusiasts of any nationality, for that matter, though I expect Americans would be over-represented even normalizing for wealth. You might get a few more if the space enthusiasts trick their wealthy peers into falling for the old "you can make a bigger fortune in space" gag. Though would people successful enough to accumulate such fortunes fall for that trick? Maybe, if Bernie Madoff could get away with it.

So space colonies are dominated by enthusiast re-enactors and a few nervous/confused investors who are wondering why most colonists are LARPing classic SF stories instead of trying to make money, and all of them are (or at least were, before) quite wealthy.

258:

Oh, and for the clueless: There's Rules, Boy.

If you're posting from a registered State Propaganda outfit, there's rules against linking anything and everything to outside sites [non-controlled].

Why?

Because you don't know if those links are controlled by the "ENEMY".

Because the Internet is a tracking device, and everyone can use it.

Aka.

Post links or die.


Fucking Hilarious Langley.

(Says the Woman so cutting edge she's posting links after her comments precede them.


p.s.

Oh, and I wasn't joking about Blood for the Blood God.

But that's a little crueler. I don't appreciate dreams of forced drownings and so on. I find your reality dull and soon to not exist.

"Ride the Snake".

~


Funny. If it wasn't wrapped up in a cruel and bigoted and heinous crime that your species just did. "There goes the Hipppies".


Yeah. I think not.

259:

Actually I won because you thought I was bullshitting and I am not and you tried to call my bluff

Now I will turn it around to you and your $700/ hour. Buy her out and I won't post here for three months. That's 2 hours of work right ?

I'm also a little confused by your Langley references are you insinuating I am some kind of CIA plant or something because I don't post a link. Here is a link

http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/21/news/economy/aging-countries-moodys/

260:

Oh boy.

A CNN link. Not that is owned by...

You sure proved that you can post radical stuff with that. From August 21st 2015.

And the aging thing has [b]nothing[/b] to do with this conversation.


~


Oh, and you're still not getting it. I'd call you dense, but you just posted an out of date CNN link [vetted] that has no relation to the conversations as "proof" you're not working...

;.;

The entire point of $16 bil vrs $5k isn't that a single person can counter-balance it [OH BOY - NEWSFLASH. VALLEY SHOWS VC CASH CAN CHANGE SINGULAR LIVES!`1111"!]

It's that you've no idea what $16 bil actually does in a functioning economy.


p.s


Dude.


You took that long to get a vetted CNN [paid for already] link to a 2014 article?


Shit.


You need more funds.


We play nasty and fast and can predict and plant stories. You're stuck on a year old shit?


LOL.

261:

And, Mr Man. We're done.

A simple GREP shows you've already posted that link

At this point, we're not having a conversation. What is actually happening is that my TradeCraft is showing you up to sell to others [and, gentlemen, it's never for sale].


Muppet.

p.s.


Blood for the Blood God

262:

This is awesome. Do you actually think some CIA forum troll squad CAN't POST LINKS? I mean i know the government has a reputation as stupid but gods thats far fetched

Give me a site and i will post from it

How about this one

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/27/south-carolina-black-parents-on-school-discipline.html

This one work?

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=250414

263:

And thanks for playing.

Tehran Times [Iran] and Aljazeera [Qatar]. (Neither of which are on the sanctioned list, btw, everyone knows their bias).

At which point do you stop the bullshit (having swallowed the bait)?

No, really. You can post a couple of random links, but never on topic.

" Extremists could not function without support of state actors: Shireen Hunter" [Ironic: I don't think you meant to post that one]

"Parents say violent arrest of South Carolina girl reflects broader bias"

Sooo.

Remind me again how a couple of random links are revelent here?


Foooooruuuuuum Sliiiiiide (to the tune of Leeeeroy Jenkins).


p.s.


You've not actually posted an interesting link that relates to the topic at hand.

Doing it wrong.

264:

And, before you post again.

Do you REALLY want me to post the guidelines from 2014 on internet OPs?

Because, my little peach, you're getting MADE.


p.s.


I love the fact you can post semi-random links, but can't connect them.


Weavers. See. What. Happens.

265:

Btw.

You know that thing that happened up thread, where you were gutted?


It was a set-up for the next thing.

And you're walking right into it.

It's like fucking chimps hopped up on quaaludes.


Don't.

Friendly advice. You already lost your soul, you're losing your dignity by posting the stuff you are.

Hint: intelligence is connecting facts and data.


You're spurgling shit, and it's embarrassing.

266:

No True Scotsman

CD the only one getting made is you, you are crossing over into downright insane territory. Did you not take your meds today?

I have no idea what is on your sanctioned list. Like i said provide me a domain and i will post from it. Post whatever guidelines you like, i really don't care. Maybe seek professional help? Dead serious there

267:

We're watching you CD! Always. Just don't make us post links. We can't handle that.

268:

CD the only one getting made is you, you are crossing over into downright insane territory. Did you not take your meds today?

And, PG and fellows, there's the kick. 100% made.

Russia, "Sluggish schizophrenia

It doesn't take much to force them to show their hand.

~


And, no, Unholyguy, I'm fine.


You just got royally fucked though, even if you don't see it yet.


Oh, and really: that script you're running? You wouldn't last a week with the shit I've been through.


Or perhaps you didn't.


Slave.

269:

still not providing naughty links from the naught list CD. You must be CIA

270:

Actually I'll make you a deal, I will be CIA you can be KGB, be more fun that way.

Come on COMRADE you are made, you are not a fooling anyone.

Gods you can't pay for this kind of comedy

271:

Also your name from now on is officialy Comrade CD

272:

Funny.

I'll tell you a funnier joke though:

I'm not trapped in here with you... [Youtube: film: 0:50].


Thanks for playing, little boys.


PG - point, proven. [Meta Game now applies]

273:

P.S.

Can't do links, can do shitty jokes.


Fellows just got MADE.

274:

Your not fooling anyone by posting your western youtube media Comrade. We are on to you. You have not yet taken your loyalty oath nor posted a link to the Constitution

275:

Because we all know real communists are blocked from posting a link to the Constitution. No, not that link. That link doesn't count, it's the other link. The SECRET link on the Politburo's naughty list. The one that you can't post to disprove me because I WON"T TELL YOU WHICH IT IS.

Dirty commie

276:

No-one cares anymore.

You played the Game, you lost, you then double-double-downed into an old Trope ("must be MAD, amirite!??!") and so on. You even ditched the entire cover of "" to do it and play in the mud.

As a serious point: the comments above were to your handlers, not you.

You're Fucked.

Oh, and a word to the wise: you're prey. I'm showing others how fucking inept and easy it is to break certain things.


~


And all for a $100.


I hope you have a donor card, because you've no more use to humanity right now.

OH, and they're hunting you. Never play Games you don't understand and so on.

You've a week. Prey Runs, Predators Fight. Make the choice, then die.

277:

Comrade the only thing you are showing others is that are batshit insane.

Handlers my sweet jesus I am totally gonna facebook this thread.

278:

Handlers my sweet jesus I am totally gonna facebook this thread.

Post in a week.

Trust me, it's going to be interesting.

If you missed the meta-game, you got played so hard Shaq couldn't dunk you.

p.s.

You played the "mental illness" card. That's all I was aiming for, it's on the proscribed list of effects and forum games. (Hint: we know what you are).

The problem you're going to have is simple: you signed (you typed it, John:1:1; "Blood for the Blood God") onto something a little bit wilder.

But yeah.


If you missed it: we teach when we see Langely in action.

279:

Oh i will post in a week never fear. And a month. And a year. But to you, Comrade, I will always be CIA and that will make me giggle for years

You played the "you work for the CIA card" so you get the mental-illness card in the shuffle kinda by default

Geez you would think if I worked for the CIA i would have better spelling at least....

280:

About illegal immigration. So what if Latin America's birthrates are falling. There's already a steady stream of immigrants from Africa to Brazil

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29617698

What's to stop this group from moving North through Panama, Central America, and Mexico to get to our southern border. Right now, Africa's birthrate is falling, but not fast enough to avoid doubling the population.

281:

So, one Empire goes down along with its controlling demographic...do you think the replacement would be something other than another Empire with its own controlling demographic out merrily oppressing everyone else (and its own unprivileged members) for economic benefit and political power?

282:

FAO Charlie and Mods,

I am losing all interest in the fight between "Catina Diamond" and "Unholy Guy".

Yours Sincerely,

Paws4Thot.

283:

One thing that I do find grates badly in any book is the introduction of characters who are explicitly "non-WASP" (or similar) just to make some sort of point. EE "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" series presents as the ultimate good two galaxies being organised on the basis of right-wing white American early-twentieth-century values, which is pretty dodgy, for sure, but it's far easier to cope with than the sole black character in the series and the great big illuminated "LOOK! IT'S A BLACK GUY!" sign flashing on and off over his head.

I'm not sure I agree with you, because "token black guy" made no impression on me, where Tregonsee, Worsel and Nadreck (well any Palainian or similar ultra low temperature race) did make an impression on me for sheer alienness.

284:

As a big fan of "5 minutes in the future" SF, I'm wondering where this could be set that isn't the USA and hasn't been done recently. OGH and his friends have done several in Scotland and the UK. Bacigalupi did Bangkok. McDonald did India, Turkey, Brasyl. Then there's Shepard's magical realism all over the place from Kalimantan to Iraq to Central America. And an honorary mention for District 9.

So how about Baikonur, or Bamako? Or better yet Novosibirsk? There ought to plenty of Science-Fictional mileage in the future mass migrations from SE Asia towards Siberia as the water and climate wars take hold.

285:

I would think it would be easier to use a fictional setting similar to a real world place, but with a different name. Then you can create features as needed, you don't have to do research for authenticity, and it can simply be more fantastical. An example would be the "San Lorenzo" setting of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. As far as that goes, anything that makes it easier on the author has got to tend to make quality better. If the author is busy trying to do a travel documentary that much effort is taken from other considerations. The same applies to characters. Perhaps the prevalence of American characters is just based on the principle of going with something familiar for the protagonist or POV character, in order to reserve inventiveness for other elements.

286:

Very long isn't it. More than a hint of "If I post a wall of text you can't be bothered to read I win" about it.

Fortunately whenever I see the name "Langley" I always think of the one in the peak district. Top tip: The Leathers Smithy is* excellent pub if you ever find yourself near the super sekrit CIA peak district site.

*was 5 years ago anyway.

287:

There's a learning process. Unless all history is wiped out 1984 style, awareness of the older empires will be present, and the task of the overlords will be that much harder. More and more accommodations have to be made. Plus there's technology to save us all. Video cameras in the hands of every citizen, for example. Cosmetic surgery and, later, transhumanist technologies. All these technologies can be tools for either the empire or the people, but ultimately anything that empowers humanity represents progress, and will, on balance, be progress. Perhaps cosmopolitanism itself, America's spottily applied "new" "technology" will make the future indeed "American".

288:

Well, a variety of things. The road from Brazil to Texas is littered with criminal gangs and oppressive governments, making the journey expensive and dangerous. Think of it as a well engineered in-depth defensive perimeter.

289:

It's been percolating around in my head that the US claims a lot of authority from their "Frontier Mentality". Why doesn't South America get the same respect?

After all, the Gaucho is effectively the same role, and is a national icon in Uruguay and Argentina, heavily linked to Argentine independence. They are still common today as well, just as cowboys are in Wyoming.

We all know that Space Colonisation will be expensive and dangerous. The West is becoming culturally conditioned to be highly averse to danger. I agree that the initial explorers will be american, but in my mind it is more and more likely that the first wave of serious colonists after the initial explorers to anywhere will be highly educated second world inhabitants, as they are cheaper and have a higher tolerance for risk, especially if the rewards accrue to their families.

291:

Sticking with the South American theme, Richard Morgan uses the altiplano of Bolivia quite prominently in Black Man - colonisation of Mars was done by corporations with contract labour from the area as being from high altitude they were better adapted to lower pressure air, and the Families here and there still maintain a connection.

292:

The frontier "mentality" doesn't confer authority. It can actually be maladaptive once the frontier is gone, unless a surrogate can be found. The presence of a real frontier creates a dynamic that changes all the normal rules (it increases social mobility for one thing), and that once truly made America exceptional until it ran out, to much moaning and gnashing of teeth. Other than that, the true exceptionality of (US) America is running on the fumes of that old glory. Perhaps continued recognition of the value of a frontier can be used as a source of sense of purpose, thus can be used to claim some kind of leadership role. The task of worthy leaders is to teach others to lead themselves, though. The idea, like an official office, is the source of special status, and the purpose of it is to share it not to use it to build a hierarchy or to make claims of special personal qualities on the part of the one holding the idea or office.

293:

William Sanders' "Amba," if you'll take a short story?

294:

9000 kilometres' worth of other places to stop?

295:

I see it as fairly useless to judge a future United States by an extrapolation of the current one, immigrants will both mainstream and alter the status quo, and their grandchildren will not be in any way remarkable. On the other hand, under the "Leadership" of the .01%, a future United States may have little to offer but banking and lawn care, perhaps some automated assembly facilities that can stamp made in USA here and there.

