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Inconvenient facts: The future of news.. and “otherness” has been stolen!
David Brin   Mar 31, 2017   Contrary Brin  

I recently spoke (via Beam robot) at a conference on “The Future of News Media” hosted by the Institute For The Future (IFTF), in San Francisco. An erudite gathering of concerned men and women from around the world discussed problems of Fake News, declining advertising revenues, state interference, self-censorship, and the web’s tendency to corral individuals into self-isolated pocket universes that reinforce their prejudices. In the short time allocated to me as kickoff speaker, I tried to give (ahem) ‘unusual perspectives’ on each of these topics.

Make no mistake, the survival of independent and professionally trained news media is vital to our civilization, just as undermining such experts is essential to the agenda of our rising caste of would-be masters.
I always have lots of unconventional things to say, but one stands out and you will see it repeated forever, till it’s tried on a large scale. Wagers.  Dares! Bets. Putting money on actual verification or disproof.
It is the only approach that will work, in an era when romantics have declared that all is subjective. That incantation works for macho guys… till something tangible is on the table. Then? Recall that most of these fake-news slathering fellows are also sports fans. And they know, deep down, that there comes a time when you can no longer talk your way out of comparing actual facts.
They grasp the idea that a wager has to be resolved. And it will turn on what can be proved. And now machismo becomes our friend, since it over-rules subjectivity!  If you flee from a bet, you are shamed. And if you refuse to pay-up, you are un-manned, period.
I broached this at the conference, as one of many observations and speculations about the future of news. It only got blinks of confusion from those erudite folks, showing how alien is their elite, mature, fact-loving world from that of the Confederacy that gave us this tsunami of fake-news. But give it time. Experiment with it. Because something has to be done. And this approach will go to the root, the heart of the problem.

== "Otherness"... redefined by monsters! ==

Ouch! Do we never get to keep nice things? Way back around 1990 I coined a term that later became the title of my 2nd story collection: OTHERNESS. It stood for the trend - in our recent, enlightenment renaissance - to be fascinated with horizons. To look beyond the immediate and near and familiar. And, yes, this manifests in many of us - those with some confidence - in a willingness to expand our boundaries of inclusion, to encompass "others."

Extending my essay "The Dogma of Otherness" (in OTHERNESS), I later showed how this process is inversely proportionate to fear, and has been, across most (maybe all) human cultures. It explains why the calmly confident society crafted by the Greatest Generation became one obsessed with expanding horizons.

Alas, all that has been sabotaged. Instead of rising in confidence - as Americans and all advanced and advancing nations should be doing now, amid very good times - we are letting ourselves be talked into quaking, quivering terror.

That I find upsetting. But want to see me really pissed off? Now my optimistic and brave term - "otherness" - has been stolen! Appropriated not only without credit or provenance, but given diametrically opposite meaning!

It's like the way they took the term "fake news" - which stood for their tactic to rile up an unsapient confederacy - and grabbed it as one more polemical weapon to use - in stunning irony - against real news media.

Alas, even those writing cogently against the madness keep falling for these traps, as with this fellow, who blithely accepts the alt-right definition of "otherness," ceding ground, even while whining about it. We can do so much better.
== Teaching the young – and old farts ==
Stanford professor Sam Wineburg lays out the steps educators need to take to help students discern what is fake news or not. “The tools we’ve invented are handling us,“ he says, “not the other way around.”  
A commenter suggested that the way to counter “alternative-facts may be to use their own s### against them: “When Trump says that 3 million illegals voted in the last election, tell them it doesn't matter because a majority of them voted for Trump! If he asks where you got the information, just say it was from the same source that he did. Or that it is common sense. Or that you "heard it on the internet." Or all the other lame excuses they use.
“When they make up stuff, make up stuff about their stuff. Be truthful about our stuff, but for their stuff, let you imagination run wild. Without facts to back up their claims, there is no way they can disprove any claim you make.”

It is a very, very dumb proposal.  We have other ways to win.

== The fact people ==
Evonomics is the place for erudite and fact-rich proof that inequality and huge wealth disparities are NOT healthy or faithful to fair-competitive market enterprise or even capitalism. 
An article online about cheating in economics explains how we are rediscovering the wisdom of Adam Smith and how parasite “rentiers” are not the friends of capitalism. Monopolists, “finance wizards” and passive lease-collectors create nothing and certainly do not compete. See both how Smith denounced the vampire effects on markets… and how it’s played out - to Dracula proportions - today.  
The Real "Takers" in America: Michael Lind’s article in Evonomics shows the kind of rooseveltean thinking that the oligarchs deeply fear might take hold. “An Anti-Rentier movement would oppose unproductive, ill-begotten wealth, not the rich in general. Wealthy individuals who get richer by investing in start-up companies or funding long-lived, creative blue-chip firms provide a valuable benefit to society, even as they risk losing their own money. Such risk-taking investors are the opposites of financial sector rentiers who seek to bribe policymakers into letting them privatize their gains while socializing their losses.”
Radical? A bit, sure. But what’s the alternative? Do the rentier-oligarchs actually believe they can crush us back into inherited-nobility and feudalism?  If the coming re-set is not a moderate-pragmatic, rooseveltean one - as instituted by the Greatest Generation - then it will be something much more radical. Already, search results for Karl Marx” have skyrocketed, in recent years.
Finally, someone else is pointing out that "Obamacare" was always the Republicans' own plan, all along! This young, democratic Congressman lays it out so clearly that even a Fox-watcher would understand… and perhaps start scratching his head, asking: "So what was all the screaming about? And why did I ever watch Fox?" 
Oh, I am gonna keep my eye on this Rep. Brendan Boyle fellah.
== Other things that got (a lot) better ==
Expect a new section in these missives: Bad News/GoodNews.
The Bad News: Obama’s Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is an example of the brainpower and expertise that we lose. He’s a nuclear physicist for MIT who has been involved in government energy projects for two decades. His designated successor, former Texas governor Rick Perry, has no comparable educational or business background that would equip him for the job.
(To be clear, I am miffed that our present situation leaves me delighted to see Perry in the cabinet. For all his faults and awful limitations, RP seems at least to be an American of normal IQ and no cultist. Such a low bar.)
The Good News:  Read how Moniz says that our accomplishments in developing efficient, sustainable and non-carbon technologies are irreversible. Despite treasonous obstruction by The Cult, these techs have now taken off, reaching beyond break-even, drawing every utility and energy-using entity away from carbon sources. “Smart government policies have encouraged and reinforced this evolution, but it now has a life of its own, studies suggest.”
Filthy coal has collapsed as U.S. supplies of much cleaner natural gas burgeoned, with America attaining effective energy independence under Obama, for the first time in 40 years.  The Energy Department estimates that 61 percent of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector from 2006 to 2014 came from switching from coal-fired plants to gas-fired ones. (A side effect no one seems to have reported: even with our troops helping governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no longer a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Middle East. We just don’t need that region for our own survival, anymore.)
Gas is a stopgap. “Continuing declines in the costs of alternative energy sources are making them increasingly competitive. Since 2008, costs have fallen 41 percent for land-based wind power and 64 percent for utility-scale solar power. The cost of efficient LED light bulbs has fallen 94 percent since 2008. The cost of battery storage has declined 70 percent over that period, making electric vehicles more affordable. As of last August, there were 490,000 electric vehicles on the road.”
Want another? Chart some national statistics and how they did across the Obama administration. In only one case was there not a huge improvement… the national debt.  But the size of the debt is a huge lagging indicator.  Far more significant is the rate of change of the rate of change of debt. By that metric, any fiscal conservative can see on a single chart (that I provide) how they would be insane ever to trust a republican with a burnt match.

Ah, but PrezDon screamed that all favorable statistics under Obama were lies... but now that the momentum on jobs is continuing... it's all real!  
The ultimate answer to government is useless: Evonomics chose my essay as ideal to cap off a tumultuous year, and to welcome one that might be much better. That is, if we choose to remember where all our good stuff came from. It came from a civilization that (once) encouraged negotiation based on facts. One that benefited from educating millions. One that developed the fantastic tool known as science.
One of you wrote in to comment about how intense public reaction stopped Paul Ryan’s reavers from: 1- neutering the Congressional Ethics Office, 2- rushing Trump’s confirmations before ethics reports come in, and 3- canceling the ACA before a new health plan is ready.  Sayeth Stefan: “Calling and emailing your representative and senators WORKS.  You look up their contact information here. 
And if you want to get involved in organized resistance, you read the Indivisible guide and join one of their local groups.”

And yet, while I will write letters and even sometimes march... that is not how we'll win.  It's yummy and satisfying, but only entrenches civil war. This sumo is what they want. It's necessary, but if we only do sumo, we lose.

Victory will only come via Judo.
== The expert on despotism ==
Populism and Totalitarianism: Roger Berkowitz Sheds light on probably the greatest expert on despotic regimes, Hannah Arendt. In her chapter on “The Totalitarian Movement” in The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt notes that the leaders of movements are marked by their “extreme contempt for facts as such.” The reason for this contempt for facts is that the world is complicated and uncertain. For the masses of people who are suffering dislocation, instability, and meaninglessness in their lives, “movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations.”
The great danger in all movements is that they can have no firm goal; as movements, they continually need to stir up their supporters who drive them forward. If any goal is met, a new one must be contrived. So movements are motivated less by a firm end than by a promise to fulfill a deep spiritual need. That is why movements mobilize masses who are longing for a “completely consistent, comprehensible, and predictable world.” There is a “desire to escape from reality because in [the mass of the people’s] essential homelessness they can no longer bear its accidental, incomprehensible aspects…
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."


Faked news and alternative facts have been around for a long time. They used to be called mythology. These days the word “religion or faith” is in use. The most influential “news”, (could it have been an alternative news) of the past 2000 years, we will celebrate in a couple of weeks.

Alternative news, some times called faked news, have been around a long time. They used to be called mythology, now the term religion or faith is in use. The most influential news of the past 2 000 years, we will remember and celebrate in a couple of weeks.

For the masses of people who are suffering dislocation, instability, and meaninglessness in their lives, “movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations

Agreed, however something tech-people are frequently in denial on: scientific progress is the prime cause of the dislocation, instability, and meaninglessness of the 21st century. No way such can be manipulated to better end. IMO social progress does not even exist—dislocation, instability, and meaninglessness entirely erase all social progress. Sounds fatuous? Then one is not observing what is happening now, because one of course does not want to know. Who does? Far too unpleasant to dwell on.
As “a recession is when someone else is out of work; a depression is when oneself is out of work”, scientific evolution is when someone else’s family is harmed; scientific revolution is when one’s own family is harmed.

We all play a game: we tell ourselves our actions are not dislocating the world—the actions of other people are. Merely for example, the nemesis of Trump is payback for our hubris. America and much of the world deserve what is going on now. The most surprising thing now is the injured innocence: “how could Trump be elected?” We are supposedly not culpable for the dislocation, instability, and meaninglessness of today. We are innocent lambs, are we not?
You are more correct than you know to write Goldwater would be spinning in his grave; Goldwater believed in goodness. America in the 21st century does not believe in goodness or justice:
virtue and justice are now considered dull.
We have dislocated ourselves out of virtue/justice. Have to write this over ‘n over: America may be “the greatest country in the world” yet it is not a good country and has not been good in any conventional sense since the early ‘60s. We both for starters remember how the dislocation of the ‘60s- ‘70s was a party someone was supposed to clean up after—but was never cleaned up.

==Teaching the young – and old farts==

You are going to have to get the young on your side; “old farts” can’t save the world.

@instamatic, you seem to see the glass as half empty. From my angle it is the other way round. I am sure that in the very near future science will solve the problem of having to grow old and be dead, since that is the real problem mankind has faced till now. We will then write a new operating systems O.S. combining the teachings of the global mythologies, religions and “News” (including alternative and faked) by analyzing “social media”. Using science, including gene engineering and extra terrestrial migration. The next step is, goal oriented evolution, leading to Homo immortalis omnipotent.

“We will then write a new operating systems”

Agreed: after solving the problem of having to grow old and be dead, not before.
All I object to in these articles is holding Trump culpable. Let’s arbitrarily take Watergate as the proximate start of today’s malaise. Trump was in his mid-late 20s when Watergate happened.
He had nothing to do with Iran-Contra;
nor did he invade Iraq in 2003.
Today’s “terror”, as Dr. Brin rightly terms it, is far deeper than Trump—and everyone else put together. Science is obliterating secular morality: hence the fear.

@ instamatic, I don’t hold Trump culpable for anything, on the contrary, i deem it possible, that he is working on a new O.S.
By the way, ethics and morality have the function to maintain the status quo.
What mutation is to DNA, is “bypassing” culture.

instamatic, I don’t hold Trump culpable for anything

For what happened before he was elected, no. Now he is to be held responsible.

on the contrary, i deem it possible, that he is working on a new O.S. By the way, ethics and morality have the function to maintain the status quo.

And if his O.S. goes awry, he is to be held responsible for his part in causing the outcome.

I think this working on a new O.S. should be a project the whole world could be working on. The way is see it is, we, human kind has presently several different religions (O.S.) which lead to deadly conflicts. Religions and the “Gods” that come with them, were created by homo sapiens and not the other way round. At the time and place they were invented they must have been useful.
Now with the world being globalized via the “world wide web” internet, the time has come for something new. Let’s treat the present day religions like we do “mythologies”, i mean in the anthropological sense. We could then use “social media” to find out what “rules” (O.S) would serve human kind best and use technology, including “gene engineering” and “extra terrestrial migration” to have a goal oriented evolution leading to Homo immortalis omnipotent.
Remember,” The only limit is our imagination.”

Can you figure a way to do so in this century? Or are ‘immortalism’ and extraterrestrial migration for the 22nd century?

“Our Vision:  People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”
This is the program of the National Space Society check it our, you will like what they are doing.

Eternal Life Society
Migrating to Infinite Space-Time.
“We Can Become the Engineers of Our Own Body Chemistry.
- In the Right Environment We Can Live Forever”
This was a Forum that went online in 1997
it was active for 10 years and had thousands of comments.


One more comment, no need to go on with this thread obsessively and off-topic.
Space migration is, though, a v worthy subject, as the Earth can conceivably be destroyed—leaving no terrestrial humans or post-humans. If space can be ‘colonized’ (migrated to), the future of humanity/posthumanity is assured to the degree anything can be ‘assured’.
Question is: isn’t it more plausible that space would be colonized by other than humans? Would more readily imagine ‘bots and augmented humans would migrate to space than humans would.
But then, extra-populated nations such as in Asia might decide to off-load (saying it bluntly) people to space. Extremely iffy, though.
In the 60 yrs since Sputnik, no one has physically gone farther than roughly 1/4 million miles from Earth. Some astronauts + cosmonauts have spent long periods of time in space; however only in Earth orbit on the International Space Station.
At any rate, it can be done albeit as I write in many comments: you’re going to have to get youth interested. At this time, it strikes me as extremely unlikely the aging [as we know aging to be] are going to want to take on the responsibilities for something as extraordinarily ambitious as space migration. Right now I still think of it as SF, nothing more.

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