Back to: The unavoidable discussion | Forward to: PSA: 5-Point Writer's Block Checklist

FAQ: The Laundry Files--series timeline

I've been writing Laundry Files stories since 1999, and I recently passed the million word mark. That's a lot of stuff! And it occurs to me that while some of you have been following them from the beginning, a lot of people come to them cold in the shape of one story or another.

So below the fold I'm going to explain the Laundry Files time line, and give a running order for the series—including short stories as well as novels.

Typographic conventions: story titles are rendered in italics (like this). Book titles are presented in boldface (thus).

Publication dates are presented like this: (pub: 2016). The year in which a story is set is presented like so: (set: 2005).

The list is sorted in story order rather than publication order.




The Atrocity Archive (set: 2002; pub: 2002-3)

  • The short novel which started it all. Originally published in an obscure Scottish SF digest-format magazine called Spectrum SF, it ran from 2002 to 2003, and introduced our protagonist Bob Howard, his (eventual) love interest Mo O'Brien, and a bunch of eccentric minor characters and tentacled horrors.

The Concrete Jungle (set: 2003: pub: see below)

  • Novella, set a year after The Atrocity Archive, in which Bob is awakened in the middle of the night to go and count the concrete cows in Milton Keynes. Winner of the 2005 Hugo award for best SF/F novella.

The Atrocity Archives (set 2002-03, pub: 2003 (hbk), 2006 (trade ppbk))

  • A smaller US publisher, Golden Gryphon, liked The Atrocity Archive and wanted to publish it, but considered it to be too short on its own. So The Concrete Jungle was written, and along with an afterword they were published together as a two-story collection/episodic novel, The Atrocity Archives (note the added 's' at the end). A couple of years later, Ace (part of Penguin group) picked up the US trade and mass market paperback rights and Orbit published it in the UK. (Having won a Hugo award in the meantime really didn't hurt; it's normally quite rare for a small press item such as TAA to get picked up and republished like this.)

The Jennifer Morgue (set: 2005, pub: 2007 (hbk), 2008 (trade ppbk))

  • Golden Gryphon asked for a sequel, hence the James Bond episode in what was now clearly going to be a trilogy of comedy Lovecraftian/spy books. Orbit again took UK rights, while Ace picked up the paperbacks. Because I wanted to stick with the previous book's two-story format, I wrote an extra short story:

Pimpf (set: 2006, pub: collected in The Jennifer Morgue)

  • A short story set in what I think of as the Chibi-Laundry continuity; Bob ends up inside a computer running a Neverwinter Nights server (hey, this was before World of Warcraft got big). Chibi-Laundry stories are self-parodies and probably shouldn't be thought of as canonical. (Ahem: there's a big continuity blooper tucked away in this one what comes back to bite me in later books because I forgot about it.)

Down on the Farm (novelette: set 2007, pub. 2008, Tor.com)

  • Novelette: Bob has to investigate strange goings-on at a care home for Laundry agents whose minds have gone. Introduces Krantzberg Syndrome, which plays a major role later in the series.

Equoid (novella: set 2007, pub: 2013, Tor.com)

  • A novella set between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum; Bob is married to Mo and working for Iris Carpenter. Bob learns why Unicorns are Bad News. Won the 2014 Hugo award for best SF/F novella. Also published as the hardback novella edition Equoid by Subterranean Press.

The Fuller Memorandum (set: 2008, pub: 2010 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Third novel, first to be published in hardback by Ace, published in paperback in the UK by Orbit. The title is an intentional nod to Adam Hall (aka Elleston Trevor), author of the Quiller series of spy thrillers—but it's actually an Anthony Price homage. This is where we begin to get a sense that there's an overall Laundry Files story arc, and where I realized I wasn't writing a trilogy. Didn't have a short story trailer or afterword because I flamed out while trying to come up with one before the deadline. Bob encounters skullduggery within the organization and has to get to the bottom of it before something really nasty happens: also, what and where is the misplaced "Teapot" that the KGB's London resident keeps asking him about?

Overtime (novelette: set 2009, pub 2009, Tor.com)

  • A heart-warming Christmas tale of Terror. Shortlisted for the Hugo award for best novelette, 2010.

Three Tales from the Laundry Files (ebook-only collection)

  • Collection consisting of Down on the Farm, Overtime, and Equoid published the Tor.com as an ebook.

The Apocalypse Codex (set: 2010, pub: 2012 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Fourth novel, and a tribute to the Modesty Blaise comic strip and books by Peter O'Donnell. A slick televangelist is getting much to cosy with the Prime Minister, and the Laundry—as a civil service agency—is forbidden from investigating. We learn about External Assets, and Bob gets the first inkling that he's being fast-tracked for promotion. Won the Locus Award for best fantasy novel in 2013.

A Conventional Boy (set: ~2011-12, not yet written)

  • Projected interstitial novella, introducing Derek the DM (The Nightmare Stacks) and Camp Sunshine (The Delirium Brief). Not yet written.

The Rhesus Chart (set: spring 2013, pub: 2014 (US hbk/UK hbk))

  • Fifth novel, first of a new cycle remixing contemporary fantasy sub-genres (I got bored with British spy thriller authors). Subject: Banking, Vampires, and what happens when an agile programming team inside a merchant bank develops PHANG syndrome. First to be published in hardcover in the UK by Orbit.

  • Note that the books are now set much closer together. This is a key point: the world of the Laundry Files has now developed its own parallel and gradually diverging history as the supernatural incursions become harder to cover up. Note also that Bob is powering up (the Bob of The Atrocity Archive wouldn't exactly be able to walk into a nest of vampires and escape with only minor damage to his dignity). This is why we don't see much of Bob in the next two novels.

The Annihilation Score (set: summer/autumn 2013, pub: 2015 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Sixth novel, first with a non-Bob viewpoint protagonist—it's told by Mo, his wife. Deals with superheroes, mid-life crises, nervous breakdowns, and the King in Yellow. We're clearly deep into ahistorical territory here as we have a dress circle box for the very last Last Night of the Proms, and Orbit's lawyers made me very carefully describe the female Home Secretary as clearly not being one of her non-fictional predecessors, not even a little bit.

The Nightmare Stacks (set: March-April 2014, pub: June 2016 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Seventh novel, viewpoint character: Alex the PHANG. Deals with, well ... the Laundry has been so obsessed by CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN that they're almost completely taken by surprise when CASE NIGHTMARE RED happens. Features a Maniac Pixie Dream Girl and the return of Bob's Kettenkrad from The Atrocity Archive. Oh, and it also utterly destroys the major British city I grew up in, because revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

The Delirium Brief (set: May-June 2014, pub: due June 2017 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Eighth novel, viewpoint character: Bob again, and no longer pastiching other works or genres. Deals with the aftermath of The Nightmare Stacks; opens with Bob being grilled live on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman and goes rapidly downhill from there. (I'm guessing that if the events of the previous novel had just taken place, the BBC's leading current affairs news anchor might have deferred his retirement for a couple of months ...)

The Labyrinth Index (set: winter 2014, pub: not confirmed, not yet written)

  • Projected ninth novel, not yet confirmed (possibly pub. June 2019). May be followed by 1-3 further novels.




That's all for now. I'll attempt to update this entry as I write/publish more material.

416 Comments

1:

Ooooh, only six weeks to go :)

Doing another release-day event in Edinburgh?

2:

A thought: regarding the divergence that becomes publicly obvious in Annihilation Score and even more so in Nightmare Stacks (we all have unfavourite cities I'm sure - mine is Derby), I guess this is a constant issue for serial stories about supposedly hidden organisations protecting the world against weird stuff. With Primaeval it was the mammoth causing chaos on the M25. The Men in Black try to cover up using induced amnesia, but there comes a point where even that couldn't work.

3:

I never really took the status of Emma MacDougal as a continuity error. Sure she meets a bad end in Pimpf and then pops up again in The Rhesus Chart, but that doesn't mean they are the same "Emma MacDougal". After all, everyone in Bob's journal is under a code name, right? Even "Bob" isn't actually Bob Oliver Francis Howard. I always figured "Emma MacDougal" was just the code name for whomever was in charge of that branch of Human Resources.

4:

I'd actually like to see more of the short stories and novellas. I enjoy the Laundry universe when you're just kind of poking around in the weird corners and not having to advance the plot.

5:

Like Callan - IIRC "Hunter" was a role name, not a surname.

6:

Release day is a Thursday -- so I'm doing the release day even in London at Forbidding Prices Forbidden Planet, because I'm in London on the Wednesday to do a talk for the BSFA.

However I will also be doing the usual reading and signing on Friday at Blackwells, and will blog a list of fixtures a week or so beforehand. (I'm also doing a US book launch at Powell's City of Books in Portland, OR ...)

7:

The narrative does not support a consistent chronology, but I always assumed Bob was deliberately misleading us on occasion (or genuinely forgetful about certain details.)

I can accept that Charlie has access to more precise information and that he is cleared to release it in this dimension.

8:

The Delirium Brief goes full-speed-ahead on the divergence and asks what the Coalition cabinet circa mid-2014 would have done if Leeds was bombed flat by invading [SPOILERS] and the Laundry came out in public.

If I mention that the elevator pitch was "A Very British Coup vs. The Laundry" this may tell you how I was thinking about it.

9:

I have plans for at least one more novella ("A Conventional Boy") and a novelette/novella ("Escape from Puroland") before I write book 9. They fill in particular smaller-than-novel-sized gaps in the series story arc.

However, first I have to finish the final draft of "The Delirium Brief" and then write something with the working title "Shiny Happy People" (an all-new space opera) and re-write the second half of "Invisible Sun" (Merchant Princes book 9) before I do that ...

10:

Footnote: "A Conventional Boy" is about how the Laundry responded in the early 1980s to the Dungeons and Dragons satanic panic, and its long-term consequences (including: how the Laundry goes about deprogramming and rehabilitating captured cultists). It also introduces Derek the DM, a medium-significant character in "The Nightmare Stacks" (who is a whole lot more important in "The Labyrinth Index").

"Escape from Puroland" is about ... well, Bob is off-stage completely during "The Nightmare Stacks" and we meet him in "The Delirium Brief" suffering from epic jet lag as he gets off a flight from Tokyo. This is about what took him out to Japan, and Sanrio Puroland -- Tokyo's indoor Hello Kitty theme park. Which is stuffed full of animatronic weirdness, and where there's animatronics there are computers, and where there are computers in the Laundry universe there is a regrettable extradimensional intrusion just waiting to happen ...

11:

"The Concrete Jungle" as a whole was worth reading, but I have to say that the sequence set in India has always struck me as brilliant. It was the most moving passage in the series until the elegies at the end of The Rhesus Chart.

A thing I wonder about in the Laundry universe is the idea that everyone used to know all about this weird supernatural stuff. How was it decided to cover it up? How did they get everyone to go along with doing so, on an international scale? How was the concealment brought off given the limited technology of the 1920s and 1930s? I don't imagine you'll ever write it but it seems like an interesting topic.

The timeline is useful. Thanks!

12:

How was the concealment brought off given the limited technology of the 1920s and 1930s?

Did you miss the hints about Mass Observation?

13:

June! Sweet! Though too soon for me to swing a trip across the pond. Damn it.

Though I'm not sure I should be happy about it or not. I mean, poor Leeds. I'm also concerned that you don't consider the fate of Leeds is enough of a spoiler to keep it a secret. That implies the book starts with a big badda boom and this is not a series where things get better during a book.

14:

June! Sweet! Though too soon for me to swing a trip across the pond. Damn it.

Portland may be closer; as I type Powell's hasn't posted the event schedule for anything past May. And of course Westercon will have many interesting events.

15:

I'll also be doing an event at Borderlands in SF in early July.

16:

Unless the removal of Leeds from the map counts as "things get better".

(I spent two days on business last week in Edinburgh, during a relative heatwave, and I have to concede that Charlie's adoptive city is stunning. Leeds, from what I've seen of it, not so much.)

17:

!!! Oh, wonderful! I'll definitely be braving the Peninsula traffic to get there. This just made my day much brighter!

18:

Is the introduction to the Laundry Files RPG canon?

19:

Charlie:

First, I think you meant a nest of vampires, not a next of them.

Second... Modesty Blaise? Ok, either I need to reread that, or you left something out, since I don't remember Mo stripping to the waist and coming in with violin bowing....

mark

21:

I remember that, but it's not clear to me how that program was able to achieve the sweeping alteration of public consciousness that's necessary for the history to work.

22:

I do love the gradual transition where Bob and Mo gradually become the deeply scary people they talk about in whispers at the start of the series all while freaking out a little inside.

Kind of makes me want a point of view from one of the senior characters from the first novel where it turns out that inside they're gibbering "oh shit oh shit oh shit" while maintaining a strong face.

I'm just glad that the series broke out of the trend of Bobs line manager always being the bad guy. It was getting annoying in the first few.

23:

You've commented a couple of times on the blog about how Bob's level-ups allowed him to survive stumbling into a vampire nest, and so I was watching for that scene when I read the book. When I got there, my impression was that Bob would not have survived except that the vampires consciously decided not to kill him.

There's even a part where Bob tries to use his new powers to fight off a vampire and it doesn't work.

Did I somehow completely misread that part?

24:

"Unless the removal of Leeds from the map counts as "things get better"."

Well, it eviscerates Yorkshire's cross-country rail network, but apart from that... it does. Oh yes, it does.

25:

I hope Mo and Bob get back together again. It would be a shame that they lose everything they are fighting for.

26:

As someone, who still hasn't got into the Laundry series I wonder: What is it about that universe that encourages our host to write a lot of short stories and novellas instead of ... say ... the universe of the Merchant Princes? Do the Adventures of Mo and Bob have a more closed, episodic nature? Economical reasons?

27:

OGH said "... we meet (Bob) in "The Delirium Brief" suffering from epic jet lag as he gets off a flight from Tokyo."

This is surprising to me. Jet lag is easily preventable, using hypnosis. I would expect the Laundry to have at least a passing familiarity with that topic.

28:

Nope.

(RPG supplements were not written by me and should not be taken as canonical.)

29:

No: but the PHANGS in question aren't actually the murderous variety.

(By THE DELIRIUM BRIEF things have definitively changed, but you need to get to chapter 3 of a book that won't be out until summer 2017 to see how drastic the change is. Clue: by that point, Bob is basically a walking nuke.)

30:

No comment. Question answered in "The Delirium Brief".

31:

This is surprising to me. Jet lag is easily preventable, using hypnosis.

a) Bullshit.

b) Even if I'm wrong ... how does this help people who are resistant to hypnosis?

32:

I don't doubt that Bob is a lot more powerful in book 8 than in book 1.

But the vampire nest scene does not strike me as a good illustration of Bob being powerful, so I am puzzled that you keep referencing it as such.

33:

This is good and lots to look forward to, but by any chance do you have a list of named characters with what stories they appear in? That is something I could use to keep them straight and be sure they're who I think they are.


Meanwhile, the Hugo finalist list is out. Wasn't sure if certain peoples were there, but spotted certain publisher, and one particular in Best Related Work. Blech.

34:

Oh, and it also utterly destroys the major British city I grew up in...
Including all the Pubs & Museums?
Shame!
( Not that I know Leeds, at all ...
The closest I've come to that was a rapid change between City & Central stations - which puts it back a bit ... )

35:

See you there ... & which pubs do you want to visit?
Also CAMRA's London PotY survey this year has produced some interesting new ones ....

36:

"A sun Invisble" was a Poul Anderson short many years ago.
It was a type F blue-white - so somewhat ironical.
Sympathies for the rewrite - that sounds like a lot of hard work, btw.

37:

As one who isn't afraid to guess wildly at risk of being utterly wrong, I would speculate that the Laundry universe tends to spin off story ideas in all sizes rather than just big arcs. That is, the main story arc suggests side trips that don't contribute to anything novel length but are worth exploring anyway. I would further suggest that this is because it interacts so much so with so many other worlds, such as different fictional worlds (Spy Fiction, Lovecraft Mythos, etc...)to produce turbulent swirls in various directions. Whereas the Merchant Princes, for example, doesn't interact that much with other fully developed fictional worlds in big undigested chunks, but rather forges into a possibility space so pureed as to be essentially a smooth fluid. The most interesting thing about a character or other story element in the Merchant Princes is their participation in the Merchant Princes story, whereas the worlds the Laundry interacts with have lives of their own, meaning they interact with other full grown worlds in a fertile way. The Merchant Princes is masturbation, the Laundry is sex with other adults, thus the possibility of babies.

38:

I've shared a similar sense of puzzlement and he's how I've rationalised it.

Its all to do with Predator-Prey relationships.

Old_bob was an antelope dangerous with the right weapons but ultimately quite vulnerable.

Bob (EoS 2.0) is a bit like a Tiger with the Phang's as Lion's but the end result is not a bloody fight to the death but mutual incomprehension when 2 apex predators meet.

Basically Old_Bob's relative lack of confidence/presence would have got him eaten.

39:

FFS aren't the Laundry into sensible anti- jetlag drugs like Modafinil? Or even melatonin (which I think is vastly over rated)

40:

do you have a list of named characters with what stories they appear in?

Ha ha nope.

41:

That is, the main story arc suggests side trips that don't contribute to anything novel length but are worth exploring anyway.

This also makes it nice for the Laundry RPG. There are a lot of stories to be played there - I have one scenario idea based on a series of skits in That Mitchell and Webb look.

For example the Merchant Princes world doesn't feel as gameble to me.

42:

Not the conspiracy bits by any chance?

I always though a world inhabited by advanced AIs based on Cheesoid had potential.

43:

Speaking of which, there are three more Merchant Princes books in the works -- due next January, then January 2018 and January 2019. After that, it's anyone's guess. A big chunk of the impetus behind the series came from my editor, David Hartwell, who died unexpectedly in January. A secondary issue is that writing gigantic third-of-a-million word story arcs is hard, and my middle-aged brain can barely keep track of them. There might be further works in the series, but if so they'll probably be single stand-alone novels that share the setting (which would, ironically, give it a more Laundry-like sensibility).

44:

It's fairly clear that Charlie is too busy writing to spend time writing about what he's written other than what he's written here - write on! (:P)

45:

And thanks very much for the chronology!

46:

Anything published by by "Castalia House", let me guess?
Euw.

47:

I've always wondered: where did the extra concrete cow come from? At one point in the story, it looked like it had been made by a Scorpion Stare, but later it's revealed that those make chemically unstable 1% silicon (or so) messes. Did I miss something?

48:

Now, do you suppose that gullibility could be cured by hypnosis? :-)

49:

Had to ask. If I binge reread the series I might be able to keep them all straight.
While proofing my last novel shaped attempt I decided I had to make note of any named character and what they did to make sure nobody's name had changed.

50:

Should've added: Of course, I should keep track of them while writing.

51:

Yup, that's the one, and their founder too. The Novel category looks clear of them.

53:

Just saw Charlie's Tweet about the list. I hesitated mentioning it last night, sorry I was the one to do it. So, let's not continue about it.

54:

Are the details (date, time etc) worked out already or will you be posting that sort of thing closer to the time?

55:

Like OGH, I also grew up in Leeds, and feel able to comment. Leeds started off as a pub by a river crossing, exploded during the industrial revolution then tried to move on but never quite managed it. It managed to bulldoze most of the slum housing that the mill workers formerly occupied, hence was too expensive for the first waves of overseas immigrants. The city next door, Bradford, was always a bit poorer and thus it didn't do the bulldozing thing as much, and so on.

Leeds now doesn't have a core industry as such. It is also not planned, making the city's road networks a thing of Lovecraftian horror (and I say this as one who commutes daily into Manchester). There are nice parts of Leeds, and not so nice bits, and parts that really do deserve someone running amok with heavy earth moving equipment, preferably much of the city centre. If they could happen to murder all of the council road planning department at the same time, then I might suppose that the city would have a sporting chance of regenerating.

Now, I suppose I ought now to sort out a key into Manchester's not-so-secret top secret nuclear bunker, just on the off-chance, and perhaps look to renovating the ROC bunker near where I live...

56:

Big clue - codename BASHFUL INFERNO is not Mo.

57:

Read an original Peter O'Donnell MB story, say "Sabretooth" (cos it's the first I remembered after the original, and pay close attention to a move named "The Nailer".

58:

*checks TVTropes*
*sighs loudly at self*
This has not been my best week. Sorry, all.

59:

...I can't believe I just got that pun.

60:

Not quite. It's BASHFUL INCENDIARY.

61:

True that. I was working from memory.

62:

I always read the latest Laundry book, then go back and read all of them from the start through the latest again to put everything in context. It's such a joy to see how everything hangs together.

This time I'm going to start looking at each and see how to break them up into TV mini-series the way they took le Carre's _Tinker Tailor_ and _Smiley's People_ and made them beautiful six-hour mini-series with Alec Guinness.

Wiki:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (miniseries)

Smiley's People (miniseries)

They took their time telling the story, nothing rushed. It takes me an hour to read 10k words. Each book is about 135k, so it takes me about 13 hours to read each, compared to the six-hours for each mini-series. That is perfect for me at a 2:1 ratio. I routinely read the books, then watch the mini-series. I treat the le Carre', books and mini-series, as a rosetta stone to see how to do some of my own stuff.

63:

(a) Nope. I've been doing this for about ten years, plus or minus, hopping the Pacific. I've taught it to a few other people. (Full Disclosure: I'm a trained hypnotist, and so were they, so all I had to do was outline the procedure to them.)

Jet lag is basically the difference between the local clock on the wall (and the local sun time) and your internal diurnal rhythm. The internal diurnal rhythm is controlled by the brain, is thus accessible to the subconscious mind, and that's where hypnosis comes in.

(b) I've never met anyone who is "resistant" to hypnosis. I met one girl a few years ago whose religion had thoroughly indoctrinated her to run away as fast as she could from anything that looked even vaguely like their definition of mind control. I've met a few who were not willing to let go and follow instructions, for whatever reason. Hypnosis does require "consent", and it does require the subject to follow the instructions.

On the other hand, this is the Laundry we're talking about. One surmises that the Laundry has quite a few things in their arsenal that do not require the consent of the victim, which comes back to the question: Why does the Laundry not have tools for no-fuss diurnal rhythm adjustment?

64:

Given the costs, trade-offs, and outright hazards of the Laundry's brand of magic, I can't imagine anyone willingly subjecting themselves to any kind of procedure simply to avoid jet lag.

If you slam a bunch of caffeine to override your body's bedtime, the worst you'll get is the jitters and a screwed up rhythm when you get home. If you fuck up an invocation of some sort of magic, the worst you get is something that makes a painful death look pleasant.

65:

Given that the Hugos this year have spawned the spin-off contender of Slammed In The Butt By My Hugo Award Nomination I fear that the Laundry Universe will soon be considered to be the hetero-normative vanilla version of reality.

Grats to Host though.


p.s.

If you've braved the waters of self-published gay erotica but were wondering about "Kelpo" in a Rose-Bud fashion and are not a millennial, it is a SpongeBob reference from the episode called Shanghaied.


The Author, I suspect, is a bit of a Card.

66:

And yes: be careful about choosing random stuff to be your flag-ship troll.

Be even more careful of listening to loyal Minions suggesting the "perfect troll" pastiche that happens to be gay pornography.

They might be much better at it than you and not on your side.


The Hugo Space-ship Trophy, the Person-who-is-that-Face and the intimate details of using sentient dildos, I leave for the intrepid reader to discover for themselves.


~

Signed: The Cabal.

67:

Ooooh! You've given me a thought.

