Friday, October 29, 2021

Utopian Car

          Utopian Car


          Bergerud’s Law states:

Utopian politics always fail, always do damage, and are always incoherent.

          This pungent assessment of Utopian politics reminds me of the quintessential Utopian technology: the flying car.

          The trouble with flying cars is, if the engine stalls, then you’re in tons of metal falling out of the sky. Hard pass! The only way a flying car works, as more than a toy for exurbanites with too much money, is if its levity does not require continuous power. So, either a bulky zeppelin that’ll blow away in a stiff breeze, or you forge its frame out of upsidaisium.

          To magnify the utopian effect, why not a flying car, made mostly of upsidaisium... and graphene... that’s also self-driving? By a quantum computer? That runs an AI? And it’s on the Internet of Things! And it’s powered by cold fusion! Put all of the most ambitious not-yet-successful tech into one device!

          It’s manufactured by a sea-steading anarcho-capitalist intentional community. They accept payment only in bitcoin.

          I welcome suggestions for further utopian improvements. What could possibly go wrong?



Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Price of AI

 The Price of AI


 I speculate that we will figure out how to write an AI that simulates human intelligence, but only after science definitively proves that human intelligence itself is a simulation. The proof will require precise documentation of how the simulation creates the illusion of intelligence.

That’s the normal course of science: wisdom and wealth but only after disillusionment.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Telepresence Model of FTL Exploration

           The Telepresence Model of FTL Exploration


          Space colonization by humans, rather than robots, is a negative-profit venture. Maybe you can con some cultists, and force some convicts, to live in a tin can forever: but it’ll be cheaper to put those losers on Antarctica. Meanwhile robots will do the exploring and mining. Robots are made for space; we’re made for this paradise planet. Telepresence is the best spacesuit!

I speculate that the main use for FTL communication will be to control telepresence robots. Put on the gloves and goggles, and you are there! FTL itself is for sending the robots there, and manufactured products back.

The Telepresence Model of FTL Exploration is that it is done entirely by telepresence. Humans stay on Earth. They send the telepresence robots by FTL to a distant star system: humans on Earth put on goggles and gloves, and see though the robot’s cameras, and move things with its waldos, in real time. The humans can see through the robots, not only in light, but also in infrared, microwaves, radar, sonar, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays, and neutrinos. Also telescopically and microscopically. Through the robots they can do ultra-heavy and ultra-fine labor.

In many ways it’s better, and in many ways worse, than ‘being there’. One huge advantage is security. If something goes terribly wrong, then at worst you lose the robot. Also you don’t need space suits. The workers will breathe Earth’s free air. At workday’s end, the workers will take off their gloves and goggles.

 Maybe some humans will eventually go to distant planets, but only if humans can survive FTL flight, and if habitats had already been built telepresently. Only cultists, convicts, and the desperate need apply.





Rudy Rucker’s “transrealism” thesis is that science fiction doesn’t really predict the future: it imaginatively describes the skiffy present. It’s as if we all live in a sci-fi movie, with brilliant special effects, amazing speculations, and idiotic writing. (It’s the bad writing that turns sci-fi into skiffy.)

I write this Telepresence Model of FTL after more than a year of doing all of my work by Zoom, to avoid a pandemic fought by revolutionary new biotechnology, but prolonged by partisan disinformation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

“Stay out of my house!”

           “Stay out of my house!”


One Thursday evening, a mouse got into my house. I was sitting in my downstairs office, at the work station, when I heard a scuffle and a squeak behind me. I turned around and saw Charlie batting at a small dark-grey puffball. A mouse! I told Charlie, “Kill it! Eat it!” Charlie just sat there, staring at the mouse. He knew to chase it, but not what to do with it once it’s cornered.

          The mouse scurried under the nearby couch. I got up and moved the couch. I found no mouse, just some dust, which I took the opportunity to sweep. I shrugged, I figured that the cats will find the mouse, and I returned to web-surfing. A few minutes later Katniss was at my feet. I looked down, and there was the mouse again. She had cornered it. I told Katniss, “Kill it! Eat it!” She too just sat and stared at the mouse.

          I rolled my eyes and stood up. Katniss bolted. I walked to the next room and got a bug-catcher. A bug-catcher is my own invention; it consists of a small transparent plastic bowl (saved from some packaging) and an 8-by-11 cardboard rectangle. I use it to catch and release bugs; I figured it would work on the mouse. I walked back, and the mouse was still there. I reached for the mouse, clear bowl in hand, but the mouse scurried past me.

          I followed the mouse out the office door to the rest of the basement. I found it and the two cats at the base of the water-heater. They had surrounded it, and were sitting on either side of it, gravely fascinated. My pampered aristocats had no idea what to do!

          I reached down holding the small clear bowl. I plopped the bowl over the mouse; then I slid the cardboard under the bowl, and lifted bowl and board, with mouse trapped within. Its tail stuck out of the bowl, but it turned around once and drew its tail in. I showed the bowl with mouse within to Katniss; she sniffed. Then I showed it to Charlie. He too sniffed.

          The mouse squeaked. I stood up and I said to the mouse, “I am trying to save your life.” I walked to the front door, trapped mouse in hand. “You shouldn’t be here,” I scolded the mouse. “Stay out of my house!” In the entrance room, I said, “You know that there are cats here!” I opened the front door, took some steps out, and with a sweep of both arms, I threw the mouse away. I briefly saw the mouse in midair, feet and tail awkwardly splayed. I went back in and closed the door.

          The cats weren’t entirely useless; they did corner the mouse so I could catch it. It was a hard day for that mouse; chased and cornered by cats not once but three times, then scolded by a human and brusquely ejected. I talk to animals, though they don’t know language, because they do know tone of voice, and the mouse could tell that I was being territorial. My house!


Monday, October 25, 2021

Bergerud’s Law and Pantopia

 Bergerud’s Law and Pantopia


Thomas More made a revealing pun with the word ‘Utopia’: it meant both Eutopia, the Good Place, and Outopia, No Place. The satirist More posited a place too good to be true, in order to mock what is. Somehow the world was slack enough to think his impossibility was an ideal to strive for, by flying off to infinity-and-beyond.

A friend of mine, Eric Bergerud, proposes what I dub ‘Bergerud’s Law’:

Utopian politics always fail, always do damage, and are always incoherent.

This is due to the Outopian nature of Eutopia. Another Eric, the longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer, said of utopian novels, ‘Now we know how the story ends’.

          The persistent failure of utopia inspired another literary trope, Dystopia, the Bad Place. But perfect wrongness is just as unrealistic and unsustainable as perfect rightness, so dystopia too breaks down. Now the young-adult novels that start off in dystopia end with its breakdown. Katniss Everdeen defeats the Games and has a baby, but loses her sister and has PTSD. Young’uns nowadays, bless ‘em, have hope but don’t expect perfection.

          Utopia and Dystopia are as false a dichotomy as Heaven and Hell. For us here on the Earth plane, I propose a third trope: Pantopia, the All-Place. Pantopia is where everything that happens everywhere, happens. In Pantopia, toast falls buttered-side down, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, power corrupts, freedom creates, and everything now proven was once only imagined. Its political system is the circulation of aristocracies. Its economy is based on trading real goods for imaginary money. Its technology is advanced enough to be indistinguishable from magic, but it constantly needs repair. Pantopia sucks and is wondrous. It’s Utopia and Dystopia, intertwined, inextricable. In Pantopia, life is nothing but trouble, yet people are for it.

          I see pantopianism everywhere. For instance, the Internet. Science fiction has long predicted a global cybernetic network containing all human knowledge. This network was always envisioned as an AI with an agenda of its own. Either it was a benevolent Multivac, selflessly guiding us to higher state of being, or a malevolent SkyNet, bent on our destruction. Instead we got the Web, which is Earthly, ours, and all too human. The Web is full of ads, scams, cats, and pornography. We’re too wicked for Multivac’s Heaven, and too virtuous for SkyNet’s Hell. Instead we got the Web that we deserve.


Friday, October 22, 2021

Your infection is not your choice

 Your infection is not your choice


There is no such thing as a right to get infected with a deadly disease. Nor is there a right to infect others. That is not freedom; it is an imposition by a predatory microbe. A free people have the right and the duty to unite against such viral tyranny. Laxity in this is not liberty; it is license and weakness and submission to a virus.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

On the Stipend: 4 of 4

          On the Stipend, 2: discussion



“Paid for how much?  Enough for the jobless to live on, with a little bit more for small luxuries.”

Let’s just admit defeat, and recognize that the jobs are never coming back.

“A stipend stabilizes society by giving everyone a stake in the system.”

Everyone except for the taxpayers.

“... this amounts to plutocracy insurance; buying off the poor to quash rebellion.”

A stipend like that will not calm down the masses.  Here’s why.

