This piece, When Nerds Collide by Meredith L. Patterson, is easily the best explanation of what’s been going on with nerds that I’ve ever read, and I’ve been watching this slow erosion of what we created and the growing attack on who we are since the early 2000s; it started slow, but like all exponential growth, it tends to look slow at first, but then suddenly seems like it’s exploding around you.

The question is, what’s next? I guess human nature doesn’t change much, and the ultimate issue is that, as weirdos, we will always be by-definition weird and thus shunned. Yet it would seem that most human progress relies heavily on weirdos for innovation. Can the norms continue to innovate on their own? Some can, but I think most can’t. Yet we can hardly threaten them to leave us alone or we’ll stop helping them; they won’t listen or believe anyway.

Convention of the states?

I see some Conservatives are echoing some Liberals who’ve been saying it’s time to hold a Constitutional Convention.

Since I have for some time now believed our Constitution is functionally broken, with just about every exploitable part of the thing exploited, I think it’s a fine idea. On the other hand, this group appears to only be using their call to appeal to conservatives and conservative issues (and by “conservative” I mean Conservative in the modern American political context, not necessarily what would classically be called conservative). Doubtless, however, if they did manage this, liberals too would have their chance to give input, and would hopefully be concentrating on restoration of due process rights, limitation of corporate power and hegemony, and other items that most concern them.

I have to say that on the whole I support the effort, but I’m pessimistic at this point; the most politically active among us are now so utterly locked in the delusional “left vs. right” mold that they will instinctively reject this out of fear of what “conservatives” might do or what “liberals” might do, and won’t even think about the fact that any proposed alteration or rewriting of the Constitution would not only involve extensive debate, but would also have to be ratified, with an enormous amount of time for everyone in the country to think about what was proposed.

Meanwhile, the average citizen, who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, neither a “Conservative” or a “Liberal” in the way they say these things among the intelligentsia, has a hard time giving a damn about any of it. So we’re locked between “liberals” vs. “conservatives” vs. everybody who no longer gives a damn.

I still vote in every election, and I still vote not just bipartisan but for a mix of third party candidates just to send a message. I’m glad I do, as I know I still have some influence; I helped get a corrupt judge off the bench near where I live for example. But I know I’m in a minority in believing I can make much difference in the grand scheme of things.

As a country, we have come to mistrust and fear not just our government, but each other, so much so that we’re terrified of even trying to alter our basic system of government–even though the Constitution itself was designed to enable us to do that very thing any time we want to.

Such is the tragedy of this era.

60% of web traffic now on mobile devices

Qualify this under “general musings.”

But: the majority of web traffic is now on smartphones, tablets, etc.

I remember how much grief I used to get for saying the PC was slowly disappearing. I started saying that about 10 years ago. Whenever I said this I was accused of saying the PC was going to  “die.” No. What I said was it would slowly disappear from most people’s lives because they wouldn’t need one, and it would eventually turn back into what it was originally: a tool and/or toy for engineers, scientists, hobbyists, gamers, and nerds. That process was already visible to me in the middle of the last decade, although as with most things, this takes time, it’s no more an overnight phenomenon than any other major shift; it takes years, but the inexorable nature of exponential growth eventually becomes obvious to everyone.

I’d say we’re very nearly there. About the only thing the average person–not the engineer, the geek, the gamer, etc., the average person–needs a PC for is if they’re doing a lot of typing. How much of the population is that? A few million in the US I’d wager. Some accountants, some writers, lawyers perhaps, that sort of thing.

I’m going to enjoy the PC as a hobby again. I do wonder at times how much effort there’s going to be to actually make it difficult to make your own computer though. Linux and BSD will likely be the future there I’d think.  The turn of the next decade should be interesting to watch in that regard.

Yes, yes, I get it. You will probably always want a PC. So will I. I just honestly wondering if corporate and government entities are going to start going out of their way to make that tough.

Will Global Warming skeptics ever get the apologies they deserve?

It’s all over the news; we’ve gone about 17 years without any meaningful increase in global temperatures, and the experts are now declaring we’re in the middle of a “pause” based on factors they think maybe they can explain and maybe they can’t; the consensus seems to be to try to explain it away by the oceans, but this is as sloppy as anything they ever accused the skeptics of.

They’re now suggesting that it may be 10 years before temperatures resume their supposed escalation–10 years being the classic prediction people use when they have no real idea,  because it sounds reasonably in the foreseeable future but in reality, in 10 years no one will remember you predicted something 10 years ago. And a lot of these people will be retired by that point and won’t really have to directly answer for anything they might have got horribly wrong all those years ago.

Those who expressed skepticism all along were viciously attacked, mocked, in some cases careers ruined, as “anti-science” and “denialists” all for saying “hold on a second.” And no, those who accused pro-Global Warming scientists were not “just as guilty”; one side held most of the money and power, the other was little but a bunch of upstarts saying the Emperor appeared to possibly be missing some clothing,  and they were severely punished for daring to hint that maybe there was some problem with those fancy garments.

You can read a pretty good summary of where we are now here on Forbes.

Yes, the skeptical upstarts got a little bit of money here and there from vested interests themselves, but it was dwarfed by the money gotten by the establishment who declared Ex Cathedra that they had The Truth.

Money pollutes science. It just does. So once there’s a strong vested monetary or political interest in one side or the other of a hypothesis–as there always was here–you have to work more diligently than ever to focus on the data, and making that data as transparent as possible, and predictable, falsifiable results, not what you want to believe.

Maybe there still is warming caused by humans. If so, those who say so should be making their assertions with a great deal more humility and reflection on the possibility that they may be wrong and that in being wrong they can potentially cause damage too. We can only hope they do, anyway.

Those of you who called everyone who had any doubts crackpots, lunatics, “science denialists,” whatever? You lost the plot on how science is supposed to work, which is by testing and questioning and probing and debating and transparency and reproducible predictions. Instead you turned it into a religion with Bishops and Imams who were Not To Be Questioned lest the Wrathful Gods of Climate Change should destroy humanity.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The history of science is filled with this kind of closed-minded bullying of doubters and skeptics. Why would we think human nature has changed now in our supposedly more enlightened age?

In any case, one thing’s for certain: The Climate Change establishment has its tail between its legs. Good. It’s needed it for some time. Now I hope they keep studying the climate, and start giving more respect to dissent and skepticism, and allow much greater transparency in how they collect their data and how they do their calculations.

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.


Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy