The World Turned Upside Down

300px-Surrender_of_Cornwallis_at_Yorktown_by_John_Trumbull_1787

Sorry to be so late on this.  I got up very late, around eight thirty, and I’m trying to get ready for a dentist’s appointment which delayed everything.  This means this post might be incomplete or too breezy, but I expect comments will be interesting.

I grew up in a country with Earthquakes.  The North is fairly sound – being on granite – but the Southern part can add or lose strips of coast and horrible things can happen to buildings.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about look up The Great Lisbon Earthquake.

I grew up in the North, which means I had only experienced three relatively small Earthquakes by the time I moved to the US.  Experienced is a big word, since I slept through the first (I was three) despite my brother carrying me in his arms back and forth between front and back door, unable to decide whether the narrow street with its tall buildings which might collapse, or the backyard with trees and stone pillars supporting grape vines which might fall (the pillars, not the grapevines.  Well, those too) and crush us was safest.

The second happened at school and was truly minor.  The first started with such small foreshocks that I didn’t realize we were having an Earthquake.  You see, I’d been studying for exams and was really really focused and sometimes it would feel like things shook, but it was only astigmatism and tiredness.  So…

When the phone rang, I ignored the little tremblors, and headed for the stairs.  In my stocking feet.  Let’s say we should all be very grateful that I’m still here to tell the tale.  Mom and dad had a semi-spiral staircase (Only two half curves, and broad) of polished, waxed mahogany.  I was wearing fuzzy socks, since I hadn’t left the room all morning — and as I hit the center of the bend, at a half run, the real quake hit.  I was picked up and flung down to the front hall.  Fortunately I landed on my behind, which has always been exceptionally cushioned, and in such a way I broke nothing, though I was black and blue and couldn’t sit comfortably for weeks.

This is apropos what is going on in publishing and, from what I understand, in the rest of the professions – almost all of them.  I’m saying publishing, because it’s my field and therefore I’m hyper aware of it.

It’s also, btw, a good illustration of what fools we SF writers are.  Or at least we are when we try to focus on an invention and how it changes things.  Say you get flying cars.  The story is going to focus on being able to fly faster, and get there sooner.  You can live I Kansas and work in Denver.  Stuff like that.

But … but what about roads.  What happens when all roads revert to forests.  What happens to neighborhoods, when houses are no longer situated along roads.  What happens to commerce when “city” might be a matter of opinion?

Well, we didn’t – curse it.  They PROMISED – get flying cars.  But we got computers.  I remember feeling back in the nineties we’d got the booby prize.  “Okay, so I can email people instead of the post office.  And I can write faster than on the type writer.  Whatever.  I want my flying car.”

Except that was the foreshock.  I was focused on what I was doing and didn’t realize it.  I headed for the staircase of publishing, at full tilt, in my fuzzy socks…

For those of you not in publishing, let me tell you that looking at it, you should be able to think through how this will affect your field and whether it will be in the near future or you can relax a little.  Only don’t relax too much.  Things hit in weird ways.  I’ll put at the end some of the things I see coming for EVERYONE.

When I came into publishing we were at the height of the push model.  If you wanted to get published and get on the shelves, you not only had to go through the publisher, you’d BEST charm the publisher and do the politically correct thing.  They published any number of books that never even got on the bookshelves.  (No, don’t ask me why.  Maybe a tax thing.)

Meanwhile, as a reader, I was having more trouble finding stuff to read.  What was on the shelves didn’t appeal, and there was nothing I could do.  I spent five years or so re-reading old books, afraid to find a new author who disappeared after three books, and finding the effort of discovering gold in the dross all too much work.

But we had computers.  And then we had Amazon.  My book buying skyrocketed, because I could find all those books that weren’t put on the shelves.

However, by and large, the bookstores and the push model reigned supreme.  You wanted to be on the shelves, you went traditional, and you were a good boy or girl.

However, Amazon made a dent, and the old model started looking like it was in trouble.

But then came the kindle.  The first one seemed like a toy.  I still wanted one, but no one was seriously reading most of the stuff on them.  They were expensive too.  I thought we’d have… twenty years or so before the tech was viable.  No one but Baen was making money from ebooks.

But then came Kindle II and all the others, and the competing readers.  Smashwords, KDP and the other self-publishing programs.

Old style publishing looked a bit scared, but they were standing buff and saying that the ebooks were a fad.  And even though the bookstores were now also stocking according to how you sold in Amazon, the best way to get on the shelves was still to go traditional.  Validation, etc.

…  The shot heard around the world just  echoed.  Go read Kris Rusch, then come back.

Now self-published books can get on the shelves for a very little expenditure.  And the price is very little more than for traditional publishers (unless it’s Baen, but that’s something else.)  And the price WILL come down.

So… what is this all about?

Boom.  Unless publishing houses have been cultivating their brand (and who but Baen has?) they’re going to find themselves at the bottom of the staircase in a world of butthurt.

As for writers?  It behooves us now to bring things also in paper, if length warrants.  Particularly if we have a (very little) name that might make bookstores want to stock us.

Other than Baen – and I have sentimental attachment to the house anyway – I now can’t even imagine why any sane person would want to go with a traditional publisher.  Heck, I’m having trouble imagining why an INSANE person would want to.  Unless they’re masochists (Fifty shades of publishing.)

That is my field.  I’m sure the tremors aren’t done.  I’m picking myself up off the floor going “What?  When?  Did anyone get the number of that truck?”  And I’m awake and aware.  Half of my colleagues won’t realize this for a while.  By then we’ll be off to the next temblor.

Things will stabilize, of course.  Eventually.  In my lifetime?  Who knows?

Some of you might be immune from this, but I doubt you’re as immune as you think.

Look, computer control, distributed manufacturing, delivery of goods long distance, delivery of data at virtually no cost, three d printing, virtual socialization…

It’s a lot like flying cars, but more so.  It brings the possibility of rendering cities meaningless, but also countries.  (Which is I think part of the reason that governments have gone even more obnoxious.)  It will change the way we work, the way we relate to each other, the way we pay for goods (no?  Well, what if you live in a place where cost of living is very cheap but work in one cost of living is very expensive?  Won’t your salary affect local economy?  And long term, will it equalize prices?  Or will there be crazy pockets?  And with international commerce, where do fiat currencies fit in?) the way we fall in love, the way we marry, the way we have children.

I don’t have time to unpack it, but I’m sure you can.  Or I can unpack it in a post tomorrow.  I’m sure the following fields are next on the “hit with the change stick:”  Education, movie making, programming, real estate.

… but the others aren’t far behind, and the only thing I can guarantee is that the order and magnitude will surprise us all.

They’re exciting times to live in, and like all revolutions not a bit scary.

Hold on tight and be not afraid.  No one is promising you won’t have to fight and struggle, but there’s a good chance that the future belongs to those who want to be free.

220 thoughts on “The World Turned Upside Down

  1. So… the bottom line is… for those of us who are wanting to really make a go of it… write faster? write more? And add paper to the repertoire…?
    Oh, and write better

      1. Exactly– at one point I wasn’t sure if it was a haiku or an haiku– depends on who is saying it– (I haven’t heard a Japanese person say the word so I can’t actually be sure) 😉

        1. *considers*

          I have, and I’m still not sure.

          My rule of thumb is “say it, and go with what sounds right.” Hour sounds like Our, so it’s an; history sound like his-story, so it’s a, but… the funky way that Japanese say the word, I’ve got no clue! (Dear husband would inform you that is not odd for me with language stuff.)

    1. Zachary, I’m certainly not a successful author. For that matter, I can’t write worth a damn.

      But my opinion is this. If you really want to make a go of being an author in this chaotic marketplace, you need to think about – in addition to the obvious which is to be entertaining – how to either create or tap into a feeling of community among your readers. Because that’s what I think is the reality of the future market in all things, not just fiction. Our marketplace has gone from branding to community. I often steal a line from – of all things – a mobile phone consultant called Tomi Ahonen. His line is “Communities Dominate Brands”.

