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Happy 21st Century!

Here's the shape of a 21st century I don't want to see. Unfortunately it looks like it's the one we're going to get, unless we're very lucky.

Shorter version is: there will be much dying: even more so than during the worst conflicts of the 20th century. But rather than conventional wars ("nation vs nation") it'll be "us vs them", where "us" and "them" will be defined by whichever dehumanized enemy your network filter bubble points you at—Orwell was ahead of the game with the Two Minute Hate, something with which all of us who use social media are now uncomfortably, intimately, familiar.

People will be die in large numbers, but it will happen out of sight. It'll be "soft genocide" or "malign neglect", and the victims will be the climate change refugees who are kept out of sight by virtual walls. On land there may be fences and minefields and debatable ground dominated by gangs, and at sea there may be drone-patrolled waters where refugees can be encouraged to sink and drown out of sight of the denizens of their destination countries. This much we already see. But the exterminatory policies will continue at home in the destination zones as well, and that's the new innovation that is gradually coming online. There will be no death camps in this shiny new extermination system. Rather, death by starvation and exposure will be inflicted by the operation of 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 by an extrapolation of today's Hostile Environment Policy and its equivalents.

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

The Nazis had to leave their offices in order to round people up and brutalize or murder them. They had to travel to the Wannsee Conference to hammer out how to implement Generalplan Ost. Tomorrow's genocides will be decentralized and algorithmically tweaked, quite possibly executed without human intervention.

Why?

The people who buy into the idea of eugenics and racial supremacy—the alt-right and their fellow travellers—will sooner or later have to come to terms with the inevitability of anthropogenic climate change. Right now climate denialism is a touchstone of the American right, but the evidence is almost impossible to argue against right now and it's increasingly obvious that many of the people who espouse disbelief are faking it—virtue signalling on the hard right. Sooner or later they'll flip. When they do so, they will inevitably come to the sincere, deeply held belief that culling the bottom 50% to 90% of the planetary population will give them a shot at survival in the post-greenhouse world. (That's the "bottom 50-90%" as defined by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.) They'll justify their cull using the values we're seeing field-tested today racism, religious and anti-religious bigotry, nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, white supremacism. These are values with tested, proven appeal to [petty authoritarians](https://theauthoritarians.org who feel that their way of life is under threat.

Of course there will, as time goes on, be fewer and fewer members of the murdering class, as climate insecurity causes periodic crop collapses, automation reduces the need for human labour is required to keep things running, and capital accumulation outstrips labour value accumulmation (leading to increased wealth concentration and societal stratification and rigidity).

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 what this soft genocide will look, right here at home in Brexitland ...

Forget barbed wire, concentration camps, gas chambers and gallows, and Hugo Boss uniforms. That's the 20th century pattern of centralized, industrialized genocide. In the 21st century deep-learning mediated AI era, we have the tools to inflict agile, decentralized genocide as a cloud service on our victims.

Think in terms of old age homes where robots curate the isolated elderlies (no low-paid immigrant workers 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.

Think in terms of 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 in terms of policing by ubiquitous surveillance and social scoring and behavior monitoring. Think in terms of punishment by "community service"—picking up litter on starvation wages (and I mean, wages calculated to induce death through slow starvation), where if you fail to comply your ability to purchase the essentials of life using e-cash will simply stop working. Prisons where extensively drug-resistant TB runs rife as a discipline on the community service peons (as in: if you receive the sanction of an actual prison sentence, 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 through 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. The corporate social media will of course comply with state requirements for a safe and secure internet—if they want to stay in business, that is.

We're getting a glimpse of the way this future is shaped, thanks to Trump and Brexit and, to a lesser extent, China today. Trump has discovered that in times of insecurity, the spectacle of cruelty 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, which in turn drives social conservativism and support for violent self-defense.

There is a feedback loop in play. It may already be established globally. And it's going to kill billions of us.

732 Comments

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1:

The rise of Trumpism may be the herald of this dark century to come...or if we are, as you say, very very lucky, its warning.

2:

A lot like The Peripheral minus the shiny bits, (time travel, nanites) then? So what's the narrow path out? Unanticipated advances in solar, fusion, etc. leading to a post-scarcity economy and the ability to mitigate the worst climate effects through brute force?

It all sounds depressingly accurate, though I take some solace in the fact that catastophism has almost as poor a track record as utopianism.

3:

Charlie, it's a dark time in the U.S., and I don't see a lot here that would refute your central thesis, even if I might quibble with a few particulars. That said, assuming that society doesn't take a sharp turn towards kindness and radical inclusiveness, what do you think the solution to all of this is? Some libertarians would argue that cryptocurrency could address the elimination of cash, but I'm somewhat skeptical.

Maybe something like the ethos expressed in Cory Doctorow's Walkaway would work? That is, just leaving modern society with all the tech you can carry, and building a new civilization on the abandoned bones of the old one? That could conceivably work if 3d printing technology were as advanced as it is in Doctorow's novel, but we're still a long way off. I also think its notable that Walkaway was set in North America, where there's an abundance of open, unoccupied space--which isn't the case in the UK, as I understand it. What are your thoughts?

4:

One possible example of hands-off genocide happening already: the deal that southern EU countries have with the government of Libya (well, with one of the armed factions claiming to the be the government of Libya) to capture refugees who are attempting to sail north. The Europeans are supplying money, boats, and training.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41983063

That said, judging from here in the states, there's no shortage of people who are willing to take jobs involving hands-on brutality. ICE, an immigration police force created in 2002, has some remarkable new policies these days, including, among other things, deliberately separating refugee mothers from young children.

(All of this said, this is a pretty western-centric view of the future; China's also shaping up very ugly, but while there are points of similarity -- particularly the panopticon, which is more blatant there than here -- it's not necessarily the same kind of ugly.)

5:

"All of this said, this is a pretty western-centric view of the future; China's also shaping up very ugly, but while there are points of similarity -- particularly the panopticon, which is more blatant there than here -- it's not necessarily the same kind of ugly."

Judging by media reports, China may be making efforts toward both the 20th and 21st century forms of genocide that Charlie describes. The Washington Post published an editorial just this morning describing how the Chinese government is attempt to destroy the Uighur people. Terrible stuff.

Here's a link, which I can't figure out how to embed (FYI, the Post has a soft paywall): https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chinas-repugnant-campaign-to-destroy-a-minority-people/2018/05/20/9fe061b4-5ac0-11e8-b656-a5f8c2a9295d_story.html?utm_term=.2789c4f38816

6:

What I love about you, Charlie, is your boundless optimism.

7:

F! Charlie, I used to look forward to probably living to 150.

It's still an option, but I'm about as optimistic as you that it'll be worth staying here into the 22nd century.

8:

The link about petty authoritarians is broken.

I still hope that we (the human race) will be lucky, but my believe wanes whenever I think about the climate catastrophe we all choose to ignore. And I'm more and more glad that I don't have children and probably don't have to care about anything past 2075. But maybe I should read Prometheus Rising again...

9:

Don't think that could work.

The empty land belongs to someone, or the government, and you are trespassing and causing ecological damage. You are under arrest.

The equipment is seized without due process because it was used for a crime or is criminal proceeds. You don't get it back, even if you aren't ever convicted of anything.

Anything they didn't get that way is taken when you can't pay your legal fees, court costs, and fines.

OR

That high tech equipment violates someone's intellectual property, or does not have the proper government license/backdoor decryption certificate/warning labels/etc. It is confiscated until you comply with the subject regulations(s).

10:

"What I love about you, Charlie, is your boundless optimism."

Yeah, except that he is probably being unduly optimistic.

11:

Orwell predicted the gleeful murder of refugees for entertainment that the likes of Katie Hopkins are moving towards - so normalised that Winston Smith is celebrating it:

“Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused… man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him… saw him through the helicopters gunsights… the sea round him turned pink… audience shouting with laughter…you saw a lifeboat full of children with a helicopter hovering over it… a middle-aged woman… a little boy about three years old in her arms… screaming with fright… covering him up….as if she thought her arms could keep the bullets off him….then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among them…a lot of applause.”

12:

Following a link from the main blog page ( https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/ ) to an individual article (like this one) moves me from https to http.

13:

I feel like you're being a little pessimistic. I don't think you realise just how big a change it is that we care about people in other countries at all, really. The wars in the 20th century were because of long-standing dehumanisation which is (I think) much harder today than it has ever been.
You mention the Windrush scandal, which I would say actually works against your argument, because of the public outcry it precipitated.
"They'll justify their cull using the values we're seeing field-tested today racism, religious and anti-religious bigotry, nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, white supremacism"
I'm afraid this seems a little ill-thought-through. That these values are no longer as socially acceptable is a major victory. There was a time when questioning these values would have been a revolutionary act.
Then there's the data we have so far. Depending on the exact data set, the rate of extreme poverty has dropped to about a third of what it was in 2000, worldwide.
Deaths from warfare are variable enough that it's impossible to say so far. However, I don't think it's likely there'll be any symmetric warfare between great powers, which have always been the most deadly, simply because there's nothing which could stand up to NATO in such a war. I'll warn here about overestimating Russia, because they're good at asymmetric, relatively-low-casualty warfare, but don't have the economic backbone to sustain a full war.
North Korea, on a global scale, is almost a non-entity. Any war between them and anyone else would, absolute worst case, cause a few million deaths from nuclear weapons, then tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties in a conventional war, and then millions of deaths of North Koreans, which would be the greatest military tragedy since probably the Second World War (I apologise if I've forgotten something), but would barely register compared to a world war.
The major point where I agree with you is the worry over automation, and here I'm torn. On the one hand, labour-saving has historically led to major improvements in standard of living, but this is fundamentally different. I think that if this is properly managed, it could be the best thing to ever happen to us. We'll see.
Even the idea of a "post-truth" society is nothing new. Orwell (somehow most comments on this blog seem to mention Orwell) wrote in 1943 that "This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world." (http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/Spanish_War/english/esw_1)

Fundamentally, I think you're seeing the problems we have now and forgetting just how enormous the problems we had 50 years ago would seem to us now, and quite how many of the issues you've mentioned are in fact ones we've gone a long way to solving in that time.
And so I think I'm the only person here who thinks there's a good chance that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. (Except for climate. That's going to cause some problems. But my opinions on that issue are too complex and not fully-formed enough to discuss here.)

Reading this, I feel like I've stated my position rather more strongly than I actually feel it. Tone it down a couple of notches, and that will probably be more accurate.

14:

I'm pretty much in agreement with Charlie about the endpoint, the current state of the climate can hardly give any other result.

But I don't think Charlies vision is going to be very relevant.

Killing people by the millions or billions is surprising slow work, even for pandemic vira or bacteria, and I dont see how the machinery Charlie posits can be robust enough to do the job.

Sure you can keep a train like that on the rails for a few years maybe, but only so long as none of EU's southern states fail because of heatwave induced crop-failure.

And the same heatwave could easily take out half of Frances nuclear power, which at the very least will make running datacenters in Central Europe incredibly expensive.

And in the middle of that, we suddenly learn that thanks to Lean and supply-chain management all warphle-bellows in all the worlds nanometer step-and-repeat lithographic machines were made by a small french family operation which has gone bankrupt due to the rolling power-outages caused by Frances nuclear plants overheating.

Not to mention that only 2½ fabs are capable mass-produce state-of-the-art chips, and the cost of getting there has been so enormous that all the companies behind them have become brittle financial constructs, only kept afloat by financial loopholes and political handouts.

No, as grim and potent as Charlies vision is, I have hard time seeing it kill more than maybe 200 million humans any faster than the climate will do on its own.

And if you want a really scary scenario to think about, try to think through what political changes would have to happen, and what political powers would have to be applied, to save 90% of those first 200 million climate victims...

15:

He really is. He's neglecting the extremely high likelihood of war.

16:

So what's the narrow path out? Unanticipated advances in solar, fusion, etc. leading to a post-scarcity economy and the ability to mitigate the worst climate effects through brute force?

Some key parts of my wishlist:
- Further and significant lowering of the cost of solar-electric to unarguably below fossil fuel costs.
Rapid advances in
- Cost/capacity/lifespan for bulk electrical storage
- High-density electrical storage, approximating or bettering fossil fuel liquid storage, along with charging speed improvements
- These preferably unencumbered by IP owners looking to become trillionaires or to simply block the tech where they can.

At least one country that takes a national initiative to cover a few hundred square kilometers with solar farms, with some way of distributing the energy gathered (including possibly converting it to something transportable).

Wildcard; cheap (e.g. a virus) life extension that gets a large percentage of the world population into the habit of thinking/planning on longer timescales.
(Other similar possibilities related to brains, and thinking in general. :-) (Plus the negative variants of same. :-( )

More nuclear power, if only to power the many carbon sequestration engines that we'll need to scrub the atmosphere. Or something better.

My science feeds are full of stuff like the following, and some of the science will succeed and be applied and commercialized and deployed. (Bless these minds, even if they are motivated by potential wealth.)
new-ish paper:
Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’ (12 May 2018)
responding to
Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems
new to me, paywalled:
Aluminum Chloride-Graphite Batteries with Flexible Current Collectors Prepared from Earth-Abundant Elements (22 Jan 2018)
The challenges and potential rewards of transitioning to concentrated solar power to desalinate seawater

17:

"Some libertarians would argue that cryptocurrency could address the elimination of cash, but I'm somewhat skeptical."

Something will, whether it's a cryptocurrency kind of thing or an underground mint with forgery being addressed via the kneecap. People have to have something to buy drugs with.

18:

I keep thinking about how much of the Alt-Right is built up on pyramid schemes, and I wonder...

My mantra is, "for every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong," and I suspect that will prove to be the case here.

What could go wrong with this?
--It's worth remembering how many of the current elite are basically scam artists running Ponzi schemes. These have the bad habit of falling apart under their own weight, not instantiating themselves as reality.
--Systems that ignore mass deaths will last only until a pandemic flares through them and takes down enough of the people running them that their credibility is shot.
--Panopticon is Charlie's favorite word. Watch out for the use of it. Universal hacking by AI hackers using deep learning may make such a hash of the interdweebs that there's no point in using it as a panopticon. After all, if I can spend a trivial amount of cryptocurrency to be seen by a hacked panopticon out on a blind date with Sasquatch in Moscow, Idaho, while I'm simultaneously recorded doing random things in 52 other places (and actually at home washing my hair), it's a pretty worthless surveillance system. And if the Red Queen race between the AI panopticon and its hackers uses more energy than, say, BitCoin miners currently do, they're going to be turned off as worthless. Since hacking any Panopticon is a way to mint money, I'll believe it when I see it.
--How are the homeless getting by? I'm not going to say it's an easy life, but the edges of the current system are more porous and survivable than they appear.

Do I think that there's going to see death out of sight? Of course. We already have it in huge numbers. The only solution we currently have is the same one we've always used: journalism--getting the eyes of the world on the world's problems, and not on Teh Shiny.

Will the population in 2100 be lower than it was in 2000? I've already published my guess (yes), but I'm not sure if those deaths will occur out of sight because Big Brother tells us not to look, or because things are broken and no one can see anymore. Personally, I'd bet the latter, but probably I won't live long enough to find out.

19:

"On the one hand, labour-saving has historically led to major improvements in standard of living, but this is fundamentally different."

No, it's fundamentally the same... you're confusing the domestic and industrial contexts of "labour-saving". Industrial automation has historically thrown up two major problems: (1) creation of working environments which treat the machines as things to be preserved but the people as disposable, and (2) the mismatch between the need for fewer people to do things and the religious belief that people who aren't doing things must be starved.

(1) has been addressed through such things as union action and (the sensible aspects of) health and safety legislation - things which need the right flavour of social/cultural background conditions to flourish. Charlie's hypothesis weakens some of those conditions, but does not extinguish the possibility completely.

(2) ought to be easily solved just by not thinking this stupid thing, but the religious attachment to it means that what we actually get is increasingly desperate attempts to hold onto its shrinking territory as the growing capabilities of automation take over the remaining areas which it can pervert into sustenance. Asimov's robot stories predict no change in attitude even when all conceivable tasks can be automated, and I find it extremely depressing to think that he is very probably right.

20:

Annual accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere

13,760,000,000 tons / year

Life cycle CO2 emissions from coal power plants

820 g of CO2 / kWh

Life cycle CO2 emissions from nuclear power plants

12 g of CO2 / kWh

Life cycle CO2 reduction using nuclear power plants

808 g of CO2 / kWh

1.75 lbs of CO2 / kWh

Amount of energy to be replaced and eliminate CO2 accumulation

15,725,714,285,714 kWh per year

15,725,714,286 MWh per year

Power output of large nuclear power plant (Palo Verde)

4,000 MW

35,040,000 MWh per year

Number of large nuclear plants required

449 each

Capital cost of nuclear power plant (Palo Verde)

$5,900,000,000

Total Capital Costs

$2,647,879,973,907

About $2.5 Trillion

Summary: There are currently 467 operational nuclear power plants world wide. We can eliminate all excess CO2 by adding another 450 plants. So we solve global warming by doubling the number of nuclear reactors world wide.

We simply cannot prevent global warming without lots of nukes.

21:

(Sorry up-front: I have just lost a treasured item given to me by a dear friend that passed recently and I am feeling grim-dark...)


Charlie: “Shorter version is: there will be much dying... People will be die in large numbers, but it will happen out of sight. It'll be "soft genocide" or "malign neglect", and the victims will be the climate change refugees who are kept out of sight by virtual walls. ... You don't need to build concentration camps with barbed wire fences and guards if you can turn your entire society into a machine-mediated panopticon with automated penalties for non-compliance.”

Yes, agreed (to an extent)...

Technology requires someone to invent it, maintain it, and (eventually) upgrade it. In recent years I have come around to the Rudy Rucker “squishy bio” side of things: you only need one bright bulb to come up with “Super-Duper Custom Flu, version 2.7”, which spreads like influenza, kills like ebola, but has the built-in advantage of some unique tweaks to make sure it only kills “the others.” AI-augmented panopticons take an awful lot of personnel and overhead to run. All a “bioterror-based hegemony” needs is a threat vector and an antidote (preferably one that has to be re-administered from time to time.)

Step out of line -- in thought, word, or deed -- and you simply don’t get your next booster.

There will be plenty of automation to facilitate the nightmares Charlie Brooker *doesn’t* write about... But as you point out, there’s no need to build walls once the population is in line with “right thinking.”

The Chinese took a pragmatic view to their insular ideology when they let a (Communist-aligned) form of Capitalism inside the gates. What they did *not* do was let it metastasize and take over -- a few hundred million armed & loyal soliders tends to help, admittedly -- instead examining it with a critical eye toward understanding what makes it tick and how best to leverage it against its “masters” (the Western ruling elite, as it is hoped the lower castes will see the light and turn against them.) In so doing they learned the best, and worst, of our practices: from opening up a middle class to leveraging them into obedience with the next “hot gadget”, all the way to declaring the millenia-old “Middle Kingdom” to be back in business. “One Belt, One Road” can be taken a couple of different ways...some of them very unpleasant.

Orwell + Chinese “social credit score” + constant threat of bio-plague = population well-aligned to “accepted social norms.”


Charlie: “The people who buy into the idea of eugenics and racial supremacy—the alt-right and their fellow travellers—will sooner or later have to come to terms with the inevitability of anthropogenic climate change.”

This overlooks the notion that “real progress” is always so close -- “1960: fusion energy is just 30 years away!” -- for technocrats and their ilk. As a prime example, see “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (BBC)”, especially part 2 “The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts”, where we discover the vicious circle from man wanting to conquer Nature with their brains, to wanting to understand it, to fixing it, all while applying the wrong notions of what they were observing to how they where building the models to explain it. One reason we’re at this point in history is because humans are very bad at self-analysis and loathe to revisit previous assumptions for fear of being caught out. Stubborn ignorance wins most times.

Hence, the next (bio-)logical step will be to mount the slippery slope of genetic engineering on the primary germ line. “We have this scalpel-like tool, CRISPR, and it can do amazing stuff -- but progress is never clean, nor a straight line. So, we can get rid of Type 1 diabetes, however, we’ll wipe out a few thousand base pairs that make up ‘First Nations’ groups. Look on the bright side: no more insulin shots!” From there we will leap right into “turns out ‘social malady Z’ is really just a hormone imbalance caused by this bit on gene #4...so if we just re-edit this sequence here...” and a true biological basis for human control can be established. Retire the old “bio-terror plague” and breed “better people.” At this stage the gene-tweaking cabal has yet to realize that their ”Master race” is doomed, having created their own inbred evolutionary dead-end.

As far as that goes, I don’t really see your average White Power muggins giving a toss about any of the science. They’d rather breed ‘em all natural-like. Therefore, a “right/left” political viewpoint isn’t that useful -- just as many (American Left) Liberals & Democrats will jump on a “gene-fix” bandwagon, with or without (Right) Conservatives/Republicans, as it’ll be hailed as a victory for “science!” The yokle that hates someone because of their “race” isn’t the real problem. They’ve already shown they can be manipulated into one way of thinking, so swinging them the other way isn’t that hard. The people you have to watch out for -- true believers for “racial purity” -- will always be Authoritarians/Elitists, who *teach* others to hate for them, usually without actually subscribing to that (or any other) philosophy themselves.


Charlie: “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)".”

Here again, I think you’re making specific distinctions that overlook current trends: it’s not just white people getting rich or planning to outlive whatever future disaster is coming down the pike. The world is full of billionaires of all colors, religious affiliations, and purpose who have no time, or need, for “useless eaters.” Ignoring the new global nature of the problem only blinds us to who is serving what agenda. Will it last? Gods no! The first chance they get it will come down across the usual lines of futile stupidity and they will kill each other in a bloody frenzy to the last one standing. Good riddance.


Charlie: “Think in terms of old age homes where robots curate the isolated elderlies (no low-paid immigrant workers 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. ... Prisons where extensively drug-resistant TB runs rife as a discipline on the community service peons (as in: if you receive the sanction of an actual prison sentence, they won't need to execute you: 50% will be dead within 6 months).”

This is a sample of the tools, but doesn’t go far enough with the affect:
* The robots won’t “fail” to identify terminal conditions, they will simply not notify the person they are terminal -- and in most cases that they’re condition was caused by undisclosed tests they were subjected to during their “stay” at the facility. “They’re going to die anyway, they might as well serve the Common Good as much as they are able.”
* Food production will be one of the few jobs not fully automated so as to keep the remaining “herd” busy doing something “socially useful.” “You want to eat? You work. Don’t work, you don’t eat. Oh, and your social score suffers mightly.”
* Whatever economic system remains will allow for the occasional frivolity, but only to those cleared at a certain level by the “social credit score”, and even they will be using a “deficit” type credit system that is a life-long debt that can never be fully paid off. “Cradle to grave, you’re in Our hands.”
* Work farms (going with food production above), away from the population centers, where the “hardcore dissidents” wind up to be worked unto death. “You’re already dead, John Smith, the rest of your time in this place is to pay off enough debt so that we don’t bring your wife and kids up here after you die to take your place.”

(And if anyone missed the “Soylent Green” overtones...)


Charlie: “We're getting a glimpse of the way this future is shaped, thanks to Trump and Brexit and, to a lesser extent, China today. Trump has discovered that in times of insecurity, the spectacle of cruelty provides a shared common focus for his supporters. This is nothing new: the Romans were there millennia ago with their festivities at the Coliseum.”

I realize Trump is everyone's favorite punching bag, but this well-and-truly started a very long time ago and he’s just the Nero we happened to stick on stage, hand a fiddle, and ask him to play us a tune. The 20th Century was full of fuck-ups, crooks, and “morons-and-chiefs”, all of whom contributed gladly to the end results. Sadly, the 21st Century didn’t improve our luck any...

As a country, America could have butted out of a laundry list of things over the past 100 years, thus putting a lot less fuel on a whole lot of fires. We should have been better at keeping our promises and doing straight deals (if you have not read the book or seen the documentary, READ or WATCH “Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World” by Margaret MacMillan). In general, we would have been better to have backed our own stated beliefs with positive actions. That’s on us.

As a species, we definitely could have done a better job looking after one another and working to go against our base instincts. I’m not sure how realistic that truly is, but it certainly seems like something we could have at least tried now and again.


At times there does come a feeling, as if someone is trying to call a certain tune, in order to get a particular response, for an as-yet unknown outcome...

Billionaire survivalist eugenics nutbars?

Left-wing misanthropic death cult vegans?

Libertarian Bitcoin miners with a hentai fetish?

Our Lord and Savior, Great Cthulhu?

Hard to say...the sound is quite distant and my hearing ain’t what it used to be.

22:

“Super-Duper Custom Flu, version 2.7”, which spreads like influenza, kills like ebola, but has the built-in advantage of some unique tweaks to make sure it only kills “the others.”

For extra fun, remember that viruses mutate. A mutant version where the tweaks are non-functional will arise quickly and almost certainly outcompete the tweaked version.

23:

Extra bonus points: they erase the team that invents it and the vaccine to protect the secret ("It was them there 'tear-ore-its' that what done it!")...only to find out later it was built to mutate faster after a certain point, get deadlier, or even coded to eventually incorporate the vaccine as a "growth booster", ensuring 100% lethality within a few years. Almost like the scientists knew what was coming and planned it that way...

Or, it's programmed to "reverse" whom is identified as "the others" at some point in its evolution...leaving lots of dead billionaire "overlords" in its wake. Which I'm sure would certainly not decay into a "worst case Mad Max" scenario...

The "Law of Unintended Consequences" gets us all, in the end.

Maybe I'll feel more happy-go-lucky tomorrow...?

24:

Here in Australia the Beige party has been happily winning votes with pacific island oubliettes for refugees. There are some cracks in the consensus showing but superficial so far. I just don't know what it will take to shift opinion on this anymore.

25:

I think we'll see the "short victorious war" replaced by the "short stupid war", although it won't really be short. The initial high intensity phase will be short, but it will then drag on in stalemate for years and years.

I expect Trump to begin wars in Iran & Africa that will follow the pattern of Bush's wars in Afghanistan & Iraq; an initial strong (but not strong enough) commitment of troops with insufficient follow through that ends up stringing out to a low level conflict lasting decades.

And then there's Korea, where the opportunities for Trump to screw the pooch are just about endless.

26:

"Some libertarians would argue that cryptocurrency could address the elimination of cash, but I'm somewhat skeptical."

Blockchains can be used to help independent entities coordinate supply chain activities and make it far easier for all involved to cooperate with each other than to try to cheat. That easily translates to a system for bartering physical commodities, with no computed proof-of-work nonsense a la Bitcoin, so that at the end of a workday, it is known who owes how much to whom.

Collecting on those obligations would remain the job of a government or a favela strongman, but most participants would remit their obligations long before it came to that, just for the sake of staying in the market.

I'm not sinking my wealth into bitcoin and joining the libertarian kooks that are moving to Puerto Rico now. It's just that compared to that crowd versus an all-electronic currency in the hands of a government, I'd take my chances with the kooks. (For a warning, see India, where the Aadhar biometric database, along with the move to abolish the paper rupee, is putting Charlie's particular nightmare scenario right were such databases were already used to orchestrate the Gujarat massacres.)

27:

I'm not sure racism is going to last, at least not among any portion of the middle class.

What I'm seeing here is a parallel between the acceptance of homosexuality and the acceptance of other races. As Gays started coming out it quickly became apparent, even as people quibbled over the numbers, that every family had one, and there was always someone in the family who refused to abandon that someone... In the course of my lifetime the accusation of homosexuality has gone from something which would almost certainly result in a fight, perhaps a deadly one, to something which usually results in a sighed "So what?"

As mixed-race people become a larger and larger demographic I'm looking for the same thing to happen; every family will have at least one, (we have several Gay people) and blood is thicker than Fox News... which brings us to the other issue.

Everyone is carrying a cell-phone with a video camera. If you're a racist you will eventually show up on Youtube, and eventually some enterprising Black entrepreneur will come up with a proper database of racist White people. Given proper curation of the database and a group of lawyers, it may prove to very easy to assemble a class-action suit out of Black/Asian/Brown people who are strangers to each other... all the minorities in a particular town who have been harassed by a particular cop, or whatever.

On the subject of Trump, I don't expect that to last long, and the Democrats are currently clobbering the Republicans. I'd be on the lookout for a new Cold War, where the U.S. works hard to prove it's substantially less fascist than Putin's ugly little empire (and the Democrats engage in some very punitive behaviors!)

So there are also a lot of counter-trends here, if one wants to be optimistic.

28:

>>>Panopticon is Charlie's favorite word.

No, I think it is a draw between:

1. Panopticon
2. Fyodorovian (as in: Cosmism)
3. Deep State
4. Cthulhu

In fact, anything Charlie writes can usually be summarized as "Fyodorovian Panopticon Deep State Cthulhu", or variations thereof.

29:

Literally every bad thing in today's society you (Charlie Stross) are complaining about is ultimately a product of the nastiest aspects of human nature, as determined by biological evolution.

Cry about this or cry about machines subverting what is naturally human but please, for the love of God, don't cry about both at the same time.

Honestly I really, really like the fact that resistance is futile. It's a big step up for us.

30:

Judging by the frivolity of the comments so far, it must be Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

So the future is a blend of Glasshouse. The Peripheral, Will McIntosh's Soft Apocalypse, and Laurie Penny's Everything Belongs to the Future? Maybe.

But we should practice some factfulness.

I think the refugee problem is transient. People in poor countries have acquired enough resources to make it possible to leave, In another generation, they will have enough resources that leaving won't seem worth it.

Supporting this: I'm the product of refugees - specifically, refugees from the Great Storm. If such a storm were to recur, very few people would emigrate as a result, because locals have enough resources to want to stay. The "Dutch refugee" problem was transient. I think the same will turn out to be true of Syrian refugees and North African refugees.

The problem of racist white people feeling threatened by the loss of their position on top of the pile is very real. But I think that in a decade or so, they will be reduced to impotence. Or irrelevance, if you prefer.

It's going to be hard to stop seeing brown people, or people who speak funny. I'm married to one, and I work with hundreds more. I don't think I'm alone, or even in a small minority.

What is going to be hard is seeing brown people as different. Who's the Lord Mayor of London, again? How is he different?

31:

I've already commented on this dystopian take.
It's a very useful warning, but some of it won't happen at all, some of it will be headed off by people power & some of it is plain wrong.

Unless DT manages to get re-elected in 2020, a lot simply won't happen.
Pence becoming POTUS changes the game again - for the worse & all bets are off at that point.
Simiolarly, we are assuming that Brexit is going to happen - I'm still not certain of this: To quote the "Indy" May is boiling the Brexiteer frogs - slowly
Or we may get BRINO - the least-worst scenario.

Oh and "anti-religious bigotry" is a stab at me, which I deny, of course ( "I would wouldn't I?" )
If only because I regard all believers as deluded & only a few of them as dangerous - & of course, my dangerous bogotry consists of arguments & ridicule - same as the so-called "militant atheists", actually.
So, Charlie, carry on winding, but I'm going to ignore it(!)

Separate post on others comments, to follow.

32:

Some libertarians would argue that cryptocurrency could address the elimination of cash, but I'm somewhat skeptical.

You're right to be skeptical; libertarianism -- and cryptocurrency -- are themselves symptoms of the disease. Have you noticed that many libertarians have drifted into outright fascism and white supremacism over the past 2-5 years? That's because libertarianism is a denial of communitarianism, and denial of communitarianism in the US goes hand in glove with racism (if there's no such thing as society, then you're under no obligation to feel for or look after "those people"). Ditto cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is on course to consume 0.5% of global electricity production by the end of this year, rising by a compound 20% per month when the bubble is in inflationary mode. On it's own, it's damaging our attempts at carbon emission containment -- and again, it's all because of people who have a pathological aversion to trusting one another.

Most of the planet is not amenable to a "Walkaway" solution because it's densely inhabited (people already live there) or it's uninhabitable. Over the next century the population will continue to increase while large parts will slide from habitability into uninhabitability -- 80% of us live within 200 miles of a coastline, but coastlines are directly threatened by rising sea levels.

This is not a good long term prognosis.

33:

cdodgson @ 4
Yes, well, there are always people who will join the SS same as there are always people who do the opposite thing.
The qustion is: Which "faction", not so much wins, as gets the greatest traction?
I agree with Charlie (!) in that things are looking very unpleasant, but I think the reaction to the ongoing attempted re-takeover by the fascists is slowly but surely growing.
I donlt think they will take over, but it is goping to be a struggle.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Thane @ 5
Uighurs - yes
And the previously-discussed religious bigotry in Burma ( Which some characterise additionally as watching the sea-levels rise, too )
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

DD @ 20
But only if you can get "Greenpeace" to STFU
Because Nukluar power is EVIL, worse than the work of Satan, don't you beleieve?
The level of stupid in the anti-nuclear movement, when figures like that are shown, beggars belief.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

My namesake @ 30
Kahn is identical to May - both of them have got religous delusions, which warp their thinking.
The fact that Khan is pale-brown is 150% irrelevant.
Remind us again - who is current Home Secretary?

