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Is the world improving… despite our grouchy dogmas?
David Brin   Jun 1, 2013   CONTRARY BRIN  

Poverty and violence are decreasing worldwide, at truly amazing rates. And of course - as we have seen - this fact seems anathema to grouches of both the far left and the entire right. But it does prove that the Great Program instituted by George Marshall, Harry Truman, Dean Acheson and Dwight Eisenhower has been working, in a spectacular mix of good development assistance and the better half of capitalism.

 
I have described several times how Dr. Stephan Pinker, in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, shows clearly that per capita rates of violence across the world have been plummeting (albeit with tragic unevenness) every decade since the Second World War. Even the recent, terribly unwise wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though in many ways regrettable and devastating to our U.S. economy, were nevertheless waged in a manner unlike what any other generation would have called "war," looking more like heavy-scale (sometimes fierce) SWAT team action than mass armies pounding and flattening everything in their path.
 
20130601_cna400But it is the fight against poverty that stands out even more. As reported in a recent Economist article, Towards the End of Poverty"In his inaugural address in 1949 Harry Truman said that “more than half the people in the world are living in conditions approaching misery. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of those people.” It has taken much longer than Truman hoped, but the world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people."
 
To be clear: I'm no pollyanna.  (1) These improvements are just enough to offer hope, not any excuse to let-up.  And (2) there are many areas that are not improving at a trajectory for success. Environmental worries top that list.  Nevertheless, violence and poverty are paramount, and the news in those areas is tentatively fantastic.
 
Why do we hear so little about this? Because amid today's callowly indignant political polarization and Phase Three of the American Civil War, good news serves the polemical interests of neither right nor left. The mania of the right is that "improvement" campaigns are manifestations of pushy do-gooder oppressors; things are rotten but that is the natural way of life and existence. Trying to "improve" people and the world is either nanny-frantic rudeness or else a commie plot.
 
The mania of the left is to hallucinate the most self-defeating fabulation of all. Not that we must improve… (I agree that we had better, a lot, or fail utterly)... but that chiding... and only chiding... will get us there.  That reflex, to emphasize only indignant finger-wagging, has been politically devastating, by alienating millions who naturally dislike being relentlessly guilt-tripped. Moreover it illogically and stupidly aims to motivate folks to take up progressive causes without ever admitting that earlier progressive campaigns to improve the world have actually … worked! 

Pause. Contemplate that sales pitch. Would you buy a product when those pushing it howl that it never worked? (This is why pragmatic liberals are essentially a different species from leftists.)
 
Feh. You can see how these right and left manias feed into each other. They are reciprocal addiction enablers. And extreme self-righteousness junkies are not the ones making a better world.  We are.
 
Now see it put in perspective with satire… 
 
== Emissaries wanted! ==
 
1) Jay Lake is inviting folks who will be near Portland on June 27 to attend his "pre-mortem wake and roast, a somewhat morbid, deeply irreverent, but joyous celebration of me." Gawrsh, wish I could attend.  (And weep a little between jokes.) Volunteers wanted to proxy-me, praise a truly vivid life, and wish Jay happy trails.
 
2) Another METI - (Message to Extraterrestrials) - stunt appears to be underway, pushed ahead by fools who claim an arrogant right to speak for humanity, without ever discussing the issue in open debate with colleagues or the public. One group will be announcing their planned Yoohoo Shout at a news conference in New York City on June 11: 1pm at 500 Broadway (2nd fl).
 
For background on this vexing issue see: ShoutingCosmosShouting at the Cosmos: How SETI has taken a worrisome turn into dangerous territory. Here is the shouters' rationalization: The Benefits and Harms of Beaming into Space, which is based (the Benford boys assure me) upon fallacious physics.
 
Out of all the members of our SETI dissidents group (arguing that there should be discussion involving top people from many fields, before small groups arrogate to go screaming into the cosmos on humanity's behalf, based on faulty assumptions) none of us are able to attend the news conference on short notice, or ask inconvenient questions. Do we have any volunteers from out there in the community? Calm sciencey types preferred!  Get in touch via comments below.
 
At minimum, we could learn who is funding this and who owns the telescope.
 
== A miscellany of fascinations… 
 
Are All Telephone Calls Recorded And Accessible To The US Government? Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, hinted that the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations (in the context of the Tsarnaev bombings.) Consider the implications of that blithe, offhand remark. The blogosphere went ballistic in outrage!
 
My reaction: and you expected… what? If they cannot do it now, they certainly will. Nothing on Earth will prevent the mighty (and I am more scared of oligarchs than civil servants) from seeing and hearing us.  We must concentrate our efforts not on trying (futilely) to blind them, but on measures that allow us (or trusted representatives of us) to sousveil and reciprocally look at the  mighty. If we cannot hide from the mighty, then let us strip them naked.
 
grafzeppelinSee an amazing 90 minute documentary on the Graf Zeppelin's 1929 voyage around the world. Especially fascinating is the portion about the airship's brush with death, after leaving Japan and barely surviving a Pacific typhoon, blown off course and coming  down near an uninhabited island to do repairs. (That part is 55 minutes in.)  A terrific show about olden times that (I believe) may in some ways come again!
 
(See my own future zeppelins! 😉
 
You should know about the Cottingly fairies and other famous hoaxes!  Two little girls fooled the author of Sherlock Holmes.
 
And learn more about the online Museum of Hoaxes! 
 
Words that last: a research team has identified 23 “ultraconserved words” that have remained largely unchanged for 15,000 years, spanning not only Indo-European but several of the six other major language groups in Eurasia. Among them the root words for "hand" ("main") and "to give" ("donne").
 
==Mars Haiku==
 
MarsMavenNASA solicited "Haiku about Mars," -- to be sent aboard the Mars MAVEN Spacecraft. I whipped out two Mars haiku in about a minute….  So I'll just share them with you now.
 
Does Mars need women?
And incidental males too?
Let's supply them soon.
 
Snowy Olympus
Juts into vacuum above
The oceans we'll revive.
 
== More Miscellany ==
 
FUTUREWRONGIn "The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be: Why Futurists and Pundits So Often Get It Wrong," Christian Cantrell (author of Containment) offers  a welcome reality check, or dose of cold water in the face, concerning our excessive utopian expectations from technology. 

Indeed, his comments on declining quality of air travel hit home. I expect air travel to keep getting worse, until -- fed-up -- the middle class forms mobs with torches and pirchforks to burn down the corporate jetports and chase the rich back into First Class, where they belong.  That would end our decline into misery, overnight!  But read this cogent essay.
 
Ah, it won't be easy. Rich tourists  allegedly take advantage of a Disney rule that allows guests who need a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.” Companies rent a disabled person to join the family and get them through to the head of the line.  Sigh.
 
Now come algorithms that will only let your browser come up with things that they think you'll like. My novel EARTH (1989) portrayed hackers in the 2020s deliberately tweaking this "nuremberg-ware" so that it would do the opposite.  Instead of helping people only see and hear and read what agrees with them, all saluting the same memes at the same time, the hacked relevance algorithms would let through different and provocative points of view.  Breaking folks out of the group-think "nuremberg rallies" of memic sameness.
 
What's the solution?  To introduce randomness into searches? Randomness won't work.  It just makes your searches less efficient.  What's needed is a small symbol showing if someone with very high reputation and credibility scores disagrees or finds fault.  You can click on the symbol, or not.  But just glimpsing the symbol, flashing over on the far right, would say "there is dissent to this; don't assume it's just given."  Of course for this to work, we need the desperately neglected cred-and-reputation system I designed.
 
Or take a simpler wholesome reality check. A feel-good public relations move that just might do some good… Coca-Cola has set up hyper-window vending machines in India and Pakistan that let you meet, play games or dance with folks in the other country, then toast them with Coke. I hope this isn't a one-off but that they will deploy dozens.  Also, I hope the screens are Gorilla Glass viz the inevitable hate attacks.  Clearly they must be set up in affluent and highly supervised shopping malls.  Still… what fun.
 
commercial proThreeBodyProblemduct based on Transcranial stimulus.
 
A Guardian analysis of the top 50 video games sold in 2012 found more than half contain violent content labels. One third have weapons that depict real-life firearms.
 
== Artistry Notes ==
 
I've quite enjoyed the web-comic called "Tragedy Series" by Benjamin Dewey.  Done in sepia with a Victorian-Steampunk ambiance, these little one-image postcard vignettes are lovely jolts of dark wit and sometimes even genuine irony.
 
Next year will see the english language publication of THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by the greatest sci fi author ever in China, Liu Cixin.  It takes a very dark view of METI, by the way.
 
I will speak more in coming months about this top-flight, truly exceptional series and its excellent translation by our own Ken Liu.  
 
But when you do read it, you may never think the same about "harmless" METI shouts into the cosmos.
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."



COMMENTS

Very good Dr. Brin. 

“To be clear: I’m no pollyanna.  (1) These improvements are just enough to offer hope, not any excuse to let-up.  And (2) there are many areas that are not improving at a trajectory for success. Environmental worries top that list.  Nevertheless, violence and poverty are paramount, and the news in those areas is tentatively fantastic.
Why do we hear so little about this? Because amid today’s callowly indignant political polarization and Phase Three of the American Civil War, good news serves the polemical interests of neither right nor left. The mania of the right is that ‘improvement’ campaigns are manifestations of pushy do-gooder oppressors; things are rotten but that is the natural way of life and existence. Trying to ‘improve’ people and the world is either nanny-frantic rudeness or else a commie plot.
The mania of the left is to hallucinate the most self-defeating fabulation of all. Not that we must improve… (I agree that we had better, a lot, or fail utterly)... but that chiding… and only chiding… will get us there.  That reflex, to emphasize only indignant finger-wagging, has been politically devastating, by alienating millions who naturally dislike being relentlessly guilt-tripped. Moreover it illogically and stupidly aims to motivate folks to take up progressive causes without ever admitting that earlier progressive campaigns to improve the world have actually … worked!”


This is a good three paragraphs in a good piece. Surprising you don’t get more comments, Dave—but it might well be you cover so much in so many areas, one doesn’t know where to start.
Let’s not project intellectualism, though, on a public which probably considers alcohol and tobacco as important as war and peace, threats to the biosphere.
The future will be good—obviously—for those who survive; the People Who Love Are The Luckiest People, and also the Lucky Lucianos. You don’t need to travel to Russia to see such- merely drive down the coast to Mexico. An interviewer asked Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov what was wrong with the SU; Sakharov replied it was the same story in every nation: “alienation and criminality.”
My favorite quote from a BigWig, a v. BigWig, was Mao Ze Dong’s answer to someone who asked him how he had changed the world so much:

“I have only been able to change a few places in the vicinity of Beijing.”

You’re definitely one of my favorite futurists.  Your views on the future are hopeful/positive overall and yet down to earth at the same time.  That is a very difficult thing to balance.  Keep up the good work.

Dave knows his peas n’ cues.

Something we ought to keep in mind is that the ‘system’ we
have in America is pretty much what the Framers wanted; we retain a 1789 system so we should not be surprised at the outcome. Frankly, Americans are intellectually dishonest:
they say the want small govt. yet haven’t actually wanted it since
sometime since 1933—possibly the era of small govt. finished 9-11-‘01 when we had to bribe ourselves to support the war effort ensuing.
And we don’t necessarily want peace; we perhaps want DARPA and the like. The more complicated life is, the more disingenuous: in 1 million BCE there was no deception in the cauliflower.. or wild game.

What I want to know from someone who would kindly reply is, does nano mean perhaps it wont be necessary to mine asteroids, etc., for materials?

The problem is that the mass media sells their product by scaring people and delivering pessimistic news.  Therefore, people have a pessimistic bias, and can’t believe things that are too-good-to-be-believed.  While this may sound harmless, it is very very bad, because (for instance) here is an example of a silver-bullet energy technology emerging this year onto the market, and people simply can’t believe it is legit, which means it had a hard time emerging, and will be vulnerable to doubt propaganda campaigns from companies that will supplanted by this new technology.  In fact, sometimes the people who censor such comments as these don’t allow this information to even appear because they are pessimistically biased and assume it is pathological science:

Check out this third-party verification of a LENR reactor that will soon hit the market: http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913
“Given the deliberately conservative choices made in performing the measurement, we can reasonabley state that the E-Cat HT is a non-conventional source of energy which lies between conventional chemical sources of energy and nuclear ones.” (i.e. about five orders of magnitude more energy dense than gasoline, and a COP of almost 6).

This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf

“Over 2 decades with over 100 experiments worldwide indicate LENR is real, much greater than chemical…”—Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center

“Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry.”—Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA

By the way, here is a survey of some of the companies that are bringing LENR to commercialization: http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/08/the-new-breed-of-energy-catalyzers-ready-for-commercialization.html

For those who still aren’t convinced, here is a paper I wrote that contains some pretty convincing evidence: http://coldfusionnow.org/the-evidence-for-lenr/

Brin states, “To be clear: I’m no pollyanna.  (1) These improvements are just enough to offer hope, not any excuse to let-up.  And (2) there are many areas that are not improving at a trajectory for success. Environmental worries top that list.  Nevertheless, violence and poverty are paramount, and the news in those areas is tentatively fantastic.”

Am I the only person who might expect to be provided with at least a scintilla, a whiff, one tidbit of data regarding his definition of poverty and violence? And where he got it from? And on WTF he bases his opinion that the entire world is improving in this regard?

The last time I looked, not surprisingly the World Bank made similar claims. But actually examining their numbers, their cutoff for the lowest “poverty” level was around $10 a month. Anything above that, and they slotted you into a slightly higher category.

Call me profligate if you must, but I’m guessing that maybe even $20 a month might be a bit too low for any person holding any MODERN expectations of a humane existence to still consider that income level anything but rather deep in the poverty neighborhood.

Among the mountain tribes of New Guinea, $20 a month might make you a “rich” man, but that criteria is undeserving to be held by any intelligent, serious, “civilized” individual.

Here in the USA, it is well known that poverty has been INCREASING rather sharply over the last few years.

Similarly for his analysis of world violence. Brin make his pronouncement, waves his hands, and says “Ain’t it grand!” And we are all expected to nod in unison?

Next time, actually take the time to develop an argument, instead of just sprouting an opinion you picked up from some randomly read recent book or magazine article.

Also, Brin is obviously a twit who thinks he can encapsulate the philosophy of “the left” thusly:
“The mania of the left is to hallucinate the most self-defeating fabulation of all. Not that we must improve… (I agree that we had better, a lot, or fail utterly)... but that chiding… and only chiding… will get us there.”

How he arrived at that hallucination of an opinion is not worth knowing.

Call me profligate if you must, but I’m guessing that maybe even $20 a month might be a bit too low for any person holding any MODERN expectations of a humane existence to still consider that income level anything but rather deep in the poverty neighborhood. Among the mountain tribes of New Guinea, $20 a month might make you a “rich” man, but that criteria is undeserving to be held by any intelligent, serious, “civilized” individual. Similarly for violence.

First, re violence: a solid case can be made for violence decreasing since August 10th, ‘45—one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day (and ruin your career.. cripes, we wouldn’t want that now, would we? it’s one thing to incinerate civilians, another to go so far as to ruin careers). You are correct re poverty. But there are a few mitigating circumstances: for the indigents of New Guinea, no Taxman, no rent, no filling out hundreds of forms per annum, no messing around with insurance policies, attorneys, shrinks, etc. If you want us to look at all the angles, you ought to yourself—otherwise we can get the same story from Marxists as from you. Plus you miss the important things such as Jennifer Aniston bumping into her one-time rumored ex-beau: http://omg.yahoo.com/photos/2013-spike-guys-choice-awards-slideshow/. You need to prioritise.

How did you know how much I am devoted to following the details of Jennifer Aniston’s dates and heartbreaks? Thanks for the link.  😉

. . .  And I know you jest re. August 1945 too.
Deaths in Nagasaki pushed to maybe 50K over six months?
Sad to say, there actually were far worse daily results
of bombing raids during WW2.

. . .  I wish it never happened, but
not worthy of the milestone you want to claim for it.

Not only the death count is “small” comparatively, but
after the event, there was only one nuke left on the planet.

How many do we have now?
God only knows the correct answer to that question,
but it’s in the thousands.

And regarding our brothers & sisters in New Guinea,
you forgot to mention no running water,
no substantial shelter, no modern medical care (and I
mean the GOOD stuff like operations for cleft palates
setting broken bones, dentures, eye glasses, hearing aids,
etc.), no electricity, no A/C, no telephones, shorter
life expectancy, no sneakers, no electricity, no chance
to travel, no electricity, no realistic prospects for their
children to live with some of the good benefits
of technology, vaccinations(?), good antibiotics,
no light bulbs and flashlights, no electricity, etc.

Lastly, I’ll bet you never read Marx, or had his opinions
somewhat sympathetically explained to you.

Lastly, I’ll bet you never read Marx, or had his opinions
somewhat sympathetically explained to you
.

Marx wrote: “[progress occurs] when all other possibilities have been exhausted.”
I have read Marx since 1974, some of Marx’s theories are quite relevant—as far back as the 1840s—whereas some Marxist theories are foolish. The notion that workers will engineer successful revolutions with or without their representatives is foolish. Then too, there has been excessive stress laid on the role of workers, while the roles of technicians and peasants has been downplayed. Do not attempt to argue with me as you have nothing to back any conceivable argument up with. All the same, without a first class teacher re radical politics, it is only proper you might be a fool concerning such a point, as you would have to discover these matters via trial & error. Youth isn’t necessary wasted on the young; the young often have to learn things the hard way.

How many do we have now?
God only knows the correct answer to that question,
but it’s in the thousands
.

However in the sixty eight yrs. since 9 August 1945, not one of the thousands of nukes has been used, thus more optimistic individuals than you and I would be encouraged by such a fact. Today circa 40,000 nukes are est. to exist.

And regarding our brothers & sisters in New Guinea, you forgot to mention no running water,
no substantial shelter, no modern medical care (and I
mean the GOOD stuff like operations for cleft palates
setting broken bones, dentures, eye glasses, hearing aids,
etc.), no electricity, no A/C, no telephones, shorter
life expectancy, no sneakers, no electricity, no chance
to travel, no electricity, no realistic prospects for their
children to live with some of the good benefits
of technology, vaccinations(?), good antibiotics,
no light bulbs and flashlights, no electricity, etc
.

They are not our brothers and sisters because we don’t care about them- we only care about our own people: our kin, friends, etc. This relates to a primary flaw in both Communism and Marxism.

Re. Marx: You have read enough to have an informed opinion? I can accept I was wrong. But not understanding that engineers ARE workers, or that administrators (prefer to “representatives”) ARE workers, makes me still wonder a bit.

Also, Marx did not place a lot of faith in peasants and the uneducated. His ideas were that a nation like the UK, or the USA, were the likeliest locations for the type of economic revolution he had in mind. Backward Russia? VERY unlikely, he thought. And very ill-suited as well.


Re. nukes: Absolutely no cause for optimism with 40K on quick launch capabilities and all of the fast approaching sources of conflict only getting worse.


Re. no brothers & sisters in New Guinea: Speak for yourself. If you are such a “flawed” person, remember to have some courtesy and do not project your ethical foibles out upon the entire human race.

Thank you for your response.

Re. Marx: You have read enough to have an informed opinion? I can accept I was wrong. But not understanding that engineers ARE workers, or that administrators (prefer to “representatives”) ARE workers, makes me still wonder a bit.

I go by Sarkar, not Marx: engineers and ‘administrators’ (who do act as representatives) are IMO intellectuals—those who use their minds are intellectuals. Doctors, attorneys, are intellectuals.

Workers utilise brute force.

‘Acquisitors’ (as Sarkar termed them) are in business- they use money to get ahead.

The last category is warriors: police, military, firemen, etc.. whose salient trait is bravery.

Sarkarism is merely a construct such as Marxism; however IMO an improved 20th century version of 19th century Marxism. Now we have to get to the 21st century. How? You tell us—you’re the Ambassador from Zot.

Also, Marx did not place a lot of faith in peasants and the uneducated. His ideas were that a nation like the UK, or the USA, were the likeliest locations for the type of economic revolution he had in mind. Backward Russia? VERY unlikely, he thought. And very ill-suited as well.

Everyone in academia knows what you write above, it is old news.

Nukes: Absolutely no cause for optimism with 40K on quick launch capabilities and all of the fast approaching sources of conflict only getting worse.

Is the situation worsening*?: matter of opinion. BTW, not all nukes are on quick launch capability.

Re. no brothers & sisters in New Guinea: Speak for yourself. If you are such a “flawed” person, remember to have some courtesy and do not project your ethical foibles out upon the entire human race.

You do not, deep-down, care for people faraway whom you do not know: if you say you do then you are not only a hypocrite but a liar as well. Glance back, as if you would want to, at the Aniston story and the other celebrity tattletales. People only really care about their positions, their families, friends; their power, wealth, influence—celebrity culture is an advertisement of that fact.
—————

*I sense the world is running in place; people are tired of the dislocation of the last decade, as they were when the ‘80s ended. So they cling to the status quo. From what regular contributors write at IEET, it does appear the future will be better than grouchy dogmatists think it will be; but we don’t know much beyond that. What will we be doing a century from now? we haven’t the faintest idea, nor do we have an idea of what we will be or where we will be. Attempt to glimpse 50 yrs. into the future, to 2063: where will you be and what will you be doing? You cannot have a clue. Nor can any of us.

My, my.

Re. Marx: We were talking about Marx. You made the first reference to him. According to Marx, and to most people, engineers are workers, as are administrators, as are cops, as are firemen, military grunts & generals, financial analysts, teachers, cooks, accountants, factory managers, loan officers, some priests, some poets, some singers, whores, farmers, NSA spies, etc..

Re. Sarkar: Never heard of him/her. Your reference to this other person is irrelevant, a red herring. I don’t care about his/her obscure, idiosyncratic definitions about “workers”, etc..

If I were to cite Plato’s corresponding definitions, would that prove you are not very familiar with Marx? Or would it be just another diversion?

(The correct answer is . . . “diversion”)

You wrote: “Then too, there has been excessive stress laid on the role of workers, while the roles of technicians and peasants has been downplayed.”

Was that YOUR opinion of Marx, or were you attempting to channel Marx? Either way, the sentence illustrated the confusion you had (have?) about how Marx viewed the likely contributions of higher educated citizens (technicians) versus the less fortunate and poorly educated (peasants). Maybe you are not in Academia, because it sure appeared that YOU did not know that, so I offered the facts.


Re me: I am “Ambassador Zot”. It is my favorite alias. Zot is not a location.


Re. nukes: Pardon me if I insist that a world with only one nuke, as was the case in August 1945, is a FAR more desirable situation than one with 40K on short launch capability, the majority of which make the Nagasaki bomb look like a hand grenade. 

I take this opportunity to define “short launch” as being able to be detonated any time between five seconds, and two hundred & five minutes after deciding to do so. If you don’t like that definition, make up your own.

Re. brothers & sisters: Speak for yourself. You do not know me, and we will keep it that way. The more you claim to know about my ethics, the more you sound like a braying donkey.

Because of your ignorant insults, at this moment, the only things we can say for certain is that I am more intelligent than you, and therefore more compassionate. You also appear to be a megalomaniac who is presuming to speak for the entire human race on such a matter!?! We must assume that you would project your illness on everyone, and not just upon me. Right?

You have PLENTY of company in the way you feel. Too true. But everyone is not as emotionally constricted as U. Have you really never met a compassionate person w/o projecting your bile upon them and concluding that they are lying? What fucking, ignorant gall.

Can’t really thank you for your reply this time. You are too careless, and I mean that in many ways.

 

Re. nukes: Pardon me if I insist that a world with only one nuke, as was the case in August 1945, is a FAR more desirable situation than one with 40K on short launch capability, the majority of which make the Nagasaki bomb look like a hand grenade.

The article by David opens with mention of the Postwar recovery. In reflecting on the Postwar era, not only did economic recovery take place after the apocalypse, one might write although nukes could possibly be used in the future, to an optimistic person it may appear as an ecouraging sign that in the sixty eight yrs. since 1945 nukes have not been used once. Has David Brin, I or anyone else, predicted nukes will not be used in the future? No. The author stated right off he is no pollyanna. No one at IEET (so far as is known) is a pollyanna/Pangloss. Dick Pelletier writes quite optimistic articles- however he limits himself to science, does not venture into the dicey, unpleasant yet crucial, topics of nukes, social progress, and so forth. Am not even sure social progress exists: since 9-11- ‘01 it has appeared what we call social progress is in reality damage control. Don’t know. IMO we shall find out by mid-century if social progress does exist.

The only things we can say for certain is that I am more intelligent than you…

You are. However whether you are wiser, only time will tell. For a random example, Dr. Josef Goebbels was a genius albeit looking back at his entire life, he lacked wisdom. Being that he had his six children poisoned, one is given to wonder if he thoroughly lacked ethics and wisdom.
Will stick to this judgment call, Ambassador: it is extremely unlikely you care about people faraway whom you have never met.. you might like them yet such does not mean you care about them.

 

I evaluate compassion as one of the highest human character traits. As I am more compassionate than you, that is the only criteria I care to base my claim of being a little smarter than you upon, as it’s the only one I can be certain of at this moment.

As a survival strategy for the species, it is required, IMHO. As a survival tactic, it may sometimes appear to be a hindrance for the individual, but I take a much broader view than that.

I’m not willing to concede that Goebbels was a genius.

Good that you have climbed down a few steps from the absolutist position you were hitting me from. You can’t possibly deny that there are people who do not share some of your views about fundamental philosophical questions.

The creators and enforcers of the current system claim to revel in its chaotic conditions, which I evaluate as madness. In order to make progress, I believe in the concepts of “having a clue” and “following a plan”.

As a species, absent some intelligent coordination, Homo sap will not attain a level of development worthy of being called “civilized”. We live in a social system, a cultural level, that I call “techno-barbarism”.

I object, on both ethical and cold, pragmatic grounds.

Thank you for your reply.

 

 

The creators and enforcers of the current system claim to revel in its chaotic conditions, which I evaluate as madness


There’s a method to the madness: playing the percentages. A guy works at McDonalds, puts himself through college, obtains his MBA—finally works in a financial position at the Pentagon for 20 yrs. Afterwards he is semi-retired, managing a number of McDonalds franchises.
It is madness, however he can put his children through the best universities, they can inherit the McDonalds franchises when he dies, and advise their deceased father’s connections at the Pentagon how to kill insurgents who want to prevent McDonalds from spreading into every nation in the world. Then when the children die, the grandchilden inherit everything.
Plus, the children and grandkids can hire employees to work at McDonalds, the employees can eventually obtain MBAs, and work at the Pentagon or purchase their own McDonalds franchises.

Entertaining flame war, guys.

@Zot:  You may prefer that, ceteris paribus, little children halfway across the world don’t starve or get nuked (what non-psychopath wouldn’t?), but such abstracted propositions don’t amount to genuine compassionate concern. Unless you are hoarding some secret neuroprostheses, your claim to having such concern for every person on Earth is demonstrably false. The limit of ~150 people (Dunbar’s number, the monkeysphere, whatever you want to call it) constrains your headmeat, despite your messianic fantasies.

Right. It is easy to confuse liking with caring: for instance, Starkist likes tunas not because of their good taste- but because they taste good!
Now, if we were to travel to New Guinea we could soon develop a fondness, a caring, for people there; however thousands of miles away safe in our familiar surroundings, we do not care much, if at all.
At any rate, I wont listen anymore to those who say residents of third world nations have to live in poverty forever. Perhaps they will live in poverty forever, maybe not. Why should one listen to a ‘realist’s saying only the nation exists, all others are our enemy/frenemy? A well-known Rightist on the radio said exactly that when I called his talk show:

There is no ‘us’ in the world, only us versus them.
Conservatives are
nationalists. This distinguishes us from liberals.”

Not patriots: nationalists. He meant it. He’d been in the Army and had developed a disregard for life common to soldiers:

“Radio host Mike Rosen was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 5, 1944…  A veteran of the U.S. Army, Rosen served as Special Assistant for Financial Management to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at The Pentagon…”

His outlook in brief:

“Liberals hope for world government.
Conservatives believe in peace through strength.
We protect the right of pacifists and other anti-war militants to assemble and advance their cause. But I don’t respect such people and I don’t shrink from exposing their ideas as destructive and suicidal. Pacifists are my enemy because wittingly or not, they serve the purposes of my enemy and jeopardize my freedom.
Conservatives believe in individual freedom and responsibility. Liberals believe in sacrificing individual freedom for socially desirable outcomes. Liberals believe that one of government’s primary roles is social engineering.
Conservatives believe in limited government. Liberals believe in intrusive government when required to achieve societal needs. (Exception: social-issues conservatives advocate government intrusion on matters of abortion, drugs and pornography.)
Conservatives believe in free markets. Liberals believe in government controls and central planning.
Conservatives believe that some problems have no solution, that they can only be mitigated at best. Liberals believe that most every problem has a government solution.
Conservatives are concerned about the production of wealth. Liberals are concerned about the redistribution of it.
Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity. Liberals believe in equality of outcome.
Conservatives believe that human nature is what makes us imperfectible. Liberals believe that human nature can be changed and perfected.
Don’t tell me you are a moderate. Moderate is an adjective. It is a qualifier. You may be a moderate conservative, a moderate democrat, or a moderate drinker but it doesn’t tell me what you believe in. It’s not a philosophy. Unless all you believe in is moderation for the sake of moderation. Grow up! You can’t be a good egg all of your life. Someday you have to either hatch or rot.”

————————————-
Nostalgia is a part of it: sentimentality for the old days in the Services, for when times where simpler; when there were less shades of grey- more black & white. This often leads to a distrust of the foreign—which is seen as a threat to established ideals.

@ Shagggz: If flames are kept under a certain temperature, I agree they can be useful & fun.

As for your “Dunbar number”, I’ll reduce it down to ONE abstract but ponderable unit; humanity, with me included in that gang.

For me, this is a matter of evolution, not only ethics. Beginning as the consciousness of a single cell, it is obvious that the flow of progress is toward more complex and multiple levels of identity.

A bare protoplasm devoid of internal individual structural entities, the Prokaryote yield the advancing field to the eukaryotes who exist as an intimate team of bounded organelles.
Single cell eukaryotes become multi-celled; each individual cell a separate member, but subsumed into the larger whole.

This process, essentially symbiosis, is repeated at every level of evolution; biological, social, technological, etc.

This is ongoing, and the future steps have been outlined in some detail. Whether Homo sap manages to keep its evolutionary destiny depends on whether my style of philosophy triumphs, or the field is eventually cleared for a different animal to begin their ascent from the jungle floor as far as their capabilities allow.

To access the only blueprint of the successful evolutionary path that has been decoded into English, disguised as a science fiction novel, however openly declared as an autobiography in its Preface:
Star Maker by William Olaf Stapledon:  http://tiny.cc/occ3rw


@ Intomorrow: Mmaaaaadnneesssss has no method.

Obviously, a certain percentage of people can still find a comfortable niche within the deteriorating social and economic infrastructures. The planet is bountiful and technology multiplies our capabilities. I see that akin to living full bore until the spreading bacterial mass first hits the closest wall of the petri dish.

Therein lies the initial madness, which this system insists on describing as “business as usual”.

Absent an influx of sanity, when the wall is hit, the screaming will begin in earnest.

I don’t buy the “singularity” nonsense of a coming, undefined technological miracle. Nor do I trust in the return of Jeebus.

As for Mike Rosen, and those like him, his analysis is his projection; I see delusions, lies, and flawed analysis. This forum, actually anything short of the speed of a telepathic discussion, is just too difficult to attempt to engage in debate of such monumental bullshit.

The following is Rosen’s key clause:

Pacifists are my enemy because wittingly or not, they serve the purposes of my enemy and jeopardize my freedom.

It sums up the entire delusion—that his freedom to lord it over others is paramount; supersedes all else in the cosmos. It derives from people such as Rosen who are used to having their way most of the time and cannot imagine life could be any other way. This in turn flows from the notion self-appointed guardians of hierarchy (e.g., Rosen) are justified in their actions.

@Zot: Not sure what the point of that ramble was. Are you suggesting you can obviate the monkeysphere by reducing it from 150 monkeys to 1 “humanity”? So I guess I can perform the same sort of trick with “universe” or even “existence”? Methinks such verbal sleight of hand has less impact on brute neurological reality than you might hope, at least given current technological reality.

Yes; and what of recalcitrants? Outlaws—whether dictators or mobsters/gangsters—are the last people who would ever agree to enhancement.

Nevertheless, the answer to,

is the world improving… despite our grouchy dogmas?

is yes: despite our grouchy comments, the world (IMO it goes without saying) has indeed improved since the morning of 9 August, 1945. That is my judgment call and will stick to it.

I think things have improved since the fall of the Roman empire.. or was it the Mongolian empire… the British empire?.. ho hum empires!

Things went downhill when the Buddha took a long vacation?
When Yeshua said, “I’ve had enough dad! I wanna come home!”

Still don’t buy into Pinker’s statistical tableau of a better, less violent world.. people must be blind to all of the atrocities, murders, killings and rape of children even.. appalling.. no disgusting.. revolting.. worthy of revolt.. more violence..

Economics reform would solve ALL, (well most), of the problems associated with the Human condition.

Increase in Global violence, tension, racism and unrest is directly correlated with austerity, imposed hardship and perpetual poverty?

 

@Cygnus: What part of Pinker’s statistical analysis do you find unconvincing? The continued existence of “atrocities, murders, killings and rape of children” does not disprove his fundamental, well-demonstrated assertion that these things still happen, just less so. The civilizing effect of increased prosperity and communications technology in recent decades has made the declining instances of these atrocities all the more outrageous.

@ SHaGGGz..

Just less so.. is relative..? could well turn out more so.. soon enough?

Unless there is drastic changes applied to failing 19th Century economics models, and together with the abandonment of Global debt burden on nations, and even upon individuals respectively, then austerity will lead to even greater violence than we are seeing on streets today, and that includes “domestic” violence, (your average murder for cash/revenge for debts, sexual violence against women and children, against pets and other innocents etc)?

Do western governments really care, about people? NO, they care more about surveillance and #PRISM through fear of political reform and reprisal not in their making, or within their control?

Humanity is going through a bottleneck.. is this bottleneck to the advantage of the few? Is it even Orchestrated by the few?

Bankruptcy of the welfare state is also a key power play to increase suffering, at times when Humanity should be looking to expand the welfare state, which in turn also helps/aids free market ideology?

For those Humans that reflect upon history and the past, some may think that Global war was an effective way to downsize Humanity, to rebuild, (Keynesian), to start afresh.. Some of these may also feel confident that they can localize war zones to effect the same?

Conspiracy theory? Maybe?

When Humans are free(d) from economic poverty and suffering, abandonment, uncertainty, confusion, fear, anxiety and stress, (dukkha) - then Humans are at peace and for the most part are contented, even without the riches of kings. In these times violence can be statistically evaluated as falling from that of yesterday?

@Cygnus: “Less so” is indeed relative, and yes, there is no principled reason that it couldn’t become “more so,” though the sheer amount of increased violence that would require would probably get us into the territory of “societal collapse,” a contingency beyond the scope of Pinker’s argument that has no bearing on its validity.

While I don’t consider it the likeliest scenario, it’s not inconceivable that the rising plutocrats continue to culturally and materially decouple from us plebes to such an extent that, coupled with the rise of killing machines of increasing efficacy, they can wipe us all out and enjoy their robot butlers, us having outlived our usefulness.

though the sheer amount of increased violence that would require would probably get us into the territory of ‘societal collapse

Or perhaps Peak Violence -> afterwards, violence would (in such a scenario) dramatically drop.
Have come to perceive ‘the world’ as an abstraction: however one can fight against oligarchs with some degree of success. For instance it was possible, after a year or two, to topple Agnew and Nixon.

I think things have improved since the fall of the Roman empire.. or was it the Mongolian empire… the British empire?.. ho hum empires!Things went downhill when the Buddha took a long vacation? When Yeshua said, “I’ve had enough dad! I wanna come home!”

Fact that nukes have not been used since the Nagasaki bomb signifies IMO 8/9/‘45 is the proximate time violence began to recede. We don’t have to do a survey of all history since 3,000 BCE; one can invoke—if one wants to—Occam’s Razor in writing the simplest explanation is violence has diminished since ‘45.

a contingency beyond the scope of Pinker’s argument that has no bearing on its validity.

The above is the capper, SHaGGGz, we go by what has happened so far. One can be concerned/worried yet ought to avoid agonising about the future, don’t screech in a Chicken Little http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhEQ1E8XPp4 voice:
“violence! murder! war! torture! sadism!...”

 

@Shaggz: 1) My point is that I believe my philosophy to demonstrably be the one most in parallel with our pragmatic past, and therefore most likely to provide a successful evolutionary future for our species, in addition to being ethically superior.

2) As I have come to understand it now, I also do not believe a “Dunbar number” applies to humans at all. It purports to set the upward limit upon the primate group that can demonstrate “tribal loyalty”, given brain size.

FYI, we are a “special case” in the evolutionary spectrum of primates, apes, chimps, etc.. Yes?

Homo sap breaks SO MANY of the rules that “natural” primates & apes are still working under. I do not concede that there is anything like a direct correspondence between chimp society in Ivory Coast and the culture of the USA. Do you? Come on. We live in different universes. I think the analogy is wildly inappropriate.

The fact that some person who received a degree in neuro-biology(?) proposed it, does not establish it as a law of nature, or protect it from my taunt that it is ridiculous.

@Intomorrow: As for that portion of the population who have the mental instincts of crocodiles, (serial killers, war criminals, international-scale robbers, etc.) I have no hesitation to giving the gene pool a precision shot of chlorine in response.

As for “recalcitrants”, I’m one of them, and I believe we need many more who would resist for the reasons I endorse.

As for “recalcitrants”, I’m one of them, and I believe we need many more who would resist for the reasons I endorse.

