For The Times They Are A’Changing

Blame this on the head cold I’m almost over (truly) and the mild fever that accompanied it.  Blame it on the change of weather, that had me getting up in the middle of the night to close windows that had, sudden and inexplicably, become openings to the arctic.

Blame it on my dad giving me all the books of legends of the region that he could gather on short notice.  Yes, I also got books on the history of the City of Porto and surroundings, but when it comes to Fantasy it is easiest to dip into the legends.  And these legends are full of changing times and changing circumstances, of the tumultuous succession of Romans and Swabians, Moors and Christian crusaders, absolutist and parliamentary monarchists, republicans, French invaders and British liberators.

Most of the legends are just that, legends, though I suspect a lot of what the guys writing these books ignored is that that type of popular memory might be wrong in the particulars (So it wasn’t that particular Caliph, but something happened here, perhaps a hundred years before or since.  I know from my own experience it’s very easy to confuse stories your grandmother told you for things that happened in her life time and that you find, once you look into it, had to have happened in the time of her grandmother’s grandmother, and which she told me as had been told to her.  — Confusing how many grandmothers ago is particularly easy since her introduction was always “My grandmother told me that once upon a time, this street–“) but is often right in the details, particularly when various local legends chain on each other to form a coherent whole.  (A Moorish defeat in one place, leading to a Moorish route passing through the next village, leading to–)

Anyway, legends seem to cluster around times of great change, times in which lots of things were happening, times of turmoil and movement.  As did, I’ll admit, my grandmother’s stories.  Humans seem to have an innate predilection for stories in which stuff happens.  (I know.  It’s astounding, right?  It’s almost like there’s a difference between stories and sermons.)

My favorite — I’ve been crashing early, but having trouble sleeping, so chain-reading these little one to two page stories, until I physically can’t hold the book up — was the story of Wellington taking the city of Porto and eating the lunch originally cooked for Soult.  While Soult wasn’t waiting around to eat it, and had prepared to leave the city in the morning, it is easy to believe the servants of the house he was occupying went around preparing lunch, as they would have done, anyway.  And of course Wellington would have eaten it, and probably toasted his victory, as befits the gallant spirit of the age where being seen to do something with flare was even better than “just” doing it.

Then this morning, I woke up and caught up with Mad Genius Club, where Dave Freer has written a post about the changing state of our field. (Last Monday.) Changing Spots.

In it he notes many things I have myself realized, including that it’s d*mn hard to plan for the future in this time of turmoil we’re entering.

And it’s not just in publishing, of course.  If it were just in publishing it would be easy.  One could after all fall back on the rest of the “stable world.”

It’s not just in publishing.

It’s everywhere we look, and part of this is that we’re in the middle of one of those macro conceptual changes the human race goes through now and then.  You know, nomadic to agriculture, agriculture to cottage industry trade/cottage industry-trade to industrial/ industrial to mass production/mass production to personal-individual-small scale.

All of those are accompanied by equivalent turmoil: political, scientific (as the conceptual change spreads), territorial.

All of them.

So, things to remember:

-It is only beginning.  Someone on Facebook said we’re living through the period of history summarized under “causes leading to” before the map gets all arrowy and scary.  And they’re not wrong.  What I have a feeling though, is that we’re living through “Factors contributing to” the “causes leading to.”
Things are still working themselves out, and the economic fall out of what seemed like the relatively simple innovation of instant communication around the world and portability of data hasn’t fully worked itself through yet.  When will it work itself through?  When you see land in “states with no jobs” pick up on sales.  You’ll know we’re halfway through the transformation when pay scales start to balance between KS and NYC. (Not quite.  Very large cities will always have a pull of their own.  It’s the mid range cities that will balance and empty. But you know what I mean.)  You’ll now we’re almost done when telecommuting is the ASSUMPTION for any job that can be done this way.  I don’t expect it in my lifetime.

-The very beginning is enough for craziness and dislocation, war and rumors of war.  Trust me.  So, we’re living through that.

-The Future won’t look anything like those people who think history comes with an arrow think it will look.  It also won’t look like the dreams of those who wish to hurtle back intot he beginning of the 20th century.  (No, seriously.  They’re the romantics of the present day, wearing their retro chic opinions like people who built “ruins” on their estates.)  It’s an hysterical reaction of scared children in either case.

-It is entirely possible that the future won’t look like anything any of us CAN conceptualize.  Start working through the consequences of a truly decentralized, not-space-attached workforce.  Real estate? Dating? Family structure? Education?  If you really think it through it will make your head spin, particularly as you get into the consequences of the consequences.

So, what to do?  Try not to get too excited.  Stay flexible.  Be able and ready to jump.  Don’t try to define the present based on the past: it’s likely not to work too well.

In practical terms: take care of yourself.  Make connections. Teach your children well.  Don’t let yourself be gaslighted. Learn.  The more options you have the better.  And stay awake. Falling asleep is to fall behind and lose touch with what’s happening.

Most of all don’t give up.  There is a good chance the future will be better than the past (though some disgusting interludes do occur.) and if we don’t live to see it, other humans will.

May you thrive in interesting times.

 

191 responses to “For The Times They Are A’Changing

  1. Thanks, this made my day! “Interesting times” all over here; just trying to stay above water!

  2. About that Wellington story: of course Soult’s servants proceeded with preparations for that lunch. It was their job to prepare that lunch, in case Soult was around to eat it. It isn’t as if anybody who mattered would have been concerned about possibly wasting food, is it now?

    It also isn’t as if those servants gave a [hoot] who ate that lunch, either. Like clerks in a shop, just because management changes doesn’t mean their jobs change.

    • Hans von Luck tells a similar story in “Panzer Commander.”

    • If Wellington had eaten it with Flare, he would have burned the house down, although if he had done it with Flair, it would have been a stylish arson.

    • I suspect that as was often the case, that lunch, or the leftovers were the servants meal as well.
      I seem to recall something of the nature that it was considered rude to clean your plate at a fancy dinner because the help needed to eat too.

      • In the Russian household manual from the late 1500s, it says that a good servant saved the left-over whole breads and meats (or very large chunks) for the master and mistress, the upper servants got the part-broken breads and meats, and the lower servants/slaves got the other stuff, plus their regular rations.

  3. There are some ways to inoculate yourself against extreme transformations. Learn to (and practice) garden vegetables and fruit. Learn a useful manual skill (welding will always be useful, as will plumbing). Cultivate a sense of community among your nearby neighbors, and help them out whenever possible.

    You may never have to avail yourself of these things for survival, but they are always useful and enjoyable.

    • Already doing that, with the chickens in our back yard – exchanging eggs for produce with some neighbors.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        Oh, you too? 🙂 I’m on the produce end of things myself, but there have been no complaints from the neighbors.

    • Meh, my neighbors have decided I’m a witch (long hair, long skirts, cackling laugh, terror of the neighborhood children…no idea where that came from) but we have plans for a garden and possibly an “edible jungle” when we find/buy a house.

      • The Other Sean

        Walking past the coat closet at work today, my eyes were drawn to an object that looked distinctly out of place hanging from a hanger – a broom. Puzzled, I stepped closer to get a better look. Upon closer inspection, I could see that it was indeed a small broom, entirely black in color, and it was sharing the hanger with a long black robe. There was also a pointed black hat folded over the bar of the hanger. To whom did it belong? Why was it hanging there? How long had it been hanging there without my noticing? These are the questions I pondered as I departed the office.

  4. The Future won’t look anything like those people who think history comes with an arrow think it will look.

    I was reading an article about the effect on retail of raising the MW to $15 and the takeaway is: invest in Amazon/Amazon-like businesses.

    Retail personal service will once again be a privilege of the wealthy elite, because only their shopping will cover the mark-up necessary to cover that labor cost. Everything you have to buy retail will go up in cost, making groceries more expensive and self-checkout the norm. Starbucks’ already over-priced coffee will get pricier. All those businesses which rely on clerks pushing data, such as insurance, are going up in cost, too. You can undoubtedly extend that list as you consider your own purchasing needs.

    A $15 minimum wage will crush the retail industry
    By Nicole Gelinas, a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

    • The $15 minimum wage will basically transform that last bastion of US job growth, the “service industries”, into some variant of vending machines. Look at retail banking now – I think my local Credit Union only has one part time counter teller. And my last insurance quote was fully automated, with only the last few steps touched by human hands for approval – I’m not sure that is enough value added to justify that quote-checker’s salary. And on the low end for a product that is hard to get through Amazon, I’m expecting the first front-to-back automated McDonalds in the next five years.

      And once humanoid robots cross the uncanny valley, one of the very last actual-human-required service industry, i,e. prostitution, will go automated as well, though I guess they are not covered by the minimum wage law in most jurisdictions.

      I expect plumbers will still be needed, but I expect that at some point “plumber” will be more of a robot-supervisors than a crawling-under-the-house job. And plumbers are way higher than MW, but having a robot gizmo instead of a “plumber’s assistant” will be more economical. Ditto for house painters, roofers, and the rest of the trades – maybe one person setting up and supervising the ‘bots, and maybe fdoing any tricky bits by hand, but no more minimum wage work crews.

      • Keep in mind that the $15 MW is actually somewhat higher — add another 7.65% for Social Security and Medicare, about $1.15/hour of employer cost, affecting cash flow demands and credit reserves rather seriously.

        Of course those employees are expected to receive generous benefit packages, PTO (including parental leave) and insurance.

        The first rule of economics cannot be repealed: raise the cost of something and you reduce the demand for it.

        Amazon has the ability to optimize its work force (no paying employees to stand around in case a customer comes in) and automate many of its processes (e.g., using drones to pluck goods from warehouses or pushing certain product costs upstream to suppliers.) When you boil it down, however, what Amazon is is a vending machine using the internet as its mechanicals. That’s a hard business model for retail to compete against, especially for any product that doesn’t entail entail direct customer interactions, such as fittings or tactile response.

        • Even without benefits there are more payroll related “fees” such as government unemployment insurance.

          A good rule of thumb is non-professional/non-exempt employees assume 120% of the wage to TOE with a good range of variation by state (and even business).

          For example, in CT age of business affects UEI fees and that age is not by the business but by the business operating under the current operator. If you buy a 50 year old business your UEI fees will immediately be higher than the previous owner’s fees.

      • Don’t forget that most of the “service” jobs and industry are waaay more skilled than minimum wage. Service jobs include all of computing and computer science, accountants, lawyers, doctors & dentists, nurses, teachers, and on, and on.

        ISTR that the median wage in service jobs overall is far far about even that $15/hour minimum. So the new higher minimum wage won’t hollow out the service sector over all. Rather, it’ll totally screw the low-skill folks who are trying to get hold of that very first rung on the job/skill ladder. Sigh.

      • Actually the construction and maintenance trades will be some of the last occupations to be automated.
        I have always been amused by the “maintenance ‘bot” trope in sci-fi. R2-D2 might work just fine onboard a ship but until we start building those “cities of the future”, it won’t be very useful anywhere else. That is not to say that the associated equipment will not continue to become increasingly sophisticated and capable, it certainly will.
        However, until completely modular structures become the norm, repair and maintenance activities will require skilled humans.

        • It doesn’t have to be everywhere– it just has to pick the low-hanging fruit, so to speak.

          When I was a kid, it was a huge deal that only happened with major building operations to have parts that were mostly assembled, then shipped to the place and put together. I can remember what a big deal it was that a new shop was big enough, and expensive enough, for the beams to show up assembled.

          Now there’s a house down the road that was fire damaged, which they stripped down to the rock (two story fireplace!) and cement parts and have been assembling in road-legal-sized chunks; the walls are entirely up, and they were delivering those triangle shaped parts of the ceiling when I walked by about six thirty.

          There are three guys working, not counting any drivers, and two days ago I didn’t know it was fire damaged, I just knew the door was boarded over.

    • Which is a pity. Where are the over educated English majors going to work if Starbucks can’t hire them anymore?

    • The kicker is that whenever the local unions manage to get the new $15 minimum wage laws passed… they immediately turn around and start lobbying the local government to try and get an exception inserted into the law that allows contracts with unionized employees to ignore the $15 minimum wage.

  5. > instant communication

    The Information Revolutions:
    First: Speech
    Second: Writing
    Third: Printing
    Fourth: Internet

    • These revolutions are accelerating.

      • Progress in general is accelerating, and has been for a long time.

        • There are days I wonder if the internet is progress 🙂

        • Remember Moore’s Law?

          • Yeah, but where are you going with that?

            • A new generation of tech every 18 months. To show that the pace is increasing.

              • Moore’s Law never was a law, really, just an observation. Gordon Moore around 1965 noticed that the density of integrated circuits was continuously increasing. He first estimated a rough doubling every 12 months, and later adjusted it to every 24 months. David House, also at Intel, further refined it to every 18 months, as IC components were both shrinking in size and increasing in speed.

                (The slight twitching, a reaction to decades of getting things thrown at this one-time technical writer by various ex-Intel engineers, is getting much better. Really.)

          • The Other Sean

            Moore himself expects that law to cease no later than 2025 due to physical factors. Some think it could be within the next two years.

            • Moore’s Law, as originally stated, is probably going to end within 10 years at most, because it talks about the number of components on a single chip.

              HOWEVER, what I think of as the spirit of Moore’s Law, which is that the processing power of CPUs will double every 18-24 months, should go on for another 10 years or so after that. The subject was brought up at Liberty Con, and I’ve been assembling some research info, and will be attempting to write a guest post, if Sarah wants it, on the likely future of Moore’s Law, and possible implications for near-future Sci-Fi.

              • Check with Maldin’s new book on the future – He will have something researched on this question. http://www.mauldineconomics.com/ excellent commentary on economics and the consequences of what is happening out there right now. But he is writing a book on the immediate future, with research teams on most topics.

            • Most programmers consider that for all practical purposes, Moore’s Law ended almost 15 years ago. Because the practical implications of Moore’s Law had been that processor speed doubled every 18 months or so. But once processor speeds started hitting 3 GHz or so, that speed doubling came to a screeching halt.

              Why? Simple: computers were running into a hard physical limit of the universe; namely, the speed of light. Processors use electrons to move data around. (The actual process is vastly more complicated, but that’s a decent summary). And no electron can ever move from point A to point B faster than the speed of light, so no information can ever travel from one part of a processor to another part faster than the speed of light.

              Now let’s look at some numbers. 3 GHz means 3 billion “processor cycles” per second. In one processor cycle, it can generally perform one operation, like add two numbers. (Again, a gross oversimplification: some operations take multiple cycles, and some don’t, but it’s a good rule of thumb). The speed of light is approximately 299,792,458 m/s. Call that 300 million and you won’t be too far off. But if a processor is doing 3 billion cycles per second, then each cycle lasts (1 / 3 billion) seconds. Multiply that number by 300 million m/s and you get 1/100 m, or 1 centimeter.

              Now hold up your thumb and look at your thumbnail. It’s probably about 1.5 cm across, maybe a bit longer if you have large thumbs. That means that in the time a 3 GHz processor has to complete one clock cycle, light travels about two-thirds of the way across your thumbnail.

              Which means that no two parts of the processor which need to talk to each other in a single clock cycle can be farther apart than about half your thumbnail’s width. Which in turn puts some hard limits on processor design.

              In response to those limits, Intel changed their design strategy. Instead of increasing speed more and more, they started designing processors to be able to run more operations at once, in parallel. Which is why the processor in your computer today is probably a dual-core or even a quad-core chip — which basically means that it’s two or four independent processors mounted on a single chip, which can each run one program at once.

              For programmers, this has meant a paradigm shift in how we write programs. I won’t go into the details, but the way most programs were written up until the early 2000’s were designed around “the processor is doing only one thing at once”. Taking advantage of processors that can do multiple things at once is actually really hard in the old style, and you have to learn a whole new style of programming (which I won’t get into) to write good code in the new multiple-core world. But the whole thing about how Moore’s Law was giving programmers a leg up, because every 18 months our programs would run faster without us having to do a thing? That ended a long time ago. I said fifteen years ago at the start of this comment, because the first processor that was released with a 3 GHz speed was an Intel Pentium 4 design released in 2002.

              Mind-boggling, isn’t it? For the past fifteen years, the design of computers has had to take the speed of light into account.

              • By the way — what Moore actually said was that the number of transistors on a processor was doubling every 18-24 months or so, and that has continued to hold true. But until the early 2000’s, that added up to programmers getting a “free” speed boost on their programs due to faster processors. But that ended around the time the Pentium 4 came out; the famous (in computer-science circles) article “The Free Lunch is Over” was published in March 2005.

              • Actually, the speed of the electrical signal is far slower than the speed of light, and if I’m not mistaken, the actual clock pulse can be entering one side of the chip before the previous one exits the other side. I just looked up the highest overclock speeds of processors, and on this page, it is listed at nearly 9 GHZ.