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

Elimination of Cash
NOT GOING TO HAPPEN
Very perceptive article in the weekend FT a couple of weeks back on this ...
Also, if we get rid of cash, we are back to a Bronze-Age society, running on Debt, are we not, but with modern comms. [ Note to self: MUST read Graeber ]
I don't think this would be sustainable.
Like Heteromeles says, in another context, it's a Ponzi scheme & bound to fail.

34:

Greatest military tragedy since the second world war

You forgot the Second Congo War of 1998-2003. Trivial! Only 5.3 million dead, per official estimates. Or the half million to million violent and/or surplus deaths in Iraq following the US invasion.

But if the corpses don't have white skin they don't count, right?

(Our media environment is poisoned by white supremacism. It's insidious and badly impairs our ability to assess how bad the situation really is.)

35:

Will the population in 2100 be lower than it was in 2000? I've already published my guess (yes), but I'm not sure if those deaths will occur out of sight because Big Brother tells us not to look, or because things are broken and no one can see anymore.

I'm guessing the prognosis for the end of the 22nd century is a lot better for the ordinary people. Think in terms of the way the Black Death hit Europe in the mid-14th century, and the way that in the aftermath, a generation or two later, wages and labour mobility both shot up (at least in England, after 50% depopulation -- skilled trades were at a premium, lords couldn't force peasants to stay on the land if they wanted to move elsewhere, and so on).

36:

That easily translates to a system for bartering physical commodities

Yet barter, as Graeber points out, is what you get when a society that is used to money stops trusting money. It's a symptom of wide scale social breakdown.

I'm not sinking my wealth into bitcoin and joining the libertarian kooks that are moving to Puerto Rico now. It's just that compared to that crowd versus an all-electronic currency in the hands of a government, I'd take my chances with the kooks.

The trouble with the kooks is they essentially want to secede from humanity.

37:

In fact, anything Charlie writes can usually be summarized as "Fyodorovian Panopticon Deep State Cthulhu", or variations thereof.

I totally wish my blogging system had a comment upvote mechanism right now ...

38:

There are romantic nitwit treehuggers who think living like a medieval peasant will solve our problems. Then there are the Ecomodernists

http://www.ecomodernism.org/

who know that better technology, higher density of activity and population freeing up more land for habitat, and a segregation of human activity from nature are the best ways to save the planet.

Want to save the planet? Reduce our footprint. Take a good close look at the land use map in section I.6 of this report:

https://ourworldindata.org/yields-and-land-use-in-agriculture

It is a surprising look at how we actually use the planet. For example: the amount of area used to graze and feed livestock is equal to the entire Western Hemisphere (27% of the world's landmass). The amount used for farming is about the size of China and East Asia (7%). Cities are only 1%. A total human impacted land area of 35% of the world's land area.

Remaining habitat includes glaciers (10%), barren lands and deserts (19%), forests (26%), freshwater (1%), shrub (8%), a total of 65%.

Neither grazing nor farming is "natural". A farm is no more natural than a skyscraper. Replace them with meat grown in bioreactor vats from stem cells, enclosed vertical farms

https://inhabitat.com/can-vertical-farming-feed-the-world-and-change-the-agriculture-industry/

and high intensity greenhouse farming like the Dutch have developed:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming/?beta=true

and most of this area (over a third of the planet's land mass) can be returned to natural habitat. And it is farming that is doing the most ecological damage today (deforestation of the Amazon, fertilizer laden run-off, acquifer depletion, etc.). Using American agricultural techniques (and assuming equally good soil) each person requires one acre of farmland to provide enough food .

At 640 acres per square mile, 7 billion people would require almost 11 million square miles of farmland to provide an American diet. That is an area bigger than Alaska and Canada combined. But suppose we transitioned to vertical farming and lab grown (cruelty free) meat? Develop vat grown beef and chicken (with steaks, hamburgers and nuggets made by 3d printers), and Humanity's impact on Planet earth is reduced to a fraction of its current load.

Vertical farming (growing our food in the heart of our expanded mega cities) that utilizes dwarf versions of certain crops (e.g. dwarf wheat developed by NASA, which is smaller in size but richer in nutrients), year-round crops, and "stacker" plant holders, a 30-story building with a base of a building block (5 acres) would yield a yearly crop analogous to that of 2,400 acres of traditional farming. Develop advanced GMO crops (which even Bill Nye the Science Guy says is safe) to further increase yields.

And that's a good thing.

The worst thing you could do is embrace the idiotic romanticism of organic farming which require 1.5x to 3x the amount of land area to grow the same amount of crops. That's a lot of destroyed habitat.

You want to really save the world? Cram every human into cities. Fortunately urbanization is a major demographic trend. For the first time inhuman history, more people live in urban areas than rural areas. Hopefully this trend will continue.

If everyone lived in an urban area with the same population density of Manhattan, Macau or Hong Kong (almost 70,000 people per square mile), all 7 billion of us could live in a single mega-city the size of Colorado. Or the equivalent area taken up by multiple high population density cities. As a bonus, families in urban areas have fewer kids, further reducing population pressure on resources.

An ideal future world would be self contained mega-cities existing like islands in an ocean of surrounding natural habitat, wit h humanity living a life of material prosperity while most of its activities and physical footprint are divorced from nature.

Best of both worlds.

39:

Yeah. But I think that you have missed a couple of critical aspects.

The first is that, while we have a ruling something, it's not a class, and is not what Sterling said. Those people are useful idiots, supportive agents, and little more. The only people who are real members of the ruling something are the likes of the Dirty Digger, and the main members are shadowy organisations WITHIN multinationals and some political groups. I don't understand how organisations can behave like entities not composed of their members, but they can and do. This only makes things worse, of course.

The second is the consequences of the Belgian Congo, which the Belgians turned into a complete shithole. But, as a result of its collapse, the multinationals learnt that they could make more profit from exploitation in a completely failed state than in one with a 'friendly' government: fewer large bribes and regulations, much easier to import one's own mercenaries etc. As time passed, that became de facto western policy - witness the difference between the imposition of the Shah in Iran and 1950s/1960s South America and what was done in Iraq, Libya and Syria (and parts of Africa and South America) today, and is being attempted to Iran.

The driver of this policy seems to be essentially the 'USA military-industrial machine' (and NOT the USA government, or any part of it), though it is now not entirely USA-based, and it is from them that the UK seems to have been taking its marching orders on foreign adventurism (and, to some extent, international affairs) for the past quarter century. Blair was an extremely useful idiot, but the really clear example was Cameron - the bombing of Libya and now Syria were and are clearly intended to turn the places into war zones, not to install a new, viable, docile government.

40:

To which I would add the iran-Iraq war ...
WWI type battles with late 20thC technology.
What was the body count again?

41:

As I was going to say the other day, we're starting to see this in Australia.

* We have the camps - safely outside the country, on Manus and Nauru (and in Nauru, the government there has a blanket ban on Australian journalists visiting - they can't even get visas anymore) where the "undesirables" can die out of sight of the mainland.

* We have a social security system which is being destroyed by a combination of neglect, continual cutbacks, outsourcing, and a refusal to raise the rates of payments (seriously, the dole here is just over half the poverty line, and I'm expecting it to drop below that sometime in the next two to three years at most). Age pensions are probably going to be phased out some time in the next twenty years - the last flush of the baby boomers will keep theirs, but those of us in Generation X are probably going to be stuck with our superannuation or nothing.

* Removal of the right to use cash money - that one's coming along nicely. The government is trying to spread its cashless welfare card "trial"[1] to more and more districts, and they've announced measures in the most recent budget to tackle the "black economy". I fully expect to see Australian banknotes and coins removed as legal tender within my lifetime.

* Oh, and the cashless welfare card is a beautiful little lurk all on its own. People who are required to use it (mostly indigenous, but spreading out gradually to cover more and more low-income whites) have 80% of their welfare payments quarantined on this particular card. It's administered by Indue, a firm which was set up by a bunch of donors to the Liberal party here, and basically Indue has, in effect, received the right to act as a financial institution without even the minor regulatory oversight currently in place on Australia's banking system[2]. You can't spend money on the card on things which aren't approved by the company, which includes buying alcohol, gambling on poker machines and so on. It also includes things like buying goods from shops which aren't registered on their database, paying bills to firms which aren't registered in their database, drawing out cash to give as presents, or to pay for school lunches or excursions or similar, and so on and so on and so on. Essentially, you're down to just 20% of your benefit as pocket money. If you want to register a new payee in their database, you have to go through our social security bureaucracy in order to register it.

* A media environment where there's a strong implication that if you need welfare in the first place, you're practically a criminal by definition. Thank Uncle Rupert for that one.

[1] It's more like one of those prolonged beta tests which never goes to alpha, really. It's never actually going to be formally implemented, it's just being "trialed" in more and more sites each year, and sold as a way of controlling drunkenness, problem gambling[3], and drug abuse.
[2] See our current banking royal commission for details on how effectively that worked. Oh, and the banking regulator had their funding cut in the most recent federal budget as well.
[3] Two of the first trial sites were in the north of Western Australia, the one state where poker machines in the pubs aren't a thing - the only poker machines in the state are in the casino down in Perth, about three to four days' travel from the trial locations. But let's not let facts get in the way of our ideology here...

42:

We already have long stupid wars. At least two (Afghanistan and Iraq), possibly more depending on what exactly counts.

I was talking about, best case, the sort of war where America finds out the hard way that it really isn't a superpower any more. Worst case, a very short war lasting roughly an hour (under 30 minutes missile flight time Minot to Beijing, about the same for the Chinese response).

43:

Analyze the past and present to see what is to come. Now wrap your lips around the barrel of the gun? Err.

Though I'm not sure if it's actual planning, at least not for most. Just gross negligience, and maybe things happening according to some darker system II feelings.

"Shit, maybe Barris was wired the other night and did what a lot of dudes do when they're wired: just sort of groove with what's happening." PKD, A Scanner Darkly

And when you meet the results, it's all their fault.

Two ideas, first of, if they don't care, why should I care for them?

Second of, err, fortgot it, maybe I'll write it up when I remember.

Err, sorry for being somewhat cryptic, I'm getting better at summing, analyzing and verbalizing up my intuitions, but sometimes it doesn't work out so well.

44:

When they do so, they will inevitably come to the sincere, deeply held belief that culling the bottom 50% to 90% of the planetary population will give them a shot at survival in the post-greenhouse world. (That's the "bottom 50-90%" as defined by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.)

Would it somehow be better if the bottom 50-90% were defined by "woke" people?

In the mid-term future, there simply won't be enough resources to keep the system running, with the result that most of us will die. Whoever is running things will have to practice triage. Triage is practically similar to murder (people die) but morally different (we're trying to save as many as we can, even knowing that we can't save most people). On a practical level, it matters a lot who dies and how they are chosen. On a moral level, not really.

The other possibility is that all large-scale organization will collapse and nobody will be able to perform triage. No triage means less guilt but more corpses.

45:

Here's a link, which I can't figure out how to embed (FYI, the Post has a soft paywall):

They will let you in one article at a time if you get their via Google News. Put in the descriptive part of the URL into Google News then hit the link.

Plus you get 5 or 10 free articles per month via cookies.

46:

I expect Trump to begin wars in Iran & Africa that will follow the pattern of Bush's wars in Afghanistan & Iraq; an initial strong (but not strong enough) commitment of troops with insufficient follow through that ends up stringing out to a low level conflict lasting decades.

There is NO sufficient follow through. Most of these societies are in turmoil not because they want to be like "us". They are in turmoil about which of the "them" flavors they want. Sunni v Shia for example. No mater which side we pick to help after it's over they have no interest in working with us to become more like us. So all we can do is be an occupying force keeping them from coming after us.

Or we embark on a 40 year plan which basically tells 99% of the people on the ground their society is all wrong and switch to ours. And at the end of the day how do you do that without separating the young from their parents and keeping them apart?

Of course you get to toss in which flavor of "us" you want them to become.

47:

On the issue of Bitcoin, libertarians and the alt-right, you may be interested in a short book by David Golumbia, titled, "The politics of Bitcoin: Software as right-wing extremism."

It's a quick read and, despite occasional repetitiveness, quite well written.

I read it recently, because I'm interested in the consequences of what Lawrence Lessig (20+ years ago) called regulation through code.

48:

Here is my opinion on the good and the bad

The good
1. East Asia has urbanized and industrialized. The fact that China can handle its internal refugees on its own is refreshing.

2. China doesn't care about environmental orthodoxy. This is both good and bad, but in my opinion it's good overall. This means that they can ignore the anti-nuke and anti-desalination crowd. At the same time, they are likely to stick to their 2030 phase-out of fossil fuels, and they don't care about "the free market" when it comes to renewables

3. Most continents have a TFR https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate#/media/File:Countriesbyfertilityrate.svg

This is both good and bad, but I think overall it will make any refugee crisis more manageable.

49:

Lessee, where do I start?

Nukes, um, no. The person pushing us needing more nukes is ignoring a) WHERE DO WE PUT THE WASTE? The US never got Yucca Mt., and b) I'm sure all those uranium miners have a great life. (NOT)

On the other hand, I just read yesterday that the US had added *zero* fossil-fuel power plants last year.

Population: it *looks* like it might peak in about 40 years, and I'd expect decline after that. Fun fact: in addition to the the higher the educational level of women, the lower the birth rate, there's also that excreted birth control hormones have gotten into the water supply, thus lowering the birth rate for *everyone*. Just this week, there were headlines that the US had the lowerst birth rate since '87, I think it was.

Unfortunately, with global warming, there *will* be many, many deaths from tsunamis and hurricanes/cyclones.

Cryptocurrency, we've all gone over that before here (QUICK! Invest now, or you'll miss your chance to lose everything!, as I think it was OGH wrote). No cash? Fat chance.

Today's column by Krugman (the blog posts in the NYT don't seem to be paywalled) about what's wrong with Europe, the "Very Serious People", who, of course, are just shills for the ultrawealthy. Hey, here's an easy way to fix everything: top tax bracket, people (or individual trusts or other instruments of tax avoidance) earning > $10M US/year, 90% tax. With exemptions, have I got a deal for you, 85%. And let's add a 25% tax on all property valued at > $10M US, annually.

Gee, you wealthy don't like it? Get in line, the tumbrels are over there, waiting for you.

Alternative... someone *does* manage to get a small nuke, or a *real* nuclear dirty bomb, to Davos.

Charlie, I really don't see how it can go on, now that the ultrawealthy have tossed into the dustbin of history noblesse oblige, or, for that matter, tossing the rest of us enough crumbs that we aren't like the peasants (that is, revolting).

50:

>>>>Nukes, um, no. The person pushing us needing more nukes is ignoring a) WHERE DO WE PUT THE WASTE? The US never got Yucca Mt., and b) I'm sure all those uranium miners have a great life. (NOT)

Please stop the phobia. You can store the waste in a pool of water indefinitely. There's not so much of it, we are not talking cubic kilometers here. As long as your civilization can maintain the reactor, it can maintain the pool of water. If your civilization had collapsed, the nuclear waste is not among your biggest problems.

51:

I've gotta kinda-sorta agree with you about the Libertarians, but what you're seeing as "racism" is symptomatic of a particular issue: The Libertarians I read all seem to be working off some kind of weird 1950s data set which comes out of the paranoid anti-communism of the day, real John Birch stuff, and they won't let in the kind of data which says, "the Cold War is over, we have different concerns now" or data which allows the introduction of anything one of the crazy Cold-War types ever criticized as communist, such as Single Payer Health Care, despite the fact that data shows it does better than any other system.

The racism and other weird ideas are all part of a larger data-set which they simply refuse to abandon. It's like they're all reading the Wall Street Journal from 1958. Certainly nothing later than 1960 except for news about current events, (but none of the opinion pieces.)

52:

The level of stupid in the anti-nuclear movement, when figures like that are shown, beggars belief.

The way to fix this problem is to consider the fact that better, cheaper reactor designs are available, but we aren't using them. This means compromise with the anti-nuke movement can happen, but nobody on the other side is saying, "let's make pebble-bed reactors the standard" or anything remotely like that; thus I treat all pro-nuke statements as propaganda aimed at getting me to accept plutonium breeder reactor, which might melt-down, all the while producing waste that nobody can safely dispose of, in my back yard.

We can do with solar and wind (Southern California is great for both of these things) until someone starts selling a reactor design that doesn't fuck (a-shima) shit up.

53:

That's why we like you, Charlie.

54:

I'm exploring that scenario in a piece I'm writing. God only knows if it will ever be published, but the set up is that the Iranians completely give up on nukes, and put all their efforts into making their missiles highly accurate. Then when the U.S. gets aggressive, the Iranians sink a couple tankers (the insides of the tankers are lined with ten-feet of cement, so U.S. divers can't easily blow them up,) in order to prevent the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf from leaving, and the following occurs:

The three photographs of Dick Cheney’s doom were iconic, frequently compared with pictures of such disasters as the wreck of the Hindenburg or the sinking of the Arizona. The first picture was shot from a distance, and it showed an Iranian multi-stage missile several hundred feet in the air and perhaps a hundred feet in front of the helicopter carrier. The missile was whole, but there was obviously something wrong with it; the Phalanx guns on the Dick Cheney had already started to fire and the missile was in the very first stages of breaking up.

The second photograph showed the missile a hundred feet above the deck of the helicopter carrier. It had broken up from the effect of the Phalanx guns, but the missile itself had already been coming down almost vertically, and the captain of the Dick Cheney clearly had not realized what would happen if the missile disintegrated right above his ship. Phalanx guns were mainly useful against incoming attacks that were more-or-less on the horizontal plane, and how the gun’s software had cleared it to fire almost straight up was one of those eternal military mysteries. A helicopter was just above the deck of the ship, and you could see two helicopter shadows on the deck, one cast by the morning sun, the other cast by light from the burning missile fuel

The third photograph was perfectly timed, and it showed a single gigantic explosion rising above a ship’s deck covered with burning missile fuel. Clearly the conventional warhead had cooked off in the heat of the burning ship, and a close look at the picture revealed bits of pieces of ship blowing in all directions, plus one human being suspended a hundred feet above the water, and that person was obviously on fire.

It was the first Pulitzer Prize for Photography ever awarded to an Iranian drone operator.

55:

Megpie71 @ 41
HOW dis AUS get that bad - really, slowly, boiling-frog style, so that no-one noticed?
This makes the cruelty of the convict times look almost benign.
[ Mind you, many years ago at ( I think Brtighton wordcon, one H Harrison told me that the nazis didn't go to Argentina ot the southern USA, but AUS - seems he might have had a point. ]
What happens if an enterprising investigative journo manages to sneak into Nauru could be - interesting.

Auricoma @ 50
Precisely.
However, I do hope that the Greenpeace tree-hugger don't have to be suspended form some of the same trees to achieve the desired result. ( More nuclear power stations )

Troutwaxer @ 51
ALMOST
Given tha most of these people are US oe AUS & a few here, correct, but they are using a different hymn-sheet.
It's called: "The Old Testament"

56:

It's unreasonable to attempt to make long term predictions at this point. And long term has shortened to about 15 years. So don't make any guesses about what 2075 will be like. It tells you more about you than about what will happen.

FWIW, I'm still expecting "the technological singularity" around 2035. But it won't match *any* of the predictions. And after the first General AI, the course will be heavily inflected by what it's goals are. Which I haven't heard of anyone with a good handle on.

For that matter, if Virtual Reality can ever be perfected, elimination of any group would be trivially easy. Just design a virtual reality that they would rather live in, give them enough to survive on, and they won't reproduce. This *does* require that essentially all labor be automated in order to work, but that seems to be in the cards anyway. The intriguing thing about this, is some recent results seem to show that the virtual reality doesn't need to be all that perfected. They'd clearly, however, need to eliminate the motion sickness.

57:

We really should be reprocessing the waste to get the fuel out of it. There's a reason Yucca Mt. died, and that reason is that waste is still valuable fuel and nobody wants to give it up for free. The waste thing is rather blown out of proportion (literally). Coal-fired power generation is the biggest source of radioisotope contamination most places. If you've got a nuclear plant downwind of a coal plant you can't use external radioactivity sensors because they'll be railed on all the time from the coal ash. But that's old tech so nobody cares how bad it is.

58:

When the government is anti-racist, it's normal for the racists to claim to be libertarian. I think that's the basis for your observed correlation. (Some will even go full-anarchist.)

I don't believe that there's any inherent correlation between libertarian and racist. There *is* a correlation between growing up in a homogeneous household and racism. In the US I've observed that many blacks are racists, probably a larger percentage than whites, though that's subjective. I think this is because they tend to grow up in more homogeneous neighborhoods. Note that this is a separate issue than the possession of sufficient power to make expressing their racism safe. And many racists have ethical constraints that make them unwilling to act on their racism.

A separate issue is what a person's racism causes them to believe about another person. Mine causes me to tend to believe that they are dangerous without valid cause, and occasionally causes me to make insensitive comments, but I haven't detected it causing any other effects. Others seem to have it cause them to believe that the others are stupid, or in some other way lesser humans.

59:

Look, warhawks will masturbate to colorful depictions of Iranian bases going up in flames, while their opponents will masturbate to essentially what you had posted. Too bad you probably can't put both in the same book.

60:

No. A pool of water is not a good place to store nuclear waste. It's a reasonable temporary dodge. OTOH, I haven't heard a good argument against glassification, i.e., grinding it up and stirring it into a pot of molten glass.

So it's not that there's no solution, it's that no solution is being implemented.

61:

OK, that would be a good answer to nuclear waste too. But when you just leave it in a holding area, you are inviting catastrophe.

I'm not really sure ANY of the currently operating designs could ever be considered by a sane culture, but pebble bed might be alright. And there are a few other designs that look reasonable.

The problem with nuclear plants isn't the technology, it's the management. But the management is not a trivial problem, and may well be less soluble than the technical ones.

62:

I used to think Richard Morgan's 'Market Forces' was dystopian far fiction. Unfortunately our overlords view it as a roadmap.

63:

The pools of water are short term storage for when the waste still has s lot of short half life isotopes that are generating a lot of heat. After they mostly go away the fuel comes out of the water and becomes mostly a political problem.

Reprocessing and vitrification work, so long as they are well regulated and not run by the lowest bidder. Deep storage is all based on mature engineering but is constrained politically so we end up with...

Sitting on the stuff in a well guarded for a couple of centuries until the worst of the radioactivity goes away. This isn't actually a bad solution if you trust your society and warehouse to last a couple of centuries.

On the subject of "cheap" reactor designs like pebble beds, molten salt, thorium reactors and anything else that the world is just stupid for not using: All existing designs are cheap as chips on paper. It's easy to design something "inexpensive" if you don't actually have to build and operate it.

What you are really asking for is for someone to absorb the cost of the R&D to turn an untested design or small scale prototype into a mature industrial scale system.

Success will mean that half a dozen builds and a couple of decades gets you something moderately better than designs that are available off the shelf right now.

Failure means you just wasted a decade on something that doesn't work.

Likely outcome: you have exclusive rights to the next AGR.

I just can't see why this would be attractive.

64:

Actually, this is the most violent event in the story, describing what happened to one of the character's fathers, and it sets up (what I hope to be) a nice piece of character humor/banana-peel joke. The actual story is character-based and set in the near future, and the most awful thing that actually happens to the characters is that some people attending an orgy get arrested.

But in the back story, the U.S. discovers that accuracy is more important to defending the Persian Gulf than the possession of nukes, and definitively has to choose between losing a war and the very ugly slog necessary to take Tehran.

65:

Unfortunately I think the Star Trek timeline may prove prophetic. I can totally see these alt-right fascists calling for actual Eugenics Wars.

66:

Re: 'Technology requires someone to invent it, maintain it, and (eventually) upgrade it.'

Exactly! Hence an increase in the likelihood of sabotage if some employee gets fed up or grows a conscience. The standard reply to this is that the personnel in such areas of responsibility would be psych screened/brain-washed into compliance. To which my response is that such screening/brain-washing might make these individuals incapable of coming up with new ideas/tech. Another argument against such sabotage is the reliance on peer pressure/group belonging: although individuals might hate their org/corp-suite, they continue working in hellish jobs because of they developed strong interpersonal ties with their co-workers.


Re: 'Targeted viruses, mutations, etc.'

I'm assuming that there's enough knowledge about viruses now that a special virus could be developed that kills within one or two days. Once the target person is dead, the virus also dies. This would limit both the uncontrolled spread of the virus as well as prevent it from mutating into something uncontrollable and for which there is no antidote/vaccine.

Re: News control

AI could be developed to delete/omit any news related to specific populations: what the common folk don't know about, they can't react to. Think this was also mentioned by Orwell. Effectiveness of this strategy is easy enough to measure: ask anyone born in China post 1989 what they know about Tiananmen Square. That plus official death counts: Party report approx. 150, declassified docs report at least 10,000.

Another popular way of deflecting media coverage/consumption is to stage another eye-grabbing (but happy) event at the same time - basically, upstage the bad news. (Imagine that TMay was grateful for the media respite she got thanks to Harry's nuptials. Seriously - the Royal Wedding was on almost every channel and figured in almost all newscasts.)

67:

(Writer's note: found the treasured item, so making an effort to get into The Light...)


Troutwaxer: "The way to fix this problem is to consider the fact that better, cheaper reactor designs are available, but we aren't using them."

Most definitely: #1#2#3#4, & #5


Adam: "We really should be reprocessing the waste to get the fuel out of it."

Agreed.


CharlesH: "I don't believe that there's any inherent correlation between libertarian and racist."

I too am confused by the regular connections between these two things. I've been to (American) Libertarian Party meetings and it's usually a few old guys with gripes about taxes and government over-reach. There's the usual Ayn Rand fan base, but the bulk of the ones I've met, many from a wide range of backgrounds, just don't care for the other two parties and looking for something else.

Related to that, I think "Oogie Ben Doggie"s notion of using Blockchain sans "proof of work" as a transparent ledger may help with these kinds of issues, as most folks seem to think their taxes aren't doing anything for them. Having "taxspend.dashboard.gov" can make it transparent where the leaks are and hopeful get people thinking about things like "wait, in addition to killing people out of view of my Telescreen the Pentagon can find $21 TRILLION!!? Fuck this, lets see their blockchain!" Don't like all the "others" taking something for nothing? Well maybe we should take a look at your blockchains and see just what your cut has been during the same period?

Will it be used for "evil"? Absolutely: "lifetime benefit limits" (thanks grandpa & grandma!), "suspension of benefits for outstanding fines or violation of 'social credit score'", etc. However, if it gets things rolling in a positive direction, giving fewer people something to bitch about, the hope remains they'll figure out we're all in the same damn boat.


SFreader: "Re: News control"

I had thoughts along the same lines: "AI"/"expert systems"/"intelligent agents"/ will probably start off as "fake news detectors", but weaponized on all sides. As the creation becomes more "organic", someone will just put a fresh one through a "boot camp" process using their favorite bear-bait until it ticks all the boxes. Again, used by both sides, it will require the consumer to be even more weary of everyone and everything. The days of Edward R. Murrow are long-gone.

Along the way the hope is that more people get better at doing their own legwork, which then breeds a new generation of "truth seekers". You'll still be able to create your own "reality bubble"/playlist, but you'll also be able to hone your feeds to a razor-sharp edge.

For that matter how do we know Charlie hasn't been replaced by an AI from the future, with intent to influence the past?


Is it just me or does it suddenly feel like Terrance McKenna was right and everything just feels like it's on fast-forward? Maybe it's an after-affect of aging through the times I did...

68:

If you're a racist you will eventually show up on Youtube, and eventually some enterprising Black entrepreneur will come up with a proper database of racist White people.

It is kind of happening already: https://www.theroot.com/behold-beelzebecky-white-woman-tries-to-get-man-killed-1826150663

69:

Re: 'Targeted viruses, mutations, etc.'

There are basically three ways to approach what you're suggesting:

1) Make the virus non-contagious. It won't get out of control, but you have to infect each target individual separately. May as well just use a knife.

2) Make the virus contagious, but put a limiting gene in it. Since viruses mutate, a version without the limiter will soon appear. Since the limiter was designed to reduce the virus's reproductive efficiency, the non-limited version will be outcompete the limited version.

3) Make the virus contagious in a manner that only affects the target population. Examples: HIV spreads rapidly among male homosexuals but has very poor female to male transmission, and kuru only spreads among cannibals. That could work, but only if your target population has specific practices that make it vulnerable.

70:

Pebble-bed reactors have been tried in the past and failed dismally. The Germans built two production reactors, one leaked enough radioactivity to be detected quite some distance away a few days after Chernobyl blew its stack, the other broke after a few years of operation and they still don't know how to decommission either of them.

The Chinese think they've solved the problems with pebble-bed reactors, they've had a small one, the HTR-PM running for a decade or more and they are building a pair of production pebble-bed reactors (total electrical output 210Mw) but generally it's been found that a nuclear reactor that operates by moving the fuel around at very high temperatures is a Bad Idea. The successful reactors have the fuel stay still and move coolant around them as fission occurs and the heat is used to boil water and produce steam to drive turbines. We've got centuries of experience in boiling water, we're very good at it.

As for reprocessing fuel, two things prevent it from happening more widely than it does at the moment -- the first is that raw minehead uranium product is really cheap, there's a glut on the maret and a lot of known reserves of uranium ore aren't being exploited because of the low price. The second reason is that reprocessing is expensive since it's based on a money-no-object plutonium recovery process designed for military purposes. There are other speculative reprocessing systems but none have been tested at other than lab-bench level because of the low price of mined uranium enriched and burned in a once-through operation. The US has a half-completed reprocessing facility, way over budget and unfunded and no actual customers for its reprocessed uranium. Other countries that do reprocessing are either existing nuclear weapons powers (Russia, Britain, France) or want a nuclear weapons breakout capability (Japan).

71:

Greg vP @30 said: But we should practice some factfulness.

I'm reading the book now.

Factfulness
by Hans Rosling

This is a YouTube series discussing Factfulness.

Hans Rosling on factfulness (2015)

Look at any of the videos on YouTube by Hans Rosling and you will see what is real.

That fear that everyone is expressing in the thread is driven by social media. The PBS Newshour did a series lately about how social media pushes people's buttons to build a false outlook on reality, because extremes make money. It all started in America.

How Facebook's news feed can be fooled into spreading misinformation

Online anger is gold to this junk-news pioneer

Why we love liking junk news that reaffirms our beliefs

Inside Facebook's race to separate news from junk

The only way to clean up the system is shut down social media, or make it a subscription service with no adds to drive the extremes.

Why we should be more like cats than dogs when it comes to social media

Essentially:

“Everyone believes very easily whatever they fear or desire.”

Jean de la Fontaine

72:

Pebble-bed reactors have been tried in the past and failed dismally.

It's more {insert technology of choice} with nukes. We're still building gen 3 designs from the 1960's because all the dozens of shiny new designs have somehow failed to get to the "commercially viable" stage, and even the gen 3 ones are mostly abandoned mid-build for that reason. Unless you want to consider global capital as an arm of the green wingnut army the environmentalists aren't really the problem here.

OTOH, the religious fervor for burn-once-and-discard power generation systems continues to scare me. The whole idea that unless we can exactly replicate the behaviour of a steam turbine based electrical system we can't make renewable energy work is just bizarre. Why reproduce problems that you don't need (uncontrolled peak demand, stability, reactive power, harmonic power, FFS even power factor) when you can make them irrelevant using stuff we already have at scale (home solar inverters, for example).

Oooh, the best problem that the fossil power people claim makes renewables unpossible: too much supply. Big rotating machines don't deal well with excess supply (that's one reason power prices go negative sometimes) but renewables don't have the same problem. You really can just turn off the tap and the big hydro system just ... stops. Likewise, solar generators can just turn off the output and now you have big arrays of nothing in particular just sitting there. Sure, a coal or nuke plant can do the same, but on a scale of hours-to-days not jiffies-to-seconds like solar.

And the ongoing "no-one has ever done it, therefore no-one ever will" stuff beggars belief. It's actually the "no true Scotsman" argument, because Aotearoa and Norway have both done it. Both still had fossil generators in the system because just like fossil plants, renewable ones fail sometimes and diversity of sources is good of itself. My eyes hurt from the rolling.

73:

Overall though, I'm less scared by the overt US and Europe "hunt down and kill individuals" stuff that makes headlines like Windrush or the daily mass shooting, and more scared of the incredibly competent and exciting new developments in social control.

Australia is busy exporting that stuff, so other countries can have their very own "Operation Sovereign Borders" where as mentioned above, refugees drown at sea or are refouled rather than ever coming to the attention of the loyal subjects. The cashless welfare card brings all the advantages of a company store into the modern age of ubiquitous surveillance and social control.

One of the weird things we're seeing right now is corporation outsourcing of social control by government at the exact same time as there's an outcry about that corporate social control and even some pretense of push-back (Zuckerburg in the EU, for example, or the phoenixing of Cambridge Analytica). Governments are generally not even pretending to care, with the US leading the way.