“Some radicals say, ‘We do not propose to abolish wealth.  We say, abolish poverty.’  The fact is you cannot abolish poverty without abolishing wealth.  For wealth is relative.  One can be sensible of it only in contrast with poverty.  What is poverty?  What is wealth?  There is no absolute measure.  Only contrast.  In that hut over there the people seem wretchedly poor.  That is because habitations have improved.  Not long ago, historically speaking, the royal family would have lived in a hut like that.  The king himself.  The poor now have more than the rich had a few generations ago, more of everything to eat and wear and enjoy.  They are none the less torn by envy because others have more.” -- from “Harangue” by Garet Garrett



That’s not defeat. That’s victory over the curse of Adam.

Of course we are approaching an economics of superfluity; it has been visible for a century.



PMA; seconded about defeating the curse of Adam. Robots are how industrial man proposes to achieve hunter-gatherer man’s liberty along with farmer man’s security.

But also agreed that envy and ambition will remain, despite everyone having full bellies. The natural strife of society will not decrease with the abolition of absolute poverty. Man is born to trouble, sure as sparks flying upwards. Relative rich and relative poor will remain; in fact I am counting on them remaining, for then competition and innovation will also remain.

If you get a pet rock, then that does decrease the value of my pet rock; but your not going hungry does not decrease the value of my not going hungry. So not all wealth is relative.

BJ; what you denounce is state-based welfare; you don’t have to pay for it, but there’s only one choice. What I propose is a market-based stipend; each gets a sum to spend as they wish. If we are to do a Keynesian counter-cyclic stimulus at all, then the poorest are the best dispensers of the stimulus money; they’ll spend it all, as efficiently as possible, on what they need most. Thus the economy gets going, in a direction closest approximating filling real needs, for the poorest are the ones most uncomfortably aware of real needs.

Funding the stipend? Nontrivial! Doing it right? (i.e. enough to live on, phases out slowly enough for work to pay) Also nontrivial! But I submit that in a sense all of civilization is an immense stipend. Civilization dispenses certain benefits to all, rich or poor, worthy or unworthy, free of charge or scrutiny. That’s the point of civilization.

Oh and one more thing; a point of nomenclature. In the first stipend essay, I described the stipend-receivers (i.e. the poorest) as being “paid to consume”, and thus as “job creators”. This is factually accurate; consumers _are_ the job creators, by definition; they are the ones whom the jobs are done for. Now, there also exists another economic class, also called “job creators”; but this is an Orwellian reversal, for the CEOs thus described make their fortune by _destroying_ jobs, by automation, outsourcing and other tactics. Their drive for efficiency increases output, so they do have a role; but that role should not be mis-stated. They are job destroyers; that is their job; one which lately they have done very, very well.



The problem is that the stipends AREN’T free, whether they are “invade Iraq” “goodies” or “Publik Skoolz” ”goodies” and as you’ve probably figured from my sarcasm, there’s a serious argument as to whether they’re valued anywhere close to the cost.  They may even be valued NEGATIVELY.  So if a person’s money is stolen for a Public Schooling for their kid, and  they DON’T value the public schooling anywhere NEAR what it cost them in taxes, or even at all, or they would even pay to avoid it, even if their kid DIDN’T go to school at all, then the money they’re spending on private schools may be like the money we have to spend on guns when Bill Clinton gives us “night basketball” or some other nonsense.  That sort of “free market Keynesianism” you’re discussing sounds more like Disaster Capitalism to me. 



Hmmmm.  I’ve been a Welfare worker and I’ve been a Welfare client (“I’ve looked at Welfare from both sides now...”), and I can tell you from my own observation that people on a stipend do not cease being productive if they have any health at all.  I’ve seen old Black grannies save up their Welfare money to buy yarn and needles, knit everything from blankets to dresses, and sell the same for a profit at a yard-sale.  I’ve seen Welfare unemployeds fighting for places in line to sign up for factory jobs.  I’ve seen others take up underground and illegal jobs -- numbers-running, drug-selling, whoring -- to make extra bucks.  I’ve seen ADC mothers buy seed and plant backyard gardens to improve their children’s diets, and then swap the excess with neighbors.  In my own case, Rasty and I are living on Social Security, and doing our damndest to plant a fruit-orchard.  What all these examples have shown me is that being on a guaranteed stipend does not necessarily create dependency, and certainly doesn’t stop people from being productive. 

As an Anarchist, I’d have to say that, when dismantling a government, we should leave the stipend for the poor to the very last.  Given a free and intelligent society, there would be few enough really poor people that the “stipend” could be maintained by private (which includes group, don’t forget) charity.