Technology & the end of capitalism as we know it?

This video by the always-fantastic CGP Grey is more far-reaching than most of his videos, and hits on several items we’ve discussed on Dean’s World in the past. For those of you still around (I’d guess well under 100% of what this site was at one point), I would merely note that this hits on something I’ve said many times before: we do seem to be getting into territory where we no longer even understand the economy let alone have a way to fix it:

I honestly have to wonder if the “socialist revolution” envisioned by Marx won’t become a reality not because anything Marx said was right (in fact I’m inclined to think he was wrong about most things) but because we literally hit a place where there are almost no jobs left even for bright talented people, and we are faced with whether to accept a situation where all available resources are owned by a tiny fraction of the populace, or whether we start entering a Star Trek-y future in which resource scarcity is no longer what drives society and “competition” becomes an almost meaningless concept, and we have some form of socialism-by-default because the only alternative is mass revolution and complete social collapse.

The horse analogy here is much more uncomfortably close to how I see the future than a lot of my friends seem willing to even look at:

What will we do when there really are hardly any jobs requiring humans for much of anything except to say “please give me stuff?”

I’ve thought for some time now we should start thinking about these questions more. Alas, most people seem content to either watch the TV, play video games, or engage in pointless partisan left/right questions instead.

I’ve spent much of the last 10 years being told I’m crazy when I mention these things, or accused of having an ideological agenda, which has been rather crazy-making,  as I sit and watch these trends unfold and when I say, “No, I really don’t have an agenda, I really do think this is what’s going to happen and I don’t know what to do about it but we ought to be thinking about it.

Nor do I have an answer now, except to say that I’m really pretty sure that the human species is now facing questions much bigger than anything, and I do mean anything, it has ever faced before. One possiblity is dystopia. Another is utopia. Likely it’ll be somewhere between those two, but I honestly don’t know what will happen, except I think all the old economic models will pretty much collapse.

“Crimea has always been a part of Russia.”

Holy crap. When Walter Russell Mead wrote that Vladimir Putin has been working right out of the Hitler playbook, I found the point provocative but perhaps overstated. Although I have been cynical about diplomatic efforts to get Putin to back off Ukraine, because I don’t think Putin cares what anyone thinks of him, I didn’t expect him to be this bold and this blatant this quickly. He has declared that Crimea has always been a part of Russia and has just decided to annex it.

To quote Mead’s prescient essay:

Putin is no Hitler, and from the standpoint of power he isn’t even a Brezhnev.  Still, his actions in Ukraine have been following Adolf’s playbook pretty closely. Adolf wanted to tear up the Treaty of Versailles. Putin is attempting to rip up the post-Cold War settlement in Europe and Central Asia. Like Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia is much weaker than its opponents, so it can’t achieve its goal through a direct military challenge against its primary enemies. Like Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia must be clever until it grows strong, and it must play on its enemies’ hesitations, divisions and weaknesses until and unless it is ready to take them on head to head.

“Keep them guessing” is rule number one. Nobody was better than Hitler at playing with his enemies’ minds. For every warlike speech, there was an invitation to a peace conference. For every uncompromising demand, there was a promise of lasting tranquillity once that last little troublesome problem had been negotiated safely away. He was so successful at it (and Stalin, too was good at this game) in part because his opponents so desperately wanted peace.

Furthermore, as Mead notes:

Putin is using another one of Hitler’s favorite methods in Ukraine: turn your ethnic minorities in other countries into a Trojan horse— whether or not that is what those people actually want. Hitler did this with the Sudeten Germans in what is now the Czech Republic. The FT again:

  • Russia said on Saturday it was looking at requests for help from civilians in Ukraine, a statement which appeared to resemble those made two weeks ago in justification of its military incursion into Crimea.

“Russia is receiving numerous requests for protecting civilians. These requests will be given consideration,” the foreign ministry said. It added a string of claims that Ukrainian militants and mercenaries were threatening civilians, which could not immediately be verified.

There is nothing here that couldn’t have been taken directly out of Adolf’s Guide for Aspiring Hegemons.

Indeed, there is nothing here that couldn’t have been taken out of the old KGB playbook, for that matter.

In the post Cold war era, Putin has been working hard to cement his power and get Russia to a place of stability. Now that he has it, there is every reason to believe he will want to, slowly but surely, reconstruct the old Soviet Empire, minus the Communist ideology. And if that’s what he wants to do, who’s to stop him? The rich oil and natural gas reserves of Kazakhstan are right there, and while Dr. Galymzhan Kirbassov may think Kazakhstan leaders have little reason to lose sleep, he may be overoptimistic; his views seem predicated on the assumption that because Kazakhstan has remained neutral in the balance of power between Russia, NATO, and the European Union, and has stayed friendly with Russia, this means Putin will not seize on any pretext to take full control of their country he has.

Putin is a patient man who has spent many years building his power base, and yet now is still a fairly young man; at age 61, he is in the prime of life for a political leader and if he stays in good health has another 10 years at least to stay vibrant and ready.

Obama got my support in 2012 mostly for foreign policiy reasons, although not for the dovish reasons of naifs. It was because of his handling of the wind-down in Iraq and his refusal to do a rush job bugging out of that place. And for his relatively strong stance against Ghadafi (although it could have been stronger in my opinion). That said, I believe he and his current Secretary of State to be naively working as if, because they want peace and the Europeans want peace, everyone wants peace.

Doves tend to think “everyone wants peace” and therefore everyone will work in good faith for peace. But dictators, by and large, will only work for peace when they feel they are in personal danger, and even when they’re in danger they generally don’t care about peace, they care about whatever it takes to save their own power. They otherwise have no particular interest in peace at all.

Putin honestly answers to no one but Putin, and this is one of many reasons why I want to tear my hair out when people draw moral equivalencies between the likes of him and the President of the United States; whatever you think of the current temporary occupant of the White House, he DOES have people he answers to, including ultimately the voters. Dictators are under no such obligation.

Which is a big part of why democracy is not a joke, and should not be shrugged off as just a philosophical difference. It is, in fact, a firm empirical difference that matters a lot.

Are we looking at World War 3? Possibly not. But we are increasingly looking like a world where Russia is once again a military and economic rival to the democratic world.

 

Over 100 fraudulent peer-reviewed papers discovered…

by accident.

And these were only cases of blatant cases of obvious fraud in one area.

When “science” is an industry that depends largely on “publish or perish” just to get government and corporate funding en masse, why is it crazy or “conspiracy-theorist” to think that reforms are needed and that there’s not much good reason for the public at large should trust something just because it’s from “Scientists” with a capital “S?”

This is, frequently, taxpayer money on the line, and I’m rather sick of hearing that the general public is out of line to even ask questions like this, or just trust that because someone’s a scientist, they know what they’re talking about and are telling the truth.

Question: if you had a few million dollars in funding on the line, and you discovered the hypotheses you were working on were failed and had reached a dead end, but you had your own career and those of many under you on the line, how likely would you be to do the noble thing and say “this is all wrong, we need to start over from scratch,” versus, trying to find every way you could to justify continuing to support a failed paradigm or hypothesis?

I think this incident goes to show what at least some would do.

And please don’t use “but they were found out!” as a defense. This crap got right past the reviewers, they were found by computer search. No one else even frickin’ noticed.

Putin’s New Russian Empire?

It appears that Vladimir Putin has decided Ukraine belongs to Russia, and if they don’t like it, too bad.

My bet would be that Putin wins this little gamble. Obama will indeed blink first, and so will the rest of the NATO powers. No one will use military force to counter Putin, and not much else will deter him either. A de facto Russian Empire will slowly become a reality.

This will serve to demonstrate, for some observers, why you can’t reason with dictators; what they ultimately understand and respect is force. This is how they rule, and the only thing that stops them is the same. Criticism, condemnation, and protests are merely an irritant to them.

Putin is a genuine dictator, and we are foolish not to recognize this.

The New Dean’s World

In case you haven’t noticed, the look of this blog has changed. After wrestling endlessly with trying to get the old archives working properly with proper author attributions and properly indexed and all that I threw in the towel, made a new blog, imported the last year or so’s content, and called it a wash. I’ve got an archive of all the old content, even if it is in somewhat mangled form, so that someday, hopefully for posterity, I can go through and salvage some of the better writing on it. But rather tha look to the past and keep endlessly trying to tinker with and repair something fundamentally broken, a clean start seemed like the best idea for now.

