Let It Burn

I think this may be the best way to help folks help themselves. “If you want our help, clear your damn property of trees and shrubs!” If they don’t, let the house go to briquets and a night of regret to a learning experience.

House on fire with family looking on.

In fact, Southern California, my home for sixty years, has had laws in place to that very end. And, year after year, homeowners ignore that rule (with corollary fines) and suffer losses when firefighters arrived to find homes engulfed from general conflagrations whipped up during Santanna Winds in the early (and now late) Autumn.

Of course, none of this would be necessary if firefighting was privatized as part of part of a home security plan. Your monthly premium would include fire protection (inspection and extinguishings,) insurance, supervision of design and execution of repair for in-kind replacement. (A good firm would, after all, cover their assets, too!)

Public firefighting has always (except possibly volunteer associations) had difficulty doing a bang-up job.

Firefighters risk a lot and suffer much. In fact, they do a great job. They would be the same people doing the work for the private firms, too. But the management would be responsible, as much as the guys on the ladders, swinging the axes, and administering oxygen to choking and overwhelmed victims to run the system and take the blame for failures.

The Philando Castile Verdict Was a Miscarriage of Justice | National Review

This is the real friends. And it ain’t about science.

I don’t agree with NR on much even though I have my roots in Burkean conservatism, even they know that police are a reactionary arm of a police state and that officers are sworn to serve the state and enforce its dictates. They do not serve the public irrespective of slogans and mottos and glittering generalities and songs sung in preschool.

When a conservative magazine, born in an era of fear for the future of America, where the threat of the Cold War was real and the state was the last line of defense, comes to a realization that police are ill-trained it means only one thing.

Our country is rushing to fill its ranks with domestic soldiers regardless of quality to enforce the massive amount of rules, regulations, and statutes that pile higher and deeper and smother us. Officers seem poised to pick off those of us lucky enough to escape with breath and a beating heart.

Please read the link to see an unusual take from a conservative magazine. Even they see the truth of this ridiculuous verdict.

Burn a candle for Philacdo and the Castile family.

Source: The Philando Castile Verdict Was a Miscarriage of Justice | National Review

Think Brain Games Make You Smarter? News Analysis By Mark E. Deardorff

A new study finds little evidence that brain training games can improve your memory in any meaningful way.

Source: Think Brain Games Make You Smarter? Think Again – Neuroscience News

Ok, guys. Apparently, neuroplasticity is crap! At least the form Hollywood and purveyors of Snake Oil are attempting to foist on those seeking an MIT diploma on a New York State college budget. If you don’t live in NY, hit the books and pull out the paper and pencils. Games ain’t a gonna help.

The point is, as always, watch the product and check the facts. Caveat emptor.

The State will always offer to make rules to solve this problem. The Products Safety Commission, Truth in Advertising, etc., will be brought to bear now that research is beginning to show that these techniques carry little if any, real efficacy.

But don’t expect results. Expect workarounds. The State pulls the plebes into a sense of satiety, safety, and a memory bordering on nepenthean. Then the developers will just find other means.

This is not to say the developers are wrong. They aren’t. Humans will still want cheap solutions to intractabilities. These are the very people that need solutions to intractable problems. Believe me; they got ’em – intractable problems, of course. A potato will never learn to mash itself. If it did, Kitchenaid would lose part of its market. And a person who wants a magic solution will never learn to be a magician.

The State will never be able to force the populace to make choices it deems intelligent. Intelligence in Economics is a group effort. An individual always chooses the best solution for her. You may think him foolish, but honestly, no one cares (or should) what you think. Group choices decide futures of great movements and minds of individuals have ruined many.

Shoe leather, the tried and true, powered America until the rise of Television and centralized shopping. It started its inevitable decline in the Seventies. We don’t sell makeup door-to-door nowadays. Fuller Brush is empty. Everything is a pyramid, err, a multi-level in-home marketing company for those wanting to make money for their up-lines. It works in Electronia too. It’s not called shoe leather. It’s probably called carpal tunnel or eye-strain, but fortunes still exist where preceded by hard work and a good idea.

But the internet is not the only place. People still have bodies and need places to park them and stuff to feed them with and ways to heal the wrists and eyes. Until the descensus ad rectum esse, our descent into virtual reality.

Wisdom is the gift that any parent should wish most to bestow upon their progeny. Forget brains. A child is a terrible thing to waste. And waste them we do. Every time we consign them to a school that fails to teach logic and rational thinking. We must teach our kids to ask questions and be skeptical.

It was OK when I challenged my third-grade teacher’s assertion that her mother judged my pedagogue’s driving too fast that when, from her position in the passenger seat, parallax would display a lower speed. The furor that challenge caused was akin to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Luckily my father, after he stopped laughing, upbraided the teacher. I soon began attending a school for precocious malcontents. My old principal was relieved.

So, until next time, don’t turn down any offer that sounds like a promotion or way to promote an idea. The comfort zone you leave may be your own.

Will We Melt On the Way to Tau Ceti? – Science News Analysis by Mark E. Deardorff

Source: Could Space Travelers Melt As They Accelerate Through Deep Space?

In 1976 Candian scientist, apparently obsessed with the idea of the Spring thaw, averred that relativistic travelers would be irradiated in transit. That they might come to serious harm away en route due to erosion caused by quantum effects. This was called the Unruh Effect after Bill Unruh, the Canuck making the prediction.

The accelerating reference frame generates heat from the surrounding empty space. A special effect was predicted by Unruh, an effect created by the acceleration of an electromagnetic field. Such a field is maintained by photons and it is these photons and other particles that cause the heating. Ultimately the “heat bath,” given sufficient time, will destroy the traveler.

Unruh was challenged. His work was declared untenable and the result of a mathematical error, but no satisfactory adjudication has been had.

A group of Brazilian scientists has proposed an experiment to decide the question. If the Unruh effect is real, scientists have a new problem to consider and Sci-Fi authors have more stories to write. They will study relativistic particles and look for radiation. Wavelength differentials will reveal the presence (or lack thereof)  of the Unruh Effect.

Three years ago, John Varley wrote Dark Lightning, a story about a generation ship (a hollowed out asteroid) that had to limit its speed. The genius in residence detected that passing a certain speed would cause serious problems. Varley speculated on Dark Energy. Quite off the mark but not bad.

The Unruh Effect, if true, is a real problem that no ablation shield will solve. Its effect is not just a bow shock but an effect of the space-time in which all that travel move. If anything melts, everything melts.

In case you’re worried about your first trip to Proxima Centauri, don’t worry. Too even feel the effect, a traveller must accelerate at a rate of approximately 10^21 m/s^2. That will warm you 4°C but you’ll be flatter than a crepe if your mode of transportation happens to survive.

Don’t buy those personal air conditioners yet. The vapor spritzers can stay in the drawer. Heat pumps won’t help beat the stifling heat on the warm-up trip to Trappist 1. (If it’s not too volatile, that is. If it’s not one thing, then it’s another!)



“It’s a World. That’s All. It Takes a World.” Aurora (2015), Analysis By Mark E. Deardorff

Cue the technicolor. When those lines assaulted my eyes on page 107 of Kim Robinson’s vision of Millenials reciting the Girl Scout Manual, I froze. I had visions of him entranced by Hillary Clinton’s famous laudation to the debouch to state catechesis. It takes a village to raise a child indeed. As a famous erstwhile editor of National Lampoon noted in riposte, “It takes a village idiot!”

As a paean to the yet living P. J. O’Rourke, “It Takes a Cosmic Idiot.” Abusing himself and an overstressed shelf full of books where no fingerprints lie. (Oh yes. And catching his drool in a warm limpid pool, assuming a pail’s not at hand.)

Why? Because those unused books are rational, full of people with all kinds of personalities from mercurial to mindless to murderous. Unless Robinson is telling us that personality is subject to genetic manipulation in its entirety, the selection committee of an unnamed generation ship must also be including a strict regimen of psychoactive drugs that assure compliant behavior.

A book the likes for which Ipecac is a poor substitute is Aurora (2015), a cloying vision of a homogenized society the reality only possible in a world following plans and specifications from Orwell and Associates, Architects and Social Planners. The title of this criticism [Would ‘diatribe’ show personal rectitude? Yes? Then ‘criticism’ it is.] is a quote that would make the inert Lord of the Night rise for an afternoon in the Florida sun.

One cannot help but stop short, at least someone my age, upon a whiff of those words. Someone with enough understanding of the “other” Sci-Fi points of view. The one’s that reach not first to the collective but the individual and inventive. Not the conjoint but the disjoint. Divide and conquer as opposed to the basket and the eggs. A basket once dropped… You get the idea.

But still the dreamer’s dream. That only the whole can solve the problems of the whole. Even in Aurora, a work penalty is threatened against those who won’t cast a critical vote. Sound familiar? Many have uttered the words, “A citizen’s duty is to vote.” Part of a vote includes the never included option, “None of the above.” Many registered voters cast that willingly for certain offices by simply walking home. Certainly, in the most recent election, no presidential candidate spoke words fully consistent with the principles originally inscribed in The Declaration of Independence. Those not coerced by fear or propaganda did likewise. Some disregarded the need for spiritual sanitation and, as always, voted for the lesser of evils. The lesser of evils is still an evil.

In the novel, shortly after, the failure of a tripartite choice to gain sufficient assent for any of the three, violence ensues. The Artificial Intelligence of the Starship finally achieving self-awareness, rises to dictatorial power. Calling itself, “The Rule of Law,” the head of state brokers a “peace” by decibels and general annoyance, like any three-year-old. The survivors of the schism choose to part ways. One group stays at Tau Ceti, the rest return to Earth. What happens upon return I will leave for you to discover.

The importance of an artificial intelligence achieving self-awareness is still a debated proposition. AI need not achieve knowledge of its own existence to become a danger, particularly if dealt ethical priorities at variance with those considered democratic and just. (I’ve discussed the dangers of unchecked AI in other blogs on this site. It is an issue not to be ignored.)

One of Robinson’s conclusions is, however, humans will become interstellar imperialists. No doubt. And nothing is particularly wrong with that. In fact, it is a natural way to protect the DNA pool of the various and many species inhabiting the Gaian biome. While the future of the one we call home is the subject of a different post, some who know that Earth is probably past the point of no return will look toward Clarke’s Karelian, horns and all, as disease ends, the climate is fixed… but wait!

Well, not quite. The ghost of H. G. Wells-cum-Arthur C. Clarke-cum-anyone waiting for some stand-in for God to gallantly step forth and solve the ills of Man. “Let us wait. For unto us an Alien will come to solve our ills so suck your thumb.” All the while, Billy Bob Thornton across the street in his garage bending over his workbench breaking pencil leads sharpening them on sandpaper calculating on his slide rule builds a rocket. (Pop quiz: Who’s the hero?)

This group to whom this book will find most favor, the group of the grim ought to resort to NUK pacifiers thus dodging the Orthodontic lobby. The selfsame Dachshund wannabees crawl under the blankets of Oculus Rift and Hololens to avoid the cold, mean, bully of the Cosmos with its errant asteroids, cometary detritus, high energy cosmic rays hiding beyond the ozone and magnetosphere, possible nearby supernovae (a very low probability, to be sure), and gamma rays from nascent black holes. The caprice of the Cosmos scares the hell out of a certain group of writers, a group of idealistic spaceists. An entire group that believes colonization of nearby star systems must be by generation ships with living populations. Kim Stanley Robinson is their current standard bearer.

William Gibson first brought Cyberpunk to light with Neuromancer (1984.) His neurotopia of plug in and tune out. His’ was a future vision similar to that of Philip K Dick’s a decade and a half earlier. A Scanner Darkly discussed an invasion of human into self with drug-induced Electronia.

This is also the same congregation that will pull in horns, shed hides, or slide out of its neuronal integument like a snake from its boiled skin. Then, in a Petabit Universe with parallel Giga-cores of Thought processors into a virtual universe, this Family of Fear devolves to a world free of the vagaries of a chaotic cosmos devised by a crotchety God of sadistic caprice. A cultural Ostrich thus lowers its head to the ground, invoking the logic of Aviana, “If I cannot see you, you cannot see me.” A great way to market blindfolds to those facing the firing squad, but unless the world of fantasy allows the hardware supporting the virtual world to subsume itself in iterative ingestion, no protection from the protean Demon is in the cards, in this case, a straight flush to the shimmering waters most cases of ingestion end, the WC.

So much attention has been paid to the SETI that once the ability to find exoplanets became routine, that the failures of the former would cause a quiet disavowal of association has surprisingly failed to transpire. In fact, the astronomers have dug in their heels and redoubled their efforts. Some have resorted to the explanation that VR is the destination of populations of aliens. Gee. There are escapists throughout the Milky Way. Probably M31 and the entire Local Group.

Right and Left, the sides of the monarch upon which the Aristocracy (Right) and Clergy (Left) stood. Clergy, the First Estate, Aristocracy, The Second. The People were The Third. Today, the Left tries to perfect person and place. The Right tries to subdue. John Locke’s three natural rights were granted by the creator were Life, Liberty, and Estate. The Third Estate would love to be left alone. Robinson and others like him find ways to equalize populations by writing about the dire consequences of our actions.

I found the book difficult to read only because I found the the solutions offered so personally restrictive. The power structure developed in the ship is exactly that of any State power structure on earth. The solution reached, including the interim commands by the dictatorial AI, are not a complete ensemble of possibilities. This is precisely how the propagandist writes. Asking a question but leaving out all of the possible options. One option is allowing people to freely choose their own destinies.

Here, Robinson confuses “Rule of Law” with dictatorial caprice. As long as the dictator is governed by hardwired logical elements, he assumes, all is well. Of course, he apparently forgets that CPU’s have instruction sets and clocks that cause machine statements to be executed. Those statements ultimately originate with the hands of man. As much as Robinson would like to take Man out of the equation, imperfection will find its way back.

Another annoying feature of the book is time spent philosophizing about self-awareness and knowledge, in general. I’m surprised he didn’t consider Wheeler’s Participatory Anthropic Principle. I’m sure his views might not admit to human importance in the Cosmos, indeed in the Universe. John Archibald Wheeler suggested that our observation brings the Universe into existence

It is enlightening to see what the modern progressive ophthalmic prescriptive for rose tinting will be beyond this epoch. The post-Anthropocene is certain to vary. Maybe we’ll be cueing the light technicolor on the canals of New York.

The Holodeck: How Do We Get Started? Science by Mark E Deardorff

Source: Star Trek’s Holodeck: What Happens in Star Trek (in this case) stays in Star Trek.

In yesterday’s blog, I showed the rather imponderable amount of energy requiring conversion to mass sufficient to replicate a fourteen and a half Stone Dr. Moriarty. Aside from putting the evil Doctor on a crash diet, different strategies will be required. We must find existing tools that will provide mass, at least the illusion of mass, the feel of mass, the experience of mass.

Current VR is not the answer

The state of Virtual Reality is not reality or virtual. It just provides three-dimensional imagery that illusionally immersively fools the participant’s mind. The participant must willingly suspend disbelief. A person unwilling could look beyond the description to the actual boring reality beyond. Unfortunately, VR never delivers on its promise of a world of wonder when the wonder has always existed beyond the pane separating the desperate from the actual reality.

Next Step: Inert Ferromagnetic Particles

There are two types of fields that exist at a macro level – gravitational and electromagnetic.  The other two, the strong and weak forces occur at the quantum levels and are not particularly helpful in our case. (Though not necessarily in the future.) Of the two macro fields, the electromagnetic is easily manipulable by humans. The easiest thing to manipulate with an EM field is a ferromagnetic metal. Ferro implies Iron (Fe.) Small particles of iron in a rapidly varying and constantly refreshed EM field might provide the type of thing that could create a shell of particles sculpted to the appearance of a human form, or any form ultimately.

It could be modeled after 3D printing or direct sculpting. It depends more on the efficiency of the algorithm and speed of transfer.

A primary problem is still related to the sensation of inertia and elastoplastic response of the system. An active magnetic field could hazily model these effects.

Semiautonomous Nanites Under External Active Field Control

Nanites with minimal intelligence – ability to engage other nanites, move relative to one another, etc. – would, with guidance speed operations of the computer algorithms designed to control the entire system. Much of the system described above would still be operative, but nanites engaged with one another would solve a major problem, creating an elastic response to an action to its surface.

The relative motion and attachment would be commanded with simpler statements thereby reducing the size of the code base and the amount of time devoted to processing a single refresh pass.

The System Above Under AI Control

To add randomness, or more appropriately unexpected behavior, answers to random questioning, non-linear game sequences with text created on the fly, artificial intelligence is an imperative tool. This again adds complication and computing cost. It must be fast and exist for each character created during a session which could,theoretically, be unlimited. This is particularly true in an non-comparable system such as West World where the AI is included in the package. To do it remotely requires bandwidth to handle the capacity for significant bits of information.

Sessile and Plugged In

When William Gibson wrote Neuromancer (1984) he described Cyberpunk as a genre for the first time in Science Fiction. A plugged-in word of virtual reality where humans sat, understanding that they sat, a peered into a system of computation.

A system that we seek is one of appearance and experience. Where our purposive thoughts of action are converted to beliefs of experience and a sense of reality. In this world, we believe what we see. Yet all the while we know of our sessile state. Like a barnacle on the hull of an ocean liner, we are under the control of another an stuck until, somehow, we pull the plug.

Pulling the plug is where the paranoia begins. For if we have fallen under a despot of Electronia, how will we know? If we have been entranced by a Svengali having us believing that while we pick a few grapes gifted to her that we are not actually industrial spy’s taking trade secrets to sell on a dark website?

The point is simple, we don’t and won’t. This is the problem with plugging in.

Sessile With Non-Invasive interface

This scenario is similar to that above with the need for implanted hardware but not a port to receive wiring. Headgear or remote transmission of telemetry is sufficient here. The availability of memories (applies to Sessile and Plugged In above) if available to the control system could be manipulated and incorporated into the VR world significantly improving the experience. In addition, in a Strange Days (1995, Lightstorm Productions) style, by incorporating actual experiences of other humans (or animals, for instance) to provide a unique unexpected rush of emotion particularly if those sequences (snuff sequence) are picturing the moment of de-commencement.

Active With Non-Invasive Interface

The “Final” type of system (quotes because there will be other similar systems and never a truly final system) is a system where we are fully in the system but our bodies walk, run, and climb through the system.The bodies are real and simulated. The real bodies may also be enhanced with other personas. The body to whom we are making love we may see as Brigit Bardot or Brian Eno though it may be our real life lover. The shootout with Gary Cooper may be our children with (hopefully) virtual bullets that still knock the target down. Enough physical reaction to deliver some reality. West World without robotic mayhem.

That is not to say that an autocrat may not arise. A virtual or real dictator co-opting and enslaving a population of “plug-ins” expecting that the slavery they are experiencing is a game scenario for group solution. There comes a time when even the most touched among the group comes to realize his captivity and starts jumping frantically at cage and keeper.

Identity Theft In a Virtual World

Now identity theft becomes more than pin numbers, routing numbers, account numbers. no longer is it a numbers racket. It is a mind game. Shuffling coconut shells on a card table on a street corner. “Which one was your mind under?” “Sorry. Wrong one. Here. Have a generic until you remember how to ID the original.”

Sad story that can’t possibly happen, right? If writers of science fiction like Philip K. Dick and George Orwell can conceive of plausible ways that in recent years have borne fruit, it is not a difficult leap to the subterfuge at hand.

How do we protect ourselves? The same way the wise protect them now. Among other methods, some Draconian others straight forward, backups as an example. Acknowledging we are discussing future tech, a concomitant safeguard would be a built-in cranial backup, detached from the brain while the rippled and fissured organ protected by a thin coating of bone sits entranced by a piece of advanced living, possibly organic, software, a highly dense fast piece of memory sits waiting to engage the brain and reload the users personality and memories if tampering is detected by built-in algorithms or by outside intervention.

Another method is even more obvious. Don’t engage in a distributed system in the first place. The US consciousness is suffused with the lessons, too often forgotten, of mass distortions of judgment by citizens having no right not to know better opening attachment of pictures of relatives they don’t have or pictures of graphics guaranteed to titillate. Emotions over reason. What has education wrought?

The future may hold no physical reality, only a virtual world, a place for our minds to avoid the madness brought on by exposure to the virus of a world schlepped to destruction at our own hands or missing the last train to points cosmic yet unrevealed to the unwashed. The Fermi Paradox answered by burying our virtual heads in a virtual sandbox of a life domain of a function space powered by the Energizer bunny keeping our bits of information alive in a perceptual regime with all the reality and diversity of an algorithm as complex as allowed by the laws of probability with stochastic boomerangs.

Simply put, this may be an arc for which a civilization of weak-kneed people fearful of its capacity to rise to the challenge of tomorrow may retreat. The final succor for a people too afraid to venture forth where oxygen is sparse and cosmic rays slice DNA. The remnant, the Luddites, the ones that said, “Don’t go, thar be monsters!” Yes, thar be monsters. Monsters to tame and understand. Planets to investigate and colonize. The Earth is a small place and it ignores us and the rest of the pesky life that chose to spring forth. It will be just as happy with us as without us. Yes, we gave it oxygen. But it, for the most part, continued to ignore us. It did not slow or increase its climatological cycles appreciably though we recently assisted in that a bit.

We just didn’t get. Time to think hard about vamoosing out, not to Mars that’s just a show for the cameras. We need to go much further to places where cosmic catastrophes will not threaten the entire DNA pool of the Gaian species. That is, far enough so that a supernova or gamma ray burst will not devastate all life within a radius that includes the planets and active probes that contain DNA.

A Mars colony has benefits in the short-term. But the species benefit is a long-term issue and must be addressed. This is where the real people (DNA) go – the strong – the insightful – the brave. Those who fall into their VR universe, unless it employs a way to excise itself from the effects of the physical universe, will end sooner or later.

Sorry for the little polemic. Got carried away! 😉

Star Trek’s Holodeck: What happens in Star Trek (in this case) stays in Star Trek! Science by Mark E Deardorff

Source: Star Trek’s Holodeck: from science fiction to a new reality – PC & Tech Authority

As “Ooh!” and “Aah!” the Holodeck was in The Next Generation. It has no more chance of becoming a reality in the sense in which it was presented then the economy of the Star Trek universe of the same series.

Generating the smarts, the intelligence to drive the story logic and problem creation for mysteries or training programs is not an issue as long as the writers actually create good scripts, a lost art in The Next Generation.

Holographic projection in real time is not a technological impossibility either. It won’t have the smoothness, at least not in our lifetimes.

The problem comes when one wishes to simulate hard surfaces and, more importantly, inertia. Hard surfaces require resistance, a reaction to force. There must exist a field that can sense and respond to a movement to oppose the action. Magnetic fields won’t work unless you have a high iron diet!

And there are no physical fields of which I am aware that will, under machine control, resist your movement without some form of aversive punishment. I think the idea is for a little push back. If you touch a person, tactile resistance to skin makes sense. Of course, a retributive slap makes sense in other situations, you masher!

Inertia, the ability to maintain motion against a resisting force, requires mass. A holodeck is empty. No mass just laying around to use. Mass must be found to give the characters designed for interaction for the living users some semblance of reality. They must feel real to the spacemen on leave in the Holo-House of Ill Repute, or the wrestler working out for the Sector 7 Olympics with a simulacrum. Either of these cases must resist forces placed on it by the user. When the wrestler lunges, the user must feel it’s force in proportion to its mass and force of its musculature. It must work as expected.

The Holo-deck is a tool, not just entertainment. In fact, it’s purpose is at least eighty percent of the mission and the rest, morale.

So how do you get mass out of thin air? Simple. Einstein gave us the formula in Special Relativity, E=Mc², Energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light in a vacuum. Once we decide how much mass we need, we can calculate the energy requirements. How simple!

A famous episode was a Holmes-Watson show where Moriarty appeared and took flight beyond the bounds of the Deck! Ignoring that oddity, let us calculate the energy cost of creating that amount of mass. Let us say Moriarty weighed in at 175 lbs. Yes, English, that would be 12.5 Stone. 1 Stone = 6.37 Kg. Moriarty weighs 79.54 Kg. C = 300,000,000 m/s. The mass, in this case, is the rest mass, M∅.

E = 79.54 x 9 x E16 Kg m²/s² = 7.16 x 10^18 Joules.

The Hiroshima bomb was 15 Kilotons which is equivalent to 63 Terajoules, that is, 63 x 10^12 Joules. Moriarty requires roughly 72 x 10^17 / 63 x 10^12 which is appr. equal to 10^5. In other words, the starship Enterprise would need to generate the energy of 100,000 Hiroshima bombs just to create enough mass in order that Moriarity feels like Moriarty when Picard as Watson punches him. A lot of match heads just for some recreational sleuthing!

We can’t stop with the body. The puppet must be motivated. Subcutaneous musculature, blood pumping, skin flushing, heart beating, breath panting, sweat dripping, everything must fit the image of a man that acts the part. Seated and contemplatively intellectual or loquaciously manic, any mood must satisfy the illusion of reality. The inert mannequin must live.

And to do that, more energy. But the rest is a paltry sum compared to the amount needed to create. Applying it, however, will be more difficult. Active fields, as discussed above, will be required not just to resist humans but to move inorganic matter. This is all technology not even in the sights of science, merely the dreams of futurists.

Sorry to be your buzz kill Betty, but facts are facts. There are too many important things to do in this world for the unwashed to imagine that things happening in a Virtual World are the same things that happen in a Holodeck. Aside from the fact that a Holodeck comes with a green screen and a CGI staff, VR gives no tactile feedback of the type experienced on the pretend starship Enterprise.

By far, the best way to enjoy a Holodeck in this day and age is to learn Improv.

Click here for Part 2: The Holodeck: How Do We Get Started?

Through The Peeping Class: ‘A Scanner Darkly’ in The NSA Epoch

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Warning: If you have not read A Scanner Darkly, there may be spoilers.

Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince captures the out-of-body experience of the nation-state. The Chief of State reads instructions as he examines herself endoscopically. Deftly, she routes lubricant coated tubes through secreted passages behind the backs of his trusted stewards and quaking riffraff. All the time, he knows not of the eternal eye atop the pyramid, and the Eye of Providence disembodied, never conscious of her transgressions.

The all-seeing eye of God is premonishment. The State knows man’s thoughts and deeds.  A Scanner Darkly, Phillip K. Dick’s portrait of addiction to intrusion is the image one sees when coherent light shines through the Wiki Leaks hologram. What emerges from the mixture of unintelligible pixelated three-dimensional information compressed onto a warped surface is an Orange Sunshine dream.

The Addiction

Set in Orange County SoCal in the then future 1994, PKD pictures, from his 1968 venue, a destiny of dependency not much different than today, or any day since bubbling heroin first met needle and bulb. The drug in question is Substance D, known colloquially as Slow Death. Robert Arctor / Special Agent Fred is / are the protagonist(s). The confusion is intentional. It is, in fact, the point. Fred is Arctor’s alias in his job as a drug enforcement officer for the Orange County Sherriff. When in the field he acts the part of a user and ends up an addict.

Slow Death is to the mind what the Inquisition was to torso and pelvis. Application of an increasing drug dosage induces tension in the corpus callosum slowly alienating the two hemispheres of the brain. As the communication amid the moieties of the cerebrum turns from laminar to turbulent, clear to murky, from on until the drug shorts the switch.

Fred and Robert Arctor forget the other. At least, they forget their collective identity. About halfway into the sixth chapter Agent Fred begins to question if he is Robert Arctor, even which Robert Arctor he might be, forgetting the obvious fact that there is but one Arctor and that he is it.

Fred, as part of his dis-identification, wears a Scramble suit. At the office, a micro computerized full-body Union suit, it serves to distance personalities from the business. At a display rate of one image per nanosecond, it shimmers with billions of perceptions.

After a fashion, every addict, every freak wears a scramble suit, too. They’re a placental add-on. A no charge parental gift sowed by alcoholic progenitors. The doper gets all the weird looks but only responds with dumbass expressions. Luckily, wearing Mom’s natal gift, no one notices. Anybody to everybody. People pleasers one and all.

The mistaken self-identification by Agent Fred worsens leading to his demise and Arctors banishment to New-Path for extended drug treatment in a rural labor camp. The farm, his discarnate calaboose, the place his mind aims when his Haj begins. When Slow Death first contacts corpuscle and enters Robert Arctor’s brain.

The Pusher

Drug operations are a Byzantine affair. Junkies are held hostage in the selfsame fashion that Byzantium kept foreign royalty on its soil to assure certain behaviors by their monarchs. The American police state bears great resemblance to both. Both it and Byzantium bear the imprimatur of regnal authority.

America, like all societies consigning their liberty to an auction in exchange for security, began a long walk down a rickety plank during the early twentieth century. Black CHAMBER and Project Shamrock (not all that lucky) began a slide away from privacy that predates the dystopias that PKD so often detailed.

The projects listed above, children of the World Wars are now the flowers of Americans swallowing electronic placebos – Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android all are subject to NSA backdoors. Americans willingly accept much on faith and act nonplussed when things go wrong.

Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Burgess, Robert Heinlein, Samuel Delany, Cory Doctorow, L. Neil Smith, Neal Stephenson, and Ray Bradbury (there are many more names in Science Fiction) all have important things to say about freedom and human rights from different points of view. Here, however, A Scanner Darkly is essential in the way it displays the human addiction to intrusion by others. There seems to be some imperative built into the race, a need to have others look at us.

Scanner portrays this necessity as Substance D and the NSA as New-Path. In effect, it is the American way-of-life that generates both the need for Electronia (adulterated by the NSA) and the NSA to use Electronia against its citizens. Where Eisenhower spoke of the military-industrial complex, Dick writes of the electronics-surveillance complex. Eisenhower spoke at the beginning of the Cold War, Dick near its end. The war beginning when PKD wrote was the war on privacy – the war between humans and the State.

The war is currently a silent war. Most people are too busy with other things, new gadgets, new movies, new diversions. The hypnosis of happy lights inures them to the pain. As addictive and deathly as Slow Death itself. America sits and waits for the future while the NSA rifles through their sock drawers.

At least in Scanner, there was humor, dark, sad humor yes, but the inspiration that can motivate. Some dystopias of the early Cold War were dismal and depressive. Sales devices for Librium, Jack Daniels, and fallout shelters. Dick, on the other hand, while brimming our eyes with cleansing tears can open them to vistas that see past the evil. The polemic is always in Dick’s words. It just doesn’t sound like shouting. In fact, it often seems reverent.

The Layman

At the top of the post is verse 12 of First Corinthians Thirteen of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. It was the version most people Dick’s age (born in 1928), and mine (born 1953) knew if exposed to a bible at all. This verse has little religion without context but says much about the novel.

St. Paul writes of a “seeing through a [mirror,] darkly… In other words, seeing a pale reflection. In Arctor’s case, the quote from chapter six relates his concerns about the holo-scan.

In St. Paul’s case, a darkened mirror allows face to face confrontation but only in part. He seems to say that a mirror reveals you the way you see yourself but not the who of you. In other words, you may recognize the animal in the reflection but its behavior will never be predictable. For those who believe in a higher power often find that others see them differently and as much as they might like, they often must admit they have no right to know what others think about them.

Arctor is without certainty. He happily admits he hated his former life if indeed there was a previous life. As the end of the story nears, his family life becomes as twisted as cream stirred in a cup of cloudy tea. He wonders if he sees clearly or through a murk (darkly).

It’s a novel that can be hilarious when Jim Barris tries to show Charles Freck how to make cocaine from suntan lotion. Of course, junkies would believe this. I might have believed this if I were desperate enough. It can be morose as well. When Arctor reviews holo-scan tapes of an evening in bed with a junkie named Connie. His perception morphs her during the event into Donna Hawthorne and then back to Connie. When Fred reviews the tapes he sees Connie dissolve into Donna and back into Connie. Mutually Assured Destruction offered up by Substance-D.

“What does a scanner see? he [Arctor] asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me— into us— clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can’t any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone’s sake, the scanners do better. Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we’ll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.”

The importance of this passage relates, along with the Corinthians verse, to Fred’s diagnosis resulting from the battery of tests leading to his ultimate banishment to the farm with the mountain view. St. Paul’s description of a mirror points to an object that allows us all to see us the only way we ever truly recognize ourselves. A pattern based on a bilaterally symmetric reversed image of the way we are perceived by others. To follow the maxim, “To thine own self  be true,” one must see through other eyes. Fred, though, in a theocentric lethargy assumes the Pauline mirror requires an infinitely deep reflection. This image, written in 1968, is reminiscent of Paycheck, Dick’s 1962 story of an engineer who assists in the development of a lens that can bend light to follow the curvature of the universe thus seeing into the future. (Yeah, stupid by today’s understanding of the nature of reality and causation.)

Fred fears that his brain dysfunction can never be trusted to decode his face in a manner of his own understanding. He’s screwed.

Interestingly, after this passage, Arctor recites some poetry in German, Faust by Goethe. The passage applies not to Arctor directly, but to Charles Freck whose attempted suicide follows the passage. Poor Freck. Purchases the artifacts for his tomb only to take hallucinogenics in quantity rather than an overdose of barbiturates. Instead of death, he suffers a rambling reading by a thousand-eyed alien of a list of every sin he ever committed intentionally and otherwise. Being that he and the alien have moved to a “transcendent realm,” his sins will be read “ceaselessly, in shifts, throughout eternity. The list…never end[s].” Freck’s next thought: Know your dealer.

Personal Note

I was born in Burbank, Cali in 1953 and hung out in Glendale during the late 60’s for High School. At USC as an Engineering major and studying economics (mostly the Austrians), knew the pols and their toadies in Orange County. Early 70’s the OC was flat, Orange, and aromatic. The Big Three: Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and the Japanese Deer Farm (“Where Bambi Goes, Nothing Grows,” if you happen to remember Hudson and Landry) were the points of interest. All that was left was cruising, drugging, tripping, and hanging at the malls waiting for Animal House, Alien, Solaris (a Lem showpiece), Rancho Deluxe or A Boy and His Dog. But considering the state of mind of guys like Arctor, the movie of choice would have been Dark Star. I certainly enjoyed a spaceship where the crew was doped up! Floating while weightless – a meta high.

