Of men, automation, and the future.

Normally I start on Saturday with trying to think of something constructive or at least amusing to write about the readers at MGC on Monday. Unfortunately, this Saturday morning had a ‘drop everything and run, we need boats in the water ASAP, someone has been washed off the rocks at NE River.’

My dive partner and I got the RIB up there as fast as possible. We were the second boat out there, which considering we live twenty or so miles away was a good effort. The RIB is set up for beach launch and there is no nearby low-tide viable ramp so we at least could get there fast. People turned out, and we put in one hell of an effort, especially considering that the sea was… exciting at times. Not that terrible but a bit ordinary, especially on the second day. One of the downsides of writing and sitting for much of my day… my foot arches are killing me – enough to wake me up – from two days of being up on my toes on each wave.

Funny, if you read the media report you’d think it was a police effort… well, our two cops were doing their best, and they did send a pair of helicopters and plane later (and yes, Norm and I did tow the cop to shore when he ran out of fuel. We look after our police here. The poor bastard might live it down one day.). But really it was those people that CPaca (a File 770 Annoy e-mouse who showed up on MGC for a good sneer) disapproved of and thought irrelevant to space exploration actually doing the job. Gritty, tough men (I’d rate as the woosy one), a few Aboriginal, but mostly just boring middle-aged white men, with wives and families, and to a man, I’ll bet, conservative gun-owners, taking time out from being typecast stereotype villains in Hugo-award winning sf, and what else was it we’re supposed to do? Oh yes, dragging queer people (to whom the future belongs) behind trucks. According to one of the puppy kickers, jerks – like me. Even worse, the sort of jerk who might have been in Church the next day had they not again been trying to make life as bearable as possible for the victim’s kith and kin. In reality, risking their lives, taking time away from these important activities to help other human beings. And, oddly, none of them gave a damn about the fact that the guy who fell into the sea was of at least two approved victim classes. NK Jemisin would feel we were letting her image of Australia down. We should have come home immediately and got our ropes and trucks ready instead of freezing our buns off for hour after hour, soaking wet, getting pounded by the wave-chop.

It was better than having to face those waiting people on the shore. The friends and family. I can deal with dead bodies or horrible injuries, but the hope and despair of the friends and families is the hardest part of any Search and Rescue operation, especially when you come back with nothing.

Anyway, that’s an aside. It’s the ‘the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse for not really thinking about today’s post. It’d be nice if a few people writing those stereotype villains injected a little more reality into their political correctness. (It’s worth noticing that even the island has a couple of SJWs and they were, to no one’s surprise, conspicuous only by their absence.) It’d be good for the safety of people who need help (because, yes, in real life that stereotype villain is their most likely savior). Also it might get a few of these sort of people to read sf/fantasy. A surprising number of my local awful stereotype villains have, (in between villaining, dragging, going to church and drooling over their guns – working farm tools) got around to reading and enjoying my books – because I wrote them, and they know me. They don’t read that sort of crap normally, they inform me. I’m different. I do my best to tell them that there are others too. It’d be nice if there were more of them, and better for that future in space. Because Brad is IMO right, space will need just the sort of men who were out on that search. And, just like this, in practice it’ll be hard men, on that distant asteroid, doing it. Not, even with the best will in the world (which the cops and the chopper and plane pilots and crew had) the distant government.

You’re going to be a long way from Nanny. A lot further than merely an hour’s plane flight away.

Even probably nanny-bot. Which kind of finally gets me to what I wanted to talk about: the future. After all, that’s what sf is largely about. I was looking at a couple of visions of the future, and what effect robotics and automation could have. There seem to be ideas that conflict wildly with mine from a nanobot future to a future where humans are de facto the pampered pets (and not very attractive pets) of the AI’s.

Nanobots… yes. Well of course we will do things on very small scales. And of course they’re very versatile and powerful. But it’s rather like using ants to build the Hoover dam. There are projects which are suited to nanoscale work, projects that will integrate some of that (where appropriate), with micro, milli etc… up to and including machines which are 100’s of miles big. And where do humans fit into that?

IMO probably as they always have – fixing problems, doing stuff too weird and fussy to program for, and doing the scut work where they’re CHEAPER than designing and programming for. What’s your take?

And then there’s the dream of being a spoiled welfare drone sucking on AI teat, which some people find attractive. Shrug. I like being self-sufficient. Work, hunting and gathering, growing, processing food are what I am. So for that reason I’ve never found that vision very attractive. Doesn’t say it won’t happen, but humanity as we know it, will die PDQ.

Besides, what the whole utopian life-of-luxury vision seems to rely on the idea that: when we produce excess, we will happily use that excess to make life better and sweeter for those that no longer need to work, because automation has taken over their jobs. They’ll be able to do Art. Take up exotic hobbies. Read philosophical tomes and evolve new ones. Engage in really, really non-binary sex.

Hmm. You know we’ve seen a lot of automation making jobs redundant. We’ve seen the same making businesses more profitable. Like publishing, which, as we know, is SJW central! It is deeply concerned with progressive issues, neck deep in supporting liberal politics. Surely they must lead by example?