The US government isn't supposed to track its citizens everywhere they go and search everything they own, but it's perfectly legal for corporations to do that and then transfer the information to the government. The ubiquity of ANPR makes me glad I ride a bicycle (and use an "anti-smog" mask that covers most of my face)

74:

--How are the homeless getting by?

Maybe try asking? To my knowledge, many here are getting along just as Charlie posits. Most are not dying directly vua starvation, thanks to how much food Americans generally throw away. It's likely the exposure to diseases and lack of medical care or shelter from the elements that drastically reduce human lives.

75:

Home solar presupposes someone owning a home which a remarkable number of people don't. There's also the urban problem, four or five-story dwellings with one roof and ten families living there -- who gets the solar power, who does without? Basically "home solar" boosters are part of the elites Charlie was railing about in the original article, John Galts giving a big "I Got Mine, Fuck You" middle finger to the rest of us.

As for the "1960s" design of modern reactors, actually no. It's a common error to make but if you're anti-nuclear to start with then it fits your mistaken mindset. The new-build PWRs and BWRs are like the 1960s designs in the same way nearly all modern cars have four wheels, one in each corner like the first Benz car of the 1890s. New builds are very different in construction (unitary forged reactor vessels are made in a factory and shipped to site rather than being welded together from plates within the containment building, for just one example of many). The peripherals are different, the generators bigger and more efficient, the control systems are much more capable, the safety systems better etc. and a lot of these features have been added in mid-life upgrades to older reactors currently running.

As for on-off, pretty much any reactor runs at full power as much as possible for cost reasons leaving it up to fossil gas generators to ramp up and down to fill in for instantaneous demand changes, but given the operational knowledge and control systems installed in any reactor today as part of life-extension upgrades a reactor's output can be "swung" from 100% to 50% in about thirty minutes and back up in about the same time period. It isn't done much though for cost reasons. If all else fails they can be simply disconnected from the grid like any other power generating facility.

The problem with renewables as the be all and end all solution to CO2 emissions and climate change is that they don't produce enough electricity in some cases (nightime, becalmed wind, wintertime low insolation etc.) and the extra capacity, storage, grid connections etc. to balance that occasional inability to deliver to meet demand is very very costly. Right now renewables aren't a big part of the world's electricity supply so they can freeload on the coal and gas burners and the non-CO2 nuclear capacity. That won't last if we lose those thermal stations and more variable renewables attempt to fill in. The "solution" for renewables boosters is to burn gas which is somehow OK since it adds less CO2 than coal per GWhr of capacity but we need to stop burning fossil carbon totally, not just when the sun shines and the wind blows sufficiently.

76:

I think PHK is right in that AI-tweaked algorithms to snuff out the elderly/dark/different will take too long to get to billions (maybe it's just a failure of imagination on my part).

On the other hand, reading between the lines on Trump's doings in the middle east (Eric Prince/UAE/Saudi/nuclear power), I think the play is to get US military assets out of the middle east and instead sell them nukes (I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing was going in South Korea/Japan). The rest of this scenario is left as an exercise to the reader

77:

Moz @ 73
"The Company Store"
Which is 100% illegal in Britain, & probably is in AUS.
[ Look up "The Truck Acts" ]
Given that, how come "they" - the AUS right-wingers are getting away with it, I wonder. Possibly no-one has challenged them?

Nojay @ 75
Right now renewables aren't a big part of the world's electricity supply
Yet in Britain, we have now had several whole days, where 100& of our power has come from renewables, of some form or another ( Includes burning recycled wood-pellets )
So, maybe, we are slowly getting there.

78:

No, renewables have never been 100% of our electricity generating capacity. For one thing we get 6 to 7 GW from nuclear pretty much all the time. The rest is majority gas with some coal-burning in the winter -- we did have a landmark day recently where we burned no coal at all but that day we generated over 20GW of electricity from gas which released a shitload of CO2 into the atmosphere. We also burned a lot of gas for domestic heating and other applications, same result, more CO2 released into the atmosphere. The smart move would be to switch to cheap nuclear electric heating and release no CO2 but that isn't going to happen because nuclear is Scary!

The new gas generating plants have been built over the past ten to twenty years with no public fnfare unlike the slobbering press coverage of new wind farms which produce a tenth of the gas generator's output on a good day.

79:

Your numbers are wrong, sorry. A typical nuclear reactor produces 1000 MW of electricity, quite a few produce less. Some of them are grouped into "plants" but the total amount of electricity produced around the world from the 460-odd operating reactors is less than 3TW.

The solution you posit works, turn out reactors on a production line for a couple of decades to eliminate gas-burning and coal-burning totally and then keep going building more, using the electricity from them to decarbonise the atmosphere and get the CO2 numbers down below 300ppm where we'll be safe(r). The pricetag would be maybe 40 trillion dollars US based on lower costs of manufacture due to standard designs and there would be no energy poverty anywhere pretty much. Not going to happen though since nuclear power is Scary!

80:

I wonder if there are some sort of drops that help with the eye rolling.

81:

The new-build PWRs and BWRs are like the 1960s designs in the same way nearly all modern cars have four wheels, one in each corner like the first Benz car of the 1890s. New builds are very different in construction (unitary forged reactor vessels are made in a factory and shipped to site rather than being welded together from plates within the containment building, for just one example of many). The peripherals are different, the generators bigger and more efficient, the control systems are much more capable, the safety systems better etc. and a lot of these features have been added in mid-life upgrades to older reactors currently running.

Except that we can't seem to actually get them built and into service.

Lots of blame to go around. Labor sabotage[1], assumptions of nothing going wrong on a massive first off the line process, rules that seem more about generating paper than actually achieving something, and yes "nuclear is bad" sentiment.

[1] Yes it is real as since this is a cost plus project and workers are making a mint as long as the project continues. Not all workers are bad but all it takes is someone to break a gauge to create days of paper work and new certifications on the repairs.

82:

Anthrax is most of the way there. The inhaled version will kill 95% of military aged males in under 24 hours and isn't communicable, but I suspect you will end up releasing some amount of spores as or when you die, that can then lead to contact or ingested (and occasionally inhaled) anthrax. All you'd need to do is make the spore more vulnerable (it's really hardy, and can stay dangerous for decades out in the wild). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruinard_Island Granted, making the spores degrade on exposure to air and UV could be a challenge :-)

83:

Gas is cheap and people pretend burning it doesn't add to global warming like coal does. Reactors are overengineered to assuage irrational fears of radioactivity and all things nuclear, stoked by the coal industry and Greenpeace cultists in the past. The costs are all up-front for such a project, billions spent before a watt of electricity is produced. The upside is that once the reactor is built it will generate electricity at its rated output for more than half a century with mostly-predictable outages for refuelling, inspections and upgrades. And no additional CO2.

As long as it's acceptable to dump the CO2 from gas turbines into the atmosphere then nuclear reactors as currently designed and legislated for can't compete, no more than they could when King Coal was the fossil fuel of choice. They're still more cost-effective than the fossil extractors would like hence the extra bullshit requirements that have been imposed on reactor designers since Chernobyl and especially Fukushima.

84:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE

I see that in the past 20 comments, the usual nuclear/solar energy strange attractor has eaten the comments.

NO MORE NUCLEAR/SOLAR/DECARBONIZATION TALK ON THIS THREAD. It's derailing and off-topic.

85:

Almost certainly Australia has inherited the obscene principle that Parliament can legislate anything, provided it follows the right ritual. Also, there was (pre-EU) a sort of principle that (most?) legislation didn't apply to the government, unless it specifically said that it did.

I am pretty sure that we DO have what are effectively both company stores and indentured servitude - in prisons, public AND private. Restricted welfare payments by books (pre-electronic cards) have been used quite recently, too. You may have missed those trials. It's not a big extension from where we are to where Australia is.

In this context, Old Labour deserves a lot of the blame. It abolished most welfare in kind, as 'degrading', and opposed several attempts to remove means-testing from such provision. Restricted cards are not, in themselves, a bad idea - especially when there is a risk that the welfare recipient is an addict (including gambling), but the best solution is to provide free services (school meals, buses, libraries, medical treatment etc.) for all. You will remember how many of those we used to have, and have no longer.

86:

There's a warning signal for viral or disease-based population-control programmes: 'key man' insurance, and HR key personnel dependency risk mitigation software.

Back in the late 1990's,in the middle of the Y2K work, the London bank I was working in got hit by the nasty flu strain that was circulating that year. It hit men in their forties and fifties, and it hit hard: they were off for months, and it ended a lot of careers.

The bank I was in had a mitigation strategy, built-out from the 'key dependency' listing in the project management software: a list, with diagrams, of all the business-critical skills, and all the processes that would stop (or become unsupported and irrecoverable on failure) if a 'key man' was on holiday, off sick, or unavailable.

Nowadays, every HR department has a holiday calendar 'block refusal' function preventing (say) both order management sysadmins being unreachable at the same time...

...We got *serious* about it, and mapped out the full dependency tree, building a resilient skills base with a 'fallback' or retrenchment protocol for triaging non-essential services and preserving essential business activities. And, eventually, triggers and protocols for a controlled shutdown with a transfer of functions to the other regional offices.

All banks and systemically-significant capital market participants have this now: it's a regulatory requirement, part of our Operational Risk management.

Does your company have it?

Does your human Op-Risk for a flu epidemic (or a transport failure, or civil breakdown, or a schoolteachers' strike) go all the way down to phone numbers for retirees with relevant skills, controlled service degradation, and regulatory approval for cross-industry secondments in a declared emergency?

Do you stress-test your dependency tree at a workforce loss of 2%,5%,10%, or higher?

If you do - and you will know it if you're in IT, HR, or middle management - then you're either in a regulated industry (banking) or...

...Or, where?

Nowhere.

Hospitals and utility companies in the UK don't do this. There probably are Government departments that do; there are definitely special cases like the aviation industry where key personnel are on a resilience diagram; and the armed forces have been doing this forever.

But if you're not in one of those organisations, or in one of those roles, being asked to assist in an HR resilience review is a 'red flag' warning that someone is suddenly taking pestilence very seriously indeed.

If you hear about it in the power generation and transmission sector, shit just got real.

For your information, the near-collapse of organised society that happened in at least one American city, during the 1918-1919 'Spanish Flu', occurred after the loss of about 2.5% of the working population.

87:

Does your company have it?

When I'm sick I'm supposed to provide complete plans and instructions for the replacement. I've come in because I haven't been well enough to plan everything in detail ahead of time. :-(

I remember my dad talking about a civil emergency planning exercise he was involved in a generation ago. He made some enemies by pointing out that the federal government emergency response plans called for all civil servants to show up for work on time in an emergency (rather than, say, care for their families or try to escape a disaster area).

Which might have been adequate for a localized problem, but not for the country-wide situation the exercise was designed to simulate.

88:

Resiliency plans work at enterprise level, but a lot of our supply chains depend on small businesses that have zero hope of coping if just two people go down with flu -- the wrong two people -- because they only have 5-10 staff in the first place.

Take me. I'm a business. If I go down, everything stops (and a couple of multinationals get mildly inconvenienced).

But I'm not a supply chain chokepoint.

My understanding is that a lot of the big Japanese corporations we know by name, like Toyota or Sony, outsource specific widget-bashing jobs down to tiny-ish family firms with a long tradition of specializing in one particular area. So the big top-level enterprise may be resilient-ish, but further down the chain everything breaks down and there may be unpredictable/unforseable disruption as a direct side-effect of outsourcing -- stuff that doesn't show up on the dependency graph unless it takes into account externalities.

Nile's bank is able to cope because it's dealing with information products and for the most part doesn't have to worry about servers breaking. Its physical inputs are interchangeable commodities. But the businesses that rely on physical inputs are another matter entirely.

And yes, Robert's point about civil servants in an emergency is solid: if your children or parents or spouse or siblings are sick due to the pandemic, do you go in to work or stay home and nurse them? Folks who don't have an advanced case of corporate sociopathy will tend to stay home unless they're at risk of actual starvation. So a "Spanish flu" emergency that kills 2.5% can easily leave another 7.5% sick ... and 10-20% on top staying home to look after them, thereby cutting the work force by 20-30%, not 2.5%.

89:

Parliamentary supremacy's the part of it. Another part's the near total Murdoch-capture of our media. But deep down, between the Pacific gulags and the dehumanisation of welfare recipients and the families pushed out by 'property investors' and living in tents in our coldest city while cashed up mainlanders AirBNB it up in what used to be their houses in the middle of winter, I'm beginning to suspect a lot of my fellow Aussies just don't care very much about the suffering of others. More Mick Taylor than Steve Irwin.

90:

In the story I'm currently working on, one of the (possibly offstage) stars is a Black programmer who got rich creating a crowd-sourced database of racists, along with things like fora and a social-media presence to keep people hanging around. Anyone who wanted the information could subscribe, and thus avoid a bad work environment or damn a rival. Eventually the database gets weaponized... I'm not sure how much of this will be onstage/offstage.

91:

I love these threads, but occasionally find them a little frustrating. Let's talk solutions, people. Assuming that the problem Charlie describes is real (and, depressingly, it appears that it might well be), then what is the solution? Is there a solution, other than societal collapse, large-scale rebellion, or both? I'd like to think there is, but I'm not sure what it would be.

That said, I do find it very interesting and somewhat encouraging that the current generation of teenagers has been extremely well-prepared for fighting authoritarian regimes by a steady diet of speculative fiction in which teenage heroes lead successful wars and/or rebellions--Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, Little Brother, the list goes on. Maybe the children are our best hope?

92:

Strong disagreement.

Young adult dystopian fiction usually personalizes the adversary (makes it a single evil person with a punchable face, rather than a systemically perpetuated injustice with no obvious single point of failure), personalizes the solution by portraying a single Savior, and oversimplifies everything to a horrible extent.

This provides cathartic escapism but it's not really anything you can describe as a road map for successful insurrection. (Honorable mention: Cory Doctorow is trying to educate his readers with resistance skills, rather than spin a typical heroic savior narrative.)

Also, written fiction generally has far fewer readers than you might think. To get a mass audience it really needs to go TV/film ... which in turn means it can't interrogate the corporate values of its financial backers too directly.

93:

I'm fairly contemptuous of the wastefulness of Bitcoin and other proof-of-work coins. That said, I think cryptocurrency as a whole *might* have some beneficial effects on the world.

Specifically, I think there might be a non-environmentally-disastrous social and economic benefits with some of the newer coins that are either "pre-mined" or in which "miners" are contributing power to a cloud-based supercomputer running applications. Obviously, if the only apps running on your cryptocurrency cloud computer are clones of CryptoKitties, then that helps no one, so it will largely depend on whether the new networks can be used for beneficial things like scientific research.

In addition, some coins like Stellar are using business models where people in the developed world pay for coins in order to fund micro-finance and grants in the developing world. Similarly, but more quixotically (and perhaps more dubiously), Cardano is training people in the developing world to code. The jury is still out, but some of the newer alt-coins could change the world for the better.

Semi-relatedly, I wasn't sure if you had heard about this, but it might be a good plot point in a future story: There was recently a fork of Monero (a payment crypto-coin whose main selling point is better anonymity than Bitcoin) called MoneroV. All holders of Monero were entitled to claim 10 MoneroV for every unit of Monero they held. However, in order to do so, they had to provide the MoneroV developer with the private key to the Monero wallet in which they had held their coins at the time the snapshot for the fork was created. Needless to say, giving your private wallet key to anyone is a terrible idea, even if you have already moved your coins elsewhere. There has been widespread speculation that this was actually an attempt, possibly by a state actor, to collect as many Monero private keys as possible in order to attempt to de-anonymize Monero as a whole. Nothing has been confirmed at this point, though.

94:

You make an excellent point, which I hadn't considered. There goes another happy thought...

:-)

95:

"Do you stress-test your dependency tree at a workforce loss of 2%,5%,10%, or higher?"

The usual situation during my employment was 10-20% posts unfilled (before sickness, holidays and maternity leave) and it often went over 50%, occasionally above 70%, when those were taken into account. Yes, really.

96:

2035? That's silly. Actually, that's a plot: the Singularity occurs in 2035... and in 2036, it all crashes, as the Unix time rolls over. No bitcoins available, and the starving masses kill and eat the libertarians, survivalists, and billionaires (who can't get away, because they can't get fuel for their escape helicopters).

97:

Your comment is *amazingly* racist.

"Blacks live in mostly homogeneous neighborhoods" due to racism - they can't afford homes in better neighborhoods, since unemployment rates are higher, and education is worse due to racism in the school systems (saw that, personally, in Chicago when my son was in high school).

And look up DWB (driving while black). How may whites do you know who've been stopped for failure to use a turn signal, or a tail light out? Pretty much all the folks I know have been harassed that way.

You should consider trying to see yoursel' as others see ye.

98:

And *that* is where it gets interesting...

Banks and tech companies actively seek out graduates with no family commitments, and cultivate socipathic traits among those who progress to management.

This is one of the reasons why.

The next question is: would someone stupid enough to plan a drastic depopulation be intelligent enough to recognise that a shortlist of 'people with skills I deem essential' isn't enough of for an effective resilience plan that would preserve a society worth ruling?

Nevertheless, they might; and I wonder whose stolen (or legitimately purchased) dataset is being trawled for that, right now?

FWIW, the banking system's emergency-secondments and consolidation-of-operations planning is probably the best game in town: and it's far, far short of whatever would actually be needed.

Among other shortfalls, does anyone even know what *all* the essential processes are? It makes the question of who to save somewhat difficult.

So we have another 'Warning signal' for a deliberate depopulation, or 'managed population right-sizing' in advance of an externally-imposed collapse:

Someone has to model a minimum viable service level for civilisation; and this involves a credible attempt at identifying and 'enrolling' overlooked small-but-vital dependencies.

That's non-trivial, and probably detectable.

It's also something that would probably have to run in an industrialised multiplayer 'game of life' with autonomous players and continuous fine-tuning. Any candidates out there?

Unless someone tries to do it empirically by (say) test-running a colony on Mars.

99:

Odd, that doesn't describe any of the libertarians I have known, or worked with. ALL of them are Ayn Rand fans (never mind she ended her life living on SOCIALIST! FDR! social security and LBJ! Medicare. That was true for a guy I worked with in the early nineties, and it's certainly true of ESR, who I've known personally a *long* time.

The Pentagon (more like $2.1T, but what's a decimal point among friends?)... and, actually, on slashdot, today, I read that they're funding to develop an AI that can distinguish between real audio and video, and fake.

100:

Screw PBS News Hour. I mean, *really* screw them. Don't contribute. Let them go down, because right now they're *NOT* PuBLIC Broadcasting System, they're Faux News Lite. About a week and a half ago, they had a report (the radio was on the classical station while I was making dinner), and they had some ancient economist talking, followed by a whole "report", about how folks really aren't poorer, and have less purchasing power, it's all the media telling them about it, and that's why there's a fuss.

Then, last night, they were talking about Trump, etc, and ALL THEY HAD ON WERE REPUBLICAN legislators, NO DEMS, NO socialists, no *nothing*.

No. They, and NPR, broke in the fall of '95, and just gave in. Before then, I always contributed to my local station; never since.

101:

I *know* Australia's busy exporting. Damn it, TAKE BACK RUPERT MURDOCH. We don't want him here....

102:

Gee, have I got a real solution for you... modify buildings so you can OPEN THE WINDOWS, rather than recirculating virus-laden air.

I'll also note that a lot of the buildings I've worked in, *esp* this one, thermostats either don't work, or are a joke, anyway, so claiming they need to "balance the HVAC is so much pigeon food.

103:

Well, maybe not all. Consider, in the US, the results of the school shooting a few months ago: there is actual, serious anti-NRA pushback, huge demonstrations (I was at the one in DC, and it really,*really* was huge), and a lot of folks running for office are talking gun control, and have good chances of election.

Of course, the NRA, esp. since it seems to have been a conduit for Russian money in '16, makes a perfectly acceptable Evil Villain (aka Hydra, or, given the clowns in power, Get Smart's Chaos).

104:

Sorry, but *you* are the one who added the "cheap" constraint. I'd be willing to pay a reasonable surcharge for a safe nuclear reactor. Which is why pebble bed is one of the ones I consider. My guess is that when you figure in reprocessing waste that one won't be cheap, but it looks reasonably safe.

Another possibility if the management problem can be resolved is some sort of fast reactor that can burn things all the way to background. (Hah! But a lot closer.)

OTOH, this doesn't really address the main thrust of the article. This addresses possibilities, but to get to possibilities to matter you need the power in charge to care about the outcome in a positive way. Again, it's more a management problem than a technical problem. And again the management problem appears more difficult.

Charlie is actually being pessimistic about the goals and purposes of the powers that be, and the chances of reforming them. I wish he had less evidence on his side. There are lots of humane solutions, but they need someone in charge who wants to implement them. There's also substantial evidence that much of the mass of humanity doesn't want a humane solution, which is a real drag.

105:

Take me. I'm a business. If I go down, everything stops

And here I was assuming one of your feline supervisors would condescendingly fill in at the keyboard until you got better — and fans would argue for years about who wrote which bits :-)

106:

The next question is: would someone stupid enough to plan a drastic depopulation be intelligent enough to recognise that a shortlist of 'people with skills I deem essential' isn't enough of for an effective resilience plan that would preserve a society worth ruling?

Obviously not, because anyone contemplating genocide as a solution to a perceived resource allocation problem is dumb enough not to understand that economics is a positive-sum game, and that downsizing your population is deflationary/causes negative growth. They don't understand externalities, either. They just want a simple, single step solution to the Gordian knot.

We can probably manage a depopulation strategy aiming for a reduction of 50-70% over a period of 100-200 years, but only if we first ditch the ideological imperatives of constant economic growth, employment maximization, and free-market capitalism (not to mention social darwinism, international competition, and a bunch of other shibboleths of the age of imperialism).

Actually, this is one area where Elon Musk may be doing us a favour; if he and a couple of million lunatics want to decamp to Mars and give us a worked example of the minimum viable size of a planetary population and stress-test it for choke-points, this might be useful to the survivors back on Earth a century down the line ...

107:

My wife has been stopped by the local PD for DWABP (Driving With A Passenger). And this is in a believes-itself-to-be-liberal NYC suburb.

108:

Eck, Driving With A Black Passenger. Must. Use. Preview.

109:

The "home affairs" minister's electorate is next to mine, and I boggle a little that so many of my neighbours continue to vote for him. However, it's worth pointing out that even "safe" seats are usually on single-digit margins and turning back from the abyss is very achievable. While the ALP unfortunately offers bipartisanship on this issue, there are signs it may move. They end up losing too many to us (and we got our first ever seat in Queensland parliament in the last state election).

I usually volunteer for the Greens on election day and hand out how-to-vote cards alongside volunteers from the ALP and LNP. These are often reasonable-seeming people who don't personally don't support offshore processing (or whatever the euphemism of the day is for the Pacific gulags). Most of the time involvement in their particular party is a social, cultural or familial thing.

Dutton, of course, is scum. but it gets disconcerting when there's a bunch of not really hate-mongering elderly volunteers, or a family groups, all baking cakes and barbecuing sausages and working hard on re-electing him. It's like they all come from Krikkit, and I guess that's not a bad analogy.

110:

"... NPR, broke in the fall of '95, and just gave in. Before then, I always contributed to my local station; never since."

Happened before then. It was at least before the election in 1988.

111:

Obviously not, because anyone contemplating genocide as a solution to a perceived resource allocation problem is dumb enough not to understand that economics is a positive-sum game, and that downsizing your population is deflationary/causes negative growth. They don't understand externalities, either. They just want a simple, single step solution to the Gordian knot.

This assumes that the deflation and negative growth are felt by them. It is entirely possible for it to be regional or by sector and for them to enact it without it ever hitting them in a meaningful way. And you can see that happening in the US over the past 40 years, where we have had deflation and negative growth and mass depopulation having the kind of economic blowback you are talking about, but because it is contained you are still seeing it continue.

Go for the open white supremacy in California and the GOP loses its ruling position in the state, do a mass removal of immigrant workers in Georgia and Maine and you have crops rotting in the field, see decades of negative growth turn the midwest into a howling snakepit of shuttered factories and fentanyl addicts, have US farm incomes fall by 50% from 2012-2016, have a commodities recession from 2014-2016... and the inequality has skyrocketed and the people setting these policies in place have become more powerful, never feeling more than a momentary discomfort.

112:

It's not "these people", it's a failure mode of homo sapiens. A self-reinforcing failure of empathy at scale creating a built world in which empathy continues to fail at scale.

The "fight" is of concepts collectively held.

113:

Witroth: "The Pentagon (more like $2.1T, but what's a decimal point among friends?)"

Actually it really is Twenty-One TRILLION USDs. The larger point is no one -- not even someone "in charge" of the Five-Sided Castle -- seems to really know how much is really missing. There is the issue of 50+ year old COBOL & FORTRAN accounting systems resulting in "irregularities", but I'm sure the number-crunchers will get it tidied up in no time flat.


RE: Libertarians. There were always Randians, but they tended to be the youngest & newest members who let themselves be wound up by the old guys that had moved on to pragmatism (often referred to as "the sell-outs"). In the end I gave it up as being a waste of time, like any other political party, and went my own way. Easier to call bullshit and kill sacred cows when you're not tied up defending someone else's talking points.


A major component of Bitcoin that I can't understand is: what's "Plan B" in the case of a disaster (e.g. underwater cables cut, mass DDoS, or an IMF/World Bank/UN global ban)? 30 years ago, sure, everyone was trying to make a buck and "micro-payments" were going to unleash the digital natives to show the analog codgers how to do it. Meantime we've seen regional power outages and politicians seriously discussing "EMP/'Grid Down' National Response Plans", so how does a digital currency work in this situations? Battery-/solar-powered "BTC Tamagotchi's"? Steampunk "goods exchanges" with hand-cranked WiFi? Seems like an awful lot of time, money, and energy spent on yet another masturbatory get-rich-quick-without-really-trying scheme.

Though it would be a huge laugh if the conspiracy theories pan out.


As for positive &/or constructive solutions? They certainly seem obvious: unwind the dumbest bits of the current system:

  • Drone warfare as a war crime?
  • Stupid should have a cost, so the coming cull amongst banksters should be allowed to happen as Nature intends.
  • Pull all foreign armed forces out and drive a rethinking on how much one needs for simple defense.
  • Bone up on some basic science and realize a massive die-off of humans would be a very bad thing (the Law of Unintended Consequences) that no amount of planning could ever cover well enough.
  • Set some basic priorities and apply all surpluses to covering those bets (universal healthcare, universal basic income, then space).
  • Grow up, as a species, and learn how to treat each other like, well, human beings.

I really do hope we can avoid the worst and get to better things.

History seems to hum a tune akin to "It'll Get Worse Before It Gets Better" and 00:00:01 on 2038-01-19 is coming quick.

114:

Charlie: I wish your system had a comment upvote mechanism too.

"Paul Harrison: succinct & to the point -- +1"

115:

When the government is anti-racist, it's normal for the racists to claim to be libertarian. I think that's the basis for your observed correlation.

Libertarianism, like environmentalism, is a broad church.

There's no logical reason why the broader environmental movement should include an anti-technology strand, but because of its history and how broader culture works, it does. That doesn't mean it's all anti-technology by any means - especially in the younger generations the enviromental movement skews strong pro-technology instead. Fut for pro-technology pro-science environmentalists like me to ignore that the anti-technology strand exists would be both stupid and counterproductive.

There's no logical reason why US libertarianism should include a racist strand - but historically parts of the US libertarian movement came out of opposition to desegregation and opposition to the civil rights movement, and culturally racism infects the extremes of US politics whenever issues like social welfare, militarization of the police, etc, come up. Pretending that racism does not infect US libertarianism is both stupid and counterproductive.

And "infect" is the right word. Look at the way anti-science climate change denial became common in libertarianism. There's no logical reason why having politically libertarian views should make one a science-denier, but when the climate science deniers fell into bed with the libertarians the libertarians were so happy to have got lucky with someone they embraced them whole-heartedly.

116:

Thane wrote: I love these threads, but occasionally find them a little frustrating. Let's talk solutions, people.

Recognise that ten years of progressives playing identity politics and purifying themselves in thought, word, and deed hasn't actually stopped the oligarchs from getting everything they wanted, and probably been counterproductive?

117:

Obviously not, because anyone contemplating genocide as a solution to a perceived resource allocation problem is dumb enough not to understand that economics is a positive-sum game, and that downsizing your population is deflationary/causes negative growth. They don't understand externalities, either.
I have mixed feelings about this argument. The designers/detail people would need to be this smart, and such arguments can be made pretty clear and unmissable to them.
The wildcard is improvements in intelligence, through various mechanisms. (E.g. drastically improved and ubiquitous very early education rather than the randomness we have now.)

LML@122: WE DO NOT DO HATE, BUT WE DO DO "WIPE THE FUCKING ANNOYING ANTS OUT"
Or ... reprogram the colonies with better pheromone trails.

118:

a lot of our supply chains depend on small businesses that have zero hope of coping if just two people go down with flu

I work for one of those small companies. We had an employee literally crawl off and die - he went from being sick to just not turning up or answering his phone. Eventually his wife rang to say that he'd died. We went from "I hope he comes back to fix the thing" to having to work out what exactly the thing was, how it worked, and what the passwords were. Etc. It was a PITA.

My company learned from that experience, and .... changed nothing. Out "resiliency" plan is entirely based on one coworker and me trying desperately to share information not just with each other, but with other people in the company.

119:

being asked to assist in an HR resilience review is a 'red flag' warning ... If you hear about it in the power generation and transmission sector, shit

Here in Australia we've corporatised and in some cases privatised the whole bizzo so the exact level of fault tolerance and resilience is decided primarily through "is that profitable" and "can we get away with it". But they do have some level of service guarantee. It's not done in classic risk management style, though, it's all based on politicians hating to front press conferences after a power failure. I'd say "electrical failure" but nah, they hate any kind of power failure. So the electrical system operators try very hard to avoid getting hauled in front of politicians and made to answer questions while the press take notes.

The good news for some of us is that personal resiliency plans are fairly affordable and for those like me who are both rich by the standards of the country I live in but simultaneously also too poor to buy even a cheap a house in that country (the bank inquiry has produced an odd panic reaction from the banks, specifically with mortgage lending criteria being much tighter now). But anyway, I have essentials for a month or so on hand, as a matter of policy. In a pandemic I can whack a decent filter on my air intake and live in a positive pressure environment for a month if I really have to. It would not be fun (10.5 square metres of floor space) but it would probably be doable. Assuming not roving hordes of vandals/zombies/violent thugs in uniforms.

120:


You might want to be cautious about microfinance, it's one of those things that works in some ways sometimes, but vomiting all over everything definitely does not work. For example there's a positive causal relationship between availability of microfinance and domestic violence... sometimes, possibly:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=microfinance+domestic+violence

121:

Two things:

One, the panopticon leaks. Whether it's deliberate leaks such as Manning, Snowden, etc. or malware hacked from the NSA leaks will happen. Government should assume their secrets will one day be released to the public when they least want it.

Secondly, global warming is going to affect us all, more or less equally. Americans may be able to keep the dirty foreigners out, but what are they going to do when most of the population of Florida, and New Orleans flee from the rising tide.

122:

even "safe" seats are usually on single-digit margins and turning back from the abyss is very achievable. While the ALP unfortunately offers bipartisanship on this issue

Yeah, the single digit margins for me are ALP/Liberal though, I'm not inner west enough for the Greens to even get a council seat. But Tony Burke is fairly reasonable, just utterly beholden to the deep-brown wing of the ALP on green issues, and like all "good" politicians, terrified of the right wing media when it comes to refugees and immigration in general, anything lawn-order and especially on tax.

Jihad Dib in state parliament is unsurprisingly less vulnerable to the anti-immigration winguts, I suspect mostly because they avoid him (with a name like that :) Oh yes, with that name he *was* a schoolteacher then principal). But NSW state is busy screwing all use stupid inner west Labour voters by wrecking transport here. Serve us right for voting the wrong way (and not being good white Christians).

It's worth noting that Golden Dawn have a presence in Lakemba[1] thanks to the second-gen Greek immigrants, as well as notoriously Lakemba being the one place in Australia that's majority Muslim. On that note, Sat 24th is official-Eid and they're closing Haldon St for the explosion of food and joy. I assume it will be awesome as usual :) Like Christmas and Diwali, come along for the festivities even if (especially if?) you don't normally get exposed to Muslim culture.

[1] a small and from what I can tell quite closely monitored presence. They're not white enough in Australian terms to go full fascist without state involvement.

123:

Here in Australia we've corporatised and in some cases privatised the whole bizzo so the exact level of fault tolerance and resilience is decided primarily through "is that profitable" and "can we get away with it".

In Finland, there is this power company, Caruna, which among other things is the largest power transmission company in Finland. It was sold off from the state to mostly private actors in 2014. As it happens, one of the two largest owners is Australian First State Investments. You Australians do that power bizzo privatization also abroad. (Well, some of your companies do.)

