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Cthulhu Counterfactual

Nope, Charlie's not done, it's just me again.

Yes, I wish Cthulhu Counterfactual was the title of the book I was publishing, but alas. Charlie's tied up in a D=3.76931323 fractal dimensional knot that he needs to solve in order to bring his trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, and I decided to fill in the silence with some silliness.

So...Anyone interested in playing a game of Cthulhu Counterfactual?

It's simple, playing what-if with a question that subverts the Mythos in some way.

Here are some scenarios:

A. You've met a time traveler who's taken over the brain of a friend. This being, while being really smart, is definitely fascist, if not a full-blown Nazi.[1] Do you cooperate with this being, avoid it, turn it in to the authorities, keep it off social media...? Moreover, its understanding of time makes it seem like history is pre-determined and free will is an illusion. Why even be fascist in this context? Wouldn't it be simpler to be a hardworking anarchist whose main goal is to know what to do next? Governments are only necessary if the future is unknown, right? But if everyone knows what will happen and what needs doing, what's the purpose of government? Do you try to change its mind about being a member of, well, Ultima Thule (or is that Thule Ultima?)? What do you do?

2. It's the 1920s, and anarchists are Public Enemy #1. They shot McKinley, started WWI, and so forth. Heck, J Edgar Hoover just started the FBI to hunt them down.

In some desolate wilderness near your home, you run into a being that offers to let you, or perhaps your species, whichever, join an intergalactic civilization. This being the 1920s, you're not even sure what "intergalactic" means, but that's not the squicky part (no, you don't know what squicky means, either. Sorry). Anyway, there are two problems. First, this, erm, civilization, as this entity describes it to you, sounds a lot like total anarchy, right down to intelligent "ships" with names like Pulsating Orifice of Tentacles Humorously Deployed. Worse, the being trying to recruit you looks a bit like an overgrown, moldy crab, and it gives you a long, convoluted explanation about something called "uploading" that sounds like it wants to stuff your brain in a jar and run off with it.

What do you do? Do you go off and become an intergalactic anarchist? Why not? Would you get other people involved? Would you do it because you think it will help avoid getting your brain canned? Would you keep it quiet from the G-Men, or would you tell them right off?

III. Would you being willing to mutate into a fishlike marine being if it meant you could live forever? What about taking such a being as a spouse if it meant that your kids would live forever, albeit you couldn't visit them at home when you got old?

xxxx. What should a god-fearing, star-hopping species worship as a creator, to be scientifically accurate? Black holes at the center of galaxies? Water? Entropy and dissipative structures? The quantum observer? Knowledge that has to be coded for mental transmission because books are too heavy to carry when you're flapping between the stars? Explain your answer (extra points for responding in verse or filksong).

5e. It's the 1920s, and you're not a member of the dominant, colonialist race or gender. You get offered a position in a secretive group that says that soon, you'll get to experience new ways of killing and dying. Sounds gross, but your would-be recruited explains that death won't be permanent, for you or anyone else. You get to die multiple times and come back each time, and you'll have what they call a "restore" point of memories that you'll come back to, so it's much more convenient than the reincarnation of Eastern Religions. Are you in, or not? Do you keep it a secret, or try to get your friends to join? What details do you need to know before you'll want to join this particular cult?

Feel free to tackle any or all of these, or make up your own.


Note [1](from The Shadow Out Of Time): "The Great Race seemed to form a single loosely knit nation or league, with major institutions in common, though there were four definite divisions. The political and economic system of each unit was a sort of fascistic socialism, with major resources rationally distributed, and power delegated to a small governing board elected by the votes of all able to pass certain educational and psychological tests. Family organisation was not overstressed, though ties among persons of common descent were recognised, and the young were generally reared by their parents."

194 Comments

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1:

I ask myself similar questions. If someone has a working knowledge of physics, computing, astronomy, modern cosmology, etc., how scary is Lovecraft?

I finally had to look at it another way; the "incredible hellish vistas of alien dimensions" and "giant basalt cities rotting beneath a gibbous moon" are just set dressing. And it doesn't matter whether the Mi-Go are removing your brain or merely uploading it, destructively or otherwise.

The really scary things about Lovecraft are evolution, knowledge and time.

Time is the big one here. Imagine a race which is a billion years old. Imagine that 999 million years ago, they answered all the "important" philosophical and spiritual questions humans are currently dealing with: Why are we here? Is there a god? What good is all our knowledge if we're all going to die? What happens after we die? Do we have souls? How do you define right and wrong?

Etc.

The problem we're dealing with is that when you get your questions answered, those answers inevitably generate new questions. We don't like why we're here. Can we change our purpose for existing? Oh, there is a god? How do we get in contact? What good is all our knowledge now that we don't have to die? Now that we don't die, can we use the post-death infrastructure for something else? We have souls? That's interesting. I wonder how they taste? Right and wrong are based on quark spin properties? Can we change reality so that the things we like are always ethical?

Imagine that there's some sort of cycle involved; a race solves their current question set every million years? So a race a billion years old has solved all our questions, answered the follow-up questions, answered the next set of follow-up questions, and so on for a thousand iterations. So when you meet that race and they greet you by tentacle raping you and eating your soul, they've already altered the quark-spin properties so that God thinks they're completely fucking angelic for doing so... oh, and by the way they automated the process for making whatever they enjoy stimulate God's pleasure center 997 million years ago, and now they're on to stuff we literally can't imagine?

Yeah. Still scary.

2:

In the 2 case, forget the anarchists, how about if I devoutly want to see my enemies tormented in hell? This "mind" thing running the "spaceship" Sorry I Thought You Weren't Using Your Soul can upload people into Hell (Surface Detail), and even duplicate them so they're suffering in parallel. So don't upload me, upload the godless heathen in the nearest speakeasy :-)

3:

A. Convert him to Buddhism, and persuade him to work towards stepping off the wheel?

2. Stay at home and become an anarchist. You mean it isn't the obvious solution?

III. I wouldn't inflict eternal life on even my worst enemy, but would assume that offer was purest snake oil, anyway.

xxxx. There was a blob that said "Dang",
I worshipped the holy Big Bang.
Until, and damnation,
Continuous Creation
Was really the cause of the bang.

4:

Sorry for being somewhat short, guess I'll think about it later on. Anyway...

A.) It somewhat depends on the outcomes. It's still the body of my friend, and he might return some day.

Is turning him in more likely to return my friend, and would my friend appreciate that? Or is he quite lucky with his trip to Prehistoric Australia and its libraries?

Also, what would be the result of turning him in for the authorities? Mind you, the behaviour of the being IMHO amounts to the German crime of Körperverletzung, similar to English battery

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_(crime)

so putting him into a nice cell for the time being might not be that bad; OTOH, the authorities using some kind of waterboarding an like would damage the body of my friend.

As for the fascism, it depends somewhat on the exact kind of fascism. Pratchett's Shadwell or Timothy McVeigh?

5:

On another note, how am I to differentiate alien body swap from some kind of dissociative disorder, psychosis or neurodegenerative disease? The phenomenology could be quite similar, and as for ontology in medicine...

6:

I think you forgot the part about things falling apart and being lost or forgotten.

For us as modern humans, the oldest known skull is around 300,000 years old, dating not exact. That means we know little or nothing of our history as a subspecies for the first 98% of its existence. We actually don't know how old our species is, either, because we keep finding older and older skulls. Unfortunately, a single skull that's tens of thousands of years older than the previous skull tells us essentially nothing, except how much of our history we've lost.

Or we can, for instance, pick on Buddha and Jesus. They both had a bunch of students whom they taught well (Buddha's students reached enlightenment in their lifetime, and most of the disciples made sainthood). The schisms and arguments among their students' students were totally predictable, and they progressed to the point where, 1,000 years later in China, some monks started preaching the doctrine that the dharma had been so garbled that no one could become enlightened any more by following it, and their only hope was praying to a Pure Land Bodhisattva for reincarnation to a place where the dharma was still correctly taught. People still do reach enlightenment, incidentally, but not in anywhere near the numbers that Buddha's first students did.

To quote the old song, that's entropy, man.

I'm not sure a billion year-old race would have gone from triumph to triumph off into cloud cuckoo land, although it's certainly a neat concept. It's equally possible that you'd find them as foragers in a place where there are distorted geologic remnants showing something great happened there once, used up too many resources, and was forgotten, probably rediscovered any number of times, and forgotten any number of times thereafter.

That's equally Lovecraftian, too.

7:

AH the cyclical fal or even "fall" of civilisations.

No matter what the reconstructionists/revisionists say, the period approx 400-1200 CE in W Europe was a pretty dark Age, even though much was kept further East.
If you really want a true collapse, though, you have to look at approx -1250 - -650 CE.
And the remants & survivors scrabbling in the ruins they cannot even begin to replicate, with the myth that then "Men were as gods" - with all the usual "religious" claprap about "Sin" & "impiety" & worshipping false gods, etc...

8:

If you really want a true collapse, though, you have to look at approx -1250 - -650 CE.

There's a recent popularish book on this with emphasis on the earlier part:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1177_B.C.:_The_Year_Civilization_Collapsed

https://press.princeton.edu/titles/10597.html

It's a fast and fairly interesting read.

9:

Considering the Mi-Go as a faction of the Culture is kind of breaking my brain right now.

I think I'm going to have to roll that one around in the back of my head for a while, though, given that my current project involves an Organic Backup System Of The Ancients that has Gone Rogue, and now wanders the galaxy in assorted spaceships with Culturey names. So thanks for the food for thought. 🖤

10:

Already on my "To read" list, assuming I get that far ( As usual! )

11:

Civilization Falling. In purely Lovecraftian terms, does our failure to learn even the smallest of lessons from our past disturb you as badly as it disturbs me? We're already into the territory of the "First and Last Men" here... We'd only require a very small upgrade in order to be able to actually learn from science and history, but we can't manage it!

Entropy Certainly entropy exists, but do we really have to be such stupid and willing participants? Maybe one of the problems with humanity is that we think of the wrong "eternal questions" and the right "eternal questions" are something like "How does a race ask the right questions about history?" "How do we remember the answers (to the right questions from history?)" "How do we get everyone to understand empirical processes?" and the obvious (to any sane race) "What's the overhead to keep entropy at bay?"

"Look at those humans! They can't even teach their children a mandatory course in "Horrible Mistakes My Ancestors Made" but want to know why they're here? What bizarre and preposterous arrogance! Let us filter their planet for useful genes, eat their souls and then plant a worthy civilization in their place!"

"I agree, Ixnar. Let us wake the planet-cleanser and come back in a thousand years!"

More.The thing that's really interesting about Lovecraft is that he presents multiple different races, all of them at different levels of development and accomplishment between human and (inhumanly) divine. So many different ways to exist and us at the bottom.

12:

does our failure to learn even the smallest of lessons from our past disturb you as badly as it disturbs me

I take your point, but, though of a pessimistic bent myself, note the Long Peace since 1945. We could hope that's been a result of lessons learned up through 1945. Not that I necessarily believe that, but it would be nice if it were so.

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


13:

I ask myself similar questions.

Fuck you, Troutwaxer. This was a brand new keyboard and a decent cranberry vodka. I know from experience that the former will not now last, and I regret the waste of the latter.

...Well played.

14:

xxxx. There was a blob that said "Dang",
I worshipped the holy Big Bang.
Until, and damnation,
Continuous Creation
Was really the cause of the bang.

Thank you! I was hoping someone would rise (or descend) to the challenge!

15:

Disturbing? Yes, I keep hoping we'll do better. As I've noted many times before, I don't think our species will go extinct due to this. The underlying problem here is that we're all working from different paradigms. You seem to be angry because we're not following the classic Progressive model (Progress!) where we improve on our past and become better people through the process. Greg seems to think I've substituted a version of the cycles of civilization, either following Robert Howard (the author, not OGH's character) or Niven and Pournelle's Moties. I don't particularly think either, although I'll get back to those cycles.

Ultimately, I'll admit I don't know the future. We're either in the midst of a phase change that makes human civilization the basic substrate on which the biosphere runs, or we're near the peak of a locust-like irruption of humanity as we use up everything we can get our machines into, without being able to convert to solar/nuclear/fusion energy and closed recycling loops for all useful elements (without, I'd add, recycling all our pathogens and contaminants into civilization ending pandemics and contamination issues). In the latter case, we'll hopefully go back to being a few million sustainable grasshoppers by the end of the next 100-200 years. The former case (phase change) has happened, at least with insects, as ants more-or-less took over the insect world back in the Paleogene. So it's possible that civilization won't crash, although ants didn't drill for oil. Before you glory in the world over-run by humans, do count up the number of predators, pathogens, and parasites that ants are prey too. Evolution loves it an untapped resource, and billions of humans are substrate for all the things we have trouble wiping out, from microbes to coyotes.

In any case, it's really worth being aware of the underlying model in your head, the one that's driving your anger. We're seeing a lot of screwed up models that lead to the idea that the world is about to end, and maybe we should do something either to hasten that end, or to forcibly stop those who we see as pushing it. Just remember that the notion of a Worker's Paradise led to horrors in the USSR, China, and Cambodia. The notion of a white man's paradise has led to colonial horrors all over the world, and the notion of an Armageddon, where being baptized will sned you to eternal bliss whatever your behavior on Earth, is apparently driving us towards nuclear war. You get the picture? It's all well and good to talk about a civilization failing, but when Ixnar talks about unleashing the Eater of Souls, it sounds very much like a white supremacist or a rabid communist, no?

16:

Did I unthinkingly quote Lovecraft or someone like him?

17:

Oh yeah, cycles of civilization, per Moties and Robert E Howard.

The Moties are an extrapolation of the Erlich's population bomb idea, where they reproduce or die, and go from neolithic to nuclear war in a few centuries, only to bomb themselves back to the stone age, all driven by an inexorable increase in numbers. They're reputedly smarter than humans, run on a multi"species" caste system, where oddly enough, the authoritarian ruling caste is white, while all the subordinates are various shades of brown (no racism there). They also go straight from kilns to nuclear fusion as their numbers ramp up, in part through the help of museums teaching them how their ancestors did stuff, in part through being smart. Oddly enough, in the sequel humans come up with a method of birth control for them within ~30 years of contact, although the Moties are supposed to be smarter than humans... Anyway, that's one kind of cycle.

Robert E Howard, of Conan fame, is a bit weirder in the cycling history thing, in his Hyborian Age. He saw human races as separate species, each on its own cycle of evolution and degeneration (remember he was writing at about the same time as HPL, and they were pen pals). In his model, each race advanced and became a leader of civilization, then degeneration to the level of apemen, only to rise again, and that these cycles were fast, on the order of 1000 years. In his Hyborian Age, the white race was evolving and expansionistic, the Stygian race was degenerating and into dark magic, the Pictish race were animalistic tribesfolk, and I'm not sure where anyone else (blacks, asians) fell. It's an offshoot of early 20th Century racial theory, as expounded by a isolated Texan autodidact, and it shows the intellectual world Lovecraft was living in when he wrote his stories.

It's also worth remembering, when talking about cycles of civilization, that degeneracy was (and is) a "loaded term that's been used to justify all sorts of atrocities. It's worth watching out for this when you talk about a cyclic history.

18:

The problem here is that the people who learned those lessons first-hand are dying, and their successors don't talk like they understand what can happen to the very arrogant countries, and people are noticing that this is happening.

Hubris... is what it is.

19:

"...the classic Progressive model (Progress!) where we improve on our past and become better people through the process."

"Progress" is an illusion generated by low-resolution sampling of the scalar distance from origin of a random walk.

20:

Like anything else it's just a matter of presentation. You only need to shade the truth a little to get a vastly different reaction. For example, if Picard was told:

"Hello, this is the Borg. Currently there is a fifty-four point two year waiting list for assimilation applications, and we cannot guarantee that all applications will be accepted..."

I'd give it three weeks before the Federation ambassadors were knocking on the door of the nearest Cube.

21:

III is easy. The first time I read The Shadow Over Innsmouth, my immediate thought upon finishing the last page was "I'd love to live under the sea forever!"

And Elderly Cynic -- Deep Ones can be killed, and can commit suicide if they wish to. They are unaging, not immortal.

22:

Never mind birth control, I saw a huge plot hole with Motie Cycles when I read the first book:

The only caste whose reproduction ultimately causes the Cycles is the Masters. Masters can and do order lower castes to refrain from getting pregnant, which kills them (if you recall, a Motie in female stage dies if she does not get pregnant). Masters are unwilling to make similar sacrifice themselves, hence Cycles. But here is the thing -- Masters do not have to make fertile Master babies. They can mate with Engineers and produce infertile Mediators. All every Master needs to do to stabilize their population is to mate always with Engineers, except one time to produce her replacement Master. There would be an excess of Mediators, but a stable excess.

23:

I have both an optimistic and pessimistic model for the future. In the optimistic model we accept the global warming model more-or-less immediately and understand that we will lose the majority of humanity and multiple species in trade for keeping an educated and high-tech society which will ultimately become sustainable. Achieving that model will involve some risks.

My optimistic model includes rescuing important worldwide cultures, such as the book-heavy culture of Timbuktu, Balinese Hinduism, etc., plus finding at least one kind of geo-engineering that works fairly well. This model is mostly progressive, but also experimental, in that it reaches outside ideologies and essentially treats the world as a laboratory and countries (or American states) as separate experiments, then looks for what works best. Hopefully I'll find time to work on that story sometime tonight.

My pessimistic model is ugly. 'Nuf said, I think.

As for anger... that's purely based off fear. I'm a little like She Of Many Names. I can feel The Old One coming, and though I may translate that into Lovecraftian terms, I really don't mean it that way. What I'm really talking about is that part of the human spirit that revels in mountains of corpses, and to some degree doesn't care whose side those corpses are on... the "spirit" animating Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, etc. The one that's slowly being re-introduced into our lives by Faux News, Fake News, and the various right-wing movements which are currently working their politics.

The problem with that spirit is that it's currently becoming "manifest," whatever that may mean in scientific/sociological terms, to the point where it can kinda-sorta do stuff on it's own. Barring some kind of powerful intervention I expect WWII-level violence in the next ten years.

Where Ixnar is concerned, I was aiming more at a sarcastic riff on bad 1950's scifi... I don't hope for total destruction, but I would like the human race as a whole to SIT UP AND FUCKING NOTICE that it's asking the wrong questions and getting the wrong answers!

24:

No, not that I noticed. It was just that Frank's post was a careening excursion into zaniness, and your immediate response was so deadpan funny.

Maybe it's just me.

25:

Were all the Masters white, or just the one Junior Master of the Crimean Tartars? "...white fur you ached to touch."

26:

For better or worse, this is the stuff I think about. I could probably have written the reply in my sleep!

27:

The really scary things about Lovecraft are evolution, knowledge and time.

You're not wrong.

28:

All Masters were white

29:

Barring some kind of powerful intervention I expect WWII-level violence in the next ten years.
Yout too?
But how are the "sides" going to be divided?
And who will they be - which leads to the other question:
Are we going to be able to sit it out, or not?

Given that TrumPutin seem to be haeding back to 19thC "diplomacy" anything is possible.
Note, though, that during the "Long Peace" so-called ( 1815-1914 ) Britain was involved in "only" two fairly major wars, whilst across the rest of Europe .....

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
"Asking the wrong questions"
Yeah, that too ....

30:

About the only one of the originals I have any definite answer for is III - to which my answer is definitely "hell no!". Mostly because as far as I'm concerned, as a chronic depressive, the idea of eternal life is absolute anathema. Some days the only damn thing which gets me chewing through the leather straps at all is the happy thought "at some point, this will all be over, and I won't have to bother with any of it again". Just to add to the fun, I'm from a long-lived family (three out of four grandparents made it past ninety; both my parents are nearly eighty and still going strong) which means I have anything up to another forty-five years of this to be looking forward to. Immortality to me is a form of torture.

5e. You get offered a position in a secretive group that says that soon, you'll get to experience new ways of killing and dying. Sounds gross, but your would-be recruited explains that death won't be permanent, for you or anyone else. You get to die multiple times and come back each time, and you'll have what they call a "restore" point of memories that you'll come back to, so it's much more convenient than the reincarnation of Eastern Religions. Are you in, or not?

Since it's the 1920s, I wouldn't be aware I was essentially being offered a job as a video game character. I'd like to think my 1920s ancestor would probably have said "no", though, on the good solid peasant grounds that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is.

31:

Me, too :-( But who is the "we"? If you mean the UK, we are actively trying to PROMOTE it, and has been doing so for at least 25 years - while being in denial of that obvious fact :-(

32:

The really scary things about Lovecraft are evolution, knowledge and time.

I'd go a step further and say the really scary thing is that knowledge is dangerous. The ancient aliens and eldritch horrors of lovecraft aren't just scary because they're millions of years older and way more technologically advanced than us, they're scary because it's impossible for us to ever close that gap as humans. Even attempting to learn what we need to get from here to there has the capacity to drive us insane.

33:

I'm an optimist - I still have this slight hope that my sons will be the first in five or six generations of our family who don't become part of the Armed Services.

While there are some rather terrifying parallels to the 1930s in current politics, I don't think that we'll reach "WW2 levels of conflict" in the next decade - we just haven't got the hardware any more. For a while, I was nervous about India / Pakistan going nuclear, but that seems to have calmed slightly; I'm nervous about Netanyahu and Trump combining to kick off something stupid and incompetent in the Middle East, but that's still going to be localised.

As for E_C and "PROMOTING it! Eleventy!" the evidence is against him. Since the end of the Cold War, the UK maintains the highest defence spend in Europe - but has still reduced its Armed Forces by well over half. The RN is down to six destroyers, seven attack submarines, thirteen frigates; the Army has only three tank regiments; the RAF only has a handful of fighter and bomber squadrons. Please don't get me wrong - these are good things, it should be all that we need. Meanwhile, the UK's current tank fleet is obsolescent, and we've even shut down our ability to manufacture tank ammunition. Germany has run down its Armed Forces to almost ineffectiveness, as recent articles have revealed. Conscription has been ended throughout Western Europe, so that the manpower reserves just aren't there any more.

The West maxed out its small-arms ammunition production in order to support the war in Afghanistan. All production lines, fully booked. That's a couple of divisions' worth of troops in a lively but still comparatively low-intensity conflict. Where are the stockpiles to support general war? Where are the ammunition manufacturing plants to support Corps-on-Corps conflict?

Meanwhile, you've got a Russian state that believes in deploying nerve and radiological agents in the UK, and damn the consequences (anyone who still holds to the conspiracy-theory line that somehow it couldn't be the Russian state who supplied the missiles that poisoned Litvinenko, shot down MH17, or deployed nerve agents in Salisbury is IMHO dangerously naive and narrow-minded).

Consider this: while Russia is busy posturing in order to play to their domestic Nationalist dog-whistle politics, it has discovered that invading the neighbours is costly. While they have invaded Georgia, invaded Crimea, invaded the Donbass, these were done against smaller neighbours who weren't willing to declare war and who couldn't invoke Article 5. Russian limitations were demonstrated when the Russian Navy sailed a single carrier (with its tug, it's got a habit of breaking down) to the Mediterranean, to fly its eight aircraft off to bomb things in Syria - then lost two of those to accidents while doing so, and decided to use the remainder as land-based aircraft until they returned. It can posture and threaten, and it can invade neighbours, but it hasn't got the global reach of the USSR.

So, I just don't think that the logistics are there for a full-on WW2 level conflict in the next decade; and reckon that many of those of us who grew up in peacetime "just don't get" the actual scale of WW2 (or even the scale of the Cold War). IMHO it's not going to happen at that level, absent the instant sunshine flying around.

34:

Curse accidental drag and drop... that sentence in the fifth paragraph should be: ...the Russian state who poisoned Litvinenko, supplied the missiles that shot down MH17, or deployed nerve agents in Salisbury...

Ooops :)

35:

Are you REALLY so clueless?

Firstly, you clearly don't have a clue about how wars start, what the UK has been doing in international affairs, or what I was talking about.

Secondly, neither you nor I know who was responsible for the Skripal poisoning. Russia has been talking absolute bollocks, but the UK government has been lying through its teeth, exactly as it did over the claims of WMD, may have done over Lockerbie, and has done on many other occasions; and you have been repeating the lies as gospel. For a neutral, scientific viewpoint, look at:

http://syriapropagandamedia.org/

And, actually, I can think of at least two other players which really stand out on the "cui bono" test, of which one definitely could have synthesised such an agent and administered it.

36:

Do we really need to go through this again?

I'd suggest returning to something resembling the original topic, as we're only 35 comments in.

37:

Sorry. I lost my temper when he misrepresented me, yet again. Please feel free to delete my comment.

38:

Wars start because someone ( or a group of same) think that they can "get away with it" &/or that the "costs" will be low ( "The Short Victorious War" clanger, in fact. )
Whatever the UK's failings, most notably in recwent years, crawling to the US over WMD ... that is not usually a failing of theors.
Putin howver, has already "Got away with it" several times ( And I am specificallt excluding Novichock/Saliosbury here, even though I think SOME Russian "agent" was responsible ) - namely his interventions in Moldova, Crimea, Ukraine, Georgia & rumbling noises regarding Estonia, plus of course his success in Syria.
All this will embolden him further, surely?
Given that DT seems to be in bed with Putin, there is all to obvioulsy a problem, shall we say.
Then there's the US backing both Israel & Saudi against Persia, which really gives me the creeps.

39:

A. The time-traveling fascist - you don't mention what year it is, and I wonder, since the other two scenarios are the twenties. If it was then, you'd get him committed. I'm sure his tendencies could be cured by the popular procedure, then, of a prefrontal lobotomy. (Req: I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.)
2. *sigh*. No, anarchists were not the thing, Communists and unionists were the thing. cf Palmer and the IWW. On the other hand, we *are* talking about the Roaring Twenties, right, with flappers and all *sorts* of risque experimentation. Hell, some guy in NYC even started a magazine about us flying rockets into space, called A-somethingorother=zing Stories. For that matter, remember Last And First Men showed in 1930. Right now, I look around, and I'd say I'm in!

III. Ok, first, there is *no* fucking way I'd want to live forever, certainly not since my late wife died. That's a horrible thing to wish on someone, to outlive everyone that they love *or* hate. On the other hand, if they introduce me to a nice mermaid, and we hit it off, fur off, fins out.

xxxx If you're god-fearing, then you already know what god you fear. And why the *hell* should you fear a god, unless they're NOT nice? And which God? Jeez, that leads to the most obvious...
It was good enough for Aphrodite
She looks real good in her nighty
She's a Virgo rising Pisces
And it's good enough for me.

(900+ more verses elided)

5e. The obvious one is to get the person offering me this deal (such a deal!) to meet me in a dark alley, where I and a few of my mates take care of the agent provocateur.

One note about Conan - remember, he was a barbarian, and the "civilized" countries, some of them run by whites, were decadent.

Ugh, that led me to the putrid thought of whether he was looking at the experimentation of the twenties as "decadence", and the barbarian in the east (i.e., Germany?) coming to rule....

40:

With regards to A, I was thinking more about dealing with Yithians now, rather than in the 1920s (the hint about social media was the tipoff), but whichever. This is a game of what-if, after all.

As for HPL, REH, and rising fascism, yeah, Conan was amazingly white for a Cimmerian, wasn't he? (The real Cimmerian tribe, what little we know of them, were a bunch of ancient horse nomads off the steppes somewhere around the Black Sea). And the more I look for racism in HPL, the more I find it. I mean, even the shoggoths' skins were black, and the "Mountains of Madness" is all about sympathy for the slavemaker (they were men in those alien bodies, unlike their creations). Then again (as with the white-furred Motie masters), there's a lot of racism lurking around in SFF. Given what's going on now, I think subverting the standardized Mythos tropes is a fun occupation that can be enjoyed by all.

After all, if Cthulhu's call, that "the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom," was really about uploading yourself to the Dreamlands where you'd live in a video game where you never died permanently, no matter how many times you were killed and what adventures you had, how is that worse than what we try to do now online, or what the transhumanists want? I'm being deliberately provocative here, of course. As we've seen in the last few years, right wing pseudointellectuals routinely distort the truth and slander those they see as enemies. And HPL certainly was a right wing pseudointellectual of his day. Why not play?

41:
“Barring some kind of powerful intervention I expect WWII-level violence in the next ten years.”

"Yout too?
But how are the "sides" going to be divided?"

If Il Douchebag gets his wish & is elected "President for Life" in 2024, I expect it to be the U.S. versus everyone else.

42:

WW2 was an artifact of its technological time. It is highly unlikely we will ever go back to killing each other in such inefficient ways

If you mean “casualty levels approximating WW2” then I doubt it in 10 years but wouldn’t be surprised in 20-30

43:

I have another counterfactual:

You are given the possibility to make most fossile fuel reserves still in the ground useless in a short timespan, say 4-5 years. You have to decide fast, days rather than weeks, the opportunity will go away. Will you do it?

(You stumble upon a ritual that will awaken certain ancient aliens (or rather their housekeepong subroutine), slumbering deep under earths crust. Along with the instructions for the ritual you learn that the housekeepers take a dim view of of burning fossile fuels: A few dozen millenia from now, the Deep Ones need them (all of them) for their space program. The housekeepers are quite well able to destroy mines with targeted earthquakes or simply cinch oil and gas pipes shut. Even stripmines for tar sands or broan coal can be targeted somehow. This is awfully contrieved, but I wanted to make it a choice.

I'Ve been thinking of effects of the choice of yes & I'm glad I don't have to make such a decision ...

44:

"Long peace" since 1945?

Korean War
Vietnam
Afghanistan
Invasion and conquest of Iraq

I'm ignoring the "small issue of the former Yugoslavia, "I'm sure it would only interest a small circle of friends", as Phil Ochs sang. Ditto for Rwanda.

That's a few million dead.

And "we couldn't do it again"? How fast do you think the First World could invoke the draft? And are we talking without the end of the world (i.e. nukes)?

Right, as the filk puts it, the Old Ones and the Elder Gods saw the light of Hiroshima, and turned and slunk away.

45:

Silly human. If you want hell you will have to invent and build it yourself.

Thanks for letting us know where to find the fun people. Maybe they will be worth talking to.

46:

Heteromeles wrote: I think subverting the standardized Mythos tropes is a fun occupation that can be enjoyed by all.

And I would find it fun if you didn't seem so keen to lecture everyone at every opportunity on how racist the source material is and how aware you are of this. (You think you need to tell us that HPL had racist views because nobody ever noticed before?)

Having enlightened or progressive views doesn't mean being a killjoy or having no sense of humour, nor is it necessary to qualify every comment about anything or anyone with how problematic it might be. At least, I don't believe so.

47:

You're right, I shouldn't have crossed out the part where I said I was late to the party on that, which says nothing good about my racial awareness until recently.

On the other hand, there's 80-odd years of stories that slavishly copy the Mythos. Even if we ignore the xenophobic politics, it's getting shopworn, in the sense that it's a world that assumes no plate tectonics (hence things like Rlyeh rising and falling as if it's part of an intercontinental land bridge, and structures sitting in one place for hundreds of millions of years), no radioisotopic dating, so there was no knowledge of how old the earth is, or how long various geologic epochs lasted (they knew the order, not the duration). Heck, I don't think HPL even knew anything about Goddard and the rocket equation, and he seemed to be okay with winged beings flapping through the aether between the stars. The point is that the Mythos is grounded in the science fiction of the early 20th Century. Now it's not even steampunk.

Even if you're not interested in flipping human genders and races on the Mythos to see where that goes, there are a lot of assumptions that are worth inverting or updating, just to see what happens.

48:

Some years ago I ran a cosmic horror campaign influenced by Lovecraft, but set in Steve Jackson Games's Transhuman Space game world. So nearly all the horrors were not alien entities, but products of advancing technology—not "the Singularity," though it was a background possibility, but lesser changes. The one that scared the players more than anything else was Dorotea Castro, a twelve-year-old girl who was a genetically engineered prototype designed for heightened emotional perception, a natural genius for expressive communication, and the ability to function with a primary social group several times as large as the human 100-150. They went to great pains not to alarm or offend her. . . .

49:

"Long peace" since 1945?

Korean War
Vietnam
Afghanistan
Invasion and conquest of Iraq

Yep. It basically means that the major powers du jour have not not come into direct conflict. I.e., WW III hasn't happened yet. Too bad about those other conflicts, of course.

For a recent meditation on this, see

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/03/pinker-explains-the-long-peace/

and, slightly less comfortingly

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/02/are-we-middle-long-peace-or-brink-major-war

50:

not not

Remove one of those nots. I think that was occasioned by a parablepsis due to homoeoteleuton. Or something like that.

51:

The question that comes up, not just with this problem, is it possible to set limits on ambitious sociopaths that they won't weasel out of?

52:

I suppose it depends on how much they value the hostages...

More seriously, the answer is it depends. That's the basic demon summoning/spy recruiting story, isn't it? It's the idea that it's possible to design a system (ritual, spell, procedure, etc.) that will compel something to bend to your will.

53:

You omitted the Iran-Iraq war, which cost many lives.Though, of course neither the "West" nor the Soviets were directly involved.

54:

But how are the "sides" going to be divided?

Got a blog entry coming up when I can get my head out of this novel for long enough to write it. Shorter version is: it'll be "us vs them" rather than "nation vs nation", and the other side will be whichever dehumanized enemy your filter bubble points you at -- Orwell was ahead of the game with his Two Minute Hate.

Also, it won't be a war as such. It'll be "soft genocide" or "malign neglect" safely kept out of sight by walls and minefields on land, and at sea by drone-patrolled waters where the refugees can be encouraged to drown out of sight of the horrified denizens of their destination countries. At home, it'll be starvation for the untermensch, imposed by deliberately broken social security systems (see also "universal credit"), deportation of anyone who can be portrayed as an un-citizen (the Windrush scandal is an early prototype of this mechanism), and removal of the right to use money (via electronic fund transfers, once cash is phased out) from those deemed undesirable.

You don't need to build concentration camps with barbed wire fences and guards if you can turn your entire culture into a machine-mediated panopticon with vicious penalties for non-compliance.

The Nazis had to actually leave their offices and round people up to brutalize and murder them. They had to travel to the Wannsee Conference to hammer out how to implement the Final Solution. Tomorrow's genocides will be decentralized and algorithmically tweaked.

The perceived prize: the murders will sincerely believe that culling the bottom 50% of the planetary population will give them a shot at survival in the post-greenhouse world, and they'll justify their cull using the values we're seeing field-tested today (racism, religious and anti-religious bigotry -- you are part of this, Greg -- nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, white supremacism). There will, at time goes on, be fewer and fewer among the murdering class, as climate insecurity causes periodic crop collapses, and less and less labour is required to keep things running.

Who are the murderers? I'll give you a clue: they're the current ruling class and their descendants. A while ago Bruce Sterling described the 21st century as "old people, living in cities, who are afraid of the sky". I'm calling it "wealthy white people, living in cities, who are afraid of the rising seas (and the refugees they'll bring)".

As for how the soft genocide will look, right here at home in Brexitland ...

Think in terms of old age homes where robots curate the isolated elderlies (no low-paid immigrant carers needed) and fail to identify their terminal medical conditions until they're too advanced to treat. People fed by vertical farms where solar/battery powered robots attend to the individual plants (thank you, Elon Musk's younger brother), food delivered by self-driving vehicles from lights-out warehouses, an end to high street shopping and restaurants and a phasing out of cash money. A great and terrible simplification of our society that cleans out all the niches the underclass (which by then will include the struggling middle class) survive within.

Think policing by ubiquitous surveillance and social scoring and behavior monitoring. Punishment by "community service" -- picking up litter on starvation wages (and I mean, wages calculated to induce death through slow starvation). Prisons where totally drug-resistant TB runs rife as a discipline on the community service peons (as in: if you actually go into prison, they won't need to execute you: 50% will be dead within 6 months).

There's no state censor in this regime. Just a filter bubble imposed on your social media and email contacts that downranks anything remotely subversive and gently punishes you if you express an unconvenient opinion or show signs of noticing what's missing -- the way you don't see people with dark skins or foreign accents any more, for example.

We're getting a glimpse of the way this future is shaped, thanks to Trump and Brexit. Trump has discovered that in times of insecurity, the spectacle of cruelty (directed towards people outside the designated in-group) provides a shared common focus for his supporters. This is nothing new: the Romans were there millennia ago with their festivities at the Coliseum. What's new is the speed and specificity with which the cruelty can be applied, and the ability to redirect it in a matter of hours -- increasing the sense of insecurity.

55:

The RN is down to six destroyers, seven attack submarines, thirteen frigates; the Army has only three tank regiments; the RAF only has a handful of fighter and bomber squadrons.

Yes, but a modern Type 45 destroyer is the size of a WW2 heavy cruiser and in a fight with a WW2 era battleship my money would be on the modern destroyer. Ditto the attack submarines (tell a WW2 admiral that one of your last but one generation of attack subs once ran the Atlantic from the UK to Buenos Aires in two weeks and your current ones can bombard targets 200 miles inland with accuracy measured in centimetres, and they'll either have a nervous breakdown or ask what drugs you're taking). The army's tanks and the RAF's fighters have a similar edge.

What the British military lacks isn't firepower but the boots it would need to occupy anything bigger than Northern Ireland. Because it doesn't have an imperial mission any more.

As for Russia, Putin is playing to his base, but he's ignoring a very significant problem: conscript armies aren't much use these days (except for showing boots on the ground in an occupation role), but having 2% of your working-age male population marching in formation at any given time eats into your potential labour productivity. Okay, if Russia showed signs of going for economic modernization with automation/robotics, this would be grounds for serious alarm ... but they're still stuck in their early-20th century resource extraction mode.

As I just said in my previous comment, I believe the death toll we're going to see shortly will make the genocides and world wars of the 20th century look trivial. But it won't come about because of mass mechanised warfare: this time round it'll be something new.

56:

re: fascist time traveler alien thing.

Honestly I don't think that's weird enough. For either time travelers or aliens.

People read history books, see coherent narratives, and think that's how Time works. Underestimating the surprise of the present, they overestimate the predictability of the future.

when we look over history, we see changes away from absurd conditions such as everyone being a peasant farmer and women not having the vote, toward normal conditions like a majority middle class and equal rights. When people look at history, they see a series of normalizations. They learn the rule, "The future grows ever less absurd over time."

But that's not how the future works. society 1000 years from now will look as absurd to someone today as society today would look to someone from 1000 AD

What would Fascism even mean to someone from 1000 AD? 'I vas only followink orders' is what our story book villains say today but someone from 1000AD is from the days of "honorable fealty". They might look at the world and see godless heathens subjugating "Gods people". Usury run rampant. etc. Meanwhile the idea of kings/leaders/government so controlling that men aren't allowed carry even a small knife at their side in public might be chilling.

So you meet a traveler from 3000AD or an alien and they have various opinions that to us might sound like Facism. Perhaps they consider it obvious that everyone needs to have a [brain implant]/[brain slug] to monitor their obedience and compliance. But they come from a society with nanotech and other crazy-level tech that means that an angry 12 year old who isn't properly monitored and controlled could create a nanotech fockbomb mixed with smallpox and wipe out half a continent. Are they still fascists? Or might they be huge liberals for their own time that believe in policies just barely liberal enough to keep everyone from ending up dead?

To offer a scenario, though derivative.

You encounter something like the SuperHappies here:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/n5TqCuizyJDfAPjkr/the-baby-eating-aliens-1-8

SuperHappy Interstellar altruists, they've modified themselves to only experience positive things but avoided outright wireheadding, replaced pain, the horrible unpleasant experience, with a mere urge to avoid the cause of pain, replaced grief with other less unpleasant emotions, come up with completely novel categories of positive feelings and emotions.

And they want everyone to be happy, when they see another being in pain or suffering they want to help them, they want to change you to be super-happy too. They want to make you like them. Excise your ability to feel sad and replace it with other, less unpleasant, ways of dealing with things that would otherwise make you sad.

They want to come to earth and feed the hungry and save those in pain and offer everyone the chance to be super-happy.

they're not going to force you, you're an adult with a right to choose under their moral system... but they can't stand by and leave those who can't make a choice to suffer.

So...

We are still trying to untangle the twisting references of emotion by which humans might prefer pleasure to pain, and yet endorse complex theories that uphold pain over pleasure. But we have already determined that your children, humankind, do not share the grounding of these philosophies. When they incur pain they do not contemplate its meaning, they only call for it to stop.

"And you should understand, humankind, that when a child anywhere suffers pain and calls for it to stop, then we will answer that call"

Are they the bad guys? Good guys? Does a dichotomy like that even make sense?

Should you fight to try to stop them?
lets say you get a chance to destroy their scout ship to prevent it getting word back to home base or stop the dimension hopping traveler from calling home.

put another way, what if the tentacled monsters from The Other Side or Far Away or The Distant Future genuinely want to help us and for us to be happy... but in a way that we may not be comfortable with... but which isn't clearly 100% evil either.

57:

damn, my attempt at quote tags didn't work.

This should be in a quote in my above comment:

We are still trying to untangle the twisting references of emotion by which humans might prefer pleasure to pain, and yet endorse complex theories that uphold pain over pleasure. But we have already determined that your children, humankind, do not share the grounding of these philosophies. When they incur pain they do not contemplate its meaning, they only call for it to stop.

"And you should understand, humankind, that when a child anywhere suffers pain and calls for it to stop, then we will answer that call"

58:

God help us, yes - but we are already well on the way there, and the fact that we have been heading in that direction has been clear for at least three decades, but you know the fate of Cassandra :-(

Unfortunately, I think even that's too optimistic, because you are not giving enough importance to the egos of individual sociopaths and the viciousness of the tribalism that hate campaigns create. Even relatively peaceful people will fight when they are pushed far enough, and most wars since Vietnam have been started by much greater powers or at least multinationals, though they were often attempting 'only' regime change or to weaken a thorn in their flesh.

What I am increasingly certain will happen will be that one such 'limited' conflict (e.g. Iraq/Syria) causes one or more regional power to threaten the existence of another and lauch a serious attack, with the support of a great power. And one or more other great powers decide that they have to stand fast or be destroyed incrementally. You can probably guess the scenario I currently think is going to happen :-(

And, w.r.t. #55, yes. The risk (as proved in Vietnam and Afghanistan, passim) is that some power thinks that it has overwhelming superiority, only to discover it hasn't got the RIGHT overwhelming superiority, and a limited campaign turns into a full-blown war or even potential defeat, and it then escalates (possibly by a greater power getting involved, etc.).

59:

If we assume that the Brexit vote reflected the first steps towards the dystopia, I'm not sure that things are as simple as your "wealthy white city-dwellers scared of immigrants". The loudest cries I hear against immigration, come from those who aren't wealthy.

The big-city dwellers who are most likely to know people of a different culture / skin colour, are the ones least threatened by it. Brexit votes also correlated strongly with education - it's not the wealthy who fear immigrants, although those attitudes may be stronger among the older generation (with memories of an Empire on which the sun never set, etc, etc), mainly because they read the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph rather than a broader set of information sources *

Yes, the ultra-wealthy-and-scared seem to own all the newspapers, but how much of that is because they're scared that their views *aren't* widely enough held? And how much of it is driven not by fear and hatred of the other, but greed and a desire to avoid taxes by playing national tax regimes against one another?

* After a couple of decades of debate, my 90-year-old father-in-law is now at the point where he acknowledges the bias of the Daily Mail before he tries to quote one of their "fear and hate" headlines at me ;)

60:

If we assume that the Brexit vote reflected the first steps towards the dystopia

Bad assumption: I'd say the wheels had been turning for close to 50 years at that point, at least since Richard Nixon articulated the Southern Strategy and Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech, if not earlier.

(The "living in cities" bit is because, as of a few years ago, our species is, overall, a city-dwelling species; previously the majority were rural, but we passed 50% urban earlier this century.)

61:

The risk (as proved in Vietnam and Afghanistan, passim) is that some power thinks that it has overwhelming superiority, only to discover it hasn't got the RIGHT overwhelming superiority, and a limited campaign turns into a full-blown war or even potential defeat, and it then escalates (possibly by a greater power getting involved, etc.).

I agree completely.

Fortunately, while the risk is certainly there, escalation isn't a given - examples of strategic miscalculations where that escalation was (mostly) avoided would be Indonesia and Brunei, Guatemala and Belize, Greece and Cyprus, Argentina and the Falkland Islands, or the most recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Perhaps even Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

I suspect that one question is whether the military culture concerned has had a string of recent successes, and enough time to forget the lessons of its last strategic failure; e.g. the US Army officers who learned the lessons of Vietnam in the late 1960s were the senior generals in 1991 (where a Coalition was built and maintained, UN resolutions agreed and followed, and occupation avoided). The Generals who agreed that Afghanistan could be "fixed" in the mid-00s were those who had only known success.

Look at the British - success in Northern Ireland fed forward into Bosnia, then more "peace enforcement" activities in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and led to overreach in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lesson from that was "errr... let's not commit significant ground forces to Libya / Syria".

So the next decade should see reticence on the part of Western armed forces, mainly because their leadership have been through the strategic / operational screwups that provide them with the equivalent of the bloke in the Triumphal chariot whispering *"Remember, you too are mortal"*.

My worry is that such reticence is currently absent from several Middle-Eastern nations, India/Pakistan, possibly China (busy putting missile batteries on man-made reefs in the South China Sea), possibly Russia. The most risk, IMHO, comes at the classic point where your "short victorious war" is seen as the ideal solution to a domestic political issues - and that (right now) is Russia, too long after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but quite soon after perceived success in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, Donbass, Syria. Don't worry, I'm not biased - in twenty years it will probably be the UK/US again.

Note that the quote about a "short victorious war" came from Tsarist Russia, and an Interior Minister referring to domestic dissatisfaction with the regime and the impending Russo-Japanese war...

"What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution."

62:

The army's tanks... have a similar edge.

Perhaps the RN and RAF, but not the Army. The defining factors for a tank are "how far can it see" and "how well-trained are the crew". Those haven't changed in thirty years, certainly not to the extent of the Type 42 / Type 45 improvements. Meanwhile, SHORAD is almost absent, Field Artillery needs an upgrade, the new Brigade structure still hasn't got adequate fighting vehicles...

Meanwhile, our SSN can carry TLAM - but not very many. ISTR that we had to do a rapid reorder around the time of Libya, as we'd fired off most of our stocks - and the production lines aren't exactly high-volume. Even that assumes that we've bet on the right horse...

http://www.ismor.com/32ismor_archive/presentations/22july/pdf/32ismor_adam.pdf

This is another reason why I agree that the next decade won't see a big force-on-force war - the ammunition stockpiles aren't large enough, and the production lines haven't got the capacity to ramp up quickly. Meanwhile, the armies of the West are slowly reconstituting within the scope of their budgets, because wars are hideously expensive - the equipment gets worn out at far greater rates than peacetime.

63:

But they come from a society with nanotech and other crazy-level tech that means that an angry 12 year old who isn't properly monitored and controlled could create a nanotech fockbomb mixed with smallpox and wipe out half a continent.


Coincidentally, this just appeared in the NYT:


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/science/biohackers-gene-editing-virus.html

As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’
By Emily Baumgaertner
May 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — As a teenager, Keoni Gandall already was operating a cutting-edge research laboratory in his bedroom in Huntington Beach, Calif. While his friends were buying video games, he acquired more than a dozen pieces of equipment — a transilluminator, a centrifuge, two thermocyclers — in pursuit of a hobby that once was the province of white-coated Ph.D.’s in institutional labs.

“I just wanted to clone DNA using my automated lab robot and feasibly make full genomes at home,” he said.

[Etc.]

64:

Could be appropriate subject matter if one wished to write a story about human extinction, because I doubt we know anywhere near enough about genetic diversity to cull that many people without paying a dreadful price. There was a Babylon 5 episode "Confessions and Lamentations" involving the extinction of a spacefaring civilization that performed a final solution on what they saw as an inferior race, in the process, destroyed resistance to a lethal disease.

65:

I hadn't consciously intended to equate ambitious sociopaths with demons, but hey, it kinda' fits doesn't it?

66:

Are you sure you're thinking about the right episode?

The various synopsis mention nothing of genocide. Rather a disease became religiously associated with immorality such that nobody was willing to admit when family members caught it and since some believed themselves immune by dint of being moral they didn't take precautions to avoid spread of the infection.

So basically, the moral was be wary of throwing shame at people, it might get everyone killed.

@Allen Thomson

I'm mentally slowly ticking off the checkboxes for what someone would need to recreate smallpox at home for a few thousand dollars.

But it's not something that can realistically be prevented by trying for control of material or legislation.

There are some remarkable people who look at lab equipment which costs 4-5 figures and work out how to create ad-hoc versions out of bean tins and some microcontrollers.

1000 years from now it might genuinely be realistic that the only way to keep the world intact is to stick a supervisor in every individuals head that watches for intent to cause harm.

67:

In the UK, the post-war socialist (yes, I mean that, in the original sense of socialism) political consensus had started to fall apart by the 1960s, because of the tribalism of the Labour and union fanatics. But it didn't really collapse until 25-30 years ago, when you-know-who did the same to the Conservatives, only even more thoroughly and viciously. I knew that Brexit would happen from about 25 years back, because of the way that control of the media, our public infrastructure and other services had been sold to mainly USA oligarchs, who were almost all anti-socialist fanatics.

68:

III. Since I've just got my Open Water dive qualifications... Fishlike marine being *AND* living forever? Yes, yes yes yes, hell yes, hell to the yes, definitely positively yes.

And for bonus points, human-grade intelligence underwater will let you properly f*** up factory ships, bottom trawlers, and fat rich white Americans wanting to kill things for fun. Fishing from a boat stops being fun when the fish get cutting torches. So you've got an ecological win there too.

69:

Greg, I've no idea about anything, except that it will most-likely involve the Muddled East. I've got a friend who "knows stuff" and he's said a couple really weird things about the Middle East which I should probably not repeat.

Given my friend's comments and OGH's weird ability to anticipate stuff, I really want him to write a happy sequel to "A Colder War." Just sayin'

70:

While Lovecraft certainly was racist to the point of near-insanity, I'm not sure that "Mountains of Madness" is about sympathy for the slavemaker - note the word "maker" here. We just don't know how intelligent the shoggoths are supposed to be; they certainly don't attempt to make verbal or telepathic contact with a third race that looks nothing like their old masters, they just try and eat the humans. And we don't know how the Elder Things treated the shoggoths either, so it's a little difficult to draw any conclusions.

71:

I can definitely see that, but it's short-sighted. For example, what if the end-state, or even the middle-state of global warming is an environment where Balinese-style rice-farming is the ideal way to grow food. The smart thing to do, (which we can count on the rich/right/conservative types to not do) is to preserve as many of the Earth's cultures as possible here in the north, with the idea that some of them may already have the answers we need.

I know it ain't gonna happen, but I'm writing about it anyway (in a long-form story.)

The terrible thing about the rich/right/conservatives is not that they are rich/right/conservative, but that they are utterly spoiled* and ridiculously unwilling to listen to anyone with expertise.

* This is the big one. Spoiled.

72:

The delights of a small group of us having a week in Belize with nothing to do, c.1992... we took a trip to Ambergris Caye, and rattled through our PADI qualifications next to the Hol Chan marine reserve on one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

"Unbelievable beauty" doesn't come close to doing it justice (the site link has photo albums); 28C water, 40m visibility. I defy anyone to see it close to hand, and not weep when they see coral bleaching, or sites damaged by careless tourist boats. Diving in the Mediterranean, and snorkelling in other Caribbean sites since, is a barren featureless wasteland by comparison - we didn't fully appreciate how spoilt we were.

However, being a tool-using chimp is great on land, but we aren't the apex predator underwater - even with pointy tools and high intelligence. Try competing with Orca, and I suspect we'll come off second.

BTW, I strongly recommend Mira Grant's "Into the Drowning Deep" - loved it.

74:

I think we might kick it off with Saudi Arabia and Iran shooting at each other. At the moment the Saudis are being very aggressive, and the only thing stopping the Iranians from responding with real force, which was U.S. participation in rewarding Iran for not building nukes, has just gone away. (Thanks Trump.)

75:

I did my qualifications in Egypt. Yeah, a live reef is a total nother world. A highlight for me was finding a 5-foot-diameter turtle asleep on the top of a small seamount.

We're not apex predators on land either. Humans with pointy tools don't fare too well against tigers, hippos and elephants, but intelligence means we've found ways around that. Spears, arrows and guns have taken things in our favour. And even then, the real bonus of intelligence is to spot this early and avoid trouble in the first place.

I still don't think other aquatic wildlife are the biggest threat to a fishy human though. We have plenty of divers already, but very few injuries from wildlife (and most of those are self-inflicted). The major threat to things aquatic these days is some bastard with a harpoon or cyanide or a drift net. I'm all for changing those odds.

76:

I've come to the conclusion that the issues with Brexit are all psychological; that is, the British upper class has a collective guilt complex about their earlier colonialism, and they have decided that the only way to atone is for the U.K. to become a third world country. What else could be motivating them?

/snark

77:

I date the problem to the day Reagan killed the "Fairness Doctrine," which required television outlets to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance." In practice this meant that if a television station ran a conservative opinion piece, they had to allow rebuttal from a responsible party who disagreed. This kept the airwaves in the "middle of the road" and you could count on getting both sides of the story from a single station.

That doesn't happen anymore, which is what makes outlets like Faux News able to spread their lies.

78:

I can definitely see that, but it's short-sighted.

It's also insanely stupid, long-term self-destructive, and cruel.

But looking at our current crop of so-called "leaders", from Trump to Netenyahu to Orban by way of Erdogan and Duterte, isn't it a bit much to expect anything better?

We need some kind of revolution. Not the old-school tumbril-rolling guillotine-chopping variety, but something better. If I knew what it looked like I'd write a goddamn manifesto. But this shit's tough.

79:

The Revolution of Lowered Expectations sounded like a pretty good one to me.

80:

I want to start a "Best Practices" party. We've had sixty-years of "mostly peace" in which the world has tried all kinds of solutions to our problems, each of which has left a careful record in bureaucratic records and scientific research. So we treat each first-world country and each U.S. state as a separate experiment, and go looking for good outcomes.

Broadly, we learn that capitalism works for producing goods and services, but that it must be regulated in a New Deal-like fashion. We learn that healthcare is most effective when it is socialized. We learn that public education is an enormous social good. We learn that keeping colleges either free or very inexpensive confers an enormous advantage to the countries which do this. Etc.

And that becomes a political platform, supported by ongoing research into "what works." There's something to attract everyone, because everyone gets to say, "here is what my philosophy/church/political party/etc contributed." If you take away the religious and racial twaddle, even some of the conservative stuff about strong families, good discipline, and personal responsibility is useful. Some of the Mormon stuff about keeping a year's worth of supplies in your home is doubtless a very good idea. Etc.

Plus, we take very seriously whatever established science is telling us!

That's the skeleton for my manifesto.

81:

"what if the end-state, or even the middle-state of global warming is an environment where Balinese-style rice-farming is the ideal way to grow food."

What if the ideal housing is old-irish peat houses?

I'm reminded of a talk years ago by a lovely woman from brazil descended from natives. Someone in the audience asked her if she thought it was a tragedy that her people were losing their culture and that people no longer lived the way their ancestors did.

Her response was to ask how many people in the audience would prefer to live in peat houses similar to those their great grandparents occupied without electricity.

People love the idea of preservation of cultures but almost universally it's people who want someone else to do the hard part of actually living those cultures. If you're a teenager born into it and it's your own life where you face a life dictated by a bunch of your communities traditionalists... mostly you'll turn around and say "fuck that I want hot running water and a washing machine"

As for knowledge, methods etc. I'm also reminded of a blacksmith I know. He has a strong interest in classical methods but he's the first to say that all the popular culture stuff about Damascus steel is utter bunk. Almost no knowledge is genuinely lost. We can make steel vastly superior in every way to Damascus steel, the only mystery was how they did it with older methods and even for that various people have a pretty solid methods worked out to get almost identical results using ancient techniques.

If there's an ideal farming method you don't have to force countless young people to live like their great grandparents on the off-chance that the techniques might just possibly maybe turn out to be useful at some point to everyone else. If it becomes important then modern humans still have functioning brains and have a track record of being fully capable of coming up with superior solutions when needed.

82:

Balinese rice-farming is pretty good. It produces two harvests a year, plus the rice fields are filled with eels, so it also produces protein. It's highly compatible with modern society - being a Balinese farmer does not precluded electricity or washing machines - and the Balinese people are some of the happiest folks I've ever met. And it doesn't have to be reinvented by "smart people," because it already exists!

83:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: You might notice that you're now seeing the blog via secure HTTP (URLs begin with https:, padlock icon displayed in some browsers). This is entirely intentional -- my sysadmin finally got around to switching on a feature to force https loading in most browsers.

84:

I'm not. I've just copied and pasted the URL my browser is using, to check, too.

85:

I'm getting https.

86:

I thought of a possibly viable solution decades ago, but not how to get there :-( And the one thing that is guaranteed to unite even moderately reasonable party activists is how undesirable my solution is ....

87:

This is both weird and totally in tune with Frank's top post!

88:

NO
And partially yes - much more in the usa than here & probably not in most of the EU
Starvation for the untermenschen - not going to go that far, the push-back is already under way. See here, f'rinstance
Broken social security systems - well, we've had thta for some time, down mostly to incompetence, but I agree that it isn't going to get significantly better.
Deportation - yes in the USA - not here, not now, not after "Windrush"
Removal of the right to use cash money: _ NOT GOING TO HAPPEN
You are assuming there is a deiberate plan, apart from some in the USA?
Field-testing of:
Racism - probably peaked, here, though not in USA
Religiopus bigotry ( I will ignore your delibearte attemot to wind me up ) - well nothing new there: WHo are the biggest killer of innocent muslims? Other not so innocent luslims of other muslim sects, oh dear, & I rest my case.
Sexism - I think the willy wavers are losing.
Why am I so cautiously optimistic?
Brexit, of all things - people are backing away from it & what it has uncovered.

I am still hoping that we will get a proper 2nd referendum, which will crash Brexit - though useless wet rag Corbyn worries me more than May - he's a hard Brexiteer, for ideological "reasons".

Your picture of TB etc delibearately being allowed to run rampant won't be allowed to happen, either, if you actually care to think about why that mioght be so - it also would threaten the "elites" wouldn't it?

89:

ADMIN NOTE of my own
I assume that the unable-to-repost in a short timespan has been deliberately extended - not a problem if so.
BUT: My login has been corrupted & I have to retype the password every time & it won't re-set.
I'm having to wait about 10 minutes before I can get in again .... through a combination of these factors
The reason I'm saying this is .... Is anyone else getting this or similar glitches?

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

EC / Martin / Charlie @ 59 / 60 / 61 / 67
OK, agree with most of those - but.
WHY are the people with most to lose from Brexit, the most vociferous supporters of it?
IF CHarlie's earlier analysis was correct ( as opposed to partially / curate's egg correct ) then you would expect those closer to power, the "middle classes" & "metropolitan eleites" to be pro-Brexit & they ain't.
The tiny minority of corrupt oligarchs like Murdoch - I can see why they want to be bigger fish in a smaller pond - also divde & rule.
But he deliberate self-harm by traditional Labour voters really confuses me.

90:

I'm getting https (consistently) and figured it was quietly fixed. All good here.

91:

That's pretty much how I feel -- here is my avatar on www.scubaboard.com: https://www.scubaboard.com/community/data/avatars/m/6/6996.jpg?1090808271

I've been diving since 2000

92:

Looks like it depends whether your browser understands "Content-Security-Policy: upgrade-insecure-requests" headers.

93:

My generic comment on that is twofold:

One is that it's too simple to last, since the problem with climate change isn't increasing heat, it's increasing unpredictability. This is the ultimate in managerial simplification, and it would work if the Earth cooperated and stayed niiiice and predictable. Unfortunately, the Earth won't. As a distraction, it's perfect, but remember that even Rome ended its circuses well before the Empire died (ignoring the chariot races for a moment...).

There are some interesting self-organizing alternatives out there. I'm particularly interested in the Rainbow family, which shouldn't work, but somehow not only keeps working, but is spreading around the world. It's not a permanent alternate society because Rainbow Gatherings only last a few weeks to a month, but it's an interesting precisely because it's mostly self-organizing and repurposes junk and (often homeless) people, which is the worst kind of thing for a top-down capitalist system to deal with.

Well, three-fold: I'm betting on cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, and corn along with (or more than) rice. Rice is enormously productive in a stable system, but as noted above, we're looking at instability, not stability. Cassava (manioc) is, pests aside, about the toughest crop out there and the most tolerant of humid heat, with sorghum (the most tolerant of dry heat) and sweet potatoes running close behind. Corn can be enormously productive too, without the paddies. Still, big monocultures are disaster magnets, so doing still more industrial agriculture probably will only work until we start getting into phosphorus wars. Then we'll see the shit hit the fan, or more likely, get exported, just because we'll have to recycle phosphorus like no one's business to keep people fed.

94:

I'm wondering whether AI might be useful in predicting whether events far enough in advance that someone can know what crops to plant. Even if we can only predict stability 60 days into the future, that's good enough for two crops of radishes - I'm not sure about the growth rate of other vegetables.

95:

It probably does, but I have set it into maximal "Ignore what those manipulative web sites are up to" mode :-)

96:

The other question, which goes along with Frank's top post is this: What's currently as scary as the stuff Lovecraft talked about? The only thing I can think of is nano-stuff. Any other candidates?

97:

Yeah, maybe. I think climate modelers are heading towards the hourly climate forecast, and they're currently on monthly. That would be good for things like estimating chill hours, which are necessary for many temperate fruit trees. The problem is that temporal and spatial scale are two different things. Currently the GCMs run on rather large grid cells, and they're trying to shrink the temporal scale. Shrinking the spatial scale is (AFAIK) done by taking the results from the big cells, setting those as boundary conditions, and modeling behavior inside the cell.

This doesn't mean that the weather will be perfectly predictable. A lot depends on things like weather radar and balloon sampling. The great example of that was the Kauai flood last month (28" of rain in 24 hours and 36" in 48 hours). They'd predicted scattered showers up to a few hours before the rain started IIRC, in part because they don't have the density of weather radar that the California coast does, so they didn't know quite what was going on. Also, northern Kauai has a steep "cloud-catching" mountain face, and it obviously generated orographic rainfall with a vengeance (there's a reason that the wettest place in the US is a northeast facing mountain on Kauai). The American Midwest often gets all sorts of warning, because the storms that hit it started in either the West Coast or the Gulf Coast (or both) and spent days coming through all sorts of weather sensors before they get to the Midwest.

tl;dr: sensor data matters, satellites matter, and in the absence of data, prediction is impossible.

Whether this will help us deal with climate change depends. If we don't get into Space War I, we'll continue to have satellites watching storms develop, and that will be good. If someone decides to set off a Kessler chain reaction to, say, quash US SPAWAR dominance, then we might lose all our weather satellites, in which case, the best GCM/meteorology models will become increasingly useless without data correcting for undetected chaos creeping into the weather system.

98:

What's currently as scary as the stuff Lovecraft talked about? The only thing I can think of is nano-stuff. Any other candidates?

Well, if I might adopt the Rumsfeldian Taxonomy, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

Like, we know that our current understanding of physics is massively deficient, so there's the possibility of unpleasant surprises there. Also we don't understand the nature of life, intelligence, consciousness, etc. very well shading into at all. So ditto.

Then there are the unknown unknowns, and here I would point to the fact that our understanding of the basic nature of the universe/reality has been undergoing fundamental shifts pretty rapidly for the past several centuries. So we can expect such Black Swans to come visiting, to unknown effect. Maybe good effect, maybe not so good.

99:

The trouble with this question is that being scared is a short-term feeling. People might be scared of food shortages induced by war or climate change, but they're not going to be scared while they're dealing with it for the sixth month in a row. Fearful and traumatized, yes, but it's not quite the same as the bogeyman jumping out from behind the door.

What about the future do you want to be scared about? The Trump family running a mandatory social media ranking scheme on the US (as in China), the implementation outsourced to one of the De Vos family companies? That's scary. Dealing with it? Probably annoying as all get out, mostly because I'll have to use the post office to actually mail letters written by hand, rather than emailing people so that some stupid big data system can look for specific words in my texts. But that's not necessarily scary, just old school.

Frank

100:

I am able to view the site in https if I enter the protocol manually in my address bar, but I am not automatically redirected from http. (Viewing with Firefox on Windows 10.)

Also, I notice that when I view the site via https, when I click on one of the "this is a reply to X" hyperlinks to view the comment being replied-to, my browser seems to reload the entire page. When browsing via http, my browser just scrolls to the anchor without reloading.

101:

Scary is discovering that you're powerless when you thought you had agency; insignificant when you thought you mattered; wrong when you were convinced you were correct in the basic assumptions that drive your sense of self.

That's why "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and zombie movies work so well in the USA - they're about socialism, that fear that you're going to find that you were wrong and that eventually everyone else will disagree with you.

The externally-validated right wing male who sees women as arm candy, and their beauty as status? You terrify him by suggesting that he is gay, or that his efforts to win the game of life (by having more toys) can be made null by their removal.

The ego-driven political activist, convinced of their absolute worthiness but lacking in genuine empathy? To find out that they didn't change a damn thing, that they don't matter, that their political position is now in the wilderness, to be dropped by their supporters.

The average young man? Suggest that everyone else is earning more, getting nicer things, going to more parties, having more sex, getting faster promotions.

Obvious stuff, I know...

102:

I forgot to mention the Total Perspective Vortex...

103:

Forgetting and finding the old stuff in perpetuity was the fate of the Moties - building their civilizations up to a peak, collapsing into a war that takes them back to an earlier level of development, then rebuilding. In perpetuity. The novel had some major weaknesses, but the concept was great.

104:

That would be the need for a war to keep him in power.

105:

Actually, I think Putin realizes that conscript armies are useless as armies. However, they have other uses

1. It removes younger Russians from family environments that might shelter them from propaganda.

2. Young men who spend two years away from home are likely to slip up and reveal their true political feelings. This could be the beginning of a China-like AI profiling of potential dissidents

3. Russia is only 80 percent Russian. Mixing people up might build up an espirit de corps with regards to minorities. I know it's not enough: Austria-Hungary had a similar policy yet still fractured

4. It keeps young men "busy" and away from actions which may hurt the regime.

5. Boots on the ground are probably necessary in the 20% of Russia (by population) that's not ethnic Russian.

In short, your argument is based on accepting the optics at face value.

106:

The advantages to a nation (if you do it properly, and don’t allow the system to be gamed / strings pulled) come from the social mixing; it forces conscripts out of a social bubble, exposes them to other experience; it should guarantee that the armed services see the full spectrum of society, i.e. the brightest and highest performers (there was a Nobel winner in the WW1 Royal Engineers; John Tiltman (who managed one of the big WW2 Bletchley breaks) was awarded the Military Cross in WW1 with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers). JRR Tolkien was a Regimental Signals Officer in an infantry battalion. Obviously, for WW1 British infantry units there’s the endless poetry...;)

I would point out by contrast that Dedovschina is hardly “doing it properly” - the Russian Army possibly lost more to suicide than the US did to combat deaths, over recent years...

The disadvantages of conscription include having to structure your equipment and operating doctrine around simplicity as well as mass, and reduced levels of training; simple, low-maintenance systems have to trade off performance, adequacy for mastery. While this is a necessity for times of mass warfare (WW2, Cold War) it’s not so effective for the small wars of “peacetime”. A colleague who did an exchange with the Czech Army in the mid-90s described their surprise when he picked up one of their standard rifles, and was able to outperform most of them with it - because even as a reservist, he had more range time, and had received better-quality range training, than their regulars. My father described the happy moment in the early 1960s when the British Army got rid of conscription, and started to treat its soldiers as volunteers, not pressed men (responsible professionals*, not unwilling prisoners of the system).

This isn’t always true, if you’re careful and selective - a decade or two ago, there was grumpiness when the big NATO tank competition (the Canadian Army Trophy) had Dutch conscripts in German tanks, beating German conscripts in German tanks, beating American professionals in American tanks. Or when the US Navy hired a Swedish Navy submarine, spent a lot of effort failing to find it, while finding that some of the crew were a) conscripts and b) female (but... but...)

Another disadvantage when The Revolution comes (as the Former Yugoslav, Libyan, and Syrian regimes discovered) is that everyone knows how to use the weaponry and operate basic infantry tactics, when The Day comes, The People Rise, and the weapons are available... and in a civil war, it ensures that the war is more violent.

* for a given value of irresponsible.

107:

Not really. In places like the UK, even now, the forecasts often change faster than the weather. They can predict the pattern up to a month in the more stable locations and when the weather pattern is fairly stable, but not above a week otherwise. And, as you say, predicting the pattern isn't a great deal of practical use if the local variations are larger than the global ones.

Also, as you imply, despite the claims, the massive supercomputers and better algorithms are NOT the main reason that forecasts are so much better than they were. I remember when we had a single weather ship in the North Atlantic, and the forecasts were a joke. While they keep improving the sensors on the satellites, they don't provide accurate enough estimates of the atmosphere at all levels to enable really good modelling. But supercomputers and satellites are cheap compared to direct measurements.

109:

As for Russia, ... Okay, if Russia showed signs of going for economic modernization with automation/robotics, this would be grounds for serious alarm ... but they're still stuck in their early-20th century resource extraction mode.

Check out this site.
https://www.flightradar24.com
Zoom out so you can see the entire world. Any time of day or night the ex USSR doesn't have many planes in the air. More than central Africa but not much more.

Once I started using this to track flights I was impressed as to how the plane count (or stacked blob) over a country seemed to correlate as to how forward moving their economy is currently.

And there are a crap load of flights in the air over the US, EU, Middle East, and China in the middle of their nights. Cargo mostly.

110:

Since we're in the realm of the scary counterfactual, how about this one: the Laundry Files is the good news version. In reality [sic]:

Science is just a delusion created by the Great Elder Gods to give us the false belief that we understand the most basic aspects of reality, even if the details are sometimes fuzzy. But it's all "faked" data, cleverly inserted into notebooks and dataloggers by hardworking minions of the GEGs. This makes the inevitable nasty end that much more poignant.

In fact, vaccines cause global warming and burning fossil fuels causes autism. Causality sensu stricto is an illusion, since the GEGs are the only true causality. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a subtle hint that the laws of nature are malleable and conform to belief rather than following immutable laws.

Oh, and for bonus chills: Trump is a manifestation of the collective subconscious and is therefore the leader we deserve. As Sting so presciently and chillingly observed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5FPPoLqkCk

Okay, now I need a stiff drink, and this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU

111:

Reagan killed the "Fairness Doctrine," which required television outlets to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance." In practice this meant that if a television station ran a conservative opinion piece, they had to allow rebuttal from a responsible party who disagreed.

Were you around then? Most of what I remember was by the 70s it meant incredibly incredibly dull no names talking to each other on time slots that absolutely no one would buy ads for. So in my area of 50K people maybe 3 were watching.

112:

"fuck that I want hot running water and a washing machine"

My grandmother's favorite saying was "The best thing about the good ole days is that they are GONE!!!"

She was born in the early 20s and spent a part of her childhood or teens picking cotton for $.01 per pound. If you worked hard and got over the bloody hand to a good layer of callous' you she could make a $1 per day in the 30s.

113:

Hmmm. No HTTPS for me. In the USA with a VPN routing me around the US. Mac Firefox.

114:

Nor currently for me, though it did do it a few hours ago so I suspect configuration options are in flux.

(Chrome, Mac, out of the box)

115:

I know that in times of mass warfare combat deaths exceed suicides. However, in today's non-conscript US army suicides exceed combat deaths. So I'm not sure you can really point the finger at Russia. This brings up an interesting question, how does the Russian Army suicide rate compare to the rate in comparable standing armies?

116:

Pale Moon (forked from Firefox back in the mid 20s) on Wondows 7 logs "Content Security Policy: Couldn't process unknown directive 'upgrade-insecure-requests'" on its console. Firefox itself running on Linux processes the directive but only if the HTTPS version of the page has been requested in the first place.

117:

Yeah, but the problem is that the ideal farming technique, from most perspectives, is small-farming. It's more efficient and often more productive, because you have people who know a smaller farm intimately trying to get the best out of it, rather than a huge factory farm running on algorithms that average across very different parcels to minimize overall costs and maximize subsidies, at the expense of inefficiency.

That's one of the inconvenient issues that keeps pulling people back to the land.

One of the big problems in US agriculture is that there's a huge welfare system set up for big agriculture companies and big landowners (many of which are now minor subsidiaries of multinational companies). There are any number of reasons why this works: the politics of small numbers of buddies, a few people getting lucky, money chasing around looking for investments (which is why we currently grow so many almonds and so much alfalfa in California--exports to China for one and to horses and cattle for the other).

Now yes, this unduly romanticizes the peasants. I'm well aware that most people who go back to the land fail (as I would. I'm not a farmer), and that over time, less successful farmers almost inevitably get bought out by bigger farms. The problem is that this trend is not sustainable. When things fall apart, people inevitably go back to small farming, which tells you something about how efficient it is for life support. If industrial farming was better, why didn't people go for, say, collectives as the USSR crashed (instead kitchen gardens helped feed the country), or during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, or even as the western Roman Empire collapsed? There certainly were communities that could have collectivized, and they often shared commons, tools, and activities like harvesting. Why didn't they?

The answer has to do with knowledge and adaptability. Big farms are great when things are fairly predictable and you can replicate a production model without too much customizing to each plot. Small farms are good for specializing and having expert knowledge about a particular plot of land. In many cases, that works out better, especially when things are highly variable spatially and temporally. Yes, they also need to have a community supporting them for when things go wrong, but that's equally true for giant farms.

This is one reason I'm suspicious about claims that we'll fight climate change by increasing the pace of industrialization, systematization, and corporate buy-outs of existing farms--accelerating existing trends, in other words. I doesn't seem to fit the model of what works, and it does look a lot like PR where companies try to keep doing what they're already doing, albeit for reasons (rationalizations?) diametrically opposed to the reasons they did it before.

In any case, I hope that as we adapt to climate change, we get more skilled farmers, not fewer. We need more expertise in our food and nutrient recycling webs, not less. Also, I'm not clear that things like carbon farming do work on factory farms, aside from the manure digesters. How well can Big Ag do no-till and permaculture?

118:

What's currently as scary as the stuff Lovecraft talked about?

The fact that Nanjing happened, and Katyn happened, and Oradour-sur-Glane happened, and the Holocaust happened, and the SS and NKVD and KGB torture chambers happened, and everyone said "this must never be allowed to happen again". And then they all did it again, and again, and again. We even have Holocaust victims unleashing another Holocaust on the Palestinians.

And amazingly, the West is even doing the SS St Louis again, deporting people back to regimes which is actively trying to murder them.

Horrors beyond the stars simply aren't that scary. Sure, they eat your soul - that's in their nature. Real horror though is your friends and neighbours, who you've known for all your life, suddenly deciding to unleash rape-torture-murder on you and your family for no reason whatsoever. It's like every zombie movie - except the people doing it are still your friends, and they're still just as they used to be, but somehow they see you as the un-human creature.

And the meta-horror is that we've had the leaders of the world gather together time after time and say "we must not allow this to happen". And then they've always turned a blind eye when it happens. We're supposed to be smarter than this, but we don't seem to be.

119:

In 1976, the November issue of Playboy, in addition to the long interview with Carter before he was elected President, was an article called "There Are 8 Million Stories in the Naked City, and This is the Last One". This is during the default of NYC... and talked bout how the wealthy had tested out in the Third World to concept of "lowering expectations", to defeat the socialist-leaning wave with the end of colonialism, and the default was bringing it back home (shut up all them damn demonstrators, and wimmen and kids and ethnics who don't know their place).

It's been running since then.

120:

Right, I do need to actually sit down and start working on my political book, now that I have a table of contents/structure for it.... Once I get *that* out the door, I can call myself a Markist.

121:

Damascus steel: sorry, we found out how to do that in the sixties. It was a matter of annealing, and then very, very slow cooling, like 12 hrs? 18hrs?

122:

"Conscript armies useless"? Really? So, all the drafted troops in, say, the US Civil War, and WWI, and WWII, and Korea, and 'Nam, were useless?

And I'll also note that after every damn war in the last century, the studies show that you can bomb all you want... but it doesn't end it till you have boots on the ground to hold the territory.

And there's been discussion, at least in the States, for a while, that if we had the draft again, we might have a *lot* more of a brake on getting into more useless wars.

Finally, and speaking of only 80% Russian... I'll note that it's pretty much proven that one result of WWII, and the drafted and MIXED military was... the Civil Rights Movement.

"Just a couple of weeks ago, a few blocks from here, the Dirty Rat shot himself, his Aryan Supermen defeated by a 'mongrel race'. - On A Note Of Triumph, Norman Corwin, and yes, you should go find it and listen to it, the CBS broadcast for VE Day, in 1945.

123:

No, Trumpolini can't be the expression of our subconscious, he's not invisible, and can't power his way through steel doors, and I really don't want to blow up the planet to defeat him....

124:

how does the Russian Army suicide rate compare to the rate in comparable standing armies?

Things have been made more awkward by Putin's 2015 change to Russian law, making casualty rates in the Russian armed services a "State Secret" (shortly after someone exposed the number of Russian soldiers who were dying in Eastern Ukraine).

Anyway, "Dedovschina" was blamed for 341 deaths in 2007 (and this was a 15% reduction). If you assume that the Russian Ground Forces have a strength of 350,000 you've got at least a 0.1% per year death rate from bullying.

A comparable death rate due to bullying would mean 80 soldiers per year dying in the British Army, or 480 per year in the US Army. The UK figures are published here; in 2010, the British Army had one suicide, and five open verdicts (it also had 65 combat deaths per 100,000 soldiers, at a time when a Brigade was fighting in Helmand Province). The US figures are here, and show a suicide rate of 30 per 100,000 (compared with a wider US national rate of 12.6 suicides per 100,000). A quick search appears to show figures of 10 per 100,000 for the Israelis - another conscript army - and 18 per 100,000 in the French Armed Forces.

So yes, the Russian Army's figure of 100 per 100,000 active soldiers indicates a far more brutal environment than in the West; they proportionally killed more of its own troops through peacetime bullying than the British Army was losing in combat.

125:

Yes, I was, and yes, mostly it was, and your point is? With that as a brake, you did *not* have the freakin' shock jocks, and right-wing liars like Limburger.

126:

The "Best Practices" Party is a great theory. In practice, I'm afraid that most of its adherents will adopt its rhetoric and not its practices. Then again, I'm a little bit jaded by the previous talk of "ecosystem health" (start with a problematic metaphor, add lots of lube, try to sell it...), and adapting to climate change (ditto, with indulgences in the form of post hoc carbon offsets).

127:

I think of a systems approach, where there is always a trade-off between efficiency, which really only means optimisation of certain parameters and resilience. Monocultures are optimised for output versus labour inputs, but our current approach requires large energy inputs. Resilience is supplied by having several large monocultures and applies across the system at a regional or broader level, not at the individual farm level even for really large farms or climate districts.

In the situations you describe, the labour inputs to make big monocultures work require a small number of knowledgeable managers (potentially the officers of a collective), with a large supply of labour at planting and harvest time. Since it would need to be organised at the local level, it would lack even the resilience supplied by the large scale diversity in the present system. Crop failure would mean complete and immediate disaster. Meanwhile the population of labourers would need to have utmost trust in the managers, even if they are "of themselves". And the managers would be stuck without the labour.

In contrast if each small family or community has its own "managers" and "labourers" and the endeavour is at a scale where these are essentially the same people, the arrangement for diversity within plantings is inherently more resilient. And in the case of a whole-farm crop failure, a family could trade with its neighbours.

The main point is around general resilience: have two of everything, have things that fail in different circumstances to each other, have a diversity that provides for the right sort of calories and nutrients throughout the seasons.

129:

It's not two of everything, it's hedging your bets. The problem is that there are two mental math models for productivity. There's productivity maximization, which is where you use your high school calculus to find the local maximum and try to manage for that. Then there's bet hedging, where you use your college stats class to figure out risks, and adopt a portfolio of approaches to minimize the chance that you get less than the minimum you need (which, in agriculture, is known as starving).

The problem is that it is hard to both optimize output and minimize risk of total failure, especially since simplistic takes on output (generally as required by governments) tend to focus on outputs of single crops. The mostly-true slogan for this is that resilience is the inverse of productivity.

This gets to the next problem: markets and governments. Markets want a predictable flow of inputs. For instance, bakeries run on bread wheat (I think #2 bread wheat is the common standard), and they need a predictable amount of that coming to market to make flour for bread and other baked goods. Growing huge monocultures of wheat is therefore profitable, but also highly problematic if anything from Hessian fly to wheat rust gets into your crop (or a badly timed storm, for that matter). Something like Three Sisters agriculture (corn, beans, squash) is actually more productive per acre, but the problem is that it doesn't necessarily deliver the amount of corn the markets need, or the amount of beans, or the amount of squash. This potentially supplies three markets, but the actual yield depends on the growing season. It's good for the farmer, because with three potential food or income streams, so it's easier to make a living or, at the minimum, feed a family. But it takes a different kind of economy to feed a huge non-agricultural population off something like corn, beans, and squash grown in together in a polyculture. Also, it really sucks to mechanize this polyculture, so you've got to have manual labor picking all three crops, and that adds to expenses.

The only reason to pick on the Three Sisters is that the Mayans and Aztecs did just fine with it. Then again, they ran entirely on manual labor, so their economic structures were quite different. A lot of the challenges we face in agriculture right now are trying to adapt our highly mechanized system to function more like a polyculture. Unfortunately, the obvious solution--get more people into farming, also makes a lot of people cringe for some reason, and not least because it destabilizes futures markets, upsets the logistics for feeding the military industrial complex, and potentially makes cities the sites of food shortages, which leads to massive political instability.

130:

Nice.

To answer your question, he did. His archaeologists were truly amazing at deducing that the Elder Things were socialist slavemakers, simply from their hurried dicpherment of multi-million year-old alien friezes alone. Truly amazing--I want to get my PhD with those Miskatonic professors. IIRC, The whole Yithians are Nazis thing came from someones recollections as a time traveler. I also believe that the Mi-Go were on Earth to mine metals, which can be seen as an economic activity.

There's also the whole Dreamlands economic web, where foreign vessels sailing to strange ports to buy and sell exotic items and all.

131:

It was a rhetorical question, to go along with the link, but thanks for the answer regardless.

132:

1 Only partially working no 301 http -> https redirect

2 If I manually go to the https it only works on some browsers edge on win 10 seems messed up. I suspect that there is some unsecured content shenanigans probably hard coded http resources.

btw botched https migrations can have nasty effects as Homebase found out the hard way.

133:

I'm sorry, Ilya, your proposed obvious solution is not evolutionarily stable (which means, given the age of the Motie civilization, that it will not be observed). The problem is that any Master who adopts this solution of reproducing fertile offspring only once (which is below replacement rate) will not increase the frequency of her alleles in the gene pool, and thus due to accident their frequency will fall over time -- while other Masters, who do not adopt this solution, will increase the frequency of theirs. If the tendency to adopt this solution, or even the personality traits needed, are inherited, and given enough time, and given that all else is equal, the low-reproducing Masters will be eliminated from the gene pool. Of course, all else is *not* equal, because real organisms have more complex instinctive machinery handling this than just "reproduce only once" versus "reproduce like mad". Humans, at least, appear to use some variant of "reproduce enough that, given the situation in which you grew up, some of your offspring will be likely to survive", though the details are unclear. Thus, increasing stability leads to radically falling numbers of children -- in the *next* generation.

The book sort of covers this area, noting at least one past group which did invent a working method of birth control. It was outpopulated and crushed by its neighbours, which did not use that method of birth control. The only way to make this work is to have the whole of civilization use the same method, such that no group which does not use it can get numerous enough to outcompete the main grouping before it is detected and stopped. (One wonders why this never happened -- presumably the Moties' violent allergy to anything like central control. It's their *territoriality* and inability to cooperate on a large scale which dooms them, in my view. They have nothing like countries, only a mass of sometimes-cooperating micro-tribes. Libertarian paradise -- not.)


134:

Re: conscription, military suicide risk

Haven't read all of the posts - and not up on this mythos - but noticed a comment about how conscription may not be a good idea and Russia's high suicide rate.

Conscription/the draft forces folks with very different emotional/mental stability into kill or be killed situations. Data from WW1 up to Viet Nam showed that a significant proportion of dead soldiers never pulled the trigger and just stood waiting to be shot. Those were wars fought by conscripts.

Even so, folks who volunteer for military service have higher rates of depression, PTSD, substance abuse and suicide than most civilian groups. (One of the few 'improvements' since VN among US military is that it seems there's a smaller proportion now who when faced by an enemy weapon can only stand in shock waiting to be killed.)

On a related note ... Military service is still considered a last (noble) resort for getting out of rough neighborhoods and turning one's life around. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work out seeing as 23% of total homeless in the US are veterans. Curious how the war-happy right-wingers reconcile this: they're proud of USian military prowess/capability but treat veterans worse than strays.

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/veterans.html

About the USSR/Russia ... my impression is that in this culture psychology is only ever considered as a weapon or something that can be used for tactical advantage. Unlike in the West, psychology is not part of the everyday notion of mental/emotional/psychological 'personal health and well-being' which might explain some of the disparity in suicide rates. (Probably also true of other countries with high religiosity vs. psych.)

135:

Re: 'In some desolate wilderness near your home, you run into a being that offers to let you, or perhaps your species, whichever, join an intergalactic civilization.'

First, I'd invite this fella into my home and ask to see his brochures and any fine print legal stuff. Next, would mention that I knew some killer ad agencies that'd really get folks lining up. Third, get him to sign a contract before heading to the agency.

More seriously - if this alien was all that super-duper advanced tech civilization*, why even bother to physically meet with a human. Would make much more sense to figure out an AI approach via Internet (with appropriated sim'ed face/body) to personalize recruitment. Would also reduce the risk of getting caught by authorities. (With smartphones, you're never out of touch with the Internet so a remote location is no excuse for not using online approach.)

* Although even advanced tech civilizations probably have their technophobes, tech rejectors.

136:

This brings up an interesting question, how does the Russian Army suicide rate compare to the rate in comparable standing armies?

When people talk about such things I want to also see the rate for the non military population of the country of people of a similar age.

137:

Jesse Helms rose to power as a commentator on WRAL in central NC in the 60s/70s.

138:

That's true now, although I suspect that, were the Mi-Go actually fronting for the Culture, they'd change tactics by year.

The point of that one, as others noted, was to juxtapose the Culture and the Mythos in the 1920s. It was also to highlight that one of the elements of HPL's horror was a fear of anarchy. There's probably some interesting stories to be mined there, juxtaposing the ways anarchy was perceived in the 1920s with the ways it is dealt with now.

As for modern close encounters, given that there's a rather interesting anarchist "culture" in the US and Europe around the nomadic homeless (dirty kids, punks, rainbows, etc.), I suspect that if the Culture was maintaining contacts on Earth, they probably would visit homeless encampments and see if there was anybody who'd do better off Earth than on it. What utility would they find in a capitalist advertising company?

139:
“Reagan killed the "Fairness Doctrine," which required television outlets to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance."”

"Were you around then? Most of what I remember was by the 70s it meant incredibly incredibly dull no names talking to each other on time slots that absolutely no one would buy ads for. So in my area of 50K people maybe 3 were watching."

For many years in the 1960s, before he ran for the Senate in 1972, Jesse Helms had an editorial position on the local TV station owned by his father-in-law. He used the last 5 minutes of the local 6:00 news to espouse his views on various "issues".

About once a week that 5 minute time slot had to be given up to someone Helms had offended who demanded "equal time" for rebuttal under the "Fairness Doctrine".

After he was elected to the Senate, the station dropped the editorials from their evening news broadcasts.

140:

Just remember that To Serve Man turned out to be a cook book.

141:

[ Answering several points, because of my re-logging problem ]

Frank Landis @ 117
Yes, this is why properly looked-after allotment "farming" is so efficient.
Disadvantage - very time-consuming - almost impossible for a family with both parents in full-time jobs.


Whitroth @ 122
Not "useless" - but, usually - a lot less useful, to start with, of course.
By the time 1944/5 or 1918 came around, the conscript armies were doing quite well, at a certain cost, of course ....
[ Parenthitical note: Everyone goes on (rightly) about the casualties on day one of the Somme ... but never mention that it was so shocking that, even by day TWO the Brits had changed their tactics - they didn't do tat again. By way of anecdata ... my oldest uncle went over the top on day 3 ... he went through to 11/11/1918 without even a scratch.

Nix @ 133
Libertarian paradise - not WHich was one of Niven's point, I think....

JBS @ 140
Also by, of all people, C S Lewis in "the Silver Chair"

142:

If you really want a true collapse, though, you have to look at approx -1250 - -650 CE.

If they didn't want apocalyptic collapse of civilization, Paris shouldn't have kidnapped Helen.

143:

A minor data-point, no idea if you knew this already...

Early research into surgery robots was partially funded by DARPA, since they thought about using them in conflict zones:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuitive_Surgical#History

Actually it's quite evocative, aerial drones, hired boots on the ground, and even the doctors can't be bothered to enter the hellhole we're involved in...

144:
The really scary things about Lovecraft are evolution, knowledge and time.

Well, then, they are scary in relation to what exactly? And though you might find these motives in some of his stories, there are also his somewhat Dunsanian ones, like e.g. "Dreamquest".

Thing is, I'd be hard pressed to answer what made me read Lovecraft when 14 to 16, the hype about him might have been one thing.

OTOH, I was thinking about a book of ghost stories me and my brother were reading at this or a slightly younger age; we didn't know much about the authors in question then, but some time later we both talked about the stories we liked best, and it were the ones by a fellow named E.A. Poe.

(Err, yes, I discovered Gothic fiction before Gothic music. Guess it's the other way around, usually. And while I'd describe myself as something of a punk at the time, err, Goths are actually an outgrowth of punk. BTW, no idea if OGH'd appreciate this: "Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds" I'll come back to the Mountain Goats later on...)

As for another story I remember from this time, it was "The Death of Halpin Frayser" by Ambrose Bierce, which is often considered a classic, so I guess the guy reading this stuff in his early teens had some kind of taste. Arguably sometimes bad taste, still...

(Yes, you might interpret it psychologically, let's not go there ATM)

Actually I'm not even that sure about Lovecraft being a "bad writer" nowadays. His style might not conform to 20th century expectations, but than, that was partly the thing he strived for. And historically, well, nowadays people complain about repetitions, but actually the Sumerian text is spot on.

Also note the case of Stephen King, notably influenced by Lovecraft, who has seen something of a rehabilitation as a writer lately. Funny thing, about the same a friend of mine said about him in highschool in the early 90s.

(Err, yes, mind you, we where reading German translations then, and there is a joke German translations of HPL are better than the original. I'm in no position to judge here)

Beside some praise, there have been quite some condemnations by other authors, but the opposite of love is not hate but apathy, and mind you, he got parodied by Borges, but Borges was still bothered enough to write a parody about him.

Also, I'm not that sure Lovecraft being a racist is either unimportant or damning for his writing. Let me expand somewhat, there are quite some artists with, err, questionable views. But while I could easily imagine a Richard Wagner who isn't an anti-semite, it's might be more difficult for writers, especially writers of horror. First of, horror derives from a fear response, and heightened fear response is one of those things seperation American conservatives and liberals.
On a more clinical level, other authors of horror fiction, e.g. Thomas Ligotti suffering from anxiety disorders might not be a coincidence, and it's quite easy to see "The Outsider" as a tale about social anxiety disorder.

Please note there is not a one-on-one relation between anxiety and political views, Ligotty self-identifies as a socialist.

(And now I'm thinking about a friend from my RPG days who talked about some slight personal disfigurement and has been living as a recluse for about 5 years...)

Actually, "personal recluse" is one of the other things people are getting with Lovecraft (I told you I'd get back to the Mountain Goats back later, didn't I?), but it's more complicated than that, actually I guess he quite enjoyed being around people and was one of those people difficult to pinpoint on any introvert-extrovert scale.

As for heigtened fear and digust reations, that might also tie in with Lovecraft usually avoiding describing the horror in question, on the one hand you are invited to imagine your greatest horrors yourself, which is usually worse and more personal than anything a writer could come up with, on the other it might invite people who think usual slasher pulp to visceral for themselves.

His sensibilities might also come in with the qualities of his protagonists, they are usually somewhat, err, neurotic, no Evil Dead's Ash. I was somewhat unsure what to become at that point in my early teens, and one possibility was an archaeologist. So me liking HPL back then might have been a personal appeal, too. His scientists are not Conan Doyle's Challengery, and they are also not practical Conan.

(Actually, I have a friend who is himself somewhat racist whom I tried to get into HPL. He indicated he had enough horror and disgust in his actual life. He might be in for a surprise if I succeed, and as for his racism, err, there are quite a few parallels between him and HPL. Though that might be typical of Authoritans, to quote Altemeyer:

Authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another. It’s as if each idea is stored in a file that can be called up and used when the authoritarian wishes, even though another of his ideas–stored in a different file– basically contradicts it. We all have some inconsistencies in our thinking, but authoritarians can stupify you with the inconsistency of their ideas. (The Authoritarians, pg. 80.)
I'm not going to speculate about dissociation at this point...)

As for another personal appeal, it might interest you I labelled one small Münsterland town as "Innsmouth" on a map in my early twenties. Guess where one part of my family comes from...

Those and similar tropes are not that uncommon; genealogy was a personal hobby of HPL, and it shows up in "Case of Charles Dexter Ward", but it's also quite common in genres like Southern Gothic.

The thing somewhat different with HPL is him bringing scientific and pseudoscientific and societal developments into the mix. E.g. "deep time" is a valid geological concept, "The Secret Doctrine" most definetely isn't, though it gets the amateur indologist in me foaming.

(Actually, I have been told Theosophy had some good side effects, namely heightening the self esteem of Asian cultures...)

And I still wonder how much of "The Music of Erich Zann" is a reaction to Schönberg and like, "degenerate" atonality ironically being a development started by one Richard Wagner.

But the trope HPL is most famous for is the Cosmic Horror Story, which can be done in multiple ways. If you like, you could even tell Biblical Job as one.

And, BTW, you can also do a cosmic horror story in SF, I remember an article about Stanislaw Lem complaining about the cold cosmos he described, which was actually the thing I liked about him. recently, I got this feeling with Baxter, too.

Please note a Cosmic Horror Story depends both on context, author and audience. To come back to Baxter, I remember Purgatorius survivng the CT boundary in "Evolution". My personal association was somewhat akin to the end of Brook's Mahabharata, it's starting at about 5h 20 min:

Boy: "Are they all going to die without children?" Vyasa: "Yes, all of them." Boy: "But you told me, “This poem tells the story of your race.” Am I born from a dead race?" Krishna: "Look at this woman. She was Abhimanyu’s wife and she bears his child. At his birth he will be dead, but I will restore him to life because his blood is the blood of Arjuna, my friend. Centuries and centuries will go by and you will come from this woman."

They watch the woman who is looking at them. She leaves.

(Yes, as indicated, I might have bad taste...)

HPL might have done it as a Cosmic Horror Story where the reveal is we descend from a being not to unsimilar to Brown Jenkin. Though, thing is, that's not the only possibility, see his somewhat sympathetic description of the Elder Things in "Mountain of Madness". Or the Ghouls and Nightgaunts in "Dreamquest"...

145:

...how conscription may not be a good idea...

Not quite - it may be more or less appropriate to the situation, and it may be well run or badly run. It's not a bad idea per se. For example, the Swiss and the Israelis demonstrably do it well; the Russians demonstrably do it badly.


Conscription/the draft forces folks with very different emotional/mental stability into kill or be killed situations. Data from WW1 up to Viet Nam showed that a significant proportion of dead soldiers never pulled the trigger and just stood waiting to be shot. Those were wars fought by conscripts.

That's not perhaps how I would put it...

The original work was SLA Marshall's "Men Against Fire", which has since attracted a fair amount of criticism for the quality of its methods. A related book, David Grossman's "On Killing", looked at the design of training, and the handling of troops post-combat, and their effect upon rates of PTSD. The difficult thing, according to Grossman, isn't firing your weapon - it's killing with it. He also wrote a rebuttal to Marshall's critics.

Remember that not all militaries are identical, and not all military training is identical... for instance, some people still believe that you need to break people before you can remake them; others believe that variance is a strength, and that you should build upon what you have, not force everyone into a single view of "ideal".

Several aspects of US military training were poorly designed in WW1 (only fifty years after the US Civil War, remember - you've still got people who can remember when close-order drill was the primary measure of military efficiency*) and WW2 (when a tiny peacetime army had to expand at a rate close to that of the UK in WW1). For example, training soldiers to shoot while using civilian targetry (black bullseye on a white background) rather than military targetry (e.g. NATO "Charging Man" target). For example, lack of access to blank ammunition during training; or lack of live-firing training.

Appropriately designed training will increase the rates at which soldiers individually engage the enemy; appropriate leadership can reduce the rates at which soldiers suffer the consequences of it. Combat stress was a subject addressed at even the most basic levels of my leadership training in the 1980s; the days of LMF and white feathers long gone, even by the end of WW1.

Another problem is correlation vs causation, discussed in detail within this paper by the Royal British Legion. In the UK at least, another issue is that there is no refinement for "ex-soldier" - journalists will use it to define an individual without questioning whether it's true, or even relevant. It's a good way to get sympathy - not everyone who claims to have been a soldier, was one. Did that ex-soldier even complete basic training? Many of the more fragile fail to complete even their initial training, as they discover that they and the military are incompatible. Did their unit ever deploy on operations? Many during the Cold War never did. If on operations, were they placed in a lethal situation? I quite agree that there are too many veteran homeless, but as others have asked, "what's the rate among non-veterans"?

Note also that the death rates among those soldiers who deployed on DESERT STORM was actually lower than those who didn't deploy - because they weren't getting drunk and driving, people were always around to help if things were bad at home, etc, etc. Likewise, British squaddies patrolling in Northern Ireland were comparatively safer than their peers who were training in West Germany.


* Before reliable rifled / breech-loading / magazine-fed firearms appeared (i.e. very late 19th century) most firearms had an accurate range in the tens of yards, and a rate of fire of two or three shots a minute. The only effective way to employ them was "en masse", at a similarly massed target, at close range; the only way to defend against cavalry (able to close from "out of range" to "using edged and pointy weapons on you" within seconds) was to keep close together with your own pointy weapons. Being able to organise groups of a hundred or more firers so that they could fire at the same target, was tricky, hence foot drill.

146:

Minimalism is a livestyle of confidence. What one chooses to possess is of high quality and one only needs a few items permanently around because if you need anything else you know that you can obtain and use it when you need it without it cluttering the place up all the time.

That differs from poverty, which it superficially resembles, in that in poverty those few items are all that one has with no option as to quality or of obtaining anything else.

For a society as a whole, encouraging a minimalist lifestyle is beneficial in that less resources are tied up unused by individuals hoarding them, which means limited resources can be applied to where & when they are needed while avoiding shortages.

In a utopian minimalist society, everyone would have access to whatever they need at least on a "just in time" basis, and to anything they want if they can persuade a large enough part of society that it is to the greater good or otherwise justifiable. That is your Star Trek/Culture society.

In a dystopian minimalist society, the ruling elite would be the only ones with such actual access, but the masses would be told that they will have access until such time as they look for it, when some reason would be created why they actually have no such need.

The fact that the 1% are hoarding ever increasing resources while still stoking demand in the masses to acquire more and more "stuff" demonstrates that they are not terribly good at manipulating people. A combination of "environmentalism", "social responsibility" and minimalism-is-stylish media manipulation could create a "lower expectations" attitude among the masses without the super-rich actually giving up any significant amount of their resources/power (even if they gave the appearance of doing so).

@Whitroth 119. See Pat Mills "Third World War" comic series in the 1990's noting this and predicting the effects for the early C21st. Seems to have been gloomily prescient so far.

147:

Everyone goes on (rightly) about the casualties on day one of the Somme ... but never mention that it was so shocking that, even by day TWO the Brits had changed their tactics

Our local Pals' Battalions (15th and 16th (Service) Bns, Royal Scots) went over the top on Day 1 of the Somme (link). The highest casualty rate of the 16th Bn were in the company whose route forward turned out to be covered by MG positions that hadn't been destroyed as planned by the artillery bombardment.

If you read deeper, it wasn't even that the British tactics were universally inept - it was just that they needed better combined-arms coordination and more resources. The various armies worked hard at learning and development of tactics and doctrine - two years later, the same troops broke the German and Austrian armies in the field and drove them backwards until they surrendered, in what became known as the "Hundred Days Offensive".

The myth of "Chateau Generals" was also that; more British General Officers died in the Battle of Loos than died in the whole of WW2. The Major-General commanding their Division apparently spent the afternoon of Day 1 riding the battlefield, helping direct stretcher parties (he could see better from horseback). He was killed three weeks later, while inspecting the ground over which his Division was going to fight...

148:

""Conscript armies useless"? Really? So, all the drafted troops in, say, the US Civil War, and WWI, and WWII, and Korea, and 'Nam, were useless?"

Oops. I thought I had included "in modern times". Thanks for jumping down my throat for that.

"And there's been discussion, at least in the States, for a while, that if we had the draft again, we might have a *lot* more of a brake on getting into more useless wars."

This is a common Baby Boomer belief based upon the Vietnam War. However, it does have the n=1 problem.

If you look at US history, we had fewer foreign interventions before the Cold War than after it, but that was because more of our army was tied up with the Native Americans. Nevertheless, that didn't stop us from readily intervening during the period of the Civil War to Vietnam.

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

That list leaves out the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and WWI.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine%E2%80%93American_War

It may be forgotten now, but opposition to conscription historically hasn't been effective in stopping unpopular wars. Vietnam was an anomaly.

The New York draft riots didn't stop the North from continuing the Civil War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_draft_riots

WWI was massively unpopular among the population. It was the first time the designation of conscientious objectors was used. It resulted in Presidential Candidate Eugene Debs spending the war in prison
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_States

149:

Trottelreiner noted: "Actually I'm not even that sure about Lovecraft being a "bad writer" nowadays."

Perhaps we should distinguish between good "writer" and good "storyteller". The former is a subjective judgment call that depends on how you define good writing -- which definition changes with the fickle winds of literary fashion. Having read a great many book and short story reviews, and seen many disagreements over the same work by different reviewers, I disbelieve in the existence of an objective standard for good writing.

To me, the more important criterion is whether someone is a good storyteller, and the proof of that particular pudding is whether the author's stories are still being read (or retold) 50 or 100 years afterwards. And whether the stories have inspired new generations of writers to explore the same territory. Lovecraft meets both tests admirably. He may have been an unpleasant person, but I reserve judgment; it's difficult to judge an author based on what they've written.

fwiw, I'm rereading the Conan stories, and find them much of piece with Lovecraft in many ways. The prose often tends towards the purple, there are overt suggestions of racism and sexism*, and the overall feeling of the writing tends towards the clumsy end of the "good writing" spectrum. Yet every time I return to his writing, I find myself enjoying its vigor and the exotic plots and settings. (As one of my wife's seminar students once claimed, "Shakespeare was a great writer, except for all those clichés." Howard created many things that subsequently became genre cliches.)

* There are many outright descriptions (for example) of primitive or degraded Black peoples, and the women are often nothing more than softcore porn to titillate the predominantly male audience. Yet I don't consider Howard to be a pure racist because he has many "characters of color" who have laudable characteristics and agency, and who earn the respect both of Conan and the reader. Similarly, he's not a pure sexist because characters such as Red Sonja have both agency and power, and several lesser female protagonists reveal surprising depths. As the saying goes, "it's complicated".

150:

Martin @ 147
Ever come across a book called: "Mud, Blood & Poppycock" ??
Well worth a read about the myths endlessly repeated about WWI
Points out that over the whole battle, you were much more likely to be killed or injured in Normandy than you were at the Somme - just that the killing was spread out & they had learnt the awful lesson of "pals" battallions ...
And many other, erm "entertaining" facts & history.

151:

Agreed. I still enjoy reading Lovecraft, and one of these days I'll reread REH (mostly because I have to liberate the old copies from my parents' house first).

That said, the "Cthulhu Counterfactual" game I was trying to start up top wasn't just a critique of Lovecraft, it was trying to get beyond the cliches and the tropes. How many straight-up Lovecraftian pastiches are fun to read, at least if you're not an obsessed teen? They're more interesting when there's a new element, such as OGH's blending of Lovecraftian horror and political horror (excuse me, spy fiction). How does one find a new element?

One way is to start flipping the conventions, and my favorite target is the things that people find objectionable about his writing at the moment. Seeing the humans as more scary than the monsters is something that OGH has popularized. There are other stories (The Ballad of Black Tom, Lovecraft Country, Shoggoths in Bloom) that use black protagonists, while Ruthanna Emrys' series looks at reality from the perspective of a post-raid Innsmouth resident, and there are others.

152:

Hmmm... Lovecraft afraid of anarchy... one wonders how the Great Old Ones would feel about, say, the IWW, and unified action against Them?

Of *course* the peasants are revolting....

153:

Two things: there are fashions in writing, and in storytelling. Hell, I just realized, from something I heard at a panel at Heliosphere a couple months ago, why my short stories are bouncing: I wrote old style, start slow and build up, and current fashion is OOOMPH at the beginning, too.

For that matter, I just finished this excellent collection, a British import, Moonrise, with stories about landings, bases, and colonies on the moon written before the Moon landing. It had an excerpt from HG Wells' First Men In The Moon, and I couldn't get past the first couple of pages - far too fussy and verbose, and explaining so extensively.

The other factor: calling HPL or REH "racist" or "sexist"...WITH the *modern* implications of that, which is that they were bad writers, is, IMO, wrong. You *Must* consider when, and the culture, that they were writing in, and who they were writing for. REH, for example, was born and bred in Texas, steeped in tales of the Old West, and it *had* to influence him, esp. when he didn't get out much....

Which, of course, is a great justification for integrated public schools....

154:

This is a test. I had been posting via the default http, firefox on CentOS 7. Changed it to https, and I appear to still be logged in.

155:

If I might hazard a guess, it's not so much anarchism as in libertarian socialism, but anarchism as in Anomie, which is actually a misconception where anarchism is concerned. At least if you exclude anarcho-capitalists, but let's not go there. ;)

I guess Lovecraft's biography has been overanalyzed, but there is the fact his father died from general paresis of the insane, a synonym for late stage syphillis. I'm not sure how much HPL knew about this, but that would be a strong reason to keep emotional control, both for protective reasons, syphillis is a STD, and aversive one, loss of social inhibitions is one symptom. Add to this the theme of socioeconomic descent in his family history, also due to the Depression of the 20s.

So building up the 19th century aesthete personality he's famous for is quite understandable, problem is it was under attack from all sides, evolution puts the final emphasis on the idea humans are just animals, history shows our cultural roots to be outright lies, err, reconstruction of identities, and deep time and relativity indicate the whole universe might not be what it seems to be.

You might turn it all over, but as indicated above, HPL's family history indicates that might not go too well. Analysis usually dwells on the sexual, but it's more on a societal and personal identity level. Actually the sexual component is quite absent in HPL, in contrast to e.g. Machen:

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

You could keep going with the old culture, though I guess you might have a word with Nietzsche about it:

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

Yes, this is partially me remembering panic attacks when I thought upcoming emotions might mean I'd lose control over my thinking and turn into a psychotic or sociopathic narcissist, why you're asking?

Personally, I found the monsters at the base of my skull quite well-behaved, though it might differ for other persons.

A final note abot HPL, we might note most accounts describe him as a person with unpleasant views, not necessarily a unpleasant person; he's clearly more on the Shadwell side of the Shadwell-Himmler continuum. What he though about the persons he was not unpleasant to, well, that might have been somewhat unpleasant, still...

"Damn, that damn know-it-all idolizing kike Bloch is writing me again; though actually I like him, must answer him fast, or he might feel angry, and I don'twant to hurt him."

Compartmentalization can be quite, err, interesting...

156:

I'm not sure how much HPL's Old Ones being not rooted in any known mythology and REH using countries and people clearly modeled on historical entities but somewhat changed might have to do with it.

If you changed Cthulhu into e.g. Veles, it would make him more relatable.

To put out a quip, usually gods might be ways to characterize natural forces as human. Maybe HPL is trying to characterize gods as natural forces.

157:

Actually, I'm going to speculate somewhat about dissociation now.

Take the start of "The Call of Cthulhu":

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Which is actually a plea to keep getting all experiences from getting together. Though speaking from personal experience, the dramatic results might only be with the first synthesis (your coping skill are not that good, which is why you kept your experiences apart in the first place), it gets somewhat more sensible late on.

Which is the final turn in "Whisperer in Darkness"; the first glimpse of the Mi-Go is quite terrible, but later on we might think they are actually quite benign. That is till we find out the person talking was a Mi-Go impersonator, and if they are benign, why didn't they see fit to let the orignial correspondent talk...

158:

And actually I quite liked your idea of reinterpreting his ideas. Though I would like to do somne prior analysis on the original.

As for my personal "damning knowledge", not just remembering your reaction on 9-11-2001 was "I guess the Atropa belladonna fumes are kicking in", but also putting it into context was somewhat shocking; I was upset the rest of the evening and quoted Huxley's "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall drive you mad". Somewhat melodramatic, I knew I had quite some common ground with an acid- (or DMT-) head at work, but I didn't realize how much. Not that I ever reached an active scopolamine dose, and if so, well, it's amnestic, so...

Actually I realized an old friend was still quite similar to me when I saw "Music of Erich Zann" on her favourites list. She indicated there was something to my writing style, though she couldn't pin it down.

Sorry for repeating myself, repetition makes things more important and "real", and well, maybe it's this Nietzsche stuff about deep wells being disturbed for quite some time or so.

159:

Ok, that makes *no* sense to me. "Libertarian socialism"? I know that in the '40's and into the early '50s, there were *anarchist* libertarians (I have a pamphlet that my father got somewhere, put out by them). But to use that phrase *now* makes negative sense.

Libertarians are nothing more than the, what, stalking dogs of oligarchy. Literally. Why haven't Ron Paul and all the Libertarians in the world come down on Trump, who has spent his career breaking contracts, sometimes driving small business owners under ("you did a good job, but I'm not going to pay you the rest")?

As an actual socialist, I vehemently object, in the real world.

160:

I actually was rather numb, and it never really hit me, even while watching it real time.

I will note, however, that my late wife had dropped dead the end of Oct, 1997, and the first half of 2001 I spent in chemo.

Overload? Stress? Nahhhh......

161:

Damn. I can't find the post that had this link, https://www.edge.org/conversation/sabine_hossenfelder-looking-in-the-wrong-places
and I'd like to, so I can thank you.

And I think I just fell in love with Sabine Hossenfelder....

162:

It's kind of a counterpart to "authoritarian socialism", and I guess I might even find Chomsky using it.

If you want to get confused, try "left liberrarian", which can describe anything from anarchocommunists to Heinlein.

163:

With HPL, we're talking about the anarchists and communists who shot McKinley, won the Russian Revolution and threatened to take it worldwide. Yes, that's no more a unified group than "terrorists" are today, but they occupied a comparable place in US political demonolatry a century ago.

I agree with looking at HPL's over-analyzed life for more immediate causes, but invoking a terror of supernatural anarchy to make a good story is no different than positing that some obscure Middle Eastern terrorist group "accidentally" got their hands on magic that was too powerful for them, and that it was up to a bumbling junior bureaucrat from the agency tasked with dealing with said magic to squelch them, with a little help from his superiors and the SAS...

Back to HPL: You see a lot of that fear of anarchy in Call of Cthulhu, especially in its mobilization of the polyglot immigrant lower classes, but that may just be my reading. That's why the juxtaposing the Mythos with the Culture is so much fun. A Culture composed of starfish aliens can be, in turns, both interesting and horrific. And don't you need starfish aliens just to make anarchy work at the large, permanent scale?

If you want to really re-imagine Cthulhu, try seeing "him" as, perhaps, something like an oankali spaceship. Not necessarily evil, but extremely damaging in normal function (pretty much like any starship taking off from the surface of a planet, actually). I've been playing with that kind of being in my own hobby universe, but until and unless I put it in a story, I'll just leave this notion as a nameless dread.

164:

Err, the hard-hitting reaction was about 8 months ago when we talked about 9/11, not in 2001. And I put my experiences together.

My reaction in 2001 was actually quite Claudia Judenmann subdued, especially since I was in a depression. Might explain the drug experiments.

As for your own reaction at the time, I guess you had enough bad things to yoursekf happening already, hope you're better ATM.

165:

If you want to get confused, try "left liberrarian", which can describe anything from anarchocommunists to Heinlein.

Liberrarian? Guessing that's like libertarian, and if so, I've spent decades bemoaning that there were no left libertarians. If there were, they'd be somewhat like classical liberals, I suppose, and I'd be interested.

166:

I've read that... useful and interesting. Being written by an actual soldier it talks about what happened with an understanding of the military way of thinking and acting, the lack of which in histories written by civilians makes an already difficult to understand situation even harder to understand.

167:

Speaking of 9/11, it's weird: I don't have the horrified reactions that everyone else does. I guess it's from growing up with mudslides, fires, and such (and having CERT training as a teen), but my reaction was to get very calm and think about what needed doing, not to get horrified. All the wailing, breast-beating, and justifying the resulting violence, especially the war on Iraq, horrified me more, because it seemed so disproportionate. To me, it was like having a broken arm on a national scale. The response should have been to set the arm and figure out how to deal with the problem. Instead, it felt to me as if the arm was amputated, set in a shrine to be worshiped, and simultaneously used as an excuse to build a weaponized artificial arm to hurt as many people with as we could, just so everybody would be afraid of us and not cause us to break something else. That's why I call it political demonolatry. We've still got to exorcise it from our system, too.

Guess I'm a weird kid or something. I still think we're too much into glorifying our own pain, and ignoring that of anyone we consider to be other.

Since we're talking about the Mythos, you may guess that this gives me a rather different take on HPL's work. Not a lot of things with tentacles scare me. Bobbitt worms, centipedes, and various parasites (including some national politicians), yes, but not cephalopods at least.

168:

If I might hazard a guess, it's not so much anarchism as in libertarian socialism, but anarchism as in Anomie, which is actually a misconception where anarchism is concerned. At least if you exclude anarcho-capitalists, but let's not go there. ;)

Well there's a sense in which Anomie is an intended effect and required for certain versions of capitalism anyway. Consider that in the 19th century a factory required many toolmakers, each highly skilled with complex and overlapping skill sets, loosely defined in terms of what the individual had happened to learn on the job. This naturally promotes a set of complex, quasi-ogranic relationships in terms of production and who is needed for what task, or what knowledge or expertise. There must be an equivalent pattern in chip fabrication and every other kind of process now, even beneath what is explicitly documented. This is the sort of thing that makes recreating industrial artefacts from earlier times, from rocket to nukes, more difficult without the living knowledge of people who were involved.

It's hard to commoditise that sort of skill set. It's better, from a factory owner's perspective, to fragment the skills to well definted occupations, and create an "efficient" labour market where you can get these things off the shelf. Underneath the manglement layers, everyone knows that to actually do things well you still need to grow those organic relationships, and we might pass that off as the corporate culture in the lower levels, something the management layers struggle to understand why they need.

In some ways it's very similar to monocultures in agriculture and the tradeoff with resilience. Anomie is a monoculture of skill sets, breaking the resilience that comes with the complex interrelationships. And these are directly related - a monoculture plantation requires only specific specialist activities, and a lot of unskilled labour, while a traditional farm or village environment requires all the skill sets from crop rotation and plow technology through to baking, brewing beer and making wine and cheese.

169:

Whitroth @ 159
There WAS a n other form of Libertarianism - I assume you've heard of Kropotkin?
Agree re R Paul & the other hypocrites, though ....

Other sub-thread.
If the Visitors from Outer Space arrive, with sales brochures ( Note the 1950's phrasing )
HOW DO YOU TELL if they are actually the Culture, or the Affront or the Ekumen or the Borg or The Old Ones, or the Chtorr or ......

And, we know, already, that since they are from well-beyond the Solar Syatem, that we have an OCP, anyway.

170:

Allen Thomson wrote: I've spent decades bemoaning that there were no left libertarians. If there were, they'd be somewhat like classical liberals, I suppose, and I'd be interested.

Most of the science fictional settings written by Ken MacLeod, the Fall Revolution books in particular, could be classified as left libertarian.

However, characters are not the author. So while at least one of his books won a libertarian literary award, both Ken MacLeod and the libertarians make it clear that the award was given for the book, not the author.

171:

Liberrarian?

I read that as "librarian" the first time, and had a mental image of a room with sad librarians sitting around the edges, forgotten when the internet replaced books — the Left Librarian Office, like the Left Luggage Office.

172:

Guess I'm a weird kid or something.

Nope, entirely normal. IMHO, the people who were genuinely shocked were those who hadn't looked outside their bubble.

I lived in Northern Ireland when PIRA were blowing things up (closest was half a mile away, fortunately), lived in Germany when they still had "Wanted" posters up for Baader-Meinhof... and as an adult, had to mount armed guards within the UK, and get into the habit of checking underneath our vehicles. 9/11 was notable for scale, but it didn't make me want to join up, strike down The Enemy, curse and demonise "Them" - it was another terrorist attack, albeit on a larger scale than previously seen in the West. I blamed the individual nutcases who encouraged it, planned it, funded it, did it - no need to blame anyone else.

173:

Would Cthulhu need Librarians? I mean, you can't rely on non-volatile memory, tape drives, or CD-ROM to get you through the aeons, I rather think you'd need some form of writing that would last the millenia.

In the great lending library of R'lyeh the Librarians of Cthulhu wait dreaming for the day they call 'the punishment of the overdue return'

174:

Come to think of it... If the Left Librarian Office holds all the sad ones, are all the angry ones in the Right Librarian Office?

...and yes, I did insist to my (then-)young children that obviously, Right Luggage is on the other side of the railway station...

175:

Thanks, but not especially. I mean, my most recent divorce was just over a year ago, I'm not involved, and, oh, yes, we have a sexual predator, narcissistic solipsistic psychotic thief as our nominal President, what could be depressing...?

Just made a b'day card for my Eldest the other day. Picture of The Wheel (i.e. 2001) on the cover, and printed "This is where I wanted to take you for your birthday, (picture) but I couldn't find the ticket counter.

I'm very definitely in someone *else's* future, someone who read far too much cyberpunk, and thought that it sounded like a great place to live.

176:

Well, the ones with the sales brochures that show a picture of someone smiling, sitting in a fifties-era dentist's chair are really the ones to avoid.

Did I mention I'm 3/4 of the way through my 4th root canal? Waiting for the crown in a couple weeks, and most folks seem to agree that four crowns makes me an emperor.

177:

Err, I typed that on my smartphone, and I'm not that good on a normal keyboard either. ;)

Also explains the Claudia insertion, just a few minutes ago I was googling for person involved in a ghost hoax in Germany, and I somehow pasted it in:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chopper_(ghost)

Err, got there while looking up Gibson's Idoru and this guy:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_%22Chopper%22_Read#Cultural_references

178:

BTW, you might want be interested in the Anarchism FAQ, originally compiled in response to "anarcho capitalists" and like:

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-anarchist-faq-editorial-collective-an-anarchist-faq-02-17#toc5

Though I'm not that sure about individual anarchists and capitalism, it might depend somewhat on your definition of capitalism, and last time I looked, my Stirner was in a box in the cellar of a boarding school I used to help with computer some times. Mutual aid when I needed to move out of my appartment. ;)

179:

For Americans 9/11 was a defining moment in their history, for me it was a Tuesday. Crazy people blew shit up and killed a lot of other folks, welcome to the IRA.

I spoke with some young-ish Americans a few days later at an anime convention, I told them that Americans were going to go crazy over this but I reassured them, going by our experiences with a certain nominally-Catholic terror group supported by a lot of third-generation Americans who called themselves "Oirish" that they'd settle down after six months or so. I forgot just how "special-snowflake" the US is. Seventeen years later the US is still hunting someone, anyone in Afghanistan while the Russians laugh their faces off and Abu-Ghraib Mk II in Guantanamo Bay is still in operation.

180:

Apparently someone has wgah'nagl fhtagn-ed their school shooting:

The shooting suspect—identified by CBS as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis—has been arrested, and a second person of interest has also been detained. Both, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters this morning, are students at the school.

A Facebook profile reportedly linked to Pagourtzis included images of a t-shirt sporting the words "Born To Kill" as well as a black duster featuring pins of an iron cross, hammer and sickle, and Cthulhu.

From Reason.com

181:

"For Americans 9/11 was a defining moment in their history, for me it was a Tuesday. Crazy people blew shit up and killed a lot of other folks, welcome to the IRA."

I guess it depends on how old you are and where you've been. For those of us of a certain age who grew up in the U.S. 9/11 was significant, but it's not the defining moment in our history.

For me it came at 1:30pm EST, Friday, November 22, 1963, but there were other defining moments as well - April 4, 1968; June 6, 1968; May 4, 1970; June 17, 1972 ... even August 7, 1974. I think some here will know what each of those dates signifies without having to look them up.

Where were you when you heard about the Space Shuttle Challenger, or the Space Shuttle Columbia? When did you first find out what was happening with New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina?

For today's young Americans, 9/11 is something that happened before they were born or while they were babies. Their most significant, "defining moment" event might be the Columbine High School Massacre, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary or the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ... or even some school shooting that we haven't heard about yet.

Or perhaps the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando or the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas; Charlie Hebdo or Bataclan in Paris; July 7, 2005 London; May 22, 2017 Manchester Arena, because it's not just the U.S. that's been traumatized by murderous lunatics.

183:

For Americans 9/11 was a defining moment in their history, for me it was a Tuesday.

Americans who were not yet born when 9/11 happened (or when the US invaded Afghanistan) will in a few months be serving in US military missions overseas in the War On Terror, and in the War in Afghanistan.

"Historic" is the word.

184:

"ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: You might notice that you're now seeing the blog via secure HTTP (URLs begin with https:, padlock icon displayed in some browsers). This is entirely intentional -- my sysadmin finally got around to switching on a feature to force https loading in most browsers."

On Opera, Windows 10, I'm seeing www.antipope.org...

185:

For today's young Americans, 9/11 is something that happened before they were born or while they were babies. Their most significant, "defining moment" event might be the Columbine High School Massacre [or some other school shooting.]

Though the Columbine High School Massacre took place in 1999, so that's even more 'something that happened before they were born', if they were born after 9/11.

I think I'm more of the generation that remembers Columbine, though I think Challenger is the first 'big event' I remember. Shortly before Chernobyl, that is.

187:

I know, but the young man explained it as Cthulhu. I wonder if there will be some kind of backlash or panic over the whole thing.

188:

Using Firefox 60.0 on Win10 - The RSS feed just displays as XML when trying to force HTTPS, and blog posts opened from the HTTP feed don't automagically upgrade.

I don't know when the ability to edit Live Bookbark URLs disappeared, but I miss it now...

189:

If you look at US history

Yes. But look at this. Our political leaders were typically chosen in the proverbial smoke filled rooms until the later 60s and early 70s. Yes we voted before then the our choices were from the SMRs. Now we get direct elections in primaries. So things are a bit different.

Of course you can also say that the more direct method of electing leaders led to the choice of HC and DT in the last election. That has turned out great hasn't it.

190:

Hm, difficult to say how I reacted emotionally on 9/11. Except the Atropa part, had those lying around from my herbar and used them as incense to titrate to an active dose, not that I got there anytime. Was doing course after course at university to stay afloat, and had my few genuine alcohol induced blackouts at parties, I remember coming to me talking to a friend about Mohenjo-Daro on a matress in front of Luna Bar, a disco that closed some years later.

I knew I was into psychonautics, but I took people talking about atropine and scopolamine containing plants as an indication of a) reckless behaviour and/or b) serious issues, and not just with the drug use. At least that were my ideas when a girlfriend of a friend talked about her experiment with Hyoscyamus niger, funny I was not that different. As mentioned, it's strange when you connect the dots and it changes your self image.

As for 2001, as already hinted I was in a quite severe atypical depression, and I was playing StarCraft when people on BNet started to talk about "bombs on America". I was trying to calm them down and make them stop joking when they told me to switch on TV...

I also remember trying to comfort a guy who had friends visiting New York at the time.

What was worse for me were the weeks and months afterwards, had the feeling of everything going downhill even more, Anti-American sentiment with some, xenophobia with others.

A "friend" of mine told me he phoned a friend and asked her if she was watching what he was watching, and that it looked good. Never got a psychiatric diagnosis, contrary to me and his later girlfriend (not the friend he phoned). Thought him more competent when dealing with the shit we call reality at the time. From his behaviour I guess he was no sociopath, though most likely quite high on the narcissism scale. We can debate what's worse. Oh, and the cherry on top, AFAIK he became a teacher.

Err, I'm getting into contact with his later girlfriend ATM. Might have mentioned it, her mentioning her career made me think about Mhari from the Laundryverse. Guess a lot of shit happened back then. err, apart from 9/11...

191:

I remember the morning fairly well. I had just finished an early morning service call and got back to my vehicle. The local PBS station runs BBC News at 9:00am with a 5 minute NPR news break between the intro & program itself.

There were some confusing reports of a plane having hit the World Trade Center tower, with a lot of uncertainty on the size of the aircraft. The news presenters seemed to think it was a small aircraft that had hit the tower.

But, just as they switched to their reporter on the scene, the first thing he said was "A second plane has hit the other tower." I knew right away that whatever it was, it was no accident.

I pulled in to a local breakfast fast food place that I knew had a TV tuned to CNN Headline News, but for some reason THEY hadn't switched over to the story. I watched for about half an hour to see if they were going to pick up the story, but they never did. By the time I got back on the road to my next service call, the BBC & NPR had moved on to other stories for lack of any news to report.

By the time I got to my next call, the first tower had fallen, but the customer whose computer I was working on had regular CNN on and I saw it on replay & the second tower fell while I was replacing the modem in her computer (a lot of eastern NC was still on dial-up internet).

192:

I was in a central London office at that time (!)
All work stopped, as we tried to access the latest news, & the internet slowed to a creaking crawl under the weight of people trying for information......

Conversely, on 7/7/'05, I was at home, but "the boss" saw the flash & felt the pressure-wave from the "Aldgate" tube bomb - she was facing towards it on the internal overbridge at Liverpool St - the train containing the bomber having been in front of her, as she approached the stairs ( It's doors closed & off it went for the few seconds it took her to cross said bridge & []
Incidentally - I phoned her a few minutes later, was told this & I asked "What colour was the flash"
( As TfL/LUL/whoever intially lied & said "electrical explosion" ! ) she told me: "BRight Orange", to which I replied that she'd been lied to it had to be explosives & probably nitrates of some sort ( That very last was wrong, IIRC )

193:

I was hiking at a conservation area northwest of Toronto. I got back to the parking lot. My car was the only one there. I saw two $20 bills on the ground. "This is my lucky day!" I said. I decided to go to a bookstore to celebrate my good luck.

On the way there, the news came on the radio. "Holy fucking shit!" was my response then.

194:

Actually, I think that's somewhat close to the the Marxist theory of alienation.

Of course, you get similar complaints with many ideologies, notably with fascism and its critique of capitalism, where integral nationalism and labour service were seen as answers.

Funny thing is, quite a few actual marxists appreciate capitalism for the same qualities conservatives are sceptical of it, it abolishes the old modes of exploitation of feudalism, even as it substitutes them. To quote Marx in relation to religion:

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.

Coming back to HPL and the Old Ones, the Old Ones teaching humanity new ways to kill etc. is quite similar to one interpretation of Nietzsche's concept of Transvaluation of values, where there is quite some literature about the influence of Nietzsche on Lovecraft. Where we could start a long discussion about Nietzsche and fascism, notably with his image of the blond beast, though it's basically just a metaphor for the lion, and he uses it also for the arabs.

Maybe liking some idea and being horrified by the results is a common theme for HPL's work.

Funny, googling for the terms gets me on pages associated with the New Right, and Objectivism...

(I had some other ideas, problem is my ADHD makes for both interesting associative thinking and me forgetting it afterward. Though thankfully I usually retreat my thinking again some time later...)

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