296:

They are now coming back and taking up posts in Chinese universities, rather than continuing their research in the west. And that is across the board - medicine, engineering, software, you name it. Give it 30 years and the rankings will significantly shift east. India is probably 20 years behind the curve, but it too is upskilling its population to take on the more advanced work.

I want to see how this plays out when at the end of the day the government (party) in China is all about remaining in power more than anything else. They current boom in capitalism was a way of dealing with internal dissent, not about how capitalism is the greatest thing ever.

India has different but in the end problematic issues with how the country is run.

Not saying they can't figure it out but I don't see the path from here to there just now.

297:

Having been in Kuala Lumpur during the 2013 election campaign, I feel reasonably safe in saying that the ongoing Malaysia/Singapore split has a lot to do with gerrymandering.

Let's put it this way: Malaysia has a roughly 50/20/20/10 Malay/Chinese/Indian/Other ethnic split, and political parties that reflect this. If Singapore re-merged with Malaysia the balance would shift to roughly 40/30/20/10. It'd be impossible for the Malay party coalition to form a government without taking in some of the other groups, and it would suddenly become possible for a Chinese/Indian coalition to take control.

So despite the Malaysian constitutional commitment to reunification with Singapore, everybody knows that Malaysia's current rulers want this like the Republic of Ireland wants to absorb all those shouty Ulstermen in Northern Ireland, i.e. we're getting into hole-in-the-head territory here.

298:

Thinking about the culture question from a Marxist point of view i.e. that things like political, social, legal and cultural structures are secondary to and subservient to the technology needed to operate the means of production then I'm not sure that any Earth based culture particularly survives contact with space colonisation intact.

If conversations on this forum have taught me anything it is that living in space is going to be very different to living on Earth and initially much more difficult. Much less forgiving of woo in all its form and with a constant eye on failure states that are rapidly and widely fatal.

So the cultural and poltical set up of any space faring polity will be firmly bent around what makes living and working in space possible.

I'm not sure what that looks like and I think there are many models that would be internally consistent and workable. I'd expect a strong element of health and safety culture, a collectivist approach to nifrastructure and strong political cohesion. As an example of different models you might have one society with what is in effect a health and safety priesthood and secret police with a rigidly hierarchical political regime that tolerates no dissent. Or you could have a culture which maintains it's political coherence by being very very good at deep slow deliberative, fully participative democracy so that every decision has pretty near universal buy in.


Whatever the inter-stellar culture looks like it will be probably be something that has gone through the filter of the inter-planetary culture.

So despite my view that WEIRD, anglo-saxon, USian and white, male USian cultures will persist on Earth for longer than one might initially think I think a space-faring culture is likely to be re-built from the ground up and may, therefore, bear almost no resemblance to any existing culture.

299:

Now that we're well into the CS mandated couple of hundred posts and into the less well-regulated section of the comments, could I ask those who end up feeding <redacted> and chums to make an extra effort (now and in future) not to? There are a small number of regular commenters whose contributions I skip over, but it does become irksome when there's so much of it.

Please, just let the background babble stay an infrequent background babble, lest we end up swamped and the StN drops; sometimes the comment threads here can be really interesting but good posters just don't bother when it becomes too noisy. You know feeding only encourages, and you know it won't ever go anywhere interesting. Thank you :)

300:

Nuts. I didn't mean to namecheck anyone in that. Perhaps a friendly mod will remove the specific name and replace it with something like "noisy ones" or some other such... please?

[[ done - mod ]]

301:

Most people like to read stories about people like themselves, at least in the position of the protagonist.

Disagree, conditionally. Most people are happy reading stories about people like themselves. However, most people are also willing -- and may be happy -- to read stories about people very unlike themselves, as long as people like themselves are not forcibly excluded from the story.

Readers tend to project themselves into the viewpoint protagonist's shoes, and will keep doing this even with a quite alien protagonist unless the author figuratively nails up a sign saying NO GURLZ ALLOWED (or equivalent), thereby cock-blocking the reader's ability to empathize with the protagonist or their situation.

302:

No space colonisation without nuclear propulsion.

The only way to win is not to play.

303:

The Brown note: gentlemen, know what is done in the names of "national security" and deep sea sonar. (Ahh, see? Always thinking it's for the Homo Sapiens, when it's not).

What are you willing to bet that DARPA and the USN are paying attention and right now funnelling big bucks into developing active sonar that mimics whalesong? Carries for huge distances, is uniquely tagged (so hard to jam), difficult for enemy submariners to distinguish from a natural ambient phenomenon, and doesn't hurt the apex grazers -- just requires the application of enormous amounts of signal processing bandwidth to use it effectively, unlike the 1920s version.

304:

f you want to make progress (and evidence suggests you don't) then define what culture you would want to live in

Thank you for playing; the culture I want to live in doesn't exist yet (but everything I write is a minute nudge intended to push readers' minds in the direction of it).

Today's western culture is by no means the worst on the planet, but it is deeply, fundamentally, cruelly broken in ways we are mostly blind to because we've grown up in the system. I refuse to accept that this is the best we can do.

305:

Here's a phrase I want to see die in a fire -- which is almost ubiquitous in British politicians' statements on matters of fiscal policy and economics for the past two decades: "hard-working families". (How about: "the underpaid poor"?) Or "benefit claimants" -- how about "capitalism's human roadkill"? Here's another: "asylum seekers". (How about "refugees fleeing genocide by IS"?)

The choice of euphemism tells us a lot about the bias the propagandist wants to put on the story. And when you start tearing apart the rhetoric of western politicians the underlying ideology is really, REALLY, ugly. (Again: deconstruct "tough love" and tell me what it has to do with food banks and diabetics starving to death in unheated apartments.)

306:

I'll tell you what CD I will buy her out if you promise to not post here for three months. That is money well spent. You in?

YELLOW CARD.

You do not get to dictate who may or may not comment on my blog. That's my prerogative, and right now you are getting very close to a ban. Your kind are ten a penny, unlike CD, who remains entertaining as always.

307:

The biggest hurdle the US faces is learning how to cooperate and let the other 'guy' lead when that other 'guy' is demonstrably better able.* A crowded planet needs people who are able to cooperate vs. the one-upsmanship game that's become a defining USian characteristic. (Similar to what happened to Spain, England and many other countries/cultures ... a too big, too much historical achievement to fail mentality.)

* Okay, the US/West does admit that it can only send its astronauts into space using Russian technology.

FYI, some info about global SE (Science & Engineering) trends: the US is losing its lead.

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/overview.pdf

Excerpt:

'The expansion of NS&E degrees extends beyond first university degrees to degrees certifying completed advanced study. Since 2000, the number of NS&E doctorates awarded in Japan and India has increased to approximately 7,100 and 8,000, respectively. NS&E doctorate awards from universities in China have more than tripled since 2000, to about 26,000 in 2008, exceeding the comparable number of NS&E doctorates awarded in the United States (figure O-10). Moreover, unlike in China, in the United States a large proportion of these degrees go to non-U.S. citizens.'

Okay, to be fair, I have heard criticisms that non-Western doctorates tend to be less original-research intensive. However, I've also heard the same criticism about UK PhDs, i.e., conducting/publishing original research in a peer-reviewed journal is not a requisite condition for earning a PhD. (This was a few years back, things may have changed since.)

Something that tends to get lost in these discussions is biological science ... understandable as this audience skews IT. Anyways to sort of demonstrate my point about cooperation ... the NIH supports a considerable amount of medical/biological research worldwide, and it's also probably the most internationally well-integrated and respected 'U.S. govt' agency. (If you've heard otherwise, please provide details.)

308:

"... just requires the application of enormous amounts of signal processing bandwidth to use it effectively,..."

It doesn't. Not compared to what is available.

309:

You probably want to go look up Bruce Sterling's Leggy Starlitz stories from the 90s. Very post-Soviet, much WTF, wow.

310:

"Less original-research intensive" ...considering the many and varied replication crises abroad in the world, this is a bad thing? Does "less original-research intensive" mean less research or more replication?

311:

I'd expect a strong element of health and safety culture, a collectivist approach to nifrastructure and strong political cohesion. As an example of different models you might have one society with what is in effect a health and safety priesthood and secret police with a rigidly hierarchical political regime that tolerates no dissent. Or you could have a culture which maintains it's political coherence by being very very good at deep slow deliberative, fully participative democracy so that every decision has pretty near universal buy in.

Banging own drum -- if you read "Iron Sunrise" you'll note that there's an asteroid civilization as one of the settings, and yes, it makes Sweden in the 1960s look like an anarchist temporary autonomous zone. Founded when the Eschaton dumped the Space Settlers Society in a space colony with a few years' consumables and said "deal". The key sentence is, "a century after the last Libertarian uprising was bloodily suppressed ..."

312:

No space colonisation without nuclear propulsion.

Disagree. (With the unconditional "no" -- I'll concede that nuclear propulsion is convenient.)

Without direct nuclear propulsion we're stuck with slow boats. Which mean we need much, much better medical and environmental systems to keep the tinned monkeys fresh. So losing one key technology can be compensated for by placing more emphasis on the others.

313:

Enormous amounts of bandwidth compared to what was available before the early 1990s, which is when our current generation of SSNs were being designed/laid down.

The lifespan of a nuclear submarine is on the order of 30 years. The lifespan of a signal processing computer is on the order of an unrefrigerated yoghurt in a heat wave.

314:

Are we talking about colonizing Solar System space, or interstellar colonization?

I can see the former without nuclear power. The latter I can't see unless you assume you can count on regular shipments of energy by laser cannon or some such. Without nuclear power you not only have the problem of propulsion but of just everyday survival energy without any nearby star.

Assuming ships with living people. Sleeper ships, seedships, or electronics-only "life" might be barely possible.

315:

Readers tend to project themselves into the viewpoint protagonist's shoes

This may be why I hated Rule 34, while I've nearly worn out a copy of Halting State. I liked all the viewpoint characters in Halting State, while I didn't like any of the ones in Rule 34. Problem particularly acute because of the second person voice you used.

Nothing to do with gender orientation* — they just weren't very likeable people.


*I tend to assume "none of my business" about how people identify**, unless they make it obvious, because, frankly, it isn't.

**Although "two-spirited" bugs me, because of the cultural appropriation.

316:

With the note that I am not a sonar engineer, you're now got me wondering about whether or not they're working on passive whalesong sonar...

317:

>>>without direct nuclear propulsion we're stuck with slow boats. Which mean we need much, much better medical and environmental systems to keep the tinned monkeys fresh.

We need all this even with direct nuclear propulsion*. Even at speeds approaching C, good colonization sites will still be decades away. It's not like every star system has suitable planets.
Unless by colonization we mean living in completely artificial environments in space, harvesting asteroids for resources. In this case, there is no need to leave the Solar System, we are not going to run out of asteroids.

*I'm disregarding the completely sy-fy stuff here, you know, antimatter rockets, Bussard's scramjets, continuous 1G acceleration, relativistic time dilution... That's just crazy talk.

318:

"likely that the first wave of serious colonists after the initial explorers to anywhere will be highly educated second world inhabitants, as they are cheaper and have a higher tolerance for risk, especially if the rewards accrue to their families."

The second world (ie USSR and Soviet bloc) is rather out of fashion but a good pick as Russia has the tech and the cheap labour. If there's a big space industry I'd guess the people space welding and running wires would be wherever happens to be cheep at the time - they're going to need to be trained anyway and poor people generally only need moderate return for high risk - Africa seems to be a popular pick but you could also look at South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia, more interesting still would be Central Asia (and Baikonur is in Kazakhstan) or Mongolia. Alternately assuming a move away from oil how about desperate ex-wealthy Arabs (in spaaaaace....)?

319:

I don't see passive whalesong sonar being complicated - all they have to do is widen the scope of what they are specifically listening to from outside the mechanical ranges. They already detect whalesong easily, they just ignore it.

Active sonar has the problem that it can be detected at far greater ranges than it can detect, since the signal has to go out and then come back.

The challenge is in disguising active sonar to resemble whalesong in such a way that the initial pulse is lost in the background chatter, but the return can still be identified. That takes a shedload of signal processing because if it mimics an existing sound, you'll confuse your sensors when they speak. If it doesn't, then the enemy can isolate your particular voice and you haven't gained any advantage.

320:

Thinking about the culture question from a Marxist point of view
i.e. Completelly wrong.
About as accurate & useful as a current USAian-libertarian viewpoint, in other words.

321:

Can I support that, provisionally?
As we know we sometime disagree on the specific remedies & micro-directions.
A "fairer" - without being expropriative society.
Women actually treated as equal ( Shock horror )
Some means of dealing with states that gratuitously torture & kill their own citizens as a matter of routine.
And end to religious privilege, of any sort ....
For a start
Now - how to get there - the difficult bit.
One thing is certain.
Not one single one of any of the UK's political parties is anywhere remotely near aiming in said direction

322:

"a real frontier creates a dynamic that changes all the normal rules ....and that once truly made America exceptional"

It wasn't exceptional at all, every country in the Americas was a frontier to Europeans, as was much of Sub-Saharan Africa (particularly South Africa and Zimbabwe) Australia and New Zealand - that's about half the world already? Then there's the Russian frontier into Siberia and Central Asia, the Germans along the Baltic coast, Poles and various Russian polities into the Ukraine, Vikings all over the place...

323:

Your blog, your rules.

But
I find CD, when she (?? ) is being whitespace & indirect amazingly annoying.
Communications are supposed to be CLEAR.
Please let us not descend into mysticism &/or double/triplespeak obscurantism.
Unless someone is willing to provide the rest of us, the "peanut gallery" with a running translation into clear, plain English, of course?
Any volunteers, perchance?

324:

+1 for Leggy Starlitz. Especially The one about the girl band; Zeitgeist. I can't hear the news about Turkey or Syrian refugees arriving in N Cyprus without remembering it. Also the short story about rapid robot evolution in a launch bunker in the Gobi desert. I think there's going to be some interesting futures in NW China and the boundaries between the 'stans and Siberia. Is it time to retire to that cafe in Ulan Bator yet? Shame it's so damn cold in the winter.

325:

I often wonder how long it's going to be before the smouldering resentment among people who actually do useful things for a living, against those who parasitise society (career politicians, money-shufflers, tax accountants, lawyers, disdainful masters...) blows up into something nasty. Starting, perhaps, with semi-organised boycotts.

Imagine, for example, a campaign for people to refuse to serve in a shop or pub anyone wearing a name badge from a bank. I'd join it.

I think it's worth remembering that anyone employed by government shuffling paper (at any level, whether local or national) has exactly the same effect on the real economy as does a welfare claimant - except more so, because they get paid more.

("Disdainful masters" ought to be easy to decode. Think opposite.)

326:

The replication crisis may be a sign of several things, of which 'tacit knowledge' seems to be an increasingly important factor. The excerpt below is about Psych research. I've heard of similar situations in bio.

Excerpt:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis

'Clearly, there was something in the recipe for the X effect that I was missing. But what? I decided to ask the experts, the people who’d found the X effect and published lots of articles about it [..] My colleagues from around the world sent me piles of instructions, questionnaires, papers, and software [..] In most of the packages there was a letter, or sometimes a yellow Post-It note stuck to the bundle of documents, with extra instructions: “Don’t do this test on a computer. We tried that and it doesn’t work. It only works if you use pencil-and-paper forms.” “This experiment only works if you use ‘friendly’ or ‘nice’. It doesn’t work with ‘cool’ or ‘pleasant’ or ‘fine’. I don’t know why.” “After they’ve read the newspaper article, give the participants something else to do for three minutes. No more, no less. Three minutes, otherwise it doesn’t work.” “This questionnaire only works if you administer it to groups of three to five people. No more than that.” I certainly hadn’t encountered these kinds of instructions and warnings in the articles and research reports that I’d been reading. This advice was informal, almost under-the-counter, but it seemed to be a necessary part of developing a successful experiment. Had all the effect X researchers deliberately omitted this sort of detail when they wrote up their work for publication? I don’t know.'

....

My point re: original research is that this requires a would-be-accredited-scientist to get their hands dirty by doing the actual work, learning about the ins-and-outs of their equipment, analyzing real (dirty) data, and so on. There's tons of good learning at this stage, i.e., screw-ups-happen-and-then-what-do-you-do/how-do-you-sort-it-out* that should be encountered early. Equally importantly, this also prepares the would-be-scientist for the 'nothing-happened' moment.

* The cosmic background radiation (1978 Physics Nobel) is a good story about this type of research experience scenario. You can find Penzias' and Wilson's bios along with their lectures through here:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1978/penzias-facts.html

327:

"If conversations on this forum have taught me anything it is that living in space is going to be very different to living on Earth and initially much more difficult. "

Good points - just like to add in space there's no free air, people will be completely reliant on their society for survival. We're very reliant on Earth but there's a 'run away to the woods' option which might not be attractive but isn't instantly fatal. I suspect that will have a powerful impact on societies - you could start by looking at the differences between US and Australia attitudes to government.

328:

Russia does know all about colonizing frontiers which would kill an unprotected human whose mineral wealth is their only economic draw...

329:

Meanwhile, in China

Actual Chinese propaganda video for the 13th 5 year plan--because the first few went so well. Starts off with a nod to Bowie, and has Einstein, so I'm sold (no not really).

330:

I wouldn't have thought that the calcium and water in the average frontier explorer would be particularly valuable unless we're talking Flight 571?

331:

Re: '... anyone employed by government shuffling paper (at any level, whether local or national) has exactly the same effect on the real economy as does a welfare claimant - except more so, because they get paid more.'

Total BS.

First off ... the large majority of these folks provide a necessary service. Second ... all of this sector's incomes are taxed because unlike other/private sectors, public sector employees are not paid under the table, therefore income tax (money) flows back into the national economy.

332:

Imagine, for example, a campaign for people to refuse to serve in a shop or pub anyone wearing a name badge from a bank. I'd join it.
Why? The vast majority of the people whom you're advocating inconveniencing will be tellers or personal secretaries and the like, who make about the same as a barman, not the merchant bankers and the like whom you're railing against.

333:

Especially since nobody senior ever wears identifying badges or clothing.

People are expected to know who they are, they don't need to be told.

For venturing into public - that's what minions are for.

334:

I had not forgotten Iron Sunrise.

There are a couple of other examples I've come across too. I think one in a Mike Cobley book.

335:

Douglas Adams skewered this kind of thinking in a throwaway line in The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe - everyone remembers Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B; how many remember that lack of a specialism exiled to the Ark resulted in the extinction of all other Golgafrinchans?

336:

I think it's worth remembering that anyone employed by government shuffling paper (at any level, whether local or national) has exactly the same effect on the real economy as does a welfare claimant - except more so, because they get paid more.

Yes: they push their money back out into the economy immediately, rather than exporting it to hedge funds or lining the pocket of mega-yacht builders.

Money is a coefficient of economic velocity. Welfare claimants and low-paid civil servants don't have enough of it to try to squirrel it away, so their money recirculates rapidly.

(Or were you just barfing up some kind of faux-libertarian anti-state talking point?)

While we're on this subject, Britain is heading for another 2008 economic crash: here's why. (A debt-based explanation.)

337:

Oh, definitely bench (for discipline-specific values of "bench") science should be a requirement, and if that's lacking then it's a problem. But the output of that bench science being "I added [x] Post-its of undocumented restrictions/degrees of freedom to the published record of [y] effect" should be valued as much as "I discovered badly-supported effect [z]."

338:

To paraphrase: libertarianism doesn't work in space. "Free markets" that permit monopolistic behaviour don't work in space. Selfishness kills.

The folks who are the loudest proponents of space colonization don't seem to realize that their other ideological shibboleths would have to go out the airlock in order to make it work.

339:

Ok no more CD trollong

I love the idea of imagining a future that you would want to live in and using stories
to connect it to the present. The stories are the thing, they keep it realish. The interesting thing is so many of those imaginings end up dystopian. My suspicion on that is it is easier to postulate one big event that leads to a worse world as opposed to a million small ones that lead to a better world.

340:

Worse: people misinterpret stuff. Like the folks who keep telling me they thought "Accelerando" was inspirational and they want to live in that universe!

They seem to imagine they'd be part of the 0.1% who weren't exterminated by the Vile Offspring. Uh-huh.

341:

I find CD, when she (?? ) is being whitespace & indirect amazingly annoying.
Communications are supposed to be CLEAR.

You're assuming the purpose is communication. I think that's demonstrably not correct, because you've found them clear when they want to be.

My hypotheses are trolling, pranking, performance art, inebriation, and Charlie trying out a new writing style*.

I've been hoping Judith would chip in a bit more on this thread. I've liked her topics in the past, and she picked a good one this time too. At the moment there's a lot of catshit and not many nuggets of good stuff in this particular sandbox. :-(

*Low probability, and if true I hope I find out which book, so I don't waste money buying it.

342:

Fellas better just let it go you can't win against a biased mod you will just get banned. Charlie has made it super clear he is supporting her

Best thing to do is scroll past it

343:

The lifespan of a signal processing computer is on the order of an unrefrigerated yoghurt in a heat wave.

Not necessarily... (I spent the first decade of my career working on software for the signal processors of fighter aircraft radar).

While it used to be (in the 1980s) that the signal processing was the limiting factor in the system; this has become less commonplace. If your transmitter only has X amount of power, and the receiver only has Y amount of sensitivity, then you've got a hard limit on how much you can milk out of the signal. All of the parts of the system operate hand in hand, if you're doing it right. Having a massively-overspecified signal processor, just so you can rewrite some algorithms every year, is likely to be questioned as wasteful.

The radar signal processor was there to implement algorithms; so long as we were able to achieve the specified processing, with a contractually-specified amount of memory and idle time headroom, we'd achieved what we set out to do. We designed the Eurofighter radar in the early 90s, developed it and its software in the mid-90s, trialled it in the late 90s, and it went into service in the early 00s. From memory of having to organise the lab Xmas bash, about forty or fifty of us worked in the signal processing lab across the hardware and software teams. Any Tranche-1 Typhoon (i.e. several hundred of them) is currently running software that I wrote over twenty years ago, and it's "good enough" - it's still best in class, and outperforming several slightly more modern AESA radars. Yay for original-model SPARC and 12MHz clock rates.

Developing new signal processing algorithms isn't something that gets run up overnight. Any particular modification used to be modelled; then tested against a range of real-world scenarios by our ground replay team; then costed, developed, and tested on the actual radar; and finally released to service after a formal test process that used to take about three man-years of effort across the whole team.

So: for small-scale stuff like radios and the like, then you're absolutely correct. For large-scale, mission-critical systems, the system complexity is the limiting factor on change. If a project effort is measured in tens of man-centuries of engineering person/years, it's fair to say that new signal processors turn up more slowly than the next yoghurt delivery.

344:

I think there is also something about the vulnerability of space habitats (space stations or early Mars colonies) to the violent action of a disgruntled and alienated minority.

On Earth we can run societies with relatively large numbers of dissatisfied individuals or small numbers of people with nothing to lose or who disagree very violently with the current set up. We get the occassional riot or bomb which are painful but they don't risk killing every single person in the polity. It's very difficult for a riot or a small terrorist organisation to turn off the oxygen or the sun on Earth.

So one needs to find a way to guarantee to spot and stop every disgruntled violent individual or ensure that there are none.

I'm pretty sure that any right-Libertarian society is not going to be able to guarantee either of those conditions. I'm not convinced that any of the political set-ups we've tried on Earth do either but if I were compiling a top ten of political philosophies most likely to lead to a hull breach and full loss right-Libertarianism would be on the list.

345:

Hypothesis: these are readers who stopped paying proper attention by the end of 'Halo' at the latest.

346:

"Any Tranche-1 Typhoon (i.e. several hundred of them) is currently running software that I wrote over twenty years ago"

That is bloody awesome. It is amazing how long code can stick around, I predict at some point software archeologist will become an actual field

347:

This isn't even unusual.

348:

"Jupiter? The position isn't favorable. Besides I hear that Ganymede has more regulations than a girls' school."

"Mother, you are the only juvenile delinquent old enough for a geriatrics clinic whom I have ever known. You know perfectly well that an artificial colony has to have regulations."

"An excuse for miniature Napoleons! This whole system has taken to wearing corsets."
- The Rolling Stones (vt Space Family Stone) (1952) - Robert A. Heinlein

349:

Imagine when that software is 50 or 100 years old written in languages few people understand. And then one day it breaks and your bank is down

350:

That is my take for why people in CJ Cherryh's U/A setting* are so paranoid about enemy agents and who can be trusted, even beyond the usual level of paranoia for Cherryh characters.**

* Downbelow Station et al

** Any Cherryh character who isn't paranoid is crazy.

351:

In case you are unaware, TRW in the late 70s was making a signal processing chip on inch square silicon running at 300MHz. For no expenses spared projects there are presumably some really interesting chips in various bits of equipment.
Anyway, the problem is not signal processing which is now doing better than 1 GFLOPS/W in commercial stuff, but comms between spaced underwater sensors - think SOSUS MkN

352:

I sometimes worry about the poor bastard up the line in 2035 who is cursing my name as he tries to maintain my spaghetti code.

353:

Wait until you meet the guys maintaining the core banking systems for many of the major banks - and certainly all of the minor ones, who get less money for upgrades.

Most of the business logic was written in the distant past, and is hideously complicated to replicate in a new system, especially if the new system has to replicate the behaviour of the bugs that the old system relies on to work.

354:

The challenge is in disguising active sonar to resemble whalesong in such a way that the initial pulse is lost in the background chatter, but the return can still be identified. That takes a shedload of signal processing because if it mimics an existing sound, you'll confuse your sensors when they speak. If it doesn't, then the enemy can isolate your particular voice and you haven't gained any advantage.

This shedload of computing is available these days and cheap. The "Hunt for Red October" signal processing on subs was done with IBM Series/1 computers. These days a Nest thermostat makes that look trivial.

355:

Communications are supposed to be CLEAR.

Says you on YOUR blog.

I just skip over people I don't want to read. Way easier than arguing with CS or setting up my own blog.

356:

In general this is one major reason the F22 will not be brought back into production unless the F35 goes way more off the rails than it has so far. The avionics in an F22 are basically 20 years old.

357:

And then one day it breaks and your bank is down

Happens now. Really upsets people when their XYZ breaks after 10 years of use and you get to tell them there's no way to replace it exactly. And all the choices imply things like an OS upgrade (which 1/2 of the systems can't do), new printers (but we paid $15K), etc... If you stand still the technical debt can grow to be huge.

358:

I'm well aware of that (unlike most journalists for example). I'm not in signal processing, but this is all directly related to my job.

359:

You don't read Rule 34 like a first person shooter, more like a third person over the shoulder game. You're a voyeur watching this character or that who doesn't know you have such great cameras everywhere. The second person helps with that. Also it's possible to get into the shoes of characters you don't really like by simply seeing them as the kind of person you could have become under different circumstances. It helps with the vanity thing. What would I do if I were radically off track?

360:

>>>The folks who are the loudest proponents of space colonization don't seem to realize that their other ideological shibboleths would have to go out the airlock in order to make it work.

Imagine a world where space ships are cheap. You don't like the society you live in? Take a space ship, go to another star system, build your own colony if you wisg.

Will "space libertarianism" work in this world?

361:

The neat part of this is the steganography involved in hiding your signal in real voices, while simultaneously avoiding having the whales come wandering over to wanting to know what Steve is doing over in this part of the sea and not hanging out with them...

362:

At "speeds approaching C" time dilation isn't "crazy talk". It's dangerous, but very real. I did the math (so it's unreliable) and to my memory (also unreliable) just 90 percent of C gets you 7x dilation. Which you get to after "crazy" 1G acceleration for a year. There are big problems involved, but plenty of time to solve them. Most systems out there are probably, resource wise, something like our solar system minus Earth. So why go there until the whole solar system is used up? I mean fully developed. Not used up. It will still be there. The point is to keep expanding. The stars won't be necessary for that for a long time to come.

363:

Something like this?

http://www.liberal-international.org/editorial.asp?ia_id=535


More specific ideas for implementation and operation would be nice.

364:

The really clever solution is to tag whales and use them as the emitters. You then use SOSUS MkN and shedloads of DSP to working out what is where, when it wasn't before.
Or you just have pingers across the ocean floor in order to save the whales getting bombed during hostilities.

365:

So then you have the problem of tracking all the whales, recording exactly what they are saying and getting this information to your submarine fleet in time for them to make use of the information.

High bandwidth and submarine communications do not generally go hand in hand.

366:

I was expecting that. Several things made North America, specifically the USA, different from other frontier regions such as Canada, Brazil or Australia. One is the sheer amount of desirable real estate. North America is really wide, and most of it is high quality land, not desert, jungle or tundra. Another factor is that Europeans willingly migrated in bulk, rather than coming as just a ruling crust on top of conquered or enslaved persons. Even the old South was predominantly free persons. The point is that people came there specifically to settle new lands (newly emptied or not, it's irrelevant to the dynamic), and build up a full spectrum economy, which was possible there. The vibe of the frontier was almost exactly replicated in the post WW2 expansion of the suburbs out from the core cities, which created the modern American culture: gas stations, strip malls, housing developments, etc...Rome may not have been built in a day, but America is building in a day.

367:

The pingers across the ocean floor may have legs, but people tend to make do with passive listeners if they can afford to scatter a network of things around.

I vaguely remember reading about a Swedish radar system that was structured around large numbers of expendable dumb transmitters with smart receivers.

IIRC it was supposedly quite successful at detecting stealth aircraft but the project was canned due to lack of cold war.

Martin could probably elaborate.

368:
Or you just have pingers across the ocean floor in order to save the whales getting bombed during hostilities.
Endanger 'em now to save 'em tomorrow!
369:

Imagine a world where space ships are cheap. ... Will "space libertarianism" work in this world?

Nope. Because per Larry Niven, any reaction drive is a weapon of efficiency proportional to its efficiency as a propulsion system. (Actually, it's even worse than that: a pure photon rocket needs to pump out about 3GW of energy to produce 1 newton of thrust.)

You can arm-wave your way around that if and only if you can come up with some sort of magic space drive that permits instantaneous or very nearly instantaneous changes of location while violating Newton's third law of motion and the law of conservation of momentum; otherwise any space drive efficient enough to be useful turns out to also be a weapon of mass destruction.

It's salutary to look at the mass of ICBM re-entry vehicles, their velocity at ground impact, and to compare their kinetic energy to the chemical energy of an equivalent lump of high explosives; it turns out that a typical 200Kg RV coming in from a just sub-orbital trajectory has about ten times the energy of an equivalent mass of TNT. A Minuteman-III loaded with gravel can in principle deliver the same conventional punch as a B52; they're not used for close air support because, well, very serious people with nuclear weapons might get the wrong idea (and they'd cost an order of magnitude more than sending a B-2).

But anyway: short of inventing a magically non-weaponizable space drive, I don't see any way that we'll see cheap space propulsion systems unless they're regulated at least as carefully as those potential WMDs we call "airliners".

370:

90% of c gets you a factor of 2.29, not 7 (γ = 1/sqrt(1-β2), where β = v/c). I'm not sure what you did: no "obvious" mistake reproduces 7.

The trouble with maintaining 1G acceleration is that it gets much harder as you get faster: at speeds ≪c, if you double the momentum you double the speed, but if you are already travelling at 0.9c, doubling the momentum only gets you to just under 0.95c. So you need to apply a lot more force for a given change in speed.

371:

Lots of emitters working together in a mesh is the modern method for detecting stealth aircraft since they were designed to attenuate the signal on a different path to where it came in. If something is listening in that direction for that frequency, it'll easily pick it up. The other idea is using multiple band search radars, since each band is affected differently, and that can be monitored. The Serbians managed to shoot down an F117 by using unusual radar frequencies that the aircraft didn't cope with well.

@Dirk
Active sonar is all about looking for something specific with a searchlight, rather than passively looking for movement in moonlight. It's noisy and much much shorter range.
This idea is all about finding the underwater equivalent of IR goggles and an IR searchlight, without letting the opposition know to look for them. And where cows normally roam the fields waving IR torches.
Hmm, my analogy is disintegrating fast.

372:

There are big problems involved, but plenty of time to solve them.

Nope-nope-nopety-nope. (This is my "nopetopus" face.)

You're not taking into account what the interstellar medium looks like when you ram into it at 90% of c. Hint: roughly one neutral hydrogen atom per cubic centimetre means a spaceship with 1 square metre of frontal area (unrealistically low) is going to sweep out a column containing 3 x 10^14 protons and beta radiation particles per second, or around 300TBq. My BOTE calculation suggests that your starship's nose will pick up, in half an hour, about the entire radiation dose released into the environment by the Fukushima Daichi meltdowns; and you're still nearly five years from Alpha Centauri.

373:

Interesting thread - but... One thing the boycott threat for The Force Awakens seems to have missed is that not only are two of the new major characters female or black, but they are British, and shockingly, Londoners.

At one time British actors in Hollywood usually played the baddies in blockbusters and in the last few years that trend seems to be mutating.

I'm not involved or in contact with Dr. Who fandom, but am unaware of any furor over the presence of non-white Companions and other characters in the modern series (and for that matter I can recall non-white characters prior to the reboot), or that the Master is now the Mistress...

374:

I don't think the mods are biased — they're doing what Charlie (the chap who pays for this blog) wants.

375:

You don't read Rule 34 like a first person shooter, more like a third person over the shoulder game.

Written in second person, not third. Puts you right in the character's head. A good literary trick (and I can admire the skill it took to bring it off) but not where I want to spend my limited recreational time.

376:

Actually, that makes perfect sense. In the Star Wars universe, speaking UK English is a sign of working for the Empire. The new series is set post fall of Palpatine. With literally no idea what is going on, I'd expect a few of the new characters to be former imperials and therefore speak British like.

I'm really hoping they give the bad guy an Anerican accent, just for a change.

377:

This must mean the people boycotting Star Wars have found an unusually potent strata of bat shit in the caves of bewilderment...

378:

Don't worry about the punter in 2035, you'll be long gone. Worry about the person in the 2016, who can still find you at your desk :)

I worry, because in six months I'll have forgotten why I wrote it that way unless I add design comments...

Anyway, my 20-year-old software is written in C; and rather well commented and test harnessed - the requirements of a mission-critical system. I started to get suspicious after I moved projects, when "urgent issues" meant I got dragged back to assess and estimate a requirement change because my successor was on vacation. Doubly suspicious the second time it happened, apparently he had become "Mr. No" to their requests and they were being sneaky ;)

379:

F-22 isn't coming back for the same reason that the Vulcan isn't. Once you disassemble that production line, it's gone (not to mention the fact that you won't be able to get the components; it's the reason why military projects try to manage lifetime buys of components, so they can still get a MIL-SPEC Intel i960 that runs at x00 MHz in seven years time...)

Nope, we'll be looking at the Sixth Generation fighters before then.

380:

I shovel plenty of liberal manure every day, so mostly I don't feel the urge to do it online as well.

Also, busy week got unexpectedly busier, so I haven't been able to check in as often as I might.

Anyway. Amid all the bucolic end product, there've been a few seedlings of great ideas. That Polynesian starship might not be as unlikely as you might think. While the First World is busy amassing ever bigger hoards and destroying its peasantry, quietly amazing things have been happening. Those African kids who were given computers without instructions, and proceeded to not only figure them out but use them in ways the givers had never expected--think about that. Maasai herdsmen with cell phones. High tech that's actually, immediately useful, being used by groups and cultures that are totally off the overlords' radar.

Mammals. Dinosaurs.

Oh, sure, the logistics are complicated and downright daunting. Still. There's much to ponder about what's happening outside of the usual spaces and the usual narratives. And that's one thing I'm getting at in my post. Americans are prone to blow their own horn so loud they couldn't hear anyone else if they tried.

I read an article yesterday (can't find the link, alack) in which the author ripped into the USian culture of self-delusion--point by ruthless historical point. Some of those points have been made in the comments here. The truth about "welcoming immigrants," for example. Upward economic mobility? Some of the worst in the world. And so on.

While the lords of creation lie themselves into oblivion, the rest of the world carries on about its business. Part of which just might be a generation ship. Polynesia, if sea-level rises and climate-change-driven superstorms wipe out enough of the islands, will have a powerful incentive to find another way out. How they'll do it is a thought experiment for the writer or the futurist.

381:

Pledged and awaiting the Kickstarter, eagerly.

382:

Re: "I added [x] Post-its of undocumented restrictions/degrees of freedom to the published record of [y] effect" should be valued as much as "I discovered badly-supported effect [z]."

Many journals impose very strict space (number of character) constraints. The trade off is between reporting the methods vs. the findings/results. Very challenging to document everything that was done/found.

383:

"Most of the business logic was written in the distant past, and is hideously complicated to replicate in a new system, especially if the new system has to replicate the behaviour of the bugs that the old system relies on to work."

I had a brief job in a government department that was into IT early, the guy in charge of the main system told me he felt bad recruiting graduates as they'd have to learn a language with a now very limited market. At one stage they introduced a graphical front end for the system but ended up rolling it back because the operators had all become trained to use the keypad/menu faster than the terminals refreshed. I was told every few years they get a new boss who does a review with an eye to updating the system and so far every time they've concluded risks are greater then benefits.

384:

Thank you for reminding me of something on my "To read" list, Sakyo Komatsu's "Japan Sinks", which Charles Sheffield riffed on in "Trader's World".

385:

So Frontier only counts as frontier if it fits your ideology? But perhaps we're saying the same thing US exceptionalism is interpreting their frontier myth as unique?

And Europeans migrated everywhere in bulk. Africa is probably the only place I mentioned that sustained a large native population relative to the colonists.

386:

Must have been 99 percent or something. I did a whole range of them a while back. It's on a scrap of paper somewhere. It doesn't matter, there's a point where it's about 7 and it's not crazy NLS. As for needing more power ("I need more power!") that's what the matter-->antimatter converter is good for.

387:

That's what the continuously firing bow phasers are for.

388:

Yep, very much the case.

Usually the upgrade consists of a parallel system that looks shiny, which simply is a fancy interface to the underlying old system. The old one is left alone until those that use it fade away.

The best most places can hope for is to have a secondary system that does New and Shiny, while the old one ticks along, and both talk to the same database. Eventually the secondary becomes the primary, and the customers can be finally moved from the old one, but many contracts and deals last for decades, so you have to keep maintaining the old system long past when it should have gone.

It's one reason IBM is still around - they still make AS/400 compatible systems, based on a mainframe design from 1988. And everyone who has one still uses it, unless they have far too much money to throw around. My old bank had a policy of updating the hardware every 5 years with a new second hand model that was a generation behind the curve, and that was considered overdoing the replacement cycle.

389:

The Masai herdsmen with cellphones and the fishermen using SMS messages to check on market prices and the micropayment electronic funds transfer protocols a lot of less-developed communities benefit from wouldn't work without a few billion dollars worth of sparkly bits and towers and fiber and switching and electricity generation and maintenance and billion-dollar silicon fabs and RF engineers beating on CAD terminals and...

Generally the sparkly-bits business is a developed-world product. The folks using the cellphones and tablets in innovative ways are depending on a lot of infrastructure they don't have control over and which could go away rather easily if things went wrong (or the bills don't get paid). This is also true of the developed world, of course.

I wonder if anyone has ever built cargo-cult cellphone towers out of bamboo and palm fronds?

390:

Polynesian starships make a lot of sense and would make a great read. It's kind of the way Polensia was colonized in the first place (totally fascinating and really overlooked bit of history, that). They are also way up on the list of "people that are going to get wrecked by global warming" so plenty of reason to move. There is also not a lot of places to move TO, given that a lot of their neighbors are also going to be high on the list. They would need some way to get funded though...

As far as "welcoming immigrants," the US these days welcomes, rich and/or well educated immigrants, while being pretty unwelcoming to poor / less well educated ones. The days of "Give us your poor huddled masses" are pretty long gone

However, very few nations welcome poor, uneducated immigrants, just look at the Syrian thing, it's a total shitshow in Europe right now. Figuring out how to change that globally is going to be really important over the next fifty years, will make the difference between hundreds of millions dieing and billions in my opinion.

391:

"Actually, that makes perfect sense. In the Star Wars universe, speaking UK English is a sign of working for the Empire. The new series is set post fall of Palpatine. With literally no idea what is going on, I'd expect a few of the new characters to be former imperials and therefore speak British like."

One of the Londoners apparently plays an ex-Imperial, but the other doesn't, and the new baddie is an American... Haven't watched any teasers so don't know what accent he is using.

But - ever more British actors are appearing in Hollywood, either cinema or television - and sometimes portraying Americans. Must be a case of the empire striking back...

392:

I was told every few years they get a new boss who does a review with an eye to updating the system and so far every time they've concluded risks are greater then benefits.

Around 1981 some of the IT management at a major US insurance company told some of us about their ongoing upgrade. They had 1401 (?) autocoder logic running on a 360 OS running as a virtual machine on a current 370 type machine. It was processing about 5 million auto policy records per night. Data was kept in files that were disk based 9 track mag tape format and processed as if they were really on tape. And the input into this system while collected via a CICS based 3270 terminal system was converted into a text file with the layout based on paper tape reader/punch format. They were in year 8 of the 5 year process to upgrade to current software and DB systems. They were fairly confident they would get it done within 2 more years. :)

393:

"This must mean the people boycotting Star Wars have found an unusually potent strata of bat shit in the caves of bewilderment..."

Given that in the original the princess was played by a woman, and Darth Vader's voice was provided by James Earl Jones, it all seems a very suspicious storm in a teacup.

394:

For Eurasia it is north to Siberia and Nunavat for the Americas. Colonizing Mars sans handwavium is beyond impractical.

The future will be Polish.

395:

Leaning heavily on my experience playing the High Frontier board game, nuclear propulsion is highly desirable for outer solar system destinations, and nuclear power is indispensable. The Rosetta comet intercept mission was on the bleeding edge of viability for solar power, and will eventually fail as the comet falls outwards.
Higher specific velocities do allow shorter journey times, but they also allow larger mass fractions, so more useful payload for the same size spacecraft.

396:

Why, sure, but that's why the development of solar-powered computers, flashlights that run on kinetic energy, etc. While the flashbang piles up in the dragon hoards, the rest of the world will find workarounds and adaptations and alternatives. Which may lead to a generation ship for a non-First World entity.

Dismissing the rest of the world is a mistake--and your comment about cargo cults is exactly that.

Just wait. Someone will find a way to manufacture tech out of bamboo. (Or have they already?) Might need to gengineer it, but it's already infamously tough, fast-growing, and widely available in certain parts of the world.

If we get away from heavy metals and flashbang-style tech assumptions, and find materials and structures that are more easily obtained and easily renewable, all bets are off. That's where you get the idea of growing a ship.

Our current assumptions are not sustainable. Nor is our technology. Too much of it relies on nonrenewable resources. If we shift our paradigm far enough, we're into a whole new world of possibilities.

397:

Thanks to you and everybody else who has clinbed on board.

398:

I think most of the population of Latin America is mostly of mixed European and Native ancestry, to one degree or another. There was no Ellis Island equivalent anyway. Of course, you're right, Australia and Canada were similar to America, though, in that Europeans populations fully supplanted the natives. The frontier expansion was also similar in character, but not such a tidal wave. The colonization of America was a Tsunami.

It's not so much fitting an ideology as retrofitting. America IS unique, and something made it that way, and the unique character of it's frontier background, and how it was handled, can only be considered the prime suspect. So, I was wondering, what was different about it?

Frontier is frontier everywhere. But some places it has more effect, like fire being the same everywhere, but burning some things really well and others not so much. Many nations have unique backgrounds that can be sources of strength. US exceptionalism is simply a belief that US uniqueness is unique. The unique kind of frontier experience the US had is a major source of it's unique qualities. The "built in a day" internal frontier that the US developers carved from the farmland around every city in the twentieth century is being replicated in China (and other places) more recently. If that is America, then in that sense maybe the future really is American.

399:

If you have a way to get there, shelter, and an energy supply people can live anywhere. With that power supply driving the right chemistry set you can recycle your own waste, plus a couple of suitcases worth of goodies, and hang onto a stable population. With local sources of raw materials, that population can grow. Mars has lots of good chemicals and the shelter problems and energy supply issues are relatively easy. There's no real economic incentive to go there, but it doesn't take handwavium.

400:

The interconnections are what makes a mobile phone useful; the device by itself is a radio that can't even talk to another mobile phone next to it without intermediation, and that intermediation is both complex and expensive requiring maintenance, electricity, spare parts, siting, trenching for cables, expansion into new areas etc. The Masai tribesmen might learn to install that sort of gear but it takes twenty years of school and ten years of on-the-job learning to be able to design and build it. Any Masai that goes through that process to be able to make the intermediation hardware and software their kinsmen would utilise daily isn't going to be a herdsman (she'll probably drive a Tesla in the Bay Area, not cattle in the savannah).

Bamboo is regularly touted as a "wonder material" but it's nowhere as strong as carbon fibre never mind titanium, modern steel alloys, aluminium etc. Growing a material means expending biological effort in feeding cellular systems that degrade the eventual strength of the intended product. Manufacturing something by casting, extruding and/or bulk material removal is a lot simpler and more predictable and generally a better product in the end. Bamboo-framed bicycles are sold to the Whole Paycheck crowd but the Tour de France isn't going to be won by such a bike any time in the near future.

401:

Most countries are unique in some way or other. The thing about the U.S. Is it believes its uniqueness leads to competitive advantage, that in essence is superiority . This belief was reinforced by a couple hundred years of hockey stick growth that commulated in WWII, which to Americans not only completed validated the sense of superiority but paved the way for several decades of actual superiority by literally leveling most potential competitors

The 21st century is going to be much more of a fair fight on an equal playing field. It will be a litmus test of whether the U.S. special sauce actually does provide any kind of competitive advantage. My guess is that most of the large cultures are going to find niches where they out compete the others for various reasons but no one will truly dominate

402:

"You can recycle your own waste" is also an excellent insult, if you ever have occasion to use it.

403:

There is a really good chance that the third world telecommunications backgrounds are going to be owned completely for at least the next twenty years by some combination of Google balloons, Facebook drones and Chinese fiber. There is a land rush going on even as we speak

Which is both good and bad if you are a devolping country but maybe more bad then good in the long run

404:

Presumably the scary bit is when they portray Americans undetectably. When you've got Old Etonians playing a US Marine or a Baltimore detective, and an East Londoner playing the drug-dealer antagonist, and no-one could tell, it must be fun (Dominic West and Idris Elba in The Wire; Damian Lewis in Homeland, or Life; and Hugh Laurie in House).

As a kid it was historical dramas; the Brits and Irish got to play the Romans, and the Americans got to play the defenders of Masada. AIUI it's a deliberately subtle cue that the British accent is "other" to an American - hence the use of recognisably different UK regional accents in the TV series of "Game of Thrones".

All credit to Renee Zellweger for her perfect accent in "Bridget Jones", she's the first US actor I've heard get any English accent spot-on...

...I do smile at the Jaguar adverts for the US where they riff on the "Brits as relentlessly classy and efficient villains" theme, relying on Mark Strong, Ben Kingsley, and Tom Hiddleston (but not Alan Rickman - presumably cancelling Christmas was a step too far). Seeing ourselves portrayed abroad as purveyors of high-performance, high-quality engineering seems incongruous for someone who remembers Longbridge and British Leyland...

405:

The third-world underdeveloped telecomms infrastructure is owned completely by locally-operated subsidiaries of the telcoms that own the developed world's telecommunications infrastructure.

If it's worth deploying a Google balloon, the ground station(s), the support staff, the engineers that keep it flying and the uplinks and downlinks plumbed into the rest of the world's telecommunications system then it's probably worth running a fibre to an off-the-shelf tower unit which can be parked next to a small array of solar cells and batteries to power it. And no Google engineers needed to chase after their balloon when it breaks loose -- news just in, the US DoD has just lost a surveillance blimp, last seen heading for the Atlantic Ocean trailing about 2km of tether.

"My understanding is, from having seen these break loose in Afghanistan on a number of occasions, we could get it to descend and then we'll recover it and put it back up," Defence Secretary Ash Carter told reporters. "This happens in bad weather." -- from the BBC News website.

406:

The US is unique, just like everywhere else.
That's kinda the point. You're a special snowflake, no different to the others.

Actually it'll be interesting to see if the US can continue to outcompete the rest of the world, especially since all those nations that were bombed flat, bankrupted or consumed by revolution as part of WWII have finally recovered to be on equal footing.

My gut says no.

407:

Well we'll always have BSA, Holland and Holland, Churchill, Rigby and other such high-performance high-quality engineering companies to look back on.

408:

Don't forget Lucas, the crown prince of darkness.

Land rovers are magnificent go anywhere machines. The electrical system ... not so much.

409:

My understanding of those systems, which is admittedly pretty basic read-it-on-the-internet, is that you are using the balloons/ drones as an aerial mesh to minimize the number of ground stations you need to run fiber to. So a couple ground stations might be all you need for thousands of square miles of coverage. They also fall back on satellites if ground stations get saturated or are unavailable.

The balloons can supposedly be roughly guided by controlling their altitude and thus the wind vectors they experience and are suppose to be launchable from pretty much anywhere. So you don't need to chase them. The drones of course just fly to where they are going

I have no idea the practicality of any of it or how the costs stacks up against just running fiber

410:

With current and even optimistic future tech relocating one million climate refugees to Mars is yes, completely handwavium absurdist thinking. C21 is playing ostrich.

411:

I agree. The fundamentally even more absurd part is that if we had the technology to house one million people on Mars, we wouldn't have a climate crisis, simply because it's so much cheaper to build a comparable colony on Earth, where you get free oxygen and radiation shielding. Any place on Earth, including Antarctica, Greenland, the Sahara, the Atacama, etc. are much more habitable than Mars is, and much closer too.

This is actually a fundamental SFF trope, that there's high tech in space and not on Earth, so Earth looks something like Disneyland at best and a megacity at worst. John Scalzi's Old Man's War universe is particularly guilty of committing this trope, but it's far from alone. Is there a name for this trope, incidentally?

412:

As far as "welcoming immigrants," the US these days welcomes, rich and/or well educated immigrants, while being pretty unwelcoming to poor / less well educated ones. The days of "Give us your poor huddled masses" are pretty long gone

Kinda like Canada. Which doesn't make sense from a governmental point of view, as it turns out that refugees end up paying more taxes than investor immigrants!

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/refugees-reporting-higher-earnings-in-canada-than-investor-immigrants

Refugee immigrants are reporting higher incomes to the Canada Revenue Agency than investor-class immigrants, according to data compiled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

Furthermore, the rate of investor immigrants reporting any income whatsoever is far below the Canadian average.

While the investor-class program was scrapped last year, a similar, smaller pilot program, the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital, was announced last December.

According to CIC, business immigrants have accounted for seven per cent of Canada’s total immigration since 1980 and in 2010 investor-class immigrants — who, as a condition for entrance, were required to prove net worth in the millions and invest $800,000 in Canada — accounted for 88 per cent of all business immigrants.

According to CIC, investor immigrants reported average earnings of about $18,000 in their first year and just $28,000 after 15 years. After three years, only 47 per cent of such immigrants reported any income. The Canadian average is 67 per cent.

Meanwhile, refugees (those who come to Canada under hardship) reported first-year average incomes of $20,000 and after 15 years those incomes rose to $30,000. Two-thirds of refugees reported income by their fifth year, on par with Canada’s average.

*Note: edited for length.

**The National Post is a right-wing newspaper. Very interesting that they are reporting this. (Probably has something to do with the investor immigrants being Chinese instead of, say, English.)

413:

"I think most of the population of Latin America is mostly of mixed European and Native ancestry, to one degree or another. "

I think you're wrong there - I had a longer post get eaten but quick summary this page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas puts the native population at 60m for the whole of the Americas (out of a total nearly one billion) - Mexico and Peru are on the high side (not looking up again but Mexico was 10% or 15% depending on the data used and Peru about 9%) Chilie I think was 4 or 5, Argentina under 1.5% Brazil 0.4% - granted the data is tricky as it often relies on self identification (but then does it matter if the population actually is immigrant stock or just thinks it is?) and there's likely to be just as much under reporting in the US (as with those amusing stories about the racists who get themselves a DNA check and find and African influence).