Ever heard the superb The Complete Smiley on Radio 4? It was how I got into Le Carre. A lot of the cast were used in the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy film.

Now imagine the same treatment and cast for the Laundry. Or Tim Powers Declare.
One can but dream. (I know, rights and that. But just imagine it).

On a less serious note. The 4th universe in the Merchant Princes, where they use alternate dimensions as storage lockers. How brilliant must their bottomless ice creams at Pizza Hut be?

68:

Hypnosis does require "consent", and it does require the subject to follow the instructions. On the other hand, this is the Laundry we're talking about.

Yes, this. I'm certain the Laundry is really paranoid about any procedure that looks even remotely like it gives root access to the human brain, particularly ones that promise to be easy, harmless, and beneficial.

69:

I have twice tried to read John le Carre.
BORING is not the word for it ... terminally depressing & pedestrian is nearer the mark.
Why do people think this rubbish is worth it?

70:

Welcome back CD/HB!! We've missed you.

71:

Oops: you just reminded me I forgot to unblock the HB account. Posting rights now reinstated.

Aside to Greg: you are a Philistine!

72:

Don't be obnoxious, Greg. "Why do people like this?" is a polite question. "Why do people like this rubbish?" isn't.

73:

Give the Radio 4 versions a try. They bring out the best of him.
I find Le Carre a great antidote to James Bond. Even down to the fact the George Smiley, apart from being a brilliantly clever mind, is a complete loser with women, and a bad fit in high society.

74:

Because it's accurate? In that it's slow, and thoughtful, and personality-driven, and the complete opposite to Bond... I knew a HUMINT type who praised "The Perfect Spy" as a study in compromise.

Perhaps, like Tolkien, it suffers from being the root source of derivative work; others have produced more recent work in a similar style (for instance, Gerald Seymour)

If you like plausibly accurate, relationship-driven spy fiction, then another author from a similar era is Ted Allbeury - he came to writing late, after a wartime career in the Intelligence Corps.

75:

Not to pile on, but, Greg, Le Carre is to espionage fiction as Ibsen is to playwriting, to say the least. The man's published nearly two dozen novels over 50 years, many of which have been wildly successful, and several of which have been adapted to great success for film and TV. Plus, he has at least one room full of literary awards ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_le_Carr%C3%A9 ). You may not care for the genre, but there's no way within it that his work is "rubbish".

76:

Hmm - looking at awards, how is it that he hasn't been on the Honours List? Could he have refused?

77:

I nominate Martin Freeman for Bob!

79:

Because the way Le Carre describes intimate little moral horrors and the nature of human incompetence is positively Lovecraftian (and without a single use of the world "gibbous" or "hyperborean.")

And the prose. Oh! The prose.

80:

Granted we're veering FAR off topic, but seconded, and for my money Bernie Sampson is an even better character than George Smiley.

81:

Damn - now I'm confusing my Le Carre and Deighton.

82:

"Hypnosis does require "consent", and it does require the subject to follow the instructions."

I disagree to some extent, especially when the person does not know they are being hypnotized eg inductions relying on shock, confusion, information overload and physical methods.

83:

To cmt 69: "boring"? I'm not into SPIES, but I thought it was good.

Of course, he writes a *realistic* version of spies - y'know, the guy that's *SO* average and unmemorable that you can't remember what they looked like five minutes after they walk out the door... as opposed to Bond, James Bond, and all the derivitives.

mark "why, Sean Connery, of *course*"

84:

For a while, James Bond would be useful as a distraction from whatever operation you are actually running. But eventually the other side would catch on and fortify any place he was NOT spotted near. Maybe this would go on for a few iterations.

Modesty Blaise: it's hard to imagine a world where anybody would think the Nailer was a plausible tactic even within pulp fiction. But it existed. We have to remember that it once existed. (To be clear, I am not suggesting it was ever a plausible tactic in real life.)

85:

Have you addressed elsewhere why you moved on from Golden Gryphon? I found a bunch of their books recently and the covers of their versions of The Laundry novels were so much more interesting than some of the later ones (in the U.S. at least).

86:

Yes.

Shorter version: THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES was, at the time, their second best-selling title ever. So then they upped the print run 50% for THE JENNIFER MORGUE and (eventually) sold out. By the time I was ready for book 3, the growth curve suggested that unsold returns from the retail supply chain would exceed one of GG's normal print runs, never mind the actual sales figures: I didn't want to risk bankrupting a small press inadvertently!

Yes, the Steve Montiglio covers were good. That's why Subterranean Press got him on board to do the cover for the limited edition hardcover of "Equoid".

87:

From the one I read, "terminally depressing" is about right I reckon. Everything is pointless. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved. Nobody ever knows whether the person they're speaking to can be trusted or is going to stab them in the back because they can't be arsed not to. And it's always raining; not heavily, just a constant grey drizzle on a day of dull, corpse-like cold. All the time. (I can't actually remember any descriptions of the weather, but that's what they ought to be like if I could.)

Because that is what the life of a spy is like. Dull, isolated, futile and generally shit. Not fun, not exciting, not Bondulous. So it's only natural that a realistic depiction of it should turn out to be literature to slit your wrists to.

88:

Re cmt 87: I've got the music for you.... Tom Smith's "Walking Along the Beach"

Excerpt:
A "walking along the beach while you're slitting your wrist" song,
--- end excerpt ---

https://tomsmith.bandcamp.com/track/walking-along-the-beach

mark

89:

A small publisher can't necessarily provide the support that someone who's going major needs.

An even more extreme example is Terry Pratchett. His first publisher was Colin Smythe, who runs, or at least ran (he really should be retired) a small press based in a provincial English town. When Terry's popularity started taking off, Colin basically told Terry that he couldn't publish him any more, but that he'd be very happy to be his agent.

The rest, as they say, is history.

90:

Appreciated, but: my over-reaction to another poster was due to other things.

Nasty little GPU - CPU cycle attack (you nerf a sensor hard and so on) and that account / email was torched from existence. No Longer in the DB.

Managed to save the computer though.

~

If I was a naughty elf, I'd suspect you had some really Heavy Messing Support on your side ;)

91:

If I was a naughty elf, I'd suspect you had some really Heavy Messing Support on your side ;)

If I did, they haven't introduced themselves to me. No, seriously: my programming and sysadmin chops are so out of date they need a zimmer frame.

92:

"Because that is what the life of a spy is like. Dull, isolated, futile and generally shit. Not fun, not exciting, not Bondulous"

Depends. I was at a lecture in W Germany once where one of the slides was a pic of an E German spy that had just been caught. Naturally he was not going to be arrested and prosecuted, but turned.
I imagine his life got quite exciting after that.

93:

Never wondered much about that security issue requiring a server upgrade.

But you did promise to tell all ;)

~

And you probably do. Or all of that was totally unrelated and not at all predestined / prefigured a week before.

*nose wiggle*


Chuck is going meta-all-shiny-and-crome:

https://twitter.com/ChuckTingle/status/725371928890896384?lang=en-gb


I expect the pay-off to be... rather less Puppy and more Manamana.

"Bad Allies".

There might be an epic joke there for everyone.


[Note: in the real world, I understand the argument that such selections have nudged out more serious and more worthy nominations and have unduly harmed the lively-hoods of serious artists. However, if you know that's going to happen anyway, often the best offense is to make sure everyone remembers the joy of the craft and how to slough off the chains of negativity.

Plus, come on: the joke about the overtly Christian Dominionist becoming a synonym for a homosexual thang has a long, hard and hard-to-scrub-from-the-soul history.

Santorum. NSFW: it's worse than you imagine.

VD: you have your Hugo Award now, it even has your face on it.

Oh, and if you want to get really clever, it's actually all about restoring the Fun and Chaos in small internet Gremlin Communities and stopping them being used to do harm and reminding everyone that the Ball Pit is really more fun if you're not attempting to 5GW warfare

If you want to get really clever it's actually all about transcending the binary and uplifting the Gremlins into joyous beings of Light and Truth and Love. It's really just a translation issue: Gremlins don't judge Futa nor do they mind Gay Erotica existing (especially if it's a meta-performance-art-troll). ]


TL;DR


You'd be amazed at how quickly a Shoggoth can become a friend if you scratch and hug it right.

94:

ME!
A "Philstine?"
Come now, with the occasional quotes I produce & my appreciation of Dante as 14th Century SF?
No way Jose .....

It's just that some "classical "authors, of any period are actually useless, form the pov of some readers.
[ I really can't handle Dickens, either, but really appreciate Thomas Hardy ]

P.S. - I note my "I claim my £5" quote/recognition of NN/HB/CD has vanished, or didn't it post?

95:

Current popularity is no guide to lasting worth.
Ask Mozart & Salieri ....

If writers, or painters or any creative artists work continues to sell, after their deaths, then they are great/good writers ( Though see my comment on Dickens, above )
Many become unfasionable, but continue to be read ( or whatever) - look at the persistent political attempts to rubbish Kipling, but he goes on selling, because: He wrote damned good stories ... which were a surprisingly good picture of the times in which they were set - because he initially trained as a journalist, I think.
Or the denigration of Elgar during the 1950-1970 period.

I am highly amused by the revival of appreciation of some of the late-Victorian ( & up to 1914) period painters, plus of course, my local hero: William Morris. [ But he was an artistic polymath ]

96:

And the prose. Oh! The prose.
Pedestrian, plodding, unimaginative & depressing.
I really, really tried to read "A small town in Germany" but was quite unable to get more than about 70 pages in.

P.S. Someone mentioned "Adam Hall"/Quiller ... sorry, but that didn't do anything for me, either, I'm afraid.

97:

"P.S. - I note my "I claim my £5" quote/recognition of NN/HB/CD has vanished, or didn't it post?"

Its on the Brexit post Greg (or it was last time I looked).

98:

Para 1 - You have a point, although Bond frequently moves across the World so fast that this could make him his own diversionary tactic! ;-)

Para 2 - I originally mentioned "The Nailer" as a cite to the tone of parts of the novels rather than a valid tactic for even stalling a guardroom.
Having said which, there's one occasion where "Sir Gerald Tarrant" visits Modesty in her London penthouse, in July, in a heatwave. They are on its outside terrace and she suggests that he takes off his suit jacket. His reply is "My God: I do believe that I'm incapable." (of doing so).
So yes, this is a parallel World!

99:

If my "current popularity" only lasted 50 years, I'd be quite satisfied, TYVM.

Le Carre and Deighton capture the murky and often miserable conditions of what us intelligence types now call HUMINT (Human Sources Intelligence). Fleming gave us the "boys adventure" version, filtered through an early to mid-20th century world view we would now describe as misogynistic, racially bigoted and classist. Hall occupied a somewhat more realistic middle ground.

No one depicts real intelligence work in fiction, and in particular not in movies or TV, because it's too bloody boring.

100:

Yeah
Brain going to pot, again ....

101:

In "A Small Town in Germany" Le Carre was still ramping up. Read "The Honourable Schoolboy" or "Smiley's People." (Hint: There's a reason the last three Smiley books got made into a mini-series and the first 3-4 books with Smiley did not. The first two Smiley books should probably have stayed in the trunk, and "Tinker, Tailer" is an edge-case somewhere between "okay" and "really good.")

My father could have been the model for Smiley on a couple of the book covers, BTW.

102:

No one depicts real intelligence work in fiction, and in particular not in movies or TV, because it's too bloody boring.

...Except when the environment is hostile. See "Four-Square Laundry" (or, in fiction terms, Gerald Seymour's "Harry's Game", "The Journeyman Tailor", and "Vagabond").

For a 1970s/80s perspective, see "The Operators" by James Rennie, or for HUMINT, "Fishers of Men" by Rob Lewis

Apocryphal tale was that in the late 70s / early 80s, until they sorted out what they needed and were able to select in "psychological assessment" terms (much like the bomb disposal types), the operators were under sufficient stress that half of them needed a little time in a psychiatric unit to decompress after a deployment...

103:

Wasn't "The Lambda Functionary" in there prospectively? I know a bunch of LISP people and I was looking forward to announcing it to them....

104:

Nope, "The Lambda Functionary" was the provisional title of book three of the "Halting State" trilogy.

This will never be written, now.

(TL:DR is: it was provisionally planned for 2010 but I got over-ambitious. So instead, I wrote "The Rhesus Chart" (which was a whole lot more tractable) while going back to the drawing board. But by the time I got back from the drawing board it was clear that the Scottish political singularity would soon be upon us before the book could be published, and would render any near-future political thriller set in Scotland moot. (It takes a year to write a novel and another year to turn the manuscript into a hardcover, so by 2012 it was already too late -- the book would be out less than a year before a referendum that would steamroller its postulated future.)

As "Halting State" was set in 2017 and "Rule 34" in 2022, it is now too late to write further novels set in continuity with those two. I suppose it would be possible to write a thematic third volume with a different past time-line, but selling it as a trilogy would confuse the more literal-minded readers who have been programmed to think of a trilogy as "one story, three books". Also: I began working on "Halting State" in 2005 -- I'd like to work on something new this decade, KTHX?

(Hence a certain project with the working code-name SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE -- which will be published under some other name, because that's not a title, that's a train-wreck -- which may be published in 2018 and which I can't talk about yet because I'm less than 15% of the way into the first draft. Elevator pitch: a group of protagonists who would be happier in a Philip Roth lit-fic academia novel find themselves in a particularly violent Iain M. Banks Culture novel instead: whackiness ensues.)

105:

Plus you have political (brexit, oil prices, eu instability, Trump, panama papers, cryptography ...) and technological (AI, mind -machine interfaces, reactionless drives, weird materials, Csipro, nanotech...) singularities brewing, so now is not a good time for near future extrapolation.

106:

... Philip Roth lit-fic academia novel find themselves in a particularly violent Iain M. Banks Culture novel instead ... Now that sounds INTERESTING.

Particulary, as in my admittedly-prejudiced opinion, such people are actually very poorly educated & have feeble imaginations.

107:

You've put the cart before the horse: having too much imagination is a handicap when you're trying to become a leading expert on a very narrow field, and you don't usually get ahead in 20th/early 21st century academia by being a generalist.

108:

All aboard the GSV Shiny Happy People!

109:

Been there - didn't do that :-) Yes, quite.

110:

I haven't done that, but over the years I've worked with enough PhDs and academics that I got a contact high low.

111:

you don't usually get ahead in 20th/early 21st century academia by being a generalist.

Cross-discipline research is really lucrative if you can pull it off.

112:

Elevator pitch: a group of protagonists who would be happier in a Philip Roth lit-fic academia novel find themselves in a particularly violent Iain M. Banks Culture novel instead: whackiness ensues.

Just make sure that a couple of the main characters are likeable. The one book of yours I really bounced off of was Rule 34. The book was a great piece of science-fiction, but I bounced hard because there were no main characters in the book who I liked, or felt much sympathy for, or whose heads I enjoyed inhabiting.

Normally I wouldn't make this point again - I said it once or twice when the book came out and that was enough - but reading your comments about academics above makes me think you might dislike your characters enough to do make each of them... unpleasant.

Just saying.

113:

> As "Halting State" was set in 2017 and "Rule 34" in 2022, it is now too late to write further novels set in continuity with those two.

Is it?

With the way the SNP are still pushing for another vote, coupled with the EU referendum, I'd have thought something set in 2030 would have been quite possible with only a minor fudging of dates (which I don't think were mentioned). I've always tended to see that continuity as being parallel anyway - a kind of scottish utopia.

Hell, I'd have thought a near future novel with the impact of autonomous vehicles, drones, VR/AR, mass automation of jobs, SpaceX, climate change, etc. would have been fertile ground for a story. There certainly seems to be a lot of change and upheaval coming round the corner in the foreseeable.

114:

That was pretty much my reaction to Rule 34 as well. Interesting plot, well-realized characters — but I skimmed it fast and haven't re-read it because I didn't want to spend time with the viewpoint characters.

115:

Gerald Tarrant?

I've seen that name but not in connection with Modesty Blaise. Trilogy by another author...

116:

I haven't read Rule 34, but I only got about 20 pages into Accelerando. Using a patent troll for the protagonist just didn't work for me. Same reason.

117:

I'm sorry, what book were you reading? Allow me to quote from the book you so badly misinterpreted:

Law firms handle his patent applications on a pro bono basis, and boy, does he patent a lot - although he always signs the rights over to the Free Intellect Foundation, as contributions to their obligation-free infrastructure project.

Try it again. Accelerando is about as good as it gets if you're looking for Singularity Science Fiction. The only thing I can liken it to is a really, really good guitar solo full of white-hot prophecy and offbeat rhythms; brightness and beauty alternating with a vast and horrific darkness. IMHO it is one of the very best science-fiction books ever written.

118:

It was more the way the protagonist/story mistook the legal exercise of patenting for the actual work of invention that annoyed me.

I'm glad you liked it, but I'm fairly sure I wouldn't (didn't). No accounting for taste.

119:

Also, I've always meant to give applause for "Bourbaki meme" (even if I hadn't heard the Bourbaki Group referred to since my brief attempt at grad school in the early '90s.)

120:

Given that "If you fuck up an invocation of some sort of magic, the worst you get is something that makes a painful death look pleasant", one would expect the Laundry to be interested in techniques that DON'T involve magic and that DO enhance the agent's efficiency and ef
fectiveness.

121:

Which is why one would expect the Laundry to study such techniques, IN DETAIL.

The CIA spent a lot of money on some pretty far-out stuff, as did the KGB. There is a certain amount of background chatter that suggests that some of that research might have been useful.

(I do recall a friend of mine with serious spook connections long ago demonstrating part of the CIA-taught technique for beating a polygraph. He was mildly surprised that I knew exactly what he was doing.)

122:

Yes and no. You typically have more latitude and better effectiveness with explicit consent and overt technique.

That is not to say that the various covert and nonconsent techniques don't work. How else would you explain Bill Clinton and Barack Obama managing to get elected TWICE?

123:

Which is why one would expect the Laundry to study such techniques, IN DETAIL.

Agreed. No doubt in more detail than most people would want to know about.

I expect that then, ten or twenty years later, some poor office drone is being flown around the world six times for no good reason and stumbles through Heathrow feeling like a Residual Human Resource. Somewhere there's a file explaining exactly what would keep him functional. It's classified UNDULATING BABOON and the guy who knew who should get UNDULATING BABOON clearance was eaten by a shoggoth in Zimbabwe six years ago.

No doubt several characters would have something pithy to say about this, if only they were cleared for UNDULATING BABOON.

124:

And the alternative to Barack & Bill were ... ?
Now, I suggest you grow up.

125:

I bounced hard because there were no main characters in the book who I liked

Note that all the main characters in the book -- except for the psychotic/abused villain -- were LGBT.

I've heard people report your reaction before ... and heard exactly the opposite response given by non-heterosexual readers.

This doesn't automatically mean it's a sexual orientation thing, but it's an interesting datum point.

126:

What OGH writes or doesn't write and why he chooses to write it or not write it is entirely his business, and I'm not about to second guess or criticise his choices as my own attempts in that direction suggest we're all much better off if I stick to reading them and let him get on with writing them in whatever manner he chooses. :-)

That said, on a list of "what if" near futures in books I've enjoyed "what if the Scottish referendum had played out a handful of percentage points differently from the Not Yet it actually delivered" is a long way from being the biggest, most implausible, or hardest to swallow thing I've been presented with and for my money (which it undoubtedly would have been) it doesn't come close to invalidating the first two books or stopping me wondering where a third would have taken us...

127:

And the alternative to Barack & Bill were ... ?

put in place by evil wizards from the Black Chamber in order to make Barack and Bill the only sensible choice.

Next question.

128:

Conspiracies are so much fun, but the correct response to "Specialist's" barbed quip should be, "yes, and that also explains how George W. Bush got re-elected."

More prosaically: a sitting president always has the advantage, to such an extent that only one sitting president since the end of the 1970s[*] didn't get re-elected -- George H. W. Bush, who was very much the Gordon Brown to Reagan's Tony Blair (an uncharismatic B-side who took over just in time to run into an economic mess).


[*] The 1970s were different. Nixon won re-election as a sitting president, but then his presidency exploded, and his previous VP Agnew imploded (did serious jail time for bribery, tax evasion and money laundering). Gerald Ford, his appointed replacement VP pick took over as a placeholder but failed to win an election. So then we had Jimmy Carter, who was effectively kneecapped by the Iran hostage crisis and the clusterfuck at Desert One. I can speculate that if the hostage rescue mission in Iran had succeeded Carter might very well have won a second term, but if there's one thing the US voters can't stand it's a President who looks "weak". (Carter wasn't actually weak -- he presided over a huge build-up of military capability in the late 70s -- but perception is everything.)

129:

Note that all the main characters in the book -- except for the psychotic/abused villain -- were LGBT.

True. But none of them were particularly likeable, and some were quite unpleasant to share headspace with. Unlike, say, Sgt. Smith from Halting State who I kept hoping to see again.

I had the same problem with your Merchant Princes series — didn't like the main characters enough to really care what happened. Wasn't as bad because it was third-person, but I still skim-read and haven't re-read even though I really liked the premise.

Not trying to tell you what or how to write — just giving my reactions.

130:

I find it totally bizarre that many people seem to require a main character they would like to identify with, at least as a friend, but that seems to be so.

131:

I find it totally bizarre that many people seem to require a main character they would like to identify with, at least as a friend, but that seems to be so.

Yup, so much truth in this.

It's like preferring a US President you could sink a jar or two of beer with on the back porch, over a wonk who happens to understand global macroeconomics and foreign affairs and constitutional law and managing an executive team well enough to do a good job.

132:

All it means is that if you want the audience to relate to a character, that character shouldn't do things that the audience can't imagine themselves doing (or wanting to do).

Imagine if, thirty pages into a novel, the audience surrogate character went to a fundamentalist Christian church. Nothing particularly interesting happened there; he listened to the sermon, sang some hymns, talked to his friends, and discussed God's plan for humanity. It was all portrayed as perfectly normal and ten pages later he got on with the plot.

I suspect that you wouldn't make it through those ten pages, because you couldn't imagine being that guy.

The reason that villains are usually more interesting than protagonists is that the audience isn't supposed to relate to them. That gives them the freedom to be distinctive.

133:

What OGH writes or doesn't write and why he chooses to write it or not write it is entirely his business

Oh I agree. OGH will write what he wants to write. I'm not even sure that if you came along with the proverbial wheelbarrow of cash he'd write to order (though it would be kind of fun to test it).

I just didn't see how that particular universe were made impossible to write for - and quite a lot of predictable changes coming over the horizon to make a near future book an interesting prospect to write. If nothing else, you get the opportunity to look prescient if you extrapolate and integrate the visible trends correctly.

Even if every brick hasn't started falling into place, enough are identifiable to spot the patterns.

134:

The reason that villains are usually more interesting than protagonists is that the audience isn't supposed to relate to them. That gives them the freedom to be distinctive.

You used the V-word -- "villain". This tends to go hand-in-glove with the H-word -- "hero". Which in turn feeds back to a peculiarly Manichean dualist view of the world: that Good and Evil are absolute, irrevocable, and easily distinguishable things in and of themselves, and that you can tell one from the other.

I think that's bollocks, and it also makes for boring and implausible storytelling. Almost everybody is the hero of their own internal narrative, unless they're guilt/shame driven, in which case they may well be the subjective villain of their internal narrative, even when they're performing heroic and self-sacrificing acts.

(Also, did you notice that you implicitly told me not to write LGBT protagonists? "Because then your audience won't be able to relate to the character" -- projecting, much?)