                The real culprit is heat. Some processors draw over 200W of power, which produces an immense amount of heat in a tiny amount of space. They are working on doing things like adding layers of graphene (which is the fastest heat transfer material currently known) to dissipate the heat faster, so they can increase clock speeds. The ones that have hit the 8GHZ+ in the list I linked to are typically using things like liquid nitrogen cooling, but if we can get the heat out of there, we can increase clock speeds some more. The main problem with Moore’s Law is that we’re getting down to component sizes that are allowing leakage of electrical signal from one to another.

              • Incidentally, you might want to check your math again. a 3 billionth of a second will give light time to travel 10 cm.

                • I used “C ~= 1 foot per nanosecond”, back when semiconductors used a strange brew of metric and SAE units. (The chip X and Y were metric, but always in mils for thickness.)

              • It’s been longer than that. Seymour Cray had to take it into account when designing the early Cray supercomputers. I know engineers who had worked with him on the projects, who noted that he’d sometimes fix some subtle timing issue on parts of the system by replacing a wire here or there with one of a slightly different length: “let’s see, a nanosecond is about this long, so…”.

                I know Sun was working on SPARC systems running 64 concurrent-thread systems almost 10 years ago (8 per core, 8 cores per CPU), and were looking at 128 and 256 concurrent thread machines to get around limitations of increasing speed by upping the clock rate. It looks like Intel announced a 72-core Xeon CPU a couple years ago, for that matter.

                If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying hard enough.

  6. Back in the 1880s, John Wesley Powell proposed to Congress that the US west be divided up into states based on watersheds, and organized into communities centered on small, irrigation farms and much larger stock-rearing acreages, with the forests and minerals reserved for the states and nation to manage for the benefit of the watershed and its residents. Instead we got square states and another 40 years of trying to convince the landscape to magically turn itself into the Shenandoah Valley. *snort*

    BUT, I can imagine an economic and residential system developing based on resource-sheds. Some things can be scattered out, like like light manufacturing, some service industries, some agriculture (new hybrids, GMO crops that will tolerate harsher or more varied conditions, new crops). Others are a bit fixed (regional medical centers, mining, heavier industry such as it will be, non-nuclear energy production [and even then there’s still the “generators need water” problem]). So I can see a resource-shed developing around certain non-movable or local-resource dependent resources, with communities and power and transportation and economic networks extending from them. Far less concentrated than today in some ways, concentrated in different places in other ways.

    • > regional medical centers

      Those seem to be going away, at least in my area. For most of this year I’ve been on the referral-go-round, and it has been interesting.

      The local large hospitals are hanging on by their fingernails as surgeries and having their in-house diagnostic equipment. But they’re surrounded by standalone surgical centers, unaffiliated doctors, and chain or independent diagnostic centers.

      Part of this is that the cost of many of the traditional hospital services has dropped so low (not the the patient…) that it’s profitable for small clinics or specialty companies to compete in the functions that were once large-hospital-only services. Doctors and their partnerships, using cheaper non-hospital services, still charge the same as the big hospitals and pocket the difference as extra profit.

      The second-largest hospital in the state built a secondary medical complex In a city adjacent to me. It probably looked like a good idea at the time… by the time it was finished, all the local hospitals were feeling the pinch from loss of business. There was some kind of three-cornered deal with the city providing partial funding; it’s still technically “open”, but it’s now mostly storage and offices as far as I can tell.

      • I was thinking in a macro sense – the Panhandle is so scattered, population wise, that the medical specialists, hospitals, and others draw from 5 states for patients. Telemedicine can do a few things very well, such is imaging and having someone in Big City reading radiologic studies for Itty Bitty Rural Clinic, but there is no way current liability laws and best practices are going to allow, oh, say, a surgeon in Dallas to oversee a DaVinci robot in Garden City, TX (edge of Permian Basin). If something interesting happens, you need a full support team. Radiation oncology, other things are going to need centralized facilities.

        • What I’m seeing in Deepest Oregon (South Central, east of the Cascades) are regional centers that tend to specialize, largely dependent on demographics. The Trauma unit in Klamath Falls went away when the logging jobs did, but it’s thriving in Bend. K-Falls has a tolerable oncology group and some decent eye surgeons. (Moderate income retirees, many refugees from Washington and California.) We also have a bunch of new dental practices, but I’m not clear as to why.

          • I believe gov’t retiree medical care expanded to include more dental when they figured out that a sizable chunk of hospitalizations were from untreated dental issues.

            • That could explain it; we have a fair number of federal/state entities in the area, so retired gummint employees would be numerous.

              • I meant the medicare/medicaid thing, I just can’t remember which is retired folks and which is can’t afford it folks.

                • We have a lot of both–‘care == retired, ‘aid == too broke to pay. We also have a meth problem in the area, and “meth mouth” makes for some interesting dental issues.

      • Think of all the at-home test kits there are now. As that market keeps expanding, Doctors will be working out of their homes, on the internet.

        • Think nanites (see: Not-Too-Distant Future of Fitness Tracking will be a Chip Implant) communicating and controlled by your smart-phone, monitoring your blood pressure & glucose levels and triggering hormone releases to modify.

          Full time, real time tracking and stimulation of various body processes — what could possibly go wrong with something like that?

          Breaking News: reports are coming in that Russian hackers have taken control of the Hillarybot, erasing key memories of past statements and actions! News at 11!

          • A couple of friends of mine are seriously diabetic. Enough that implanted insulin pumps aren’t practical.

            When reading about the pumps, my first thought was “why can’t you just implant whatever sensor they use, and have it talk to your smartphone by RFID? But Google was silent.

            A few years ago there were some rumblings that the British National Health Service was looking into smartphone-based monitoring. Those test strips cost money, after all. And continuous monitoring, with the ability to tell you exactly how much insulin you needed and when, instead of blindling hammering it in, would have downstream health benefits.

