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Comment: Re:Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 2) 118

by hey! (#47915329) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

I'd argue that we do try to write about the future, but the thing is: it's pretty damn hard to predict the future. ...
The problem is that if we look at history, we see it littered with disruptive technologies and events which veered us way off course from that mere extrapolation into something new.

I think you are entirely correct about the difficulty in predicting disruptive technologies. But there's an angle here I think you may not have considered: the possibility that just the cultural values and norms of the distant future might be so alien to us that readers wouldn't identify with future people or want to read about them and their problems.

Imagine a reader in 1940 reading a science fiction story which accurately predicted 2014. The idea that there would be women working who aren't just trolling for husbands would strike him as bizarre and not very credible. An openly transgendered character who wasn't immediately arrested or put into a mental hospital would be beyond belief.

Now send that story back another 100 years, to 1840. The idea that blacks should be treated equally and even supervise whites would be shocking. Go back to 1740. The irrelevance of the hereditary aristocracy would be difficult to accept. In 1640, the secularism of 2014 society and would be distasteful, and the relative lack of censorship would be seen as radical (Milton wouldn't publish his landmark essay Aereopagitica for another four years). Hop back to 1340. A society in which the majority of the population is not tied to the land would be viewed as chaos, positively diseased. But in seven years the BLack Death will arrive in Western Europe. Displaced serfs will wander the land, taking wage work for the first time in places where the find labor shortages. This is a shocking change that will resist all attempts at reversal.

This is all quite apart from the changes in values that have been forced upon us by scientific and technological advancement. The ethical issues discussed in a modern text on medical ethics would probably have frozen Edgar Allen Poe's blood.

I think it's just as hard to predict how the values and norms of society will change in five hundred years as it is to accurately predict future technology. My guess is that while we'd find things to admire in that future society, overall we would find it disturbing, possibly even evil according to our values. I say this not out of pessimism, but out my observation that we're historically parochial. We think implicitly like Karl Marx -- that there's a point where history comes to an end. Only we happen to think that point is *now*. Yes, we understand that our technology will change radically, but we assume our culture will not.

Comment: Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 4, Insightful) 118

by hey! (#47914675) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

The pessimism and dystopia in sci-fi doesn't come from a lack of research resources on engineering and science. It mainly comes from literary fashion.

If the fashion with editors is bleak, pessimistic, dystopian stories, then that's what readers will see on the bookshelves and in the magazines, and authors who want to see their work in print will color their stories accordingly. If you want to see more stories with a can-do, optimistic spirit, then you need to start a magazine or publisher with a policy of favoring such manuscripts. If there's an audience for such stories it's bound to be feasible. There a thousand serious sci-fi writers for every published one; most of them dreadful it is true, but there are sure to be a handful who write the good old stuff, and write it reasonably well.

A secondary problem is that misery provides many things that a writer needs in a story. Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I actually Tolstoy had it backwards; there are many kinds of happy families. Dysfunctions on the other hand tends to fall into a small number of depressingly recognizable patterns. The problem with functional families from an author's standpoint is that they don't automatically provide something that he needs for his stories: conflict. Similarly a dystopian society is a rich source of conflicts, obstacles and color, as the author of Snow Crash must surely realize. Miserable people in a miserable setting are simply easier to write about.

I recently went on a reading jag of sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and when I happened to watch a screwball comedy movie ("His Girl Friday") from the same era, I had an epiphany: the worlds of the sci-fi story and the 1940s comedy were more like each other than they were like our present world. The role of women and men; the prevalence of religious belief, the kinds of jobs people did, what they did in their spare time, the future of 1940 looked an awful lot like 1940.

When we write about the future, we don't write about a *plausible* future. We write about a future world which is like the present or some familiar historical epoch (e.g. Roman Empire), with conscious additions and deletions. I think a third reason may be our pessimism about our present and cynicism about the past. Which brings us right back to literary fashion.

Comment: Re:One of those strange rules of war. (Score 1) 153

by LWATCDR (#47911829) Attached to: How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

"We might stop worshiping veterans and start questioning if all the wars we're in are necessary "
1. It is respecting veterans. They do not decide which wars are just and which are not the voters and elected officials do.