135:

I'm not even sure that if you came along with the proverbial wheelbarrow of cash he'd write to order (though it would be kind of fun to test it).

I write for two reasons:

a) Wheelbarrows full of cash

b) To spread the memes that keep taking root in my head

I will entertain the possibility that if you offered me enough cash, I would write a novel for you -- one copy only, no backups, no publication, copyright sold to you in perpetuity, and nobody gets to read it but you (and then, only if you choose to do so). However, I would expect fuck-off levels of money in return for doing such a thing -- at least enough to live off while I was doing it and for a few years thereafter while I wrote what the hell I felt needed writing, regardless of market, to get the taste out of my mouth ... and a bit more on top, to cover the opportunity cost of setting back my public writing career by several years. All of which will be costed at more than I currently earn, or there's no point in doing it. So unless you're ready to start bidding with an offer on the order of a million dollars, it's not really going to interest me.

Back to Rule 34/Halting State: the trouble is, that universe has largely come true (except for the bits that didn't -- and which are now wholly obsolete). It's not SF any more. It's stuff I extrapolated back circa 2004-06, and it's now 2016. So yes, I could do something resembling a sequel, but it'd basically just be another flavour of Scottish noir crime thriller with added computery goodness, and I'd rather do something new instead.

136:

Right. And, in the sort of literature that lasts, pretty well all heroes and villains have something of the other about them, plus the characters that are unclassifiable mixtures. What this identification 'thing' really tells us is how people react emotionally to fiction - which often flatly conflicts with what they say, what the 'accepted wisdom' is and, of course, political correctness. It's particularly interesting with regard to gender and sexual implications, as Jay makes clear - and, from what I have read, matches what the neuropsychological researchers have found.

137:

I sincerely hope you are undervaluing your price for such a novel, by
between a factor of 2 and 10.

10^6 dollars is easily afforded by a % of hedge fund types far less
successful, or distinctive, than you are (as either a writer or commenter).

(Meanwhile, I'm following the Bitcoin identity saga with grim amusement---
if it isn't some shorting con by Wright for manipulating Bitcoin prices, he
should be able to trivially convince all of his Nakomoto identity; that is the
point of crypto schemes. Though I pity O'Hagan if it happens after the LRB publishes his piece-- one article about deluded Australian computer geeks is easy to dismiss; two is an unfortunate habit.

Screw that, distractions are infinite. Back to work.)

138:

Ahem: I said a minimum of $1M. What the actual threshold to buy the exclusive use of my skills for a year might be is something I have yet to discover because nobody's offered to do so.

Note the word "exclusive". If, say, Larry Page or Sergey Brin wanted to pay me to write a novel and then give it away for free on the internet, that'd be a whole different business from J. Random Hedge Fund zillionaire paying me to write a novel which nobody else would ever read. (What I'd charge for the former would be in line with my expected income from publishing a novel via conventional channels; because I don't do this job just for the money: a chunk of my motivation is knowing that people are reading my work, and the extra dosh for an exclusive novel is basically compensation for the emotional pain of taking a year's creative work and burying it.)

139:

I write for two reasons:

a) Wheelbarrows full of cash

b) To spread the memes that keep taking root in my head

Out of interest if money wasn't a consideration (because of lottery win/basic income/runaway franchise success ala ASOIAF) would what you write and how you write change dramatically?

140:

"All it means is that if you want the audience to relate to a character, that character shouldn't do things that the audience can't imagine themselves doing (or wanting to do)."

Me, I don't go with that at all. Most characters spend most of their time doing things I don't want to do. (Most real people spend most of their time doing things I don't want to do. I can't think of anyone I'd like to swap places with - certainly the usual suspects need not apply - not because I find my life so brilliant, but because I'd find theirs even more shit.) But that a character is choosing to do something that I would try to avoid doing doesn't necessarily prevent me from feeling glad when they make a step forward and sorry when they make a step back.

The engagement can be negative, too. I've read at least one book where I spent the whole time hoping that horrible things were going to happen to the character you were supposed to root for. I don't suppose that what I got out of that story was anything like what the author would have expected, but I still got something.

And some situations, I think, generally of the kind where the characters are doing something they did not choose to do, are probably pretty universal attractors of sympathy. Say your religious guy was a sailor and his boat was caught in a storm and started to fall to bits; I'd be surprised if you didn't feel some empathy with his struggles to patch it up and keep it afloat and moving long enough to reach land, because while you may not be able to imagine being a religious guy, I'd think you probably can imagine being a guy struggling to stay alive after some random natural disaster has shat on you.

It's hard to say exactly what does put me off a character, but one important factor that I can identify is stupidity and empty-headedness. None of the characters in Wuthering Heights are particularly likeable, but the only ones who actually get on my tits are among the least offensive personalities: Isabella Linton, who is a complete divvy, and Lockwood, who is pretty conspicuously dense. I am glad that neither of them appear more than they have to. Similarly I am glad that Arwen's appearance in the main narrative of LOTR is limited to a handful of sentences, and it's not until the appendices that we really get to hear the sound of her brain cells rattling around like ipstones in a hubcap. (Though it is disappointing when all Tolkien's other significant female characters kick arse big time in one way or another.)

141:

(Also, did you notice that you implicitly told me not to write LGBT protagonists? "Because then your audience won't be able to relate to the character" -- projecting, much?)

Maybe I'm projecting, but it didn't read that way to me.

Sgt. Smith from Halting State is a sympathetic character; the dodgy ex-con who cheats on his wife from Rule 34 isn't. The accountant Jeremy from Country of the Blind (by Michael Flynn) is a sympathetic character; Daniel Kennison (from the same novel) isn't. Ethan (from Ethan of Athos) is sympathetic…

It's not a matter of sexual orientation, it's a matter of character and actions.

And also (in my case) a reaction to the second-person storytelling which explicitly identifies the reader with the viewpoint character. If Peter Watts had written "Eyes of God" in second person I don't think I'd have finished it. (Good story, well-realized protagonist — just not someone who's thoughts I want conveyed by "you".) If the author is making the characters actions my own, I want them to be actions I can relate to.

142:

"The one book of yours I really bounced off of was Rule 34."

Ditto, but more so. I didn't even finish the book. I can't even recall why, except that found it boring and slow.
[ I am big into minimal character development ]

143:

I didn't think 2nd person worked in halting state either, and I didn't buy the justification for it.

Anyone who has played a game would know that 2nd person narration isn't gameplay, it's the %$%£^ing unskippable cut scene!

144:

It wasn't the LGBT that lost me; I've read other books with LGBT characters that didn't lose me, plus my daughter is Gay, so there's no prejudice or lack of understanding.

It was more that everyone's internal narrative was sort of ugly and unhappy and unpleasant - none of the characters had much scope or ability to be happy or solve their problems, and they knew, right down to their DNA that their situation wasn't going to change. As I analyze it I think it was more the lack of agency than anything else, plus the resignation to the lack of agency, plus the ugliness this imposed on their souls. The one character I found tolerable was the president of the little country of Something-Stan, mainly because for all his issues he was actually accomplishing something he wanted to accomplish.

145:

It never works for me. It just graunches and grates, and then if I persevere with the book eventually the mental filters kick in and convert it to 3rd person before it reaches the consciousness.

146:

The advice for writers is to stick with sympathetic, likable characters because it's easier to identify with them. That makes perfect sense. It's very difficult to keep the unsympathetic compelling. A magnificent bastard or anti-hero might be interesting but you would have a hard time, say, making an unrepentant child molester a protagonist. There's just not much to hang your hat on there. Not impossible, mind you, but it's that much harder. Takes a really skilled writer to pull it off.

As a great example of doing the difficult well, there's a German language movie, Downfall. It's the source of the "Hitler react to" meme. It did an amazing job of showing the final days in the bunker, painting Hitler as a human figure. Note: human, as in a human being, not as a demonic incarnation of cosmic evil. Which to me is a lot scarier. It's easier to distance yourself from someone you can portray as a monster, inhuman, sharing no qualities with proper people such as ourselves.

I think the problem that goes hand in hand with the unlikable protagonist is the schizo-plot that the reader has trouble figuring out. Smart writers don't like to spoon-feed the plot to the reader but they can become so clever that most readers end up confused as to what's going on. While I like Peter Watts, his novels have a tendency to become overly clever. Trying to calibrate this sort of thing as a writer can be a bit maddening because having to explain the plot of a story after the fact shares many of the same weaknesses as having to explain a joke: the punch goes flat.

147:

Worked for me — I enjoyed it.

De gustibus non disputandum est and all that :-)

148:

I bet you still draw the line at unskippable cut scenes though.

149:

But in this case everything is a cutscene — there's no gameplay. So it really depends on how well written it is, and whether it's a game I want to play.

Halting State was. Rule 34 wasn't.

The only FPS-style video games I play are on the Wii, and I don't mind the cutscenes there.

150:

Except that I don't want to read the President, and I don't want a book to run my country.*

I want a president who's so smart, ethical, and well-educated that speaking to me is pretty much a complete waste of his/her time. I want a book filled with characters I'd like to have a beer with - well, maybe not that, but characters where I at least feel enough congruence of identity that I want to live in that character's thoughts and perceptions for a day or two.

That doesn't mean that the character can't be very, very different than me, just that there's a entry point for a comfortable merger of my consciousness with their's. (Note this refers to reading for light entertainment. If I felt the book held some grand revelation I'd put up with a much more uncomfortable reader/character mind-meld.)

*With the possible exception of Cordelia Vorkosigan

151:

Woo! I finally move back to Portland and work less than 5 blocks from Powell's.

152:

Sgt. Smith from Halting State is a sympathetic character; the dodgy ex-con who cheats on his wife from Rule 34 isn't. The accountant Jeremy from Country of the Blind (by Michael Flynn) is a sympathetic character; Daniel Kennison (from the same novel) isn't. Ethan (from Ethan of Athos) is sympathetic…

Exactly. And I was fine with the protagonists of that early Elizabeth Bear novel with the Gay diplomats. It had enough other weaknesses that I won't reread it - it was obviously a very early work - her newer stuff is much better. (Shoggoths in Bloom deserved the Hugo.)

153:

Reading more: "In IP geek circles, Manfred is legendary; he's the guy who patented the business practice of moving your e-business somewhere with a slack intellectual property regime in order to evade licensing encumbrances. He's the guy who patented using genetic algorithms to patent everything they can permutate from an initial description of a problem domain – not just a better mousetrap, but the set of all possible better mousetraps"

These are NPE patents. He came up with an idea, gave a description, and sent out a patent disclosure to law firms.

The real lol worthy part is Pro-bono patent prosecution. Sorry, pro-bono work in patent prosecution is not going to happen absent a major shift in economics. And because of the speed of his 'inventions' they are all top level abstract patents that would be a real bear to prosecute. Like 5+ year prosecution timeline for a US patent.

And some of them are categorically difficult for the EPO to consider. (EPO and USPTO both hate abstract computer business methods, the grant rate since last July for business methods in the US after we implemented the new rules was something like 6, when it was previously several hundred per month).

154:

As a cross-over to the 90's music scene:

Radio Head have everyone enraptured / mystified / horrified (as denoted by where you are in the music ecology) by summarily purging themselves from the internets. (Spotify is proving harder to purge, and Google+ required a fan to remind them it still existed).

The band "know where you live," according to cards sent to UK fans in the post

Radiohead Fans Receive Mysterious "Burn the Witch" Leaflets Pitchfork, April 30th 2016.


I at least smelt a vibe and so on.

155:

This doesn't automatically mean it's a sexual orientation thing, but it's an interesting datum point.

I enjoyed Iron Sunrise / Singularity Sky, but the book that had me go "right, buy everything by this author" was "Halting State" - because it made me look at things slightly differently.

I'm hetero; but I identified with the characters because of their humanity, not because of their sexuality.

So perhaps the defining feature is empathy or tolerance, rather than sexual orientation? (Mind you, I would say that, it allows me to feel good about myself)

156:

Please note: the stories in "Accelerando" were written circa 1998-2003. Times (and legal frameworks) change ...

157:

Observation: It is a truism in publishing that if you listen to your fans, you risk vanishing down a rabbit hole of their own recursive wank-fantasies about what you *should* be writing (for them) rather than what made them buy your books in the first place.

And this goes double for fans who are willing to stand up and talk back on an internet forum.

Just sayin'.

158:

Now that's an interesting one.

I always assumed the model for SFF was that once an author had hooked a Fish, Mark, reader that they generally bought everything they published, past a certain point (seen more in Fantasy / Historical Romance but still around for SF).

That kind of loyalty even some-what translates when a younger relation (McCaffrey, Herbert, actively avoided in Pratchett) comes on to continue the lineage.

I might be one of those Whales though. (Pic Related).


I also don't understand this whole "write for meee" thing though: I may be a little too omnivorous.[1] This might be related to Dylan moving to electric and the dramatic split that once caused in certain Minds.


[1]Points for the first Science test to link Branding (such as Coke) to Author Loyalty (notes there's a pool of puppy piddle close by) and see the relation.

159:

The thing most fans and almost all editors tell the author after they finish a good book is, "that was great: why don't you write me another one, just like it, only different?"

But they do not want "another one, just like it, only different". What they actually want is something that gave them the same emotional rush they got from the previous book. If it's "just like the last one, only different", it's predictable. In some genres that's desirable: romance is big (huge) on emotional closure and implied "they all lived happily ever after" at the end of a story arc, in crime the criminal is supposed to end up in the dock, and so on. But my shtick revolves around the shock of the new, and you can't get the shock of the new by recycling the same-old.

160:

Almost everybody is the hero of their own internal narrative

True, but their internal narratives are different from the narrative of the story. If I get 20 pages in to a book and there's neither a character that I want to see succeed nor a character that I want to see fail, then I'm moments away from saying the eight deadly words* and chucking the book in the trash. Every character should have a point of view, but the story should provoke the reader into taking a side.

And making a viewpoint character LBGT is like making one fat or Mormon (the straight-up mission and temple garments kind). Some people will see themselves in the character and love it, but more will find it alienating. The ageless, faceless, gender-neutral culturally ambiguous adventure person existed for a reason.

*"I don't care about any of these characters"

161:

Well, yeah. The first bit of Accelerando seemed so 1990s that it might as well have put on flannel and hung out in Starbucks listening to Alanis Morissette on CD.

162:

I may forgive you over a pint in portland.

163:

But my shtick revolves around the shock of the new, and you can't get the shock of the new by recycling the same-old.


This and the writing is why I read you.

164:

Bear is hit-and-miss for me. I liked Karen Memory (both the novel and the title character).

165:

But my shtick revolves around the shock of the new, and you can't get the shock of the new by recycling the same-old.

I'm always amazed at the current bru-hah that China Miéville, who has been nominated / won a couple of Hugos and now is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, is never mentioned.

As a Marxist, this probably wouldn't be possible in America.

I mean: he's both a writer and a (neo)Marxist who also accepts hierarchical placements?

None of these things could possibly exist together.

And by amazed, I mean: no-one ever targets the actual Big Wolves, they go after the little cute cats who can be scared.

It's a telling tale.


But, of course: ripped and pierced and tats[1] and cute enough to feature on a Tingle front cover?

Inconceivable!

[Hint: that's the joke: you are now part of the Meta-Tingle-Joke-Sphere-But-Perverted-To-Marxist-Authors-Who-Have-Won-A-Hugo. Thanks for playing, boys].

Not that we're that positive over here on the whole end game. (c.f. find the links, having read 100% media, not seeing anyone else spreading the left love / links - MF is like GS lite at this point).


~

Anyhow: the entire shock of the New has very much a Modernist tone to it.

If you missed my upgraded ability to sieve content: There is no real Future being planned.


We could create it, easily.

But the funny-money is hell-bent on sitting on $100,000,000,000 plus and being content to do nothing with it but watch their shitty Swatche knock-offs fail.


You're looking at what happens when Capital is rejected by Creation.


[1]Allegedly.

166:

I will entertain the possibility that if you offered me enough cash, I would write a novel for you

Well although the idea of 'wheelbarrows of cash' was whimsy - I can actually see the model for 'short stories for cash to be given away' being a workable one. Hell, the movie/TV tie ins are virtually that anyway.

Of course, first step is to have the wheelbarrow of cash ...

Back to Rule 34/Halting State: the trouble is, that universe has largely come true ... So yes, I could do something resembling a sequel, but it'd basically just be another flavour of Scottish noir crime thriller

I damn well hope that second person murderous AIs haven't come true - though with the rise of deep learning as an automation mechanism, something related is probably only a matter of time.

My comment was more that I didn't see that universe as mined out or impossible to pursue - particular with all the changes hoving into view in the 2020-2030 timeframe. Hell, the whole idea of 'detectiving' and thus noir-crime-thriller is probably going to get supplanted and mutated in the foreseeable. It wasn't that I thought you should do it if you didn't have the story, just interested that you thought it done (as you can tell, I think the throughline is only just begun).

Anyway, I'd say you should write what you want and make sure you have a good story - if I didn't know you were going to do that anyway...

167:

Look, we're not saying that a Tingle Cover could ever be as sexy as China Miéville, but it's close.

Dat moment when Tingleverse gets Trumped by reality.

For Real Pic

~

And, yeah.

Host is about to get some serious Bear Love. (No, really: there's a whole lotta love for the bear Host pics out there. This might be a little bit kinky. But there's a dedicated forum to his sexiness out there, true story).


~

But my shtick revolves around the shock of the new, and you can't get the shock of the new by recycling the same-old.

And like Tingle and CM, you have some very dedicated fans ;)


Note to reality: this is all about perception and dat little trick da Americans love which is to ignore the reality.


CM has had a few Hugos.

Host has had a few Hugos.


They both have some fans who rather like them for their sexual appeal.


You'll note that only the Tingle is HARD enough to note these things.


Then again... I spot a couple of Sad Puppies with serious bear fan-groups as well.

~

Note:

This is all true.

This has nothing to do with their writing.

This is how you break the current silliness.

168:

Observation: It is a truism in publishing that if you listen to your fans, you risk vanishing down a rabbit hole of their own recursive wank-fantasies about what you *should* be writing (for them) rather than what made them buy your books in the first place.

And the thing is, I don't want to be "that guy." On the other hand, I did notice a fair bit of agreement on the question of Rule 34, so I'm hoping it might be appropriate to suggest a couple "rules of thumb" and drop the subject hereafter:

First, in that I don't want to critique the use of a particular character type - there are people who have no agency and are full of despair, and you should be writing about them if it works for a particular story - the rule of thumb is to provide a countervailing character; someone who is hopeful, or at least has some agency and a generally agreeable direction in life. The fine folks at BoingBoing would probably say, "If you going to make me live a couple hours in the head of an awful pissant like Anwar, give me a Unicorn Chaser."

Second, don't write a book about LGBT characters in which ALL OF THEM are all living lives of quiet horror. My daughter called me this afternoon and told me that she and her lady love are going to get married soon, so there is a sunny side for LGBT people, and I think she'd hate a book full of Gay people who all live dingy, awful lives without agency.

169:

[Dat moment when Host realizes he's also a Sex-Symbol]

True story.


There's a lot of Bears out there with serious Mary-Sue fantasies regarding you.


Does this have any impact on anything?

No, of course it doesn't.


Which... sigh... highly laboured point: is the point of the entire SP/RP affair.


Oh, and: I've had to argue very closely to not have VD meet an end in Italy. Boat Accidents, losing a lot of Mafia Money, and so on and so forth.

Or, just the people who you don't piss off feeling like you've brought them into a lack of respect, via laughter and so on.

Tingle and CM.

It didn't go down well once they saw the network effects.

p.s.


No, I'm not one of them. But I'd probably taste CM just for the entire experience, as an entity not into humans.

170:

Oh, VD.

Baba Yaga YT: Film: 3:08

Leaving Italy would be a sensible move about now.

171:

I mean: he's both a writer and a (neo)Marxist who also accepts hierarchical placements?
In other words, in spite of his intelligence & supposed literary talents [ I get lost inside his turgid prose ] he's still a deluded fuckwit.
Same as the extreme neo-liberals, proclaiming that "True Capitalism"(tm) will solve everything.
To repeat:
Marx was a very shrewd & accurate observer of things as they were in the mid-19th C.
He then predicted what would happen ... IF THINGS DID NOT CHANGE.
And all the so-called "Marxists" since have carefully ignored this. That things did change & the revolution did not & could not happen in the most developed economies, because of (some degree of ) self-interested enlightenment amongst those controlling those economies.
They are religious believers, rather than people who accept what actually is.

172:

But the funny-money is hell-bent on sitting on $100,000,000,000 plus and being content to do nothing with it but watch their shitty Swatche knock-offs fail.
Also WRONG ...
Even those peop pass from hand-to-hand for a successful economy, including thier own personal economies, never mind that of states'

173:

"I always assumed the model for SFF was that once an author had hooked a Fish, Mark, reader that they generally bought everything they published..."

Definitely not in my case. I came in via Colder War and Laundry, and that's what I buy.

174:

The ageless, faceless, gender-neutral culturally ambiguous adventure person existed for a reason.

Yes, but that's not the kind of fiction I write, and I'm not about to start doing so.

NB: "gender neutral" means male, in practice, because in almost all contemporary human societies, everything is arranged around male-as-default-option (female clothing, modes of speech, acceptable behaviour is all tagged as "non-standard").

175:

Like the other Royal Societies, the RSL has a royal charter; membership, however, is not something conferred by royal prerogative -- the royal societies are self-governing, and membership doesn't imply some sort of loyalty oath to the ancien regime. It's the equivalent of an American institution with a national endowment being allowed, by law, to put "Federal" or "National" in its name.

There is no real Future being planned.

Frankly, after re-reading Marinetti's futurist manifesto I am kind of holding the opinion that not over-determining futures is sometimes a good thing!

We had stayed up all night, my friends and I, under hanging mosque lamps with domes of filigreed brass, domes starred like our spirits, shining like them with the prisoned radiance of electric hearts. For hours we had trampled our atavistic ennui into rich oriental rugs, arguing up to the last confines of logic and blackening many reams of paper with our frenzied scribbling.
An immense pride was buoying us up, because we felt ourselves alone at that hour, alone, awake, and on our feet, like proud beacons or forward sentries against an army of hostile stars glaring down at us from their celestial encampments. Alone with stokers feeding the hellish fires of great ships, alone with the black spectres who grope in the red-hot bellies of locomotives launched on their crazy courses, alone with drunkards reeling like wounded birds along the city walls.

If that doesn't remind you of the transhumanists, extropians, and proponents of disruptive technology, I don't know what will ... and lest we forget, Marinetti fell in love with Fascism.

176:

Hell, the whole idea of 'detectiving' and thus noir-crime-thriller is probably going to get supplanted and mutated in the foreseeable.

I did have ideas for a circa-2035 crime novel in which most policing has been gamified and detecting is now basically an insurance loss-adjuster process feeding into binding arbitration tribunals rather than criminal courts (because neoliberalism has triumphed), but it's kind of a crapsack dystopia and I don't want to go there because spending a year with my head stuck up a dystopia's arse is no fun.

177:

Second, don't write a book about LGBT characters in which ALL OF THEM are all living lives of quiet horror.

Unless, of course, it's "The Traitor Baru Cormorant", which is an intensely political fantasy novel in which the lives-of-quiet-horror shtick is part of a terrifyingly fierce, 1984-grade meditation on the corruption of power.

(As to "Rule 34", I'd argue that the only LGB character in that novel who has a problem with their sexual orientation is the closeted British-Pakistani guy trapped in an arranged marriage -- which is a real problem in the muslim community in the UK. That he's also a small-time grifter is entirely orthogonal to his marital problems.)

178:

Ahh, my dystopia was slightly different to yours.

With the potential for getting copious personal information and tracking every single individual, coupled with the 'always listening' devices of google, amazon, apple and microsoft - you could basically run a 'virtual country', understanding and predicting the actions of everyone. Couple that with a deep learning 'detective' that spots deviation from the norm for every single individual in real time - and you have the equivalent of precrime.

We are too good at dreaming up how things can go to shit, and too bad at imagining new heavens. I'm personally of the opinion that's half the reason things seem to get progressively worse.

179:

I'm pretty sure that writing stuff for my tastes would be too small a market, but...

I don't see any reason for LGBT characters to have a problem with their sexual orientation. And I don't think that had anything to do with why I preferred Halting State to Rule 34.

Two maybes:

(1) The group who found Atrocity Archives era Bob to be their own everyman also found the programmer in Halting State to fit as well. The geekiness of many of the characters was front-and-centre. The geekiness of Rule 34 was more behind the scenes, making the reader focus more on...

(2) Halting state seemed more SF than Police Procedural, and Rule 34 seemed the other way around.

Just my 2x10^(-20) randomised currency units.

180:

We are too good at dreaming up how things can go to shit, and too bad at imagining new heavens.

Yes, and that's partly why I'm trying to come up with a space opera depioting an optimistic heterotopia that's more plausible than Banks's Culture.

181:

To clarify my sentence above: If we're going to have a future, then I would prefer one where the flavour of one's sexuality is a bad predictor for life-happiness. There seems no need to choose a future that's even more of a crapsack than the overwhelmingly probable ones :-(

182:

Actually, I believe that the success rate for arranged marriages is very little different from that of love matches, though I accept that familial pressure is more likely to trap people in them. The reasons for the failures are slightly different, of course. Kipling made some amusing (and VERY irreverent) remarks about this, but I now forget in which story.

183:

Right. While I do read a fair number of pot-boilers, if the authors can keep a good story flowing, I much prefer stories that have ideas that I hadn't already thought of. But I know damn well how hard it is to invent to order, having done a bit of it myself in other contexts!

One aspect that I somewhat regret is that there are so few modern semi-utopian stories based on complete alternatives to current politically correct dogmas (and, of course, 'neo-libertarianism'). So many of the societies are same old, same old. Naturally, any such society would need very different bases from either of the previous.

184:

"And making a viewpoint character LBGT is like making one fat or Mormon (the straight-up mission and temple garments kind). Some people will see themselves in the character and love it, but more will find it alienating."

And a great many, including quite a few posters to this blog, will do neither, and do not need a character they can identify with. I have a suspicion that requiring a viewpoint character that you can identify with is a male characteristic (with all the usual caveats about overlapping statistical distributions), which would explain a lot of the gender biasses OGH has previously railed on about - and why the politically correct solutions have so dismally failed to have any effect.

185:

Anwar's problem in "Rule 34" is that he comes from a community that is still predominantly conservative and has a problem with his sexuality. His wife has figured him out -- she's smarter than he is, and he's not bright enough to realise this -- but as long as he doesn't make it an issue she's not going to let on, because it would bring disgrace to her (patriarchal family values FTW -- not).

This is a position many, many gay men (and women) were trapped in in the UK (and USA) until only 2-3 decades ago. And it's still a problem in socially conservative immigrant communities, although it's gradually improving with time. (WEIRDness is contagious, although it takes generations.) As William Gibson noted, "the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed" -- the reverse of this aphorism is also true. (The past lingers also.)

186:

I wish you luck sir.

When I first realised how weak we were on the utopia side of things, I tried to come up with something as obviously better on the upside that the various hells were on the downside. I found it very difficult to imagine - I just didn't seem to have tools.

Even with your 'heterotopia', or 'otherness', we just seem to be bad imagining somewhere you might want to live for a thousand years, let alone an eternity.

187:

I have a suspicion that requiring a viewpoint character that you can identify with is a male characteristic

Actually, it's a privilege characteristic.

The under-privileged are often[*] okay about being asked to identify with a privileged character, because there's a wish fulfilment/fantasy of agency there. (They're getting an imaginary promotion.) It's a lot more painful if you're expected to identify with a beaten-down powerless protagonist if you're a privileged reader.

A fascinating issue we're seeing in UK politics currently is the internal argument over racism in the Labour Party spilling out. Classic Marxism is an economic doctrine, which is all well and good, but Marx wasn't conscious of other forms of category-based struggle so it's a poor fit for modern ideas of intersectionality (racism, sexism, ageism, ableism). "If we just win the class struggle, sexism/racism/etc will go away" doesn't really wash any more.

[*] Not always. What can totally break reader/protagonist identification is if the reader's entire class of human being is explicitly banished from the setting from the outset. One reason I have real problems reading "what if the Nazis won" counterfactuals is that, well, I wouldn't exist, for starters ...

188:

I'm starting by asking, "if you posit really good epigenetic modification and genetic engineering, how would you redesign humanity in order to prevent oppressive cultural forms such as patriarchy or racism from taking hold?"

Racism is relatively easy to see a way around with GM. But to make patriarchy unsustainable requires much more radical changes ...

189:

Colder War was great, and the one about red mercury was also a classic. When Charlie does his research and thinks things through, he can write things that nobody else even tries to.

190:

I expect that racism and patriarchy would vanish pretty quickly, if only for the reason that anti-left-handed bias was not a major feature of plantation agriculture. Everything would hinge on whether your parents had been able to afford the full Superman package, or the free-school-lunch version.

P.S. I really don't see much moral difference between using this sort of technology to eliminate patriarchy and using it to eliminate homosexuality. What you consider "patriarchy" is some people's lifestyle.

191:

Re "Rule 34". Right. And my point is that is independent of whether marriages are arranged or not.

That privilege preference is certainly real but, as as an explanation for the gender preferences, fails pretty badly. It posits that girls and women feel beaten-down and powerless relative to men, and that the level to which that is true has not changed in the past century.

Re epigenetics. Do you really mean patriarchy? Because, if so, that's a very odd thing to consider in the (western) world of today. Saudi Arabia, yes - but let's not go there.

If you mean the male dominance in places of power, then I can think of a (conceptually) easy change that would eliminate it. My reading of the data is that it's almost entirely associated with high P-power and low S-power, which is also associated with testosterone. All (hah!) one would have to do would be to ensure that both sexes developed the neurophysiology needed for a high amount of S-power.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=VQe_g3HybA0C&pg=PA234&lpg=PA234&dq=P-power+S-power+gender&source=bl&ots=K1QBJwZtec&sig=EcA1ThisTYj7xZbE8W6klYXyQaQ&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=P-power%20S-power%20gender&f=false

192:

I really don't see much moral difference between using this sort of technology to eliminate patriarchy and using it to eliminate homosexuality.

There's a strong argument from evolutionary biology that homosexuality is an emergent side-effect of inter-sex attractiveness. See also. (Homosexual activity is pretty much pervasive throughout the animal kingdom. As male and female sexes share the vast majority of their genome, and genes localized on the sex chromosomes only loosely influence nervous system development, it's likely that the expression of a trait for sexual-attraction-to-males by males is simply bleed-over from that trait being present in females. And vice versa.)

193:

My speculation about genetics and patriarchy, etc., is directed to very-far-future SF, and the objective is to prevent it re-emerging in human-seeded colony worlds in the wake of a collapse/re-emergence of civilization.

Can you provide a link to a discussion of P-power and S-power that actually defines these terms? Because that one very helpfully doesn't!

194:

"Yes, and that's partly why I'm trying to come up with a space opera depioting an optimistic heterotopia that's more plausible than Banks's Culture."

Good luck with that one if it still contains HSS Mk1.
We have had tens of thousands of years to get it right, and are only just smart enough to have dragged ourselves over the scitech bar in the past 300.

195:

Google "Social Futurism"

196:
P.S. I really don't see much moral difference between using this sort of technology to eliminate patriarchy and using it to eliminate homosexuality. What you consider "patriarchy" is some people's lifestyle.
And like any other mode of organizing adult relationships, so long as everyone is fully informed and consenting that's fine. Except I, for one, never consented to it - and $DEITY knows I'm subject to it...
197:

Can you provide a link to a discussion of P-power and S-power that actually defines these terms?

The top two Google Books hits for me on a search term "P-Power S-Power" both explained it, although possibly not to the depth you'd like... here's the wikiversity link:

https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Motivation_and_emotion/Book/2013/Power_motivation

Short answer - it's the individual's motivation to seek power; either "Personalised Power" (me, for my benefit - dominance based, sees life as zero-sum) or "Socialised Power" (for the benefit of all - influence, mutual).

198:

Hmm, sounding a lot like a dystopia - genetic engineering to fit in with someone's political idea of what's 'right'.

If 'freedom' is a significant element of an improved 'heaven' (and I'd suggest that it's a core element) then you sound like you are creating a procrustean bed that you want everyone to measure up to.

Kind of like a capitalist heaven where everyone had a job and there's full employment, on assembly lines - it's somewhat missing to point of imagining a better world.

199:

Hmm, sounding a lot like a dystopia - genetic engineering to fit in with someone's political idea of what's 'right'.

The exact opposite. Consider, for example, whether there's anything at an individual level that can be considered positive about our species' lack of voluntary control over fertility?

(In other words, it's not about modifying people to impose specific mandatory behaviors; it's about modifying people to make them inherently resistant to coercive societal forms.)

200:

Have you read Richard Morgan's "Black Man"? (published as "Thirteen" in the USA)... it dealt with a similar theme, although differently.

201:
That privilege preference is certainly real but, as as an explanation for the gender preferences, fails pretty badly. It posits that girls and women feel beaten-down and powerless relative to men, and that the level to which that is true has not changed in the past century.
There's another version of the privilege explanation which works by "default persons" rather than relative power; people whose identities are the default in a situation (male/white/straight/cis/upper middle class/etc) never have to learn how to empathize with other-identified people, whereas non-default people more or less have to to take part in mass culture. If black women refused to watch movies that didn't star someone like themselves their most recent choice for a Hollywood action movie was released in 2004 (IIRC); for white men we don't have to go back as far as last weekend.


Basically, default-identified people don't have the practice. And when you make any set of people exercise rusty faculties, some will complain vociferously.

202:
As I analyze it I think it was more the lack of agency than anything else, plus the resignation to the lack of agency, plus the ugliness this imposed on their souls.
Welcome to the feeling of living through a recession in an independent country in the British Isles in the 21st century so far. Charlie nailed it, I thought.
204:

The difference being that in the text adventure you have a modicum of agency. In theory anyway.

What you actually do is rub every object against every other object in the hope that you are lucky enough to pass the test of the programmers insane dream logic and verb choices.

205:

I hated Halting State and love, love, love Rule 34 (second only to Glasshouse); so Charlie should run screaming from any resemblance to my tastes in his work.

206:

Anwar's problem in "Rule 34" is that he comes from a community that is still predominantly conservative and has a problem with his sexuality.

Among several other problems, I'd say; as you observe, he's just not that bright. But one of the themes of Rule 34 is Anwar trying to get his shit together. The reader repeatedly sees Anwar try to accomplish something only for it to come apart on him and leave him scrambling to salvage something from the wreckage. This makes him one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel, even though he's not particularly effective at actually accomplishing his goals.

I'd like to think that with a little more community support he'd shape up into something more constructive than 'small time grifter,' and we do see that the one time he gets a job he tries to be good at what he thinks he's been hired to do. Maybe he'd do well with a different patron.

207:

Yes, but it's the book from which that comes! It's fascinating (if rather depressing), and not particularly 'heavy'. Reminder: The Winner Effect, by Ian Robertson. If you want a copy and have any difficulty getting one, please ask me for mine. Martin's reference also describes the difference. Essentially, in that sense:

S-power is about the ability to achieve relatively impersonal goals, such as are associated with charities. I.e. doing something for society.

P-power is about the ability to achieve status relative to other people. I.e. treating power largely as a zero-sum game, with the player versus his competitors.

Apparently, both grow as the result of feedback, they can be distinguished by brain-scan, women tend to have more S-power, etc. And, as a bonus, the book provides scientific evidence about Blair's psychological make-up :-)

208:

Yes, but that explanation falls flat on its face when you consider the similar situation with fiction with aristocrats, plutocrats, oligarchs and semi-supermen (and women) as the main protagonists. Again, there is almost certainly some truth in it.

209:

The Culture became plausible at the point where Banks explained that the main organic species, although portrayed as human, weren't really. And had a Culture mission that went to check out Earth and basically reacted "gaaaah".

210:

Yes.
HSS is a lost cause - fix or replace

211:

Well, the first thing to realize about discrimination is that it's more about us/them and race/sex/creed seems to be a rationalization rather than a cause. If the people with all the money have blue skin, we hate those damn blueskins. Whatever god they worship, we hate it. If we're stealing the land from these other guys, we need to find something to look down on them for so we can feel morally justified in our actions. Because we're good people and good people don't do bad things to other good people. I think the greed usually comes first and the rationalization comes second, though we as humans have a bias for the familiar rather than the alien. There's a great story from the production of Babylon 5 where the show's creator noted that the extras dressed up like funny-looking aliens all tended to sit together over lunch. And it's an arbitrary pick as to which alien non-speaking extras got to be each day.

The only thought I can think of for an anti-discrimination tweak is perfect empathy, where it is impossible to see someone else's suffering without feeling it in your own bones. That sounds like a lovely sentiment. Now how can it go wrong?

It puts me to mind of the scifi story where robots are created to perfectly serve man, keep him safe and secure and make work obsolete. The parameters were set a little too tightly and so humans are no longer allowed to do much of anything. Imagine the pillow-top dictatorship, the warm and fluffy, downy straight-jacket as every bad option is removed from your life. You sound like a madman arguing against them. "It's my right to risk getting mugged or murdered by a fellow citizen! It's my right to risk death or dismemberment driving an automobile! I want pizza and beer seven days a week and I know how many years off my life it'll cost me."

212:

It puts me to mind of the scifi story where robots are created to perfectly serve man, keep him safe and secure and make work obsolete. The parameters were set a little too tightly and so humans are no longer allowed to do much of anything.

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

213:
I really don't see much moral difference between using this sort of technology to eliminate patriarchy and using it to eliminate homosexuality.

"There's a strong argument from evolutionary biology that homosexuality is an emergent side-effect of inter-sex attractiveness."

I don't see your point. Males assuming a dominant position (I refuse to use the corrupted word "patriarchy") is also a result of biology: the enormously greater biological load of reproduction on mammalian females vs. males, plus the abnormally extended period of helplessness of a human infant, in the context of the primate social grouping that allows human reproduction to be successful. Females being tied down with children means that it falls to males to perform tasks like defence and hunting which involve violence and physicality. Then there's the whole thing of males wanting to keep control of females to try and make sure that the child they're helping to raise is carrying their own genes. And the effect of testosterone on aggressive and dominant behaviour. Although the factors concerned are more confined to species that resemble humans than are the factors pertaining to homosexuality, they are both phenomena directly arising out of our biology being what it is.

(Amusing to speculate what form the equivalent discussions would be taking if humans had evolved from something like deer or lions.)

Evolution has left us with a lot of baggage, but the bit which pervades all the other bits is the bit which gives us such a tendency to get so fucked in the head over our natural entity. Compulsion to hide our genitals. Being revolted by our natural odours. Table manners. Absolutely everything even vaguely related to reproduction. The list is endless, and so is the list of arguments which originate in humans' refusal to see the monkey inside the suit. If we are going to approach this side of things through genetic engineering, surely it makes more sense to treat the cause rather than the symptoms - even if the genes for being fucked in the head are rather harder to identify than the ones for smelly armpits.

214:

"Imagine the pillow-top dictatorship, the warm and fluffy, downy straight-jacket as every bad option is removed from your life. You sound like a madman arguing against them. "It's my right to risk getting mugged or murdered by a fellow citizen! It's my right to risk death or dismemberment driving an automobile! I want pizza and beer seven days a week and I know how many years off my life it'll cost me.""

We've already got that. See eg. the discussion about self-driving cars on here recently, or in the wider world the way words like "safety" are used to shut down arguments by implying that anyone arguing the opposing view must be a dangerous psychopath.

For the robot version, the story cited by Allen Thompson certainly fits the bill, but I'm pretty sure I came across something very much the same in one of Asimov's robot stories - some isolated community had allowed the definition of "harm" for purposes of the First Law to become broader and broader over time, much to the dismay of their first external visitor for yonks, or something along those lines.

215:

"Well, the first thing to realize about discrimination is that it's more about us/them and race/sex/creed seems to be a rationalization rather than a cause."

Absolutely. And, if the culprits can't find anything to use as a discriminator, one will be invented, which often has the effect of creating a group of "them" out of an originally disconnected subset of "us".

216:

I don't see your point. Males assuming a dominant position (I refuse to use the corrupted word "patriarchy") is also a result of biology:

Your biological determinism stinks of 19th century coprolites -- specifically warmed-over social darwinism (possibly in its modern guise as "evolutionary psychology"). Next you'll be saying we should be letting rapists off because there's a natural male evolutionary drive to spread one's genes?

We're a sentient species. We don't have to blindly persist in following legacy default settings that emerged under environmental constraints we no longer live with.

217:

"We don't have to blindly persist in following legacy default settings that emerged under environmental constraints we no longer live with."

We do if there is even a small genetic tendency/bias because it will show up in mass behaviour even if most individuals seem OK.

218:

Evolution has left us with a lot of baggage, but the bit which pervades all the other bits is the bit which gives us such a tendency to get so fucked in the head over our natural entity. Compulsion to hide our genitals. Being revolted by our natural odours. Table manners. Absolutely everything even vaguely related to reproduction. The list is endless, and so is the list of arguments which originate in humans' refusal to see the monkey inside the suit.

The examples you've given are IMHO nothing to do with evolution, but perfect examples of cultural pressures (and the usual suspects will conflate "cultural" with "religious").

I grew up in a boarding school; I feel no compulsion to hide my genitals, nor am I upset or discomforted by those of other people (see "naturists"). I merely conform to societal norms.

I used to spend a week or so at a time on military training exercises, living in very close proximity to others, without access to soap and hot water. (See "hard routine" in an infantry setting). It wasn't "revolting"; you have to turn to bodily wastes and rotting food for something that is of evolutionary benefit. Take a trip to accommodation full of teenage boys, and even that is arguable.

Compulsion to avoid "anything to do with reproduction" is again cultural, not evolutionary.

So; bad examples, but an interesting insight into the culture you were raised in and your unconscious biases... (Watch a less culturally-flexible USAian confronted with Scandinavian cultural norms, and wait for the culture shock)

219:

The whole male-behavior issue to one side, I am still unclear on your previous point.

Jay said he didn't see the moral difference between using genetic engineering to eliminate patriarchy and using it to eliminate homosexuality.

You replied that homosexuality is probably an emergent side-effect of inter-sex attractiveness.

I'm sorry, but I just seem to be missing the connection between those two statements. Am I supposed to conclude that simply being related to cross-gender sexiness somehow puts homosexuality in a special moral class? Am I supposed to interpret this as a refusal to even consider the moral question on the grounds that eliminating homosexuality would be impossible and therefore does not require consideration? I just can't seem to fill in the implied argument.

220:

Morality is situational, and the western construction of homosexuality is very largely a 19th century British creation -- based on a very peculiar interpretation of one particular holy book used by a couple of world religions.

221:

I'm afraid that does little to clear things up for me.

You're not concerned about the ethics of it because you believe popular views of ethics will simply be different in this hypothetical future?

You're saying that the concept of homosexuality is fundamentally not rigorous enough to even discuss the theoretical possibility of affecting it via genetic engineering? Or maybe that it's not worth discussing because people in the future aren't going to care about it as a concept anymore?

(If you want, you can just ignore me and I'll shut up; I don't think I can contribute anything to this particular topic anyway. I'm just frustrated that I can't follow the conversation.)

222:

(In other words, it's not about modifying people to impose specific mandatory behaviors; it's about modifying people to make them inherently resistant to coercive societal forms.)

But the behaviours you are focusing on are tied up at the root in tribalism, belonging, and resource constraints - not skin colour, genitals, etc. You only need to look at football supporters to realise you could forcibly (and it would need to be forcibly) turn everyone into blue hermaphrodites, they'd still eventually be attacking the ones with big noses.

And if you attempt to genetic engineer tribalism out of the gene pool you end up with a population of loners who won't collaborate on anything. You can't use a long lasting threat to bring them all together, since climate change has proven people discount threats out beyond a decade. And you can't use a short term threat because the response is similarly transitory.

Banks imposed inhuman gods and zero resource limits to negate that in his Culture - but it was still there under the surface. My guess is if you want to really deal with tribal strife, it's wrapped up in how you imagine a heaven that's better than the jehovah one - and even that mythology has 'war in heaven' by lucifer.

Freedom + Striving, but not conflict; it usually requires the capacity for infinite growth.

223:

S-power is about the ability to achieve relatively impersonal goals, such as are associated with charities. I.e. doing something for society.
Slight problem.
"Charities" are notoriously shit employers, since, because they are "doing good" they assume they can get away with ....

224:

And THAT is why, nice guy that you probably are personally, neither you nor the transhumanists should be allowed out with anything more dangerous than a bog-brush.
Because you are a n other set of "religious reformers" like the communists/christians/ fascists/mulsims etc.
And the "defectives"? - kill them.
Yeah, right.

225:

WHY would you even want to "effect" homosexuality or bisexuality or whatever with genetic engineering?
I think you need to "look in a mirror" ....

Also, what has a person's sexuality to do with ethics, either/anyway?

226:

To use an analogy from UK public schools.

They've not been the hot-beds of fagging and If... a long while now.

Part and parcel of their structure (organized sports & sportmanship [yes: word used to denote progression along an intersectional line that is still ongoing], older pupils being responsible for younger ones, enforced equality of some varying degrees etc etc) are diluting and transmuting all these basic weevils listed above (tribalism, testosterone etc).

Serious Time Gang:

#1 I've seen documents that basically prove that India - Pakistan haven't gone nuclear because of Cricket. [seriously: and I've also seen Heavy Messing documents showing that an interest in cracking down on Chinese gambling / triad match fixing is driven by a desire to NOT NUKE THE WORLD rather than caring about corruption. Oh, and at least twice the result has been fixed to deflate WWIII warm-up, but not by the triads etc]

#2 I've seen documents that basically prove that a lot of soft power doctrine was used to entice both Russian and Chinese children into the system (much like M.E. and Sandhurst etc) and to 'rough the edges' off the ultra-competitive USA model.[1] The major problem was that the USA system leap-frogged this and made University (far too late for such things to matter) and MBAs far more lucrative. The USA basically chose to mold their version, and it didn't turn out too well

[2]

~

#3 No SF posits that sexuality isn't fluid: even the gender binary Sad Puppies recognize that aliens are weird and probably like deviant arrangements. The actual issue is defining "body/mind" (or "soul" etc) as only being "human" when conforming to such distinctions. It's literally an issue that was out of date 3,600 years ago.

#4 Second Chinese team reports gene editing in human embryos Nature, 8th April, 2016

This isn't SF - it's happening. Part of the general concern is that China will approach this akin to the birth rate / population issue. (Ahh.. but wait for it - paranoid Christian Right readers stop before jumping on the bandwagon).

The "worst case" scenario is that the CCCP just go ahead and start mass-editing / uplift. A billion people (now ultra-loyal since their government actually did something for them positive[3]) who are edited. They don't even have to be "super", they just have to be "not flawed".

At which point, sexuality isn't really the issue.

[1]If you have any experience of Games and online play, it's very instructional to note different national stereotypes / attitudes. Let's just say that none of the current Powers come out looking like good societies.

[2]You will not be seeing these documents, no matter the trolling, requests or love.

[3] Trump just went live with "LOL Ted Cruz's dad helped Oswald". Cruz jumped on the bait and went into attack mode. The GOP is officially fucking dead.

227:

Jay's original comment was: "I really don't see much moral difference between using this sort of technology [ie. genetic engineering] to eliminate patriarchy and using it to eliminate homosexuality." You replied that homosexuality was biologically natural. My point was that so is the tendency to male domination, so I don't see how "biologically natural" can be used to justify a distinction between the two.

I allowed your expansion on the naturality of homosexuality to prompt me to expand similarly on the naturality of the tendency to male domination. Perhaps I shouldn't have done, as it seems to have been only a distraction.

Your original proposal to genetically engineer humans to eliminate the tendency to male domination implies that that tendency must be biologically inherent in humans, whether as a specific bit of genetic programming to promote it (which could be removed) or as an emergent effect of the whole genetic makeup (which could be suppressed by some extra code). (Or something between the two...) But if you're saying that it doesn't have a biological origin, then it won't be fixable by editing the genome and the proposal no longer makes sense.

Similarly, if "it's natural" in relation to male domination (which certainly does apply, as it does in other apes) isn't allowed, then it must be disallowed in relation to homosexuality as well.

Nature is not built around human morals, so the "argument from nature" is one that is "dangerous" in that it can lead to morally unpalatable conclusions. Many behaviours that humans regard as reprehensible are widespread in nature. You are quite right that the application of the argument to rape provides an example of its "dangerousness". Countless species practice what humans would describe as rape. Ducks and dolphins are somewhat notorious for it. I've seen pigeons engage in paedophile rape. But I don't see where letting rapists off comes into it, since we're not talking about crime and punishment, we're talking about genetic behavioural modification. What it does do is allow the possibility of extending Jay's original moral equivalence comparison to include a third term, "genetically engineering humans not to rape".

And another such term is: "for x in [things_that_other_species_routinely_do_without_harm] {genetically engineering humans to consider them equally harmless}". The logical end-point: instead of patching the system again and again to deal with one potentially pathological class of input after another, redesign the whole thing so that the concept of a pathological class of input no longer applies.

Note that I have not said at any point "it's natural therefore it's OK". "It's natural" cannot be allowed to have any bearing on "it's OK", otherwise you end up with lots of things being OK which obviously aren't. (Though "it's natural" does mean that humans who refuse to acknowledge its existence are not being sensible.) What we're talking about is the morality of using genetic engineering to patch "it's natural" into compatibility with "it's OK" (or possibly the other way round).

"We're a sentient species. We don't have to blindly persist in following legacy default settings that emerged under environmental constraints we no longer live with."

True (though at present we overwhelmingly do). But "we no longer live with" isn't as true as it is made out to be. One might hope that by the time such genetic engineering as we're discussing becomes practical it will be true, but there is an awkward feedback loop which keeps the constraints in existence, albeit in a different form.

Certainly the immediate biological burden of reproduction has been greatly reduced for a privileged subset of women by reduced infant mortality and effective contraception; but it is still considerable, and cannot be reduced indefinitely, because it is inherent in mammalian reproduction. But society has developed a religious allegiance to the concept of working continuously both in the short and the long term. This has the effect of translating the short-term reproductive burden into a long-term disadvantage. And one result of this disadvantage is to reduce the ratio of women to men who make it to positions where they might be able to change it.

228:

Nature is not built around human morals


Language, Society, the Mind are though.


Want to get real fucking kinky?

Therefore, we argue the insect brain also supports a capacity for subjective experience. In both vertebrates and insects this form of behavioral control system evolved as an efficient solution to basic problems of sensory reafference and true navigation. The brain structures that support subjective experience in vertebrates and insects are very different from each other, but in both cases they are basal to each clade. Hence we propose the origins of subjective experience can be traced to the Cambrian.

What insects can tell us about the origins of consciousness PNAS, May 2nd 2016

~

I can probably dig up the working paper if interested.


~

Translation: anyone who pretends that the theory of Mind isn't important since, I don't know, the fucking Cambrian, is a charlatan of the highest order.

229:

And yes:

That's about 95% of functioning Human Consciousnesses at this point in TIME.


~

Frakking Apes.

230:

Oh, and...

That Radio Head launch:

Burn the Witch YT: music video: 3:59

@Hugh

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub.

Trumpton

231:

The "worst case" scenario is that the CCCP just go ahead and start mass-editing / uplift. A billion people (now ultra-loyal since their government actually did something for them positive[3]) who are edited. They don't even have to be "super", they just have to be "not flawed".

Wow, Catina actually said something reasonable.

The thing about genetic technologies is that they will be available to people who aren't liberals, and they don't tend to make humanity more equal. Exactly the opposite, really.

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub.

And then she had a stack overflow. Can somebody power cycle her?

232:

Yeah. What Pigeon said.

233:

The entire point about the CCCP child issue is that while it has had significant human cost (male/female ratios in statistical gender binary weighting), it was never as severe as portrayed by certain propaganda [mobile vans aborting on mass? unlikely: most studies show a gross inability to actually enforce it, there were major relaxations to it to 'sub-ethnic' groups from the late 1970's on and so forth: were there Crimes Against Humanity? For sure].


But:

China avoided another famine / catastrophe in the post Mao period.

This isn't a small feat in a nation of a billion people.


~

And, actually: the Gene issue is that you're far more likely to have a perfect child [to normative standards] in the CCCP in the early 21st C than in the USA. Think about that very hard and what it says.

[Oh, and if anyone imagines that China / USA ain't G-enging swimmers, you're deluded. Look at the fucking ratios on limbs, it's the easiest hack in the frog-gene book]

~


And then she had a stack overflow. Can somebody power cycle her?

Go read Hugh's posts.

I believe my comment was: "I saw what you did there" (something something Bullfrog Logo)

With the Trip-to-Trumpton song.

Radio Head just released their new album... which is a Trumpton tribute...

And features "Burn the Witch" as the title...

And is a reference to both the old ways of Beltane...

And one I might have said a few times...

And burnt my last persona in honor of...


It's really simple.

I'm a Witch.

234:

Nono, back up a level... those behaviours are all examples of humans reacting negatively to their own natural bodies and functions. The behaviours themselves may not be evolved, but their existence in one form or another is widespread in space and time, and the tendency to that class of behaviour is a uniquely human characteristic. Though I believe germs of it have been detected in one or two other intelligent species. It has the feel of a bug in the mammalian intelligence framework that manifests itself with scaling.

235:

And yes, once you get the jokes...

TIME. YOU'RE NOT GOOD AT IT.

Might make sense.

~

If you're so Minded, imagine I'm tight with Radio Head and so on, or part of the Cabal or just have insider knowledge, so prefigured it all just as a Combat Renegade Advertising Unit.

None of that is true, but it'll help you deal with reality a bit easier.

No Comply Sensor: YT: Music: 2:36.


~

And yes, I'm flirting.


I'm looking for the ones they didn't fucking hunt to extinction and kill.

Cunts.

236:

Lyrics, for reference:

Stay in the shadows
Cheer at the gallows
This is a round up

This is a low flying panic attack
Sing a song on the jukebox that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live

Red crosses on wooden doors
And if you float you burn
Loose talk around tables
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers

This is a low flying panic attack
Sing the song of sixpence that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live
We know where you live

237:

Oh, and..

Cruz just ducked out of the running.


As... predicted.

That Fu*king Nobody Is John Wick YT: video: 3:08


Now we're going to sober up and get really involved, instead of just fucking around with your shitty little networks.

238:

No surprise. You don't bring Carly on board if you're not planning layoffs.

240:

Cruz jumped on the bait and went into attack mode. ...
Cruz just ducked out of the running.
The main climate-change denial/climate action obstructionist party in the world, collapsing (or at least apparently imploding, and then possibly reforming in the future). (Smile)
There is a joke among the American left-of-center that President B. Obama's superpower is that his opponents tend to self-destruct. Perhaps he has allies. The American loony-right has been spinning pathetic conspiracy theories about a conspiracy to destroy the GOP for at least a year now, maybe more. (I've been feeling a vibe for far longer than that, fwiw.)

241:

I think Cruz brought Carly on board in an attempt to deny her a place as Trump's VP.

I say this because (as Republicans see it) in order to run against Hillary Clinton it is necessary to attack her vigorously and in a highly ugly and personal fashion, which is difficult if you're a man. (Man attacking woman looks mean.) This makes a female VP candidate necessary for the Republicans to run their kind of race.

Republicans love Carly, and she was the obvious choice as Clinton attacker-in-chief, so Cruz grabbed her as his VP choice (and she was clueless enough to take the job) so now Trump can't select her.

If anyone believes that Cruz wasn't planning to drop out if he didn't win Indiana, I have a bridge to sell you... and my apologies if this is a little incoherent, it's been a long day and I'm falling asleep.

242:

Translation: anyone who pretends that the theory of Mind isn't important since, I don't know, the fucking Cambrian, is a charlatan of the highest order.
Not even wrong.
Fist of all what is: "Mind"?
Answer: - a false construct left-over form Cartesian dualism.
Mind is probably/actually an emergent effect of neurons & electrochemistry in a meat-brain.

Or in shorthand, more mystical claptrap.

243:

"And the "defectives"? - kill them. Yeah, right."

No, wrong. Very wrong. It is people like you who are running the biggest eugenics program in history

https://medium.com/@dirk.bruere/eugenics-and-transhumanism-e458d43389b5#.jo1pqtwvu

244:

Yes - the Chinese doing Human embryo gene editing.
So they basically told the Xian based Western moralists to go fuck themselves (literally). It was fist punching in the air time for me and the rest of the H+ crew.
Of course, the first time they did it their paper was rejected by both Science and Nature magazines largely because they didn't like the "ethics". Screw science - we might offend the religious people etc.
So China has my full support in this, not that they need it.
And yes, when it comes to the usual moralizing "West" - we can just continue to fuck ourselves in traditional manner.
Because China is leading the way to the real future.
BTW, China is getting into senolytics in a big way as well.

245:

"The thing about genetic technologies is that they will be available to people who aren't liberals, and they don't tend to make humanity more equal."

No, the point is that CRISPR is making it so easy and cheap that in 30 years everyone and their dog will be doing it. Google Liz Parrish for starters.
We will start by editing out undesirable features ie genetic defects. And different nations will have different definitions as to what constitutes a defect.

Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend.

246:

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub.

...And then she had a stack overflow. Can somebody power cycle her?

Naah, you're just showing you're ignorant of beloved British childhood cultural tropes. She even gave you a reference (Trumpton -- not Half Man Half Biscuit, or even Hot Fuzz).

247:

Greg, go and google 'theory of mind' -- and use the quotes, okay? ToM is a fairly respectable term that does not mean what you seem to think it means -- I'm deploying it in making that inference, in fact.

248:

I know. I was just trying to play along with her whole "what if Max Headroom read way too much Chomsky" conceit.

249:

You realize those "flowers" are babies, right? What you're describing is less "philosophical debate in the Athenian agora" and more "Battle Royale High School".

250:

Jay, you are now officially Becoming Annoying.

(Not just you: Pigeon and Ian S as well.)


Please re-read sections 2 and 3 of the Moderation Policy.

CD/HB just spent a week in the sin bin for annoying me; you guys are getting close to the edge.

251:

Google Liz Parrish for starters.

So I Googled and my bullshit, witchcraft and snake oil alarms went off. Your point being?

And in the spirit of scepticism I give you (admittedly they have an agenda)

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2987609/crispr_and_the_three_myths_of_precise_genome_editing.html

Crispr aint likely to be a genetic magic wand.

252:

(Not just you: Pigeon and Ian S as well.)

Hmm, not exactly sure what I'm supposed to have done. Haven't even been talking about the homosexuality thread, just the difficulty of actually imagining alternative heavens that work.

However, if I'm somehow winding someone up, I'll stop with the discussion here.

Pity.

253:

I'm starting by asking, "if you posit really good epigenetic modification and genetic engineering, how would you redesign humanity in order to prevent oppressive cultural forms such as patriarchy or racism from taking hold?"

That's a position I can accept from Science Fiction authors but would hate to see realized in practice. The possibilities of failure and/or misuse are just to great to allow it in the real world.

254:

"Crispr aint likely to be a genetic magic wand."

It is just the first of a whole forest of magic wands. As for imprecision, you check to see if your organism develops as expected and if not you throw it away and do it again. Works as well with human embryos as with fruit flies.
And with some 50 million abortions a year please don't start wittering on about "morality" and "sanctity of life" and all those other dog whistle religious phrases.

255:

That's a position I can accept from Science Fiction authors but would hate to see realized in practice. The possibilities of failure and/or misuse are just to great to allow it in the real world.

Yes, which is why it belongs in SF: a thought-experiment laboratory rather than Dr Mengele's lab.

Hint: space opera, set ~0.5-1MYa out, in a future where humanity has speciated to fit a whole bunch of new environments, on terraformed, artificial, and settled-as-found worlds. What can you do with that kind of setting? Discuss.

256:

NOTE: If you just noticed a brief blog outage/database error message, it was because I had to do an urgent system update because of a frigging zero-day exploit in an image processing script. If you can see this comment, I just changed the back door lock.

257:

...those behaviours are all examples of humans reacting negatively to their own natural bodies and functions. The behaviours themselves may not be evolved, but their existence in one form or another is widespread in space and time, and the tendency to that class of behaviour is a uniquely human characteristic

Could it be that the widespread nature of such behaviour is simply due to a human desire to "be like others" and to find group acceptance? No genetics required?

Regarding clothing, we're tool users. Perhaps we should regard clothing as a tool that allowed us to spread to hostile climates; no surprise that there's a secondary use of clothing as an group identifier, much like plumage. I can see a desire for hunter-gatherers to cover genitals, but as a protective layer - catching your testicles on a bush is going to smart a bit...

My point remains that this is culturally driven behaviour, not genetic. At most, the cultural memes have evolved - but that's evolution of ideas, not a genetic predisposition to the wearing of Y-fronts[1].

Otherwise, how would you consider an evolutionary drive towards Mormon "Temple garments"? These are covert group signifiers, rather than overt ones like turbans, Regimental ties, or sports team shirts...

[1]...although there are parts of the world where wearing the wrong colours / sports shirt, sorry plumage, can damage your chances at passing on your genes[2], it's not exactly having an epigenetic effect. There are still muppets spending three-figure sums on "their team's" shirts...

[2]...I suppose wearing really smart clothes[3] might enhance your chances of passing on your genes, I'd hope people weren't shallow enough for it to have a statistically significant effect :)

[3] :) my wife did suggest that my dress uniform was enough to make her question her motives, it was just as well we were going out long before she saw me in one.... :)

Well past 200 posts, I can get light-hearted :)

258:

@Charlie: Somewhat of an aside and apropos of nothing in this thread (other than the ongoing intersection of your work and what we charitably continue to call "real life"); has anyone drawn you attention to promonent mention of your old "Why I Want Bitcoin to Die In a Fire" blog entry in this BBC article: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36191165

259:

Yes, I noticed that.

If that post had still been open to comments I would have. But since it's a closed entry, I didn't think I need to give a warning.

260:

And with some 50 million abortions a year please don't start wittering on about "morality" and "sanctity of life" and all those other dog whistle religious phrases.

Im beginning to see why Greg responds to some of your posts like they are dog whistles - blind terror from previous statements of yours I suspect.

Leaving aside for a moment that lots of people who have thought about this longer and harder than me would have trouble with your statements from an ethical point of view, what happens when those apparently healthy embryo's are allowed to develop into conscious thinking human beings - which then go onto develop major genetic problems?

261:

I get your allergy to biological determinism and fabricating just-so stories to explain convenient biases. "This is why white men should rule the world; if we weren't clearly fit, why are we in charge?" And I agree that we as thinking beings should determine which behaviors are acceptable. It's natural for male chimps to murder baby chimps so the mother will be free to bear a new child with his genes. That's natural but we find it unacceptable behavior for people. But I think it would be good to know what the origin of that sort of behavior is if we hope to correct it in society.

What I find dangerous is the idea of behaviors that might be politically undesirable. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness and 19th century moral hygienists would have been happy to have a method for excising it from society. The inventor of cornflakes was a Christian anti-masturbationist and would likewise have desired to remove the behavior. We as a society believe pedophilia is undesirable and have an age of consent set at 18. Why not 16 or 21? Because we picked 18. The research shows many pedophiles are wired that way, the same way as a heterosexual would be, and we know the compulsions and awful behaviors that can come from a "normal" sex drive and orientation.

I wonder at the sorts of societies that could develop if we actually do develop methods for brain hacking. We can imagine the horrors of a conservative theocracy brain-hacking and we can imagine similar horrors for a nominally atheistic dictatorship like the USSR. They're both flavors of authoritarianism. I think we can also imagine how absolutely altruistic edits by well-intentioned, good-hearted people could go wrong.

262:

Please don't try and turn this into an abortion debate.

You know that can only lead to tears before bed-time.

263:

Gawd no, agreed.

Was desperately trying to avoid that, when I should have kept schtum on the whole post.

Derail abandoned.

264:

Re What insects can tell us about the origins of consciousness, Barron and Klein (2016)
Carved out a little time today to read that paper. It is indeed mind stirring (and exhilarating). (Have only a tiny background in the area, almost none of it recent.)

Will assume that you have read it and at least some of the relevant references (146 of them!); do you have an opinion on it that you're willing to share? (And what references are key?)
The section "Moving Forward on Invertebrate Consciousness", where the authors suggest approaches to further testing their argument, seems reasonable. (A temporal dimension to neural simulation of the state of the mobile animal in space seems maybe important; I know we're bad at time. :-)

I'm pretty receptive to their argument (or at least to Merker's argument about vertebrates) at the moment, lately spending a fair bit of time daily on proprioception exercises (in the dark). Various things influence the (personally observed) accuracy of positional proprioception; in particular, ignoring the visual cortex stuff and other mind fluff improves accuracy down to a few millimeters (or better) for the hands. That is, the mental model of state in space (and current instant) improves with less cortex involvement. Adding time (especially the short-term futures) to the model seems to make it less accurate.

265:

Anent positional proprioception: some artists do "blind drawing", which is drawing without looking at the paper. It's supposed to improve one's powers of observation and enhance one's style. Here are three examples of mine: dogs from a dog show at a local fête; a customer in a café; and a cartoon of Frankie Howerd from the 1960 Radio Fun Annual. I drew the last from memory, the others are from life.

Blind drawings are usually just thrown away, but I like the feeling of vitality they give, so I'd be interested in any hints on improving my accuracy.

266:

Note for lay readers:

There is no single "gay" gene; There is no single "intelligence" gene; There is no single "happiness" gene; There is no single "Mostly Anything[1]" gene.

What will be targeted is stuff like disabilities / gene malfunctions / diseases.

Of course, the Black Bag stuff (or Black Man if we're referencing SF) will happen anyhow.


You're thinking about this incorrectly.

What happens if, say, you can hack everyone with that nice gene edit that provides a statistical protection against lung cancer (handy if your environment is kinda fucked), heart disease or any of the top #20 medical killers? [Malpractice being #19 in the UK, #3[2] allegedly in the USA].


Hint: you just saved your Nation-States' medical / drug bill to the tune of trillions over even half or a quarter of the average human lifespan, and at the same time raised both life expectancy and mortality rates.

Suddenly Russia [vodka - trust me, death via alcohol isn't a pleasant one, *raises a glass Socrates Style*], the USA and other models start to look.

Well.

A bit barbaric / ancient / insulting.

[1]Exceptions do not prove this rule and be careful mistaking physical with mental in your model. i.e. the gene for limb expression =/= gene for sexuality.

[2] Search for the paper yourself. It's probably a bit dubious.

267:

I'd say:

I'd need a blog of my own and a few weeks to actually make a sensical post on this, and even then I'd defer to experts in the field(s).


I'd go looking for papers on octopuses first: our understanding of them is fragile / leaky / missing as it is and they're way up the clade from insects.

Actually, I'd just find most of the corpus of behaviouralism and nuke the fucker from space, but I tend to the over-dramatic.

268:

I am not running ANY "Eugenics programme" whatever your deluded religious viewpoint might imagine.
I think we should stop this, right now, OK?

269:

Ah, right (maybe)
Two almost-identical phrases, meaning two totally different things.
Very confusing

270:

Didn't James Blish do just that, once upon a day ( IIIRC?)

271:

I think we can also imagine how absolutely altruistic edits by well-intentioned, good-hearted people could go wrong.
There's a famous quote from, of all people, C S Lewis on just that subject, about a dictatorship that exists for your own good ....
Yuck

272:

Somewhere in my library I have a book written more than 40 years ago where that has happened. Some of the drama comes simply from a number of these humans travelling across the galaxy together and having to learn to get on and accept each other as humans, despite their differences in size and looks.
Of course it would also fit into mil-sf or conservative sf or just about any part of the genre that is a simple riff on racism in space.
A more nuanced approach, well I'd have to think about that.

273:

You seem to be suffering from a highly developed case of Propaganda Hume Disease.


Quick question:

Why do you think the CCCP both enacted and saw fit to develop their "one child"[1] policy?

Possible answers:

#1 They're evil Communist bastards who hate the world and simply wanted to murder innocent SOULS in the form of innocent CHILDREN to spite G_D.

#2 They saw the history of their country [last 200 years] and wanted to prevent another multi-million death count due to famine and revolution and misery (which would also include their party being strung up and put to the gallows).

#3 They were highly advanced thinkers on Deep Green issues and wanted to minimize their impact on the pristine nature and ecology under their control.


There's loads more.


But if you're playing Probability and Possibility, I'm thinking one of those is a bit more likely than the others.

[1] That was never one child for all, btw.

274:

Greg was right, "THe seedling stars" by James Blish.

275:

"Pantropy".

I was about to link a PDF of it, but it looks like
Victor Gollancz Ltd still hold the rights (2001).

1957 - 2001.

59 years.

It's kinda a cusp issue.


Surface Tension vrs Surface Detail.


I'm 100% not from your time-line.

276:

I apologise for being annoying.

Unfortunately I do not know what I'm supposed to have done, apart from not understanding something and then being misunderstood in turn. None of the specifics listed in item 3 of the moderation policy apply, and it is beyond me to figure out anything beyond the list (since after all I do not know you).

Therefore in order to avoid doing it again, I shall not comment further to this item (unless it may be to answer a reply from yourself to this post).

277:

Interesting one:

In May 2014, Amazon.com stopped taking pre-order sales of Hachette books, citing a breakdown in negotiations over commission and ebook pricing. According to Hachette, Amazon had also stopped discounting its books, sending prices of Hachette titles in the U.S. to more than twice what they were selling for in the UK.

It's one of the 'Big Five' vrs Amazon.

Better not post that PDF then (!).


~

The joke is that 'Pantropy' is 100% the opposite of Corporate models.

278:

From memory of my drawing classes, the chief benefit of blind drawing is that it forces you to look at the subject, not the paper. It's too easy otherwise to draw what you think you see rather than what is really there. Also makes you more aware of general shape and outline rather than individual details.

So to improve, just keep doing it. Then allow yourself to look at the paper every so often, for instance when there's an unavoidable transition from one contour to another.

279:

And yes: The CCCP isn't responsible.

CPC / PRC.


Then again, I don't carry snowballs into the Senate and expect that this would be a mature form of Republic / government for the leading Power-Bloc on the Planet.

Note: Sen. Jim Inhofe has "20 kids and grandkids" (from his website, that appears to be hacked / destroyed / ineptly coded).

http://www.inhofe.senate.gov/biography

Yes: note the error code and actual link:

"http://serve-403-cfpremium.www.senate.gov/biography"

~

Après nous le déluge


Sorry Jim, Google's got you cached. And they're gonna fucking eat your children (alive).

280:

FIRST
Get your facts straight.
"One Child" was PRC, NOT SSSR ......
Secondly, don't ask stupid questions, even for "effect" unless that was a deliberate wind-up, which is even worse ....
You are being tiresome, AGAIN

281:

What happens is everyone goes mad on genetic hacks without fully modelling the long term consequences of said hacks, then new and interesting failure modes appear, of which some just kill you, and others force significant changes on society, say because it enhances the formation of senile plaques in the recipients early 50's. Logan's Run remixed.

Lots of good material for a novel.

See one of the sub-plots of Cory Doctorow's Maker's for an example.

282:

"That is, the mental model of state in space (and current instant) improves with less cortex involvement."

Tell me more! I rely VERY heavily on touch and proprioreception, and really notice the difference in accuracy (as well as speed) when I have learnt the relevant reflexes. 'Muscle memory' (actually spinal cord) is still a vertebrate phenomenon, though.

283:

Back in the 1970s, there was an academic meeting on forthcoming uses of DNA analysis. I pointed out that the known results of computational complexity meant that we would NEVER be able to predict development from the DNA, but it was some decades before the biologists even began to accept that.

284:

Well, host was pointing towards a more Utopian version of SF.

It's not as if KRAS isn't being worked on heavily, e.g.

Overall, these results indicate that Kras DNA vaccine produces an effective antitumor response in transgenic mice, and may be useful in treating lung cancer-carrying Ras mutation.

DNA vaccine elicits an efficient antitumor response by targeting the mutant Kras in a transgenic mouse lung cancer model. 2014, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan

or that new therapeutic antibody drugs aren't coming online: Pembrolizumab - 2015/6.

or (product placement):

Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) is an attractive DNA immune therapy target in cancer immunotherapy. High levels of hTERT have been detected in more than 85% of all human cancers, while normal cells showed undetectable levels of telomerase expression. Immunological analysis indicated that the hTERT is a widely applicable target recognized by T-cells and can be potentially used as a universal cancer vaccine.

INO-1400 SynCon® immunotherapy for cancers expressing hTERT

Note: I've not done due diligence on the product, but it looks like a real biotech (although... as with those blood test peeps, who knows these days?), although the PR friendly spin sites have pieces such as DNA vaccine protects non-human primates against MERS virus Vaccine News, Aug 2015 - same company.

Then again, looking at it, they're doing this all on a $8-12 mil budget / Q.

~
And GPUs these days, you play around with free software: GenoExp. Seems legit, GenoExp: A web tool for predicting gene expression levels from single nucleotide polymorphisms PDF, Oxford Bioinformatics, Jan 2015 from Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel / University of Washington.

Have a play around, see if it impresses or not (it's free!). You need a raw genotype file, but that's the kind of thing I suspect H+ types might have lying around.

Oh, and Google is setting its GO bot on the NHS -
Google's DeepMind shouldn't suck up our NHS records in secret Guardian May 4th 2016


~

Link dump aside, chances are if you slap enough propaganda behind it & offer to change people's health for the better, they'll willingly give consent to live tests.

285:

Was bamboozling juries who don't understand probability theory on the list?

286:

I'll be charitable and assume the joke implied relied on the "maximum ignorance" principle.

In response, I'll just note that the (current) proposed solution relies upon a universal average.

Meow.

Still, if someone is playing Judge, I'll freely submit to being Danton.


p.s.

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys, how's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"

'Plain old untrendy troubles and emotions' David Foster Wallace.

287:

"...what happens when those apparently healthy embryo's are allowed to develop into conscious thinking human beings - which then go onto develop major genetic problems?"

Which is a very good point, and the only argument worth considering (for me) when talking about the ethics of enhancement.
The basic answer is that gene tweaks can go wrong for one of two reasons:

a) A simple engineering mistake - in which case it will be picked up in full genome scans further down the line before there is a fully formed fetus. Then we do what nature does - abortion.

b) A gene tweak that is correctly engineered by which has unforeseen consequences later in life. For most of the stuff that is already on the table, such as mods to eliminate genetic diseases and simple cosmetic procedures (height, eye color, hair color, maybe pain response) it is unlikey there will be any. OTOH more speculative ones, for example tweaks that increase oxygen carrying capacity of blood, a myostatin block or enhanced telomerase production it's a bit more uncertain. However, we can see what happens when these occur naturally. The most risky are going to be mods involving large numbers of genes in attempts to (say) boost intelligence. I guess will will have to find out experimentally. But that is at a guess a couple of decades away.

288:

By "people like you" I meant those who support both genetic screen and abortion. That is eugenics.

289:

"...humans travelling across the galaxy together and having to learn to get on and accept each other as humans, despite their differences in size and looks."

Which is reasonable, up to a point. That latter being when genetic divergence is so great we are talking different species. And doubly so if there are large intelligence variations between those species. Then we are back to alien aliens.

290:

We don't need to predict development from DNA. We just need to look for existing examples, and/or experiment. Just single gene tweaks with known side effects can power the tech for the next 50 years when it comes to human enhancement.
Bear in mind that much "enhancement" will involve removing known defects.

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-study-pinpoints-two-genes-that-increase-risk-for-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

"In 2012, his team discovered that PTSD was more common in survivors who carried two gene variants associated with depression. "

291:

"So I Googled and my bullshit, witchcraft and snake oil alarms went off. Your point being?"

So, your alarms went of for which reason?:

a) The gene tweak she did does not work in animals

b) The gene tweak she did does not work in humans (which rather puts the cart before the horse because she is the first to try it)

c) She did not actually do it and is just BSing

d) She cynically put her health at risk to get a decade head start on a $trillion industry?

My point being, the technology already exists and is waiting for people to actually use it on humans.

292:

I can't remember, but it's judges that are the problem :-( The RSS one went as far as filing an amicus curiae brief to the court of appeal, but was ignored on the grounds that lawyers know better than statisticians.

293:

"Single gene tweaks with known side effects"? The point is that there are no such things. Even if a gene already exists, it isn't possible to tell what the consequences would be of making it universal. As I said, it's basic complexity theory, and has been proven in the field to apply to DNA!

294:

Well, there's the perfection needed by science to make a case, and then there is "good enough" for engineering.
Are you seriously suggesting that if we eliminated the HTT alleles causes the Huntington's Disease we might inadvertently release a plague of werewolves somewhere down the line? Because, you cannot know what the knock on effects might be...

295:

In this case the engineering under discussion would, in order to meet engineering standards, require quite extraordinary levels of care and precision. You seem to think that engineering doesn't think such things are important; engineering nowadays is a lot more complex than it used to be.
As for plagues of werewolves, some would like that, but what is more likely is that you'd get rid of Huntington's disease but, in a susceptible sub-section of the populace cause a massive increase in some other rare disease, which then needs treating, and so on. Elderly Cynic is entirely correct to be both cynical and very very careful.

296:

You make a fine apologist for keeping genetic diseases around. Perhaps you would like to release some smallpox and polio, because ecosystems are so complex we have no idea what their eradication might lead to...

297:

Indeed, we have no idea, only some decades of research and a decent idea.

298:

In any case there are at least 2 facilities that can reintroduce smallpox any time if we collectively decide that eradication was a mistake.

299:

I suggest that you read up about the relevant areas - not in the tabloids or Genetics For Dummies, but in the real scientific and medical literature. An elementary book that may be of interest is "The Survival of the Sickest", but the issues it describes are well-known. An interesting example of what can go wrong is the practice of hygiene (and possibly innoculations against most common diseases). We have good (if thoroughly inconclusive) evidence that it is one factor in the explosive increase in the number of auto-immune diseases (including type I diabetes), and there is some evidence for a lot of other such effects (including that coeliac disease may have a protective effect against breast cancer).

http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/51/12/3353.full
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/breast-cancer/about/risks/breast-cancer-protective-factors

The simple fact is that the human genome and its expression is about as large and complex as a large and complex computer system, and we have a great deal of practical experience to back up the theory. It's common for emergent problems to appear after decades of use by tens of millions of instances in areas completely unrelated to where the issue actually is.

300:

I'm trying to think of which logical fallacy you've just demonstrated...

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

Black-or-white, or Composition/division?

301:

I'd personally like to keep those diseases (small pox and polio) around in labs so we can study them, as they are potentially very useful in understanding other things. Same for various flus.

As for genetic diseases, we need to be careful in wholesale elimination from the genome of some diseases. As some of the diseases have ties to survival traits. The easiest known one being Sickle-cell's link to malaria resistance.

There's a difference though between removing those genes entirely and controlling the expression. I think wholesale editing should be reserved for extreme cases, and even then we should be looking at controlling the expression of the gene rather than removal until we know more. We need huge libraries of data to see this stuff.

A great example is Emery-Driefuss which effects muscle development and Dunnigan-type Lipodystrophy which effects insulin resistance and causes fat loss. It's taken years of study to fine out these things. We're luck in a sense because of a woman who did extensive genetic research had both disorders and sough out extensive studies to help identify the genes. Heck, Dunnigan-type Lipodystrophy is arguably something people might want to induce, despite the risk of pancreatitis.

Otoh preventing fat storage might not be awesome if we don't have an iron clad food system.

Let alone neuro stuff. We need more time, far more studies, and more samples before we can say what is safe to edit.

302:

Tell me more! I rely VERY heavily on touch and proprioreception, and really notice the difference in accuracy (as well as speed) when I have learnt the relevant reflexes.


(Also Jocelyn Ireson-Paine @265)

Sure.
[What may sound like wu follows. Trust me please, it is not wu, at least mostly not wu. Also, I'll wager that something like it is in some field's literature; if not it should be.]
The proprioception exercises I was talking about are ad-hoc and roughly karate Kata and similar softer movements (think Tai Chi and mime), done in the dark with eyes closed. These are large movements, but the positions of body parts, especially hands and feet, are critical in these types of movements.
A basic test of (relative) positional accuracy is to (no vision) touch one part of the body with another; e.g. starting with arms in a T position, touch the tip of the right little finger to the tip of the left forefinger.
I have been noticing that the accuracy of this type of motion improves if [what feels like] a cognitive layer of proprioception is ignored. Visualization of the position of the body parts is particularly disruptive to accuracy. There is subjectively a layer of proprioception which is just awareness of relative position and does not include higher level mind functions. This layer is very accurate but can only be fully accessed by ignoring (or turning down/suppressing) the other stuff.
If you can't accomplish this ignoring by just willing it, meditation is a good avenue. There are a large variety of meditation methods to achieve some form of blank mind state and these are a good start; once such a state can be achieved at will, it can be adjusted to selectively ignore (or turn down) just certain parts of the mind. Another (perhaps better) approach is to [what feels like] shape the mind so that the noisy parts of the mind only cover part of the mind's body model, e.g. just the head and not the lower parts of the body e.g. limbs.
By accident I started with Yoga Nidra (wu warnings but interesting) which is a deeper state than achieved in most meditation. Yoga Nidra is typically entered through an extended body scan (#1 is a beginner method) which can be thought of as a scripted proprioception exercise, so it might be a good choice here. A recording or guide is not really necessary.

303:

A quick question (non-naughty) to all those nay-saying rapid uptake on CISPRA etc:

Do you think the PRC hasn't looked at the USA [specifically health / BMI trends & medical costs not to mention the Trump factors], Japan [
Number of children in Japan declines for 35th straight year to hit record low Japan Times, 4th May 2016] and Germany (immigration to offset lower birth rates, something Japan doesn't do) and has not thought:

We have a billion(+) people, we cannot have any of these scenarios play out in any manner because the country would disintegrate into millions of deaths, economic collapse and India is right next door with the same kinds of issues.

At which point I'd put money on more radical solutions looking very tempting, even if the long term worries do exist. i.e. the Blade Runner trade-off.

~

I apologize for this extended derail. Just reading up on Nestle's 'Water 2050' internal report (If the rest of the world ate like Americans, the planet would have run out of freshwater 15 years ago, according to the world’s largest food company. The Reveal, April 22nd 2016): as ever, they knew a long time ago that things were going to get messy, a la oil majors.

304:

Bill, what do you think to the following? Imagine a Templar Cross



painted on a graphics tablet or displayed on the screen of a a tablet computer. I look at it once, then trace it blind with a stylus. A program works out where my stylus is, and if it has wandered from the cross, gives feedback by sounding a tone whose pitch or volume depends on how far it has wandered. I had wondered whether this would teach me to blind draw more accurately? One artist I've spoken to thinks it would, and would be very worthwhile trying. I've not had time to work out the necessary software, though. Does that sound similar to any forms of proprioception training you know of?

305:

A program works out where my stylus is, and if it has wandered from the cross, gives feedback by sounding a tone whose pitch or volume depends on how far it has wandered.

Don't know of anything like that, which could just be ignorance. Imagining it several times, it seems like it would be really helpful. I tried a couple of times with suppression of a visual model of the cross and that too seemed to be possible.
The feedback would best be very subtle or even deferred, at least for me.
I don't do UI software, so that part is not my thing. :-)

306:

Tying in your interest in spatial stuff & the insect subconsciousness paper, it has had a little discussion over at Conscious Entities where at least one serious professor (Space, self, and the theater of consciousness PDF A Trehub, 2005) who is the main author behind the retinoid model of consciousness is mulling it over.

He views consciousness as primarily located in the subjective experience of 3D/4D.

I'm not a subscriber to that particular theory (the "post-retinal dynamic buffer in the brain" lacks actual data behind it, as far as I have seen - p.18 in the PDF above shows the schema, here is the reference to it being a 'retinoptically and spatiotopically organized arrays of excitatory autaptic neurons' - it is serious enough a theory to feature in anthologies of current thinking on ToM. For a crash-course in such structures, try Excitatory and inhibitory autaptic currents in isolated hippocampal neurons maintained in cell culture PDF SALK Institute, 1991
) but it might interest people.

It's not woo, at the very least.

307:

Basically, all of those systems work by training your reflexes ('muscle memory'). That takes a LOT longer to learn than conscious learning but, once learnt, is learnt for life (e.g. riding a bicycle). And the only conscious control is 'do this', so thinking harder doesn't help - and, as you say, may well hinder - you need practice, practice, practice. Ballet, tai chi, whatever.

308:

I'm always wary of the "it's unconscious, just do it, don't think about it" description of deeply-trained skills... I'm not disagreeing with you, I've just seen too many coaches who directed their pupil to "just get on with it" at too early a stage in the skill acquisition process.

I've spent thousands of hours on the range, trying to master skills with a target rifle; and thousands of hours trying to master the bagpipes - but in both cases the training very definitely involves conscious analysis, and conscious changes intended to improve or refine technique. Granted, the best results come from trusting the bedded-in technique, and allowing the subconscious to just get on with it - but it doesn't prevent you changing how it works.

I'd also note that skill fade happens, even with those deeply-learned skills. When I stopped training seriously, I was still able to compete at a high level for a couple of years; but then the performance started to fall off more quickly. The basic skill remains; but the high-end ability has mostly gone...

309:

Thanks for the links.
This A. Trehub piece at researchgate is helpful. I'll need to read and think a lot more about the retinoid model to form a reasonable judgement of it, but the investigative framework parts of the document are reasonable.
Many of these people (e.g. the ones in the comment section at conciousentities.com) need to spend more time testing their own consciousness and figuring out how to communicate their findings so that they can be tested by others, which is (as I read it, though not directly said) one of Trehub's points.

A. Trehub (comment section at conciousentities.com):
Incidentally, it is my guess that all mammals are conscious, as well as birds and some Cephalopoda.
That's my shortlist of what should not be deliberately killed for food. Hoping to not add other clades to that list (including ones that include those).

I was sort-of pinged today by a colleague from many years ago who is currently working on neuroanatomy-inspired AI models. (This blog is very ... observed, and always has been.) Wondering now about the details of the company's current favorite models. (Perhaps not published.) If they're lurking, please consider sharing. :-)

310:

That's true when the movements are done quickly. Slow, intentional movements, particularly if made up on the fly, are different. At any rate, it's worth trying to independently access the various inputs that are aggregated into proprioception. The relative positional model [which subjectively seems to be] built only from direct sensory inputs is definitely more accurate (for me) than a model that includes inputs from derived/computed mental models.
Which seems reasonable.


311:

Oh the fun at historic fencing practise recently as some of us try to learn a late 19th century French sabre method, which uses different blocks from the standard simple british military sabre. First few weeks we'd block the old way when we felt under pressure, defaulting to the old method.

312:

I was staying away for a while, but I thought you all might like to know that we're apparently living in the Chthulucene epoch.

http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-dawn-of-cthulhucene-retrospective.html

I now humbly return to time-out

313:

Certainly doable. As someone with GUI programming skills I'd recommended from best to worst:

* Custom program running on iPad Pro
* On a Microsoft Surface
* On a regular Mac/Windows desktop with a Wacom
* On a regular Mac/Windows desktop with a mouse
* A web implementation in JavaScript, running on any of the above

The ranking is based on how capable the system is in fast tracking, fast response time, and precision. But I'm frankly guessing at how important that would be. The web JavaScript version might turn out to be good enough.

I would worry a bit that you might be mistaking the exercise for the goal. If you just want to be really good at blind line/contour drawing, sure. But you would not be exercising your awareness of proportion and shade and composition.

314:

Thank you for those links (although, sadly, I then had to parse the back-lash against her [looking @ you, Boston University Anthro Department - let me guess how many 'crusades' and 'conquests' you've had on field trips. This is probably slander[1], but sigh at the inanity of it all: hatchet job of the highest "MM MM POSTMODERN IS ALL RUBBISH RR RR VIRTUE SIGNALLING AA AA POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD" type there]) but hey, made me feel slightly less alien.

And pretty cool.

So, a sincere thank you. Made my day.

~
Visa Vie: Blindness - thanks for the extra-level zap there.

I forgot how badly wired all that Templar iconography is in your minds: conspiracy sites, Scottish football fans (Glasgow), the Breivik lot (and worse), garters and dress-up in old-style power functions and even the odd genuine Christian thing along with the torture parts.

Basilisk indeed.

Anyhow:

If you wanted to go PhD level, pick anything that uses this patent: http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US4325697

If you wanted something fun, looking into child / disability apps.

Nope, completely serious: hand/eye co-ordination is a central part of this (and improving it); as an adult, you merely have to either not peek or load in more complex pictures.


Solution: found.


[1] Until I review his last three papers.

315:

Oh, and, being a mature being who has had zero (0) hours without Light [that means daylight / enforced light before you go all GoT on me with the whole male "Ewww but sudden sagging breasts, I was whipping it out..". It's not pleasant and darkness is required, it's a form of torture] or Noise [no, not linken Park, just that high tonal thang that mimics Tinnitus, but manages to range significantly in both Hrz and volume, depending on regime, and is used as a punishment, it's kinda cute in a way], oh and that whole lack of freedom thing...

For over three years of your time.

Watching Humans squirm between the KuK and the Snake is kinda sad.

Trump is KuK
Hillary is Keket

You're supposed to reject both and sort shit out, not blindly imagine the status quo still exists.

Fucking. Hilarious.

~

This blog is very ... observed, and always has been

Yes, we know.

You're cunts.

Don't expect Zoo Animals to not express some kinds of psychopathy or shit flinging at the walls and so on.

~

And I still have faith in your species. Dumb-mother-fucker I am.

316:

I'm always wary of the "it's unconscious, just do it, don't think about it" description of deeply-trained skills ... I've just seen too many coaches who directed their pupil to "just get on with it" at too early a stage in the skill acquisition process.

It may be useful to remind them of the four stages of learning model. For those who haven't run across it, this abstracts skill acquisition into four stages: Unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence.

As Martin observes, it's not useful to try to push people into the 'just do it' stage when they're still trying to figure out how to do it at all.

317:

...just that high tonal thang that mimics Tinnitus, but manages to range significantly in both Hrz and volume, depending on regime, and is used as a punishment, it's kinda cute in a way...

Are you sure that's not a Linkin Park album?

318:

# 315 appears content-free AGAIN
Sigh

And calling us all "cunts" again.
This is so tiresome

319:

Yes, the case for doing nothing except shiver in the dark because fire might attract monsters.
Than the Gods for the Chinese

320:

Greg, rest assured: Your standard comments on religion and scottish politics are tiresome as well.

But the other commenters here are polite enough to not point that out each and every time you're making one of them. Perhaps you could employ the same politeness towards CD/HB/NN?

Because, frankly, repeatedly reading "comment X appears to be content-free" gets tiresome as well.

321:

It's a rhetorical position I reserve for Luddites

322:

Nope, that's ad-hominem.

When people point out that genetics is a complex problem, that genes have inter-related effects, and that it isn't as simple as "just changing X to cure Y"... you accuse them of Luddism rather than negativism.

It makes it look as if you desperately want to believe in the outcomes, rather than actually understanding the limitations of the science.

323:

In any case the luddites weren't stupid, they were desperate.

If I knew I was about to become economic roadkill in a country with no retraining prospects and no safety nets then I might be tempted to smash a few spinning jennies as well.

324:

The people who say that are usually idiots. People need to be shown what to do enough that they can get into the feedback loop of doing it roughly right, and correcting the errors. If someone doesn't have a clue how to start or is doing entirely the wrong thing, practice alone won't help. And, yes, of course, you lose the edge - but you can regain most of the ground in hours rather than the hundreds of hours it needed to develop the skill in the first place.

325:

I am not convinced, but some of that may be because I have to do that sort of thing on a regular basis, though I rely critically on touch and proprioreception for positioning (I can't do absolute positioning, as needed in drawing and writing). Jocelyn Ireson-Paine's idea is interesting, but the ability to write by hand and draw well isn't always learnable; I am pretty sure than there are genetic causes, and I know there are developmental ones.

326:

"...and that it isn't as simple as "just changing X to cure Y"... you accuse them of Luddism rather than negativism."

That's because most of the time "It can't be done" is shorthand for "I don't want it done and I do not want anyone to try either".

And as I said elsewhere, if a 100% certain scientific prediction of outcome is not possible then that only leaves experiment.

327:

The examples you and Elderly Cynic bring up are not very convincing arguments against genetic manipulation to me.

An interesting example of what can go wrong is the practice of hygiene (and possibly innoculations against most common diseases). We have good (if thoroughly inconclusive) evidence that it is one factor in the explosive increase in the number of auto-immune diseases (including type I diabetes), and there is some evidence for a lot of other such effects…

Hygiene, as for instance in clean drinking water? Making people do food preparation wash their hands? Auto-immune diseases are easier to treat than people dying of cholera.

Even more so for innoculations. Type 1 diabetes is treatable, sterility and death from whooping cough or rubella isn't. Should we have not began child innoculations because we didn't know all the outcomes? Or stop now?

As some of the diseases have ties to survival traits. The easiest known one being Sickle-cell's link to malaria resistance.

Sickle-cell is an awful kludge. It only persists because in Darwinian evolution having some of your children die from sickle-cell anemia is preferable to all of them dying from malaria.

A better solution is to largely eradicate the disease-carrying mosquitos. Most of the population in Europe, Asia, North and South America don't have the sickle-cell gene, they don't die in large numbers from malaria either.