Well, not so as I’ve noticed. The huge savings in typesetting and computerized warehousing and distribution haven’t actually seen one red percent of that excess heading toward authors. If it wasn’t for Amazon, the same would true for e-books. And even there, the share allocated by such forward looking leaders as Tor, to the producers – authors — is barely above what they got for hardcovers (25% of net). As for the out-of-work typesetters and warehouse-men… they’re just out of work.

Bread and circuses, cheap bread, cheap circuses, probably drugs, to keep the proles happy, I can see. A life of ease and art… not so much. Some people at the top yes, but all I see is a widening GINI co-efficient. Maybe humans doing jobs too dangerous and dirty to use an expensive ‘bot on. Low value, low efficiency, expendable humans…

Utopia is not going to be that easy.

Oh, the other thing I came home to was an uproar where one the Puppy nominees was fussing about the possibility of violent reactions from the puppy kickers at Sasquan, incited by the likes of David Gerrold’s foolish rhetoric.

Heh. I have to laugh. Pu-leeze. You’re in about as much life-threatening physical danger at Sasquan from the puppy-kickers like David Gerrold and his little friends as you are from a wet fart – that is: unlikely, mostly avoidable, and at worst unpleasant and possibly embarrassing, but not in the least life threatening. They’re very gung-ho (particularly when anonymous – or rather ‘annoy-e-mouse’) when remote, on the internet, but in person most of them are a lot more sad than terrifying. Yes, I know, recently the loony left and friends has actually produced more atrocities in the US than the loony right, and yes, the Hugo Awards – which let’s face it – are pretty trivial on a world, or even personal disaster scale, seem to matter hugely to them. But despite the histrionics displayed by various puppy-kickers (who have been assiduously scrubbing their twitter and facebook record. Pity about screenshots.) even their softest-headed camp followers are more likely to at worst phone in anonymous fake bomb threats, and engage in secret whisper ‘Requires Hate’ type campaigns to get you removed from Con speaker lists or publications than to actually, you know, DO something physical, face-to-face.

It’s about as credible as other side and their fainting-couch pearl-clutchers fussing and being tewwibly tewwibly afwaid of those wicked gun-nut wight-wingers shooting up their pwetty Tweety-cage… uh business meeting. Pu-leeze. Try some logic, anyone who takes this performance art seriously. If those ‘gun-nuts’ — who outnumber you by one of them to ten of you in a fight, and actually outnumber you anyway — acted on using force of arms to make sure things went their way, two things are certain 1)things would have been going their way always. 2) The hysterical ‘I’m so afwaid’ shriekers are absolutely sure it would never happen. Because, if you’re really afraid, you keep quiet. Besides: It’s really all pretty irrelevant to most of the puppies. They derive more pleasure in watching the distress it causes you to lose control over the awards, than they care about winning.

Sasquan, I am sure, will be as safe (or safer) than normal life. The organizers have put in a great deal of effort to make it a good con. Go, enjoy. Heed no nightly noises. The Puppies campaigns have put a huge amount into the coffers of WorldCon (which helps to make it better and easier), have ensured voter participation as not seen for many a year – things which I am sure the organizers and most of the attendees would appreciate. I know the Neilsen-Hayden’s little crew from Making Light and the CHORFs over at File 770 would love to turn the clock back, as Worldcon and Hugos might have been sliding towards obscurity and irrelevance, but it was their obscurity and irrelevance, not nasty non-Tru-Fans. Hopefully common sense will prevail in the light of the advances we’ve brought, and the various attempts to suddenly change the rules will be rejected with the contempt that their attempt at Calvin-ball deserves. Yeah. I’ve always been overly optimistic about human nature. And if not, who cares? Not me, not very deeply anyway. There are many more important things, and I daresay with or without the ‘Tru-Fans’ or the Hugos or WorldCon, sf will go on, differently, maybe even better.

I’m off to give my still aching knee and calf and arch muscles a hot soaking bath, and then I’ll try for some of the sleep I’m still short of. I bid you all good morning over there, and good night for me.

76 Comments

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76 responses to “Of men, automation, and the future.

  1. Volcanoes have vents that don’t even compare to this.

    (And totally OT: Dilbert is gonna write SF: http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-08-10 )

  2. Good on yer, Dave. Stay safe – and thanks for all you did.

    • Peter, I know full well you did similar things :-). I was a minor cog in a group effort. It’s what decent folk do. The world has a lot of them.

  3. Dave, we need more men — and women — like you, your dive partner and the rest of those folks who not only responded to the call but who did all they could to help the family and friends after. As Peter said, Good on yer, Dave. Good on yer.