414:
The third-world underdeveloped telecomms infrastructure is owned completely by locally-operated subsidiaries of the telcoms that own the developed world's telecommunications infrastructure.
Nope. For instance, one of the biggest telecoms operators in West Africa is owned by this dude; a *very* rough analysis of ownership of African submarine cables puts them at roughly 50% on-continent ownership, between semi-state and private companies.
415:

Laurie is noticeable; he spoke very slowly and precisely. The others did pretty good jobs. Rachel Griffiths, Australia, was one of the best at blending as American. Plus Gary Oldman made a career out of it. Kenneth Branaugh, on the other hand, the less said the better... The lead from "Coupling" just seemed to twang from sounding Australian instead of American to sort of American to sort of British to sort of nothing. But there are a lot of British actors doing good to great accent work now. Since a lot of them had to learn BBC Standard over their regional accents, it's probably just a matter of concentration and there's plenty of American material for them to practice on. Dominic West apparently did his DeNiro on his audition tape.

Then there's the Irish who seamlessly blend through three worlds: Patrick McGoohan, Jim Norton, Colm Meaney...

I was impressed at how Aussie Leo McKern played uber-Englishman Horace Rumpole. McKern was even native born, not an expat who bounced around like Taggart.

Some Americans went to Britain at an early age and/or have spent most of their professional career in London: Zoe Wanamaker; Clarke Peters; Burn Gorman. Alex Denisov, the guy who played Wesley on "Angel" played a British man in Sharpe; so I assumed he convinced some people over there.

416:

Not to mention Gillian Anderson, who broke down in tears on Graham Norton because she could not stop reverting to British English from her school days.

417:

Character limits are a risible excuse; there's infinite space available in the "supplementary materials" appendix online, if only people'd actually bloody use it.

418:

Aaargh. "this dude" should link to this dude.

419:

John Scalzi's Old Man's War universe is particularly guilty of committing this trope, but it's far from alone. Is there a name for this trope, incidentally?

There is: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EarthThatUsedToBeBetter

Scalzi has an excuse -- colony worlds in Old Man's War got their technology from aliens. Why the said aliens never bothered to contact Earth, I do not remember.

420:

The Earthicans in charge deliberately kept most of the planet ignorant of everything. This crops up as plot points in the 2nd and 3rd novels of the series.

421:

Ah, I was thinking purely in terms of faults of the series, rather than the set of significant points of which both faults and gems are subsets :)

But it is a good point: Tregonsee, Worsel, Nadreck, and the various other aliens are good aliens because they are original creations, and their alien-ness is essential to the story. Danny, on the other hand, in the whole two or three lines of his appearance, is pure concentrated dodgy 1950s stereotype, and there is no point to him being black other than to be black. The scene would have worked just fine had his race been left unspecified, but as it stands it is a bit of a sock in the face.

I'm sure the intention was good - an attempt to incorporate the change in cultural values since the original series was written into the later continuity-retcon novel - but it was rather ineptly done, and the further shift in values between then and now makes the ineptitude really stand out.

422:

I would more likely suggest that Polynesians would build underwater domes over what used to be their cities and maintain an underwater colony. No matter how cheap space gets, this will remain cheaper. Plus, they will still maintain their chief source of protein: fish.

423:

That doesn't really tell you anything. Those are the people who identify as Native. Most Latin Americans identify as Mestizo, which is a combination of White and Native.

According to this source, Amerindians are 45% of the population and mestizos are 37%.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peru

Short version, the article you gave indicates how many people consider themselves indigenous culturally. This distinction varies by region and culture.

Having said that, the pattern in the Americas is as follows.

Temperate (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, US sans Alaska North of Anchorage amd Hawaii, S. Canada, and S. Brazil): Natives were wiped out largely intermarried in places of low population density. Those that maintained their culture are on reservations now.

Tropical islands (most of the Caribbean): The population is descendant of former slaves who intermarried with the natives and the white people. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Aruba are the exceptions.

Tundra (Greenland, N. Canada, Alaska north of Anchorage): Plurality native with white or Metis ruling class. Whether the natives are a majority depends on where you draw the boundary.

Tall mountains or rain forests: Majority native or mixed race with a small white ruling class.

425:

A very long time, I fear. The parasites hold the power, and have done far too good a job of spreading confusion and playing on people's natural petty-mindedness and disinclination to think, with the effect of redirecting the resentment against those least deserving of it. We even have mass-media TV series aimed at reinforcing this misaimed redirection, these days, but that is just a modern manifestation of a centuries-old trope.

They have, for instance, been frighteningly successful at perpetuating the myth that there is intrinsic value in "having a job" in the face of changing conditions that have rendered 90% of jobs valueless. This is partly achieved by the system of income tax, which leads to people with jobs loudly beating the self-righteous drum of "I pay taxes!" and directing their resentment at those without jobs on the grounds that they do not, instead of at the corruption which is responsible for the situation existing in the first place. They do not seem to notice that without the wholly artificial constraint of a system which insists on targeting taxation at the individual they would not have that cause for resentment in the first place. Paying income tax is not "contributing to the good of society", it is merely contributing to the perpetuation of a system fundamentally flawed by its dependence on income tax (among other things).

It would be more accurate to say, in clumsy and awkward manner, "90% of the total time expended on "doing jobs"". This is another part of the confusion: the combining of useless and useful activity into a high-entropy melange. Such as jobs which do have some useful result, but mostly do not; or do so only as a by-product; or are performed to an extent vastly in excess of necessity because most of the output is consumed by unnecessary activities.

And then there is the whole artificial web of interdependence between useful and useless activity enforced by addiction to the religion of "economics", which enforces alchemical mysticism in place of molecular engineering; which allows the same premises to beget multiple contradictory conclusions depending on which gods you invoke; which through a conflict of doctrine between two prominent sects put the world at significant risk of nuclear destruction, something that not even the most militant "traditional" religions haven't managed with much more time to do it in; whose holy books consist of such a concentrated mass of screaming bollocks and through-the-looking-glass fuckwittery presented as divine writ that if someone invented a bullshit-to-energy converter we would be at risk of unwittingly discovering where quasars come from.

People who do not have jobs are, on the whole, considerably less negatively-valuable than those who do. They consume less money, which means that less money has to be circulated to them out of other people's pockets (whether this is by the taxation pathway or not is irrelevant - it has to happen via some pathway regardless). They consume fewer resources - partly by spending less money on resource consumption, and partly simply by not requiring the construction and maintenance of places to work in, fuel to travel to and from those places, etc. - and so improve sustainability and reduce environmental damage. And simply by existing in large numbers they help to highlight the lack of necessity of continuous universal work.

Such thoughts are certainly not new. A minority in whom the programming has not taken have been expressing them since the late 19th century to my knowledge, and presumably a fair bit earlier than that. The 90% figure above is about as old as me; it is a handy round number to post on the internet and is (possibly) big enough to make a startling point without being so big as to command nothing but incredulity, but it is thoroughly out of date and takes no account of the huge advances in processing power that have happened in recent years. It's probably more like 99% now if full use were to be made of automation to actually replace "jobs", instead of the current system whereby people just end up doing a useless job instead.

That that dissident minority has existed for so long and yet its existence is barely even realised and its influence nil goes some way to explaining the "very long time"...

426:

Well, Arthur C Clarke had one answer to that one: grab a big chunk of ice and stick it on the front of the spaceship; when it's nearly worn out, stop at a handy solar system and pick up a new one. But then the extra mass wasn't so important because he had the ship powered by extracting zero-point energy. But then again, if you're going to approach c closely enough to gain significant advantage from relativistic effects at all you need some kind of magic energy source. Which isn't going to be something you can carry on board: I'm pretty sure that I remember doing a back-of-the-envelope analysis of the Skylark and its total-conversion drive and concluding that even if you did ignore relativity (and thereby make a nonsense of the whole premise of the power plant), far from exceeding c by orders of magnitude, you'd not even get near it in the first place.

427:

"Short version, the article you gave indicates how many people consider themselves indigenous culturally. "

Isn't that rather the point? National myths like the 'American Frontier' aren't really about who you are, they're about who you think you are and the comforting stories you tell yourself for validation.

The US takes the myth and says "that's why we're a proud and independent people with a can do attitude" but its a bunch of self congratulatory myth making. You could just as well say "The colonists found the land already inhabited by native tribes and deployed their military advantage to disposes the native Americans this is why the US is such a militaristic country and spends so much on the military, they also saw the effects of European diseases on the natives and made some early attempts at biological warfare, this early experiment with WMD obviously explains why the US was first to build and use nuclear weapons. etc" Its all a bunch of rubbish. The US had a frontier, so did a lot of other places that developed very differently.

428:

As regards passive wide-area sonar using whales as the emitters, I suspect this would be comparatively straightforward. Individual whale songs can be identified so you know which emitter is which. A network of multiple receivers able to perform phase correlation (as is done with radio telescopy, but in two dimensions) could locate both the whales and the sources of reflections. The elimination of spurious responses from things like geography or temperature or salinity gradients or whatever is something that non-speculative systems have to deal with anyway.

The difficulty is that if a whale song is at 20Hz or so that gives it a wavelength of approximately 50 metres, so all you have to do to avoid detection is build small submarines...

429:

The US historically was not militaristic. Between wars (ACW, WW1, WW2), when it bloated the military with conscripts in order to deal with an emergency, the US was very cheap about supporting a professional military. It was small and underfunded. The oceans were the defenses. The US became militaristic after WW2, when the expansion of the military industrial complex seemed to coincide with a cure for the Great Depression, and in the face of the Cold War.

What happened in America was that plague wiped out the populous Neolithic civilization living there, who had been maintaining the "wilderness" like a garden. Europeans found an empty rich land populated by the few survivors, who were immune. There was a narrowing window as the natives (1)repopulated and (2) acquired equivalent technology. If this was not to be a more blatant war of conquest, the entire "wilderness" had to be taken by "peaceful settlement" with blinding speed. The urgency and richness of the lands are what was unique. Other areas didn't have the same conditions for the same kind of expansion.

430:

At least SOMEBODY tried to imagine what the singularity might actually look like. And if you believe in quantum immortality, everybody IS in the surviving fractional percent. Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a big lottery and all agreed that a randomly chosen 99 percent of us would die? We would all experience being the survivors, sudden heirs to a roomier world. Still I think it might be a hard sell.

431:

The myth was created in order to do the expansion, rather than generated afterward to capitalize on it for propaganda. Daniel Boone was held up as a model from very early. (Interesting note: many of the first pioneers into the "unsettled" lands west of the eastern coast were "tories" which is to say they were British loyalists during the American Revolution, who felt suddenly unwelcome in the home communities they came from).

432:

I'm well aware the US had long periods of isolationism and I would have thought the WMD comment was self evidently absurd. Point being you can't rely on a narrative about an imagined past to explain the present or the future. Evidence of which, a long history world wide of groups expanding into various frontiers with wildly different results to the US.

433:

Parasites, like everyone else, use whatever power they have to make the world dependent on them, so they can get more and more for less and less. Extracting them is tricky to do without harming stuff you actually need, so they are left in place until they become too much to bear. Many solutions are appealing simply because they propose to start from scratch and institute a new system that is easily encapsulated. The appeal is in starting from scratch, rather than in what is built from scratch. Communism and Libertarianism both essentially present visions of sweeping everything off the table and building something new and shiny around simple surefire principles. Fixing what's broke about something that evolved organically is much harder. It's possible to create moderate and liberal schemes that start from scratch, but nobody ever does it.

434:

Between the American Civil War and WWII the US sent the Black Fleet to "open up" Japan, conquered and occupied the Phillipines, fought the Spanish after the Maine incident and took control of Cuba, conquered and occupied Hawaii to install a giant Naval base two thousand miles from the US, took possession of Panama and they even invaded the Soviet Union on the side of the White Russians. Oh, and there was a bunch of cross-border raids against Mexico (the Rough Riders) and Canada (the Fenians) too during that period.

That doesn't sound very isolationist to me.

435:

VERY un-clever
NO
So, you'd boycott the usually female bank-clerk & the civil servant who deals with conservation issues, would you?
Please switch brain to "ON" next time?

436:

Something VERY like that
Section IV is, of course the problem - it's "Relatively easy" to get the conditions of I - III inside one state (ish)
- but.
It only needs N Korea or Pol Pt's regime or a Putin's Russia or a US interfering in Central America to fuck it up royally

437:

Land_Rover are still in Solihull
Seeing ourselves portrayed abroad as purveyors of high-performance, high-quality engineering seems incongruous for someone who remembers Longbridge and British Leyland...
So there

438:

There were hawks and warmongers, but America as a whole was too cheap and commercially oriented to be really considered militaristic. All the incidents cited were cases of opportunistic leveraging of relatively small military forces to produce big results. If you're going to waste money on this little military wart you might as well use it for something profitable. Make it earn it's keep.

439:

The solution to impact radiation is quite simple - sufficient mass. Simply carve your starship out of a nickel iron asteroid, spin the interior for gravity and attach an Orion pusher plate at the rear.

See KSR's "2312".

Even going no faster than 1% of c, we can still quickly populate the galaxy (and later the universe) like a self replicating virus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WtgmT5CYU8

440:

At least the solar system has enough resources for 1% of C to be more or less achievable. I'm not convinced that anyone will bother though.

Whenever I see people talking about going at .9C with asteroid sized spacecraft I just tune them out these days. It's on almost the same level of magic as FTL.

441:

British cars and motorcycles were hit twice by conservatism*, first when they ran on a minimal R&D budget, second when Maggie decided she was smart enough to pick winners and pulled the wrong plugs. For instance, Triumph motorcycles was developing an interesting update to Edward Turner's vertical twin, gifting it with more contemporary combustion chambers, but killed by Maggie's axe.
* The first instance a case of penny wise, pound foolish, the second some of the best evidence that conservatives require progressives to stop them short of the most egregious stupid and vice versa.

442:

If you have a way to get there, shelter, and an energy supply people can live anywhere. With that power supply driving the right chemistry set you can recycle your own waste, plus a couple of suitcases worth of goodies, and hang onto a stable population. With local sources of raw materials, that population can grow. Mars has lots of good chemicals and the shelter problems and energy supply issues are relatively easy. There's no real economic incentive to go there, but it doesn't take handwavium.

Ah, no, not exactly.

Shall we see how many failure modes are hidden in the fine print in that overly-glib? paragraph?

1. "A way you can get there" -- okay, I'll give you this one as an underlying assumption.

2. "Shelter" -- you may find this is a lot harder than it looks, because you're not just looking for radiation/thermal/environment shelter for shaved apes; you're looking at shelter for their entire web of food chain dependencies, including the saprophytes necessary for recycling. I don't have a good BOTE guess for this, but if you want photosynthesis you need bright lights and a large surface area to volume ratio, which makes your other constraints harder to achieve. Oh, and gravity; looks like lots of plants are sterile in microgravity. (On Mars this isn't a problem.)

3. "Energy" -- I'll give you a nuclear reactor in a box. You can worry about refueling/recycling/replacement in 50 years time; by then you'll be dead or you'll have the resources to substitute for it.

4. "Driving the right chemistry" -- oh fuck off: biology doesn't reduce to a hundred kilograms of glass pipework! This is actually a very hard, unsolved problem on the same order of complexity as building a space industry capable of getting to Mars in the first place, if not more so.

5. "That population can grow" -- are you volunteering to do the pregnancy and labour yourself? In a hostile alien environment with no prior record of success in birthing well-formed babies? And then we run into the education and child-raising issues. Hint: toddlers and airlocks. Teens and tantrums and space suits. Twenty-somethings in need of tertiary education. This is all a whole bundle of nope unless you've already got a population in the thousands with enough surplus labour available to ride herd on the kids until they're old enough to be safe. And a small minority will never be safe to leave alone -- what are you going to do with them?

You're correct that Mars is "relatively easy" -- compared to the rest of the solar system. Therein lies the real problem, because Mars is fucking hard.

443:

"Go Colonise Mars" as a modern replacement for "eat shit and die", huh?

444:

Will there be beer on Mars? Because if not, I'm not going.

445:

The martian colonisation effort will be sponsored by Budweiser and all other beer will be illegal.

446:

Not to mention the whole lack of a magnetosphere thing.

Even if you successfully create an atmosphere on the planet, which is technically doable, it is still exposed to orders of magnitude more solar radiation than Earth. Solar flares will be nasty...

447:

Consider also Jack Thompson, who did the Georgia accent just as well or better then Kevin Spacey in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There's a general observation, with some academic study following it up these days, that while Australians can do most accents relatively easily, almost no-one else can do Australian accents well. Apparently it is about learning not to do something rather than doing something in particular, and most people have a lot of trouble with that. Brits might have an advantage over Americans. Meryl Streep certainly was unsuccessful, though I'm sure there are better examples.

There are apparently different English accents in languages other than English too, though I'm not sure there isn't some sort of phase effect with regional variations within those languages (where some areas will have an affected nasal speech with forced Rs, but might not actually be from the USA).

449:

"I vaguely remember reading about a Swedish radar system that was structured around large numbers of expendable dumb transmitters with smart receivers."

China, at least 10 years ago

450:

My old article on the topic:
http://wavechronicle.com/wave/?p=486

"Quantum Suicide – Killing yourself for fun and profit"

451:

If magic FTL does arrive it will probably look like superluminal jumps between points of gravitational equipotential. The only delta V would come from relative velocities of source and destination.

452:

I've speculated in the past: if you could build a mylar dam around the deepest parts of Vales Marineris, and sling a mylar tent across the top of it, you could ramp up the air pressure by maybe an order of magnitude, to something like 50-100 millibars before you have a serious leakage problem. (The scale height on Mars is different from Earth, but VM is deep.) You then drill horizontal cave dwellings into the sides of the valley at the bottom, so you've got plenty of rock on top of your sleeping quarters, and with 50-100 mB of CO2 you might be able to get some crop plants to photosynthesize (although you'll probably be going flat-out for GM or cultivars adapted to low air pressure, and propagating/pollinating them is going to be an interesting problem in its own right).

This is basically handwavium at this stage -- I'm pretty sure Heteromeles will have some trenchant observations -- but if you can turn Vales Marinaris into something usable you've got about the land area of West Germany. Not survivable by humans without a pressure suit, of course, but at least doing something useful to us.

453:

Drop an asteroid on one of the Martian poles if you want atmosphere.

454:

I thought the chinese were more into low frequency stuff for stealth detection.

455:

Around FM radio frequencies IIRC

456:

The transmitters don't need to be expendable either; the Bofors system used/uses two or more transmitters separated by a couple of hundred metres of fibre. They can phase match to appear to an anti-radiation missile to be a single transmitter located between the actual radiation sources. Running the fibre in a long loop means that even the cable isn't necessarily expended when the ALARM or HARM ploughs into open ground between the transmitter heads.

I first read this idea in Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" where Adam Selene explains to Manny that he can make two radars look like a single one between them by phase matching. This is also the basis of synthetic-aperture radar, of course.

457:

All you need is some native Martian flying insects to pollinate the plants.

Oh.

458:

That only really works at a distance though. It would be quite possible to tell the difference when you get close enough.

Too late for a missile, but if you had separate probes you could probably do something.

459:

Trenchant observations for how to colonize Mars? I'll save those for the TL;DR paragraph at the end.

Over the last few weeks, I did a series of three posts at https://heteromeles.wordpress.com/ titled the Preludes to Space, Sustainability, and Collapse. The idea was that (with the potential exception of collapse) technologies don't spring up fully formed when we need them.

We've been badly fooled by the various space programs, doing their thing off at spaceports while the world goes about its business unchanged. That's the BS trope that I referred to above, that Earth doesn't change while we come up with Kewl Tech to colonize space, and the trekkers then escape to the stars while the Earth dies of stupidity behind them.

If you think about it, you know this is BS. Global civilization has been changed radically by space already. How often do you use some space-based product, like a satellite-based weather forecast or GPS? Global civilization works in large part because we've colonized cislunar space with our satellites, and we've used their resources (e.g. being in the right place to see things and relay signals) to make society work, to the point where if we lose our GPS system, we in trouble.

That was the point of the triplet of posts:

--if you want to colonize Mars, first you've got to develop the technology on Earth. Since it's much harder to live on Mars than it is to live here, the natural spinoffs of that tech development are to create a sustainable civilization on Earth (it's got to be sustainable on Mars, after all), and to figure out how to deal with climate change (even a climate-changing Earth is much more hospitable than Mars). My suggestion is that, if you want to create the technologies needed to colonize space, a *really good* place to develop the life support technology you need is in and for all those refugee camps in places like Jordan, or perhaps in Chad, to help all those refugees heading across the Sahara. Or, heck, Las Vegas. They're going to run out of water in about 20 years.

The reason I don't think we're colonizing Mars anytime soon is that nobody's seriously developing the precursors to the necessary technologies that we'll need. Even Elon Musk is futzing around with the old 1960s model of shiny NASA stuff boxed away from the plebes. There's a huge need for Mars-grade technologies on the Earth right now, simply to help people live in places like Syria or western Iraq. If you want to go to Mars, go figure out how to help the refugees first, and make a few billion dollars as a side effect. Because a refugee camp is a much more forgiving place than the surface of Mars, you can use it as a market to figure out how to recycle insufficient water at high speed, raise huge amounts of food in small spaces, and so forth. The technology won't be spaceworthy at first, but that's okay. Places like refugee camps are the evolutionary labs for learning to survive in smaller spaces, with fewer resources, under more unpleasant conditions. Once we've got decent precursors (my example is a solar-powered, LED greenhouse built in a shipping container that can feed a family or five indefinitely if their wastes are recycled back into it) then we can figure out how to make them space-rated.

I can make a similar case for sustainability. We're seeing some of the precursors to the technologies we'd need to create a 100% sustainable civilization on Earth, but not nearly enough. We need to learn to recycle nearly everything massively better if we want to sustain a large human population on this planet. Yes, we need the same technology for space, but mere Earthly sustainability is less constrained than the technology needed to colonize space.

As for the precursors to collapse, well, you'll have to read the post.

TL;DR: I'm pretty sure that the simplest way to develop the technologies we need to colonize Mars is to solve the problems we have on Earth that would cause people to want to abandon Earth and colonize Mars (or the Moon, or anywhere else) in the first place. Currently, we're too technologically incompetent to run away from the problems we've made here.

That's why the SF trope of Earth being technologically left behind while astronauts colonize space is so pernicious. A civilization that's ready to colonize space or even heading towards sustainability will look very different than what we've got right now, because it's easier to deploy the necessary technologies on Earth than it is to stuff them in spaceships and blast them out of here.

460:
But - ever more British actors are appearing in Hollywood, either cinema or television - and sometimes portraying Americans. Must be a case of the empire striking back...

Because of Netflix and Amazon and multiple cable channels all getting into original programming there are more scripted programs being made by USA companies than ever before leading to a shortage of actors! There are lots of Australian actors in US TV too, doing American accents. And Canadian actors have plenty of work since so many US shows are (still) made there. Of course this will have a knock-on effect for TV production by UK and Australian companies. I notice that already the new TV season in Britain has the UK-made and UK-set cop show River starring Swede Stellan Skarsgård who doesn't try and do a British accent.

461:

I know - my brother-in-law has worked there as a production engineer for the last twenty-something years. First under Rover, then BMW, then Ford, and now Tata.

When they were all part of Ford's PAG, my nieces used to go to the Aston Martin nursery at the plant in Gaydon...

Talking of Aston Martin, when they were bringing out the DB9 in the early 00s, they wanted a high-end hifi, and went to Linn Systems to design one. I used to have to walk past a prototype DB9 at the end of the lab every time I wanted a coffee; and our test engineers had a day job that could be described as "drive about in an Aston Martin, listening to music". Gits.

462:

There were hawks and warmongers, but America as a whole was too cheap and commercially oriented to be really considered militaristic. All the incidents cited were cases of opportunistic leveraging of relatively small military forces to produce big results.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRwiH18QwpU

My Filipino friends would also argue about the War of Philippine Independence.

And there's the whole "let's invade Central American countries for the United Fruit Company" thing.

http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

(Note the dates — before WWII.)

463:

China just dropped the one child policy officially(exemptions now not just for the rich or rural!). Unsustainable growth based models 4evr!

464:

So, you'd boycott the usually female bank-clerk & the civil servant who deals with conservation issues, would you?
Please switch brain to "ON" next time?

But our society does have a precedent for such a blunt choice of people to harm. It's called a "strike". What's the moral difference between that and Fletcher's suggestion?

465:

Please elaborate, this is ambiguous ... 'But our society does have a precedent for such a blunt choice of people to harm. It's called a "strike". What's the moral difference between that and Fletcher's suggestion?'

466:

A strike is a blunt instrument, aimed at the company, but affecting the general public in order to put financial pressure on management to make changes.

What Fletcher describes is prejudice against the staff of an organisation, while at the same time utterly ineffective of inducing management to make any changes.

From a practical point of view, you'd be better off encouraging a boycott of specific banks, in favour of banks without investment arms, or something similar.

From a realistic point of view, it won't matter what you do, since end users are not significant customers of banks - governments and large companies are.

467:

Re: ' ... a *really good* place to develop the life support technology you need is in and for all those refugee camps in ... Jordan, ... Chad, ... Sahara... , Las Vegas. They're going to run out of water in about 20 years.'

Guess no one's bothered to look at the Aral Sea disaster. Reversing this would definitely be a learning opportunity.

Wikipedia excerpt:
'Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 km2 (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size ... Satellite images taken by NASA in August 2014 revealed that for the first time in modern history the eastern basin of the Aral Sea had completely dried up.[7] The eastern basin is now called the Aralkum desert.'

Lesson: Govts/corps are okay with throwing money at oil/gas pipelines and show incredible cluelessness when considering water. Maybe the marketing strategy needs to be changed to: water is being studied as a future fuel/energy source as the current marketing strategy of 'water is necessary for life' is clearly not working.

Idea: How far-fetched would it be to build a system of reverse dams/dykes to channel the rising ocean levels, first to obtain some energy, and then maybe desalinate/treat and direct water into irrigation systems 'upstream'? Okay, some of the initial plantings would have to be salt-tolerant marshes. Consider also how much wildlife/food such a plan might also provide. (We were talking about China in Africa ... China has the Gobi, so developing this type of technology in Africa could be a real long-term local and global pay-off.)

