Technological progress has had its critics for a long, long, time....
Or so says Barry Sonnenfeld, and he should know, because...uh...because...well, OK, he's just another hollywood Luddite blabbing about things he doesn't understand.
I remember, as a teen, being chilled at the scene in "1984" where Winston Smith, under the omnipresent glare of Big Brother, wrote "had totally lame day 2day. work sux lol! but saw cute girl mayb things get betr soon :) :)" on his government-mandated MySpace page.
One thing which might get the readership of this blog into the double digits is if I could get trackbacks working, but 90% of the time, when there is a trackback URI, what I get is an error like 'Trackback URI exceeds file size of 153600 bytes'. Anyone got a clue how I get around that?
No matter how banal a technological achievement might be, there will always be those who will panic over it. For example, the aptly-self-named Luddite at Wired, who has his organic hemp knickers in a twist over Google StreetView.
Here's what I wrote in the Comments section:
Are there any Sherpas to help me climb this molehill?
I suppose it's a good thing that all real threats to life, liberty, and property have been dealt with, so that we can ALL PANIC!!!! about this. Firstly, what are the odds that you were buying crack outside a whorehouse at the EXACT MOMENT the Google people snapped you? Pretty slim. Secondly, I didn't see any floating nametags over anyone's head. If I want to know what you were doing at that instant, how am I going to find you? Thirdly, as Google noted, and you dismissed, what you do out in the public eye is, well, public. Fourthly, I wonder how many of the people fuming over this "invasion of privacy" have their Hybrids plastered with "Information wants to be free!" bumper stickers, or at least subscribe to the concept?
The government wanting to know what books I'm buying? THAT scares me, and rightly so. This? Not at all.
Would you ban the publication of any photographs taken of street scenes? The logic is the same -- at any moment, a photgrapher in Times Square or Market Street or anywhere else might snap Joe Random Urbanite cheating on his wife, or littering, or not cleaning up after his dog. There is a First Amendment right to take pictures in public places; there is no explicit right to privacy anywhere in the Constitution. Perhaps you think it should be added, but I think it would end up being used more by the powerful to cover up their misdeeds than by the masses to cover up their affairs.
Did the cops who beat Rodney King have a right to privacy?
By putting this kind of power in the hands of the people -- not just the ruling elite -- we turn an old fear on its head. We are watching Big Brother.
Now, there's two issues here, neither of which is particularly relevant to 2L, except that it grabs headlines by being something new and scary (except that it's something old and banal, just with a fancy 3-d graphics engine wrapped around a typical MUSH).
The first is people using SL to trade kiddie porn. Hey, guess what, shmendricks? People used telephones to do it, too. If people can communicate, they will communicate about sex. ANYTHING which features conversational capacity -- a virtual world, a chat room, even a textual interface for playing chess over telnet -- can be used to talk about sex. Like, duh.
The second is "virtual" kiddie porn, i.e, that which doesn't involve, in any way, actual kids -- such as the two adults targeted because one was using a child-like avatar, or "age play" groups dedicated to similar imaginary sex acts. How, tell me, is this different from someone dressing up as a child in meatspace? Is that illegal? All those companies selling "naughty Catholic schoolgirl" outfits better watch out...
Apparently, there is no real crime any more in Germany, so the police can go after imaginary crime now. Lucky Germans.
So, over at Wired (the magazine for people who though 'Omni' was too hard-science...I mean, smeg, they published me, how high could their standards be?), the columnist for their 'Bodyhack' column reports on an Esquire column asking if clones have souls, which is sort of like asking (depending on your view of souls) "Are diamonds made of carbon?" or "Are there unicorns in Kansas?" IOW, if you believe in souls, there is no reason to even question if cloned humans would have them -- of course they will. And if you don't believe in souls (Yoo hoo!), it's an equally pointless question, for obvious reasons. The author of this column, for unknown reasons, decided to play (at least, I hope she's playing...) the idiot, doing a sort of "Goooolly, that sure is a hum-dinger of a pickler, I tell you what!" routine, instead of just slamming both the question, and Esquire, as self-evidently inane, not at all deep, meaningful, profound, or thought-provoking. (I am repeating myself because, apparently, some people don't get some ideas unless they are pounded into their brains over and over again. Also, as a writer, I'm use to be being paid by the word.)
Here's what I wrote in reply over on Bodyhack:
Do identical twins both have souls?
If the answer is 'yes', then a clone has a soul.
A 'clone' is not some special kind of thing distinct from humanity. All a clone is, is an identical twin, born somewhat later than their sibling.
It's a non-question. If you believe in 'souls', then, there's no reason a human being conceived via cloning wouldn't have one. If you don't believe in souls, no one has one. Pretty simple, and not worth ANY time pondering or any deep philosophizing or ethical quandries. The only people who would even consider the question to be a question are those who have no idea what 'cloning' actually is -- and I'd hate ot think the author of a column on biotechnology would fall into that category.
You know, I need to add a new category to this blog:Schadenfreud.
At the very least, I need to write a filksong, to the tune of "Edelweiss".
But I digress.
In any event, Captain Loathsome, Jack Thompson, has lost again. After gloating about his 'victory' in badgering a poor judge in Florida to examine the upcoming game "Bully" to determine if it is a (get this) "public menace", the judge today announced it was not, and is refusing to block the sale of the game. Old Jackie is hopping mad, of course.
And I rather think this is proof Jack doesn't believe a word of the garbage he spews. If he did, surely, his constant string of failures would have driven him to depression and suicide. Yet, like Gary North, he sticks around, exploiting the gullible to line his own pockets. And he's so gracious in defeat, telling the judge he browbeat into submission that "you don't know what you saw". Well, that's a winning tactic, Jack. Insult the judge. That always works so well.
Lizard does the mocking jig.
Once again showing that the only good lawyer is one which has been ground up and served as dog food, Jack Thompson is exploiting the grief and loss of three families in order to advance his own insane agenda. The utter and complete balderdash he spews is going unquestioned by the press, which has, of course, an anti-video-game agenda of its own -- anything which distracts people from passively viewing the old media is bad and must be demonized. Of course, the only people paying attention to what the old media are saying are the dying remnants of the previous generation. If they wished to survive, they'd embrace, rather than ostracize, the young -- but, hey, if they had brains, they wouldn't be in marketing.
But I digress.
The idea that a game is a 'virtual reality murder simulator' is uproarious to anyone who knows better -- but Jack Thompson and the rest of hs sewer-dwelling ilk are not concerned with those who know. They exist as maggots feasting on the rotting flesh of ignorance, and, as Ayn Rand noted, they'll never starve.
Once again, the problem is that there is almost no real penalty for filing a lawsuit known to be baseless. Jack Thompson can sue and lose, sue and lose, sue and lose, and he still profits by getting his name in the papers and money from his victims...I mean, client. It is not possible that, after so many losses and failures, he seriously expects to win. Nor is it possible anyone who has been involved in the issue as long as he has can actually believe his claims. He is a supremely evolved parasite, and society needs some revolution. (That stuff works great...if you've got pets, get it!)
If playing GTA makes you a killer, then playing Madden Football 2004 makes you a jock.
The simplest answer is the best -- disbarrment. If, in the opinion of an informed judge, you file a case which has no legal merit, you are disbarred. For life. Further, you must pay the state -- that's you and me, bud, it's our tax dollars shysters like him are wasting -- the full cost of the trial, plus punitive damages. This would not only shut down the Jack Thompsons of the world, but also the corporate lawyers who file groundless copyright and trademark lawsuits, knowing that plaintiffs cannot afford a defense, and all the other scum which clog the courts in order to feed their ego or try (and fail) to justify their existence.
(Now, I'm sure people will note there are lawyers who are not venomous bottom feeders exploiting people's fear, desperation, and need. As the saying goes, the ambulance-chasing, fear-exploiting, money-grubbing, lying and duplitious lawyers just make the other 1% look bad.)
Ah, Mr. Law Of Unintended Consequences! We meet again!
So a very clever gentleman has invented a table saw which can detect soft, tasty, human flesh and instantly stop itself, resulting in little injury to the hapless user, a feature my grandfather, who could play Frodo post-Mordor, if you get my drift, would surely have appreciated. Naturally, this invention has been met with fear and loathing by saw manufacturers.
Because if they can make saws safe. they fear being sued if they don't. In other words, the fear of lawsuits is actually keeping safer saws off the market. Since retooling to use a new technology is slow and expensive, not every saw sold can instantly have this. This means that 'unsafe' saws will still be for sale, which means any drunken oaf who slices his own arm off will immediately sue the saw manufacturer for not using the available technology, regardless of the economic realities involved.
In a sane society, it would be the case that a safety feature is a positive option, something worth paying extra for initially and which will eventually become commonplace as economic conditions and improving technology make it cost-effective, and as older assembly lines become phased out. In the lawyer-infested madhouse we live in, though, fingers and limbs will continue to be sliced off as the battle continues not in the marketplace, but in the courts.
I've kicked up some of the anti-spam settings a notch. Bam! (Sorry...)
If any legitimate posters/commenters encounter difficulty posting, send me an email. I'm just tired of deleting casino ads.
In addition, I've enabled the ability to save entries, or the whole blog, as a PDF. Because, you know, my words are soooo worth copying to your local system.
It's amazing the lengths people go to in order to justify their unwillingness to actually buy what they want or do without it. To wit, this article in Techdirt, which faults the Associated Press for, among other things, not pointing out that industries in China benefit greatly once the expense of, you know, actually paying for software is removed. I might have pointed out this is a classic example of the Broken Window Fallacy, but, instead, I decided to embrace the concept.
I must admit, this new business model of "Steal the inputs, then sell the outputs" has a great deal of potential.
For example, McDonalds could just rustle cattle (sorry...engage in alternative cattle aquisition methods) to avoid having to pay for beef! Pure profit!
The costly rental of office space could be avoided by simply moving into a random stranger's home and setting up shop there. If they object, they clearly are TOOLS OF THE CORPORATE PIGS, and can be shot out of hand like the fascist scumwads they are.
Fuel for vehicles, such as FedEx delivery trucks, can be siphoned from other vehicles. This should be referred to as an "unscheduled fuel transfer".
Of course, the real savings come when you simply stop paying your employees, except for the few burly ones with whips and guns you use to keep the rest in lne. Should anyone complain, you simply say something logical like "Didn't you ever copy a cassette tape from a friend?" or "Don't you sometimes go past the speed limit?" Confronted with this proof that all laws are basically just FASCIST OPPRESSION which EVERYONE IGNORES, they will continue to work for you for free. You might also tell them that the old model of "do work, get paid" simply isn't viable in the Internet age and that, if they're starving, it's their fault for not being creative enough and finding new paradigms.
If one believes in "Intelligent Design", firstly, I have some great real estate investment opportunities for you, and, secondly, please tell us why the "Designer" is still evidently hard at work making antibiotic-resistent germs and giant mosquitos. The Monty Python song is ever more appropos.
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.
OK, this is smegging cool -- scientists have managed to grow three-dimensional structures from stem cells. Previously, only two dimensional structures -- like skin -- could be grown. This is a major step on the way towards growing complete replacement organs.
Now, currently we have been able to make breast tissue, fat, muscle, pancreas tissue that secretes insulin and we have also created thymus tissue, which may have an application in immunology.
Now the bad news -- it happened in Australia. Why? Not because the Aussies, descended as they are from the same sort of rogues, liars, cheats, grifters, and whores as Americans, are any smarter than we are -- except in one key area: They aren't ruled by theocrats who think a single cell is worth more than a living human being. (Unless the 'living' human being is totally brain-dead, in which case, she's a viable Republican voter...or candidate...)
Religion belongs in churches -- not in schools, and not in the halls of Congress. Opposition to stem-cell research on religious grounds is no different from the old opposition to dissection on the same grounds, an opposition which kept Western medicine crippled for centuries and which caused most medical advances to be made on the battlefield, where bombs and bayonets had helpfully laid the patients open, sparing their doctor the horrible sin of cutting into them himself. All he had to do was figure out how to put the squishy bits back in again.
Over time, reason triumphs over superstition -- but not always in the same place. If Australia, or India, or China, or Japan embraces what were once American values of absolute freedom of thought and inquiry, then, those nations will advance beyond us in every way -- and they will deserve to.
Cancer resistant mice can heal other, non-resistant mice. Not by laying on hands and saying "Be-ah he-al-ed", (that's five full syllables, there) but by transfer of white blood cells. This is just way cool, and there are obvious implications for humans if the mutation can be found and then planted into human white blood cells. (Or we could just look for people who should be dead of cancer now but aren't -- people with risk factors out the wazoo who remain cancer-free, and carve up their DNA to see what's there.)
OK, so, once again, I'm feeling old. Half the people in my gaming group never knew a world without a space shuttle; I was in High School when it first launched (already several years late). Back then, we were promised a real space fleet of 12 shuttles, with launches weekly; the current two remaining shuttles will wheeze on until 2010...with their replacements scheduled for launch in 2016.
It's hard for me to get too angry about government spending on space programs. Sure, it's yet one more thing government has no business doing -- and it does it poorly -- but my desire to see any kind of progress made in getting us off this fragile hunk of rock often overwhelms my logical analysis of the subject. Besides, if the government is going to take my money no matter what I want (and they will), spending it on Cool Toys is much better than, I don't know, National Kumquat Month or some pork-barrel project in East Armpit, North Dakota. (Legend has it the shuttle itself was only approved because each and every state received some sort of contract or kickback in its construction.)
The shuttle is an immensely powerful symbol, the first true spaceship, and it has a strong grip on the hearts & minds of the technologically inclined. But, stepping back from emotion, I have to ask -- is it necessary anymore? Is NASA necessary anymore?
Space is mostly commercial territory now, esp. Earth orbit, and it should be private companies which exploit it, for profit. If the government can survive a 6 year gap between the retirement of the last 'old' shuttle and the alleged launch of the first new one (remember, the first shuttle flight was supposed to be in the 1970s), it can probably survive an indefinite gap. Between now and 2016, any number of private companies can and probably will jump in with their own reusable vehicles, and competition will drive development. Will people die? Sure. People died inventing and perfecting the airplane. That's a large part of the appeal of private space travel, actually -- genuine risk, a chance to be on the frontier. Great risk and great rewards -- that's a large part of the American character.
Is there any real role left for NASA? Dwindling. At best, they can focus on 'pure science' projects which will be launched by private third parties. Ultimately, though, it will of necessity wither away. The Air Force will take over the military aspects, and universities and private corporations will take over the research aspects. There is a lot of money to be made in space, much of it in ways no one can yet imagine. Frontiers generate new industries, as well as new cultures and worldviews. The settled and explored nature of Earth is one reason for constant simmering wars and cultural clashes -- there's nowhere for the iconoclasts to go. There's no New World to welcome the Puritans, or Utah to accept the Mormons, or Australia to take in whore and pickpockets. Thus, it tends to come down to repression or violence, neither of which is particularly acceptable. There needs to be someplace for the nutters to go -- from the visionaries who want to build a new society to the reactionaries who despise modernity. There's plenty of room out there, and plenty of money to be made getting people there.
To the extent there's a need for law or government in space, there should be some form of homesteading law, so that the first private corporations to land settlements on the Moon, or Mars, will be granted exclusive rights to some large chunk of the planet for commercial exploitation for a lengthy period of time.
I'd like to make a prediction: By the time the 'new' shuttle is ready (and it will be well past 2016, mark my words), it will already be obsolete, with no market and no purpose. Commercial space travel will be providing the same services, only better, faster, and cheaper.