As a bonus you should find the site working faster now, plus, we’re using Disqus for comments, which is pretty cool I think.

I still probably won’t be writing here as regularly as I used to since most of my energy these days is focused on A Voice for Men, however, I’ll continue to post here now and then when I have something unrelated I feel an urge to write about (here and on The Moderate Voice, and any of you old-timers hanging around who’d still like working author account should let me know. :-)

One day I’d love to write the history of this place. It would be a hell of a story.

Self-driving cars to be held up by regulators?

As the reality of self-driving cars on our roads becomes imminent, the U.S. Department of Transportation is making noises about trying to slow up or stall their entry into the market, calling them “frightening.” The Wall Street Journal looks at why this is misguided.

This is a technology that is not only an inevitability, but will save money, reduce pollution, reduce energy consumption, and save countless lives, so of course Washington wants to slow it down. :-P

Dishonesty by the “Encyclopedia of American Loons”

I recently discovered that in random Google searches on my name, some obscure blog called the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” comes up with a posting about me full of half-truths and distortions and irrational ad hominems about public positions I’ve taken in years past.

There was a period 5-10 years ago where I was getting pretty incoherent in my blogging, while in the depths of a bad marriage and trying to soothe it with alcohol, and therefore occasionally ranting hyperbolically more than I should have. I was also regularly getting gang-slammed and trolled by people on the internet, mostly on other blogs, saying nasty things about me that probably (no, definitely) exacerbated my temper. Nevertheless almost none of those assertions in the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” are really true–and if the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” were linking the original articles I wrote, quoting me directly instead of what other people were saying about me, or what other people were quote-mining me on, or what other people were imputing to be my positions instead of just asking me what they were, it would be at least a lot more honest. I know I’ve said things in the past that embarrassed me, especially when speaking or writing in haste, but anyone who asked me to clarify my positions would know where I really stand.

In any case, yes 1) it’s true that I respect Peter Duesberg, Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, and believe he has been sorely mistreated by the scientific establishment, and that many (not all) so-called “AIDS Denialists” deserve more respect than they get, 2) I did at one time argue that running to court to throw silly Creationist literature and idiotic Creationist stickers out of the schools was more destructive than allowing their nonsense to be discussed in science classes–because banning it by force just feeds the Creationist paranoia that scientists are censoring them and leads to more parents pulling their kids out of the public schools and/or telling their children that their science teachers are lying to them (and that this essay by Michael Baltar is spot on, and 3) yes, I do indeed believe that in many (not all) areas of the sciences, the peer review process (which I know a great deal about actually) has been terribly corrupted by money. This, apparently, makes me a “loon” and a “crackpot” and a “conspiracy theorist.”

The fact that on #1 I talked to multiple fully credentialed scientists and mainstream journalists who supported Duesberg in whole or in part is not of course mentioned, the fact that on #2 I made it repeatedly clear that I think Creationism is stupid and that “Intelligent Design” is not a science, and the fact that on #3 my criticism about money polluting the peer review process merely echoes what a lot of other working scientists will tell you isn’t mentioned either. Neither do they mention my regular writing about how toxic conspiracy theories are, and my repeat explanation that “corruption” is not a “conspiracy,” it’s corruption.

But it’s clear that the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” isn’t really interested in being truthful. It’s interested in well-poisoning. I guess if you’re going to take public iconoclastic positions on the internet, you should get used to it. So in a way, I’m honored to be so important to them. I just wanted to mention, for the record, this “encyclopedia” entry is dishonest, and it would make me question anything written by or about anyone else on it. But hey, at least I’m honored to be noticeable and prominent enough in their eyes to merit an article.

*Update* You know, upon reflection, I’m a little surprised that the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” editors did not also note my frequent assertion that the overwhelming evidence from the peer reviewed scientific literature is that eating fewer calories and exercising more is not an effective cure for obesity — maybe because they know that’s not really refutable — or that I think Bjorn Lomborg has the most sensible attitude about Global Warming and that Watt’s Up With That and that Climate Audit are both important sites if you’re actually interested in rational skepticism about the subject of Global Warming. I imagine on the latter, they also almost certainly consider all of the above “crackpots” and “conspiracy theorists” too.

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