Those who can’t build, talk

One of the side-effects of using Google+ is that I’m getting exposed to a kind of writing I usually avoid – ponderous divagations on how the Internet should be and the meaning of it all written by people who’ve never gotten their hands dirty actually making it work. No, I’m not talking about users – I don’t mind listening to those. I’m talking about punditry about the Internet, especially the kind full of grand prescriptive visions. The more I see of this, the more it irritates the crap out of me. But I’m not in the habit of writing in public about merely personal complaints; there’s a broader cultural problem here that needs to be aired.

The following rant will not name names. But if you are offended by it, you are probably meant to be.

I have been using the Internet since 1976. I got involved in its engineering in 1983. Over the years, I’ve influenced the design of the Domain Name System, written a widely-used SMTP transport, helped out with RFCs, and done time on IETF mailing lists. I’ve never been a major name in Internet engineering the way I have been post-1997 in the open-source movement, but I was a respectable minor contributor to the former long before I became famous in the latter. I know the people and the culture that gets the work done; they’re my peers and I am theirs. Which is why I’m going to switch from “them” to “us” and “we” now, and talk about something that really cranks us off.

We’re not thrilled by people who rave endlessly about the wonder of the net. We’re not impressed by brow-furrowing think-pieces about how it ought to written by people who aren’t doing the design and coding to make stuff work. We’d be far happier if pretty much everybody who has ever been described as ‘digerati’ were dropped in a deep hole where they can blabber at each other without inflicting their pompous vacuities on us or the rest of the world.

In our experience, generally the only non-engineers whose net-related speculations are worth listening to are science-fiction writers, and by no means all of those; anybody to whom the label “cyberpunk” has been attached usually deserves to be dropped in that deep hole along with the so-called digerati. We do respect the likes of John Brunner, Vernor Vinge, Neal Stephenson, and Charles Stross, and we’re occasionally inspired by them – but this just emphasizes what an uninspiring lot the non-fiction “serious thinkers” attaching themselves to the Internet usually are.

There are specific recurring kinds of errors in speculative writing about the Internet that we get exceedingly tired of seeing over and over again. One is blindness to problems of scale; another is handwaving about deployment costs; and a third is inability to notice when a proposed cooperative ‘solution’ is ruined by misalignment of incentives. There are others, but these will stand as representative for why we very seldom find any value in the writings of people who talk but don’t build.

We seldom complain about this in public because, really, how would it help? The world seems to be oversupplied with publishers willing to drop money on journalists, communications majors, lawyers, marketers manqué, and other glib riff-raff who have persuaded themselves that they have deep insights about the net. Beneath their verbal razzle-dazzle and coining of pointless neologisms it’s extremely uncommon for such people to think up anything true that hasn’t been old hat to us for decades, but we can’t see how to do anything to dampen the demand for their vaporous musings. So we just sigh and go back to work.

Yes, we have our own shining visions of the Internet future, and if you ask us we might well tell you about them. It’s even fair to say we have a broadly shared vision of that future; design principles like end-to-end, an allergy to systems with single-point failure modes, and a tradition of open source imply that much. But, with a limited exception during crisis periods imposed by external politics, we don’t normally make a lot of public noise about that vision. Because talk is cheap, and we believe we teach the vision best by making it live in what we design and deploy.

Here are some of the principles we live by: An ounce of technical specification beats a pound of manifesto. The superior man underpromises and overperforms. Mechanism outlasts policy. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a pilot deployment is worth a million. The future belongs to those who show up to build it. Shut up and show us the code.

If you can live by these principles too, roll up your sleeves and join us; there’s plenty of work to be done. Otherwise, do everybody a favor and stop with the writing and the speeches. You aren’t special, you aren’t precious, and you aren’t helping.

288 thoughts on “Those who can’t build, talk

  1. As someone who, from 1989 onwards, has been watching the (plural) you with the technical knowledge to appreciate your work but without the opportunity, skill, or at least the gumption/courage/whatever-the-right-word-is to join in, I thank you. When describing the ‘net, I try to describe what was and what is, but rarely what should be.

    Your complaints ring true, and are one of the reasons why I have mixed feelings about Cory Doctorow. What I’ve read of his SF is…infectiously enthusiastic, but incredibly simplifies the technical and political work necessary to do it.

  2. How are you getting exposed to this kind of writing? Can’t you just avoid putting these people in your circles?

  3. Although, on second thought, I guess you could get exposed via the “share” feature…

  4. >How are you getting exposed to this kind of writing?

    For me, a lot of it shows up as reshares by people who ought to know better.

  5. Aaron Swarz for example thinks writing is more important than code.
    What’s your response to this kind of view (not necessarily to him)?

    http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-05-07-n78.html
    ”’
    - Have you ever merged the two “interests”? Programming a political website, for instance – putting your skills to use for activism.

    There are a couple of political tech projects I’ve been interested, but I think the most important work doesn’t involve technology.

    - What do you consider most important today?

    I think we need to do a better job explaining the state of the world to people, which is mostly an old-fashioned research and writing project. There’s an enormous amount of curiosity these days about how things like the government and the media work and how, in the US, things have gone so wrong. But nobody is doing a very good job of providing the answers.
    ”’

  6. >Aaron Swarz for example thinks writing is more important than code.
    What’s your response to this kind of view (not necessarily to him)?

    Certainly writing can be more important than code, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. What I’d like to see is less writing about the net that is that is utterly clueless because the author’s grasp of the underlying reality is weak. Aaron is a builder; he’s earned the right to do speculative writing about the net and be heard with respect. Too many of the people who write about the net haven’t.

  7. For the most part, people that I see criticizing or having strong opinions about the net are talking about the _content_ of the web in some way or other, not the technology.

  8. Gah, “digerati”. The first time I encountered that word my first thought was to wonder if it should be pronounced with a hard ‘g’. That was also the first time I encountered an essay by Jaron Lanier, whom I recognized as the guy with the dreadlocks and creepy HAL 9000 voice from a Discovery Channel puff piece on “virtual reality”. Ah, nineties technofetishism, where have you gone?

    I can readily sympathize with the eagerness to foot-shove technically clueless lit majors into that hole, Leonidas-style. Yet I think we should not be so quick to deploy our kicking boot: William Gibson, for all his famous hipsterish Ludditism, was remarkably prescient about the emergence of pervasive networking and its social effects. His earlier work described a far-out future in its day, but is enjoying a revival among younger hackers as a sort of mythological map of our present world.

  9. Certainly writing can be more important than code, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

    I don’t think you’d much like what Aaron Swartz is trying to accomplish. Hint: He is the founder of Demand Progress, a left-leaning activist organization. He also put up his own money for anyone who can disprove any of Noam Chomsky’s writings; the prize has yet to be collected. He also appears to be more interested in “how things like the government and the media work” than the Web itself.

  10. Worse still, are the managers who THINK they understand the net. . . .but don’t. Especially for purely “political” reasons. Case in point, in a technical report on traffic inbound to a number of networks, I noted that, on a few occasions on some of our webservers were, for short periods of time, approaching the saturation level. And I had the numbers to prove it, as the BEGINNING of a trend, figuring to justify some requested upgrades before it became a regular problem.

    Instead, there were frantic meetings to mod a few sentences, because the Shop Chief (a non-tech type) thought we were saying we’d been DDoSed. . . and we never DID get the upgrades. . . but No Bad News was in the report. Perhaps I should have told the Bad News in a Good Way ??? (evil grin)

  11. I’m a huge fan of your writing and your philosophy, but I have to say I feel this post reeks a bit of get-off-my-lawn. First, in the past you’ve happily named names. Why not hyperlink the texts you find so offensive directly, so we can at least see what you’re referring to? Second, if the offensive texts truly are “vaporous musings”, then why do you care enough to complain about them here? Pseudo-visionary bullshit has been around since before the Internet. Describe bad engineering for what it is, and let reality be the final checkrein for idiots.

  12. The attitude of the Internet Working Group is very simple:

    Don’t show us an airy-fairy pie-in-the-sky dream. Show us working code: two or more independent implementations that can talk to each other as either end of the client-server relationship. If you write one, maybe we’ll listen to you long enough to get the specs to write the second implementation for you, but only if it looks like a really good design. You have an idea on how to improve the protocols? Write the code and show us how it works.

  13. >Why not hyperlink the texts you find so offensive directly, so we can at least see what you’re referring to?

    Because I don’t care to trigger that large a flame war just now. I might do it in the future, though.

  14. Let me offer one example that I think fits your point.

    Some years back I participated in a conference organized by, among others, Larry Lessig, who was arguing that spectrum ought to be treated as a commons rather than as property. Both I and Harold Demsetz suggested that if he was correct a firm could buy a chunk of spectrum, open it up as a commons with an access charge, analogous to an all you can eat restaurant, and profit by doing so, since the value of its services would be greater as a commons than as ordinary private property.

    Larry’s response was that, for technical reasons, there were economies of scale–the larger the chunk of spectrum treated as a commons, the larger the benefit per unit of commons spectrum. I asked him how large the effect was, since the smaller it was the weaker his argument against our proposal.

    He had no idea what the answer was, a technical question responding to a claim he had made on which the argument he was making at the conference depended.

    I should probably add that I, like (I think) Larry, am one of the outsiders from your point of view. I have played no role at all in developing or supporting the code on which the net depends. I have discussed what I see as implications of the technology, although mostly not in the context of recommending changes in it.

  15. >Let me offer one example that I think fits your point.

    It does.

    >I should probably add that I, like (I think) Larry, am one of the outsiders from your point of view.

    That is so. But at least I know from experience that you are much less likely than Lessig to commit serious punditry blunders, and I also know why. You are not an engineer, but the analytical way you have trained yourself to think about behavior under incentives and scarcity constraints is often a tolerably good substitute for being one. Your failure mode when you write about such things (and you don’t fail often) is to restate what seems relatively obvious to an engineer believing it’s novel, rather than getting things wrong.

    In principle, anybody who took microeconomics seriously enough could use that analytical Swiss-Army knife in the same way. But, as I am sure you understand, the required degree of rigor is unusual even among economists.

    You and I are, in an interesting way, inverses of each other. Most of what I know about economics and how to do economic analysis didn’t come out of a text. Rather, I thought about economic problems very hard and for a long time using the analytical toolkit of an engineer. Alas, most engineers don’t have the required degree of rigor either.

  16. Heh the species you refer to remind me of the character ‘Dr. G.E.B. Kivistik’ bloviating about the “information superhighway.” Haha.

  17. @David Friedman:

    Both I and Harold Demsetz suggested that if he was correct a firm could buy a chunk of spectrum, open it up as a commons with an access charge,

    The anarchist approach to private roads, applied to spectrum. Much harder to collect tolls on the spectrum, I imagine, even if you want to do the invasive BBC/google thing. And uncertainty about whether or if you could change the rules of the game midstream might limit uptake. And if you were bidding for the spectrum against companies like the telcos that love artificial scarcity, you’d probably have to charge a pretty penny, at least until you had more users.

    I’m no economist, but I would think that, for example with WiFi vs. WiMax, we should have plenty of data by now to use in terms of determining relative economic impact of various private/public scenarios.

  18. Heh. Without naming names, the topic about which I think you are talking about is the G+ pseudonyms issue. Allow me to offer a real, substantive engineering answer to the problem:

    Forget about requiring real names. Add a -1 with the +1 and use a reputation score, something similar to, though not nearly as complicated as, Slashdot’s “karma” score. Keep the actual reputation scores a secret to prevent people from gaming the system. Allow people to filter out those with “bad” reputations (i.e., negative reputation scores). This takes care of most of the hooligans, which is Google’s chief reason for requiring real names. Those accounts with real names get an automatic reputation score bonus, those without real names get a small penalty. Allow Google admins to apply special reputation bonuses to those with “brands” who are verified.

    There are problems, yes, but the system could be tweaked over time to achieve a balance.

  19. >You and I are, in an interesting way, inverses of each other. Most of what I know about economics and how to do economic analysis didn’t come out of a text. Rather, I thought about economic problems very hard and for a long time using the analytical toolkit of an engineer. Alas, most engineers don’t have the required degree of rigor either.

    Not so different as you might think. David has written, several times, that he has never taken an economics course and a week or so ago he pointed out his doctorate is in physics.

  20. I am a meatspace engineer…not a programmer or software engineer. I consider myself a user WRT the net and its plumbing…you know….the interconnected system of pipes. ;-).

    My suggestion was similar to M Greywolf. Just give users the information in a way we can process. I’m confident you guys are smart enough to figure it out. You have, after all, done a wonderful job so far, in ways that impact every aspect of my life, in a positive way.

    For which I am grateful.

  21. Well – I’m guilty of rantox… and esr has even called bolix on me for it on this blog. But I don’t disagree with anything he’s written here. This rationale is why I started to learn to code myself and it’s been by far one of the best decisions of my life.

    However – maybe the rantox could be tolerated as we do any other kind of story telling. It does has its value. It would just have more value if those doing it learnt more about what they trying to rant on.

  22. Meh, I have to fundamentally disagree with ESR here. (A rare event)
    Users of a product often have good insights into useful product features.
    Ultimately they will decide the success of the product, and from them, what you call “punditry” is often just stated preferences which gives feedback (albeit noisy feedback) to the developers.

  23. Patrick Maupin Says:
    > I’m no economist, but I would think that, for example with WiFi vs. WiMax

    I think it does, in exactly the opposite direction you probably think. WiFi is a success precisely because it is privatized spectrum. I control how it is used in my house, and consequently I make optimum use of it. It is why, BTW, that I think the expectation that WiMax will be a repeat of WiFi on a larger scale is not correct. It completely misses the reason WiFi is a success.

    Nonetheless, on Eric’s broader topic, I don’t know I really agree. Allowing for the basic fact of Sturgeon’s law, I think a bit of outside perspective can be helpful to those who are buried in the mintutia of buffers, and endianess and twisted pairs.

    Take, for example, Bill Freeza. As far as I know he can’t code — he is a VC. However, some of his insights on the meaning of the net had a lot of effect on shaping my thoughts. Or take John Dvorak from PC Magazine. I don’t always agree with him, but he is always interesting and insightful. For example, he didn’t get sucked down the “everything to the cloud” that seems to be the latest shiny object every programmer got hypnotized with. Or “Robert Cringely,” again not a coder, but, in my opinion, remarkably insightful on technology matters.

    Of course perhaps that categorizes me as one of those people, those digerati. Nonetheless, what I see every day in my work is lots of engineers who think that if they ran the business things would be a whole lot better. But it isn’t true. They often can’t see the forest for the trees.

    I don’t think that is true for many of the founding coders of the net. Some of them, our host being a prime example, were very insightful and forward looking. But I detect a bit of that “if engineers ran the world” thing in Eric’s essay. It is something I encounter frequently, and I think it is at best a simplification of reality.

  24. I think what this whole thing boils down to is this: we (by which I mean the world at large) have the right to say what we want to say, you have the right to ignore/rebut/rubbish/trash it.

    Trying to control the flow of opinion is a self-defeating exercise. No matter how technical or advanced a topic, there will be people who have uneducated but pompous, self-righteous opinions on that topic.

    Now, spreading false information or passing off opinion as fact with a malicious, underhanded motive is a different issue altogether. The fluffy, well-intentioned, ignorant musings can be easily ignored and set aside. After all people sometimes write because they like the look of their own words (like people talk because they love the sound of their voice).

  25. >But I detect a bit of that “if engineers ran the world” thing in Eric’s essay.

    I don’t want engineers to run the world. That’s because I don’t want anybody to run the world.

  26. @ Doc M>Users of a product often have good insights into useful product features.

    ESR specifically stated he did not mind hearing from users.

    Users may not understand how to do things, but they don’t give you some grand strategy, they simply state desired features. These are things the engineer can work towards incorporating if possible. Obviously some of these desires are simply not going to be doable with current technology or cost constraints, but they are requests, not instructions with an assumption of superior knowledge. One is a humble request, the other an insult.

    I think that is what he was getting at. That is how I perceived his statements.

  27. @Jessica:

    I think it does, in exactly the opposite direction you probably think. WiFi is a success precisely because it is privatized spectrum. I control how it is used in my house, and consequently I make optimum use of it.

    That has about the same meaning as “Oxygen is a success precisely because it is privatized gas. I control how it is used in my house, and consequently I make optimum use of it.”

    What about if you lived in an apartment? Then you’d have to coordinate with your neighbors. Or how about the opposite scenario — you’re so big that the neighbors are miles away. Surely, then you could control the WiFi on your property. Or not.

    The thing is, there are network effects here. The market really doesn’t care if any particular individual can find a clear channel for his WiFi in his huge apartment complex. The market does care that enough people can do so, in order to make it worthwhile to build equipment. So yes, the market partly depends on enough people believing, as you do, that you “control” WiFi — a belief that is true often enough in practice, yet not so much in theory.

  28. Pillory not the putrid punditry
    Exemplars enthused bringing engineers woe.
    Acknowledge that open structures bring
    nattering nabobs as inherent failure mode

    Though witless wonders pundits are,
    They, as unwitting beta testers serve
    roles of necessity and obsessive care
    curating ideas that inconsisely prove

    The rephrased wyrd of Cathryn Aird
    “If an inspiration you cannot be,
    A cautionary example will reward.”
    Those who follow the builder’s creed

    “We learn more from failures when allowed
    Fail early, fail often, and for god’s sake, fail loud!”

    Memetically, is there a more benign example of “failing early, failing often and failing loud?” than the digerati?

  29. The principles you live by are better than speeches and handwaving in every field known to man, not just the engineering of the internet. Technical blueprints that show how to practically solve a problem are applicable to social problems as well as engineering and science problems in general. The people you are referring to don’t get that. These people have opinions, they don’t have unambiguous solutions to problems.

    You can’t blame them though, if they are not educated they can not know the better way of doing things. Someone has to show them.

  30. I also don’t want anybody to run the world. Businessmen and politicians are useless. A computer can easily replace what politicians do now. The best thing about a cybernated government is that computers don’t interpret and twist input. And when the software is open source, everyone can see that it works as they need it to work. If it does not they can change it.

  31. @Jessica:
    “WiFi is a success precisely because it is privatized spectrum.”

    WiFi is a success because the authorities enforce a limit in power and spectrum on WiFi equipment. Without these limitations, 1% of dorks would simply swamp out all the other users with high power broadband WiFi transmitters.

  32. Patrick says:
    >So yes, the market partly depends on enough people believing, as you do, that you “control” WiFi — a belief that is true often enough in practice, yet not so much in theory.

    Yes , indeed. Isn’t that the whole point of Eric’s original comment? What happens is practice is far more important than the ruminations of the self wise?

    Winter Says:
    > WiFi is a success because the authorities enforce a limit in power and spectrum on WiFi equipment.

    Yes indeed. One of the legitimate functions of government is enforcing the boundaries on property. For real estate that would be a fence line. For radio spectrum that would be power and frequency.

  33. I’m reminded rather strongly of the Mondo 2000 contingent, satirized in “The Guy I Almost Was”. They were right, in that the internet changed things, but utterly and catastrophically wrong that it would look anything like their imaginations, that they would be relevant. Instead of cyberspace decks and smart drinks, assassination markets and crypto anarchy, the future is a Guy Fawkes mask lulzing forever, a botnet as the world’s largest supercomputer, and YouTube comments.

    It’s like the Golden Age SF writers. (Actually, Eric, I’d really like your perspective on this, since you’re a much better student of SF history than I am.) Authors were absolutely right in that massive change was coming, but completely wrong as to what that change would be. They thought moon women would be bringing moon men moon martinis, but the most visible change was social.

  34. @Viktor:

    > A computer can easily replace what politicians do now.

    That’s what marxist – leninists thought (a kitchen-maid can plan economy). You know what a failure central planning of economy in communist coutnries was… ;-)

  35. Viktor Says:
    > I also don’t want anybody to run the world.

    Me either.

    > Businessmen and politicians are useless.

    I don’t agree. Businessmen have been in part responsible for much of the modern world. Businessmen are often necessary to let engineers do stuff. Perhaps software can be made by open source guys in basements. However, computers, microchips, air conditioners and dental anesthetic all require capital.

    Politicians are indeed largely useless. However I am not an anarcho capitalist. I believe they serve a function summarized in the phrase “Après Moi, le Déluge.” Nonetheless, recent events might argue for “Parce que moi, le Déluge.”

    > A computer can easily replace what politicians do now.

    Dude, do you go to the movies? One word: “Skynet”.

  36. #That’s what marxist – leninists thought (a kitchen-maid can plan economy). You know what a failure central planning of economy in communist coutnries was… ;-)

    Actually there was a prototype for a centrally computer-planned economy — the Cybersyn Project under Allende’s socialist regime in Chile. It didn’t fail; it never got off the ground. Pinochet took power — thanks to U.S. aid — and scrapped it.

    Maybe Richard Stallman could call his friend, Hugo Chavez, and give it another go with the GNU/Economy… :)

  37. >(Actually, Eric, I’d really like your perspective on this, since you’re a much better student of SF history than I am.)

    It’s not really correct to say the Golden Age writers were “wrong”, because they predicted so many different things and some of them were right. Only a few, but since so many of the projected futures were mutually exclusive their hit rate couldn’t have been much higher even in principle. And when you say “They thought moon women would be bringing moon men moon martinis” , you’re falling victim to a kind of back-projection, overemphasizing issues that the authors considered trivial in comparison to what they were really interested in. And this judgment was correct!

    To cite one more or less random example, Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination is no less compelling a character, nor is the question he poses at the end of the novel any less pressing, because the author declined to write in some female that is “liberated” by today’s standards. Or think of Stranger In A Strange Land – certainly no unthinking acceptance of conventional social mores there.

    Even on the purely techno-extrapolative level there were some flashes of astounding prescience. Cleve Cartmill and the A-bomb is an oft-cited story, but go read Murray Leinster’s A Logic Named Joe for an anticipation of the social effects of search engines that will blow your socks off. There’s a sort of adverse-selection effect, too; a lot of what the Golden-Agers wrote as correct predictions is invisible to us as correct because we live in a future that makes their audacity at the time difficult to see. One of my favorite examples of this is the cellphone in Matt’s kitbag in Space Cadet – from 1948!

  38. I still don’t quite understand the point of Eric’s “rant” here.

    Yes, most people are idiots and don’t have anything interesting or useful to say. That doesn’t keep them from babbling on and it shouldn’t. Just watch CNN or read something at slashdot to get the full effect.

    But it is also a truism that the architect does one job and the builder yet another. But neither of them are likely to occupy the structure they made happen. So what? Without that clueless “occupant” who ultimately put up all the money, there would be nothing for the architect and builder to do beyond tinker with it as a hobby.

    Same for the Internet. Yes the DARPA net was interesting – in the same way a newborn baby is interesting (not of much use, but cute with lots of potential). But it is ultimately the clueless doof down the road who tirelessly pays his $39.99 cable bill that makes the Internet (as we know it) possible.

    What am I missing?

    IMHO, Eric’s piece is too short on specifics to be of much use. Not that I didn’t enjoy reading it anyways.

  39. @esr,To turn the discussion back to the original topic, I have equal distaste for the authors you mention. Their writing makes me tired. Jessica Boxer mentions some people who she thinks are worth a read. Who do you think are Good authors to read on this subject?

  40. I agree with Eric’s sentiments.

    I have the same with people “improving” science. I know lawyers feel the same about laypeople writing about the law etc. I guess economists reading the comments on this blog will share the sentiment.

    In general, there is a reason some jobs require extensive study and practice. This is seldom appreciated by punditdom.

  41. Thanks for the recommendations; I’ll check that out. (I think I may have read some of those, but the memory is hazy.) I definitely know what you mean about audacious predictions becoming invisible; the QIPS Exchange in “Permutation City” didn’t strike me as anything surprising–Amazon has their spot pricing–but it was written in 1994.

    esr: you’re falling victim to a kind of back-projection, overemphasizing issues that the authors considered trivial in comparison to what they were really interested in

    I think that’s what I mean–the subjects that the authors were interested in as change factors didn’t include some of the biggest change factors that showed up in the 1960s and thereabouts, and, in retrospect, it looks from here like they had some persistent blind spots.

  42. @Winter: “I have the same with people “improving” science. I know lawyers feel the same about laypeople writing about the law etc. I guess economists reading the comments on this blog will share the sentiment.”

    Interesting you should pick those 3 examples. I can think of lots of areas where those fields could be improved if the insiders with their “extensive study and practice” could benefit a great deal by listening to the peasants who don’t appreciate their craft. Paul Krugman comes to mind as a too-obvious example as well as most of the insiders of the AGW cartel.

  43. Viktor and Jessica,

    > > Businessmen and politicians are useless.

    > I don’t agree. Businessmen have been in part responsible for much of the modern world. Businessmen are often necessary to let engineers do stuff. Perhaps software can be made by open source guys in basements. However, computers, microchips, air conditioners and dental anesthetic all require capital.

    > Politicians are indeed largely useless.

    Businessmen are politicians (as are we all). In the wide world we aren’t just politicians we are actually diplomats, who are often the “most useless” politicians. My wife and I just got through negotiating a treaty with a window company for a new patio door. It took years of diplomats (salesmen and phone solicitors) before we finally bit the bullet and bought. At work we are the bureaucratic sort of politician. Why do you always hear people complaining about politics in the workplace.

    Anyone who might claim open source software development projects (for example) are free of politics is not paying attention. This is true of every volunterr organization in the world, not just the democratically governed ones.

    The statement “Politicians are indeed largely useless” really means “Other human beings are indeed largely useless”. I reject that.

    If you haven’t experienced an engineer advocating for his preferred technical solution at some point in a purely political way, I propose you haven’t engaged in any engineering process with more than one engineer involved. This may be a slight exaggeration. It also may be dead on.

    Yours,
    Tom

  44. @michael hipp
    I chose those examples precisely because they are discussed on this blog. And I won’t bite.

    But you can get wild on health and nutrition, recreational drugs and education. 90% and more of what is written on these subjects makes a specialist weep.

  45. Grendelkahn: just because we don’t have moon men and women now doesn’t mean we never will.

    That kind of analysis pisses me off, frankly. I remember looking through a science fiction anthology at Borders a few years back. I ended up not buying it, because the man writing the introduction made a nasty, sarcastic remark about the stupid old sf that had people going to space, the implication being that those of us who live in the future know that space was a pipe dream.

    I get the distinct impression that many of the modern sf crowd really wants space exploration to fail. It won’t, though, even though obviously Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke were overoptimistic about the time scale involved.

    I think when the real Space Age really kicks in–probably *much* sooner than you realize–it will, within a decade or two, become as obvious and ubiquitous as computers are today.

  46. Ken Says: “I think when the real Space Age really kicks in–probably *much* sooner than you realize–it will, within a decade or two”

    It’s surely OT here, but I’d be interested in why you think this will happen. I now think it won’t simply because there is no incentive for it to happen (i.e. no strong economic benefit) for it.

  47. # Winter Says:
    > I have the same with people “improving” science. I know lawyers feel the same about laypeople writing about the law etc. I guess economists reading the comments on this blog will share the sentiment.

    I agree with Michael Hipp. These examples are exactly wrong. The fact is that if you are up to your armpits in a particular way of thinking, and a particular culture of axioms you frequently can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Science is very prone to this, because modern science is highly specialized. Global warming is a great example of this. A theory comes along, and then the “scientific community” gets so committed to it that they can’t even see all the negative evidence in front of their face. (That happens though when you start calling things “science” for disciplines where the scientific method largely doesn’t apply. The fact is that it takes a lot of guts to go against the mainstream of scientific thinking.

    Law is even worse. Justice is frequently lost in the minutia of case law, precedents and the meaning of this comma.

    And economics? It just seems to me that micro economics has profound and useful insight in the day to day lives of everyone. And that macroeconomics is mostly meandering, unsubstantiated garbage, which leads to things like stimulus packages and all the stupidity that has ended us in the hole we are in. But that is just my experience with it.

    And for Tom: come on, you know very well that by “politician” we meant “people who run the government”, and specifically “people who use the force of government and the monopoly nature of government to force other people to do things they don’t want to do.” You can decide not to install your patio door. You can’t decide not to pay your taxes, or not to invade Libya.

  48. @Jessica:

    a belief that is true often enough in practice, yet not so much in theory.

    Yes , indeed. Isn’t that the whole point of Eric’s original comment? What happens is practice is far more important than the ruminations of the self wise?

    But some people have been violently disabused of this particular belief. Logan Airport can’t control the airwaves on their property. If they had engaged in a bit of “rumination” they might have saved themselves a lot of legal expenses before they figured this out.

    If WiFi had been carved up geographically like the rest of the spectrum, but with finer granularity (like Logan airport assumed), then one would suspect that rights could be sold off and separated from the land (like mineral rights sometimes are), and then WiFi would not be nearly as useful to nearly as many people.

    Instead, the “right” to emit WiFi radiation extends both to property you control and to property on your person. There is no “right” to keep someone else from emitting legal amounts of such radiation.

    Yes indeed. One of the legitimate functions of government is enforcing the boundaries on property. For real estate that would be a fence line. For radio spectrum that would be power and frequency.

    There is no question that we treat spectrum like property. You have asserted that we treat the WiFi spectrum like private property and that’s what makes it valuable. I assert that we treat the spectrum (including WiFi) that we allow Part 15 operation in like a public commons and that’s what makes it valuable.

  49. @Viktor:

    I also don’t want anybody to run the world. Businessmen and politicians are useless. A computer can easily replace what politicians do now. The best thing about a cybernated government is that computers don’t interpret and twist input. And when the software is open source, everyone can see that it works as they need it to work. If it does not they can change it.

    You’re not one of those wacky Zeitgest Movement / Venus Project? That’s Marxism, but with a computer. And, I agree with Jessica Boxer: taking a more or less authoritarian government and removing human decisions from the process would probably result in something even more disastrous.

  50. Morgan Greywolf Says: “And, I agree with Jessica Boxer: taking a more or less authoritarian government and removing human decisions from the process would probably result in something even more disastrous.”

    Yes it would, except for the problem that you can’t. (Take the human decisions out of it, that is). Somebody has to decide what software the computer runs and what data it is fed. It just shifts the human part to those deciders.

    Anecdote: some years ago someone decided that Arkansas public school funding should be done by formula rather than by line-item appropriation. So all it did was shift the politics to the particulars of the formula, with all the politicos and ideologues lobbying to tweak the formula just so-so.

    Politicians aren’t useless, they just have a high correlation with evil and psychopathy. History shows that *someone* is going to “run things”, so pick yer poison.

  51. @Michael Hipp

    It’s surely OT here, but I’d be interested in why you think this will happen. I now think it won’t simply because there is no incentive for it to happen (i.e. no strong economic benefit) for it.

    There really wasn’t much economic benefit for the Wright brothers, either. We still got air travel quickly once they pointed the way.

    The state of technology is nearly to the point where any millionare can build practical hardware. SpaceShip One cost something like $20 million. Paul Allen paid for it. Jeff Bezos is funding Blue Origin. John Carmack runs Armadillo Aerospace. Jeff Greason runs XCor. http://www.youtube.com/embed/m8PlzDgFQMM

    Don’t let NASA fool you. NASA pushed Apollo to the moon with a firehose of money. Then they laid the Shuttle in the space travel nest. It’s time to kick the greedy oversized chick out.

    Make no mistake, Apollo was an important campaign in the cold war. It’s part of the reason that the Soviets were convinced that we could build SDI. It did not give us space travel.

    I think we are less than a decade away from private Single Stage To Orbit.

  52. Bob Says: “There really wasn’t much economic benefit for the Wright brothers, either. We still got air travel quickly once they pointed the way.”

    That’s exactly the point. There was a built-in demand to move people and goods across the earth at higher speeds. Demand for that has been here forever.

    I just don’t see any similar demand for getting into orbit. Sure the military-industrial complex and a few large corps and governments want to do a few things up there. But we’ve already seen that won’t get us “space travel” in any meaningful way.

    What is the incentive for the guy down the street to get to space? Is there some way he can make more money in orbit? Some rare good that can only be purchased there? A great place to vacation?

    Skylab and the ISS were promised to provide all these new products and services that can only be made in weightlessness (er, microgravity) and would start a gold rush to colonize earth orbit and the moon. Where are they? Has anything of significant economic consequence come from them? Sure they’ve done some nifty science and I hope it continues. But that won’t get us “space travel”.

  53. @Jessica Boxer
    “I agree with Michael Hipp. These examples are exactly wrong. The fact is that if you are up to your armpits in a particular way of thinking, and a particular culture of axioms you frequently can’t see the forest for the trees.”

    Thanks for illustrating my point.

    Only someone without any experience with the praxis of science would write such nonsens. Please, go to ArXiv or better Plos, chose a subject and read about real science. Nature or Science would be good too.

  54. There is a reasonable critique somewhere buried in this post but it has nothing to do with “building” versus “talking.” Three of the four activities you mention as evidence of your authority are fundamentally about “talking”: influencing the design of DNS, working an RFC, and participating in an IETF listserv.

    Criticism is strengthened with understanding of the underlying infrastructure but you don’t have to roll your own TCP/IP stack before making comment about the effects of social network sites on privacy, community, politics, and the marketplace.

  55. “Yes, most people are idiots and don’t have anything interesting or useful to say.”

    That hasn’t been my experience. It’s just the smug, arrogant, condescending elitists who don’t have anything interesting or useful to say. Most other people do, if you take the time to listen to them.

  56. I think we are less than a decade away from private Single Stage To Orbit.

    Not unless we can get something that A) produces an Isp of about 730+, B) produces thrust at a rate comparable to LOX and Kerosene and C) doesn’t require hypergolic oxidizers or cryogenic fuels.

    Solve those problems and SSTO becomes commercially viable in volume sufficient to get network effects.

    Now, private, recoverable, multi-stage to orbit? THAT we’ll have in a decade. Possibly within 2-3 years if SpaceX is right about making their boosters parachutable and recoverable.

    LOX-Kerosene has a lower Isp than LOX/LH2. It makes up for it in reduced pump and tank mass and ease of handling.

  57. @+Jeff Read

    #That’s what marxist – leninists thought (a kitchen-maid can plan economy). You know what a failure central planning of economy in communist coutnries was… ;-)

    Actually there was a prototype for a centrally computer-planned economy — the Cybersyn Project under Allende’s socialist regime in Chile. It didn’t fail; it never got off the ground. Pinochet took power — thanks to U.S. aid — and scrapped it.

    You can no better plan economy than you can predict weather (on scale not much longer than 48h or so), and for the same reasons (they keyword is “chaos theory”). Well, at least I think so.

  58. >That hasn’t been my experience. It’s just the smug, arrogant, condescending elitists who don’t have anything interesting or useful to say. Most other people do, if you take the time to listen to them.

    I agree. That’s why I’m happy to listen to users but would like to throw almost all Internet “big thinkers” in a deep hole.

  59. “I think we are less than a decade away from private Single Stage To Orbit.”

    I doubt it. Just as we’ve been a few years away from controlled fusion ever since 1952, so we’ve been a few years away from SSTO ever since the mid-90′s.

    “Not unless we can get something that A) produces an Isp of about 730+”

    It’s not necessay. The theoretical limit of chemical fuels is somewhere around 530 – 500 (can’t remember exactly), and the SSME’s get 455. Don’t fall into the trap of worshiping Isp; that’s not the barrier.

    “B) produces thrust at a rate comparable to LOX and Kerosene and”

    Most of the realistic plans I’ve seen for SSTO are based on RP-1/LOX.

    “C) doesn’t require hypergolic oxidizers or cryogenic fuels.”

    You aren’t going to escape needing LOX. Hypergolic oxidizers are typically only used for thrusters, not primary launch propulsion.

    “Now, private, recoverable, multi-stage to orbit? THAT we’ll have in a decade. Possibly within 2-3 years if SpaceX is right about making their boosters parachutable and recoverable.”

    There are all kinds of approaches to this possible: in-flight refueling (Pioneer Rocketplane), towing your launch vehicle up to altitude (Kelly Aerospace), VTVL with a small “zero stage” (Gary Hudson), etc. There’s no lack of competent and creative engineers in the field. The problem is that every company that has attempted this so far has been undercapitalized. It’s takes a truly massive amount of money to launch a start-up in this area, easily two orders of magnitude greater than what’s required to launch a typical Silicon Valley electronics/software firm.

    So the answer to the question “when” boils down to “when a sufficiently large group of VCs who control assets well into 9-digit-dollar figures think they have a business model that works”.

    “LOX-Kerosene has a lower Isp than LOX/LH2. It makes up for it in reduced pump and tank mass and ease of handling.”

    As Mitch Clapp has demonstrated in his published papers, the worship of Isp has skewed attitudes toward fuel choices in irrational ways. Higher density, easy-to-handle fuels more than offset the negatives of somewhat lower Isp than LH2. However, LOX is a really excellent oxidizer, is readily available, and I doubt we will see a chemical oxidizer developed that readily replaces it.

  60. esr: “you’re falling victim to a kind of back-projection, overemphasizing issues that the authors considered trivial in comparison to what they were really interested in”

    grendelkahn: “I think that’s what I mean–the subjects that the authors were interested in as change factors didn’t include some of the biggest change factors that showed up in the 1960s and thereabouts, and, in retrospect, it looks from here like they had some persistent blind spots.”

    I don’t think there’s any question that the Golden Age authors as a whole tended to overestimate future development of physics and mechanical engineering, and underestimate advances in electronics, networking and biosciences.

    Stores like “A Feeling of Power”, which introduced hand-held calculators, are very rare, and even that Asimov story wasn’t published until 1958. The writers of the 40′s were very wrapped up in the big space station, big spaceflight, atomic power world and missed the miniaturization trend that made the modern world possible.

    I respect those Golden Age authors and dreamers as much as anyone, but the technological changes that did the most to build the world of 2011 were almost completely missed.

  61. @Morgan Greywolf
    “You’re not one of those wacky Zeitgest Movement / Venus Project? That’s Marxism, but with a computer. And, I agree with Jessica Boxer: taking a more or less authoritarian government and removing human decisions from the process would probably result in something even more disastrous.”

    Just the Venus Project. Their ideas seem really plausible, to me at least. I have yet to hear a person that completely refutes their ideas with strong arguments.

    From what I have read about them they seem to rely completely on technology and the scientific method of solving problems. They advocate that communism/socialism is very different from their idea because communism/socialism is an established society. They call their idea an emergent society, that is, automate as much as possible and let people do what they want to do, no centralized power to dictate their lifestyles. They speculate that technology and global scale automation of production can reduce scarcity of human necessities to a minimum.
    The main difference that I understood from their explanations is that the marxist ideas lack practical scientific knowledge. The marxist people don’t know how to stop cars from crashing. They don’t know how to design cities to their maximum efficiency. They don’t even have basic ideas about the technological processes required to efficiently solve problems. In other words, marxism is a philosophy, not a science. Marxist people are sincere in their beliefs but they don’t know how to fix things. That is how the venus project differentiates itself from marxism.

    I am eager to hear what a competent person has to say against their ideas. Please be that one. I also hope to hear what Eric has to say.

  62. Cathy: Until you can get the payload fraction to orbit to about 8-10%, the operational costs are going to murder the business plan, and it won’t have any network effects to drive down costs further. Payload fraction to orbit is a function of Isp.

    In theory, chemical Isps tap out at about 550 if you’re using horrifying exotic propellants, like three stage intercooled slurried hydrogen and liquid pressurized flourine-ozone as the oxidizer. (This is the Space Shuttle Main Engine as re-designed by a Bond Villain…)

    Its exhaust is high molar concentrated HF-.

    The reason I don’t believe private SSTO will take off is because the engineering parameters for a non-nuclear SSTO are impossibly difficult.

    I do believe private multi-stage-to-orbit will exist. I would like to believe that someone can find a higher density liquid fuel than RP-1 that can be made as cheaply as RP-1; even getting SpaceX’s Merlins up to ISP 300 would do marvels if it could be done at the cost in Isp increased the operating costs at the same rate.

  63. Jessica,

    > And for Tom: come on, you know very well that by “politician” we meant “people who run the government”, and specifically “people who use the force of government and the monopoly nature of government to force other people to do things they don’t want to do.” You can decide not to install your patio door. You can’t decide not to pay your taxes, or not to invade Libya.

    Yes I do. Credit me with that much. The actual problem is with my writing, not my reading. I was trying to draw on common experience so people would understand the utility of “people who run the government”. For example, my company needs a CEO who behaves politically, even if the difference between a good and bad one is which can avoid a billion dollar mistale the longest. Can’t do without a CEO and can’t do without a Head of Government.

    Yours,
    Tom

  64. P.S. Can’t do without “people who use the force of government and the monopoly nature of government to force other people to do things they don’t want to do” either. For example, some people want to steal, commit fraud and murder. Others just don’t want to pay their taxes.

  65. @Cathy:

    I doubt it. Just as we’ve been a few years away from controlled fusion ever since 1952, so we’ve been a few years away from SSTO ever since the mid-90?s.

    Who said “Fusion is only 50 years away, and always iwll be.” ?

    I’m talking Wright Brothers level achievement, not the DC3; something that will change your and others’ opinions about the feasibility. Before Kitty Hawk, flying was obviously just a way to get killed or crippled without an obvious payoff. Afterward anybody with woodworking skills and an engine was sure they could build an airplane. Some of them were right.

    I don’t think engineering research for SSTO is nearly expensive as fusion.

    1) Scaled Composites did SpaceShip One including White Knight for around $20 million.

    2) The people working on the problem don’t work for the government or military aerospace. They watch their costs better. The Shuttle cost $1 billion/flight because they took it apart and put it back together every time. The shuttle turned into a full employment program for the Apollo workforce.

    3) We have a critical mass of wealthy technical people who grew up reading Heinein, Clarke, and Asimov. If Bill Gates wanted Prince Henry the Navigator’s place in history he would be funding this.

    4) We have a large group of aerospace engineers with the right experience about to get laid off.

    We missed our chance in the 50s and 60s to do it by brute force methods. Now we’ll have to be subtle. I think our technology will finally let us.

  66. Bob Says: “Scaled Composites did SpaceShip One including White Knight for around $20 million. ”

    Scaled and SpaceX and such are doing great work. I hope they succeed wildly. But they’re solving a different problem. They’re mostly hoping to get a slice of the lift money that will be available once the shuttle is retired. They are not in business to usher in a new era of Space Travel for the Common Man ™. They have neither the technology, nor the capital, nor a workable business plan that even comes close.

    That they might reduce the $/kg-to-orbit is nearly inevitable. But it will take something else entirely to bring us to an era of “space travel”. And that “something else” right now appears to be made of Unobtainium.

  67. I’m reminded rather strongly of the Mondo 2000 contingent, satirized in “The Guy I Almost Was”. They were right, in that the internet changed things, but utterly and catastrophically wrong that it would look anything like their imaginations, that they would be relevant. Instead of cyberspace decks and smart drinks, assassination markets and crypto anarchy, the future is a Guy Fawkes mask lulzing forever, a botnet as the world’s largest supercomputer, and YouTube comments.

    They were wrong in that their rhetoric would be used to enable, justify, strengthen, and entrench the very corporate plutocracy they were fighting against. In the words of R.U. Sirius, Mr. Mondo 2000 himself:

    Anybody who doesn’t believe that we’re trapped hasn’t taken a good look around. We’re trapped in a sort of mutating multinational corporate oligarchy that’s not about to go away. We’re trapped by the limitations of our species. We’re trapped in time. At the same time identity, politics, and ethics have long turned liquid. [...] Cyberculture (a meme that I’m at least partly responsible for generating, incidentally) has emerged as a gleeful apologist for this kill-the-poor trajectory of the Republican revolution. You find it all over Wired [an online magazine] – this mix of chaos theory and biological modeling that is somehow interpreted as scientific proof of the need to devolve and decentralize the social welfare state while also deregulating and empowering the powerful, autocratic, multinational corporations. You’ve basically got the breakdown of nation states into global economies simultaneously with the atomization of individuals or their balkanization into disconnected sub-groups, because digital technology conflates space while decentralizing communication and attention. The result is a clear playing field for a mutating corporate oligarchy, which is what we have. I mean, people think it’s really liberating because the old industrial ruling class has been liquefied and it’s possible for young players to amass extraordinary instant dynasties. But it’s savage and inhuman. Maybe the wired elite think that’s hip. But then don’t go around crying about crime in the streets or pretending to be concerned with ethics.

    Anonymous and LulzSec are symptoms of and reactions to what Sirius describes. Isolated from them in space, Anonymous dehumanizes, and is dehumanized by, its targets; yet its members are aware of what’s going on and have been able to successfully coordinate disruptive attacks without organizing or centralizing in the conventional sense.

    Oh, by the way — Al-Qaeda is, roughly, the Anonymous of the Gulf region. Which is why the entire notion of a War on Terror is silly and doomed from the start.

  68. I’m offline for half a day and suddenly you guys have migrated into my old meatspace sandbox. I hate to digress from the topic at hand, since engineers of every stripe hate to have a neophyte state the obvious….but I just can’t pass up a chance to talk about space.

    I was once a space cadet, suckled on the milk of sci-fi, new and old. I read the biographies of the early pioneers..Oberth, Goddard, Von-Braun. I built rockets and launched them, dreamed of exploring new worlds, the whole bit. I went to school to become an engineer. I went to work for an unnamed defense/space contractor who worked for a certain space agency. At which point I lost my religion. It was painful. It still hurts. The real loss of faith happened when I sat down and actually did the math. I hate the rocket equation…..despise it in fact.

    The problem is not ISP as has been stated. The problem is mass fraction. The problem is the rocket itself.

    I love rockets….man love fire and loud sound……but they suck as a form of transportation.

  69. But they’re solving a different problem. They’re mostly hoping to get a slice of the lift money that will be available once the shuttle is retire

    I’m sure you mean “now that” instead of “once”. The last shuttle went up not long ago. It’s over. There will be no more shuttle launches. Ever.

  70. Morgan Greywolf Says: “I’m sure you mean “now that” instead of “once”.”

    Yeah. Some of us romantics don’t want to face reality. Back in ’81 when I watched the first shuttle land like an angel descending from heaven I thought the dawn of a glorious era was upon us. Stupid me.

  71. esr sez “I agree. That’s why I’m happy to listen to users but would like to throw almost all Internet “big thinkers” in a deep hole.”

    What about Clay Shirky? I admit to having a soft spot for his insights, if you will.

  72. Bob: “I don’t think engineering research for SSTO is nearly expensive as fusion. ”

    No, of course not, but it isn’t cheap either. And as a former employee of Pioneer Rocketplane (the first incarnation, not the current one under that name), I think I have a right to an opinion on this.

    Note that Space Ship One is not a business that is offering ongoing payload launch to orbit. It’s an impressive feat in its own right, of course, but still a sub-orbital vehicle of very limited practical utility.. Virgin Galactic is not yet not offering flights, and they’ve talked about a $200,000 cost for a sub-orbital ride. That’s a great thrill ride, but doesn’t have much practical application. We aren’t going to build up a long-term space industry with sub-orbital hops, and the technical challenges of getting to orbit are much greater than sub-orbital.

    As I said, you don’t have to convince me that the engineering capability to do relatively low-cost launches to orbit can be developed. But I still await someone who can make the economics work. We need a D. D. Harriman.

    But we’re getting pretty far off-topic here…

  73. >What about Clay Shirky? I admit to having a soft spot for his insights, if you will.

    He’s been interesting once or twice, which is more than most of his ilk manage.

  74. Just to drop a name: Nick Carr with “the shallows”.

    Fluf and Plato’s “writing destroys our children” all over again.

  75. ESR: “Or think of Stranger In A Strange Land – certainly no unthinking acceptance of conventional social mores there.”

    To the contrary: SiaSL assumed that conventional 1960s morality would still be in place, effectively unchallenged, in the early 2000s. The premise of the story was that the challenge would come from otherworldly wisdom, not any development within human society.

  76. @Viktor:

    I am eager to hear what a competent person has to say against [the Venus Project]. Please be that one.

    Viktor, I tried to read their entire manifesto (their “about” page) and for the first page or two it seemed like typical utopian dreamer fluff. I was able to keep an open mind and accept that they had some novel idea(s) until I got to their paragraph about a “resource based economy”. Then I stopped and retched, because I could not swallow what I was reading. I then went over to the FAQ and confirmed that this was what they considered their core, revolutionary idea.
    To quote: “Simply stated, a resource-based economy utilizes existing resources rather than money and provides an equitable method of distributing these resources in the most efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of debt or servitude.” [This is from their "About" page.] “Barter” does not belong on that list — unless they really expect humans to find NO services to provide each other without automation; yet, there is always “the oldest profession”. Worse and even more glaring, they claim an equitable method of distributing resources without money. How will they ensure that it remains equitable at all times? Call this evaluation of consumption “money”, “credit”, “rations”, or whatever you will, but there will be some measure of value that serves the same function as money.
    I’m sure that I could find other flaws if I kept reading, but I really couldn’t bring myself to do so.

  77. Like Alex, I too made the mistake of reading the Venus Project. I want that half hour of my life back.

    They seem to believe that all crime and violence will magically disappear, all because of good upbringing and no scarcity. I mean really? Do they not understand basic human behavior?

    This can be debunked by simply looking at Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver Canada. Their team lost, so they rioted in the streets, busting up shops and burning cars. Just because their team lost.

    The Bostonians behaved in a much better manner, but even still, there were 7 arrests in Boston. The arrested guys in Boston celebrated the win by smashing windows and car mirrors. Did I mention that Boston won the Stanley Cup?

    Team losses? Express yourself with violence! Team wins? Express yourself with violence! And that’s just with sports – I haven’t even touched a more contentious subject.

  78. Yeah. Some of us romantics don’t want to face reality. Back in ’81 when I watched the first shuttle land like an angel descending from heaven I thought the dawn of a glorious era was upon us. Stupid me.

    I watched both the first shuttle launch and the first shuttle landing in ’81. I remember thinking that as well, but then again, we’re all bit naive at 8 years old aren’t we? :)

  79. Morgan Greywolf Says: “I remember thinking that as well, but then again, we’re all bit naive at 8 years old aren’t we? :)”

    I was a junior in BSEE at the time. But I don’t think that changes your observation much. :-)

  80. > They seem to believe that all crime and violence will magically disappear

    By the way (big punditry follows) all crime and violence will magically disappear if the human race unlocks a few more secrets of the brain. Once a scientist can somehow make a human want to follow arbitrary rules (perhaps with drugs or with an operation), how long until the government makes reprogramming mandatory for violent offenders, then for political extremists, then for everyone?

  81. @Viktor and @hsu:

    Marxism boils down to “from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs.” In socialism, resources are controlled and distributed by a central planning authority — this is a stopgap to “true” Marxist communism, which was deemed to be currently impossible by the communists themselves. But this is exactly what the Venus Project proposes be done, except that instead of humans deciding how resources get distributed, a computer does it. Instead of politicos deciding the rules, the “scientific method” does. Of course, the politicos won’t go away, human nature is what it is and an aristocracy of pull is nothing but a great demotivator and a destroyer of resources.

    And if you’re not convinced that Marxism — no matter what form it would take — is bad, probably the best refutation of that I can offer right now is ask you: Who is John Galt?

  82. As someone with very few hacker credentials, I have written a fair amount of utopian prose. My most recent bit of vaporware marketing is that I am “working on mathematical foundations of GODD: global online direct democracy.”

    I have waxed on about how all text-based interfaces will melt and coalesce into a completely graphical cyberspace which will transcend and include the functions of our text-based programs, and how this new image-centered communication/programming environment will accelerate gains in communication efficiency sufficiently to supplant money and laws in the function of coordinating resources and activities.

    My blog does include a bit of code (“Algorithm Alpha”) and more recently, a formula (value of message content * value of medium or meta content = extent to which a meme shall be propagated) which I suggest may be applied to social graphs in order to turn them into sophisticated, automatically transforming filters which will also serve as the ultimate text-based document format. Any publishers who might like to drop money on me (anything helps!) may reach me at josh.maurice@gmail.com.

  83. @Viktor The problem with not using money is that money is information. Crucial information. It lets you know who wants how much of what when, and how badly. Human desires are *always* in excess of the available resources. Any resource allocation scheme needs to let people know how much resources something consumes so they can make choices about what they have to give up in order to get something else. I hope that is a strong enough argument to completely refute their ideas.

  84. # Morgan Greywolf Says:
    And if you’re not convinced that Marxism — no matter what form it would take — is bad, probably the best refutation of that I can offer right now is ask you: Who is John Galt?

    2 questions :

    1- this Ayn Rand – is she one who talks, or one who builds ?

    2- I’m assuming that with this John Galt reference, you’re saying that a “from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs” regime would cause the innovative, creative, productive geniuses of the world to defect or “go on strike”, and such society would stagnate or decline.

    How does that rhyme with the hacker work ethos, the hacker gift culture, the fact that hackers (presumably innovative, creative, productive geniuses) seem mainly motivated by fun, satisfaction over jobs well done, and reputation among their peers ?
    If a hacker would be “given according to his needs” rather than receive payment according to the economic value of his work, he’d stop hacking ?

  85. @kn: Rand is a philosopher; philosophers talk. If we only had engineers who build things, nothing would ever get done. We need talkers. And. you know, many have said that our host here is more notable for his talk than for those things he builds. Think about that.

    I’m assuming that with this John Galt reference, you’re saying that a “from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs” regime would cause the innovative, creative, productive geniuses of the world to defect or “go on strike”, and such society would stagnate or decline.

    Not necessarily so. You have to read the arguments in Atlas Shrugged by themselves. The book is part story and part philosophy, and it’s important to understand the difference.

    How does that rhyme with the hacker work ethos, the hacker gift culture, the fact that hackers (presumably innovative, creative, productive geniuses) seem mainly motivated by fun, satisfaction over jobs well done, and reputation among their peers ?

    Not all forms of payment involve money. You said it yourself: hackers do what they do for fun, the satisfaction of a job well-done, and for reputation among their peers. But even so, there are many hackers do get paid directly for their work and many of those who don’t get paid directly for their work get paid indirectly because of those reputations you so quickly dismissed.

  86. # kn Says:
    > How does that rhyme with the hacker work ethos

    If you ask that you don’t understand hackers. Tell them it is their obligation to write the IP stack, or the www protocol, or gpsd, and they will tell you to shove it where the sun don’t shine. There is a gigantic difference between a gift and a tax. FWIW, in my experience that is true of pretty much all truly creative people.

    I am reminded of Buffett’s lament that his tax rate is lower than his secretary’s. What he is missing is that the tax rate is the minimum you are required to pay. If he thinks higher taxes are the way to go why did he give his fortune to Bill and Melinda rather than Uncle Sam?

  87. @Jessica Boxer:

    What [Warren Buffett] is missing is that the tax rate is the minimum you are required to pay.

    I honestly don’t think Warren Buffett is missing that.

  88. @Morgan Greywolf

    - I’m not the one who said thhose who can’t build, talk” with an assertion that those who build deserve resdpect, those that talk, not so much. That was the team of this blog post, so I thought i’d just ask. If Rand knows what she’s talking about, so much the better.

    - I haven’t read ‘Atlas Shrugged’. I might, if the story is strong enough to hold up for readers that are not necessarily big fans of Rand’s ideology. Do you think it does ?

    -

    Not all forms of payment involve money. You said it yourself: hackers do what they do for fun, the satisfaction of a job well-done, and for reputation among their peers. But even so, there are many hackers do get paid directly for their work and many of those who don’t get paid directly for their work get paid indirectly because of those reputations you so quickly dismissed.

    Yes, but that’s not the point. esr’ explains (in Homesteading the Noosphere, IIRC) that this “getting paid in the exchange economy” is irrelevant to a hacker’s motivation (once you get past the bare necessities such as food, shelter, and toys).
    My point is then that tit follows that he assumption that the innovative, creative, productive geniuses of the world would “go on strike” in a “receive according to your needs” society (or even if they find their taxes too high), is false.

    But maybe I should read that book first.

  89. @Jessica Boxer - If you ask that you don’t understand hackers.

    I think I understand pretty well – at least the motivation part and the “if it’s an obligation, shove it” reflex.

    I think you didn’t quite get what I was saying – I’m guessing you’re reading something in to it and replying to that.

  90. kn writes: - I haven’t read ‘Atlas Shrugged’. I might, if the story is strong enough to hold up for readers that are not necessarily big fans of Rand’s ideology. Do you think it does ?

    I last read it in high school, so I can’t speak to how a college-graduated adult with a good grasp on reality would see it. It’s readable (If you skip John Galt’s 56-page speech) and I’d say it’s currently relevant. On one hand it’s a story of faith in human creativity and the power of doing over politicking. On the other hand, the dystopian world it describes began to have enormous relevance once Bush Jr. took office. The things that make it a “classic” (note the quotes) aren’t necessarily the things Ayn Rand was talking about. She does a good job of describing the problem, but IMHO a poor job of advancing the solution.

    Essentially the story begins in a world much like our own. All the big companies have a “man in Washington” and the economy is in the shitter. There’s some good discussion of the damage that’s done by lobbyists, and the dangers of a world where there’s always a good excuse to reward failure… It reads (in my memory of more than twenty years ago) like an attack on the kind of corporate socialism that rewards a bank for becoming “too big to fail” even as that bank makes decisions that destroy the economy.

    Meanwhile, the tough-minded, creative types have decided to let the world go to hell because the decisions to reward failure have made a world where creativity, knowledge and personal responsibility aren’t valued. Looking back at the book from the perspective of forty-something years, the protagonists all seem fairly spoiled and selfish – they don’t want to overthrow the system, they just withdraw and allow it to go to hell, thus the title. I’ve forgotten how it ends.

    Note to anyone who wants to blast me… save your bits. As I said, I last read the book more than twenty years ago, and I’ve doubtless forgotten a lot of the details. I would say in general that Rand doesn’t do a terribly good job of advocating for her own ideas. IMHO the problematic world she describes desperately needs some economic planning intended to create better infrastructure, encourage manufacturing and research, and reduce the power unproductive finance-only types (as opposed to people who actually produce stuff) have over the society she posits. It could probably use some good campaign finance laws as well.

    I am generally suspicious of any author, regardless of their philosophy, who wants to make a philosophical point through their writing – giving the story a happy ending for the characters who advocate the author’s point of view is very easy, and such books may be fun reads, but they aren’t fit for serious discussion. Eric Flint, Ayn Rand, and Tom Kratman are all good examples here. Despite the diversity of their world views, (Flint is a commie, Kratman a right-wing conservative, and Ayn Rand, of course, a libertarian) none should be taken seriously as philosophers on the basis of their fiction books. I’ve enjoyed books by all of them, but the ability of an author to rewrite reality to favor their characters makes that kind of advocacy much too easy. (Tom Kratman, BTW, is a real mensch, despite the fact that I disagree with every idea he has ever expressed.)

    Anyway, kn, I’d suggest that you give it a go. You can probably get it used for a dollar or two, and it’s a worthwhile read for a variety of reasons.

  91. >And. you know, many have said that our host here is more notable for his talk than for those things he builds.

    This is probably true, and I sometimes regret it. The things I’ve built are quite important, but not in ways that have tended to make me notable.

    But…one of the reasons my talk is effective enough to make me notable is the things I’ve built give me authenticity. When anybody doubts that I’m operating from decades-deep experience in software engineering and the ways of hackers, I can point them at a very long back-trail. This matters because in a world of scammers and spinners, not being a fake is actually a very powerful thing.

  92. >Flint is a commie

    It’s not that simple. Nowhere near that simple. I know Eric Flint face-to-face and, while he reports being a Marxist, he thinks and writes and behaves a great deal less like one than several million Gramscian-damage cases who would sincerely deny being Marxists if you asked them.

  93. >And. you know, many have said that our host here is more notable for his talk than for those things he builds.

    This is probably true, and I sometimes regret it. The things I’ve built are quite important, but not in ways that have tended to make me notable.

    Eric, you bought a false dichotomy. You’re notable for the community you built, a coalition of the idealistic and the pragmatic that was able to come together and keep computing and the Internet reasonably open so far. That the tools for this building activity were largely words doesn’t negate the fact of its existence.

  94. It’s not that simple. Nowhere near that simple. I know Eric Flint face-to-face and, while he reports being a Marxist, he thinks and writes and behaves a great deal less like one than several million Gramscian-damage cases who would sincerely deny being Marxists if you asked them.

    Agreed. Flint hasn’t been a real Rootin’ Tootin’ Marxist for a very long time. But that is how he advertises himself. (I haven’t met Flint face-to-face, but I’ve read most of his books and corresponded with him on Baen’s Bar. FYI, I tend to agree with his politics as expressed in his fiction.)

    In this particular instance I don’t care much about the exact nature of Flint’s politics. I care about the way writers with a strong political or philosophical bent express themselves in fiction. Flint is an excellent example because his writing has an obvious political point of view which comes through very clearly in his work. And even though I agree with Flint on numerous issues, I don’t think a fictional work, even one informed by politics I agree with, can make a credible political statement due to the ability of any author to make things come out his/her way, create likeable characters who echo his/her viewpoints, develop villains who embody the political system the author dislikes, etc.

    That isn’t to say that the politics of Atlas Shrugged, 1632 or Starship Troopers are without interest – I’ll happily discuss Starship Troopers all night long – but taking a fictional book as a guide to living one’s life does involve certain pitfalls, which are inherent in the nature of fiction; authors are omnipotent Gods in their own world, while we readers dealing with Real Life are merely human and can’t rewrite the plot in accord with our own beliefs.

  95. @Alex R

    I think I understand why you can’t accept their ideas. From what I understood from your post, I get the feeling that you are imagining their resource based economy on what is available today. Here’s the thing. They say that a resource based economy is a viable option only and only when there is an abundance of resources. If there is scarcity for the basic needs of people, no one has the right to distribute the available resources because after all, all people look after their own interests and their own needs. If there is not enough for everyone, only the ones that are physically capable will get what they need and want and the rest can fend for themselves.

    A resource based economy does work in an environment of scarcity. Socialism/Communism has never been in an abundant environment. This is one reason why their ideas crash into the ground. The statement in Morgan Greywolf’s post: “from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs.” is false simply because it can never be true in a scarce environment.
    No on can have all that they need if they are physically constrained. If there is not enough water, you can not have all that you need, you will die of dehydration, it doesn’t matter that the government says that you can have all that you need. Another reason for their failure is that their philosophy is just a set of fixed ideas. The Venus Project says something like this, I am making it look like a quote but it is not, Jaqcue fresco said something with similar meaning in one of his videos: “The society we propose is not an established fixed society. The ideas we have now are not fixed. We will start working towards these initial ideas but if something does not work, we will change it right there and then.” This sounds very familiar to the engineering way of doing things. Come up with an initial and sound design. Start working on it, and change it when it proves to be broken. This is what I like most in heir ideas.

    Also their idea is not a Utopia, they say it on many many occasions in their videos. They do not aim to solve all the people’s problems and to live happily ever after, this is impossible, human behavior is so complex that there will always be some kind of problem, but not on the scale that we have today. They are proposing a model that is much better than we have today, that is, no war, no poverty, no lousy ways of solving problems – no politics.

    @Morgan Greywolf

    The Venus Project has very strong arguments against the “human nature” that you are referring to. They say that human nature is precisely the opposite. It is not fixed, it is not “what it is”. Human nature dictates only the physical appearance and mere predispositions, if any, to some sort of behavior. The other 99.9% of the human behavior is directly influenced by the environment in which people are brought up and live.

    Also their cybernated government will not take over the decisions from humans. Computers will report the current availability of resources world wide and will merely suggest the most efficient distribution schemes that are computable. This is the purpose of this computer. It will not decide what is best for the people. The people will directly tell it what they need and want. If scarcity happens to occur in a resource based economy some way must be devised to manage this scarcity. Currently I do not know how this problem will be solved. Perhaps people will just have to bear for a while (maybe even start waging wars again) until there is a way to remove the scarcity, again by developing technology.

    “Not all forms of payment involve money. You said it yourself: hackers do what they do for fun, the satisfaction of a job well-done, and for reputation among their peers. But even so, there are many hackers do get paid directly for their work and many of those who don’t get paid directly for their work get paid indirectly because of those reputations you so quickly dismissed.”

    You are correct that some hackers get paid indirectly because of their reputation and their love of hacking. But the keyword here is “indirectly”. If they have free access to satisfy their needs they will be at least as good at what they do now because their primary motivation is not money. If you take money away, but still satisfy their primary needs, they will continue to do what they do best.

    I will look into John Galt. I am not aware of him, so thank you for that :)

    @Russel Nelson. You are absolutely correct that money is information. However this information is subject to control. Prices can be artificially lowered and raised. This is a property of our current monetary system. This problem, the venus project claims, will be solved with the cybernated government. People will directly input what they want and how bad they want it. They have access to the central algorithm that provides suggestions about the most efficient ways of resource distribution. People will not have to rely on indirect indicators (money) of their needs and wants. They input what they need and the computers tells them immediately how much is available and if it is possible to have their request satisfied. Best of all, the computer can provide a suggestion of how to solve or at least start working on the problem. Money, even though has practical purpose, is a very outdated technology which allows severe abuse. It works for some people and does not work for others. Money is not the only and certainly not the best way to determine demand. Money was adopted because it worked at the time of their creation. If you do not agree with the digital distribution system, then please, what alternative do you suggest? I hope we agree that money is not the best way to do this.

    @hsu “They seem to believe that all crime and violence will magically disappear”
    No this is not true. I think you misunderstood. They say that removing scarcity, debt and the stress of our current system will reduce crime and violence to a minimum. It will not disappear. I don’t know if it ever will but it will be much much lower than it is today.

    Your example of a riot over a sports game is precisely what the venus project defines as caused by the environment. The people who do not care about this sport do not go on riot. Only the ones who agree with it and find some kind emotional pleasure do it. I live in Bulgaria and we have the crap on football matches all the time. This is a culture and like any culture it advocates its values. Most people part of this culture will go on riots and destroy things because this is a part of their value system. This violence does not start from nowhere. It takes only one person who has some leadership qualities and is pissed off at something and he can spawn a whole following of idiots that do what he does. And even if still do not agree with me, I prefer to have sports riots rather than war poverty, politics and forced servitude :)

  96. @esr
    ” This is probably true, and I sometimes regret it. The things I’ve built are quite important, but not in ways that have tended to make me notable.

    But…one of the reasons my talk is effective enough to make me notable is the things I’ve built give me authenticity. When anybody doubts that I’m operating from decades-deep experience in so ”

    Eric, you are in the same boat as RMS. Nothing you could have coded would have been more influential than your “words”, ie your writings.

    But I think you overestimate the importance of streetcred. You need insider knowledge, philosophical insight, and activism. Good penmanship helps, but RMS shows that that is not necessary.

    Pundits simply lack insight, knowledge, and vision to make a difference.

  97. @Morgan Greywolf

    I didn’t read the book, obviously, but I don’t think that your example is completely on point. In the wikipedia explanation of John Galt I read the following sentence:
    “When the company owners decide to run the factory by the collectivist maxim, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,
    Galt refuses to work there any longer and abandons his motor.”
    This clearly says that John Galt is against the collectivist maxim, which is this:
    “Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals.”, again according to wikipedia.

    Now here is the difference – The Venus Project does not aim to reduce individuals to the lowest common denominator. They never claim that the individual’s needs are less important than the group as a whole. They claim precisely the opposite – that when there is an abundance of resources, people will be free to pursue their own goals and ambitions, they will not have to conform to artificial rules and will only be physically constrained by the available resources on earth and by the current state of technology. Never do they say that people will to have to conform to arbitrary rules that stifle their creativity or ideas and desires. John Galt will actually be very happy in the model that TVP suggests.

    Here is another misunderstanding. According to the Wikipedia article about Karl Marx, marxism has the following definition:
    “In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

    This is not what The Venus Project is about. It is not about “after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual”. Here is a modification of this statement that is according to the venus project:
    “After labor has become obsolete due to production automation and technology; after the productive forces have increased to a point where people no longer have to participate in forced servitude – only then can people pursue their own unique ideas, passions and desires.” In essence this shifts the people’s problems from “How do I secure food, clothes and housing for myself and my family?” to “What can I do with all the resources that the earth and our technology provides?”. The freedom of access to resources will not be forced, it is not a rule. The freedom will come naturally from abundance.

    TVP does not want to change people, it wants to change the environment so that there is abundance. The freedom that people will experience will be caused by the abundance. Marxism puts the change in human behavior in the first place and then comes “after the productive forces have also increased”. According to TVP the human behavior does not have to be forced to change, it will change by itself when people are free of deprivation and servitude. Communism say that you have to work for the benefit of all humans and you have to want to work. The venus project says that you don’t have to participate in labor unless it is absolutely vitally necessary and only until the labor that you are doing is automated. I hope I am explaining this well.

    My experience, with talking to people so far, is that 90% of people who do not agree with the venus project simply misunderstood what TVP is about. 9% simply say “It will not work.” and stop talking and the other 1% don’t agree with some of the ideas but can’t provide better ideas.

    In the documentary movie about Linux they tell Eric that open source is like communism. He says this makes him angry because communists kill you or incarcerate you if you don’t agree with them. Open Source may have some commonalities with communism, I don’t know what they are but since people mistake open source for communism there must be some. TVP sounds something like communism and people immediately label it and say it does not work. I think I know why this happens. Like money, the english language, and any informal language for that matter, is very outdated and inefficient. Our language is subject to interpretation at almost all times. When I write something people interpret it in all kinds of ways which I don’t want.

  98. @Victor
    Your definition covers all of families, monasteries, and armies. Makes it rather broad and your reasoning ill fitted.

  99. @Winter
    “Your definition covers all of families, monasteries, and armies.”
    How so? I do not understand the similarity between the army and the wellbeing of all people. Doesn’t the army ask you to work for them in order to get benefits? Also the army puts a gun in some people’s hands and tells them kill other people for their country. Please explain.

  100. The only similarity between the army/time of war and the model that TVP advocates is that in both cases production is not based on how much money the country has. For World War 2, if I am not mistaken, the US did not have enough money to produce the planes, tanks and other weapons but they did it anyway, because they had enough resources. From what I have heard the US, and probably other economies, have a tendency to print money when they don’t have it but decide that it is important enough to have it.

  101. @Alex R:

    The things that make it a “classic” (note the quotes) aren’t necessarily the things Ayn Rand was talking about. She does a good job of describing the problem, but IMHO a poor job of advancing the solution.

    Correct, and it is from that point of view that I’m citing the book. I’d also suggest going back and reading some of the dialogues between Francisco D’Anconia and Hank Reardon, and Francisco D’Anconia’s monologue on money in the middle of the book, specifically, along with some of the monologues from Hugh Akston, John Galt, Francisco D’Anconia, etc., at the tail end of the book. These form the crux of Rand’s biggest arguments and most of them can be read on their own, separately from the rest of the book. I think too many people focus on the story as a prescription when it is, in fact, merely illustrative of Rand’s philosophy, whatever disagreements you may have with it.

    @Viktor:

    “After labor has become obsolete due to production automation and technology; after the productive forces have increased to a point where people no longer have to participate in forced servitude – only then can people pursue their own unique ideas, passions and desires.” …. “TVP does not want to change people, it wants to change the environment so that there is abundance. ”

    Neocommunistic utopian claptrap. Where would this abundance come from? We have limited resources on Earth and no amount of technology will ever change that. Captialism and communism are each, essentially, forms of rationing. The difference is that capitalism tends to reward work, effort and skill, while communism tends to reward need. Everything else in the two systems flows from that. Speaking of a world of sufficient abundance where no need exists is the stuff that utopian shysters have been foisting on unexpecting folks like yourself for centuries. It’s sad, really.

  102. This all feels like stating the obvious, but I can’t resist…

    Viktor Says: “TVP does not want to change people, it wants to change the environment so that there is abundance. … The venus project says that you don’t have to participate in labor unless it is absolutely vitally necessary and only until the labor that you are doing is automated.”

    So TVP can’t be implemented until some future techno-utopia comes where we have robots to supply all our needs for free, keep themselves running, and generate the power to make it all possible, and service our every human whim and need. In a century or so when this might theoretically be possible (it won’t happen, but I’ll play along) then have TVP come tell us what is supposed to happen next. Navel gazing about it now is pointless. Besides, just who is it that decides some labor is “absolutely vitally necessary” and who gets to perform the chore? Lemme guess – it’ll be some social-democrat politician with executive hair. What delirious dreamer thought up this “abundance” idea? they do realize that we have sought that forever? We had it in the Garden of Eden, so the record states, but even that didn’t seem to cause people to behave themselves.

    TVP is a joke, right? And I fell for it.

    “Open Source may have some commonalities with communism, I don’t know what they are but since people mistake open source for communism there must be some.”

    I’m pretty sure everyone who has ever asserted this did it as an act of demagoguery – probably because they thought OSS was goring their ox. Communism/socialism is fundamentally about coercion at the point of a gun. Take that feature away and it ceases to exist. OSS has never used such and it is hard to implement across an IRC channel. A voluntary gift culture has nothing in common with a forced redistribution and slave labor scheme.

  103. @Alex R.

    IMHO the problematic world she describes desperately needs some economic planning intended to create better infrastructure, encourage manufacturing and research, and reduce the power unproductive finance-only types (as opposed to people who actually produce stuff) have over the society she posits. It could probably use some good campaign finance laws as well.

    The world she describes has a metric assload of economic planning. Those “Men in Washington” have seen to it that the planning increases the power of the unproductive.

    Any effect that campaign finance laws have (beyond making the Reformers feel good to Do Something!™) is likely to be bad. About the only campaign finance law I support is that any donations from a corporate entity would have to be fully disclosed (but that a private citizen should be able to donate as anonymously as he casts his ballot). The execrable McCain-Feingold bill would more honestly be entitled “The Incumbent Protection Act”. But what else is to be expected? QVIS CVSTODIET IPSOS CVSTODES?

    @Viktor:

    My experience, with talking to people so far, is that 90% of people who do not agree with the venus project simply misunderstood what TVP is about

    Then TVP needs to do a better job of explaining itself. We’re not talking about a documentary made about TVP by some outsider. This is their own web site, explaining their “resource-based economy” and leaving me with nothing to distinguish them from any other collectivist pipe dream, under which everything will be great once The People collectively own everything, and no one has to worry about making money.

  104. @The Monster
    Yes you are absolutely correct. If people misunderstand so frequently something has to be done. The difficulty comes from explaining the things in english. If they explained it in math somehow, it would be better. Since they want everyone to hear their ideas math is not an option sadly. I have a few ideas that I can suggest to them. A movie that demonstrates their ideas will be much more efficient in presenting information, rather than written text. They also have plans to build a prototype city to really demonstrate what they are about.

    Please excuse me if I sound like I am accusing people. This is not my intention. I want to express their ideas and to hear solid arguments against them. It aways bothers me when I 100% agree with something so I am looking for people to talk to about it.

  105. >You’re notable for the community you built, a coalition of the idealistic and the pragmatic that was able to come together and keep computing and the Internet reasonably open so far.

    That’s a fair point, but I don’t want to be mistakenly credited for more than I think I actually did. Teaching the hackers how to play nice with the capitalists and vice-versa, yeah, I did that. It’s also true that years before the open-source thing broke I social-engineered greater cohesion among the hackers for unrelated reasons. But I think it’s important for people not to forget that the cultural resources to support cooperation pre-existed on both sides of the divide. The language I used to bring them together – neoclassical and Austrian economics, cultural anthropology, analytic philosophy. classical-liberal politics – worked exactly because it was commonly accessible to both groups.

  106. @Morgan Greywolf
    “Neocommunistic utopian claptrap. Where would this abundance come from? We have limited resources on Earth and no amount of technology will ever change that.”

    A utopia is something that is static, perfect. TVP is emergent and constantly changing. TVP’s aim is not to achieve perfection, but to solve the problems that are relevant today with the best that our knowledge and technology can offer.

    The fact that Earth has limited resources is undisputed. However, this does not mean that these resources are not abundant relative to the current population count. I think that it is safe to say that there are far more than enough resources on Earth today to house every single person on the planet, to produce clothing, food and education centers for everyone. Energy is not a problem if solar, geo-thermal wind and tidal are all utilized across the globe. Not to mention piezoelectricity and other minor energy sources that can be used to power small scale devices. Production automation has been taking place since the industrial revolution. Now we have 3D printers that can print whole cars, planes and houses in a matter of days. McDonalds are testing automated cashiers, soon many people will lose their jobs and machines will produce instead of them. Foxconn will replace 1 000 000 workers with robots because they are more efficient in what they do, cost less and don’t kill themselves over poor working conditions. The technology is available. All that needs to be done is to efficiently utilize what we have. From what I know, the technology we have today can produce an abundance, the Earth’s capacity is not yet exceeded.

    I hope you agree with me that a bunch of educated and satisfied people are better than a bunch of ignorant, beastly humanoids that kill and rape themselves out of deprivation or religious beliefs (Africa). They are still kept in that state because is not profitable from a business standpoint to help them. They also have oil. The last thing we want is to have many smart african people that realize what they have.

  107. Regarding the rocket discussion segment of these comments, here is an interesting analysis by Neal Stephenson on rocket development/space for those interested: Space Stasis

  108. I forgot. There is also another very important field of technology that if proven possible, will change the world as we know it. I am referring to Nanotechnology. Its goal, ultimately, is to arrive at a method of manipulating matter at the atomic level so that we may rearrange it and create stuff
    from other stuff. For example I take a rock from the ground, and maybe some water and produce a banana :) I don’t know what a banana consists of on the atomic level but I hope this silly example demonstrates my point. There are people working on this and there have been advances in the field. The kevlar material is one such advance. Memory shape alloy is another. Technology, historically speaking, is the only single thing that makes people’s lives better and frees them from annoying, repetitive, boring and frustrating jobs.

  109. @Viktor “Technology, historically speaking, [...]”

    No, it’s energy : ultimately, you’re going to need an infinite source of energy to sustain all this technology that will produce the abundance you need to provide for all people.

    At least, that’s what Star Trek taught me – but AFAIK thermodynamics will tell you the same.

  110. @kn Yes, at the most basic level it is energy, but without technology, we can not utilize this energy to meet our needs. Fundamentally all the energy and matter we need is here, we only need to develop and use technology in order to benefit from it.

    Why would we need an infinite amount of energy? An infinite amount of energy is required to accelerate a non-photon particle to light speed, not to produce 5 billion homes for example. Star Trek is cool but it is just a science fiction movie :)
    If we had photovoltaics with 80% sunlight-to-electricity efficiency, we will solve a huge chunk of the energy problems of our current population count. Today this photovoltaic efficiency is at the 12-18% mark. This is the market average, according to the wikipedia article. Finite consumption does not require an infinite amount of energy. And when you consider the other sources: tidal, wind and geo-thermal… I think we have enough for now. I am not counting nuclear energy because it is a little dangerous right now but it is an option that is used en masse at the moment, with obvious benefits and drawbacks.

  111. @Viktor:

    If we had photovoltaics with 80% sunlight-to-electricity efficiency…

    Then all sorts of good things could happen. Positing a “good” society that requires a large amount of energy is easy, but irrelevant. As the average person has been able to afford to control more energy, his standard of living has gone up. Part of the current public malaise is most likely due to the perceived reversal of this trend, but if the trend continues with dirt-cheap 80% photovoltaics, or fusion, or whatever, then it becomes unclear what necessity there is to change the political structures. And if the trend doesn’t continue, then it isn’t at all clear that a society predicated on abundance will do well in the face of scarcity.

  112. @Viktor – “[...] Why would we need an infinite amount of energy? [...]”

    upu need an infinite source of energy because
    a/ your technology produces “work”, which requires energy
    b/ in transformations (from mass to energy, or in mechanical, chemical, … transformation), you always loose some energy in the form of heat. Since this lost heat is not applied to produce work, you will always have to add additional energy.
    To sum it up : without an infinite source of energy, any technology will sooner or later stop. Perpetuum Mobile does not exist.

    … or that’s what I remember from high school physics, now decades ago.

    Note that this is different from an infinite amount of energy.
    And it does not really need to be an infinite source – as far as I’m concerned, it only needs to last as long as mankind.

  113. @Viktor:

    I can’t tell if you really believe all that techno-utopian nonsense or not, you come across as a very likeable person, but I’d like to point out one inescapable fact from history…

    Those who would be the Improvers of Mankind … always end up doing it from the barrel of a gun.

    TVP, in the unlikely it should turn into a serious movement, will absolutely, positively be no different.

    Should such a regime ever come to power I know for certain that sooner or later they would send men to my door with big scary guns to relieve me of my possessions (and likely my freedom) and do it all while preaching Abundance! Abundance! Everywhere Abundance!

    History is not on your side. Human nature will not allow TVP’s plans to come to fruition.

    Ideas are great. Big plans are impressive. Wisdom is better than both.

  114. “If we had photovoltaics with 80% sunlight-to-electricity efficiency, we will solve a huge chunk of the energy problems of our current population count. Today this photovoltaic efficiency is at the 12-18% mark. This is the market average, according to the wikipedia article.”

    Actually, that 12-18% efficiency is good enough, if we can make the cells cheaply enough. (Right now, we can’t.) The sunlight is free, so wasting 82-88% of it is not an issue. The installed cost of solar cells is.

  115. Those who would be the Improvers of Mankind … always end up doing it from the barrel of a gun.

    It cannot be otherwise. There are two ways to get someone to do what you want them to do:

    1) Persuade them that it is in their own self-interest to do so. Usually, this means offering them something of value in exchange for their effort. (This can include ESR’s hacker reputation market overlaid on an ostensible gift culture.) It may be that the action you’re asking of them will provide this value itself. If each party to the transaction believes he gains thereby, overall abundance can increase.
    2) Threaten their person or property if they don’t do what you tell them to do. Not only is it possible for one party to the transaction to be a loser; it’s actually possible for everyone to lose, some more than others.

    That’s it. The enemies of the free market have demonized trading value for value, leaving only extortion as the means of motivating people to be productive. The resulting negative-sum game never delivers the promised abundance; only the scarcity they use to justify further extortion.

  116. The fact that Earth has limited resources is undisputed. However, this does not mean that these resources are not abundant relative to the current population count, I think that it is safe to say that there are far more than enough resources on Earth today to house every single person on the planet, to produce clothing, food and education centers for everyone. .

    Nearly 6.8 billion people? Try again. Citation needed. Big time.

    Now we have 3D printers that can print whole cars, planes and houses in a matter of days.

    This is an area where I have some expertise. No, no we don’t. At least not quite. e

    Energy is not a problem if solar, geo-thermal wind and tidal are all utilized across the globe.

    That’s a big “if”. Do you have any numbers that show that? Furthermore, energy is not unlimited, not even solar energy (given current technology). Wake me up when they get that cold fusion in a pop bottle thing working. I cannae change the laws of physics, Cap’n.

    I hope you agree with me that a bunch of educated and satisfied people are better than a bunch of ignorant, beastly humanoids that kill and rape themselves out of deprivation or religious beliefs (Africa).

    Utopian dreaming, again.

  117. @Russel Nelson
    If moving in a better direction is a FWOMPT for you, that’s sad. If you have better ideas about how to make my life better please share them. There are obvious huge problems with todays system so please, provide solutions. Don’t tell people who try to do so that they are a waste of time. I really don’t understand how people get pissed off at these things.
    Here are my requirements for the life I want:

    1. Change the money system so that it is not a single point of failure. If I fail to secure money for some reason I don’t want to die
    of hunger while the shops are chock full of food.

    2. Change businesses in such a way that they put people first instead of profit first. I don’t want to work overtime and I want to work at my
    own pace without having the stress of pursuing business plans for which I don’t give a shit. I create software, I want this software to be as correct and as robust as my current knowledge allows. I will put realistic deadlines ahead of me, not business bullshit. I don’t care what my boss wants, I don’t give a crap about competition, my concerns are in the room with my colleagues and the immediate problem I am working on.

    Forget about TVP, since most of you are against it, then don’t agree with it, nothing wrong with that but provide workable alternative solutions to the glaring problems of todays capitalistic system. I hear most of the health care in the US is not so good, what are you doing about it? There have been financial and economic crises for 100 years. Are you working on that problem, or are you just watching the politicians do their thing and are giving your opinions on what is wrong? Why the hell are we still driving cars? How many people die in car accidents every year? These cars and the infrastructure around them is not built with extreme safety in mind. I wonder why that is… Are you working on that problem? What about pollution? I hear efforts are being made worldwide for 10 years now but pollution is still a huge problem. Beijing is the dirtiest city in the world with ridiculously polluted air.

    If I could fix the problems above I wish TVP good luck, I’m fine.

    Also what will happen when the majority of the world’s people are replaced by machines, since most people don’t do qualified mental work and as far as I know computers are not yet capable of designing software systems, conjuring up mathematical models or finding cures for diseases. From a business standpoint it is better to have a machine do the work. But when all these less qualified people are out of work and don’t have any money, who will buy the produced things? I really have no answer to this question, so please, enlighten me. This may seem distant to you but businesses are going in that direction.

    If you don’t agree with TVP, don’t follow their ideas but start working on your own. Work on the problems. Build, don’t talk.

    @Michael Hipp
    These ideas and visions of TVP will not be forced on anyone, they are not rules that must be obeyed at all times. I repeat myself, these are initial designs that will change when they prove to be useless or broken. The people behind TVP will eventually start building a city to demonstrate their ideas. This can have three outcomes. Either they will be destroyed by people who feel TVP is threatening their interests, TVP will fail because they go bankrupt or the rest of the world will follow voluntarily when they see a more efficient, fulfilling and less stressful way of life.

    If some nut cases start waving guns at people and start screaming “Abundance!” this is not TVP but a sick twist. TVP is non-violent. They do not impose their ideas on anyone. They hope to realize them on the small scale and hope that the rest of the world will follow on their own when they see a better way.

  118. “anybody to whom the label “cyberpunk” has been attached usually deserves to be dropped in that deep hole along with the so-called digerati.”

    What makes cyberpunk so bad? Sure its unrealistic, but so is space opera. Sure, having the web represented by VR crossed with Second Life is a little unrealistic; so are X-wings and the Enterprise. Or do the cyberpunk authors you’ve read try selling some vision?

    Then again, all the cyberpunk books I remember reading are on the list of authors you like. I’m sure I must have read stuff by other authors, but right now I can’t remember any. Maybe I’ve just been lucky and avoided the bad authors. :)

    Separate note about space:
    Remind me why SSTO is so alluring? Are the super-narrow margins really that much more attractive than streamlining one’s mass?

  119. >What makes cyberpunk so bad? Sure its unrealistic, but so is space opera.

    But nobody ever expected space opera to be predictive of the net’s future. People did make that mistake about cyberpunk, and after a while some of the cyberpunks seem to have started to believe it themselves. I think in particular of Bruce Sterling, who wrote good stuff before he got self-important.

  120. @Viktor:
    I won’t claim to have all of life’s answers, and you’re probably going to consider my solutions just as impractical as I thoght TVP is, but here’s my view all the same. [...My lord, I'm really indulging in punditry on a post about anti-punditry? OK, I LOVE that irony.]

    Here are my requirements for the life I want:
    1. Change the money system so that it is not a single point of failure. If I fail to secure money for some reason I don’t want to die of hunger while the shops are chock full of food.

    You have put two demands here: (1) remove the current single failure point design around the fractional reserve system, and (2) ensure food (“basic necessities”) for everyone. I’m going to assume you meant this second demand as only an example of what happens when the money supply fails. [This is in large part because I'm not sure it's ethical to guarantee #2, but that's a discussion for another day. The remainder is that even in the absence of #1, there are proposed solutions to this crisis. Several of them could be implemented in the system below.]
    To remove a single point of failure, allow any business the ability to print currency denominated on the good or service they provide. “Legal tender” laws thus would require businesses to accept only their own currency at face value for their services at all times. (For instance, the power company might print KW/H money, sending me a bill listing my usage and perhaps a dollar amount based on some other currency.) The government, or any business who cannot denominate their services easily (i.e. banks), must either (a) not print money, or (b) issue only money based on an agreed upon measure of stored value [historically, precious metals]. Viola, there is no longer a single point of failure to be found in the system. (Yes, there are still critical failure modes, but none of them should bring the entire system down. Even so, we’ll probably never see this implemented because first the politicians would be required to give up power to control the money supply.)

    2. Change businesses in such a way that they put people first instead of profit first. I don’t want to work overtime and I want to work at my own pace without having the stress of pursuing business plans for which I don’t give a shit.

    You’re talking about ethics and (corporate) politics, and the only “fix” I’ve ever known was “start caring enough to act”. Given that you go on to say “I don’t care what my boss wants, I don’t give a crap about competition,…” — sorry, that’s office and corporate politics in a nutshell. If you don’t care enough to understand the inputs which led to these decisions, then anything I have to say — no matter how insightful — is meaningless to you.
    Don’t panic, there is always one solution: go into business for yourself. When you are your own boss, not only do you have the power to fix all of your complaints, you can’t have different values from your boss! [Worst of all, this also will immediately fix the "caring enough to act" and understanding decision making issues I see in your complaint.]

  121. @Alex K.
    No I don’t consider your ideas impossible or impractical. They sound ok ideally but like you said, it comes down to convincing politicians and business men to give up their power. Since that power is the reason they are there in the first place… that’s a hard one. How can someone do that without force? And even with force, me and whose army? :)

    I think I understand the inputs and why these business decisions are being made, but this can make some businesses inhumane. If you look into the computer games industry, for example, you will see that working ridiculous amounts of overtime is not only common but sometimes even required. Many studios abuse their workers very badly in order to keep up with competition and for the pursuit of profit. I don’t care that this is the politics of the company, it causes physical and mental pain, it has to stop. Stopping physical pain has higher priority than producing profit for my company. Not to mention the suicides in the Foxconn factories. Hearing about these things makes it difficult for me not to vomit.

    If I try and go into business myself I will most likely be forced to do the same things to the people who work for me. I may have very humane intentions but the competition will probably drive me to the edge. I can only try and find a niche in which there is no or almost no competition but this will probably not last long.

    There is also another thing I have against businesses. A business forces most people to work away from their families. A family in which the mother and the father return home in the evening to eat and sleep is not a family… that’s just some people that happen to live under the same roof and happen to have children. People have no time for each other because that’s just how things work. It is very important for children to have parents that are physically and emotionally engaged with them. I am referring to my family in this example.

    So when it comes down to convincing people that things have to change, they will never listen to you if the system works for them. Not only do they not listen, they get angry at you. They are fine, they don’t care. Trying to convince people with words and to change their thinking or method of doing things is what politics is all about.

    The root of the problem is artificially maintained scarcity which gives power to the people on top. If this scarcity is removed these people no longer have that power and they don’t really need it because what they have now, they can also have when there is abundance and more. The only thing they will not have is the ability to directly control the lives of other people for their own interests. The only reason we are not paying taxes for breathing is because there is enough air for everyone.

    Again if the system somehow starts working the way you describe, and people stop trying to abuse it, I will be just dandy. But this is just waiting for someone to fix the problem for me, the politicians can not be forced with reason.

  122. Viktor,

    Things will change when resources get tight. Of course when resources get tight, The Venus Project will seem even more ridiculously far-fetched.

    My money is on small self-sufficient farming communities — no big cities or long-distance travel of any kind. Best part is, I don’t need a government to force this on people — it’ll be forced on us by resource pressures when the oil starts drying up.

    Eric, anyone who dismisses cyberpunk as irrelevant is either ignorant or in stubborn denial. The technology is still a bit fatuous but the social context is here now — megacorporations run everything and have set up a marketing panopticon to track your every move, flabby incompetent puppet governments rubberstamp as policy what the megacorps are already doing. An “every man for himself” mentality has taken hold, as traditional loyalties and social structures have broken down. And pervasive, always-on networking with hooks into your person — well, your pocket anyway through your cellphone– is just about here but like the cyberpunk gear it’s just as likely to betray you to the power elite as it is to serve you.

    This is Gibson’s world. We just live in it. “We have no names, man, no names. We are NAMELESS. Can I score a fry?”

  123. @Jeff Read
    I hope that we don’t ever get to the point where oil dries up and we have no alternative. I think it mostly depends on how much investment is made toward the transition to a new energy source. I sincerely hope that it is not too late.
    I am afraid of what will happen should we experience a major energy crisis.

  124. Just a minor and admittedly tangential question: You wrote that you have been “using the Internet since 1976.” Was that a typo, or a redefinition of capital-I Internet for simplification purposes?

  125. Viktor,

    Let’s get one thing perfectly straight.

    Trying to convince people with words and to change their thinking or method of doing things is what politics is all about.

    No, that’s rhetoric. A fine thing in its own right, but rhetoric is not politics. Politics is convincing people to change their behavior by force of arms. It’s not pretty, it doesn’t fit well into “imagine all the people living life in peace”, but any time the most soft-hearted liberal calls for a new law to be passed, he is asking for the government to force people to change their ways, with violence if need be.

    And the libertarians have it right when they say that something like The Venus Project could only come about by force — by your own admission when you said that people won’t change their ways if what they have is going good for them.

    I’m no libertarian — not any more — but I’ve got a problem when someone tries to force a regime on me that hasn’t been tested at scale.

    Perhaps your pollyannaism is part of why you have such a hard time being taken seriously hereabouts.

  126. @Viktor:

    There is also another thing I have against businesses. A business forces most people to work away from their families.

    It does no such thing. A business has no armed thugs who go to people’s homes and force people to leave their families and toil away from them. Only slavers and governments do that.

    You may say I’m quibbling over the word “force”, but there is a fundamental dishonesty I’m fighting against here. If you can expand the definition of “force” to include “offer people more to work under certain conditions than they could get under other conditions”, then you’ve defined the word to the point of meaninglessness. The only value such a word retains is that people who aren’t aware of the game you’re playing will still associate the historical definition with the term at some subconscious level, and emotionally react to businessmen as they do to slaveholders.

    So when I see this sort of “moral equivalence” being used, I’m going to call people on it.

    It’s also untrue, given any definition of “force”. Even in the Ancestral Environment, long before any kind of medium of exchange existed, it was normal for the males of a tribe to be sent out on hunting parties; or to climb some tree far from the camp (but within earshot), and keep watch and sound the alarm if any dangerous beasts approached. This allowed the women and children to safely engage in the “gatherer” part of the “hunter-gatherer” economy.

    There was never any idyllic time when the entire family worked side by side. Even the family farm out here in Flyover Country typically had the husband out in the field while the wife stayed in/near the house tending to chores that were less likely to get her killed if a wild animal (of the 4- or 2-legged variety) came across the farm.

    Sadly, there’s a lot of this nostalgia for a time that never was in utopian literature. I’d say “ironically”, but since the original literal meaning of “utopia” was “nowhere”, it’s more poetic than anything.

    You’re really giving us a primer on the fundamental epistemological problem with Leftism here: You propose to assure that everyone is guaranteed a minimum standard of living based on abundance that you just ASS|U|ME will be produced, without even a passing thought to the fact that if people are guaranteed to get something in exchange for producing nothing in return, an awful lot of people will take you up on that, and produce nothing. That means that some people will have to produce much more than they consume, in order to provide your assumed abundance. How do you propose to persuade those people to provide for those who refuse to do a damned thing? You aren’t offering them anything of value in exchange for what you want from them. The only other possibility is that you intend to send Men With Badges And Guns to take that abundance from those who produce it, so that you’ll be able to guarantee it to those who do not.

  127. Hi, Jeff Read. Curious, what ARE your “political” viewpoints now? Why did you abandon your libertarian views? I ask because you seem to be pegged as a leftie/liberal around here, but I’ve seen a number of recent comms by you that indicate some nuance there. And I’m not trying to pigeon you into a label, I’m curious for the purposes of understanding the underlying framework of your comments.

    Also, awesome how you worked in “This is Gibson’s world. We just live in it. “We have no names, man, no names. We are NAMELESS. Can I score a fry?” First time I’ve laughed in days, thanks. Ah, nostalgia.

  128. @Jeff Read
    Again it seems that language is playing tricks on me. I understand politics as an inefficient and sometimes inhumane way to force your way of doing things on people. My understanding is that the army is the last resort of politics. If you can’t convince people verbally or with some gruesome undercover way, kill them with bombs and take what you want. Your understanding probably differs from mine because there is no universal unambiguous definition of politics, at least I don’t know what it is. I have some notion of politics but that’s about it.

    TVP will never try to enforce any regime on anyone. Their aim is to construct a working prototype of their ideas – a working city. If they succeed and are right about their ideas and values people will want to do it the TVP way by themselves. If people see that they can live without paying for food, housing, water, clean air and education, it is logical to assume that they would want to. Again this is assuming that TVP succeeds in what it wants to do.

    However, there is always the danger of a fundamentalist group of idiots spawning somewhere that claims to advocate TVP but is convinced to the death that force is the only way. I think Gandhi is proof that things can be stirred without violence. I only hope that TVP does not suffer the same fate as Gandhi did.

    Also they think that another alternative exists that may convince people. There are some indications that the capitalistic system is decaying. This does not mean that it will definitely collapse but things don’t seem to be going well. One of the major problems is the increasing automation of production and the loss of jobs that results from it. If a time comes where most people are out of work but every shop on the street is full of goods, many people will lose faith in the current system and will probably seek an alternative. If they know what TVP is and what its aim is, chances are that some of those pissed off people will go in the TVP direction. Also if the oil really dries up and there is no alternative at that moment, there will be huge crisis in the actual production which again will force people to question the current way of things and if some know about TVP they may try to help it.

    Optimistic or not, these are the values of TVP and they will try to make it work by employing volunteers, taking donations and using the knowledge and technology they can get to by any means they can excluding violence and other related inhumane methods.

  129. >Just a minor and admittedly tangential question: You wrote that you have been “using the Internet since 1976.” Was that a typo, or a redefinition of capital-I Internet for simplification purposes?

    I was simplifying. It was the ARPANET back then; the term “Internet” didn’t come into use until the 1983 switchover from NCP to TCP/IP.

  130. @Viktor
    “I understand politics as an inefficient and sometimes inhumane way to force your way of doing things on people. ”

    Funny, I understand politics as the art of making groups with competing interests live together. When you need to resort to an army, things have broken down. Say, when groups do not want to live together anymore, as in the Old Yugoslavia or what the rhetorics of the Democrats vs Republicans vs Tea Party would make us Europeans believe (I know, it is just rhetorics).

    And about your Utopian energy plans, they could actually work. Solar Energy can do the job. The numbers are easy, see my earlier comment:
    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2779#comment-287562

    The numbers are from: ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’, David MacKay
    http://www.withouthotair.com/

    http://www.withouthotair.com/

  131. @The Monster
    By the word “force” I mean to say that you are forced by the established way of doing things. Most businesses require you to work away from home at least 40 hours a week, is this not correct? This is what I mean by force. You are forced to do it in the sense that if you don’t you and your family will be hungry and probably out on the street, fact. I am talking about the unspoken rules that are taken for granted.

    I agree that historically men have always been away in order to provide for the family but it has always been this way because there was no other way at those times. If the tribesmen had food and didn’t have to worry about predators they would not have to be away.

    Now the abundance I am referring to has to result from almost complete automation. Physical human labor has to be minimal and it will only consist of maintaining the machines and the production facilities until better designs are created which will minimize this maintenance even more. The end goal is to stop
    remove the human labor completely. I do not know if this is possible but this is the goal.

    The problem with motivation is well known and I think many will agree that money or other material rewards are not the only way to nudge people to create things. This is evident in the highly technical fields and sciences. People actually feel pleasure from solving problems and getting approval and recognition from their peers, myself included. People can be taught to work together to solve problems and if the process is pleasurable to them, they will do it, this is their reward as well as seeing their ideas materialize. It always feels good to be right if you are predicting a positive outcome. Also it is very easy to get children interested in technology and science by showing them a fancy gadget and explaining to them how it works. Also having a reward system that is tested and proven to work makes things even easier. And if new children are brought up that way and they have free access to abundant resources, they will not just sit around and stare at the wall, so to speak. They will want to explore the possibilities that are available to them and to expand them. When the earth is not interesting anymore, there is always the rest of the universe. So my point is, that if effort is put into making education pleasurable and rewarding for the people who participate, they will want to do it assuming they are materially satisfied.

