Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Corporate Speciation Events

In many ways, writing science-fiction and historical fiction is my literary destiny. What is futurism but applying what one has learned from studying history into the future? So, as a fiction writer, it makes sense that I'd be interested in historical and science fiction.

Historical fiction is easier in the sense that I don't have to create a setting. But one of the fascinations about science-fiction is precisely that. But for a long time, I have been daunted by the task of writing space opera - with coming up with a setting appropriate for space opera. Futurism gets in the way, or it has, tho' I think I'm breaking through with that. But it was getting in the way because imagining what technology in the future will actually so, after a certain point, is a fool's errand. The promises of even robust technologies like computers might not go where we want - it does very much depend on the actual nature of intelligence and whether we can actually make a computer intelligence. We just might not be smart enough. Much less the ultimate possibilities behind things like nanotechnology, biotech, or emerging neurological sciences.

So, I decided to come at it from the social dimension. After all, technology is hardly the only human art to improve - government and economics will change, too, tho' again there's the question of "into what?"

Then I mashed all this up in my head, and I came out with one of the creepier ideas I've had in a while: corporate speciation events of humans.

Now, one of the more common sci-fi government types is a corporatocracy, of course. But . . . I reflected that different corporations are good at different things. Now, if space flight is expensive to the extent that only corporate governments are capable of affording it, they'll spread their corporate values through the space they own, and it being corporate driven, they will lay material claim to stars and worlds for their corporations. Then I imagined that through great time and distance, these different corporations, who did different things well, would be responsible modifying their employees into the transhuman world.

It hit me. Corporations responsible for the way that humans evolve. I bet I could write something with that setting feature.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cyborgs out of the Olympics!

Cyborg Oscar Pistorius isn't going to the Olympics. The IAAF ruled that his carbon fiber feet constitute unfair advantage. This is actually what I expected, tho' I admit that I didn't think the ruling would be so soon. Even if Pistorius' legs do not constitute an unfair advantage (and I, personally, don't think that they do because the technology is currently pretty crude) if he was allowed in one of the things that would happen is additional research into such technologies. Indeed, para-athletics are used for precisely such research, and to showcase it, but right now it's relegated into the ghetto of "special Olympics" or whatever. And moving this sort of thing into "normal" athletics will - and already has - given it a higher profile and probably helped the company that makes the prostheses more money.

I mean, I regard this all as hypocrisy. The distinction between elaborate high-tech training programs in advanced countries routinely give their athletes a technology based advantage over athletes from poor countries. But this sort of thing challenges the macho body image of traditional athletics in a way that personal nutritionists and computerized performance evaluations do not. But the ruling, itself, I do not find surprising as an attempt to preserve the traditional image of athletics.

Still, the genie is out of the bottle. We are entering the initial days of the cyberpunk world. I wouldn't be too surprised if in the next couple of decades some people start to intentionally replace at least some body parts with mechanical parts that enhance performance.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Christmas isn't a Christian religion

Fairly often, when I tell people I don't celebrate Christmas because I'm not a Christian, people are mystified. They will say something like "oh, by everyone likes getting presents". Not on Christmas I don't. Then they'll say that Christmas isn't really a Christian holiday. Obviously, it is. It's sorta right there in the name. I have opined before about how that lie - that Christmas isn't a Christian holiday - is one of the chief ways for Christianity to retain its social importance as well as a continual lure to people to join their cult.

So, why am I bitching and moaning about Christmas a full month after Christmas? Because of H.R. Res. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. Whereat our supposedly secular government says:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

It seems that our good ol' government doesn't miss a trick with this one. They seem to grasp the link between Christianity and Christmas. Mind you, they do a resolution like this basically every year. They get in session and, bam, they make a stupid little resolution that, legally, means nothing, except to affirm how spiffy Christianity and it's chief holiday, Christmas, is! I love nonsense like this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Thought about Hobbes and civilization!

I had a thought that is worth sharing. One of my reasonably guilty pleasures is the comic Action Philosophers. They're brief descriptions of various philosophy set in humorous comic form! I like them because I like philosophy and I find them funny. In reading number nine - the last, alas - they had a bit about Hobbes and, of course, quoted his bit about without civilization that life was brutish, nasty and short.

My first interesting thought - interesting me at any rate - is that Hobbes is wrong. We are extremely lucky to live in civilization during the period that it works. It took about ten thousand years for civilization to actually work. Humans, generally, were much better off in a pre-civilized state. The average paleolithic human lived to be in their fifties. The average ancient Hellene? About eighteen. This would creep up as time went on, but even when Hobbes was writing those paleolithic humans were better off in terms of diet, longevity, freedom from disease and general quality of life. Interestingly enough, they were also much freer. It takes a pretty organized society to seriously oppress people. Hobbes was just factually wrong, which I find interesting. I've long disliked Hobbes, and it's nice to realize that he's factually wrong.

My second interesting thought is about the nature of intelligence. If humans were just a trifle bit less intelligent than we are, just a little less clever with things, our civilization would never have gotten to the point where the median lifespan was greater than those paleolithic hunter gatherers.

To me, this begs the question if we are seed AI - an intelligence smart enough to make itself smarter indefinitely. For reasons of ego, if nothing else, I'm inclined to think that the answer is "yes", that we are smart enough to get better and better. Saner, smarter, more prosperous, etc. But it wasn't until today, right now, that I realized how close we were to never getting to that point. If we had just been a trifle less intelligent, we could be stuck in a perpetual dark age.

Which might not be much of an original thought, or even very original, but it's the one I had.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Pope still a stupid creep . . . his New Year's mass!

In his New Year's Mass, Pope Rat apparently said that a traditional family is the foundation of peace. It's all part of the focus his Papacy has "traditional family values". You know, no premarital sex, no divorces, definitely no gay marriages, one biological man and one biological woman in neat nuclear family arrangements. I, myself, have something of contempt for traditional family values, because I've known, both personally, through research and anecdotally, that too many families are actually pretty horrible. As in literally abusive. I think it's only sensible that people leave abusive relationships, or unhappy and unhealthy ones, and I certainly don't think that love could or should be limited to one biological man and one biological woman. Plus, y'know, traditional family values haven't been terribly effective, thus far, in stopping war. In times past, the amount of warfare in the world was even worse than today, even though that's difficult to imagine. But for much of human history, every summer and fall, most of the civilized world was wracked by armed conflict. So, even through simple observation, it's pretty easy to see that traditional families and war can pretty easily co-exist. Unsurprisingly, I think the Pope is wrong, spewing out a religious message without any real evidence to back it up . . . but evidence isn't precisely religion's strong suite.

But what I found more interesting is the last bit of this BBC article. The Beeb says, "His New Year prayer included a plea for renewed global efforts to dismantle nuclear weapons and curb the arms trade." Which sort of highlights the insanity and stupidity of this whole "family is the basis of peace". He spends most of the service talking about the importance of family values but then, at the end, slips in some bit about how we should get rid of nuclear weapons and firearms.

The message is clear. Fags are more dangerous to peace than nuclear weapons. So, fuck you, Pope Rat.