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Comment: Re:Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 1) 100

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) 100

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:Car Dealers should ask why they're being bypass (Score 1) 90

by drinkypoo (#47914665) Attached to: Court: Car Dealers Can't Stop Tesla From Selling In Massachusetts

I believe the primary reasons are more likely to do with distance and communication.

But there's no reason to believe that.

The idea of trying to manage a network of stores across the country when communication was by post or expensive phone calls just simply didn't make sense.

What? Why not? Cars are expensive items, phone calls are minimal by comparison. If you have an order for a car, you drop the form in the post. At least, they did back then.

In fact, the reasons are as stated. The manufacturers want to make cars at X dollars, which requires building Y cars. Right now there are cars which can't be sold piled up all over the world, for reasons like these and others (e.g. "the economy, stupid")

Comment: Not familiar with NIH funding, then? (Score 2) 100

by damn_registrars (#47914651) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future
The National Institutes of Health are one of (or perhaps the, depending on whom you ask) largest funding sources for research from the federal government. I know many people who have reviewed grant applications there, and they would be rather astonished to see

Roboticist Srikanth Saripalli makes this interesting point: "If the government has to decide what to fund and what not to fund, they are going to get their ideas and decisions mostly from science fiction rather than what's being published in technical papers."

Because at NIH indeed you are placed on a grant review board because of your techical knowledge of the matter. On top of that, the applications are all supported by citations in technical (and peer-reviewed) papers.

As best I understand funding at DOE and NSF works much the same way; your odds of getting funded are astronomically better if you have good primary literature to support the experiment you propose. Now, if your funding plans revolve around convincing your favorite congress-critter to write in a line (or a full bill) to get you some money, that might work too but it generally isn't the most reliable way to establish a career path.

Comment: Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (Score 1) 854

by damn_registrars (#47914619) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

The bigger failure, from my vantage point, is that people who call themselves "atheists" today often have faith in there not being a god.

A circular argument.

No, for the argument that I presented later in the same post. The problem I have is the modern hijacking of the term atheist.

All the word smitihng doesn't convince me that there can be faith in "nothing" if a person is inclined to be an atheist.

If one declares there to be no god, they are making a statement of faith. It is of the same magnitude - though opposite orientation - as one made by someone declaring there to be a god.

Similarly, the classic definition of agnostic was a "doubter", one who questioned the existence of a deity. Then some of the "atheists" took on a faith of their own and pushed the classical atheists out in search of a new term to describe their standing.

Having faith that things I've never heard of that don't exist just seems like dividing by zero.

Perhaps I wasn't clear on this matter. My point is that people who specifically state a belief in there not being a particular (generally Abrahamic) god are calling themselves atheists when they are showing faith in that very statement. Similarly by the way that the terms "atheist" and "agnostic" have been redefined in modern times, one could reasonably describe any random person to likely be agnostic towards a deity that they have never heard of (unless they specifically subscribe to the existence of a different one in a way that prevents them from accepting any other).

Comment: Re:Not comparable (Score 1) 561

by PopeRatzo (#47914287) Attached to: High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

Ask the Europeans that constantly tell us Americans we are too enslaved to the notion that we all need our own car.

You just made that up. I don't know if you've ever driven around a European city, but car ownership is pretty widespread, at least judging by driving through Rome/London/Paris/etc.

It's funny what some Americans think about Europe. They've got this AM talk radio version of Europe knocking around in their heads. "Yeah, they're all dying in the streets because of socialized medicine and everybody's gay and you can't get a decent hamburger anywhere. And they're a bunch of carpoolers who don't realize that we fought and died so that people could drive their own 4500lb vehicle like God intended." "You betcha, Mack. Next up is Fred from Midland. So, what grinds your gears about Europeans, Fred?"

Comment: Re:Great one more fail (Score 1) 561

by PopeRatzo (#47914249) Attached to: High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

A far cry from "proven to make up data and conceals data that doesn't fit his ideology".

No. Not being able to produce the data that your most important work is based on is not a far cry from making up data and concealing data that doesn't fit his ideology.

If a researcher can't produce his data, his work is not taken seriously. The scientific method includes making your data available so other people can review your work.

Comment: Re:The fancy ones are expensive.. (Score 1) 52

by kesuki (#47914093) Attached to: A 16-Year-Old Builds a Device To Convert Breath Into Speech

the fancy ones are $8,000 instead of $80 is because IP laws protect monopolies. in an open ecosystem where everything is free as in libre, any person designing medical devices could interoperate with everyone else designing medical devices. ever call to every piece of hardware would be workable by anyone who wanted to. every program even one privately funded, would then be opened to the community so their competitors could learn what you did and how and be able to build on what you did.

and if that smells like lost profit to you, maybe it is, but it's better for everyone. there is no vendor lock in forcing you to use inferior or vulnerable platforms. there is no 'upgrade cycle' that hardware vendors crave, the free market is always releasing inferior hardware to generate new upgrade cycles.

the government is supposed to be fixing things which corporations do wrong and they just don't care it seems. planned obsolescence.... do i need to rant more here?

if you think of sick people only in dollars and cents then you are in need of some morality. if you think we need to reinvent every medical tool every 20-30 years to 'fund' the proprietary developers of hardware and software then think of all the things that could have been done with those people not doing BS work, in a civilization where people are more than the dollars they have in their wallets.

Comment: Re:Car Dealers should ask why they're being bypass (Score 1) 90

by PopeRatzo (#47913975) Attached to: Court: Car Dealers Can't Stop Tesla From Selling In Massachusetts

They sort of look and feel like apple stores.

I do not want to buy my expensive Tesla from a smelly "genius" walking around with a corporate-logo polo shirt snug around the belly that hangs over his belt, which sports an iPhone holster. I'd rather just order the damn thing on-line and have USPS deliver it to my front door.

Comment: Re:" Foley's killers may have thought of him as le (Score 1) 2

by Jeremiah Cornelius (#47913675) Attached to: James Foley Is Not a War Ad

'Zactly. PNAC/Likud false-flag plan to shatter the political status quo of the region. Exacerbate identity-based politics (Zionist "tell") and derive opportunity out of ensured resulting chaos.

Iraq and Syria were the two LEADING states that - for varying reasons - minimized ethnic/identity basis for state integrity, opportunity and use of power. One is shattered using ethnic "Balkanization", and another on the verge. Lebanon became valid and healthy only after settling these internal divisions in a loose compromise. The fingerprint of Shin Bet and Mossad in re-opening these conflicts (with Rafic Hariri assassination, etc.) is evident to anyone who evaluates the evidence without starting from a conclusion.

Don't you see? You play into this hand of manipulation yourself, when you drive postings that pose theological difference and superiority.

Comment: some kind of EULA situation (Score 1) 299

by drinkypoo (#47913543) Attached to: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Maker Mojang For $2.5 Billion

I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with.

Yeah, some kind of EULA situation, like basically outlawing for-pay Minecraft services including hosting, selling packages of items, etc. In short, making most of the best MC servers illegal. The fact that he has nothing to do with it any more suggests that he should indeed uninvolve himself.

Itâ(TM)s not about the money. Itâ(TM)s about my sanity.

He's still a hypocrite given his explosion of hate over Oculus Rift, especially after this statement. He deserves our derision, and he's getting it.

There can be no twisted thought without a twisted molecule. -- R. W. Gerard