Friday, April 20, 2018

Trump Backfire

    Dear Rudy:

    I write to you as a speculative fiction writer; for I have a science-fictive speculation concerning the election of Donald Trump.

    First note a strange feature of this election. (One of many!) Hillary Clinton ran as a technocrat; Donald Trump ran as a populist; there was a split between the Electoral College vote and the popular vote. That last bit is unusual in itself; but even so, you would expect that the technocrat would win by the Electoral College technicality, and the populist would win the popular vote. But that is not what happened! Hillary Clinton, the malfunctioning technocrat, lost on the EC technicality, and Donald Trump, the repulsive populist, lost the popular vote! By their own standards, they _both_ lost!

    Even I, amateur paralogician, didn't think that was possible! But looking back, it was inevitable. EC/popular-vote split is now a recurrent feature of our political system; the R's have systematically gamed it; EC/popular is precisely technocracy/populism; so an election could indeed have a double loss.

    It could have had a double-win. If Hillary had won the EC and Trump the popular vote, then both would have been quite content. Hillary would have entered the Oval Office, and reminded her critics of W; Trump would have called himself a winner, and founded Trump TV to bellow how great he is. Corporate centrism would have rolled on, with a fascist white nationalist insurrection brewing underneath.

    As is, they are both dissed, most personally and efficiently, and they have both lost control. Hillary's political machine is broken, Trump populism is discredited. The future is radically unknown; multiple paths beckon and threaten. It all seems so improbable. How could this be?

    For a technocrat to lose by the rules and a populist to lose the vote means that the problem goes beyond party vs party, or even politics vs antipolitics. I think there's a deeper problem at work. But what?

    Here's where the weird-science part comes in. I blame the Backfire Effect.

    The "Backfire Effect" is my speculation concerning the quantum mechanics of virtual thermonuclear holocaust. My theory is that thermonuclear holocaust is, in principle, unobservable by human beings. There will never be any notebook containing measurements and observations of such an event, at least none by humans. Therefore, to humans, thermonuclear holocaust is physically impossible.

    This seems like a kind of protection; but that is not so. Thermonuclear warfare retains virtual reality, with virtual effects. Any events entangled with thermonuclear warfare also tend to become unobservable to humankind. Quantum causation is nonlocal, so such entanglement can reach into the past. Thermonuclear warfare is so destructive that it destroys worldlines retroactively. Improbable events combine to disrupt thermonuclear-holocaust-causing systems. That is the Backfire Effect.

    There is also a Breakthrough Effect, in which improbable events combine to create holocaust-avoiding systems.

    If you wound up on a worldline surviving a Backfire, then how would you know? The evidence would be indirect; improbable events combining to create political upheaval. It would not be human-directed; the universe merely cares to balance its books; so it would not favor any one faction unless it had to. It would be a low-probability event, but carefully targeted to be as high-probability as possible. The response to the Backfire would be political actions that decrease the probability of thermonuclear war.

    I submit that the 2016 election absolutely stank of Backfire. The election was wild and disruptive. Its double-loss twist was weird and random and inhuman. Hillary's State department was playing awful aggressive with the Russkies (as they had long before her). Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania; they were baiting the bear. But that's over with, Trump will make nice with Putin because Putin has a pee tape. All of State's senior officials have resigned en masse. The Democrats are introducing a bill to make any nuclear first-strike require Congressional approval. And the guy running Energy, which maintains the nukes, didn't know the department's name. All these signs point away from the previous course.

    So was that course leading over a cliff? On the alternative history where Hillary won the EC, and Trump the popular vote, did he egg her on to militarism, and she competently complied, and Putin lashed out? Did we just lose a worldline?

    And we're not out of the woods yet. Trump's administration also stinks of Backfire. Weird improbable destruction continues to rage.

    But this is where the Breakthrough Effect takes power. What is required is to _see_beyond_. Imagine and communicate some vision of _past_the_crisis_. Visualize 12:01.

    Rudy, I've mentioned the Backfire Effect to you before. You called the theory correct. I found that disturbing. I've phoned some friends to discuss my Trump Backfire theory. I was hoping that someone would call bullshit, but I kept getting validation. That too disturbs me.

    Tarik Peterson pointed out that Backfire is hard to verify scientifically. I accept that with some relief. But I venture this prediction: the weirdness will continue until empire falls, and democracy comes to America.