Not that sort of recalcitrants; I mean serial killers, war criminals, international-scale robbers, and other violent recalcitrants, who are reluctant to give up the crocodile way of life. In Mexico the recalcitrant is for instance a drug lord who wishes to retain the time honored tradition of chopping someone’s head off as a warning: such persons are not interested in enhancement.
IMO you are a contrarian, not a reclacitrant—so will tell you over n’ over, if necessary, it does appear the world has become less violent. Today nations do not invade other nations as much as they did in the past. Today for instance, Russians are more satisfied with brutalising their own people and not as motivated to invade Afghanistan to rape and kill Afghans.
Afghans can do so to each other, they don’t need Russians to rape and kill them. Someday China might be persuaded to pull its troops out of Tibet so it can use those troops to brutalise Chinese rather than Tibetans.

 

Seems Paul Krugman would be a good “Fellow” to have on board here at IEET?

Sympathy for the Luddites

nytimes.com/2013/06/14/opinion/krugman-sympathy-for-the-luddites.html

@Intomorrow: I knew that you had initially overloaded the word “recalcitrants”, and you still do. The word is not as dastardly as you would have.

Especially, the common usage is much less violent. Look it up.

From one source I found: ” . . . having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline . . . “

That’s why I substituted “crocodiles” in its place, and then proposed my kindly redefinition of recalcitrants.

@your examples of violent nations: Are you old enough to remember the various propaganda we heard about how those terrible, godless Russians spied on their people; having designated snoopers in every neighborhood who would inform on neighbors who spoke unkindly of the leaders? We were taught that intolerable type of intrusion was absolutely barbaric and despotic.

HA! At the worst, were they accused of doing anything close to what our NSA is doing to us now? Once again, I’ll bet you really know nothing about Russia first hand.

You know how many children live in poverty, and experience hunger regularly here in the USA? And it’s getting worse. Is this brutality?

Do you know how many young men, especially those of dark skin, are jailed for non-violent “crimes” in the USA? The largest fraction of the population of any nation in the world. Is this brutality?

Let’s stop repeating the propaganda.
I’ve learned to withhold judgement re. the truth of most of what I am told about the enemies of our “leaders”.
Too often, what passes for “information” is skewed and incomplete; propaganda.
Let’s stop repeating the propaganda.

Re. violence: I remember there used to be short lulls between our wars. Between WW1 and WW2. After WW2, it took a while before the Korean War was started. After that, there were a number of years w/o heavy conflict until we stepped into Vietnam. After that, it wasn’t until Reagan that the “wars” because continuous. The Contras kicked off our perpetual state of conflict, going strong until today. 9/11 sealed the deal.

This is too far afield. I’ve had my say. Adios.

Write ‘recalcitrants’ rather than ‘crocodiles’ due to political correctness. Take drug bandits in Mexico: call them recalcitrants as I reckon with the fact the Mexican government is no better than the crooks in Mexico. Merely another judgment call.

@your examples of violent nations: Are you old enough to remember the various propaganda we heard about how those terrible, godless Russians spied on their people

Yes, do indeed remember the propaganda. America is a bad country- but better than many nations. Other than N. Europe, there isn’t much to choose from. To go further afield, as you correctly term it; the following is from American Spectator, a comment displaying the flaw in American thinking. It is the majority view vis Iran:

Occam’s Tool| 6.15.13 @ 8:28PM
Myself, I think that our foreign policy needs to resemble the Marciano approach: Take the hits, persevere, never lose in the end, and knock out the opponent. “Teheran must be destroyed.”

Even allowing for empty jingoist bluster, such sentiments entirely ignore what America did to Iran in the days of Shah Reza Pahlavi, etc.

At any rate it appears any real technoprogressive would think since nukes were not used after August 1945, optimism is called for. Then, too, by cosmic time things have improved quickly, whereas by our human 78 year avg. lifespan, progress is maddeningly slow; we are not Spocks, Datas, or other ubermensch; we are impatient. The half-life of 78 is 39, and if you think back on the 39 yrs. between 1974 and 2013, it does seem a long period of time—yet by cosmic time 39 years is nothing. Besides, why would I want to visit a technoprogressive site dealing with ethics if I shared your pessimism re violence? You write “adios” because you are running out of things to write on this subject, you might not even reply to this comment.  What I am pessimistic on is how men crave power. Some women and children want power, however they may just be reacting to/aping men. No end in sight for control freaks. So if you think I am overly-optimistic, such is a new twist. Adios.

U wrote: ” . . . we are not Spocks, Datas, or other ubermensch . . .”

Speak for URself.

I have many quaint beliefs. I am not a religious person, but I KNOW that there exists a Phenomenon worthy of the honorific of “God”, and because of how I came to possess that knowledge, I am in a superior position to evaluate humanity and the human condition.

(If this wasn’t true, I would also be forced to confess to being a megalomaniac.)

If a person does not live on Earth as he/she intends to participate in the Communities of the Higher Dimensions (“Heaven”) then they have wasted their life, no matter what they may have accomplished otherwise. Whoever is not a Utopian, is either a defeated, wasted human, or an active poison within humanity.

I see confused people floundering in a sea of poison when I look at the world.

I think/believe that on matters that I have a necessary and sufficient amount of information about, my opinions point to the best paths the species could possibly discover. So, don’t try to tell me I’m not a “superman”.  😉

. . . on that topic . . .  Did U see the new Superman movie? It is the best Superman movie, by far. Not a classic, not even great, but Krypton is very well introduced, and it has good insight into the wary attitude that such an alien as Superman might hold in relation to Earth’s dominant home town species.

. . . and General Zod embodies a real ethical dilemma. I find him to be an initially heroic & sympathetic character who cannot escape his genetic imperative, which dilutes whatever condemnation his zealotry might eventually evoke.

Cutting out half of the duration of the Earth fight scenes would improve the movie by maybe 25%.

Now I’m really far afield. Adios. (which translates as something like; “on toward God” in Spanish)

Oh, heck, I should just come out and admit that too;
I am a megalomaniac.

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