            The companies that make test strips were in an uproar over it, which is probably why we haven’t seen it in the USA. There’s a company with a web site up now, about their amazing new idea, but it doesn’t look like they’re actually delivering anything yet.

            The crazy thing is, this is nearly “maker” level technology. There are enough diabetics out there that someone is going to cobble up some DIY sooner or later.

            • Oh, we’ll see sensors like that in the next generation of products like the Apple Watch – and you’ll hear the anguished howls from the Medical Testing folks all the way across the country, trying to get the .Gov to force Apple to turn them off.

              • You don’t want hackable medical monitors. AKA The Internet of Things is a really Bad idea.

                • Oh yes. As I recall VP Cheney was adamant (to put it mildly) that they deactivate the device that allowed the docs to adjust his pacemaker from “outside” so to speak. For that very reason.

                  • I’m up for a new CPAP machine. *All* of the models my insurance will pay for have built in cellular modems to talk to the mothership, so they can monitor my breathing in realtime.

                    That’s what Faraday cages are good for… and I have a good ground wire snaked out the nearby window as part of the surge suppression for the computer.

                    • I don’t have health insurance (Bad RCP, Bad Boy!), but that gives me the ability to get what I want. Got the ResMed S9, the last of the non-radio units. FWIW, I use Sleepyhead (OSS, Free) to read the SD card and see what’s going on. Try the Apnea Board website for links…

                    • My ResMed is from 2007; it’s so old it doesn’t *have* a card. I can program it directly with the buttons on top.

                      However, it’s starting to make odd noises, and might not be long for this world…

                • The Other Sean

                  Alas, it is already here, and usually in a bad way. Many pieces of vital infrastructure and manufacturing facilities have had their automation systems connected to the internet. The government-mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) installations can be jammed such as to shut down rail lines.

                • Amen, amen, amen I say to you.

                  I wish more people would THINK about the “…and what can come in?” aspect.

                  • In my case it may go back to when I was flying full time and got my first hand-held GPS. Flew from Amarillo TX to Midland TX, and on the way went under some military air space (their play-area began at 7000′ above ground). After warning me about said airspace, my GPS box shut down and refused to cooperate until I was out from under the military box. Um, no, thanks. What else can people do? I’ve read those novels. I saw the 10th Doctor episode about the re-creation of the Cybermen. No.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Sadly, I can almost believe that. 😦

        • I re-read Michael Crichton’s “Five Patients” a while back. It describes the state of healthcare circa 1970ish when it was written, with some SF scenarios for the future.

          Most of it was technically possible even in 1970, but still not here yet.

    • The Other Sean

      Wait, you mean rain does not in fact follow the plow? Shocking! (I find the scary part to be the shear number of people who believed that.) The resource shed concept that reminds me of some of the concepts in the Christopher Alexander A Pattern Language* books and somewhat of those arguing for modern city-states.

      * Note to software developers: This multi-volume book on architecture and city planning was influential on the authors of the “Design Patterns” book regarding OOP.

      • Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn is also a great software inspiration. That said, my title is Software Architect and I absolutely loathe software/construction analogies. I want to write There is no Gravity in Software and blow up that idiocy forever.

        • The Other Sean

          Such a book wouldn’t be covering physics engines or structural engineering applications, I take it? 😛

  7. So . . . the zombies will come in Phoenician, Roman, Swabian, Moorish and other flavors? Will they fight each other?

    And yeah, all you can do on the cusp of a huge change is be both flexible and stubborn. Pick the things you _will_ _not_ _change_ and the rest you’d rather not, but, sigh, _another_ learning experience!

    Oh, for a crystal ball. Do I plant the type of peach tree that currently thrives in this area? One that tolerates more heat or one that needs more winter cold to set fruit? It would be nice to have a big tree full of fruit in ten, fifteen years, you know.

    Same with jobs. What do you plan for when the environment is changing . . . and you can’t trust the official numbers, and definitely not their conclusions?

    But people needing stories? That I can count on, even if I have to learn new formats. Write in new genres. New media. I can learn all that. When it comes to jobs, be prepared to twist like a pretzel.

    • That’s easy, Pam: you plant six. Two of each. The big question is how the heck do we order zone 5 pecan trees when for the last four years the catalogs companies have been sold out by the time we get the catalogs?

      We lose about half our young fruit trees here, being a very borderline climate (Are we zone 3, 4 or 5 this year? Winter starts soon, place your bets today!) but this year’s cherry harvest has covered all the dead trees costs for certain. Have you seen the prices on canned cherries and cherry jam!

    • Oh, for a crystal ball. Do I plant the type of peach tree that currently thrives in this area? One that tolerates more heat or one that needs more winter cold to set fruit? It would be nice to have a big tree full of fruit in ten, fifteen years, you know.

      Is it possible to get them grafted?

      I mean technically; I know that the apple orchards change varieties a half-dozen times without changing the tree itself.

      • These days most orchard trees are grafted. I don’t know about regrafting, but the whole problem is not knowing the future.

        • That’s what I mean– find the strongest root-stock, and graft three-four varieties on it.

          There was a fad for “fruit salad trees”…alright, there’s been one several times… but they work.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I’d guess that the fruit bearing grafts for one extreme wouldn’t survive the other well, and would essentially get eliminated. Sooner or later it would go from 4 to 3, 3 to 2, 2 to 1, etc. Caveat: I’m pretty much entirely ignorant where these subjects are concerned.

            • They usually survive, but don’t thrive; grandma’s five-in-one cherry tree had different branches doing well depending on the year.

        • I am going to take a stand here, and do so very firmly, no matter how out of step with the crowd this may make me seem: I am against graft.

          It is injurious to public confidence that their elected representatives are acting ethically and in accordance with all standards of due fiduciary responsibility owed a principal by an agent. It is corrosive of the public trust in government and represents an unjust enrichment of public officials, an injury to the public weal and an enticement to put personal interests above those which one is duty bound to advance.

          What? That isn’t the sort of graft you were discussing?

          Uhmmmm …

          Never mind.

  8. “It is entirely possible that the future won’t look like anything any of us CAN conceptualize.”

    As a Science Fiction author, isn’t it part of your job to show us what it might look like? 🙂

    • Part of world-building is to show a vision of how the world might look, but seldom do those visions show more than a passing resemblance to the reality when the future comes to pass.

      • OK, setting aside the grey goo/all is doomed futurist stuff, which should really be a separate category, the basic sci fi near-term-futurist thing has traditionally been “introduce one thing and see what happens.” Contrast this with RAH, for example, including “hydraulic beds” and flying cars and “belt phones” and interstellar travel as mundane day to day background to a story about people being people.

        Basically the Sci Fi author’s responsibility is to tell a good story, that causes people to think about “Hmm, what if this changed…” This in effect innoculates Sci Fi readers against change shock. Any successful prognostication is just a serendipitous bonus.

        • An awful lot of RAH’s gee-whizzery is merely set decoration, smoke and mirrors to give a sense of what might be termed “strange familiarity” or perhaps “familiar strangeness” — simple extrapolation of present technological trends that don’t actually introduce new factors, or handwavium of the type Roddenberry was famous for, such as sticking plants upside down into pots to create a facade of futurism. Most of RAH’s work follows the “introduce one change” and work it through, even the Lazarus Long novel all falls into place in the context of unending life and human expansion.

          Playing the background music on a Theremin instead of an organ does not materially affect the story being told, merely alters the atmospherics.

          In Moon, for example, the idea of Luna Colony is simple extrapolation from known technology; the only “new” thing readers have to swallow id Mike’s sentience, and for most people that is a very digestible tidbit.

    • “Dammit Jim, I’m an SF writer, not a paid prognosticator!”

      I don’t care if some future setting is someone’s lovingly crafted future history timeline; it just has to be reasonably believable and internally consistent.

    • Nah. My job is to lie for a living.

    • Actually Stuart, my job is to entertain and get paid for so doing so. 🙂

    • Oddly enough, most of scifi is either “this thing does not change” (ie, ‘if this trend goes on’) or “and then something totally black swan shows up.” (‘the aliens arrive’)

      Neither of which are really trying to show what they think it’ll be like, but are awesome for stretching the right mental muscles.

  9. the economic fall out of what seemed like the relatively simple innovation of instant communication around the world and portability of data hasn’t fully worked itself through yet.

    An interesting one I thought of early this week…given the ubiquity of communications there is no reason any nation couldn’t make a minimum level of proficiency in the general use language a pre-requiest not for citizenship but even a permenant visa or even a work visa. When even remote villages in underdeveloped countries have smartphone and TV access it should be possible to learn the language of your hoped for home long before leaving for it.

    • There are levels of proficiency that can only be achieved by immersion in a culture, such as decoding presidential spokespersons when they insist that no ransom was included in a deal with an unfriendly foreign power, such as Iran:

      It is our contention that there was no ransom paid to secure the release of U.S. citizens who were being unjustly detained in Iran because, A, it’s against the policy of the U.S. government to pay ransoms. And that’s something that we told the Iranians that we would not do. We would not — we have not, we will not pay a ransom to secure the release of U.S. citizens. That’s a fact. That is our policy and that is one that we have assiduously followed.

      It takes years of experience to decipher such a statement, and many Americans are still incapable of doing so.

      • True but I was thinking more along the lines of being able to read Darkship Thieves and understand Starship Troopers on audio book.

        Or vice versa.

      • That is our policy and that is one that we have assiduously followed.

        I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling occurring in this establishment.

        • It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is, doesn’t it?

          • “Here are your winnings RES.”

            • Huns of a certain age will understand why I say: “Why, this, this is a bag of sh*t.”


              Those of lesser experience are provided this brief tutorial (original source: Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.)

        • Speaking of shocked …

          IRAQIS WERE BRIBED TO ALLEGE TORTURE
          [SNIP]
          One of the country’s leading human-rights lawyers faces a criminal inquiry into claims Iraqi civilians ​were bribed ​to bring abuse claims against British soldiers, The Telegraph can reveal.

          Phil Shiner is accused by legal regulators of ​knowing about the bribes which were allegedly disguised as expenses and then submitted as legal aid claims funded by the taxpayer.

          • Heh.

            Top lawyer facing criminal inquiry over ‘bribes’ paid to Iraqis bringing abuse claims against British troops
            [SNIP]
            Investigations into PIL began following the conclusion of the Al-Sweady war crimes inquiry at the end of 2014. The £31 million inquiry, which had run for five years, exonerated British troops and concluded that allegations made by Iraqis were a product of “deliberate and calculated lies”.

            The inquiry had been prompted by PIL and the work of another law firm Leigh Day over claims British troops had massacred innocent farmers during the Battle of Danny Boy in 2004. In fact, the dead Iraqis were insurgents who had ambushed British troops on patrol.

            • Tsk. Gee, I wonder how this got ignored in the American newsmedia? Surely the defenders of Mr. & Mrs. Khan would be eager to defend the honor of our allies’ troops in that war in which Captain Khan died?

              Al-Sweady lawyers ‘should now face disciplinary action’
              The Defence Secretary says lawyers should make an unequivocal apology to British soldiers falsely accused of murder and torture in Iraq

              [SNIP]
              Ministers condemned the “shameful” conduct of solicitors who brought the claims, which were yesterday dismissed as “deliberate lies” by a £31million, five year inquiry.
              [SNIP]
              The defence secretary Michael Fallon said the lawyers should make an “unequivocal apology” to the soldiers whose reputations “they attempted to traduce’’.

