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Jan. 3rd, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
random wacko -> Catholic Objectivist SF writer and LJ friend of Jordan's. Probably knows a lot more raw history than the average American but with a different perceptual filter than you or me.

One could argue DNA synthesis isn't lab creation of life yet, which is a vague thing anyway: lab synthesis and assembly of the components of a bacterium seem pretty plausible to me, but one might move the goal posts to designing a new form of life, or synthesis from the ground up (not using polymerases themselves taken from existing life, bootstrapping vs. cheating.)

Yeah, things have tended to more freedom in lots of areas, though it's hardly been uniform, especially for those with money. And especially with the Wars on Some Drugs and Terror there's been a lot of infringement, which he'd be particularly sensitive to. As for sexual mores, I don't know. I do worry about liberalism breeding itself out; OTOH, among Europe, France and the Nordics have the highest (though still sub-replacement) birth rates. Muslim immigrants or social democracy at work?
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 3rd, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Wacko, maybe, but less 'random' for me. He's John Wright! People keep mentioning his Golden Age trilogy in transhumanist discussions! A sane friend is liking his Orphans of Chaos series. It's like Orson Scott Card, only with an LJ instead of a broadcast-only column so argument is possible.

Technically I don't think he'd call himself an Objectivist any more; was one, and atheist, then turned Christian, then complained people kept assuming he was Catholic, then became Catholic. But still sympathetic to Rand, though obviously there are key metaphysical differences now.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
Heh. There's something about the Randists which makes many of them creepy-crazy.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
We don't have that many Muslim immigrants. It has to do in part with welfare benefits - parental leave, day care and such - and in part I think because of attitudes. Not all Swedes want kids, but if you do want kids you usually get more than one. (Effective again for welfare reasons. Most of my child-raising friends have kids about 18-24 months apart to minimize the complications of life-planning).
Jan. 3rd, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
I knew his answers would largely be bizarre & stupid, but I tried to read it anyway. But I gave up at 6. 1 seems reasonable, the rest are laughably silly nonsense. Also, in his focus on the supposedly unavoidable horrors of terrorism, it's outdated nonsense. I'm expecting terrorist paranoid to fade as Shrub does (except of course, among wingnuts like Wright).
Jan. 3rd, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
I quit paying attention when I read "aborticide". Using made up inflammatory words pretty much screams wack-job to me.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
Well, I felt bored enough this morning to address him point by point, so here goes...

1. True barring a breakthrough, and unfortunate.

2. Do you see China or Japan capitulating to "Mohammedan demands?" No, I didn't think so. This guy seems blind to the existence of East Asia. The pendulum may swing back towards more monogamy, though.

3. This is just one half of the coin...

4. This strikes me as implausible, but not for a good reason...

The other half of #3 is that if it's easy for a small cadre of devoted zealots to wreak havoc, what the hell can a moderately large group of scientists and engineers bent on revenge do? Remote genocide via bio/nanotech is not out of the question (and as soon as such a thing is proven possible, I wouldn't count on humanity surviving in any significant numbers for much longer). Assuming that's not possible, it still seems like conversion will just be too much harder than outright annihilation to be a sustainable strategy in the face of extremely angry citizens, some willing and technically able to take matters into their own hands.

Fortunately, I think terrorist destruction of an American city within the next fifty years is far from inevitable.

5. "Worse than ever," huh? Aren't housing prices falling like crazy right now, revealing the opposite of a shortage?

6. I suspect this is more true now than it will be in 50 years. The genetic uniformity characteristic of modern agriculture represents a major technical risk. If we don't mitigate it in time, overpopulation may prove to be as much of a "myth" as the housing or Wall Street bubbles...

7. I don't pay enough attention to art to make an informed comment.

8. "Freudianism"? "Social Darwinism"? Aren't those, like, so 1920's? Regarding the latter, even Charles Murray, coauthor of The Bell Curve, is in favor of something like a $10k stipend to all citizens, rather than preferring a society that ruthlessly weeds out the weak. Marxism was discredited more recently, but it looks just as dead, seeing as how neither Vladimir Putin nor Hu Jintao believe in it much. As for sociobiology, I'm confident a fair bit of it isn't pseudoscience at all, though I can understand why he wishes it was.

9. I'm counting on East Asia to save our asses here.

10. Time dilation, cryogenics, life extension, and the enormous benefit represented by exponential interstellar growth invalidate his argument. Interstellar travel may nevertheless not happen, but if so that'll be because the engineering is too difficult and/or we all kill each other, not because there isn't sufficient incentive.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah, East Asia is a common blindness, though I don't see its relevance to 9 (socialized medicine making us sicker)
I'd seen Murray's "the Plan", pretty amusing. Actually I'm not sure if he prefers that to weeding out the weak, but he recognized that most people disagree, and figured if we're going to have welfare we should have an effective and minimal bureaucracy welfare.

As for Marxism... I don't know. Marxism-Leninism is hopefully dead, outside of stragglers, but 'true' Marxism, i.e. actually reading Marx (who apparently near the end wasn't sure he was a "Marxist" in the sense of what had been done to his ideas), might have legs. He's often give credit for good critique and analysis of the problems of unrestrained capitalism, and Wikipedia's summary of his proposals reads a lot like social democracy or democratic socialism, with a few bad ideas mixed in. I'm not sure if Sweden is a gradualist abomination bribing off the working class, a successful implementation of his vision, or something he hadn't imagined possible but would appreciate on sight.

Japan's not capitulating to Islam (or even engaged with it) but he might say it's doomed to fade away, given birthrates. I don't know that he's wrong about some long term return to more natalist cultures, though this *needn't* mean going back to abusing homosexuals.

Relativistic time dilation is frigging expensive, even if you avoid using rockets (vs. launcher systems). Life extension and/or suspension (possibly of humans designed to be more easily suspendable) seems more likely; AIs of course get those for free.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
11. I expect this, and I really hope David Brin's idea of reciprocal transparency takes hold to neutralize its effects.

12. I hope so, since otherwise such life would probably kill us...

13. WTF? There's no conservation principle wherein every time I drive a car, our prehistory is revised such that more algae lived. Oil isn't even like fish, where if we just leave a species alone for a few decades the population stands a reasonable chance of recovering. Instead, a single day's worth of worldwide oil usage corresponds to at least a decade's worth of natural oil formation, and I suspect I'm two orders of magnitude more conservative than necessary with that statement. We need to wean ourselves off that finite trust fund nature bequeathed to us, and I'm pretty sure the economics will start compelling us to, short-term worldwide depression notwithstanding.

14. Actually talked to a Techer over Thanksgiving break who thinks he has done this, heh.

15. It is in China's interest to maintain the status quo. It may not succeed, but erosion of Western hegemonic power is not sufficient to end the global economy.

16. Unfortunately plausible.

17. The prediction does not necessarily follow from the stated assumption. Suitcase nukes have existed for decades, but nobody has yet had the will to use them so they haven't really changed anything. I hope the same is true with aircraft.

18. I would be shocked if obesity isn't "solved" within the next 50 years. It just isn't a fundamentally hard problem like, say, fusion power. We already have bariatric surgery, and I expect to see future solutions that are orders of magnitude safer and cheaper. So, that's a "no" to "fatter and more disgusting looking." As for cheaper meat, I wouldn't be so sure; that depends on having cheaper stuff to feed the animals, and something could eventually go wrong there.

19. I wish I could share his confidence that mankind will not destroy itself. As for Global Warming, those demanding that we severely cut emissions in the face of very incomplete data about the phenomenon, without mentioning the existence of other possible strategies to address it, make me very, very suspicious. I write them off as political hacks since, if they were correct about the science, China would matter as much as the US... and the fact that China is only willing to take rather limited steps to cut emissions, steps that don't really interfere with economic growth, means that the entire "slash emissions" strategy is an enormous subsidy to China and/or entirely misguided. On the other hand, any Global Warming advocate who actually takes the possibility of climate engineering or similar technology seriously, even if just to dismiss it, gains instant credibility in my eyes.

20. I expect (1) and (2) to be correct. As for (3), at least a very small scale matter "fax machine" should be possible in principle, but I wouldn't expect any more than that. (4) and (6), I hope you help prove him wrong. :) His Catholicism is showing here. Ditto with (5) -- what is his definition of "life"? And (7), ignoring the degenerate objection (if the universe itself is slated to eventually end, surely war will end by then), I'm afraid there is a worse reason he is wrong (war ends because there are no more humans to wage it, at some time not too far in the future).
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Damien Sullivan

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