      1. You raise an excellent point, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about / struggling with for a long time. Our Illustrious Hostess has one of the most active blog communities I’ve ever seen – you guys are thoughtful, vocal, intimidating as hell, and occasionally prickly over issues that I just stroll past. It’s altogether wonderful. Yes, I’m sucking up. Just a little.
        I think that’s the tentpole of any community building for any aspiring author – you need a blog where you are posting regularly and interacting with readers. People talk up Twitter and Facebook and now G+ and goodreads and kindleboards etc., etc., etc… and that quickly gets exhausting and time consuming to the point of crowding out the real work – the writing. (Watch me talk like I’m some kind of social media expert here.) The bottom line is you need one (1) place where you are planting your standard – raising an ensign, maybe – and then you point to that with maybe an automatic tumblr update that then triggers a twitter update, and adds to your Facebook page automatically…
        But the real key ingredient is regular updates – almost a constant content stream to keep people engaged and talking… gotta ponder this… (end social media guru hucksterism HERE)

        1. It does not have to be political, I follow a lot of people whose work I enjoy and pay for who are not political.

          1. While I touch the political, I wouldn’t call this a political blog. I am utterly fascinated by the changes we’re undergoing. SOME are political. Most will affect politics eventually. Many are being fought by politicians. BUT they’re not intrinsically political. I only become political when we touch on… er… The Future And Its Enemies.

            1. My comment was far from a criticism or such. I just wanted to make the point that everyone creates community among their fans in different ways. I have a friend who owns a game publishing business and he creates “community” by hosting small conventions – it used to be at a small indoor mall in the town and is now in his warehouse – for his customers to come play his games with each other.

        2. Actually, one thing that really bugs me about the cascading social media updates thing is that often you don’t know where the actual source is, or if the media service I’m watching is the one that’s being monitored.
          Which means, if I give feedback, is there any chance it will be heard? If I get the sense I’m being ignored, there goes any feeling of community. I have a couple of twitter feeds like that, and after a while, I realized I was just scrolling past them.

  2. The only other publisher that I can think of that has cultivated their brand is Hard Case Crime. And even they haven’t avoided missteps – after they announced that they were giving a big ‘screw you’ to their ebook readers with Joyland, I’ve bought exactly zero of their books since, despite being a semi-regular customer before then.

    1. The last year I was at Balticon (I guess that was two years ago), I attended a panel about an up and coming indie publisher that seems to have gone kaput in the intervening time (tragic, but it happens). And afterwards, because I’d made some comments during the panel, a reporter came up to me and asked me if I thought readers paid attention to publisher. I said I did, but the only two that I paid close attention to were Baen and the aforementioned indie publisher.
      She never did get back to me for that follow-up interview…

  3. There seems to be only one possible response to the new reality of publishing, if I’m understanding it correctly:

    Faex Sancta*. Nothing’s going to be the same anymore. The last bastion of the traditional publishers has a breach in the final curtain wall. Only the tip of the vanguard of the enemy troops has entered the breach as of yet, but the fortress’s doom is sure; now it’s only a matter of time.

    * See? Grammatically correct Latin swearing. Thanks to whoever pointed out, a few days ago, that faex was a feminine noun in Latin.

    Oh, and while I’m on the subject of grammar, I want to mention a minor pet peeve. The other day, Sarah wrote about being “an history major”. That’s correct grammar in British English, where the spoken accent usually has a (relatively) silent h, so that the “Use ‘an’ if the next word starts with a vowel sound” rule is fulfilled for the word “history”. But to my American-English-speaking ears, it grates. In American English, h is a consonant, and so “history” starts with a consonant sound. No speaker of American English is going to naturally say “an history major” in conversation; he/she is going to say “a history major”.

    This is a case where the rules of grammar, which were written for one dialect, have ended up being actually wrong for a different dialect. Fascinating stuff, this language business. 🙂

    1. Well, there are certain parts of the US where “an” still makes sense with “h”. They tend to be places where the H isn’t necessarily being pronounced the same way the rest of the US does. And it always makes sense if you want to sound ultra-formal.

      1. It’s also irregular based on the word. “A history major” vs. “an hour” exist in the same dialect.

      2. It is also an issue on whether or not the initial H syllable is stressed. “An historic” works but “A History” also works because of the difference it the placement of the stress syllable.

        1. But be careful, because “ahistoric” and “ahistorical” are terms occasionally tossed around, albeit with gloves on and using proper eye protection, to describe something out of ts time in a book or monograph (for example talking about Christian fundamentalists before 1900).

  4. I’m too late for it to affect my children’s education – only one left in college – but with places like MIT and Stanford making their course content available online to anyone who has the time to listen and read, the academic world is going to be doing all kinds of interesting things.

    It will be fun to see how ‘brand’ is maintained – four years at Stanford vs. just taking all their engineering courses – but many more people will have choices they never had.

    Academia is already on its head (but they won’t admit it) when roughly 3/4 of instructors at a place like PRINCETON are lowly adjunct professors with NO hope of ever getting the gold-standard of tenure.

    Changes are coming – and some of them are already here.

    Kris has it right – and explains it VERY clearly. I posted about it affected my mental horizon as a newbie (http://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/breaking-news-for-indie-writers-kris-rusch-explains-the-last-barrier-is-down/).

    Shivers up and down the spine – as the prison doors open.

    1. If you look at the history of the university at Cambridge, you’ll see that it was founded by people walking away from Oxford. Few enough universities at the time that they could do that. With e-possibilities, adjuncts now could band together to create an Adjunct U, since, presumably, their degrees aren’t just crap (it’s damaging to current school’s brands if their grads don’t get degrees, but in theory they won’t be graduating unqualfiied people because that would hurt even more long term), or, with U’s falling apart anyways, they could individually just hang out electronic shingles and offer online tutorials in their specialties for whatever tuition they collect. I bet even the guy a former prof of mine called “chair boy” [dissertated on cultural influence of early New Amsterdam furniture designs] could find at least a few people honestly interested in his subject area. Though he probably got hired somewhere – I heard several schools had interviewed him.

    2. > but with places like MIT and Stanford making their course content available online to anyone who has the time to listen and read, the academic world is going to be doing all kinds of interesting things.

      100% agreed. Don’t have kids yet (but GF and I got engaged two weeks ago!), but if/when we do, we look forward to homeschooling them through high school, and by THAT time, the brick-and-mortar university monopoly will have been well and truly broken.

      1. Congrats to you and GF!

        I’m wondering what impact this will have on things like accreditation processes, the US Dept. of Education, etc. We may well see as tech gets more distributed and access to education gets easier, grassroots bootstrapping in third world countries that we wouldn’t have anticipated before.

        IF they can be left alone long enough to get things moving.

        1. > Congrats to you and GF!

          Thanks!

          > I’m wondering what impact this will have on things like accreditation processes, the US Dept. of Education

          Probably not much ; neither one of is politically connected or – oh, wait! you were probably asking about online courses! 😉

          I think that there are lots of social tools that make a lot of sense when computation and communication are difficult and that are much less useful when computation and communication become easy. State mandated and defined accredation is one of those things.

          I think that in many ways, technology is going to make individualist anarchy more and more plausible.

          A university degree is a really good accreditation when it’s not possible for me to subscribe to a third party service that gives my potential employees quizzes on various subjects, or when it’s not possible for me to give potential employees the opportunity to solve some problem and upload the solution to github, etc.

          I think we’re heading to a much more free-form world, where university accreditation contests in the arena with various free market types, which in turn fights with “My name is X, I’ve written novel Y and uploaded code package Z; hire me or don’t.”

          1. I foresee an uptick in requirements for licensing and certification. Partly the .gov protecting us from unqualified plumbers, but just as much, the .gov acting to protect the business of the established educational institutions.

            1. The Supreme Court already protected big Education by essentially preventing employers from using tests for hiring. You can only use tests if you can prove to the USG satisfaction that it is narrowly tailored to the job. Otherwise it is discrimination. You can use college graduation and what college however even if it has no relation to the job. HS graduation requirements are discriminatory however. That is why so many jobs require college degrees when training/testing/apprenticeship would make more sense.

      2. That’s what I hope, too, by the time my kids are college-age. We’re already talking to our oldest son (8yo) about all his different options, including military academies and vocational & online schools. The college admission process right now is *insane*. Our family doesn’t need that kind of stress. Nor do we need to burden ourselves and our kids with that level of debt.

        (Oh, and we homeschool, too. :))

        1. I think of the current debt-levels as a way the current old-guard ensures that potential rivals to their children never make it out of debt-peonage. It has had a side effect of diminishing a generation (so far) of potential innovation, but that effect seems to have been noticed by at least some folk.

      3. BWT, I didn’t mean to elide this earlier. COngratulations on your impending nuptials.

        M

    3. Add Georgia Tech to the list, and more will follow. I foresee the entire K-> school system online for EVERYONE within the next 20 years. Jean and I will be researching online options for Timothy this summer, hoping to get him into something close to a full online curriculum before the next school year begins. He’s already being shunted into the “special needs” area of K-12, where kids are warehoused, nothing more. We won’t tolerate that.

  5. A commenter on a gun blog pointed out that 3-d printing is going to hit Ch*na hard, but not the way you think. If you can download the file for an el-cheapo toy, say, and send it to the print shop/ CAD-CAM emporium a few blocks away, and pick up your toy that afternoon, why buy from overseas? Especially if you know that the polymers used won’t contain “interesting” chemical additions. Oh, it won’t happen tomorrow, but if the much derided “cheap plastic cr@p” can be made for less than you’d pay at Wal*M@rt, Amazon, Tar-zhe, or the Dollar Shop, why not buy locally?

    1. > If you can download the file for an el-cheapo toy, say, and send it to the print shop/ CAD-CAM emporium a few blocks away, and pick up your toy that afternoon, why buy from overseas?

      3-D printing is a great technology, but this isn’t a winning application.

      3DP is great for one offs, where custom printing is cheaper than hand-making a model, but it’s orders of magnitude more expensive than thermoplastic injection molding.

      1. They said that about CD-R. Duplicating discs in recorders will never have the same economies of scale that stamping discs from metal masters does. There’s a limit. When it’s hit, there’ll be a discontinuity. And that will restrain independent music production.

        Next time you have a music CD in your hands, take a look at the emulsion side. If you can see a ring of discoloration in the data area near the clear hub, chances are excellent that it was RECORDED on a duplicator, NOT pressed. On demand.

        Just because stereolithography is relatively expensive, spindly, fragile, and materially limited NOW does not mean it ALWAYS will be. In fact, it’s a fool’s move to bet it will be. (And I don’t think you’re a fool.) I’d say for certain within ten years and probably more likely within five or fewer, there will be large-scale manufacturing operations using the process, or something very much like it.

        M

        1. The areas where technology pushes prices down can be hard to anticipate, but it will happen. Twenty years ago hard drive memory was EXPENSIVE. Like, a dollar a Meg expensive. A 200 meg hard drive was capacious. Nowadays? You can’t buy a thumbdrive that offers less than 4G and it will cost you maybe a dollar a Gig.

          The moral? Never bet against economies of scale, nor the power of market demand.

          1. Heck– solid state drives.

            When Dear Husband and I got married, they were REALLY expensive– like, $100 for a ten to twenty five gig drive. Just over five years ago.

            I got an email from tiger direct– or maybe New Egg– offering a 250g for $75, the other day, and it wasn’t one of the cheaper ones.

        2. but the cost is not that much difference. The indie books cost more to make, but few writers have Manhattan headquarters they need to pay for. So it come out in the wash

          1. Well, print book publishing is a perfect example of the difference in cost between 1-offs and small production runs.

            First, let me make clear that:

            1) yay, e-books!
            2) yay to disruption, yay to the collapse of the Cathedral, yay to individual empowerment
            3) …to the degree that when I launch my books, I won’t do it via a conventional publisher but will self publish.

            That having all been said, I’m just trying to pick a small nit about specific industrial technologies.

            I’ve gotten quotes on POD for a 600 page trade paperback, and it’s around $20. I’ve gotten quotes for small print runs of the same novel, and for a slightly higher quality, the price for a limited print run is around $6 each.

            The point is that there are advantages to mass production.

            Yes, I think that technology will get better (I’ve got a CNC machine in my basement, so I’m not a luddite), but I also think that mass production will always win in certain circumstances.

            Games Workshop, for instance, can spend $100,000 on a set of polished stainless steel dies that can kick out massive quantities of injection molded wargaming miniatures every 20 seconds. That is a better alternative FOR SOME BUSINESS MODELS than a 3-D printer that takes 3 hours to print out an equivalent game army, using much more expensive feedstock.

            Now, if the problem description is “print out my own utterly custom creature”, then, yes, the 3-d printer is the win. Or if the problem is “print out 20 copies for my kickstarter”, then, yes, the printer is still the win.

            Note that we don’t CNC machine car bumpers: we use either injection molding or massive stamping presses.

            Old technologies rarely go away entirely (…says the guy who got back from a blacksmithing conference 22 hours ago).

            And with that, I’ll stop ranting. 😉

      2. I think the first place 3DP will win is in personalization. A few tweaks, color and size wise to make it _yours_, beats a cheap version at Walmart “exactly like everyone else’s.”

          1. Yes, while I tend to agree with tjic’s premise that 3D printing won’t replace mass production of items in the near (probably 20 years, in my opinion) future, cheap customization is certainly where it will shine.

            But why do you think it won’t be done AT Wal-Mart?

            1. Pam’s right, Wayne. True story. Printers (back in the ’80s) used to be paranoid about ink jet technology. They thought a kiosk in K-Mart would put them out of business. Then along came the paperless office and email. And **KMART** went out of business. Go figger.

              M

      3. >3DP is great for one offs, where custom printing is cheaper than hand-making a model, but it’s orders of magnitude more expensive than thermoplastic injection molding.

        tjic, yes and no.
        Once upon a time you used a plasma torch and templates to burn parts for manufacturing, say fertilizer spreaders. You had two plasma torches, two guys and 37 plywood forms the guys used as templates to torch out the parts. The shop would get the word to get the templates out and make x-number of parts for an order to make N-number of spreaders. And you can make a lot of spreaders that way, but you are only set up to make spreaders; you have to balance out the cost (the unit price for manufacturing goes down in larger units because of set up and labor costs) versus the joy of looking at overstock you can’t sell and takes up your floor space.
        Then the CNC table showed up. At that point the templates can stay in the loft and the CNC operater just puts in the program and loads sheet steel and pulls off the burned parts for cleaning up. And if you want to run one of each piece of equipment, or do a prototype, you have that flexibility. 3DP is the same way but even greater. It is not as useful in doing massive runs, but small scale productions it has so much flexibility to also do prototypes and reproductions.
        It also allows a change in manufacturing styles to meet more closely the needs of the equipment and not so much the needs of the manufacturing process.

        1. [ 3DP] also allows a change in manufacturing styles to meet more closely the needs of the equipment and not so much the needs of the manufacturing process.

          Look for this to be adopted sooner in non-union states.

          1. I didn’t think about that.
            I was more in the idea that to machine stuff out of steel or tubing you are restricted to what the lathe or CNC can do. With printing you can do more curves like you used to be able to do only with casting, but without the restrictions casting requires (restriction of curves and dies).
            I’ve seen stuff prototyped that look like Escher inveted steam-punk to build a bicycle out of nylon, and the printer could pop ’em out as fast as you’d like as long as you didn’t want ’em too fast.

            1. You’d be shocked at what modern CAD/CAM/CNC machines can do:

              A curve is just a series of straight lines shorter than you an see.

              1. A curve is just a series of straight lines shorter than you an see.

                That’s what my calculus teacher said.

        2. Also: the tooling is a non-trivial cost. In my day job, we are considering adopting a laser cutter (ca $15K) to replace two $50,000 machines. But the real killer to us is the thousands annually we have to spend replacing dies. Dies that lock us into pre-set shapes, whereas the laser cutter allows us to cut ANY shape — more-or-less ad hoc.

          In manufacturing. Mass production. Injection molding: not relevant to us. The other type of tooling is still available. It’s just TOO large-scale for our needs and represents TOO large a capital investment to make it worthwhile to continue in our niche.

          There may be four or five of the 800-lb gorillas in our industry who can afford to buy and have the sales to support the old machines and the dies. However, there are THOUSANDS our size in our state alone who can and will switch over to the more adaptable methods and equipment.

          M

    2. Agreed

      Smarter and easier to use CAD will help 3d printing eat the existing system for lunch. Almost anything can be made with the right tools and these tools will upend the manufacturing system.

      However two rubs,

      #1 the State or its corporate henchmen may find some means to eliminate them on “security grounds” the software is easy. Hardware? That’s much harder to make. Almost no one can make a microchip at home. A fairly silly movie from the 90’s movie Robot Jocks (its dreadful BTW) touches on this theme with a stock market crash causing a government ban on personal computers. Who knows what stupidity comes from the State and this technology is brittle . A coupe of years of restrictions of new purchases would make computers unavailable

      #2 Energy is not unlimited. Right now big data and all our technology guzzles power and hundreds of micro-facs are going to add even more burden, Fracking like a lot of other solutions, is a another Red Queen’s Race. We may have some real issues with power. That might be solutionable with rationing , new sources (solar is undersold) and such but its going to create challenges and it may end up cheaper to ship goods for some time.

      1. Regarding Point #1: Look for product reliability/safety issues, suits being brought and “consumer safety regulation” as levers of control.

        Point #2: Americans have long taken abundant, clean electricity for granted. Environmental, anti-nuclear, Green cronyism and other forces can grind that to a halt.

        Last week we made the surprising discovery that a clot of small ants had infested a power strip in the den. No effing idea what they were attracted by … yesterday Daughtorial Unit turned up a slash-dot article about electronics eating ants turning up across the SE USA. If these critters start eating electric wiring and systems, your power grid is going down.

      2. #1 — the hardware isn’t that complicated. MakerBot is four stepper motors and a heated nozzle — how do you limit that? The CPUs for these things are incredibly low-end; no one would build even the most cut-rate PC around an Arduino, but that’s what’s at the core of the MakerBot. Any attempt to limit these technologies is going to step on so many other areas they’ll be doomed.

        Finally, they’re already near the ubiquitous point.

      3. Here’s a science-fictioneer what-if for you: What if part of the disruption of this new technology results in the disintermediation of the state? Not arguing for it, or for the likelihood, just advancing the possibility. What then?

        M

        1. ‘Okay, Jim, which government are you planning to overthrow?,’ she asked, playing along.

          ‘All of them,’ answered Jim.”

          http://www.outpost-of-freedom.com/jimbellap.htm

          For a leftist the primary job of the state is allocation of scarce resources. Time and time again we learn that resources *aren’t* scarce. This is a problem for a state based on resource allocation.

          1. And yet, states based on resource allocation do a superb job of fostering resource scarcity, as witness Venezuela and its recent toilet paper shortage.

      4. I’m willing to accept the argument that hydrocarbons are going to be our main energy source for an undefined period into the future. I’m not willing to accept that it will be a limiting factor to growth. Just the history of energy sources over the relatively short time-scale since the start of the Industrial Revolution — from horsepower and sail to diesel-electric, jet fuel, and nuclear and all the stages in between, from wood fires to natural gas — persuades me against that. In 1850, electric power didn’t exist. What’s the primary source going to be in 2150? Are you sure?

        M

      5. > #1 the State or its corporate henchmen may find some means to eliminate them on “security grounds” the software is easy.

        I’ve got an entire subplot in my novel about the heroes releasing a certain technology via open source and the Feds immediately updating the government DRM list to lock out approved printers from fabricating it.

        (The Feds fail, of course!)

      6. (solar is undersold)

        Whoa. Not so. Solar is oversold, because it is not yet a viable technology, in that it takes more power to make the components than they generate in their service lifetime. They are still only truly viable for niche markets, where the cost to deliver the power is higher than the cost of the panels.

        1. When oil starts getting expensive again we’ll see a return to nuclear. Between pebble bed, LFTR, and Gen IV PWR there’s a lot of really interesting things happening. If we ever stop using our fundaments as thinking caps over the whole high-level waste issue we’ll be set.

          1. When I was about eight, my “solution” to the nuclear waste issue was “Why don’t we just dump it into the Sun?” It was explained to me that shuttle technology wasn’t really reliable enough to be certain to get the waste into orbit in one piece, and you really, really did not want a shuttle exploding at 25,000 feet and scattering radioactive material all over the landscape. But now that private companies are starting to make orbital lift reliable and (relatively) cheap… I wonder if the idea might be feasible. Of course, there’s also the question of whether more productive things might be done with the waste (e.g., breeder reactors) and what it would do to the Sun’s lifecycle to be dumping trace amounts of heavy metals into it (even “large” amounts of nuclear waste are trace amounts when compared to the Sun’s mass). I’m sure it would shorten the Sun’s lifecycle eventually, but by how much?

            … Now there’s an interesting idea for a story. Race starts dumping their nuclear waste into their sun because it will “only” shorten its lifespan from 3.2 billion years to 3.1 billion years, and “in the long run, we’re all dead”. 3.099 billion years later, their descendants are scrambling to get off the planet before the sun goes nova, realizing that will their glacial pace of tech improvement, 1 million years won’t be enough, and wishing they could get those extra 100 million years back.

            … Okay, there are some flaws to the idea: why didn’t the race EVER get off the planet earlier than that? Plenty of economic reasons to go out and collect all those resources out there in other solar systems, so it’s not like survival would be the only imperative. Also, 3 billion years is too long, even for a glacially-paced race, to keep history around. There would be too much, and much would be summarized, changed, and argued over.

            1. I really, really wish more authors would do your second-though on the preaching idea; it would’ve saved me MANY thrown books.

            2. Spent fuel contains something around 80% of the energy in the original fuel. It’s far too valuable to bury or launch into space. We need to reprocess it, just like the French do. Thanks to that moron Carter it’ll have to be a US government project (which isn’t that bad, by law all fissionable material is property of the US government). The remaining high level stuff can be vitrified and put into the sea bed.

              And I wouldn’t worry about dumping anything into the sun having any effect. I guarantee there’s more than 1 earth mass worth of uranium and plutonium in there already. Anything we could do would be rounding error on a rounding error.

            3. Cost is still going to be a preventative factor in your nuclear waste disposal plan. I doubt if disposal costs of several million dollars per year per plant would work out well in their balance sheets.

            4. Also, those figures sound kinda precise. In a scale of billions, I would expect more variation beyond what they could find out.