So, they've mostly increased prices and acted like all they want to do is make money. This is especially "fun" because the power transmission is basically a legal monopoly. I'm not sure why this city's power company was sold off a longer time ago - after mergers it became that Caruna. It would've been nice income for the city basically forever, but the money from it was supposed to be invested and make even more money!

It didn't turn out that way. What a surprise.

124:

If your employer has continued to function, however minimally, through the 50-70% outages, then you have something to teach us all about resilience.

There are organisations that do: some of them operate on a small set of skills and can treat their staff as replaceable or even disposable (think 'fast food outlet' in a larger chain where managers are disposable too); a handful of others are actually high-skilled and quite specialised.

This second subpopulation are, without exception, very well-managed and very 'collegiate' - lots of goodwill, lots of cooperation, lots of cross-training and 'cross-skilling' in which people do more than mere 'sharing knowledge' with briefings and documentation - and they do pair-working and coaching as part of the culture.

Or they are in small teams, like a casualty unit, where everyone knows a little bit about the jobs around them - but these teams tend to exist as 'islands' of competence in a sea of fragility in which (say) the cleaning contract has a failure point known to one (1) barely-competent manager with a knowledge-hoarding habit.

Nevertheless, there may well be a 'secret sauce' in your workplace that 'everyone knows' but anyone outsude would be astonished to hear. Or would dismiss out of hand, because traditional managers (and people who study management) are all about fashions and fads, and obstinately impervious to genuinely new thinking.

It goes without saying that hypothetical billionaire with a population-reduction programme would be oblivious to the value embedded in such a workplace - and, being somewhat sociopathic, they might be actively hostile if they observed genuinely a collegiate and cooperative community: they have reason to fear such things.

125:

Have you read The Grapes of Wrath? The ending is... difficult to read.

And particularly for Charlie, if you haven't read it, please do so. It's a real classic (mainly in the sense that it gives you a very deep and ugly look into America.)

126:

Guess who got rid of the Truck Acts...

127:

"...only if we first ditch the ideological imperatives of constant economic growth, employment maximization, and free-market capitalism (not to mention social darwinism, international competition, and a bunch of other shibboleths of the age of imperialism)."

...and the sooner the better.

128:

And in this day and age it is probably worth pointing out that it is likely to work out cheaper to read it in a paper version.

129:

Nile @ 97
Banks and tech companies actively seek out graduates with no family commitments, and cultivate socipathic traits among those who progress to management.
And women's pay, prospects & employment-grades are lower ...
Anyone notice a correlation here?

Charlie @ 105
Or, even worse, regard POLITICS as a zero-sum game: Putin certainly does - I'm not sure baout DT, because I don't think he even understands zero & +ve sume games to start with - though his selfishness & spite would naturally gravitate him to the Putin camp.

BJ2K @ 112
Your bullet points:
No
YES!
Maybe
Doubleplusgood-YES
Yes
Fat chance - got to get rid of some very persistent memes to do that - they are usually, but not always labelled as "religions" ( Oh & "political parties" too )

130:

Actually, this is one area where Elon Musk may be doing us a favour; if he and a couple of million lunatics want to decamp to Mars and give us a worked example of the minimum viable size of a planetary population and stress-test it for choke-points, this might be useful to the survivors back on Earth a century down the line ...

Charlie, this is not how it is going to unfold (assuming an optimistic future). The vision of Jeff Bezos is more clear here, even though ironically Musk is further along towards implementing it.

Bezos wants, to quote him directly, "trillion of people living in space". This is beyond anything Earth or Mars can support, but is trivially achieved by living in space. Once you have a first O'Neil habitat built in high Earth orbit, using material mined from the Moon or the asteroid belt, nothing prevents you from building a billion more of these, as your population grows.

Mars doesn't present any advantages here, it is far away, has a deeper gravity well than the Moon and you still have to live in a closed artificial environment - so why not live in a closed artificial environment 2 light seconds from Earth, instead of 15 minutes?

So eventually the Earth is going to be saved not by downsizing the population, but by removing the obstacle to continuous growth of the population, until Earth itself is insignificant.

This is, of course, all completely implausible without an extremely cheap access to space, so the next important step towards that future is not Mars, but the deployment of the 12000 satellites of the complete Starlink satelite constellation. This is where the fully reusable BFR system must prove what Space Shuttle could not.

131:

Sort of. What I didn't mention was the effect on the staff. Most people can do a lot more than a nominal workload, but doing so for long periods is seriously bad for their health (mental and physical). Of course, in the modern UK, technopeasants are disposable commodities, that can simply be thrown away and replaced when they wear out.

132:

If your employer has continued to function, however minimally, through the 50-70% outages, then you have something to teach us all about resilience.

The organisation in question has been in existence for over three quarters of a millennium, so it has survived the Black Death amongst other events. Whether it properly survives the next few decades of management fashions though is another matter - it does have a habit of recruiting people from the private sector who don't necessarily understand the culture.

(And 'collegiate' is a good choice of words.)

133:

He's being too optimistic about governments and a cashless society, and that is paradoxically a cause for hope. To understand why, you have to work out first what happens when a population cannot escape taxation by a state.

Answer: the state ramps tax levels up and up and up.

If on the other hand you have a population which understands (as pretty much all do) that with cash in hand transactions, what the state doesn't see the state cannot care about, then all this increasing level of taxation is going to do is force people to find new forms of cash.

The easiest form of these are tokens, and intrinsic-value coinage. Any government which tries to ramp up taxes in a cashless society will thus find the society turning to alternative forms of cash (silver coinage being the most likely) to escape the dead hand of regulation.

134:

We can probably manage a depopulation strategy aiming for a reduction of 50-70% over a period of 100-200 years, but only if we first ditch the ideological imperatives of constant economic growth, employment maximization, and free-market capitalism (not to mention social darwinism, international competition, and a bunch of other shibboleths of the age of imperialism).

1) We would also have to ditch the concept of sexual and reproductive freedom. After all, economics doesn't make people. Sex makes people, and if you need less people, you are inevitably going to have to control how they have sex (to some degree). Or kill them. That would also work, but I'd try the sex thing first.

2) 50-70% over 100-200 years is probably much too little, much too late.

3) It is possible to understand positive-sum economics while also understanding that the resources to support our current population will not be available for long. The corollary is that even the survivors will have a much lower standard of living than we do. However, that's probably the best we can do.

135:

Real Life indicates people might be quite into sex, but not so much into children, especially due to the demands and the stress it might lead to. My personal idea is if you don't want a dog or cat because of the work and stress it might lead to, you should seriously reconsider having any children...

Err, one of the things I forgot in my last post, the new Jungle Book movie made me look for my favourite Kipling poem...

136:

Well yes, it's the reproduction that does the harm. If we maintain the capacity for safe and effective birth control, that will help.

More generally, I don't really understand why so many people think that this must be due to some moral failing. If you drop a pack of wolves off on an island full of rabbits, the wolves will reproduce to extremes until the population soars and rabbits become hard to find. Then wolves starve and, if everyone's lucky, eventually the wolf population finds an equilibrium with the rabbit population. It's population dynamics, not the result of some genocidal wolf or evil Hitler-bunny.

Substitute "humans" and "concentrated energy sources (like fossil fuels)" and it's the same dynamic. We just happen to be coming out of the abundance stage and into the starvation stage. It's not anyone's fault, except to the extent that it's everyone's fault.

137:

Greg Tingey @ 55:

Well, a lot of the damage was done between 1996 and 2006 (thank you *so* much John Howard and Peter Costello); some of the precursor conditions were set up between 1983 and 1996 (the Hawke-Keating years), when Australia basically followed in lock-step with Reaganomics and Thatcherism in implementing neo-liberal economic policies; some of it was put in place during Fraser's time (1975 - 1983) under the aegis of his treasurer, a bloke called John Winston Howard (yes, that one), where a lot of the changes of the Whitlam years (1972 to 1975) were rolled back. All of it got pushed along merrily by Rupert Murdoch and his ever-growing media empire, in the interests of greater profits and more control for Uncle Rupert. The latest shower of incompetents in power (2013 to present) are just putting the cherry on the cake.

But yeah, you want your beige dictatorship? We got one for you right here. It seems likely the current mob in power will be booted out at the next election unless they seriously manage some kind of triumph - the latest budget was basically stuffed full of tax cuts (immediate ones for the punters who are on low incomes, deferred ones for the high incomes - basically a "vote for us if you're earning over $80,000 a year and you want the same tax rate as people earning $40,000 a year"[1] effort). But unfortunately, the other mob who are likely to get into power aren't much better (see above: a lot of the damage was done during the Hawke-Keating era, and there's still a lot of the ALP Right who believe the biggest problem with neo-liberal economics is that somehow the ALP left just aren't believing the promises hard enough to make them come true). We have the same sort of left/right fracturing which is happening in the USA and UK, it's just that over here, the various far right parties are all leaders looking for followers (for an example thereof, look at the happy tale of Senator Corey Bernardi, whose "Australian Conservative Party" appears to be dead in the water, and who was last heard of heading directly for Family First[2] instead).

Greg Tingey @ 77:

The reason they're getting away with it is the same as it ever was: "because we're in power, and because we can". This is something which was started up in the Howard years, got put on the back-burner when Rudd and Gillard were in power (2007 - 2013) and then got pulled out and dusted off by the Department of Human Services[3] when Tony Abbott got into power, because it was just the sort of thing that Plastic Fascist Tony[5] loved to bits and pieces. I seem to remember there was a bit of an effort to get the "trial" blocked at the legislative end, but at that point they had a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and there wasn't much the ALP or the minor parties could do to get around things.

withroth @ 101:

Sorry mate, no take-backs on that one. He had to take out US citizenship in order to get to own television stations in your country, so you brought it all on yourselves.


[1] Yes, that's the centrepiece of this year's budget - a plan to move to what's effectively a flat tax system rather than a progressive one by about 2026.
[2] Trying to win Australian hearts and minds by applying the tactics and philosophy of the US Religious Right. Approximately as successful as a chocolate teapot.
[3] Apparent departmental motto: "Have you been serviced[4] yet?"
[4] In the "barnyard" sense of the word.
[5] One of Tony Abbott's prime creations in the Howard years, as minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, was the "Work for the Dole" scheme - a modern equivalent to the workhouses which saved heaps of money on buildings, clothing and feeding the unemployed. They still had to turn up and do the modern equivalent of picking oakum, washing bottles, or sorting rags (sometimes literally this last) but they didn't get paid for it, and they had to feed, house and clothe themselves, as well as getting themselves to and from the worksite. I'm sure he sat up in bed and hugged himself when he thought that one up.

138:

Well, yes, Lotka-Volterra and Malthusian catastrophe are Ecology 101, problem is I'm not sure if they simplify things too much. Especially if you factor in reproduction strategies, with r/K selection being another one of those oversimplifications, being superseded by the life history paradigm.

In your example, for the wolves there is a trade off between reproduction rate and quality of offspring. They could fuck everything that's remotely wolflife, problem is that might include relatives and the offspring might be homozygous for deleterious alleles or lack genetic diversity to deal with parasites. In fact, incest avoidance explains a fair bit of wolf behaviour.

And if population density is high, it might be better to invest heavily into few offspring than to invest little into much.

As for humans, it's even more complicated here; another factor coming in is stress by high population densities, though contrary to rats, Homininae can modulate stress quite well by changing behaviour, e.g. decreasing vocalisation.

Actually that fits in with me thinking about alternative hypotheses and the potentially resulting incommensurability lately, namely if my distraction is too little or too much stress and other psychological explanations. Is urbanized societies showing lower birth rates just stress or an life history-like adaption?

139:

No, it's not the same dynamics, because "concentrated energy sources" don't regenerate themselves, or at a time scale that it makes no difference.

There's no guaranty that a population system will reach a stable equilibrium, it might as well cycle forever, become chaotic or enter a different state when one variable(*) drops to zero or new influences appear.

(*) e.g. the variable "human population"

141:

"I work for one of those small companies. We had an employee literally crawl off and die - he went from being sick to just not turning up or answering his phone. Eventually his wife rang to say that he'd died. We went from "I hope he comes back to fix the thing" to having to work out what exactly the thing was, how it worked, and what the passwords were. Etc. It was a PITA."

"My company learned from that experience, and .... changed nothing. Out "resiliency" plan is entirely based on one coworker and me trying desperately to share information not just with each other, but with other people in the company."

That's one of the main themes of the Laundry Files isn't it? The stories are taken from Bob's and other characters work diaries that were intended to preserve "institutional knowledge" against a future where key people died in the line of duty.

And look at the hole left in the organization because Angleton hadn't left a work diary (that we know of) before going up against Old George.

142:

"But if you're not in one of those organisations, or in one of those roles, being asked to assist in an HR resilience review is a 'red flag' warning that someone is suddenly taking pestilence very seriously indeed."

In the corporate world, it's often a 'red flag' indicating lay-offs (redundancies) are coming and they want you to train your successor (young, shiny & new and frequently one of the bosses relatives) before they give you your pink slip.

BTDT-GTTS

143:
“"...only if we first ditch the ideological imperatives of constant economic growth, employment maximization, and free-market capitalism (not to mention social darwinism, international competition, and a bunch of other shibboleths of the age of imperialism)."”

"...and the sooner the better."

Thing is, you NEED economic growth just to maintain a status quo quality of life with a rising population. Not even mentioning that for a majority of the world's population the status quo isn't enough. Life needs to get better.

It's just that so called "free" market, laissez-faire capitalism does not appear to be the best way to achieve those ends.

Don't ask me what the best way is, 'cause I don't know. I'm still studying on it. If I finally do figure out the answer I'll let you know.

144:

Bellinghman @ 132
The organisation in question has been in existence for over three quarters of a millennium, so it has survived the Black Death amongst other events.
The Corproration?

Jay @ 134
Cobblers.
PROVIDED we can get the reprodcution rate below 2.0 & keep it there - which means not only women's education, but also keeping a high standard of living, then we can have our current living standards, or better.
But long-term decarbonisation will also be essential. Which menas nuclear power.

145:

In the U.S. there's probably a public library nearby with a copy on the shelf.

146:

Or they are testing the waters to see if they can get you to do two jobs, while paying you for only one. It's amazing how fast a temporary situation becomes permanent.

148:

So the secret to a successful genocide is promising everyone a cut of their neighbours stuff.

In Charlies scenario you just accuse them of cheating on benefits and claim there will be more to go around once they have gone. You can avoid awkward questions about theft if the victims voluntarily sell all their posessions to buy food as well.

149:

We would also have to ditch the concept of sexual and reproductive freedom. After all, economics doesn't make people. Sex makes people, and if you need less people, you are inevitably going to have to control how they have sex (to some degree). Or kill them. That would also work, but I'd try the sex thing first.

Rubbish: clearly, categorically, disproven. There are plenty of nations today where the total fertility rate (children per woman, averaged across reproductive life) is below the 2.1 needed for population maintenance -- in fact, is as low as 1.1, in such notionally pro-natal societies as Catholic Italy or Shi'ite Iran (the latter went from a TFR of around 5.5 -- population doubling every 25-30 years -- to about 1.4 in just three decades).

Interestingly, women who want families tend to decide how many children to have by reference to their neighbours. When everyone has 6-8 kids, having 4 is freakishly small, and 10-11 isn't remarkable. But once families drop to 1-2 kids on average, someone who wants 3 is a bit of a freakish outlier (50% above average). So it turns out that a society that drops below demographic replacement finds it very difficult to repopulate by breeding, as opposed to importing immigrant workers. The UK has been in this situation (and in denial about it) since the 1940s -- hence the origins of the Windrush issue.

All you need is access to contraception, abortion, and other family planning support, combined with female access to education and paid employment. (Having a working old age pension system and healthcare system also helps, by removing the incentive to have kids to keep you in your dotage.)

150:

OMG.

Here's an idea: Angleton's work diary from the 1920s. Back when he was working in a school learning how to pass for human.

This could be like Hogwarts, Charlie! Except that the Special One is a a teacher.

151:

Perhaps - and I quite agree about Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother" and "Homeland" (having let firstborn loose on them).

However, you might not be giving the Hunger Games trilogy the credit it deserves - it wasn't as simplistic as it might have been; posed the question of whether it was indeed to single Evil, or whether the Revolution would be just as bad as the thing it opposed; asked questions about good people on the "bad" side, as well as bad people on the "good" side; and made a good effort at the protagonist's PTSD.

I liked Jreynolds@150's suggestion of Angleton having to cope with one William Bunter Esq, aka the Owl of the Remove... or perhaps the better-known St. Trinian's...

(I may have once described my school as a cross between St. Trinian's and a Junior Leaders' Battalion; perhaps a touch cruel)

152:

We had a bit of a craze for "Succession Plans" a couple of years ago, all the managers at my then level had to draw them up for their teams. It isn't really all that meaningful in projectland - losing a key person is one of the few good excuses for the project to be late. Where that isn't acceptable, there's merit in not planning your project that way in the first place, though usually because projects are ephemeral they are less exposed to this sort of thing.

Things are different in the operational space of course, as they should be. Can't say convincingly it's all covered well, but hospitals are like the military in this regard and have been doing it forever.

153:

Aktually i am a fule forgeting Molesworth the curse of st custards skool and gorila of 3B.

Now as any fule kno, i am trapped like a treen in a disabled spaceship in my omage to the author chiz chiz. The mad maths master Angulton he hav KNIVES and sa boys i wil spike you as sacrifice to sleeper, and Fotherington-Thomas he cri and cri

154:

My father's second? third? career involved Emergency Planning, although (like "Personnel" becoming "HR") the name du jour is "Resilience".

You can now pay him lots of consultancy cash to turn up to your board meeting and smile at your general lack of preparedness (with examples); having in his case done the job at regional government level, and been a lecturer at the Emergency Planning College...

His point is one that is frequently made; namely, that plans (in and of themselves) are mostly useless. On the other hand, planning is invaluable. He wasn't there to handle emergencies, as by then it was too late - his job was to make sure that the various agencies in the Region had talked to each other in advance; knew who their points of contact were / what resources each had / what limitations each had; and thought about how they would react and what they could achieve in certain scenarios.

He apparently ran one planning exercise in which the scenario was an excavator breaking the main gas line into Dunblane, during winter. How would Social Services react? Education? Police, Fire, and Rescue? What were their priorities, who should they be thinking about, how might they best cooperate and coordinate?

A month or two later, someone using a digger went and put the blade straight through the main gas line into Dunblane... Fortunately, another scenario of his hasn't happened (the paddle-steamer in Loch Katrine sinks slowly, you now have eighty hypothermic pensioners at the wrong end of a single-track road, only X ambulances in the region, and it's nearly an hour by ambulance to the nearest A&E unit)

155:

Is urbanized societies showing lower birth rates just stress or an life history-like adaption?

Honestly, it's probably a novel environmental stress that's in the process of killing the unfit, i.e. us. While we're arguing on the internet and getting educations, we aren't having enough kids to replace ourselves. Futurism without kids is like business school for the homeless; it may be an interesting exercise, but nothing much will come of it.

Kathryn Edin's Promises I Can Keep is worth reading on this. It's an ethnography of low-income single mothers in IIRC New Jersey. It turns out that they don't see kids as having a serious opportunity cost. If you were never going anywhere, a half-dozen kids don't slow you down much.

@Andreas: We know there's a stable equilibrium with maybe 500 million people worldwide using only renewable energy sources. We were in that equilibrium for millennia. If we can make something else work long-term (solar, nuclear, pure friggin' magic) we might be able to get into a better equilibrium over the long term. Too soon to tell.

@Greg: So if we can make evolution stop favoring reproductive efficiency, we're good. Also, if we can make thermodynamics stop favoring entropy, we're good. I'd say the odds are about equal for both.

156:

And yet the world population has doubled in my lifetime. I expect the global population to stably level off about the same time fusion power becomes practical, 30 years from never.

157:

The reason they're getting away with it is the same as it ever was: "because we're in power, and because we can".

Read this interesting article pointing out that many of the problems are iterative games: one side can change the rules to make things better, but that costs them right now and the other side can easily change the rules back when they get power. True for everything from freedom of information to lawnorder...

https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/24-05-2018/how-the-bennett-vs-mallard-standoff-exposes-a-paradox-at-the-heart-of-politics/

158:

COBBLERS
As several others have pointed out.
Reproductive rates are aleady dropping
EVERYWHERE
All it needs is better education & better lving conditions, with an option on silencing the "priests"

159:

On a timescale of a few decades, you might be right. On a timescale of millennia or longer, you're definitely wrong.

160:

I'm not certain the numbers back you up.

https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/publications/Files/WPP2017_KeyFindings.pdf

The rate of growth is significantly slowing — we're in the flattening part of a sigmoid rather than an exponential. Or more likely the overshoot part of a dampening curve.

161:

when asked if increasing wages across the board would fix the worker shortage, given almost all pack houses pay their employees the minimum wage, or just above it, Mr Freeman said he didn't know. "Oh look it's too hard to say, I'm not a macro economist"

Not enough workers but the preferred solution is government action to force people to work rather than any of that economic theory stuff about attracting workers with money.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018646375/kiwifruit-packing-company-describes-jobs-as-s-work

162:

I'd bet on the overshoot part of a dampening curve, and I used the words "stably level off" for a reason.

163:

Brilliant! Molesworth and peason and grabber (with the prizewinning raffia) and the Doom that came to St Custard's.

164:

I suggest people watch the Hans Rosling series on Factfulness that I posted @71.

- We are in stable, flat, childbirth already due to most people living in the "middle"

- 11 billion by 2100

- Most of the comments here on the thread are worse than random

He points out in the series, and his book, that educated people have the worst sense of how the world is. That chimpanzees answering the questions are more right, because they are answering randomly.

But don't let the facts stop what you are posting, it is all too useful for Story.

Thanks...

"The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice."

Arthur Shopenhauer

165:

Interestingly, women who want families tend to decide how many children to have by reference to their neighbours. When everyone has 6-8 kids, having 4 is freakishly small, and 10-11 isn't remarkable. But once families drop to 1-2 kids on average, someone who wants 3 is a bit of a freakish outlier (50% above average).

My brother's family ended up consisting of five kids -- one was from his wife's previous marriage, the next three were planned and the last one was the result of a contraception failure. In his conservative southern US community where he and his wife were known to be "un-churched" they were asked if they were Catholics due to the number of offspring in the home.

166:

We did this once before with Greg on a previous thread. I'm glad you posted the link to the UN demographics group 2017 revision. This is the source, figures and analysis that Rosling (and other related analysts) was using in his famous lectures. However they've been revised to be more pessimistic at least twice since then. The 2015 revision knocked 6 years off the time to 10b. In Page 2 of the 2017 report you can see that we're currently in the middle linear part of the sigmoid curve. For 5 decades or so now we've had roughly +80m/yr and 12-14 years for each additional billion. We *may* be right on the transition from linear to falling absolute growth or we may not. But even the UN group are predicting no peak this century and as Allynh said (#164), ~11b by 2100. The problem with the UN is that their analysis is based on extrapolations of where we are now assuming "business as usual" keeps going at least to the end of this century. If "Limits to Growth" style overshoot, crash and burn happen before then, all bets are off. And the future doesn't stop at 2100. Climate change, pollution overload, resource constraints will happen in the 22nd century as well.

As Charlie suggested in #106, I think timescale is everything. We could probably manage going from 7.5b to 10b to 1b over 200 years without it being too painful. Doing the same thing over 50 years would involve grim meathooks.

And there's an interesting question in there. What is the minimum, viable, sustainable, technological civilisation? Or even more cutely: What's the minimum global population that can support a chip foundry?

167:

Agree.
Education leads to smaller families, everywhere - Charlie has also stated this.
Also agreed that we are in overshoot territory, since there are so many of "us" around & that that overlap period is the dangerous bot.
I think we've discussed the lat 2 points as well:
How many (minimum) necessary for a comfortable technological civilisation?
.... The latter is also (I think) dependant upon how concetrated the people are:
1 billion spread thinly over the whole palnet, or 200 million mostly concentrated in a geologically-stable & mild-climate area?
[ Or something like that ]

168:

Yes, but most people are missing what that REALLY means. It isn't just education, but health issues and more, and it takes a generation or two to take effect. We don't have the time, or resources, to rely on that - which doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done, merely that it is not enough on its own.

There is also some disturbing evidence that some cliquish communities are isolating themselves from their countries as a whole (INCLUDING their countries' usual education) and breeding like rabbits. And, no, I don't mean Grease-Smug, though he fits that description. Thinking either biologically or statistically, that raises alarm bells. The government is not even prepared to enforce the (minimal) law on education on the worst case that I know of in the UK, for political reasons. This isn't going to cause trouble tomorrow, but assuredly will unless it is dealt with.

169:

The government is not even prepared to enforce the (minimal) law on education on the worst case that I know of in the UK, for political reasons.

That's scary, and also stupid. NZ when I was growing up had a pretty vigorous approach, the local cultists could pull their kids out of state school but that meant they had school inspectors in their homes twice a year making sure that teaching was up to spec, and they still had to sit the same national exams as everyone else. Low marks in those was grounds to lose the right to teach your kids at home.

Which is why I went to school with Exclusive Brethren kids. Their parents would not visit the school at all, they resented being forced to let their kids attend school, but by god did they not want the indignity of outsiders supervising their internal schooling. There were persistent rumours of undeclared births leading to members with no legal identity/obligations, but I'm not convinced of those. What was obvious though was that those kids would leave school the day they were able to - when I was 15 that was the age, and the kids would vanish the day they turned 15. One girl/woman was married with two kids by the time I left school (she was Open Brethren, obviously, or I wouldn't have seen her again).

I'm a big fan of compulsory participation in society as the price of being part of it. Voting, paying taxes, obeying the law, vaccinating your kids and so on.

170:

Weren't the Exclusive Brethren caught red-handed trying to manipulate NZ politics some years back?

171:

EC @ 168 & Moz @ 169
Let me guess...
Either Ultra-strict jewish "community" &/or ditto muslim ...
Mustn't "offend" religious sensibilities, you know, even if it fucks everyone else over ...
As Moz says, but I would put it the other way around. Unbelievably stupid & also scary ....

172:

his job was to make sure that the various agencies in the Region had talked to each other in advance

Yeah this. For some reason people talking to people is some kind of black magic. And knowing who to talk to when the blah breaks, that's high energy magic and will make your hair stand on end. There is absolutely no way your organisation can document these things, it's like saying they should at least cost replacing the halon systems in their data centres, because as soon as one of those halon systems is activated, it can't legally be restored to working condition... totally eldritch, that.

I think the thing about disaster preparedness is that exercises generally take in the emergency services but the footprint across the rest of activities is small. A bit like joint military exercises generally only involving military organisations, and never the huge civilian populations that would be involved in an actual event.

173:

Yup. In the example of "excavator takes out gas line", it was the Social Services department trying to identify vulnerable individuals, talking to police/fire/rescue (who might be the only people with mobility during flooding, or the only people who can task air ambulance, etc, etc), talking to Education who own the sports centres and school kitchens that offer mass accommodation and catering. The uniformed services (Police / Fire / Ambulance) can solve the immediate problem; but they haven't got the resources to handle any followup, even over a couple of hours and the next meal. Then throw in frontline health services; i.e. non-emergency, general practice stuff, prescriptions and pharma for people with chronic conditions, etc, etc.

It can even involve military aid to the civil community; our (reserve) battalion mobilised our Transport platoon to help during one winter in the late 90s - we had four-wheel-drive trucks and radios; and could manage logistics and communications through deep snow and awkward valleys in the absence of mobile telephony. Since then, we've seen the Royal Engineers putting up temporary bridging, and providing potable water. How do you integrate the military into a police control centre, as happened during the Fire Brigade strike? Do the radios even talk to each other?

Just one planning exercise, with all of the various departments involved, can make a huge impact on how well the local government responds in a crisis (needless to say, Dad was spitting feathers over the Grenfell response - the council concerned was spectacularly incompetent)

174:

"To get a mass audience it really needs to go TV/film ... which in turn means it can't interrogate the corporate values of its financial backers too directly."

I'm not so sure about this.

Capitalism long ago successfully monetized anti-capitalism.

If there's a market who want it and thus money to be made making hard hitting and biting criticisms of capitalism and corporations then any "costs" (ie, political support for anti-capitalism) is borne by the whole market or the direct targets while the individuals who are making money from it get all the benefits.

Tragedy of the commons and similar isn't limited to the "good" side.

175:

No, that's not quite it. Action is taken (sporadically) in extreme cases, with one main exception, and sensitivity to religion is not really the reason for officialdom's refusal to tackle the problem.

What a lot of people miss is that the UK is in many ways more monetarist and leo-nibblertarian than the USA; I have been despairing since the 1960s about its political dysfunctionality, and making depressingly correct predictions. The main cause of the errors in my predictions has been, in fact, being too naive and optimistic :-( It never crossed my mind that the establishment would start to use the Big Lie to suppress dissent, routinely and unashamedly.

176:

Interesting ( If depressing )
More details, please, if it's not too sensitive / cover-blowing?

177:

And there's an interesting question in there. What is the minimum, viable, sustainable, technological civilisation? Or even more cutely: What's the minimum global population that can support a chip foundry?

I dealt with this in Hot Earth Dreams back a few years ago. Computers are the big problem, not just because of a "chip foundry," but because the supply chains are global. So we've got three linked problems here:
--What's the minimum population that can support both enough non-farming engineers to make and maintain the "chip foundry"
--What's the minimum population that can support the supply lines?
--What's the role of increasingly unpredictable weather in disrupting both?

That's three dunnos, not one.

The chip foundry one is particularly unknowable. When people are playing with using Physarum slime molds on agar as analog mock ups to solve traveling salesman and public infrastructure problems, the tech hurdle for solving certain computational problems may be very low indeed (here, it's maintaining a stock of agarose. Physarum isn't that hard to grow otherwise). More generally, if someone, say, hacks the plastids in algae to perform photonic computations, then we may be able to get away with etching glass and growing algal computers, which is extremely low tech compared with what they do to create high end chips now. If we get stuck with billion dollar chip foundries, then the computer industry might be one of the first things that collapses if some part of civilization breaks, and the industry will paradoxically work only on a planet full of people.

With the supply lines, this isn't just about populations, it's about international trade. If everyone's depending on chips from China, lithium from Chile, rare earths from wherever, and silicon from the US, we're living in a really interesting "Mutually Assured Destruction" kind of world, except that too many of our leaders won't be informed enough or bright enough to realize that MAD extends to trade wars too. So we're not just talking about how many people can keep a global supply web open, we're talking about whether they're trading with each other or not.

As for the weather, that's going to get more unpredictable. This makes maintaining human populations and supply chains harder. Ordinarily, this would be covered by redundancy. With more people, presumably you'd get more redundancy, but if having too many people is the problem, then...?

So great question, wicked problem, no answer.

The best solution, though, is to look at resilient computing for critical functions. I'm only half-joking about computoplasts in algae. While it will suck for the chip makers to be upstaged by some sort of self assembling computronium, it will take the strain off many of the other functions we currently depend on, and it will also mean that, like the kingdom of Hawai'i, we could conceivably lose 75% of our population in a few decades without going through a total civilizational crash.

178:

Just ever so slightly. 8000 people praying for a right wing government is funny, but US-style lies and nonsense is illegal in NZ. Lying about it is just stupid, too.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/94742451/exclusive-brethren-told-to-pray-for-bill-english-and-national-party-victory

Plus the usual problems any group with a strong hierarchy and pressure to conform has with various sort of misbehaviour by the leaders.... https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/tony-mccorkell-reveals-secrets-of-the-wealthy-christian-sect-exclusive-brethren-20160429-goi6lc.html

179:

The future may turn out better than we expect: see here

181:

we're living in a really interesting "Mutually Assured Destruction" kind of world, except that too many of our leaders won't be informed enough or bright enough to realize that MAD extends to trade wars too

That's the thing that scares me. We've already had a century of oil wars on top of our long history of food and water wars, it's going to be really interesting to see where the Congo "solution" is first applied to an advanced nation. Congo is just the most obvious example, BTW, of the general rule that it's more profitable to extract resources when there's no government to interfere - mercenaries are much cheaper than environmental regulations and taxes as long as it's not a fight between two sets of resource extraction mercs (you end up with Syria).

The argument that that couldn't happen is dubious, I look at the US "facilitated" regime changes in Chile (9/11, 1973) and Australia 1975 and think "would they destroy those governments instead, if they desperately needed the resources"... and I can't see why not. Uranium is both obvious and stupid, because it's just ridiculously common compared to demand so the idea of one country having a monopoly is nonsensical (that would be a world government). But it could easily end up being copper (high demand that getting harder to supply) or something we currently barely use that's very hard to get - like helium.

182:

>What's the minimum global population that can support a chip foundry?
Are you talking a modern 7nm node fab? That takes about 6 billion.