    Many people can still choose not to do anything, that is ok, as long as there are enough people who find pleasure in solving problems and as long as they have machines and technology to realize their ideas. If you look at our system today things have some similarity. There are many absolutely wasteful professions that serve no purpose at all and simply consume money without contributing anything. They are only trying to keep the current system from falling apart, they don’t help it move forward.

    Prison and laws don’t stop crime and violence and the people who work in prisons and as lawyers don’t contribute, they only consume and try to patch things together.
    Bankers and investors are also inefficient. They do not produce anything of value directly, they manipulate the actual creative people into creating the valuable things. It is better to shift those people and to teach them to create stuff and to do medical research instead for example. This can only happen when there is no shortage of money and since in our system there is always a shortage of money, these professions still exist.

  132. WCC,

    I’m generally in favor of a European model of governance, which is considered far left in the USA but elsewhere in the developed world is called simply “civilized”. Government regulation, sensibly applied, has proven itself in areas such as environmental protection. The Freon ban, for instance, has had a measurable effect on ozone depletion, something no free-market solution could claim. Universal health care is something else libertarians consistently get wrong: health care is not a market good, as Kenneth Arrow showed in 1963, because you never know when you might need it, you can’t stockpile it for future use, and when you do need it you often don’t have time to shop around. So in the US we leave it to the insurance companies to smooth things over, but insurance companies are incentivized by various factors NOT to cover you. As I found out recently when, in June 2011 my insurance company decided not to cover an eye exam I had in June 2009. $200 bill out of nowhere. Single-payer health care has worked for every other developed nation, some better than others but all, on average, better than the broken-ass system we have here.

    Government regulation even helps foster competition, as we see in the cellphone carrier industry. European carriers are more competitive because they are constrained by the government to serve the customer’s needs and compete. Deregulation of bit hauling in the U.S. has resulted in a tetropoly of carriers with piss-poor service, arbitrary bandwidth caps, multiple mutually incompatible networks and all that other suckiness.

    In addition, Wilkinson and Pickett have shown that the reason for the great social discord in the U.S. and comparative social harmony abroad has a lot to do with material equality. Not equality of opportunity, I mean equality of share of the pie. Many proxies for health, happiness, and getting along together well are strongly correlated with material equality, and this work may well do for laissez-faire capitalism, with its necessary inequality, what the Declaration of Independence did for the divine right of kings.

    So no, until libertarians can show the kind of track-record that Euro-style social democracy has, I can’t legitimately count myself among their number. They can’t show that track record because their proposed society is almost as far-fetched as the Venus Project. Anyone who’s read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to the very end — and not just the fun bits with the friendly computer and the free-Luna revolution — can’t escape the conclusion that not even Heinlein thought a libertarian society would actually work in practice.

    But I do support gun rights because a man who can’t defend himself is effectively defenseless.

  133. @The Monster
    You reminded me of how Viktors vision matches a utopia found in a science fiction series. Like every utopia, it doesn’t look exactly like the way its founders envisioned.

    Viktor, do you read science fiction? I can think of one series you should probably read: Honorverse by David Weber. It is basically Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE! But even so, take a good look at the Republic of Haven (Sometimes referred to as the People’s Republic of Haven, depending on the regime.)

  134. Jeff Read – thank you for the response, you may indeed score a fry ;-)

    I was re-reading TMiaHM in-flight the other day (who knows how many times now…), and during the part where the revolution enters full swing in an unexpected way (where the rape, torture, and murder by the guards suddenly ignited the sparks lit by the revolutionaries) and was reminded strongly of when Hamas won the Palestinian elections – sort of an “oh damn, we won – now what do we do?” moment…

    But anyway, I’m not sure about your conclusion and would be interested in your view that Heinlein did not believe a libertarian society would work in practice. In the majority of libertarian-influenced models he uses in describing the environments, he seems to portray very feasible models formulated on libertarian ideas and the net-positives that result. Granted there may be some dispute on the positives.

  135. But anyway, I’m not sure about your conclusion and would be interested in your view that Heinlein did not believe a libertarian society would work in practice.

    A few years ago I first had the opportunity to play BioShock. The developers of this game would probably be at home here; they’re wonderful hackers and deep thinkers and put a lot of thought into the scenario for this video game. BioShock is set in the ruins of Rapture, a sort of straw-man Objectivist utopia where everyone is free to employ his or her talents in rational self-interest, improve themselves through science, yadda yadda. Of course it all goes pear-shaped when all the people who “improved” themselves with genetic material infusions went batshit and now the place is a shambles. I wondered if this was intended to be some sort of left-liberal preachy condemnation of Objectivism but I read an interview with the developers where they said they liked Objectivism and liked Rand’s ideas, but felt that humanity was too corrupt to actually put them to practice in a sustainable way.

    I think Heinlein felt the same way, that the best and most legitimate governance is the one you exercise over yourself, but nobody is ever content with just governing themselves, they have to govern the other guy too — and that is why a society like Free Luna is not sustainable at scale. So the Loonies formed a congress and started passing laws — don’t do this, don’t do that — given enough time they might evolve enough to run a huge budget deficit and gridlock the two houses of Congress on the issue of whether to raise the debt ceiling. And I think that he felt that because of our easily corruptible human nature, the glory days of Luna were necessarily short-lived.

    That’s how I read it, anyway. Maybe more studied Heinlein experts can find a flaw in my reading?

  136. @Daniel Weber
    No, I don’t read science fiction books but I thank you for the suggestions, I will look into them.

    I do not understand why you are calling my visions a utopia. A utopia is something that is static and perfect. What I am envisioning is how to solve the problems of today. When these problems are solved, other problems will arise. Overpopulation is one major problem that will arrive immediately if the TVP ideas come true. I never said that after we fix poverty, war and crime people will live happily ever after. They will simply have other more high level problems. How to fit everyone on earth for example. If we can’t fit and can’t control the population how do we expand? This is not impossible but a matter of time, one way or another. If we can’t fit on the ground we can go up, down and under water. The problems we have today are just lame, people don’t know how to work together and they don’t want to but when the shit hits the fan, what will they do? Perish or work out the issues if it is not too late.

    I believe that every major problem with today’s system is technical in nature, not political. Nuclear weapons and nuclear shelters for the elite idiots will not solve our problems, neither will weapons. Giving ridiculously little money for advanced medical research that actually cures diseases isn’t helping either. Businesses do not try to implement and develop the most efficient technologies currently known because it is not profitable. If they fail, that is, run out of money, before they develop it the competition will cause them to go bankrupt. Inefficiency is inherent in today’s system. Only paths that are profitable are taken, not the ones that will bring the most benefit. It is very easy to think of a better design for every single thing that is being produced right now but when people refuse to give money to develop that better design, it will never be implemented.

    I have a very simple idea that can be implemented in today’s system which can lead to new and revolutionary technology. All that needs to be done is to get all corporations to agree to fund a group of people to develop efficient and cheap technology that enables mass use of clean renewable energy for example. They don’t need to change their current business plans, they can keep competing with each other, but spare just a tiny bit of all their money and fund such a research, without expecting anything in return. Just a tiny bit. Of course in this example the oil, coal and gas companies will take the short stick and will probably become irrelevant but the other companies don’t really care, they will still be doing what they are doing by the same rules that they are used to and the benefit of cleaner cheaper energy will be for everyone to enjoy. One company does not have to take the whole burden and risk bankruptcy, if they work together by helping a little bit they can do magic.

  137. Funny, I understand politics as the art of making groups with competing interests live together.

    Emphasis on the word “making”.

    When you need to resort to an army, things have broken down.

    Tell that to the French, who have machine-gun-toting gendarmes in full combat fatigues patrolling the airports. No one even bats an eyelash, it’s all just part of keeping the public order.

    You don’t even need an army. Even in pacifist countries like Japan, cops carry guns — why do you think this is?

  138. @Jeff Read, RE: August 1st, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Well, the need/desire for one to govern another is quite prevalent in a lot of his writing, though not usually looked at favorably. Free Luna, short lived, like the American Old West (I have my own thoughts on this, but it is often pointed at by libertarians making a case), but one of the subjects I am examining at the moment is whether libertarianism works best, or only in, frontier environments (fiction or not, the Old West, the fringes in the Firefly series, etc.) It seems to me that the more a civilization expands, the less individual rights a society permits, and the more government they want, assuming said societies espouse democratic principles.

    Is that required to sustain a growing society? Does libertarianism work for a massive country/population? Would it be allowed to work? I have my thoughts, but I have the unfortunate habit of trying to poke holes in my own arguments ;-)

    Anyway, thanks for the exchange.

  139. I do not understand why you are calling my visions a utopia. A utopia is something that is static and perfect.

    No. A utopia is an ideal that will never exist because its imaginer did not consider the reality of human nature.

    I never said that after we fix poverty, war and crime people will live happily ever after.

    And this is why your ideal will never exist. I don’t know about poverty, but war and crime are unfixable. We can minimize them, but not eradicate them without deploying frighteningly inhumane means. (Precrime? Mandatory-at-birth brain implants that squelch the impulse to steal from or hurt another?) We’re clannish apes who are wired to maim or kill outsider apes who, according to some internal calculus, threaten our clan. All the fond wishes and world-peacey goodness in the world won’t change that.

  140. WCC,

    I am examining at the moment is whether libertarianism works best, or only in, frontier environments (fiction or not, the Old West, the fringes in the Firefly series, etc.)

    There’s a lot to this. The other real-world example which Eric cited — the Icelandic Commonwealth — was itself a frontier society.

    Viktor,

    They don’t need to change their current business plans, they can keep competing with each other, but spare just a tiny bit of all their money and fund such a research, without expecting anything in return. Just a tiny bit.

    Congratulations — you’ve just invented venture capital. Of course VCs do expect something in return for their investment; just not — necessarily — from you.

  141. We’re clannish apes who are wired to maim or kill outsider apes who, according to some internal calculus, threaten our clan. All the fond wishes and world-peacey goodness in the world won’t change that.

    given that we are all apes, how do we decide which ones are the “outsider” ones ?

  142. given that we are all apes, how do we decide which ones are the “outsider” ones ?

    Well, that all depends. Skin color, hair color, nationality, religion, ideology, and even accent have all been used as criteria to make this decision.

    I don’t make any claims as to which criteria are legitimate. I’m just elucidating what sort of creatures we are. Any idea for a society that doesn’t account for this is bound to fall flat on its face.

    There’s a whole line of conspiracy theory which suggests that the New World Order guys, utopians with deep pockets who nevertheless are cognizant of this fact of human nature, are engaged in a black-ops skunkworks project to create fake aliens through genetic engineering and introduce them to the world via calculated press stunts. Confronted with the outsider of outsiders, humanity would have no choice but to unite in a common global “tribe”. Yeah, just like Adrian Veidt from Watchmen. The big problem I see with that plan is keeping the ruse up once you’ve united everybody.

  143. “I am examining at the moment is whether libertarianism works best, or only in, frontier environments.”

    “There’s a lot to this. The other real-world example which Eric cited — the Icelandic Commonwealth — was itself a frontier society.”

    No, Iceland had a complex legal code, which definately restricted what you could do. It was enforced with violence (or the threat of violence) by the kinsmen of the guy you killed. This was not libertarianism. You could do what you wanted only if you were *really good* with an axe.

    The (American) Old West is not such a good example either. You had a certain freedom of action if you were good at bushwhacking, but the people around you soon organized a court system and hired some policemen.

  144. The other real-world example which Eric cited — the Icelandic Commonwealth — was itself a frontier society.

    That’s because, by definition, a frontier society is dominated by opportunities to exploit new developments, rather than rent-seeking fights over the incumbent developed infrastructure. Once a place gets “civilized”, business tends to be dominated by people who weren’t even born when their (great) grandparents built their business empires. These spoiled children, rather than facing the challenges their ancestors met and defeated, have their “Man in Washington” to arrange pretty words on paper to ensure they keep getting paid, whether they actually produce or not. (Note how one’s social status is determined by how old their money is.)

  145. No, Iceland had a complex legal code, which definately restricted what you could do. It was enforced with violence (or the threat of violence) by the kinsmen of the guy you killed. This was not libertarianism.

    The (American) Old West is not such a good example either. You had a certain freedom of action if you were good at bushwhacking, but the people around you soon organized a court system and hired some policemen.

    I don’t think you understand what “libertarianism” means. You’ve apparently swallowed the statist caricature of “anti-government” that says “oh, you libertarians don’t want any laws at all! You want murder to be legal!”

    Libertarians hold that the only justification for the existence of government is to defend the persons and property of the people. Minarchists like me want it kept to that limited warrant. Anarchists like ESR don’t even want that; they want justice to be provided by the free market. But either way, we want murder to be punished, you betcha.

  146. @Viktor:
    reading science fiction [at least the good stuff ; ) ] is something that anybody thinking about the future should do. The helpful bits aren’t so much the fantastical worlds, though those are fun to read about. The important parts are the people who live in them. The more fleshed out the universe is, the more history there is, the more complex the people will be because they will be reacting based on what they know and what they’ve been taught by events to think.

    One reason you will never get rid of war is that you will never get humans to stop expanding exponentially without resource shortages. Whenever there are resource shortages, people go to war to see too it that they and their descendants get as much as possible of whatever’s run short. The ones who don’t do that, and the ones who have an abundance but don’t protect it get pushed aside by those with the ambition to wage war. And there will never be a time (except maybe after a big war) when there is enough to go around, because people will just make more babies until their isn’t.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia

    A utopian society is not static by definition, just by implication. If it is perfect, then how would it change? Things like TVP work towards perfecting the conditions in which we live. If they succeed in their goal, then they have made something that doesn’t need changing. The biggest difference that I can see between them and the others is that TVP admits that external factors can throw a wrench in the works even after they realize their dream.

  147. “Libertarians hold that the only justification for the existence of government is to defend the persons and property of the people.”

    Yeah…but then there are endless debates about what that minimum set of defenses is. There are always some who would justify ‘speech codes’ as defending people, and the government gets expanded. The only thing that we really can do is hold elections, have laws passed, collect taxes and do all the rest of that stuff, with all the attendent foolishness, corruption, etc., that comes with it. Someone is always going to be there to object to whatever you want to do, claiming that it hurts *him*.

    And then there are others who simply think that the government *should* do a lot more. They have a vote in this, too. Libertarianism, as you describe it, is a very hard sell.

  148. @Jeff Read
    “Tell that to the French, who have machine-gun-toting gendarmes in full combat fatigues patrolling the airports. No one even bats an eyelash, it’s all just part of keeping the public order.
    You don’t even need an army. Even in pacifist countries like Japan, cops carry guns — why do you think this is?”

    Do you actually know the difference between a soldier and a police person? It is not the arms.

    It is unfashionable in the US, but politics is 99% compromise and 1% coercion. Tyrants have little use for politics (see North Korea, Syria, and Libya). And please do not pretend US Americans perform their duties only at gun-point and permanent fear of torture. Nor are most Europeans.

  149. @Jeff Read
    I am really reluctant to just accept your view of human nature firstly because TVP argues that human nature has very little to do with the complex human behavior that we are seeing around us. Human nature dictates physical appearance and possibly mere predispositions to disease or some kind of behavior. The major factor that is 99.9% percent responsible for the way people behave is their environment. By environment I don’t just mean nature, I mean everything that people have contact with. Everything that comes from the human senses, everything they hear, see, smell, taste and touch shapes their behavior as well as their memory, not just some kind of nature that can not be explained. People, just like animals behave very differently when they have a nurturing environment than when they have a hostile and unfriendly environment. This explanation makes much more sense to me rather than human nature is human nature and it does not change just like that.

    Most people are really convinced that human nature causes people to kill each other or to want to have power and to want to dictate. This understanding is not deep but it is to be expected because this is all they have been seeing during their whole lives. Also when we look at history, not matter how distorted it may be, we see the same thing. The desire for power and control is an addiction, a learned behavior, not something you are born with. I don’t have it and none of the people that I personally know of have it.

    The establishment of the power structures is a culture of its own. Everyone participating in that culture will advocate its values and principles. The people on top are most likely convinced that since they are on top they are more intelligent or somehow better than most other people.

    @Daniel Weber
    I absolutely agree that when people are deprived, they will try to take by force from one another. This is what is happening now. The problem of overpopulation is absolutely real and serious but by saying that it is unmanageable and impossible to solve is an excuse. If people say that a problem is impossible to solve they will not even try to work on it and will become impossible because they made it so in their own minds. Very few things have been proven impossible to date and some of them are thought to be impossible because this is what our current knowledge dictates. If we learn more, things may change.

    I know people who do not want children and they are living a perfectly normal life. I am referring to my aunt and uncle. They have lived together for a very long time and they never wanted children. They are perfectly healthy by the way. The more educated people are and the more they are aware of the world they live in and the problems they face, the big picture, the more they will be able to make the right decision. Ultimately the earth will balance itself because it can not support more than a certain number of people. If this number is exceeded, scarcity comes into play and this get crappy. If people know that this can happen however, it is for them to choose. They can do it the hard way, or the easy way. When people are physically and mentally satisfied they are not untamed beasts that can not stop having children. And I mean mostly satisfied, not completely so you don’t say that complete satisfaction is impossible :)

  150. @Victor
    “Most people are really convinced that human nature causes people to kill each other or to want to have power and to want to dictate. ”

    Actually, most primatologists are convinced that male (and female) primates want to have power. They are also convinced that in many primate species, individuals are willing to resort to terror and violence to get the power.

    And these primatologists really do not make an exception for humans.

    @Victor
    “The desire for power and control is an addiction, a learned behavior, not something you are born with. I don’t have it and none of the people that I personally know of have it.”

    Eh, where do you live? You do sound a little naive.

    @Victor
    “Ultimately the earth will balance itself because it can not support more than a certain number of people. ”

    Indeed. The main question is whether this balance will include humans or not. Currently, the odds are not comforting.

  151. @Winter
    “Eh, where do you live? You do sound a little naive.”

    I live in Bulgaria and I’m 24, perhaps this is why I may sound naive to you. When children are born they are not power hungry. All they want is to sleep, eat, to be touched and to explore the world around them. As they group they may pick up the power mania from the surrounding world, this is not genetically determined to happen. As I said, there may be a predisposition to be the strongest and dominant, but ultimately the environment will shape your behavior. Also animal behavior is only partially relevant to people. There is a really big difference between people and animals no?

  152. @Winter
    As a male, all I want is to have sex with women, as much as I want to, and to prove that I am better at doing things and stronger than the other males. I don’t want to control them and make them play by my rules, I just want to show my superiority to impress the ladies and to secure my needs. I avoid violence because I am human, not a monkey. I choose to.

    The power we see today may also be driven by these basic urges, as you say. However, the people on top can have all the sex they want, all the food they want, along with everything else they have, and have no reason to believe that they are not superior than others. They are on top, they have all the money. They exercise their power because they want to keep things this way. But what if they can have a similar or even better life, without having all that control. Would they still want this control if they are as satisfied as they are now? That is, are they there because they like power and control for power and control’s sake or are they ultimately doing it out of basic urges? If the basic urge is in play, it is fixable, if it is for power and control’s sake, it is an addiction.

  153. @Viktor:

    human nature has very little to do with the complex human behavior that we are seeing around us. Human nature dictates physical appearance and possibly mere predispositions to disease or some kind of behavior. The major factor that is 99.9% percent responsible for the way people behave is their environment.

    The crux of your argument is that people fighting over anything, whether it be for position in a power hierarchy, or a precious resource is really quite silly. All you need to do is watch children play — or better yet, hang in front of the chimpanzee cage at the zoo — and you can see that primates, human or otherwise, naturally will fight over anything of value.

  154. @Viktor:

    As a male, all I want is to have sex with women, as much as I want to, and to prove that I am better at doing things and stronger than the other males.

    The people on top can have all the sex they want, …

    But what if they can have a similar or even better life, without having all that control.

    Let me get this straight. You want to have lots of sex, and either that’s part of showing who is best, or a result of being best (or a bit of both).

    And yet you think that some sort of magical equalization machine will remove these same urges in whomever is now on top. Can you really not look at politicians and Tiger Woods to see the impracticality of this premise?

  155. @Viktor
    Look at Rupert Murdoch hanging on to his power, and look at his wife. Then wonder about human nature.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendi_Deng

    Quite a number of men will risk their lives to get at the top and be able to get the “best” women. Actually, that is the explanation for the male birth surplus.

    Women have less risky strategies to get the “best” man and protect their offspring.

    But I really hope you will never have reason to “recalibrate” your views on human morality.

  156. @Morgan Greywolf
    Yes you are correct. However, children fight over things because they don’t know of a better way to solve their problem. For example one child plays with a toy and another comes and takes the toy.
    Notice how they don’t fight at first, the second child comes to get what it wants. After the first child
    sees this it wants it back and the first urge is to just take it back. The second wants the same thing and they start to fight. This is environment at work, not built in behavior. If their dad for example comes and gives the second child the same toy they stop fighting. Again environment at work. It can cause people to fight, or to go about their business peacefully.

    As children grow up they stop fighting over the childish problems, because they either don’t care anymore or have learned how to solve them. Grown up people are no different, they will always fight to get what they want if they don’t know of a better way. People and animals are not fighting for fighting’s sake. For uneducated(dumb) people or young children fighting over something is the most obvious solution and they give no second thought, they just go for it. If it works… great.

    The money system was created so that people can easily trade stuff and avoid having to fight for what they want if they can give something in return of equal agreed value. Money provides an abstraction over the value a particular physical object. This is a better way of solving a problem than fighting and it was a great idea when it was created. However, time has proven that while money solves the initial problems, it creates similar problems when it is not enough, just like any other resource. This coupled with the wrong impression that money is the only motivation for doing things leads to where we are now. This impression is perpetuated by the current culture and rules and children are taught from early age that earning money is the only way to live. People never give a thought that the physical reality beyond the monetary system may be different or at least may be changed through technology. The abstraction that was once useful has turned into the actual physical resource that it was meant to abstract in the first place.

    Precious resource does not necessarily mean oil or money. The most general notion of a resource is something that is desired for one reason or another. Large scale scarcity of resources leads to large scale conflict, small scale scarcity leads to small scale conflict. You are basically saying the same thing that I am saying :)

  157. @Patrick Maupin
    No, maybe I didn’t express myself correctly. I don’t presume that I can turn off the urges, I want to satisfy them as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with Tiger Woods the man wants to have sex, nothing wrong with that. People make it wrong because in our culture it is not acceptable to cheat on your wife.

    Also the sex is not about who is best at something, it is the other way around. Being best at something so that you can get sex. My primary target are the women, the other males are an obstacle that I want to remove if they are in my way. If they are not in my way, I have what I want. I hope I’m making sense :)

    @Winter
    Yes, Rupert Murdoch is no different than other people. He tries to keep his power because it makes his life good. This is understandable. If he could live at least as good without having that power, I think he wouldn’t mind. The only thing that is wrong in this picture is the woman. I bet she is not with him because of his good looks or animal attraction but because of his money. This is a sick and twisted reality in a world that is deprived of money (which is sick and twisted in its own right).

  158. @Viktor
    “This is a sick and twisted reality in a world that is deprived of money (which is sick and twisted in its own right).”

    Things become much brighter and clearer if you read some ethology (animal behavior). I would suggest any book of Frans de Waal as a starter. You will be surprised about how human the major primates are, and how much primate is left in us. And why neither is bad.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frans_de_Waal

  159. Things become much brighter and clearer if you read some ethology (animal behavior). I would suggest any book of Frans de Waal as a starter. You will be surprised about how human the major primates are, and how much primate is left in us.

    I’ll add Desmond Morris (The Naked Ape, The Human Zoo) He looked at humans exactly the way he looked at other primates, and was not a bit surprised to find the similarities. He points out that a lot of the behaviors we associate with modern civilization arise in primates in captivity.

    He said that primitive tribes that grew large enough would fragment into smaller bands, with an optimal size of roughly 60 or so people. His contention is that a group that small enough allows each member to really know the others well enough to trust each other (and to know when they can’t trust), but that a massive nation-state leaves us interacting frequently with people we don’t know, requiring a complex legal system to provide that trust level. But we don’t really trust that either. It’s just the way we’re wired.

    Or to put it more pithily: “We’re chimps with car keys.”

  160. @The Monster
    I do not think we are really wired that way. I am certain that I do not trust someone who is not known to me because I have learned that trusting him/her may hurt me or someone who is dear to me.

  161. “Captialism and communism are each, essentially, forms of rationing.”

    All economic system are forms of rationing. That’s what economics is, the study of systems to allocate scarce resources. No resource scarcity, no economics needed.

    (Yes, you can apply it in other areas, as David Friedman has done (e.g. “The Economics of War”). But even in those applications, there is a you-can-either-have-your-cake-OR-eat-it underlying the problem, which functions just like resource constraints.)

  162. All economic system are forms of rationing.

    Well, yes, of course. I’m simply showing that TVP is not any different from communism. It creates an aristocracy of pull — IOW, those who need more get more. A five year old could tell you why this won’t work.

  163. Morgan,

    I agree with you analysis of TVP. I just wanted to jump in and keep us focused on what economics really is. Sometimes this core fact gets lost, as in the current U.S. budget/deficit debate, which seems to be trying very hard to avoid explaining to citizens that the punch bowl isn’t full any longer and all Americans can’t have all the services that they have taken for granted.

  164. Jeff Read: “Things will change when resources get tight…My money is on small self-sufficient farming communities — no big cities or long-distance travel of any kind.”

    You can cut my throat at that point; I have absolutely no desire to live in a world of “self-sufficient farming communities with no long-distance travel of any kind.”

    Fortunately, I don’t expect it will come to that. No, there aren’t quick and simple solutions to a lower availability of oil, but it’s a long, drawn-out impact that will gradually push the world in the direction of greater efficiency and greater use of alternative energy sources (with nuclear fission as the likely #1 source to grow).

    Now, perhaps Germany’s Greens want to close the nuclear plants and turn their nation into a bunch of self-sufficient farming communities, but I can’t picture the mainstream of Germans supporting this once they realize what the choices really are.

  165. Jeff Read Says
    :

    given that we are all apes, how do we decide which ones are the “outsider” ones ?

    Well, that all depends. Skin color, hair color, nationality, religion, ideology, and even accent have all been used as criteria to make this decision.

    I don’t make any claims as to which criteria are legitimate. I’m just elucidating what sort of creatures we are. Any idea for a society that doesn’t account for this is bound to fall flat on its face.

    Yeah, I expected something like that (except for “nation” – that’s a bit hard to define)
    the problem i see is the following : what constitutes an “outsider” seems to differ by individual (as in : one individual might consider a person with a different skin color an outsider, an other individual might happily marry and have children with a person of a different skin color).

    You yourself indicate that the criteria for “outsider” vary (in time, by culture, …) to the point that one could actually pick one at random.
    If we are (supposedly, by your claim) wired to kill and maim outsider apes, I’d expect we’d also have some common criteria to recognize outsiders by.

    In more general terms, I have a problem with those “we’re wired to …” justifications – they sound to much like simple excuses. Too simple.
    Eg re. aggression or seeking power, i don’t doubt that’s in our nature. But we’re also that specific sort of primates that developed the ability to reason, to see relations between actions and consequences, to project in to the future, to reason about ourselves. We’ve produced philosophers that came op with stuff like “do not fight battles you cannot win” or “choose your battles wisely” (John Wayne ? Sun Tsz ?). We have people that spend a lifetime acquiring extraordinary fighting skills and the self-discipline to put up with extraordinary abuse in order to avoid a fight (I got this from the TV series “Kung Fu” so with all the martial artists here, I’m probably on thin ice with that one).

    So, us being primates doesn’t necessarily mean we have to behave like a bunch of chimpansees.

  166. Personally, I see Fukishima as proof that the nuclear industry is perhaps made of the smartest, most anal retentive engineering cadre on the planet.

    They have to store their nuclear waste on site. They have plants that were designed in the ’70s and built in the ’80s. Significant plant upgrades have been stonewalled by the Japanese Green Party for 15 years, and hampered by the Japanese Lost Decade to boot.

    The plant suffered a 9.2 Richter scale earthquake less than 80 km away. This is, literally, a once-in-200-years incidence.

    The plant suffered a goddamned tsunami.

    The radiation leak outside the plant? At 10 km outside the walls, higher than average for Fukishima, about typical for Denver.

    Whoever designed that plant? They deserve whatever accolades we can think to throw at them.

  167. Interestingly, TVP’s goal sounds a lot like the society that John Ringo uses as the starting point for ‘There Will Be Dragons’. Ringo also explores the fundamental problems with that society in setting up the fall of the society and the ‘Wizards War’ which drives the later novels. The society is fundamentally a post-scarcity nanotech society with resource allocation done by an AI supervised by a council of humans.

  168. Viktor, the biggest problem I see with your vision is as follows:

    We achieve post-scarcity! Abundant stuff for everyone!

    Everybody is free to have lots and lots of sex!

    Lots of sex in a time of plenty => lots and lots of babies. Yay for Baby Boomers! (At least this isn’t the zombie apocalypse. Then baby boomers would be really scary.)

    Congratulations, population growth went back to exponential.

    Welcome to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malthusian_catastrophe

  169. @Cathy
    Nuclear simply does’nt add up. All the “endless” variants are experimental and costly.

    The only endless source that adds up is solar. See my earlier comment for a link to the numbers.

    No solution is cheap though. We already burned all cheap energy.

  170. No solution is cheap though. We already burned all cheap energy.

    Now that’s not quite true, Winter. There are still nearly 1.5 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves. That doesn’t count oil reserves that may yet still exist.

  171. > I’m generally in favor of a European model of governance, which is considered far left in the USA but elsewhere in the developed world is called simply “civilized”. Government regulation, sensibly applied, has proven itself in areas such as environmental protection.

    European govt is both incomplete and small scale. It’s (currently) incomplete because it doesn’t deal with security issues. When it had to deal with security issues, it was almost always at war.

    It’s also small scale – the largest country is 1/4th the US population and none approach 1/4 the area.

    Also, all of the countries are (by US standards) monocultural. Heck – collective europe doesn’t have has much diversity as Texas, let alone a diverse state.

    Plus, the european cultures are, for the most part, effective cultures. (Yes, some are more effective than others, but they’re all above average by world standards.)

    To put it another way, everything works when you’re just dealing with a bunch of Swedes who are mostly related to one another. (That said, the US-Swedes “better” than the folks that they left behind, but that’s true of almost every ethnic group. It’s unclear if that’s due to selection or govt.)

  172. @Victor

    You believe that this Venus Project thing will remove scarcity. But that is not true. There will always be scarcity. And it is easily to prove that.

    With my current salary and savings, I could live high on the hog on a 4+ acre house in rural Vermont. But I don’t, because I like living in Boston. But living in Boston means that I cannot purchase a house on 4 acres of land, because those houses just do not exist within walking distance of the nearest T station (the local subway system). Even a billionaire could not purchase 4 acres of continuous land within walking distance of a T station in Boston – he’d have to buy up 20+ other properties and demolish them, in order to get 4 acres (yes, land is that dense near the T stations), and it would still take 10+ years for him to do so, before everyone finally sold out (and some people just won’t sell, no matter what the price).

    Certain locations, certain things, by their very nature, are scarce. Even if you get rid of hunger and produce free energy, it does not remove scarcity. It just changes what is scarce. So you’ll still need some system like money to deal with that scarcity.

    Even simple examples like front row tickets to concerts, box seats at the football stadium, etc, are all sources of scarcity that will have to be dealt with via a system like money.

  173. @hsu:

    Excellent! I was going to make this same point!

    @Viktor:

    Put another way, what hsu is saying is even if you cover all of the basic needs — a virtual impossibility — scarcity still exists. Need still exists. What if we all have food to eat, water drink, a place to live, etc.? So? Let’s say there are 1 million heart surgeons, but there are 900 million people in need of heart surgery and 10 million of those need a particular kind of heart surgery that only 100 of those 1 million heart surgeons know how to do it? Who gets to have that surgery? Who lives and who dies? What if you or your spouse are one of those 10 million people? Then what? Would you resort to violence to get your spouse operated on? How about bribes? Would you perform sexual favors for it? How far would you go?

    Now you know what is meant by “everyone has a price tag.”

  174. “Single-payer health care has worked for every other developed nation, some better than others but all, on average, better than the broken-ass system we have here.”

    If you say so.

    “Canadians’ access to care is poor, despite high spending. The country ranks 20th of 22 OECD countries for access to physicians. Canada’s national statistical agency recently reported that 6.6% of Canadians (aged 12 or older) indicated being without a doctor and unable to find one. Canada also ranks poorly on access to technology: 17th for CT scanners and MRIs.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904800304576476402881011290.html?KEYWORDS=canada

    Granted, it’s an editorial piece, but I’d expect the OECD and statistics to be accurate.

  175. @hsu
    Yes you are correct. We can never eliminate all scarcity, because the geographical locations for example are unique and some are always better than others. However, this problem can be greatly mitigated by a very efficient infrastructure which allows travelling in a matter of minutes. The reason that such an infrastructure is not being developed is the same reason that any “star-trek like” technology is not being developed and that is because we don’t have money :)

    Also like I said in one of my previous posts, when the bare necessities of life are abundant – good food, clean air, clean water, high-tech homes that tend to every need or want that a person has, efficient global and local transportation and education, things will be vastly different. I’d be far more than happy to see these things be created and to be free. For everything else that is not available for everyone, a technology can be developed to determine who can have it and who can not. Such a technology is money at the moment. If the money today can be engineered in such a way that it is objective and not subject to abuse, it will be ok. We will always strive to remove the need for money through abundance. For some things we will succeed, for others we may not. And even if this money can still be abused, the most important stuff, the bare necessities, can not be influenced by it because they are free which automatically equals much less deprived, miserable and useless people.

    @Morgan Greywolf
    We agree on this absolutely 100%. I never claim that TVP can solve all scarcity than can possibly occur, they never claim this either. Perhaps I should have stated this in a clear way in my previous posts. TVP does not deal with absolutes. Solve the problems as best as we can for what we know now, and then improve those solutions. Also, when problems arise, start working on them immediately, don’t wait for funds if what you need to solve the problem is available and not scarce.

    If a time comes that we are in the situation that you describe, some kind of money will have to be used so that we know who to treat or not. This is ok. However, when this happens, we know that something is not as we’d like it to be and start working on a solution. For example, the best possible solution to this problem that I can think of, is to have fully automated surgeons that can independently perform such an operation. This is our end goal. Before we achieve it, or prove that it is impossible, we can provide advanced automation tools to surgeons so that they can work much faster and efficiently. For example a surgeon will be operating on multiple patients at the same time in different parts of the world. He does not even need to be in the same room as the patients as long as he/she has the appropriate tools at his/her disposal.

    What I am saying essentially is, that when the TVP ideas hit rock, which I’m sure they will, we don’t just stick to the initial idea and try to make it work. We change the plan so that we can solve the problem to the best of our knowledge. I have never seen any initial engineering plan tat starts working perfectly when it is implemented. Problems with it arise all the time and it changes and transforms so that it solves the problem that it has to solve.

    When TVP says that we should live without money, they are no different than a child fighting. They have this idea because they came to this conclusion with all the knowledge that they currently have. When they start implementing it, and if they encounter problems they will analyze them and change the plan. Banging one’s head in the wall serves no purpose, at least not for most people :) This is what communism does. It has its ideas and it continues to scream the same ideas as things fall apart around it.

  176. @Morgan Greywolf
    “There are still nearly 1.5 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves.”

    Deep sea drilling in the Artic is not cheap. Neither in monetary nor in environmental terms. Oil used to just flow from the wells like water. That era is no more.

    @Morgan Greywolf
    “(At the current rate of consumption, it will take at least 45 years to use it all up.)”

    Ignoring the growth of consumption, 45 years is what current children will have to cope with. So we might as well start building replacements NOW.

    Btw, oil is much too valuable to just burn up. And producing+burning it is rather bad for the environment we live in.

  177. Granted, it’s an editorial piece, but I’d expect the OECD and statistics to be accurate.

    It’s paywalled, and Rupert ain’t getting my dime.

    The Canadian system is broken-ass, but most of the Canadians I’ve asked would rather have it than our system. If their opinion ain’t enough to sway you, then the actual relevant statistics will. Canadians have historically looked a lot like Americans, health-wise, not surprising considering that they are our hat. That all started changing in the 1970s when Canada adopted single-payer care and the U?.S. didn’t. Since that time they’ve been beating us on important health proxy metrics like longevity and low infant mortality.

    Canadians are on average healthier than Americans, and the likely reason is that the government pays for health care.

  178. Cathy,

    http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0012163

    Among industrialized nations, Canada ranks third in life expectancy behind Switzerland and Japan, and well ahead of the United States, which ranks eleventh. While there are sharp discrepancies in some regions, the report also shows the life expectancy for nearly 99 per cent of Canadians to be within 2.8 years of the national average.

    Looking further into the issue of health and income inequality, a separate study of Canadian and U.S. mortality statistics, released at the same time, concludes that higher incomes appear to be more closely linked to longer lives in the United States. One reason, the report suggests: Americans do not have access to the kind of publicly funded medical services generally available in Canada. That finding, at least, is a reminder of the surviving value of a health system that is increasingly under stress – economically and politically.

  179. Victor, unfortunately AI scales notoriously badly. I don’t think world government is the right project to put the current age AIs to work on. Yes, a supercomputer is a more efficient problem-solver than a human being in theory. However, it is only as powerful as the formalized models of reality it works with. Where do those models come from?
    I do not dismiss the attempts to formalize human interactions as futile. People have been working on this ever since we discovered the concept of law. However, there is still too much work to be done – if it can be done.
    The monetary system is machine of a different kind. It gives up on trying to build an explicit model of the system of human values. Instead, it measures how much people are willing to sacrifice to get things done now, which tings and how well. The rules of supply and demand, you see.
    If you insist on having a world government, don’t remove monetary transactions because you will need that information to calibrate the computer to the actual human nature (as opposed to the relying on verbal accounts about what people “need” and how badly they need it).

    I am more concerned about the effects a centralized economy would have on human interactions. Under centralized economy only one kind of relationship matters – the one between you and the authorities (or the computer in the case of Venus). This leads to people seeing each other as insignificant and feeling indifference towards each other. Under capitalism, people who feed you are important – bosses, workers, customers – and it pays off to be nice to them. Even to strangers, since they might become your customers. I am constantly reminded of this phenomenon when staying in Bulgaria where customers are often treated with irritation as a bother rather as an opportunity (to earn money). I’m afraid, we have already internalized this sentiment of indifference.

  180. > Canadians have historically looked a lot like Americans

    No, Canadians have never looked a lot like Americans. Canada is about as diverse as Portland Oregon.

    Canadians are a lot like folks from northern-border US states (plus some Asians in Vancouver).

    However, Canadians look nothing like Texans, Hawaiians, or even Californians. (Hint – Hispanics, Blacks, etc.)

  181. @Ivaylo
    I actually view this computer as a relatively simple system. I envision it as a machine with sensors all over the world that read how much water there is, how much food we are currently producing, what materials and other resources such as metals, for example, are available, where they are geographically located and what is the most efficient way for me to obtain them. How much resources do we actually have? A huge data base that updates itself in real-time.

    For instance, me and some other people in my city need to build a road, or a house or an apartment complex. We just tell the machine which resources we need and it answers whether they are available or not based on the physical readings from its sensors. If they are available it can send it to us, if they are not available, it can provide alternative suggestions with similar physical properties. If it says that there is not enough at the moment or that these resources are depleting and will soon be gone forever, we have a problem that needs to be solved. I am assuming that it will simply distribute resources based on demand and availability.

    If the computer informs us that the resources we request are not enough and that 3 more cities are requesting them for example, at the same time, we will have to work out who gets it. We may still use money in this case or some other unambiguous way of determining who gets it.

    Also I don’t think we will feel indifference toward each other. People will still work together just like we are doing now, the computer will only be used for automatic resource distribution if the resources we need are enough for the current need, if they are not it can merely provide suggestions and alternatives and it is up to us to solve the problem. Like I said, a money system or something similar will still be used in such a case. People are still in charge, the computer by itself can not determine who needs what the most. We will tell it based on our wants and needs, we will not be on auto-pilot, so to speak.

  182. I bet google can do it right now if it has probes all over the globe :)

  183. Viktor,

    What do you do with people who don’t play by the rules? Say a bunch of people invent a sort of scrip currency and start trading both raw goods and finished products, outside the computer system. Would consequences befall them? What sort of consequences?

  184. > One of the side-effects of using Google+ is that I’m getting exposed to a kind of writing I usually avoid – ponderous divagations on how the Internet should be and the meaning of it all written by people who’ve never gotten their hands dirty actually making it work.

    I wonder if politicians think the same things about political pundits. Including amateur ones like me.

    Yours,
    Tom

  185. I am assuming they will trade stuff that is scarce, because otherwise, they can’t sell it, people can get it for free. I have all the air I need, I can breathe all I want, no one can sell air to me. Also if the stuff they are selling is just minor luxuries or some other kind of insignificant things, there’s no need to do anything, they are not doing any damage. And since most people won’t need it, the people who sell can not make a huge profit, they will always be limited to sell to a small group of people to whom the sold goods are not vital. When such trade happens it is merely a hobby of someone, he/she can not gain absolute power through it.

    If they start trading food or water when it becomes scarce for some reason, we are back where we started :). If the basic necessities are secure (food, water, air, clothes, efficient travel infrastructure, entertainment and recreation, housing and education), such independent trading of scarce goods will have little to no impact on the lives of the vast majority of the population. Only when a select group of people (politicians, business men, investors and bankers today – none of which can do anything useful by the way) control a resource that the majority of the population needs (money), they gain power over the needy people. This is what we have to avoid at all costs if physically possible. In essence, when we change the environment and produce abundance that mostly satisfies us, the need to sell and trade comes to a minimum. When things get scarce we have to trade or worse – go back to monkey land and fight and kill each other. The environment naturally modifies the behavior of people based on actual physical constraints. Today we have financial constraints, not physical constraints, this is what is wrong in today’s world in my opinion. So creating abundance will remove the need for money, money will not be abolished with a law. Laws are a lame excuse created by incompetent/ignorant people for a problem that has no physical/technical solution yet.

    Also when someone is trying to sell me something, the first thing I will do is to check for an easy way to produce it myself or to get it for free. I have access to technology and resources, If I find a way, I don’t need to buy it.

    Now if the worst case happens, which it will, and someone kills someone else even though he mostly has what he wants/needs the procedure is not to incarcerate or kill that person. He will be taken, maybe against his will at first, in order to find the root of the problem. If for example he killed some other guy over a woman he has to be reeducated, not killed. If it is determined that he is mentally damaged, he will receive medical treatment. Killing or incarcerating a criminal must be avoided at all costs because killing or putting someone in prison does not tell us what the root of the problem is, we may be destroying the only way to understand what is really wrong.

  186. He will be taken, maybe against his will at first, in order to find the root of the problem.

    What if he doesn’t like being taken, and puts up a fight? What if he’ll keep fighting until he kills everyone who tries to take him against his will?

    At some point, you have to deal with the fact that there are some people who have no compunctions against killing, and there is exactly one way to make them stop.

  187. Hah, this post summaries the FreedomBox (Freely doomed Freedombox) project’s mailing list. There are 99% Architects who squibble squabble about pointless things and 1% do-ers.

  188. Viktor,
    OK. See, the thing is The Venus Project sounds a lot like This Perfect Day, in which a massive computer rations everything. Trying to get more than your ration was treated as a sign of mental illness, and you would be evaluated and, if necessary, drugged until you fell back into line. I wnted to see how this differed from TVP, and it seems that on paper TVP is a bit less creepy. That’s fine.

    The problem is, how aee you going to provide super-abundant basic necessities for six billion people? Air doesn’t need to be rationed by computer because air is everywhere. Food, water, building materials, etc. aren’t everywhere. It takes an enormous system of logistics to move them from where they are to where they are needed. Is that automated by computer, too? I don’t think you’ve really thought through the implications of this.

  189. > I envision it as a machine with sensors all over the world that read how much water there is, how much food we are currently producing, what materials and other resources such as metals, for example, are available, where they are geographically located and what is the most efficient way for me to obtain them. How much resources do we actually have? A huge data base that updates itself in real-time.

    In other words, you’re going to reward folks who hoard resources outside the view of those sensors.

    Also, you’re ignoring that some of those things are variable. Most food production involves human activities. The level of production depends on what those humans choose to do. If they don’t like what they get in return for said, what are you going to do?

    > If the basic necessities are secure (food, water, air, clothes, efficient travel infrastructure, entertainment and recreation, housing and education

    Most of those things can’t be made “secure” because they’re produced by people. If those people don’t think that they’re being adequately compensated, they’re going to produce less.

    To put it another way, if all of those things are “free”, why am I going to work? More to the point, why are the people who produce them going to work?

    > If for example he killed some other guy over a woman he has to be reeducated

    In other words, your system makes violence more profitable.

  190. I didn’t read that last paragraph of yours, Viktor, and I’m sorry. What you have described is EXACTLY This Perfect Day. That’s the line of reasoning they use, almost verbatim, to force-drug the populace: we’re getting to the root of your problems and fixing them. You are sick and we are making you better.

    Fuck everything about that. And to quote Dara O’Briain, get in the fuckin’ sack.

  191. @Viktor:

    Only when a select group of people (politicians, business men, investors and bankers today – none of which can do anything useful by the way) control a resource that the majority of the population needs (money), they gain power over the needy people.

    Who doles out those basic necessities — food, water, clothes, entertainment, efficient travel, etc? These will still exist in scarcity, no matter how you look at it. We do not have an unlimited amount of any of them, nor will we ever. The laws of physics themselves dictate that this is so.

    Someone has to control this supply. Who will hold them accountable? Hint: Who holds those investors and bankers you mentioned accountable? What repercussions were there for them when they were finally caught with their hands in the cookie jar, wrecking our economy? I got four words for you: “too big to fail.”.

    @Jeff Read: I’ll do you one better: Paranoia Greetings, citizen!

  192. > I got four words for you: “too big to fail.”.

    Some of the “too big to fail” opponents said that no organization that was “too big to fail” should be allowed to exist.

    I wonder if they’d apply the same conclusion to the biggest organization on earth, the US govt….

  193. > That’s the line of reasoning they use, almost verbatim, to force-drug the populace: we’re getting to the root of your problems and fixing them. You are sick and we are making you better.

    Progressives and other utopians always end up pushing concentration camps.

    You’d almost think that they choose their ideology to justify the camps.

  194. Pre-script: This is not snark.

    > I envision it as a machine with sensors all over the world that read how much water there is, how much food we are currently producing, what materials and other resources such as metals, for example, are available, where they are geographically located and what is the most efficient way for me to obtain them. How much resources do we actually have? A huge data base that updates itself in real-time.

    We have this. It consists of eight billion carbon based parallel processors all with independent sensors. A truly “huge data base that updates itself in real-time”. There are some message passing protocol inefficiencies and certainly no shared memory though.

    > Progressives and other utopians always end up pushing concentration camps.

    Well, our prison system does function like a large number of concentration camps. I really don’t want to go to prison. I really don’t like prisons. Maybe we should bring back flogging. I really don’t want to be flogged either, but it sounds better than prison.

    Yours,
    Tom

  195. Well, I guess we’ll see what happens. I will be helping TVP because it seems the most logical and humane way to go and because the current way of doing thins is obviously broken in many ways. There is no one else that tries do design a superior alternative system. I see no point in trying to explain these ideas with words anymore. My command of the english language does not seem good enough in order to stop interpretation of the things I write. I have to prepare myself better with an unambiguous way of describing ideas. The only thing I am doing now is damage to what TVP is trying to say and am just helping people convince themselves that TVP will never work.

    @Morgan Greywolf
    “The laws of physics themselves dictate that this is so.” – This means that you know all the laws of physics that are known now, all technology that stems from them and their implications and all other possible future technologies that will be conceived. If you really know all this and still say it is impossible, then we are bound to live in scarcity until the human race disappears. Somewhat hard to believe given the technological progress we have experienced so far under artificial financial constraints :)

    @Andy Freeman
    No there will never be concentration camps, and rules will not be forced upon people. If some idiots claim to advocate TVP and start using force, this is not TVP and I am sorry. I can’t stop them. I already said that in one of my previous posts.

    I tried to say one thousand times that most of the production has to be automated, that the only labor initially will be to maintain the automated production facilities, until they are improved, and only then can an abundance be created. The transition toward this automation will not produce abundance. The thing has to be built first. The labor of individual people can not produce abundance which is obvious. I can not tend to 10 acres of land by myself, I need machines and when they start to work all I have to do is to make sure they don’t stop working, which is a ton less laborious than doing all the work myself.

    I use a compiler to write my actual machine code, I’m not doing it myself. All I have to do is to fix a bug in the compiler when it produces a program that does not behave as I expect. And when only I and a few other people maintain this compiler and let every other programmer in the world use it. Can you even try to guess how much time writing low level machine code is saved? Get it?

    @Jeff Read
    “That’s the line of reasoning they use, almost verbatim, to force-drug the populace”
    I have no idea why you understood my post like this. I wrote something, you interpret it in your own way. Language fail at its highest.

    @The Monster
    “What if he doesn’t like being taken, and puts up a fight? What if he’ll keep fighting until he kills everyone who tries to take him against his will?”
    We are speaking about the minority of the minority of cases. No one kills for no reason. He will not fight if he knows that we will not do anything to him except ask him why he did it and get to the event that led to an emotional impact which caused him to go blind in rage. This is done with a sane person. The only thing he will be forced to do is to spare some of his time and explain himself. For the truly physically ill people, psychotics, schitzophrenia, etc. medical treatment has to be used, as we already know.

    @Erik
    If you think this conversation is pointless this is entirely your opinion because you have no idea how this affects me for example. I learned that I have to find a way to communicate my ideas in an unambiguous way. Also I need references to the things I speak about and I must have working prototypes of some of the ideas that I am trying to defend.

  196. @Tom DeGisi
    Wow, great to hear at least one person that agrees with a few sentences that I wrote :)

  197. Viktor,

    > My command of the english language does not seem good enough in order to stop interpretation of the things I write.