    • Amanda, they’re not actually that rare. There was one woman at sea too with her husband, and she’s damn good value.(and she’s volunteer ambulance service too, and also a farmer. Barbs neck injury counts her out, but she would have been there. Actually, I think the thing I particularly like about the MGC crowd is IMO, anyone who couldn’t be at sea would have been doing the beach patrols, or showing up with food and comfort (and then getting the hell out of there. That too takes some sense). The value of food and hot drinks (and those who think to bring them) is totally underestimated. Grin. I say this from experience as the first day we grabbed wetsuits and dive stuff -and no food (emergency water on the boat). After about 5 hours of shivering I reckon I had whole diet method.)

      • Ugh. Give me a nice day at -15F (-26C), over 38F (3C) and wet. I despite wet cold with the utter painfully recalled passion of shivering, working in it for hours.

        Good on you, for toughing that out to help. After one too many times of not being able to tell if hydraulic fluid or blood was running down my numb hands, I know I’m more hindrance than help in the bone-chilling rain. My joints still ache in memory; may yours be feeling much better soon!

  4. I love that you worked so hard for so little success. People like you are invaluable. I have one quibble with one comment, and perhaps you could clarify. You say that more atrocities have been committed by the “looney left” than the “looney right” in the US recently. Since I live here and have a completely different view, I’d love to hear what atrocities you’re referring to. All that I can think about lately have definitely been the “looney right”, including Charleston, the murder of the soldiers and the burning of black churches in the south. Please tell me what I’ve missed.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      The murder of the soldiers in Chatanooga being connected to the right? Really?

      • To ISIS, as I understand it. That’s right.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Not by US standards.

          At best for your case, it has no place on the American left-right axis. An Islamic Caliphate or whatever has so little internal support that it doesn’t register.

          There are reasons to say it might be considered left.

          a) It is foreign.
          b) US nationals that are sympathetic with Islam based anti-semitism are pretty uniformly leftist.
          c) It is not the status quo, has no basis in common law or our tradition, and hence cannot be considered as yearning for our own past.
          d) When you examine the enablers, the terrorism looks like a proxy for the leftists.
          e) Consider the target.

        • Nathan

          Mapping a foreign movement onto domestic American ideas of right and left is a stretch.

          • I think both you and Rob misapprehend the true nature of a reactionary religious fundamentalist sect.It is by nature conservative. The fact that it is revolutionary does not make it left.

            • And you misapprehend the nature of the American Right. It is inherently neither reactionary (seeking a return to past status) nor conservative (seeking to preserve the status quo). It has instead certain values: equality under the law, a particular view of liberty, etc.; it has put forth these values when they were radical changes to established order, and it continues to support these values when they are called hopelessly old-fashioned.

              (See, for example, Jerry Pournelle’s comment, which he has made a few times in various forms: “When I was a sophomore in high school I concluded from my studies that the law ought to be color blind. Except for the Brothers at my school I was regarded as a communist. I continued in that opinion for the rest of my life, and now I am regarded as a hopeless right wing radical. Yet I continue to believe that the law ought to be color blind.”)

              • Do you tell yourself such fairy tales to help you go to sleep? You are defining, as far as I can tell, libertarians. The right (see the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, Scott Walker, etc) as currently seen does not support equality under the law. With regard to liberties, Walker and the Koch Bros, regularly question people’s right to congregate by trashing unions. That’s certainly not supporting a fundamental first amendment right.

                • Angus Trim

                  I guess it depends on your definition of left and right. I am like Pournelle, in that as a youngster, I believed in colorblind justice, and was considered “leftist” by most of my peers. Even my father did.

                  Today, nothing’s changed in my world view except experience, now instead of just being a sigma, I’m a broken sigma. Vietnam had a way of doing that.

                  From my perspective, the folks you consider right wingers are leftists. As in socialists. Like the National Socialists of Nazi Germany and the Communist party in the Soviet Union and Red China. The thing they have in common are beliefs in the end of freedom of speech and personal liberty {never mind the second amendment}.

                  Totalitarians are by definition leftists. Including folks sometimes called Neo-conservatives. The neo-conservatives even used liberal language from the sixties, like regime change and nation building.

                  Cheney is on record that it was a good idea to start shutting down American liberties. He’s a leftist.

                  You’re mileage may vary.

                  • Cheney is a leftist? Are you in Wonderland?

                    • Angus Trim

                      I could be in Wonderland I suppose, but from my perspective, Cheney is no conservative, and he’s certainly not a libertarian. He knew firearms so well, he shot a hunting partner in the face. From my perspective, typical of leftist.

                      But then again, I’m not that big on labels. I can see you and I would disagree on labels, but I don’t care. They’re not that important.

                      It appears that we do agree that Cheney’s a crook, doesn’t matter his “label”.

                    • We certainly can agree he’s a crook. I am amused by your claim that it is typical of a leftist to shoot a friend in the face. My friends who are leftist would be offended, but I see the humor. I just wonder what the friend had said to him to promote such a reaction. I would call him an elitist, one who believes so much in his own superiority that morals are irrelevant.

                    • I think you’re missing Angus’s point, bhaslop — which is that we should judge people on what they do, rather than the name they call themselves or even the political party they claim to belong to. Most African dictatorships call themselves ‘democratic peoples’ republics’. But they’re neither democratic, nor acting for the people, nor republics in any way we’d understand – when judged by their actions. It’s like my issues with the word ‘liberal’ – which has its origins in ‘free’. In most of the non-American world ‘liberal’ parties are not anything like US liberal (The Australian Liberal party is considered right of center).

                      I would guess he was using DIck Cheney as an example of someone who told the world he was extremely right wing… but advocated something that Angus (and I, to be honest) see as typical of totalitarians who advocate state control.

                      I am intrinsically opposed to giving control of my life and liberties, and indeed your life and liberties to someone else. Even if Dick Cheney or Chairman Mao tell me it is for my own good. 🙂 Who knows, they might even be right, but I still think it is a terrible idea.

                    • State control is not necessarily left, no matter what label the totalitarian state calls itself. I will give you democratic socialism as found in many European countries, particularly Scandinavia, as left, but they are not totalitarian. As soon as a state takes total control, I label it totalitarian and do not ascribe either left or right to it. I am as opposed to totalitarianism as you.
                      The BC Liberal party in Canada is very right wing. The use of the word “liberal” is problematic, and I do not call myself liberal. I agree with you about fundamental freedoms, but I also accept that there are people who need assistance at various parts of their lives. Our Social Security system is basically a socialist program, but it works fairly well at preventing elderly people from starving to death, which was its original purpose. Having such a program does not, to my mind, impinge on any freedom I might have, and serves a social good. It is, in effect, an insurance program paid into by all of us from our earliest employment.
                      I am a far cry from believing the labels people give themselves or their countries or their parties. When people in this country call our president a socialist I have to laugh. He is not by any stretch of the imagination.
                      It was the right that gave us the Patriot Act that trampled our civil liberties because we were at war. We as a country have done terrible things in the name of war. We interned Japanese American citizens without cause in World War II after Pearl Harbor. That was as big a violation of liberty as I can imagine, for chidren to be locked up for their ethnicity. I am appalled at the ease with which my country takes away freedom for irrational reasons in war. We are not so far apart on that.

            • Nathan

              Not at all. Given that American and European notions of Right and Left – which as designators only made sense in Revolutionary France – don’t map to each other even though there are shared customs and culture, Islamic actions that are even further removed from American custom don’t accurately map to American ideas of Right and Left. In other words, the metric you are using is broken in this case.

              • Religious extremism all over the world has made war and disenfranchisement the tools of beating their opponents. That can be mapped to this country where religious extremism is trying to tell all others that their way is the only true American way. It is the magnitude of the force, not the nature of the force, that is unmappable.

                • Nathan

                  Thank you for illustrating for me Robert Kaplan’s assertion that the most dangerous people since the French Revolution have been third-rate intellectuals. Every totalitarian movement can be traced to one, and the death toll caused by governments against their own people in the 20th century exceeds the war dead over the same time.

                  • I was reading a book on avoiding anachronisms, and stopped about 60% through then the author seemed to support the French Revolutionaries, to the point of downplaying the Terror. Interestingly, the author referred to opposing view as right-wing propaganda.

                • FWIW, when I hear of someone complaining about the religious in America, I figure they don’t want the competition.

    • Farley

      Obviously a deranged individual obsessed with white supremacist fantasies can be somewhat fairly called both looney and right-wing, but that’s hardly organized group violence as the phrase implies, any more than the string of murders committed by illegal immigrants that the government failed to deport is “looney left” violence. And radical Muslim domestic terrorists are “the looney right?” Since when?

      As for the “burning of black churches” it makes a convenient narrative, but the Washington Post (that right-wing rag, cough cough) has already done that lifting and there doesn’t seem to be any wave of “looney right” arson of black churches going on outside the fever dreams of the determined seekers of political fright narratives.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        If Roof could have been incited by one flag, it is plausible that the disproportionate number of illegals who are felons might be incited by the leftist promoted display of the Mexican Flag.

        The symbol on the Mexican flag represents the Aztec Triple Alliance. The CSA was an evil regime for four or five years. The ATA, I think a minimum of ten times longer. The ATA certainly murdered more war captives.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        If it is plausible that Roof was incited by one flag, it is plausible that the disproportionate number of illegals who commit felonies are incited by another. The left does promote the display of the Mexican flag, which carries a symbol of the Aztec Triple Alliance.

        The CSA was an evil regime for four or five years. I think the ATA was so at least ten times as long. Certainly, the ATA murdered more war captives.

        More seriously, the Feds restricting what state and local law enforcement may do is not a strictly left or right matter. What the feds are currently deciding not to do might be considered a leftist matter.

        Recap: Previously in the mid nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Democrats restricted the self defense of their political enemies, then let ‘unrelated people’ ‘spontaneously’ murder them, and maybe systemically denied that it was murder, or that anything had happened at all.

        One of Obama’s mentors claimed intent to murder a significant fraction of Americans, and acted in a way that makes the claim credible.

        Texas happens to be in that small slice of America that has all of the following: 1) Obama’s enmity, probably irreconcilable 2) the oral history to know exactly what and how the Democrats did what they did historically 3) close enough proximity to Mexico to know exactly who is coming over the border.

        From a Texan perspective, especially given that Obama was raised by Democrats from Kansas, it may be plausible that the Left enables the killings in order to intimidate Texans. The most unbelievable element would be that Texans do not frighten so easily. Of course, most of America does not have the background to put the analysis together that way.

    • Please explain in what way those responsible were right wing. I wasn’t even aware that anyone had been caught in the church burnings.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Look at the autopsy for Baltimore. Mosby is full of it. Either 1) She is incompetent, and is charging the police to cover up her incompetence, and had a substantial amount of support from her fellow Democrats or 2) it was an exercise in Democrats burning minority neighborhoods right in front of the national eye, and getting away with it. In the latter case, the leftism of the modern Democrat is challenging to distinguish from the racism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Democrat.

      Roof was a druggie. His motivations could have been plausibly driven by derangement from what he was abusing.

    • This isn’t going to square with your world view, and it’s not getting much traction in certain media circles, but most of those church fires have been tracked to things like electrical shorts and lightning. Even Time and The New York Times has reported this. There’s no evidence that the remaining arson cases are “hate crimes,” either. Just as most of the mass killers in the US have come from “nice progressive” families.

      Yes, that doesn’t jibe with the PC narrative. It’s still the truth.

      My guess is you won’t take my word for it, which is good. That means you should do an impartial investigation of facts, not opinion pieces. Yes, there’s a difference.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Given the structural issues I’ve heard of during ‘people cut corners on churches; they should not’ speeches, electrical faults do not surprise me. Have they figured out whether it was design, construction, or maintenance?

        • If they have, I haven’t heard. Churches are often built on a volunteer basis, and sometime there’s maintenance issues. I know of one where they leave the main breakers off except for services, just in case.

          In one case, the cause was listed as lightning.

      • Since I will admit to having been a little out of the loop, and don’t read Time or the New York Times, you may well be right. And if the atrocities referred to include the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, I won’t go there. Given the recent spate of killings by the police, the reaction was to be expected. Not saying I approve by any means, but I did expect it.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Gray’s death was essentially self inflicted. He stood up in a moving vehicle, and fell down. He had been placed lying on the floor. Unless you think the police should be straitjacketing suspects, and fixing them immovably to posts, the perception of police misconduct is false.

          As for the other, he had THC in his system, and he behaved as a violent man with THC in his system might.

          The misconduct was a creation of PR, apparently paid for, and the scope of the riots came from Democratic officials deliberately giving them a free hand.

          • Gray could not stand as anyone watching the video of him being dragged to the vehicle could see. He twisted his torso to move his legs and they didn’t move. The statement that he stood up was made by the other prisoner who had reason to lie.I was once a public defender, and I know the value of that rat’s testimony, which is zero.

    • Fair enough question – And I want to be clear that I regard anyone committing an atrocity as loony (atrocity – which to my mind means killing or maiming with intent to kill people who are essentially just innocent parties who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. To compare apples with apples as best as possible. I do recall a ‘Jews have committed more terrorist acts than Muslims’ set of ‘stats’ – where all of the acts were indeed intended to intimidate aka ‘terrorize’ – but the one lot had IIRC one or two accidental fatalities, and the other thousands of deliberate ones. Police ‘atrocities’ are acts of the state/govt/local authority which I think one needs to count as failures of that authority rather than ideologically driven individuals – they acted as instruments of that authority. Your definition may differ.)

      Please read carefully what I wrote “the loony left and friends” – as ‘friends’ I would include people who the left feels have no need to integrate into American society – something the right tends to feel they should either do, if not get out. I did actually see a breakdown somewhere of Columbine onwards, showing that the backgrounds, families and history of a surprising number of the incidents were solid Democrat if not further left and often anything but poor rednecks. Honestly, it’s a bit above the scope of this post, and I’d like to put it this way – crazy people on both of the fringes of society do attack innocent bystanders. It’s not likely to happen at Sasquan, and to those on the puppies side of the situation, it’s not particularly important. I can’t say the same about the other side of it, but it really isn’t something worth hurting anyone over.

      And I’d appreciate it if we could all take that point.

  5. Christopher M. Chupik

    Yes, Antonelli overreacted. We have to remember that as Sad Puppies, everything we do is under the microscope. Any mistake we make will be used against us and the rest of the Puppies.

    The biggest danger we’d face from Puppy-kickers at a con is getting booted because of bogus complaints, like the Honey Badgers Brigade.

    • But this was about the time that gamer get together in london was actually SWATTED and threats were being made, so overreaction, yeah, but not as egregious as it sounds.

  6. The high frontier will be costly in lives–unless the Nannies make us all stay home. We compare space to the opening of the US. west. But it’ll be so much harder, so much more dangerous, NO AIR!!!!!!

    We forget the no maps, the bears, the wolves, the rattlesnakes, the deserts with so little water, NO ANTIBIOTICS!!!!! And that leaves out the space alie . . . Indians. No ambulances dispatched at a call from one’s cell phone. Lots of people died settling the west. I suspect the same happened in Australia.

    As for automation, miniaturization . . . I suspect breakthroughs that will upend half of what we think will happen. But it’s the social changes that will have the biggest impact. Do we have the great divide between the rich and the subsidized, trapped, poor? Or have we reorganized governmental support drastically enough that people do their damnedest to get off it? Have we destroyed middle class jobs, or just changed them, again? Have we decided that drug usage and addiction is a medical problem, or are we still creating a vast brutal interdiction force that drive a thriving blackmarket, funds foreign civil wars and ghetto gangs?

    Do we reward or punish individual rights, initiative, and responsibility?

  7. Actually, Antonelli had a valid concern, but phrased it badly. Was Gerrold a danger ? Hardly. Were members of his “me-too” brigade a danger ? Possibly. I wasn’t there, but there WAS the DC #Gamergate Meetup, that had a bomb threat called in, coincidentally, after Arthur Chu denounced the Meetup. . . .

    Just like the attempted Chlorine gassing of. . .Anthrocon ? (Somebody put pool chlorine powder in the stairwells at a Furry Convention).

    Me, I would have told the Chief of Police that there are big political differences going on, and somebody might do something stupid, so warning you in advance to prevent an over-reaction.

    • Farley

      This seems somehow relevant. Notice she’s not addressing Puppies, but her own “side.”

      Nominees did not withdraw because Puppies were sending them death threats and hate mail.

    • That was Midwest Furfest in Chicago. The convention hotel had to do a major cleanup afterward, because it contaminated the carpets and other porous objects in the area, all of which had to be removed and replaced. Apparently they were barely able to get back into shape in time for Con+Alt+Delete later that month.

  8. Besides, what the whole utopian life-of-luxury vision seems to rely on the idea that: when we produce excess, we will happily use that excess to make life better and sweeter for those that no longer need to work, because automation has taken over their jobs.

    Either that, or they’ll find ways to work a lot less and still provide enough value to get what they need, which will mostly be dirt cheap because most of the work producing it is automated.

    Arguably, I am in that position. Most of the peers I worked with in my early 20s went on to found startups, a career path that can be incredibly lucrative but is incredibly labor intensive (I wrote about it here if anybody’s interested). I, on the other hand, work mostly when I feel like it.

    • Ori, I suspect the smart, the adaptable, the outright hard-working and willing to do or try anything will find niches. That, unfortunately, leaves out a lot of people.

      • I don’t know. They’re all descended from a long line of people who were at least hard working and adaptable enough to survive without modern technology. It is possible that many of those who aren’t acting adaptable right now would learn if they had to.

        Or maybe I’m being excessively charitable.

  9. Good technology in space will work much like it does on the ground, I expect: most of the time. For everything else, for when the feed line breaks and the thruster’s no-go; when the charging panels are all dusty; when the AI can’t tell a carbonaceous asteroid from a hemorrhoid; when primary, secondary, and tertiary systems fail… you need the most versatile, adaptable, creative problem solver there is. That’s mankind, motivated.

    The big black will be the next great frontier. Folks willing to take calculated risks will be *vital.* Guys that think a 50/50 chance is pretty good odds will be there. People that are willing to drop everything and go>/i> when a life’s on the line will be there. There will be the kind that know what work, *real* work, is, and are willing to do it for the long haul. As always, there will be those willing to do the dirty, dangerous work that a frontier *needs* done. And that kind of people will shape what humanity does out there.

    There’s room for eggheads and roughnecks in that crowd. For rednecks and city folk. It’s the will and the willingness, the flexibility and the creativity, the stubborn defiance in the face of disaster and near certain failure that defines a people out on the fringe. Humanity is still a necessary part of space exploration, and probably always will be. We make some pretty impressive tools, but we are still the best tool *users* we know of. That counts for a lot.

    That’s my take, anyways. *grin*

    Thoughts and prayers for the family, the S&R teams, and their families. Y’all take care out there, and good luck to ye.

    • ack. tag fail. Whell, just goes to show, fallibility is a human trait, too!

    • Bravo, Dan. I couldn’t have said it better.

    • you need the most versatile, adaptable, creative problem solver there is. That’s mankind, motivated.

      True, but how much does it cost to keep a human being alive in those conditions? We’re talking about an environment that makes Antarctica look friendly.

      I may be showing my software(1) prejudices here, but when there isn’t a human in the loop you can make cheap, disposable devices. If they fail, they fail. If a widget costs $n, and makes $2n over its lifetime, you can live with a 25% failure rate. You buy four widgets, three of them work, and you turn $4n into $6n. 50% ROI, spread say over a decade, is pretty good.

      Get people involved, and the calculation becomes very different. Suddenly, a 1% chance of failure is unacceptable. You need fail safes on your fail safes. When those fail, everybody with half a chance of doing anything will pull a Flinders, stop whatever work they’re doing, and go rescue their buddy, sparing no resource.