              Mr Fallon said the claims put forward by the legal teams representing the Iraqi complainants were a “shameful attempt to use the legal system to attack and falsely impugn our Armed Forces.”
              He said delaying tactics by the solicitors – who pursued the most serious accusations of murder until the final days of the inquiry before accepting they could not be proven – had unnecessarily saddled taxpayers with extra costs.
              [SNIP]
              Politicians across the political divide rounded on the lawyers after the Al-Sweady public inquiry ruled claims that British troops murdered, mutilated and tortured Iraqi detainees in their custody were “wholly and entirely without merit or justification”.

              The exhaustive investigation found the serious allegations were based on “deliberate lies and reckless speculation” from witnesses and detainees who were often determined to smear the British forces.

              Failure to disclose a document that showed detainees had been members of an Iraqi militia had also extended the inquiry, the Government said. Legal teams had claimed the ‘victims’ were innocent farmers despite some of the legal teams having a document showing otherwise.
              [SNIP]
              John Dickinson, of Public Interest Lawyers, refused to apologise and said the MoD was to blame for the delay and cost of the investigation because it had refused to hold its own transparent inquiry earlier.

              He said it was not up to him to apologise to troops.

              He said: “I regret the anxiety caused to those soldiers by the delay in the same way I regret the anxiety caused to the families of the deceased.”

              It had been impossible to withdraw the murder and torture allegations earlier because not enough evidence had been heard until this year, he said.

              He said: “We don’t accept we did anything wrong.”

              “Had there been any criticism of this firm then the inquiry would have mentioned it,” he added.

              A spokesman for Leigh Day said: “We were not responsible for representing the Iraqis at the Inquiry and were not asked by the Inquiry to disclose all relevant documents in our possession until August 2013.”

              The Arabic document detailing the detainees association with the militia “remained in our files until it was handed to the inquiry in September 2013 following a request from the team”.

              “On this occasion we did not get things right. We have apologised to the Inquiry for not realising the significance of this document sooner.”

              The spokesman said the firm had been “working with the SRA to ensure that in all areas, especially the demanding foreign work of the firm, we have training and structures in place to prevent any similar mistakes in the future.”

              • I don’t know what the legal standards in Britain are, but if this happened in the US (essentially, it did in Baltimore with the trials of the now-exonerated police officers) the lawyers who had done it would be on the fast track to disbarment. Marilyn Mosby (the state’s attorney in Baltimore) is certainly under fire for just such shenanigans.

      • Feather Blade

        they insist that no ransom was included in a deal with an unfriendly foreign power

        It would probably be better for them if it were a ransom, because if it’s not, then they just sent a crap-ton of money to a hostile foreign powerfor no good reason.

  10. I only wish I got to live through this period in history 1) a bit younger, and 2) healthy.

    Thank God I can participate to some degree through a connection to the WORLD wide web.

    Flexible is the keyword – I told my kids that from the very beginning of homeschooling: if you know HOW to learn, and how to teach YOURSELF, you will be able to adapt. And change is a comin’. I’ve known that since at least before my now 30-yo son was born.

    • I’ve had to work alongside college graduates who had the idea that they’d passed the test and obtained their degree, therefore they knew everything they needed to know about that subject.

      And I’ve watched them fall farther and farther behind, refusing to make the effort to keep up as things changed and expanded.

      The knowledge that they had studied and [someone] had paid for was one thing; a continuing-education course was another. But in their world, knowledge could *only* be obtained by having someone tediously feed it to them one piece at a time. They just refused to learn anything that didn’t come with a syllabus and a price tag.

      • Yeah, I’ve worked with those folks, and even supervised a few. Getting new knowledge into their heads requires hammers.

        On the other hand, I’ve also worked with and supervised a few folks who saw it like I did when I got by BS degree in my sweaty hands – “Thank the deity THAT’s over with – now what can I figure out to earn a living?”

        And interestingly enough, that whole “college degree solely as a gating requirement checkbox” attitude is exactly what HR departments treat it like now: You can’t get a job (or even an interview) without one, but it’s not actually worth much once you are in.

      • Grrrr. When I’m not writing this summer, I’ve been filling in knowledge gaps so I can do a better job teaching. Yes, journals are dull but there are precious pearls among the pig litter if you dig far enough and read widely enough. I’m not slogging through the economic history of China (going back to about 1500 Before Whatever, the Shang Dynasty) because it’s a gripping tale of dareing-do.

      • I know college graduates and people with advanced degrees who didn’t really earn them and certainly don’t deserve them (and you’re welcome to poke holes into mine, too).

        It’s just the very basics you get in school. Then you have to go out and apply them.

  11. c4c

  12. This is why I look at The 100 in both the TV & book forms as being a rather hopeful, life-affirming looking to the future. Mr. Trump seems extremely eager to get his hands on atomics and fission weapons. He also seems eager to use them.

    We’re in a time when dreams are very inward-focused. With the Columbia incident we severely cut back in the West on the number of people who slip the surly bonds of Earth’s gravity on any regular basis. From that incident were turned away from gazing at the horizons to gazing at our navels.

    We can do better.

    >

  13. > the economic fall out of what seemed like the
    > relatively simple innovation of instant
    > communication around the world

    We’ve had “instant communication” for most of a century. The difference is, now that communication is not only instant, but so cheap the price is negligible.

    I remember when a short long distance call cost more than a day’s pay. Now it’s so cheap it’s “free”, rolled into my monthly bill.

    • A person has been posting odd bits from a book on home decorating, circa 1950 – and was bewildered as to why an egg timer was recommended for timing phone calls.

  14. Maybe this is a consequence of becoming a nation when we did, but the US has been in a constant flux long before the Revolutionary War. Some of it was a consequence of settling a continent and shifting population centers. Some of it was pure economics: technologically, farming wouldn’t change much until the 20th Century, but prices fluctuated and farming economics changed, and would continue to do so, just as timber economics would change and fluctuate. Towns would spring up and those who could not adapt to change would cease to exist.

    This has been on my mind a good bit as I work on an annual forecast of power consumption and try to calculate what our load will be twenty years from now. The world of today is different than it was thirty years ago, and the world then was different than what it was thirty years before. You can see that in history, from the number of customers to type of loads and energy use per customer. Oh, it’s possible to look at it and say “Here is where manufacturing went away” or “Here is where the housing market burst.” But the thing is, there was never a “norm” followed by an abrupt change. Something is always changing. How things change varies, but that it changes never does.

  15. We have two themes, after a tie. Please nominate a dinosaur book, a RPG book, or both here:

    https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18199365-september-2016—-dinosaurs-rpgs

    • I think RPGs would work well on dinosaurs, though they’d waste a lot of mea… Oh, wait, you meant Role Playing Game.

      Nevermind.

      • I used to play an RPG where RPGs did indeed work well on dinosaurs, and meat tended to spoil incredibly quickly in that game anyway.

      • What do you mean? Dungeons and Dragon would seem to be an interesting way to try and distract a veciloraptor.

        • At the very least you, can scatter a Crown Royal bag of d4s behind you to give you a chance to get away.

    • Virtual reality dinosaurs! _The Barton Street Gym_ 😉

    • Already nominated a RPG-themed book, and trying hard to keep from nominating a particular book for the dinosaurs.

      • If You Were A RPG, My Love?

        Actually, it’s been a long time but I think I dated a few who were.

        • No, I’m not that cruel.

          It’s a Star Trek novel called First Frontier. OOP, but I checked and it’s available as an ebook. And it’s not that I particularly want to read it, but it’s Star Trek! With dinosaurs!

          While testing a new shielding device, the “U.S.S. Enterprise” TM is caught in the middle of a Klingon/Romulan battle. The “Enterprise” crew rescues a lifepod, and they are confronted by a Klingon who claims to know nothing of human existence. Convinced the Klingon is telling the truth, Captain Kirk hurries to Starfleet Headquarters in search of answers. But upon arriving on Earth, the “Starship Enterprise” crew finds that Earth is a vast jungle-like paradise where large, reptillian animals rule, with no signs of human life anywhere. Kirk must travel to the past in search of the key to the mystery, or face the destruction of the human race

          • You’d think that after at least 65 million years of civilization, the Klingon Empire would have had plenty of time to colonize the galaxy…

  16. I like “May you thrive in interesting times.” A lot. I think I’ll adopt it as a blessing for my daughter.

  17. My favorite — I’ve been crashing early, but having trouble sleeping, so chain-reading these little one to two page stories, until I physically can’t hold the book up — was the story of Wellington taking the city of Porto and eating the lunch originally cooked for Soult. While Soult wasn’t waiting around to eat it, and had prepared to leave the city in the morning, it is easy to believe the servants of the house he was occupying went around preparing lunch, as they would have done, anyway. And of course Wellington would have eaten it, and probably toasted his victory, as befits the gallant spirit of the age where being seen to do something with flare was even better than “just” doing it.

    On a practical level, eating the meal is an awesome way to signal to the folks in the house that you are NOT going to kill them– it says “you’re not an enemy, you’re doing your job, and I appreciate it.”

    Doing it with flare makes sure that it gets around, and that tells everyone else that you’re not going to be going all Nero or something.

    Plus, rule of awesome.

    • (Seriously, for such a “tight laced” people, the English sure seem to do a lot of “dude, we’ve GOTTA do this. It would be an AWESOME story!”)

      • Well, if you take Chesterton’s word for it, the Brits weren’t particularly tight-laced until the late Victorian era.

        • Chesterton has the problem that he is English himself, and might be unable to see the water even when he can see the currents. 😀

      • I think it comes from being on a small island for so long. Every so often everyone goes “Hey y’all, watch this!” and they end up, oh, sneaking in and out of Mecca, taking over South Asia, climbing Mt. Everest (Kiwis are a bit English that way), crossing landmasses to see what’s on the other side, shooting at advancing German tanks and infantry with a long bow, chasing large wheels of cheese down steel hillsides . . .

      • “Y’all hold my tea and watch this”?

  18. Phoenix_Gray : OK, what drunken trickster god is in charge of messing with my life THIS week?
    We rescued Noobie, a stray cat. We took Noobie to the vet where he was pronounced a young and healthy male. HOWEVER.
    The little so and so only responds to FEMALE nicknames and blandishments, etc.
    WORSE when you look at the little so and so, you WANT to address him as female.
    DAMMIT I’M AN EVIL CONSERVATIVE! How did I wind up with a trans cat?! I mean, crap, it had more surgery than Jenner! I’m like the baffled Republican granpa here!

  19. There’s a charming (long out of print) book called “The Samurai of Vishogrod;” it was the translation and reworking of the authors’ father/father in law’s notebooks about his travails as a Jew in the Czar’s army in the Russo-Japanese war. It had a sentence which has stuck in my mind ever since. It pretty much went like this: “I don’t know if this story was true, mind you, but he was the sort of man that people tell stories like that about.”

    • Re-reading (Audible) Sharpe’s Waterloo, Cornwell has Sharpe disavow a story* as being attached to him because of his achieving “legendary” status — the tale had become unmoored from its original subject and grafted onto him because it seemed the kind of thing Sharpe would have done.

      We see much the same process in countless quotes being attributed to Chesterton, Lewis or Orwell because they sound the sort of thing they would say.

      *Of some riflemen selling “pork loins” to Dutch or Belgian troops (IIRC) that actually originated as Crapaud buttocks.