I have a pre-condition: if Lessig can swear that he's not going to hand this cash over to tea-party nutjobs just because they were willing to make noises (that week) about being in favor of "campaign finance reform", I might consider kicking-in.
I believe you're being unfair to our friend Lawrence Lessig.
I don't think he's anything like a "covert neo-con", I think he's a sincere idealist who veers all over the map and tends to piss off everyone eventually through his commitment to doing good in the world.
(By the way, nice handle.)
Last I looked, Lessig had gotten his "root strikers" off to a rocky-start by sucking-up to the Tea Party.
I liked his explanation that they aren't really racist because a poll showed they say they're not. (But you know, dude, they're birthers. Think about that for a second.)
The Lessig solution to me holding my nose and voting Democrat was that I was supposed to join-hands in coalition with the Tea Party.
And now, I guess the idea is that I'm supposed to kick in money for Lessig to influence five House races, but he won't say which ones: Lessig Starts a Super-Pac. Why would I trust his judgement, exactly?
Isn't it obvious that in the near-term, fracking wins?
Let us hope that the methane it leaks doesn't do more damage than the carbon emissions it saves.
Anyway, I just thought for two seconds about what I think people with humanities backgrounds have a better grounding in than techies, and my first thought was that they know a little more about how complicated it is, and have a better grasp on what doesn't quite work.
It's really easy for someone who hasn't thought it through to think that things are a lot simpler than they are... you know, kind of like Nate Silver figuring he can do arithmetic better than a Republican, and hence is probably just at good at climate science as a climate scientist.
Techies often seem to think they know all the answers ("Let the market decide!") when they're just barely getting started on the problems.
I think you're being kind of long-winded about it... The point would be that you can use evolutionary algorithms that get "smarter" without you understanding how they work. So the author's impression that we need to understand ourselves to surpass ourselves gets shot down.
I might just call these "microcosmic god" scenarios, myself-- this has the virtue of pissing off the author by referring to yet-another science fiction story.
As for this call to average the economic damage over industries, I think nuclear power is worth using, if the only alternative is coal.
Damn right. We get something like 20% of our power from nuclear and 40% from coal... wouldn't it be cool if we reversed those two numbers? It's weird that a notion like that is even controversial.
Nuclear is better than coal. But coal is not the only other option. That's another fallacious point I often see in favor of nuclear,
Nope, not a fallacious point: the idea that there's no need for nuclear because "renewables!" is what's completely fallacious. All accounts are the solar enthusiasts have reason to be encouraged, but they're a long way from even being able to do 10% of our power generation... and in the meantime, every time I say "nuclear" and you say "solar", those coal plants keep pumping it out. I've literally watched this paralysis go on for decades. By any reasonable measure, coal should be public enemy number one, and nuclear should be a well-regarded substitute, but instead it keeps dragging on.
There's supposed to be a climate crisis staring us in the face, there are some stunningly obvious things we should be doing in response-- the people who like to think they're the "reality based community" really should try facing reality.
Using number of deaths as a measure of danger is misleading.
Ha, ha, you caught me. We pro-nuclear people are always making up silly principles like a concern for human life.
By a measure like that, Hurricane Andrew was a lesser disaster than some bus crashes. Hydroelectric power could be considered extremely dangerous, thanks to the Banqiao Dam.
Right, and a conclusion like that would violate the prime directive, "nuclear power is always wrong".
A better measure could be the economic damage
Okay, now lets average it over the entire industry: nuclear incidents are dramatic, but infrequent. And don't forget to include estimates for climate change damage when you're comparing power sources (I love the "nuclear is too expensive" argument, made by people who also believe carbon emissions should be taxed heavily...).
When a plane crashes, we all just think about finding out how it happened, and what we can do to prevent it... you never hear "you see we have to ban planes".
All in all, I actually expect better from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Really? Why? They are an anti-nuclear, anti-science political lobby organization, and always have been.
Yeah, those former Manhattan Project scientists and engineers sure hated science.
Yeah, and check out the caliber of their Science and Security Board. They've got the author of "The Physics of Star Trek"!
Seriously, James Hansen is on their board also, which is a bit of a surprise. He's staunchly pro-nuclear power.
The problem is, as I keep saying, the human factor. Mistakes have horrible consequences because we can't easily clean up the mess from an accident. If we didn't have to wait centuries before contaminated land was again safe to inhabit because we could clean up after a disaster, it would be different. How long will it take for the Gulf of Mexico to fully recover from the BP oil spill? Decades, it seems. But that's better than the prospects of recovery from a nuclear accident.
You don't really have to wait centuries, even where something as bad as Chernobyl went down, we do stuff like that because we play things very safe where nuclear material is concerned... here's a thought experiment for you: if deaths from coal power were regarded as equivalent to deaths from nuclear, what areas would we need to evacuate immediately?
Seriously, the mass evacuations around a nuclear incident are a bad enough problem... there's no need to exaggerate.
And if you want to play dueling industial catastrophies, consider poison gas releases, e.g. Bhopal. Have you heard many people demanding we ban chemical plants?
I'm not opposed to nuclear because in theory it's a perfect energy source. In practice, however, it's built and maintained by humans, so it's not safe. Even a perfect nuclear plant wouldn't be earthquake proof, etc.
This is a fine example of a sentiment that seems wise and reasonable but is actually completely divorced from reality. By any practical standard, nuclear power has a very good track record-- it also has a few of dramatically well-publicized failures that people fixate on, even though it's average is really pretty good.
The "human factor" that you and a few others are going on about is very interesting. Maybe we should learn how to deal with human factors one of these days, since we're human and all.
This is an interesting case study for you: Onagawa: the japanese nuclear power plant that didn't melt down.
And as for GMOs... well you folks might actually want to read Brand's book: Whole Earth Discipline