      I know I am thinking like a soulless bean counter, but there’s a reason for that. Space colonization is going to be expensive. This means it will be managed by investors trying to maximize their return. Competent people are one of the most expensive things in the world, and Moore’s law does not apply so they are not getting cheaper.

      (1) In the software world, everything is disposable. If we need to keep something safe, we simply make multiple copies. We’re also terribly wasteful of computer resources, because they’re so cheap.

      • Space colonization *is* going to be expensive, true. And at first- heck, at present and for the immediate future, the best and brightest top smidgen of a percent will be out there doing what mankind needs/wants done in space. They are the bleeding edge of what I hope will be a full width blade.

        As price-to-orbit drops, as *more* stuff gets up there- Bigelow type inflatables may be a start- as more *people* get up there, we’re going to have, I hope: trash haulers cleaning up the orbitals, ice miners looking for those ever-valuable volatiles, regular convoys heading out-system to stations in the Jovian orbits, and so on. When it comes down to the price point where a small business type model can lease a ship, make profit on an ice run on a several year round trip, use the profit to springboard a *carefully plotted* prospecting jaunt, and go on from there… then we have a frontier, for all intents and purposes.

        There will be a murthering *lot* of little software-type cubesats or similar doing a *lot* of things, I imagine. Drift maps of asteroid fields. Deep probes of gas giant atmospheres. Small planetary body studies. Science and research stations galore. By this time, I expect there to be a man here and there looking at the problems and saying, “I can make a profit from that.” And doing so.

        Perhaps I am looking longer term. *grin* I’ve no doubt that it will be expensive, dangerous, and highly reliant on a huge tech base. But, I will tell you true, I’ve worked around and with larger than 1% fail rates on things that were very much lethal to me in my lifetime thus far, and I’m not all that brave to tell the truth (I value my ugly hide far too much for that!), and I’d say there’s more than a few like me that would jump at the chance to sail among the stars.

        It’ll be a challenge, without doubt. We’ll need a lot of hard-nosed software guys doing some frankly amazing things (like landing a probe on a freakin’ comet!) to get there. But that’s a challenge that many, like me, *hunger* for. I’d say we’d accept a lot more than a 1% chance of death, for the chance to be a part of something so amazing and humbling. Great risk… and greater reward, for all mankind. One small step at a time.

      • Ori – do you use a computer (yes, obviously)? Could you build one from raw materials (no, obviously)? Do you actually understand the electronics and physics behind it (probably some of it, but certainly not all of it.) Yet you use it, effectively. But ?60 years back it would have weighed a couple of tons and did less than a tablet can now, and cost an absolute fortune. And most of the people working on them could build them. The same (but to a lesser extent) is true of dive gear. The early developers made and understood the working and the gear was pretty useless and dangerous, and very limited. Things I can do now are a fraction of the cost, many times as safe, many times as effective, require not that I understand the processes, but that I can operate them, and that is getting easier and cheaper day by day. Were the same financial/tech drivers (volume) at work for dive gear as for computer hardware, we’d be drysuit indefinite gill-pack by now. No skill needed to operate, and costing far less than they did for worse gear, five years back. Yes, there is an end point, but my point is space gear will be the same. What was bulky, massively expensive will not stay that way. The BIG problem with Remotes etc, is the lag time. So either the remote would have to be an AI or it would have to have a nearby decision unit (AKA human) to make possibly simple but unprogrammed decisions (fast). Much easier to send a potentially cheap and expendable human to actually do the job, take the decisions, than have one on standby to take that decision (especially if we get to body regrowth and memory capture. Taxes may become the only certain thing.)

        • Good point, but you’re pitting the progress of life support technology (some computing, a lot of mechanism and electronics) against the progress decision making technology (almost pure computing). Computing tends to advance a lot faster than other fields.

          If we can do body regrowth and memory capture, that is different.

  10. You know what is going to happen in our super automated, massively computerized, hugely parallel, everything networked Utopian future? Massive security fail after security fail because software security is a joke and a half, and the more prevalent and ubiquitous this sort of technology becomes, the worse it becomes. I write software for a living, and I just got schooled last week by a software security specialist when I described what our latest software does, and he pointed out half-a-dozen gaping security holes. The problem is that to write secure code, you have to be trained as a software security specialist, but if you are trained for that, you AREN’T trained for anything else, because there isn’t time to do both.

    So, software sucks, and will continue to suck as we go into our brave new Utopian future, and the only safe people are going to be the ones up in space who will probably be too paranoid to rely on software to do things for them, preferring to go with more reliable, less failure prone manual or analog systems.

  11. Lotus-eaters ate lotus because they were so stanken bored, and death wasn’t an option. Utopia isn’t where the machines do it all; utopia is when at the end of the day, you can say with satisfaction “Now, THAT was a good day’s work!”

    • And that boredom is a very real and dangerous thing, Pat. I reckon a lot of the world’s problems come from guys who just have too much time, too much energy going spare, and no good place to put it. I’m all in favor of some leisure for everyone, but let’s face it I stayed out of a lot of trouble by being to freaking tired after a day’s labor to do much more than read a book 🙂

  12. I don’t know how it is in your neck of the woods, but here we look at it as the difference between rural and urban. In rural you come to the aid of your neighbors, even if you don’t know their name, because essentially the first responders are you and the folks around you. It does tend to weed out the less than sturdy folk, because, at least around here, not much is thought of a person who stands and watches when they can help, or doesn’t get out of the way if they can’t.

    Even small cities in predominately rural regions don’t get that, because to them the first responders are police, fire and rescue, and what have you. They maybe never have come up on a wreck and had to administer first aid, or carry a stretcher, or fight a fire, or be “deputized” and act as back-up, or cut their way through downed trees, or fix a road, or check on shut-ins, or the many other things rural people just do because there’s really no one else. And that includes going out on the water or in weather where you really rather be hunkered down, because someone’s life or livelihood depends on it. Urban folk tend not to “get” that because they’ve never had to deal with it.

    Which makes me wonder how the first English colonists from places like London “got” it when they found themselves in the wilds. Obviously some did or they all would have died, and 17th and 18th Century Britain wasn’t as compartmentalized as modern urban life. But how did they get it before there were experienced colonists to show them the ropes? Is that why so many early colonies struggled? Experience gained the hard way? And what does this bode for future colonies on the Moon, or Mars, or in the “belt,” or wherever mankind hopes to go?

    BTW, my hat’s off to you for tackling rough seas. My father-in-law used to do river and lake body recoveries. When my wife sees certain vehicles on the road, she knows what’s up.

    An important aside to first responders of both the rural and urban sort. Please leave downed power lines alone, and please don’t try to remove anything off them. Just because a line’s down doesn’t mean it’s dead. We had one well-meaning gent remove debris from a line that, luckily, was dead late one stormy night.

    “Sir,” I said, “You do know those power lines carry 14,400 volts.”

    “That’s okay,” he said, “I’m a volunteer fireman.”

    Somehow I don’t think that would have made any difference.

    • Uncle Lar

      A great number of those first English and other nationality colonists did not get it, and died as a result. Your average urban colonist had no knowledge of hunting, growing crops, or foraging for edibles in the woods. Hence most early colonies went through periods of want and privation. A hard core British poacher, banished to the colonies rather than hung from a gibbet, now there was someone with a clue.
      As ever was with exploration into new territories, those that paid attention and learned lived, or at least had a better chance at survival. Those that did not died and were forgotten.

      • The early Zionist movement was primarily urban Jews (we’ve been doing jobs other than farming for a long time) moving into a country where most of the jobs available were in agriculture. They spent a lot of resources teaching agriculture.

    • Kevin, that’s probably more-or-less accurate, with the addendum that even in cities, those involved outdoor/dangerous pursuits (often away from the city) do also get to be very much the ‘first responders’ and the people called on by the authorities. Cavers, Rock-climbers, divers (there is a tendency to ignore ‘local knowledge’ by police divers – which will kill one of them, one of these fine days – but fortunately caves and cliffs have them calling for expertise still).

      History – back in South Africa, and I think here in Australia does show a lot of the colonists/ shipwrecked died for exactly the reasons you speak of. I’m of the opinion it will in space too.

  13. Idea free to a good home: Buttons that say “Don’t be a hater. Support Sad Puppies.”

  14. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    What it takes on the frontier. Dave gets it right.

  15. Thanks for stepping up Dave, did they get a P-3 out as a search aircraft? And sorry y’all didn’t save him. That is pure hell when you have nothing to tell the family.

    • Old NFO – I’m a bit more expert on fish than planes 🙂 If you click on the story link in the first paragraph, there’s a picture of the search plane (not the same day or place, but the right plane).

  16. Christopher M. Chupik

    Damien tweeted this a few days ago:

    “Damien Walter @damiengwalter · 6h6 hours ago
    If the Hugos get any more tense I’ll recast them as the Battle of Endor, with Brad Torgersen as the ewok that dies.”

    If a Puppy said something like that, it would be taken as a death threat. The other side is a lot freer with their vitriol because it’s rare that they have to apologize.

    • Damien can be free with his threats: it’s not as if someone’s going to un-buy any story he wrote.

    • There’s a reason for this. A death threat from somebody with proven skills in applied violence is A LOT more serious than a death threat from somebody who is obviously incapable of doing much damage.

      BTW, I can definitely see the SJW crowd as the genocidal (ask the people of Alderaan, except you can’t) Empire.

      • Yes, but they did it for Alderaan’s own good.
        Yeah, that was kind of my point. Not that – given modern weapons, an elderly woman on a mobility scooter can’t be dangerous, or that there aren’t perhaps some puppy-kickers who could be physically capable. It’s just unlikely.

    • Ravenshrike

      Does Damien think we would eat them given the chance? I’m flattered, really, but Damien would give me indigestion.