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.