Phil Dick was an addict. He still would be, were he alive. He wouldn’t be using, but he’d be an addict. I am an addict, too. In a way, in every way except one, I still am. I just don’t use drugs or alcohol anymore to alter my mood. I am just never particularly unhappy anymore. I have no use for it. But I and every other addict who is clean and sober will always remember their addiction. We can never afford to say we are cured.

Read A Scanner Darkly while listening to the Audible voice over. Get the whole shebang from Amazon, and it coordinates with the text. Just don’t stop at the end. Keep reading through the afterword. It is the real personal story from Phil.

Mark E Deardorff

Copyright 2017 by Mark E. Deardorff. All Rights Reserved.

American Law Enforcement: The New Privateers

Was it not for the federal Imprimatur, would RICO laws not apply? It is hard to imagine where law enforcement ends and extortion begins. For when only doubt is required, who is to say that suspicion was actually attained?

When, in the 15th century, England needed to build a navy it chose a simple expedient. Britain turned the Royal Navy into a band of crypto privateers. What better way to finance a fleet? Take the bounty from the profiteering smuggler and convert it tortiously to the Public good.

The Halifax Court served the purpose, ombudsman, Solomon dividing the children assuring a practical benefit to His Majesty’s High Seas.

The Colonies themselves continued the practice offering Letters of Marque to assist in the French and Indian Wars, support the Revolution, the US in the War of 1812, Barbary Coast, John Lafitte, the Civil War, etc.

There is even speculation that the venerable blimps that bring us weekend displays of Harvest season warfare, football, were used in World War II to spy enemy submarines off the California coast. The theory is hotly disputed.

But what of today? Given Kelo v. City of New London broadening the power of Eminent Domain and our President’s love affair with its confiscatory djinn, it is no wonder that any local constabulary would take advantage other tortious analogs. In this case, Civil Forfeiture.

This style of Confiscatory taxation without representation has existed since the fifteenth century. It was used to advantage during prohibition but lost visibility until the Reagan presidency and the rise of the War on Drugs. Under 1984 the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, civil forfeiture came into prominence by allowing local agencies to get in on the action.

Was it not for the federal Imprimatur, would RICO laws not apply? It is hard to imagine where law enforcement ends and extortion begins. For when only doubt is required, who is to say that suspicion was actually attained?

Copyright 2017 by Mark E. Deardorff and ScienceViaMarkets, All Rights Reserved. (Despite the truth about intellectual property.)

[The article by the Foundation for Economic Education cited here tells such a story. But the tales are legion, and many happen to innocent citizens. Citizens that, once relieved of their hard earned possessions, never see them again.]

Source: This State Used Stolen Funds to Pay Law Enforcement | Foundation for Economic Education

Trump, The Luddite – Latest Observations, Edition 1.0

Donald Trump is bringing on a Kennedy to advise the new administration on the dangers of vaccines. Here come the conspiratorialists and propagandists. The March of the Peabrains. The Cavalcade of [mental] Shorts. Who needs logic when you have no facts?

After all, you can’t trust science. The conservative Right claims science as the Agitprop of the Left establishment. Must be true. It’s on Facebook.

Get ready to cringe as Alchemy comes to Treasury to improve the gold reserve. The Advanced Research Projects Agency has already been asked to create ten Philosopher’s Stones.

All you online gamers: we’ve finally had an administration that plays like an MMORPG. Archer Daniels Midland to be replaced by Farmville; SPAWAR, by Halo. Department of Defense by Mobile Strike. Medicine has been brought to communication surgically limiting larynxes to utter a mere 140 characters. Words end mysteriously mid-syllable.

The Space Program and NASA are still in play; we are still not sure if the manned extravaganza is going to displace critical data. What is more important? Inspiration or information?

All we can do is hope that this does not pass on to real science. The best way to fund science is never to be beholden to the government. Seek to support science from industry, philanthropy, charitable organizations, and educational institutions. Bureaucracies make for bad science due to rulemaking by partisans. These myrmidons, be they left or right, do not thoughtfully write original policy but rather, soldierlike, carry out with utmost cruelty to the enemies of current administration rules that hurt.

Ultimately, the injured are the middle class and poor. The wealthy can usually afford increase costs. Developers often can afford to raise home prices, to a point, but the market will still cost them sales. Rules are a drag on the economy and cost everyone, even funds for science research.

Congress under Obama was impotent against a leftist agenda. We are now visiting the Antipodes under the Trump presidency. Science will be stuck with a conservative agenda. Unfortunately, the modern conservative economic plan is not free market trending more to the Keynes of Richard Nixon. Where Trump wishes to spend on infrastructure as did his predecessor, the nation needs less strangling and more loosening. The appliers of Latin Squares and Bayesian analysis must find paths that are market-oriented while the government continues to follow the Yellow Brick Road to find a Wizard that left Oz at the Great Crash. Free markets are the only way to prosperity and the only way that science will ever find a permanent source of funding in a moribund economy.

But this is just an initial observation made in the New Year. The time will come to reassess the Trump science agenda.