Maybe but isn't a great thing that we have a peace loving president in the Whitehouse.....

Comment: One of those strange rules of war. (Score 4, Interesting) 153

by LWATCDR (#47911645) Attached to: How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

I can shoot you in the head and kill you but I can not just intentionally blind you?

Actually it seems like a simple enough technical problem. When you go to fire the first burst is a range finder burst and then you set the power for the range. Of course this would all be done by the weapon and not the user.

Comment: Re:It's not your phone (Score 1) 560

"ad hominem" is not always a logical fallacy if the person expressing the opinion is some how has value added to because of position or expertise and is applicable when issues involving morality or ethics.
Musician that posts material that is offensive to a large segment of the population complains about the , tastefulness, morality and or ethics of getting a free album from popular band. That does seem to fit a valid use for an ad hominem based reply.

Comment: Re:Apple KNOWS what its users want (Score 1) 560

Maybe they are still hip and cool because.
1. They still have lots of fans.
2. They still get lots of airplay.
3. All the social causes that Bono and the other members of the band are involved in like Amnesty International.

Sure they are not cool and hip like Tyler The Creator with content and actions that push for social change like Homophobia and Violence towards women but they still have some fans.

Comment: Re:It's not your phone (Score 1) 560

Funny that Tyler The Creator is complaining about his free U2 album and calling it an STD.

From the Wikipedia.
"Tyler has been criticized for his use of homophobic slurs, in particular, his frequent use of the epithet faggot in his lyrics and on Twitter.[31][32] He has denied accusations of homophobia, stating, "I'm not homophobic. I just say faggot and use gay as an adjective to describe stupid shit,"[33][34] and, "I'm not homophobic. I just think faggot hits and hurts people.""
"Tyler has also been criticized for his graphic depictions of violence against women and his misogynistic lyrics.[39][40] Brent DiCrescenzo of Time Out Chicago writes that rape is a "predominant theme" of Goblin[41] and Hermione Hoby of The Guardian writes that Tyler's "rape and murder fantasies (are) graphic enough to send the vomit rising along with the bile."[42]"
It kind of goes on and on.
Frankly this guy hating on U2 is like having the Grand Dragon of the KKK saying that he hates you for your stand on race relations.

Comment: Re:So-to-speak legal (Score 5, Interesting) 379

by LWATCDR (#47907879) Attached to: Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

Because the ISPs already have used "Big-Government" to get paid for rolling out "broadband" service, preventing muni ISPs, and any number of other regulations that benefit them.

You worry about big government but we pretty much already have all the worst parts of government regulation with none of the benefits.

Comment: Re:When the cat's absent, the mice rejoice (Score 5, Insightful) 270

Well, I'd be with you if the government was poking around on the users' computers, but they weren't. The users were hosting the files on a public peer-to-peer network where you essentially advertise to the world you've downloaded the file and are making it available to the world. Since both those acts are illegal, you don't really have an expectation of privacy once you've told *everyone* you've done it. While the broadcasting of the file's availability doesn't prove you have criminal intent, it's certainly probable cause for further investigation.

These guys got off on a narrow technicality. Of course technicalities do matter; a government that isn't restrained by laws is inherently despotic. The agents simply misunderstood the law; they weren't violating anyone's privacy.

Comment: Re:Crude? (Score 2) 95

by hey! (#47904781) Attached to: Original 11' <em>Star Trek Enterprise</em> Model Being Restored Again

Compare that to some of the ST:TNG props that I've seen that look fine on screen, but when examined closely look like someone gave a 5-year old a couple of shots of vodka and turned them loose with a paintbrush.

There's a certain wonder to that too.

I had the same reaction when I saw the ST:TNG props in person. You wouldn't buy a toy that looked that cheesy. The wonder of it is that the prop makers knew this piece of crap would look great onscreen. That's professional skill at work. Amateurs lavish loving care on stuff and overbuild them. Pros make them good enough, and put the extra effort into stuff that matters more.

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