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Comment Re:30 year old teen angst (Score 1) 163

Certainly. And yet the path of history suggests that the rest of us are claiming an ever-growing amount of wealth and power from the aristocrats. Sure, the story hasn't been going well in the US lately, but over the course of centuries there seems to be a pretty clear, if sawtoothed, trend. The question now seems to me to be which will come first? The next possibly violent leap forward for populist equality, or the development of sufficiently advanced automated war machines so that the human ranks can be reduced to only the most hard-core loyalists, removing dissent within the ranks as a limiting consideration. I imagine the latter could potentially delay the former for quite some time, but even a pax imperia will eventually collapse under the weight of internal strife and indolence.

Comment Re:Perhaps the bigger problem... (Score 1) 163

>I'd imagine that there is a strong incentive for everyone involved to pretend that any given situation is purely temporary, it'll be over shortly; but I suspect that maintaining that illusion might be leading to sub-optimal allocation of resources and design efforts that are aiming at the wrong goals.

And there I think you've hit the nail on the head. Allocation of time, energy, and resources is no doubt sub-optimal, but the alternative is to spend political capital. And it takes a pretty altruistic politician to spend their political capital instead of someone else's money.

Comment Re:30 year old teen angst (Score 1) 163

Capitalism is a nice idea, extremely effective at efficiently allocating resources. But left to itself it's a self-destroying process - barring spectacular stupidity capitalism concentrates wealth into the hands of those who have it to begin with. It doesn't take long before those who have benefited from the wealth concentration manage to leverage their economic power into regulatory capture and other political power, destroying the free market. And many, many markets are natural monopolies where even a free market won't help things.

I'm not sure what exactly the solution is, but I think a measure of socialism is likely going to be part of it. You wouldn't expect the water cycle to remain stable if the water flowed into the oceans and then remained there to be leveraged in the internal power struggles of the whales, instead evaporation pumps that water back out into the hinterlands where it can then flow back to the sea, transforming the land along the way. I think we need something similar in our economic cycles - the myth of trickle-down economics has been pretty seriously debunked at this point, and is about the only mechanism unfettered capitalism offers for completing the cycle. Perhaps something like a "10% income redistribution tax" would do the trick - everyone is taxed based on income, the proceeds to be distributed equally to everyone - with the present income distribution in the US I believe something like 80%-90% of the population would benefit from that directly, and a steady flow of serious wealth from the bottom would give new economic players a chance to compete with and even overthrow the old conglomerate giants, reducing the market-destroying influence of the major powers.

Especially as ever cheaper and more powerful automation removes the need for human labor we're going to have to come up with new economic models. At present we seem to be headed for a world where those few who happen to be holding overwhelming economic power when near-total automation takes over will own all production and, aside from their chosen servants and jesters, the rest of us will starve. We already have the technology and productivity to turn the world into the sort of low-labor utopias dreamed of a century ago, personally I think we should at least make the attempt.

Comment Re:Perhaps the bigger problem... (Score 1) 163

Well, since refugee's are usually fleeing their home country the problem probably exists outside your ability to gracefully intervene. Your solutions are pretty much limited to maintaining indefinite refugee camps, shipping the refugees elsewhere (if anyone will take them), or granting them citizenship or at least work visas so they can become contributing members of their new country of residence (with all the problems that causes to the local labor markets). Or of course getting deeply mired in the internal politics of your neighbors who have already been shooting at each other for years. Not really a lot of good options there.

Comment Re:Ok.... (Score 1) 163

High triple digits? Really? Even 200*F is still the low triple digits. High triple digits suggests a leading 7 or 8 at least, meaning water has long since ceased being liquid, most plastics are no longer solid (and may have spontaneously combusted), and even many common metals are no longer particularly rigid. Oh, and you are long since dead and reduced to carbon ash and firestorms have consumed pretty much all organic matter in the area.

Comment Re: This Is Considered News?? (Score 1) 303

It seems like most people on both sides of the aisle are pretty disgusted with the options we're being offered. So how about for the next presidential election cycle we work to mobilize the majority of the population that doesn't vote at all. Ideally get them to vote for only third party candidates, at least as the default for every office they don't have strong feelings about the candidates for. Get enough disillusioned votes circulating and third party candidates will have a real chance. Sure, the immediate results would probably be a congress full of a bunch of nut-jobs and extremists who can't cooperate enough to get anything done, but is that really worse than a bunch of jaded career politicians beholden to unelected powers that want to screw us all over?

And once we prove it's possible we can at least realistically hope to get some decent un-beholden candidates in the next election cycle. If nothing else I'm betting several third parties would cross the threshold to qualify for federal campaign funds, and congress would be sufficiently dysfunctional to keep the goal-post from being moved.

Comment Re:The real idiots... (Score 1) 303

Come now, that's completely unfair. The sun is actually an unbiased source that cares not one whit for human politics. When it says nothing whatsoever on a topic the actual amount of reliable information thus given is many times higher than virtually any TV "news" source, be it cable or broadcast.

Comment Re:So... (Score 1) 303

So? You can also by a fair quantity of your illegal drug of choice right now from that guy on the corner. And almost every online purchase you ever made was illegal (or did you calculate and pay the appropriate local sales tax as required by law?)

"Illegal" and "difficult to procure" are largely independent concepts, in fact doing/getting something legally is often far more difficult, and there is often no attempt made to enforce the law when you choose to break it. It's actually very convenient for aspiring dictators when the entire population is guilty of regularly breaking laws that are never enforced - you can then selectively persecute any troublemakers on impeccably legal grounds.

Comment Re:uh uz they're idiots (Score 2) 303

That sounds implausible to me. In fact I used to work with low-power (could put your hand in the beam without feeling it) IR lasers in college and we needed extra safety gear specifically because a stray beam could be shining into your eye without you noticing until serious permanent damage began to set in.

It may not cause dazzle or other forms of temporary blindness due to over-stimulated rods and cones, but except in extreme cases I believe such damage usually repairs relatively quickly, but its no less dangerous for permanent damage (actually cooking the lens or retina). More so in fact because you don't know to look away and your pupils won't constrict to block out the excess.

Where it unquestionably is safer is legally - because nobody will notice the source, and any damage inflicted will likely not be dramatic enough to associate with a specific event.

Comment Re:uh uz they're idiots (Score 1) 303

>What makes a laser a laser is that it is a single wavelength
No, though that is a prerequisite feature. Plenty of LEDs and other sources emit a single wavelength without being lasers. What makes it a laser is its *coherence* both spatial - which allows for narrow long range beams that don't diverge appreciably (no amount of lenses will get a similarly low-divergence beam of non-laser light), and temporal - the photons are in-phase and polarized.

Comment Re:Whats the laser used in laser wars (Score 1) 303

I think the point is, why would anyone stand around long enough to let a dangerous sub-light weapon reach them? You see it fire and you get yourself elsewhere any time before it reaches you. Of course even without FTL and at orbital distances you have a similar problem - if you can see the weapon approaching just get out of the way. The only semi-plausible explanation I can think of is that initiating FTL jump/warp/etc requires a warm up period which exceeds the weapon flight time, and/or which renders the ship particularly vulnerable. Maybe the enemies targetting lasers

As for Star Trek, I remember several warp-speed engagements, starting I think with the very first episode of the original series. Though it's usually either focused blasts to knock out a fleeing ship's engines, or some godlike entity or other toying with the Enterprise. I do think I remember a line somewhere about there never having been an all-out battle at warp speed that didn't go badly for everyone involved, but I might just be mis-remembering a line from Babylon 5 and the volatility of hyperspace.

Of course if we want to heckle about science in SF, there's always the fact that if special relativity is correct then pretty much *any* form of FTL is also a time machine that would enable no end of meddling with the past...

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