    No, you are doing fine. The problem is not how you are saying it. President Obama seems to think he isn’t explaining things well enough either, and he is a native speaker. People are reacting to problems with the ideas. You might say they are trying to help you with a code review by pointing out pit falls in your design. For example: concentration camps. You haven’t advocated for them, but your description of TVP reminds people of similar systems which ended up with concentration camps. In code reviews you get the same thing. I advocate for meaningless primary keys because that solved certain problems in systems I have worked on. So if you advance a design which has meaningful primary keys I probably trot out my rule of thumb. You are running into lots of people’s heuristic rules of thumb.

    I have to say, having worked on lots of business software, that I am not optimistic about using a big piece of software to allocate resources globally. Sounds like a large scale software project. Most of those fail. Even the ones that succeed have large pain points associated with them. In this case that means people are going to be unhappy with their resource allocation. Spend ten years in a big corporation and you may be less optimistic too.

    Yours,
    Tom

  198. @Tom DeGisi
    Yes this is precisely the problem with natural language. It often triggers some part of the associative memory that I did not intend. Speaking in english makes it very difficult to force people not to make associations with their own intuitions. I wish I could convey my ideas in a mathematical language where everything has a strict definition based on strict rules and where the implications of a definition can be developed/explored unambiguously. I don’t feel fluent enough in mathematics at this point to do it though.

    When someone says “the laws of physics do not allow it, it is impossible” for example, they are giving their opinion which may be based on vague intuitions. I want to say “Shut up and show us the code.” as esr puts it, but this is impossible in english. The other people are thinking the exact same thing when I say “we can produce abundance through automation”. Here is where I fail, I can not show them something I have worked on that backs up my claim. I can show links to wikipedia and some other websites but they don’t pack quite such a punch.
    If we were actually working on making this work most of these arguments will be worked out in the process, we would not be trying to convince each other with words but providing workable testable solutions :). At least I practiced my english a little.

    I also agree that very large scale software projects are prone to failure. This where our industry is at the moment. Our tools and knowledge do not allow us to overcome extreme size software projects yet. Also this failure is, more often than not, caused by artificial business deadlines. Today software projects fail when they can’t meet their business requirements, not when the software engineers conclude that it is impossible to ever do it. It is actually quite the opposite. The programmers always have ideas and want to try them out, they hate it when a problem defeats them but when they don’t have more money they simply stop, like everyone else.

    I have a gut feeling that the core of the system I want will be smaller than the linux kernel. This is just a gut feeling and gut feelings are often wrong but it is enough to push me to try and to implement such a thing or at least arrive at an acceptable initial/high level design.

  199. @Andy Freeman
    “Progressives and other utopians always end up pushing concentration camps.”

    References please.

    If you use “Concentration Camp” in the common way as: “a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc.”, common examples would be the British in the Boer war, the Nazi’s in WWII, and the USA during WWII (with Japanese Americans). None of these I would collect under the name “Progressives”. The Nazi’s might be called “Utopian” under some twisted definition of that word.

    This is what Wikipedia has to say about it ( https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Concentration_camp ):

    Earliest usage of concentration camps and origins of the term

    Polish historian W?adys?aw Konopczy?ski has suggested the first concentration camps were created in Poland in the 18th century, during the Bar Confederation rebellion, when the Russian Empire established three concentration camps for Polish rebel captives awaiting deportation to Siberia.[5]

    The earliest of these camps may have been those set up in the United States for Cherokee and other Native Americans in the 1830s; however, the term originated in the reconcentrados (reconcentration camps) set up by the Spanish military in Cuba during the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878) and by the United States during the Philippine–American War (1899–1902).[6]

    The English term “concentration camp” grew in prominence during the Second Boer War (1899–1902), when they were operated by the British in South Africa.[6][7]

    There were a total of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children.

    None of these would qualify under “Progressive” or “Utopian”.

    But maybe you are one of those US Americans that live under the delusion that fascists are somehow, communists, and therefore, they must be left wing and all social democrats are essentially nothing but nazi’s? Even then you will be hard pressed to find a single concentration camp in the EU, or Canada, or Mexico. There is one on Cuba that might be called a Concentration Camp, it is called Guantanamo bay.

  200. Victor,

    it’s really too bad you don’t read sience fiction. You probably should.
    Many science fiction stories evolve around the impact of technological developments on people and society, and picture utopian worlds that turn out less than perfect.

    I mentioned Start Trek before. The premise behind the Start Trek series is that, at some point, mankind solved the problem of infinite energy, allowing them unlimited production and extreme automation, thus freeing them from labor and allowing them to pursue higher goals, and to boldly go where no man has gone before.

    Other stories that seem more relevant to this discussion, or to the TVP project, are
    * Brave new world, by Aldous Huxley
    * Isaac Asimov’s robot novels (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn) – they play against a background of a robot-economy (people are freed from labor because just about everything can be done by robots) and illustrate a couple of ways things could turn out.

    They’re old and feel a bit dated sometimes, but I think you should read them only to know what mistakes not to make in your vision of the future.
    As Tom says, this is like code review – there are flaws in your /TVP’s vision and design. They will need to be addressed before people will start to take such a project even remotely serious.

    Other than that, I think the main flaw is that you attempt to centrally manage a global economy. That’s a difficult problem.
    The solltion we have so far – “free market” is roughly based on a small set of rules, and a lot of emergent phenomena. That’s not a bad way to run a complex system.
    I agree there are serious problems with free market, notably the following

    1- it’s possible to game the system – money has stopped being a proxy for barter, and has become a trade-able good, and therefore it has become possible (at least, for some, and usually at the expense of others) to generate profit without producing anything .

    2- one of the free market’s emergent phenomena is the Matthew Effect : “Those who have a lot will get more. Those who have little will have it taken away from them”.

    I’m not convinced, however, that a global centrally managed economy is a feasible solution. I like the goals of attempting to fix those 2 problems, but I’m not sure you or TVP are proposing the right way to get there.

  201. Winter,

    The “progressives” are the philosophical descendants of the Puritans. Their first big project after the War of Northern Aggression was to wipe out the culture of the plains indians (gotta control those dirty little non-white savages!). Their second big project was mandatory government schooling (gotta control those white trash upstarts who might not choose to obey their betters!) Next came the prohibition of alcohol (gotta control those catholic Irish and Italians who might have a good time without their overlord’s approval). Today, “progressives” are bent on preventing third-world countries from lifting themselves out of abject poverty, on the pretext of fighting “global warming”.

    The common thread of “progressive” thought has always been that some people (WASPs) are anointed by god to tell the rest of the people what to do.

  202. KN,

    Asimov’s robot novels are some really fun reading, and I’ve always wished he’d really explored the implications of some other possibilities, like teleportation. What if we had really fine-grained teleportation? Need to sow your crop? Teleport the seeds into the appropriate location in the ground. Need to keep birds out of your orchard? Set up a sensor field that detects them, and teleports them a mile away from your cherry trees. Need to remove the now-redundant blacktop roads that are cluttering up the landscape? Teleport it to some dumping ground. How much of all industry today becomes superfluous if transportation is fully solved problem? Would we call people on the phone if visiting them in person was instantaneous?

  203. @Some Guy:
    “The “progressives” are the philosophical descendants of the Puritans. Their first big project after the War of Northern Aggression was to wipe out the culture of the plains indians (gotta control those dirty little non-white savages!).”

    This is beyond mad history rewriting. This is delusional.

  204. @kn
    Thanks again for the reading suggestions, the book list is growing on me.

    I completely agree that the central automated economy may fail. I don’t say this is the absolute only way to do it. However, this is the first thing I will try. Firstly it will be tested on a small scale, a city for example, then a country, then another. It will have to be proven gradually whether it works or not. One thing is certain though, it has to be tested. There is no right or wrong way. There is a way that will fail and a way that will succeed. If it works partially we are getting somewhere. I am also not completely convinced that it will work just like that, we have to try. It won’t be deployed at the same time on the whole world without being thoroughly tested first, it is silly to even think about it.

    People said that we will never get out into space. Guess what? We did and the only reason is because we decided that the price is not a concern.

  205. Viktor:

    Not everyone derives pleasure from solving complex problems. In general, only people who are one standard deviation above the norm do so. Those who are two standard deviations above the norm become good at it.

    When communications become cheap enough, and when transportation becomes cheap enough, you get situations where it’s cheaper to hire programmers in the Philippines than to pay them in the US. Or pay for manufacturing in South China than in the US.

    We are already seeing a massive economic dislocation (and something of a pull-back) from a globalized economy because people are realizing that cheaper may be more efficient, but more efficient isn’t always better if you lose your means of buying the item.

    Thermodynamics puts boundary limits on a lot of things – you will never have an 80% conversion efficiency from sunlight to electricity; photovoltaic cells are 12-16% efficient in common use, and get up to 34% efficiency when using exotic materials. Solar thermal systems are 32% efficient, but not portable.

    The Textured Vegetable Protein manifesto is assuming that some things are fungible and scalable that direct evidence and human history say aren’t. Until those issues are actively addressed, it reads, well, like utopian twaddle.

    (Whenever I see TVP, I think Textured Vegetable Protein – the really awe inspiringly bad vegetarian ‘hamburger patty’ of the 1980s. It was going to be so tasty that people preferred it over beef, and it was going to Save The World with a simple solution…)

  206. Some Guy, I couldn’t help but notice that now you’re thinking with portals. :)

  207. @Phil R.
    I am in love with that guy. :D

    @Ken Burnside
    I never said it will be simple. I have ideas. I will test them. I will fail. I will change the ideas. I will test them again. I will… you get the message.

    I assume you are absolutely correct about thermodynamics and the solar panels. Then I will look at all the other alternatives – wind, geothermal, tidal, nuclear, biomass etc. and I will use every possible energy source that I find and that fits in my “efficiency and sustainability” category including solar, as inefficient as it may be.

    I never said that ALL people love solving complex problems. I like to think that there are more than enough though. I bet my ass that all technology we have developed to this day is created from the ideas of less than 10 million people (possibly much less, just guessing). That’s about 0.0014 % of the whole population. This is why I think we have more than enough brains out there to make things work.

    The problem with outsourcing is caused by business, competition and the pursuit of profit. I understand it as unrelated to a theoretical model of the future. Automation in the world today is also bad. Businesses are happy, people are becoming poorer and poorer because they get replaced by machines.

    The fact that you associate TVP with something else again proves that natural language is a terrible tool for communication.

  208. > “Progressives and other utopians always end up pushing concentration camps.”

    Note that I didn’t say that all concentration camps were set up by progressives or utopians, but that progressives, like other utopians, pushed concentration camps.

    > References please.

    We have Viktor in this thread. We have the USSR’s camps. We have the Nazis camps, and yes, they were both utopians and socialists. (Like USSR’s socialists, they weren’t tolerant of other socialists, but socialists aren’t known for their tolerance.) We have the Chinese camps, and Pol Pot. The early US progressives were eugenicists.

    The real question is which utopians have attained power and not set up “reeducation camps”.

    > There is one on Cuba that might be called a Concentration Camp, it is called Guantanamo bay.

    Remind me – which way to people immigrate – to Cuba or away?

    When a country shoots people to keep them from leaving, it’s pretty much a “camp”.

  209. > No there will never be concentration camps, and rules will not be forced upon people.

    Oh really? What if I don’t want to participate in your system? Assume that I’m not the only one and that there are enough of us that we can get by without stuff from your system. (Surely you’re not claiming ownership of everything.)

    You still haven’t told us how you’ll get producers to actually produce. No, saying “automation” doesn’t answer that question. (For one thing, no one knows how to automate design.)

    Which reminds me, you’re claiming to be able to produce limitless entertainment. It’s easy to see how to automate distribution, but how, exactly, are you getting folks to write, act, sing, etc?

    > The fact that you associate TVP with something else again proves that natural language is a terrible tool for communication.

    No, it doesn’t. We associate TVP with other systems that have the same properties. Inputs produce outputs.

  210. You still haven’t told us how you’ll get producers to actually produce. No, saying “automation” doesn’t answer that question. (For one thing, no one knows how to automate design.)

    Which reminds me, you’re claiming to be able to produce limitless entertainment. It’s easy to see how to automate distribution, but how, exactly, are you getting folks to write, act, sing, etc?

    those are typically the things people do for fun, intellectual challenge, reputation, ego-satisfaction, fame and glory, interesting hobby …
    so actually, these are the easy ones : you don’t need to automate them, people will do them anyway. And if they don’t have to waste 8-12 hrs per day on menial jobs, they’ll have more time to get good at it.

  211. >This is beyond mad history rewriting. This is delusional.

    Congratulations, winter. You have just become a holocaust denier. Go ask any Lakota to fill you in on how the “progressives” treated his people.

  212. Some Guy Says: Congratulations, winter. You have just become a holocaust denier

    Winter isn’t denying any holocausts, he’s questioning your twisted interpretation of who was responsible for them.
    And I think he’s right in doing so.

  213. I have no idea why you understood my post like this. I wrote something, you interpret it in your own way. Language fail at its highest.

    No, you just didn’t think through the implications of what you said.

    Here’s what I was referring to:

    Now if the worst case happens, which it will, and someone kills someone else even though he mostly has what he wants/needs the procedure is not to incarcerate or kill that person. He will be taken, maybe against his will at first, in order to find the root of the problem. If for example he killed some other guy over a woman he has to be reeducated, not killed. If it is determined that he is mentally damaged, he will receive medical treatment. Killing or incarcerating a criminal must be avoided at all costs because killing or putting someone in prison does not tell us what the root of the problem is, we may be destroying the only way to understand what is really wrong.

    You keep speaking of justice as a troubleshooting or debugging exercise. You seem to be implying that if someone kills, that means there is “something wrong” with him that can be “fixed” through medication or “reeducation”. That’s pretty much denying the agency of the killer. Let’s take your example. I see my girl shagging another guy. I may hate that motherfucker and wish he’d burn in the fury of a thousand hells. I may even hate her. Such are perfectly understandable emotions, and well within my right to have under a conventional justice system. Justice punishes deeds, which arise from choices by conscious agents who are responsible for their actions. Only if I should move to strike, does justice intervene. It has two purposes: to punish (in order to teach people that their choices have consequences) and to protect (by removing people who are prone to criminal behavior from scoiety).

    Now let’s look at your view (currently in vogue among the psychiatric community, limousine liberals, et al.). If I kill somebody it’s because there”s “something wrong” with me and I need to be “re-educated” or treated in order to “fix the problem”. Now be honest with yourself here, Viktor: do you really think that the kind of motherfucker who’s willing to shoot a man over a girl is going to be made all better by a bit of SENSITIVITY TRAINING?! If that’s all he was getting, then maybe the satisfaction of seeing that bastard die is worth it. He could fake having been “reformed” and get on the outside in, say, six months or so. And then the next guy who even thinks of touching his girl better watch his ass. Such people will require either forced drugging regimens, more extreme measures (in the past we used electroshock and lobotomies, I don’t think you want to bring those back). But the thing that’ll really fix the root of the problem is an approach aimed at correcting thoughts and emotions rather than behaviors. After all, if that man didn’t feel rage and hate, he wouldn’t be provoked to kill. So if we treat the emotional responses that lead to criminal behavior, we can effectively stop crime with far less treatment. An ounce of prevention, right? Yay! Utopia!

    Except now we’re trying to cure people of the disease of being human. I’m sure the AI that runs things would just love that. He has the worst job, tending to all the smelly humans. But aside from the serious ethical considerations, this problem simply cannot be solved. This is the making-water-not-wet problem that attends DRM, and carries its own pernicious race to the bottom homomorphic to the DRM race: every failure to make humans into not-human humans means you just haven’t been trying hard enough, so the efforts become redoubled at trying to solve the insolvable. And if, hypothetically, you should succeed? You have a race of machines, and society goes to hell because machines deal poorly with the unexpected whereas free-thinking humans manage pretty well.

    Ira Levin. This Perfect Day. Go find a copy. (It’ll probably be used.) He wasn’t nearly as tickled about your model society as you are.

  214. As far as I can tell, the Venus Project is a cult religion scam, and it has been a cult religion scam for over 40 years. And it’s pretty bad at being a cult religion at that, because during the same time frame, Scientology went from nothing into a $46 million dollar a year business.

  215. hsu,

    Drat, you beat me to being the first to mention the Clams. Viktor’s psycho-debugging approach to crime seems like the same responsibility-absolving, crazy-making horseshit the Scienos peddle. “Your negative emotions and actions aren’t you; you are perfect and wonderful. They’re the engrams of the body thetans clinging to you! Don’t worry, we’ll get rid of those for you. And if at the end of the course you’re still not perfect and wonderful, simply shell out a few hundred grand for the next level of our auditing course.”

    Think maybe Elron just spent a lot of time hanging around Viktor’s starry-eyed crowd, and just happened to find a strategy that works in appealing to people’s desires to “fix all their problems”?

  216. Viktor said:

    I completely agree that the central automated economy may fail. I don’t say this is the absolute only way to do it. However, this is the first thing I will try. Firstly it will be tested on a small scale, a city for example, then a country, then another. It will have to be proven gradually whether it works or not. One thing is certain though, it has to be tested. There is no right or wrong way. There is a way that will fail and a way that will succeed. If it works partially we are getting somewhere. I am also not completely convinced that it will work just like that, we have to try. It won’t be deployed at the same time on the whole world without being thoroughly tested first, it is silly to even think about it.

    You know what, Viktor? You’re right and we’re wrong. Those who say a thing can’t be done should not get in the way of those who are doing it, so go ahead and try, by all means. But let me paint you a word-picture to keep you out of trouble:

    At some point, you may find yourself confident enough in your work to come to me and say “I have made calculations with my Machine and they tell me that you need to do this. At that point, I shall say “Make me!”, and proceed to shoot anybody who tries to. So, I think, would a lot of the other regulars at this blog, and so, I’m pretty sure, would Eric.

    Actually, if I can settle for blowing the Machine up with zero loss of life, I’ll do that instead, but you get the picture, I trust.

    The odds are about even that I would do such things even if the course of action your Machine recommends is what I was going to do anyway; I’m intransigent that way.

    (As an aside, and picking up kn’s point about SF recommended reading: if you’re thinking “OK, I’ll just make sure the Machine takes the probability of crazed wingnuts like this Phil guy trying to blow it up into account”, allow me to recommend Asimov’s short story “The Evitable Conflict” as an interesting exploration of such themes)

    In the abstract, what I’m saying is this: if you believe it’s possible to engineer a better system for humanity, go ahead, but don’t involve anybody even in the test runs without their consent. If you succeed, the world will make a beaten path to your door and your system will outcompete all others: effectively, the free market will commit suicide. But don’t let frustration at the unwillingness of people who know their Mises and Hayek to get with the program delude you into thinking you can serve some greater good by forcing them into it.

  217. >> You still haven’t told us how you’ll get producers to actually produce. No, saying “automation” doesn’t answer that question. (For one thing, no one knows how to automate design.)

    those are typically the things people do for fun, intellectual challenge, reputation, ego-satisfaction, fame and glory, interesting hobby …

    Oh really? Where are the electric motors designed under those circumstances?

    Note that the amount of usable open-source produced by such people is in the noise. (The vast majority is produced by people who are paid to do so.)

    And, you vastly underestimate the amount of people work involved in “totally automated” food production, not to mention construction, and even things like garbage collection and delivery of essential services.

  218. @Andy Freeman:

    Note that the amount of usable open-source produced by such people is in the noise. (The vast majority is produced by people who are paid to do so.)

    In general, I don’t defend the idea of Utopia, but…

    Most of the great advances in science (certainly before last century) were made by people who didn’t need to have a day job. And back in the day, “science” people did a lot of “engineering” as well, for the simple reason they couldn’t buy what they needed in order to do “science” off the shelf.

    It is far from clear, for example, notwithstanding the fact that Linus now gets paid to write Linux, that he would stop doing so if he didn’t need an income.

  219. “Asimov’s robot novels are some really fun reading, and I’ve always wished he’d really explored the implications of some other possibilities, like teleportation.”

    I haven’t seen anyone explore the implications of really fine-grained teleportation, but Larry Niven has written a number of stories and at least one essay (“Theory and Practice of Teleportation”) looking at the implications of cheap teleportation being developed in the 1980′s (which was the near future when they were written).

    Niven’s stories like “Flash Crowd,” “All the Bridges Rusting”, “The Alibi Machine”, and others are the most thorough look at the social and technological effects of widespread teleportation that I’ve seen anywhere.

  220. “It is far from clear, for example, notwithstanding the fact that Linus now gets paid to write Linux, that he would stop doing so if he didn’t need an income.”

    He would certainly continue, he couldn’t help himself…but suppose he wasn’t paid to do it, and still needed to work on other things to support himself. Linux wouldn’t be as advanced as it is now, would it?

    It’s great if you can be paid to do what you love. Far too few of us get to do that.

  221. @LS:

    I don’t disagree with your assessment, but:

    1) Viktor postulates a world, no matter how improbable, where nobody has to work.

    2) Andy Freeman questions where progress would come from under these circumstances, and asserts that (at least most
    of) the people not designing crap these days are getting paid to design stuff that’s better than crap.

    3) I said (using Torvalds as an example) that, in Viktor’s improbable world, people would continue to design good stuff, just like the scientists of old.

    4) You bring up a complete non-sequitur. The question isn’t what would Torvalds do if he had to work at other stuff, it’s what would the rest of us do if we could work on stuff completely of our choosing.

  222. > 2) Andy Freeman questions where progress would come from under these circumstances, and asserts that (at least most of) the people not designing crap these days are getting paid to design stuff that’s better than crap.

    To be accurate, I wrote the exceptions were “in the noise”.

    > 3) I said (using Torvalds as an example) that, in Viktor’s improbable world, people would continue to design good stuff, just like the scientists of old.

    Which is completely consistent with what I wrote.

    Note that Torvalds’ current freedom to do what he wants comes from past payoffs that won’t happen in the promised new world.

    The 1900-1950 scientist examples don’t seem particularly relevant. The low-hanging fruit is gone plus science theories aren’t consumer products.

    That’s why I asked about electric motors.

    3) I said (using Torvalds as an example) that, in Viktor’s improbable world, people would continue to design good stuff, just like the scientists of old.

  223. “No one kills for no reason”.

    The late Richard Pryor told the story of the research he did for “Stir Crazy”, a movie in which he played a prison escapee. He spent some time talking to inmates, and relayed this question posed to one lifer:

    Q: Why did you kill all the people in the house?
    A: They were home.

    Prior to this experience, he believed in the idea that prisons were just there to keep the black man down. Afterward, he said “Thank God for penitentiaries!”

  224. @Phil R.
    Yes I agree, we are completely on the same page. If I think I have succeeded only the people who want to try it will use it. The other people will not be forced into anything. If they find that our way is indeed better they can try it for themselves, we will tell them how and will help them build it if they want to. Again, nothing will be forced, If I am right and this really is the better way, it should be a no brainer for most people. If someone tries to force my way on people you should stop him by any means necessary. So in short, I have created a better life for myself. You also want to live like this? No problem, here is the software, here are the machines, the designs are free to access.

  225. @The Monster
    This is a nice example but it really does not tell anything.
    Who is the person who said this? What is his background?
    What kind of life did he live? Was he accepted and liked by the people around him?
    Did he live in misery, stress or poverty? Did he have a wife or girlfriend?
    Was he good at the work he did for a living? Did he enjoy it? What are his political views? Does he agree with how his country dictates his lifestyle? Does he have any religious beliefs? What did the people he killed believe? Did they have a different religion, were they of a different race? Perhaps they talked with an accent… I bet somewhere in the answers to these questions lies the true cause for the murder.

    I agree however that if we can not get the answers about this person because he simply does not want to tell us or because he has no relatives that can tell us, we have a problem but it is still not impossible to understand.

  226. @Viktor
    You already got a long list of utopian novels. But everybody forgot the real, hard-core stuff. When you read these, you get a real feel of why one era’s dream is another era’s nightmare:

    Utopia by Thomas Moore
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2130

    City of God by Augustine of Hippo
    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/AugCity.html

    The Laws by Plato
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1750

    The Republic by Plato
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1497

    The story of Atlantis could qualify
    Critias by Plato
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1571

  227. Sorry for being slightly off-topic, but personally I can’t wait for ESR to weigh in on the recent Google patent thingie… (wherein public opinion is beginning to form that Google spoke too soon and is a hypocrite regarding patents…)

  228. > your twisted interpretation of who was responsible for them

    Facts are facts, and the “progressives” have a lot of blood on their hands.

  229. @Some Guy
    “Facts are facts, and the “progressives” have a lot of blood on their hands.”

    You remind me of a boy from a KKK family I saw in a documentary, who sicerely believed Africans had migrated to the USA voluntary because they wanted to exploit the wealth in the USA.

    Anyhow, blaming the genocide on the natives in the USA on your political opponents (what are “progressives”) is truely delusional.

  230. @Some Guy:

    Facts are facts, and the “progressives” have a lot of blood on their hands.

    It is true that many mesmerizing leaders who call themselves progressive will rise to positions of power and abuse the power they have achieved. But the same is true of mesmerizing leaders who call themselves religious. Relatively recent history has shown that this can even be true of bumbling leaders who call themselves conservatives. What’s your point?

  231. @Andy Freeman:

    > That’s why I asked about electric motors.

    Electric motors are an interesting case. They are one of the most efficient things out there now, but for the longest time that wasn’t true. Any true scientist probably would have been able to figure out that the efficiency would increase by decreasing the air gap between the rotor and stator, but scientists apparently lost interest in the field after they started moving.

    It’s almost arguable that in a world where people didn’t really have to work, the efficiency gains would have come sooner, e.g. as soon as a really creative person wanted to make his silent (non-gas-powered) toy airplane stay up longer…

  232. @Some Guy:

    To make my position more clear, several of us, who believe that Viktor’s Utopia is unachievable, have been picking apart the proposed mechanisms for its implementation. That’s how engineering works.

    If you’re worried about nomenclature, go play with the rest of the marketing department. I’m not interested.

  233. @Viktor:

    Who is the person who said this? What is his background?

    When you get older, you will realize that some people are born damaged, and some of those through absolutely no fault of their parents. It is easy enough to see physical examples of this; why is it difficult to extrapolate to the mental?

    Interestingly, if a dog is born similarly mentally damaged and is so aggressive that it damages humans, we hold it accountable for its actions — most communities have a mandated death sentence for such an animal — and treat it much worse than a dog that merely attempts to lick every stranger it meets.

    But if a human is born mentally damaged, and commits the most heinous crime, the fact of its mental problems is to be considered a “mitigating factor.” We are only allowed to execute humans who might someday be productive members of society.

  234. You remind me of a boy from a KKK family

    Interesting that you bring up the KKK. Did you know that Woodrow Wilson, the “progressive” who wasted a hundred thousand American lives in world war one, was a KKK member? Woody was a huge advocate of the whole “progressive” dungheap, from mandatory childhood indoctrination to conscription to eugenics.

    >blaming the genocide on the natives in the USA on your political opponents

    My political opponents are anyone who advocates the destruction of the individual for the alleged good of the collective. “Progressives” are just one particularly insidious faction in that mob.

  235. many mesmerizing leaders who call themselves progressive

    They don’t just call themselves progressives. They frequently have hoards of followers who call them progressive. Take Barack Obama as the most recent case in point.

  236. They don’t just call themselves progressives. They frequently have hoards of followers who call them progressive. Take Barack Obama as the most recent case in point.

    Of course. But the same thing is true of Ron Hubbard and George Bush. There are hordes of followers who think that Hubbard is religious and that Bush is conservative. The fact that they have fooled the followers is what makes them mesmerizing leaders. Again, what is your point?

  237. @Patrick Maupin
    I don’t think I need to be older to know that some people can be born with an illness, mental or physical, I’ve seen such people many times (in real life). If his mind is damaged from birth he should have been medically and psychologically treated as soon as someone noticed that something may be odd. It is our fault because we never took action against his health problem. A mentally sick person can rarely cure himself. There will always be exceptions, some problems can always go on unnoticed until it is too late, no denial here. I just think that these cases will be drastically decreased compared to today.

  238. @Patrick Maupin
    Actually what we are doing now has nothing to do with engineering :). I am just being a pundit right now and am just giving my ideas. If we were actually working toward solving the problems of today’s system we wouldn’t be convincing each other whether something will work or not. The world around us will tell us what works and what doesn’t. When we actually try to build system and to deploy it for actual use we’ll see what’s really wrong. I wouldn’t be saying that the software for automated distribution is possible, I’d be showing you a working prototype that has to be tested. You don’t need to tell me that it does not work, if the tests fail, it obviously does not work :)

  239. @Some Guy
    “My political opponents are anyone who advocates the destruction of the individual for the alleged good of the collective. “Progressives” are just one particularly insidious faction in that mob.”

    People kill people. Some people organize genocides. This has been done in the distant, and not so distant past, it even is done now, somewhere.

    You want to make a political point of that in blaming one current political movement for all genocides.

    Implying that the followers of Lula, Tony Blair, or the Norse and Swedish labor parties (“progressives”) are just waiting to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people is devious and delusional.

    The North American Natives were driven from their land and murdered for the same reason the Serbs and Croats in the old Yugoslavia were committing genocide: To rob them of their land and possessions. And in both cases, the genocide was a community, or grassroots, effort.

    I still repeat, your twisted view of history is delusional.

  240. “It is our fault because we never took action against his health problem.”

    Interesting that “we” have fault, but he does not. This seems to be a core premise of Leftism: Everything bad that happens is “our” fault. An Islamist terrorist isn’t so bad; he’s just acting according to his environment. An inner-city gang-banger isn’t so bad; society is at fault for not giving him enough Warm Fuzzies growing up. Besides, who are we to judge their cultures. The people who perpetrate “honor killings” against their daughters and sisters aren’t so bad; by his morality, he’s doing Allah’s will.

    Everything done by a member of a Designated Victim Group is not their fault, because they can’t help it. They’re just mindless animals reacting to the stimuli. But everything done by one of “us” or “them” is somehow our fault, because we are able to make moral decisions about those same stimuli.

    Your pacifist, self-blaming society will fall to the first amoral thug it encounters.

  241. Implying that the followers of Lula, Tony Blair, or the Norse and Swedish labor parties (“progressives”) are just waiting to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people is devious and delusional.

    No, the followers don’t want to exterminate people. They just want the utopian future. They don’t want to know that to make that particular batch of mayonnaise, that these particular eggs will have to be cracked.

  242. Looks like Google screwed the pooch.

    Oh well. Android was fun while it lasted.

  243. @The Monster
    The Nordic countries out on a collective killing spree? Just like in the medieval times?

    Makes me think of Monty Python.

    You obviously have no clue at all about Europe. What did they teach you in school?

  244. @The Monster
    Again you are twisting what I said and are interpreting it based on the people’s mentality today. You are thinking in the context of a divided world where every country and person fends for their own interests. I am speculating about the method of solving the problem with killers and violence after my vision has come true, after people all over the world have realized that they all want the same thing – to live and to live well, without pain, suffering and deprivation. After we have build the theoretical stuff that I’ve been blabbering about in this thread.

    And it is absolutely true that people who kill for their country or their tribe are neither sick nor evil. They are not insane, I like to call them unsane. They are defending the values of their culture as arbitrary as they may be. The headhunters of the amazon kill people and take their heads. They are not insane, they are not evil, this is their culture at work, the environment they are brought up in. If you are child in a headhunter tribe, as you grow up, the other people will teach you to kill other people and rip the heads from their spines.

    Gladiators and people were being fed to the lions in the old days. The people who did that were not evil or insane, this is what their values dictate and what they believe is right. The majority of the people had nothing against it, it was totally acceptable. In fact the people responsible were the leaders of the society.

    Today people are taught from birth that their only purpose in life is to be successful and to make money so that they may live a good life. People are taught from birth than whenever they have an opportunity, they should take it and tell the others to fuck off. People are often taught not to have empathy toward each other because business is business and if you are good to others or if you are soft, they will crush you and take what you have. Your competition is waiting for you to trip up, it does not sleep, it does not blink, it is always waiting. And the people who teach are sincere, what they are saying is true but they can almost never explain why it is true. Nobody tells you why you have to behave this way, no one gives you a deep explanation or even a theory of the problems we have, you always have to get interested yourself and seek answers.

    It is not a coincidence that people who try to think outside the box are treated like lunatics or naive idiots. If I go to a science fair about airplanes for example and show the people a design of an airplane without wings the other people say: “How stupid can you be, this has no wings, it will never fly!”. These are the unsane people of today. What they should say is this: “This is a strange design. How does it fly, it has no wings?”

  245. > It’s almost arguable that in a world where people didn’t really have to work, the efficiency gains would have come sooner, e.g. as soon as a really creative person wanted to make his silent (non-gas-powered) toy airplane stay up longer…

    Huh?

    As you pointed out scientists with expertise in the field and interest didn’t do the follow through. Now you’re claiming that someone without said expertise would?

  246. >>My political opponents are anyone who advocates the destruction of the individual for the alleged good of the collective. “Progressives” are just one particularly insidious faction in that mob.

    > People kill people. Some people organize genocides. This has been done in the distant, and not so distant past, it even is done now, somewhere.

    You want to make a political point of that in blaming one current political movement for all genocides.

    The “one” political movement that he blames is not “progressives” – progressives are merely an important subset, as he clearly states.

    It’s interesting that your defense of progressives starts by misstating that.

  247. Patrick Maupin,

    It was referrimg tp the Nortel patent portfolio. Google declined to get in on the patent pool, so now those patents are owned by Apple/Nokia/RIM/Microsoft. Android will essentially be locked out of the wireless broadband market.

  248. @Viktor
    “Again you are twisting what I said and are interpreting it based on the people’s mentality today.”

    And that’s the reason why your utopia will live up to the original meaning of the word (“nowhere”). You think that people’s mentality is completely malleable; that somehow if The Right People are in charge, and see to it that each person is given the right prenatal nutrition, then raised according to precepts of Standards for Proper Parenting [Department of Re-education publication FP-63909113/Rev.D], gets regular evaluation by a psych doctor, with such tune-ups as he may from time to time prescribe, that everyone will be happy and well adjusted, and never resort to violence.

    I don’t think for a microsecond that you’ll ever succeed at that, but… Let us assume arguendo that your system is so perfect that no one so carefully cultivated and cared for decides that your rules don’t apply to an Übermensch such as himself, and reacts violently to your gentle ministrations. That simply means that any contact between your civilization and less-enlightened realms will be disastrous. Your hothouse flowers, never having had to learn to deal with imperfect people, will be seen as easy marks by every random thug. You can’t let your people out of Eden into the mean ol’ world.

    Nor can you let outsiders in. Anyone who grows up outside of your Perfect Community won’t benefit from the cradle-to-grave psychological adjustment regime. The first one of them who decides to emigrate to your pacifist paradise, perceiving an entire SOCIETY of easy pickings there, will muck things up pretty badly. You’ll have to ban immigration, which means you’re going to have to use violent force against illegal immigrants, or you’ll have to figure out a way to make it impossible for anyone not raised by your standards to get in.

    Hey, I know! If you can make the ENTIRE WORLD follow your scheme, then you don’t have to worry about those pesky Barbarians at the gate. Yeah, if you could just get a single world government, and get it to adopt this marvelous plan, then you could finally bring about peace, prosperity, and perfection.

  249. @Jeff Read:

    It was referrimg tp the Nortel patent portfolio. Google declined to get in on the patent pool, so now those patents are owned by Apple/Nokia/RIM/Microsoft. Android will essentially be locked out of the wireless broadband market.

    Ah, that. I thought you were smarter than that. Did you read and think about google’s response?

    The patent pool can’t be asserted against any of the owners. But nothing would have kept Microsoft or Apple from asserting other patents against Android (which, btw, they are already doing). So of what value would it be to google to pay good money for something that couldn’t be used defensively against the only people who have a vested interest in seeing Android fail and who already are suing manufacturers who use Android?

    The only utility google could possibly derive from the ownership would be to keep phone vendors (including Android vendors, btw) from suing each other over really bogus stuff, by having a club to help force settlement negotiations sooner and at a lower cost. That has a value that isn’t infinite, so google’s only decision was about what that value actually was. Google is probably right in that it is less than 4.5 billion dollars, but time will tell.

  250. @Andy Freeman:

    As you pointed out scientists with expertise in the field and interest didn’t do the follow through. Now you’re claiming that someone without said expertise would?

    There was a lot more stuff going on after motors that was more fundamental that interested the same people who developed early motors, e.g. alternating current, telephony, radio, etc. For those people, efficiency would be an afterthought, the cherry on top. But later they or other similarly minded people would probably get back to it. It’s hard to know with the power of the internet, what could happen. For example, Tesla’s induction motor was independently invented a few years later by an Italian acedemic named Galileo Ferraris. Why would similar people not continue to discover and invent today? Look at how much easier it is now for people to share and build on each other’s work. In fact, corporations probably slow this down considerably with their NDAs that are all about money.

    The Utopia seems to imply unlimited available power, so electric motor efficiency would not have been improved until someone with an itch to scratch wanted to operate one for longer off the same battery. I posit that people with that desire and capability would exist in any true Utopia — that, for example, schools would exist and be staffed by people interested in learning and teaching.

  251. @The Monster
    Now I think you understood what I meant. I am talking when the people all over the world have the same mentality. No artificial borders, no national bigotry and pride. When everyone advocates the values of a global resource based economy and society where would they get incentive to conquer, destroy or enslave? Everyone has a very high standard of living and is only restricted at what they want to do by the physical availability of resources on Earth and the current state of technology. Everyone sees the big picture. We are speaking hypothetically, assuming everything else is as planned and is built.

    Finally I want, peace, prosperity and minimum pain, suffering and violence. Perfection is impossible. There will always be some kind of imbalance between what we want and what can be done at the moment.

  252. Also I guarantee, that if the whole world right now, is raised to the standard of living in Germany, or Sweden for example, crime, pollution and violence will drop down significantly on a global scale. Heck, if that happens I’d still be happy. People live well, when they have easy access to things that tend to their needs, when they have room to grow professionally and when they are educated well enough to understand what they want and what needs to be done to achieve it. Also people with education who can actually think for themselves are very difficult to manipulate verbally. They can always analyze what you say and work out the implications.

  253. Considering that the whole world right now, no exceptions, advocates the values of a monetary system and culture, why do you think that another global value system is impossible? We are living in a perfect working example.

  254. “Mechanism outlasts policy.” This is the most eloquent, succinct expression of the importance of institutional analysis that I have ever encountered. I send you my respect, sir.

  255. @Winter
    Because its pointless. TVP is already working on a movie about it. After that they will start building the first city if they don’t go bankrupt or someone decides to destroy them :) I will be helping them though.

  256. “Now I think you understood what I meant. I am talking when the people all over the world have the same mentality.”

    And there is only one way you’re going to get everyone in the world to have the same mentality. You will have to apply coercive force to those who don’t have it.

    “Finally I want, peace, prosperity and minimum pain, suffering and violence. Perfection is impossible. There will always be some kind of imbalance between what we want and what can be done at the moment.”

    Right. So even though your goal is to never have to inflict violence upon someone who refuses to conform to your vision, there will have to be some exceptions made. For instance, if someone publicly challenges your system of ethics, and proposes that it is immoral, and therefore should not be obeyed, you’d have to shut them up for the Greater Good.

    “TVP is already working on a movie about it.”

    Right. So TVP can claim it’s every bit as real as Thor and Green Lantern.

  257. “I think I should stop trying to explain what I want to happen.”

    I’m not. I’m trying to explain what must happen if you truly believe what you say you believe. Your goal of “peace, prosperity, and minimum pain, suffering and violence” has to be translated into concrete actions intended to achieve it. I don’t for a moment question what you intend; only that when you reach the point of actually implementing your plan, you’re going to do some things that put you at odds with another moral code, at which point you either have to back down, die, or kill your opponents.

    To be as clear as possible, I am one of those people whose moral code conflicts with the actions you will have to take to make the whole world “have the same mentality”. You will not force us to have your mentality. You will either have to kill us or stop trying. I’m suggesting that you stop now, before you ever start, because once you start you may lose the chance to stop trying to coerce us without dying in the process.

  258. Google will pry network decentralisation from my cold, dead hands. You have been using the Internet since one year before I was born, from what I’m reading here, Eric. It therefore surprises me that you are not considerably more passionate about this than I am.

    I have a Facebook account, under protest; primarily as a means of communicating with family members, as I have a brother in Europe right now, as one example. But if I had my way, each and every single one of them would join me on ircII, and they would do so on a decentralised network that was not the exclusive domain of any single corporation. As a result, there we would have the ability to be sent photos of my brother’s European adventures, and possibly even film footage of it with audio, without having to endure potential, arbitrary censorship from YouTube, or the greed-based paranoia of Big Media.

    I know you understand my emotions, here; you understand them better than I do myself. You’ve had more time. A substantial portion of the current content of my head has come from your keyboard, after initial testing from my own observation and experience, of course.

    I know you wish to compromise where Richard Stallman won’t, because that is the only way we will move forward at all. To a degree, I will even agree with you…but I will do so with a grave sense of mistrust and unease. Said suspicion is not directed at you at all; it is directed at the corporations. In the end, the only thing they seek is to input all, process and combust it for the sake of profit, and then very often output waste of a kind which afterwards, not even Nature herself can use.

    Be wary, Eric. Work with them if you must…but keep one hand, figuratively speaking, on the hilt of your sword.

  259. > But later they or other similarly minded people would probably get back to it.

    If it’s so probable, why is it so rare?

    > For example, Tesla’s induction motor was independently invented a few years later by an Italian acedemic named Galileo Ferraris.

    Did Ferraris discover the operating principle or did he go to the trouble of making a decent motor design? There’s a lot more to the latter than “discover and invent”.

    I ask because academics often do the former but rarely do the latter.

    In this utopia, the rewards are like those of academia, so why shouldn’t we expect the character of the output to be pretty much the same?

    > The Utopia seems to imply unlimited available power

    Then that utopia can’t exist because unlimited available power can’t exist.

  260. > Also I guarantee, that if the whole world right now, is raised to the standard of living in Germany, or Sweden for example, crime, pollution and violence will drop down significantly on a global scale.

    Nope – you’re ignoring the cultures of Germany and Sweden.

    Those cultures do two things – they produce a good standard of living and they make it liveable.

    If you give that standard of living to cultures that can’t produce it, the results will be very different.

    In other words, you’re engaging in cargo cult sociology. Folks aren’t in the middle class because they have nice houses. They have nice houses because they have the middle class behaviors.

  261. @Andy Freeman:

    If it’s so probable, why is it so rare?

    For a start, I don’t think it’s as rare as you seem to. A lot of inventing is done without a profit motive. Same as with art.

    Did Ferraris discover the operating principle or did he go to the trouble of making a decent motor design? There’s a lot more to the latter than “discover and invent”.

    I don’t know.

    In this utopia, the rewards are like those of academia, so why shouldn’t we expect the character of the output to be pretty much the same?

    I think academia delivers a lot of solid results, and has for centuries. Where did the Web come from?

    Then that utopia can’t exist because unlimited available power can’t exist.

    You will not find anything I have written to dispute this point. The point I was addressing assumed its existence, and I cheerfully made it clear I don’t believe for a minute that is happening. Nonetheless, if it did happen, I am much more sanguine than you about the prospects of continued scientific and engineering advancement.

  262. Victor wrote:
    Because its pointless. TVP is already working on a movie about it. After that they will start building the first city if they don’t go bankrupt or someone decides to destroy them :) I will be helping them though.

    Really? Do you actually believe this is even a remotely viable plan of action? Really?

    Let’s take the movie. If they wanted to make a movie, it would already be made. You can make movies on the cheap these days. Thus, the fact that they still think they need to make a movie means that they want to make a “Hollywood” movie, with multimillion dollar budgets, with even more money wasted for distribution costs. That’s an easy $10-20 million dollars they could be using to actually do, you know, research.

    As for the city, do they not realize that cities are not self sufficient? How are you going to get the iron ore to make steel? How about the lithium for your batteries? Or the nickel for magnets? Or oil for plastics? Or rubber, if you want to get away from plastics? Each and every one of these materials is located in distinctly different regions of the world. Thus, your “starter city” will still need to import a lot of raw materials, even if they happen to have the proper factories (doubtful) to process those raw materials. And because your starter city will need imports, it will still need to run on money, because the rest of the world isn’t going to ship you raw materials for free.

  263. “I think academia delivers a lot of solid results, and has for centuries. Where did the Web come from?”

    If by web you mean internet? It came from a DoD project, if by web you mean the world wide web, it came from a guy dinking around at CERN.

  264. > I think academia delivers a lot of solid results, and has for centuries. Where did the Web come from?

    Many of the ideas came from academia (I was at Stanford CS at the relevant time) but the usable implementations came from companies like BBN, Cisco, et al. (BSD is an exception to this rule.)

    > I am much more sanguine than you about the prospects of continued scientific and engineering advancement.

    The problem with your argument is that you haven’t noticed where different kinds of “advancement” occurs. Academics deliver papers and occasionally artifacts that are almost prototypes. They almost never deliver usable products.

  265. @Doc Merlin:

    > a guy dinking around at CERN

    Thank you for making my point.

    @Andy Freeman:

    > Academics deliver papers and occasionally artifacts that are almost prototypes. They almost never deliver usable products.

    But “almost never” isn’t “never” and with 7 billion people on the planet and the magical computers that will take prototypes and do mass production, it’s probably good enough. Also, it’s not just about what you consider academics. It’s about those crazy guys with their garage hobbies, as well.

  266. @hsu
    You are finally getting it :)
    There is no way out of the monetary system directly. The city has to be built with whatever they can get when the time to build it comes. This however does not make it anywhere near impossible. The aim of this city is to show the real meaning of maximum efficiency, maximum sustainability and minimum waste according to the current knowledge and tech. They want to show technology initially, they can’t change the whole world just like that. This city can not live by itself on abundant resources because these resources can not be utilized yet on a global scale, the rest of the world is still the same. Building such a thing gives credibility to their ideas. If they manage to do it, there will be a ton more people wanting to know what TVP is about and will start taking the TVP ideas more seriously.

    Currently I don’t know how they plan to recruit talent for such an endeavor. I also do not know how competent Jacque Fresco is because I have never met him personally and have not talked with him about technical stuff. I just find their ideas interesting and I hope that they can deliver on what they envision.

    Also, they don’t want to make a cheap movie. They need a ton of quality 3D content, this is not cheap. However, they don’t need the whole 150 million dollars, Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio may be overkill for practical purposes.

    Finally if you have technical questions I am not the right person to explain. If you live in the USA, you can visit TVP in their research center and ask Jacque himself everything you want to know.

    @The Monster
    Don’t worry, I’m repeating myself, no one is forcing anything on anyone. They want to demonstrate a working alternative that is supposedly better than what we have now. If their ideas happen to work and you like it, you’re welcome to help with your talents. If you don’t like it no problem, you don’t have to do anything.

    @Anyone interested

    Douglas Rushkoff (Author, “Life Inc.”),
    “Radical Abundance: How We Get Past “Free” and Learn to Exchange Value Again”

  267. >> Academics deliver papers and occasionally artifacts that are almost prototypes. They almost never deliver usable products.

    > But “almost never” isn’t “never”

    It is never wrt most things.

    > and with 7 billion people on the planet

    Even if you multiplied the number of academics by 100, the amount from “almost never” isn’t anywhere near to adequate.

    > and the magical computers that will take prototypes and do mass production,

    Prototypes aren’t suitable for mass production. Making a prototype suitable for mass production requires lots of work.

    When a plan depends on unicorns, the unicorns have to be available FIRST. Those “magical computers” are unicorns. How about you demonstrate them before doing anything that depends on their existence?

    > Also, it’s not just about what you consider academics. It’s about those crazy guys with their garage hobbies, as well.

    I included them. Despite their greater numbers, they produce even less than tranditional academics.

  268. When a plan depends on unicorns, the unicorns have to be available FIRST. Those “magical computers” are unicorns. How about you demonstrate them before doing anything that depends on their existence?

    Ah, but they were already a given in this mythical utopia. What would a mythical utopia be without unicorns?

  269. Victor wrote:
    Currently I don’t know how they plan to recruit talent for such an endeavor. I also do not know how competent Jacque Fresco is because I have never met him personally and have not talked with him about technical stuff. I just find their ideas interesting and I hope that they can deliver on what they envision.

    My belief is that Jacque Fresco could not paint, even if he had the help of Picasso. He has been at this dream of his for something like 50 years with nearly nothing to show for it. Now while that may be quite normal for the majority of people worldwide, you should expect much more out of a leader.

  270. @hsu
    If you see his biographical movie, Future By Design, you’ll see that he has done stuff. He worked for Technicolor developing one of the earliest variants of 3D cinema without glasses. He designed medical tools and also worked in the aircraft industry. He also designed the Trend Home. Like I said, I don’t know him personally but these things make me want to go and speak to him to see if he really means business.

    Why would he need to paint with the help of Picasso? He draws sketches of his technology designs and blueprints of theoretical systems, not art.

    Also he is not a leader. I watched him say in one of the youtube videos about him that following a single person is dangerous. There are no leaders in the sense that I think you mean. There are technical people that are more informed than other people in certain areas. Charismatic people are useless in the context of technology unless they know how to practically solve problems. Of course there are exceptions, such as esr in my opinion, but even in his case, his actual contribution to software engineering and the internet is far more important than how charismatic he is and how many followers he has.

  271. My favorite peeve is the assertion that the Internet is a commons. And that somehow sharing the Internet works.

    What a load of malarky. We build the Internet. It is not limited and ‘shared,’ like some farming land tract owned by the Crown. And in the fashion of markets everywhere, we invite people to use our portions of it as we see fit, in an infinite variety of ways. Are people that confused by how free markets work, that they view any and all ‘cooperation’ or ‘association’ as some market failure? How do they think firms actually work, including vendors and suppliers and deals and customers?

    The conception of objectivists and libertarians and free marketers is always the same shallow BS; the lone wolf who would trod on you to make a buck. In the end, competition and cooperation are not opposites.

  272. Jim,

    “We” didn’t build shit. “We” wrote a bunch of code that runs on copper wires and fiber that were and are owned by the major telcos, who absolutely would “trod on you to make a buck”. Look around you: Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and a handful of other companies — they are the internet in the United States.

  273. ESR:

    Thank you.

    I needed to read this.

    I worry about the talkers who have enough social charm, money, and connections to actually do damage, because as we all know it is us doers that get to clean up the mess . . .

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