Or are you talking 1970s style 3-micron feature size, suitable for making 8086s for 1st generation IBM PCs? That’s going to be orders of magnitude less.

And as OGH points put in Dark State, the difference between a great computer and a crappy computer is a lot less important than the difference between a crappy computer and no computer.

183:

But it could easily end up being copper (high demand that getting harder to supply) or something we currently barely use that's very hard to get - like helium.

Copper is pretty much infinitely recyclable but the recovery of "spent" copper would need to be ramped up if supply chains from mines are broken. There was a "joke" a few years back that the stock market valuation of British Telecom, the near-monopoly supplier of telephone operation in the UK, was less than the then-current value of all the copper it owned buried in cable ducts, strung from poles, within exchanges etc.

Lithium is more of a problem, there's not a large amount of spent lithium metal sitting above-ground in scrapyards or landfills and we've developed a desperate need for lots of it right now -- the price of lithium carbonate, a feedstock for battery manufacturers has doubled in the last year or so. The upside is that the high minehead price has kickstarted a lot of new mining and production operations and searches for more untapped sources so that high price will probably not be sustainable. Saying that, recovery of lithium from spent batteries during recycling is not something I've heard much about in among the Biggest Breakthrough Since Breakfast battery tech stories that flare and die like fireworks in the popular science press. I don't know how that might affect supply and demand if it's near-impossible to reprocess old batteries to recover the lithium content (and cobalt too, another material that's used in batteries which is sourced mainly from places like the Congo).

It's cheaper to extract helium from natural-gas sources with high concentrations of the gas than to recover it from the atmosphere but it's more common there than some other gases we use such as xenon. The price per kilo would go up substantially although it could be extracted in commercial quantities by revamping the existing atmospheric gas processing operations which produce our industrial sources of gases like argon etc. Molecular filters might also work.

184:

Chip Foundry?
Were we not talking about biological computing?
LIKE THIS do you mean ??
Interesting

185:

What's coming, on the wings of resource wars and environmental crises, is something people don't talk about in polite society. It's all very 'problematic', you see. That weasel word that Orwell would have given an arm for.

If you live a first-world nation, how many refugees are that population willing to accept? You're never going to get people to agree to give up a large share of their wealth to accomodate people with a culture that they essentially see as an alien, with no ties to their own. And then there's the question of how many adjustments people are willing to make for said cultures that they see as intrinsically inferior (which is why they're refugees right? that's the circular logic here, regardless of who sold the weapons), incompatible with, and in some cases, antagonistic toward a secular nation state.

Did that paragraph make you angry, and want to point out the injustices of the world? That it dehumanises people? Does it make you feel like pointing out that our situation in life is largely an accident of birth? Fine. You would be right to do so. But that will not change the fact that, given the current impulse to close ranks, there will be anti-personnel defences on many borders within 10 years. My timing might be out, given the capriciousness of war and famine, but it assuredly will happen.

Perhaps the solution is to impose order from above. A kind of 'white man's burden' for the 21st century. Regions declared to be incapable of effective self-governance are brought under some special UN provisional rule. There will be jobs. There will be food. There will be no tolerance for cultural practices that do not follow the enlightened vision enforced by an iron fist in a velvet glove. Will a generation stripped of its cultural inheritance, or baggage, be better off? Am I better off for not being raised in some medieval European plague pit, despite the long-treasured cultural traditions I will never inherit?

Well, this is even more insensitive! What right does anyone have to judge other societies in a world that has embraced relativism in all its glory? Are we not richer for being able to travel to places and watch others dance for us, adorned with feathers and beads? Don't we have a duty to preserve their worthless rituals in designated zoos? Why should they want antibiotics, smart phones, and combustion engines?

Charlie said, "They'll justify their cull using the values we're seeing field-tested today racism, religious and anti-religious bigotry, nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, white supremacism."

Partial credit maybe. China certainly has little invested in white supremacism, and even less interest in playing the role of the white knight. The Gulf States will not lift a finger to help the poor and dispossessed of other Islamic nations. Why the lack of religion would imbue someone with more virtue isn't at all clear to me. A meaningless universe kills indiscriminately - there's nothing to be gained by being sucked under with the unfortunate. And there's the other unpleasant reality - those victims are, by and large, every bit as bigoted, tribal, sexist, and xenophobic as anyone else. They just lack the wealth, and the luck of the draw, to alter their fate.

I've had too many beers tonight, and I'm sure it shows in my bullshitting. Not that I would write better sober - I would just be more guarded with my thoughts, I think. After reading Charlie's article, I feel nothing but pessimism, because it has solidified something of the crunch I feel that is coming. I have no faith that human nature can change this outcome. On the other hand, I have total faith that, at some point, megadeaths will be barely reported. Any advance in technology will come far too late - the best and brightest having being diverted into designing inane applications and toys, rather than the serious needs of the future. I'm no better; and I see no way out.

186:

Actually, in theory, I think that we could run our civilisation on 10% of the population, probably even 1%. But that would need a completely different society. I am basing that on the observation that even 'productive' workers spend at least half of their time on avoidable tasks, either overheads or ones made necessary by avoidable external constraints. And at least half of current jobs in the UK could be avoided, in theory, and (even for things like fabs) there is a hell of a lot of avoidable replication. Also a lot of NON-work time is spent on avoidable, non-recreational tasks, which would free up effort for increased productivity. And so on.

I don't see how to get there and, in the UK in particular, we are heading in precisely the wrong direction. Look at the incredible denials of relatity over education, the skill shortage and so on. When we do see a population crash, it won't leave the most essential people untouched - but only those who are most essential to ensuring that we continue following the wrong path :-(

187:

It's not something I am prepared to go into on this blog. Sorry. You have enough clues to find the links yourself, but you would need to do a fair amount of searching - it's very much swept under the carpet, though it occasionally comes to light.

188:

The main reason that we need nanometre fabs is to feed the bloatware; supercomputing, (the real uses of) big data and wearable computers (including prosthetics) are exceptions. The IBM PC and 8086 were crap, but 1 micron was good enough for a fairly decent workstation. At 3 micron, you would need much more labour to build one.

189:

Even better. The Doom, perfect :)

(Well, there had to be some sort of reason St C's wasn't receiving vast amounts of Academy funding and being touted as a shining light of British education.)

190:

"I have total faith that, at some point, megadeaths will be barely reported."

We are already well past that point. See #34, and look at the coverage of the western-backed pogrom in Yemen, or even that of the total deaths in Iraq.

191:

"So it turns out that a society that drops below demographic replacement finds it very difficult to repopulate by breeding, as opposed to importing immigrant workers. The UK has been in this situation (and in denial about it) since the 1940s -- hence the origins of the Windrush issue."

Not really true - The origins of the Windrush issue are a bit more complex than that, - demography also proves that the post war UK had no problems in replenishing it's population, and the existence of the post war assisted passage scheme (i.e. Ten Pound Poms.) to places like Australia would suggest the place had labour to spare.

The importation of immigrant labourers mostly arose from greed on the part of employers, including London transport and the NHS who just couldn't be bothered offering either competitive wages, or in the latter instance, staff training. An attitude which persists to this day in an insistence that the NHS couldn't function without foreigners.

The ethnic make up of Bradford is another example in that J.B. Priestly, in the book "English Journey" recounts how from as early as the 30's huge quantities of Indian and Pakistani labourers were imported to "make the cloth industry more competitive" (I.e. You can pay them less.) but the imported labourers found out how much the locals were earning and collectively refused to accept less, condemning the industry from as early as then. Further, if they went back to India with any knowledge or skills, they could then set themselves up in a location of *genuinely* low wages:

It was a business strategy by mill owners that even Priestly himself thought was idiotic. By contrast post-war Italy, with a similar situation of rising incomes, elected to invest in automation. They retained their industry and Britain didn't.

192:

I think the version of Unix owned by MS ran on an 8086. It would be nice if we could go a little further up the chain... a 386 or 486 supports multiple megs of memory and will do some nice graphics (for certain old-fashioned values of "nice.")

Our servers would be the size of a truck!

193:

I suspect you are right, but hope you are not. I'm currently writing two future histories. One of them is optimistic, the other pessimistic, and the center of both of them is the issue of climate change.

In the "optimistic" version, various countries/US states take in carefully curated groups of refugees from other cultures. These are cultures which are deemed "useful" rather than all cultures, but the acceptance of refugees does happen. For example, the book-happy culture of Timbuktu is preserved in an area of southern Utah, and the main character is driven past "Timbukthree" in an AI-piloted electric car. (In the real world, the book The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu is a wonderful read!)

The pessimistic version starts out with a woman selling her body for food.

194:

"Bezos wants, to quote him directly, "trillion of people living in space". This is beyond anything Earth or Mars can support, but is trivially achieved by living in space. Once you have a first O'Neil habitat built in high Earth orbit, using material mined from the Moon or the asteroid belt, nothing prevents you from building a billion more of these, as your population grows."

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/06/the-high-frontier-redux.html

195:

Bret Harte @ 185
ALL horribly true

EC @ 186
WHAT "Skills Hsortage"/
This is a point I am vert cynical & bitter about, having failed for over 15-20 years to get even one minute of paid employment foir my Engineering MSc, because ( I think ) I was over 40 years old ....
ANOYNE AT ALL, who tells you that there is a skllls shortage or "We can't get the trained staff" is deliberate public liar.

191
Also all horribly true
I know about the £10 passage - to/from NZ in this case ...
And import cheap labour, rather than training our own & see my comment above about trained staff ....

196:

As i said, we are going in the wrong direction.

197:

And as OGH points put in Dark State, the difference between a great computer and a crappy computer is a lot less important than the difference between a crappy computer and no computer.

Yes, absolutely. Back in the mid-1980s, the USG had 80286-based computers on the Munitions List because they could be used to design nuclear weapons. And that was absolutely true: such computers could indeed be used to design nuclear weapons of some sophistication.(*)(**)

(*) Of course, it was also true that Z80-based computers could be used to design nuclear weapons and, of course, the first nuclear weapons were designed with less computer capability than that.

(**) It was also true that at the time some Soviet journals were carrying ads for Indian-made 286 machines. I pointed that out to some of the ML people. They felt it better not to process that bit of information.

198:

Just finished the book, and it is devastating. I already see that many of the Dystopian Stories I’m working on need to have Africa be up and running while America falls apart. That they consider sending “foreign aid” to help, but we are far too dangerous.

Think Mad Max Thunderdome here in America while Africans shake their heads over their suburban breakfast. The mother telling her children, “Eat all your food. Children are starving in America.”

199:

Going forwards & backwards ...
Ireland has finally stepped out of the shadow of the Black Crows ( I don't think Norn Iron will be far behind, in spite of ultra-prod protestations )
How different from 1965, when I was stopped by Garda/customs at Amiens St station, to see if I had any condoms on me (!)
Meanwhile, we are travelling in the opposite direction ....

200:

Oh, it got better than that! They also tried to ban the export of the mathematics underlying cryptography, apparently in denial of the minor detail that Russia was actually BETTER than the USA at it :-) Whether that is still true, I don't know.

201:

During the mid-1990s, Signaling System No. 7, an international standard signaling protocol used by telephone switches to set up calls, was on the list of technology which US companies could not provide to Russia. The giant US telecom company I worked for at the time had a contract to import and install Swedish switching systems in Moscow. I was a general-knowledge go-to guy for a lot of questions in those days. One morning I got a panicked call from the top technical guy in Moscow asking me if SS7 was indeed on the forbidden list, could it be easily removed from the Swedish switches already installed, and would the switches continue to function using an alternate signaling system?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_System_No._7

202:

Kill them before they're born I say!

No society would allow such a deranged scheme to come into existence of course but imagine a society that eliminates the prospect for most people to have an decent education and a pleasant life. You make addictive substances real easy to obtain and criminalize it at the same time, fight the problem with everything you have. Call it a War on Addictive Substances. Large numbers of people will be imprisoned, have damaged brains from the poisons they ingest and will never find a paying job reducing the chance of having offspring. To make this scheme really shine the rulers impose severe sentences to those who qualify, 30 years in prison for any amount of narcotics. Make them miserable in prison for a while and then you offer them a way out; 'If you agree to be sterilized today we can reduce the sentence to a total of one year in prison so you'll be free in two months.' Two birds with one stone, no offspring and they'll die sooner because of their 'choice', guided by government policies, in lifestyle.

203:

The main reason that we need nanometre fabs is to feed the bloatware;

I believe you have to be well down into nanometers in order to produce the chips that implement digital signal processing for mobile telephony and high-speed data service, and for the digital video production and consumption chain. It's possible that we could roll back to wired analog phone service and analog television; if things are going badly, though, there's at least a question of whether the capital to rebuild those will be available.

204:

We've had digital telephone switches since the 1970s. I was working on digital video over fibre in the mid-1980s, using off-the-shelf components not custom chips. This was with VLSI components (with one eye cocked towards the ULSI devices in the pipeline).

Looking at Netflix right now I get a sense of deja vu — it's very close to what my team was working on when we were shut down by corporate management because "no one watches TV like that". (Same corporate management that looted the company and left it broke. I’m certain EC and others could tell similar tales…)

205:

We've had digital telephone switches since the 1970s.

The problem is that with bigger, less capable and more power-hungry chips it's eventually more effective to move data to and from cellphones using higher transmit power than to process it into a more transmit-efficient format. You may not be able to process it to the degree required in the package available. Think satellite phone rather than iWank - and 9600 baud not 50MBits.

Making a 1GHz chip using 1 micron technology is quite tricky, especially if the reason you're using 1 micro is that you don't have good materials or much control over the manufacturing process (viz, current 1 micron is not the same as bootstrapped 1 micron. It's like all the "DIY 3D printers" that use high-precision parts from China rather than making their own).

Flip side: we might well end up with mesh cellular that swaps between LoRaWan and wifi depending on what's available. Just because you need a modern supercomputer to design it doesn't mean you need one to build and operate it.

206:

Getting back to the original idea of a panopticon, I spent the last week in too many useless meetings (useless in the WOMBAT sense that I could have stayed away, and the result would have been exactly the same). Actually, that's not true: I got to see the local city council flounder it's way through dealing with our local homeless issue, which is getting worse, but is far from bad. This gets at the idea of a panopticon, because the Councilfolks wanted to get the homeless off the streets and out of the parks (as do I). Their preferred technique was classic panopticon, getting everybody named, data taken, etc. so that they could get them "in the pipeline" to services that would hopefully lead to these homeless individuals in housing, free of illegal addictions, legal meds (re)established, and employed--in other words, turning them into solid citizens, albeit at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder.

The result was that the program to date has spent around $40,000 per homeless person, with about a 20% success rate. One of the big problems was that the data set that the contractors were handed was out-of-date and/or wrong, and getting the data corrected to a lot of time and resources. And (just guessing here), that current data set isn't as good as anyone might want.

This is about the most benevolent version of a "panopticon" that anyone might want, and it's still failing miserably (at the 80% level), at least here.

When I ask about how the homeless are getting by, it's because "The System" fails them both in bad and good ways. I'm not going to posit that most people who are homeless like it that way, but when you see books like Chris Urquhart's Dirty Kids, it should become obvious that, like it or not, some people prefer freedom to comfort.

That's the point of using the homeless as a marker for the effectiveness of a panopticon. If people can drop out of the system even when they want to stay in it (and sometimes drop out of it repeatedly, and sometimes leave it deliberately), such a system is less scary that it appears to be on the outside.

207:

I'm certainly intellectually lazy, but I figure that one of the classic signs of a bubble is someone saying "this time it's different." So far I haven't read Factfulness, but it looks like a classic work in the vein of "This time it's different."

In some sense, this time (the last 7,000 years or so) is different, in that for the first time in 300,000 years of human history, we've got civilization. It's also the first time in about 300,000 years of human history that we've got a really stable climate. It's impossible to tell, from such scanty data, whether this is random coincidence or causation, but it's worth being suspicious, because places that have highly unpredictable weather (for instance, California, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern Siberia) have relatively enormous records of human settlement but only at low population levels, and that makes me suspicious that things like civilization depend on having either predictable climates for crops, or (as now) massive subsidies from outside (as in the massive irrigation systems terraforming parts of California and Australia, the Soviet-era cities in Siberia, and the similarly artificial cities in the Indonesian side of PNG).

So the critical question for sustainability going forward is whether, as the climate gets less predictable (e.g. more like it was for the last 293,000 years of human history) whether we can maintain the literal state change, or whether there will be an enormous die-off and we'll go back to the way the world used to be, at least until the climate becomes relatively more predictable in a few thousand years (before we go back in to the wild ice age cycles in maybe 100,000 years).

This leads to the environmentalist's question of whether these enormous systems are sustainable without massive inputs. In the case of California, a book like Cadillac Desert (which is about the costs and consequences of dams and irrigation), makes a pretty good case that the California version is not sustainable, and the blog "On the Public Record" (a water-based blog) points out that the California water system is a lot more functional than the Australian one, and so forth.

I can continue, but the basic point is that yes, right now is different. Whether it's a temporary bubble or a permanent state change isn't settled yet, but the key question in this regard is about basic infrastructure: can we continue to provide enough energy, materials, water, food, and shelter at current levels (which for most people are pretty scanty) with what we have? Right now, I suspect the answer is no, at least past 100 years out, but we're still innovating, so hopefully I'm wrong. I will note that, even though I'm one of the doomsayers, I'm willing to keep working on the premise that I'm wrong, just because it's better than sitting around bemoaning our fate, and better than being a pollyanna and refusing to acknowledge or deal with the real problems we do currently face.

208:

How not to be ignorant about the world | Hans and Ola Rosling
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm5xF-UYgdg

209:

points out that the California water system is a lot more functional than the Australian one

Do they mean the water mines or the surface water allocation system? Or both?

Note that calling it a system is like talking about "our system of world government", in that there are multiple systems and they're not compatible with each over, even though they often deal with the same water system.

At some point water mines will return less usable energy than the energy required to mine it, even taking into account the multiplication factor from using renewable energy (viz, the energy to build the windmill or solar pump, rather than the energy put into the pump). That's going to be even more exciting than the interesting mineral deposits where they farmers "treat" the water (by letting it sit in a pool for a while).

210:

one of the classic signs of a bubble is someone saying "this time it's different."
Which is exactly like, switching sub-threads, is what the morons in momentum say.
OUR marxists are not going to set up camps & kill people by the bucketload ... yeah.

Or, for that matter, the religious bigots in Norn Iron saying "our case is different" - I hear from the radio that a brainwashed female in the Daily Nazi is calling for "Freedom" to be different & supporting oppression of other women in Norn Iron under the lying "pro-life" banner.
[ But I can't find a current link, which might be good news ... ]

211:

Okay, this is an error that comes up a whole lot. California is coastal. Not only coastal, but a high-mixture coast, and industrialized. This means it cannot have water crisis beyond a certain point, because the limit case is an infinite water supply from desalination. And desal plays relatively nice with solar, even.

That kills the very most water intensive agriculture.. but not all of it. This is actually important irrespective of what intensity global warming hits, because California has had multiple droughts lasting centuries in the past couple of millennia - It having enough water for agriculture from nature is not a given even if we halt global warming. So that is one vision of future cali - never rains, but still full of growing things, because it is covered in drip irrigation running of solar stills in the desert.

212:

It's complicated, but yes. I have been severely deaf all my life, and rely on non-standard auditory cues, so notice aspects of telephony that most people don't. When digital transmission came in, I had hell with the codecs breaking the micro-timing, though they are better now. This (and the demand for massive computer power) was explained to me by someone in the area, and it IS bloatware, though of a different form. There are a zillion different codecs, often based on different principles, and a telephone message has to get translated many, many times - that's the CPU power requirement. If there were simple coding at each end, one micron technology would be fine.

My hearing aids are trickier. With that, either I would need a box like the 1950s ones, or the function would be severely downgraded. And there are more extreme requirements. So, yes, it WOULD prevent some things that can be done at present, but nothing that it critical to the running of the 'civilisation' - after all, hearing aids of the level of mine are not available to most of the world.

My point was that it wouldn't prevent all that much, but would need very different (and much more efficient) approaches.

213:

I wasn't talking about cellphones. There's a lot of technology between wired analogue ones and the iPhone with streaming video.

We've had digital all the way to the handset since the 1980s, fibre-to-the-home since the 1980s, digital 'modems*' since the 1980s (64kbps end-to-end over twisted pair)…

*Not really modems, as they didn't modulate anything just send the digital bitstream on to the switch, but we called them "modems" because every customer knew a modem was the box that connected your computer to the line.

214:

"I'm certainly intellectually lazy, but I figure that one of the classic signs of a bubble is someone saying "this time it's different." So far I haven't read Factfulness, but it looks like a classic work in the vein of "This time it's different.""

Then the business magazine pundits start peddling 'the economic cycle is gone', then we are months away from a recession.

215:

California is the same as any other developed nation, so rather than correcting your errors in detail, I will simply ask that, wherever you are, you go for an extended coastal tramp, do you research, and figure out how what percent of the coast is actually buildable (in California, it's pretty low, because much of it is on cliffs, Big Sur and Malibu being only the most spectacular. Then there are the earthquake faults that make the nice, oh-so-seductive valleys...). Of the buildable part, you can then figure out how many billions it would take to buy it up from the current, very wealthy owners. Of the rest, you can look at the up how often it's foggy, and then you can go from there.

Once you've done this for a couple of countries, you can come back here with a more informed take on desalination.

Then you can read California history (I recommend Battling and Inland Sea) where you'll find that the first and most important job of the California water system wasn't to keep southern California watered, it was to keep the Sacramento Valley from getting flooded to 10' deep every decade or so. The current governor's father had the bright idea of sending some of this water all the way to LA, mostly to keep Sacramento from experiencing a huge building boom (it's doing that now, but at least Pat Brown didn't live to see it, his son did), as well as to win a bunch of political favors from rich land owners. And now we're in the mess we're in.

And so it goes. Do get informed about the politics, especially if you're going to bloviate about California. It seems that, after 50 years of having free-market technocrats trying to fix the flooding issue mentioned above, California finally turned to the big political solution, and that provoked the mess we're in now.

If there's a lesson to be drawn for SFF, it's that terraforming is at least as political as it is technological. That's something most authors get very, very wrong.

216:

If there's a lesson to be drawn for SFF, it's that terraforming is at least as political as it is technological.
Someone I know has just come back form a very intersting visit to the central part of the Silk Road ( Uzbekistan - Nukus / Khiva / Samarkand / Tashkent (etc)
Bits of the Aral are reviving & although there's lots of irrigation, still, it is now almost entirely carefully (computer) monitored drip-feed, so that there is more water to put back into the waterways.
Even so, the once-mioghty Oxus river wasn't very big ...
And, like Syria / Turkey / Iraq there's a lot of dicking around with the upstream water-supplies.
[ Kyrgizstan / Tajikistan ]

217:

If there's a lesson to be drawn for SFF, it's that terraforming is at least as political as it is technological.

Most of the terraforming I recall in SF was being done in order to make the place habitable, rather than remodelling an already-inhabited planet. Easier to handle the politics if you start with a blank slate.

RGB Mars is the only exception that I recall. Which may say more about my reading (or memory) than SF as a field.

218:

.... "nearly all of it"? Seriously, given a demonstrated need in the public interest, like, say, having a water supply, a permit to build anywhere that is not an actual nature preserve would be easy to get.

Not to mention that a desalination plant does not actually need to be directly on the coast. It needs an inlet and an outlet pipe, and it is bad if the inlet pipe needs to be pumped up any hills, but that is still perfectly compatible with buying a lot a few hundred meters inland, digging a great big hole to put the machinery in and drilling horizontally under the beach front properties.

Then you roof over your entire unsightly piece of infrastructure with a nice park. Silly? yes. But it solves nimby, and would not be prohibitively expensive.

219:

I think you missed the turn. The point about terraforming California was that it was "to make it habitable," as in Australia. I agree with the California Indians and Australian aborigines who think that's a fig-leaf for genocide, but the point here is that industrial culture can't survive in California or Australia without massive infrastructure, any more than humans could survive on Hawai'i without coconuts and taro (another case of terraforming).

Terraforming in the California case involved a lot of experimentation (e.g. the free-market technocracy of 19th century Whigs), pushed by some bad science (irrigation in the west was promulgated under the "scientific" notion that "rain follows the plow"), and ultimately turned into a way to trade political favors (politicians get water projects in their districts in return for their support of other projects).

The notion in SFF is that terraforming is all planned out by some GodEngineer, and it's all gleaming and rational. The truth is that there are any number of ways to do it, some people will benefit while some will not, and resources have to come from elsewhere. All of this means, ultimately, it's an intensely political process, and the resulting system is likely to have some, shall we say, interesting (or perhaps head-slapping) failure modes.

220:

Nope. In the Khosla case (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-23/billionaire-khosla-is-asking-the-supreme-court-to-keep-people-off-his-beach), we're talking about a tech venture capitalist who believes that he bought the right to keep the public off his beach. It's not clear if the US Supreme Court will take this case or not, but signs are that they will. If they dismantle the California Coastal Act, it will make it that much harder for desalination, as the public will have no voice in what happens on any coast.

So yes, political, no, not engineering, and if Khosla's your standard for a NIMBY, you better learn more about NIMBYism.

221:

Has anyone else seen this story about rebooting home routers?

I have to admit I'm only marginally clued in on computers & the internet, so I thought I'd run it past the commenters here?

It includes a list of routers that should be rebooted. Mine isn't on the list. I don't do wi-fi at home because I'm not confident I can secure the router against intrusion, but I figure if I stick with a wired Ethernet for my home I should be reasonably safe. At least anyone who wants in has to gain physical access to my home to get to the router.

At least I think so.

222:

You do realize you are imagining a future in which California will have to be mostly depopulated because noone will let anyone build desalination anywhere? In a state which is basically one long narrow coast line?
Sanity check yourself a little bit, here, perhaps? There is political dysfunction, and then there is logical impossibility. This is the latter.

Further, noone has to touch the sacred beaches to do this. You need an inlet pipe and an outlet pipe. These
are not on the beach, but further out and down several meters. As I said, nothing stops you from putting the plant several hundred meters inland. Are you really going to claim noone. Along all the coast of California. Is going to permit you to drill a pipe ten meters beneath their property? And that the law will back them on this?

223:

If desalination comes to California, it'll be done by local municipalities that don't have access to state water supplies. Santa Barbara built a desalination plant in the 1990s that they mothballed as soon as that drought ended in 1992. They reactivated it in 2015 and it now supplies about 30% of the city's water needs. Given the complexity of navigating California's environmental landscape, I doubt that larger scale projects can be completed in a "reasonable", i.e. less than 5 years time.

On a different note, today's NY Times has an article on stage I of OGH's vision for the 21st centuray, at least in the UK. Prosperity For All!
https://nyti.ms/2J8ApU5

225:

Oops, Resident Alien @ 223 pointed to it first. Sorry for the redundancy.

226:

My point was that I don't recall reading any of that in an SF story, the Mars trilogy excepted.

227:

I live in a city where one provincial government started to dig a cross-city tunnel for a badly-needed LRT, the next one filled in the tunnel because they opposed public transit (for cities that didn't vote for them), the next one started to dig again (but apparently needed to adjust the route because of concrete-filled tunnel), and we're looking at possibly the next government* filling it in again.

A city (ok, metro area) where the suburban voters who clog the transit system steadily oppose increasing the capacity in the core (where they are travelling to and from) because that would benefit the "urban elites" — and they don't see the connection between their daily commute downtown and the systemic crowding downtown.

Lack of logic seems to be a large part of political disfunction. And NIMBYism is frequently a bit factor in politics — it least where I live.

*Likely to be lead by a wealthy businessman who pretends to be an ordinary man-of-the-people and who figures rules are for other people. Sound familiar?

228:

Nope. What I imagine for a future California:

--Climate is *more* variable, as in deeper droughts, bigger floods, and more likelihood of seeing both in the same year (as in 2017)
--ARk1000 storms (Atmospheric River 1000-year) happening about every 40 years. The last ARkStorm was 1861-1862, when 10 feet of water hit the west slope of the northern Sierras in a month. That flooded the Sacramento River, and is the reason why old downtown Sacramento buried its original streets and remade the second stories as the new street level, 10' up.
--Southern California with weather like central Baja, meaning it averages out to desert, with rainfall determined by whether some big storm hits any time of year (a winter storm, a summer tropical storm--whatever). An ARkstorm hitting here in San Diego would probably dump 3 feet, trashing Mission Valley and making all the reservoir owners ever so nervous.
--The California water project will be damaged by at least one very large earthquake, as well as by the ARKstorms (both are forecast to hit within the next 40 years or so). Due to where the San Andreas is, relatively few reservoirs would be affected. Conversely, if an ARkStorm blew out the wrong dam, we could have cascading dam failures and lose a big chunk of the whole water system.

Whether damage gets fixed or not is the critical question. If the state can't afford to repair itself after an ARkStorm or the Big One Earthquake (and note that the storm is forecast to cause about three times as much monetary damage as the quake), then it's going to depopulate. If we find ways to repair the aqueducts, roads, et al., then we can keep having millions of people living here.

Note that desalination is a minor player, except for isolated cities like Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Avalon, and similar. In the case of either an earthquake or an ARkStorm, it's just more infrastructure that likely needs repairs. The reason is that you've got to store all the water you generate somewhere else, and the critical question is whether those dams will hold in the event of a disaster. Holding enough water to get through a drought may or may not be as important.

If you want frustrating, the local politicians and planners currently show no interest in preparing for either of these disasters.

229:

That article makes me wonder if tumbrel or guillotine futures are sold on a stock exchange somewhere.

230:

Let's think about how water is used in California, 80% for agriculture, 20% urban use. The majority of the scenarios you describe would devastate the major agricultural regions (San Joaquin and Central Valley), leaving southern California, with 50+% of the state's population relatively unscathed. How the Bay Area does would depend on if the Delta water system survives (Mark Reisner's 'A Dangerous Place' offers one pessimistic scenario). Regardless, the people most affected would be poor, often undocumented, farm workers. Agriculture might be a multibillion industry in California, but it's still less than 5% of the state's total economy. So, if the expected ARKstorm floods the San Joaquin Valley (everything south of Stockton), it'll hit communities that aren't terribly prosperous and have a high percentage of poor non-white inhabitants. I don't see the state's response in this situation as being very generous; why spend billions on restoring a portion of the state that most people drive through as quickly as possible? It would also give coastal cities an incredible incentive to acquire water rights that farmers couldn't use until the valley dried out, or in the case of walnut, almond and citrus orchards, until they could replace the trees killed by 12+ months under water. What to do with all the displaced farmworkers is where things would get ugly really quickly. I can see California very quickly getting on the "Build the Wall" bandwagon and asking for extra ICE agents to deport all the un-needed laborers. Those who remained would move to the coast and join the large homeless populations there. That's when comfortable suburbanites worried about the equity in their homes will demand that their local, state and federal law enforcement agencies deal with "those people" and thing begin to get really ugly.

231:

A city (ok, metro area) where the suburban voters who clog the transit system steadily oppose increasing the capacity in the core (where they are travelling to and from) because that would benefit the "urban elites" — and they don't see the connection between their daily commute downtown and the systemic crowding downtown.

Improving public transport in city centres attracts more traffic, makes it possible for more people to come and live there and any new extra capacity soon gets used up and the overcrowding happens again. Step and repeat. What you really need is big signs on the periphery of the area saying "[location] is full. Go away." Not going to happen though.

232:

mproving public transport in city centres attracts more traffic, makes it possible for more people to come and live there and any new extra capacity soon gets used up and the overcrowding happens again. Step and repeat. What you really need is big signs on the periphery of the area saying "[location] is full. Go away." Not going to happen though.

Shouldn't the real solution be to make the city bigger? If half the population of USA want to live in one megalopolis, then why shouldn't they? Just make it as dense as possible, connect everything with multiple layers of subway (hire Elon Musk for that job).

233:

Robert Prior @ 227
WHERE, please?

Something similar happening in NYC/NJ IIRC, where the NJ ultra-right governor has crapped all over anyone wanting to get tpo Jersey City ( & New York, of course ) - lots of toing & froing the last time I looked.

Coastlines - the exclusion clause used in some parts of the USA ( & being contested in CAL righ now ) wouldn't work here. If it's between the tidelines, then it belongs to "The Crown" & is free of access to all citizens at all approachable times. [ Defence etablishments, excepted, of course ]

Transit lines, yes well: London
Thameslink is now up & just-about-running in mk 2 mode - see right HERE for an interesting account - with an update atricle, connecting to the political aspects HERE too ....
Enjoy.
And: stage "3" - actually stage ONE-major - of Crossrail One ( The Lizzie-Line ) opening this December.
We are looking forward to it - they are both desperately needed.