Okay Australia has had some pretty bad experiences with people messing with its ecology ... but it's mostly dessert surrounded by ocean, so exactly the likely scenario facing much of the planet. Therefore another logical candidate for experimentation. BTW, Australia's already selling its sand to the Arabs, so a coastline rehab is in order anyway.

http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/ancient-beach-sand-is-now-victorias-biggest-mineral-export/story-fnkfnspy-1227025432716


468:

Depends on the country. The U.S. has unit banking ... lots of Ma-and-Pa banks.

469:

"Hint: toddlers and airlocks. Teens and tantrums and space suits. Twenty-somethings in need of tertiary education."

Agree with the rest of the post, but not this. Teens with tantrums is really a 20th century developed world problem. I think it's a luxury of development. Teens will continue to have tantrums, but most will keep it within the habitat. Tertiary education also doesn't sound like a problem if you eliminate it all together. I think that education on a colony would resemble the German education system, sans the option to go to University.

Child care is important for the first ten years, but afterwards standards can be compromised. I know this doesn't invalidate your larger point, but I thought to point this out.

470:

Nope! re: 'Child care is important for the first ten years, but afterwards standards can be compromised.'

The type of parenting needed changes as children grow up, but the time/effort remains well into early adulthood.

Tertiary education ... this can be re-stated as 'on-the-job-training' which is also very time/labor intensive. Unless you think all work can be done by robots/AI, in which case you better come up with a lot of different 'amusements' to engage your colonists.

471:

"...I do smile at the Jaguar adverts for the US where they riff on the "Brits as relentlessly classy and efficient villains" theme, relying on Mark Strong, Ben Kingsley, and Tom Hiddleston (but not Alan Rickman - presumably cancelling Christmas was a step too far). Seeing ourselves portrayed abroad as purveyors of high-performance, high-quality engineering seems incongruous for someone who remembers Longbridge and British Leyland..."

Natural selection has pretty much driven most British car making to extinction, leaving only a few home grown brands - and Jaguar are owned by the Indian company Tata.

One thing that is happening is that an awful lot of Hollywood is being filmed in Britain.

The original Star Wars filmed here because of the relative cheapness and availability of acting and filming talent, and now an awful lot of 'American' movies are filmed here as a matter of choice - Gravity and Avengers: Age of Ultron come to mind. I wonder how the US audience of the latter would feel if they knew the Avengers hi-tech new base in New York state was actually filmed at the University of East Anglia's Sainsbury Centre and inside the Excel Centre in London.

472:

One Child Policy may well be unnecessary in the cities. The rate of children in urban China has been falling (just like elsewhere). In Shanghai it was less than one child per couple — people weren't having the children they were allowed to have.

Agree about the problems of growth. China needs a way to shrink (as do the rest of us). Am curious to see if they manage, but probably won't live long enough to find out. (It's a problem for my niece's generation to deal with.)

473:

>>>Nope. Because per Larry Niven, any reaction drive is a weapon of efficiency proportional to its efficiency as a propulsion system.

Charlie, I asked you to imagine a world where space ships are cheap. Not cheap for a country, cheap for a person. Like, almost anybody can afford one. I'm talking space ships as cars. That's not something you can regulate as airliners.

474:

But our society does have a precedent for such a blunt choice of people to harm. It's called a "strike". What's the moral difference between that and Fletcher's suggestion?

A strike hits everyone who uses a service, not just some customers. That's a pretty significant moral difference.

When my local bus company went on strike, they didn't carry any passengers. Fletcher's suggestion would have them only carrying some people, based on what they look like.

475:

They also export camels to Saudi Arabia.

The real reason behind it is that all the sand in the middle east is completely useless for construction - the wind driven distribution knocks all the sharp edges off the grains. They therefore import lots of sand from oceanic sources which are rough enough to stick together.

See Sand Wars for an interesting doco on the unsavoury nature of the trade in sand, arguably the most consumed product aside from Air and Water.

On the subject of Australia, most of their water problems are a lovely microcosm of the wider worldwide problems.
Queensland gets lots of rain reasonably seasonally. This lets them have a lot of water intensive agriculture industries, notably rice and cotton production. Downstream gets very little rain, and relies on the river for water, and it's getting lower every year.

Something in the region of 90% of the volume of the Murray-Darling is removed by man or sun before the river actually reaches the sea. That is causing major downstream effects in Victoria especially, but also southern NSW. And Queensland isn't part of the management body, despite using over half the water.

476:

In that case you are in a future where the few humans left all live in their cheap spaceships or miniature habitats.

All the planets, moons, space stations etc. having been taken out by relativistic projectiles launched by people with minor grudges and an undeveloped sense of perspective.

477:

Similar, and having similar life expectancy, as our world would be if nuclear warheads were as cheap as cars.

By "life expectancy" I mean life expectancy of the entire world, not of individuals. Although THAT would be similar too.

478:

*chortle*

Oh my, you don't ask for much, do you? You might as well ask what the future is like when everyone owns a backpack nuke or two.

(I'd imagine the US would be glowing brightly from coast to coast.)

479:

[ REMOVED BY MODERATOR because triumphalist gloating is boring, especially when it's wrong. ]

480:

>>>All the planets, moons, space stations etc. having been taken out by relativistic projectiles launched by people with minor grudges and an undeveloped sense of perspective.

All the planets? Like, everywhere in the universe? Really?

This is a world with cheap space ships, remember. There is an infinite frontier to expand into.

481:

And nobody left alive to expand.

Oh wait, these are the special magic unicorn pixie dust powered cheap spaceships? I'm sorry, your premise is rather sweet, but I find it not at all plausible.

482:

Natural selection has pretty much driven most British car making to extinction, leaving only a few home grown brands

... Like Toyota. You know the Qashqai was designed as well as built in the UK? And IIRC is the best-selling crossover-class vehicle in Europe?

The UK is the EU's second largest car manufacturing economy. It's just that they're all BMW and Nissan/Toyota and so on.

(This is the result of our successive right-leaning governments' policies of encouraging foreign buy-outs of our local industrial base. Because high finance is more fun and employs fewer annoying lower class oiks, you see.)

483:

A strike hits everyone who uses a service, not just some customers. That's a pretty significant moral difference.

When my local bus company went on strike, they didn't carry any passengers. Fletcher's suggestion would have them only carrying some people, based on what they look like.

That's not how I interpreted his suggestion. He asked us to imagine a shop or pub refusing to serve anyone who works in a bank. A bus strike refuses to serve anyone who wants to use a bus. The bank boycott hurts the female clerk and the conservationist civil servant from the bank. The bus strike hurts those female clerks and conservationist civil servants who needed to travel on the bus... It certainly hurts a lot of people who should not be blamed for the bus company's behaviour, just as the bank boycott hurts a lot of people who should not be blamed for the bank's behaviour.

So isn't it inconsistent to believe that strikes are morally acceptable, which probably most commenters here do, but that Fletcher's boycott isn't?

484:

I asked you to imagine a world where space ships are cheap. Not cheap for a country, cheap for a person. Like, almost anybody can afford one. I'm talking space ships as cars. That's not something you can regulate as airliners.

That's like imagining a world where weapons are cheap. Not AR-15s-in-the-USA cheap; hydrogen-bombs cheap.

I really don't see it ending well.

485:

See also Bellingham - but the point is that if space ships are as cheap as cars, even a drunk driving accident can hundreds of people. A campaign of violence using them could kill tens of millions.

Oh, they'll all be driven by AI's programmed not to crash them into the wrong things? Good luck regulating that...

486:

The latest blog posting from Peter Watts has an alternative, which is less desirable than either a strike or a boycott.

Less likely too fortunately.

487:

Tertiary education and much of entertainment can be handled over the internet. Sure it's slow and expensive, but that's what you get out in the boonies.

As for work: once you have your solar panels or parabolic solar furnaces set up, and your food synthesizers gurgling along (or the yeast vats), it will be dull in the underground Mars colony (let's call it Alpha Complex). So, a lot of effort will probably go into...expansion.

488:

The French have a nice take on Rail Strikes. The ticket collectors & sellers strike, but the trains still run. Users ride free, the company looses revenue.

489:

Dragging discourse back to the subject of Judith's post, Dave P said in comment 39 that "part of the issue you're describing is based on looking at SF marketed to English speakers, of whom the US is a major market". I've read a fair amount of Dutch and Flemish SF that never got translated into English, and it's refreshing to see stories set in an alternate Amsterdam, or a Brussels menaced by BEMs. But we need more SF in translation — much more. That would be an excellent cause for a REALLY BIG Kickstarter.

490:

That's buckets of CO2; after all its partial pressure in Earth's atmosphere is only 0.4mb odd. I think lack of oxygen would be more of a problem. Plants do consume it as well as produce it, and low partial pressures of oxygen are known to inhibit photosynthesis.

491:

>>>Oh wait, these are the special magic unicorn pixie dust powered cheap spaceships? I'm sorry, your premise is rather sweet, but I find it not at all plausible.

No, just "regular" space ships that allow travel from star to star. Not FTL.

You see, such ships must be basically autonomous space stations where people can live for decades (so indefinitely, more or less). Cheap space ships imply cheap space habitats, basically. Planets lose importance.

492:

Tertiary education and much of entertainment can be handled over the internet.

Hahahaha. Nope, not if it requires bench time with lab equipment or heavy machinery or chemistry sets with interesting HAZCHEM labels. Even in the arts? Not if you're studying archaeology, or textile crafts (hint: what are your Mars colonists wearing? Who made, never mind repaired, those natty jumpsuits?), or pottery, or, or, or.

Some stuff can be studied via MOOC, but the unconscious cognitive bias of the internet geek keeps throwing up people who assume that if you can study mathematics and CS and maybe literature online then everything else works the same way.

As for food synthesizers, yeah, right. Not saying it's impossible, but you might want to ask if they're so easy and convenient, why we don't have then right now.

493:

we need more SF in translation — much more

This. Very much this.

494:

The dangerousness of functional spaceships would not be a major obstacle to the viability of a spacefaring civilization. Space is big. If nuclear RVs/Camper Vans stay a few hundred miles apart most of the time then no problem. They'll be no more deadly than a car with a full tank of gas: able to blow up a single house. It'll be like everybody lives in a house that can travel in space. Instead of going over to somebody's house, you just dock houses. The largest target around would be say the equivalent of shopping malls, places where people would park their houses to get together. And mall security would make sure nobody got too close too fast. They would only let people near who were verified trustworthy. Besides, just having the ability to do something doesn't mean it will happen. America is full of guns, but while gun violence does happen more often than many other places, it's not the wild west or a war zone. People can make suicide bombs out of materials available almost anywhere, but they only occasionally blow up discos. Every car is a potential weapon, but you only occasionally hear of people killing with them on purpose. Most airliners are not used as crewed cruise missiles, and it's not all down to safety precautions. Most people have no reason to do violence, and most who do use it for petty purposes like robbery or personal revenge.

495:

And others on this topic.

Anyone else here remember the part-boycott of "Barclays" ( Often re-named "Boer-clays" ) about 30 years back?
They were hot with VERY BAD publicity as a result of ther apparent co-operation with the then S A guvmint.
After a year or two, they bent under the pressure.

497:

but while gun violence does happen more often than many other places, it's not the wild west or a war zone.
SURE about that?
Compared to all the OTHER nations and societies reckoned developed & "civilised", the US death rate from guns is horrendous & scary.

Go look at the numbers

498:

Excellent point about the Aral sea. It had slipped my mind.

As for Australia, they're already starting to export their water-saving technology to the US, so I think they're slightly ahead of the curve. Where I am, in "Southern Droughtistan" I keep wondering whether we'll end up using the Australian model for dealing with a lasting drought, or the Syrian one. We seem to be doing a drunkard's walk between the two possibilities, and it gets frustrating sometimes (latest example: "Can we stop saving water now? El Nino's coming and we want to waste water like we did last year--that from a local water agency, slightly paraphrased). Personally, I hope Australia ends up getting rich by teaching the rest of the world how to cope with heat and drought, but they've done their stupid things too.

499:

You're asking for Iain M. Banks' Culture-tech here; post-scarcity, barely distinguishable from magic. The existence of such starships implies a huge raft of other technologies: these include workable long duration closed circuit life support, habitats sufficiently comfortable that people would be willing to live in them long-term -- see "Saturn's Children" for how badly wrong this could go -- and an effectively unlimited energy budget. Oh, and probably Larry Niven style autodocs/doc-in-a-box tech, lest people die of stomach ulcers or cellulitis.

Seriously? You want that, at a price (or equivalent) affordable by everyone? Well no, you probably wouldn't have to worry about idiots settling scores with field-improv WMDs, at least after a while. But only because you've invented the Culture, minus the Minds and the FTL drives.

500:

The US death rate from guns is largely a function of certain communities. And the police. Let's not forget the trigger-happy boys in blue. (In one non-fatal incident in NYC last year, two cops fired twenty times as many rounds as were discharged in action by all the police forces in Germany that year.)

501:

This is the result of our successive right-leaning governments' policies of encouraging foreign buy-outs of our local industrial base.

Think of it as inward investment. For the record, General Motors bought Vauxhal