Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bear Baiting And Other Online Sport

The problem with corresponding with old professors, even (or possibly most especially) one's who now make up their own stories rather than contenting themselves with relaying the classics, is that they will insist on illustrating their lesson du jour with a homework assignment for the further edification of the correspondent.

I've had worse.

Hi Jerry,
Read your most recent View entry (August 27) and wished to respond to your off-the-cuff aside about "eternal youth".
First, yes, it was only an aside and you made no attempt to delve into the topic. Second, I’m quite certain you have much greater online research expertise then I, but here’s my amateur contribution to that nonetheless.
Scientists turn skin cells directly into blood
Making pluripotent stem cells from a drop of blood
Young blood makes old mice more youthful
Thirdly, I suppose, while none of this is news to you I’m sure, I suggest the stories above combine into a potential (if only partial) answer to your question(s) regarding the end of work (insert bass, vibrato and echo to taste).
While much research remains, particularly into possible human applications, there seems to me to be a possible social model of – I don’t know, basic stipend? – that could be developed from this. People contributing a regular sample of their blood in order to remain eligible for receipt of their regular stipend payment.
Such a system would accommodate the transition of historic "work" to automated systems while subsidizing the healthy maintenance of humanity and human societal structures. In addition, I presume that you will agree there will always be circumstances where a spontaneously adaptable human could better resolve a short-term or otherwise unusual situation for which a device hasn’t been manufactured and thereby earn added credit to a qualified volunteer’s account.
Not a perfect solution, I know, but the juxtaposition of the two View items seemed worth noting.
Best regards,
Will Brown
I don’t purport to “have a solution” to the problem of preserving a Republic in these times. I do agree that humanity isn’t finished: robots and artificial intelligence will not be our final invention as a recent book put it. But that at the moment is more faith than analysis.
If you are interested in this subject and have not been following Freefall you probably should be. There is a problem. Freefall is incomprehensible if you go directly to the current page. It is a graphic novel with three new panels every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and it has been going on since 1998. To understand it you must go to the story start and read up to the current page before trying to follow it, and that will take an hour or so a day for a week. It is worth the time investment. This began more as a humorous comic, surely with the intention of examining problems of practical implementation of robots and AI, but over time began to look at the problem in a more serious way. It is quite thought provoking. It is also hilarious, so this is not a painful assignment. It will help if you understand that Sam is not the main character although he is an important part of the narrative; and Sam is neither human nor humanoid under that environment suit.

In his View entry for 8/27, Jerry Pournelle (just in case anyone hasn't sussed out which Jerry is "beneficiary" of my insights) commented on the changing nature of work and the economy, during which he noted the potential life extension had for making any solution that much more complex some day in the future.  I sent him three news links about how "young blood" can be made from a sample of your own blood, from that how pluripotent stem cells can be further made and how both these existing technologies seem far more likely to be near-term complexities than commonly thought.

The suggestion that some system of regulating a basic economic stipend payment around conscientiously participating in a health maintenance regimen isn't one I've seen considered-to-death as of yet.  I also don't see any obvious conflict with such a system incorporating a highly automated/robotized/AI development in effecting such a health care process.  It doesn't seem to me that this idea necessarily conflicts with the fundamental structure of the Republic as Franklin, Jefferson and the rest originally envisioned the US federal government and economic model (though I acknowledge how easily it could be made to).

So, homework ... I'm a reasonably practiced reader, but I do read online for a couple hours a day already.  Let's say an added hour a week on average; I'll be 61 late next month, maybe I'll be up-to-date on my Freefall assignment by then.  As to Sam's non-humanoid nature, I've been a variably-complex-tool user and SF reader for over 50 years now; if I'm not minimally functionally past any humanocentric interface biases (that don't involve sex objects - I do have some standards) by now, then the jokes on me, isn't it?

Thanks for responding, Doc.

PS:  For any reader who also might not have heard of Freefall before this, I suggest going to the linked site quoted above and bookmarking the "Index" page.  Give yourself a digital version of dog-earing the page to mark your spot, as it were.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Caliber For Brickbat?

Weer'd Beard has this whole "Gun Death" meme going in which he illustrates just how hypocritical anti-2A people can be in their political posturing.  In this example, Weer'd notes a common cause of death and injury from people throwing heavy items into highway traffic from overpasses.

This one resonated with me a bit more than usual:
Happened to my Mom ~35 years ago now, driving home from work on an LA area freeway. She was lucky really; she remembered seeing two middle- or high-school boys standing on the overpass as they tossed a concrete block into oncoming traffic – her, as it worked out. They tossed the block just early enough that it hit the hood of Mom’s car (breaking it into chunks) and then the windshield on the rebound, as it were. She lived, but the insurance ended up replacing the car.
The cops were sympathetic enough, and were honest enough to explain just how unable they were to identify which two boys on bicycles might be the one’s actually leaving the scene of the crime. Of course no one was responsible for adding some kind of fencing to the overpass to make this sort of act more difficult – until it happened to someone with the political clout to make it otherwise a couple years later. And then only to some of the overpasses that similar attacks had occurred from.
If terrorists were smarter than bored middle-schoolers, they would organize an attack campaign based upon this precise type of incident in any country they wanted to attack and then use social media to subtly influence people to rage at the “ineffective police protection” and “failed politicians” and the like. Fairly heavy trash items are free for the taking virtually everywhere. Turning empty bottles into fire bombs are only one of many easy, cheap possible embellishments.
Who knew egotistical psychopath YouTube posers would be the preferred enemy?
As Weer'd says, not a gun death so doesn't matter, right?  And of course, none of the examples of this type of attack to date are known to be the result of "terrorism".

OTOH I vaguely remember news stories from the early 80's of "union thugs" tossing bricks in just this fashion into 18 wheelers driving down the interstate for not respecting their declared strike; I'm sure I heard/read stories of drivers shooting at people in retaliation, so my titular question doesn't seem all that far out of the realm of possibility to me.

Doesn't have to be the religiously motivated of course, but at some point I think it pretty likely that someone with an existential grudge is going to decide that being effective is better than being famous, and then we really will be in for it, won't we?  When the daily commute routinely includes brickbats through the windshield, I'm going to go with "whatever caliber is immediately available" being the most common answer proffered in reply myself.