          2. It has been some few years since I read about “refrigerator sized nuclear reactors” capable of providing power for 20K homes for up to ten years without servicing. A quick search engine check revealed:

            Fridge-Sized Nuclear Reactors to Tap $135 Billion Power Market
            By Jeremy van Loon & Alex Morales – May 17, 2010 12:19 PM ET
            Manufacturers of refrigerator-sized nuclear reactors will seek approval from U.S. authorities within a year to help supply the world’s growing electricity demand.
            [SNIP]
            While utility-scale reactors cost about $2.3 billion apiece and produce 1.2 gigawatts of power, Hyperion’s price tag is $50 million for a 25-megawatt reactor more comparable to a diesel generators or wind farms.

            Transportable by truck, the units would come in a sealed box and work around the clock, requiring less maintenance than a fossil fuel plant, the developers say. They’d cost 15 percent less per megawatt of capacity than the average full-scale atomic reactors now in on the drawing board, according to World Nuclear Association data.

            “A 25-megawatt plant would put electricity into 20,000 homes, and it would fit inside this room,” James Kohlhaas, vice president at a Lockheed Martin Corp. unit that builds power systems for remote military bases, said in an interview. “It’s a pretty elegant micro-grid solution.”
            [SNIP]
            Toshiba, based in Tokyo, is working on reactors that would produce 10 megawatts and 50 megawatts, called 4S for “super- safe, small and simple.” It will apply later this year for U.S. approval to test the unit in the village of Galena in central Alaska, said company spokesman Keisuke Ohmori.

            Galena has no connection to power lines and is closed to barge traffic for supplies for more than half the year when the Yukon River freezes. To provide heat and electricity, the town relies on diesel fuel, whose price has risen by about 48 percent in the past 12 months.

            “We aim to get 4S orders in remote areas where it is more cost-efficient to generate power on a local basis than use power grids,” Ohmori said. “A great many people are interested.”

            Both Toshiba and Hyperion are designing reactors that would run about five times longer without servicing than the 18 to 24 months typical at utility plants.
            [MORE: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-16/hyperion-s-fridge-sized-nuclear-reactors-to-tap-135-billion-power-market.html ]

            1. That’s one of the reasons I’m not too concerned about the coming economic upheaval (the technology related one, not the political one). I work in power generation, and that can’t be virtualized or off-shored.

              The sad thing is that technologies like this aren’t going to take off until people get over their irrational fear of all things radiation and nuclear. And that isn’t going to happen until we get a press that can tell the difference between a transuranic element and a transitive verb.

        2. Another problem with solar, at least in the dry, sunny areas, is keeping the panels clean enough to get the best generation. That requires (at the moment) water. But there’s not enough water and water rights available. I’m still waiting for a good solution for that (pun intended).

          1. a problem sure– but in our area we have daily winds so I think that helps and doesn’t help at the same time. Plus sometimes the winds are as high as hurricane winds (small hurricanes) so certain types of windmills have to be turned off at those times. A 70 mph wind gust is common here–

            1. I’m working on an idea for a wind power system that won’t have that problem, but I don’t know if it will be economically viable. When I have it worked up, I’m planning a crowd-funding drive to test it out.

      7. “Energy is not unlimited.”

        BS. The problem isn’t the availability of means to generate virtually unlimited energy, but the unwillingness of government (see “environmentalists”) to ALLOW it. Even there, technology is so far outpacing the Luddites as to make even nuclear energy viable, cheap, and environmentally friendly (Google “small reactors” — the technology we’ve been using in nuclear submarines for SIXTY YEARS). Hydraulic fracturing has already re-invented the oil industry. Even fields that have been considered “depleted” are being reopened, “fracked”, and brought back online (oil ‘moves’ through rock — slowly, but it does. In the process, waxes and other chemicals build up, blocking the pores. Fracking opens new pathways, and the oil once again ‘flows’ [at a rate that can be measured in millimeters a year in some pools, ‘faster’ in others]). The only “limitation” on energy are those created by false narratives and government interference. Remove the government, remove the interference. That will happen if government tries to shut down energy — trust me.

    3. Funny thing, but a lot of the cheap plastic stuff at WalMart and WinCo of late are made in the USA these days; I got a set of chairs and table for my “big” girls just yesterday that were $4 a piece, and they’re ALL made in the USA.

      I’m not sure what the breaking point is, but for the last several years I’ve been getting the “four for a dollar” type glasses for summer outside use that were made in the USA.

    4. There was a very interesting article on a website that claimed that a case could be made that printing guns and plans, like Defense Distributed liberator, would be protected by the constitution under both the 2nd and 1st amendments, in that “the press” is not just newspapers, but all methods of distributing and reproducing news and information.
      There appear to be more worms in this can than I thought.

    5. If Walmart was smart they’d put a 3-D printer and internet kiosk in every store.

      1. and an espresso book printer. (They run around 14k.) As the chain stores die, they could clean up that demographic — not the one for people who prefer to shop from indie stores with knowledgeable employees, but the one from chain? Sure.

  6. *laughs* Almost utterly irrelevant reaction– the idea of it mattering if the country has earthquakes took a bit to sink in, for my brain to translate it into “most countries are state-sized.”

          1. People say that “America is a young country”. True…but our immigrants brought over all sorts of ideas from the old country: crop management, designs for automated looms, no-show kickback unions jobs… 😉

          1. Any chance of a recipe? Or do you have a recipe book in the works? (My wife likes things seafoodish. I grew up in Kansas and think “catfish” when fishy foods are mentioned, so they’re almost all pretty “meh” to me.)

            1. I actually am trying to do a low carb recipe book — in my copious spare time — but the shrimp chowder is mom’s particular pride. Restauranteurs have asked for it. That I know she’s never given it out, not even to me. (When Dan and I got married, she made that part of the dinner, so the caterers wouldn’t know the recipe.)

  7. What happens when we _really_ develop humanoid robots? For one thing we will end our need for items produced by cheap, foreign labor. What happens to Bangladesh, Malaysia and China when some industrialist in Canon, North Carolina reopens a garment factory staffed by workers who never tire, never need a smoke break or demand a healthcare plan?

    1. > What happens to Bangladesh, Malaysia and China when some industrialist in Canon, North Carolina reopens a garment factory staffed by workers who never tire, never need a smoke break or demand a healthcare plan?

      The same thing that happens when secretaries are replaced with email, or switchboard operators are replaced with direct dialing: we displace the workers, who then find other ways to be productive.

      It’s been fashionable to bash “pink collar” service jobs for almost 30 years now, but it’s the future: what machines can’t deliver is the personal touch. We already eat out more than we used to, we subcontract out lawn care and such – the future has LOTS more outsourcing and custom work. The 2080s are going to look a lot like the Victorian 1880s.

      1. tjic, have you ever heard the (possibly apocryphal) story of how direct dialing was invented? Before direct dialing, one got the attention of the switchboard operator by flashing the hook, and she literally plugged you into the circuit with the destination telephone manually. The story goes that in a small town in the Midwest, in the era of the introduction of telephones, there were two funeral homes. And the owner of one of them started to notice that he did not get any phone calls switched to his business. He found out that the other funeral home had paid off the local switchboard operators to redirect all of his calls to the other funeral homes telephone line. He was so furious that he resolved to put all of the telephone operators out of work by inventing direct dialing using an electro-mechanical system that worked off of the rotary dial.

          1. No, SNAP is the replacement for welfare.

            Last thing we want is an effective IRS.

            1. > No, SNAP is the replacement for welfare.

              I’m tempted to say “ZING!”, but I’d hardly want to bet against a government program with that name. We could be here all week, reenacting a Laurel and Hardy skit:

              “The IRS is corrupt. SNAP!”

              “No, SNAP is the replacement for welfare.”

              “Oh – you got me. ZING.”

              “No, ZING is the ‘Zeppelins Intervening for Non-racist Greening’ program.”

              “Former IRS commissioner Hu is in charge of that, right?”

              “No, Hu’s on first.”

          2. I filed my taxes back in March using one of the dozen or so “free” filing companies. That included both the normal Form 1040, Schedule A & B, Schedule C, and Schedule SE. It took me less than an hour. The fact that I had already filled out all the forms on my home computer using a simple spreadsheet made it that easy, and also allowed me to to double-check against the company that was representing me with the IRS. I still have both the information I received from the filing company and the information I created myself, and they’re backed up on a CD. THERE IS NO REASON UNDER THE SUN THE IRS CAN’T DO THE SAME THING. Think of how much work that would save — and how many government employees it would eliminate. Can’t have that, can we?

                1. Wait a bit . . . You mean the girls can custom order a date? One that knows how to dance, opens doors? Never jilts you for your worst enemy? I suppose they could come with a 24 hr rental package–the autodrive-limo, the flowers . . .

                  1. I remember reading a story where a man hired a robotic replacement for a time when he was away from home, and it wound up with the robot coming back and replacing the man permanently…

              1. Stepping on the joke, but– that’s basically exactly what the Japanese are already working on humanoid robots for; not the…um… recreational angle, but the my-son-married-well-and-I-have-someone-to-get-my-medicine type daughter in law.

                It’s rich soil for jokes, but I can see lonely women snapping up robot companions in a heartbeat. I’m not as sure about male mindsets.

                1. I must protest, ma’am. I must protest in the strongest possible terms.

                  The weaponization of aquatic creatures has simply gone too far! Are you angling for some kind of weapons development race? Not an arms race, per se, but mayhap a fin race?

                  (ducking and covering now)

                1. Hmmm… despite the built-in capabilities, probably not sonar…
                  Okay, now the brain is wondering what would happen if you were raising cetaceans in space in zero-gee with some kind of… I don’t know… re-breathers or something filtering for oxygen… because the cost of lifting ammo for an orbital whale cannon has got to be prohibitively high… but maybe… Nope. It’s just not feasible. Now, an Inter-Continental Ballistic Whale – THAT’s much more reasonable.

              1. The thing that you have to remember, Zack, is that Sarah has a habit of not employing things in the singular. It’s not about how far away you are, but whether you’re down deep enough. Foxholes aren’t safe. I’m not sure if some of the deeper mine shafts in Colorado are deep enough. Never, never, EVER tick off the hostess! 8^)

                  1. No, remember that Sarah learned from Heinlein, particularly The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. You drop 100-ton steel-encased rocks at terminal velocity, and after 6 or 8 of them in the same place, the hole is pretty deep.

      1. Don’t mix Android with humanoid. They don’t have to look precisely like humans. They simply have to be able to do a humans work _as independently_ as humans do it. That has been the stumbling block in the garment industry since the cotton gin. The only currently successful, fully automated process to produce a finished garment is a tube sock factory. There are engineering and tech departments in universities all over the South trying to crack that nut. And we will.

        As for a human looking machine that looks and moves like a human. The most powerful motivator of all might just cause it’s creation. Sex. While every other nations robotic goals are replacing workers Japan’s is focused on replacing women.

    2. Unless we can get it to look EXACTLY like a human people won’t want to use it. Either that or it will have to be made deliberately not too human like. If it’s close to human-like, but not human enough you run into the uncanny valley effect.

        1. I suspect if asked the Daughtorial Unit could discourse on the various species of Swift but would disavow any knowledge of the Taylor Swift, unless in a mood to bluff, in which case “You mean Taylor’s Swift, of course. A member of the family, Apodidae, superficially resembling the Swallow but in the separate order Apodiformes, with a significantly greater unladen air speed. Its nests, like all members of the Swift family, can be used to make bird’s nest soup but in the case of the Taylor’s Swift it is a somewhat sour soup, bitter and lacking in nourishment.”

          1. Robert just walked in on Dan watching some video and said “What is THAT?” and then “IS it a robot” He now knows her simply because he calls her “uncanny valley girl.”

    3. I suspect the development of humanoid robots will follow quickly on the end of cheap labor. Even in China and India, there are places where they are losing jobs because wages are rising. But until then, the cheap labor, being cheap, is more effective.

      The end of cheap labor will of course be gradual. Much depends on whether certain potential sources can stymie their development by being war-torn. But that’s when the transition will really have incentives.

  8. I always get a kind of perverse feeling of glee reading about the changes in publishing. This kind of change always knocks the big guys for a loop and creates opportunities for people who can see it. I’ve dreamed of publishing as a button since I was 16. I also always love seeing the big guys shaken up, especially when they don’t think it can happen to them.

    1. It’s a bit like watching a flash flood tear through a canyon. If you’re above the lip your response is some flavor of “Wow!” If you’re in the canyon it’s closer to CRAPCRAPCRAPRUNRUNRUNCRAP!

      1. “Climb.” “Huh, what?” “I said Climb.” “What’s that roaring noise? I can’t hear you.” “CLIMB!!” (Not that I’ve ever been in or around a slot canyon with thunderstorms in the close vicinity, mind.)

        1. Years ago, a prof in the department I managed parked the department’s new van in a place. We had to send the old van to pick up the students and their gear. Once it was dragged out of the canyon, it took a fair bit of paperwork to get the thing back from Mexico. Never worked as well as the “old” van once the repairs were done, and it was replaced before the old one when we next had a chance to buy a vehicle. Those geology trips almost always provided entertaining paperwork opportunities.

          1. I loved overhearing the calls that started with, “The truck is where?” Long pause, then, “How stuck is it?” Another pause, “How in the [rude word in Taiwanese] did you, oh, never mind. Yes, I’ll send the grad students and Dr. [redacted] to come get you.” 🙂

            1. I am roflmao – I’ve had that conversation. Except for the rude Taiwanese word. The sad one was getting the field researcher back from northern Norway a day after her husband had been in a near fatal wreck.

          2. In CO, when we went hiking when the kids were little, we’d scramble out of anything that MIGHT be a dry creek bed (lower space, sunk, etc.) at the sound of a heavy truck in the distant highway. Because it was better to do that than take the risk that the rumbling was actually distant thunder and a flash flood headed down the canyons. (Most of the time we tried to stick to high ground anyway, but sometimes the youngest would drag us down to pick up “the bestest rock ever.” — he was a rock collector, yes.)

        2. I lived in New Mexico for two years, and had SEVERAL opportunities for “unbelievable” weather events involving rain, snow, dust, and heat. I used to go camping with three or four guys (I was the designated sober one), and we had to climb up a flood path to a couple of places we went. We NEVER went up there if there was a storm approaching. I’ve seen that particular gully go from bone dry — not a drop of water — to a raging torrent ten feet deep and 30 feet wide, all within a half-hour. That’s enough to make a believer of anyone!

  9. Things will stabilize, of course. Eventually.

    Why should they? I’m an agnostic wrt the Church of the Singularity, but a future of ongoing evolutionary unfolding seems a reasonable alternative to a new equilibrium. I find the idea that progress will continue to levels my intellect cannot grasp more appealing than the notion of stasis.

    Unless you mean local equilibrium. I’m all for the quality of life which local equilibrium can bring.

    (Annihilating ourselves is stability of a sort, but obviously that’s not what you have in mind.)

  10. As much as I admire Kris Rusch and listen to what she has to say most attentively, I suspect she may be missing something. She makes it sound like there’s no road map. I submit that there is — two, in fact. Two industries have undergone similar revolutions — the music industry and the graphic arts industry.

    And I’m amazed that people in publishing are so blind to the lessons, as they have the example from the latter so close to hand — in their own production departments.

    In both the music business and the printing business, there were vast landscapes of specialists — highly-skilled operators with massive capital investments in training and equipment who looked down their nose at the impudent newcomers in their field and poo-pooed the very NOTION that such cheap, amateurish noobs could POSSIBLY satisfy the quality demands of their oh-so PICKY customers.

    But artists became interpreters became producers became manufacturers, became distributors and sold — **GASP!** Horrors! — directly to the public. Unheard of!

    Not too long ago, Marko Kloos announced he’d signed on with a trad publisher, saying that editing, book designing, cover commissioning, and the rest were too time-consuming and he’d rather spend his time writing. ::shrug:: His choice. But, me, I think he’s going exactly the wrong direction. He’d be far better served — judging by the history above alluded to — to get in on the ground floor learning to do all those other things himself.

    So — to quote Rabbit — should you.

    M

    1. In editing the above comment for running length, I failed to notice I took out a key point:

      I recommend to us all that we appropriate the concept of cottage industrialist. I suspect all of us will be one soon. Thus the prod to learn all the new tasks of a generalist while things are still new and relatively simple. All you have to do is look at where web design has gone to understand how quickly specialists can complify a subject.

      M

      1. The one thing you do need to think on is how do you get the word out? You can be the best of the best, have a superior product, but if no one knows you exist you can’t sell it.
        My example is how do you find a decent blog? There is so much noise it is hard to find a decent one. Finding links to links to link can be chancy. If you don’t have a single market to sell to (big steel publishing), then you have to get out to the buyers somehow.

        1. Don’t think in zero-sum terms. What the indy revolution in both music and letters has demonstrated it that it’s far easier to earn a living at a far lower level of sales (and thus of mind and market share) than were formerly required with all the parasitic middle men. (Who, incidentally, got very wealthy while the content providers… well, we’ve all heard chapter and verse about best-sellers versus midlisters.)

          Also, I expect that there will be a quantum improvement in search engines. Somebody, soon, is going to come along and teach Google some lessons about getting too big, not sticking to the knitting, and being true to your ideals. Just about the way that little rodent-like startup called — what was the name? Oh, yeah — Micro Soft did IBM.

          What it will mean to end users is that they will be able to find more relevant hits on searches more easily.

          Frex: when is somebody going to invent a true web bot? Not one of these spiders that pulls in myriad threads to a server for human beings to sort through, but something that the user can tell (for a simple example) to “Find me a Number 6 by 1 3/4″ 28 thread left-handed #1 torx bolt in brass at a 100,000-lot price under a tenth-cent apiece, shipped to our Hong Kong plant.” and turn it loose. It doesn’t sit on your server. It actually, logically, goes out onto the Net and does your search. And it doesn’t return a brazilian semi-relevant (at best) near-misses, it ONLY delivers EXACTLY what you ask for. And it’s smart enough not to be fooled by a RIGHT hand threaded #2 philips that some jobber is trying to sell ONLY because the jobber has paid the search engine company to put his links in front of you without regard to whether it matters to YOU.

          IOW, what the winners of the future will have in common is that they will have appropriated that the market operates for the benefit of the BUYER and the seller wins best who serves the buyer best.

          And the devil WILL take the hindmost.

          M

          1. … the parasitic middle men. (Who, incidentally, got very wealthy while the content providers… well, we’ve all heard chapter and verse about best-sellers versus midlisters.)

            Before I discovered Sarah’s blog, I already knew a little bit about this sort of thing from reading Steve Albini’s legendary essay, “The Problem With Music” — the one that lays out the numbers in a typical record-company contract, and ends with the memorable line “some of your friends are probably already this f****d”. If you haven’t read it, here’s a link. Some salty language (as you can tell from the final quote), so make sure your five-year-old isn’t peering over your shoulder, but an excellent illustration of what the music industry was like before the MP3 revolution (plus disintermediating sites like Bandcamp) freed (some of) the content creators from their bondage to the middlemen.

          2. If only I had the time.

            A few years ago, I had an idea for a structure for an AI program that would do exactly what you’re talking about, but I figure it would take me a year or more working full time to code and implement it. It would take quite a server to run it, but I had exactly the sort of search purpose in mind that you mention, as well as making contextual inferences to the relevance of an article to the search terms if it was set to a more flexible mode.

          3. “Find me a Number … Hong Kong plant.” and turn it loose. It doesn’t sit on your server. It actually, logically, goes out onto the Net and does your search.

            Either I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying here, or you’re misunderstanding how all this works.

            There is no (legal, moral) way for a software agent to “actually, logically” go out onto the Net and do a search, all data must be pulled locally (FCVO) and processed.

            If you hire a *person* to dig stuff out for you they don’t “actually” go out onto the net, they bring the relevant portions to them and think about what they’re looking at.

            Any agent that was about to do what you’re asking is essentially AI complete.

      2. Yes and no. The major advantage the corporation has over the cottage industry is specialization. Allowing each worker to focus on their specific contribution to the whole makes the corporation more efficient. What the coming (current?) revolution brings is the ability for the individual to muster the same resources as the corporation without them all existing under the same roof. Markos Kloos is on the right track when he wants to focus on writing, but he may be going about it all wrong in signing up with a traditional publishing house rather than contracting with other individuals to provide the necessary services.

        1. Major corporations tell themselves that. Then, the nimble little generalist rats always eat their lunch, while delivering a superior product to market at a lower price.

          M

          1. No, the major corporations try and become generalists, it’s the nimble little specialists that always eat their lunch. Generalists always lose out to specialists. That’s why militias were supplanted by professional armies, and why corporations killed off cottage industry. The modern tech will kill off the corporation, not by making generalists more competitive, but by making the corporation itself – the organization that efficiently brings together factors of production – obsolete.

          2. No, the major corporations try and become generalists, it’s the nimble little specialists that always eat their lunch. Generalists always lose out to specialists. That’s why militias were supplanted by professional armies, and why corporations killed off cottage industry. The modern tech will kill off the corporation, not by making generalists more competitive, but by making the corporation itself – the organization that efficiently brings together factors of production – obsolete.

    2. One does note that you are arguing against competitive advantage. If you are better at writing than at all the rest of it, you maximize your money by offloading all the rest of it to someone else who is better at all the rest than at writing — even if you are better at both writing and everything else than he is.

      Provided of course the someone else is trustworthy.

          1. An easily understood example of comparative advantage: my Father-in-Law, a highly regarded appellate lawyer, was a faster typist than his secretary. That did not mean the firm believed typing up briefs was the best use of a senior partner’s time.

              1. Sorry: F-in-L lived in town, allowing him to walk to his office building, using several zebra-crossings on the way. Once there he went up to his office in the lift.

                There you go, not only zebras but an uplifting ending.

  11. My thoughts on indie publications:

    So far I have only read four, split between two authors, and in all cases the editing stunk. Typos, misspelled words, run on sentences, punctuation errors and that’s just the nuts and bolts. Full disclosure, I am a professional editor of scientific and academic papers. I have yet to edit novels, but it might happen in the future.

    Having said that, misspelled or incorrectly used words are horribly distracting. They yank me right out of the story and cause me to start searching for a red pen. Do not depend on friends or a loyal fan base. If you can’t or do not want to submit to a professional editor, then at least find another serious author and work out an exchange deal. Most authors love finding boo-boos in other author’s work.

    Second, if you go paper, for Ghu’s sake do NOT chose the large size format. Go standard paperback (pocketbook size). Who in this day and age wants to spend MORE for an author they have never heard of, regardless of how interesting the cover seems, and then experience the joy of schlepping around a fragile outsized something that weighs close to a kilogram?

    I am still ambivalent about e-books because I have only recently obtained a Samsung Galaxy 7.0 Tab (present from daughter) and have only read them on tabletop computers and iPhones, neither of which were satisfactory because they do not allow the intimacy that is the most fundamental part of my reading experience. That may change if I ever figure out how to operate this gizmo. Although I will probably destroy it the first time I try to read an e-book in the bathtub.

    Those are just random thoughts off the top of my non-caffeinated brain at 0730 this Tuesday morning. Tokyo Tengu will now head for the coffee pot.

    1. Ebooks and bathtubs. Put it in a zip lock bag. My husband hasn’t managed to kill one yet, and he considers a half hour hot soak with a book to be necessary part of every weekday morning.

      1. Don’t ask what happened to my signed first edition hardcover of Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic …

    2. Unfortunately, the misspelled, typos etc happen in traditional too. perhaps you notice them more in indie because you EXPECT them, but trust me, I’m reediting some of my reverted books and oh, my heavens. I don’t make that many typos in THESE posts, while uncaffeinated.
      As for editing of indie in general: It’s all on what the writer can afford. I’m not hiring anyone to edit my old short stories, because they make money back VERY slowly. OTOH I’m totally hiring people to edit the indie novels — real edit, not just copyedit. Novels make money faster, so I can afford to do that.

    3. Try reading ebooks on a laptop with a wireless mouse in the bath; I put Embers up on the changing table in the bathroom, use large type size and have myself a nice soak while reading.

      1. That’s the second time I’ve seen that particular Avatar* fanfic mentioned. I guess I’d better add it to my “to read someday” list.

        * Avatar: the Last Airbender, of course; since there is only one work-of-art-in-the-visual-medium named Avatar, there’s no possible confusion. James Cameron? Whozzat? 🙂

        1. Do, you’ll enjoy it.

          Plus, I need to have as many other folks biting their nails waiting for the next update as possible…. (She’s very good about regular updates, but never quickly enough– I finish each chapter before there is a new one!)

          1. What I’m biting my nails waiting for… well, there are a lot of them, including the last quarter of Noah’s Boy being released on Webscriptions the Baen Monthly Bundle (come on, June 15th!). But the one that’s relevant to the current discussion, which I’m biting my nails waiting for, is the second season of The Legend of Korra.

              1. It’s now cued up on my growing collection of “look at sometime” browser tabs (I really should use bookmarks, but browser tabs present themselves more forcefully to the eye, whereas for me, bookmarks are out of sight, out of mind). Thanks!

                … You know what we need? A long-running book fiction recommendation thread, which we could bookmark and keep revisiting. There were a lot of recommendations on the “For the Children” thread, in response to someone (I think it was Trav) asking “What else should I read?” But it would be nice to have a thread dedicated solely to us recommending our favorite stuff to each other. We’d find a lot of overlap, I’m sure, but you never know — there may be some poor, benighted soul who has never yet discovered Lois Bujold, or Barry Hughart, or Jasper Fforde, or Steve Miller & Sharon Lee. (And I want to know which author(s) I have not discovered that other people would put in the same category as those four. I am, of course, omitting many other famous authors, including our gracious blog hostess — no slight is intended by such. But the four that I mentioned above are ones that I only discovered through pure happenstance, rather than their being so famous that all my geek friends were talking about them.)

                1. I’ll work on it.

                  http://hoytshuns.wikidot.com/

                  As soon as I figure out how to make “wikidot” work.

                  I’m thinking sections for plot ideas open to be adopted, one for fiction broken down by… oh, heaven knows how to sort them… and a “handy websites” reference page. Oh, and probably “education”.

                    1. So do it!

                      I suggest the Hoyt’s Huns naming theme, just to make it easier for folks to find, and to tie it together when that site gets done.

                    2. Not to be er… obnoxious, but don’t forget to mention my books, because strangers might come in and not have any idea, you know… and I can use ALL the help I can get 😉

                    3. Self promotion? On your own blog? Or even worse, on a goodreads group that specifically references you and points back to your website? I am shocked, shocked I say!
                      …okay, I should have put up the Darkship Thieves recommendation as part of the introductory post. That’s my bad.

                2. If I can ever get this damn website done, it will have a bookmarks page, but I keep either running into problems, or getting sick (felt like I was dying for nearly a week), or some other damn thing.

                  Should have been done by now. Grumble.

        1. It shows how much time I spend on computers: my brain couldn’t parse your comment for a few seconds because I was stuck wondering why a book would be written using a spreadsheet.

            1. You know you’ve been staring at spreadsheets too long when Excel the software pops into your head first.

              1. Heheh. I was picturing a spreadsheet with outrageously expanded cells (full page width, several pages long for one cell), with perhaps a chapter per cell.

        2. Methinks perhaps phrasing it “that used ‘excel’ instead of ‘extend’ on the first page” would help us technologically log-jammed souls.

          1. you expect me to figure that out late at night? Ah!
            BTW — Just how sleep deprived and out of it, I’ve been — this is the first time I realized your icon is a very pretty sketch of a woman, and not of a dried up flower. Head>desk.

  12. I’ve wanted an e-reader since before they existed, but since I bought a 486. I got tired of getting a paperback soaked in rain or bar-oil, or getting out in the woods and stopping for a lunch break and discovering that the new book is one I forgot I’d read before.
    I have 50 books on my Sony. To do that way back then I’d have to carry a second back-pack.

  13. As an engineer working on product design the changes coming are truly going to be revolutionary. Even mass production processe are changing. That 100,000 mold can now can be cut on a CNC for 1/10 that and most of that is material. You can order stuff for just about anything and get small production runs relatively cheap. Custom chips, custom boards anywhere in the world, no problem. The old integrated factory ahs gone the way of the Model T. Last year I went to the Solidworksworld(Solidworks is CAD package) and the presetation speakers just blew me away as the revolution was going on right before my eyes. Coincidently the CA Democrats had their convention just before Solidworksworld. It was if the two groups existed on different planes, The Democrats hopelessly mired in the models of the past while the future was coning in the next day.

    1. Consider the effect on military equipment. Minimal inventory yet full maintenance of equipment. Any upgrades to designs can be sent as encrypted files for printing new parts. Prototyping takes on a whole new dimension as well.

      Once the process is developed it will transfer to civilian applications as well: your garage will always have all parts in stock.

      1. IMHO there are three types of parts, the ones you make on site, standard hardware like bolts and hinges, and stuff you have to special order. Outside of precision made or stuff that has high tolerances or properties the classes are flexible to the time/cost analysis of buying v making. Depending on the materials and properties, with a 3D printer you can have greater flexibility to what you make or buy, and if your printer is high enough resolution you could theoretically make the precision stuff too.
        Besides the heartbreak of production, you have the frustration of ordering specialty parts for a build that the distributor is out of and has to order from Holland (and apparently has to go through Italian customs). This would be relieved if you could, metaphorically, send out for a custom fab from the print shop down the street instead.

      2. I worked for 7 months in Afghanistan upgrading Strykers. Parts are a minuscule part of the cost of upgrading equipment, at lest the relatively heavy stuff. The stuff is designed to fight, not be worked on (though the 2nd gen stuff that started showing up right before I left was much better in that regard).

  14. I happen to work for a utility which provides water and electricity to a city. I don’t expect to see the day when someone can download a bucket of water over Amazon any time soon, but there are ways that things could get very strange.
    I work in the water quality section, which is in charge of making sure the water meets Federal and State regulations. Over the years, the standards get stricter and as our ability to detect stuff gets better water sources turn out to be less pristine.
    I’ve heard suggestions that the water department of a city might someday cease to guarantee that the water they provide meets all the regulatory standards. “We will provide water that meets this level of purity, and if you want it purer, buy your own additional treatment.”
    This will put a lot of the control in the laps of the customer.
    If a customer is content with water that meets the 1970’s standards, maybe that will be the default. If he insists on cleaning it up to 1980’s, or 1990’s standards, a relatively cheap filter will do the job. Meeting 2015 or 2025 standards will take a somewhat more expensive filter. Meeting analytical laboratory standards of purity (distilled AND reverse osmosis AND carbon filter) is costlier still.
    It could also mean my job wanders over to a private firm selling filters, or I become an independent water treatment consultant.

    It may well be that you’re in a job that won’t be affected by the earthquake. Or it may be that you lack sufficient imagination to see where the fault lines run.

    Just a thought.

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