328:

I think you're missing the point - I'm (we're?) not saying it shouldn't be tried, I'm (we're?) saying that it's unlikely to work any time soon.

Complexity, you see.

So, when people point out potential failure modes, they're arguing that it's reason to progress with care. You appear to interpret such reticence as opposition, rather than pragmatism.

329:

I don't know what your medical sources were, but what you said is just plain wrong, pretty well from start to finish. I could go into details, but it's a diversion.

330:

By "any time soon" I assume you mean the next 5 years?

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-05-algorithm-sped-effects-specific-gene.html

"An algorithm is sped up to predict harmful effects from specific gene mutations"

331:

Here's the 101-level Wikipedia article on the hygiene hypothesis; here's a possible mechanism.

Cystic fibrosis genes are protective (for typhoid) and pathological in the same way as sickle-cell trait is. That's two genetic diseases that have persisted in the human gene pool for good reasons. Are you eliminate-the-damn-thing-with-a-gene-drive-and-don't-look-back sure they're the only two?

332:

Martin, we may have different meanings of "unlikely to work" due to complexity.

I don't expect we'll go full bore into Paul di Filippo's Ribofunk world. (Fun though that might be.)

I expect that gene editing will be similar to the changes in medicine and lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, etc) elsewhere. Sure it will complicated. At any time there are various anti-cancer treatments under development, all of which are "unlikely to work" but we keep trying anyway. Even small gains matter to someone.

Or gene editing may turn out to be like fashions in nutrition and exercise. Most of them don't work, quite likely due to complexity. But they rarely do any harm either.

In the case of gene editing, the complexity and interlinking means that, as someone wrote previously, it won't work in sense of magically increasing IQ by 10 points. But it won't be harmful, and we learn something by doing it - the "far more studies" asked for.

333:

Yet there are quite modest gene tweaks that would have major social impact. For example, eliminating depression and setting the Hedonic Treadmill at a higher level. Is a society of happy people better or worse than what we have now?

334:

Given that it's the "predict" part that people are pointing out to you, what part of "complexity" did you miss?

Your link is to a predictive tool, reliant on accurate modelling, in turn reliant upon accurate understanding. It may well detect a huge percentage of all possible errors, but still miss the pathological edge case that arises from a flawed model.

I used to work in electronic design tools; the chip designers these days have tools that support HDL design with a vastly higher degree of confidence in the underlying model, but they still have to put it all together and run it "slow time" on big FPGAs; even then, they still discover flaws after committing to silicon (given that last step can cost eight figures, it makes sense). I can write a short piece of software with sixty or seventy conditional statements; it is impossible to consider every one of the two-to-the-power-sixty possible states that might arise. Jam together several such modules, and we're talking "more possible states than there are atoms in the Universe" territory. Simulate all you want, brute force won't crack it.

Now, that's software / digital electronics - far better models, far better understanding of the environment, far less complex problems. And yet, someone who took a largely-undocumented circuit design, said "we're pretty sure 'that' part does 'this'; so let's just hammer in a few changes, run it through a few regression test scenarios, and then commit to silicon" would be laughed at. If they proposed it for a safety-critical design, they'd be hit over the head repeatedly with the Clue Stick until they went away and came back with a better test plan.

Remember, by definition, this is safety-critical engineering - childrens' lives are at stake. If the choice is "we know that gene causes something hideous" and "it's the only hope of avoiding a shortened and painful life", then maybe - but that is why we have ethics committees.

Suggesting that such things are best done slowly, carefully, and with an acknowledgement that there may be serious and unintended problems isn't Luddism, it's sanity.

335:

Read the hygiene hypothesis and don't see any contradiction with what I wrote.

Hygiene was brought up as an example of what can go wrong, with unforeseen outcomes. I don't challenge the outcomes.

My point is that the unforeseen outcomes are still a lot better than what we had before. In the case of hygiene, according to that Wikipedia article what we had before was not just cholera but also typhoid. I'll take autoimmune disease, thanks.

As for sickle cell trait, I'll quote Wikipedia back at you. In 2013 only 46.2 million people were affected, 3.2 million with the disease and 43 million carriers. Out of a world population (then) of 7.181 billion, that is 0.006 %.

Hell yes we can live without that gene. Nearly all of us already do.

336:

43 million sickle cell carriers is 43 million people protected from dying of malaria (which kills 1.2 million people a year). But my point was not about malaria or typhoid (~150,000 and dropping, for the curious) but the genetic diseases which are side effects of mutations we don't know yet are protective.

337:
Read the hygiene hypothesis and don't see any contradiction with what I wrote.
Where did you get "no clean drinking water," "don't wash food" and "stop vaccinations" in that article? To quote: "No evidence supports the idea that reducing modern practices of cleanliness and hygiene would have any impact on rates of chronic inflammatory and allergic disorders, but a significant amount of evidence that it would increase the risks of infectious diseases" and "Lifestyle changes could increase microbial exposure, but whether this on balance improves the balance of risks remains the subject of research. Proposals include natural childbirth, sustained breast feeding and physical interaction between siblings, and encouraging children to spend more time in 'uncleaned' outdoor environments."
338:

The point is: we set out to eliminate pathogens from our (WEIRD) environment, and largely did so. We did not expect any repercussions whatsoever; there were some. Let's try not be quite so blind next time.

339:

I fully agree we should expect repercussions. Like all good scientists, researchers, and engineers, let's go forward knowing that we might screw up but that a requirement for only 100% guaranteed outcomes means we'll never do anything.

340:

I am not convinced, but some of that may be because I have to do that sort of thing on a regular basis, though I rely critically on touch and proprioreception for positioning (I can't do absolute positioning, as needed in drawing and writing).
OK. You did ask. :-)
Anyway, I tested the accuracy thing last night to the point of statistical significance. 1-3 centimeter miss, 1-4 millimeter hit, repeated. (Fingertip to fingertip starting from T position.) If it could be reduced to a trainable procedure and successfully tested in multiple subjects it might be useful.

Not particularly related except as an anecdote about training- I'm recalling a primary-school science lab (maybe age 10?) where we were testing simple visual-stimulus reaction time by having one person drop a ruler between the dominant-hand thumb and index finger of another who had to catch it upon seeing it start to drop. The teacher thought it should be in the low/mid 200s of milliseconds. I worked out to do it properly then explained it to my workgroup ("don't think!") and shortly all of us were at 140-170 (IIRC) milliseconds. (10-14 centimeters roughly) Since kids are adept at not thinking (not completely a joke :-), this was pretty easy to transfer. The teacher was ... bemused.
Note: a Google search suggests that this is a faster than normal result. Nonetheless, I still occasionally teach kids how to catch a (American) banknote, for fun. Maybe they'll win a pub bet sometime.

341:

Ah so religion is a good idea is it?
You support the idea of a BigSkyFairy who looks after & usually punishes all of us if we transgress his (usually) arbitrary & illogical rules?
Please mount a defence of such position, or, if that is not your position, please tell us what sort of grovelling to imaginary friends it does constitute?

As for "Scottish Politics" my extreme dislike of the arrogant & nannying SNP is well-known. This does not, however, constitute a dislike of Scottish Politics as such, so I think you have what is called a logical fail there ...

342:

Watching Humans squirm between the KuK and the Snake is kinda sad.
Not hearing or seeing much squirming, to be honest, except on the Republican side, and faux squirming in media-land (money to be made!). Not talking with many people who see a status-quo in their future either. Mostly it's cross between a judgment about who might be least-bad to have as US president over the next 4 very-probably-very-turbulent years (and beyond), and an evil philosopher decision problem with 330 million other decision-making participants (for those inclined to thinking). (I don't completely understand the H. Clinton negativity but that's another topic.)

observed
Was talking mid/late 2000s and later; this place has had a slight fishbowl feel for a while. (I've self-censored the whole time.)

And I still have faith in your species.
Thank you.
(Greg, you can interpret that as a :-) )

343:

In this case, being called a luddite means I'm probably doing okay.
I recall years ago reading a letter by an anti-green person (the sort who worship productivity, capitalism, and wouldn't know what happened on an allotment) in a newspaper, claiming that greens were anti-technology and wanted to destroy jobs; he may or may not have called them all luddites. My reply pointed out a study that showed that green tech created lots of jobs, and might have said (I can't recall exactly) that plenty of greens were in favour of nuclear power or indeed solar cells, both of which require both cunning engineering and clever materials science and technology. So not anti-technology at all.

Who has done SF stuff about children born, raised and terminated as test beds for genetic alterations in children of those who can afford such setups? It's in Bujold, sort of, and IIRC Sterling has genetic alteration by a rich person of himself and his family as a bit of background news. Anyone else?


344:

That's not surprising, and it's backed up by a bunch of sports science work done in the USSR and elsewhere. There was an NRA-produced translation from the Russian of "Competitive Shooting" by A.A.Yur'yev that covered reaction times, amongst other things (marry another shooter, end up with two copies on the bookshelf ;) ).

In summary, IIRC, reaction times vary according to how prepared you are for the task at hand. For simple reactive action stuff, that you're ready for and expecting to see ("press button when light goes on"), they observed reaction times of 180ms or less, which reinforces your experiment. However, where choice is involved ("press button if light is green, don't press if red") the reaction times increase to 300ms or so.

It fits with what I observed training with our SCATT system; my "best aim" would happen about 180ms before I pulled the trigger.

345:

It works better if you switch to imagining what kind of consciousnesses get treated like that. i.e. Science / Labs and dissecting octopuses (and Douglas Adams jokes if you want).

The meta-joke is that it's humans in many places.

The meta-meta-joke is that I don't lie.

The meta-meta-meta-joke is that anyone/thing who uses it immediately shows their banality and complexity level.

Of course, the real meta-joke is that it gets less funny and more horrifying each time you skip up a level. There's a couple more.

346:

On one level, "get off my Lawn" applies as a joke, so yes. (The band mentioned is also no longer cutting edge, which is the meta part - the "gotcha" part, you're as ancient as I in the Mind of your average 14 year old teenager).

The other side is not:

Controlling Sound: Musical Torture from the Shoah to Guantánamo The Appendix, Aug 2013, Melissa Kagen, Stanford University

Interesting and rather unique piece that - while Schindler's List likes to show that those running the camps saw their taste in classical music to denote superiority, it fails to show the true horror of 'education and salutation' to the inmates.

It's also a bit light-weight and misses huge swathes of other examples in its desire to link the two types of camp (e.g. Music and ‘Re-Education’ in the Soviet Gulag PDF, Torture, Vol. 23 - spoilers, uses the same 're-education / uplift' angle, nothing new), but not a bad effort.

~

I was perhaps alluding to something a little different.

YMMV.

347:

(That's a Maltese Cross from the Knights Hospitaller. The Templar's cross was more in the shape of a cross pattée, also the cross of the Teutonic Knights which then has some lineage to the Iron Cross.)

348:

Martin, I have a question for you.

If we had "proceeded with care" since 1750, would we have had the industrial revolution?

349:

I don't completely understand the H. Clinton negativity
Oh come on, it's obvious.
Not got a "Y" chromosome .....

350:

Of course. And we'd have landed on the moon, etc, etc.

"With care" doesn't have to mean slowly, it means thoughtfully. It doesn't mean avoiding risk, it means understanding it and, where necessary, accepting it.

I used to train infantry soldiers; the difference between a successful training exercise and a potential board of inquiry wasn't the physical exertions involved, or the fact that we were flinging high-velocity metal around. It was how well you understood potential failure modes and mitigated them - risk assessment. I'm not a "health and safety" nut, but I certainly wasn't a cowboy...

By way of example, I finished my time in the reserves instructing at the same UOTC where I'd started; training moderately fit, c20 year old male and female students. At the annual summer training, I planned and ran a 100+ person infantry exercise that was identical in duration and intensity to one I'd undergone as a 19-year-old - on the same training area, in the same cloudless, windless, over-25C heat. Except when I ran it, we didn't end up with 20% losses to heat injury or eight students in hospital on a drip - for the simple reason that I'd made sure during the planning that each "objective" had some shade and lots of water...

351:

I thought of another example when it comes to "understanding and mitigating risk" - compare the lunar missions (big, complex, risky) in terms of goal against casualties who understood the risks all too well - Grissom, Chaffee, White, Komarov, among others.

Now think of the goal, and the risks involved in the steam turbine tests on Reactor 4 at Chernobyl... The damage AIUI came from a combination of design edge cases and unappreciated counter-intuitive design behaviours around the RBMK-1000 when operating at low power, exposed by slapdash planning.

Now think of the goal, the personal risk, and the understanding of the firemen who went in to fight the fire at Chernobyl. They knew exactly what they were committing to, and did it anyway - true heroes.

Big, complex, safety-critical systems tend to bite Dunning-Kruger sufferers hard...

352:

A fifth of a second is the generally accepted minimum reaction time, mainly due to delays in the visual cortex, which is why people who claim to be able to react to something they see in a few tens of milliseconds or less are deluded or lying. Touch is faster, which is why I use it and not sight for balance.

My reservations were about the generality of what Bill Arnold said, not about his claim, because they are similar to but not quite the same as mine. In particular, I have major difficulty controlling small, slow hand movements and do better on fast ones (and I believe that is a genetic feature). I agree that, if such precision could be trained, it would be a very useful technique - but I would bet that its applicability would depend on the person!

353:

"Big, complex, safety-critical systems tend to bite Dunning-Kruger sufferers hard..."

I wish that they did :-( They hit their victims, some of which may have predicted that very failure, but the senior people with Dunning-Kruger get away scot free.

354:

Cherryh's Alliance Union universe pretty much covers that territory too,

Particularly Cyteen and Regenesis.

355:

On the reaction time thing: yes, training has a big impact.

I seem to recall a news piece a few years ago -- definitely this century, though -- about the RAF's recruiting fairs finally ditching the reaction-speed testing gadgets they'd been using since the 1930s, where the testee has to use various controls to track a moving target in two or more dimensions (generating a pen plot so the recruiters can see if they've "got what it takes to be a pilot").

It used to work fine up until computer games came along, but then something like the Flynn Effect took over, and by the early 00's the average score for kids doing it for a lark (never mind wanting to join up) were about the same as for wartime RAF Fighter Command pilots who'd made five or more kills ("Aces").

Back then, having to rapidly absorb lots of incoming data and track targets moving in three axes was exotic -- these days most kids spend 20-30 hours a week practicing from about the age they're able to read and write. It's a skill set that doesn't translate into some more physical areas -- your pistol shooting, for example -- but if you're looking for drone pilots, these are the glory days.

356:

To edit sickle cell genes would presumably involve treating fertilised cells and reimplanting them. We could eliminate sickle cell now (apart from new mutations) by testing for sickle cell and only implanting embyos which were negative for the sickle cell gene. No need to edit. The problem is cost. Nigerians who have a high incidence of sickle cell can't afford the treatment yet. It also smacks of eugenics.
On the subject of heterozygote advantages it's possible that most high frequency genetic defects have a heterozygote advantage. 1 in 20 white British people carry the cystic fibrosis gene. It's suggested that heterozygote are more tolerant of contaminated drinking water but I suspect there may be other advantages.
The exceptions to this advantage hypothesis may be diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy where a substantial percentage of cases are new mutations.

357:

"It's a skill set that doesn't translate into some more physical areas -- your pistol shooting, for example"

Depends. Almost certainly not on the standup, stand still target shooting. Combat pistol might be another matter.

358:

"The problem is cost. Nigerians who have a high incidence of sickle cell can't afford the treatment yet. It also smacks of eugenics."

That doesn't seem to bother the NHS:
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/screening-sickle-cell-thalassaemia-pregnant.aspx

359:

Of course not. I was referring to NIgerians in Nigeria.
Also any gene editing to remove sickle cell would be an extra cost on top of this procedure.
If you mean eugenics I have a bad feeling about thye whole process. Should we prevent diseases on the autistic spectrum? We might lose the next Newton. My genetics lecture was fervently anti-eugenics and used to say that we each have at least a dozen lethal recessives and are only alive because we are not homozygotes.

360:

Not got a "Y" chromosome .....
Nope. That's part of it for sure, and there is the whole 20 years of curated Clinton hatred grown and propagated by the American right, and among the youngs (get off my lawn! :-) there is some distrust of nuanced complex boring practical policy positions, compared with aspirational uplifting policy positions. And there are other similar analyses. (I'm mocking myself as an older here, too. Real change often starts with a belief in the impossible, so to speak.)

I was asking about the residue; in particular people who hold genuine-left views (including perhaps our resident mystery entity NN) seem to believe that H. Clinton is, if not truly evil, at least objectively deeply untrustworthy. The left press is full of anti-Clinton material and I don't know how to evaluate it.

361:

and among the youngs (get off my lawn! :-)
Explain, please?
Something in the US that I haven't heard about, or not under that name?

362:

From the UK, it looks simply like Hilary is a fairly centrist sort of politician, who believes in laissez faire capitalism and gets lots of money from Wall street and suchlike. So if you are actually of a left wing persuasion, she isn't a good person to have as president, because it means more of the same.
Some such also say (I don't know how true or not) that she has a bad record on gay rights etc, tending not to support it all until it was pretty much a done thing.

That surely explains the untrustworthyness.

As for the left press, I didn't think the USA had one, all the mainstream stuff is deliberately centrist and bigging up Trump so they can write endless screeds about the Hilary versus Trump boxing match.

363:

The argument against Hillary is simple - it's just more of the same. Now Bernie out the only non-Establishment figure left is Trump.

364:

More of the same what? Think carefully before answering.

365:

From the UK, it looks simply like Hilary is a fairly centrist sort of politician...

Yes, pretty much. She poses a problem for establishment Republicans, since she's by far the best establishment Republican running yet is in the other party. It's not clear how this is going to shake out in the next few months.

The other candidates would be much worse for them. Bernie Sanders wants to tear down exactly the sort of dug-in wealth and power blocks that have done so well they're almost synonymous with Republicanism. Donald Trump is an egotistical promoter and reality TV host who's gone bankrupt a lot and won't listen to anybody; nobody knows what he'd do in the presidency, including Donald Trump. Contrast that with Hillary Clinton, who's been known to the Washington elite for decades and vice versa, a skilled player of the politics game; moreover, the old timers already know how to get through a Clinton presidency.

So far not many Republicans want to admit this in public...

366:

THe question is how much/ quickly the Republican party oligarchs will fall in behind Trump, or stay out.
Or so I understand. Also voter suppression efforts are likely to be ramped up, even if they can't prevent Hilary from winning, they are at least in place for next time, and more local elections.

367:

and among the youngs (get off my lawn! :-)
The later is an Americanism (sorry about that, didn't know). Generally in writing it is used self-mockingly, in recognition that one's attitudes about something are probably different due to greater age. ("youngs" is a play on "olds" which in turn is a slang term for older people, usually used in informal snarky writing.)
urban dictionary ("get off my lawn"):
"A tagline added to posts that reveal the author's age, which is higher than he/she would otherwise care to admit. It plays on the cliché of the elderly yelling at kids who trespass on their lawns."
More detail here (wikipedia).

368:

As for the left press, I didn't think the USA had one
This nearly true for the U.S. printed press. (The exceptions do not have wide circulation). A few major cities have Pacifica radio stations which lean actual left (plus a side of woo), and some others have college or university affiliated left-leaning radio stations. Television is empty of the left at least in my cable TV lineup (NY area) excepting outlets like RT.

Online there are a lot of left sources (more left than "progressive") and that's what was meant by press; I do not know how to tell what is "reliable" (i.e. presents information with only minor filtering of information through ideological filters, or alignment of the presentation with ideology) and what is mostly channeling of ideology. A guide would be helpful to many people.

369:

The actual joke is a bit better than that.

Linkin Parks' first hit album was Hybrid Theory, released in Oct 2000 and I was suggesting that Scott was much younger than I am.

So unless Scott is roughly ~ 30 (he isn't, but that's only a guesstimate) the joke is a bit more radical than you'd imagine.

Oh, and... a 14 yr old wasn't born when they hit fame and so on and so forth.


Points of Authority YT: Music: 2015.

Your appreciation of irony that they're still able to push their songs post 9/11 is highly dependent on knowing other things.

~


From the UK, it looks simply like Hilary is a fairly centrist sort of politician...

Mrs H. Clinton is only centrist in the USA political sphere.

Anywhere else, she is firmly Right / Authoritarian.

And that includes Russia / China.

370:

...that high tonal thang that mimics Tinnitus, but manages to range significantly in both Hrz and volume,...
Question for anyone, not just Nyx Ninoy.
I first started experiencing tinnitus approximately as described 2-3 years ago but didn't pursue it with medical people. Not seeing that it is well-understood in the literature. Volume seems to be personally vaguely correlated with diastolic blood pressure and (related) with level of stressful mental activity. (Haven't tested to determine what the frequency of the tone is correlated with.) Is it worth pursuing with a specialist in anyone's experience?
(I immediately jokingly started thinking of it as possibly something else, purely for the amusement value.)

371:

Serious answer:

There's multiple reasons for a medical diagnosis for tinnitus that involves environment, damaging levels of DBs and so forth.

Recent study showed that 85% of NY young adults were listening to their head-phones at a level that produces hearing damage past 2+ hrs. [DB / Damage is on a curve, not a threshold].

There's also Commercially used systems to drive off teenagers, hacks through Computer / TV [whatever] Speakers to induce it and so forth that have been shown to not only being used without proper H&S checks, but at levels that produce damage, especially given their 24/7 usage

There's also a rather less diagnosed capabilities to induce it via drugs, but that's the Wild Wild West and you probably ain't there. (However: depending on background - there are 100% for sure industrial chemicals that can produce the effect).


~


So, yeah.


That's not even getting into the kinky stuff.


I'm not saying it's deliberate... but it's deliberate.

372:

I used the word "older" above for reasons, one of which was a nod to your possibly deep-time age.
( :-) for Greg )


373:

Also voter suppression efforts are likely to be ramped up,
HOW DO THEY GET AWAY WITH THIS?

There was a recent attempt in a London Borough at this & it all collapsed, in a very smelly pile.
Those sort of antics get you jail here, very quickly.
Not only how is it allowed, why is it allowed, since it's so obviously faudulent.
??

374:

I know about "get your tanks off my lawn" - it was the "youngs" bit that confused me.
[ Here in London, Young's is a BREWERY ]

375:

"More of the same what? "

More of the same social and wealth inequality, more of the same foreign wars, more of the same use of torture, more of the same provocations of Russia/China, more of the same "Israel right or wrong", more of the same Corporate America politics etc etc

376:

Indeed, from an actually left wing or amarchist position, that is correct. However, you are short sightedly forgetting that the alternatives are even worse, and ignoring the way that the electorate seems in a mood for less of that.

If Trump is elected, or if Cruz had been, you can look forwards to, oh, I forget, you're a white british male so don't have these problems; repeal of the ACA or it's complete filleting as to make no difference; the appointment of far right lunatic supreme court judges, followed by the removal of the right to have an abortion; more torture, more foreign wars, except this time bigger and better as Trump/ Cruz and their backers don't have a clue how to be careful; more supporting Israel against terrorists; more corporate welfare; and in the case of Trump more nasty nationalist rhetoric leading to major problems.
But it's okay, from over here you get to wave your special snowflakeness and claim that all the candidates are exactly the same.

377:

Easy- pervasive racism, both cultural and economic, means that minorities just don't have the wherewithall to challenge it. You probably don't understand just how bad the life of poorer americans is/ can be. I believe it has gotten worse since Erhenreich wrote her "Nickeled and Dimed"; an understanding of the state of play of the USA is why I am so anti-tory.

The other factor is state control. The republicans and their ilk have spent decades gerrymandering state represenattion to benefit themselves, making use of fits of populism and hysteria to get away with a lot of things.

An actual american could tell you a lot more, but last I knew many local US elections actually fail the international electoral standards.

378:

I have tinnitus and can confirm that blood pressure increases the volume. Some years ago I took an accidental overdose of aspirin and the tinnitus got worse. I have never asked for medical help - the tinnitus doesn't bother me much. I discussed the aspirin effect with a junior doctor who had a similar experience with aspirin and found it difficult to use a a stethoscope after even one tablet.
I never measured the frequency but it was identical to the noise made by the Apricot computer hard drive in the nuclear medicine department I worked in. I was the only person not bothered by the noise.

379:

Why don't you sweep a tone through headset and see what the frequency is, and whether you can hear beats

380:

I can't hear beats. It's around 4500Hz.

381:

Given that this is well-known ( I suspected as such, but didn't realise just how bad it really was ) why/how is nothing done about it?
Surely "State's Rights" does not include the right to deliberately maltreat your own citizens?
Didn't you have some sort of war over something like that, about 155 years ago?

Meanwhile, round here, in spite of what some people are saying
Things have changed a lot - & for the better, since the events marked here happened.
I'm very glad to say,

382:

Oh yes ...
If anyone is visiting London in the next couple of months, ther'e A small exhibition which anyone interested in the "Mystic/occult/old-not-quite-science should go to, if they have the chance.
Dr Dee, yes, well ....

383:

Stae's rights obviously does include the ability to maltreat your own economic units, sorry, citizens. Their culture is different from here. Obviously they don't run around saying "Hey, I crushed 3 peons today", but the attitude isn't so different.
(Also I'm british, living in Britain)

People are trying to do things, such as getting out the vote, helping people register to vote, etc, but against the massive media noise machine and the money, it's very hard.

The Dee exhibition looks interesting. I've handled some of his books, the less famous ones can be looked at in the British Library.

384:

Going back to the topic of proprioception and absolute positioning, you said:

I would worry a bit that you might be mistaking the exercise for the goal. If you just want to be really good at blind line/contour drawing, sure. But you would not be exercising your awareness of proportion and shade and composition.

I'd be interested in your views and Bill's on the following. The Victorian cartoonist Harry Furniss often sketched on a card hidden in his pocket and pressed against his leg. He explains in Volume 1 of his autobiography The Confessions of a Caricaturiston Project Gutenberg, search for "Lord High Great Chamberlain" — how he taught himself to do so after being told off for drawing in the House of Lords. By doing this, he managed to caricature many politicians without them being aware of it:

He must have developed very good absolute positioning.

As for proportion, shade, etc., of course these are important. I've found that with practice, I can think about them while I'm blind drawing, mentally annotating my lines with attributes such as "flabby", "poking", "enfolding" that modulate how I draw them. Probably rather in the same way that Walt Stanchfield describes in Gesture Drawing for Animation: search for the section headed "Lazy Lines". And one also thinks about such things when converting the sketch into a finished drawing. But my point is that Furniss's experience shows one can improve one's proprioception sufficiently — but how?

385:

I suspect the answer is a little bit further on in the autobiography:

"You're right," nodded the Pencil. "He's drawn a few thousand of them in his time..."

Usual story of X thousand hours directed skill training.

As for improving proprioception, I remember a child's game (well, I played it when I was a child) which was a long curved conductive wire shape forming one half of an electrical circuit. Other half was a pencil-like wand with a wire loop on the end. Goal was to move the loop along the curved wire without making contact. If you did touch, it beeped.

You could probably build one of these for drawing-like motion at much less cost than developing a tracing computer application.

386:

I remember those loop-around-wire buzzer games too. That's an excellent idea. Bill, any use to you?

387:

An interesting query, thanks.
Thoughts so far:
Re absolute positioning, positioning is relative if any other body part is attached to a fixed point, e.g. the edge of the notepad.
Re the fascinating "The Confessions of a Caricaturist" (Harry Furniss)

H. F. trained himself to make sketches with his hand in his pocket, and worked away with me and his book—or rather cards, which he had specially for the purpose—whilst looking straight into the face of his victim. He manages in this way to [Pg 146] sketch people sitting opposite to him in the train, and sometimes when talking to them all the time.
This suggests to me two (or three) things;
(1) That the hand is relative to the body, maybe the wrist touching the body (e.g. leg).
(2) That the visual attention on the "victim" may make it easier to access the more precise positioning I was making assertions about above. (FWIW Have confirmed the personal assertions above (accuracy improved by ignoring or suppressing the derived clutter) every evening since.) The mind and visual cortex in particular would be focused on the subject, leaving the hands freer. This could be tested by individual artists.

(3) Related, I've been finding that the accessing the purely sensory proprioception, and ignoring the visualization of the present state of the hand, and also history and possible futures, is easier the lower down the body the hands are located. When hands are located within very roughly 60 degrees of the visual center, even when eyes are closed, it is harder (though not impossible) for me to separate out the derived/computed clutter from the pure sensory experience of relative position. So pragmatically, it could well be that keeping the sketch pad/card well away from the visual center, e.g. in the pocket against the leg (90 degrees from center), would be helpful. This too could be tested by individual artists.

388:

loop-around-wire buzzer games.
I think that game would be pretty stressful, too much worrying and clutter about the buzzer going off in near-future moments. Also it would need to be structured so that it was measuring relative position, somehow.
People in farm country often have access to electric fences and can practice not-quite-touching the wire while they walk along the fence. That would also be stressful, though quite hard to do with eyes closed.
Have never tried these things. They might be OK as tests but not sure about training.

I suspect blind drawing is very good - just defer feedback until the drawing is complete. (Have no drawing talent personally.)

389:

For what it's worth, I found out about Harry Furniss from an art instructor well-known in the 30s and 40s, L.A. Doust. In A Manual on Caricature and Cartoon Drawing, he writes about quick sketching thus:

In such rapid impressions [i.e. sketches], it is often impossible to get tone [i.e. to shade the drawing]. You will soon, by practice, be recording your general impression so rapidly that, like a pianist, you will not look at your fingers; your eye will record the object on the brain, which will influence the fingers to record on the paper with pencil. To assure you that this is true I will refer you to the memoirs of a famous caricaturist and cartoonist, Harry Furniss, where he tells us that very often he would sketch caricatures on a pad in his coat pocket in order that he might not be seen in places where such work was forbidden.

I don't know whether that gives any clues about the mental state needed for this and related tasks. One thing I've discovered is that blind drawing is very relaxing. I once spent an hour and a half blind-drawing customers in my local Costa. It was intensely calming, and left me with an inner golden glow that lasted for the entire day. I kid you not: the glow really did last, and was better than beer.

I've had similar feelings before. Once when I was blind-drawing from memory in the street, I felt an intense buzz as though I'd swallowed a chilli, followed by an intense calm. No idea what was happening in my neurology, but maybe this could be useful to those teaching mindfulness?

390:

I have often thought that sports science might be very useful to those learning to draw, especially in how best to coordinate our visual and motor systems to record, as accurately as possible, the outlines of things we see. Could it have anything useful to say about your proprioception experiments?

391:

rather less diagnosed capabilities to induce it via drugs, but that's the Wild Wild West and you probably ain't there.
Not there, this is true.
The erowid reports for the two psychedelics mentioned in the tinnitus wikipedia article's "Associated factors" section are interesting and unusual for sure.
5-MeO-DET
diisopropyltryptamine (DiPT)
Not going there though, unless life changes a lot. (Currently focused on meditation, and not (just) for relaxation.)

Mike Collins @378:
OK, maybe I'll try charting diastolic BP vs perceived volume. Did you try charting the relationship? Though personally BP is correlated with mental state. (In particular, can meditate both systolic and diastolic BP down (and up) pretty quickly.)

392:

It was intensely calming, and left me with an inner golden glow that lasted for the entire day. I kid you not: the glow really did last, and was better than beer.
...
Once when I was blind-drawing from memory in the street, I felt an intense buzz as though I'd swallowed a chilli, followed by an intense calm.

Surely you tried to repeat these? :-)
These are desirable states of mind, as are the paths, whatever they were for you, leading to them. (Those paths can probably be pruned down a lot.)

I have often thought that sports science might be very useful to those learning to draw,
Probably this is true. I know next to nothing about sports science, due to unjustified prejudice.

393:

Well, (we're almost past 400, no-one is still reading), mine was personally inflicted by a rather petty little 'Deity' [self-proclaimed] / wanker / 'Higher-Order-Power' who inflicted it purely out of spite (he lost... a lot of arguments and his Ego couldn't handle it).

The "Brown Note" will perhaps mean something else in years to come.


I can see it meaning: that moment when you crossed the rubicon into permanent damage and by doing so allowed some other things to happen.

That's a polite translation.

The impolite one is: Dat moment you broke the rules, boy.

394:

The children's version of loop-around-the-wire is probably loud because of the audience. As a drawing exercise tool I'd use a soft continuous audio tone when there's no contact, and only a slightly harsher sound if it touches.

Plus, maybe we can do better than just on/off? It would be possible to detect proximity of the loop and ramp up the sound as you drift? (I'm not an electrical engineer.)

A problem with both this and the tracing computer program is, as you say, worrying about the buzzer going off. An external source of feedback might prove more distracting than beneficial.

When I'm drawing well, and I've read/heard the same from better artists, I mostly look at the subject with occasional glances down to check. So any "off tracking" messages my brain receives are internally generated under my control.

Having a computer program or wire loop might be like doing any task under supervision, expecting an interruption at any moment.

395:

The psychological aspects of sports science might be applicable, in particular entering and maintaining mental focus.

My impression of the similarities is that learning to draw and learning to play a sport both work best with individual coaching by someone who knows your abilities well, both encourage getting into "flow state" to perform well, and both activities are largely non-verbal and difficult to describe.

Drawing doesn't (AFAIK!) require the level of physical activity and associated oxygen consumption measurement, gym gear, "skins" pressure sports wear, … which most sports science seems to be concerned with.

Maybe the drawing "high" and the sporting "high" are the same by product of enjoyable flow state, but Jocelyn's drawing high lasts longer because it doesn't require so much energy?

396:

Or, "shooting with your eyes closed"... and no, you don't need to be some kind of ninja to do it.

One exercise I use when coaching prone-position firers is to set up their aim; to close their eyes; to breathe in and out; and to pull the trigger. This is intended to allow them to focus on the feedback from their bodies, and to stop them pushing against the position that their body "wants" to adopt. If you keep the "last aim" to "bang" time short, the group stays within the target, and the firer gains confidence.

I would regularly set up "eyes closed" in standing position as a check that I wasn't forcing my rifle onto the target - and normally find myself pointing where I expected. There was generally too much variation off-target for us to do that exercise "live", however...

Regarding flow states, if we could enter them repeatedly, we'd all be champions :) Instead, the best way to describe it is "you set up the conditions for a flow state to happen, and if you're lucky it does" - on the other hand, if it doesn't (which is most of the time) you still need the skills to grind out a good performance.

I've been in a true flow state during competition only a few times. One downside is when the flow state appears after the start of the event, and leaves before the finish; best description is you feel as if you've just "woken up", except it's the sudden and gripping realisation that you've only got five shots to go, and if they all go in you'll have set a new British record... and the wish that you hadn't just thought that thought.

Actually, a large part of performance psychology is managing how you think about things. It's the icing on the cake, because you still need all the technical skills and performance, but get it wrong and it can be the dry rot in the foundations. This is why you'll hear top athletes muttering about it being "50% mental" - it's not an absolute measure, it's the differentiation between the top people on the day.

397:

I've often thought that "sports science" is total shit.
I'm probably wrong, in that studies of anatomy & physiology can be usefully improved by what happens in spurts, sorry "sports".
But the associations with football (22 muscle-bound morons on a cold, muddy windswept field), x-country running (shudder) & other forms of Fascism, usually called "team games" just brings out a complete rejection-reaction in me.

398:

[self-proclaimed] / wanker
You said it, not me .....

399:

Surely you tried to repeat these? :-)

I have tried. The unsuspected-chilli-in-Thai-soup sensation, i.e. the buzz followed by intense calm while blind-drawing from memory, I managed to trigger again the following day, by doing the same kind of blind-memory drawing. I'd been visualising the head of a passer-by in 3D, and drawing from my visualisation. I got the same sensations, but not as strongly. But I've not managed to trigger them ever again.

Nor have I managed to trigger that day-long inner glow I got after my 1½-hour session in Costa. But that's may be because it's become harder to find a suitable setting: see next paragraph. I do usually experience at least mild relaxation, and quite often a kind of glow that lasts for as long as I'm doing the drawing. So those outcomes are fairly reliably repeatable, and suggest that it would be worth other people trying, even if they're not interested in drawing.

Factors that aid this seem to include lots of daylight. The café has a long east-facing window that gets it the morning sun. Sun is nice anyway, and the low angle of the rays, combined with the café's internal lighting, highlight lots of inner contours in faces, providing more detail to concentrate on. Also suitable background music: at the time, Costa's selection included some R.E.M., possibly "Everybody Hurts", and Coldplay's "Viva la Vida". "Frosty the Snowman" from their Christmas selection was not so helpful. Factors that act against it include loud conversation, especially from mobile-phone users, and distracting beeps from those same phones.

400:

C.f. "Sport (the Odd Boy)" by the Bonzo Dog Band:

The odd boy lay down by the football field
Took out a slim volume of Mallarmé.
The centre-forward called him an imbecile.
It's an odd boy who doesn't like sport.

But "sport" doesn't just apply to games played on muddy fields by muscle-bound morons, and the sports scientists seem to be doing some interesting work on, for example, using motion feedback to help tennis players repeat crucial strokes more reliably. I came across some of this at an open day held by Oxford Brookes University's sport science people last year.

Such work includes knowing about the human musculoskeletal system. An obvious application to art is the best way to draw a straight line: is it best to move the wrist, elbow, or shoulder, and where along the line should your eyes point?

401:

By the way, Greg, I enjoy cross-country running. Living where I do, it's more often cross-suburbia running, but I'll often spend two hours or so in the morning running around outer Oxford. It can be painful until you're fit, but working up to fitness slowly helps; after that, it's fun.

402:

I've often thought that "sports science" is total shit.
I'm probably wrong

Yup. :)

Having known people who studied it at postgraduate level, it looks fascinating; there's a chunk to do with skill acquisition techniques (apparently, the "let's see how best to learn and develop a physical skill" go-to example for students is juggling).

Throw in environmental stuff; I once spent a day at a seminar run by the Scottish Sports Science / Sports Medicine mob - looking at the issues surrounding competition in hot/humid climates. Presentations about the most effective ways to maintain or regain hydration levels; from a FIFA official medical consultant about his experiences overseeing the World Cup in Mexico; from a US Army bloke working out of Fort Natick about how to acclimate most quickly. Before we competed in Kuala Lumpur, we all went through the humidity chambers, trained with our hydration plans in place, etc, etc. Two of us from our event got drug-tested after competition - it took us three hours without liquid to produce a urine sample yellow enough to actually send to the lab for testing... our medics were chuffed that we'd been listening :)

Then there's all the sports vision stuff; our training squad once had a presentation from the Ph.D who was the vision support for both Manchester United, and the Subaru works rally team (she was fascinating).

Not just physical stuff, either - the wife and I have got the reports on our EEG traces from when they were researching brainwave functions during flow states, and trying to link sporting performance to various electrical activity levels in the brain. For me, all part of the "so, how do I enter a flow state more often" quest.

And then, there's the performance psychology stuff - yes, there's a lot of b*llocks talked about it by people (normally because they've got a book to sell), but there are also a lot of very competent practitioners. A lot of it is about setting up your training plans. How do you set your short term / medium-term / long-term goals? How do you ensure that you train most effectively? How do you balance your training between different aspects of your event? How do you prepare for an event, and review the performance afterwards? It all makes a difference.

403:

I know an Olympian who used to ask his own team to stay away from his firing point at big events; he found that English-language conversation could cut right through his concentration. It fits with the "entry into a flow state" advice I read - focus on the visual aspects of the task, avoid self-talk, don't use the speech centres if you can help it.

This slowed things up with some of the less-flexible sports psych advisors we met; if their big thing was "trigger words", or immediate pre-rehearsal, they didn't always twig that techniques which might work for a 100m sprinter, or a rugby kicker, might not be effective in our particular event...

Anyway, if I'm concentrating on a coding task, I tend to use music that contains no lyrics, or at least none that I understand. Instrumental stuff, Gaelic language stuff, and bagpipes (to the occasional irritation of my colleagues before I got good earphones). Mike Oldfield, Clannad, Gordon Duncan, etc.

404:

Sun is nice anyway, and the low angle of the rays, combined with the café's internal lighting, highlight lots of inner contours in faces, providing more detail to concentrate on.
This is the aspect I'd start focusing on, if I could draw. Basically, work on total empathy, including seeing microexpressions and broader body language, and any other detail that seems helpful. The total focus on the other person would be basically a form of single point meditation.

405:

A lot of it is about setting up your training plans. How do you set your short term / medium-term / long-term goals? How do you ensure that you train most effectively? How do you balance your training between different aspects of your event? How do you prepare for an event, and review the performance afterwards? It all makes a difference.

Yes, indeed. This is one area where I think the methods of teaching people to draw are lacking. There's a lot of factual stuff that is easy to state and relatively easy to learn, at least as propositions. This includes the rules of perspective and of how light and shadow behave, and facts about typical human proportions.

But the hand movements themselves are harder for some people to learn, because it's not obvious how to improve if you keep getting it wrong. Suppose you try drawing the curves of a leg from memory or from life and just can never get them right. You can see your drawing is wrong, but how do you train your brain and body to improve? Most art books just say "Practice, practice, practice", without any indication of whether the practice is leading you in the right direction, or how long it should take before you hit your goal. Whereas books on football, say, probably go into a lot of detail about diagnosing what's wrong with a bad kick and how to use that diagnosis.

406:

"Regarding flow states, if we could enter them repeatedly, we'd all be champions :)"

If you have not seen it, this may be of interest:

http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/02/09/better-living-through-electrochemistry/

It is increasingly being used covertly in some sports

407:

A similar reason why Modafinil is a banned drug. Not because of its mild stimulant effect (less than caffeine) but because of the increased focus

408:

Very interesting. I've pointed before in this blog at evidence, that transcranial magnetic stimulation can help people draw. But anyway, just what was evolution thinking of when it gave us those performance-eating inner voices?

409:

They are very useful for problem solving. OTOH "flow" is not about solving difficult problems but executing a course of action that is within ones normal intellectual abilities.

tDCS is the new undetectable sport performance enhancer. 20 minutes of application is effective for hours.

410:

This is the aspect I'd start focusing on, if I could draw.

If you want to experiment with blind drawing, follow the instructions in Edward A Burke's "Drawing Lesson - Blind Contour Drawing 2". Don't stress about it looking odd; just be surprised and pleased by what you see on the paper at the end of the exercise.

Geometrically speaking, most of the lines you draw will probably be "rims": places where your line of sight grazes the surface of an object. On the face, that may include such protrusions as the cheeks and the folds between the edges of the nose and mouth. According to vision scientist Donald Hoffman's Rules of Visual Intelligence, most of the curves in an image get interpreted as these rims, so they're strong cues to shape.

Advanced drawers could try adding other kinds of line as extra cues to shape, as described in "Where Do People Draw Lines?" by Forrester Cole, Aleksey Golovinskiy, Alex Limpaecher, Heather Stoddart Barros,
Adam Finkelstein, Thomas Funkhouser, and Szymon Rusinkiewicz. This is a paper by the Princeton Graphics Group, who analysed drawings by lots of different artists and worked out what kind of information each line in each image conveyed. Evidence-based art: wonderful.

411:

Not necessarily...

Flow is great, at the right time. It feels like being "semiconscious", or "in the moment" - and you "just do it, you don't have to think about it".

If, however, there are tactics involved; or the conditions of the match change, and you need to modify your technique or behaviour as a result; then being in a flow state is not necessarily an advantage.

At the top level of any sport that requires repeated short performances (shooting, archery, golf, tennis), it's not the perfect, or at least "good enough", shots that mean you win; it's often about how few mistakes you make. It's quite possible to "flow" into repeated mistakes before you realise that it's going wrong, "wake up", and change things to get them working again.

412:

All these techniques like nootropic drugs, tDCS etc I have referred to as "marginal" in my own experience. However, I only recently realized that on one set of informal tests I did when taking Piracetam it boosted my score by 7%, which was not enough to "feel". However, if that was the 100m sprint it would be the difference between winning and not even qualifying for the race.
These techniques are marginal for high performers who want "more of the same", but as the US military is discovering, average or below average people benefit disproportionately.

413:

People keep saying running is fun, but the last time I had fun running I was playing tag in the 5th grade. In 6th grade we abruptly didn't have a playground anymore, and after that running became work.

414:

The only time I ever enjoyed running was in a required PE ("Physical Education") class, where we mostly ran on paths in the woods. The uneven terrain made it interesting; every foot landing could be planned in mid-air or even a few landings in advance and needed to be executed carefully (lest an ankle be sprained), which made it more mentally engaging. A bit like skiing a bump slope. (Also, seeing trees and smaller plants and flowers is always good.)

415:

Oh, goodness, yes. But you probably have to have had your own schooldays blighted by the experience to really appreciate it.

The association is with the big hulking moron who taught games because he was too thick to teach anything intelligent, hitlering around the place in his tracksuit bottoms with highly conspicuous dick bulge, being a complete wanker to everyone and especially to those who would have hated the whole business anyway even without him making it worse. More particularly, with the subspecies of hulking moron who was just devious enough to formulate some inept appeal to my interest in science to try and raise my enthusiasm but too dim to appreciate that it wasn't going to work. The rejection is instant, automatic, and complete.

"Oh, but you have to do it to learn team spirit" (or some such bollocks) - it never seemed to cross their minds that it was actually teaching the opposite. Teaching me how best to hang around the edges while avoiding any actual involvement, to take advantage of any opportunity to skive, and to despise those who were demented enough to actually show genuine enthusiasm for an activity more unpleasant than anything the school ever inflicted as a punishment. Similar with the cross country runs - teaching me to develop a gait that wasn't much more tiring than walking but looked enough like running that I didn't get bollocked for not running the course, and to hide, to skip bits, or to find some excuse to start off in my normal clothes and just not come back.

Best school I was ever at for games was the one where the playing fields could reliably be expected to spend much of January and February deep beneath the floodwaters of the adjacent river.

416:

"...the drawing "high"..."

The most successful of my (very infrequent and generally crap) attempts at drawing involved the technique of first getting really stoned. This enabled me first to imagine the scene I wanted to draw in photorealistic detail, and then to project the scene onto the paper and draw round it. As far as I remember only one other person ever saw it, but he seemed to think it had worked.

Other benefits (of lesser importance) were the avoidance of any discouragement from sensations of impatience or tedium, and the negation of any inhibition from a lifetime of experience of anything I had previously tried to draw being utterly shit.

These days I do not find it practical to get stoned to that degree, and I no longer have the everyday base state of mind that would allow me to achieve stonage of that kind. Trying the same method of drawing without the preparation is significantly more difficult and less successful. It is still, however, a more successful method than drawing from life. For me, at any rate.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 26, 2016 10:18 AM.

The unavoidable discussion was the previous entry in this blog.

PSA: 5-Point Writer's Block Checklist is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda