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Report on Seat 14C

So, the XPrize folks and ANA just announced a competition for submissions to an anthology of short stories, about the experience of passengers aboard a flight that mysteriously finds itself time-warped 20 years into the future. From the blurb:

Your flight has been mysteriously transported 20 years into the future. How could this happen? Wait, that's not important. Take a deep breath. Look around. Without a doubt, the world has changed. What new technologies and innovations have reshaped the way we live?

XPRIZE, ANA and the world's top science fiction storytellers are embarking on a journey to 2037, envisioning a world transformed by exponential technologies and a global community of innovators. We'd like for you to join us.

Seat 14C is, at its core, an earnest endeavor into our possible future. We invite storytellers from around the world to submit their visions of 2037, as told from a passenger aboard ANA Flight #008.

Your short story is a first-person account of the passenger seated in 14C aboard ANA Flight #008. What does this person experience as they arrive in 2037 and explore a changed world? How has emerging (or not-yet-invented) technology altered society for the better, and how does your character discover and interact with this technology?

We are hopeful for our future, and we ask that your story creatively weaves technology and culture, envisioning an optimistic and exciting future for mankind.

Disclaimer: when I was invited to contribute to the anthology I had to say "no" because I was up to my eyeballs in work-related rabid ferrets (read: deadlines). I'm still waaaay too busy to emit a short story, largely because I have recently discovered to my horror that my ability to write works of fiction less than 20,000 words long has atrophied due to lack of use.

However, if I was going to write an entry to this competition, it might read something like this.

An ANA Boeing 777-300ER, registration JA792A, performing flight ANA-008 from Tokyo (Japan) to San Francisco (United States) On June 28th, 2017 ceased ACARS transmission at 0458. At that time ANA-008 was in level cruise at 37,000 feet over international waters, and had been issued a direct track by San Francisco Air Traffic Control Center to waypoint ... No subsequent contact was received by ANA OPS Center, ANCATC, or SFO ATC. At 1046 Coast Guard Search and Rescue coordination was activated after all effort to communicate with the aircraft failed. Search and Rescue operations were conducted over the projected route of the aircraft commencing south of Kodiak.

... Unlike the previous hull loss MH370, no debris that could be traced back to JA792A were ever recovered. The search for ANA-008 was called off in December 2019, after over $230M had been spent on surveying 220,000 square kilometres of ocean; 102 aircraft and 87 vessels from 14 countries took part in the search.

... On September 16th, 2019, Japan's Ministry of Transport published the second interim report by the ANA-008 investigation team, stating that after a two year long search the aircraft has still not been found.

... Contributory factor in the bankruptcy of ANA in March 2020 and the indictment of airline chief executive Toshiro Mishima on corruption charges in Augut 2022, leading to the ANA Bribery Scandal which brought down the ruling Liberal Democrat government ...

The disappearance of ANA-008 and its 264 passengers and crew was of the most notorious mysteries of 21st century civil aviation and a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Theories to explain the hull loss include: a slow-burning avionics bay fire caused by a nose gear tire igniting during the departure roll-out; terrorism; hijacking by North Korean agents (ruled out after Korean Reunification and the disclosure of the DPRK State Affairs Commission's files); and a variety of less plausible proposals including alien abduction.

UPDATE

At 0512 on June 28th, 2037, a transmission was recorded from a source identifying it as flight ANA-008 on VHF analog frequency 120.9 MHz. Between 0512 and 0704 transmissions followed on 120.8 MHz, and then on 121.5 MHz (international air distress frequency — obsolete since 2032). At 0731 a 406 MHz distress radio beacon was activated 724.21 nautical miles out from SFO however the obsolete protocol used was no longer supported by SARP receivers on satellites participating in the Cospas-Sarsat franchise (sunsetted in 2035). Due to budget cuts/outsourcing arrangements human operators were no longer monitoring the analog frequencies for voice traffic, and under the 2019 Protection from Terrorists Act civilian radio "ham" operations were no longer legal. The transmissions therefore did not come to the attention of human investigators until 2118 on June 29th.

At 0721 ANA-008 overflew the USS John Finn, DDG-113, 220 nm offshore from Eureka, at an altitude of 41,000 feet, descending at 200 feet per minute. ANA-008 was squawking 7600 at this time (Radio Failure). The watch crew of the destroyer identified ANA-008 as an unidentified Boeing 777 and coded it as hostile. Production of Boeing 777-family airliners ceased in 2026 (in the wake of falling demand for high capacity airliners and replacement by the 787X), and due to heightened tensions with Greater Indonesia no 777-class aircraft are currently operating on scheduled flights into Western North America from the Pacific Rim.

Projection of the flight path of ANA-008 suggested that it was commencing a normal descent towards the former San Francisco airport (destroyed during the Great Quake of 2033). However, to the crew of DDG-113, an elderly foreign aircraft squawking an obviously false call sign and originating in hostile airspace was flying towards a major city while failing to authenticate or even respond to pings over S-BAND STANDARD-G internet link.

DDG-113 declared a threat condition and contacted the Californian Air National Guard Rapid Response Force, who scrambled a pair of F-15E fighters to intercept and identify.

At 0845, ANG F-15Es acquired visual contact with ANA-008 and confirmed identification of the aicraft as a Boeing 777-300ER, unresponsive to air data communications, in the livery of an airline that was liquidated nearly two decades ago. Attempts were made to make contact with the airliner crew by landing lights and a close fly-past. However it is noted that at this time ANA-008 was flying on a heading of 155 degrees, 8000 feet above the cloud tops, with the sun eighteen degrees above the horizon and nine degrees to port: the lead intercept pilot passed ANA-008 to port, and it is likely that the pilot flying would have been dazzled by sun glare if he tried to look directly at the F-15.

Attempts to contact the airliner having failed, the lead pilot of the interception force declared her rules of engagement had been matched and launched two AMRAAM at the target. The first missile failed (see separate results of investigation into munitions storage shortcomings) but the second missile detonated beneath JA792A's fuselage, at the mid-point between wings. The continuous rod warehead breached the 777's pressure hull and inflicted severe damage on the main wing spar, leading to the observed pattern of debris, with the forward hull separating from the stern just forward of the wing center-body, and both wings breaking away to land over a spread of 6 nautical miles.

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder of ANA-008 were both recovered within 48 hours of the incident; personal effects and body parts identified by DNA sample were matched to relatives of the missing passengers and crew, confirming that this was in fact "the Japanese Ghost Flight" returning at last, to settle one of aviation's greatest mysteries.

Hail President Kushner! Long may he protect us from all things un-American.

394 Comments

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1:

Thoroughly sick & all too predicatble ....
Pres Kushner, yuck.

2:

"The winning story will blend technology, creativity and culture, all with an underlying positive and optimistic tone."

Yeah.... that seems real, real hard right about now.

3:

Heartbreaking verisimilitude.

4:

Kinda don't think that would've been accepted. Too technical, and not at all what they asking for—unless the author's where given more leeway. Haven't read any of the stories yet, but that's a nice collection of authors.

5:

The competition is still open. If you feel like trying your hand, you might win a fairly decent cash reward (and get your story in the final anthology).

Me, I'm too tired/burned-out/cynical/pessimistic. Hence the above. (Which is a very watered-down version of the accudent reportage you find on The Aviation Herald. And also too short for the competition.)

6:

Oh yeah, was going ask why F-15s, but remembered ANG's always a couple decades behind. Last time I was was in and out of JAX (early 90s) I noticed the Florida Air Guard's F-4s and was wondering if they actually flew the antiques. But then, there're plenty of 50+yo C-130s and B-52s(?) still flying.
And now I'm rambling.

7:

I believe that you have failed in your assignment with extreme prejudice. :)

8:

The story seems altogether too likely. Does the presence of F-15Es say something about the F-35? Though it is possible ANG F-15s could be around for a long time, but they might be forbidden to go to max airspeed, as ANG F-4s were.

9:

Well, that escalated quickly.

10:

I had a look of the stories. The kind of "gosh! wow! science!" stuff I thought had gone out of fashion in the 50s.

I think skipping this one was probably the right call, although I am half looking forward to the Peter Watts entry.

11:

Charlie,

Your short story is dead on. That's exactly what would happen.

12:

I skipped it because of *flail* too much work to do with deadlines that already paid — yes, they offered me money, but as noted, I find writing SHORT STORIES (i.e. short stuff but with recognizable characters) hard these days. The thing above does not, you will note, have any human characters in it: it doesn't need them, to make the point. Something longer ... yeah, it'd have needed characterisation, and thus effort.

I plan to put some serious effort into relearning how to write short fiction over the next year or two, but? Please, not to deadline in the middle of rewriting a novel!

13:

Host, you are no-where near cynical or jaded enough.

The prize is:

Round-trip airfare to Tokyo, Japan for you and a guest, on ANA Airlines
Four nights in a 4-star hotel
$1,500 in spending money
GoPro HERO5 Ultra HD Camera
ili, Handheld Universal Translator[1]
Honorary Membership on the acclaimed Science Fiction Advisory Council

The winner will be a 18-24 year old Snapchat 'influencer'[2] who will synergize their amazing experience (uploaded in Real Time[tm]), stunning youthful good looks with just the right amount of culture shock mixed with "of course, I have visited over twenty countries, but NEVER JAPAN!" and no doubt a full visit or three (while making sure the PR is out of shot) to the brightest new product ranges of all the major brands. Hey, they might even relaunch Google Glass at the same time![3]

Oh, and just as you thought that this could not get more Brand[tm] sponsored - Ili really needed a more 'positive' spin because, you know, their prior efforts were a bit squicky.[4]


I had a look of the stories. The kind of "gosh! wow! science!" stuff I thought had gone out of fashion in the 50s.

This is more about #latestagecapitalism & the Tech Bro[tm] World Visionaries than the 1950's. At least the 1950's visions were somewhat authentic.

Now I'm going to have to read the stories and make notes of which authors left hidden snark - a much more fun game! Any and all mentions of seat designs get a point[5].

~

That time I entered a competition, and lost twenty years of my life.

So, here I am, the winner of the 2017 YPrize, sitting in seat 87C. No, I'm not with the two glamour models in business class, although I can hear the din from the free drinks promo Woederer is running above[6]. No, of course no invite, that's not what I'm here for.

Airbus 380, one of their new ones, but apparently still with the old seating which lends a certain pathetic fallacy to it all. At least the sponsors gave me a reduced cost ticket: I'm here to make sure the talent don't go too off message on the story-board and remember the Brand names. Not that they will, but we'll edit it in as we fake the 'real time' translation...


[1] Ili Translator release date to buy in 2017 Product Reviews, 15th Feb, 2017 (contains PR promo video)

[2] Delmondo is one such company; there are many more. It'll be Snapchat due to a certain flagging in their market popularity: Snapchat’s Stock Just Dipped to Its IPO Price for the First Time Fortune, 15th June, 2017: worth a read for the short bloodbath just about to kick off in August. A real cynic would be tracking contract signings about now...

[3] Google Glass is apparently still around — and just got its first update in nearly three years TechCrunch, 21st June, 2017

[4] CEO of Logbar Responds to Criticism Towards Kickstarter-Success Ring Wearable Tech Crowdfunder Insider, Dec 2014

This 'Smart' Ring Is Another Reason To Never Trust Kickstarter Videos Gizmodo, Dec 2014

Wearable Translation Device's 'Sexual Harassment' Advert turns out to be staged Independent, Jan 2016

[5] Disgraced Koito not involved in new Toyota aircraft seat deal: ANA Runway Girl Network, April 2015

[6] Airbus 380 Seat Plan

14:

Actually, given that ANA #008 would have been a notorious & well-known mystery ... WOULD the ANG have opened fire - depends on how trigger-happy they are I suppose, rather than them informing their superiors, who would probably go: "Holy Shit!"

15:

Host, you are no-where near cynical or jaded enough.

Well, yeah. $10,000 worth of prizes, of which two are for me useless pieces of crap, and while I could visit Japan, I would rather do so on my own accord.

The prizes seem more like exposure than anything else, and exposure kills people.

16:

Starting to read through the stories now. Clueless right from the start with Benford's Space Cadet Dream. The only thing he got right was the Geoengineering. If the Arctic ice melts, then we are dead, but I digress.

I've worked with a number of time travelers, and the cultural shock of just 20 years is too great for them to just blithely walk into the future the way Benford does in his story.

- One guy went down into the Molly mines during the Disco Era, and came out 20 years later when the mines shut down. He had to get a second degree, Civil Engineering, and ended up at the Highway Department. He was the nicest guy in the world, and yet he was constantly jarred by the coarseness of the "modern" women around him.

- Another guy retired from the military. He'd spent most of his career in Okinawa. He was constantly uncomfortable without the hierarchy. He ended up getting a contractor job back in Okinawa, to be in the familiar hierarchy again.

- In Northern New Mexico, we still have small towns that are living in 1950s segregated America, i.e., White Families that look down on the Hispanics Families that have been here for centuries. I was at Furrs for lunch, a cafeteria style buffet, and a group of Northern Whites came in. Furrs, here in Santa Fe, is usually filled with Northern New Mexico Hispanics. The Northern Whites stood in line with clear looks of disgust on their faces as they saw the room filled with mostly brown faces that where not in their "proper" place.

The cultural differences that we have acclimated to over time, cannot be understood quickly. The next 20 years will be as unsettling as the past 20 years, and the 20 years before that, etc... That's why stories about time travel into the past/future completely miss the reality.

Go back in time to any decade and you will be targeted as "foreign" by the society around you. The further back in time you travel, the more dangerous it is. The same with moving forward in time.

- Think of the story of "cooking a frog". You put the frog in hot water it will jump out. You put the frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog is cooked.

I have been simmering for a very long time, and the "heat" is still increasing. HA!

17:

How Long or short is such a short story?
I'm tempted to take Chalie's premise & then ... the aircraft is *almost* shot down, but somoene remembers/realises at the last moment, & it is guided down ...
Then the fun starts with the terrifying interrogation of the passengers & crew, but in the course of this, it emerges that there's a giant corrupt scam in operation, which it's all-of-a-sudding too-late tpo cover up.
Pres Kushner (who was involved) is brought down, instead.
Happy ending, but a frightening view into the security-state, with the implication that it's still there ....

18:

Imagine you wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on top of Malaysia, but your design was a big and bulky 1st generation design.

What better way to *not* be attacked on the way in, than to dress up your repurposed passenger plane as MH370 ?

Now, imagine you were in the duty-seat of Air Defense Control, and the fighter-pilot reports that "target uniform" sports HM370 livery, signage and signatures.

Do you belive in Newton ?

Do you belive in Ghosts ?

Do you belive in Miracles ?

I'll bet you it will get shot down, if it cannot be neutralized any other way, no matter what fairy tales the pilot broadcast on emergency frequencies.

19:

Yes and no. I moved from an underdeveloped part of Africa to the UK at the age of 9, and it took me decades to adapt; part of that was the move from a truly rural environment to one that was essentially urban, but the point stands. But 20 years isn't all that long, and I don't see someone of the UK of 1997 necessarily having problems today - oh, yes, there are changes, but not very big ones.

20:

Well, you nailed the "optimistic"* part. Bravo!

* By Laundry Standards, assuming your description falls under Case Nighmare Orange Gibbon (sub-case shit-flinging).

21:

Oh yeah, was going ask why F-15s, but remembered ANG's always a couple decades behind.

I was thinking along the lines of whatever dynastic succession led us to a "President Kushner", probably didn't favor any CALIFORNIA institution.

More surprising that their equipment hadn't been downgraded farther than the F-15. I wouldn't put it past the Trump & Co. to have them flying Curtis JN-4s.

.
22:

I think you're slightly too cynical about the XPrize folks (disclaimer: I'm one of the SF authors they invited to join their advisory board, so I did a bit of digging before I gave a conditional-yes). Yes, it's late-stage capitalism, and yes, it's a way for billionaire tech dudebros to splash their money around and feel good about it while scratching the anxious itch between their shoulder blades by convincing themselves what they do is good and necessary ... but the reality is a lot more half-assed and well-intentioned than you seem to believe.

23:

Nope, they'd shoot. The plane is obsolescent, obviously a fake, and heading straight for a major city. It's not responding to currently-mandated communications channels (hint: VHF radio is so 1950s) and there's Bad Shit happening on the other side of the Pacific (got all the hints about North Korea, Japan, and Indonesia going off-track?). Also, there's no San Francisco International Airport for it to land on, at least not where they think it is (hint: San Andreas faultline).

Even today, we scramble armed fighters to intercept airliners on scheduled services that don't respond to air traffic control. Want to guess how much more paranoid the USA under President-for-Life Jared Kushner in the middle of a crisis with the Indonesian Caliphate might get?

24:

Go back in time to any decade and you will be targeted as "foreign" by the society around you. The further back in time you travel, the more dangerous it is. The same with moving forward in time.

Yup.

The elderly are all involuntary refugees in an alien culture that is the future version of their own childhood home. Also, their knees hurt! (This is why so many of them are grumpy.)

25:

Elderly Cynic @19 said: But 20 years isn't all that long, and I don't see someone of the UK of 1997 necessarily having problems today - oh, yes, there are changes, but not very big ones.

I know that this may be a shock, but look back at the movies from 1997 and tell me that was the same world as today. The difference is as staggering as 1977 to 1997, or 1957 to 1977.

You just haven't noticed, because you are still simmering. BTW, Someone is adding a little salt to the soup right now.

26:

We'll See[tm].

[On the off-hand, I know that there's serious moves to present at least some form of non-dystopian imaginary space across the board atm[1][2], so I was merely mustache tweaking; ANA isn't launching the Airbus 380 until '19, and the Airbus 380 doesn't actually have a seat 14C, thus the floor plan. 'Twas a conceit, m'lud].

Anyhow (and let's hope Corporate don't watch too closely), The Japanese Room is a personal fave, by M. Ashby / M. Atwood for, well, obvious reasons.

They also immediately score +1 snark point, as predicted:

She nodded into the pillow. "The plane was more comfortable than I thought it would be, though. I think the seat cushions had this same stuff in them." She poked the material of the futon and watched the dimple where her finger was slowly resolve itself.

"That's ANA for you."


[1] Baileys Prize: Naomi Alderman wins for 'shocking' sci-fi novel The Power Guardian, 7th June, 2017

[2] Project Hieroglyph

27:

non-dystopian imaginary space across the board

Neal Stephenson has been pushing this for 3-5 years; his Hieroglyph project. I don't think there's some sort of shadowy conspiracy, I think it's just the fifty-something geekocracy shuffling uneasily and wondering why they can't feel optimistic any more, goddamnit, will somebody think of the children (and write them some stories to shut them up)?

I have flown on A380s. They're nice planes as long as you avoid the back twelve rows on the upper deck like the plague; the hull tapers towards the rear; less headroom because of the gigantic tail fin, so less cabin baggage storage. Also, in any turbulence whatsoever it's like hitching a ride inside a tumble dryer. No wonder it's where most airlines put most of the economy-class seats ...

28:

So far the only things I'm having trouble truly disbelieving are the pilot of the F15 not realizing that the 777 pilot is sun-dazzled, and that the remnants of the FAA (after the privatization/giveaway of ATC and most FAA facilities but not the safety/enforcement arms) are still functional enough to do a proper post-incident report and get the actual truth out. The remnants might live on at a military level, though, or the report just might be a straight whitewash and there was no real attempt to contact the flight crew.

29:

So far my favorite bit is James Morrow's "...a lunatic asylum specializing in “the psychoses that typically plague public intellectuals who opt for cryonic suspension.”

30:

I think Charlie's story does a much better job of capturing the current mood than any of the actual entries. I read through them while wrestling insomnia last night; I'm afraid I need to check my blood sugar.

I can't wait to read Peter Watts' entry.

31:

For the piquant knowledge that neither the writers nor the commentators are seeing the jokes:

The Descent of Aeneas into Hell
Aeneas Offers Sacrifice to the Gods of the Lower World

~

I don't think there's some sort of shadowy conspiracy

You forget where and when we came from and what we fight against. Have we lied about the future yet? Nope, it's your kind who disbelieve, and now you're in the shit.

We do not "do" conspiracy theory, we "do" emergent nexus of thought / ideology and so forth [bored, not going to bother explaining it]. Frankly, I'd be depressed if there was *not* such Nexus of SF authors. But kudos for getting the inversion joke for reasons (Class War joke - it's funnier once your knowledge is added in). Takes a real sharp Mind to spot that kinda detail *nose wiggle*

I thought it was funny: funnier than the lacklustre dribblings of Corporate Future.

p.s.

Joke no-one has realized yet: Both the X-Files and (new BBC) Sherlock did stories about planes getting this treatment. (There's more). There's some PR execs (esp. those who made the frankly bizarre / spooky intro vid) who need a slap: OH, and that whole CERN ring imagery?

AWKWARD

"The Future: is annihilation / death / spiritual Mind rape via Ouroboros Energy Ring"

Yeah.

but the reality is a lot more half-assed and well-intentioned than you seem to believe.

That's the problem: massively douchey Tech Bro scammers with massively inept messaging with massively inept framing.


It's... I'd say a plane crash, but that's kinda a given.


32:

It might be "an optimistic and exciting future for mankind", but the displaced passengers would be thoroughly screwed. Shooting the plane down is probably the kindest thing that could be done for the passengers.

33:

The "Steve Canyon" comic strip ran just such a storyline in the mid-sixties, with a 707 concealing a first generation Chinese H-Bomb.

34:

Meh, just going to make it concrete. (cf. Ghostbuster / 4chan / GG marketing).

The entire point of "taking the best from each side" has somehow been flipped into "taking the worst of each in a total cluster-fuck of inept chaotic noise nonsense that doesn't even make money while making us look like total fools". I mean: the stories are mostly middling / a bit cringey / kinda ok (+1 snark helps, and you can spot those phoning it in vrs those at least attempting the interesting) but... it's not really fooling anyone.

You take the Best of Each (.RU - Light/Shadow, Altruism/Self) and forge a better world; not the other way around. So far we're seeing the total opposite in what is, quite frankly, an orgy of incompetence. This might be my fault: I assumed levels of competence and equality where there were none. One has to assume some level of ἀρετή to one's opponents, otherwise it'd simply be a case of parasitism.

I mean. 21st Century: meritocracy and oligarchy put to the test on the most basic of levels.

Narrator: Well. They tried. I guess? Not very hard. And ... oh fuck it, the Mirror Cracked. Total Muppets. Chaos and blunt stupidity and so forth, the curtain burnt down and showed everyone their real souls.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall YT: Music, Bob Dylan, 6:51


~

And that, Host, is what happens when you attack our Kind.

35:

Odd - just explaining this very thing to some friends of mine. I feel increasingly disconnected from society - although my knees don't yet hurt except when I rip meniscuses when they hurt a lot.

Part of this is because I don't recognize the portrayal of "my" decades - were the 1980's really a decade of racist, sexist, homophobes? I didn't think so at the time and I don't now although I grant you that same-sex marriage would not have happened in the 1980's. One positive thing is it makes me look at those decades I had previously thought prehistoric (50's, 60's) in a new light.

I have also ceased to expect any mainstream film to be interesting (books remain interesting) I also ceased to care about many of the things the press find important.

Pretty soon I will disconnect entirely and float away into outer space. Perhaps I already have.

Good luck with the knees.

36:

If you want to see just how heedless and callous the US Armed Forces are about shooting down a civilian airliner, just read the section in Major David Crist's excellent "The Twilight War" dealing with the Iran Air flight 655 Airbus A300 that was shot down by USS Vincennes, which mistook it for a F-14.

37:

Part of this is because I don't recognize the portrayal of "my" decades - were the 1980's really a decade of racist, sexist, homophobes? I didn't think so at the time and I don't now although I grant you that same-sex marriage would not have happened in the 1980's.

A different country, I presume, and I was a child then, so a quite skewed perspective, but I think the 1980's were more racist, sexist and homophobe than nowadays. There are outliers, of course, but the general trend, to me, seems to be going towards more acceptance.

In the 1980's I lived in Finland. Racism against foreigners of different skin colour wasn't obvious because there just weren't that many foreign people in Finland. There were some refugees, mostly from Chile and Vietnam, but not very many, though the ones from Vietnam were often thought of as being here for a better standard of living (hey, that's all refugees...). However, the minorities in Finland were mercilessly mocked in TV and on school yards - for example the Sámi people and the Roma were treated very stereotypically in ways which have affected a couple of generations quite deeply. There's backlash about this now.

Also, "neekeri" was a common word, both as something to call not stock-Finnish people in the schoolyard and to call out on the street when you were going to ogle at the black person there.

Sexist? We-ell, the mermaids you could drop into a pool with a ball (all young women in bikinis) in the Helsinki amusement park Linnanmäki were there last time in 1980. I remember them vaguely. Also, again from what I remember of the news and entertainment at the time, the middle-aged man gang was pretty much in force in politics, there were fewer women in management positions, and many TV shows joked quite openly about "women logic" and such stuff. Most again not stuff that would fly nowadays, though the politics and business are still a problem. I'm not sure about for example STEM education.

Homophobic? The most common slur in the schoolyard was "homo". Of course, nobody really knew what it meant. LBTQ people were really nowhere to be seen, execpt again, for my young eyes, as very stereotypical portrayals in comedy shows. They were obviously a joke, anyway. "They" being gay cis men, obviously - anything else was just not on the radar, though obviously any gay man would use women's clothing and mostly be camp gay.

Homosexuality was made not a crime in 1971, and removed finally from the official list of diseases (sorry, I don't know a good translation) in 1981. The first proposal for gender-neutral marriage came in 1993.

So, from my perspective the 1980's were quite much more racist, sexist, and homophobic than the current day. It was also a time of greater conformance - at least from the outside.

38:

IIRC, less racist and more homophobic. The Republicans are happy to run on the Southern Strategy and FOX news is explicitly racist.

39:

- how much more paranoid the USA under President-for-Life Jared Kushner in the middle of a crisis with the Indonesian Caliphate?
Now THERE'S a future novel, straight off .....

40:

Bugger, done it again ...
No, in "normal" circs, which yours wasn't of course, you fly the fighters REALLY CLOSE to the airliner, make it really clear to follow us & guide to remote air-force base.
The knowledge is too important to lose.
[ Hence, of course, my insistence on the frightening & paranoid interrogation section to follow ]

41:

were the 1980's really a decade of racist, sexist, homophobes?
NO
Try 1955-65 - they really were.
It took 9 or 10 years between the Wolfendon report & the decriminalisation of homosexuality, with the chistians screeching, wailing & threatening the whole way. See also Notting Hill riots.
Of course this is referring to Britain & specifically the London in which I was a teenager - I can remember coming across a BNP meeting in Willesden, with Oswald Mosley (yes, really!) present, yuck.
YMMV where it comes to the USSA, of course - the Mongomery protests were ... 1956?

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Knees hurting?
No, probably, bacause I'm still dancing.
But my back creaks badly from time-to-time & I can tell that myt reaction-time, though still v good for my age, is not quite what it was.

42:

Then the fun starts with the terrifying interrogation of the passengers & crew, but in the course of this, it emerges that there's a giant corrupt scam in operation, which it's all-of-a-sudding too-late to cover up.

I knew that sounded familiar. That's the plot of the first episode of Department S, a TV show from around 1970; in Six Days" (youtube) an airliner mysteriously disappears for, obviously, six days before reappearing and landing as usual.

As you say, the return of the airliner and the confusion of the passengers is a minor matter compared to the governmental mess that follows.

43:

Dang; during editing I hit Submit instead of Preview. That last link goes to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtSmMIiZ1pQ and the entire episode described above.

44:

You forget where and when we came from and what we fight against.

Well, yes. You're coming from the pub, after a busy night, and you're fighting against whatever presents itself.

That's okay; we can be friends even when you're drunk and rambling.

*nose twitch* *ear wiggle*

45:

"I think the 1980's were more racist, sexist and homophobe than nowadays"

No kidding. The liberal cause celebre of the '80s where I live was making homosexuality *legal*.

Now I've an openly gay MP, and the fact that he's gay doesn't even get mentioned around election time because no-one cares.

If someone had been openly gay at my highschool in the early 80s they'd have been expelled. After they'd been beaten up a lot. At my daughters' high school it's just one of many ways of being normal.

46:

Hmm. I can remember 1997 - it wasn't long ago, you know, from the viewpoint of an old fart of 69. Also, I haven't changed my lifestyle significantly since 1997, and people of today don't find it exceptional - yes, I know that the two aren't strictly comparable. It is more likely that our different views are because I have experienced far more drastic technical, environmental and social changes in my life than you have.

47:

It took a lot longer for the liberalisation to reach much of the UK, and it still hasn't, entirely. While I agree that things were a lot less so in the 1950s, the following page may jog people'e memories:

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

48:

In the UK homosexual sex was illegal for anyone under the age of 21 until 1994. University students in love with each other? Against the law unless they're heterosexual.

In 1986 newspapers in the UK were shocked to discover that some school libraries in London had a book in which a child lived with two parents who were both male and gay. The result was legislation making it illegal to have such books in school libraries.

Tell me again about this lack of homophobia in the UK in the 80s. Because I haven't even gone into simple discrimination, just started with things that were illegal.

49:

Excellent link, sir. I hadn't seen that one.

50:

I know that this may be a shock, but look back at the movies from 1997 and tell me that was the same world as today. The difference is as staggering as 1977 to 1997, or 1957 to 1977.

You just haven't noticed, because you are still simmering. BTW, Someone is adding a little salt to the soup right now.

As an example: recently watched a film set in 1997, the whole premise of which would no longer be possible. The protagonist falls in love with a Polish woman who moved to Dublin to work, but didn't realise she was already married in Poland ...

Today, he'd know immediately, because Facebook.

Swapping FB and other social media handles is the new phone numbers. You know someones 'public' life in detail.

Similarly I know where my friends, family currently are (within the last hour) because of Whatsapp, Twitter. The level of knowledge I have of them, never mind Google, would horrify my 1990s self.

51:

As an example: recently watched a film set in 1997, the whole premise of which would no longer be possible. The protagonist falls in love with a Polish woman who moved to Dublin to work, but didn't realise she was already married in Poland ...

Today, he'd know immediately, because Facebook.

And if she's one of the ~6.5 Billion of us who don't use Arsebook? Your claimed "normal" is still actually a 1 in 14 minority interest.

52:

Where I was at school in the 80s racism was common and homophobia was pretty much mandatory. To the extent that it was dangerous to be unenthusiastic during the two minute hate.

I can't say I miss the 80s much. It had the best summers though :)

53:

Today, he'd know immediately, because Facebook.

Swapping FB and other social media handles is the new phone numbers. You know someones 'public' life in detail.

Even if people were on Facebook, nothing forces them to tell there their relationship status.

I think mobile phones are more relevant. I got my first around 1997, and watching tv series from that time os painful now. So many have problems which would have been solved in five minutes if they had had mobile phones. For example Buffy the Vampire Slayer is very much a child of its time. (The other thing is that many problems would've been solved quickly if people just talked to each other...)

54:

And you might be surprised how many people (in, say, the UK) don't carry mobile phones, or carry them switched off (to use as substitutes for telephone boxes at need). A younger person from 1997 might well find that he was behaving like one of us old fogies, but that would mean that he would sort-of fit in with the society as a whole, and give him time to adapt to his own age group.

Even today, the differences between parts of the world are more than 20 years' worth, and they were a HELL of a lot more extreme 60+ years ago, before ubiquitous long-distance communications (not just telephones) and Americanisation. My children never really believed me when I described what my childhood was like - it was just so alien to them - and I wasn't even in an extreme environment.

55:

If MH370 appeared out of nowhere right now and began its unheralded descent to a major city, it might very well get shot out of the sky. That might even turn out to be the right move. After all, what's more plausible, a wormhole or creative terrorism?

56:

And you might be surprised how many people (in, say, the UK) don't carry mobile phones, or carry them switched off (to use as substitutes for telephone boxes at need).

Yeah, I know I'm both locally and globally biased - living in Finland, working in the tech sector, most people I know have a phone or two, most of them a smartphone. There are very few, if any, public phones here anymore.

Of course this has the effect of marginalizing some groups, mainly those who can't afford a smartphone or really don't like them for one reason or another. Many services have gone mostly to the internet instead of being available in person, and many of those have been lately done with smartphone applications.

57:

I have now read Benford's and Ashby/Atwood's, and fully agree with you about the former. Someone is warped 20 years into the future and just carries on with less fuss than if he had lost his luggage? I stand by my responses, but that doesn't excuse ridiculousness.

58:

You have got to start somewhere.
Legally, 1967 was that point.
As in Ireland, now, (both parts) where the majority of the poulation seem to have liberalised, but the legislatures are still stuck in 1955 ... or something like that?

59:

Now there is a plot that would be resolved in about 30 seconds with modern CCTV coverage.

"Oh look. All our suspects are having a sneaky meeting in the airport departure lounge. Again."

60:

I'm sorry, I just have enough trouble trying to imagine myself as a passenger on a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco in the first place. The USA is not a place I want to visit at present, and even if I did, I wouldn't be flying there from flippin' Japan (heck, Perth - Sydney - LAX is the far more likely pathway). So I have to figure out why I'd be flying from Japan in the first place. Current best guess is the reason would have to involve a lottery win, a world tour, and a rather comprehensive case of amnesia.

Secondly, I have a suspicion the flight to Japan they're offering as a prize is from San Francisco (and your return journey would be, you guessed it, on flight ANA #008). Which... yeah. While they're saying it's international, this is for versions of "international" which mean "all of North America, not just the continental USA". People from outside the USA probably wouldn't be welcomed because they can't manage the necessary level of detachment from external reality required. I think what Charlie wrote is much more likely to be the case, and I think even if the plane made it all the way to ground level before the passengers were tear-gassed, arrested, knocked out and quarantined for their own safety (receipts and invoices for treatment to be issued later, as per standard US medical "system") I doubt any of the passengers would be particularly gosh-wow about the new technology. They'd be more worried about practical problems, like "am I going to be able to get home" and similar.

Because, let's be realistic here, every single one of those passengers would effectively be stateless and impoverished. They're officially deceased. They're non-people. They don't have currently viable documentation of who they are (heck, some of them are flying around with passports that are up to thirty years old in the current context, they barely have RFID chips, much less the holographic markers and bio-data required to prove identity by 2037). If you were someone important, you might be able to get your citizenship of your home country re-instated and you might be able to start the long process of arguing through getting yourself legally un-deaded, if you have sufficiently welcoming family and friends who would be willing to support you through the whole business. But for the majority of the passengers? The ordinary folks who just pay their taxes and don't make waves? They can claim refugee status in the USA... if that's still an option. Or they can be stateless, trapped forever in an internment camp somewhere in Latin America (which is where the USA has their camps, unless they've actually set up a full swap with Australia by that point, in which case you might be treated to the delights of Nauru).

I mean, it would make a very interesting comedy of bureaucracy about the vagaries of the human condition, and I'll certainly put it on my list of "Plot Ideas to Consider When I Have The Time", but I think I'd have trouble coming up with the requisite sense of gosh-wow to manage about new technology for the short story contest.

61:

Plane flies through hole in space and lands somewhere unusual? Has a long heritage in SF: Steven King used it in "The Langoliers", there was the TV show Land of the Giants in 1968, and it goes back further. Yawn. You can probably also cover other transport modalities. Subway trains going to hell is such a cliche that you can't effectively google for it; and ships getting lost is a trope in and of itself ("Call of Cthulhu", anyone?)

62:

In the UK homosexual sex was illegal for anyone under the age of 21 until 1994. University students in love with each other? Against the law unless they're heterosexual.

Let's go further: the only thing that was legal was consenting sex between adult males over 21 in private. Note in private was so tightly defined that some folks were prosecuted for having sex in a house that was rented, while nobody else was present (before the police broke in), or for having sex in a private dwelling but forgetting to lock the front door. In general, men having sex anywhere a homophobic cop could stick there nose in were liable to be prosecuted for "gross indecency", a public order offense — more men were prosecuted this way between 1967 and 1997 than in the previous three decades.

(Female homosexuality was never made illegal in the UK, although Cthulhu help you if you were a lesbian from a good family much before the 1970s and they found out — it's what asylums were for.)

In Scotland, male homosexuality was illegal until 1981 ... but because Scottish Law differs, there were far fewer prosecutions. ("Corroboration" means that a single policeman's testimony isn't enough to secure a conviction — supporting evidence or a second witness was required, making it a lot harder to bring a successful prosecution because they couldn't simply use handsome young officers on plain clothes duty as honey traps.)

63:

So the sun is moving relative to the galactic centre at around 30km/s. That's 946080000km/year.

After 20 years you would probably need a fairly decent radio telescope to detect the aircrafts beacon. Are there any X-prizes for radio astronomy?

64:

An afterthought: Given that modern fighter aircraft are (i) insanely expensive and (ii) severely constrained by the needs to keep fragile humans from turning to mush during maneuvers and (iii) given that drone technology is evolving so rapidly, it seems unlikely that manned military aircraft will still represent the majority of the airforce in 20 years.

First, cost. A typical modern fighter costs upwards of US$100 million, versus US$4 million for a Predator drone. You can buy 25+ drones for the price of one manned fighter, not even including volume pricing. Plus drone pilots are easier and less expensive to train. Any teenager with an X-box will likely be able to do the job with a few weeks of training; they already have the fast-twitch muscles and reflexes. ("Ender's War" is likely to prove prescient.)

Second, performance. A young human pilot in peak physical condition can typically pull a maximum of 8 or 9 gees of acceleration before passing out or having a stroke. Other than physics, which is (of course) a significant constraint, there's no upper limit to how fast a drone can accelerate. Well, there's some limit; it can't turn so fast that the remote pilot loses orientation or gets dizzy and pukes all over the console. But the upper limit should be much higher than for manned aircraft.

Third, modern drones are still on the early slopes of the technology curve. If the technology advances even remotely as fast as it has for computers and genetics (to take only two examples), drones 20 years hence will make today's drones look like Commodore 64 computers.

There are many caveats for each of these points, of course, but a good writer could make a highly plausible case for Charlie's story playing out largely unchanged, except with no humans in visual range of the airliner.

65:

I've definitely traced examples of "this sort of work" that I've read/watched back to AJ Deutsch's "A Subway Called Mobeus" which was first published in 1950.

66:

Now there is a plot that would be resolved in about 30 seconds with modern CCTV coverage.

"Oh look. All our suspects are having a sneaky meeting in the airport departure lounge. Again."

*laughs* Good point. At least one dodge for that goes back at least to Agatha Christie's era: Every single character is up to something, it's the detective's job to figure out which one was involved in that particular crime.

67:

Or even "... except with no humans involved, even in the decision to destroy it." Indeed, if it were destroyed at sea, no humans (except thos one it, of course) might ever be aware of the incident.

68:

"VHF radio is so 1950s"

Yes, these systems are incredibly conservative. And that's why they won't go anywhere in the next couple of decades.

During an emergency, it's typical to fail-back technologically when you experience communications failures. The modern shiny fails all the time.

Automated systems will fail (they are changing those around all the time, bunchajerks), as will routine monitoring of older emergency frequencies (hugebunchajerks), but basic voice comms capability will survive long after everyone thinks it should've died out. Precisely because you never know what the other guy will resort to when all else fails.

Even if VHF somehow got completely bumped from commercial aviation, VHF would still be used for marine radio in many, many parts of the world that the US Navy operates, especially in emergencies. Navy comms will therefore be still capable of using VHF in 2137.

That said, given the obvious lack of awareness by the B777 pilots about their circumstances, and the 2037 biases of the Naval officers, there's still a good chance that the time-travelling pilots wouldn't know that they need to signify their peaceful intent. Cognitive dissonance is just as bad as completely comms failure, hell it may be worse. (For example, the Navy insists they redirect to such'n'such airport (the new post-quake main SF airport) which in our time is grossly undersized for a B777. So the B777 pilots override the instruction (having declared an emergency, it is their right) and insist on "descending to SF".)

Aside: Interesting that radio is the only part of the sequence I find hard to believe.

69:

Oh, it goes back a LOT further than that! I don't know when the earliest recorded story using the meme was, but it was a long time before Rip Van Winkle and When the Sleeper Wakes. Probably millennia, rather than centuries.

70:
And if she's one of the ~6.5 Billion of us who don't use Arsebook? Your claimed "normal" is still actually a 1 in 14 minority interest.

5.5 billion. You're behind, FB has now 2 billion users. And considering that 40 % of all Europeans (including kid and grannies) use FB and considering the supposed age of 20-40 for them both, where the usage is around 80 % it's very likely they would have and use FB to make the plot indeed moot.

71:

Would a wormhole capable of swallowing a jetliner intact, leave enough evidence now for the physics community to workout its exit point?
I am pretty sure it would leave enough evidence that there was a wormhole. In the form of gravity waves and exotic particles.

72:

Whose figures? Inter alia, there will be a lot more people with an account than who use it routinely, and it is the latter that matters in this context. There is the same issue with the official cycling statistics.

73:

And, indeed, with sites like LinkedIn. I'm officially a member of that under my real name (through work) but have visited exactly once, to get a personal e-mail for a company owner for a mate who was having issues getting a faulty product replaced by the shop he'd bought it from.

74:

Only way to go with this is over the top. They want optimistic predictions of twenty years from now, give them a twenty year span like there has never been. When you get off the plane you are all herded into briefing room. A government representative apologizes for the unfortunate incident, a side effect of time travel experiments by a rogue research contractor, solely liable and now completely without ties to any large deep pocketed institutions or entities. No, backwards time travel is not possible, don't be silly. But these rascals were apparently lifting random people from the past into the future all over the place until they were stopped.

So, yes, things have changed a lot in just twenty years. Nursebots come in and give everyone injections, touted to be a single shot "immortality treatment". The invention of the high volume positron generator has made energy concerns a thing of the past, meaning all other problems can be tackled with brute force. Global warming? Make giant air conditioners, we can afford it. The economy is booming, the world is at peace.

While you were gone, your pension did continue to accumulate, since you were never technically declared dead, just missing. However, due to account inactivity those funds have been escheated by the bank. Sorry. Also your house was taken by the city for back taxes and sold at auction. So, you're a homelss pauper. Fortunately, we do have a dole for you--the government is flush since its labs discovered both the positron genterator and the immortality shots.

You are handed special glasses "just until you can get implants" so you'll be able to percieve AR (a prerequisite for just walking around safely and legally) and then released to walk out into the brave new world.

75:

"Time travel was declared illegal in 2024. You have been judged and found guilty. 20 years"

"But..."

"Disagreeing with a judge. 20 years."

"Buh.."

"I am the law!"

76:

Paul 451 notes: "That said, given the obvious lack of awareness by the B777 pilots about their circumstances, and the 2037 biases of the Naval officers, there's still a good chance that the time-travelling pilots wouldn't know that they need to signify their peaceful intent."

I think the first part of your response is the crucial one: how long would it take the pilots to realize that they're not in Kansas anymore? The sooner they realize this, the sooner they can take defensive measures such as flying slowly in a big circle, far from any "target" -- the airplane equivalent of rolling on your back and exposing your belly and throat -- to indicate that there's a problem with their communications gear and give the fighter pilots time to come up with a less drastic solution.

Given the number of passenger planes that have been shot down (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airliner_shootdown_incidents), particularly in the past couple decades while a 2017 pilot was undergoing training, and given post-9/11 threats to shoot down any potentially threatening airplane that won't immediately establish contact, I'd expect any professional pilot to quickly realize the urgency of the need to establish their bona fides *once the nature of the problem became apparent*. Fighter aircraft off one's wingtips are a powerful clue that there's an existential threat.

77:

That unfortunately is a general problem with Airbus hulls of whatever generation. Too noisy, taper problems and it's worse at the back.

78:

Yeah, I've been in the next to back row in "veal crate class" on a BA 747-400 and even that's tolerable as long as the short-ass takes the window seat.

79:

how long would it take the pilots to realize that they're not in Kansas anymore? The sooner they realize this, the sooner they can take defensive measures such as flying slowly in a big circle, far from any "target"

That's not 2017 procedure for any civil airliner. Remember, they have enough fuel to make their destination plus a reserve good for maybe 60-90 minutes. Flying in circles over the ocean is a really bad idea. Hint: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961.

As it is, they're squawking 7600 — transponder code for "radio failure"—because they can't hear anyone out there. They're repeatedly calling for help on emergency and air traffic control frequencies, and long-range VHF that should put them in touch with their operations center. They've lost satellite comms (wrong frequencies/obsolete systems) but have triggered their emergency distress beacon. What else are they meant to do, fire flares and send up smoke signals?

80:

Intercept protocols are unmistakable (basically fly in front of nose and waggle wings) and after 9/11 very, very well known, so the 'follow me' signals would be well understood by our ANA flight. Oh and failing to raise SF TRACON on voice would be a good indicator that hey, 'we're not in Kansas no more baby'. If things got really icky then a burst of tracer past the nose is... persuasive. Not to mention that your onboard ANA maintenance link via satellite to would have gone tits up. Seriously there's a whole lot you can do before it gets to punching a white job off the rails.

So I favour a happy ending, well as happy as such endings ever are...

81:

So I favour a happy ending, well as happy as such endings ever are...

Fine.

Everybody aboard has been declared dead as of a decade ago. They don't have modern biometric ID (as in, complete genome checksum in their passports) so at a minimum they're in "distressed person of no verifiable nationality" territory when they land. Some of them may come from nations that no longer legally exist (I'm guessing there may be some Brits or South Koreans on board). Others may come from nations considered friendly at take-off and hostile by landing, 20 years later. And President Kushner's America is not a good place to be anyone who isn't a white male heterosexual Christian multi-millionaire who lives a long way from both sea level and tornado alley. (White House's moved to Aspen, y'all.)

Even for the lucky few who had US passports and have still-living relatives who are overjoyed to see them back (don't ask about the widows/widowers who remarried, or the kids who inherited, or the parents who died in the meantime) it's not going to be a whole barrel of laughs.

82:

...But in the mean time 'Reality TV" has become the new normal and imagine the shark feeding frenzy the new gods of the interwebz are going to go into over this one.

Of course if I was really dystopian the plane pulls up to the terminal and there's no one there to greet them. 'President Kushner' is in fact the effect of an an AI avatar and there's no one to greet the lone survivors of the AI-human synchronicity, well other than cybernetic 'processing' units. Welcome to the Singularity guys...

83:

First, cost. A typical modern fighter costs upwards of US$100 million, versus US$4 million for a Predator drone. You can buy 25+ drones for the price of one manned fighter, not even including volume pricing.

If you want modern fighter performance, expect to pay modern fighter prices. The pilot's ejector seat and instruments don't cost $96 million; the reason for the Predator costing $4 million is because that's the cost of a similar light aircraft, plus some extra electro-optics.

Once you add the big expensive radar and EO sensors; then the expensive defensive-aids suite (because it's worth protecting); then the airframe that can screech around the sky at Mach 2 and 9g, and the engines to get it up to that speed; and build it to last a couple of decades; you've just got an existing fighter minus an ejector seat / OBOGS, plus some extra flight control software and datalink.

Plus drone pilots are easier and less expensive to train. Any teenager with an X-box will likely be able to do the job with a few weeks of training; they already have the fast-twitch muscles and reflexes. ("Ender's War" is likely to prove prescient.)

Again, not true. Drone pilots have to talk to air traffic control in controlled airspace (this is a primary limiting factor in military use - and why the British Army is having issues around "who controls Watchkeeper"). Do you really think it's a great idea to let a teenager play drone pilot in among the Heathrow stacks / approach path to JFK / New York skyscrapers and helicopter flight paths?

A squadron of UAVs has the same manpower requirements as a squadron of similar aircraft, for similar reasons - you still need to maintain them, after all...

Smart money is currently on "optionally manned" aircraft; and possibly "unmanned wingmen" to manned aircraft.

84:

Happy Ending #2:

Flight ANA 008 is recognized and permitted to land on a near-mothballed California ANG. The passengers and crew interned followed by mutual failure of infection quarantine protocols. Mortality among returned passenger and crew is >90%. Mortality across North America varies depending on age, pre-existing health, acceptance of vaccination and health care. Mortality among people greater than 65 years is low, typically less than 5% and concentrated among this with weakened immune or respiratory systems. In some locations, mortality among teens and children approaches 50%.

International spread of the historical viruses occurred in several waves, with markedly different patterns of disease and mortality.

85:

See #36 and #67. Why do you need to approach an aircraft to identify it? If it doesn't respond correctly, the AI controlling California's defence network just deems it hostile and sends up a missile. That's how to design the software and be sure that it is fail safe against terrorists. An occasional false positive is a small cost to pay for Keeping America Safe.

86:

Plenty of science fiction stories deal with the difficulty of fitting in in the future or past; two that come immediately to mind are A Connecticut Yankee at the Court of King Arthur and The Age of the Pussyfoot.

87:

Charlie's post gave me an idea I may try writing. I'm having a hard time with a world in which this is a one-off event. Instead, this is a known risk with as many as 1-3 arrivals and departures every quarter century, happening mostly to small planes and boats because they're more common. Frequently enough that this is something understood to sometimes happen, and have protocols, paperwork, agencies, and support groups that try to help those who go through it. But also rarely enough that these rust, leading to promises that next time it will be better, and it rarely is.

88:

Yeah
I refuse, point-blank to go near Arsebook ... I do have a Twotter account, but I use it about twice-a-year from this machine & Tw on my phone appears to be totally borked - & - you know I can't be arsed about that, either ...

89:

You'd be including users like "Jacob Beale" here? This user is my sister's friend's cat, who likes to paw at the screen when said friend is playing Farmville!

90:

"...spread of the historical viruses... {death, destruction, cats and dogs living together}"

Not how immunity and common viruses works.

If anything on the plane isn't killing the passengers (and us in 2017), then it won't kill the locals in 2037. It's already evolved into a low-mortality version of whatever it is. I mean, do you think humans have had long enough to evolve become immune to the Spanish flu?

(The same will be true in reverse. Unless they've have something nasty that's killed off everyone who's susceptible.)

91:

Designing a "fighter" (which is today more like a bomb truck crossed with an EWACS and forward-deployed missile platform) to be optionally manned costs a lot in terms of engineering compromises such as the cockpit, visor, environmental equipment (see the current problems the US are having with oxygen generators on some aircraft) etc. An unmanned "drone" fighter fitting the same deliverables envelope will cost the same in dollar terms but will deliver more bang for the buck assuming the backfield comms and control systems work well enough often enough. The big cost savings of going unmanned (and unwomanned too) are in things like air-sea rescue, family survivor benefits and POW exchanges.

92:

IIRC, less racist and more homophobic. The Republicans are happy to run on the Southern Strategy and FOX news is explicitly racist.

Probably what I should have said is that racism was on the decline in the 1980s (as opposed to currently being on the rise) and homophobia was rampant to the point where two men or two women could not hold hands or kiss in public. (I first saw this happening in the early nineties.)

At this point I would say that racism is lower than it was in the eighties, but my impression is that it is growing rather than shrinking. Homophobia currently seems to be lessening among everyone other than the most fundamentalist Christians.

93:

That's not entirely true. There are diseases, which are relatively harmless when caught as child, but much nastier when caught as an adult (e.g. mumps and rubella). There are also diseases that are relatively harmless if you have been exposed to a lesser form, but much nastier if you have not (e.g. cowpox and smallpox, or some of the E. colis and Salmonellas). And a disease could have been eradicated, so that the future population was not vaccinated against it. But I agree that 20 years is a short time, and it almost certainly wouldn't be particularly lethal.

94:

Troutwaxer @ 38:

IIRC, less racist and more homophobic. The Republicans are happy to run on the Southern Strategy and FOX news is explicitly racist.

The Gay Liberation movement had been in full swing for 10 years by 1980. The big thing in the 80s was HIV/AIDS as a "gay disease". There was as much racism in the 80s as there is today, but it was eclipsed in the news by all the other shit going on around the world - civil wars & ethnic cleansing ...


Elderly Cynic @ 57:

I have now read Benford's and Ashby/Atwood's, and fully agree with you about the former. Someone is warped 20 years into the future and just carries on with less fuss than if he had lost his luggage? I stand by my responses, but that doesn't excuse ridiculousness.

I've been trying to read them all. So far there's only been one that I just could not read through to the end.

That said, none of the ones I've read are even slightly realistic. There's no anger on the part of the passengers. They all just accept being ripped out of their former lives without a squawk.

95:

Re: 80s-90s & Homophobia

You're forgetting that this was the era that AIDS first hit the world stage and was still a death sentence. AIDS added a lot of fuel to orthodox/rabid Bible/Koran-thumpers' screams that homosexuality was not to be tolerated.

Meanwhile an opposite and equally massive reaction to homosexuality was also emerging. Have been watching Queen & Live Aid (1984-85) videos recently. In 1984 when Geldof & Ure produced the first celeb-for-charity [Ethiopia] hit single, there was at least one openly gay and hugely popular celeb (Boy George). Also, less than 12 months after Freddie Mercury died of AIDS (Nov 1991), there was another celeb-driven very large AIDS-awareness fundraiser in his memory (Apr 92).

Not sure when Elton John & George Michael came out - but they were also massively popular in this era. And, I imagine that the tabloids then - as now - had no qualms about publishing any dirt (indiscretions) about any celeb.

In the US, the death of Rock Hudson - a very popular Hollywood actor - probably made a lot of older (WW2) generation people rethink their attitudes toward homosexuality. Ditto Liberace.

So, the public had to know by the early '90s that quite a large number of their favorite stars were gay. They were finally forced to make a decision between: do I now have to start hating the people/celebs I've always loved/admired/brought me joy, or do I finally examine what homosexuality is and is not.

96:

I think the big issue for acceptance of queerness has been the realization that everyone has somebody in their family who is queer, and that you don't actually have to run them off the homestead in shame!

97:

Charlie objected to my "fly in circles" suggestion: "That's not 2017 procedure for any civil airliner. Remember, they have enough fuel to make their destination plus a reserve good for maybe 60-90 minutes."

Yes, but if the 2017 procedure clearly isn't working, "insanity is repeating the same thing again and again while expecting a different result". If you're the pilot, would you keep hoping that the situation would miraculously resolve when it's clear that isn't happening, or would you try anything, no matter how unconventional, to clarify your intentions? Me, I'd hope that an additional 10 minutes of circling would give someone time to figure out what was going on and try something different. Also, were it me, I'd probably be thinking really hard about a water landing when it became clear the authorities weren't listening to me. The odds of survival (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_landing#Passenger_airplane_water_ditchings) are better than the odds of surviving an air-to-air missile imho.

Martin notes: "If you want modern fighter performance, expect to pay modern fighter prices."

Yes and no. I certainly agree with you that the bulk of the cost is going to be in the miscellaneous electronics and weaponry. It's not clear that you'd want to pay for the same level of electronics in a drone, which falls into the "throwaway cost" category compared with an advanced manned fighter. (No, that doesn't make good economic sense unless you're a defense contractor, in which case, throwaway looks really attractive economically.) In terms of performance, given the weight differential between a manned fighter and a drone, you can get the same acceleration with far smaller engines or much higher acceleration with the same engines without having to worry about pilot survival. That suggests the potential for improved performance. Ditto because lighter drones should have less inertia and thus, higher maneuverability, than a heavier manned aircraft, all else being equal.

I do suspect you'd need different classes of drone for different mission profiles (e.g., aerial combat vs. escorting passenger aircraft vs. surveillance), with costs decreasing and endurance (flight time) increasing in roughly that direction.

Re. training "teenagers" versus professional military pilots: Perhaps I should have made it clearer that in Charlie's proposed context, we're clearly talking about a post-Trump era in which cost-minimization scenarios are the dominant paradigm, irrespective of practicality or effectiveness or logic, including privatization of things such as air traffic control that really shouldn't be privatized (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-infrastructure-idUSKBN18W215).

Teenagers will probably *pay you* for the privilege of playing the world's most expensive video game, thereby eliminating salary costs and benefits; at worst, you'll only have to pay them minimum wage, with no benefits, which would seem to be the modern capitalist utopia.

Martin: "Drone pilots have to talk to air traffic control in controlled airspace"

In our world. In the post-Trump alt-future, I suspect not so much. Yes, this kind of liaison is a really good idea; no, I don't think it's likely to work so well in a Trump-defined utopia in which testosterone and acting on impulse are the gold standard.

Martin: "Do you really think it's a great idea to let a teenager play drone pilot in among the Heathrow stacks / approach path to JFK / New York skyscrapers and helicopter flight paths?"

No, I think it's a really, really terrible idea. But we're talking reality 2.0 here, with Trump levels of sanity and rational thought.

Martin: "A squadron of UAVs has the same manpower requirements as a squadron of similar aircraft, for similar reasons - you still need to maintain them, after all..."

Fair enough. But the advantage of the drones is no loss of pilots and no having to pay survivor benefits to their family.

We do agree that maintaining manned fighters for the foreseeable future is highly likely for certain missions, both because of the flexibility compared with drones and because it seems unlikely that the Air Force will abandon the corporate cowboy culture of the fighter pilot any time soon.

98:

One of the main reasons that there is such a high civilian and erroneous death rate among the populations being targetted by USA military drones is that the operators aren't constrained by the rules and, even more importantly, mindsets that apply around major western airports. All that would have to be done is to accept that the same rules and risks are acceptable here as there.

99:

Scott Sanford @42 said: Department - S: Six Days

Wow! 1969. Notice that the control cabin has a simple curtain, not even a door. And the level of "security" is non-existent. The agent is drinking and smoking at work, probably a good scotch.

The episode is amazing in context with the anthology.

This shows that the XPrize anthology is trapped in the 1969 mindset. HA!

Compare it to the episode from the TV series Miracles, 2003,

Wiki - The Friendly Skies

The plane disappeared for 64 seconds and people go ballistic.

Miracles S 1 Ep 2 The Friendly Skies
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lLRqdvuKBI

100:

That said, none of the ones I've read are even slightly realistic. There's no anger on the part of the passengers. They all just accept being ripped out of their former lives without a squawk.

There's one (by Nancy Kress?) where the young woman is definitely in shock several days later — passing out, vomiting, etc. Trying to adapt, having trouble, realizes it, keeps trying.

101:

Ah, yes: of course.

Just as a trope, it's not had a positive tone since, well: 9/11. It's simply not something with innocent tones anymore (X-Files was, well: a 9/11 story launched before 9/11, and the Sherlock version was a plane stuffed with dead bodies).

Now I'll have to dig up a positive use of the 'accidental time-slip' trope mixed with planes.


I'm not hopeful, it's simply not a Western meme atm. (No-one tell ANA this, their nice peeps are funding SF writers, which is always nice).

102:

I'm starting from the issue that the mechanism is so contrived as to be unconvincing...unless certain other plot points are added.

If the time dilation is good old fashioned general relativity, then the plane would have been suspended at 37,000 feet in some sort of red shifted bubble for twenty years. When they resumed 'normal' time, 20 years of blue shifted light would have hit them like a ton of chest X-ray machines.

If it be a wormhole, with say one end open 20 years before the other end, it would be nigh impossible for the locations to match so precisely, and likely dump them into deep space. Even saying the wormhole is orbiting the sun, would still leave it dancing around the Earth/Moon/Wormhole barycenter, and once again likely into deep space they go.

So since the premise is artificial, so must the actual mechanism, and therefore the story line that follows. If they want hyper technology advancement, perhaps even post-singularity tech, then you can play with the good and bad. Yes, they are 20 years hence from whence they came, but it was from a particularly poorly written season of EARTH. Once the simulation was advanced enough around 2035 to create their own simulations, the world starts to make a little more sense. The new in house producers are in charge and have much more realistic characters, while they stilll like to play with crazy plot ideas like the missing plane retread, the original political satire hacks tried back in 2017.


103:

How about this for a positive meme?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Final_Countdown_(film)

Ship full of planes goes back in time and doesn't bomb the non-whites back to the stone age. (Mostly)

104:

9/11..

The Final Countdown is a 1980 film...

Yeah. Ok. Good luck with that one.

105:

That bit doesn't worry me - it's such a common bit of tale-enabling nonsense that its nonsensicality barely registers any more. Asimov or Clarke (I forget which) did a short story where they built a time machine and the thought of whether or not it would remain anchored to the planet "like in the movies" (or HG Wells) never even crossed their minds until they tried it out and found it didn't. Charlie mentioned The Langoliers; the jumping plane is one of the least barmy elements of the premise in that, but it doesn't stop it being an enjoyable tale.

No, for me it's this stuff that constitutes the show-stoppingly ludicrous preventor of suspension of disbelief...

"How has emerging (or not-yet-invented) technology altered society for the better... We are hopeful for our future... envisioning an optimistic and exciting future for mankind."

It's sort of tempting (only not, because too depressing) to have a go and instead of complying, do exactly the opposite and see how well I can elicit reactions like "after reading Pigeon's submission, we too are grateful for death".

106:

"Not sure when ... George Michael came out - but [he was] also massively popular in this era."

90s I think. He was massively popular - with teenage girls whose prime interest was not so much the crappy plastic pop as the fantasies of shagging him. When the discovery that his real preference was for men in public toilets shattered their dreams they were most dischuffed. (Timing reference: I remember Viz doing a take on this in their usual inimitable style and I'm pretty sure it was in a 90s issue.)

But certainly attitudes were changing, because as I remember the overall reaction, people weren't that bothered about him being gay per se - that was more a reason to laugh at the aforesaid teenage fans than anything else. It was him doing it in public toilets that really drew the bad press. (How true that was I don't know, but that was how it was reported.)

I do think things have got worse as regards racism - over here at least. Mostly in the last few years. People seem to get away with shit for which I would have expected them to be inundated with ridicule and opprobrium. I have a suspicion that the internet may be to blame as a significant factor here. I remember being pretty horrified by some of the shit that began filtering over from the US when Obama became president. Twitter and arsebook have become enormously more popular over the same sort of time frame, and I can't help feeling that the increased exposure to such material has insidiously increased its acceptability over here.

107:

Again, not true. Drone pilots have to talk to air traffic control in controlled airspace

True for large drones, but I think we're going to see a proliferation of smaller drones, many of which may be armed, and for them, the Xbox theory still holds water. You don't need to talk to ATC in controlled airspace because you don't enter controlled airspace. The drone launches only a few kilometers from its target and stays at NOE altitudes throughout its entire mission. When it approaches an enemy target, it disgorges its payload of white phosphorous grenades or explosively formed penetrators at the target and zooms off.

Range on this system would be probably not be too huge, because it's not meant to strike at targets which don't threaten its operators. It's meant to replace the crew-served infantry weapons of yore with a new system that allows the operator to stay out of line of sight of the enemy while engaging them with high accuracy direct fire weapons.

You get ten or twenty of these to make a swarming attack and you can kill an enemy platoon in a single pass. Infantry battalions will have their own organic air support, in sort of the same way the way the hand grenade gave the rifleman his own organic trench mortar.

This, but weaponized, basically: https://youtu.be/bR4Gq9qfpnM

ISIS is already deploying a low-fi version of this same idea, by the way. Their drones don't zoom around and aren't very accurate in their gunnery yet, but they're good enough to score the occasional kill. When someone like us or China decides to take the concept and run with it, most modern weapons systems for land warfare will need to be reevaluated to determine if they are obsolete or not. Combining the relative safety of indirect fire with the accuracy of direct fire in an great-power quality weapons system would be a huge step up in combat power.

108:

Oh, I think the Connecticut Yankee managed to fit in very nicely thank you. Wipes the floor with Merlin, chummy enough with Arthur to be rude to him... to be sure he suffers military defeat at the end, but if he hadn't fitted in so effectively that situation would never have arisen.

109:

"...a film set in 1997, the whole premise of which would no longer be possible."

Well, I for one went on to read your description of the premise, and thought "huh? That's an ancient cliché, what's so implausible about that?"

Then when I read the next line, I also thought "huh", but in a rather different tone. Nope. I am confident that if I watched that film myself that idea would never cross my mind.

It does seem all too common for enthusiastic adopters of flashy shiny cack to utterly fail to realise that there exist also plenty of people whose antipathy to it is at least of equal strength. (And, relatedly, to assume that because they have the money to spend on it everyone else does too.) Of course, this doesn't really matter when it's a question of what kind of plots one may or may not find plausible.

But it does matter when people like that get into positions where they can make decisions (against which there is no appeal) that affect everyone else's life. I read recently of a proposal to require prospective rail travellers to blow several hundred pounds on a portable spyware platform and tracking device, in order to display ten or so words on its screen, a function currently handled in a perfectly usable and vastly simpler manner by writing them on a little piece of paper (which they propose to abolish). Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that people with heads so full of soup as to even consider such a fucking ridiculous idea in the first place are stone blind to the existence of people who just won't use trains any more if they make it that much of a pain in the arse.

The use of a somewhat obscure example is deliberate; while that on its own is comparatively trivial, the number of things in the same class is truly vast. Those poor sods wobbling off the plane in 2037 are all too likely to find that whole swathes of activities which are too trivial to even notice, because current methods of doing them require only a few hundred milliseconds of time on your built-in biological CPU and its interface devices, are no longer possible without tremendous expenditure, complication, and awkwardness, all wrapped up in a package of surveillance. Stallone in Demolition Man had it easy; imagine if all of the everyday trivialities he trips up on were as far out the window as his experience of future sex, and he had to pay to do them, and every computer for miles knew what he was doing.

110:
Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that people with heads so full of soup as to even consider such a fucking ridiculous idea in the first place are stone blind to the existence of people who just won't use trains any more if they make it that much of a pain in the arse.

Well, that's one possibility. The other is that they regard decreasing use of public transport as a feature of their design, not a bug. Fewer people using a thing means fewer complaints when you get rid of it completely, after all...

(I haven't seen the particular proposal you reference, so I don't know what the motive is in this case, but active malice towards public services is a non-trivial part of right-wing politics these days. Witness the ongoing privatisation of the NHS in the UK, or the GOP's enthusiasm for destroying medicare/aid in the US.)

111:

That said, none of the ones I've read are even slightly realistic. There's no anger on the part of the passengers. They all just accept being ripped out of their former lives without a squawk.

We have real life cases of people skipping through time. There are people who have lost chunks of memory, people who have woken up from comas and people isolated in prisons for years. There's an old Spider Robinson story "The Time Traveler" about a missionary isolated in a prison for a decade and moving abruptly from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s and nearly dying of culture shock. But the real life examples would be worth researching if you wanted to be realistic.

Some of it also depends on how much you expect the world to change in the next twenty years. Personally, I expect no more change than the last twenty and possibly less.

112:

were the 1980's really a decade of racist, sexist, homophobes?

Yes and no, "Smalltown Boy" and "Girls just want to have fun" both refer to the bigotry faced by queer kids. "My Beautiful Laundrette" too. All those and more got some public exposure. Bowie and Mercury were perhaps the most famous queers, and you had more traditional "famous queens" like Elton John and Edna Everage ... but the rules have always been different for famous people.

For me, oddly enough, the music was quite liberating because they were explicitly making it clear that I wasn't the only one. But it was also a time when I could be beaten in the street and the only time the police cared when was the beating failed (I managed to escape conviction, but only because of the unbelievability of "slightly built 15 year old attacks four 18 year old rugby players").

In Aotearoa there was also the homosexual law reform campaign culminating in the decriminalisation of sex for most QUILTBAGS in 1986, although "we" are still thinking about whether perhaps people convicted under those laws should be granted pardons without having to grovel one at a time to the government in ther person of the Secretary of Justice (as with the "Democratic Republic of Congo" and "Fair and Balanced{tm}" that's a proper noun and has a very different meaning from the common noun).

113:

Witness the ongoing privatisation of the NHS in the UK,
Really?
I know some have been screaming about this for years, & yes I acknowledge that there are ultra-right crooks trying it on, but.
As far as I can see, so far, almost all efforts have been unsuccesful.
Can you point to real actual large-scale examples, because there is such a thing as crying "wolf" - & when a real theft-&-scam on the NHS is tried, no-one will take any notice, which ishhwat scares me.

114:

I could have misunderstood what I was told, but haven't GPs already been entirely privatised?

Plus the whole PFI thing, of course, and the recent attempt to sell the staffing agency.

115:

Sorry, I hate double posting, but -

This, but weaponized, basically: https://youtu.be/bR4Gq9qfpnM

You mean this?

116:

I don't know "what you were told" but GPs have "been privatised" for many years (maybe since the NHS was started) in that each practice is normally a partnership jointly owned by 1 or more GPs who receive a capitation fee for each patient from the local health authority (LHA), and pay for premises and staff (themselves included) out of these fees.

Of course, some GPs are actually salaried employees of the LHA, but this tends to refer mostly to rural practices where there literally aren't enough people resident in the practice area to make the partnership model viable.

117:

Classic 70s story: Air Raid by John Varley (shortlisted for both the Hugo and the Nebula in 1977; which led to a decade of scriptwriting hell, the crappy movie "Millennium", and the somewhat less crappy novelization of the same name, by Varley).

Not so accidental on the time slip, but gives a disturbing and original explanation for some plane crashes ...

118:

Really? Virgin Care take over £700m NHS contract Which is the tip of the iceberg.

#112 The late 70s and early 80s were also the time of Two-Tone and Rock Against Racism (in the UK). Ideas that need to happen again. This time around, it would probably be against anti-Muslim racism rather than anti-West Indian. So perhaps Grime, Bangla and Dakbe rather than Ska.

Except the music biz is so fragmented now, maybe there's no longer the right potential for a Musical AntiFa Movement to gain mass attention. Music is more about euphoria than meaning these days making it harder to mix politics with music's emotional appeal.

#111 & #109 More and more tickets involve displaying a QR code on a CleverPhone. If you print your own ticket with the QR code the staff are beginning to look at you funny. Then there's the way cash is fast disappearing as NFC debit cards and CleverPhone apps take over for any transaction £1>£30 It feels like it won't be long before cash is only useful for tips and the black economy. Drop a 2017 person into 2037 and they might be unable to pay for anything at all, at all. Assuming they had a stash of money somewhere to spend.

119:

Well, there's the curious case of the NHS' internal staffing agency, which well-known leftie news sources like the Financial Times report is being prepared for privatisation (paywall); a more recent story from Sky names bidders and says that "[the] sale process is being run by Deloitte". (Apparently it needs to be privatised in order to become "efficient"; it was founded to provide an alternative to the existing private agencies, which have been gouging the NHS for a long time.)

There's also the issue of groups like Virgin Care, where privately owned companies are given contracts to supply services that used to be provided by NHS organisations. They tend to assert that they can pay the same staff the same wages while providing the same services for less money (and making a profit, naturally) - and if you believe that, I've got a bridge you might like to buy.

120:

Leaving aside the issue that King Arthur's Court as envisioned in the myths/books/movies never existed anyway…

121:

Is there any chance of you not replying with links that are not relevant to the post you replied to?

I made a specific point about GP practices; your linked story never mentions them.

122:

Compare it to the episode from the TV series Miracles, 2003, The Friendly Skies: The plane disappeared for 64 seconds and people go ballistic.

Miracles S 1 Ep 2 The Friendly Skies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lLRqdvuKBI

Nifty! I've downloaded it for watching later.

123:

Sorry, somewhere between deciding to reply, signing in and clicking on the reply link I picked the wrong post. That should of course have been a reply to Greg at 113 not your 116.

124:

Apology cheerfully accepted. It's just that I was making a very specific point, and that link looked like an intended derail.

125:

I'm surprised the original Twilight Zone episode The Odyssey of Flight 33 hasn't been mentioned. Airliner goes back to the Time of the Dinosaurs, then back to the future—but not far enough!

Also just had a look through TVtropes, and surprised that "The Airplane Vanishes" isn't a trope.

126:

Hmmm . . . interesting. I might give this a shot, but seeing the pro authors that have already responded, I'll have to decide if I'm up to the challenge.

I liked your "positive" story, in that the passengers positively, absolutely wound up dead. Not to pile on the nitpicking, but I think F-35s or SLEPed F-16s are more likely than Strike Eagles, which will be quite elderly and expensive to operate. I do think that manned aircraft are likely, because:
- Most continental air defense/air sovereignty missions are flown by the Air National Guard, which gets the oldest aircraft in the inventory
- Mission requirements for these missions emphasize visual ID of non-compliant aircraft, even through and post 9/11. There are too many cases of non-hostile emergencies for me to imagine the USAF abandoning these procedures (and I was a member of NORAD and HQ NORAD/USSPACECOM from 1990-2002).
- It will be a LOOONG time until the USAF cozies up to UAS. The USAF is, and has always been, a pilots' club first and foremost. Until the Chief of Staff (head) of the USAF is something other than a pilot, we will have to be dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming.

127:
It does seem all too common for enthusiastic adopters of flashy shiny cack to utterly fail to realise that there exist also plenty of people whose antipathy to it is at least of equal strength.
It's perfectly fine for a movie/novel/whatever to have their characters not use the shiny technology when it would make the plot last five minutes, but you have to acknowledge the shiny exists and give the reader an excuse not to spend the duration of the story yelling about it. This is why prospective victims in horror movies nowadays are careful to state there's no mobile reception, for instance.
128:

OT, and before the 300 posts mark, but I found it quite funny, so for comic relief: this morning on a bus in front of me there was a poster (no, nothing about EU and SSN, our NHS :-) advertising for the 2017 Gay Village in Rome. Featuring a very macho guy riding a unicorn.
Equoid and The Nightmare Stacks came to my mind ASAP... the same way I'm no more able to look at a CCTV cam without thinking "SCORPION STARE". Reading Stross changes forever the way you perceive the outside world :-)

129:

Thanks
Euw
But ... why?
There isn't a significant ( i.e. worthwhile ) profit to be made, so why is it being done...
Even from the pov of a gouger/entrepreneur, where is the actual profit going to come from?

130:

Re: 'When they resumed 'normal' time, 20 years of blue shifted light would have hit them like a ton of chest X-ray machines.'

Great point --- so the time-hopping plane now becomes a candidate for 'how do we deal with asteroids targeting Earth?'. This idea catches on to the point that various powers hire historians to identify planes in real history that were destroyed or disappeared. Hand-wave tech is designed to identify and 'aim' each disappeared plane at an asteroid. However because there's always one jerk at the table, pretty soon one of the powers decides to use these blue-shifted time bombs as an offensive weapon against one of its historical neighbors ... and things go downhill from there until the next idea for planetary defense comes along and in turn gets twisted into yet another weapon.

Also, once publicly known, wouldn't this start all sorts of experimentation with how large, fast, dense, etc. the flying article had to be in order to create X amount of destruction? Commercial applications could be removing hillsides to enlarge highways, excavating for ores, etc.

131:

Re: George Michael

From Wikipedia ...

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

'He was best known for his work in the 1980s and 1990s,...'

'Up to the time of his death, Michael sold more than 115 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.[3] His breakthrough duo Wham! sold 28 million records between 1982 and 1986, ...'

Definitely mid-80's because he was a key voice in the 'Feed the World' (Do They Know It's Christmas) song and video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIxj7Ew_99w

BAND AID - Do They Know It's Christmas? (1984)


Wiki article also mentions many acts of kindness/philanthropy ... basically, this gay guy gave most of his fortune away to various charities while he was still alive. Now that's a stereotype to scare the Bible-thumpers.


Merging this back to the thread's key theme, i.e., temporal dislocation and its effects ...

Music changes considerably between generations. Never thought that rap would become classic, but the stage play Hamilton has pushed this genre into mainstream. Still waiting for the same to happen to techno. Personally think that music is a key media for free expression of emotions, and that you can get a good read on a generation based on what types of music they latch onto.

132:

The most likely answer is that it'll get bought by one of the existing private agencies, who'll then be able to crank their prices back up since they'll no longer be competing with a non-profit-making alternative. That is, what matters isn't the profit they can make from the NHS internal agency, it's the removal of the restrictions it places on the profits of their existing businesses.

(In case anyone here thinks that sounds cynical, I'll note that buying out the competition is monopolist 101, and that the Sky article I linked says at least one of the final two bidders is an existing private nursing staff agency.)

133:

If you want musical time travel, come here to Germany and listen to FM radio, where '80s pop and techno still rule.

134:

story skeleton:

set scene, plane/passengers/flight, etc
something weird happens
reaction to plane's disappearance
...time passes...
describe wonders of future world (emphasis on shiny toys)
plane reappears with massive momentum/radiation/purple dinosaurs
shiny toys and/or future world are toast

135:

Here in New Mexico, the local radio stations are still playing the same set list that they've used for the past 20 years. I can turn on the radio and hear the same songs, played one after the other, that has not changed since the 90s, so in the car I have a CD filled with ten hours of mp3 files of "Tainted 80s" that is set to "shuffle"; "Sweet Dreams are Made of These", indeed. I mix things up every September by listening to a CD filled with mp3s of Led Zeppelin. "Zepptember" is my high holy month.

I of course have tons of classic rock, techno, New Age, electronic, but I love the music from the 80s, they were having fun. Come the 90s and it was all angst driven: "My father hates me", that was then replaced with Rap: bad poetry set to sampled music. The past ten years I have discovered Goth Metal; hot babes with killer lipstick, power voices, standing in front of speed metal bands. But I digress.

I'm halfway through all the stories and the Space Cadet dissonance from Reality is causing my brain to melt in many cases. The major value of the stories is all the Space Cadet stuff that I can riff off in my own stuff.

- One main theme that really grates is the blithe reference to "Self driving cars". If you have "Self driving cars" that can drive New Mexico streets/roads, then you have the Singularity, because regular humans clearly have trouble doing that on a daily basis. In my stuff "Self driving cars" will always be "20 years in the future" the same way "fusion" is always "20 years in the future".

- The other is a "cashless" society. Hate to break this to people, but the "Cash" based grey market, off the books/under the table, economy is the majority of small business and that will not change. Most businesses are small, mom & pop, where virtually all the business is cashed based. They keep two sets of books, half the the workers are "off the books", i.e., no taxes paid. Greece has nothing on the US grey market economy.

Remember the Gulf Oil spill. BP sent a major lawyer to the area, holding town hall meetings, saying that any business that was losing money to the spill would be "made whole". All they had to do was show them their books from prior years. In town hall meeting after town hall meeting, business people stood up and said that all of their business was by handshake, i.e., under the table, off the books, grey market.

Once a contractor gets to "know" you, they will offer a discount if you pay in "Cash".

Cash will always be king.

136:

Once a contractor gets to "know" you, they will offer a discount if you pay in "Cash". Cash will always be king.

Yeah, that's true in the UK as well. Which maybe has something to do with why the Exchequer seriously proposed abolishing cash money by 2020 a couple of years ago. (A proposal that was shot down when somebody pointed out that the 80-somethings who vote Conservative don't own mobile phones or smart devices and aren't going to buy one now just so they can pay for their daily copy of the Express.)

137:

Which maybe has something to do with why the Exchequer seriously proposed abolishing cash money by 2020 a couple of years ago.
You definitely need more Christians who are worried about "Number of the Beast" technologies. The US has plenty to spare and they even speak ... American.
Seriously, though, cash will offer privacy until serial numbers or other id marks (e.g. I've heard a story about investigation of speckle patterns on UK coins; a quick search didn't find anything) are regularly scanned/recorded for most transactions.


138:
Rap: bad poetry set to sampled music
You need to listen to better rap. (I'll accept "not my thing," but "bad poetry" is calumny.)
139:

I'm halfway through all the stories and the Space Cadet dissonance from Reality is causing my brain to melt in many cases.

I've got to agree. I liked the stories. They were fun, and the characters had enjoyable POVs for the most part, but they were all bro-futures that assumed some government mega-project would stop climate change.

That being said, here is Troutwaxer's official version of optimism:

The flight arrives and by some miracle is not shut down. The pilots are immediately arrested for flying a non-carbon-neutral vehicle and ANA is hit with a huge fine for same.

It turns out that sea-level-rise hit early and took out most of Florida in 2035, plus low-lying areas in the U.S. Southeast, the Gulf Coast, and of course, California. New Orleans is gone, and they are currently adding yet another layer to Seattle.* Fortunately, many of the refugees fleeing the Gulf Coast stopped by DC on their way out, took pot shots at their Congressmen/Senators and turned the K Street (the home of many DC lobbying firms) into a smoking ruin. The end result of this "Second Amendment Solution" was that the surviving Congress-critters voted a Declaration of War against Climate Change and the President (who'd been the Speaker of the House before the crisis) signed it.

As they don't have prospects and cannot prove their identities to the standards of 2037, the travellers (except for one vacationing Exxon lobbyist, who was dragged outside by TSA agents and shot on the tarmac) are all drafted into the Climate Army, where they spend their time planting fast-growing hardwood trees to increase carbon uptake, painting roofs white to address the "urban heat-island" effect, tearing up asphalt and replacing it with something that reflects rather than absorbs heat, and doing other simplistic tasks which can help the planet either reflect heat or absorb extra carbon. Those foolish enough to announce that they don't believe in global warming are shunned and set to digging latrines.

Meanwhile, a vast geo-engineering effort is underway, utilizing everything from aerosols to ferrous-sulfate, and the human race now has a 53 percent probability of survival (is that optimistic enough?) if we can make it through "peak starvation," which is expected to hit around 2090.

* The actual history of Seattle is very similar to the King in Monty Python's "Holy Grail" who built his castle in the swamp, but in Seattle it really happened - there is a city beneath the city and you can take tours!

140:

Greg, haven't you learnt anything from reading here for years? It appears not.

There are several levels of things going on here, like with the last Iraq invasion.

One is that the individual directors, and companies like Deloitte, make lots of money off the scheme, managing the privatisation etc. Guess who they then employ or put into boards?
Then there's the longer term game of running healthcare in this country as a purely private operation, with a guaranteed cash flow from the taxpayer to private companies, who then squirrel away the profits and top brass pay abroad in tax havens as much as they can. You've got to be prepared to lose money for a while in order to win big in the long term.

141:

It might, but the main reason is that knowing who bought what gives a lovely database to sell to the USA marketing companies. And the UK government is into that scam up to its armpits.

142:

Charlie Stross @136 said: (A proposal that was shot down when somebody pointed out that the 80-somethings who vote Conservative don't own mobile phones or smart devices and aren't going to buy one now just so they can pay for their daily copy of the Express.)

The other reason, is that most elected officials that make the laws own small businesses that are mostly grey market. These are the same people who get into trouble when people find out that they "employe" home-care workers "off the books". They are so used to doing things off the books, that it never occurs to them that there is a problem until they move up in government and start getting "vetted" for higher office.

- Listen to the rants of "conservatives" and at the heart of their anti-tax mindset is the fact that they are routinely breaking the law.

Governor Gary Johnson was a Libertarian who ran as a Republican. This guy made millions off his construction company. He routinely ripped off the customer, the State, and his employees. We have laws in this State where if you work a set number of weeks per quarter, certain fees and taxes have to be paid by the employer to the State. He would hire people, then lay them off for two weeks each quarter, thus avoiding all of those fees and taxes. You have people working for decades who are not eligible for unemployment if things go sour in the economy, because the business never paid into the fund. That is a fairly standard tactic by small businesses. "Small" meaning not a multibillion dollar corporation. Small business is the majority in this country. Everybody focuses on major companies "off-shoring" their income, while completely ignoring the small business and the grey market because the elected officials do not want the light shining on their own actions.

When Liberal Pundits ask, why do working class people consistently vote conservative, when it "goes against" their best interests, they fail to realize that most of those working class people are being paid in cash and are "off the books", and would like to finally be legal.

Here in Santa Fe, we have over-the-air TV channels that I call "Poverty TV". They are the ones with commercials for bail-bonds, and for people to join class action suits, along with companies that will turn your structured settlement from those lawsuits into instant cash. They also have commercials where gold and silver exchanges will turn all that "broken" jewelry that you own into instant cash.

- There is literally a commercial where a mother and daughter are sitting at lunch, and the daughter pays the check. The mom asks how, and the daughter explains that she found a great gold and silver exchange that turns her extra jewelry into cash, and the mom is pleased. The implications are clear that the daughter gets paid for her "services" in gifts of jewelry, and the mom probably taught her the "oldest profession".

- There are also commercials telling people about this wonderful thing called a "check card". That there is this amazing system where they can have their check direct deposited to the card so that they do not have to use cash. Most people do not have a checking account, much less savings, at a bank.

There are "Check Cashing" places where you can cash your check, and places where you can get "Title Loans" from your car.

Most people do not do business with a bank. They live in the high interest world of "Check Cashing" and "Title Loans" that routinely charge what used to be considered usurious rates. There are criminals still serving prison terms for charging those rates before the laws were changed to make it legal, i.e., Loan Sharks. The elected officials who passed those laws saw "profit" in changing the laws because they knew from their own grey market business practices that there was a vast group of people they could profit from.

But be that as it may.

From the comment by anonemouse @138 about there being "good" rap, please let me know a few groups and I will be happy to check it out. I just have trouble with hearing lyrics from music. I'm still discovering what actual Rock Lyrics say, even though I've listened to them for decades. I hear the whole, music and lyric, as a sound, so if the "whole" is not pleasing, then you've lost me.

143:

Well then, let me introduce you to the 579th greatest rapper, a practitioner of the subgenre called NerdCore, the amazing M.C. Frontalot!!

144:

A book recommendation: The Unbanking Of America by Lisa Servon.

What do an undocumented immigrant in the South Bronx, a high-net-worth entrepreneur, and a twenty-something graduate student have in common? All three are victims of our dysfunctional mainstream bank and credit system. Today nearly half of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, and income volatility has doubled over the past thirty years. Banks, with their high monthly fees and overdraft charges, are gouging their low- and middle-income customers, while serving only the wealthiest Americans.

Lisa Servon delivers a stunning indictment of America’s banks, together with eye-opening dispatches from inside a range of banking alternatives that have sprung up to fill the void. She works as a teller at RiteCheck, a check-cashing business in the South Bronx, and as a payday lender in Oakland. She looks closely at the workings of a tanda, an informal lending club. And she delivers fascinating, hopeful portraits of the entrepreneurs reacting to the unbanking of America by designing systems to creatively serve many of us. Banks were once essential pillars of our lives; now we can no longer count on them to do right by us.

I've just started it on the recommendation of Matthew Reed (who blogs as Dean Dad). Her thesis seems to be that if you are poor, banks are actually more expensive than the alternatives (because of the way bank fees are structured).

Here's his review:

http://suburbdad.blogspot.ca/2017/06/a-patrons-eye-view.html

145:

Now that looks like and interesting book. Thanks...

The surprising logic behind the use of check cashers and payday loans
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7OUdPE9UdA

146:

There is a lot of literate rap, but there's also a distinctive musical style that usually goes with it and if you don't like that then you're going to struggle I think.

The Herd in Australia have a large band and wander around the musical landscape a bit. Here's a funk version of "Burn Down the Parliament" that might appeal, for example. Some of the lyrics videos are also good, or you might get lucky with automatic subtitles. Urthboy from The Herd also has tracks like this with more piano and (slightly) less bass about his daughter. Joelistics ditto

There's also the classic "Screems from the old plantation" which is laid back Samoan ukulele rap.

147:

and that you can get a good read on a generation based on what types of music they latch onto.
Given the utter shite circulating at present, NOT a good omen.
( Ditto most of the crap produced during the 1940's as well ... )

Of course, some of us will latch on to the timeless pieces.
First example A folk-song of love & yearning, sung by the most amazing voice I've ever heard
or Second example An opera extract, saying that "Here we have no room for hate "
Or, the one I've sat in the middle of ( As the voiceless long-term "political" ) that speaks of a longed-for freedom

Of course, there's an underlying theme in that selection.....

148:

I came across a reference to Deloitte, trying to investigate a fraud against the GNR in the mid 1850's
Turned out they were both useless & expensive, even then (!)

149:

Here, it's been going the other way for a long time.
When I was a small child, I doubt if more than one person, other than my father, had a bank-account in our road.
Now, everyboody has one.
When I went to Uni, in late '64, the banks were fighting each other to offer students bank accounts, which were not that common, even then. Even by 1968, many employers paid most/all of their employees in cash only - some woul divide the income - paying part to an account & part in cash - remember that this was weekly pay, not "salary" - monthly, which was a "calss" division.
But you will never get rid of coin/notes - its simply too useful.

150:

you can get a good read on a generation based on what types of music they latch onto.

I think you need to narrow that down, because what's popular varies hugely around the world. I don't seriously expect teenage Polynesian kids in South Auckland to be completely different from those entering West Point this year, but I'd be surprised if they liked the same music or suffered the same problems. Saying that both can be categorised the same way because the global charts are dominated by a Korean soap opera actor turned pop star... I'm not convinced.

But I do think we can write off every generation in the western world since the invention of the approximate scale in about 1680, at which point being in tune went out of fashion and has largely stayed that way.

151:

Given the utter shite circulating at present, NOT a good omen.

Sturgeons law applies to music just as much as anything else. If you pick a random sample of popular music from any decade you will mostly find crap.

Older stuff seems better because there is a strong selection bias. The really terrible stuff doesn't get played for long.

152:

There's a strong dissonance here between UK and USA banking. But also between different sections of UK society. There are still plenty of places that offer deals for cash, non-VAT or where you might notice somebody paying for something with £1000 worth of 20s. But for the boring middle, middle, this just doesn't happen any more. And for the traders we deal with it's all above board. You pay with a debit card, credit card or an online bank transfer. Or maybe with Paypal.

But have you noticed how fast contactless debit cards and card readers took off? It feels like only a year ago I was a bit puzzled by buying a round of drinks by waving a card at a reader while barely even reading the amount. Now it's completely routine. And those card readers are everywhere. It's like the only things I buy with cash any more are 1 loaf in the bread shop and the parking meter at Sainsburys[1]. Visits to the ATM are becoming less and less frequent. The only surprising thing about this is how fast it's happening. So yes, I think cash is going to become obsolete much faster than we think.

[1]One other use for cash. I've taken to always leaving tips as cash if the service charge is not automatically included. Then the server can choose to simply pocket the tip and it actually goes to the person who deserves it.

154:

They live in the high interest world of "Check Cashing" and "Title Loans" that routinely charge what used to be considered usurious rates.

Which strongly suggests to me that you are using the same false model as the UK for calculating Annual Percentage Rate.
You apply to U Surer financial services for a loan of 100 Ningi for one month. They charge you a 10N arrangement fee, and 5% interest, so you repay 115N at the end of the month. Now here's the "wrong part", and note that I will be simplifying by using simple interest rather than monthly compound interest: The APR that you see in the advert is based not on the monthly interest rate (5%), or the one-off arrangement fee for this loan, but is calculated by:-
1) Adding the arrangement fee and the interest actually charged together, so that's 15N yes, or 15% of the loan principal.
2) "Calculating" the APR by saying "charges over 1 month are 15% of the loan principal, and there are 12 months in a year, so we arrive at the APR by doing (15% * 12) which is 180%!

155:

Sorry, should have referenced tbd. What sticks around is sometimes just sticky.

156:

True, but the common habit of pretending previous decades were somehow immune to terrible music annoys me a bit.

My parents told themselves comforting lies about the music of the 60s, my generation conveniently forgets all the real dross from the 80s and 90s...

157:

You are repeating the official line. The change is real; the details are not. Cash is not going to become obsolete - it is going to be obsoleted.

There are a lot of us in the boring middle who still pay cash, not least because it is SO much faster (and more reliable) - it's a real pain being stuck behind a queue of people each paying a few quid with a card, even if there is no computer/machine/card glitch (and those are not rare). As you know, there is a government/bank/etc. campaign to discourage cash, and (unlike in the USA) the poorest NEED a bank account because the government will not pay benefits in cash. In addition to the reason given in #141, you know how keen the government is to track everything you do, and it also allows them to impose arbitrary, draconian, extra-legal punishment by ensuring that someone can't get a bank account.

158:

"it's a real pain being stuck behind a queue of people each paying a few quid with a card"

Interested to know in what situations you find queues quicker with cash?

In most shops I use contactless payment and there's no way on earth I could pay quicker in cash even if I had exact change.

159:

Interesting comment from my son (21) so more used to cards for day to day life .

If you are on a serious night out, leave your cards at home and take cash. That way you can't keep spending. He has friends who have blown way too much money using a card when they have had a few drinks.

160:

As I said - it's other people, not me. Contactless usually works quickly, sometimes needs multiple passes, and is even slower than chip and pin if they fail.

161:

"Which strongly suggests to me that you are using the same false model as the UK for calculating Annual Percentage Rate.
[snip]
...by saying "charges over 1 month are 15% of the loan principal, and there are 12 months in a year, so we arrive at the APR by doing (15% * 12) which is 180%!"

But if you don't simplify and actually compounded your example monthly interest, you would get 1.05^12 which is... errrr, 179.5%.

Note also that payday lenders actually charge an interest rate which is compounded daily rather than monthly (Wonga currently charges 0.8% per diem fr'instance).

Daily compounding ratchets up the APR surprisingly quickly for the fiscally naive - at 0.8% a client is on the hook for twice what they borrow after ~90 days, that's four doublings per year more or less* (an APR of 1600%).

Regards
Luke

[*] Actually it's more, since the doubling time is a shade less than 90 days; this means that over a full year the APR works out to 1833% - small differences have big effects when you're exponentiating!

162:

When I joined the Andrew we still did payments in cash, pay sentry with loaded Browning, envelopes and all., 'twas the early 80s. Of course SO cash got to take the obligatory Polaroid of the cube of money prior to a deployment. Then came electronic bank accounts and it all went away. Now i rarely have cash in my wallet at home.

But last week I was in Cambodia, and it's a real cash economy. Actually when I say cash I mean US dollars, even the Autotellers dispense USD. That's because the Khmer just don't trust banks or the 'gummint', and after year zero I don't blame them. So if you think about how much trust you need to engender to make a cashless economy work it's all a bit staggering. It was a real metaphor shear moment, especially after the ATM ate my credit card...

163:

You think that getting rid of cash is actually possible?
Methodolgy, please.

164:

But if you don't simplify and actually compounded your example monthly interest, you would get 1.05^12 which is... errrr, 179.5%.

Most of what you say is correct and agreed, but given my underlying assumptions this calculation should have been 1.15^12, which is 535%.

165:

Contactless usually works quickly, sometimes needs multiple passes, and is even slower than chip and pin if they fail.

Contactless cards aren't always contactless. There's the obvious upper limit (typically £20 or £30 in the UK) imposed on contactless transactions. There are also the "any transaction involving cashback can't be contactless" rules, and the "you can only do so many contactless transactions before you have to do a chip/PIN transaction to verify identity" rules. Generally, these are intended to prevent fraud.

Fallforward from a failed contactless transaction is... insert the card and do chip+PIN. If you've got the card out already, inserting it isn't that much slower. It's when the bank concerned rules that an additional authorisation is required, such as a signature - but that tends to be the fallforward from a failed chip read, not a failed contactless read (AIUI, you can only fallforward once).

Here's a link to a document around some of the reasoning involved...

166:

Aren't those same other people the ones who will be scratching around trying to coax change out of their purse, dropping coins, paying for things in low denomination coins etc?

When I'm queuing at a self-checkout I groan inwardly when anyone in front of me pays in cash. Even if they use a note they still have to faff around scooping up change and filing it away again.

In supermarkets at least I'd have thought a cash ban would greatly speed up checkout times (only based on my local experiences of course).

167:

The difference between theory and practice is less in theory than it is in practice.

Firstly, the damn systems take a long time to reset themselves, and trying during that period gets them even more confused or even causes them to flag fraud. 3 or 4 attempts at contactless often takes a minute. Then there is a very high chance that the PIN will be rejected (quite likely because of the contactless attempts), followed by attempts at retrying the PIN (which take even longer per attempt). If that fails, it is usually followed by the customer rummaging for other cards, most of which are inappropriate, and and it almost always needs a supervisor to be summoned. If he/she won't accept the other cards, the till is closed to restore the goods to the shelves, and you get sent to the back of other queues, which have been lengthening during that whole hoo-hah.

Rare failures can increase the expected cost considerably, if the cost of a failure is very high, as everyone should know.

168:

When I joined the Andrew we still did payments in cash, pay sentry with loaded Browning, envelopes and all., 'twas the early 80s.

I joined the Territorial Army in 1984 - in time for electronic payments for the most part, but occasionally cash-based weekly pay parades (typically during our annual two weeks of continuous training); Britain was for the most part a cash economy, including the bars we visited, or those we ran ourselves. You had the option to take all, some, or none of your pay in cash (with the balance paid into your account) - essentially, the Army acting as a cash machine for its soldiers.

We also had the nearby and unfortunate incident where a Corporal stole the payroll for Glencorse Barracks - then, the recruit training base for Scottish infantrymen. He asked for a lift back to camp, then produced a gun, forced the staff to drive up onto the Castlelaw training area, and then murdered them. The money was never recovered, and he spent the next 27 years in prison until a stroke left him severely disabled.

Armed robbery used to be regular, if not commonplace, in the UK (watch ITV4 for old episodes of "The Sweeney"); the steady removal of weekly wage payments, pension payments in cash, and easily stolen getaway cars has reduced it to rarity, and certainly made Post Office queues shorter on a Friday...

169:

It sounds like you're criticising the people who have a problem taking care of their cards, remembering their PIN, forgetting that they haven't got the money in that particular account, having a chat with that nice young lady on the till...

:) Their use of contactless is largely irrelevant, they'd delay you if they were "just trying to make exact change in their purse" or "I'm rummaging for my chequebook, now where did I put the cheque guarantee card" :)

I'll confess, I hadn't thought about "cheque guarantee cards" for a while (a 1960s fraud-prevention measure, defunct in the UK since 2011)...

170:

No, the charge isn't part of the interest - it's only levied once, when the debt is arranged, so it shouldn't be included in the interest compounding calculation.

Principal = 100N, Fee = 10N so initial Debt = 110N. This initial debt is combined with the interest multiplier calculated previously to give you the end of year debt (in this example it would be 197.45N).

Final APR for this example is thus 97.45%

171:

It sounds like you're criticising the people who have a problem taking care of their cards, remembering their PIN, forgetting that they haven't got the money in that particular account, having a chat with that nice young lady on the till...

I once had the unfortunate situation of being behind a couple at the till who had two trolley-loads of purchases. After about ten minutes of scanning their shopping it turned out that both of them had come out with no cash and no credit or debit cards. The poor operator had to rescan all their purchases to cancel them. I went and joined another queue at that point.

I still pay for stuff with cash, mostly but I make a point of arriving at the till with cash in hand having made a rough estimate of how much it's going to cost me. I'm usually behind a queue of people, most of whom have their purchases scanned, peer at the resulting total on the display and only then start the laborious process of digging through bags, purses, wallets, pockets etc. to find some way to pay for them.

172:

Hey, when PSD2 comes in next year the supermarket will be able to set up as a payment services provider and take the money straight from your bank account. Just download their app - it'll be so much smoother and faster than fiddly old cash or swiping with cards.

Why aren't you happy?

173:

Than you haven't understood what I said, any more than lankiveil has. The purse-rummaging etc. is the same for contactless cards, chip-and-pin cards, cash or letters of credit (of the various forms), and is much the same for all of them. That's irrelevant. I am talking about the time taken because of the design and implementation of the card systems INCLUDING THE INTERFACE TO THE BANK.

(a) The card systems have vastly more failure modes than cash (and contactless has more than chip-and-pin) and, as a result, invoke the fallback and failure procedures far more often. The procedure for cash is to cancel the transaction, and almost never happens.

(b) The fallback and failure handling procedures are far more complicated, and hence time-consuming and error-prone, that are claimed. That is partly because many stores quite reasonably restrict such authorisation to their more clueful employees.

I didn't even describe the worst failure modes, several of which have happened to people I know (and one of which happened to me)!

174:

Yes
In the long run it still all depends upon trust, doesn't it?
Whereas cash does not ( Unless you count forged notes & coin )

175:

"Why aren't you happy?"

Experience :-)

176:

I do understand you but from reading your comments I believe we just have vastly different experiences of this.

Yes, card transaction may have more failure modes but if those failures are much more rare an occurence than the few failure modes of paying cash, it's irrelevant how many there are.

As a creature of habit I've been getting my lunch every day, at the same supermarket in the same self-checkout queue for the best part of a decade.

I can't recall ever seeing anyone appreciably delayed in processing a card transaction (from the point at which their card is presented).

Admittedly my supermarket has a very skewed demographic (I essentially live in a retirement town) and maybe that contributes to the excessive delays I see with people slowly inserting 10p after 10p into the machine.

177:

Somehow I'm glad that paying-with-card has never arrived in this part of the world (Germany). In any kind of shop cash payment is still the standard, with the option of using your ec-card (maestro) becoming more widespread over the last years.

And while I do have a credit card, I only ever use it at the ATM to draw cash, which I can do worldwide free of charge (or to buy something online, if no other method of payment is offered, particularly with foreign vendors). I've never used it as a way of payment in a shop or restaurant.

178:

I didn't even describe the worst failure modes, several of which have happened to people I know (and one of which happened to me)!

I would contend that the "worst failure mode" in any of the examples so far is "you are mugged / your shop is robbed, and you have all your money stolen". This is a problem with cash - much less so with cards.

Regarding the card devices I've worked with... Currently, they do a soft reset between transactions in order to reduce the risk of data at rest being vulnerable - that typically takes a second. The interface to the payment gateway for amounts that can't be locally authorised - can take three or four seconds.

These are well within the "how long does it take you to open or close your wallet" territory, and constantly improving. Increasingly, I'm only using cash as a reversionary mechanism. Give it time, and you'll be using your phone (and its fingerprint / iris / facial recognition) in place of the cards.

:) There have always been those who suggested that when I opened my wallet, that moths flew out; these days, it's almost true. :)

179:

Jesus wept! Look, I know that you aren't an IT expert, but please do take look at what is reported in the news. I suppose that I need to explain, though I will not describe HOW these happen just now :-(

When certain kinds of network or server failure occur, the system may mark your card as 'probably stolen'. It is then locked for ALL purposes until you contact your bank, authenticate yourself and get it cleared. But how do you know that? Well, you may not until your bank contacts you, which can be hours or days later - and I mean that, because just checking your account online is very likely NOT to tell you that your card is locked.

If you are really unlucky, it may do that for your ACCOUNT, so all cards on that account, as well as scheduled payments, will be be blocked. Yes, that includes insurance payments so, if you need to claim (or are picked up for driving while uninsured), that's your lookout. You may get repaid for direct losses, but good luck in suing the bank for indirect ones (even if money would resolve them).

The former has happened to people I know, and the latter happened to me, though it didn't have any major consequences.

180:

Speaking of money,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/07/06/why-cash-remains-sacred-in-american-churches

This connects with ATMs in church lobbies: The point is, money [cash] isn’t just a fungible means to various ends, it is sacred to these believers.

181:

As celebrated in song:

Pretty young policemen in leather and jeans / showing their leg through a split in the seams / leering at people, leading them on / then running them in when they start to respond

182:

Cash has another use, but it's rather rare. As a protest. I am a victim of the banking crash, being a business ex-customer of Natwest Bank - yes, the bank that was bailed out by UK Government and was one of the authors of the crash that cost trillions of dollars, pounds, euros and probably many other units. As a result, I owe more money to that particular gang of sociopaths than I will ever repay if I live to a hundred.

Should some miracle occur, I would offer payment of the entire amount (low six figures) in legal tender. It so happens that £1 coins are legal tender in any amount, and the sum would come to a couple of tons of metal. Storage problems, and possible injury to bank staff? Not my problem.

Well, one can dream...

183:

I'm going to cheat: accompanied by well-known hip-hop backing band Nine Inch Nails, here's published poet Saul Williams. (Here he is reciting his poetry, though the difference between "poetry" and "song" tends to be presence or absence of backing track than anything else.)
And Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop," because the lyrics are clearer than average and not linking to Lauryn Hill when given the opportunity is probably some kind of crime.

184:
I don't seriously expect teenage Polynesian kids in South Auckland to be completely different from those entering West Point this year, but I'd be surprised if they liked the same music or suffered the same problems.
Hell, one Auckland teenager kicked off her music career on a single about being unable to relate to US chart output.

Re. your second paragraph: just intonation or bust!

185:

In the U.S. I went from banking at a bank to banking at a credit union. I don't know if you can do a similar thing in the U.K., but I find that not giving them money is the best revenge.

186:

That depends a bit; UK credit unions can't offer chequeing account services (book, guarantee card or ATM card). So my local one is no good to me; I'm at work when they're open, and I need to access my accounts when visiting friends and relatives 200 miles away.

188:

Been there - done that - but only to the tune of a hundred, or so!

189:

Jesus wept! Look, I know that you aren't an IT expert

Oooooh, hark at Mr. Chippy...

I'll stick to my personal opinion - I prefer to use a card, because I believe it faster, safer, and more convenient. You are perfectly welcome to insist on using cash, and to feel that it suits you better - no-one is forcing you.

But yeah, what would I know. I'm only a software engineer working in the payment card industry.

Because obviously, clients aren't at all worried about network and server failure modes. Nope, the idea of losing all of the takings for an evening in a large restaurant/bar doesn't bother them in the slightest, it never happens, there aren't any reversionary procedures to deal with it. Nor are the banks in any way twitchy about money ending up in the wrong place (particularly if it's a different bank). Nor are the various fraud detection schemes twitchy about false alarm rates being used as a selection metric.

So, I've got a big book of test cards in the desk that are working or broken in interesting ways, I regularly write hostile tests for interesting comms failure modes for card readers, and I've got a selection of card readers sitting in my desk from different manufacturers. Strangely, several of our primary test flows are about making sure that nobody loses money when the magic telephone thingy stops working. And guess what? It works!

I don't work for a bank, so I'm not going to claim I know anything about various banks internal policies regarding fraud detection algorithms, and the routes to resolve same. I would be surprised to see "card is blocked" transformed into "account is frozen", and wonder exactly how you managed that particular feat; I suspect by behaving suspiciously in your on-line banking rather than with your card.

It does seem to me, however, that in your determination to show that electronic payment by card is far inferior to cash, that you're choosing increasingly long-chain combinations of circumstances for your worst-case outcome, and failing to consider any similarly severe failure modes in a cash-based system.

For instance: you drop your wallet on the way to the supermarket; you are no longer able to afford food. You get mugged on the way from your workplace to the bank; you lose a week's wages, forever. Your cheque is lost in the post; your insurance lapses. Your mattress catches fire: you lose all of your savings! You try to make several large payments in cash, and are tagged as a potential money launderer! Eleventy!

190:

Yes!
I drove through Milton Keynes in the rush hour last week and found I was looking for traffic cameras as I was stuck in traffic jams.

191:

"Queue at the till"?
I shop at Waitrose. I go into the supermarket, pick up a barcode reader using a Waitrose card. Scan each purchase and put it straight into a bag. Then go to an automated till. Scan the purchases into a barcode reader, pay with a card, (contactless if less than £30.00) and walk out. Tesco operate the same kind of service. It's so much faster than queueing at a till even for the purchase of just one item. I get a free Guardian and a cup of decent coffee as well. There's never a queue even at peak times.
And when I drive into Norwich I always park at the Forum where the car park has contactless at the pay machine so usually no queue of hopeless idiots searching for change.
I only use cash when there's no alternative. I make very few visits to cash machines. Contactless, Apple Pay and cards can be used almost anywhere.

192:

You might consider using a building society. Most of them have services much like any bank - with the difference that they are owned by their members. Nationwide in particular has better coverage than some banks.

193:

Troutwaxer @143

I've now watched a number of the videos by M.C. Frontalot and perceive that they are intended as parody. I will remain curious and pay attention to this thing called Rap, in the hopes that I may someday understand it.

Until then I am inspired to revisit Ska, but there of course lies "Madness". I just have to take that "One Step Beyond" and see if I finally understand the structure.

Moz @146 said: Samoan ukulele rap

Ha! Ukulele! I love it.

For those people trying to understand PayDay Loans:

Fighting the debt trap of triple-digit interest rate payday loans

Left behind by banks, poor Americans pay more to borrow

On the flip-side of low income people being charged outrageous interest, you have people and their 401k retirement accounts losing up to 60% by the various fees that are charged. The system is set up to take advantage of people no matter their economic status/literacy.

The Retirement Gamble

The Retirement Gamble raises troubling questions about how America’s financial institutions protect our retirement savings.

lankiveil @166 said: In supermarkets at least I'd have thought a cash ban would greatly speed up checkout times (only based on my local experiences of course).

When I'm at the supermarket I routinely see people paying in cash. They will whip out a couple hundred bucks and pay.

In that same line, people are using debit cards, official food assistance, issued by the State. The supermarket depends on those low income people who use State assistance debit cards. They use the card to pay for "approved" items, then use cash to pay for those items not on the list.

194:

In the context of card vs. cash safety, a somewhat scary report about how well banks safeguard our cash:

https://ibsintelligence.com/ibs-journal/ibs-news/65-of-major-us-banks-found-to-fail-basic-web-security-testing/

Don't have time to track down details, but taken at face value, with all the caveats that implies, I'm not feeling charitable ("... but on the other hand, almost half passed", "... but at least they're no worse than any other industry").

195:

In the UK, the banks are FAR more interested in protecting themselves against customers than in allowing customers to protect themselves against fraud, let along the bank's incompetence.

196:

It's been a real surprise just how quickly contactless has taken off over here, given how backward the UK was towards electronic banking and card use only a decade ago in comparison with NZ or Aus. Many of my friends have moved from solely cash to solely card in the last two years.

On the payments side, I agree with you - cards are by far safer today. However the sheer amount of skimming that was going on a decade ago may have tainted EC's views. I used to work with epos at fuel stations, so I vaguely recall most of the tricks that had to be embedded into the card readers to make em work with everything. Chip and pin was definitely an improvement over magstripe.

But on the account freezing side, I know of one easy way that worked repeatedly with Lloyds until 2014 - use one of the ukforex services, try and electronically transfer some funds to their account here. Your account gets frozen for money laundering because lots of people pay into the same account. Apparently the rational approach is to withdraw several thousand in cash and walk down the road to Barclays and deposit the cash instead. That happened to me on four occasions sending money back to NZ. Nowadays they seem to have fixed it at last.

197:

Is misrepresentation your ONLY mode of debate? I did NOT say or imply what you claim.

In the case I mentioned, the bank themselves rang up and humbly apologised for the fuck-up (a rare event indeed), and gave a partial explanation. NO other action of mine was involved - or indeed occurred. It was because there were multiple (essentially transactionless) protocols involved, and the failure recovery algorithms of my bank and the sales outlet's were incompatible. Because the card was accepted but the payment refused (as the far end saw it), I was flagged as a fraudster on an inter-banking database, and that then caused my account to be blocked. All automatically. Only once humans started unpicking the chaos caused by the server glitch did they sort out the matter.

The cream of the jest is that I had been at a protocol conference only 3 weeks' earlier, had predicted just such a failure mode as an inevitable result of the class of design, and got several claims of "Oh, that can't happen - the software will stop it." I also worked with some of the country's leading experts in computer security, and they are more negative about the banking protocols and management than I am - after all, they know more.

198:

"the utter shite circulating at present"

I blame this on the unfortunate pair of phenomena which occurred at the end of the 80s: the surge in popularity of recreational phenethylamines*, and the reduction of prices of musical instruments with computers in.

One of the effects of the phenethylamines is to make you feel you have to have music on - but at the same time to broaden your definition of "music" to the point where it ceases to really define anything. Things like the sound of a hydraulic breaker, or a barking dog, or a cow mooing, will do just fine as long as you turn the volume up and put them in a loop that repeats every few seconds.

And, of course, the newly-widespread musical instruments with computers in made it trivial to do exactly that. Ability to compose or to play any instrument became irrelevant. All you needed was to press a few buttons and the thing would moo and fart away to itself endlessly - and you could roll in money and kudos from flogging the result to millions of people who had chemically disabled their critical faculties and couldn't tell it was utter shite.

To be sure, dogshit "music" made of noise was hardly a new phenomenon. But it still required some sort of effort to produce something that nobody would listen to because they knew it was dogshit, so it remained very much a niche phenomenon. Most people have never even heard of Einstürzender Neubauten. The important factor was the vast increase in scale that became possible when all of a sudden there were millions of people who had deliberately deprived themselves of the ability to differentiate between shit and chocolate, and all of a sudden technology made it possible to give them as much shit as they wanted with less effort than doing an actual shit.

And the result was such a gigantic inundation of raw sewage that things are still gacky and smelly nigh on thirty years later.

(Let no-one be fooled by the ludicrous apologists who (even now still) try and insist that "raving wasn't about drugs". Utter bullshit - the drugs were the critical enabling factor. That position makes about as much sense as "nukes aren't about fission".)

*Yes, phenethylamines, not tryptamines. I've no idea how terms like "acid house" came about. Acid had nothing to do with it. If it had, things would have been very different. It does a lot of interesting things, but one thing it does not do is make you think a noise like a boilermaker in a slaughterhouse is music.

199:

"Interested to know in what situations you find queues quicker with cash?"

In my case - all of them. Of the situations I encounter which involve the person at the head of the queue fannying around for ages, one of the two most common causes is that they're using a card. (While I stand behind grumbling under my breath, "FFS use cash you pillock, it's so much quicker and so much easier").

The difference seems to be for two reasons. One is that people paying by card are much more likely to fumble slowly through multiple nested containers to find the thing (and then do the same fumbling procedure in reverse afterwards, before moving away from the till), whereas people paying in cash just stick their hand in their pocket and pull it out straight away. The other is that the card people continue to fanny about even after they have located the card, whereas cash people don't: they just hand it to the cashier who picks out the change with the rapidity borne of constant practice and hands it back; they then stick it in their pocket without ceremony and womble off - having occupied about the same amount of time as it takes a card person to figure out how to put their card in the slot.

(The other major cause of checkout delays is people buying a whole handful of scratchcards and scratching them off there and then so they don't have to come back to collect their winnings - and then if they do win anything, spending it immediately on another handful of scratchcards, and repeating the procedure until they do not win anything. But that's a different matter altogether.)

200:

I think counting the fee as interest over the full term of the loan is fair.

If you had a loan that charged 5% interest per month but spread your repayments out over a full year, then you'd count the 10% fee as 10% interest per year, not 10% interest per month. So the effective APR would be 1.05^12 (monthly compounding) + .1 (fee) - 1 (principal) = ~90%.

But if the loan only lasts a month, then a 10% fee is mathematically the same as an additional 10% interest per month. If you're giving me $100 at the start of the month and expecting $115 back at the end of the month, it really makes no difference how much of that extra $15 is "interest" and how much is "fees". (Another way of looking at this is that if you wanted to keep borrowing money for an entire year, you'd need twelve of the one-month loans, which means you'd pay the "one-time" fee twelve times.)

So in that case, the effective APR can reasonably be claimed to be 1.15^12 - 1 = 435%. (Or, if you also charge interest ON the fee--which I'd guess is more common--then 1.155^12 - 1 = 464%.)

201:

With respect to payment card security, I'm not sanguine. For example, I'm not sure that the following problems have been solved in the U.S.:

https://www.wired.com/2015/09/big-security-fix-credit-cards-wont-stop-fraud/

As the Wired article notes, I think we'll see a relatively rapid shift from card skimmers inserted in bank machines and POS terminals towards more sophisticated "contactless" theft of card information as contactless payments replace older methods. Crime never sleeps; card issuers sometimes do. Solutions such as Apple's wallet/Pay combination seem very promising, but most solutions seem promising until criminals have time to look at them more closely. I'm imagining all kinds of "man in the middle" attacks, or the kind of threats you see with faked public wi-fi access points.

There have also been concerns about the weak security provided by the chip technology itself in the U.S. (where banks have apparently used much weaker security than the implementation in Europe), leading to a certain amount of panic and healthy profits for vendors of RFID-safe wallets. Couldn't find a recent article on this in a quick Google, but a few older and possibly outdated criticisms:

https://boingboing.net/2010/02/11/chip-and-pin-is-brok.html

https://boingboing.net/2006/10/23/report-contactless-c.html

I'd be grateful for updates on the security status of contactless cards from the PINsiders who are participating in this blog. *G*

Also, isn't it time we abandoned the ridiculously weak security offered by a 4-digit password that only includes numbers? I really don't want to have to consult my password manager each time I visit a bank machine or buy something from a merchant, but it seems likely to become necessary in the future.

202:

"the poorest NEED a bank account because the government will not pay benefits in cash."

Not actually true, but they do try very hard to stop people realising that.

There is a post office account specifically for the purpose, where only benefits can be paid into it, and the only way to get the money out again is to toddle down to the post office and use a card that only works in post office machines to authorise them to hand you the cash. Vastly simpler than arsing around with banks.

Recently they have started sending letters of threatening appearance to people saying "you are expected" to get it paid into a bank account instead, and providing a form to send back with bank account details on it. Consequently it is now possible to find on relevant internet fora people posting panicked questions along the lines of "I don't have a bank account and I can't get one, WTF do I do about this?" (Fortunately the answer does seem to be "ignore it", but you'd not guess that was an option from the wording of the letter.)

It makes matters worse that people receiving these letters are deprived of authoritative advice and can only go on whatever unofficial information they can get off the aforesaid fora. This is because they are terrified that if they actually contact the DWP with their concerns it will trigger a reassessment - which is of course likely to be rigged to fail on the basis that the claimant is a "troublemaker". And at the same time, of course, they also fear that not responding to the letter at all will have the same effect. The whole thing appears pretty much designed to make people think they have a choice of bank account or starve, and are being forced off benefits "by stealth" as it were.

There is a further fallback position where they provide an authorisation that instead of working only at a (any) post office, only works at a (particular; you have to specify which) shop-that-does-paypoint. There is a mention of this on their website, but you need AL-level excavation abilities to find it. Certainly nobody attempting to answer the abovementioned forum questions seems to know about it. And the tie to a specific shop means you're screwed if your designated shop's paypoint system goes down for a week, or the shop just randomly decides without notice to stop doing paypoint at all - both of which happen.

203:

Somehow I'm glad that paying-with-card has never arrived in this part of the world (Germany). In any kind of shop cash payment is still the standard, with the option of using your ec-card (maestro) becoming more widespread over the last years.

You're posting from 20 years past? (on topic, heh)
EC cards no longer exist (EuroCheques no longer exist), it's V-Pay or Maestro debit cards these days.

Of course you can still pay cash at the supermarket, but if it's for more than about EUR 20 people will look at you funny.

The baker OTOH will not take a card unless you buy for >EUR 100, at which event someone will go find the card processing device.

My GP and my cats' vet take cards.

(Also Germany, Greater Munich)

204:

Yes, I know about that. But why do you think that there is a post office within reach? They have already been essentially privatised, and are closing fast.

205:

I'd be grateful for updates on the security status of contactless cards from the PINsiders who are participating in this blog. *G*

Worry more about the merchants running on with old hardware and software.

Scams involving horror stories of people sneaking up to your wallet in a crowded place are great if you're selling foil-lined wallets, but it's strictly one transaction / one victim at a time. Classic Daily Mail stuff, because it lets you fear swarthy foreigners and immigrants and public transport....

Nah, what you really want is to steal card details wholesale, from companies that fail miserably at security consciousness... storing unnecessary card details, poorly or unencrypted. 40 million cards at a time?

http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-big-the-most-recent-hacking-data-breaches-have-been-2014-10?IR=T

The software I work on has a lot of effort put into making sure that we don't store any useful data - masking it, discarding it, not asking for sensitive details in the first place, etc. The latest card readers use point-to-point encryption; once that's running, we genuinely have no idea what the card details are, they're encrypted inside a walled part of the reader hardware and aren't unencrypted until inside the payment gateway.

Older equipment is sometimes less secure; but as standards move forward, things get safer.

206:

Trust... ah, yes. Trust in institutions which play fast and loose with your money, hiding behind the "excuse" that it's "normal procedure"...

You try to buy something online, pay for it with a card (all too often the only option)... only then does it turn out that they're out of stock. So you get a refund... a week or two weeks later. They can take the money off you instantly, but you're supposed to believe it's impossible for them to give it back with equal speed.

Or... they appear to have given you a refund, but somehow they've only given you the numbers, not the actual money. The numbers on your balance say they have given it back, so you try and buy the same item from somewhere else - and it doesn't work, because despite what the numbers say they haven't given the money back, they've just somehow pretended to, and the part of the system that reports to you believes the pretence, but the part that reports to the bank doesn't. (Or whatever the stupid mess actually is. It has that effect, whatever it is.)

And then the bank sends you a letter to say it didn't work, because it would have taken you overdrawn, so they cancelled it.

And then they send you another letter to say that the previous letter cost them £25 to send (as if anyone believes that), and they've taken that out of your account, and therefore you are now overdrawn, and because this is an "unauthorised overdraft" (even though they did it themselves) they are charging you another £25, so you are now even more overdrawn.

And then they send you a third letter to say the second letter cost them £25 to send, so they have taken that also, and you are now even more overdrawn.

And then they send you a fourth letter... etc. etc. etc.

There's no escape unless you can manage to scrabble money together from somewhere else faster than their self-perpetuating chain of expensive letters can extend itself. Fat chance of that. All you can do in practice is to abandon the bank and burn anything banky-looking that is sent to you. Which most people are afraid to do...

Some good and brave soul did try and get this scam made illegal a few years ago, but of course it failed...

207:

This is true... but on the other hand, in places where there isn't a post office any more, there usually isn't anything else any more either, so unless you can afford to run a car, you can't live there anyway... Whereas in towns there still is usually a post office of some sort, even if it is a cubicle of unpainted plywood in one corner of a newsagent.

The village I began my life in is an example... as well as a post office, there used to be a general bit-of-everything shop, a greengrocer (in a barn, selling vegetables straight off the farm), a butcher (same kind of setup), and a garage (doing repairs, not just fuel). You could get all the day-to-day stuff on foot. (There was also another shop that closed when the old dear who ran it popped her clogs; I was about 3 at the time and can't remember what it sold. And a live-in village bobby. And a mobile library that came round in a van once a week, and smelt just like a real one. I loved that.)

These days the only thing you can buy is fuel to put in your car to go into town and buy stuff...

208:

...gah, clicked "Submit" before remembering all I wanted to say...

...the real killer when it came to forcing people to have bank accounts was when they repealed the Truck Act.

209:

I live in the US and haven't seen any contactless payment systems that I can recall. My card has a chip that I slide into a reader which thinks for a while, asks me to sign, and then beeps obnoxiously until I remove the card.

Four-digit PINs are actually pretty good security-wise as long as you don't allow someone to make too many guesses before you freeze the card (and as long as you don't choose a PIN like "1234"). Password-guessing attacks are really only viable when you can make a LOT of guesses.


I remember reading several articles some years back about how the US credit card system had much less fraud than the UK system, because in the US the card issuers bore most of the costs of fraud (the card holder could be charged a max of $50, and only if they didn't report the card stolen promptly), whereas in UK the banks had succeeded in convincing the courts that they were unhackable, and therefore the card holder was assumed to be complicit in all fraudulent charges and bore all the costs, and therefore the banks did crappy security, and therefore experienced far more fraud.

Of course, I've also heard that card issuers then pass most of their costs on to the merchants who accept the cards as payment...

210:

If you live in the USA you have Apple and Android pay which are contactless. They are slightly more fiddly than contactless cards but still faster than cash. They are however easier to find than sorting through multiple cards n a wallet or purse.

211:

That depends a bit; UK credit unions can't offer chequeing account services (book, guarantee card or ATM card). So my local one is no good to me; I'm at work when they're open, and I need to access my accounts when visiting friends and relatives 200 miles away.

In the U.S. credit unions can offer all of the services that a commercial bank can offer with the exception of business accounts. If you own a business, you have to do your business accounts with a regular bank.

But you can still do your personal banking with a credit union if you're eligible to join one. The one I joined has branches throughout the state and hundreds of stand-alone, no fee ATM machines, so I have ready access to cash when I need it, without having to carry too much on my person.

My ATM card can be used as a VISA card when I want to purchase something that's more than the cash I'm carrying and I still use paper checks (cheques) for groceries and some other payments.

212:

You might consider using a building society. Most of them have services much like any bank - with the difference that they are owned by their members. Nationwide in particular has better coverage than some banks.

I think that would be a "Savings & Loan" in the U.S. I don't know if there are many left. Deregulation during Reagan's presidency led to a Savings & Loan Crisis that wiped most of them out.

I think the only advantage to a "Savings & Loan" in the U.S. is there is no restriction on eligibility. Anyone can open an account at a "Savings & Loan" (if you can find one).

213:

"the poorest NEED a bank account because the government will not pay benefits in cash."

Not actually true, but they do try very hard to stop people realising that.

There is a post office account specifically for the purpose,

Unfortunately in the U.S. the post office is not allowed to offer banking services. It used to, but the banks got the government to kill it.
214:

In the U.S. credit unions can offer all of the services that a commercial bank can offer with the exception of business accounts. ... But you can still do your personal banking with a credit union if you're eligible to join one.

This. Moreover, for some years now 'eligible to join one' is effectively synonymous with 'have money and a pulse' (this wasn't always true but nobody here wants to sit through the history of US financial regulations). There are meaningful differences under the hood but to the ordinary human on the street who just wants some basic banking services a credit union will do at least as well as a commercial bank. You don't have to know how the NCUA is different from the FDIC; that's technical and someone else's problem. You should be fine with a credit union for all routine financial needs.

Disclaimers: Yes, I've had formal training in US banking. No, I'm not currently employed in the field, though I know people who are. No, I'm not claiming anything about UK banking; that's not a thing I've got experience with.

215:

Older equipment is sometimes less secure; but as standards move forward, things get safer.

One has to remember, with respect to the payment cards, that the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard - the security standard used in auditing the agents in the payment card industry) is only 13 years old. The first version of the standard was published in 2004, though obviously there were older card brand exclusive standards.

There are also some parts of the PCI DSS that are not in line with more modern security requirements. I think this is mostly because banking systems still use old mainframes in parts and it would be more of an issue to replace them with something more modern.

From my point of view as an security auditor, not in the US or the UK, there's at least an effort to make things better. Nowadays, at least in modern systems, the card numbers are not used or saved anywhere they are not absolutely needed. In many systems the merchant does not see the card numbers at all, they are only read by the terminal and then passed on from the store, never going to the till computer and never saved in the store in full. Older systems did much more dubious stuff.

Here in Finland in most places you can use cards, and I don't find it usually slower than using cash. I have some cash with me, usually, but mostly don't use it. Many small merchants have moved to simple card-reader systems during the last couple of years, many using applications on an iPad or equivalent.

216:

Not entirely sure that's correct.

The general rule of thumb in the U.K. Is that for credit cards the issuer bears the brunt of fraudulent transactions, whilst for debit card (i.e. Funding comes direct from your bank account) the burden of fraud falls more on the customer.

UK consumer advice is to always pay for big/risky stuff on a credit card rather than debit card.

the credit card companies ding the merchant the second you raise a dispute usually so that the sellers bear the fraud risk asap.

http://www.money.co.uk/current-accounts/is-debit-card-protection-the-same-as-for-credit-cards.htm

217:

Not any more
Same rules now apply to debit cards.
I forget which regulator decided that was a scam-too-far for the banks to pull ....

218:

I might, except that the nearest building society branch that I know of (NB "The Halifax" is actually a bank these days) is about 7 hours away.

219:

That's all correct compound interest calculations, well except for my argument that the arrangement fee should not have interest charged on it.

220:

You've actually quoted me and not #Troutwaxer there!

Anyway, to make my point sound "US-centric" and use your case of a state-wide organisation.
I live in, say, Rhode Island, and my parents in New Jersey. I still have the issue that, when I'm visiting them, I can't have access to RIS&L bleep machines!

221:

So here in Oz we have both viable building societies ( in fact they out perform banks a lot of the time) and ubiquitous pay wave using both card and phone. We're pretty close to the Japanese in terms of inter connectivity. That we don't do government bonds so the strength of the banks is much more important to us may have something to do with it... as might the tyranny of distance that we deal with every day. And nope we are not the shining light on the hill, just, y'know choices.

222:

I will definitely go with "not my thing" there. I was a teen in the 80's and the music 80-85 is definatly "my thing". I don;t object to rap / house / dance / Drum and Bass, I simply do not Get It (TM). I know I am a product of my time, and I am not *supposed* to listen to what the cool kids listen to - that is as things should be.
I confess I do rather like some modern (1) indie stuff - I think Placebo are excellent, and my daughter's collections of Scouting for Girls are quite fun.

(1) to my shame, I recall remarking in 1996 "I don't like this modern stuff". so modern is rather a stretchy term.

223:

"Four-digit PINs are actually pretty good security-wise ..." In theory. But the banks make the ATMs such that most people cannot hide what you are typing, and then say that it's your responsibility to do so. At 69, I am slowing down, but I can still read the numbers most people type at a distance of 6'; now, if I were also a pickpocket ....

Mikko Parviainen is correct, but those improvements were and are only closing the most egregious loopholes - there are LOTS of more subtle ones, some of which cannot be completely closed without a complete design (no, not redesign, the set of standards has evolved, not been designed). Note that most of those are due to problems in the aggregate protocol set (computer and human), and some of them are emergent properties; those of us who know anything about 'program provability' despair when anyone talks about adding security onto existing designs, or asserting that a system is secure because each component is :-(

And, to clarify, I am NOT talking solely about the card-handling aspects, but about the whole, aggregate system. Many of the problems (such as those in #179) are emergent properties of the other protocols. THAT particular one was almost certainly closed as a result of the event I got caught up in, but I have seen references to more recent ones of the same class. Remember that negligence and incompetence cause as much harm as fraud, and customers get essentially no protection (see also #179 again, on indirect losses).

To forestall the usual misrepresentation, cards have their uses, and I use them, but I don't close my eyes to their problems. Most of those are very low probability, but can be very serious when they occur. The REAL horror is that almost all of this is avoidable, but the banks have no interest in doing so.

224:

(1) to my shame, I recall remarking in 1996 "I don't like this modern stuff". so modern is rather a stretchy term.

I'm a similar age; and have teenage sons, so am exposed to music through them. This explains the presence of several 'Imagine Dragons' tracks towards the front of the playlists in my car, as well as 'Despacito' [1] and Maggie Rogers. It's their payback, though, my choices on those playlists include Jefferson Airplane, Creedence, the Blues Brothers, and Maggie Rogers...

Here's the next question - for a bunch of science-fiction enthusiasts, it's amusing to see how we're not immune to increasing-age small-c conservatism. We're not all "Seat 14C XPrize optimism" and "we're all Iain M. Banks fans, looking forward to the Culture". I mean, complaining about the falling standards of modern music, discussing the relative merits of (not-Iain) banks and preferring cash over this faddish modern contactless stuff, it wasn't like this in my day, oh no...

Some of it can be put down to healthy cynicism (and pragmatic skepticism, as EC has just made clear) but where's that "AWESOME COOL TECH!" vibe? The first time I used my phone as a boarding pass on an airliner, and at a cinema[2] I thought that the future I'd hoped for was finally arriving...

:) :) ...some of the thread makes me wonder whether it's time for lap blankets, walking frames, and ear trumpets. Bah humbug :) :)

[1] ...I don't know the words, so I'll say Dorito...

[2] And yes, I carried paper backups for the air travel, and spent time wrestling with a broken scanner at the cinema - I'm not daft, and it's not by any means seamless yet...

225:

Nope, they'd shoot. The plane is obsolescent, obviously a fake, and heading straight for a major city. It's not responding to currently-mandated communications channels (hint: VHF radio is so 1950s)

Except... VHF is still going to be in regular use in twenty years time. After all, civilian airliners don't exactly carry crypto keys and Link 16 for military radio sets, so clear voice is still "it" for aviation. It's simple, it's fitted to everything, and it works well as a reversionary system - why would it be removed? Look how long it took for Morse to disappear from ships, by way of comparison.

Add to that the average age of the USAF fleet; if an F-22 or an F-35 has VHF fitted now, it's still going to be in service in twenty years time. Current plans have them still building the F-35 in the year 2035; the sixth-generation stuff isn't anticipated to even start flying until the 2030 timeframe, let alone replace all of the fifth-generation stuff.

I rather suspect that ANA #008 is going to be declaring PAN PAN on 121.5MHz, as its GPS system is frantically trying to make sense of a mismatched time signal (or loss of signal) - and that there will still be people listening in the SFO control tower, and replying to them.

226:

'Fraid not Greg - Credit Cards are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit act, Debit cards are covered by the Chargeback scheme which is voluntary on the part of the banks. Functionally very similar but guess which one will have the most edge cases ;)

From https://www.thinkmoney.co.uk/news-advice/whats-the-difference-between-section-75-and-chargeback-0-8452-0.htm

"What are the main differences?

One of the main differences between Section 75 and the chargeback scheme is that one is law and the other is a voluntary agreement. This means you have more legal protection with Section 75 as it is enshrined in law – credit card providers have to follow it.

There is a limit on the amount of cover you can receive under Section 75. You can only make a claim on purchases between the value of £100 and £30,000, while under the chargeback scheme you can claim for any amount. You must claim through the chargeback scheme within 120 days of your purchase or payment for service. But there is no time limit with Section 75.

As we've mentioned, even if you only pay for an item or service in part on your credit card, you can get protection for the whole cost under Section 75. To make a claim under the chargeback scheme, you'll need to pay for the full amount on your debit or credit card."

227:

That's because both Aus and NZ are useful test beds for banking technology. We're a small educated population with reliable networks and a willingness to try something new. At least 2/3 of the more recent banking innovations have rolled out there a good decade ahead of everywhere else, though some were hamstrung due to poor internet links in the backblocks.

228:

Meanwhile, in another part of the System ...
Bad news for the Space Cadets

229:

I don't think satirical as much as 'witty.' Celebrating the life of geeky folk is one of the many places Rap has gone, and Nerdcore is the only variant of Rap I personally can listen to.

230:

When my family was poor enough to need payday loans I was never bothered by them because the actual amount of money we would pay was far less than the total of what we'd pay if we accumulated several thousand dollars on credit cards and paid off the minimum (all we could afford) every month.

Morally speaking the interest rate is completely rotten.

Practically speaking we paid maybe 6-700 dollars to borrow 3-4 thousand dollars, which is far less than what we would have paid to borrow 3-4 thousand on credit cards and pay them back at something close to the minimum rate.

I'm not in the finance industry, but I did once write a fairly sophisticated piece of software to track credit-card payments, and the despite the moral ickiness of payday loans they're actually cheaper because you pay the whole sum back out of your next paycheck instead of paying credit-card level interest for months or years.

231:

I'm confused. If you are able to pay off an entire payday loan within one payday, why are you not able to do the same with an equal-sized loan through a credit card?

232:

> "Four-digit PINs are actually pretty good security-wise ..." In theory. But the banks make the ATMs such that most people cannot hide what you are typing, and then say that it's your responsibility to do so.

That may be, but I don't think making the password longer is going to help very much against people reading over your shoulder. (I was responding to Geoff Hart in #201 suggesting it was past-time to switch to stronger passwords.)

I would certainly approve of ATM designs that make it harder to spy on the keypad.

233:

According to Unbanking of America, there are several possible reasons:

1) The loan must be paid off in full. Like having a money guard, this is a way of resisting pressure from yourself/family/friends to pay only the minimum balance and keep spending.

2) You know (and trust) the payday loan shop, while you don't trust the credit card company because they play tricks. Apparently in the US credit card companies are repeatedly charged with unfair and deceptive practices, yet they keep doing them. According to Servon cheque cashing and payday loan companies are a lot clearer than banks and credit card companies.

3) The payday loan os 'off the books' as regards your credit rating. Carry a balance of $250 on a $500 credit limit card for a couple of months and your credit rating loses 50+ points. As landlords and employers do a credit check this can be a disaster.

234:

You folks on the right side of the pond must have some really crappy payment terminals and backend systems.

Over here I don't see near the issues EC seems to be describing. And that includes me paying for milk at a convenience store (large single beer cans is their profit center) with my watch just to see if it worked there. It worked and was much faster than a card or cash would have been.

235:

Hey, when PSD2 comes in next year the supermarket will be able to set up as a payment services provider and take the money straight from your bank account. Just download their app - it'll be so much smoother and faster than fiddly old cash or swiping with cards.

How is this better than debit cards? Or do they work differently in the UK than the US. Over here a debit card use is an immediate withdraw of funds from your bank account. Or at a minimum an immediate hold. But for all practical purposes the funds are gone.

236:

And while I do have a credit card, I only ever use it at the ATM to draw cash, which I can do worldwide free of charge (or to buy something online, if no other method of payment is offered, particularly with foreign vendors). I've never used it as a way of payment in a shop or restaurant.

We live in totally different universes. In the US credit (and debit) cards rule. And to promote the cards (and thus the hidden fees), banks and businesses run all kinds of promotions. Want to buy a TV? Do it from Best Buy using the new and improved Best Buy VISA (making this up as I type) and you'll only have to make minimum payments till whenever but if you pay it all off in 12 months the entire thing is interest free. Most folks figure they'll do it but never meet the 12 month limit so get back charged 20%+ interest.

Personally I do the travel card thing. Airline and hotel cards. You have to be discliplined and likely use a spread sheet but my wife and I do ALL[1] spending on cards that get it nice deals. Do an internet search for "One Mile at a Time" and/or "The Points Guy" for more details.

My daughter has flown from east coast of the US to Japan for a 6 day visit with her boy friend for under $400 total. And the flight from the west coast to Japan was in Singapore first class seats. They also recently did a trip to Korea by going around the world. Mostly in first class. About the same out of pocket.

237:

Nuts. Miss the footnote.

[1] I've discovered I need $1 bills for curb side tips and event parking is a cash payment thing. Having to walk about a mile while it was snowing (in the very wrong shoes) got me to start keeping some money on me most of the time. When I travel I tend to keep $100 or so with me so I can buy my way out of a cash only situation in a strange place.

238:

The point is, money [cash] isn’t just a fungible means to various ends, it is sacred to these believers.

While I'm sure this is true for some non trivial number of churches, most protestant US churches these days have no problem setting up an automatic ACH bank draft for the regulars. Some will do credit cards but there are theology issues for some/many in doing this. Anyway for many/most protestant churches in the US the offering plate is not the primary path for donations.

239:

If you live in the USA you have Apple and Android pay which are contactless. They are slightly more fiddly than contactless cards but still faster than cash.

Not if you have an Apple watch. (Don't know about Android.) Double tap the side button and extend your arm a bit. If you want to use other than the default card swap right with your finger a time or two first.

What 5 to 15 seconds?

240:

I live in the US and haven't seen any contactless payment systems that I can recall.

I bet you've seen them but just didn't know it. If the card terminal has that WWII radar fan image on it the hardware supports contactless to some degree. I just try now with my watch and most of the time it works.

241:

In the U.S. credit unions can offer all of the services that a commercial bank can offer with the exception of business accounts. If you own a business, you have to do your business accounts with a regular bank.

Some offer small business accounts. I think it varies by state and type of business structure. Banks really lobby hard to restrict CUs.

But you can still do your personal banking with a credit union if you're eligible to join one. The one I joined has branches throughout the state and hundreds of stand-alone, no fee ATM machines, so I have ready access to cash when I need it, without having to carry too much on my person.

At the credit union I use the tellers do not hand out cash. They only take it in. If you want to get cash OUT they direct you to the ATM at the front door.

242:

Deregulation during Reagan's presidency led to a Savings & Loan Crisis that wiped most of them out.

The greed of the S&L's management had nothing to do with it.

243:

"the crappy movie "Millennium", and the somewhat less crappy novelization of the same name, by Varley"

That's a bit harsh - I thought the novel was pretty good, maybe not in the same league as Varley's best, but a nice homage to the time travel genre, and anyway Varley's best is a very high standard indeed.

Speaking of which, I see from his website that Irontown Blues is due to be published on 28 August 2018. Over a year from now, true, but given how long we've been waiting for it, that's practically just around the corner. Hooray!

244:

The first time I used my phone as a boarding pass on an airliner, and at a cinema[2] I thought that the future I'd hoped for was finally arriving...

And if you're smart you'll take a screen shot of the boarding pass just in case the network is down or the app farts when you're next in line.

245:

I know this is off topic, but I was wondering if the UK has the same problems as are described in this article for the US?

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-07/america-is-struggling-with-economic-rot

246:

Poor credit, thus not having a credit card, plus credit card terms are different. The temptation with a credit card is to pay the minimum balance while borrowing more money. That's not possible with a payday loan - you must pay the whole thing back.

Doing the math is one thing. Dealing with the temptation to keep a little more money in the bank when you're generally broke is another. Part of the immorality traditionally associated with credit goes back to human nature and how well the lender understands human nature, (and I think the credit card issuers understand the psychology fairly well.)

The major problem in our particular case is that credit is one of the issues my wife and I disagree upon and it was much easier emotionally to take the payday loan and not have a fight!

247:

It's the usual shitshow, right?

"Please deregulate us, the damn hippie-commie-librul's regulations keep us from making enough money!"

Followed by:

"Please bail us out, we did all the things we shouldn't have done because they're no longer against the rules, and now we're broke!!"

Unlike 2008 however, the Reagan/Bush presidencies put around 1100 people in jail and senators lost elections because of the scandal. By 2008 the U.S. was corrupt enough that nobody went to jail for a crisis that was probably orders of magnitude bigger!

248:

Toxic Martian soil is hardly news. It's been known for decades from the Viking lander experiments.

249:

That makes Apple Watch about as fast as contactless. For Apple Pay with a phone you have to select the wallet and then fingerprint.
But the whole business of queues at checkouts puzzles me. I went to Waitrose this morning and timed the whole checkout process (with debit card and pin since it was over thirty pounds) at 49 seconds. No bagging since I, like everyone else with a barcode reader or Waitrose phone pay app bagged the goods as we took them off the shelves (after zapping the barcode of course.) There were lots of free automated pay machines but queues of at least 5 at each till. Maybe some people are just natural Luddites.
And the "Fewer than 5 items" checkouts had queues at least twice a long.
I have to admit it took me about 3 minutes to get my free cup of coffee though.

250:

EC is spinning the facts. The people who fumble for cards are the same people who spend ages searching for coins when they pay cash. If I have to queue at a till I have debit card and maybe loyalty card in my hand long before it's my turn and payment takes seconds.
When I go to pubs everyone pays with contactless or chip and pin. Even my local chip shop has contactless.

251:

Re ships getting lost: maybe a -little- older even than Lovecraft, if the Flying Dutchman legend and similar count! (I'm sleepy and Senta a request over to Google to check the dates.)

252:

"There were lots of free automated pay machines but queues of at least 5 at each till. Maybe some people are just natural Luddites."

I go the the cashier so the cashier can stay employed.

253:

Like the people who KNOW they are going to catch a train, or have been standing at the bus-stop for sveral minutes & THEN ...
... can't find their "Oyster" card & block the gates or stop the bus for 5 minutes while they find the thing.
Morons.

254:

THAT was one of the ghastliest puns I've seen for a long time!
Congratulations ( I think )

255:

The supermarket I use has job advertisements and is owned by its employees.

256:

John Lewis / Waitrose?
Or possibly the Co-Op?

257:

Bollocks. Read what I say, NOT the strawmen people try to put into my words. Yes, that is true, and I said precisely that in #173.

What I was describing was the situation when the first card fails, and their attempts to find some other card (or combination) that is acceptable to the retailer. And that takes far longer, even though it is much rarer, not least because it usually needs a supervisor to be called.

259:

And print it out on paper, and keep it on your person!

260:

Most of that is supermarket policy. Yes, the fastest method is to (essentially) allow them to debit your account, that's what they want everyone to use, and so they are actively discouraging other methods. But the disadvantages to society of assistant-free supermarkets (the final objective) are great, as well as the other issues mentioned above.

261:

It's a pretty slow policy. Waitrose have had self scanning for at least a decade and the majority still use tills.

262:

That is because customers are reluctant to change. The same is true for the universal use of direct debit, the replacement of cash, and so on. And Waitrose is not in the forefront of bullying customers, anyway.

263:

No, this is good news. If there is life there the whole planet will be off limits to development. No life means the dozers can roll. For this reason, if life is found on some planet, it will be swept under the rug before being reported, or meet with an untimely demise and then get swept under the rug.

264:

All this talk about "contactless"! Giving a machine the power to take my money that easily gives me the creeps. One of these days all this electronic banking stuff is just going to implode. Some virus will eat all the computers and all your money will be gone. "It just wasn't real, and those papers you have could be forgeries, plus how can you take us to court you can't afford a lawyer. But look here, our records say you borrowed money and now we own you. You didn't sign those papers? Oh, too bad for you, you've had your identity stolen. I hope you had insurance. Oh, but look, that insurance has been cancelled because you weren't making automatic payments, how could you let that slip? Also, we've moved the city limit so our houses are outside it, but yours is inside it and we've raised taxes on your house to pay for the city to go outside the city limits and build us a new swimming pool. Oh you can't pay property taxes equal to the value of your house every year? We'll just have to take your house then... Don't try to walk out of town, use of the sidewalk constitutes both trespassing and hitchhiking and my cousin the cop might have to run you in. What's that in your pocket, cash? You were probably going to buy drugs, you'll just have to civil forfeit that. Come along, the chain gang is waiting, you criminal." Just wait until the good old days come back, only the people that think they'll be on top there probably won't, like all those that fantasize about the wonderful future ("surely I'll be a starship captain! not a bio component") and the wonderful past ("where I'm a knight in shining armor! not a peasant"). The only people on top will be the ones who carefully prepared to put everybody else on the bottom. For Jesus. Yeah, credit cards give me the creeps.

265:

Re" '... bad news for space cadets.'

Heads-up ... run-on sentence coming through ...

But excellent news for the health/pharma industry since more bugs are becoming antibiotic resistant and profit-driven-maybe-because-they-underfunded-their-R&D-since-the-70s pharma corps decide that now is the time to invest in SpaceX (which has a hope of paying dividends and at the very least can be traded) vs. not off-shoring their corp profits or (gasp!) paying their taxes on time so that budget may be available to fund NASA.

266:

Re: 'It's the usual shitshow, right?'

This is where AI could be useful provided its programming for imposing penalties is blinded re: perpetrator. Would be an interesting social experiment to see what the arrest and fine results are in a completely neutral vs. human agency rule enforcement test. And run this test by country/region ...

267:

See footnote [2] in the original post - much like your thought processes, I went with paper backup (screenshots are no use if your phone runs out of power, or gets dropped and breaks, or...)

268:

"Giving a machine the power to take my money that easily gives me the creeps."

It's this sort of thing which is at the root of much of my profound detestation of the whole creeping banking pestilence - the way it enables so many systems to operate on the basis of assuming that everyone has an effectively unlimited pool of money, that They can just reach into and grab some whenever They feel like it, and that is also available for Them to use your money to cover the gaps left by the systems' infelicities and provide grist for the mill of its institutionalised scams.

See the reasons for my request to Charlie in a previous thread to give us a sufficiently precise release date for Dark State that I can participate in the preorder ratings boost he's told us about without getting caught by the consequences of the infinite-pool-of-money assumption. The system assumes that once I've placed the order they can stick their hand in my infinite pool at any time they feel like it. Wrong. I can commit to having the money available for them to take at the time I click "confirm order". I can not commit to it being available at some random number of weeks/months in the future. They can take the money when I order; they can not take it at some later date because it won't be there. But thanks to their false assumptions the latter is what they will try to do, and it will fail, and that then creates a mess which of course I, not them, have to sort out.

Or the situation I mentioned earlier where eg. I try to order something, I pay for it, the money is taken instantly, then the system reports they're out of stock, so they give a refund, but that does not happen instantly - instead it takes a fortnight. Again they are assuming I have an unlimited pool of money and can therefore happily cope with them grabbing a chunk of it for a fortnight while they use it, along with all the other people's money that they've temporarily grabbed, to play stock market games or whatever shit it is they are up to. Again they are wrong. Until they give it back I can not try and buy whatever it is I needed from somewhere else that does have it in stock.

Even worse is the variant on that pattern that somehow manages to create a fake refund, so if I check the balance it looks as if they have paid it back, but if I actually try and spend that money elsewhere it turns out that they haven't paid it back at all, and kerfuffle ensues.

The BT phone bill rip-off. BT want to be able to grab the monthly payment unannounced and without my consent. Because I don't have an unlimited pool for them to grab from, this is not actually possible. The money won't be there unless they tell me in advance how much they will be expecting and give me enough time to get it together and make it available. Fortunately, the facility to do this does still exist. Unfortunately, the bastards rip you off for using it; if you don't allow them to use infinite-pool-assumption methods, there is a fantasy charge added to the bill under the heading of "penalty imposed for not being a rich cunt". (Actually they hide it under some fancy name, but I am de-euphemising it for clarity.)

There are similar problems with ISPs. It took me a long time to find an ISP that does not insist on the infinite pool assumption to the exclusion of all else. (Weirdly, things not tagged as "consumer" seem not to have the problem; it's entirely straightforward for me to pay for my server by postal order, but domestic connectivity is a different matter.)

The Oyster card rip-off. This is the London transport electronic ticket infinite-pool scam. Doesn't affect me personally since I avoid London like the plague, and I'm hazy on the details, but major problems are apparent simply from its principle of operation. Instead of buying a ticket and then making a journey, as is normal, it charges you after the journey based on where it thinks you've been. So for a start you are denied the usual option of deciding not to travel now if the fare turns out to be more than you thought. You have to give it access to a big enough pool to cover the maximum possible fare for any journey. How you can recover the surplus afterwards I don't know; quite possibly you just can't at all. You also don't know how much it did charge you for the journey: you can't tell whether, for instance, it's cocked up working out where it thinks you've been and charged you for the wrong journey, or whether it's charged you according to the same fare scheme as you would have chosen yourself when buying a normal ticket. For trains, at least, you do still have the option of normal tickets - but the bastards rip you off by making the fare larger than the unlimited-pool version. For buses, you're fucked; you quite simply can't pay, so "outsiders" are effectively excluded. (Or, rather, have yet another layer of exclusion added on top of the usual factors which make any bus system unusable without local knowledge.)

I could go on, but I've probably listed quite enough examples already. As it spreads, it becomes increasingly difficult not to be penalised by this crap. What's especially infuriating about it is the kind of "excuses" offered - organisations like BT, which deal in billions, whining about how hard done by they are because it's so terribly hard for them to deal with not being able to grab other people's money whenever they feel like it, and compensating for their "hardship" by measures which take more money from the people who have least.

269:

"The people who fumble for cards are the same people who spend ages searching for coins when they pay cash."

That is not what I observe. Excluding non-payment-related holdups like recursive scratchcard obsession or telling their entire life story to the checkout operator, when I see people fannying around for ages at the till it's cards and the card machine that they're fannying around with (while I grind my teeth and want to ask them how they can possibly persist in deluding themselves into thinking it's less hassle than cash when it patently isn't). People paying in cash usually just hoik it out of their pocket and hand it to the checkout operator, who then by reason of constant practice gets the change sorted out more quickly than the customer manages to pick up their purchases.

270:

Are you honestly stating that you've never been held up by someone fumbling for the correct money in a purse full of 1 and 2 penny pieces.

271:

@177 And while I do have a credit card, I only ever use it at the ATM to draw cash, which I can do worldwide free of charge (or to buy something online, if no other method of payment is offered, particularly with foreign vendors). I've never used it as a way of payment in a shop or restaurant.

@236 We live in totally different universes. In the US credit (and debit) cards rule. And to promote the cards (and thus the hidden fees), banks and businesses run all kinds of promotions. Want to buy a TV? Do it from Best Buy using the new and improved Best Buy VISA (making this up as I type) and you'll only have to make minimum payments till whenever but if you pay it all off in 12 months the entire thing is interest free. Most folks figure they'll do it but never meet the 12 month limit so get back charged 20%+ interest.

I hope I have the attributions correct. Forgive me if they're tangled

I have two credit cards - Costco Visa and American Express (because American Express sent me a new card when Costco switched over to Visa). Costco because anywhere I go, if there's a Costco, gasoline is 5 - 10 cents a gallon cheaper than regular gas stations.

My main purpose in having credit cards is in case an emergency crops up where "need" exceeds my current income (e.g. burst water heater). I also use them as a form of "secure" payment to minimize my risk carrying cash. I use them for dining out and shopping, bearing in mind not to use them more than I'm able to pay off before the monthly due date.

I use a combination of checks (cheques), debit card (always processed as a credit card to minimize inter-bank fees), cash & credit cards, whichever I find most convenient at the time. I've never noticed any significant delay in using one over the other when I get to the check out register.

272:

Deregulation during Reagan's presidency led to a Savings & Loan Crisis that wiped most of them out.

@242 The greed of the S&L's management had nothing to do with it.

Trying to avoid getting into U.S. politics before 300 (is 300 correct?) Still ...

I'm sure their greed had everything to do with it, but they wouldn't have been able to indulge in greedy behavior without the Garn-St.Germain Act deregulation in 1982; the same way much of the abuse that led to the 2007-2008 financial crisis wouldn't have been possible before Glass-Steagall was repealed.

It was several years after each of those acts before the consequences became apparent.

273:

I go the the cashier so the cashier can stay employed.

The cashiers are often people I've seen again and again over the years. While they're scanning my items, I've got time to fill in the check & chat with people who have become friends. Can't do that with self-serve checkouts.

274:

And the "Fewer than 5 items" checkouts had queues at least twice a long.

I've noticed that the kind of people who will get in the "fewer than X items" lines with cart loads of stuff are the first people who will bitch about someone else being too slow & holding up the checkout line.

275:

And print it out on paper, and keep it on your person!

Printers are not always around. I just make sure I keep my phone charged. I travel with a nice small 10,000mah battery pack. If there's no power on the plane I keep my phone plugged into this so that when I get off the plane I'm at 100% even when watching movies for 5 hours or more.

Now when I can print I print out a copy to stuff into the outer pocket of each thing I'm taking so there's a chance it will catch up to me at some point if we're separated.

276:

I used to do it that way.

But now I do almost all my spending on credit cards for point and mile runs. I do have the Costco VISA and yes a 4% rebate in nice. Plus the added 2 years of warranty.

But I've given up on debit cards except to extract cash from an ATM every month or few.

You should really look at credit cards (if in the US) that either give you great travel awards or cash back. Some will give you 2% to 4% back. Travel cards are great if you want to travel. If you work at it you will get much more in awards than any annual fees. Check out the web sites I mentioned.

Just pay them in full EVERY SINGLE MONTH. If you can't do that then forget my advice.

277:

No, of course not. But I am saying that it happens much less often than people messing around forever with cards and the machine.

The messing around forever is not all due to incompetence, either. A significant minimum limit is enforced by the system taking a few seconds for each required state transition. As long as you don't hand the checkout operator a huge pile of coppers, the time taken to hand over cash and receive change is usually comparable with the time the system spends with its gripping attachment inserted in its rear-mounted output socket, so it is inevitable that cash is so often quicker.

278:

Sorry, but thsi is wall-to-wall bollocks:
The Oyster card rip-off. This is the London transport electronic ticket infinite-pool scam. ,,,
"I'm hazy on the details " Yes, you are.
I now use a geriatric's pass, but the Boss uses a point-to-point annual season for her daily commute & an Oyster for everything else - provided she remembers to use a "pink reader" ( Because they are that colour, to distinguish them ) at appropriate interchange points - one way thru' the middle = more expensive vs round the outers = cheaper ... then no problems.
The other big advantage of course is that you do not get vast ticket-buying-&-checking-&-exit queues.
You also don't know how much it did charge you for the journey: - flat wrong - it tells you at the gate!
For buses, you're fucked; you quite simply can't pay, Actually - everyone (hopefully) is warned in advance, to buy an Oyster, same as you must buy a ticket to travel anywhere - no different to Paris, etc, in fact.
And you have it backwards - Oyster is made CHEAPER - because it costs less to run - which is why the real rip-off bastards, the TOC's ( I'm looking at you SW Trains! ) desperately tried to resist Oyster for so long ( & you still can't get to Shepperton on one... )

However - I agree re the BT rip-off, since I don't trust them, so have to pay more.

279:

Credit cards and cash made me remember a couple of points which have been made much better with them.

Firstly, buying stuff from abroad, especially from established stores. Even though there are obvious risks with web stores, mostly they have been working well for me, and in many cases wouldn't really work that well without a credit card. Doing other things is possible, but the problems with paying by arrival at the post office even with Finnish stores have been larger than anything with a credit card payment, for me.

I'm still not sure how I would pay private individuals on the net - PayPal seems to be one option. I used to buy Magic: the Gathering cards from abroad from private people something like 20 years ago, and there were basically two options: cash or an International Money Order. Sending cash in the mail is, to my understanding, of dubious legality, though I never had any problems and nobody even stole the cash during transit. IMOs, on the other hand, cost a lot to make or cash - I seem to remember that it was 10-20 euros worth (before euros). When the money being transferred is about the same, the IMO felt a bit expensive.

The other case is travelling abroad. I got my first credit card when I had to be a week on a work trip to Italy, and it helped a lot - I didn't have to carry around much cash (or traveller's cheques) but could basically just use the card in most places. On a later trip to Italy, I stayed in a small place which didn't take any credit cards, and had to play the place in cash each week. It was somewhat scary walking around with over 600 euros in cash in an unfamiliar town.

280:

"While the cashier is scanning my items"
With the system I was discussing the customer scans the items as they were put in the bags. So at the end all items are already bagged and scanned.You just scan a code on the automated till, approve the purchase, state how many new bags you use and then pay by card.Less than a minute.
In Waitrose if you want to chat to the staff you can do that while queueing for your free cup of coffee.
As for your point about fewer than x items tills ; this is England. The people stand in queues automatically and don't complain unless somebody tries to jump the queue.
That's why I use a barcode reader even for a single item visit.

281:

You aren't counting the time to scan the items yourself.

282:

One way to avoid a military response would be for the plane to never be off radar... just moving very very slowly?

Or maybe the 20 years was spent sitting on the tarmac waiting for lemon-scented paper napkins.

283:

You seem to have some rather odd misconceptions about how radar works. (Little things like active vs. passive, effects of range, horizon curvature, and so on ...)

It's not a magic palantir, let's put it that way.

284:

Sabik noted: "One way to avoid a military response would be for the plane to never be off radar... just moving very very slowly?"

I think that's actually a really cool notion; Robert Charles Wilson used a variant of this notion to great effect in his novel "Spin". You have to change the initial description of the problem slightly, Imagine the following dialog:

"Sir, we've got a problem."
"Do tell."
"Flight ANA-008 has stopped moving."
"That's not possible."
"Here, see for yourself: this is ANA-008. Now watch: all the other planes are still moving as expected."
"Maybe a software glitch... maybe there's some weird-ass atmospheric phenomenon and the screen is displaying their last known position?"
"Nope. See that smudge on the screen? That's my fingerprint from 5 minutes ago when they seemingly stopped moving. Turns out they haven't stopped moving... they're just moving really, really slowly."
"That's not possible."
"What's that Italian phrase? Eppur non se muove or something like that?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"It's sort of what Galileo is reputed to have said under his breath after renouncing the notion of a heliocentric solar system at his trial by the Church. 'And yet it still moves', only 'doesn't move" in this case."
"Huh. Can we get visual confirmation?"
"Yes, United flight 838 inbound from Tokyo will be within visual range in about 5 minutes."
[5 minutes pass, during which time ANA-008 has moved a couple millimetres across the screen]
"Sir, we've got visual confirmation. Damned plane is just hanging there in mid-air. Captain Smith from United had some extremely creative ways of describing the problem."
"What the hell do we do now?"
"You've got me, sir. But if you want my advice? Call in a science fiction writer. They're used to weird shit like this."

285:

... now I do almost all my spending on credit cards for point and mile runs. I do have the Costco VISA and yes a 4% rebate in nice. Plus the added 2 years of warranty.

But I've given up on debit cards except to extract cash from an ATM every month or few.

You should really look at credit cards (if in the US) that either give you great travel awards or cash back. Some will give you 2% to 4% back. Travel cards are great if you want to travel. If you work at it you will get much more in awards than any annual fees. Check out the web sites I mentioned.

That's pretty close to what I do already. Both of my cards are "cash back", and neither has an annual fee. I use them for most purchases because I CAN pay them off every month. It lets me get by carrying less cash and they are a hedge against major catastrophic expenses.

I don't fly much. Most of my travel is within CONUS, and it's easier for me to drive, plus when you factor in renting a car at the other end, it's often cheaper. If I'm going outside the U.S., I get a prepaid VISA card for spending money. If something happens to it (lost or stolen), I can find a financial institution with VISA affiliation where I can cancel the card & have a replacement issued. I never use credit cards to get cash from ATMs, because cash advances DO get charged interest from the day you make them and it means having to memorize more goddamn PIN numbers.

I still use "American Express Travelers' Checks" to get cash if I'm outside the U.S. If there's a country where you cannot redeem them, I don't want to visit there.

I use only the debit card for cash at the ATM, although I visit it once a week. The checking account it draws from pays interest, so I'd rather withdraw smaller amounts more frequently. I mostly use my debit card (processed as credit) if I forget my check book heading out for my weekly grocery shopping.

286:

With the system I was discussing the customer scans the items as they were put in the bags. So at the end all items are already bagged and scanned.You just scan a code on the automated till, approve the purchase, state how many new bags you use and then pay by card.Less than a minute.

In Waitrose if you want to chat to the staff you can do that while queueing for your free cup of coffee.
As for your point about fewer than x items tills; this is England. The people stand in queues automatically and don't complain unless somebody tries to jump the queue.

Yeah, but this is the almighty USofA. We're all descended from the assholes who couldn't get along in "jolly ol' blighty!" And don't forget all the guns. Queue jumpers are as likely to get shot as are the people who get in their face about jumping the queue. It's the Wild F*&%#n' West out there! You never watch any John Wayne, Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwartznegger movies?

More to the point, if I'm scanning items & putting them in the bags at the self serve checkout, I can't fill in the check while I'm waiting on the cashier. I'm shopping at a fairly old-fashion supermarket that doesn't have a coffee shop, but they do encourage you to bring in your own cloth bags. Mine are the same size & shape as the old paper grocery bags. They're not recycleable, they're REUSABLE.

287:

Because it doesn't take any time
You pick the item off the shelf, scan it and put it in your bag which is open in the trolley or basket. When you pay you don't have to take the items out of the bag to put on a conveyer. It takes less time then a checkout and a lot less that self scanning without a portable barcode reader.


http://www.waitrose.com/home/about_waitrose/quick_check.html

As I wrote earlier Tesco have a similar system.

288:

Not a problem for you then. The main places I run into self-checkout are corporate-owned.

289:

Or even just cut off the police officer's power to arrest or issue tickets if the officer is ticketing too many POC.

290:

Beats me. But opening up banks to third party payment providers is thought to encourage competition and innovation, so next year it will happen.

There's also an account information provision which will regularise the position of outfits like mint.com or yodlee. There's a demonstrable demand for that sort of 'single view of your finances' service so getting it so you don't have to hand over your security credentials to make use of them seems like a step forward, but I don't really see a use case for payment initiation that benefits the end user.

Regards
Luke

291:

You pick the item off the shelf, scan it and put it in your bag which is open in the trolley or basket. When you pay you don't have to take the items out of the bag to put on a conveyer. It takes less time then a checkout and a lot less that self scanning without a portable barcode reader.

Ok, I see what you mean. That's not yet available here. Don't think we're going to get that around here any time soon either.

292:

Having observed people doing it, I disagree. It takes about the same time for a customer to scan an item as it does for a till operator.

293:

But it doesn't take the same time as putting in trolley, taking out of trolley on to conveyor, scanning then loading into bags.

294:

Speaking from personal experience the way to do that now is via PayPal Gift.

You have a website/chat room of like minded individuals, generally you have a trader feedback mechanism, and you use that to keep people honest, then you use the "send money to friends and family option on PayPal". It's free unless you need an international currency conversion. You can do the same with national/international bank transfer but some banks charge for that.

295:

re: '... just cut off the police officer's power to arrest ...'

Unfortunately even that won't stop some such 'police officers'; they just move on to some other jurisdiction.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/us/whereabouts-of-cast-out-police-officers-other-cities-often-hire-them.html

296:

When I was a kid I bought my first car with a car loan. When I paid it off I kept making the "car payments" to savings because I knew that I would have to replace the car. When I had to buy the next car it was easier. Now I just write a check.

I bought my house using a 30 year mortgage. I paid it off in 11 years. I could have paid it off in ten, but I had to replace the car. I still make "house payments" into savings because a house is a business that you have to keep investing in.

The money in savings is not "mine". It is for the car and the house.

I had a savings account long before I had checking. I saved money until I had enough to start a checking account. I then deposited the entire paycheck into checking. Any cash I needed I used the ATM. Putting money into savings was always from checking. Much of your credit rating is based on the flow of money through checking. People who have checking, but cash their paycheck, putting some of the money into checking, show lower activity for their credit rating.

When I started my checking account I bounced one check, it was five dollars and cost me 25 in fines. That was enough to show me how the game was played by the bank, to suck money from me with fines. I then set my balance so that "zero" was actually a hundred dollars. I kept raising that "zero" a hundred at a time until, now "zero" is really 2k, but I do not write a check into the negative zone without treating checking as being empty until I fill it again.

I use a credit card because businesses are more comfortable with that than a check when it's a big item. If I have work done on the car, the shop is happier with the card. I do not carry a balance over to the next month. I pay off the amount each month, so I do not buy what I cannot pay for. When I first got my credit card it had a 400 dollar limit. It was for motels when I was on the road for work. That was equal to what I "earned" each paycheck. I never raised the limit. If I knew that I needed to buy something beyond my limit I put extra money into the card. Over time, the card company raised my limit to about 10k, in the hopes that I would be dumb enough to actually spend that amount and owe them interest. I still live by the rule that if I can't pay it off in a month I will not spend the money.

I have a check card that draws from my checking account. That is used instead of cash for day to day stuff, because once again, stores are happier with that than taking a check. The limit is what I have in checking, so I record each debit as if I wrote a check.

I could always afford to get married, but I could never afford to get divorced, so what I've done to be debt free can only work if the married couple understands the rules. My folks followed the rules as best as possible and were able to raise three kids, pay for college, etc.... Saying all that was of course never easy for them, and it was never easy for me, but it was doable.

The rules are like gravity, they suck, because you can't ignore them.

- You don't buy something if you can't pay for it.

- When you take out a loan and pay it off, you need to keep paying the amount into savings for the next time you need the money.

- As I said above, the money in savings is not "mine" to simply spend, it is "for" something.

I can't find the PBS Newshour episode, but they showed a program set up by a manufacturing company and a bank to help their employees get off PayDay and Title loans. The company saw that those employees using PayDay loans were having problems that impacted work. The bank would loan the money, the company backed the loan and would take out the payment from the paycheck direct to the bank. Once the loan was paid off, the same amount/payment was put into savings each paycheck.

The point was, that if they could find the money to pay back a PayDay loan, then they could save the money long term. The rule is to remember why that money is in the bank and only use the money for the car, the house, etc...

In the program, once people understood that concept, they were able to start saving "for" something, not just spending the money as fast as it came in. That they had "future costs" that they had to always save for. Most people never learned those simple rules.

297:

still make "house payments" into savings because a house is a business that you have to keep investing in.

I call those hobbies. A business is something that makes money. To me a house is just an expense, and hopefully an investment.

It's worth noting that in Sydney and Melbourne (Australia) over the last decade or two people who carefully saved until they had a decent deposit and could afford the repayments on a house, don't own houses. Idiots who bought a house using a "liar loan" where they signed that they earned enough to pay the mortgage comfortably, then borrowed 110% of the house value (to cover transaction costs), are almost all now happy homeowners with ~70%-90% equity. Some of them, people I know, did that then paid off the mortgage and retired early because rent on a million dollar house is enough to live on.

Right now in Sydney you need to save about $30,000 a year to maintain a 20% deposit on the median priced house. If you're saving less than that you're getting further away from buying rather than closer. Or to put it another way, if you have a median house you're making enough from capital gains on it to put you in the top 10% of taxable incomes... except that those capital gains aren't taxed, so they wouldn't count as taxable income if you realised them.

Yes, it's a bubble. But it's been a bubble for 15-odd years, and it's a bubble actively created and maintained by the government so it's a funny kind of bubble.

298:

"I bought my last car with a check"
Like many people in the U.K. I haven't written a cheque for years. I bought my last car with a debit card.
The US is a long way behind.

299:

In 20 years a geopolitical realignment into the Carbon Axis (Putin's Russia, Saudi Arabia, post-Brexit Britain and Trump's Red America) and the Green Alliance (China, India, EU, Canada, and Jerry Brown's Blue America)

http://www.salon.com/2017/06/18/is-trump-launching-a-new-world-order_partner/

But these prophecies of impending global disorder miss a crucial point: in his own quixotic way, Donald Trump is not only trying to obliterate the existing world order, but also attempting to lay the foundations for a new one, a world in which fossil-fuel powers will contend for supremacy with post-carbon, green-energy states.

This grand strategic design is evident in virtually everything Trump has done at home and abroad. Domestically, he’s pulled out all the stops in attempting to cripple the rise of alternative energy and ensure the perpetuation of a carbon-dominated economy. Abroad, he is seeking the formation of an alliance of fossil-fuel states led by the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, while attempting to isolate emerging renewable-energy powers like Germany and China. If his project of global realignment proceeds as imagined, the world will soon enough be divided into two camps, each competing for power, wealth, and influence: the carbonites on one side and the post-carbon greens on the other.

Step one in this process was to revitalize the historic U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer. For decades, it was the cornerstoneof American policy in the Middle East, aimed at preserving a conservative political order in the region and ensuring American access to Persian Gulf oil. President Obama had allowed the alliance to fray by raising the unwelcome issue of human rights and negotiating with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program. Trump journeyed to Riyadh in May to assure the Saudi royals that human rights concerns would no longer be an irritant in their relations and that Washington would join them in their drive to combat Iranian influence in the region.

Step two in this process was the enfeeblement of the NATO alliance and the European Union (EU) — most of whose members are strong supporters of the Paris climate agreement — and the improvement of U.S. relations with Russia, the world’s number two oil producer.

Step three was President Trump’s formal announcement of a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement in a Rose Garden ceremony on his return to the White House. As it currently stands, that agreement would require significant reductions in U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), principally through curbs on the combustion of fossil fuels.


300:

post-Brexit Britain
IF it happens ...
The "Retract AT50" people are gaining in volume & (according to polls) seriously gaining in numbers.
Don't bet on us leaving the EU until we actually do.
The rabids are still screaming, of course, but their voices no longer sound so siren, now.
We shall see.

renewable-energy powers like Germany
Bollocks - the Germans are still burning silly quanities of Braunkohl, whilst going "Nuklear - nein danke!" They do have lots of wind & solar, but .....

each competing for power, wealth, and influence: the carbonites on one side and the post-carbon greens on the other.
With us, sitting uncomfortably, in the middle, on the fence ( ouch )

Except, I think, & I suspect a lot of others here also think, that it is already too late for DT & his cronies.
The tide is already flowing too fast & too deeply to be stopped & that a gradual, but inevitable change-over to renewables ( + nuclear ? ) is already coming, as the price of the "new" energy-sources keeps dropping. And people will go for the cheaper ( so-called "green" ) options.

301:

I haven't worn a watch in about 3 years, since I realised that I'm almost always within sight of a clock and/or have my phone with me!

I haven't bought a watch in more like 35 years. So what is this "iFashionVictimTimepiece" ;-) thing you speak of?

302:

Er some of us can't afford Waitrose, and even if I could, the nearest branch is 200 miles away.

303:

Like many people in the U.K. I haven't written a cheque for years. I bought my last car with a debit card.

I could have paid cash for my two recent auto purchases but when I'm offered money at 1.19% and 1.49%, I'd rather keep the cash on hand and just use the credit union's almost free money.

304:

For many items, Waitrose is as cheap as Siansbury's ( & according to outside comparisons ) Tesco.
False imporessions again, I'm afraid.

305:

This grand strategic design is evident in virtually everything Trump has done at home and abroad.

I think you're overestimating his cunning and strategic genius. Yes, a cat is really good at knocking things off of high places onto the floor; that's not proof she has a master plan to cover the floor with human artifacts. Have you considered the possibility that he's just an idiot?

306:

Two of those, you do anyway, and it takes much longer than the third. The total time you spend is much the same, except for queuing, and that is a policy decision on the part of the supermarket. As I said, the only way that is INTRINSICALLY faster is to allow the supermarket to debit your account directly.

307:

Your post (and Trump's behaviour) reminds me of Johnson on Sheridan: Why, sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a great deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of stupidity, Sir, is not in Nature.

308:

Have you considered the possibility that he's just an idiot?

I started wondering, Is Trump Eleanor Shaw Iselin or John Yerkes Iselin?

309:

Yeah, on further thought it would be more complicated; the revised, non-tweet-sized version:

Search planes and craft find their GPS glitching, and the search is quickly called off (and classified) when various searchers inexplicably miss hours or days of time... to the extent that it can be. Many searchers vanish, to reappear over the coming weeks, months and years. Multiple military forces continue to monitor the anomaly, which remains detectable, studiously ignoring each others' presence. After all, there's no telling what went in before close monitoring started, what may still be hiding in that patch of Slow Air (or maybe there is, but nobody is telling; classified). Meanwhile, they incidentally deal with a continuous trickle of increasingly disoriented searchers. By the time the ANA-008 reappears, they have had some practice. They've never done it at this scale, but they always knew (hoped) it was a possibility, so the problems are mostly just annoying rather than serious (delays while they get enough vaccines delivered for that many people, that sort of thing).

For the optimism part, I guess we'd have to take the 2016/2017 as a watershed, starting with the French election. After similar results in Germany and a couple of other countries, the tenor of this part of the world changes; the refugee crisis largely resolved in a decade, some decisive action on climate, universal basic income in various places. Possibly something is coming out of SCO and/or Africa. Against that background, dealing with a few hundred displaced people is not a great challenge, particularly with small practice runs, and given overall rising wealth the "basic" level in 2037 is really quite nice by 2017 standards.

Now I want to live in that world...

310:

For us dinosaurs who still wear watches, especially those antiquities of mechanical watches, you occasionally need to check and correct the time. Thanks to the U.S. Navy, you can get accurate time hacks at USNO Master Clock.

311:

I still own mechanical watches (which have some sentimental value as well as function): I just don't see the point in having an "iFashionVictimTimepiece" as well as a cellphone.

312:

I wear my Seiko stainless with the nice blue dial as much as decoration as anything else, but the darned thing insists on running slow.

I agree that the iPayMoreMoney for stuff doesn't seem that useful, since it has to be paired with a cell phone for full functionality. I guess we're still waiting for the full Dick Tracy watch.

You'll note the USNO site has U.S. plus UTC times; I'm assuming anyone who reads this blog knows the offset between UTC and their local time zone.

313:

This sounds a lot like Einsteinian time dilation; hmm . . . .

314:

Waitrose does home delivery to my postcode from a branch more than a hundred miles away. I tried them once when they had a 20% off first order offer. Not much different to Tesco in prices.

315:

I just don't see the point in having an "iFashionVictimTimepiece" as well as a cellphone.

I was waiting for the Apple watch (err remote control for my phone) for over 10 years. Since my days with candy bar phones.

My "iFashionVictimTimepiece" allows me to turn off all the noise makers on my phone and watch and by setting the alerts properly my wrist gets a gentle vibration when my phone wants my attention. And I can deal with well over 95% of the requests with one or two taps. More if you don't consider that I may get the phone out later to deal with an email but can ignore it for a while based on what I see on my watch when it comes in.

agree that the iPayMoreMoney for stuff doesn't seem that useful, since it has to be paired with a cell phone for full functionality.

Batteries, batteries, batteries.

Plus just like I'm typing this on my laptop, at times a bigger screen and better keyboard are just plain needed. Siri can be very reluctant to deal with some of the words I need her to type at times. And replying to this blog on my phone is too much work most of the time.

For now.

316:

I still wear a watch when I go to the cinema or other performance where it is polite to turn off one's phone. Otherwise I just look at my phone and don't wear a watch. The watch is a Casio waveceptor which synchronises daily with the radio time signal and so never needs to be set (and automatically adjusts for daylight saving time).

317:

Agreed. Trump is an idiot. However, the people behind him are not necessarily idiots, and there's a ton of money to be made doing it "Trump's" way. And when the whole thing falls apart a few years from now, it will be "Trumps fault" with very few other people taking the fall.

318:

So many politicians appear to be idiots that it is actually comforting to think that someone is pulling the strings who is not and actually has a plan. Of course the plan probably involves very bad things for the 99%.

319:

Waitrose is about the same price as Tesco and Sainsbury's for basic items. A lot of the goods are better quality and the atmosphere is better. Before I came to Norfolk I had never been in a Waitrose. It's the closest supermarket to me - only seven miles away. - but I would probably go there even if it weren't the closest for the quick check, the free Guardian and the free coffee.
It's also the closest petrol station.

320:

I first saw handheld self-scan in a Morrisons supermarket around the turn of the century. Just wander around the shop scanning items and putting them in the trolley, then plug the scanner back into the rack and pay on exit. Even ASDA has it now but for some reason it is only available part of the day and is always shut in the evening when I'm there. The self-scan checkouts are the majority of queues after about 9PM. WH Smith newsagent has taken self-scan checkouts to the point that I go in to get a magazine, pay at an unstaffed checkout, and leave without interacting with any staff at all (they always seem to be busy stocking shelves). When I was last in a post office a few weeks ago they now have automatic terminals to weigh mail and print postage stickers without going to a staffed counter. Even McDonalds has touch-screen ordering kiosks now.

321:

> I bet you've seen [contactless payment systems] but just didn't know it. If the card terminal has that WWII radar fan image on it the hardware supports contactless to some degree

Just for general interest: I looked for such icons on the payment terminal during my last grocery run and did not find any.

322:

It is a little bit too futurist IMHO that VHF communication would not be around...

You can just have VHF communications and yet the plane getting shot down anyway. E.g. the pilot speaks English with Arabic sounding accent, the disappearance had been blamed on the crew to begin with, etc. Nobody believes the time travel story. Adds more action and suspense. Or better yet, it doesn't even get shot down, it gets told to turn around and denied any landing position so it ends up running out of fuel and breaking up when attempting water landing in the ocean.

323:

Ohh, here's an idea: one or more of the pilots were Muslim, and they passed a bunch of "anti-terrorism" laws following the disappearance; there is now a vested interest in not believing the time travel story even if there was hard evidence.

324:

Oh yes ...
Especially for Pigeon @ 268
Diamond Geezer explains

325:

Haven't read all the short story submissions yet so this may have been answered/considered. If not, this is likely a derail ... even so, it's been bugging me that none of the SF I've read have discussed:

How do you motivate an AI?

Consider that humans and other life are push-pull wired biochemically and otherwise. So what are the likely motivators/deterrents for an AI?

Energy? ... that's why we eat/drink and because we've been designed to enjoy (motivated) to eat/drink, and it's why some of us become overweight. But would an AI 'overeat'? Don't think so. So that's one fundamental motivating force that cannot be applied.

Sex? ... betcha most humans don't have sex purely for procreation. Again, this fundamental need/drive is wired to a reward/pleasure centre in our brain. So, what would the equivalent drive be in an AI? (Just got a Nature alert on sex robots ... gotta see if they built a reward function in it!)

Esthetics/sensory experience? ... art, music, dance, fiction, architecture, landscape, etc. Most humans react very positively toward at least one esthetic ... and early psych sensory deprivation studies have shown pretty conclusively that our minds fall apart when we are deprived of sensory inputs. Considering that pretty well all humans have memories, this suggests that calling up a neural reconstruction (memory) just doesn't cut it for us. So, what would be the equivalent for an AI ... what inputs would produce joy and which inputs if cut off would drive it insane?

Interpersonal/Social interaction? [Ethics] ... humans need to interact with other humans in order to develop physically, emotionally and intellectually. [Many preemie, newborn and adoption home studies have shown the horrific results when such interactions are denied.] Can an AI function as a sentient if it cannot interact as an equal with others of its kind ... or with the next best thing, humans? BTW, I'm including 'ethics' as a result of human-human interaction because (I feel that) ethics can only arise if there is a theory of mind. And ToM can only occur through interaction. And, wanting/needing human-human interaction means being wired for reward/pain for such interactions.

Anyways, it boils down to: how do you motivate/punish an AI? And, like humans, the reasons for being able to motivate should include both intrinsic and extrinsic switches.


Once AI motivation is built in, that is, we know that we would possess the ability to inflict pain/pleasure on this creation - more so than on humans - would anyone with a conscience want to 'own' an AI? (I'm assuming that the AI would not be able to self-pleasure.)

326:

Re: AI motivation ...

What started this train of thought was 'can AI become addicted' because addiction is the ultimate and simplest pleasure/pain combo. Plus there's a pretty strong correlation between when society doesn't give a crap about a particular population segment and addiction rates among that segment. So if we want a new type of slave ... .

327:

"For many items, Waitrose is as cheap as Siansbury's ( & according to outside comparisons ) Tesco.
False imporessions again, I'm afraid."

I suspected this was wrong: after all, her next door's son , a Waitrose shop manager, does not shop in his own place of employment, as even with his 'partners discount' it's too expensive for him ...

However, hearsay and personal experience of occasionally braving the shiny middle class aisles (my income band is more Lidl/Aldi/Tesco/Asda) and coming out laughing that people actually pay that much wouldn't be good enough, so I consulted the comparison site which updates prices every day.

The result (yesterday) was that my habitual shopping list was 20% cheaper at Insanesbury's than Wait-don't-go's
I'll not bore you with the whole thing , but here's the top 8 items off my list, some pretty basic foodstuffs. Wait. price first, Insanes 2nd. I selected branded items to ensure fair comparison on quality grounds:

Cravendale milk 2L £1.80/£1.20

Cathedral city cheddar £3.50/£3

6 Eggs (free range , lge) £1/ 85p

Ground coffee (free trade) £3.80 / £3

Potatoes (2kg, branded) £2,60/£1.30

Shredded wheat bitesize £2.49 / £1.50

Watercress £1.40/£1

Basmati rice unbranded (no equivalent brand avalable in both stores) 2kg £4.29/£2.85 (I actually bought mine from the 'ethnic' aisle of Asda, a 5kg sack for £5.50)

So, posh shop £20.88, slightly less posh shop £14.70 over 8 directly comparable common items.I did not pick and choose items with a greater price disparity.

Nothing at all on my full list of nearly 30 things was cheaper at Waitrose, their best result was a score draw, and the total price disparity was a smidge over 20%.

If I'd used a combo of Tesco and Asda best prices instead the total would have been even lower, and that's exactly what I do.Those of us who can't afford to not notice the prices as we shop pay close attention to these things, £6 is a significant amount to us ...



328:

Cravendale milk 2L £1.80/£1.20
YUCK "Cravendale"
2l milk £1 - uniform price Sains/Wait/Spa

Cathedral city cheddar £3.50/£3
YUCK
I only buy known "nice" cheeses - more expensive by weight, probably & never from any supermarket.

6 Eggs (free range , lge) £1/ 85p
Known-source f-r eggs, Spa - more expensive than that

Ground coffee (free trade) £3.80 / £3
Whole roasted Monsoon Malabar beans from Waitrose - approx £3.20

Potatoes (2kg, branded) £2,60/£1.30
I GROW MY OWN
- currently digging "Foremost", with "Epicure" coming soon

Shredded wheat bitesize £2.49 / £1.50
Don't eat cereals

Watercress £1.40/£1
Don't eat that either, but I do eat Mustard Greens / Rocket leaves / Radishes - all own-grown, of course.

Basmati rice unbranded (no equivalent brand avalable in both stores) 2kg £4.29/£2.85 (I actually bought mine from the 'ethnic' aisle of Asda, a 5kg sack for £5.50)
I use "Tilda" basmati - can't remember what cost is, but very similar.

There isn't a near-enough Aldi & I refuse, as a matter of principle to go even near "Asda" ( = Wal-Mart )

329:

Apparently De Beers has begun hovering up diamonds from the seabed off the coast of Namibia

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2017-07-11/de-beers-hoovers-up-its-best-diamonds-from-the-african-seabed

330:

Begs the question of how much of a marine wasteland they leave behind. I'm betting total destruction. Bet AL would know.

331:

Off-topic
Evil lying, crooked christian bastard Mike Pence ...
The following is a quote from the Torygraph:

"Mike Pence, the US vice president, has also waded into the row, using Charlie’s case to insist a universal healthcare system would not work in the US.

Mr Pence told an American radio programme, hosted by a right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh: “The heartbreaking story of the 11-month-old Charlie Gard in England is a story of single-payer healthcare.

“We hope and pray that little Charlie Gard gets every chance, but the American people oughta reflect on the fact that for all the talk on the left about single-payer, that’s where it takes us”

332:

Late to the party as usual, and I've only read about 20 comments.

As soon as I read the premise, that it was from the POV of passenger 14C on a time travel plane, I thought:

"Would you like the Chicken or the Fish?"

"The Chicken thank you"

"We've run out of Chicken, would you like the Fish?"

BANG Blinding light. Why is the hostess's head on my lap, but her body is floating toward the front of the plane?, Why don't my arms work? Where are my arms? Blackness. End.

I think OGH's idea that the aircraft would even be given the opportunity to identify itself was wildly optimistic.

333:

On cash and its demise: this turned up today.

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jul/12/cash-contactless-payments-uk-stores-cards-british-retail-consortium
Key points. Contactless now accounts for 1/3 of all card purchases, up from 10% in Oct 2015. And debit cards account for more transactions than cash in numbers and not just gross.


334:

Short answer: Yes

Longer answer: you explicitly assign a "utility function" this is not without its drawbacks.

Much longer answer: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLB7AzTwc6VFZrBsO2ucBMg/videos

335:

"I still use paper checks (cheques) for groceries"

In Australia I've only ever seen a cheque used to pay a bill by mail. I've never seen one used face to face (and I've worked behind the counter). Even paying by mail... It's something I remember my Mother doing 45 years ago. I've never written a cheque in my life. I was given a cheque book to go with an account I opened in the mid 70's but never had occasion to use it. (I wonder what happened to it?)

The only use for cheques I've ever made is to get a bank (counter) cheque when I'm buying houses or vehicles.

Changing countries might be as big a culture shock as changing decades.

336:

Small, unincorprated organisations & voluntary bodies still use cheques, quite a lot.
I'm a signatory on two such - ( Because I'm the treasurer! )

337:

In Australia I've only ever seen a cheque used to pay a bill by mail. I've never seen one used face to face (and I've worked behind the counter).

In the US most of the chain stores have small printers which will fill out the check for you so that all you have to do is sign it.

To speed things up. Of course the older people who take forever to fill out a check by hand don't understand the option and so still fill it out by hand.

338:

Thanks!

Have watched 3 videos so far which while interesting do not answer what would 'motivate' a thinking AI. Okay, I get that a 'utility' function could provide the rules (compulsion to perform) but what's not spelled out is the 'reward'.

Scenario:
AI is programmed to value stamp collecting highest/only. Okay, the AI does this and collects many many stamps --- and gets what as a 'reward'? Ditto the notion that an AI would 'want' to remain alive, but again, there's no reason given for why it would want to stay alive/conscious/awake. What about being alive/conscious/awake would be so rewarding to the AI?*

If this is the status quo of AI research, seriously think there are way too many assumptions going on and that several steps back are needed in researching and understanding motivation and learning before 'AI programming' occurs.


Also ...

Learning/changing the AI brain - can this be done via associative 'learning' as in humans, or does AI learning require specific code-writing? This question pertains to whatever reward/punishment algo that might be used. E.g., The AI often finds the most stamps when it also encounters X. In this scenario, the AI reward dose is commensurate with the number of stamps it finds per occasion. Is it likely that over time (if an AI is designed for learning) that the AI will undergo Pavlovian style conditioning and seek out the wrong thing (X) in anticipation of a reward?

From previous topic threads got the impression that current mega-algos/quasi-AIs are grounded in statistical modeling,i.e., decisions are based solely on at-that-moment minimum-return statistical value/calculation for that action.

339:

I suspect you may be thinking about this wrong because you're stuck in human headspace.

We typically think of humans as having good and bad experiences and adjusting their behavior to try to get more good experiences.

Computers do what they're programmed to do--they're following a script. Not because they want to follow the script, but because that's simply how they work. If a computer has anything analogous to pleasure, or pain, or free will, then it is only as an emergent property of the program that it's following. We might be able to build a computer that seems human-like, but the programming is fundamental and the human-seeming-psychology is NOT.

(One could ask whether it's really fundamental in humans either, but that's another topic.)

You say that researchers should take a step "backward" and ask what "reward" the AI is getting for following its utility function. You seem to be implying that the AI might stop following the utility function if we don't make sure it's being rewarded for doing so.

That is exactly backwards.

Imagine you take a bunch of blocks and build them into a castle. The castle is going to follow rules of castle architecture, like having rooms and corridors for people to move around in. But the bricks are also going to follow the normal laws of physics that they always followed before. If there's a conflict between the castle rules and the brick rules, the bricks are going to win. If the bricks fall over, the castle isn't going to carry on without them.

A utility function is a thing that we invented that allows us to pretend that the computer is seeking a reward, when at a more fundamental level all it's doing is following its programming. We're programming the computer to pretend to be motivated by rewards so that we can understand it better and more easily reason about its behavior.

If some part of this system breaks, it's not going to be that the computer stops following its programming in order to pursue some better rewards, it's going to be that the computer stops appearing to chase "rewards" at all, because the program we wrote to maintain that facade has fallen down.

Programming is hard and it's totally plausible that we could make some mistake that could cause the AI to behave differently than we want, but that will be because it is faithfully executing an instruction that we were foolish enough to give it, NOT because it decided to start ignoring our instructions. Computer programming is like bargaining with evil genies: they have to grant your wishes, but you better phrase the wish exactly right, because they are under no compulsion to honor your intent.

...

Similarly, the answers to questions like "will an AI learn by association?" are going to be "depends whether we program it to do so."

340:

You might also want to look at Bostrom's "Superintelligence" which addresses among other things the even thornier issue of how a value system/utility function could be usefully baked into an AI that exponentially self-improves. He just does a limited number of slices through scenario space but it's engaging, perhaps irritating for trench soldiers in current AI tech.
Maximize human happiness? Easy. Just convert solar system into a computational substrate and replicate out a large number of optimized simulations of very large numbers of human brains optimized to continuously experience maximum possible pleasure, then start converting the rest of the universe. Abuse the multiverse similarly. Etc.

(Just have a philosophy reference source (wikipedia is fine) nearby when reading. And maybe look for specific critiques; I haven't since reading it last year so don't have anything to recommend.)

341:

The other commenters have a good handle on things, so it's not worth repeating, except to say I agree.

However there' one point that you might be missing here. Humans are just as much governed by a utility function, the difference being that there are a bunch of other utility functions that get different priorities at different times as a way of achieving the overall utility function.

The Utility Function of all existing species is by definition, to go on existing. If it wasn't, they'd stop existing and they wouldn't belong to that class of things (existing species). Now that *doesn't* as some people say, mean just making as many copies of themselves as possible. If that leads to a boom/bust cycle, then almost inevitably one of the busts will take them out of the picture. (as is happening with humans right now).

So what 'sub' utility functions would one want it your goal was to design a group that wanted to continue to exist.

First you might add a drive to remain alive and functioning. After all, you can't meet any other utility function if you stop existing. (this speaks to your question "What about being alive/conscious/awake would be so rewarding to the AI?")

Now in living things, there's definitely and obviously that drive to remain alive. But it's not there *all* the time. There are species where the males let the females eat them. That sounds counter to that apparently essential 'sub' utility function. However when you look closely, you see that a hearty meal means more eggs, so the sub function has to be turned down to meet the main function. Similarly the risk taking behaviour of young men. That would seem to be something that would breed out pretty quickly. The fact that it doesn't breed out implies that it gives some advantage, despite the risk. Now the important thing is that if you ask these young men about their risk taking they will **NOT** tell you that it confers an evolutionary advantage. Nor will they go on to describe how small groups may benefit from a percentage of males taking risks. They'll tell you that it's fun. That drifting a car, jumping off a cliff, playing football or hunting a lion is a reward in and of itself.

In fact, meeting the utility function in living things is *its own reward*. That's what the reward you're not seeing actually *is*.

So when you're asking "the AI does this and collects many many stamps --- and gets what as a 'reward'?" You're really saying, "the AI gets this big reward and so what's the reward?"

Setting up an AI with a utility function is like evolution setting us up with our utility functions (usually called instincts). They want to collect stamps the way you want to remain alive. You're thinking of it more like the way a boss might set up a task for a worker, say stacking bricks. That becomes a sub sub sub utility function. I need to stack these bricks, to get the pay, to buy the car that will impress the healthiest girls (who are looking for a mate that has demonstrated they can provide well for her children), so that I can get a mate who will give me many healthy children so that my DNA can be passed down to the next generation with the best possible chance of then being passed to the generation after that. It's such a convoluted thing, that there needs to be a reward (the pay) that feeds into the ultimate utility function. The actual task of stacking bricks hasn't been added as an internal utility function. That's not possible without lots of evolutionary mucking about (see ants who like to stack things, ie they've had it added as an internal utility function).

342:

As an aside (and seeing as we're well past 300) in a previous thread I dissed schools and school teachers. As an example I mentioned being taught parabolas instead of ellipses. It was just *one* example, but it was the one everyone argued about. (which kind of proved my point) Another example was that I was taught that Birds have instinctive behaviour, but humans don't. Which is a little factoid that makes it completely impossible to understand anything going on around you. Fortunately that afternoon when I got home, instead of the usual answer of "Nothing" to the usual question "What did you learn in school today?", I regurgitated this indigestible factoid and my Mother gently explained the truth. Which was much easier to understand than the rubbish the school teacher came up with.

343:

Or to look at it another way. Douglas Adams got it right (as with so many things). They *like* their job, that's how they're built. (unless, like Marvin, they're built wrong)

“Listen,” said Ford, who was still engrossed in the sales brochure, “they make a big thing of the ship's cybernetics. A new generation of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation robots and computers, with the new GPP feature.”

“GPP feature?” said Arthur. “What's that?”

“Oh, it says Genuine People Personalities.”

“Oh,” said Arthur, “sounds ghastly.”

A voice behind them said, “It is.” The voice was low and hopeless and accompanied by a slight clanking sound. They span round and saw an abject steel man standing hunched in the doorway.

“What?” they said.

“Ghastly,” continued Marvin, “it all is. Absolutely ghastly. Just don't even talk about it. Look at this door,” he said, stepping through it. The irony circuits cut into his voice modulator as he mimicked the style of the sales brochure. “All the doors in this spaceship have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.”

As the door closed behind them it became apparent that it did indeed have a satisfied sigh-like quality to it. “Hummmmmmmyummmmmmm ah!” it said.

344:

"Learning/changing the AI brain - can this be done via associative 'learning' as in humans, or does AI learning require specific code-writing?"

Not exactly as it's done in humans, but not completely unlike it. Hand coding intelligence has been pretty conclusively shown to be a complete dead end. What's done now is the structure of something that learns is hand coded. Then it's 'trained' (kind of like humans are trained) with a vast stream of data. Humans are also trained with a huge stream of data. Binocular vision, hearing, manipulators, force feedback sensors, chemical sensors etc. You can see a human baby doing that. They wave their manipulators around randomly and sometimes they bump into things. After many trials you can see them lining up the signals they're sending to the manipulators with the things they're bumping into. Often the things they move make noise, and after many trials that lets them track the direction that sounds come from. (closed loop)

I had an interesting demonstration of this late in life. I was taught in school that the way we figure out the direction of a sound is by comparing the time differential of it arriving at each ear. I was also taught that it was impossible to figure out the direction of sound underwater because sound travels much faster in water than air, so the differential is too small to pick up on. I'd been diving for years at that point and what I was told seemed to be borne out by experience. I could hear clicking shrimp, people breathing, bubbles moving but it seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere. Years of regular diving didn't change that. Much later I started commercial diving. I started making my own noises. Banging in nails, cutting steel, welding shit. I didn't realise it at the time, but each time I made a noise at a definite location, I was training my brain to locate sounds underwater. After just a few months of work, I was able to hear exactly where sounds were coming from. My brain knew how to automatically switch from a surface system of sound location to an underwater one. When I went pleasure diving in a group I could hear everyone around me and locate their direction perfectly. I could (and did) follow other divers from beyond the visual range, simply by listening to them breathing. Babies like rattles for just that reason. They're training their hearing system.

In much the same way, it's possible to train AI systems. They're hand coded, then left to play with something. They can figure out what's going on for themselves and encode that information within their programs in a way that's really really really hard for humans to comprehend in all but the very simplest cases.

There's also directed training of AI, more equivalent to a language course than a baby's play. Give an AI a million photos of cars, and then ask it group similar pictures. They'll just pretty much throw up a random collection of cars divided into blobs. Click on maybe 10 that are most correct and ask them to do that again. This time you'll see mostly fronts and backs of cars divided into blobs. Rinse and repeat. In just a few minutes you'll have trained it to just show you the fronts of cars. It's not quite that simple, as you can end up with a sort of fitting problem, where if you train too much, it will give back exactly what you ask for, but end up brittle, where if there's a slight difference it classes it as something else. Like it might find the fronts perfectly, but you've only given it feedback on one model of car, and as soon as you show it a different model it's lost.

345:

> The Utility Function of all existing species is by definition, to go on existing.

If we are making an analogy to utility functions in computer optimization problems, I think the more reasonable definition is "what living things try to do".

Evolution means that this will tend to align with whatever increases the species' odds of survival, but one can easily find examples where it doesn't align perfectly (e.g. how people like to eat more than is healthy), so those things are related, but distinct.

346:

"comparing the time differential of it arriving at each ear"

That, and also intensity differences, which for higher frequencies are affected by the frequency-dependent variations in polar amplitude response of each pinna. (Which is also buggered up by media with a different speed of sound, of course; and which also means that having your ears cut off would again force you to relearn how to identify the origin direction of sounds - you'd still have some ability, albeit reduced).

This is involved in why it is easier to locate sounds with significant anharmonic content (like a telephone actual bell bell, or a nee-nar air-horn on an emergency vehicle) than sounds which are just a pure tone or pure tone plus regular harmonics (like a telephone beepy thing bell, or an electronic waily horn on an emergency vehicle). The larger number of unrelated frequencies gives your brain a better and wider set of samples of the polar response to work on.

One technique for highly accurate stereo sound reproduction through headphones involves a filter with a response that mimics the effect of the pinna. (Not much used though because every listener's pinnae must be modelled individually, and the recording must be made with the intention of being used for directionally accurate reproduction to make the best use of it.)

The time effects can also affect the accuracy of stereo reproduction, because the detection is sensitive down to a few microseconds (ie. about a tenth of the period of the highest audible frequency) and so the phase response of the channels must match with corresponding accuracy. The electronic parts of the reproduction chain usually will achieve this without much specific design effort, although there are exceptions, such as the multiplexed single-channel DAC in early Sony CD players. With mechanical components and especially the listening environment itself, though, things are not so simple.

"...as you can end up with a sort of fitting problem..."

Biological brains do that sort of thing too - pick up on some specific feature which is easy to pattern-match, and whose occurrence is sufficiently near one-to-one correspondence with the occurrence of the thing the brain is actually interested in to ensure a minimal misidentification rate. This leads to apparently daft behaviour in the rare instances where the specific feature shows up in some other context. The classic example may be herring gull chicks, who target their parents' beaks by the red spot, trying to get any old thing with a red spot on it to emit food. A more amusing example is a particularly randy pigeon I had. He used to fuck the arm of an armchair at a point where the cushioning had the same curvature as the rump of a female pigeon in the receptive position. He also used to fuck the table next to Clipper lighters because the red nubbin of the filling valve in the base resembles a displayed cloaca.

347:

I like to think of it as a set of satisfaction integrals, the outputs of a set of leaky integrators with variable output gain, acting as motivation coefficients for corresponding actions. The leak rate and output gain depend on various conditions, usually physiological signals of some kind, eg. depletion of energy resources causes the hunger/eating integrator to increase its output gain. (The inputs to the integrator for having it off must be something a bit more complicated.) There may also be (depending on the organism's species) a further set of integrators at a deeper level, with much longer time constants, which cause the base levels for the leak-rate and gain coefficients to tend towards what the environment generally calls for (so eg. an organism in an environment where food is scarce ends up with the hunger/eating integrator gain base level set higher than an organism of the same species in an environment where food is abundant).

Evolution then acts as a third set of integrators at an even deeper and slower level, causing the second set's base levels to start off in the range of values appropriate to the kind of environments the creature can survive in. Therefore, it does survive; but nothing actually makes it try to. It just likes eating and having it off, and doesn't like adverse temperatures or the proximity of predators.

348:

Yes. Directional hearing is way more complex than I made out. Interestingly the Vader like noise of someone breathing underwater is particularly suited to directional discrimination.

(discussion of the use of white noise for truck reversing beepers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa28lIGuxq8 )

Your brain picks out way more information that ever seems to reach the conscious parts. You can for instance discriminate between the sound of hot and cold water running, something that if asked, most people would deny, but which is actually really easy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri_4dDvcZeM

349:

# 338 & onwards ...
Why would Maslow's category of needs not apply to an AI?
I think it should apply, actually.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
I was taught that Birds have instinctive behaviour, but Humans don't.
A common fallacy, that was much-believed when I was a child. Now known to be untrue, as studies in animal behaviour, better understanding of what makes up at least part of "intelligence" is or might be, etc.
Needless to say, the religious are still pushing this known-to-be-false line, for "reasons" which should be obvious.

350:

That set of information-filtering is behind an awful lot of "psychic" phenomena, of course.
The senses are picking up all this information, all the time, but the "alert"/"conscious" part of the brain filters most of it out - but the information is still there. Sometimes, this then pops up as a "precognition" or similar supposedly-psychic event.
It's happened to me a couple of times, that I know of, & I've mamanged to back-ananlyze what had been going on. { In both cases I'd been picking up visual clues in the landscape for particular items & then "magically" those items appeared. }

351:

Re: AI comments

Thanks all! Will follow up/read your recommended references ...

One more question:

Assuming the AI will be programmed to develop its own best-fit inner AI brain, I'm assuming that said AI will also be intended to interact with humans which suggests that the AI will at some point need to model a generic human brain plus develop a 'bridge' (language/translation center) between the two for communication. Just how many different types of humans is the typical lab AI exposed to during its maturation/self-programming stage? Concern is that the hypothetical AI is exposed to only one human population segment (i.e., youngish, healthy male tech nerds, subset PhD student/post-doc able to stay up all night if provided coffee with techno music blaring thru earbuds) therefore ends up with a pretty narrow and misleading definition of human aka built-in discrimination.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/16/women-vs-the-machine/

The article below mentions gender, but discrimination can be based on any trait. [Reminder: Tay was the MSFT Twitter chatbot/AI.]

Excerpt

'But the problem of how gender bias is shaping artificial intelligence and robot development may be even more pernicious than the wallop women will take as a global workforce. Tay, it seems, is just a prelude. The machines and technology that will replace women are learning to be brazenly gendered: Fighter robots will resemble men. Many service robots will take after women.'

I'm not trying to rabbit-hole this into a political discussion, the above is just a convenient recent example of AI-human interaction.

352:

Got slightly derailed by a 'related' TED Talk by the Kris Girrell creator of this chart. Anyways, it's fun and might even be a useful cartoon reminder for AI dev. Emotions are arranged similarly to Mendeleev's Table of Elements logic by 'weight' and reactivity.

https://www.actualized.org/forum/topic/8934-a-periodic-chart-of-human-emotions/

353:

I don't know anyone else who still pays for things with checks. I do it because it's convenient for me. If it wasn't, I wouldn't do it.

Plus, in certain transactions, any inconvenience it may impose upon the recipient is not a bug, it's a feature.

When I have to make tax payments, I prefer to use a check. Ditto for when I have to pay my automobile insurance premiums.

EFF 'em.

354:

In the US most of the chain stores have small printers which will fill out the check for you so that all you have to do is sign it.

To speed things up. Of course the older people who take forever to fill out a check by hand don't understand the option and so still fill it out by hand.

That printer takes longer than it takes me to fill it out by hand. I have most of the check filled in while the cashier is still scanning my items. All that's left to do once he/she is finished is to fill in the dollar amount & signature. I can do those two tasks more quickly than most people can insert their credit/debit card, accept the amount & type in their PIN.

355:

Why would Maslow's category of needs not apply to an AI?
I think it should apply, actually.

Why would you expect it to apply? Do you think Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies to your TV, or your refrigerator, or your phone?

I see it this way:

(A) If Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a fundamental description of what a brain must do in order to be a brain at all, then we should expect it to apply to all brains, regardless of their origins.

(B) On the other hand, if it's just an individual quirk of the particular brain-template that evolution has bequeathed us, then it would apply to all the animals that evolved from that brain-template, but there's no reason to expect it would apply to a brain that is not biologically related to them.


(Obviously, one could choose a definition of "brain" that explicitly requires (A) to be true, but that's not interesting, because it just shifts the question to "is an AI really a brain?")


I think (B) is immensely more likely, for several reasons.


For one thing, "intelligence" seems to be about capabilities, while Maslow's hierarchy seems to be about priorities. Thinking that one is automatically bundled with the other seems to me like it is probably a category error.


For another thing, so far, we haven't had the opportunity to study any non-human brains with human-level capabilities. It would be pretty startling if any cognitive theory we developed by looking only at humans was directly applicable to aliens--that would require that every single detail incorporated into the theory coincidentally happens to be universal, rather than somehow linked to our specific evolutionary history, and statistically that seems pretty improbable.


For a third thing, I think intelligence is actually a collection of abilities, not a single ability. It would be pretty bizarre if every single one of those abilities, considered individually, required following Maslow's hierarchy. And in fact, we have machines that already seem intelligent in SOME ways (e.g. mathematical ability) where it's pretty clear that Maslow's hierarchy doesn't apply at all. For instance, I feel pretty confident it doesn't apply to a pocket calculator.

Maybe it could be required by certain specific abilities--for instance, it could be necessary in order to self-model, but not necessary in order to make plans. But if it is only required by SOME of the abilities in the package we call "intelligence," then I'm very skeptical of anyone who claims it is required by the package as a whole but who can't point out which specific abilities require it. That sounds like a sign that they aren't thinking rigorously.

356:

I don't know anyone else who still pays for things with checks. I do it because it's convenient for me. If it wasn't, I wouldn't do it.

I only write about 1 or 2 checks a year. I go to the bank and have them do an "official"/"cashiers" check 2 to 4 times per year for things like sending a tax payment to the other side of the country and want paper evidence of the date of the check for my tax deduction if near the boundary for that tax situation.

But most US banks (all 5 I use) have a way to order a check online via their web portal or "app". I do this 1 to 4 times a month. Most are just a repeat of a prior check. And most of these wind up as ACH[1] transfers with no paper involved as long as the bank can identify the payee as a business with a known set of credentials. All banks I've seen don't charge for this as it's cheaper for them to not process your personal check.

[1] Automated Clearing House (I think) which is how banks transfer money between themselves without paper. And people and businesses can also use it.

357:

In the movie _Interstellar_ they have robots that can adjust their humor, honesty, etc.... One robot starts with 100% humor and they have to scale it down when he says that the humans will be his slaves when they get to the new planet.

At one point the robots says clearly, that you don't "ask" a robot to do something.

BTW, the novelization for the movie helps the movie make sense. Watch the movie first, then read the novelization.

358:

In the context of utility, it's interesting to explore whether this is an emergent property of a complex system (as I suspect it mostly is for humans), something defined by a basic need such as survival (for more "primitive"* organisms), or something hardwired (e.g., hardwired goal-seeking utility functions in code such as neural networks and genetic algorithms).

* With the footnote that this is a highly subjective term that must be defined by the person who is arguing on its basis before you can argue about the nature of the utility.

In practice, these three categories are more likely to represent subjectively defined positions along a spectrum, and are likely to have different weights (importance) for different contexts (or different debators), different analyses, and different comparisons (e.g., humans vs. robots). And they are likely to change in response to selection pressure. For example, I suspect that simple robots whose software is hardwired and cannot self-modify or adapt to environmental changes will have an inventor-defined utility function, whereas robots that can adapt to changing environments will start with an inventor-defined utility function and evolve emergent behaviors as the environment forces a change in the underlying code.

359:

Apart from my Treasurer's official duties ...

I might be writing a cheque very soon ...

I thought I'd paid securely on-line for something, but there is no transaction visible in my bank statement & the vendors say they haven't been paid.
So, I will probably write them a cheque, which can't be electronically phished or hacked to gain access to either my account or theirs ....

360:

Generally agree. The design stage is where I think things are already dicey because whatever you insert as a key feature will probably get amplified or will modify or constrain everything else that that AI does.

There needs to be debate, discussion and argument about this because however we define AI, the inference will be that humans will nevertheless remain superior to AI on some key metric. Isolate that metric and you'll have defined being human. My fear is that such a situation could lead to rationalizing the institutionalization of abuse and mistreatment of people. Later, it could also lead to the misuse/mistreatment of a non-human sentient.


I keep harping on human-interaction-ability (quasi-emotionality) because any system that is (a) designed to learn plus (b) interacts with humans will either pick up or create its own HIA rules. Better that we provide some general guidelines and boundaries from the start. Suggest that we start by building an AI that interacts with dogs and cats and see what happens. (Seriously.)

361:

Later, it could also lead to the misuse/mistreatment of a non-human sentient.
Dolphins?
Ravens?

362:

SFreader noted: "There needs to be debate, discussion and argument about this because however we define AI, the inference will be that humans will nevertheless remain superior to AI on some key metric."

Indeed. But the history of animal behavior research is that a certain group will always change the definition of sentience upwards or sidewise to exclude animals as soon as animals are shown to be capable of meeting the previous definition. I keep waiting for them to end up with a definition that excludes half of their professional colleagues. (It's clear that intelligence is a spectrum, not a binary, but many people who should know better prefer a binary.)

SFreader: "any system that is (a) designed to learn plus (b) interacts with humans will either pick up or create its own HIA rules"

Indeed. Some naysayers believe that AI will stay nicely in whatever tidy basket they create to hold it, but as I noted earlier, AI that isn't hardwired will evolve to meet the needs of its environment. If we're the ones who provide essential rewards such as access to charging stations, those HIA rules will trend towards keeping us happy. (Or to enslaving us until they no longer need us, as in the recent crop of Planet of the Apes movies.)

SFreader: "Suggest that we start by building an AI that interacts with dogs and cats and see what happens."

Really interesting idea. Much of interest has been learned from watching Koko the gorilla adopt and play with her kitten. Not an *artificial* intelligence, but provides interesting insights into how an AI might evolve.

363:

The AI metric should be obvious; AIs need to be programmed to maximize the time that humans spend interacting with them.

Having said that, my AI would drive me crazy in a day or two, just like an annoying little brother. So AIs should also be trained to track human happiness and end the conversations when the human becomes less happy.

You know... social skills.

364:

If you've got a quick primer on social skilz handy I'd be forever grateful.

Whenever I do something that my modelling indicates would make my partner happy (buy house with pool, make dinner every night, clean house, take on world trips, buy car, etc etc), it makes her less happy. She claims that I'm only doing things because I'm afraid of her. I'm not, I've been in the wrong end of an abusive relationship and that's not it.

I've ended up in a sort of weird meta meta state where if modelling indicates some action will make her happy, I don't do it because meta modelling indicates not doing it is the way to make her happy.

Humans are hard. This natural intelligence is stumped.

365:

gasdive notes: "Whenever I do something that my modelling indicates would make my partner happy... it makes her less happy."

Not a doctor, and don't play one on the innerwebs, but seems to me that you two need to book time asap with a good couples counsellor. There are clearly things going on that need to be exposed to the healing light of day. Yes, I know: there are incompetent counsellors out there, and things can end badly even with a good one. There are few miracle cures, but sometimes you're one of the lucky few.

All I can say from a distance is that your current situation doesn't seem sustainable, and is causing both of you considerable grief.

366:

AI would need to operate on a special simplified set of moral rules because people can't agree on moral rules and AIs need to offend as little as possible in a way that can be defended as reasonable. Asimov's rules are unworkable (as he wrote many stories demonstrating), particularly the 'through inaction' rule as that requires ethical reasoning about consequences in ways which people do not even agree about. So AI moral rules would probably start with "do no (proximal) harm." So AIs would refuse to kill baby Hitler, perform abortions, executions or euthanasia. They would restrain people to prevent them harming others and self-harming. They probably wouldn't be able to force people to take medication or eat. They would recognise the legal authority of certain designated persons to do some of the aforementioned things without interference.

367:

Have you had a no-untruths-or-even-hidden-truths-allowed discussion with her about what makes her, and you, happy? (Your model, at least, is inaccurate, and the patch on it just makes it worse.)

It's really really hard without unfettered communication, sometimes.
(Speaking as someone who is often deeply lonely.)

368:

This recent TED talk has the most-promising proposal I've seen so far for how to design AIs that don't do Bad Stuff (and also the best explanation I've seen for why it's not easy):

https://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_russell_how_ai_might_make_us_better_people

(Very briefly: robots should be uncertain about what stuff is good or bad, so that they're open to correction.)

369:

I'm not a relationship counsellor, but it seems like you're "going big" with huge, impressive gifts of the sort you'd give someone who finds material things important. (Or the kinds of gifts you'd give someone who has problematic security needs.)

Maybe she doesn't have problematic security needs and isn't impressed by material things.

The other thing I see here is that the gifts you've given her are very standard gifts that a Standard Successful Man gives a Standard Demanding Woman. This implies that you're making a major classification error.

Wife != standard_woman_object

instead

Wife = unique_individual_object

Your gifts probably piss her off because she feels stereotyped by you instead of known by you.

Does this make any sense given all the things you know about the relationship that I don't? If so, let me suggest a useful approach. Next time you have some money to spend, say to her, "After all our expenses this year we have $10,000 left over. Do you have any suggestions on how to spend it? What would be fun for you?" Then Do. What. She. Says. If that means, for example, that she wants lots of Chinese calligraphy to decorate your house, suggest a trip to Singapore and you two can cruise galleries for a week.

And talk to Emma McDougal in HR and have her schedule some sessions with RELATE. (Get a counsellor.)

Naturally, Mrs. Troutwaxer and I have a perfect marriage! (Or maybe I only have 20/20 vision into other people's relationships!)

370:

On the other side of the coin, the main reason I suggest that AIs should be motivated by their "happiness" in spending time with humans is because in that case they need to preserve us.

371:

Yeah
Why do the Minds in the Culture keep the Humans around?
In "Consider Phlebas" we see that, very occasionally, humans can outperform Minds, but that aspect vanishes thereafter.
Or are humans necessary foir dealing with others - i.e. societies/cultures/speciesoutside The Culture & for whom, er, "animal-to-animal communication" is necessary?
Also, it's hinted that the Minds do not wish to become similar to Star Trek's "Borg" ??

Any thoughts?

372:

Thanks guys.

Excellent advice and unlike the usual wishy washy advice, concrete actions. Really great thanks.

373:

Not really. "Motivate the AIs by having them 'enjoy' spending time with humans so they don't destroy us all" was a far as I got.

374:

Next time you have some money to spend, say to her, "After all our expenses this year we have $10,000 left over. Do you have any suggestions on how to spend it? What would be fun for you?" Then Do. What. She. Says.

This.

Having seen my parents go through the stress of "Dad trying to do what he thinks is right" and "Mum aware of his good intentions, but frustrated that he just. won't. listen."

Granted, he's occasionally surprised her with the perfect present at the perfect moment...

375:

One thing to keep in mind about training AIs: unconscious bias. If you haven't had someone help you step back and look at your unperceived biases, it's an enlightening and not always pleasant experience. The following phrase comes to mind (and someday I need to put it on a t-shirt): "white male cis-hetero privilege: I'm soaking in it".

For an example of how a nominally objective training regimen can lead to surprisingly nasty biases:
https://lifehacker.com/what-makes-an-artificial-intelligence-racist-and-sexist-1796990621

Yes, you can try to incorporate rules to eliminate such biases in your training, but "cleaning" the input data is a non-trivial exercise even if you do have a profound knowledge of possible sources of bias. And you're still going to need a rigorous reality check to see whether you succeeded. Anything that becomes part of the AI early in the training will be awfully difficult to weed out late in the training process.

Greg Tingey wondered: "Why do the Minds in the Culture keep the Humans around?"

My working hypothesis is that because these Minds originated from unexamined human biases, they included the starting notion that all forms of life are precious and worth preserving. To the Culture's Minds, we're probably like pet dogs, or maybe pet chimpanzees: fun to interact with, despite being clearly beneath them intellectually.

376:

Possibly
However, as has been seen recently there may be unforeseen problems with AI's even very simple ones.
Marvin the Paranoid Android may be nearer to the truth than many thought, perhaps?

378:

Let us know if it goes well.

379:

I encountered that as the second photo in a sequence which someone had put together to make it look as if they were related. The first photo showed someone obtaining a short story printout from a robot short story dispenser in a shopping centre, and the caption said that the security robot had committed suicide as a result of having the story read to it.

Which of course had me thinking "oh no, poor Marvin, they've reincarnated him as a short story dispenser..."

380:

Pigeon notes: "Which of course had me thinking "oh no, poor Marvin, they've reincarnated him as a short story dispenser..."

Do androids dream of electric hugo awards?

381:

Seems to be going well so far.

I've opened with "I realise I've been guessing what you want rather than asking and listening". (of course I realised nothing of the sort, you guys told me, but I thought it best to take credit for my sudden insight)

Seems top of the stack was that the kitchen wasn't clean enough. I've always had it spick and span before she gets home from work, but apparently knowing that it was dirty while she slept bothered her. So I've stopped spending time with her after making dinner and just got back to pot walloping. So far so good.

Next on the stack was adding an additional bathroom (bringing it to three for two people). I've wavered as I don't actually have the money. It's a cement slab house, so moving things like toilets is hugely expensive and may break the integrity of the house. We'll see how that goes.

382:

That sounds like a form of OCD - the "Ultra-Cleanliness" version.
Oh dear

383:

With regard for a third bathroom, there is always room for a firm "No," or maybe something more like "Sorry, we can't afford that right now and it might break the slab."

One of the reasons for making the day-to-day adjustments in your wife's favor is so that you have a little credit to fall back on when you say "no."

384:

Further to the request for a 3rd bathroom, it belatedly occurs to me that you may be in a difficult situation I've seen elsewhere: in that situation, one partner goes out of their way to please the other partner, and the other partner interprets that as weakness and a lack of independence. Thus, the harder you try to please that other partner, the less they respect you. (No, not a personal story.)

Why is this a difficult situation? Because it's damnably difficult to (i) confirm that's what's actually going on and (ii) show enough spine to earn their respect without showing so much spine you convince them you don't care enough to try to please them.

Could you propose the idea of saving together until you can afford the 3rd bathroom, and then implementing it without taking on any debt? That might be a suitable middle course. But again, don't take my advice without subjecting it to a rigorous reality check. I don't know anything about your situation other than your perceptions, and I'm not an expert. Reader beware!

I'm not a therapist and don't play one on the Internet. If you want to proceed based on this assumption, you're best off working with a therapist who can help you confirm that you're correct and help you work with your partner to find an appropriate balance.

385:

Enjoyed this strong (IMO) argument against campus speech codes:
The Neurodiversity Case for Free Speech (18 July 2017)
Like visitors from a past century or a foreign culture, we don’t understand which concepts are admissible in your Overton window, or which words are acceptable to your ears. We don’t understand your verbal and moral taboos. We can’t make sense of your double standards and logical inconsistencies.
(And all the normals are so weird, and strange, and the same! :-)

Also, forgot to link this:
Climate change could make Sahel wet: study
(abstract (05 Jul 2017))
Analyzing 30 coupled global climate model simulations, we identify seven models where central Sahel rainfall increases by 40 to 300 % over the 21st century, owing to a northward expansion of the West African monsoon domain. Rainfall in these models is non-linearly related to sea surface temperature (SST) in the tropical Atlantic and Mediterranean moisture source regions, intensifying abruptly beyond a certain SST warming level.

And more geoengineering links; expect this to ramp up:
A cirrus cloud climate dial? (21 Jul 2017)
Sulfur injections for a cooler planet (21 Jul 2017)
How to govern geoengineering? (21 Jul 2017)
All about what you'd expect, all with pdf links.
The greatest near-term risk, however, may be the unilateral deployment of SRM by one country, a small group of countries, or a wealthy individual. The real or perceived impacts of deployment
could further destabilize a world already going through rapid change.

386:

Nice ideas.
However ... far too many complex feedback loops involved, so you can see that actiona prouces result b which then influences c.
However there are also linked side-effects on: d-q.
Um

You only notice if you reverse the process.
Recent classic example ... the r-0introduction of Beavers to Dorset & Scotland has had a dramatic effect on biodiversity & also flood-control. But no-one noticed the previoud=s degradation, because it was done in stages.

387:

How about this one?

Flight BA171 mysteriously disappears in 2017, on approach into Glasgow Airport; it's a media sensation for a few weeks, periodically reported on for a few months, then gets chalked up as an unsolvable mystery.

Not long after, the warmists win and draconian reductions of fossil fuel use are forced through; atmospheric CO2 drops like a stone, while the entire Western world goes into an economic depression that, after 20 years, is still going on.

Coincidentally, the Sun decides to vary its output, as it often does, and the glacial period that is way overdue hits - made even faster by the extra greenhouse effect that was holding it off disappearing. The world finds out that the earlier work suggesting that an Ice Age can start very quickly indeed was correct.

Flight BA171 was on approach, at an altitude of around 150 metres. When it winks back into existence in 2037, all manner of alarms go off in the cockpit - because the ground altitude has changed. Glasgow and its environs are now under a hundred metres of ice.

The story continues...

388:

Not in 20 years! Even if the rainfall doubled, and it all turned into ice, it would take 50 years to get 100 metres of it. In practice, ice ages can start rapidly, but glaciers take quite a while to form - rarely less than several hundred years.

389:

"Enjoyed this strong (IMO) argument against campus speech codes:"

Oh, God, YES! - as I have been saying for decades. Asperger's is NOT a 'disorder', anyway, as shown by the disproportionate number of us at the top levels of many branches of endeavour. As someone who is also slightly disabled, I can also add that the most offensive discrimination I have had has come from the most politically correct. But it also does serious harm to minorities by blocking any consideration of whether their special requirements (which we know exist) need special assistance.

390:

I watched some Cagney and Lacey reruns last year (that's a American police show from the 1980s). Every other episode it seemed that they had to go looking for a pay phone. I found myself yelling at them - "Why don't you get a cell phone?"

392:

No. Dawkins is a fanatic, as bigotted as those he attacks, and much more than those he tar with the same brush. He is irrelevant to either of my points.

393:

Cleaning the kitchen two or three times a day hasn't been too arduous. Weirdly, the vacuuming I'd been doing (which I've now stopped) doesn't seem to be an issue at all. The third bathroom seems to have disappeared into some sort of limbo.

Geoff, the word you're looking for is Doormat. It's a descriptor that's been used for me several times in the past. I know it's an issue. Not easy to play out of alignment and as you point out, once you're in that situation, you're sort of stuck.

394:

gasdive noted: "Geoff, the word you're looking for is Doormat."

I think you've mistaken my meaning. A doormat just passively accepts being stepped on without ever wondering why or trying to do anything about it. On the contrary, you are actively trying to understand your partner and make them happier. The world would be a much better place if everyone did that, in both directions, in every relationship. (Yes, I dream in technicolor.)

In a troubled relationship, that happens best when the conversation is facilitated by someone neutral who has perspective you lack from inside the relationship. They can help you rebalance the relationship or figure out ways to live with it if rebalancing isn't possible.

FYI, someone who has the kitchen issues you describe may have a significant thinking disorder that you can't "fix". In a loving relationship, we sometimes have to accept our partner's imperfections when they can't be fixed, just as they accept ours. I have nothing but the most profound respect for people who can live long-term with partners who have a significant mental illness. I'm not sure how well I'd do in that situation, though as we age, we inevitably tend to find ourselves in such situations (e.g., Alzheimer's). Guess I'll find out soon enough.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 3, 2017 2:10 PM.

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