Hi Nathaniel,
I like your idea.  It could work as an SF story or at least as a blog post.  There are a few issues that would be needed to be patched.
* Strictly speaking, humans would in fact observe the starting parts of a thermonuclear war.  Seeing the flash over San Jose. And there would be some last-minute frantic radio broadcsts.  And a few would survive.  And there'd be longterm ruins and radiation that could be observed.
* The same argument seems to prove that each person is in any case immortal.  I can't observe my death or myself being dead, therefore it can't happen, therefore my wordlines tweak themsevles to avoid the "impossible" event of me dying.  But others will obseve me dying.
* Maybe your Backfire argument requires that the holocaust would destroy every single person.  And a belief that it is human observation that collapses the wave function into a specific reality.  So no humans means no collapse.  So there can't be a focused thread of reality with nobody in it.
* Maybe it takes a LOT of humans to collapse the wave function.  So you can't even have a focused thread with, say, only a few thousand in it.  In this case was Earth's history a Hilbert haze of before humans came along?  Maybe.  But we've retoractively collapsed our past into a single world line
* The world line has a kind of life to itself, it wants to persist, it doesn't want to fan out into mist.  Like a caterpillar raising its head and feeling around for a new foothold.  So our worldline would avoid the haze of 99% dead people.
* What makes me take your idea semi-seriously was the sensation that I had on election day eve, I was at the opera, and at intermission I took out my smart phone and now all of a sudden the victory predctions had flipped, as if in an instant, from 99% odds for Hillary to 99% odds for Trump.  I really did have an amost physical sense of having been shunted off my fat expected four-lane worldline onto some thin detour moutain-road worldline.
* I have an old-school radical friend Dave Hungerford who argues passionately that Hillary and the Democratic party can be viewed as pro-War.  And that, as you suggest, Hillary would have been much likelier than Trump to start WWIII with Russia.  (For some reason the Atomic Scientists just now moved their Doomsday clock closer to midnight, but never mind them, I think they're muddying the water now by mixing global warming in with nuclear war in their projectsions.)
I think I will try and put together a blog post on all this, and I'll quote you, so resend your older discussion of this.



Thanks for the quick reply. Some comments about your comments:

True, humans could observe some of the initial stages of holocaust, but not all. As for survival, I'll take the MADmen of the Cold War at their word; they over-engineered human extinction. And even if 7000 survive in one world-line, their contribution to the psi-wave is one-millionth of the contribution of the 7 billion in the world next door. Quantum democracy!

Good point about individual immortality. Hmm... I guess the wave function of humanity is highly entangled; it's never just 'your' wavefunction. The paradox of individual death and communal survival is itself communal.

Individual aging involves a lot of big warm heavy matter, and hence is very classical and thermodyamic. The Bomb is a quantum device; the initial fissions occur at quantum-random, which then exponentiates. So the Bomb is a quantum amplifier. Therefore macroquantum bomb effects like Backfire and Breakthrough. The generals and the politicians really didn't know what they were playing with.

Without human observers, the wave function has no human meaning; and anything now entangled with humanless worlds is itself lost in the Hilbert haze. That haze is relative; it is a human haze. Dinosaurs saw no dinosaur haze 70 million years ago.

The Backfire Effect, in transrealist terms, represents the sense of disorientation and political chaos that we are experiencing now, and I experienced also in Reagan's reign, and W's. (I call Nixon, Reagan, W and Trump "America's clown princes")

Like you, I too felt the ground shift. All that afternoon I fondly looked on the Blue Wall; we need only one state. As the day wore on, I grew nervous; when it looked bad in Wisconsin, I went to my bedroom, turned off the light, and got into bed in a fetal position. (Sherri was downstairs watching the collapse unfold.) In bed, I felt as if I was floating up, watching but not quite seeing ourselves, far below, falling to some disaster too dark for me to see. I thought it was a prevision; but perhaps it was a side-vision, of the main line erased, from here, an unlikely side-line.

Both parties are pro-war because both parties are corporate. The D's are a bit more modern, so nuke's their pleasure. The R's have a more medieval bent, hence occupation, warlords and torture. And we're not out of Backfire territory yet; Trump's growling at China.

The Bulletin is not wrong about climate change; but I don't see it as an extinction threat. Flood the coastal cities, sure; collapse the economy, why not; end civilization, maybe; but some will probably survive and maybe even keep the lights on. And even if it's the end of us, it's too big and classical for a Backfire Effect.

Climate change and nukes are our Scylla and Charybdis; we need good piloting; I just don't think that the unhinged orange conman is up to it. Woe is us. Well, if my theory is correct then Trump's vassalage to Putin solves for now our nuke problem. I suspect that as soon as Trump hands over Ukraine, Lithuania and Estonia to Russia, then his usefulness to the wave function ends, as does his luck.

Today an Hispanic lady driving one lane over honked to me and said (through open window) that she liked my hand-colored IMPEACH TRUMP sign. I said, "He's going down." She said, "Mm-hm!" I said. "We'll survive." "Mm-hm!". Then the light changed and we drove off. The Breakthrough Effect starts small.

- Nathaniel

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