234:

Single point of failure -- a large megalopolis is held hostage to external forces that it can't control like weather, earthquakes, meteor strikes etc. See Sim City for a worked example. Multiple smaller metropolises (metropolii?) connected by a network of breed-farm conurbations which supply human feedstock to the Great Attractors survives better and is more flexible with less chance of groupthink taking over and grinding the entire population into the dust in one fell swoop. Problems occur when too many people are Attracted into too small a space, and one of the Attractive forces drawing them in is good public transportation.

London is a worked example, with most of Britain's public transport investment having been pumped into it over the past few decades and the result is even greater overcrowding and calls for yet more investment in public transport (Crossrail 2, for example) to "solve" the problems the previous investments in public transport have actually caused in part.

235:

50 years ago, when the London and south-east housing and transport problems started to hit, I said that the solution was to reverse the population movement towards it. I was told "But you can't tell people where to live!" (which isn't true, but ....) We could (then) have simply stopped favouring and started deprecating London - I remember businesses moving there, because the savings in telephone charges (*) outweighed the property and wages costs. Others have done that for transport reason. The UK could have introduced infrastructure to the periphery first, and London second, rather than London first, the south-east second, the more favoured areas third, and the periphery can get stuffed. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the problem is now almost incurable.

(*) Those within London were all local, those outside (even between places a few miles apart) were not, and places like Cornwall didn't even have STD.

236:

EC
Those of us living in London remember the policies of the mid-70's to 1990 (approx) where London was crapped on.
IT DID NOT WORK
Don't repeat an already-failed policy?
And, actually, in proportion to the population London DOES NOT get "all the money & investement" - see also "Barnett Formula" ( etc )

237:

The mid-70s through to the 90s was when London was getting the M25 built at a cost of tens of billions of pounds (total all-up ticket price in today's money, perhaps a hundred billion). The M25 is still getting upgraded at a cost of billions of pounds more as it's full up because it's so good at attracting businesses and workers to the areas around it.

On the other hand the A1 up through the Scottish border, connecting Edinburgh and eastern Scotland with England is still two-lane in many places with no billions available to upgrade it even to dual-carriageway for its length. There's also the London Jubilee line, the improvements and upgrades to the London Underground etc. etc. which also cost billions over the period you mention, Crossrail 1 and the forthcoming Crossrail 2 etc. etc. all to benefit a small rich area of the nation.

What you describe as being "crapped on" was envied by the rest of Britain at the time because virtually none of that "crap" was coming their way.

238:

@125 No I haven't, but I can imagine.

239:

Improving public transport in city centres attracts more traffic, makes it possible for more people to come and live there

The crowding isn't from the people who live downtown, it's from those on the periphery who commute into downtown every day, yet oppose boosting the downtown capacity on the grounds that they wouldn't benefit.

Increased density downtown has different problems — lack of public parks and schools being the most notable.

Root cause of both problems is a lack of infrastructure investment going back over a generation. We've got sewers and water mains 20 years past their expected lifespans with no plans (and money budgeted) to replace them until they break. Add in the OMB (classic example of regulatory capture) and forced amalgamation and you have a recipe for disfunction — each step of which may be logical, but when put together gives illogical results.


Toronto also has a problem with property-owners going ballistic at tax increases on taxes that are about half what those in the suburbs pay. (I heard one woman complaining at the "horrendous tax increase" of about $100 per year on a house worth five times what mine is worth — that was a 4% tax increase after a decade of frozen taxes, and about half what I pay for less services — which was less than a fortnight's worth of must-have Starbucks 'treats'.)

240:

Toronto.

Note to tech types: every time I post a comment I have to log in again. Before the sever upgrade I only had to log in once and could post several comments.

241:

Yes. That is correct.

Only slightly earlier, I tried to make a telephone call from Helston to Salisbury (via the operator, of course, there being no STD) and was told that I could not do so. I would have to wait until the next working day, go into a post office, and ask there for the next available cubicle.

It was also when the night train from Penzance was cancelled, which destroyed Cornwall's cut flower industry almost overnight.

And don't even ask what the roads were like!

242:

Not everywhere. In the UK, it is common for most of the road traffic within a city to have both ends in the city (often 80+%), and for the traffic problems just outside the city to be caused by drivers from within the city (sometimes driving both out of and back into the city).

At that point, the city rulers propose to tax those who live outside from driving in, and give free passes to the city dwellers. Improving public transport IS a good idea in such cases.

243:

I was (and am) talking about the public transit situation in Toronto.

What's frustrating is that we could have had a fully-paid-for LRT running by now, covering a lot more of the city and relieving pressure on the overloaded subway lines and transfer stations, but it was cancelled by a former mayor* because he apparently conflated an LRT with a streetcar and he got impatient behind streetcars. Instead we have a planned one-stop extension to an overloaded subway that will cost so much it would be cheaper to carry each additional rider by taxi.

All of which is in agreement with Frank's original point about logic and politics.


Side note: I drive to work. 1.5 hours round trip, as opposed to 5-6 hours round-trip on public transit. With the cancelled LRT it would be about 2 hours round-trip by public transit — I was looking forward to using the LRT rather than driving, but I'll be long retired before the train is built (if ever).


*Rob Ford, brother to the chap now likely to be our next provincial premier. Imagine Donald Trump with alcohol and crack cocaine and you have the general idea.

244:

Computers are the big problem, not just because of a "chip foundry," but because the supply chains are global.

This assumes that a civilization in the process of rebuilding needs IC-based PCs.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that if we're willing to fail back to printed paper and mostly forget social media and the internet, we can get an enormous amount of stuff done even with barely-gate-level ICs. A basic IC-based system like, say, the PDP-8 or PDP-11, is probably less expensive/energy intensive to develop that earlier thermionic valve based mainframes, and can probably be built with much cheaper semiconductor resources: remember, that proverbial billion dollar fab line is a climax product after 50-60 years of microprocessor development.

As for what such computers would be useful for, think in terms of resource allocation, weather forecasting, phone switching, and routing of anything that can benefit from efficiency improvements. Accountancy, even.

There are technologies that depend on raw computing power. Fly-by-wire avionics, portable GPS, cellular telephony, genomics. But I'm unsure which of them are actually worth spending 2-5% of our planetary electricity budget on ...

245:

Unfortunately, I think we need the Internet .../
Also, for really good weather forcasting you need supercomputers.
Though, with the experience we now have, you could probably do a lot better with 1980's-level computers if properly redesigned.
And more economical software, of course

246:

I think the version of Unix owned by MS ran on an 8086.

Not really, but Xenix (which started out as MS's version before they relicensed it to SCO) ran nicely on a 286 with 1Mb of RAM and a 20Mb hard drive. It was based on System 7, so no TCP/IP stack and no X10 or X11, but could do store-and-forward networking via uunet: the userland commands would look pretty familiar to someone used to a modern-ish Linux or MacOS machine (albeit a rudimentary init/rc system rather than SysV init or SystemD, and so on).

Circa 1991 I was part of a techpubs department with 16 users hooked up to a 386 with 16Mb of RAM using dumb terminals and a serial port multiplexer. That PC was basically doing the job of a mid-1980s minicomputer, and for non-graphical applications it was just fine. These days each USB hub on your desktop or laptop probably has more processor grunt than than departmental machine.

247:

Greg

Former Governor Chris Christie, while an utter slimeball in almost every respect, did not govern NJ as an ultra-right winger. He did cancel the ARC tunnel, for his own selfish political reasons, but the consensus among the transit blogs here (alon Levy and Ben Kabak, primarily), was cancelling it was justified, though not replacing it with an alternative wasn’t.
Whenever I see people complaining on LR about transit in London, I think how people in NJ would kill to have such problems.

248:

It wasn't that bad until Nov '95. I had it on... and I had never before heard brownosing until that with Bob Edwards. Then, the next summer, Congress was investigating ADM, and NPR was covering it... and then, that Wed, suddenly ADM was a supporter of NPR, and the coverage vanished.

249:

Don't need to go that far. I've been using Email since 1969, by which time it was well-established, and wide-area networking since 1979 (including functionally-equivalent predecessors of things like this blog). I also remember 1960s-era mainframes serving several dozen (sometimes many dozen) interactive sessions. As I commented in #188, we aren't all that much more productive, because the bloatware has eaten almost all of the extra power. Oh, yes, the screams arising if people could use WIMPS GUIs only when they are actually needed would raise the welkin! But I can witness that 'old fashioned' ways of working were as effective as modern ones - due to the waste caused by the bloatware and crapware. The inefficiencies were just different.

And, actually, cellular telephones DON'T need anything like as much computing power as they use - see #212.

250:

Nothing wrong with COBOL or Fortan accounting systems. What's wrong is when things go through black budgets, and don't come out, and/or there are suddenly no receipts. They were ordered to balance their books close to 10 years ago, and were still failing when Trumpolini came in.

251:

Not sure what country you're thinking of, but in the uS, the only identity politics we've seen are the neofascist and religious right (or wrong, as I prefer to say).

252:

There are technologies that depend on raw computing power. Fly-by-wire avionics,...

Not sure that FBW is quite the processing monster you suggest... here are two European development aircraft in 1981 (link), using late-1970s technology. Meanwhile, the first portable GPS systems were available for DESERT STORM in 1991, so late-1980s technology. Another example is the F-22: still the ne plus ultra of airpower, controlled (at least until recently) by lots of i960 processors (running at 25MHz!) Eleventy!)

You also missed out "simulations of instant sunshine". Computing power meant that once they'd sorted their models, the P5 no longer needed to detonate test weapons (see: French testing at Moruroa) and allowing progress towards the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

253:

One thing we could *REALLY* use is the drug from Brunner's The Stone That Never Came Down", that *forces* you to PAY ATTENTION to the real world, as opposed to the "I don't believe all that evidence, my gut feeling is...."

Might solve other problems, too. I swear, there's a ton of people out there who would never have lived this long 200 years ago, having fallen over a cliff, or been eaten by a bear, while staring at a piece of bark in their hands, waiting for words to appear.

254:

Allow me to encourage you in this. I have said, including to managers, for a long time, that I did *not* believe in "never let 'em know what you're doing" as "job security".

I learned that early in my career, in a lot less drastic way: mainframe shop, the systems programmer went for a week's vacation down the shore, and Tuesday of that week (not sure how they got him, this was mid-eighties, no cellphones) they dragged him back to fix a problem. Within two months, they'd promoted the lead operator to jr. systems programmer.

Helps you have a life, that way.

255:

Please... you sound like a True Believer Libertarian. Metal does not that kind of "intrinsic value": I refer you to the tale of Midas. Do you *eat* silver or gold? And how 'bout the guy with the steel sword - does that beat silver or gold?

And "cashless society" is crap. Btw, I just read today that Wired lost $100k, having lost their key.

And finally, I want to tax the shit out of YOU... assuming you're rich. I'd be ecstatic if we had a 90% tax rate on anyone whose annual income was > $10M US. What, you don't earn that much? Then why are you concerned... or is it that you think you'll be rich any day now?

And taxes are how we pay for what you get. You don't like them? Get the hell off my tax-paid streets, and pay for your own garbage collection. Don't fly out of tax-paid airports. Go live out in the desert.

256:

I dunno. A lot of stories - kids ignored, random violence, sounds *just* like the studies done with rats on overpopulation in the sixties and seventies.

257:

Don't forget the engineers who routinely run finite element simulations in a few seconds on their laptop these days. Makes a huge difference to productivity when optimising designs.

258:

Hell, yes. My workstation at home has more power than most of the entire world put together in the sixties... and so much of its power is *wasted* on eye candy.

Now, admittedly, we have boxes at work with *2* K-80 Tesla cards, and a quarter- or half-terabyte of RAM, and many cores on the CPUs... but then, they don't do eye candy, don't run X... they do serious scientific computing.

259:

Weather and bioscience are worth a ton of resources. Bitcoin mining, on the other hand....

Fun things to look up: Biowulf, currently 66th most powerful supercomputer in the world.

260:

Not really - it leads to sloppy thinking. The big difference came when they could do it in an hour on an office-sized computer, rather a day on an overloaded supercomputer.

261:

Sorry I'm late. I've been busy and on vacation for this past week or so.

It would be helpful to back up your claim that most homeless people are dying of starvation with sources please. While I haven't found a nationwide study, here are the results of a study in Boston:

"1,302 deaths occurred during 90,450 person-years of observation. Drug overdose (n=219), cancer (n=206), and heart disease (n=203) were the major causes of death. Drug overdose accounted for one-third of deaths among adults

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3713619/

Here's the stuff from Poland. I think this could be used as a proxy for Central Europe?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739436/

Keep in mind that most of the homeless are in the largest metro areas. It's rare for the main city of these metro areas to be red. Of the ~700k people homeless on a given night, ~60k are in New York City. Likewise, California has a high portion of the nation's homeless population; higher than its share of the population.

Even in red states, charities feeding homeless manage to ensure that starvation isn't a problem. Most conservative (and many liberal) governments' main method of dealing with the homeless is a free bus ticket out of town. The stereotype is that most send their homeless to San Francisco, though I'm not sure if this is true.

262:

Since we're back to the California strange attractor, a few things are often ignored in this discussion

1. Unlike Alabama (40 out of 67) and Georgia (82 out of 159), I don't think California has any counties that have been shrinking? Nevertheless, the rural counties are barely growing (if at all). California has an urbanization rate of 95.2 percent.

http://www.savannahnow.com/news/2016-06-22/georgia-growth-super-concentrated-atlanta-half-states-counties-are-losing-population

https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/shifting_populations_of_alabam.html

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

2. California's population growth is due to international immigration and births. The former is in the control of the federal government, while the TFR is at a 30-year low. In 2007-2016, "using tax filing data from the Internal Revenue Service, the state found that in that time span, approximately 6 million people moved out of California, compared to the approximately 5 million who chose to make the Golden State their home."

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/state/california/article201896909.html#storylink=cpy"

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/state/california/article201896909.html


3. A large percentage of the people leaving California are non-Hispanic whites, who have shrunk from 15.8 million in 2000 to 14.9 million in 2012.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Hispanic_whites

Expect that number to decline further as more baby boomers hit retirement age. If the tech industry gets into trouble, expect some interesting patterns in the Bay Area's demographics.

4. California's population is VERY clustered in the largest metro areas. Here are the largest metro areas in California by population:

LA: 13,353,907
San Francisco: 4,727,357
Inland Empire: 4,580,670
San Diego: 3,337,685
Sacramento: 2,324,884
San Jose: 1,998,463

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

263:

Of course. Thinking as much sharper in the good old days. These younh people are just a bunch of incompetents.

They are both big differences. The effect is that the benefits of being able to simulate before commiting to manufacture are everywhere instead of being restricted to expensive items or major engineering projects.

264:

They can't type anyway. I'll give you that.

265:

Oops. Forgot to add that 46 out of 62 New York counties lost population since 2010

https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/upstate-population-drop-continues-46-of-62-ny-counties-down-since-2010/

266:

Hell, yes. My workstation at home has more power than most of the entire world put together in the sixties... and so much of its power is *wasted* on eye candy.

You underestimate your workstation, then.

There are three mobile phones on my desk: an ancient (4-5 year old) iPhone I keep around as an emergency fallback, a 2-generations-old iPhone (due for replacement when this fall's models are announced), and The Shiny Toy, a Gemini PDA, because Psion Returns!!!).

All three of these phones -- each of them individually -- has more onboard storage capacity than every Winchester disk manufactured in the United States in 1973, combined.

Every one of their processor cores (iPhone 6+: two cores, iPhone 7+: two cores, Gemini PDA: ten cores) is more powerful than a Cray X-MP, with the possible exception of the baseband processors in the iPhones and the four low-power/underclocked secondary cores in the Gemini (but don't worry, it has four fast cores).

And between them they have nearly as much RAM as my desktop machine had in 2008.

267:

The example I use when teaching the kiddies is that each of my hearing aids is tens of thousands of times more powerful than the first supercomputer I used :-)

It really IS mind-blowing, even to someone who was closely involved with the process.

268:

As for what such computers would be useful for, think in terms of resource allocation, weather forecasting, phone switching, and routing of anything that can benefit from efficiency improvements. Accountancy, even.

Hollerith tabulating machines were apparently so essential to logistics in the invasion of Europe in WWII that IBM got away with a lot of ethically questionable stuff. At least according to Edwin Black in IBM and the Holocaust.

PDPs would be a big improvement over the tabulators.

269:

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that if we're willing to fail back to printed paper and mostly forget social media and the internet, we can get an enormous amount of stuff done even with barely-gate-level ICs.

Oh, certainly. As Elderly Cynic pointed out, you don't even have to give up the Internet and email.

I think it is worth asking who "we" is in that scenario though. Even a PDP-11 is expensive enough, and power hungry enough, to be an institutional computer rather than personal.A school, business, or local government has much more control over what the users can do, say, or see with such a system.

270:

an ancient (4-5 year old) iPhone

I just upgraded to an iPhone 4s. Had to get stop using the phone before that — too hard to get a GSM signal on the road. But it was nice having a phone with actual buttons, and a cute little antenna one could raise for a better signal. And the sound quality was better than the iPhone (or any modern smartphone I've tried).

271:

The WELL dates from the mid-80s, back in the days of dial-up and BBSs. Don't remember what it ran on, but nothing very fancy…

272:

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that if we're willing to fail back to printed paper and mostly forget social media and the internet, we can get an enormous amount of stuff done even with barely-gate-level ICs. A basic IC-based system like, say, the PDP-8 or PDP-11, is probably less expensive/energy intensive to develop that earlier thermionic valve based mainframes, and can probably be built with much cheaper semiconductor resources: remember, that proverbial billion dollar fab line is a climax product after 50-60 years of microprocessor development.

On the whole I agree with you, which is why I think working out the minimum computer necessary is an exercise in extreme guesstimation.

Aside from the idiots who want to computerize all infrastructure (can we hire more people to know when to turn valves, please?), I think we see the same problems. Where computing power really helps is:
--Complex, worldwide supply ecosystems, especially those that run on a just-in-time basis
--weather forecasting, satellites, and shipping (routing ships around storms and letting cities know that storms are coming)
--Communications

Many other functions can be done analog as or more effectively. If you're that bored, you can listen to the singer at the bar, rather than restreaming your favorite track for the 111th time. Said singer might not be as good as your favorite track, but as music technology goes, he's a lot more resilient.

Yes, we could get away with a lot less tech if we had people trained in classic schooling: you know, typing, handwriting, reading and writing reports, paper arithmetic, and so forth. We can also avoid some of the problems of keeping just-in-time networks functioning by switching to stockpiling, but then we have the political problem of who controls with stockpile and the logistics problem of using stuff. But ultimately, this is substituting a analog supercomputer (the human brain with human peripherals installed) for a digital computer that's more trainable and tractable. The best reason to make the swap is that we'll have 10 billion-odd humans lying around, while we're seeing shortages of sand, lithium, cadmium...

273:

Helps you have a life, that way.

{grin} Insofar as I have a life it centres on working 37-40 hour weeks and not having to work when I'm not working.

My side of the system is pretty reliable even though it's 90% C++ so I very rarely have to deal with unexpected restarts or issues in production. I get automatic SMS alerts, but my phone goes into silent mode between 9pm and 6am, with execptions for voice calls from my boss and coworker. If it's important they will ring me. But they have a habit of restarting my program on the off chance that it might help their stuff work.

I've done a fair bit of SEO on the wiki, plus I habitually reply to email questions from inside the company with wiki links (policy: if it's worth an email it's work storing that in the wiki where it can be searched... because we use Outlook and that doesn't have a useful search function)

274:

Don't forget the engineers who routinely run finite element simulations in a few seconds on their laptop these days.

Engineers? Architects do that now, FFS. "I draw pretty houses" and exports from 3d CAD to a FEA tool (if it's not built in) to make sure the structure is plausible and the insolation, insulation and 27 other things might work. Modern building regulations *assume* that you have multiple simulation tools available by requiring their output.

Sure, you can manually create 12 shading diagrams for the site and surrounds, but that will take days of work by a draftsmonkey. Or you can use 3D CAD, plug in the target latitude and longitude (by using google maps or similar), sketch the outlines of neighbouring buildings and go "generating shading diagram for 10am on winter solstice"... seconds later there ya go.

275:

RoI was upgraded to a 486 shortly after they became available because by running OS/2 we could support more modems. Prior to that it was a 286 IIRC, and that coped quite well.

The point is more that with a post-crash fab you're likely to optimise for longevity of chips rather than extreme speed or extremely low cost. Which IMO would be a good thing.

276:

In awesome news Unicode 11 has a lot more emoji, so now we can say "I can't hear you because pirates put dancing lesbians in my bath" and other such critically important things. 🙉 ☠ 👯 🛀

277:

As I commented in #188, we aren't all that much more productive, because the bloatware has eaten almost all of the extra power.

Well, I'm again after a break developing software at work. I'm working on a backend on a microserver system, which is a buzzwordy way of saying that it's a small web server in a maze of web servers, all almost alike, and which has a simple interface. The system it'll run on is a single server, which is virtual but could well be a single computer. This all could perhaps run on a 486 or perhaps a 386 computer. It's doing secure hash calculcations, so it needs more processing power than apparent at a single glance, but that's dependent on the ecosystem it will run in - if everything else would be 486 computers, it could perhaps work with them, too. Algorithms matter, too.

I could probably develop it easily with vim and a text terminal. Git is used there, too, but it's just a new implementation of a solution for an old problem.

The way I really develop is running a virtual Linux on my laptop and then running multiple terminal windows there, along with a graphical editor. The irony of this is apparent to me. I can also run Docker images for some of the other services for debugging, so the virtualization gets more levels.

278:

In the original population/civilisation/fab question I wasn't really thinking about end user computing but more about embedded processors, asics and custom chips. Since the mid-80s roughly, it seems like *everything* electrical has an embedded processor. And even more so now with the IoT and ubiquitous RFID, NFC, BT, Wifi. Silicon embedded processors are a deep source of the systems, automation, productivity and payment systems of the current 21st century.

Post-collapse[1], post-fossil-fuel is going to need huge quantities of renewable, carbon-neutral electricity and that's also heavily dependent on fabs as one key element in the manufacturing, distribution and control systems.

More cuteness: Collapse is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.

[1]Let's hope for "Soft Collapse". Enough time to land sufficiently gracefully that civilisation walks away from the landing.

279:

Before we get into the middle-aged male gloom thing again, I'd point out that questions like how small a population does it take to make a useful computer have another use: colonizing other planets. If a lunar or martian colony wants to become independent of Earth (or possibly even survive), they need to build all the stuff they require from the local rocks and dust. Petroleum products don't exist up there,* so they'll need to find ways to insulate wires, and on up. How good a computer can you build on Mars, and what is good enough?

I think that, if there's a road to the stars, it runs through dealing with climate change and regional collapse. And by this, I don't necessarily mean finding a magic technology that pulls huge amounts of carbon out of the air, but about the problem of feeding ten billion on reduced and less predictable resources and non-petroleum energy. After all, refugee camps have been used for years (decades?) to test out architecture students' bright ideas about future housing, and often with bad results. Migrant and refugee camps are great places to develop spacegoing technology, from shipping container gardens to homebrew computers.

*And if you think that we can't live without petroleum, then perhaps you need to ask why SF colony ships don't carry drilling rigs or the materials to build them. After all, needing to find petroleum to keep civilization alive is a great reason to colonize worlds with well-developed, carbon-based biospheres...

280:

And between them they have nearly as much RAM as my desktop machine had in 2008.
Which is a fat lot of use if effin Win10 continues to eat up "disk" space ...
My "C" drive is filling -up ... now this is a known problem & the proposed solutions are ( $LIST ) which I have gone through.
C drive is still filling up.
Grrrr ....

[ Might be better if I could move my mail ( "Outlook" ) to the D drive, but I need to get all the pathways & pointers to work properly ... & that might still fail the next time we gat an update.

I would change to some UNIX flavour immediately, if it wasn't for the fact that mst of the commercial world insists on "Win" & the Boss needs it for remote working. ]

281:

Whitroth wrote: Not sure what country you're thinking of, but in the uS, the only identity politics we've seen are the neofascist and religious right (or wrong, as I prefer to say).

Thanks for the polite response.

I can only say that you have been very lucky in your choice of progressive/leftist friends and media.

According to Wikipedia, at least at time of writing, identity politics began in the civil rights movement.

Here's Laurie Penny saying, among other things, that all politics is identity politics and defending leftwing identity politics:

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2016/11/no-identity-politics-not-blame-failures-left


282:

I suggest that you reread what I said, more carefully this time. If being able to run a similation in a couple of minutes on a laptop is much more productive than being able to do so in an hour on an office machine, that implies you are putting in only minutes' of thought between runs. OK?

283:

they need to build all the stuff they require from the local rocks and dust.

For values of "stuff" that includes breathable air. Seems like moon rock could yield oxygen under mechanical and/or chemical processing, but nitrogen would be scarce? Mars - similar but with the possibility of water too? Not sure about alternatives to nitrogen to make up the bulk of habitat atmospheres, seems like this would need to be brought along from Earth for the foreseeable future? Imported air could be cleaned and recycled, for sure, but surely being able to make it locally would be a major pivot point?

284:

Actually, in theory, I think that we could run our civilisation on 10% of the population, probably even 1%. But that would need a completely different society.

70 million people is a lot. Really a lot. There's room for a huge amount of specialization there.

I think my own country, New Zealand, could maintain modern civilization with the 4 million people here, given a few decades to transition to it. Some things would get harder - cars would cost 3 times as much, people who need more esoteric drugs would die, and the telco network would go downhill a bit.

There would be a much, much, much smaller selection of chips available, and they wouldn't be as good. But you don't need to keep building new fabs, you could move to a model where a foundry runs for decades.

What it would be is *fragile*. You'd lack redundancy, and a big earthquake in the wrong place could wreck civilization.

285:

Let us also bear in mind that semiconductor fab lines are one of those industries where even a brief, half-hour power fluctuation can trash 2-4 weeks worth of production, as Samsung found out the hard way earlier this year. I mean, what could require stupid amounts of electricity about growing incredibly pure, flawless crystals of semiconductors then using zone migration to move parts-per-billion of other elements into the right position before applying incredibly high precision bandsaws to what are effectively ten-inch-diameter artificial gemstones? Which then get shoveled into vacuum chambers and zapped with ion beams. Naah, nothing about that process suggests that minor temperature or pressure fluctuations due to a seagull crapping on a solar panel might be a problem ...

286:

Petroleum products don't exist up there,* so they'll need to find ways to insulate wires, and on up. How good a computer can you build on Mars, and what is good enough?

Aha, we're in luck! The Moon is basically a giant vacuum chamber so tenuous that for some applications you can ignore insulators altogether: put your circuit components on a substrate, solder the contacts, haul it out the airlock, weld a lid on it, and you're good. Main issue is heat dissipation (vacuum being an insulator ...)

Mars is less great, but again: the Martian atmosphere is notably short on water, which helps a lot. On the flip side: all those peroxides in the soil might well be conductive, and the dust storms tend to carry a static charge. Hmm.

This doesn't do anything for cable runs inside your pressurized biosphere, but if you can keep a lot of your infrastructure outdoors, it'll help.

287:

The Martian atmosphere has somewhere between 1.8% and 2.7% nitrogen depending on whose article you look at. If you're already extracting CO2 to run through a fuel plant to make methane for your BFR, then a beefier chiller and a bit of fractional distillation will give you plenty of nitrogen and a "there must be something we can do with it" quantity of argon.

288:

According to Wikipedia, at least at time of writing, identity politics began in the civil rights movement.

No, it goes back a long way before that. Pretty much all anti-colonialist politics can be framed as identity politics. Feminism, all the way back to womens' suffrage, if not Mary Wolestonecraft? Check.

Identity politics is simply politics centered on some group with a common identity, as opposed to class-based politics (which may be the working class workers' movement or their aristocratic oppressors). Class boundaries cut across identity boundaries, and class solidarity at the expense of the interests of oppressed sub-groups is a constant headache for the left (as the SWP discovered a couple of years ago).

Laurie is a woman of her time, a generation younger than us middle-aged people who just about remember the era of trade union power and mass industries: she got her start covering the Occupy movement, which isn't exactly a class-struggle movement so much as a loose coalition of identity movements flying in loose formation.

289:

Also, if civilisation elsewhere has collapsed and you no longer need to fuel multiple BFR's, then you've got a lot of methane available to feed into organic chemistry. There are also ways to tweak the process to produce other hydrocarbons, and the perchlorates in the soil give a source of chlorine for vinyl chloride.

290:

Ahem: you don't need to liquefy your nitrogen and argon -- just chill the air sufficiently to precipitate out the CO2 and what's left is the useful stuff that, when mixed with O2 (cracked from the CO2 you just removed) gives you a breathable mix.

291:

Charlie @ 266
Gemini PDA
WANT ONE!
PROPER keyboard & it runs as a phone on Android with all the apps.
I probabky can't afford one, though, or not this year ...

292:

“The Moon is basically a giant vacuum chamber so tenuous that for some applications you can ignore insulators altogether: put your circuit components on a substrate, solder the contacts, haul it out the airlock, weld a lid on it, and you're good. ”

Hmmm...

Could that mean the return of vacuum tubes (only without the tubes) for some applications? :-)

293:

Clove Technology are due to begin retailing them (online orders in the UK) around June 18th. And there's a slightly cheaper model that lacks 4G but has wifi/bluetooth (and tethers to your existing phone for roaming).

294:

Heh heh. You might want to look at the properties of moon dust and the problems that stuff might cause before you put your electronics outside. The dust apparently has a decent static charge and lots of microscopically sharp edges. Putting that around uninsulated electronics sounds really fun.

295:

The other significant component of the leftovers is carbon monoxide, you probably don't want to use the output of the air miner without doing something about that...

296:

Isn't identity politics the default, going back at least to the classical world? I mean, look at the structure of Roman society (with Romans at the top, red-headed people at the bottom), Moors vs. Christians, the enslavement of black Africans, all the race theory cooked up to justify the subjugation of "colored" people around the world (as if white people have white skin), the ubiquitous subjugation of women despite millennia of attempts to make them more equal, and so forth.

I would point out that laying the rise of identity politics on the civil rights movement, at least, is not only incorrect but problematic. The problem with the civil rights movement wasn't (and isn't) uppity black people, it's white supremacy, which is a form of identity politics that is rather older than the civil rights movement. I suppose that Hugh's little bit of dog whistle politics didn't get heard very well in on the east side of the Atlantic, but certainly sounded here.

297:

A bit off-topic, but I thought I'd throw this out:

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/joshuagoodman/files/w24639.pdf

Correlation between increasing temperature and decreasing learning, even when controlling for pollution and poverty. US schools, so not certain how much one can generalize from it.

Frank, one of the effects of climate change I don't recall from HED (which may be my poor memory) was the effect of temperature on thought. I recall dad's thesis supervisor saying that the reason India's Five Year Plans never worked was because they were thought up by chaps in air-conditioned offices, who decided what the chaps out in the heat should be able to get done…

298:

I would say that in the U.S., "blaming people for their identity politics" is something that might have started after the Civil Rights Movement, but that didn't happen until Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Gays, Women, etc., got enough political power to sometimes grab a bit for themselves. At best, what "you're practicing identity politics" really means is something like "What's wrong with you, wanting something for ______ people. Why don't you shut up and get on the gravy train with the rest of us politicians!" At worst, it's nothing more than a "stabbed in the back" narrative that reads a little more like it was calm and rational.

But "identity politics" might as well just read "politics." It's been around forever.

299:

In this case "insulation" might mean "we covered it with a box to keep the moon dust out."

300:

that implies you are putting in only minutes' of thought between runs. OK?

It doesn't imply that at all. Someone might fix something obvious in a few minutes, or take hours or even days to find the solution to a problem the simulation revealed. You don't know how they are using the capability because you are not there...

I'll get off your lawn now.

301:

Yeah. The best work-week I had was a job in the mid-eighties, when we *officially* had 37.5 hour weeks (.5hr lunch). The worst was at Ameritech in the mid-nineties. We were effectively a start-up division. My "normal" workday was 9.5 hrs (eat while working), and far, far too many 10, 12, 14 and 16hr days. When I broke 70 hrs one week, I swore I wouldn't do that again; my dba there said the same when he broke 80. The most insane one at that job was the young consultant who, one week, put in 119 hours!!!!! (Adnersen Constuling, now Accenture, who saw their people as consumables).

But we don't need unions, nahhhh, each of us is Really Important, and can negotiate anything we want with management (when we get the time, during our 80 hr weeks, not counting calls and emails all hours).

302:

That's no fair? How did you get the pirates to get the dancing lesbians in your tub, and how can I get them?

303:

No probs - methane, etc, in outer planets' atmosphere, and petrochemicals have been identified by astronomers in gas clouds.

Of course, I think we ought to bombard Mars with ice asteroids *before* the colonists are on the ground....

304:

"The commercial world demands 'Win'".... Do you mean the o/s, or are you talking about Office? Have you *tried* LibreOffice? Nine years ago, when it was OpenOffice, I had no trouble writing my cover letters and resume in that, saving as doc/docx, and emailing it off.

Btw, there is also rdesktop and xfreedp to remote desktop into Windows systems (of which we have, um, three servers).

305:

There's a reason I didn't deal with it in HED, because I don't believe it.

The general issue here is physiological acclimation, rather than increasing temperature per se. After all, the Arab world, India, and south China have produced their share of geniuses, and observers from Alfred Russel Wallace to Jared Diamond have commented on the intelligence of the native Papuans. Hot places don't produce stupid people, although heat waves can produce substandard performances in 11th grade students who are used to lower temperatures.

It's interesting that no one has done the comparable study, of testing whether cold snaps around winter finals similarly depress student scores. I certainly remember how badly I did, taking finals in a gym with no heat and a temperature in the 40s or 50s, where I was so cold I could barely hold a pen. Still, that doesn't fit the cultural narrative of tropical lethargy, so I suspect it would be harder to fund and publish, even if it was done (the editorial response would be something along the lines of "duh, everybody knows decreased body temperature correlates with reduced performance. Why is this new?").

Getting back to the Papuans, this was one of Diamond's arguments in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that oddly enough people interpreted as racist. Diamond does have his share of problems with sociology (as seen in The World Until Yesterday), but in Guns, he's trying to understand why the bright people he knows (native papuans) are "stuck in the stone age," while imperialists who are intellectually their inferiors take over the world. I suspect he's correct in that a sucktastic environment can force its inhabitants to spend all of their considerable brainpower surviving, as opposed to making the world safer for more sophisticated widgets.

306:

Ok, I just went to wikipedia to look up what you're talking about when you say "identity politics". Um, as far as I can understand with a quick skim, I'm having trouble distinguishing between "identity politics" and "ordinary politics".

What I see is more the US neofascists claiming things like Christian Morality vs. Demoncrats and ethnics and unionistas and... basically, trying to say "we're all one", and they're all one Evil buncha bad people! And even those - they claim identity between neofascist billionaires, poor working class whose jobs were offshored by the same billionaires, and funnymentalist "Christians" who want a theocratic dictatorship.

ID politics? Sure: fandom is a huge part of my identity. Now, *how* many boundaries does that cross?

307:

Vacuum tubes? Wait till you see *my* vacuum tubes - I'll Defend the Solar System from invasion.... (You *have* read Doc Smith's Lensmen series, right? Thorndyke's defense of Sol?)

Asteroids as anodes! The Sun as a cathode! One pump, and the Bad Guys are fried....

308:

For Story purposes, I need to remind people that:

- Any sufficiently advanced society has the equivalent of Replicator technology and some form of Genesis Device.

wiki - Replicator (Star Trek)

wiki - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I'm dealing with this now in my latest WIP, having to explain to 20th Century savages that what they 'believe' about the Universe has nothing to do with Reality.

- "I came here on a starship the size of a planet and you're telling me I'm wrong"

- "I hate dealing with low tech planets that have delusions of grandeur"

I have to be careful with that. Remember, Captain Cook thought he was technologically advanced compared to the 'natives'. That didn't stop him from being eaten. HA!

For similar stories that deal with this:

wiki - The Wanderer (Leiber novel)

wiki - Anvil of Stars

Plus, YES! to whitroth comment @307.

E.E. "Doc" Smith is essential inspiration.

309:

"Starship the size of a planet"? E. E. Doc Smith scale weapons?

Small fry!

What you really need in a space opera worthy of the name is an excuse to deploy a Nicoll-Dyson Beam.

Take one Dyson sphere, harnessing the energy of an entire star. Turn the outside of one entire hemisphere into a phased-array laser emitter. Voila: star-pumped death ray, suitable for launching light sail dreadnoughts up to high-fractional c speeds, or vapourizing the odd rocky planet at a range of ~1000 light years.

Not sure how you can get much bigger than an N-D weapon, unless you build a shell around an active galactic nucleus (that is: the multi-million solar mass black hole at the middle) and use the accretion disk of the quasar as an energy source.

310:

I am now speculating about weapons that rely on banging two quasars together ...

311:

The banging things together gets to be a recurring theme with humans... but doing it with quasars seems impressive.

312:

I used to wonder if quasars were the funeral pyres of ancient civilisations who worked out how to liberate zero-point energy but didn't work out how not to do it.

(BTW don't forget that "Doc Smith scale" is at least up to destroying a galaxy...)

313:

Anime has Giant Fuckoff Robots that use galaxies as projectiles. The next size up has Really Giant Fuckoff Robots which are a significant fraction of the size of the observable Universe.

"Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is 52.8 billion light years tall, according to the official guide book from GAINAX (仕事魂). This makes it about 58% the size of the observable universe, which spans 91 billion light years."

After that it gets silly.

314:

Most existing electrical technology already does work like that - depending on air (vice vacuum) being an insulator. After all, "stick your components on a substrate, solder the contacts..." is exactly how you put a normal PCB together. It's perhaps not as immediately obvious that it's relying on air as an insulator as it is with a high voltage switchyard with climbing frames of naked metal all over the place, but it becomes obvious when you spill water on it.

Indeed, when you want a really good insulator, air is often what you use. For a domestic example, see the connection between the ionisation chamber and the chip in a smoke detector. This is a fearfully high impedance point, and it is usual to make the connection by bending up the pin of the chip with pliers so it doesn't go into the circuit board and connecting it to the ionisation chamber with a piece of wire hanging in fresh air, because that way it's better insulated than a PCB track would be.

315:

"Overloaded supercomputer" vs. desktop bloatware... How many chemists' batch jobs equate to one browser session...? :) In my case, numerical simulation (of circuits rather than atoms) is something I've been easily able to do, with useful speed, since DOS days (indeed I'm still using the same DOS package now, with an emulator). But what really makes a modern 3.7GHz core chug is looking at websites...

I do agree that ease of simulation leads all too easily to sloppy thinking. I can change a component value and re-run the simulation in a few seconds... and then later realise that I've been iterating that for hours and don't actually know what the circuit is doing any more, because I've been pressing buttons experimentally instead of thinking about the possible results first.

316:

Witroth @ 304
YES I have & it's crap - wrote on large document in it, with piccies & trying to get it tio translate across to other people's machines was absolut horror
( The final result should still be on the web:
Look for "East of Enfield, North of Stratford" - should be first or second hit )

317:

Heteromeles wrote: Isn't identity politics the default, going back at least to the classical world? I mean, look at the structure of Roman society (with Romans at the top, red-headed people at the bottom)...

I could argue about Roman society, especially during the more egalitarian centuries, but it would be getting off my topic.

Whitroth thought identity politics was only practised by right wingers. I was showing that no, it's also associated with leftish / progressive politics and currently the dominant method of organising and prioritising political activity among leftists / progressives.

The problem with the civil rights movement wasn't (and isn't) uppity black people,it's white supremacy, which is a form of identity politics that is rather older than the civil rights movement.

Exactly. As you point out, identity politics has been practised for a very long time with generally horrible results. It's being practised very effectively by white (and not just white) racial supremicists across the planet.

My argument, which is not just my argument but expressed much better by, for example, Mark Filla in the USA, is that the past ten years progressive causes haven't been succeeding very often. Just read the original blog post and the long list of follow up complaints. I'm just using the utilitarian argument: current progressive politics has brought us Brexit and Trump. Current progressive politics is therefore broken.

If you think all is going well and the last ten years have been steady improvement, sure, keep doing what you're doing. Point out how problematic things are.

I suppose that Hugh's little bit of dog whistle politics...

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

And one characteristic of current left identity politics is the immediate response of labelling anyone who disagrees with them as a racist.

318:

I suggest that you reread what I said, more carefully this time.

Hmmmm...

319:

That's exactly the kind of comment the guys on the planet sized starship get from the quaint 20th Century natives. See how the story almost writes itself.

Charlie Stross @310 said: I am now speculating about weapons that rely on banging two quasars together ...

Come now, Charlie. Let's be practical. HA!

320:

Another question that occurs to me is what happens when black holes don't quite get into death spirals with each other. We can kinda detect the gravity waves from the death spirals.

There's also some resonant mass stuff that suggests you can create gravitation standing waves by wobbling masses around the edge of a circle.

So what would happen if your weapon was a set of black holes and when you got annoyed at something you boinged your black holes together to create a "tidal beam" that was loosely focussed gravity waves? I suspect most planetary systems would be unstable if that beam was strong enough for long enough, and at much lower levels than that needed to say, pull the inside of a star out (a gravity-assisted CME).

The goal is to have enough black hole mass to be useful but not so much that it's harder to move than the solar system you're pointing it at.

And I suspect that detecting gravity waves moving through interstellar space is hard, because they don't slow down the way EM waves do when they hit things. Viz, a bit of interstellar gas lights up and creates a warning glow as the EM wavefront hits it and slows down, but your gravity waves just wiggle the gas around and keep on trucking.

At higher levels you might be able to create an ND beam to use for propulsion without going to the bother of building and stabilising the Dyson sphere at all, let alone covering the outside with projectors.

321:

Meanwhile, back on planet earth I note that Eurozone reform is once again being talked about. Not in the "we have to fix this" sense, though, just in the "this isn't working for everyone and wouldn't it be nice if the people hurt least were willing to consider changes" sense.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/30/the-guardian-view-on-eurozone-reform-correct-the-mistakes-of-the-past

In the context of the Italian elections being overridden by Eurocrats and the Italians effectively being told they have to go back and keep voting until they elect an EU lackey government it's not inspiring. It's IMO one of the few good reasons for supporting Brexit... negated by the problem that the most vigorous Brexit supporters seemingly are not unhappy about rule by an unelected cadre of technocrats, they're unhappy that they are not in charge of said technocrats. So post-Brexit (ah ha, haha) the UK will go back to being ruled by a narrow group of nominally British aristocrats (but how many of them are tax residents?)

322:

"The other significant component of the leftovers is carbon monoxide, you probably don't want to use the output of the air miner without doing something about that..."

Carbon monoxide is exactly what your want in order to reduce iron oxide, which is what gives Mars its red color, to iron. Strip off the oxygen for habitat and industrial use, use the carbon monoxide to reduce your iron ore to iron for all the things you want to build, and you're golden. Oh, and the Fe2O3 + CO → Fe + CO2 reaction just requires energy in the form of heat, pick your source. I do it at home with charcoal in a clay furnace for fun.

323:

Um, you're the one who used racist. Per Urban Dictionary: "Dog whistle is a type of strategy of communication that sends a message that the general population will take a certain meaning from, but a certain group that is "in the know" will take away the secret, intended message. Often involves code words." (Their Example:) "Republicans say they want to make civil rights for gays a state issue, which is really just a dog whistle strategy for saying that they will refuse to grant equal rights on a federal level." https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dog%20whistle

For example, blaming Brexit and Trump on progressive politics is pretty rich, considering that the ultimate causes seem to be collusion (possibly illegal) between right wing US groups, right wing UK groups, and Russian hybrid warfare experts.

So why are you blaming the victims again?

324:

_Moz_ @320 Black Holes and death spirals.

Thanks for handing me these straight lines to respond to. That is exactly the kind of questions the quaint natives of the 20th Century ask the Visitor.

Quoting my main character, "Black hole? What's that."

Now the Visitor is not allowed to share too much advanced knowledge. They do not want to disrupt the natives any more than necessary. Let us just say that he has to point to the planet sized starship in the sky many times when asked to defend his answers.

When the quaint natives of the 20th Century demand that they be given all the Visitor's advanced knowledge, right now, the Visitor asks the simple question.

"Have you shared all of your knowledge with the Kalahari Bushmen? If not, why not?"

Think Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for the level of disruption, but without the Vogon fleet destroying the world. HA!

BTW, Here is a two part lecture about black holes being impossible. I look forward to any comments. I'm sure that I can use them in the Story. Thanks...

STEPHEN CROTHERS: Black Holes & Relativity, Part One | EU 2013
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q185InpONK4

STEPHEN CROTHERS: Black Holes & Relativity, Part Two | EU 2013
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHZ5O0jTH8A

325:

Off topic, but my family will have to move soon. If anyone wants an adult cat, please let me know. One is an older, female black cat, the other is a two-year-old male who is possibly the most handsome male cat I've ever seen - a short-haired, gray, tiger-stripped tabby with a white belly.

If there's any interest, you can send an email to
tungtung -* at *- pacbell >dot

326:

Forgot to mention that we are in Southern California, USA.

327:

Carbon monoxide is exactly what your want in order to reduce iron oxide

But not for breathing. Current plans for ISRU on Mars involve the Sabatier process with CO2 from the atmosphere and H2 electrolised from ice. Sabatier is exothermic so there's a potential source of heat for your iron production, though it may not be hot enough.

328:

It does not imply that - it implies that reducing the feedback loop from hours to minutes allows me to run through more thinking time backed by the results of the simulation in a 16 hour waking period.

If it takes an hour to run a simulation, I need to think about what I want to simulate, set it going, and then start planning my next simulation without the results of the first. Alternatively, I can spend an hour being unproductive, and then come back to planning my next simulation with the results of the first simulation in hand.

If it takes 5 minutes to run a simulation, I need to think about what I want to simulate, set it going, and then start planning my next simulation without the results of the first. Alternatively, I can spend 5 minutes being unproductive, and then come back to planning my next simulation with the results of the first simulation in hand.

Assuming it takes me about an hour to think through each simulation I want to do, and that a simulation planned without knowing the results of the previous one is low quality, in the first case I can do 4 high quality simulations in an 8 hour working day (with one of them running over my lunch hour), plus up to 3 low quality simulations. In the second case, I can do 7 high quality simulations over the course of a working day, plus up to 77 low quality simulations.

Now, this does require me to be disciplined - it's easier to get lost in just tweaking the simulation parameters if I can get quick feedback - but the reduction in simulation time lets me nearly double the number of high quality simulations I can do in a day.

Note also the gap between low value and valueless; again, if I'm disciplined, I can use the low value simulations to let me quickly rule out lines of exploration, or to cross-check my thinking (the approximation I can do in my head says something, let's run a detailed simulation to see if the approximation is good enough).

329:

Swapping the order around...

Heteromeles wrote: For example, blaming Brexit and Trump on progressive politics is pretty rich,...So why are you blaming the victims again?

If Brexit and Trump were inevitable and there was nothing progressives could have done to prevent them, yes I'm blaming the victims. (Although I still don't see how that's racist, given that the victims are, oh, 99% of humanity which covers a lot of variety.) And if Brexit and Trump couldn't be stopped, then whatever progressives do won't matter so sure, carry on as before.

I don't believe that. I think that progressives could, and should, have changed the outcomes. Which kind of implies having done something different. You don't like my suggestion? Think of something better.

Um, you're the one who used racist.

I can't hear this dog whistle you're talking about. So, how DO I express my disagreement with current progressive politics without offending sensibilities?

330:

I can't hear this dog whistle you're talking about. So, how DO I express my disagreement with current progressive politics without offending sensibilities?

I'm with H: the dog-whistles are there, and shrill. (For a while I thought you were trolling and came >.< this close to banning you, but evidently no.)

The solution is to educate yourself about this stuff. Read Chomsky for the analysis of propaganda techniques used by the US establishment (pre-internet) to tarnish their enemies. Go read the old Hofstader essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964, still valid today). Go read up on the slogans and buzz-words of the hard right today: Dave Neiwert's blog is a really good starting point. Don't ignore the stuff swarming around reddit and 4chan either. Remember this stuff all has a long history: look into the origins of the John Birch Society, for example.

Also bear in mind that if you don't hear the dog whistles you're not directly targeted by them, and you have the privileged position of being able to ignore/deny how bad this shit is. So there's a natural tendency to discount the horror stories and also to imagine "he couldn't possibly mean that, so obviously he mis-spoke", because nazis look and act just like ordinary people when they're not waving flaming torches or talking about gassing the Jews. Normalization is a huge problem, and you need to sensitize yourself to it happening around you and spot when something that feels just slightly off is actually another step down a staircase leading to hell.

331:

Oh, and one more things: because they know many folks would be appalled if they were exposed abruptly to the full spectrum of racism and hatred the Nazis endorse, they rely on obscurity and jokes and irony to express themselves in a mode that they and their friends are receptive to. They aren't yet -- mostly -- demanding gas chambers for Jews; they're making jokes about gas chambers for Jews, so that if someone challenges them on it they can say "ha ha, only kidding". Basically, today's nazis have weaponized irony and humor.

Finally, there are a bunch of loosely associated sectors that constitute hydra heads on a neo-nazi body, some of which may not be obvious at first glance. Bear in mind the alt-right specializes in radicalizing and recruiting angry single young men, just as the Brownshirts did in Weimar Germany. Fertile recruiting grounds include: online gaming (see also Gamergate), the culture wars in genre fiction (Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies), Mens' Rights Activists/Red Pill/Manosphere/Incels/anti-feminists, islamophobic groups (that one is kind of obvious, along with the KKK and the Aryan Nations), anti-abortion/pro-life groups (hint: if you want a white ethnostate you need to breed lots of white babies -- see also the Quiverfull Movement), and of course the obvious armed citizens militias. Anti-transgender activists seem to be part of this loose cloud of hate groups, too (and don't get me started on the intersection between anti-trans and second-wave radical feminism vs. other feminists -- let's just say that "white feminism", for the pure-blood Aryan fraulein, is a thing).

332:

Adding to this, for emphasis/clarification -

Also bear in mind that if you don't hear the dog whistles you're not directly targeted by them, and you have the privileged position of being able to ignore/deny how bad this shit is.

Short story about deafness to dog whistles while on a city bus with the loving spouse. There was an exchange with a small group of teenaged boys, one that stayed mostly un-escalated because (I'm sure) I was in the company of a man.

Later on, I remarked how very unhappy I was with those boys, and got the (uncharacteristically, for him) shallow advice to not pay them any attention. To which I replied, "No, that's not just impossible, but it's dangerous - they're upsetting to hear, but they are also my early-warning system. I ignore signs of trouble at my peril."

He needed to hear it a bit more but that was the breakthrough - afterward, if we moved together in public spaces, I could point out where that bench or that shop had people hanging out where I would be given a problem, had I not been travelling with him. In a sense, I made it his problem, while he voluntarily relinquished some of his serene privilege to learn what a different world even I, relatively privileged woman in Europe, move in compared to him.

333:

So, how DO I express my disagreement with current progressive politics without offending sensibilities?

Depends in large part on the form of your disagreement. You could perhaps start by refraining from characterising people who take you to task for your numerous and repetitive errors of fact as having offended sensibilities. Generally people don't appreciate that very much. You may see it as piquant surrealism, part of a quasi-absurdist performance art (fuck, who knows really?); most people just see a stranger acting aggressively.

Also consider whether what you're saying actually amounts, from someone else's specific individual perspective, to a statement that you think it's okay they were repeatedly pissed on, or that since we've stopped pissing on them now so they have no right to complain about it (should be farken grateful) and if they don't like it we can start the pissing again at any time. I wouldn't describe this in terms of a relationship to "sensibilities" either really. A lot of dog whistling does basically this, and couched in an I-say-I'm-being-oh-so-clever-doncha-know indirect language, people try on a "winning" Who me? smile to go with it. So yeah, if you don't want to piss people off and look like an idiot at the same time, don't do that.

Does that help at all?

334:

Charlie @ 330
Also bear in mind that if you don't hear the dog whistles you're not directly targeted by them, (etc ... )
Me too - I have very great difficulty spotting the "dogwhistles" - though some I can now "see" through repetition.
Agree re "Teageting" though - given my nortmally suspicious nature where politicians are concerned ... and even if temporarily half-convinced, it makes my reaction, once I find out that IT WAS A CON afater all, even sharper.
E.G. My very amboivalent views on Brexit pre-referendum, where I still blame the EU apparat for arrogant clomplacency & refusal to come towards Cameron by even a millimeter - thus playing straight into the hands of Murdoch & his "freinds". The revelations since, of very dodgy dealings (Cambridge Analytica) & Putin's backing of "leve" have made me very angry indeed with the Brexiteers.
I don't like having come (as you say ) >that

Neo-nzis ... yeah.
No-one mentions Da'esh & the ultra-islamicists, do they ... because then you get branded "Waycist!"
But & yet their aims & objectives are very difficult to distinguish (as in getting the width of a fag-paper into any gap ) from those of the NSDAP.
[ The trail from 1945 Berlin, through the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem & then Qutb is, in fact direct, is it not? ]
You are, of course, entirely correct to finger the ultra-prods (which I think quivefull are? ) and the Opus Dei a & their look-alikes insode catholicism ... see all the catholic whingeing about Ireland f'rinstance.
For a really nasty Brit example: Rees-Thugg, a lying hypocrite, if ever I saw one.

Melanie the Toungless @ 332
Yeah ....
I staggered into a local pub, earlier in the year, to meed "madam" - she had my change of clothes ( I was in allotment utter scruff ) & was standing at the bar, £10 note in hand.
She's been there for about 5 minutes. I took the note & was served within 30 seconds ....
Lonodn CAMRA were not amused when I told them .....

335:

Here's the wikipedia article. It makes some very good points, of which I particularly noticed this:

"...the problem with dog-whistling is that it undermines democracy, because if voters have different understandings of what they were supporting during a campaign, the fact that they were seeming to support the same thing is "democratically meaningless" and does not give the dog-whistler a policy mandate."

336:

And Hugh, it might be worthwhile to look up the "Southern Strategy" as practiced by Richard Nixon and other American politicians.

337:

Also bear in mind that if you don't hear the dog whistles you're not directly targeted by them, and you have the privileged position of being able to ignore/deny how bad this shit is.

Adding my two cents worth.
I had an FB* conversation with my (born-again-ish, very non-Jewish) father a couple months ago having to explain how "Globalist" is often used as an anti-semitic dog whistle. Not the first time he's had to be told about certain things. At least he's stopped sharing shit from Britain First, which he somtimes claimed to share just to get a reaction. Yeah. No.

My response to "Only kidding, can't you take a joke." is What kind of people tell racist jokes? Racists. Which you'd think is blindingly obvious, but apparently isn't to some who then claim their Free Speech is being limited. Feh.

*yeah, I know. I'm only on it to keep in touch with family and a few friends.

338:

JPR @ 337
Yes, "Globalist" is the (almost) exact equivalent of the Soviet insult: "Cosmopolitan" ...
Strange, that, or maybe not.

339:

Starship the size of a planet, meh. I prefer the sporty model, only the size of a moon. Let's see, Valeron was only 1k mi in diameter.

There's also the question of just how many fellow travelers you want on board. Remember, the Skylark of Valeron only had, um, 6 as regular crew, all the rest being power, control, and computer. The living area was only a mile or so across.

I have long pictured completing my Famous Secret Theory, and then turning one of those streamlined water towers, with the engines at the bottom, just above the flared bell, into s spaceship.

340:

Well, it makes them chug because the websites have, frequently, 10 or 20 linked sites, mostly for advertising.

Speaking of which, the revamp of news.google.com is *dreadful*. It seems to only have been written for, and tested, on mobiles. The upside down "keyboard down to expand" is stupid, and I can't *minimize any story... and it takes more than twice as long to reload, AND I've got streaming media in another window... and it frequently causes pauses in that.

341:

First, the username is whitroth, with an "h" in there.

Second... that's odd, I've written everything from cover letters, to resumes, to short stories, to the novel that's still sitting with an agent* - and that's about 76k words - and no one's had any problem with it saved as a .docx.

* *CRAP* Joshua of Jabberwocky declined it, the end of last week. Still, if I have to get a rejection, these are the rejections I want: "didn't quite work for me" - no cmts on writing, plotting, characterization, development, storyline. It surely sounds like "let me see the next thing you've got to offer".

342:

You wrote:
My argument, which is not just my argument but expressed much better by, for example, Mark Filla in the USA, is that the past ten years progressive causes haven't been succeeding very often. Just read the original blog post and the long list of follow up complaints. I'm just using the utilitarian argument: current progressive politics has brought us Brexit and Trump. Current progressive politics is therefore broken.
---
Oh, yeah, it's only been the last 10 years, nothing whatsoever to do with, in the US:
1. the right-wing assault on the entire New Deal, labor unions, civil rights, and on and on, beginning with Nixon and Raygun, all of which is
2. fully funded by multimillionaires and now billionaires, who got a lot richer with all the tax cuts for the wealthy, who got wealthier still by
3. outsourcing and offshoring, where they can pay pennies, instead of decent salaries (US: purchasing power of the bottom 80% has mostly been stagnant since the seventies). Instead of creating jobs, they
4. Buy power. Politicians, and the media. Note that the Tea Party was paid for by the Koch bros - even the buses were paid for by them. Then they push
5. Deregulation of "burdonsome regulations" (and mob bosses defend protection rackets as "honest business proposals").

With Murdoch and his buddies doing their best to smother the left's message at the tower.

I see racism as just a component of neofascism. Neo, because they a) don't spend *all* their time being fascists, and b) are afraid of actual violence (unless they're the only ones doing the attacking), and c) really, REALLY are not good at it (e.g. the Branch Dildonians).

Trying to fight billionaires and state actors in the media is the teenager going up against the heavyweight boxer, until there's enough of us.

But, nope, sure, Brexit's all our fault. (BULLSHIT)

NB: I didn't say Nazis, I said fascists. Example $1: Trumpolini.

343:

Heh, heh. By Skylark of Valeron, you see bits and pieces of Earth as a madhouse, courtesy of Seaton and Duquesne, and the tech they brought back.

344:

That's the classic technique of the bully, from the Old West shooting at someone's feet, and yelling "DANCE" to the kids in the schoolyard grabbing a younger kid's hat and tossing it back and forth, with the kid trying to get it back (actually, I did, finally).

"Oh, we were just funning you" is a *lie*, just a half-baked excuse for abuse of power, whether that's size, strength, money, or legal.

345:
Second... that's odd, I've written everything from cover letters, to resumes, to short stories, to the novel that's still sitting with an agent* - and that's about 76k words - and no one's had any problem with it saved as a .docx.

Microsoft's word processor famously doesn't format documents the same between two different versions of the software, or indeed two different installations. Things such as which printer you select can and do change the formatting in indecipherable ways.

Add to that that the official specs (produced upon command of EU regulators and for no other reason) for a document parser are over 6,000 pages long and contain references to the entire secret code base of old versions of the software. That is, there are codes such as "format the document in the way Word 6.0 would do it, whatever that means" in the spec. Some of the more esoteric features like revision tracking are typically left out of compatible products, as well.

Put all that together, along with the corporate aspect: if the document was produced in official software and doesn't work, it's my fault. If it was produced in unofficial software (or just if you seem technically competent in any way) then it's your fault, regardless of any actual root causes. The result is that for people dealing with documents in a professional capacity, there's usually no other choice but to use an official late-model version of the software. Because of the last point, it literally doesn't matter if the free software was perfect: if you use it, any problems are your fault.

346:

whitroth @ 339
Fault between chair & keyboard - sureley you've seen my typos, before ....😁

Right, just as I'd posted before, I noticed some things:

1: DT gives Dinesh de Sewer a pardon - and we were talking about dogwhistles?

2: What was that about Brexit & lying & cheating?
Laswon craps on the rest of us, whilst doing all right for self what a suprise, not.

3:Religious fundies in NornIron get told to stuff it as shown here - but the interplay there & whether the "Polis" will actually have the nerve to arrest anyone & what would happen of anything actually came to court, could be ... interesting.
It's clear that the present situation is untenable, though.

{ Women in NI will be able to cross the border for a termination, real soon now & thanks to my local MP ( YAY! for Stella ) they can now come here, too & not be charged for it... ]

347:
Microsoft's word processor famously doesn't format documents the same between two different versions of the software, or indeed two different installations. Things such as which printer you select can and do change the formatting in indecipherable ways.

It makes sense when you realise that Word can't decide whether it is a word processor or a desktop publisher. It has a half-baked wysiwyg display that tries to get page breaks and widows and orphans to match the printed output, and to match the printed output it needs to interrogate the printer driver for the exact printable page size and font metrics of the fonts that will be used or substituted on that printer and then recalculate the entire document pagination on each different computer the document is opened on. This is of course utter madness and maddening for people trying to collaborate on digital documents that aren't even being printed yet. It only gets better when you try and insert linked live tables and charts from Excel through OLE. I remember helping someone with Word issues with their PhD thesis around 2006 - it took 10+ minutes just to open on a different computer...

348:

No, it's not that - I block those (and oh my giddy aunt how many of them are there? Seems every time I visit a website I've not been on before I get another two or three domain names to add to the block list). The problem is the actual desired content being presented in such a way as to maximise CPU usage due to incompetence.

A particularly infuriating example was one iteration of the Farnell website, where the parametric search function on the catalogue pages scaled considerably worse than O(n). For components for which there was little choice it was OK, but for anything which existed in a few thousand varieties - like, say, BJTs, or capacitors - the page would load as far as the parametric search section, and then freeze for several minutes while the javascript engine and the rendering engine toddled off to the toilet to do rude things to each other. Then every time you changed a parametric search parameter it would do the same thing again.

This made the site the more useless the more likely any given use was, so I wrote some code to deny their javascript and replace it with my own. Bingo! Nice and whizzy now, and the code is orders of magnitude smaller. Without making any particular effort to code for speed or efficiency, just normal standard not-coding-like-a-twat.

I've found exactly the same with every other website that has pissed me off enough to provide the motivation to do the same thing with it: speed of loading and responsiveness greatly improved no matter what exactly it was that was making it so slow originally, along with a phenomenal reduction in code size, and without even trying. And it's that last that really gets me. It's a lot more effort to do it so badly. When every punctuation mark in your code sends the control flow off down a Minoan maze that wanders up and down and sideways through 60 different levels of abstraction until a plot of its path looks like Cthulhu's pubes, it doesn't just slow the computer to a crawl, it makes it sodding hard to keep track in your head of what's going on when you write it. Still, that probably explains a lot of the instances where it simply doesn't work at all.

349:

All that is old is new again: Why Microsoft Word Must Die (me, writing in 2013).

350:

OGH wrote I'm with H: the dog-whistles are there, and shrill. (For a while I thought you were trolling and came >.

Since I'd prefer not to be banned, I'll stay out of anything political from now on.

351:

You know, there's a pretty decent word processor buried under all that cruft.

Thing is, Word's purpose isn't to be a word processor or a desktop publisher. Rather, it's primary purpose (I presume) is to support the continued employment of its development department through sales, promotions, and what have you.

This isn't stupid. I've known any number of companies that made an absolutely wonderful product and went out of business through market saturation. When it came time to replace their absolutely wonderful product, it was nowhere to be found, but instead it was toothless, long-tailed worms like MS Word that dominated the place, because they concentrated on company survival rather than meeting a purpose perfectly.

Anyway, the trick with Word (or Excel, or Powerpoint) is quite simple: don't use it for anything you wouldn't use it for in 1993 or so. Linked tables? Infinite reviews? Programming? Macros? Fancy animation, cutesy blog animation? Stupid on a stick. Keep separately labeled files and write blog posts on Wordpress. Any time it a file starts to slow down, accept all the revisions, clean out the cruft, rename it, and go on. Rescale images before you put them into Word and definitely before you pdf the word document (unless, like so many consultants, you're trying to make your document as big and unreadable as possible, because only your (wrongly) presumed enemies will be reading it). Chop your thesis into individual chapters so that you aren't hauling around the ghosts of 21000 cumulative revisions but only a few hundred for each chapter. And so on.

Then it works pretty well, at least in my humble opinion. Then again, I've resigned myself to wrangling wormtech rather than yearning for programmatic perfection. Tastes differ.

352:

I agree that Word (and Office) are successful in the sense that they killed the competition. I just think that features should work as advertised instead of needing work-arounds. O'Reilly published a series of fat books containing work-arounds and fixes and kludges for Office features that didn't (and never had) worked as documented or claimed.

Word documents are practically limited to a few pages or it grinds to a halt. OLE makes a cool demo but should be completely avoided in actual use...

353:

On that I must beg to differ. I used Word to pull together the 400 pages of Hot Earth Dreams, plus references, plus the index that I created in Word. Then I published it to the specs given by Amazon. That's totally doable. In fact, it was (sadly) a lot more doable than trying to do the same thing on Scrivener, which is why most of the styling, editing, references, index, and so forth were done on Word. Scrivener has different strengths.

I agree on OLE though. And although I'm perfectly willing to publish a book using Word (provided it doesn't have too many images), there's no way in hell I'm going through more than a few review cycles on a coalition letter with it, and definitely no way in hell I'm letting a certain adviser try to do reviews on a mac in another program on it (although it the last 20 years, that problem might have been fixed).

354:

OGH wrote I'm with H: the dog-whistles are there, and shrill. (For a while I thought you were trolling and came >. Since I'd prefer not to be banned, I'll stay out of anything political from now on.

That might not be the most useful lesson to have gotten out of this session, because everything here is political or at least potentially so.

Rather, I'd suggest this is the equivalent of a bunch of us saying, "your brain's been hacked, here's what you need to do to deal with the attack." This may or may not be the correct diagnosis, but it comes (at least in my case) from realizing that I'd been thoroughly hacked to spew mighty whitey propaganda and working to fix it, because I've got strong incentives in many parts of my life to do so.

355:

"According to Wikipedia, at least at time of writing, identity politics began in the civil rights movement."

That's using the definition of 'identity politics' which classifies [whites over non-whites, men over women, Protestant over Catholics and Jews] as something other than identity politics.

356:

This is so perfect, from so many points of view. I want to phrase it that way to all the right-wing people I know.

The more complex answer for Hugh is to read the Illuminatus trilogy, (is it still in print?) plus the Book of the SubGenius, and listen to the Hour of Slack for an hour or two every day for a year or two. (HOS can be easily downloaded from subgenius.com. I think I'd start with the ones from 1990 or so.) This is the equivalent of giving your brain an enema, and while unpleasant, should result in a brain capable of seeing the Fnords - oops, um... I mean hearing the dogwhistles. Some study of critical thinking and critical reading should round things out.

357:

There was certainly some realignment at the time of the Civil Rights movement. We went from rich vs. poor, Protestant vs. Catholic, Isolationist vs. Interventionist etc., to a coalition of Blacks, Jews, Asians, Women, Hispanics, etc., against the previous establishment, now composed of Catholics, Protestants, Isolationists and Interventionists.

The above is a gross oversimplification, but there was definitely a realignment in who was politicking with/against whom during the 1960s. Calling it "Identity Politics" is to some extent a right-wing fantasy, both in propaganda terms and due to some kind of forlorn hope that there would be some kind of horrible civil war within the Democratic party.

358:

OK
So the fuckwit DT has fired the starting-gun for a full-blown protectionist Trade War.
( Because as a pundit said on the radio just now - "He believes Trade is a zero-sum game & it isn't" )
How long to a major financial crash & will it come before the next US election?

359:

How long to a major financial crash & will it come before the next US election?

As a former Trump White House staffer said (I paraphrase), "The President isn't so much playing three-dimensional chess with these statements [the way his predecessor did] as picking up the pieces and putting them in his mouth."

It's fascinating to watch the staff turn-over in the White House in this administration: they seem to have hooked the revolving door up to a gas turbine without any reduction gearing.

360:

I last used Word for writing in 2002, when producing an over-400 page book with ToC, index, and multiple sections with different page backgrounds was trivially easy.

http://www.bitsuk.net/Archive/archive_background/101Starships/101Starships.html

It's got a lot slower and clunkier since then. I use it at work to read documents I'm sent, and it takes longer to open a three-page memo than my old Mac took to open that book. (I think I was using Word 98, but that computer is long gone so I can't check.)

361:

Things such as which printer you select can and do change the formatting in indecipherable ways.

Oddly, I remember someone long ago making exactly this complaint about Wordperfect, and comparing it unfavorably to Word.

I use Word all the time, in a typical working week easily churning out something over 10,000 words. It's mostly crappy business writing, but that's what Word is made for. I even use OLE all the time too, because it's usually much easier to keep my the Visio diagrams in the document they were made for as embedded objects rather than some other file I have to keep track of. Helps if you don't have to care much about the file size I guess. Sometimes just going along with the ecosystem makes everything easier.

362:

And how long until the rest of the world decides trade with the United States is too painful? The transition would be uncomfortable for all concerned and put a serious dent in the net worth of a lot of people who thought they were pulling the strings, but "Charlie Foxtrots" work that way.

363:

At the moment it looks like it's the United States that doesn't want to trade with the rest of the world, a position I thought was unique to North Korea.

364:

But for different reasons, North Korea doesn't want their citizens to have unfettered access to the world, "Herr Drumph!" watches Fox news without a working bullshit detector.

365:

There's no way to say what I'm thinking politely... but one way or another, they're going to get rid of the guy.

So he might get impeached, the Cabinet might invoke Article 25, suddenly someone might decide that it really is OK to charge the president with a crime, Mueller might discover that he has a lot more Republican allies than he thought... or any of the "other things" that can happen when the powers that be discover that the President is a serious fuckup even by the standards of people who've been "failing up" for generations.

I'm not making a threat, of course, just observing the politics of the situation and noting the way they could become ugly. The problematic issues of starting a trade war mean that the person who started it becomes an impediment very, very quickly.

366:


To be fair to the bouffanted cheeto, he is doing what he

1: Said he would do before his election. (US politican goes through on an election promise is a bit unusual, but still, you could have seen this coming.)
2: Represents the wish of people who voted for him. (Who all quietly like protectionism - who doesn't?)
3: Responds to the fact that that Chinese steel is factually being aggressively dumped, because of the rampant overcapacity in production that they have now got because their one-off building boom has ended - All that Rebar had to come from somewhere. If they had been more sensible, some of that requirement could have been bought in from overseas and they wouldn't have been stuck with this problem when the music stopped.

The Aryan Satsuma is thus on to something, perhaps. Why do you have to lose your job for a bunch of chinese fuckwits and the economic militancy of the Adam Smith Institute?

For genuine incompetence you can look a little closer to home in the form of the Climate Change Act, that is effectively the reason for the sale of Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales, due to all of the environmental levies that major polluters must pay. Every other major steel producing centre in Europe, in Germany, France and Austria all applied to the EU for exemptions, but the UK government either didn't realise you could do that, or for the sake of their ideological purity, presumably decided actively that they couldn't be bothered.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/05/green-policies-are-not-responsible-for-the-tata-steel-crisis

As ever, The Guardian is on hand to inform you how wrong this is, in the form of discussing how little electricity the plant consumes, and the resultant carbon footprint. A slight problem with their argument then being the picture of the steelworks at the top of the page, which as far as I can tell, comprises two thermal blast furnaces, a set of coal conveyor belts to feed them, five smokestack chimneys and three methane gas holders, suggesting it's carbon footprint is comprised of slightly more than that.

367:

I'd add only the Vice President seems to function at a higher level than does the President, and while I can't stand to listen to our current CINCUS (pronounced sink us), I'm not sure I want someone in charge who is so far to the right that some of his actions as Indiana governor were promptly overturned by the republican legislature as soon as he was out of office.

The other problem I personally have is that I get spammed with at least three emails from "Nancy Pelosi" per day. I've tried to unsubscribe, but for some reason, it doesn't work. And all the emails end up asking for money, whatever the method for getting to the DNC donation page is.

Pelosi's as tone-deaf as Hillary Clinton in that regard. While her politics may be less execrable than her crowdfunding tactics, I'd be thrilled if she personally realized how effing alienating her operation is and killed it. It's essentially the same email system they've had since 2012, and note that the democrats have lost ground in all those elections. Why should I support someone who doesn't listen to me or respect my boundaries?

368:

Re: the Port Talbot steel-making plant.

A lot of British steel production involves electromelting and refining scrap steel rather than importing iron ore and refining it using coke and blast furnaces since we've got lots of scrap and shit-all iron ore and coking coal locally to hand. The blast furnaces and such on-site at Port Talbot probably don't get a lot of use day to day.

Last time I visited a steel-making plant in the Glasgow area (not Ravenscraig) back in the late 80s they still had all the older structures from the glory days of Clyde shipyard platemaking but they were melting scrap using gas and electricity to produce car bodyshell steel and tinplate for the food industry. Another plant in Bolton I visited regularly converted from melting iron using gas to electricity back around the same time.

369:

I'm not saying Trump's overthrough would be a good thing. Trump vs. Pence is a little like Satan vs. Cthulhu. Whichever wins, our lives will suck.

370:

Nope, I *never* make teh typos.

My fingers, however, do have an accent....

371:

I have, unfortunately, seen some of that javascrap, using firefox's web developer menu.

Jesus H. Christ, wearing a lime-green leisure suit, standing on a streetcorner, rotating a dime through his knuckles!

What's even more aggravating is how much of the K3wl Krap could be done in *straight* HTML.

Note, btw, that the web site I spoke of wanting to finish the code for, the membership & room sharing - is in perl, which will run on a hot, powerful server, not offloaded to run on *your* PC, and d/b connections are *local*.....

372:

1. In 1995, PC Mag did a review of word processors. They noted, in passing, that 90% of the features THEN AVAILABLE in word processors were NEVER used by 90% of the users, and of the 10% that did use at least some of then, they used them

2. But you've GOT TO HAVE OUR NEW FEATURES (or you might not buy our new version, and keep using the old version for as long as you used to use a typewriter, i.e., forever)!!!!!

3. And, of course, you just *must* move to Office365... which you rent, not buy, so M$ has a continuous revenue stream forEVER, and M$ (unless you pay for privacy) can datamine your documents to sell to whoever waves money at them.

Screw Office365, that alone is a reason to you LibreOffice: money.

Oh. and if they insist you use Word, they can pay for it, and a computer to run it on. Sorry, Office365 is *far* to insecure for me.

373:

Ok, put your drinks down before you read this post any further.

My (idiot) company (this is the one who bought the "merged" company that "merged" (bought) my original company, if you're keeping track), just sent out an email (corporate email only) that they were looking for four, I think, computer people.

For the White House Commmunications staff.

I don't know whether to laugh hysterically, or if my mind is boggled. I mean, who's *stupid* enough to even bid on a contract for that? How soon would the new hires be out the door? What happened to the old ones?

Gahhh!

374:

Watch the next three minutes of Nightly Business Report.

It's about stockpiling Aluminum.

- Those stockpiles are being "flipped" from person to person, without moving the stockpile, with the price going up, up, up. Somebody will be stuck with all that Aluminum even with a tariff in place. It doesn't matter if some commodities trader gets hurt, what's important is all of the Russian Aluminum that was sold to the US.

Aluminum Stockpiling
https://youtu.be/9eUzWeEokw4?t=9m33s

They have been buying Russian Aluminum since Trump was nominated. Think about it. Who has benefited by Trumps tariff talk. Follow the money.

Also, Trump walking away from the Iran deal is to benefit others. Follow the money. What is the price of oil today. Who was hurting because the price of oil has been so low over the past few years.

Come on people, this isn't rocket science.

This is not a "Trade War" it's all about Trump manipulating commodities prices, making certain people very rich.

375:

*Snork!*

Highly amused!

376:

…current progressive politics has brought us Brexit and Trump.

Uh, no.

The failure of the neoliberal capitalist establishment to deliver on its promises combined with the lack of an effective contemporary labor movement caused a vacuum which reactionary zealots and opportunistic sociopaths rushed to fill, preying on fear, economic insecurity, cultural ignorance, racism, misogyny, etc. to create a toxic cultural and political stew. That, and the constitutional anachronism that is the Electoral College, is what begat Trump.

(I won’t speak to Brexit as my understanding of British politics is too cursory.)

Current progressive politics is therefore broken.

Speaking as a liberal (in the U.S. sense) social democrat, agreed. But, its failings are strategic, organizational, and tactical, not ideological or moral. There’s not nearly enough focus on economics and foreign policy. Progressives tend to be long on diagnosing problems, but short on solutions i.e. not just platitudes, slogans, and lofty aspirations, but effective, sellable policies. The movement overall is too fragmented and disorganized, precluding consistent and effective messaging and inhibiting strategic coordination among factions as well as, most importantly, development of a coherent, broad-based agenda for the country as a whole. There’s no command and control.

Consequently, leadership (and media attention) falls by default to the activist factions who tend to be young, idealistic, and overzealous with particular, as opposed to general, political interests. What’s missing is the cadre of jaded, realistic professionals who can knit the factions together into an integrated organization (or at least a coordinated network), muzzle the extremists, and align the messaging. Merely “flying in formation,” as OGH referenced upthread, isn’t enough.

Some time back, Vox ran a piece that said the American left in its current form is a cultural movement, not a political one, and I tend to agree. IMO, it’s fair to blame progressive politics for failing to consistently get and keep its shit together. (To be fair, though, it faces a mighty headwind.) But, that is a long, long way from being responsible for Trump.

377:

I have the latest Office for Mac, version 16. I've been using Word for decades. I used to be the Office Guy at work, answering all questions and helping people be the best that they could be. I was able to make it stand up and dance. That ended with the latest version. It is a dog that lies there unable to do the most basic things that I used to be able to do.

Even though I bought my copy, not rented it, each month they force a download of each program. That's about 2 gigs of download. As some people may remember I upgraded my DSL last year so I can now do 1 MB/sec. If I hadn't upgraded it would take a day for each "software update".

I'm transitioning to LibreOffice because it works the way Word did ten years ago.

I have used LibreOffice for years. That's how I process books and covers for Indy publishing. LibreOffice can also read old versions of Word. I was able to recover decades of Word files that I kept stored in the hope that I could someday recover them.

Charlie advised years ago to keep files in txt and rtf format for long term storage. I took that to heart and use simple TextEdit, Bean, BBEdit, and Browser, then assemble the final book in LibreOffice to create the pdf for paper books, and the doc for converting to Kindle using Kindle Create.

I resolved to use the basic tools and be the wordprocessor, rather than depend on some program that does it all. HA!

BTW, Last year, Hugh Howey talked about developing a new wordprocessor without all the bloat.

http://www.hughhowey.com/neo-a-word-processor-for-authors/

He lives on a sailboat and does not always have access to the internet, so the new Word, with it's constant demand to connect, was killing his work time.

378:

I'm just using the utilitarian argument: current progressive politics has brought us Brexit and Trump.

That's an odd argument. You don't think the BNP and Republicans had anything to do with bringing Brexit and Trump?

379:

Almost everyone I know just uses Google docs these days

My company also runs entirely off it

Seems perfectly adequate for most casual use cases

With regards to why US progressives keep shitting themselves there seems to be some kind of selection bias that specifically weeds out people with a focus on workable plans and getting shit done. The more liberal my friends are the less focus on practical strategies that actually yield results. It’s very discouraging to the point where I am close to giving up on the lot.

You’d think Trump would be a wake up call but it seems to have pushed their collective heads further into the sand of their own echo chambers

380:

The Republican Party had zero to do with bringing us Trump, at least in the sense that they in no way wanted that outcome . Though you can argue their politics brought him as an unintended side effect

We went from eight years of Obama (during an economic upturn where basically everything was going great) to trump , clearly the left committed copious errors

381:

Using Ms Word for writing documents is one thing. What amazes me is that people actually use it to print stuff. The type engine is shit, the output is barely readable by modern standards.

382:

Damian @ 361
Word PERVERT please ... ARRRGGGH! ( RUN AWAY! )

Troutwaxer @ 365
"Very ugly" for 1929 values of ugly? POssibly
But that puts us at about 1928 so 11 years to a really major war - possibly, with all the joys of an economic colla[se in the interim.

FUBAR007 @ 376
the Brexi eff-up & Brit problems are similar.
The "left" is currently represented by Corbyn, who hasn't had an original thought since at least 1975 & Momentum who still "think" that Marx was right.
Social Democracy? WHat's that - we should be so lucky...
Problem - Bloody Blair poisoned the well with Iraq war II .....

383:

I was thinking more like 1963 values of ugly if impeachment, Article 25, etc., don't work. Once again, that's not a threat, just my personal reading of the politics.

384:

Every so often I drop in here to see what's new. The answer appears to be nothing. Still the hangout of the terminally pessimistic Old White Men. See you again in a few months.

385:

There's no way to say what I'm thinking politely... but one way or another, they're going to get rid of the guy.

Yes, that's been the question since 2016. As long as Trump delivers the goods to the plutocratic/business core of the GOP, he'll be fine(*). If he starts losing them serious money -- well, they do have deep enough pockets to buy many different services.

(*) Unless the American left gets its act together. As there's little indication that they have an act, that's a fairy scant hope.

386:

The answer appears to be nothing

Mostly so. I hope that when OGH has gotten out from under his obligations he'll have the time and inclination to restore the forum to its former glories and broaden the participation. In the meantime, dum spiramus, speramus.

387:

We went from eight years of Obama (during an economic upturn where basically everything was going great) to trump , clearly the left committed copious errors

1. The USA doesn't have a left-wing party; it has a right wing party and a hard-right/neofascist party.

2. The right wing party got complacent and ran a "safe" candidate in 2016. The neofascists ran a bucket of crabs and only the most rabidly cannibalistic crab survived to make it to the finish line.

3. Turns out that there are more racist dirtbags in the USA who turn out to vote than anyone realized.

4. Turns out that decades of gerrymandering and voter suppression worked in favour of the fash. Who knew?

5. Turns out that radical insurgents (Steve Bannon) figured out how to exploit Facebook for microtargeted propaganda before the left or the regular right.

6. Citizens United court case basically turned the US electoral system over to "one dollar, one vote" lobbyists.

Hypothesis: the republican primary "bucket of crabs" provided a forced evolution zone for viciously effective social media evangelism; to get the nomination the campaigns had to compete for primary voters and learned to use the analytic techniques just coming on-stream, while the Clinton campaign faced no such teaching experience.

And, oh yeah, Russia and the crazy billionaires, but hey, that's just money speaking.

388:

I hope that when OGH has gotten out from under his obligations he'll have the time and inclination to restore the forum to its former glories

I have a month to finish and hand in INVISIBLE SUN. Then I'm taking a six month sabbatical (and hopefully recharging both my creative juices and my enthusiasm for blogging).

389:

I am so glad you have a sabbatical coming up. You both deserve and need it. Do you have any cool plans? (IMHO you should fly down to Bali and stay in Ubud for a couple months.)

390:

Turns out the right wing better understood the weapons, battlefield and had prepared the terrain ahead of time . And then surprise surprise they won

And they managed to do it all under a democrat president and a mixed congress

So of course the Democrats response to this is to blame the enemy for not fighting fair and double down on the same tired strategies and policies and completely ignore the other side of the surprise: Which is their is actually a lot more interest in a legitimately progressive presidential candidate then anyone had thought

391:

Turns out the right wing better understood the weapons, battlefield and had prepared the terrain ahead of time . And then surprise surprise they won

I don't think this is really true. The Obama campaign in 2007 famously used bespoke software extremely well to conduct an inclusive, grass-roots led campaign. I don't think the same kind of co-ordination was there for Trump at all, his campaign would at best be characterised as top down, where it wasn't basically chaos. The difference was in the gaming of social media, but that can't be attributed to "the right" getting their act together, it's more a kind of serendipity that the tool became available just the right time, its makers looking for ready money. Without the help of Putin, it might not have been enough either. So we're looking at lucky opportunism, the specific opportunity not even really exploited, not a strategic "right wing" set of actions.

The version of the "left wing" and "right wing" categorical you present here is a little bit bullshit anyway. Some of the actors appear to have had their capacity for compassion surgically excised; that doesn't make them holders of an equally respectable political position, it just makes them pathological.

392:

No definite plans, but half a million air miles (Air France/KLM) to spend. (And the same for my wife. We've been accumulating them for a decade but brexit will make flying via the mainland hubs problematic if it goes ahead.)

393:

If it goes ahead
Yeah, me too.
It's beginning to look more & more likely, especially with the sane wing of the Labour party ( Including Stella, as usual ) determined to get a proper Parlaimentary vote, coupled with May's quite delibearte decision to pick the most rabid brexiteers to "negotiate" with the EU ( So they get to carry the can when it crashes ) ... as though some means will be found to withdraw At 50 sometime bfore 22.59 on Friday 29/03/2019.
What a turn-up for the book that would be.
We can hope.

Meanwhile - enjoy your "time off" when it arrives.

394:

"Whether damage gets fixed or not is the critical question. If the state can't afford to repair itself after an ARkStorm or the Big One Earthquake (and note that the storm is forecast to cause about three times as much monetary damage as the quake), then it's going to depopulate. If we find ways to repair the aqueducts, roads, et al., then we can keep having millions of people living here."

What's really frightening, and so telling about the USA, is that major questions like this will depend 100% on the party in charge at the time.

This leads into some replies to other comments:

Trump will not be forced from office by anybody in the GOP. Right now his approval among Republicans is at 80%. Any GOP politician who is publicly associated (or associatable) with an anti-Trump effort takes a very serious risk. There are a lot of well-funded factions who have the clout to publicize this.

IMHO, it's important to look back at the Bush II administration. They trashed the country, lost two wars, and still were out of power for only 2 years. In 2010, they retook the House (giving them blocking power over the budget) and many state legislatures, which they immediately used to gerrymander the US voting system.

Some marginal GOP politicians have to fear a 'blue wave', but the majority are safe from anything other than a *well-timed* repeat of the Great Depression. By 'well-timed', think of 2008 - the economy crashed, the GOP lost power, and spent 8 years obstructing the recovering and profited immensely from it.

This leads to another point - the US system is incredibly biased in favor of the right:

Rural areas are overrepresented in the Senate.

The House is so gerrymandered that (I think) it'll take well over 55% of the vote *cast* for the Dems to hold even the tiniest majority.

The GOP holds enough states that their voter suppression powers give them another few-several percentage of the raw vote - the votes *cast* for Dems are trimmed.

395:

Re: Airports. Fortunately, we’ll be staying in EASA, because the alternative is a no-fly-zone over the UK. The CAA insist on it, Government accepts it, EASA knows it, it”s the declared plan of record for everyone concerned.

Granted, the swivel-eyed are wailing about the fact that EASA means “signed up to the ECJ for dispute resolution”, but the grownups have apparently been quietly reassuring everyone that EASA is still happening.

396:

regarding longevity:

I still use a machine with a Motorola 68060 CPU for mail- name- and webserver (it's a hobby :)).
It works. Just don't do CGI. The system itself is 25 years old now, the specific CPU board around 18.
Most swapped is the fan, next often the disk(s).

397:

In the context of the Italian elections being overridden by Eurocrats and the Italians effectively being told they have to go back and keep voting until they elect an EU lackey government

that is a surprising statement, would you want to expand on it?

398:

Granted, the swivel-eyed are wailing about the fact that EASA means “signed up to the ECJ for dispute resolution”, but the grownups have apparently been quietly reassuring everyone that EASA is still happening.

Assuming the grownups are steering the ship of state ...

Yesterday's news: Tory donor Crispin Odey calls for May to be replaced by Michael Gove as PM, "said the government needed to be far bolder in its attitude to Brussels." Odey is a hedge fund manager, natch, and a big backer of the Leave campaign. Can't think why hedge funds might want to push the UK out, no idea ...

Meanwhile, the Murdoch-owned press seem to be pivoting on Brexit, as witness the Brexit horror story running in today's Sunday Times. (Ports closed, medicines running out, hospitals closing, fuel stations running dry. And that's not the doomsday option.)

I think what we're seeing now is a power struggle behind the scenes within the Conservative party. One the one hand, Brexit "realists" led by May who intend to deliver a "brexit in name only" that at least keeps our trade relationships intact. On the other hand, disaster capitalists like Rees-Mogg and Odey who want to asset-strip the UK and turn it into a dystopian hell-hole for their own personal profit.

It is not obvious which side will win, because the nation-wreckers like Lord Lawson have mansions and residence permits in other countries.

399:

Re Port Talbot

Port Talbot is an integrated steelworks using Blast Furnaces to produce the liquid iron, and Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) to refine the iron to steel. Scrap is used to line the BOS vessel and limit the thermal shock on the refractory lining when the liquid iron is poured in. It is also used in a manner similar to ice cubes in a drink to control the temperature if the oxygen blow is more exothermic than predicted. This is because the range of temperatures the continuous casters expect is fairly narrow. So generally a maximum of about 30% scrap utilization is possible. One you have paid for the blast furnace (and the sinter plant, and the coke ovens, and the ore handling equipment, and the deep water port), the liquid iron from it is very cheap compared to an electric arc furnace, and you are not dependent upon the electricity price.

The gasholders you see on site hold mainly carbon monoxide, a by-product of the blast furnaces. This is cleaned then burnt in the on-site power station to generate steam and electricity. The site can island from the grid and run essential services (cooling fans & pumps, blast furnace main blast fans). This is fine until some twat in the hot mill turns on a main drive without consulting Energy Control, and blacks out the site. The hot mill supply was left on because there would be fans & pumps around the slab re-heating furnace that were regarded as essential, and needed to be left on.

401:

I'm not sure that May is even going for a BRINO, actually ...
As I said, allowing it to obviously crash, about Oct-Dec gives her enough time to hand the blame to the brexiteers supposedly running the exit & cancel At 50.
I find the "ST" article (etc) VERY intersting - s reality finally breaking through?
Lawson ois alreadyt dead meat, given the revelations about his application for a carte de sejour & some very pointed remarks.
Agree re Rees_Thugg & co.
It's going to be a very "intersting" ( & rough ) ride between now & February.

Oh & NOT JUST "The Conservative party" y'all have to remember that wet rag Corbyn has not had an original thought since at least 1975 & is as rabidly anti-EU as Rees-Thugg, because "it's a giant Capitaliust Employer's ramp" - whereas most Labour MP's disagree, but Momentum agree with him ....
[ Because they haven't had an original political thought since 1934, if not 1917 ]

402:

My company learned from that experience, and .... changed nothing. Out "resiliency" plan is entirely based on one coworker and me trying desperately to share information not just with each other, but with other people in the company.

I assume "Out" should be "Our".

As someone who earns a living doing the IT "things" for small businesses (less than 25 people) I've started creating an Evernote account for each one and just dumping things into them. They can be sort of a mess but if I do get "hit by a bus" there will be a lot of information for the "emergency guy" to use as a starting point.

I write the account sign on information down and put it in an envelope with instructions for the key people to put it in a safe place and not open it unless I do get "hit by a bus". And periodically change the sign on and re-issue the envelopes.

I tell non clients they should do similar.

Personally I use a 1Password account for things and have told my close relatives the pass phrase.

Not perfect but better than nothing.

403:

but what are they going to do when most of the population of Florida, and New Orleans flee from the rising tide.

Well based on what we did after Katrina build higher dikes.

https://www.wired.com/story/too-much-engineering-has-made-mississippi-river-floods-worse/

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

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature26145

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/05/what-weve-done-to-the-mississippi-river-an-explainer/239058/

http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2017/12/rising_river_bottom_could_swit.html

What could go wrong. When we lose the lower Mississippi we (the US and likely the EU) will have a terrible economic mess as it will be a huge hit to the US petrochemical industry.

But hey, Congress is on top of it. They have told the CofE to divert 30% of the water forever. That fixes it? Right?

404:

Open Brethren

How have I missed these folks for 60 years?

405:

Second... that's odd, I've written everything from cover letters, to resumes, to short stories, to the novel that's still sitting with an agent* - and that's about 76k words - and no one's had any problem with it saved as a .docx.

When you're trading documents with 10 or 200 other firms and things go wonky it doesn't matter if you're right or not. If you aren't using MS Word (of the last version or two) YOU are the problem. And will not get picked to be on the good team for the next game.

Writing a page or few isn't the issue. Trading a 100 page document with a TOC and revision history on between a dozen people IS the issue.

406:

and definitely no way in hell I'm letting a certain adviser try to do reviews on a mac in another program on it (although it the last 20 years, that problem might have been fixed).

I'm fairly certain the last or maybe previous monthly release of Office 2016 has the same internal code base for Word and Excel.

And to be honest since the switch to docx and related formats and working in ONLY those for the last year or so is much better in terms of long document performance and getting reliable repeatable results.

And to be honest the monthly release cycle steps on issues much more quickly than the old ways.

Says a never a big fan of MS for the last 20 years but beginning to seem some improvements. I strongly suspect they are internally going more into SRE and continuous devops to make all of this work better.

But they still have a ways to go.

407:

So the fuckwit DT has fired the starting-gun for a full-blown protectionist Trade War.

Over here it is interesting (in a very sad way) to hear Congressional R's saying Excuse Me!!! This is not OK!!!

408:

I even use OLE all the time too, because it's usually much easier to keep my the Visio diagrams in the document they were made for as embedded objects rather than some other file I have to keep track of.

All of this on an internal company store where everyone has the same versions of Office?

409:

I'm not saying Trump's overthrough would be a good thing. Trump vs. Pence is a little like Satan vs. Cthulhu. Whichever wins, our lives will suck.

The difference would be IMNERHO that the world would NOT tell us to GFUS when we show up in 2021. 99% of what Pence would work on has to do with domestic issues which WE can fix. Throwing rocks at the rest of the world like Trump, he would likely not do.

410:

I'll bet you've never seen this error: the email said advisor sent with his edited attachment (this would have been ca. 1999) filled up my entire hard drive. It was stuck in an infinite download loop. Then, because it couldn't be entirely downloaded, it stayed in my email cue to fill up my hard drive again the next time I tried to get to my email. The only way to fix the problem was to call up the school email admin and get them to delete the email. This happened 3(?) times. Probably more. My advisor blamed me for the problem, as did my lab mates--until it started happening to them. Then we managed to persuade the professor to stop using his non-Word Mac program to review and annotate our Word-based papers. Only took a few weeks.

411:

each month they force a download of each program.

Sorry but I don't think this is true. Are you saying you don't have the option to turn off automatic downloads and update checking?

412:

Open Brethren ... How have I missed these folks for 60 years?

Poor aim?

It did mean I was quite young when I discovered that Christian sects vary a great deal more than you might guess from listening to any single group. From the "High Anglican" wannabe Roman Catholics to the extremes of the Presbyterian and Brethren exodi it's a bit eye-opening if you've been told there is one true church (we don't even need to get into the "and related" which covers everything from Islam to Branch Davidian). Doesn't matter really, God will know his own.

Just remember that we can now carry out religious conflict with nuclear weapons... from the Zionist "if we can't have it no-one else can" to the (hopefully) fictional ideas of nuking Mecca as an act of provocation. The old days of sending the boys over to explain things by hitting people with bits of wood are long gone.

413:

We went from eight years of Obama (during an economic upturn where basically everything was going great) to trump , clearly the left committed copious errors

Just returned from a visit to some of my very liberal extended family. One of them said he refused to vote. But if Porky Pig had run as either an R or a D he would have voted for him over the real candidate.

I see that sentiment all over. Only HC could have lost to DT. And only DT could have beat HC.

414:

I have on Machu Picchu my bucket list. Just talked to a stranger the other day who thought it was great.

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

Than and a week or two in New Zealand.

415:

Pence is more like Satan in this scenario; he has the capability to work his horrible will within the system. He will do every ugly thing you'd expect a fascist Christian to do, and he will do it with cooperation from the Republican Congress.

Trump is more like Cthulhu... not quite right in human terms. I wouldn't be terribly surprised to learn that he had been control-chipped by aliens.

416:

Except, that if/when Pence become POTUS hw will internally fuck-up the US so badly, that it will affect their international relations, as Gilead is enforced.
DT HAS BEEN control-chipped by an "alien" actually - Vladimir Putin.
It is very noticeable that they share the view that "diplomacy" is a zero-sum game & that win-win situations don't exist.

David L @ 413
I hear you, but I still don't understand it.
HC was by no means the optimal candidate, but surely she wasn't that bad - was she?

417:

Hillary was farther to the right than Obama, and, much like Trump has, would have bombed everyplace. I didn't vote for her, though I said that if you thought you might live in a swing state, you should vote for her, I live in California, where she beat him 2:1. So, given that by some measures the Democratic party is to the right of 90% of the public, and she's on the right side of that bunch, yeah, there are plenty of the left who do not like her at all. Also, it's usually a good idea to throw the losers the primary a bone to get their support in the general (say, Reagan picking Bush as his VP), Hillary's strategy was to keep moving right, she literally did nothing to encourage the left to support her from the moment she got the nomination (I was watching for anything, and I've asked Hillary supporters for anything too). I know plenty of people who felt she didn't want their vote (Schumer said that for every one she lost on the left, she'd pick up two on the right, how'd that work out?).

418:

Summer of 2015 I was saying that the only chance the Republicans had was Clinton vs Trump, and I still think that was right. She'd have beaten the rest of them, Sanders would have too, and mopped the floor with Trump.

To the admins, I posted the previous comment, and was logged out when I tried to post what would have been this comment, I had to log in again to post it.

419:

Are you saying you don't have the option to turn off automatic downloads and update checking?

Dunno about Word, but that's the case for Google software.

Years ago I bought the Nik plugins for Photoshop, which then became Google products when Google bought Nik. A couple of times I got tipped over my bandwidth cap into pay-through-the-nose rates because Google decided they needed updating. I contacted tech support and discovered that there was no way to turn off their forces updates, other than by disconnecting my computer from the internet (and not once an update had started).

420:

To the admins, I posted the previous comment, and was logged out when I tried to post what would have been this comment, I had to log in again to post it.

That's been standard for me since the server upgrade. Every comment posted also (apparently) signs me out.

421:

I contacted tech support and discovered that there was no way to turn off their forces updates, other than by disconnecting my computer from the internet[.]

There are technical things which would have helped there, but even I can't be bothered with them at home. I know how to do update prevention, I kind of work with similar things, but I think there should be a way to disallow them in the program.

I'm not sure Photoshop plugins qualify, but I can see for many cases where not updating could be a security issue, too. Pushing updates is in many ways better than just running old versions of everything, but it's not a perfect solution. (If I only had a system like the debian package handling for Windows and all the programs I run with it. Steam kind of handles itself, but even it is very annoying.)