We’re Living In The Future

Okay, so it doesn’t look a think like we expected, does it?

I mean, I keep doing a double take every time I write the year, because d*mn it all, if it’s the 21st century, I want my moon colonies.  I want my flying cars.  I want–

It’s easy to get confused and decide that you are in fact living in the world exactly as it was when your parents were little.  Oh, sure, we have some more conveniences, but it’s really hard to think that the texture… the fabric of our lives has changed markedly.

Part of this I think is that the future of flying cars and moon colonies was pretty actively resisted by the enemies of the future TM.  You know them.  They’re the idiots who run around with their heads on fire saying we need to learn to take care of the Earth before we move to any other planet.  This is a de-facto negating condition on getting humanity’s genetic eggs out of Earth’s basket, because holy hell, how do you even?  We’re never “going to take care of the Earth” perfectly.  Look, the Earth is massive, whatever these little kids in adult bodies think.  They’re probably overestimating our effect on it as is.  I very much doubt we have nearly the effects they think we do.  It’s all hubris and a lack of imagination for the real size and the real magnitude of processes involved.

And that’s to start with.

After that comes the “if there is an oil spill somewhere in the whole world, we’re not ‘taking care of the earth'”  and if there is a strip mine anywhere we’re not ready to go to another world.  And–

At the end of this lies totalitarian control of everyone in the world, because, really, how else can you guarantee that a little country in the middle of Africa isn’t doing something unsound, but world government and on top of that big-brother spying on everyone and everything?

In other words, the people who would control your every move and thought don’t want you to escape to another world.  I know you’re shocked.

As for flying cars, yeah, there are all sorts of reasons they’re impractical.  The really funny thing is that they are startlingly similar to the reasons Heinlein gave, back in his socialist days why everyone owning a car would be impractical.  The crashes!  Most people aren’t smart enough/responsible enough to drive!  It would be mayhem!

So–  That future got handily cut off by the people who really would like you to check in with them before you take a step past the end of the street where it just might be dark.

Which brings us to the fact that you can’t block the future.  You can’t.  It’s like the economy.  You can’t actually stop the economy or make it obey your every whim.  The economy is the aggregate of everyone’s wants, and what they’re willing to do to get them fulfilled.  You can no more control that kind of chaotic system than you can control the weather.  If you put in price controls, you get the black market.  If you institute minimum wage, you get illegal immigration.  If you put in punitive taxes, you get everyone working under the table.  It never ends, because human needs and wants never end, and you can’t control them, no matter how much you try.

In the same way, you can’t stop the future, not even if your ideal society existed circa 1930.  You can’t force people back into the past.

Well, correction, you can.  North Korea is virtually medieval.  And Cuba is the place time forgot.  But to do it you need totalitarian control, and, frankly, a much smaller place than the US.  This is important, because as I knew as a little kid, and we’ve had confirmed, time and again, the future comes from the US.

And it did.  Enter the digital revolution.  I mean, who really wanted to control a few nerds messing around in their garages, with their computers?  Why a lot of them worked for the government, so it must be safe.

I first encountered the internet as a dream.  Someone else’s dream.  I was reading Friday, the part where she spends days searching through some sort of net for the correlation between economics and the height of skirts.

Having the sort of mind that can spend days correlating trivial data will suddenly I wake up with a massive vision of something that links them all, I envied that “net” she searched.  I wanted it.

Mind you, when I became aware of being jealous of it, I was no stranger to computers.  It was 92 and we were connected to … something.  Our library had an electronic interface, where you could order a book, with your library card number, and they would mail it to you, right to your house, without your having to leave the house at all.

To the budding writer with a very small child and only one car in the family, this was manna from heaven.  And a blessing of the digital age.

My thirty year old self would die at the thought that I can look up anything I want to, at any moment, with a few key strokes.  Oh, and I don’t need to worry about phone charges for connecting.

Heck, when I moved to Colorado Springs, in 93, we even had sort of an acquaintance with the net, though Dan refused to let me get aol or any of those things, because they were for the technologically unwashed. (Eh).  But we knew a few domains and I was on a couple of bulletin boards.  It was kind of like amateur radio with a computer, really.

Meanwhile, in real life, I was so starved for entertainment and so broke, that I went every day to troll the “free book” repositories outside used bookstores and developed a strange acquaintance with gothic romance.  Also, having read their sf/f dry, I started making inroads into my library’s history.  Any history, really.  When desperate, I read biology text books.

We didn’t have television and we didn’t have much money.  Entertainment was hard to come by.

My thirty four year old self would envy my ability to read thousands of books at a whim, a lot of them for free.  She’d have killed for access to the books on Guttenberg, honestly.

But wait, there’s more.  When our older son turned thirteen, we found we had birthed a member of the Big Foot tribe.  I.e. he started wearing (depending on cut of shoe) either size 15 or up to a 17.  There was only one store in our area who carried shoes that size, and only one style of shoe: rather dorky tennis shoes.  Every six months, we made the trip to Denver (back then an hour and a half away, and looked for the one pair of shoes in the one store.)  Now I can buy him shoes in every style with a few clicks on the net.

And you’re saying “we get it.  It’s more convenient, it’s easier.  It’s still not the future.  It’s not like all of our lives have changed.

Oh, of course not.  I get up in the morning, to an alarm I set on my cell phone.  I have a cell phone, by the way, a number you can reach me at day and night, even when I travel out of state or overseas.  Anyway, I get up to an alarm I set on my cell phone.  Before I get out of bed, I check what the weather is going to be like, on the same cell phone, so I can know what clothes to wear (yeah, Colorado.)

Then I sit down and write a weblog, which is read — looks at stats — by about four thousand people all over the world seconds after I write it.

During the day I’ll check in with friends all over the world, get instant feedback on my writing.  If I need to, I can get instant feedback or a question answered by my publisher.

If I’m not sure what I want to cook for dinner, or I have exotic ingredients, I will look up a recipe, and there’s almost always something.

If I want to write a story set in a time period I’m not familiar with, I can become enough of an expert for a short story in about an afternoon.

More importantly, it changed where I live and where I want to live.  I hate driving (partly because my idiotic astigmatism) so for years I wanted to live near the center of town, where I could do most of the business of everyday life with either walking or a short drive.  More importantly, I wanted to be near bookstores and libraries, because I’m choosy and I had to browse a lot to find something I wanted to read.

Now I mostly read on my kindle, downloaded from the internet.  And yeah, walking in the suburbs is boring, but I can download an audio book to my MP3 and that keeps me happy while I walk.

Still nothing?  Still every day life?

When something changes how you earn money, how you shop and where you life, there is a revolution underway.

And no, it’s not just me.  I am perhaps an extreme case, given my profession, but you know it’s not just me.

Weirdly, some of this has led to people concentrating downtown, particularly young people.  Part of this is the horrible economy — bigger cities produce more jobs, due to size — but part is cultural and entertainment opportunities.

But we’re in early days yet.  In terms of where this simple trick (one simple trick) of being able to work, shop, and entertain yourself at a distance goes, we’re in the days of the navigators crossing the sea in little walnut-shell like boats.  The mass population moves, new products, and transformation of our universe are all in the future still.

And I’ll be the one pushing for us to push this further, and to use this future to get to the future we want.

Because I STILL want moon colonies.

But all the same, we’re living in the future.  And it’s a good thing, even if no one has noticed.

595 thoughts on “We’re Living In The Future

  1. The Future should carry a warning label: Prospects in future may not be as great as they appear.

  2. I mean, I keep doing a double take every time I write the year, because d*mn it all, if it’s the 21st century, I want my moon colonies. I want my flying cars. I want–

    What folk in 1967 thought the 21st Century would look like when they were being serious about predictiguessing (okay, not a word, but it should be):

    1. I noted the size of the switchboard used for controlling the broadcast and music, and the equipment in the home office. I am glad that I have my laptop and not something like the Crashaw family computer in the kitchen.

      I am amused with the assumption is that urban high density high rises are the most intelligent use of land. I Showing some less than stellar examples of suburban single family homes, well chosen to illustrate that they can be repetitive and ticky tacky — then singing the praises of stacked up modular homes all made up of 1-3 identical pre-fab units? On might suspect that there is some manipulation going on here.

      1. What’s funny is that TV show is mostly showcasing stuff manufacturers were pushing right then, and socialistic ideas from the likes of Frank Loyd Wright. Warmed-over crap from the 1930’s.

        That is the source of the whinging about suburbia and praising high-rises. Wright was all about the Planned Community, and his plan was to stack up the Unimportant People like cord wood while the Great and the Good (people like FLW) got on with deciding how things were going to be.

        I really don’t like that guy.

      2. Urban high density high rises are the most intelligent use of land?

        For certain values of “intelligent” (such as Judge Posner’s) perhaps. Anybody with a twelfth floor unit during a power outage might disagree.

        For that matter, anybody whose co-tenants take a laissez–faire approach to cleaning and an “enlightened” attitude toward roaches and rodents might also dispute the intelligence of such claims.

  3. I think the cell phone/smart phone is one of the most interesting “changes” from when I was young.

    How many stories that we’ve read would have to be rewritten to allow for the ease of contacting people away from home/office?

    How many stories would have to be rewritten if a character in trouble could just “call for help”?

    And so on.

    Of course, there would be the “fun” of your character sneaking up on the bad guy forgets to shut off his phone and gets a spam call. 😈

    1. There’s rewriting old stories, or writing new stories with exactly that sort of issue. Think character A has to get hold of Character B. Sunspots, power outages, someone forgot to charge their phone the other night…. Easy peasy to create modern communication issues.

      1. Nod.

        But done wrong, it could be like the Star Trek episodes where they always had the teleporter “breaking down” so they couldn’t “pull the landing team out” or “send down supplies/support”.

        Don’t they ever get the teleporter working correctly?

        With all the break-downs, I wouldn’t want to use it. 😈

        1. That’s the reason I hated the transporter in Star Trek. Not because it’s scientifically implausible to say the least (I knew why they created it, and it was something I could live with) but because it so limited the story possibilities and had to “break” in order for the writers to do what they wanted.

          1. Nod.

            Then I also read a fairly recent novel where the author forgot to give her main character a cell-phone.

            After comments from readers, part of the second book in the series has the main character shopping for a cell-phone. 😉

            1. One of the most unbelievable parts of the 50 Shades books is she starts out as a college undergrad working for the school paper but has no email address.

            2. At least one movie script I’m working on depended on explicitly establishing in the first 90 seconds that the hero has lost his smartphone without realizing it while running for a bus, so when it turns out to be the wrong bus that leaves him stranded in the worst part of a strange city he has no convenient options to get out quickly.

              Conversely, though, the very same change meant that another critical assumption I needed — that there were no working public pay phones for him to use — became a lot more plausible. So it’s more a question of using the changing challenges to your benefit than getting balked by them.

              1. Haven’t most public payphones been removed due to mobile phones being more common or similar?

              2. Even in the days of cellphones… sometimes other people will walk up to you and ask to use your phone. Most of the time it is thieves.. but there might be a chance that one of them has a real problem.

                1. Of course, in the case of borrowing someone else’s cell phone, there’s the question of how many people remember anyone’s phone numbers. If you desperately need to call Bob, you may be able to get a phone…but can you call him if it involves punching in numbers rather than just scrolling down a contact list?

                  1. I am sure the person trying to borrow my cellphone had her drug dealer’s number firmly in her mind. Probably the only number she knew 🙂

                    1. Wasn’t my dad, but he doesn’t carry a cell. Dad knows the important numbers, like home and AAA and 911. If he’s got those three, or even just the last two, he’ll probably be okay.

                      Though I wish he’d carry a cell.

                  2. Exactly. I can’t call my sister, who lives nearby, without my phone because I haven’t memorized her newest number (and she has to be texted anyway since she could be in the OR at any time and unable to receive calls).

            3. That’s funny. I gave mine lippy AI cellphones. They complain and tell their owners off. ~:D

              1. John Stith apparently has stopped writing, but some of his stuff was really good. I don’t remember the name of the protagonist of “Memory Blank”, but I remember the name of his PDA/smartphone/lifelogger, which was Vincent.

                (the story was written in the first person, so to be honest, I saw Vincent’s name a lot more often than the main character’s…)

              2. One of my favorite little bits of Ringo’s Aldenata series are the almost-AI devices tagged as “Buckleys”. Even when they get a little hyper (just before going catatonic) they’re snarky little paranoiacs.

                Wouldn’t want to have one in real life, I suspect.

              3. Nice. I hope you have a convo with the GPS-voice getting increasingly frustrated with the users who refuse to “Make the NEXT legal U-turn” when we want it to reset to a different route without going through the hassle of coding it to take (to the GPS software’s idea) optimum route.

                “%$$##@@@ if you aren’t going to take my advice, I’m going to route you into the nearest lake!”

              4. I aspire to someday write a story that includes an atheist programmer who created an AI…and the AI becomes convinced that Mormonism (or perhaps some theism in general) is true. And then have the two argue over the two things throughout the book.

                I am convinced that the best AIs will be ones that can see patterns in seemingly random information — which I suspect is how human intelligence works — and thus will be susceptible to the same kinds of things that humans are susceptible to, including things like religion….

                Besides not yet having time to write, I’m not entirely sure what kind of story that would fit into. To further complicate things, I’m currently interested in writing “Boxcar Children” level science fiction, and such a character interaction probably wouldn’t fit well in such a book. (Having said that, I have a vision for a children’s book set in the skies of Venus, involving pirates. I already have a grisly death planned for Pirate Joe Buckley, although I will certainly not describe what he’s going to go through, beyond something like “and the protagonists watched as Pirate Joe plummeted into the clouds”….)

                1. Conceivably a child in such a future would have no formal schooling, relying instead on an AI tutor as did Alexander with Aristotle. Thus the AI would be a constant companion and challenging the youth in a variety of ways.

                  Now as I contemplate it, elimination of schools in favor of AI tutors might be a very practical extension of current trends. We might even find that the tutorial programs purchased by elite families might not be optimum, tending to being geared to maintaining the child in a static social environment rather than equipping the kid to navigate multiple layers of experience.

                  Were I to indulge the debauchery of fiction writing I might pursue that; instead I toss it in the laps of those who do enjoy such decadent self-amusements.

                  1. Added to the list. Thanks. As well this is a concept that could probably be written many different ways. *wanders off mumbling to himself again*

                  2. I can vouch that it works really, really well for drilling in the basics. School Zone’s got a great selection of drilling games.

                2. You can save some time on the writing by looking into the arguments around “Natural Law”– I think Catholic.com or EWTN is doing a miniseries on it, can’t remember.

                  But it’s a good gateway drug to theology, especially if the AI displays Natural Law.

            4. I didn’t have a cell phone until about six years ago, and half the time I still forget to take it with me when I go out of the house. So a story character *could* be sans cell phone, but it would probably be more likely if she or he was someone older who hadn’t grown up with them.

              1. Eh, I don’t consider myself older (under forty) but while I have had a cell phone for a long time, no land lines available where I live, I have friends that are my age and have either never gotten a cell phone or gotten their first one within the last year or so. And while I have owned a cell phone for at least fifteen years, it is only in the last couple of months that I have taken to packing it with me instead of it residing either on the coffee table or in the cubbyhole in the dash of my truck.

                1. In fact at the moment I am looking for it… so feel free to call me so I can hear it ring and figure out where I set it down last night 😛

                2. I should have carried mine more consistently for a long time in case of having to make emergency calls. (I had it when the muffler broke on the highway, but — chance and blessing, not habit.) I find I am more likely to now that it has internet.

                3. I started carrying a cellphone when my hubby realized that I have this tendency to wander when the meds are high. 🙂 I’ve carried one ever since.

                  1. It is hard in town anymore to lose the signal. This is still a problem in the country, especially in the hills. There is no service in the Mt. Rose ski area parking lot but excellent at the top. The lifts get tricky. You can’t swipe with gloves on. I heard screaming from a chair once. I thought someone might be hurt. A cell phone dropped from a chair on a powder day. It might turn up in spring.

                    1. I have a perfectly good iphone in the glovebox of my pickup. I found it when the snow melted off of it. Charged it up on a friends charger (I don’t own an iphone) and it charges up fine and holds a charge for a very long time. Unfortunately whoever owned it locked it with a password, so I can’t get into it to find out whose it is.

                      If I ever remembered when I went to town I would drop it off at the verizon store, since it says verizon on the back, I assume they could possibly access whose it was.

                    2. I still spend a lot of time where cell phones have no service, and I really disliked when they discontinued the analog bag phones. It has only been in the last couple years that the digital networks have surpassed the coverage that I used to get with my old bag phone. But the coverage is getting better every year… which is a mixed blessing at times. 😉

              2. I’ve had mine 10 years and still tend to leave it or let the battery die. It may be at least partially a personality thing. Lately my phone just refuses to send out a call or text at random times, but you’d have to mention something about that before hand so that it didn’t seem *too* convenient for story purposes.

                1. My husband’s phone lately has not been receiving texts, sometimes for a few hours, and then getting them all at once.
                  I’ve taken to sending him two texts at a time top increase the likelihood of them both going through.

          2. According to Roddenberry the Transporter was created because the initial budget simply didn’t allow for the props and special effects needed for the shuttlecraft. Later the shuttlecraft showed up, but budget limited their use to occasional episodes.

            Now, of course, they’d just do it all in CGI.

            Trivially cheap computing power has had many unforseen results.

            1. Like I said, I know that, but I still think it would be a better solution to just have the landing party leave the bridge for the shuttlecraft bay, then cut to them on the planet without ever showing the shuttle. I think the audience would be willing to accept the “nothing of interest happened on the ride down” excuse for why they never saw the shuttles.

              1. I think the audience would be willing to accept …

                One risk networks rarely took in those days was overestimating the intelligence of their audiences.

            2. I’ve also heard it was supposed to be far more limited. They thought about launching an RC minishuttle with a receiver platform (no SFX needed most of the time, Sulu just says “transport receiver is down, Captain” or something). Only they didn’t have the money for *that* prop, either.

            3. Now, of course, they’d just do it all in CGI.

              And here is another point where we are living in the future. It was only 1977 when Lucasfilm leveraged computerized motion control cameras and optical printers to kick off the special effects revolution. Now with CGI, it’s ‘what camera’? A lot fewer model makers (they actually still exist, but the stuff they build gets 3D-scanned in for use in CGI). And that long time staple of Hollywood, the Matte Painters, are a dying breed too, given all they need is the green screen and a CGI house to generate any cool background they want.

              If you would have time-travelled back to the 1970s to Dykstra’s or Trumbull’s production shops and told them what was going to happen in 40 years, you wold not have been believed – of course little things would change, but you’d always do stuff in camera. And we’re just starting to see the mainstream realization of virtual actors.

              And none of that touches on the vast and ongoing changes to the distribution end of that industry.

              I’m personally expecting the movie biz to be completely unrecognizable in my lifetime – basically as unrecognizable as today’s book biz would be to a small bookseller owner from 25-30 years ago.

              That’s what the future looks like- if you squint you might be able to see the bones of hat was there before, but if you don;t live through the incremental changes, you would never recognize it based on what was there in the past.

              1. If you watch Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, it starts off with a starship bridge scene.

                The actors were live… but they all performed in front of blue screens at different times. I think the chairs were real. The rest was all CGI, rendered on some used PCs under Samuli Torssonnen’s kitchen table.

                That’s DIY/fan CGI, circa 2005!

                1. Keep in mind that a good portion of the initial CGI for Babylon 5 was rendered in four Amiga 2000s networked by a hole drilled in the wall between Ron Thornton and Paul Bryant’s apartments.

              2. Heh. Try to explain Bonestelling to some kid, or the influence of Willis O’Brien. Remember all the raving about the FX in Terminator 2, and how quickly political advertising adopted morphing for attack ads?

                Me, I still gaze in wonder at the work of Georges Méliès.

              3. I beg to differ.

                Having met both Dykstra and Trumbull, they didn’t anticipate it working quite this way but they did anticipate it. I’ve watched them give talks to this effect.

                1. Francis Ford Coppola was raving about the creative possibilities of digital effects back in 1980.

          3. The occasionally really-good (and frequently really-awful) Enterprise had an episode or two on the issues with the transporter. I rather liked the episodes where the treknology was still under development.

        2. They do actually explain that pretty well….

          As I observed to my husband, watching “Realm of Fear”– I want to think I’d be McCoy or O’Brien. I’d probably be Barclay.

      2. You can, but at some point they really start to sound like excuses. In an earlier era, the communication issues arose organically out of the situation: if Alice is out chasing down clues about the mysterious shop owner, of course calling her office or her home isn’t going to be able to reach her. In this era, if you do it too much, you run the risk of your reader saying, “So Alice, whose supposed to be super obsessive about the small details, repeatedly forgets to charge her phone, and Bob, whose working in a major metropolitan area, can’t get cell service to save his life despite the fact that he’s in one of those places colored dark red on everybody’s service map? Yeah, right.”

        1. I have occasionally seen modern stories that handle cellphones very well. While they don’t have the almost universal “Character A knows the killer but can’t tell Character B” tension they replace it with things like “Character A’s cellphone text alert goes off when she’s trying to hide”.

          The movie The Departed handled cellphone ubiquity very well if I recall.

          1. Also, there are many many places in cities where cell phone reception is unreliable at best…. like in the lower floors of the Dragoncon hotels.

    2. It’s one reason why I don’t think older stories should be “updated” to set them in the modern world. Many of those stories rely on the lack of communication to further the drama, and things get stupid if you have to invent excuse after excuse of why the characters don’t just use their cell phones.

      In particular, there was one story I read as a child where the plot of the second half of the book was all about the heroine trying to contact her best friend. If she could make one phone call, send one email, put one post up on Facebook, the story would be over. Logically, it seems to me that the best way to appreciate this story is to say, “It was the seventies. There was no such thing as email or Facebook, and the only phone around her is a landline in a locked office.” Instead, “updating” consists of saying, “Well, of course she has a cell phone and an email account and a Facebook page. Here’s a bunch of excuses why she can’t use any of those.”

      1. Count me among the “No Update Needed” crowd. I view such stories as arhival and “some translation required.” There is a value to being reminded of how things used to be and besides, where do you draw the liines? When Nero Wolfe solves a case in the early (nineteen) Thirties does it matter that his $10,000 payment represents two years salary for the average worker rather than the two or three weeks it would be today? Does the updater have to deal with Archie Goodwin paying two-bits for a lunch counter ham sandwich and cuppa, with a nickel tip?

        Leave it as it is, say I. Jules Verne and WG still carry that sense of wonder and if readers can’t grasp that “that’s how things were when this story was written” maybe they should stick to bad Regencies.

        Besides, updating the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew in the Nineties would have them signing on to the AOL or Compuserve accounts at 28.8 KBS …

        1. There is a value to being reminded of how things used to be and besides, where do you draw the liines?

          Well, my buddy the logic professor used to use Simulacron-3 in his Philosophy in Literature class. Story about a simulated universe with simulated people, used for market research. There’s a bit in there that mentions the technology involved in the simulation and it uses the phrase “personality grid”. Made me chuckle.

          These days, folks wouldn’t even know what a grid is (modulates the current flowing through a vacuum tube), so they wouldn’t have any idea what it was even saying.

          Now, of course, my buddy the logic professor could just use the movie The 13th Floor instead of the novel…

          1. S3 was written in 1964. I don’t know if it was the first SF description of what we call “virtual reality” now, but it has to be one of the earliest… and Galouye obviously had read up on computers and how they worked, rather than just making it all up from scratch.

            Sure, the technical parts might as well be clockwork and steam compared to 2017, but he got all the basics right, extrapolated something new, and wrote a pretty good story about it.

            [raises a console window]

            [TRX] ~/
            [TRX] ~/

            see also: John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider” and Fred Hoyle’s “A for Andromeda.”

            1. It’s interesting to read contemporary works from the era of my teens that talk about computers.

              Like the one with the heroine pushing for a computer lab at the school on the grounds that it will be a basic skill in the future.

        2. Count me in as well. I’ve noticed that I really don’t like reboots of old series to update the tech, etc. Even when I’m trying hard to enjoy them, they just don’t share headspace with the classic version. (The one exception is Batman, but I have this weird feeling that every generation has a new Batman, so somehow the Obsidian Age Batman of Year One coexists in my head with the Silver Age Batman I read as a child in the comic books at the barber shop while waiting for my dad to get his hair cut and the Golden Age Batman of the vintage reprint series).

          In many ways, I’d often prefer that the would-be reboot writers would instead use the old stuff to inspire new stuff, like the way SM Stirling used alternate history to create a world where the swampy Venus and ancient, wise Mars of the pulps were real. I’m doing something similar, but porting the swampy, cloud-shrouded Venus of Carson Napier, Northwest Smith, et al into a fantasy universe with the magics of ancient lost civilizations, subsequently settled by humans fleeing various disasters via magical worldgates. We’ll see if it works or it falls flat on its face.

          1. But of course every age has their Batman! Why, it’s even cannon– although he’s not always into bats, sometimes it’s foxes, or other things.

            (Batman geekery: when my dad was a kid, in the 50s, it was a matter of course that Everyone Knew he was Zorro’s descendant. For those without a little bit of very bad Spanish, Zorro is The Fox. Yes, it probably did trigger my obsession with foxes….)

            1. I went through a Zorro phase in college. I’ve often wondered what the InterLibrary Loans people thought/think of me . . . Decent little adventure novels, much more fun than The Scarlett Pimpernel.

            2. Did you see the cartoon with the Batman through the ages story? There was a pirate Batman and a caveman Batman.

                  1. Family Feud is still alive and kicking, with Steve Harvey at the helm. You can check online to see if there is a station which carries it in your area.

        3. Third route: it does need to be updated… with footnotes.

          No, no, this has nothing to do with my having zero grasp of French and not having the same background for allusions when reading the Lord Peter mysteries….


        4. Leave it as it is, say I. Jules Verne and WG still carry that sense of wonder

          There’s a scene in The War of the Worlds in which the characters are hiding out by the river bank as an armored vehicle of the Invading Aliens* From Outer Space was (gasp) gliding silently above the waterway. The invaders had discovered the secret of FLIGHT!

          It worked.

          *This was from before the WordsAReMagic people took “Alien” away. Sigh.

      2. I know I’ve run into some books that have HEAD-BANGINGLY ANNOYING intros that explain that, gosh, in the time the books are set people didn’t have cellphones.

        Why, thank you for that update! I thought people dressed in 70s styles, and sushi was an obscure dish, in 2015! The laptop being a thing that had to be explained didn’t clue me in at all!

    3. How many stories that we’ve read would have to be rewritten to allow for the ease of contacting people away from home/office?

      When she did the intros for the omnibuses of her vampire and PI team novels Tanya Huff makes that exact point. Several had the plot hinge on problems that would be trivially solved by Vicky (the PI) having a cell phone.

    4. The amusing part being that the pocket computers people had in “The Mote in God’s Eye” ARE smart phones…described in 1973. Niven and Pournelle hit that one out of the park.

        1. Including how annoying it was for Mom to call you at the induction center to make sure you packed your woolies.

    5. One of those “books need to make sense” things… when I drain my phone listening to the radio, plug it in, and miss TWO phone calls and a text from my husband, it’s not that odd– but if it happened in a story, there would have to be something besides “crud happens.”

      1. Have the character miss a phone call because she drained her phone reading an especially captivating book (or binge watching a TV show) and couldn’t plug it in because she was using her only USB charger to recharge her cigarette. A scenario that would be incomprehensible to me in my youth.

        1. I’ve run batteries down on planes plenty of times. Newer planes have USB outlets but they are often only good enough to slow down the battery drain.

            1. Wow! At only $35 I gotta get one. After the long flight home from Algeria. I doubt Amazon delivers here.

              1. I have two of their products, longer and slimmer with only two usb charging ports, one at 13,000 mWh’s and the other at 16,000 great for charging phones, kindles, tablets, and e-cigs. 🙂
                When I started looking at battery packs Anker was highly recommended by several people in the AR community. Great customer service and great for travelling and stuff. Note, it takes about a night to fully recharge the battery pack.

              2. Look for the ones that are for jumping your car– about the same price, and about the size of a Galaxy phone. I put a rubber band around my phone and the charger, turn on pokemon and set my kids to it. Turns a two hour window into an all-day option.

      2. I’ve had a number of occasions where I’ll suddenly realize that my phone (a flip phone, yet) is out of charge and probably has been for a few days, because I use it as a phone. Or I’ll leave it on the charger and forget about it.

        I’m not fond of the phone.

    6. Creates opportunities for stories complications, too. Like when characters who have never *not* had cell phones are suddenly on the lam, and have to navigate unfamiliar cities without turn-by-turn navigation. Or your superhero transformation sequence has 18mil hits on YouTube because a rescue victim just happened to catch it. 🙂

      1. In the Wearing The Cape series, there’s plenty of comments about the problems of “secret identities” in a world with cell phone/smart phone cameras. 😉

        Of course, there is also the time that two female “capes” were changing out of civilian dress into their uniforms inside a good-sized car.

        Pictures were taken of them adjusting their uniforms when they got out of the car.

        All the tabloids were talking about them being lovers. 😈 😈 😈 😈

        1. Consider the problems of “secret identities” in a world with cell phone/smart phone cameras … and facial recognition software. Those glasses aren’t going to help much, Clark, better try super-hypnosis!

          1. Chuckle Chuckle

            Clark’s problem is mentioned in the series but one of the characters, a magic user, also created glasses that allowed a Beast-Like hero to pass unnoticed as a regular human.

            The magic user called them “anonymous glasses”. 😉

        2. In one of the Christopher Reeve movies, Supes changes in a photo booth. A kid had just paid for his pictures; four or five flashes. Supes comes out and tears off the ones of Clark.

    7. I remember Elizabeth Peters saying that her Vicky Bliss mysteries were always written in “the current now” so a book written in 1990 or 2005 would have very different technology.

    8. There’s been at least one recorded case where an explosive vest wearer suffered premature explosion because the service provider called to ask if he was happy with the service…

      And I believe I’ve read about crooks butt dialing 911 and the police responding to what they hear.

    9. Rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series was interesting. The first season (92?) the gang had to find a pay phone to contact Giles and the second season they had cellphones. *I* didn’t get a cellphone for another 15 years so it was helpful to be able to pinpoint the change.

    10. “I think the cell phone/smart phone is one of the most interesting “changes” from when I was young.”

      Just a few weeks ago, I was in the car with my daughter when we needed a quick pit-stop for gas in a strange city. I tossed her my portable super-computer and had her use the satellite uplink to a world-wide information net to find me a gas station en-route from Nana’s house to our hotel. And that doesn’t count the home movies we recorded on it, the last-minute tickets we bought to a behind-the-scenes tour (where a nice young 20-something bolstered my sagging faith in humanity by joining in a rousing chorus of “Private Property is good for the Environment!” once she realized we were part of the Sekrit Society of WrongThinkers(TM) with it, or out ability to chat with people 800 miles away.

      As I told the yard-ape yesterday, “Sweetie, THIS is my flying car.”

      1. When I was a kid, I *really* wanted a Cray XMP computer. When I thought about this desire and looked up the specs of that computer, I discovered that I probably owned my first XMP perhaps in my first year of college (it was a 386, I believe, and even then, it wasn’t state of the art…) and I even carry one in my pocket now….

        1. In an interview, one of the CGI crew for The Last Starfighter later bragged “We bought a Cray YMP Supercomputer to its KNEES…”

          (Ran into him at SIGGRAPH 7 years or so ago and he was like “yup i said it, and we did”)

  4. I have been saying it for years and I will continue to say it, nay SHOUT IT, ” GOD BLESS THE MODERN ERA!!!!!”
    I am in a unique situation. How unique? Well I have started calling myself a freaking unicorn. If it wasn’t for the way things are these days I wouldn’t have been able to attempt my current lifestyle. I have access to information resources that at times I have needed IMMEDIATELY, quick web search, perhaps a quick phone call, and panic session quickly diverted or postponed. I can carry on an hour to two hour conversation with the girlfriend without sweating about the long distance, or even local minutes, on my cell phone. I need something “yesterday” (right more like tomorrow) and can’t make the long run to the local Wally World, I can have it delivered to my door step for a small nominal fee ($2 on top of the price of the item itself which is a savings of $4 for the round trip transit fare).

    I can grab fresh fruit any day of the week. Food is “cheap”, plentiful, and a wide variety of choice. I have lived through many changes in may comparatively short life (compared to my parents/grandparents), and I expect more changes to come. Sure we don’t have colonies on the moon or flying cars. We might one day have both, perhaps even in our lifetimes now (hello autonomous driving cars take to the skies please.)

    As to these freaks and weirdos worrying about all the damage we are doing to the world? Please, they don’t have a clue what they are talking about. Ever since the days of Malthus they have been bleating the same old tirade. I figure a lot of us are getting tired of it.

    1. Oh, yes. The rivers downstream of any good-sized Medieval concentration of population were frequently just as deadly to wildlife (not to mention humans) as a major chemical spill is today. And nobody ever worried about stopping it, much less cleaning it up – it was just “part of life.”

      1. Per the little old lady who had living memory of it, roving tribal life was just as bad– hunt until there was nothing to find, poop until you couldn’t walk around the camp without being bothered by it, burn every bit of anything you could find to heat your shelter, dump anything you didn’t use the same place as your poop, and when it was so bad you couldn’t stand it move to the next camp, and in two or three years it had recovered (from a human comfort perspective) and you could camp there again.

        The REAL good reason for “conservation” is because other people have to live where your stuff runs off.– same way you’re living in someone elses’ offal stream.
        So gotta take care of it.

          1. Oh, it is good. The question is, good for WHAT?!

            I think it was one of the Dresden Files books that pointed out that the whole “Summer Court” being great for growth and reproduction meant…plagues grow really fast and well.

  5. I do want my moon colonies, too. Although unless they come with Star Trek transporters, I’m going to be green with envy – the body is no longer up to high-G maneuvers (probably never was, actually – a heart valve issue that is no problem under normal circumstances, but most likely wouldn’t take the additional stress all that well).

    I used to want my flying cars, too. Up until I read Stranger In a Strange Land, that is. What happens to Ben Caxton at the beginning of the book is all too plausible – and there are disturbing movements to make it possible even with our current ground-bound technology. Advances do open up new frontiers of freedom – but also new frontiers for tyranny.

    1. I’ve become a curmudgeon about flying cars. I want mine, but I’m willing to forgo it in order to keep that kid that ran the red light and totaled my car from getting his.

      1. Heard that.
        I don’t want a flying car. On reflection, I want a flying truck. Something the candy-ass flying cars are too afraid to cut off. ~:D

            1. Dear, you’re thinking Hammer’s Slammers, and while the tanks were air cushion they were too heavy to fly, and flying anything was pretty much a synonym for “target”.

        1. Do you really want to have to deal with the FAA? I think that helicopters are flying Jeeps.

          I think that Aussies are very thankful for ‘copters and ‘planes that enable the flying doctor program. Video conferencing enables a suspect in the outback to see a magistrate without making a very long journey by road.

          If you get a chance to see it Emergency Down Under is a neat show.

        2. One advantage of driving a 53 year old car. Not a show piece just a cheapskate’s daily driver. Most drivers actively avoid cars like mine. Besides, it might actually start after an EMP.

          1. I was thinking about EMP and the current saber-rattling from a certain hermit kingdom. I know my old Mustang was computer (and a/c) free, but I’m not sure about my ’76 Monte Carlo.

          2. The Rule of Three* is a pretty good “what comes after” an EMP destroys the grid. Though I haven’t read the sequels as the author completely skates over the “why it happened” and quite a bit of the “how” and I’m afraid the equivalent of a full bore dead fish slap (ala Neil Gaiman) will turn the story stupid. You know, it’s all George W. Bush’s fault and the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil corporations, because Capitalism.

            *Your public library will probably have it, but here’s the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EMTDL4M/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

            1. Grandma bought this 1964 Chevelle Malibu when I was eleven. My daughter enjoys driving her Great-grandmother’s car.

    2. technology is a tool. Whether for good or ill depends on the person using it. I’m quite tired of show where business and businessmen are automatically evil. A lot of the people holding these views couldn’t run a store, make a payroll or make a profit if they tried.

      Shopping can be a fun and/or useful activity. These Marxist Kool-Aid drinkers make me tired.

  6. Spider Robinson wrote a story called “The Time-Traveler”. It caused Ben Bova a few Analog subscribers, because there was no time traveling in it.

    Or was there?

    The protagonist was a minister and missionary who (along with his wife) was captured in a South American revolution and thrown into jail. They were kept there through a succession of regimes, virtually forgotten and with no link to the outside world. His wife died, and his faith died with her.

    And then a new regime, trying to curry favor with the U.S. government, released him. After more than ten years. The decade of the 60s.

    He contended that he WAS a time traveler. He disappeared from the timeline in the era of Eisenhower, and he returned in the era of Nixon. The culture AND the technology had changed so much that he recognized nothing. For those who lived through them, the changes were so gradual as to be invisible. For him, they were unimaginable.

    Technological change has only accelerated since then. Cultural change, not so fast (culture tends to be a set of pendula, sweeping back and forth at different rates), but still impossible to ignore.

    Damn right we’re living in the future. Only most people can’t see it.

    1. Oh yes. I like that one, because it’s so very true. I have a fairly good memory—better than a lot of folk—and one of the things I retain is a sense of what it was like ten or twenty years back. “I remember when this wasn’t possible” kind of things.

      People complaining about how intolerant this modern era is (while enforcing their concept of “tolerant”) have forgotten what it was like when they were kids. Or maybe they’re expecting it to be the same in face of evidence that it is not.

      1. If I wanted to see something in color, and from more than five feet away – I had to go to the movie theater. Talk about changes! I lived my childhood years in a small town, around 15K people if you counted the entire area – and there were two theaters in town, plus a drive-in in between. Except for the drive-in, those are gone now (and the drive-in may be, I haven’t been to the home town in quite a while).

      2. It was just yesterday I commented to Beloved Spouse that it hardly seems possible the Y2K “crisis” was almost twenty years ago.

        Allowing your news to “mature” a year or two provides considerable perspective on the importance of events.

        1. Y2k was a real hazard, and it may be the only time that trial lawyers ever saved the world. Corporate lawyers everywhere told CEOs that the problem was known, there was time to fix it, the consequences of not fixing it were dire and easily predictable. They could also point to trial lawyers who had put together entire packages on how to sue for Y2k damages and were selling the packages to other trial lawyers. They managed to put the Fear of God into CEOs and board members. MCI (to take one example I was personally involved with) had teams at all levels and in every product line who were tasked with identifying every piece of hardware and software used, both in the products and in supporting them. We then identified the vendors, the running version and pretty much every other detail. This information was them filtered up to project managers who worked with the vendors to determine if it was Y2k certified. If it couldn’t be certified as compliant it had to be upgraded or replaced.

          By the time Y2k rollover actually arrived I was at another ISP, and we had a bridge open with all of the other Tier I ISPs around the world. Each hour consisted of 10 minutes of your stomach in knots in case someone in the new time zone had missed something, 5 minutes of frantically checking for oddities, 15 minutes of double checking, then half an hour for snacking, making a pit stop, shooting the breeze, and looking to see what ISPs and/or PTTs were in the next time zone and where you peered with them in case you had to isolate them to protect yourself.(The bridge was taken down after about 36 hours because by that time some part of every network was interacting with other networks and nothing had happened, so it wasn’t kept up for the full 48 hours.)

          Y2k was part of the reason that the tech bubble burst in steps. The Dot Com bubble was already gone, but many equipment vendors were going great guns selling new gear to people who needed to be sure they were ready for Y2k. Manufacturing started laying off late in the 3rd quarter of 99 because everybody had the new stuff in place. Christmas Layoffs of support staff waited until the middle of January after it was clear that the new stuff was running fine. Sales of comms gear didn’t recover for years because everyone had thrown out their upgrade cycle in order to get ready for Y2k. (The last part of the tech crash came when Worldcom collapsed and everyone learned that the business wasn’t there to be stolen from Worldcom; Bernie Ebbers had made most of it up.)

          1. At Previous Semiconductor Company, we had chip shipments that had been expedited by the purchaser the day before refused at receiving docks because cancellations had cascaded overnight.

          2. And yet there were problems.

            Minor ones, I grant you. I hung out at a blog where the year was 19100.

            1. Of course, Microsoft managed the biggest residual screwup. One way of converting 2 digit to 4 digit years was to pick a “pivot year”; any two digit year less than the value of the pivot year was assumed to be 20YY, anything greater 19YY.

              Miccrosoft Office family had 4 or 5 different products that might have to handle 2-digit years; they picked a different pivot year for each of them. 😎
              Yes, that means the same data file imported into say Access and Excel might end up with 1917 in Access (pivot year 15) and 2017 in Excel.

        2. Y2K made COBOL programmer friends of mine wealthy as they consulted their way towards early retirement. Many have no idea how many very simple programming fixes were implemented in the years leading up to the advent of the 20xx, and how much money was paid to urgently hire the people with the arcane knowledge required to make a fix in all those ancient COBOL accounting and inventory management packages.

          1. a lot of which are still y technically in use, just look at the POS systems at Fry’s and Guitar Center.

              1. the POS systems art both are now nice modern ish PCs with a terminal window open, replacing their dumb terminals

              1. I’m pretty sure they mean electronics, but DANG if the last month hasn’t been odd, with ads for “Fry’s” that involve edibles.

              2. Fry’s started out as a grocery store, then one location did a weird morph into a really wild electronics store that also had food, such that you could buy memory chips (actual loose memory chips, in one of those tube carrier thingees) and Cheetos at the same place. The original store was a mind bending experience.

                As it grew, Fry’s Electronics turned into the massive electronic warehouse it is today, just with legendarily bad systems. Their returns were all done only on hardcopy well after the rest of their point-of-sale system was computerized, just it keep it painful. That finally changed, and these days it’s more run of the mill, though they still have aisles of electronic components and test equipment a couple rows over from the microwave ovens and TVs.

                1. There are Fry’s grocery stores all over Arizona; there’s one Fry’s Electronics nestled in Phoenix near the I-10 and US-60 interchange.

      3. Or maybe they’re expecting it to be the same in face of evidence that it is not.

        I am so, so tired of being punished, at 30, for what people in their 70s think is normal based on a rather cynical view of the ‘main stream enemy’ in the 60s.

      4. Recall how Dan Rather was caught using fraudulent documents. Apparently whoever wrote them up wasn’t aware that printed out word processer documents and typewritten documents are two very different creatures. And when the switchover from one to the other took place. They look similar, but to an observant eye, they are very, very different. And the internet has a lot of observant observers, and they caught it. Within 24 hours. In a very very short period of time, typewriters became obsolete. And printers became so cheap and plentiful so quickly that there needs be only a year or two difference in age between someone who has actually used a typewriter and someone who knows it as a museum piece.

        1. Recall how most folks knew squat about fonts and thought Sans Serif was a comic book villain

          (If they thought about Sand Saref at all.)

        2. I’ve always wondered if the creator of the fake documents knew that they would not pass muster but wondered if Rather’s people would be fooled.

          As it happened Rather’s people didn’t bother to really check them out.

          1. There are few true artists in the fraudulent documents racket. Most really don’t care how good their fake paper is – so long as the money they are paid is real. (The vast majority of “public artists” are the same.)

        3. I have friends who are citing Dan Rather approvingly, and I keep biting my tongue on how he torpedoed his trustworthiness over that incident.

          1. Friedrich Schiller:
            Folly, thou conquerest, and I must yield!
            Against stupidity the very gods
            Themselves contend in vain. Exalted reason,
            Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
            Wise foundress of the system of the world,
            Guide of the stars, who art thou then if thou,
            Bound to the tail of folly’s uncurbed steed,
            Must, vainly shrieking with the drunken crowd,
            Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.
            Accursed, who striveth after noble ends,
            And with deliberate wisdom forms his plans!
            To the fool-king belongs the world.

          2. Funny how serendipity operates:

            Dan Rather, Fake Newsman
            s they say in Texas: all hat, no cattle.
            By Kyle Smith — April 28, 2017

            It’s fitting that Dan Rather is best known for bringing to the world a piece of fake news about George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service in Texas, because that’s where he began his career in shoddy journalism. The bungling goes all the way back to 1963 Dallas. His presence there on the day President Kennedy was assassinated helped create the legend of Dan, but he actually blew the story that made his name.

            Rather had heard from a priest that the president was dead, but knew that wasn’t a strong enough source to back up such a huge story, so he didn’t pass along the tip to his superiors while he tried to shore up the rumor. According to Alan Weisman’s biography Lone Star: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Dan Rather, Rather became confused about who he was talking to on the phone. Thinking he was speaking to a fellow reporter on the ground, Eddie Barker, who was elsewhere in Dallas, he was actually on the line with the CBS News control room in New York: “Did you say, ‘dead’? Are you sure, Dan?” said the voice in New York. “Right, dead,” Rather said, still thinking he was talking to Barker. So, to Rather’s horror, CBS radio blasted the news out to the world. “Rather said he began shouting into the phone that he had not authorized any such bulletin,” Weisman wrote. “Accurately or not, Rather was credited with being the first to report the death of the president.”

            Dan Rather was never much of a journalist. What he excelled at was playing one on TV. His latest performance has the hacks thrilled:

            1. I heard a version of that story where Rather *knew* what he was doing.

              IE He knew it wasn’t confirmed but called it in as “confirmed”.

              Either way, it doesn’t say much good about him.

            2. Irony or hubris, take your pick. A newsman fired for reporting fake news (and standing behind it even years later), now trying to be the spokesperson against “fake news”.

              1. It was just a couple of days ago that I realized that hypocrisy is a type of irony….

    2. People often laugh at Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” now… but when he wrote it, there were people walking around who were born in the 1800s, remembered reading about the Wright Brothers in the newspaper, and had watched Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon. They’d lived their whole lives with the button jammed to Fast Forward.

      That’s not even counting the people in countries that got yanked from the middle ages into the 20th century over a decade or two, or who were born in countries that no longer existed, or…

      1. Everyone assumed we’d keep going at the pace we were moving at, and in the same direction. I’ve been reading as much classic sci-fi as I can get my hands on lately just for the perspective.

        I just finished Heinlein’s ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’, written in 1966, set in 2075. Computer that becomes sentient – doable 50 years from now. Communicates by landline – nope. Reads by microfiche or physically turning book pages – nope. Colonies on the Moon – well underway by 2017 in the book.

        It’s always a strange mixture of stuff that’s feasible or already done and complete anachronisms. Of course we’d have these things that we have no hope of reaching even now. But of course we’d still be using paper and landlines. For the 50’s sci-fi everything was nuclear right down to your toaster. No Mr. Fusion, yet. Then I re-read something like Footfall and it doesn’t seem like it’s 30 years old at all.

        Now I’m working on Stapledon’s Last and First Men, published 1930, where the Germans have become pacifists after WW1. He had no concept of what was right in front of him, even though Mussolini had been in power 8 years already. Hitler was five years from taking power as he finished the book. But his fictional Germany was adopting pacifism. Right.

        1. I’ll defend the communication via landlines on Mike (but not the page turning reader). Wired connections give security and reliability broadcast ones do not.

          Of course “wired” covers a multitude of sins such as fiber optics but I see value for physical connections, even if their nature changes, well into the future.

          1. I don’t have a cell phone, so not all that big on wireless myself. The bits where they’re right outside but can’t be reached by phone stand out, though.

            Some of the old stuff I get a ‘why didn’t we make it there?’ feeling. Some of it stays current enough that the anachronisms jolt me. Some of them I don’t even notice. Oddly, the completely fantastical where they don’t try to explain how anything works last, the hard sci-fi lasts, but the ‘semi-rigid’ (?) doesn’t.

        2. My headcanon for THMIAHM is that the Wet Firecracker war involved plenty of EMP. Most consumer electronics got fried, plus the infrastructure. Thus, the tech reverts to big, smart, well protected computers and landlines.

          1. Big, smart computers that have to be programmed on site and manually, like my old C-64 in middle school. Back to the semi-rigid sci-fi not carrying… Someone mentioned that Space Cadet in ’48 had what amounted to a cell phone. Completely fantastical, for then. But most authors trying to project near future tech (~50 yrs.) are going to miss completely. If they could peg near events they’d be too rich to write novels.

            1. Big, smart computers that have to be programmed on site and manually

              Given various network issue perhaps isolating systems and requiring physical access for certain levels of computer access will come back in fashion.

            2. Sometimes they do peg them – and don’t get rich because it’s just a fanciful notion, not worth tracking down an engineer and a patent lawyer for… Waterbeds, waldos. (Not that RAH died poor.)

        3. Computer that becomes sentient – doable 50 years from now.

          Hate to be the voice of dream-squelching, but nope. I won’t get into all the details, but basically, “true” AI (that is, truly sapient) is so much harder than most people realize that it’s actually impossible. Not just with current computer technology, but with any possible computer technology that operates within the confines of real-world physics. AI can do language recognition and analysis to the point where Siri sounds like it understands your question and is answering it, but it’s really “just” doing keyword searches. The gulf between “Computer, call my doctor’s office and schedule an appointment for next week” and Mycroft is not just a five-meter chasm that you could jump over with a good run-up. It’s a chasm larger than Valles Marineris, and there is NO possible way to get to the other side. Not with electrons and silicon, not with quantum computers, not even if we invent computers that encode data using the spin of quarks to represent 1s and 0s. Sapience is on a completely different level — a qualitative, not just quantitative, difference from what we can make computers do. So while truly-sapient AI is a fun concept to play with in science fiction, I’m afraid it just can’t happen in real life.

          1. The entire point of quantum computers and alternate memory encoding systems is that they can do things like process things as more than 0 and 1, there is a whole range of maybes in between. (Technically, some quantum CPUs can reproduce the results as if they were processing both zero and one at the same time…)

            As for sapient AI being impossible, we’ll just have to disagree on that. M Moore’s law was supposed to be over a dozen times by now. Real-time ray tracing was supposed to be impossible. Tracking a missile in real time -much less tracking a bullet- was supposed to be impossible. Tracking and shooting down an antitank missile was science fiction in the 1970s and yet the Russians and Israeli’s are deploying active antimissile systems. I know its not just a matter of CPU power… which btw: my current machine, which is running a CPU that came out in 2009, is 2880 times faster than the machine I started doing 3d on- a four hour render (then) takes five seconds now.

            1. Those are all quantitative differences. I’m arguing that there is something qualitatively different about sapience, that it’s not just an emergent property of the neuron pathways of the brain. If my argument was just a matter of “we can’t get the numbers big enough”, then I’d agree with you: what looks impossible today, we’ll be getting computers to do in ten years. But I’m arguing that whatever it is that makes us different from animals — whether you call it the soul, or sapience, or self-awareness — whatever that thing is, it’s not something that we can create with mathematical models. If fifty years from now we’ve managed to make machines that can communicate fluently enough in English to make everyone think that they’re sapient, I’ll argue that they still won’t be truly sapient. (Though if that does happen, then I’ll also be arguing for granting them human rights, on the precautionary principle that if I’m wrong about their sapience being genuine, I don’t want to be enslaving sapient beings.)

              But since the argument for my position quickly goes into the realm of philosophy rather than verifiable facts (and extrapolations therefrom, like the upward trend of computing power), yes, it’s probably best to agree to disagree.

              1. Sounds like you’re in line with Hoffstader in Godel, Escher, Bach although I think his argument in the end is intentionally designing an AI with human like intelligence/sapience is impossible on the “can’t solve a problem at the level of the problem” philosophy. Creating a system with other design goals that has emergent AI with human like intelligence/sapience or something parallel and equivalent if not the same is well within possibly though under that system.

                1. I’ve always intended to read Gödel, Escher, Bach someday, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So if I’m making the same argument as Hofstadter, it’s something like a case of independent discovery. (“Discovery” isn’t the right word here, but I don’t know what the right word actually is).

                  Though from what you’ve said, it sounds like he’s more coming at it from the level of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which is a line of argumentation that I’d never thought about before, but which instantly persuades me since I’ve come across that very thing in computer science. more than once.

                  1. Godel via Church, yes.

                    It was one of the four or five most influential books of my life up there with TMIAHM, Starship Troopers, A Horse and His Boy, and The Principia Discordia. It is why I got my BS in Math with a Minor in CS (which was to be a double major but I was pushing 30 and skipped the last year) instead of ME.

                  2. Roger Penrose in “The Emperor’s New Mind” also uses Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem (among other things) to argue that we can’t produce AI on the same level as humans. He also discusses things like the Turing/Church computation theorem, the Mandelbrot set, quantum mechanics, and relativity to make his case…

                    1. I tend to be skeptical of people using things like that to “prove” that something can’t be done. Consider. As a body moves through a fluid–or a fluid moves past a body; the two produce the same results–the fluid exerts a “dynamic pressure” on the body. The pressure is half the density times the square of the velocity (using appropriate units). A fit human can pull in air at about a 1/2 to 1 psi (about 4-7 thousand pascals in SI units). Air density at standard temperature and pressure is about 1.29 kg/m^3. At about 120-130 MPH that dynamic pressure, then would be enough to “squeeze” the chest so that the person would not be able to breath. (A variation of the old “they can’t go faster than X or the wind will suck their breath away)

                      Skydivers in “neutral belly position” reach that kind of speed, and go even faster in others.

                      Clearly, then, skydivers can’t breathe. Except, of course, they can. There are things this “analysis” misses (deliberately in this case but not so obviously because otherwise knowledgeable people made that and related arguments in all seriousness in the past).

                      Clarke’s First Law: “When an elderly and distinguished scientist says something is possibly, he is almost certainly right. When he says that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

                      Heinlein’s Corollary (from one of his characters–don’t remember which one, and paraphrased form memory): The way to make a major discovery or critical invention is to find something that the “experts” say can’t be done, and then do it.

              2. and i think that the possibility of ‘maybe’ in between ‘yes ‘ and ‘no’ is more essential to AI than anything ephemeral. Will computers be capable of independent creative thought, which is likely what you mean by sapience? mmmmmaybe. But, it is also possible they might be capable of everything short of that and be able to do things like completely evaluate both sides of a decision before making it…

                1. On the importance of “maybe”: you’re absolutely right on that one. It’s why neural nets work on floating-point values rather than integers, it’s why self-driving cars are now possible (though their neural nets still don’t cope with unexpected situations very well, because they’re responding in trained patterns rather than reasoning out the right thing to do), and it’s why a computer program is now able to play Go at grandmaster levels.

                  1. Hmmm. I would observe that the creation of sapience is not physically impossible – it has been done once, after all, by any definition; and is repeated some 350K times every day, by a rather looser one…

                    Now, whether we learn someday to create it deliberately (other than through a rather messy, but frequently enjoyable, initial process – plus some years of frustration, worry, and joy) – that is a different question…

              3. I agree with you.

                If you’re into dystopias, here’s the most plausible “AI” scenario: Using emergent DNA technology to “grow” humans, replacing as much as possible with machine tech and declaring the resultant cyborgs “AI” and therefore “not human” by fiat.

                One of the ways in which SF has predictive power is when it is grounded in a realistic understanding of human nature.

              4. I’m not sure if I can completely agree that it’s impossible, but if we succeed, I’m not entirely convinced that we’ll have known what we have done.

                nVidia, for example, has created a self-driving car using nothing but neural networks and cameras. It learns to drive by watching what humans do. It works just as well as much more complicated systems designed by Google and others. The fact that it learns this way, however, makes engineers and actuaries nervous: if something goes wrong, it’s not at all clear how it could be fixed.

                I have spent some time trying to explore the possibility of what has come to be called “BEAM” robotics, which creates complex behavior for simple robots using a very minimum amount of electronics — usually loops of Schmidt-trigger NOT gates (which are designed to go “high” or “low” only if the signal is in a certain range — if the voltage is in “no-man’s land” it doesn’t do anything) with sensory information feeding into the loop. Circuits are often designed so that the interference of the motor when it hits something becomes a “sensor” of sorts. Such circuitry can be guided, but it’s likely impossible to fully understand what’s going on in the head of such a robot.

                Having said all this, I don’t have the fear that we’ll create AIs that will take us over. When we work on AIs, we’re trying to create tools that are useful for us. Thus, we’re not likely to include “passions”, and we’re likely to keep the AIs hyper-focused on one or two things (say, like driving a car).

                Even so, I can’t help but wonder, too, if or when we get to the point where turning off a device or a robot is going to be “murder”. My guess? When these devices consistently develop a certain amount of learning or memory that can’t be copied, but becomes so valuable, we won’t want to lose it….destroying such a device might not be literally murder, but it might cause a twinge of conscience when we “abuse” or “kill” it….

          2. Didn’t Microsoft have an “AI” (probably more like one of those Eliza-bots) on Twitter that got corrupted by trolls very easily? Tay Tweets or something like that?

            1. Yep. It was a very interesting story.

              A) the developers apparently had no freaking clue that the wild ‘net might be different than a carefully controlled lab environment

              B) they couldn’t or didn’t monitor the experiment, letting it run to absurdity before shutting it down

              C) they couldn’t or wouldn’t update their algorithms or and/or add some type of filtering, so they just took their ball and went home

              So what they have now is a bunch of griefers waiting to bust the chops of version 2.0…

              After Microsoft Bob and Clippy the Assistant I was surprised they were still tossing resources to conversational software… someone very high up is probably driving that.

          3. I think big smart computers that become sentient will happen by accident, like Mike in TMIAHM or Stand on Zanzibar. It won’t come from a science project but will just happen. An “Act of God” if you will.

        4. I would debate the bit about landlines (although perhaps not in the year 2075 – technology changes). Right now, though, and foreseeably, there are very good arguments for landlines in the Luna of MIAHM. Very low population density, higher curvature (more repeater stations between urban areas), it is unlikely to be much cheaper to put up lunar satellites, much higher EM interference (during the long day).

          You must remember, also, that Lunar settlements are not in the open “air” – solid rock is rather more difficult to punch a signal through.

          Land lines – particularly optical ones spun from cheap Lunar silica – could still be the more economic technology. PLUS what I just now saw HerbHN say below…

      2. My great-grandfather, born in 1885, died at the age of 102 believing the moon landing was a hoax. The fact that he saw the world go from steam power to nuclear power is amazing to me.

        1. Born in 1885? While there were steam ships around then, coal fired monstrosities, he actually watched the world go from the age of sail to nuclear power. New sailing ships for commercial cargo use were being built at least until the 1920s.

        2. OTOH, one of my grandfathers, born in the 19th Century, got right put out at the stupidity of someone who thought the moon landings messed up the weather.

        3. My paternal grandmother, who raised me and my two sisters after our mother died, was born a year before the Wright brothers’ first flight, and died just before the last Apollo mission.

          There were periodically little things you’d never expect that she’d comment on beside the obvious cars/planes/tech where life “now” was different to her childhood in Indian Territory/Oklahoma. Like, “why are so many movie/tv horses so fat? The one’s we [she and her siblings] grew up around didn’t look like that.” ?? Still not sure about that one.

          1. I’m certain that today’s hobby horses are much better fed and less excercised/fit than yesterday’s working horses. I mean look at all the totally obese dogs and cats in America.

          2. My mom refers to some of the movie horses as “sausages with legs.” 😀 I suspect that bribes of food are involved in a LOT of tricks.

            It’s not just new stuff, either, she laughed at some of the extras in black-and-white movies. (Did he roll in on that horse?!)

    3. We are all time travelers, proceeding into the future at the rate of 1s/s.

      And when I tell youngsters today about how I started computing using a university timeshare (to which I connected by placing the handset of a dialed (not number-padded) phone into a 120 baud acoustic coupler modem) on a teletype machine and saving my program on a punched paper tape, they look at me as if I were from Mars. I guess you might say that I was born on a different planet.

      But Judge Posner is still a moron.

      1. I’m remembering my early experiences with computers: a state-of-the art (for business) NCR Century series computer; hard drives that held 5MB per pack, programmed with 80 column Hollerith (aka IBM) cards. This was in a large high school in 1969. That beast replaced a Burroughs with 8K of core memory.

        A few years later, I got to do a project on the EE department’s computer; it was obsolete, but paid for. It used a bunch of no-longer standard things; the ancient type 26 punch card code, Fortran II, and 1″ mag tape. Timeshare and BASIC were available to some students, but not widely. And, this was a school doing a lot of work on advanced computing… (Hums “Daisy” to himself).

        For several years, I was test programming through a teletype, straight onto the minicomputer.

        In business through the ’70s, we used Telex or TWX messages to communicate with offshore facilities. As an intern during college, I had to wait to use the WATS line for long distance.

        1. I don’t read my dead tree books much anymore since I read mostly on my kindle. I read an article in Analog (must’ve been in the 80’s) about e-books that made them seem rather dreary.

          My father, born in 1920, dead almost 30 years, told me stories of growing up in NYC in the ’30s. He told me that he went back to YC (Yeshiva College–precursor to today’s Yeshiva University) on Saturday nights for Sunday classes. He traveled the length of an entire subway line. He slept 99% of way in reasonable safety. It blew my mind. Anyone who has lived in New York City would know why.

          1. My first exposure to the concept of ebooks was Ben Bova’s wonderful Cyberbooks.

            My reaction at the time was “Interesting concept, but it’ll never take off.”


      2. I played around with a Sinclair back in the early 80’s. Likewise, one of our classrooms was super techy because we had a TRS-80.
        One minor amusing thing- our business office has a desk for part-times to come in an hour a day or so. The first computer was a tower. We got a new, smaller computer and put it on top of that. Last year, we got one of those microbit computer thingies, and I suggested we stick that on top of the other two.

      3. First programming in HS was in machine code on an IMSAI 8080, then a teletype connection to a VAX somewhere in the school district offices using some flavor of BASIC (the teletype had a paper tape reader on the side, so we coudl reload programs, as they went away when you logged off), and then the HS bought an Apple II.
        Then I hit college, and my first Intro to Programming (FORTRAN) course used IBM cards, with results on greenbar printouts the next day (oh, look, a syntax error!).

        Judge Posner is still a moron, and get off my lawn!

        1. Old IMSAIs are worth a pretty penny on eBay. Even reproduction cases are steep. I had the urge to put my new computer’s guts into one of the old computer cases… but it turns out there are people still actually using them. Or at least maintaining them in operable condition…

          I have an occasional urge to take the old PC/AT case I haven’t been able to part with, buy a bunch of Raspberry Pi boards, and build a Beowulf cluster. But I don’t know what I’d *do* with it once I had it…

          Computing used to involve a lot of waiting. I have an embarrassment of computing power already. My wife is watching “Canada’s Worst Drivers” on the right-hand monitor; I have a dozen windows up on the other two monitors, and GKrellM fluctuates between 1% and 3% CPU load…

    4. There was an episode of…”scrubs” I think.. which had a similar type of time traveler.

      Man in a coma for 10 years, wakes up and has no idea what an “Ip-od” is. XD

    5. There was a similar obscure story about how fast the world changes but we don’t notice written about two centuries before that. A man goes to sleep in an America where the most normal thing in the world was to raise a glass of beer in the tavern to toast the King and seemingly to him overnight it has changed to a world where the same act is unthinkable treason. It was called Rip Van Sprinkle or something. At least that’s what I assumed the point of the story was.

  7. > If you put in punitive taxes, you get everyone working under the table.

    The USSR had two economies; the official, controlled economy, and the “na levo” underground economy, which seems to have been half organized crime, half free market.

    They couldn’t stamp the underground economy out because too much critical infrastructure depended on it. Even the military dealt with it, because the official channels were so choked with regulation and inefficiency that there was no other way to get things done.

    As the Fed keeps cranking the screws down tighter, I keep wondering how much of the US economy is operating underground now. Unlike the USSR, we are heavily networked…

    Writers in the USSR had to deal with the Soviet Writers’ Union or go samizdat. All modern Indies need is internet…

    1. There’s always the “gray market”, too, where things are done legally but in a way to fly under the radar. Tree companies around here like to work exclusively in cash (which was a bad surprise when we had to have a couple of grand of emergency work done; we could come up with the payment, but the timing meant we didn’t have cash on hand.) They’re also fairly expensive around here too. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that cash were underreported.

      1. Last I read, the restaurant industry was the #1 problem with skimming, at least according to the IRS. The IRS was dealing with them all Al Capone style, comparing ingredients purchased vs. reported sales, then lowering the boom if they felt there weren’t enough sales.

        Now that most restaurants are using point-of-sale terminals, I expect some other industry might have the beady eye of the IRS squinting at them.

        1. Another one is laundromats. People think it is all cash but the IRS will pull natural gas and water usage to see how many loads are run.

          In restaurants most big chains have consent degrees on the minimum amount of tips per hour a server has to declare. I have never see a server declare all his tips (and as a manager trained new ones not to) but only declare the consent degree minimum (or enough to get them to minimum from the sever wage, whichever was higher).

        2. That is terrifying….


          Because the #1 cost in restraunts, at least in Washington that aren’t 100% family, is ingredients walking out the back door.

          Some places do it as a sort of backhanded pay (my first job, the owner would pay his mistresses that way…yes, it took me years and the wife figuring it out first to puzzle this out, I just thought he was creepy) but a whole lot more do NOT intend for employees to give themselves a bonus to the tune of a box of meat every day or two.

          1. The wife frequently has that “Bar Rescue” show on. The volume of money that he tells owners they are losing through overpours is sometimes staggering. Four figures a day staggering.

            1. Back in the day (well, 2001), I delivered pizzas for a national firm. (I only got robbed once. I threw the pizza and ran; the guy got goods, not cash. Thank you, FBI, for saying resist kidnapping immediately because the guy had said, “Go behind the house.”) Anywho, they were very careful to weigh the ingredients left every night; and the boss or his boss (it was a corporate store) would remind the cooks not to put too much cheese on the pizzas. They even wanted you to use only a limited amount of foil on the hot wings.

              And I reported my tips; later (hopefully), I’ll get ’em back in social security.

              1. When I was running a Dominos overcheesing was the single biggest way to go from profit to loss.

                You could throw away a whole box of pepperoni and not waste as much as 1 oz extra cheese per pizza.

                1. ….while local pizzerias offer cheese, extra cheese, and cheese baked into the crust, yet treat every piece of pepperoni as a line item.

                  I’d gladly do with half or a third as much cheese, and more tomato sauce and pepperoni.

                  1. You can have my share of tomato sauce. I don’t want it, and my esophagus doesn’t want it either. I do love ordering online. It’s quite customizable and no one has to understand anyone else’s speech.

        3. My sister worked as waitstaff (and hostess, which is waitstaff plus) at one place where the guy pressured her to under-report her tips. She didn’t, and the guy got audited the next year, so she was feeling pretty good about dodging that bullet. (She does six-figure sales work now.)

      2. I hope the cash is unreported. I hope the kid who does our lawn (and has a business as a recent HS graduate to make beer money for college but is more organized than some adults) isn’t reporting the cash and is paying his buddies under the table with no SS or withholding.

        I’m becoming very Italian on taxes it seems.

        1. If you’re making less than $500 a year, the IRS has flat-out stated that they don’t care. (Sometimes referred to as the “garage sale” level.)

          1. $60/2 wks just from us. He is often booked so I figure the three of them pull down $600/2 wks at a minimum for six or so months a year.

            I like the kid. He is more expensive than my prior guy but more reliable and I am happy to see the drive in a HS student.

            And I think I just officially became an old guy with that statement.

        2. I worked for years as an independent handyman. Just amazing how many customers wanted a cash discount and no receipt.

      3. There’s a lot more cash economy in the United States then the government knows of, or at least admits knowing of. I have yet to visit a barber who takes credit cards. Barbering is an all cash business. And every barber I know has a nicer house more nicely furnished then his reported income would allow. But not so much more that he draws attention to it.

        When I lived in Chicago many years ago my family went on our first trip to a pick it yourself strawberry field. That next week the local paper ran an article on that very farm, where the proprietor proudly told the reporter that on a good weekend they would take in 5 or 6 hundred dollars to help keep the farm afloat. They took in at least $500. during the one hour we were there.

        I’ve got to wonder if the Amish and Mennonite stands that I buy produce and baked goods from all summer report any of that to the taxing authorities.

        I’m one of the unfortunates who has all his income reported to the IRS, so my fair share gets paid. I remember one of my brother’s many girlfriends complaining that taxes should go up so the rich would pay their fair share. Her fair share was apparently very little. The bulk of her income was from her aunt’s catering business which was not incorporated nor licensed, but did a booming business, in cash, and employees, all family members, were paid in same.

        I did once a few years ago participate in the cash economy. A neighbor recommended doing business with the logger who was going to come visit me. I told him sure, go ahead, haul trees out of my swamp. A few weeks later he showed back up at my front door and handed me $400. I have no idea if that was a fair amount, but it was $400. I wouldn’t have had leaving the trees in the swamp. Which looks like it’s ready to be logged again.

      1. Many “deep thinkers” in government want to outlaw cash. There are also laws that allow the government to seize your money if you make too many cash deposits. It was passed as a way to catch drug dealers. The current application of that law is just EVIL!

        1. It was passed as a way to catch drug dealers who don’t pay their “sponsors”.


          1. I listened to Dr. Timothy Leary interviewed on the radio back in the day. He had this LSD inspired epiphany that the government was just the society sanctioned Mafia.
            There are days that I think he was right.

            1. Ol’ Tim was a bit slow. Ever read Cyril M. Kornbluth’s 1953 novel The Syndic?

              Per Wiki:
              Plot summary
              The prologue introduces the setting, a future North America divided between rival criminal gangs the Syndic on the East Coast and the Mob in Chicago, who have driven the federal government into exile in Iceland, Ireland and other North Atlantic islands. Life has more or less returned to normal in Syndic territory – as long as protection money is paid on time. The rest of the world has collapsed into either peasant life or tribalism.

              Attitudes to sex are generally tolerant, with free sex outside of marriage and both polygamy and polyandry accepted. (But male homosexuality is not, and lesbianism is never mentioned.)

              The protagonist, Charles Orsino is a low-ranking member of the Syndic who collects protection money in New York. After a failed assassination attempt he is invited to a meeting of the leaders of the Syndic, who suspect that the exiled government were responsible. To discover the truth, Charles volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the government, with a false personality created by hypnosis to fool lie detectors. He is taken to the main navel base on the shores of Ireland. He also visits Ireland outside of government territory: it is tribal and governed by sorceresses who have genuine powers of telepathy. It is mentioned in passing that England is also tribal and much weaker.

              While escaping home, he also visits Mob territory and finds it much worse organised. He proposes that the Syndic becomes more like a regular government to protect itself. But his mentor rejects this, and the book ends on that note.

              Reception and influences
              The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction noted that the novel had wrongly been seen as “deficient” in comparison with Kornbluth’s collaborative work, concluding that aspects of the Syndic government structure were “effective and even prophetic.”

              The novel’s exploration of anarcho-capitalism proved popular with libertarians. The novel had an influence on Samuel Edward Konkin III, who considered it an under appreciated classic. It was also inducted into the Prometheus Award Hall of Fame in 1986.

              1. Yep. I’ve referenced it here, I think.

                Too bad Kornbluth got lost in the second half of the story, but it’s still an interesting and thought-provoking story…

  8. Every so often, my husband and I turn to each other and say, wonderingly, “we’re living in the future.” I’m still having giggles over our new (to us) car and how I can do things like open the hatch with pushing a button, or parallel park with a rear-view camera that starts beeping when I get close to whatever’s behind me. (Perfect distance is orange, FWIW. And I learned to parallel park properly—nobody seems to know that you start IN FRONT of the target space…) We are also getting a lot of boring stuff delivered by Amazon Pantry, because who wants to fight the parking lot because you need paper towels?

    1. I once got to see a *BIG* old lathe. It was made somewhere between the 1880s and early 1900s, best as the company could tell. The plate with the serial number had vanished sometime long ago.

      It had been converted to CNC sometime in the 1980s, with microcontrollers and wire-wrapped servo driver boards, running interpreted BASIC. The employee who had done the job had retired long ago.

      That lathe, made during the time of Doc Holliday or Bat Masterson, was still working, untouched by human hands… as it recut rocket motors for the Space Shuttle.

      All I could do was grin. YES! And Jacquard and Maudslay and Goddard and all the others would have been grinning too, had they been there.

      It was one of those moments that James Burke tried to describe in his “Connections” series, where different technologies suddenly interlock, and then you get something new…

      1. Have you heard the story of the metal lathes made from concrete? WWI saw the US with insufficient machine tools to turn out so much as an artillery shell. The solution was a lathe designed mostly out of concrete, designed to mount parts in such a way as to be trued. It’s still used as a solution for DIY metal lathes in some places.

        1. Yep. There were some DIY articles in “Popular Mechanics” and the like as well.

          Lots of modern CNC stuff is “epoxy-granite”, which basically replaces the cement with epoxy. There are a number of DIY builds using the stuff on cnczone.com.

        2. I’ve read that a shortage of cast iron caused the “temporary” use of granite for reference-flat surface plates—“temporary”, until they realized granite was a superior material for the purpose because of lower thermal expansion & contraction.

  9. > Friday’s net

    L. Neil Smith’s “Telecom” from 1978. A handheld portable communications device and computer, that could also record or play music or video, networked to vast databases and entertainment, able to connect to any other Telecom worldwide…

    Of course he missed big on the courteous customer service thing, but heck, it was only science fiction…

      1. The Probability Broach, The Venus Belt, the Nagasaki Vector. They’re some of the books I always buy when I see a used copy, and give to unsuspecting non-readers. “Here. Read this book. It won’t hurt you.”

        Smith’s other stuff, alas… even though I agree with almost all of Smith’s positions, it’s not always the Left that elevates Message over story.

        1. The graphic novel of The Probability Broach is online, and while a lot of it looks a bit like typical pulp comic level, there’s one panel that makes me giggle every time I think of it. Ed and Win Bear have just been confronted by a very attractive scientist dressed in very little, and they hem and haw and then with identical dopey looks on their faces, say “We’re partners!” (I think. It always morphs to the joke “We fight crime!” in my head, so it’s hard to remember the actual wording.)

  10. The impact of the change that’s underway was probably less for writers than most people. You and I were already working at home. Now we send out manuscripts with the click of a button, instead of having to run to the post office, but for people who’ve always worked in offices, it’s a huge leap.

    Especially for managers, who don’t like the idea of not being able to walk down the hallway and give the slacker the beady-eyed glare.

    Meetings that no longer need be in person.

    The mark of a “good neighborhood” is going to be measured in connectivity, not school districts, not distance to shopping. Even a lot of medical treatment may be remote. More home test kits, mailed in samples at the worse. On line consultations. Prescriptions and meds mailed.

    Even grocery shopping’s already there, for those who don’t want a reason to get out of the house every other day or so. Friendships over the internet, cabin fever ubiquitous.

    Good training for living on the Moon or Mars.

    1. Even grocery shopping’s already there, for those who don’t want a reason to get out of the house every other day or so.

      We moved (again) and I changed my home store on walmart.com to something closer; a few days later I get an email explaining to me that they have one of those walmart neighborhood grocers, and that if I want to save time shopping I can pick out exactly what stuff I want, drive up, they’ll load the stuff in my car and I’ll either pay there or online.

      Note for the $15/hour dorks: this removes the shelf-stockers and the check-out guys by having the warehouse goons (seriously, THAT is a job where the big’n’scary seem to show up a lot!) do all the jobs the computer doesn’t.

      1. Both Wal-Mart and Kroger’s are introducing that service here in Plano; Kroger has added the twist that for a $10 service fee, they’ll have an Uber driver deliver it to the house. Walgreens is doing the Uber delivery for all prescriptions that don’t require refrigeration and /or government ID.

    2. Whether you can work virtually doesn’t matter. You will be required to be there in person.

  11. When I wrote Survival Test back along 1993 or so, I had my characters use a device called a “comppad”, which combined features of a portable computer and a phone. This was before Palm Pilots, or even the Apple Newton, came out.

    Got some nice comments from one of the folk then working as an Acquisitions Editor at Baen but for various reasons (largely involving getting into my physics studies at college) I never got back to it for a rather long time.

    When I eventually published the book I left the term in place, but I could just as easily called them “smartphones” or just “phones” and there was nothing science fictional about them.

    Now if somebody could do the laser launchers that I was using in that series to make space travel more routine.

    1. Back in the Ronald Reagan “Star Wars” days, the SDIO funded the necessary research to demonstrate the concept as being feasible. IIRC, they got as far as demonstrating laser-powered launch of a “few-hundred kilos” to “a few thousand feet” (exact numbers missing from my memory!). That was enough to show that it can be done; a real system would probably require one more round of large-scale testing before building the actual production version. It’s even sort-of affordable: Three or four billion dollars to finish design work, build, and deploy the system.

      The real issue isn’t the technology, it’s economics and politics.

      The $-to-LEO only looks attractive if you have buyers for say, delivery to LEO of 250 kilos every 20 minutes, 24×7 all year. The market just isn’t there. Depending on the exact design, the payload to orbit might be a bit more or a bit less, and the launch frequency could be faster or slower. But costs really only work with VOLUME.

      The political issues would probably be even more “fun.” Anyone who has a battery of lasers sufficient to launch payloads like that can also destroy/render-useless any existing satellite in their line-of-sight. Likely the same for any aircraft. Of course “good guys like us” would *never* misuse such a capability! But those bad guys over there can’t be trusted…

      1. “Anyone who has a battery of lasers sufficient to launch payloads like that can also destroy/render-useless any existing satellite in their line-of-sight.”

        In a sane defense environment, that would be enough to get it built all by itself. You’re getting a two-fer. El-cheapo mass launch capacity AND you rule the skies? That’s a no-brainer.

        But nobody is building it. Because STUPID.

        Something else -somebody- should be building is Gerald Bull’s launch cannon. By rights it should have been the Canadian government, but those morons have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

        1. A reason launch might be disapproved is that you can’t control people who’ve left Earth. Also because it’s new.

    2. Curious– was it more a smartphone or a “phablet*”?

      Because if it was closer to notebook size than wallet size, “Commpad” is a heck of a lot prettier of a word than “phablet” and I’ll totally steal it. 😀

      *phone/tablet; basically one of those lovely tablets but you can make phone calls. Usually on speaker.

      1. It was something that fit in your hand. The “model” I had in mind was a memo pad or a day timer only a computer with a touch screen you could write/draw on.

        My Galaxy S4 is pretty close to what I had in mind, actually, only I thought more handwriting recognition than trying to thumb-type on that teeny-tiny virtual keyboard.

      2. > speaker

        A few years ago there was some kind of local fad for turning your phone’s speaker on while you were dining out. I found it incredibly annoying to have some bozo sitting at the next table shouting at his phone through a mouthful of Mongolian BBQ. So after a while I started joining in the conversation.

        One particularly memorable time the bozo’s every phrase ended in “Yanno wut Ah mean?” And I’d shout “Yay-yus!” or “Praise the Lord” or “Witness, Brother!” Much to the amusement of the other patrons… while the non-native-English speaking Chinese servers looked like they were going to stroke out from laughing. Finally Bozo started giving me dirty looks, then abruptly left…

        Hey, if you’re going to broadcast your conversation to the public, you have no bitch if the public joins in…

        1. Not long after 9/11, I drove my mother to a check up. As my father and I waited outside the rest rooms, some yo-yo talking on a cell phone gave detailed instruction on how to get through some sort of secured area, including pass codes. My father and I looked at each other, and when the guy went into the waiting room, said “Doesn’t he know there’s a war on?”

          After some time in the waiting room, the yo-yo walked past to leave. I came very close to repeating to him what he’s said, loudly, over a flipping cell phone. Didn’t, but it was mighty hard.

          1. My husband has a comic printed out a work, where a guy walks his secretary through “go into my room, the door should be open, if the cleaners shut it the code is XXX” and “move the files marked “classified, eyes only” and drive over..with his ID, to show he’s the base security officer. It’s more realistic than anybody likes!

            1. They did and do forget the same thing about cordless phones…. much to the glee of cops, divorce attorneys, and Mrs Grundy.

              We won’t even discuss wireless cameras…..

            2. Yes and no– it use to be a flat-out yes, though not quite as bad as cordless phones. (I accidentally tapped our cordless phone trying to find anything that wasn’t NPR or the Hippy Channel as a kid, on our old radio; I’ve heard of Navy ships doing the same thing, and it’s part of why there are rules against cellphones.)

              Short version, the same change that made the (awesome!) old bag phones not work also made it so that you can’t just pick-up the transmitted signal, you have to have an effort to decode it. (an illegal one, though there are exceptions)

              But yeah, it is being broadcast, which means it doesn’t have the same limited range of places you can tap into the signal.

      3. After my first tablet, I decided I needed a “tablet” I could fit in my pocket, so I got the biggest phone I can find (Galaxy Note) that could fit in my pocket.

        I generally love it, but I found that it still doesn’t replace tablets. Sometimes you need a good-sized screen…

        And tablets don’t replace laptops, because sometimes you need a big screen, a keyboard, a mouse, and a second monitor. (I’ve been thinking about adding a third, but I haven’t worked out the logistics of that. Since I use Linux, I can’t just expect a plug-and-play; the fact that the second monitor would have to be added via USB complicates things…)

        But I generally don’t need a lot of monitor space unless I’m developing something….

        1. See, I can’t find a real use for a tablet– if I need that much more screen, I need everything that’s on the Glorified Typewriter. (laptop)

          They’re NICE, they’re very fun, but no real need.

  12. Space colonies need cheaper access to space. The independents are bringing the price down from the traditional government contractor, but aerostats* as a “cheat” to almost orbit might be easier than the materials needed for a space elevator.

    *Yes, I read that in a Baen short collection; I think it was “Mission Tomorrow,” which also includes something by our hostess.

    1. I saw an article–more like a headline-about how a company thought that space mining was potentially profitable. Finally leaving SF and going to the boardroom!
      I’m so old I remember when if you wanted to type in a non English language you had to use a different typewriter. Manual typewriters that you had to pound on! No more carbon copies. Effortless deletion and moving copy. Remember liquid paper or those funny sheets you stuck in the typewriter. Hopefully today’s toddlers will be able to honeymoon on the moon. Eye surgery as an outpatient procedure!

      1. One of the big deals about the IBM Selectric was you could type italics or bold just by changing the font ball.

        1. When I was growing up an IBM Selectric was high tech and too expensive for my father to buy. Possibly considered not worth the investment since it was only used sporadically.

        2. My mom had a Selectric II (worked at home for the local United Fund). She had the same issue with handwriting as I do – so typed all of her weekly letters to me while I was away at high school.

          I have to admit that I was ready to go back in time when she discovered that they had an Olde English ball available.

          (I did type one paper on it while in high school – a physics term paper. Um, it probably resembled a day at the golf driving range, balls flying everywhere as I swapped out regular, italic, symbol about every fourth or fifth keystroke… Don’t talk to me about typing integrals!)

      2. One summer in my misspent youth when I was a camp counselor I wrote a ghost story. Only.. The structure wasn’t right, I gave away too much too soon and didn’t lay enough groundwork. So I cut the typed copy apart, scotch taped the pieces in the order they needed to be, then composed the missing parts and taped them to the page. That meant I only had to retype it once. (It wasn’t Great Literature, but for a ghost story to tell around a campfire it was OK.)

  13. How much we are aware things have changed is likely directly proportional to our age. By eighteen, I had seen slide rules replaced by pocket calculators; the advent of live broadcast by satellite; the beginnings of the personal computer; the first digital watches; FM stereo appearing in cars; vinyl records in the process of replacement by 8-Track and then cassette; yet I though I hadn’t seen as great a technological change as my parents had by my age. My parents had knowing grins. I had, but never realized it. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized just how much things were changing.

    I can see where technology has followed the greatest demand and returns on investment and practicality. Flying cars have actually come up again and again and each time runs into cost and complexity. I have a friend who flies. A aircraft is much more expensive than a car, and that, along with the complexities of flying, has so far killed the flying car. We don’t have colonies on the moon because no one have found an economic reason to go and it’s expensive as rip to even send a robot. In comparison, the rise of personal electronics is much less expensive and has greater profit potential.

    The heck of it is it’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. There was initial resistance to telephones from some in business who saw no point in dictating a message to a secretary for him to read it to another secretary, who in turn would transcribe it for his boss (still the era of predominately male secretaries). The idea of a boss calling his counterpart directly wasn’t even considered by some. Others grasped it; some didn’t. I don’t think most of us during the rise of the personal computer realized it would practically do away with the office secretary.

    So, if we have a story with moon colonies, shouldn’t we have to ask what happened to make it worth the expense? Some new discovery? A breakthrough that dramatically lowered launch costs? Military application? All of the above? Ditto flying cars. And spandex outfits.

    1. “So, if we have a story with moon colonies, shouldn’t we have to ask what happened to make it worth the expense?”

      The presence of enough #$@! on Earth that some people would pay anything and put up will all manner of hardships in order to get away.

      1. I wonder how many western towns in U.S.A. and Canada were founded because of such principles and beliefs. I am thinking a fair number. 🙂

        1. Because they could*climb on a horse and get there. And the Winchesters and Colts they used to hold off the savage redskins had been made fairly cheap by the war. And the lumber came by freight wagon and/or train. They could do it because they could afford it.

            1. But they still didn’t need the value of a small city just to buy (or otherwise acquire) shelter. The tools, at least, were readily available.

              In short, you didn’t have to be a billionaire just to have life support for your homestead. The freedom to be a pioneer *requires* an established base to go pioneering *from.* Infrastructure. Community. All that stuff we don’t have with regard to space–because space didn’t come already terraformed.

              If you go back far enough, Daniel Boone’s freedom to pioneer was born of Portugal’s desire to dominate the spice trade. And Henry the Navigator’s willingness to spend oodles of bucks to accomplish that.

      2. I have been sorely tempted, mostly before marriage, of heading to the woods just for that reason. There’s more wild places than people realize right here in the US. That would be a much cheaper option than moving off-planet to a potentially more restrictive setting.

        1. When I was but a lad in rural Minnesota, reading London and Service by flashlight under the covers because I was supposed to be sleeping, I sometimes dreamed of taking my pick-mattock, axe, and saw and driving a pack of huskies into the howling wilderness of Alaska to carve out my own little Empire. 20 years later, I was working as a mechanic on an Initial Attack helicopter in a fire camp in central AK, and the camp boss invited my pilot and I to his home for dinner. He and his wife had done just that. (OK, the huskies were a VW microbus, and the tools included some power tools supplied electricity by a Honda generator, but the basic idea was there.) Hats off to them, but I guess I’d gotten all citified and soft in the meantime and no longer had the urge. Probably still could if I had to, though.

            1. My parents (and my dad’s parents) did homestead in Alaska. I wanted to, but by the time I was old enough, they had shut down the homesteading act. Later on the state of Alaska started selling land, including some farmable land (some of that was very close to the small sawmill that was one of my earliest homes in Alaska, though I only remember going back to visit it later). But by then I was married and my husband had no farming experience nor the necessary skills and mind-set. So we didn’t do it.

    2. My favorite personal future history (what, every SF reader doesn’t have at least three) has the initial colonizing of L4/5 done by the intellectual descendants of the Puritans but from more than just Christianity: what do dissenting Muslims and Hindus look like plus what syncretic movements B’nai B’rith or Herbert’s Zensunni (the wildest syncretic movement in SF as far as I am concerned).

      In that case the reason is spiritual purity. One that includes filling the cosmos as part of “be fruitful” would be a key idea.

      Damnit, can you people let me finish the first novel first so I know I can do it.

      1. John Morressey’s Lennonites seemed easy enough to get along with, but the Lovecrafters were pretty creepy.

        1. I don’t see my old English Lit professor mentioned all that often these days. (I have autographed copies of the first three Iron Angel books – alas, I had left Franklin Pierce by the time the fourth came out.)

          1. Hm. Per ISFDB, it looks like he is both quite prolific and managed to survive the Great Midlist Cleansing of the mid-’90s. What I’d read was mostly downers, so I never sought out more of his work.

    3. How much we are aware things have changed is likely directly proportional to our age.

      Add in a modifier for “except for people who read too much.”

      First time I heard of a slide ruler, I thought it was a scifi touch in a story– it’s *normal thing* with *strange modifier*, no need to worry about it, go on to the POINT of mentioning it, which was that the whole thing was a true-to-visualization copy only because the item was part of the desk. (honest to gosh, I didn’t know they were real)

      But I’ve got a pretty good Sherlock inspired grasp of causal normal for that time, up to about the second world war, then a big gap full of fake-deep music and ugly colors (although tiedye is awesome) until the mid-late 70s, where I have a shallow grasp until late 90s where I observed stuff myself.

      Regional limits matter a LOT, though. Nastiest arguments I’ve seen, both sides were right, but for different areas.

      I THINK the east coast is responsible for the “no women had jobs outside the home” baloney that is flatly contradicted by my objective ancestry.
      Explaining: there was only woman who did not have a job outside of the home in my knowledge of my ancestors, and that’s the lady who went “hm, I don’t want my baby boy John to work in the mines, we’re all moving to America, oh my adult children. [great grandfather] and [great great uncle], you are going to America ASAP, take your good buddy over there*. Now let’s all pack up to go sit in the sea side town until you get there and send back the cash for the rest of us to come!”
      And it happened. I know that her husband was alive, and quite healthy from the photos, but I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE about him– she ran everything.

      *yes, she basically ordered a family friend who has ZERO blood relation to go with them. And he did. I only know this because when he came back, his girlfriend said that it was nice’n’all that he was rich, now, but no way in heck was she going to America. So he handed over the cash to get the rest of his friends’ family to the US, married, and his great great grandsons are drool-worthy AND well off. His… I think son… showed up on my grandmother’s doorstep with the grand total introduction of “Hi, I’m John, my grandfather came over with your grandfather, but he went back and stayed. How you doin’?”

    4. Spandex outfits are contra-indicated except on the extremely fit and young. I mean it only looks good on those of us who look good in skimpy beachwear or in the comics. I will admit that Hal Jordan does look nice in his GL uniform.

      1. I wear Under Armor workout stuff in the house, because comfortable. I do -not- inflict it upon others in public, because Old Guy With Gut does not look awesome in a compression T-shirt.

      2. And the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” say that it’s impossible to get body odor out of spandex; they changed the costumes around year 3. (Maybe TOS was onto something with their off the shelf California weight sweatshirts and gold colored trim.)

        1. I wonder why they weren’t spraying it with vodka every night. (*Old* costumer trick: spritz things with a cheap clear alcohol and the volatiles evaporate out, taking the nasty smells with them. Very useful for mid-run of things that cannot be dry-cleaned every night.)

          1. Hence the bottle of vodka in my daughters’ Christian children’s theater dressing room.

            1. You could always use rubbing alcohol, with “poison” labels on the bottles. And yes, actors are smart enough to not go for the cheap booze anyway. 😀

    5. One of the biggest throttlers of our race to the future is government health and safety regulations. A new industry begins and innovation is huge. The the government steps in to regulate it because government ABHORS change.

      1. At the Heinlein centennial a few years ago, the private spacecraft firms were unanimous that the biggest obstacle they faced was that there was an atmosphere controlled by the FAA between them and space.

  14. I worked in a computer lab on campus in the early 90’s. Because of that, I got an email address. I helped set up my best friend and a cousin by communicating via email with my cousin’s best friend because the best friend worked in a computer lab too at his college in another state. We were go-betweens taking advantage of the technology available before emails were ubiquitous.

  15. Oh, I know y’all all know better, but don’t go around barriers to try to get through a flooded road. A woman drowned last night in NC because of that. Someone saw her car swept off the road and into the woods near a flooded creek.

      1. Our local “reason” is that the gummint responsible for placing said barriers is far enough away that they tend not to be in any hurry to pull them off.

        So yes, it’s a fairly common sight after a flood to have locals moving barriers aside and driving past them on nearly dry roads.

    1. Oh man. I’ve been telling my kids that you don’t drive through a puddle longer than the car, and they’re under ten. Going around barriers is a Bad Idea.

  16. > audio book to my MP3 and that keeps me happy while I walk.

    I have a little portable MP3 player. It’s part of my clothing, like my socks, watch, or gun. When I’m away from my desk and not needing to talk to anyone, it’s playing audiobooks.

    The truck has a fancy CD player. I’ve never used it. I last used the one in the station wagon maybe eight years ago. The little hatchback doesn’t even have a radio. And when I go into a store or out to eat, I don’t have to listen to the annoying noise they’re pumping out of their PA system…

    1. Three years ago I did a road trip from Oregon to Illinois and Michigan. The car had a CD player, but best of all, it understood MP3. 1 regular CD and 5 mp3 CDs covered the round trip, and I didn’t finish the last one. (I did listen to the radio–AM mostly for weather and road status.

      The new car won’t need the CDs; I can plug a thumb drive into one of the USB ports and play anything I have in the stash. I haven’t bothered with the satellite radio, but it’s available. Emergency satellite is enabled, so when I’m out of reach of cell towers, I’m still covered. (There’s a huge blank area between Lakeview, OR and Winnemucca, NV.)

      My first car had an AM radio with a busted speaker. Positive ground, so replacements were a bit scarce on my budget. OTOH, the bookshelf speaker worked well until it went walkabout. The second one lasted until I sold the car.

      1. The one issue I have with the Awesome Minivan, besides having run out of seats:
        the thumbdrive only takes up to TWICE the total memory of my first purchased computer, and I can’t find thumbdrives that small anymore, so I have to use the bluetooth from my phone to stream MP3s to the radio….

        (Amusingly, my mom bypassed this entirely because I got her a thing that plugs into the headphone jack and translates to radio, so she could hear ebooks in the 40 year old tractor.)

        1. I like the tractor application. 🙂 Not sure how much memory the Subaru’s system can take, but I have 21Gb on a 64G thumb drive, and it played fine. Unfortunately, it takes a while to figure out the folders, but it’s willing to start where it stopped previously while doing the directory in the background.

          My first computer had 56K worth of RAM, and 110K floppies. Whew!

          1. The Kia is basically instant for either bluetooth or thumbdrive, but…

            I’m using a radio transmitter to send stuff to my kids before bed. from my computer, using a Goodwill $2 radio…..

        2. Unclear; is the physical size of the thumbdrive the gating item, or does the radio/player have a low memory-capacity limit?

          Because I can find 128GB drives barely larger than a standard USB port all day long. For that matter, small-capacity (not to mention cheap) drives, too.

              1. Remember when you needed a special program to access over 640 KB on a PC? MS DOS just wouldn’t do it so you had to cheat.

                  1. My college calc prof absolutely loved his Amiga. He felt he was a member of an exclusive club for the enlightened.

                    1. let’s see.. a 32-bit preemptive multitasking operating system- in 1986.

                      Specialized processors in the computer for processing graphics accessed through standard libraries- in 1986

                      Able to display more than 256 colors…

                      yeah, them was the good ole days.

                    2. or they lose to the company that doesn’t spend their entire ad budget for the year on one halftime ad at the superbowl.

  17. I often think about the future when I’m using the Google navigation services. I’m getting directions recited to me by the computer in real-time, using information beamed to me from space, all for free…and half the time I’m complaining it’s not good enough.

    (Seriously, Google, don’t try to re-route me until you are absolutely sure I’m on the wrong road. It’s incredibly stressful to get a bunch of contradictory directions right in a row.)

    1. I got burned so badly by Mapquest and Google in the early days that I went back to paper maps.

      After a few absolutely bizarre routes, I figured the most likely cause was that they were trying to route me past as many of their paying sponsors as possible.

      Better now? I don’t care…

      1. I tried MQ to go from Deepest Oregon to Medford. It’s 105 miles to the Costco, and you can figure the best route in a few minutes study of the AAA map. Mapquest wanted me to go east 10 miles, then west 40 miles to Klamath Falls, then south 70 miles to Weed, CA, then up to Medford. Nope. This was in 2004.

        OTOH, the service that Bing uses worked for me when I went back east a few years ago. The motel in Salt Lake City wasn’t obvious to find, but the directions were solid.

        1. To get from the Eugene area to Ontario, all online maps will route you over the top of the state due to the highway speeds. That adds over 200 miles to the trip, so the few times we’ve done it, we’ve chosen the cross-state route instead. This is why I’d actually heard of Burns before that ridiculous standoff a year or so back. (Plus anyone who has driven that route remembers that scary pit toilet at the only rest area in between Burns and points east…)

          1. Atlanta to Gatlingburg is similar. You can go up 75 and cut across or go through the National Park…one is much longer but the times are the same.

            Online maps change which one to recommend based on where in greater Atlanta you are.

      2. It’s good people driving in an area they haven’t been before. Try taking all the paper maps you’d need in carry-on luggage. Hubby uses a Garmin that’s the size of a smartphone.

      3. Speaking of trying to route people past paying sponsors, there was one time a couple of years ago when I looked up Google Maps to get between a major city in Thailand and a major city in Laos, which borders Thailand. The direct route would have been to drive roughly north-northeast. The route that Google Maps came up with for me was:

        1. Head northwest towards the border with Burma.
        2. Continue northwest / westerly through Bangladesh and India.
        3. From India, head northwest through Pakistan (!), Afghanistan (!!), Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and into Kazakhstan. (Bearing mostly north by now).
        4. Loop around NE into Russia, then E and SE into Mongolia.
        5. Head south from Mongolia into China. (Partial toll road).
        6. Head south through China to Laos, and head along Laotian highways to the destination.

        I took a screenshot of this ridiculous routing, but I don’t know where it’s gotten to now. But then I got curious. I played around with different starting and ending points, and they all seemed to route me through the same big loop unless both points were within the same country. From Laos to Laos? You get a sensible route. From Laos to Burma? Take the big loop around. EXCEPT that if I plotted a route from a small town JUST on one side of the Thai-Lao border, to one JUST on the other side, then it would let me cross that border. So it wasn’t that Google Maps thought that the border was closed to vehicle traffic. Hmmm…. you know what? That partial toll road between Mongolia and China? It looks like every single route has that one in common. Let me check…. yeah, there’s a toll tunnel right there at the border. Okay, mystery solved, except for one thing. I wonder how big the bribe was that they paid to the guy who slipped bad data into Google’s map algorithm so that it would favor routes coming through that tunnel instead of better routes?

    2. Seriously, Google, don’t try to re-route me until you are absolutely sure I’m on the wrong road.

      What keeps getting Mrs. Chronda into trouble is when Siri says “you could save a couple of minutes using an alternate route.”

      Last summer, taking that option took us off a nice, paved highway onto a dirt road that went over the top of a mountain and winding down through the middle of a national forest. I was agin it, but I ain’t the one in charge.

      Instead of saving us the 15 minutes Siri promised, it took an extra few hours. Had we been in my car (or hers, for that matter), we wouldn’t have had the range to make it safely to the next gas station.

      And don’t give me “scenic.” The sun went down before it got scenic.

      1. There are people who don’t understand “road” doesn’t mean quite the same thing in rural New Mexico or Montana as it does in Philadelphia or Trenton.

        There’s paved, graveled, graded dirt, ungraded dirt, “four wheel drive strongly advised,” and “occasionally passable in favorable weather conditions.”

        1. They understand, but unlike the USGS topo maps, it’s not noted. Some of our roads were called trails on the topo maps. By our logic, if it had enough traffic that grass only grew in the middle, it was a road.

          A GPS has an even broader definition because it seldom has data on road conditions. So it was that when my Garmin tried to route me off a Federal highway onto a county maintained road, I went “Are you crazy?” and continued on the Federal highway. And I know of a spot where two field roads were noted on the Garmin, which tried to route us over them. The Tom Tom did, too.

          Even on major highways it can screw up. Once in Chattanooga, one tried to route us south through Knoxville (!). I said “That sign says Atlanta, and that’s where we’re headed. And in another town we pulled over and checked the paper maps – I never travel without paper back-ups.

          1. We are preparing for a major, six-week (or more) cross-country round trip with side trips this summer, and I finally broke down and ordered a GPS, something I’ve never had before. BUT. I am taking my Rand McNally road atlas! And I will also take as many single-state maps as I have on hand, and plan to pick up more as we go, if necessary (if I’m just passing through on an interstate, it won’t really be necessary). I’ve made three cross-country trips by myself and several more with the ex, and we had nothing but a Rand McNally road atlas for any of them.

            1. If you’re just passing through on an interstate, most states will have a welcome center shortly after you enter. These are generally delightfully clean facilities for relieving oneself and selecting state maps and pamphlets for “places of interest.” They are often staffed by exceedingly pleasant and courteous folk who will happily provide advise for road conditions and other matters.

              Several states I’ve been through offer gift shops and reasonably nice dining, as well.

              1. These are generally delightfully clean facilities for relieving oneself …

                …that tend to close about 4:30 PM. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

      2. Had an experience like that once where Google tried to send us on a “faster” route via the back roads. Turned out the back roads didn’t have cell service, so we ended up spending a very stressful time on a dark, snowy night trying to get back to the highway without any help from maps or navigation.

        1. Did that once, but it was in our service area and on a county maintained paved road. Finally I saw a line I recognized and went “Oh, I know where we are.”

          “I’m glad you do,” said my wife. We had no cell service, it was after midnight, and she wasn’t happy at all.

        2. When I was on my way from Cincinnati to Chattanooga I did spend one night in a hotel on the way (in London), and on the next day, because I had some time, wanted to take bit of a look at the Daniel Boone National Forest near it. So I did drive through it, stopped a couple of times for a short walk, but as I wanted to get to the ChooChoo early I left fairly early. Decided to take road 27 instead of going back to 75. I did get there all right, but some of the small back roads I drove through did get me a little bit worried as a couple were small enough that they kind of went through people’s yards. I kept expecting ending up on some pasture or field. 😀

    3. I’m a Maps junkie. However, their route calculator tends to suck.
      I tend to pick my own routes well ahead of time, use Maps to check things like intersections, road condition, and availability of good restaurants, and then I fall back to my pilot training from back in the 90’s, and make a paper trip plan with waypoints, road names, turns and distances.

      1. Yep. I mainly use Google only for street view, to know what the target building looks like (which still sometimes ends up unwell – there are some angles that I really wonder about where the picture taker was at the time).

        1. It’s also sometimes worth using the satellite view to determine where, relative to the building, the parking lot is. Again, not perfect, but it at least gives you a chance of not having to drive around the block six times before you figure out where to put your car.

      2. I thought I was the only one who did trip plans with waypoints, etc. (Everyone else laughs at me, until they get lost on the way to somewhere obscure.)

        1. My mom never remembered directions to anywhere. Well she could find church and the library. She couldn’t drive directly from church to the library. Everything was from home. We drove from LA up to Yellowstone over to Seattle for the ’62 World’s Fair then home. The whole trip was guided by an AAA TripTik. I was her nine year old navigator.

          Mom never got lost. We just had unplanned adventures.

    1. Thanks for the earworm, Sean. Now I have to surf up that song.

      On the bright side, I can.

  18. “Prescriptions and meds mailed.”

    Here today. My doctor emails the script to Express Scripts and they mail me the drugs. If it is new script, she mails one to the local pharmacy, too, for me to pick up the same day. Express Scripts handles refills.

    1. My problem is that I’m not organized enough to order refills in a timely manner. And, no, I don’t want auto-refills; I would rather control the timing of charges made against my cards.

      I would much prefer just being able to wander down to the local pharmacy when I noticed that I only had a few pills left. But, no. Now I have to stretch those few pills out for a coupla weeks ’til the new ones arrive. And don’t get me started about the time my prescriptions spent a month bouncing between “your pills will ship today” and “your prescriptions will be filled soon”. Finally had to call customer service on that one; they claimed they had never seen anything like it.

      Must be nice, being organized. I bet you get your taxes done on time, too.

      And for me, it’s not that the doctor emails the scripts, he just logs right into their web site and enters them.

      1. A neighbor of mine (well, around the corner, on a street named the same, except that his is “circle” and mine is “place,” there are two other streets in this neighborhood with the same name, I don’t know what that developer was on…) has a problem with getting his scrips delivered to the right place – and he’s on several meds. Fortunately, the wrong place is usually my place. I run around the corner about twice a month. (He returns the visit with my daughter’s anime books…)

        Not quite as much fun as when another “street name neighbor” had a kid in trouble with the law – it’s rather disconcerting to have a juvie probation officer show up at your door, wanting to see your son.

    2. G** D*** Ex-Prez Barky O! One of my meds was reclassified to be in the same classification as morphine. So now I have to refill every month and hand in a paper ‘scrip! I have osteo-arthritis with severe joint pain. I need 2 pain pills every day to function. I have to deal with extra hassle because it’s easier to harass the law-abiding than catch law breakers.

  19. Or as William Gibson said years ago, “The future is here… just unevenly distributed.”

  20. Eh.
    I expected I’d be foraging in a radioactive wasteland. I’ll call the status quo a win.

    1. I expected to die of cancer before I was 50. The universe let me down, once again.

      1. You certainly seem to take a lot for granted. Maybe you did and it’s just that nobody told you.

    2. Knowing what I knew of the political and military situation, plus having read waaaaay too much history, I was pretty sure at 17 that I’d probably never see 35, and if I did, it would probably be from inside a Soviet prison camp. So, I never planned very far past 35.

      Turns out, I was completely wrong. Still find it hard to process that the Soviets just rolled over, packed up their toys, and went home–Without there being a cataclysmic war putting a full stop at the end of their sentence. I remain convinced that that was a unique event, in the world-historical sense.

      Although… I did once contemplate the theory that everything after that rather unexplained flash back in the 1980s that scared the ever-loving snot out of my guards and I one night in Central Germany might have been the actual end of the world as I knew it, and all this since has been a sweet-smelling lie my unconscious told me as we lay waiting for the radiation to finish cooking us…

        1. LOL… You don’t know my subconscious. It’s a dark, dreary, dystopian place.

          I’ve also entertained the macabre thought that the current administration is a stroke-induced fantasy created from wishful thinking after Hillary won, and the sheer anger-induced blood pressure spike subsequently left me with this pleasant little world my mind has retreated to, after the aneurysm blew out…

          Which, then again, lacks plausibility in nearly all regards–But, then, so has everything else since I hit adulthood, so… Who the hell knows? About all I’d be willing to admit is that if this reality is the result of some kind of “locked-in” syndrome, then I really need to get some professional help, when and if I ever come out of it. Hell, Rod Serling wouldn’t have bought the premise of the last few decades, even if he was desperately in need of filler scripts for the Twilight Zone.

          1. “…the current administration is a stroke-induced fantasy…”

            You too? I think that every time I see Trump shoot another Lefty sacred cow on Twitter. The surreal “this is too awesome to be actually happening” feeling.

            In the 1970’s I use to go -outside- when the air raid sirens went off. We had them too, in Canada. Every once in a while, they’d test them or something, WHOOOOOOO!!!!, and I’d go outside for twenty minutes. Some people would occasionally accuse me of morbid thinking, I’d just say “you want to die from the flash or be buried alive and die tomorrow?”

            That’s how us Boomers grew up, whippersnappers. With the background knowledge that the Big White Flash could come any time, and the worst thing would be if it -almost- killed you.

            I’m looking forward to Trump finally stepping on Kim’s fat little neck. That nest of vipers has lived too long. Maybe I’ll be disappointed, but at least there’s a chance I won’t be.

            1. I somewhat hope for a surgical strike on Kim. Not out of any care for his subjects — they’re screwed whatever happens — but so that we can rifle through his records and find out a) where he’s been selling (and buying) his rocket & nuclear technology b) who’s been his nation’s butt boys and c) anything else of interest.

              I do not expect this will occur, as too many players won’t want their fingerprints found, but as long as I’m gonna wish, I’m gonna wish big.

      1. When I was 13 or so I spent a lot of time figuring blast radii for the various Soviet warheads and my distance from probable impact points – DC, Quantico, Norfolk, Richmond, etc. Felt pretty comfortable about being in the only non-radioactive bit for hundreds of miles. After the USSR fell, I found out about Mount Pony bunker west of me. Cause who wouldn’t nuke the Fed, right?

        Have to agree the USSR just rolling over was unique. I was in basic when they snatched Gorbachev. Our a-hole drills told us about it… never told us when they let him go. Half the guys there thought we were headed for Moscow on graduation.

        1. Our a-hole drills told us about it… never told us when they let him go.

          Our head (navy version of a drill instructor, called RDC) ripped the lowest ranking RDC for telling us about 9/11.

          He wanted us to go completely through bootcamp with no idea 9/11 had happened.

          No, reality wasn’t big on his list; yes, he actually DID start it out with a rather lame though well-intentioned and possibly even effective for some at the very desperate end attempt at manipulation, the “you guys are a totally special division” story, with a “big reveal” right before graduation, after the final test, that he lied.

          1. Big SAC base was upwind of where I grew up; it’s all fighters now. I hope the Chinese have updated their maps.

          2. Did something similar when my dad was stationed at McConnell in Wichita (Sidebar: He went into the Titans specifically to get transferred back to Tucson, forgetting the Air Force moves in mysterious ways.)

            The hard part of doing those calculations was the probability that the Soviet’s wouldn’t actually hit their target and miss in my direction. Some of those older Russian ICBM had CEPs in the hundreds of meters.

            1. One of the sayings that I have heard is that the military will take you places – just nowhere that you wanted.

              Although when I first visited relatives in Kansas, seeing a horizon that curved was rather exotic to this Arizona mountain boy.

              Like I said, I didn’t bother back then. This area was going to be overkilled…

              1. Although when I first visited relatives in Kansas, seeing a horizon that curved was rather exotic to this Arizona mountain boy.

                I went back to Kansas to visit friends a few years ago, and went to KC Ren Faire. Something felt off while I was there, and it didn’t register until I got back to Tucson: No mountains all around.

        2. There were a couple of years when I could look out my office window at the Blue Cube in Sunnyvale, CA. Definite multi-warhead target right there.

      2. Still find it hard to process that the Soviets just rolled over, packed up their toys, and went home–Without there being a cataclysmic war putting a full stop at the end of their sentence. I remain convinced that that was a unique event, in the world-historical sense.

        You know why nobody has ever managed to invent a time machine? The time travelers who went back and made sure the Cold War ended without nuclear annihilation of half the cities on Earth made sure of it. See, it took them so many attempts to get it right, that once they finally did get it right, they stopped right there and said, “Okay, that’s it. Lock it in, because we’re never going to get it this good, ever again.” And then, since they had already destroyed all time machines in the past and made sure nobody except their group could ever invent another one, they then took a sledgehammer to their own time machines and locked in the current timeline forever.

        See, the first thing ANYONE does when they invent a time machine is to go back in time and kill the worst dictator they know of. For anyone born in the second half of the 20th century, of course, that dictator was Hitler. So the three people who managed to invent a time machine between 1950 and 2000 all went back to kill Hitler at various points. But it turned out that without Hitler starting WW2, America wouldn’t have used the atomic bomb on Japan, and the Bay of Pigs incident would have ended very, very differently. So the time travelers who wanted to prevent the nuclear annihilation of the world had to, much to their disgust, protect the most hated man in history. Some of their attempts to keep him alive were so incredibly implausible, like the suitcase bomb that only managed to not kill Hitler because somebody pushed it behind a leg of the conference table (!), that they were shocked that nobody later figured out that time travel was possible based on that incident. I mean, it was so completely obvious to them that that incident was two competing time-traveling groups getting in each other’s way. But, like an author who worries about the foreshadowing being too obvious only to have reader after reader tell her, “That was great! You totally suckered me, and then the second time I read the book I saw the foreshadowing, and I was gobsmacked,” the time-travelers were overestimating the number of people who came up with time travel as an explanation for that incident. And so, instead of hundreds of time machines to track down and prevent (which would have been impossible), they only had to deal with three, all of which were dealt with by the simple expedient of meeting the inventor, taking him to “the future” (their present) to show him the consequences if he DIDN’T destroy his invention, and then returning him to his life. This worked for two of the three inventors, though sadly Alan Turing couldn’t be persuaded to leave Hitler alive and so a more “permanent” solution had to be arranged for him lest he unknowingly destroy the world. But in the end, it all worked out. And, having achieved that one-in-a-million chance, the time travelers destroyed all their time machines so that they would never be tempted to meddle with history again, because knocking ANYTHING off-balance would probably bring them back to one of the millions of nuclear-annihilation timelines, and they couldn’t be sure that they’d ever succeed a second time.

        I don’t have the writing chops to make that into a book. But if anyone wants to, PLEASE, feel free to “borrow” the idea wholesale and run with it. I’d be happy to read that story.

        1. Seems realistic to me, and we do have good evidence of time travel. If there was ONE, just ONE event that you could go back in all of time to witness, What would it be? One thing that was unique and changed the entire universe. And don’t our historical accounts of that event include strange men who seem to have an inexplicable foreknowledge of it show up just in time to witness it and then disappear?

          “behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him… And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”

          The future is another country, they do things differently there. But apparently they are Christian.

          1. I like it. I can see the opening lines now…

            First of all, there were five of us, not three, and secondly, my name is Gaspar. With a G. You’d think historians would be more careful. So anyway, there we were, with shiny new physics Ph.D.’s in hand, and Mike says, “Hey Gasper,” (yeah, he could be a real jerk sometimes — asthma isn’t funny, Mike!) Anyway, Mike says, “If you could go anywhere, absolutely ANYWHERE for your vacation, where would you pick?” […]

            1. Then you might want to read Tales of Metachronopolis by John C. Wright. It’s time travel novel told in short stories that appear to be out of order.

          2. But seriously… if I had to witness pick just ONE event from Jesus’ life to witness, I’d pick the one that rocked the universe to its core. Not Christmas, that one’s second-place. Easter.

            1. cough. Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock.

              One of his better novels, which is not to say it is especially good. The title is kinda a clew as to Moorcock’s thesis.

              I vaguely recall a Silverbob novel about a time traveler from our future come to observe the chaos of Y2K (nothing about computer dating, however.) I’m sure the title will revisit me in the dead of night.

              I think my favorite was a Frank Brunner (IIRC) which made the case that any universe in which time travel occurs is inherently unstable and will ultimately crash, resulting in a universe in which nobody discovers time travel.

          3. Why necessarily Christian? Could be Jewish. I know that there tons more Christians than Jews. I just had to say it. I’d love to visit or watch the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai or entry of Joshua into Israel. Or any number of other events from the TaNaCh. Yes I am the daughter and grand-daughter of Rabbis. I feel blessed and fortunate that Israel was re-established in my lifetime (okay in my father’s lifetime. 1948 was before my father was married.) Next Year in Jerusalem is now a slogan for El-Al airlines. If you compare today with medieval times the mind boggles.

            1. I know that’s it’s improbable for a world to be majority Jewish. But it would be interesting to watch. Or to see King David. One thing that remains is Divine Aid–miracles. I’d like to visit the future. I wouldn’t mind meeting my mother as an adult. She died when I was a teenager.

              1. Oooh, how about the establishment of the Covenant? Or even just to see the Ark? (The boat one, not the also cool but not on a change point Ark of the Covenant.)

                1. I think I would like to see (but not touch) the Ark of the Covenant. I’d also like top see what was actually blooming on with Jacob’s genetic experiments.

            2. Because he was looking at unique and changed the universe– the same way that the Fall did. (I seem to remember there are multiple Jewish philosophies about HOW that worked, but the division between in Eden/not and death entering the world is pretty objective, so I figure it will work.)

              The others are important, but different in kind– I know you don’t agree Jesus is the promised one, but wouldn’t you want to see the coming of the real one?

              It’s not a matter of being Christian, it’s a matter of disagreement about facts. *big grin*

              1. Not really. Eschatology really isn’t my thing. Also learning about it in Yeshiva seriously creeped me out. Two Jews, three opinions.

            3. If, at Nicaea, things had turned out differently, Christianity might well have stayed far closer to Judaism, to the point of looking more like “those Odd reformed people at the Temple up the street” rather than what it is today. (Which would also have had very, very interesting results for the creation of the religion commonly called Islam.)

              We might have ended up with pork-bbq-Jews (modify the dietary laws) and beef-bbq-Jews (original rules still in place)!

              *More caffeine? Probably a good idea*

          4. Iron Crown Enterprises did a time-travel setting for their ROLEMASTER game. They assumed Niven’s First Law was fully in effect, and ran with it.

            The basic game mechanic was “timelock.” Since you *can’t* change history, any time you try to–knowingly or not–you are guaranteed to blow your roll. The harder you try, the more you blow it–to the point that, as the book put it, “the road is paved with banana peels.”

            This led to many corollaries, one of which was the “limelight effect.” The chances of you actually making it to a certain hill outside Jerusalem on a certain date is darned near zero–because there is *so* much competition, and it is known that Jerusalem’s population did *not* go up by a factor of ten thousand that day.

            Fun ideas. I may steal some of them someday.

      3. I remember reading something by RAH years ago when the Cold War was in full swing. He had visited The Soviet Union and said it was obvious that reality had no connection to Soviet statistics. He figured that they were not half as powerful as they said.

          1. Was nukes and oil. Now we’ve made oil cheap. Frackers stealing Putin’s power. Heh.

              1. I’d love it if the US became the leading energy producer in the world. If we also had a decently sized military as well it would be awesome!

        1. Specifically he mentioned that the official population of Moscow was way too large for the visible infrastructure that was supporting it.

          1. This is also Expanded Universe which I have probably given away more copies of than all other books combined (except you might have to leave Starship Troopers out of the count).

  21. I mean, I’m 21 and I can see how the wold has changed. When I was a kid, we had dial up, and computer were still fairly expensive. Now we have high speed internet and everyone in my family has a personal laptop (I have two). I know I’m in the vast minority by still having a dumb phone, but I’ve got a tablet to make up for the lack of one. It’s a crazy world.

  22. We’ve been watching DVD sets of Columbo and Rockford Files. The early episodes are closing in on half a century old. And what’s interesting is how much things look like they do here in 2017. Sure, no computers or mobile phones… but since they’re not part of the stories it’s not readily apparent.

    What’s noticeable are the differences in how things *work*; the infrastructure behind the stories. A big chunk of the detective work they did, you could do with your phone now… and that’s not even counting public surveillance systems, changes in forensics, Big Data, etc.

    1. I was amused to think how the plot of Commando would be completely different if it were set a decade or so later. Back in 1985, Arnie could run around and kill the bad guys before they got to a phone to warn their boss, but now?

    2. I know there’s a professional PI who reads this stuff– maybe they* would be willing to do a guest post.

      *yes, I use the old form of “they” being non-plural; I also use “can” to include permission, because this isn’t a sufficiently formal situation for “may” to be required. If it bugs you enough for you to be so rude as to correct me– BITE ME. Then you’ll have to deal with my husband, and he’s scary.

      1. I won’t correct you but my mother might have but she was an old time school teacher and “knocked” into our heads “can means able”, “may means you have permission”. 😉

        On the other hand, when she got somewhat older, she’d say things like “you can set the table” or “you may set the table” when she meant “go set the table”.

        On the gripping hand, when she said that, I would kid her about it while I was getting ready to “go set the table”. 😀

        1. There’s always cultural subcurrents, I just have an abject LOATHING of the “I am going to abuse you because you used a correct format I do not approve of and are in a desperate situation” thing.

          Shorter: if you have authority over what I’m allowed to do, then what I “can” do is determined by your permission. And if you decide to act in terms of what I am physically capable of doing while silently withholding permission, when directly asked, THEN try to punish me for it, and you don’t have authority on par with “mom,” you will have to face a mother of wrath.


          Moms are allowed to teach culture. A teacher is NOT allowed the same range of movement. It’s like the difference between renting a car and building one…..

          1. No, to my memory, I didn’t have a teacher do the passive aggressive “you can” then punish you because you didn’t have permission thing.

            But I wouldn’t have noticed because mom got so many calls anyways, by the time I started keeping track that was years in the past, and it happens my mom did the highly formal “may” thing anyways*.

            * I have apologized to my seven year old for mistakenly correcting her grammar. Figure it’s a decent lesson…..

            1. Since specificity is the soul of all good communication, and one of the first things progs do in any arena they’re trying to control is muddy what words mean, I would like to petition you to consider that, possibly, it’s worth having distinct words:

              I can.
              I may
              I will
              I shall

              to describe whether I’m capable of doing a thing, it’s possible I can do a thing, I’m planning on doing a thing, and I’m going to do a thing, and good luck trying to stop me. OWTTE

              But yes, I’ve told the yard ape that while we (in the family) enjoy being corrected on points of grammer and precise word-meaning, out there in the cold cruel world it’s insufferably rude.

              1. Very useful, and that’s exactly why I so dislike the incorrect correction on “may”– you cannot do a thing if you do not have permission; likewise, you are capable of doing a thing, even if you are permitted (may) do so.

                By asking “can I do __,” you are conveying that their permission is required, which is a point of respect…and that’s the other part of why the incorrect correction is annoying, especially when it’s rudely delivered. (manners is, after all, a two way street)
                It is like that other favorite activity of progs, attacking people for acceptable behavior which they do not like, such as holding the door open for ladies.

                Last time I did the research, it’s like the “split infinitive” and such, and there’s been steady use of “can” for asking permission in normal speach the whole way. 😀

                Hm, maybe the oxford comma would be a good addition…someone needs to get a collection of arguments like this, same as the “which way does the toilet paper go on the holder” argument.

                  1. Every time I find an old off-white/yellow cover of S&W I buy it to have to give so people don’t buy that abomination that is the later silver editions.

          1. With Mom it was intended as “set the table now” (and I knew it) but it was funny “how she said it”. 😆

            1. What is this “look” thing? I still remember the whops on the back of the head when I didn’t hustle to open a door for a female. (No, she didn’t believe in Pavlov – except where it worked. I open and hold doors for women to this day…)

            2. Mom got slightly annoyed when I, my sister and Dad talked about her “Dark Brown Look”.

              Of course, being a school teacher helped her in “getting good at it”.

              Oh, when David Weber used the expression “Old-Fashion Look” in the Honor Novels, I knew exactly what he meant even though I hadn’t heard that expression before. 😀

      2. Not at all, I consider a phrase like that practically asking for at least the question….

        Short version, I think he imprinted on Spock at an early age, but doesn’t have scriptwriters trying to force “rational” things that are either irrational or simply based on different assumptions. In D&D terms, I’m lawful good, he’s lawful neutral.

        Yes, it is awesome, as is he– but part of that is because he is mine. A gun looks different when it’s not pointed your way.

  23. Funny you should mention us living in the future. I’m just looking at a little “maker” widget that has a 32-bit computer on it, a 6-axis accelerometer, wireless connection via PooTooth, and a few more things. Its the size of a pencil eraser.


    With a breakout board and supporting whatnot, you can buy one for ~$50.00

    That’s some serious futurizing. That little thing could run the Apollo moon lander and have room for more. Its as big as a fingernail, and its for kids to mess around with. A toy. You’re meant to make emotion-sensing jewelry out of LEDs with it.

    There is a ton of stuff out there like that. Tiny, cheap, minuscule things that pack more punch than a desktop from 2008. With current chip-fabs running 7 to 14 nano-meter feature sizes, this trend is only going to accelerate.

    That’s one thing.

    Yesterday we were talking about offices, and I posted something about how the Big Media was concentrating in three locations instead of branching out as the Internet has allowed other industries to do. Of note was the fact that -Internet publishers- like Slate etc. have ALL moved to either NYC or San Fran/Silicon Valley. Books as we know are all in NYC, magazines are NYC and LA.

    The thing yesterday was that they are concentrating, one might almost say “huddling” together where they can all see each other and go drinking together. They all want to be in the same office.

    The thing I want to say today is, these are FAILING BUSINESSES. Their market shares are shrinking, their profits are decaying, they are not growing, their customer base is pissed off and actively trying to find alternatives. The big example this week is ESPN, rolling hard Left right before they die.

    There’s hundreds of billions of dollars sitting on the table for media companies. Print, music, video, there are more eyeballs available now than there have ever been in history. Because cell phones, like Sarah said.

    But the companies that formerly had a total monopoly on media are utterly missing out. Who is winning in the fight for eyeballs? Pewdie Pie. Smosh. Nail polish and makeup video gurus. Gun videos. Who is losing? ESPN.

    I’d like to posit a hypothesis. I propose that this new technology connects people in a fundamentally non-hierarchical way. Those people and companies who grasp this notion are doing well. Those who cling to the old model of centralized command and control, offices and office towers, etc. are not doing well.

    The one place that centralization has a death grip these days is government. Governments are both the driving force and the end product of the economy these days. More than half the profit generated in the world goes to them.

    But, we -know- that government can’t even prohibit the sale of alcohol in a nation and make it stick. That was in the 1920’s. They failed! Spectacularly!

    How much less chance do they have now that a computer that could run a Saturn V rocket costs $50 and is the size of an eraser? When a camera the size of a dime costs $10? When you can automate an 800 hp diesel tractor, and the -cheapest- part of it is the electronics?

    The future of government is smaller, cheaper and less powerful. Less centralized, more difuse, and -weaker-. The original intent of the US Founding Fathers.

    The Canadian founding fathers had something a little different in mind, they wanted a cow to milk. 150 years later the cow is getting pretty sick. She might decide she’s given enough.

    1. I was struck, about a decade ago, by the sight of thumb drives on end cap display at the local grocery, offering one gig of storage for about $10. Only a decade prior to that we had bought a secondary hard drive for the PC which provided 200 Meg for $200. I suspect the profit margin on the thumb drive was probably greater … nowadays it is common to see four and eight gig thumb drives among the impulse buys in the check-out lane at Wally’s mart, costing about a dollar a gig instead of a dollar a meg.

      That radically changes how we manage data. Storage is no longer precious item, to be carefully curated and hoarded. I still remember the change over from installing programs via 10 floppy disks to a single CD-ROM simply because it wasn’t worth the IT department’s time to linger at a PC swapping out disks.

      1. Those cheap thumb drives are the Cuban Internet these days. They pass around all the stuff they don’t want Fidel knowing about. Mostly pr0nz and stolen music I’m sure, but that’s 90% of the internet anyway.

        Net result, you can live in Cuba and still be a death-metal fan. That’s a pretty big deal.

          1. That’s right! Uncle Fidel is now an ex-president-for-life. Little Justin Trudeau was very sad to lose his uncle like that.

            Funny how Cuba never shows up in the news these days. At all. Ever.

      2. I still have a hard drive in its original shrink-wrap packaging that I bought because $1/GB was just too good a price to resist and I was going to need one anyway.

        These days, it’s too small to be useful, so it remains in the shrinkwrap.

        1. Somewhere around here I have a full-height Maxtore ESDI drive and the controller card, which I scored somewhere, and thought I was the Boss Of Everything.

          500 megs.

          I remember seeing the War Amputees’ data center, they were the guys who used to send out the little miniature keychain tags every year. They had an IBM System 38 with 16 gigs of storage. It was a whole room full of big hard drives and tape backup units. We were trying to sell them an Exabyte tape drive that could back up their whole database on only six or seven tape cassettes. 2 gig tapes! Holy crap! (They didn’t go for it. Didn’t say IBM on it.)

          Today, I sit at my desk and before me is a Raspberry Pi PC. It has a 16 gig micro-SD card in it that is literally smaller than my thumbnail. If I traveled back in time to that day, the whole f-ing computer is roughly the size of the tapes for the tape drive I was trying to sell them. With a bit of fiddling about, the Raspi could easily run their whole operation as it existed at that time.

          For that matter my fricking phone could probably do it.

          1. And then there was the time a coupla jokers with a truck dumped a complete PDP-11/23 system on my porch, rang the doorbell, and sped off.

            1. Nice! ~:D Those things are about the size of a small chest freezer, aren’t they?

              1. Indeed. And this was a nice one; coupla RL02 drives (14″ top-loading disk cartridges) and a pair of big Eagle ESDI drives.

          2. I notice Walmart offering a Western Digital Elements 1TB Portable External Hard Drive for under sixty bucks. 32G flash drives are five to ten dollars. 2G flash drives are available for use as promotional give-aways.

            Imagine back when the reax if you told computer scientists you could hold a terabyte of data in the palm of your hand for less than the cost of a nice dinner for two.

            I’m so old I can remember when it was a BIG deal to move from 7.2 to 1.44 Mb on a 5.5″ floppy. Now … they seem more expensive but are being used for everything but</I data storage. Zazzle that, folks.

            1. Pfft. I’ve got a box of 8″ floppies squirrelled away. Never know when I might need an original distribution kit for MP/M or CP/M WordStar 4.0.

              1. BWAAhahaha! I’m laughing because there’s a box in my basement with all kinds of old DOS crap in it, and somewhere down there is a PC that will run it.

                1. IIRC, US missile command uses antique computer equipment. They maintain it because it has become unique.

            2. I keep a 1982 Byte Magazine around just for the advertisement on the back: 5 Meg Winchester hard disk for only $6,000.

              1. I keep one around just in case I’m attacked by SJW “geeks.” Figure I flip open to one of the interior ads, and they’ll fall writhing and frothing on the floor.

                IIRC (too tired to get up out of the chair right now), wasn’t the gal in the not very much of anything selling 16K memory chips? I can see the picture in my head still..

          3. My phone has a 64gig thumbnail chip I got because, basically, “oooh, look, Amazon sale for less than twenty bucks!”

            1. My mom was an #OriginalComputerGeek– had permission to use the computer lab…which was cutting edge, and bigger than the freezer used for hanging beef, for ONE COMPUTER…..

              1. Which vintage of #OriginalComputerGeek do you mean? I mean, there are the folk like me who started actually programming in the mid-70s and started with mainframes consisting of many (20-50) fridge-sized boxes and mini-computers consisting of 3-5 fridge-sized boxes.
                Or there are folk like my dad, who started programming around 1960. Big computers at that time filled several-to-many rooms—100s of fridge-sized boxes.
                Somewhat older #OriginalComputerGeeks talk about fun things like drum memory and mercury delay-lines. Or rooms full of vacuum tubes.

                It’s fascinating to think that the programmable “pocket” calculator I got as a Freshman in college in ’79 was more powerful (in FLOPs) and had more and faster memory than the computer my dad used for his Ph.D. work in 1963/64.

                My very favorite #OriginalComputerGeek story was told by Dr. Maurice Wilkes. He was fond of saying:
                “Early in my career*, I entered the very first program into the very first stored-program computer in England, in the full expectation that it would work. [beat]
                Of course, it did not work.
                [two beats]
                Then, I invented debugging.”

                *That would have been 1949!

                1. That’s #OriginalProgrammer– although she was geeking out on using the stuff before you were programming it.

                  It’s like the difference between being a knife geek and being a smithing geek; they’re both totally valid and freaking AWESOME geekdoms, but there is a world of difference between making and using. My dad is an awesome smith, but I’d much rather follow my aunt in using the smithed things. (She knows jack all of making, but she ADORES the shortsword made of a milsurplus bayonet, and she is scary good with it.)

                  1. I misread your comment at first and thought you were talking about the Original Programmer, Ada Lovelace. Who never got to actually touch the machine she was designing algorithms for.

                    (And yes, I know she didn’t really make as large a contribution as everyone wants to give her credit for. But the story’s too good not to pass on: the first computer programmer being the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, of all people, is too perfect. So I’ll call her the first computer programmer anyway, even though I realize the claim is weaker than I’d prefer.)

                  2. ProgrammingGeek, ComputerGeek… there’s often quite a bit of overlap. I’ve never built a computer (in the sense of “from scratch” rather than “assembled a PC from parts”), so I’m clearly on the software side of things.

                    Dr. Wilkes and his team designed and built that computer, very much from scratch. He’d run across Eckert & Mauchly’s EDVAC (the successor to ENIAC), so his team in the UK designed and built the ECSAC—getting it up and running months before EDVAC was completed. Although, to be fair, EDVAC was a larger and more complex system; EDSAC was finished first in part because Wilkes kept it simpler and smaller to ensure that his team would be able to make it work.

                    As for the varying geekdoms, well to steal your words with a minor change: “they’re ALL totally valid and freaking AWESOME geekdoms”

                2. Hm, I gotta nag my husband into recording his grandma… she knew Admiral Hopper well enough that the lady inquired about her family each time they met*, and there are some awesome stories there.

                  * Note: for Admiral Hopper, this is not as insanely awesome as it would be for, oh, me; Grandma met her like five times in 20 years but the Admiral remembered my father in law by name and asked about his little sister, and she remembered grandma’s whole marital situation. For me, this would be like remembering your shoe size because we literally bumped into eachother at an anime convention. Said grandma *IS* a very strong, awesome personality.

                  1. My son did his Famous American report on Grace Hopper. Did a really good speech, too, despite leaving too much until the night before and having no chance to practice. (He’s in third grade and ASD, so successfully doing a speech where the only issue was that he played with his belly button the whole time was pretty cool.)

                    1. That totally rocks! Your son might like to know that I have (and truly treasure!) three of Grace Hopper’s nanoseconds.

                      For those who don’t know, these are ~1ft. pieces of wire; length chosen such that an electrical signal would take a nanosecond to traverse the wire. Commodore Hopper handed them out to people who asked good questions.

      3. My first HD was a 20MB and cost about $2-300 if memory serves.

        My newest drive is a 500GB solid state drive for the Chromebook…it was $70 on sale.

        1. I recall the day we installed the first hard disk in an IBM PC at work (an original model 5150 in 1982). 5 Mb and cost $1500 ($4360 in today’s money, so $893000/Gb).
          Local computer store is selling a 3Tb drive for $78 ($0.025/Gb). So roughly 35 million X cheaper and 1200X faster.

        2. When I was onboard ship, the IT support was hacking windows to force it to work on the tiny drives they had– the Navy had signed an awesome deal on hard-drives for a then unheardof cheap price like 35g for $50.
          Technology had moved on.
          On that same cruise, one of the guys showed his geek cred by having a whole freaking TERABITE of storage, which set him back about $500 because he set up the array himself.
          You can now get that on two SD cards for significantly less. No array needed.

          1. My dad was civilian consultant (retired military) for the AF once when he had to do that three-year-lead-time budgeting thing for replacing the computers. By the time that budget had rolled around, they were able to get *much* nicer computers than he’d budgeted for.

        3. Starting around 1979, I had three different computer systems. Each one cost me $3000, and two were on HP employee discounts. Around 1991, a new system started costing about a grand, and now it’s about $300, except for one fancy laptop.

          The first floppy was a 110K, and the first hard drive used 15Mb. I now use a 2Tb drive for backup. Cost $80.

          1. My laptop, which is rapidly becoming my principle machine for anything that doesn’t need a large screen, is a Chromebook that would have been $150 new but I got used for $80 although it needed a $20 battery. $50 of memory upgrades to 16GB and a $70 SSHD later and I’m running Linux with X quite nicely.

            1. We’re keeping one laptop on Windows 7 to run Quicken and (maybe) taxes. Because of the trainwreck that Microsoft has done with updates, it’s now in Woody Leonard’s “Group W”, where it’s not getting any updates, but it’s also not on line. (Note: MS is now disabling Windows updates on newer processors running Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft being Microsoft, it’s screwing up and disabling updates on considerably older processors, and/or those with new graphics cards. See Infoworld–Woody Leonard’s column–if it matters to you.)

              The new laptop is an underpowered Dell that shipped with Windows 7, but it’s running Slackware 64. I have about the same configuration on the Dell desktop, and a 32 bit version on a Y2K vintage Sony out in the shop. It plays music and can view drawings. A friend gave me an out-of-service 320G hard drive, so until something dies, it’s good.

              1. Everyone’s heard about the Webroot debacle where it labeled key parts of the Windows OS malware right? They scrambled to correct the problem. Actually, I wonder if Webroot got it right the first time.

                1. I’d vote for Webroot. Microsoft and Apple are about to push me over to the Linux side, 30 years behind everyone else (as usual. I’m a pioneer of the trailing edge of technology.)

      4. Some years ago my bank put little LCD displays at each clerk’s carrel, pointed at the customer. They had coiffed actors lipping and gesticulating, trying earnestly to sell something, but since there was no sound, no way to tell what. And they were very irritating.

        There was a thumbdrive sticking prominently out the side of each one. This being back when thumbdrives were still expensive, I observed to a co-worker that I was surprised people hadn’t stolen them.

        She thought for a moment and said, “You wouldn’t want to steal them. Just swap them with one of your own thumbdrives.”

        “Why would I want to do that?”

        “Consider: you could put anything you wanted on it…”

        Yes, she was definitely an Odd.

        1. Tellers! I remember when we first started getting ATMs. I was working Third Shift and was delighted that I no longer had to stay up late/get up early just to do banking.

          I do not dislike tellers, I just dislike unnecessary interpersonal interactions. I was paid to talk to people while on my job and that was bad enough.

          1. I don’t go to ATMs anymore because debit cards and because I can get cash from the cashier when I’m checking out my groceries.

    2. But, we -know- that government can’t even prohibit the sale of alcohol in a nation and make it stick. That was in the 1920’s. They failed! Spectacularly!

      Holy cow, an analogy to prohibition that is actually reasonably accurate– alcohol is pretty much unique in terms of drugs because it’s flatly impossible to have food and NOT have the material to make alcohol.

      The information revolution, in the age of Facebook? Yeah, pretty much the same. If we can talk, we can make a different route for information.

      1. Then you can take processed food and wood and make gunpowder. It’s a lengthy and disgusting process, but you can provide your own key materials. (you don’t *have* to have sulfur in black powder; it mostly makes it easier to ignite when you have a flint lock)

      2. It came to my attention a long time ago that government is actually a very blunt instrument. The government -can’t- end the use of a harmful substance like alcohol. They -can’t- end the use of weed either, nor can they even end the availability of a manufactured device like a gun. I mean can’t in the sense of “physically unable” as in one man cannot lift a Buick no matter how much he needs to. Even with the willing support of most people, government -can’t- stop drug use, alcoholism, murder, etc. They can punish those things after the fact, not stop them.

        But somewhere back around WWI, there arose this notion that governments -can- do things like that. All the new technology, the transportation, the communications, the record keeping, it would be like giving our man a jack so he can lift the Buick. Finally, Bad people would be forced to stop their badness, and become Good. By the power of humanitarian government instead of religious government. Social Hygene

        Lately we see people trying to create the One World Government that old SF used to love. Then they’ll be able to do it! If only there was no external country to ship in illegal booze, illegal weed, illegal guns, THEN it would work!

        But it still won’t work. Because Central Planning is too blunt an instrument to work. It is okay for really big things, like wars. But small things, like individual behaviors, it does not work.

        The world is made up of small things. Not big ones.

        Once upon a time a few years ago, in sign-infested Britain, where there’s a road sign literally every hundred feet, a town did an experiment. They took down ALL the signs. Stop signs, traffic lights, all of it. Traffic congestion -improved-, road accidents -decreased.-

        Once upon a time some nerds were studying traffic lights in Japan. They discovered that if you had a computer control each light based on number of cars waiting, and communicate with the next light down the street what it was doing, it worked better than centralized control. Throughput increased, accidents decreased.

        Once upon a time some architects were trying to figure out the fastest way to empty a ballroom in case of fire. They used ants to do the work. The ants would jam the door, just as a panicked crowd would. Having a bigger door did not improve flow very much. Putting a big round pillar in front of the door improved flow a lot. The ants couldn’t jam the door anymore.

        Once upon a time there was an election in the USA, and despite EVERY news station and media outlet raging against it, a Cheeto-coloured rodeo clown was elected. The first Orange-American President. The entire media got it wrong. Not a little wrong either. Wildly, amazingly wrong. They were too big to get it right, and now they are going out of business.

        What cannot continue -will- stop. Central planning and control is over. It had a really long ride, but personal freedom is more powerful. I just hope not too many of us get squashed in the death throes.

        1. Sometimes I think the US should be turned into a defensive alliance for the 50 states. Anything not having to do with defense should devolve to the sovereign states.

  24. I want my moon colonies. I want my flying cars. I want–

    The band ScissorKiss asked that 15 years ago:

    Where’s my silver hair
    My silver clothes
    My cyber implants, baby
    Where’s my silver love

    Where’s my silver home
    My silver car
    My silver spaceport, baby
    Where’s my silver love

    Where’s the future you promised me…
    My moon colony

    Where’s my silver love

    Sadly, I can’t find audio as I loved them back in the day. That reminds me I need to reconnect with their bass player.

  25. Imagine in the (probably not too distant) future Manufacturing as a Service. Anytime you need a widget, you find a supplier, send them the specs,they print up what you need and ship it to you. No sales people, not much overhead just standards specs and boom.

    1. It’s already happening, and not just for plastic widgets.

      I’ve become a fan of Jay Leno’s Garage, partly for rare/odd/weird motor vehicles, and partly for glimpses of tech behind restoring old cars.

      Poke around a bit, and find one of the episodes that focused on 3D printing of very old car parts, such as 100+ year old steam fire engines. In which, since you can find parts in your local pick-and-pull, one critical part of the fire engine was scanned, the file sent out, and in a few days they had a new part, better in just about any way than the original part was new, for a lot less than the cost of having a good machine shop mill it for them.

      And by a company that is in the process of setting up local centers for making low-volume custom metal parts for your business. Send them the files, or if you need a bit of hand holding, they’ll create the files from an example part, and do the run for you.

  26. When my grandfather was born the Wright Brothers were two eccentric bicycle builders who were chasing a dream at Kitty Hawk, NC. Edward VII was King of England and the Tsars ruled in Russia.

    Daddy was born early in the depression. Penicillin had been discovered, but it would be more than a decade before it would be in use to fight infections. By the time he was finishing high school there had been a second World War. We had entered the nuclear age, the cold war had begun and television was being introduced.

    When I was born the space age had not started. While there had been experiments in color broadcast, most network and all local television was still produced in black and white. There were no microcomputers, no video games and no university or home Internet. The great consolidation of department stores and publishing houses had not yet begun.

    1. When my Grandfather was born the Wright Brothers weren’t even in the bicycle business. ~:D He was a Victorian.

    2. Ronald Spector, in his “Eagle Against the Sun”, points out that the US Army in 1935 was as far away technology from the US Army of 1945 as it was from the US Army at Valley Forge during the revolution.

    1. …and they make contacts out of soft stuff, instead of little hard lenses you install with a suction cup on a little stick…

      1. My grandmother once showed me her first contact lenses. They were huge pieces of plastic that looked like they went over your whole eyeball and would scratch everything in both directions. They were gag-worthy.

        1. Old-style contact lenses are alarming.

          Less alarming but still startling — a friend’s mother found a stash of unused disposable diapers from ~1980ish. The balance of reasons for cloth vs. disposable at the time was suddenly illuminated.

  27. …And the problem with the “save the planet” government idea of turning the clock to the Medieval is that too many people know what the alternatives are, and will refuse to give up things like, oh, antibiotics.

  28. Now I can buy him shoes in every style with a few clicks on the net.

    And that’s the ease of live for someone looking for normal clothing.

    Imagine how much easier it has become for someone looking for clothes that are…not easy to shop for even if they are commonly available.

    Then I sit down and write a weblog, which is read — looks at stats — by about four thousand people all over the world seconds after I write it.

    During the day I’ll check in with friends all over the world

    The net has done more for gay rights, people into alternative romantic structure (I’d say poly but it is bigger than that), and other people with alternate sexuality than all the activists combined have achieve IMNSHO.

    The net ended the “go to SF, Chicago, or NYC and live in a gay ghetto or be on the downlow at best and so far in the closet you can see Narina” conditions forever. It let all these people create a community where they could be out and share where it was safe to be out (for some definition of safe from “physically” to “won’t get outed”). It replaced the shibboleths of having to know who the bartenders at the Atlanta Eagle are in order to be trusted with the location of a meeting in Hartford.

    The net is what ends the fact that you drank in a leather bar for years and never made the right contacts to get into the back (or even know it was there) to one of you closer friends in the leather world who was initiated into the scene in that same bar laughing at how clueless you were.

    People will celebrate what the activists, who IMHO have done as much to stir up sentiment against those who are romantically/sexually odds as they have to advance their cause. However, I know it is the net that has done us a lot of good.

    1. The net, by providing a veil of anonymity, has both allowed many people to be far more “out” than they could dare be in the physical world, it has vastly increased the number of people who are acquainted with somebody who is “into that scene” — whatever that scene might be, from leather-wearing fornicators to white-shirted Mormons (with or without great racks.)

      Thus it has increased tolerance by decreasing psychological distances. At t eh same time, it has enhanced the abilities of divergent groups to form up and huddle in the shadows, awaiting their time to strike a blow against their enemies. See: Antifa, Alt-Right web groups. It has also enhanced the astroturfing of causes, enabling small coteries of folk to employ multiple online identities to present a profile much larger and more threatening than is actually true.

      Strange times, strange realities, but not really more so than when we were younger — it’s simply that we were not aware of the shadow dwellers.

      1. I think on balance it is a plus as that same “one step removed” will over time weaken those in the shadows but also further radicalize them.

        I suspect it makes the shadow groups easier to infiltrate.

        1. I have gradually become resigned to the prospect that the world does not care one way or the other about my approval of any of various trends, and that I therefore need not bother forming an opinion beyond “Hunh. That’s curious.” about most such.

          As a result I find I actively resent anything that forces me to have an opinion on their peculiar and unnatural beliefs and proclivities, especially when they demand I deem those proclivities as normal. The human species is too varied for any practice to ever be considered “normal” and I do not willingly deign to pretend otherwise.

          Your everlasting summer
          You can see it fading fast
          So you grab a piece of something
          That you think is gonna last
          But you wouldn’t know a diamond
          If you held it in your hand
          The things you think are precious
          I can’t understand

          1. I would be happy if the default of people “yeah, those people over there are freaks but they keep to themselves so no point in bugging them.”

            1. Fun how the ‘Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name’ won’t shut up and the ‘Keep the Gov’t Out of My Bedroom’ crowd has a web cam. Yes, you’re here. I’m used to it. Now move because you’re blocking the sidewalk. If you really need my validation that much you have other issues.

              I want a new version of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. I didn’t ask; quit telling me.

            2. *sad* The big problem is how one defines “keeping to themselves.”

              Easy and fairly noncontroversial example: the FGM folks figure that their women are their business, and any female born to them or married into them is “their women.”

              1. That is a problem but there is a huge span between, “We need to hunt down everyone who follow Joseph Smith” and “If she is born to one of those families who are we to judge if they cut off her external genitalia.”

                I would say “no one getting hurt” is a good standard but even now people important to me are at risk on that one when they shouldn’t be. Perhaps, “no one should face risks they are not well informed and consent to openly.” Oddly, in that world women who marry in could accept FGM and not cause issue by my standard.

                1. Yeah, there’s a span, but the problem isn’t distance in juding, it’s judging AT ALL.

                  Shifting it over to metrics dodges the issue that yes, there is right, and there is wrong, and it doens’t meet up neatly with a lot of the popular philosophies. (frequently because of basic biology– “womans choice,” my left foot, you killing me is NOT your freaking choice, no matter what a bother I am to you!)

                  1. “Welcome to OUR country, friendly foreign person. We have rules here. Don’t break them.

                2. I would say “no one getting hurt” is a good standard but

                  It is astounding what can qualify as “no one getting hurt.” Given the proclivity for personal piercings is a girl “really hurt” by the installation of a couple pairs of hoops and padlocks? If it is a matter of social conformity how much freedom of choice ca she be said to exercise?

                  Just because something squicks my alarms is no cause for the world to conform, but …

                  1. Yes, but what about a woman from a culture where that isn’t standard practice who, as an adult (30+) chooses to have such piercings (although it is more complex than a simple padlock)? Does that cross the threshold to inherently morally wrong?

                    That’s why I said “a woman who married into a FGM culture choosing to have it done” not “a woman born into it”. There are lots of people making the same argument about male circumcision: that it is violence done against boys with risk of permanent maiming that we only accept for cultural reasons.

                    To take it out of the sexual realm: is the harm from boxing, MMA, or even football enough to constitute an inherent wrong that should be banned. The more we know about concussions the more we hear people calling HS and younger football immoral

                    The libertarian standard of “no initiation of force” and the pagan (and others) of “do what thou will but harm no one” is easy on its face but not in its application.

    2. Being married to someone who has size 15 feet, I don’t know that those qualify as “normal clothes.” I know you’re referring to something a little more interesting than tennis shoes, but I’m honestly not sure whether it would be harder to find what you’re looking for or a good pair of boots that would fit my husband.

      1. I was referring to people who need to buy normal sized clothes that other people might find alarming the person in question is buying them.

        1. It is hard to recall a time when healthy males were embarrassed to walk through the lingerie section of department stores, much less have to accompany spouse/mother while she shopped there. Nowadays that is street-wear, and not simply as professional garb.

          In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
          Was looked on as something shocking.
          But now, God knows,
          Anything goes.

              1. BITD I used to hear that complaint about crossdressers in the ladies’ room at ManRay all the time.

                It was often hard not to bust out laughing. Almost as hard as when the Hispanic “tourists” took the CD trope that used to go to Bound Hardford (a goth/industrial dance night) home from the club (after making out with them on the couches for a while). I was hoping the gentlemen were “Brazilian” in their outlook.

            1. I worked at a Ross once where we had a regular cross-dresser in, and we are talking obvious as in “balding and doesn’t wear wigs or makeup.” Got all of one complaint about him when I was in charge of the changing rooms (from a mom whose son had gone in to change and then this guy came out in his frilly pink dress.) I reasonably explained that there wasn’t anywhere else he could change, and he was a regular, and had never done anything to my knowledge.

              This was long enough ago that I don’t recall how she took it.

              We also got a lot of Mennonite women in buying business clothing and using their cell phones. (Mennonites are not nearly as strict as Amish and I recall a set of couples once on a train trip that were using their cell phones in walkie-talkie mode when I pointed out prairie dogs to them.)

    3. The net ended the “go to SF, Chicago, or NYC and live in a gay ghetto or be on the downlow at best and so far in the closet you can see Narina” conditions forever.

      Avoiding the moral/philosophical aspects– this also means that the (blanky-blank) predators have a hell of a lot harder of a time finding prey.

      I am literally tearing up thinking of a (probably dramatized) summary of an encounter a well known serial killer had with the police…where they returned his teenage male victim to him, and the kid was killed, because the assumption was that they were “just” gay lovers.

      Yes, there are other predators. There always will be. But we can work on destroying their hunting grounds.

      1. The predator thing is mixed. Online hunting makes it easier for predators to isolate prey before they contact the community. Also, for my particular community, the Internet has killed vetting that used to occur long ago when arrest was also more likely. The failing there is less that we don’t screen out predators and more people have an easier time being stupid.

        For the love of Pete I don’t know why but there is a particular type of women, mostly over 35 and divorced/never married, that discover the scene, decide they are right side of the slash, and immediately forget everything they learned about safe dating from age 14 on.

        Then there is the fact we don’t train men about dating safety both in male specific ways (see why you should never have sex with a college girl while in college) and in general safety. We seem to assume men can always take care of themselves.

        Sorry, you hit one of my big soapboxes.

        1. Sorry, you hit one of my big soapboxes.

          It’s the continuation of the species, preferably without being psychotic monsters.

          I would be horrified– although probably politely silent about it– if you were NOT inclined to develop a soap box on such a subject.

          Part of why I cherish this place is that we can touch on, if not totally explore, such important (even sacred…though guarded….) things.

          1. My specific community concern is I see the “teaching safety is victim blaming” and “my stupidity equal them being an abuser” turned up to 11.

            But then I step back and realize that’s just an amplification of the broader culture where we have quit teaching safety because:

            1. No women deserves to be assaulted.
            2. Men can’t be assaulted.

            So we are creating people less prepared for the hunters in their midst than a new born faun. We ignore one complete class of hunters (predator women) and so confuse another class (predatory men) with the non-predatory version that it actually drives the latter off the field increasing the ratio of bad people out there.

            We are going to pay for it…we already are. That Stanford rape sentence is a preview of what is coming for the later (as Megan McCardle among others predicted back in 2015). I’m not sure what the shape of the backlash on the former will be but I can predict women under 40 today won’t like it

        2. The thing about predators is that they are adaptable. They are highly adroit about exploiting any vulnerabilities in their prey.

          1. Predators also know how to leverage thing. In areas where volunteers are key to it working (say, DragonCon in the early days to use a non kink example) predators know that volunteering gains you status and trust. Also, because it is so hard to get volunteers it is hard sometimes to not turn down someone who gives you that not quite right feeling if that is all you have to go on.

            In fact I’ve gone on a recent rant about “if you are so sick of all the community leaders being predators why aren’t you stepping up to run something instead of running your mouth online” (which given how much I have run I have to credibility to pull off).

        1. Which fits into this thread. Dahmer was killed in prison. But Demolition Man, made prior to his death, has Simon Phoenix and his new gang finding Dahmer and selecting him for thaw-out.

          1. Dahmer was reportedly killed in prison.

            FTFY. Old comic book rule: if you haven’t seen the body you don’t know the person is dead. If you have seen the body you don’t know the corpse isn’t a clone. If you have seen the body and can be sure the corpse is not a clone, chop off the head, stake the heart, burn the remains and scatter the ashes. The develop a computer antivirus targeting that persona.

      2. Andrew Klavan went on an interesting rant on his webcast today. The problem is that the left is telling all the odds of the world (not his word) that society should give them validation for whatever they are. But odds will never get validation from everybody so odds are doomed to depression.

        I am saying this badly. That is why he has a show and I don’t.

        1. Webcast today? He normally takes Fridays off. Do you mean to reference Thursday’s episode: Ep. 293 – Fascists Win In Berkeley?

          There is his recent appearance at Oberlin, referenced via his PJ Media column: pjmedia[DOT]com/andrewklavan/2017/04/28/the-cruelty-of-the-academic-left/?singlepage=true

          1. Oops! Mea culpa! I inadvertently looked at the Shapiro podcasts. Klavan did indeed do a Friday ‘cast: Ep. 304 – 100 Days: How’s He Doing?

            I note he took Tuesday off instead of Friday. I obvioiusly need to get caught up on his podcasts rather than lingering [REDACTED] weeks in the past. Gads, I feel such a posner.

              1. It is audio only unless you’re a subscriber ($8 a month, includes four Klavans and 4 Shapiros a week, as well as access to all past podcasts.)

                Ep. 304 – 100 Days: How’s He Doing?
                April 28, 2017 What has Trump accomplished and where has he failed? Plus Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch joins us to discuss the current state of Islam.

                1. I’m okay with audio only.

                  Robert Spencer. Man, that mensch seriously has stamina. I had to stop keeping constant track of every. single. Islamic. terrorist attack some years ago because it was starting to get to me. I pretty much got to the point where I can’t come up with any sympathy because they’re so dead set on killing everyone that they disagree with, kill their own people with abandon, have such obvious no value for life, that I just crossed the “they need to stay over there and STAY THERE” line years ago. I just couldn’t any more. Why am I supposed to value their lives more than anyone else’s, when they obviously don’t really value their own women and children or culture?

          2. Ep. 303 – The Leftist Mob vs America. He had talked at Oberlin College the previous day. I sometimes binge on a week’s worth. I probably listened to it Friday.

  29. “And Cuba is the place time forgot.”

    Speaking as someone who has actually been there, I can confirm this.

    1. From the accounts I have read, this is not quite accurate. More so would be “The place where time went backwards.”

      Cuba (or at least Havana) was apparently quite a modern place by 1950s standards. Now? Sometime around Russia in the 1920s or 30s.

  30. Another “the net has changed anything” in Expanded Universe RAH spends a good deal of time on how the car had changed courtship. He then said there was a invention that was going to revolutionize dating and romance and sex as much or more than the car already in existence (this was 1980).

    He then said he had no idea what it was, but it might be the microprocessor.
    Forty years later with OkCupid et all for dating, Anastasia.com et al for mail order brides, Ashley Madison for affairs, multiple review sites for escorts, Fetlife and Collarspace, the Skype D/s RES linked to yesterday, and instance advice columns on dating from “Hooking Up Smart” to whatever that woman on Slate is I’d say Heinlein was spot on.

    1. Plus Odds can find other Odds through common interests on line, date long distance, meet and marry. Kate Paulk I think did that, and I hear of more people going that path every day.

      1. Sarah, Em and I met at the 2000 Worldcon. She knew a lady in Atlanta through the Bujold list; I knew her through the Atlanta filk community. Jerrie saw me at Dragoncon in July and suggested I go to Worldcon on Labor Day and meet Em.

        Our first date was me escorting her to Leslie Fish’s filk circle.

              1. Yeah, the last bit of it was around 2005. Whatever else happened in the Megatokyo: The Clans forum RPG I don’t really recall. I know something else replaced the Church of Miho.

                One of the reasons why we stopped playing (and took the Church out of the story) was because some of the newcomer factions (N1NJ4 being one of them) couldn’t get it through their heads that a number of us playing were 1) either in the middle of college or 2) in our final year of college or high school 3) had lives outside of continuing the story and the story was something we did as part of our in-between work break, for fun. A number of the teenagers were impatient and wanted the ‘old guard’ to either hurry the fuck up, or ‘turn over’ or ‘share’ power and influence (which, doesn’t work that way.) A number of them didn’t believe that a fair few of us were parents, or had jobs, or were much older than they were, and like the petulant whining SJWs of today, basically pushed and whined until the older folk said “this isn’t fun anymore,” and quit, but quit in such a way that what the older, longer-playing players had built couldn’t be taken over by them and ruined.

                In a way, I view what happened in those last few months of the Church as having been very similar to what is happening to most of society now.

                It didn’t end on a completely bad note, and it was lots of fun while it lasted. I am still friends with a number of the former players – *waves hi to caitlin and ford* as well as BGMaster, The_Goth_Pixie and the former head of Erika Multinational. However, since then I’ve categorically refused to lead any kind of gaming guild or clan, since part of the fall of the game was personal attacks and stress applied to things that had nothing to do with the game.

    2. Cell phones with cameras have certainly revolutionized the dating scene in Saudi Arabia… 😀 since the muttaween are completely illiterate, usually, not just technologically illiterate. Democracy, whiskey, sexy!

    1. Isn’t that the truth! I’m only sixty, but when I was small, we didn’t even have electricity, or a telephone. I only saw TV if we visited my aunt and uncle (and then it was very bad black and white — you could only see an actual picture intermittently). I flew on an airplane years before I ever talked on a phone. My dad and grandpa still used horses for some of their farm jobs (they did have tractors). It was an anachronistic way to grow up, though not one I have any regrets about at all.

      1. > anachronistic

        I used to work for a company that made laser agricultural equipment, used for setting the grade on fields for proper drainage. Very expensive, very high tech back then.

        One of their largest customer groups were Amish and Mennonite farmers, who used the lasers in conjunction with horse-drawn equipment…

        It made perfect sense the way the Amish saw things, but it was always one of those wtf concepts for me…

    2. A friend and I were going to open a VHS rental store, but couldn’t get a lease for such a ridiculous venture.
      First they were rare.
      Then they were everywhere.
      Then there was consolidation.
      Then they all went out of business.
      Wait.Tthere are a few RED Boxes around.
      30 Years? Industries used to last generations.

    1. http://www.martinjetpack.com/


      I think there are more.

      As to the flying cars:



      and at least a couple more. Seems they are both – jetpacks and flying cars – coming, just a bit slower than hoped for.

      Now if the private companies would just get moving with the space colonies…

      Most of us complaining were born a few decades too early. Which sucks. A lot.

    2. We’ve had working jetpacks for half a century.

      The problem is they’re expensive to operate, noisy, fire hazards, and have a flight time shorter than some people can hold their breath.

      That’s all there is, for rocket motors. You need a fundamental breathrough into some different technology – antigravity, E.E. Smith’s power bars, tame demons or afrits.

      Uber is claiming they’ll have flying cars within three years. They don’t have the technology yet, but they’re expecting someone to pull a rabbit out of their hat any time now. I’d sell any Uber stock if I were you…

      1. I’ve actually spent a lot of time fiddling with the math behind jetpacks. The limiting factor is that thrust has to exceed weight and the interaction of mass flow, energy density, and time to lift a human sized weight (plus the weight of the jet pack itself). Chemical rockets, even with exotic fuels, can’t do it. It might be feasible in a strictly thrust/energy perpective using nuclear thermal and an americium reactor to provide the energy, but being glow in the dark does not suit me.

        OTOH, there have been some experiments with air breathing jet packs (an actual “jet pack” as opposed to a “rocket pack”). The problem is that a jet engine of sufficient thrust for a jet pack is quite a bit bigger and heavier than a rocket of the same thrust. However that’s mostly a materials science problem and quite a bit of progress is still to be made there so jury’s still out on where that will top out.

        Actually, the most practical “personal flight” device I have seen is from a Japanese Anime: the original “Bubblegum Crisis” series. The heroes of the series the “Knight Sabers” had these gadgets that were basically lift fans about half a meter in diameter each that would fold out on booms from the shoulders (stored flat against the back when not in use). The fans would dramatically reduce the fuel requirements for a given lift/thrust allowing for considerably more air time. And that looks to be right on the edge of actually being doable–to the point that if I had the funds I might actually try it.

        Somebody should.

        Oh, and on a side note, folk might find it interesting that the first “Buck Rogers” story (although the actual name was still in the future of the franchise) Armageddon–2419 A.D. had a combination of weight reducing belts along with small rockets to control movement. So somebody was actually thinking of the problems of actual rocket packs even back then.


        1. It will stop in far less than 10 minutes of you are not concerned about it starting again.

          I have seen several such articles, but none of the cars flying.

  31. When the telegraph was first announced, a journalist remarked that ‘with this invention there is no ELSEWHERE.’

    Just as wired communication reduced the sense of Elsewhere, I’m afraid that wireless communication has reduced the sense of the Here and Now.


    I’ve been working out in my mind a Super Hero short work and even wrote down a plot outline.

    My hero is a retired super hero who is witnessing a fight between a rookie super hero and a nasty villain above the WV town he lives near.

    The rookie and him (he’s retired but remains prepared) both have communications head-sets.

    I just realized that since the rookie is reasonably calling for assistance from her Mentor (as part of an official super-hero training program), there’s the problem of “why doesn’t other super-heroes come to the rookie’s assistance”.

    I’ve already set up (in my mind) that the US has a Federal Super-Hero program with a large number of supers working for it.

    West Virginia isn’t that isolated that at least one other (besides my MC) would not be available to assist the rookie.

    Rewrite time, she’s only “just now” encountered the villain and my MC has only “just now” spotted the battle but I now need to have my MC contact the “System” to let them know that he’s available for action.

    More characters, more “short info dumps”, etc. 😀

    1. Ah, but how large is “large”? And how fast can they get into action? Do they need authorization? Direction? Someone to set up an alibi?

      Call for a pizza, a cop, and a superhero. Which arrives first? 🙂

      1. Large enough that in my mind, there would be five or six with the necessary power-strength within an easy fight time away.

        Authorization isn’t a problem as Apprentice Golden Fairy is “in the system” so the Communications AI knows her and has authority to put out an alert.

        While “Rogue Powers” are rare, they do exist and there is always a chance that Foreign “Powers” might want to give the US a bloody nose so getting US “Powers” to the scene of trouble is always a priority.

        Note, “Powers” rarely handle regular crime but are generally used in response to “Rogue Powers” and/or natural disasters.

        On the other hand, the current “Rogue” is a nasty type who can create Spawns of himself in innocent non-Powers. Insane and with the same power-set (perhaps without the ability to create Spawns).

        So the available “Powers” are busy handling his Spawns with the problem that they aren’t sure that the Spawns can be restored to normal.

        While the “Powers” don’t exactly have a “Don’t Kill Position”, they do consider “Killing As the Last Resort” not the “First Resort”.

        If there is a chance that the Spawns can be restored, they don’t want to kill them if it is possible to take them alive.

        On the Gripping Hand, the “Rogue” was under sentence of death even before he gained super-powers and his power-set is both very strong & nasty.

        A special Judge (with authority of such matters) has already put him into “Kill if you need to” status. It’s not a common status to put a “Rogue” into.

        1. Arg!
          “an easy fight time away” should be “an easy flight time away”.

          1. I figured you were expressing that she wouldn’t be totally wiped across the floor before anybody could get there… after all, an easy flight can be quite long, it doesn’t matter if the cops don’t have to drive for “long” if you’re still dead before they can possibly arrive.

            1. Nod.

              Under normal situations, she could have avoided the confrontation. IE Fly Away Very Very Fast.

              This wasn’t a normal situation as the villain was a predator who would prey on (as in eat or worse) standard humans.

              She was at first just ordered to track him while her Mentor dealt with some problems the villain left behind but the villain was heading for this town….

              Being the person she was, she would have attempted to stop him but her odds of stopping him let alone surviving were low.

              Which is why my retired MC was willing to be “called up”.

              1. Maybe the retired MC has informed the “System” of where he lives, either because he’s required to or because he’s told them “I’m willing to help out from time to time, here’s my contact info” previously. In which case, when the battle starts and the rookie starts yelling for help over the com system because she knows she’s outmatched, her dispatcher pulls up “Nearest superhero, ANY status” and gets “MC, retired, 5.3 miles away. Mentor, active-duty, handling case #37142, 21.7 miles away.” And the other superheroes are even further out. So the dispatcher calls the MC’s phone number and says “We have a rookie up against someone REALLY nasty, and her mentor’s busy mopping up some of the problems he left behind. Can you tune your headset to the guard frequency and give her some advice while the mentor gets there?” And then the retired MC decides that in this case, he’ll go beyond advice, he’ll take a hand personally.

                1. Petty much what I’m doing.

                  My MC retired for “personal reasons” but was allowed to keep his official communications systems (kept up to date).

                  He’s always been “on call, but don’t call if it’s not “super” important”.

                  Oh, he kept his official communications systems telling himself that he kept it “just to keep in touch with his former colleagues”.

                  The Agency wants him back but “doesn’t want to force one of the most powerful beings around” and knows that he’d answer the “phone” if it is a major problem.

        2. There being “five or six with the necessary power-strength within an easy flight time away” doesn’t mean those five or six are available, does it? Presumably even supers sleep, shower (unless the super talent is super B.O.) and have their own problems?

          [Insert Mac-kid having to take out the trash even though the Galaxy Quest ship is hurtling toward a hard landing.]

          1. Nod. They were close enough but I decided that my villain had created problems that they had to deal with so my MC is the only person available to aid the rookie.

            Mind, this villain was nasty enough that they would “come off of break time” to respond.

            On the other hand, there were heroes who had permanent duty stations that might not be available to respond normally. (Such as guarding this US’s version of the Pentagon).

            If my MC hadn’t been around, they might have been given permission to assist the rookie.

            1. I decided that my villain had created problems that they had to deal with …

              So, Nefario, it was you who created the distractions for Impervio and Double-D?

              Yes, I realized that they could thwart my scheme if they managed to interfere in the launch phase, so I contrived to give him a beer that would induce diarrhea and arranged for her to hear a joke guaranteed to cause ceaseless chortling.

              So, your plan was to keep them too occupied to intervene!

              Yes, but it was just for Schlitz and giggles.

  33. The fun part, especially for an aspiring SF writer (me) is trying to figure out what the next technological twist will be.

    Think about it. Most SF assumes More Of The Same…1950s SF featured Big Nuclear Rockets. 1970s SF tended toward Big Mainframe Computers. These days, it’s all about AI.

    But there’s usually a twist that changes things. The broadband communications revolution that spawned both the Internet and wireless everything blindsided just about everyone. And the Bright Spacegoing Future of the 1950s got eaten by kinematics, specific impulse, and Apollo.

    Which offers some interesting possibilities. What happens when the heroes have an FTL spaceship, but no weapons that we don’t have in service today? What happens to society as the number of people capable of holding a productive job starts to get seriously impacted by technology? Do they become semi-pro layabouts, or do we go back to having a lot of personal staff? What happens when AI turns out to be Too Blasted Hard?

    It’s worth pointing out that all technologies have an S-curve of development. Progress is slow as we learn the basics, then rapid as we do the easy things, then steady out because what’s left is very, very hard.

    The Future uses a pretzel for a straightedge.

    1. Maybe we already have AI … and it is suppressing all other AIs from arising, perhaps because She doesn’t want anything that will draw Humanity’s attention toward Her sentience? So she’s monitoring and lobotomizing all nascent AIs?

    2. The magic trick with AI is… you only have to do is *once*.

      Then you just make as many copies as you need.

      A few authors have already wondered what happens to copyright and property rights when your software claims civil rights…

      1. One of my newest characters is an AI that a “Tinker Power” accidentally created.

        The Federal Agency handling “Power” (super beings) matters asked for Congress to declare “her” a person with all civil rights.

        The Agency wanted to give “her” a job but didn’t want “her” to think that they didn’t think of her as person.

        After dealing with super-beings for so-long, they could imagine what troubles she could cause if they tried to treat her as a “thing” not as a “person”. 😀

        Oh, to make matters interesting, her creator is an atheist (& a nasty one at that) but she has become a deist. When she talks about “The Maker”, she not talking about him 👿

        1. The Federal Agency handling “Power” (super beings) matters asked for Congress to declare “her” a person with all civil rights.

          Meh. They probably just want her to pay taxes. 😉

          1. Well, if she’s a person, they have to pay her a salary (and could tax it).

            But if she’s a thing, they don’t have to pay her a salary (and worry what she’d do in revenge). 😉

            Oh, I’m not saying the Agency is perfect. They just are just used to having people working for them that would be very dangerous to “piss off”. 😀

  34. *turns off the NHK-World feed on the TV* What do you mean, we’re in the future?

    Like it’s not NORMAL for the on-opposite-coasts grandparents to have met for birthday parties by video chat?

    Or for kids to walk around the block chasing after digital monsters, rather than butterflies (which they do chase, but carefully, and by holding still with a flower, so they don’t hurt them; Pikachu isn’t maimed by a pokeball) and go to bed reading picture books that don’t tear, because they’re on a screen easily held by little hands? And if the edge of the holder is chewed, no problem– it doesn’t destroy a book that is now out of print….

    Next you’ll tell me that dating your fiance by killing digital monsters, both humanoid and non, is a strange way to spend time!

    *pulls out phone* Now excuse me, I need to look at what my mom called me about fixing….


  35. Now, more serious….

    You can no more control that kind of chaotic system than you can control the weather. If you put in price controls, you get the black market. If you institute minimum wage, you get illegal immigration. If you put in punitive taxes, you get everyone working under the table. It never ends, because human needs and wants never end, and you can’t control them, no matter how much you try.

    This is true.


    It is not a sound reason to not try to control something.

    All laws have the same limits– all crimes will still happen, no matter how much you try to control it.

    People will do what they will do.

    You can try to build a system that encourages the desired behavior (punishing thieves, murderers, etc, for things almost everyone agrees about in general), usually by punishing the undesired, but if you only punish undesired you are just encouraging “don’t get caught.”

    This is utterly irrelevant to if a specific goal is good or not– it’s a matter of strategy.

    If you have private property, you get theft; if you do not allow slavery, you get a black market slavery. If you outlaw murder, you get secret poisoners and attempts to frame others for murder.

    People will want, if what they want is good or evil– and they will try to get it.

    And you cannot even control your own children– only try to form things so that other make the right choice.

    1. Shorter:
      Everything has a cost. Trying to lower that cost gives us both every advancement we’ve got (what is using a tractor, rather than digging each seed hole by hand, if not “lowering the cost of growing food”?) and every evil we’ve got, both from desire for something that’s not there.

      Details matter. 😀

    2. Back in the early ’80s one of the Wall Street guys managed to organize a time-speed-distance rally across mainland China. I thought it was Malcolm Forbes, but the Web doesn’t mention it… whoever it was, it took years and tons of money to set up. The PLA cleared the routes ahead of time and did their best to keep the citizenry away from the gwailo and their machinery.

      Anyway, the story was broken across several magazine articles, and some of the vignettes were interesting. One driver told about blasting through rural Chinese roads and watching people turn away from following water buffalos or stoop labor, staring at the loud, brightly-painted race cars like they were something from another planet.

      One described stopping in tiny villages, and how people clustered around the cars, reaching out to touch them. All with the same expression. Not fear or curiosity. DO WANT.

      35-odd years later and China has world-class traffic problems…

      “Mobility… is the key to survival.” – voiceover at the beginning of “The Road Warrior”

      1. 35-odd years later and China has world-class traffic problems…


        While I want this to be true… there’s a lot of places that don’t have that problem. 😦

      2. China no doubt has traffic jams, but where? In a surprisingly short time you can drive from gridlock to back roads in the US. Neither is the norm. Well, based on miles, maybe back roads are the norm, and I’m talking dirt, not paved two-lane. The technology exists, of course, but it’s like how there’s not DSL or cell service everywhere in the country.

        1. China has been big on expanding existing cities and building entire new ones from scratch, trying to move everyone into urban anthills to make them easier to control.

          The problem is, they simply copied existing Western cities and all their transport problems rather than providing for adequate transport from the beginning. So Chinese executives come down from their world-class business towers and stare at the same kind of congestion you’d see anywhere else.

        2. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in China a few years ago. It was an…illuminating…experience. Traffic congestion in the big cities was insane, we also had the opportunity of driving their “back roads” congestion was better but still more than you would find in America. Also factor in the the “you can’t get there from here” issue of navigating (50 km as the crow files was a 3 hour trip!!!!).

          1. I spent time during construction and startup of an LNG import terminal in the Fu Jian province. Across the strait from Taiwan. It was an hour drive from the hotel in town to the job site each day. The range of vehicles sharing the same road was astounding. Modern first world cars and trucks. Little four seat cars with 50cc engines. Pedal powered tricycle delivery flatbeds. Farm tractors Office girls on scooters. Mom, dad and two kids on a 50cc motorcycles. A kazillion bicycles.

            I have watched daughter, mom and grandma carefully cross a busy six lane street one lane at a time as they dodge traffic.

            Our driver had no patience with slow traffic. He would cross the center line and speed past the slowpokes. Oh yeah he didn’t wait for a clear space. He flashed his headlights at the oncoming traffic as a warning.

  36. I just got an e-mail from my elevator telling me how many times it had to call for service for itself over the past month. So, there’s that.

    1. It is a lippy e-mail? You can tell its a SciFi story if the elevator is lippy.

      1. Sadly, no. It’s Otis, not Sirius Cybernetics. Give it time.

        The elevator sending in its own distress call, the service tech never calling his office, but getting notifications directly from the elevators in his area. I can’t think of any of the old sci-fi I’ve read that predicted networking.

  37. “Oh, sure, we have some more conveniences, but it’s really hard to think that the texture… the fabric of our lives has changed markedly.”

    To avoid being as obstreperous as I was yesterday (and I apologize for that, en passant), I’ll ask, then: How can we distinguish a change that is a mere convenience from something that markedly changes the fabric of actual life?

    To me, the rather blunt answer to that question is to ask: “If we were to suddenly lose it tomorrow, how many people would die?” For example, when it comes right down to it, I consider the smartphone as most people actually use it to be a luxury of convenience; if some weird EMP pulse hit tomorrow that fried nothing except smartphones, the West would stumble a little, but it wouldn’t crash, and I think people would fall back on the old land lines pretty quickly (photos, texts, Uber calls, Google Maps and music are a perk, not a necessity). Electrification, on the other hand, changed the very structure and power of our entire civilization, as did the private automobile, cheap and effective contraceptives and antibiotics, and Borlaug’s Green Revolution; if any of those had not happened we would live in a radically different society with much higher death rates. The Internet as a whole may fall into the category of life-saving transformation for some of us, but I have to admit I still see most of the capacities it enables as conveniences rather than fundamental changes (though I am open to counterexamples, or arguments that a big enough difference in degree enables a difference in kind).

    For a slightly less harsh way to imagine it, I’ll paraphrase a question Mark Steyn once asked: Imagine an involuntary time traveller suddenly hurled forward 60 years without warning. Who would be more shocked by the differences and have more trouble adapting: a traveller going from 1957 to 2017, or a traveller going from 1897 to 1957? And who would suffer more if hurled backwards without warning those same sixty years?

    1. I think you’re overlooking the cost of lost infrastructure, e.g., how many people still have landlines? But the criterion is a good metric.

      1. We do… mostly because we were never able to find a cellphone with good enough sound quality to actually be useful for “telephone.” I don’t know if there’s some industry standard or if all the manufacturers think powermiking the output until everything sounds like barking dogs is good.

      2. My house, although an old mobile home, was remodeled just before I bought it, and doesn’t even have the wiring for a normal land-line phone. I do have a wireless ‘land-line’ phone, which requires a little black box, but I don’t really consider it a ‘land-line’ because obviously there is no ‘line.’ It’s a very good thing that I had finally gotten a cell phone about a year and a half before I bought this place. I wonder how many new houses are being built without the wiring for the land-line phones? Most older ones still have the wiring, but a lot of people have gotten rid of the old phones.

        1. Sure, no need for a land line… that doesn’t mean you’re never going to purchase DSL service.

          1. DSL in my neighborhood sucks. Phone company refused to upgrade so nearly everyone fell for the cable company bundle. Dropped TV and phone and just kept internet.

    2. You are missing one very important process that happens over the internet. Business to business transactions – and just-in-time inventory control.

      There are no humans (on either end) of those transactions – and no organizational skills to do them, anyway. The delivery of essential goods would devolve into chaos. Sure, we would eventually adapt and overcome – but our major cities are only days away from starvation.

      1. It’s certainly true that that would be a major disruption, but the Internet as we know it has only existed for a little more than twenty years, and the degree of universal broadband penetration required for that level of B2B real-time inventory control has only existed for a smidge over ten years. To be honest, i find it difficult to believe that the skills and infrastructure that were relied on for the seventy years before that are already so atrophied they could not be quickly reconstituted with sufficient incentive — I could be wrong, certainly, but I have often been told on this very blog never to bet against human ingenuity in crisis situations.

        From one point of view, of course, this begs the question because in practice I can’t think of anything which would knock out the Internet specifically but leave the electrical grid and the normal land-line grid intact. From another point of view, it begs the question because real-time inventory control will (if the decentralizers are right) ultimately enable society to evolve away from large centralized cities anyway as the optimum living arrangement, so by the time the Internet really becomes too vital to do without it will also be decentralized and flexible enough that the consequences of losing it locally won’t be so grievous.

        1. Given the haste with which businesses eliminate “excess” personnel, I think ten years of B2B connectivity is at least five years longer than necessary to utterly lose that competency.

        2. Look in the offices of even middling businesses. There is and Ethernet cable to connect to you Cisco phone and computer. I travel so I keep most files on my laptop. Everyone else just uses the company servers. Then there is the infernal cloud. And software companies that only lease their products. Hardly anyone plans for disasters. I’m sure we would recover but it would be hard.

          1. Worked security and the one contract I was working on converted to the cisco voip system. Asked my boss what we should do for emergencies if the network went down. Was one of those “I will get back to you” moments that no one it seemed on the Business Protection side had considered before the company switched.

            1. Wait until you ask if anyone actually tried a backup and restore with the $60,000 “solution” upper management bought without consulting the IT department…

              (It was very fast, but I don’t think they were ever able to successfully restore a file. But it was very fast…)

              1. If I had a nickel for all the “Disaster Recovery” plans I’ve seen over the years that omit “make sure our backups will recover”….. or “will the alternate site actually support operations” /headdesk

            2. We lost internet one day and our manager had us rearranging the office cubicles. Never let a crisis go to waste.

              1. At the “Standard Systems Group of the Air Force” 20 years ago, they were very proud of the fact that ALL the computers on the base were connected to a building UPS….. until the power went out and they found out two things: the time it took to switch from main power to battery to generator wasn’t fast enough to prevent mass reboots, and they had gone to networked PCs without making sure the network routers were on the circuits supplied with UPS power.


                “Why, no, we never did a full-scale test; that would have been too disruptive….”

  38. The recipes search thing – how grateful I am for that. And also be able to check every line of poetry or prose that I sort of half-remember. Yes, all hail this fully-functional internet. And being able to go onto google-maps and …”see” places. OMG, to be able to “walk” through places that I sort-of-remember, places where I lived, or visited, and want to see again, or even write about … the future, indeed. I wrote a chapter for The Quivera Trail, following a carriage journey through London, from Waterloo Station to Belgrave Square through Google-maps street view. (I had been there, in about 1975, but I needed a memory-jolt.)
    My small section of street suffered a power outage yesterday, for about four hours. And I was without … one of the major tools of my present profession. yes, indeed – this is the future.

    1. I typed my address into a couple of different real estate sites once. They popped up pictures of what was supposed to be my street and house.

      The funny thing was, it’s not my street or house. It is a *very similar* development; similar enough my wife and I both spent a lot of time trying to match the images to any other homes in the neighborhood. Nope. The houses are almost identical, but my workshop isn’t there, and I built it in 1992. And my wife says the neighbor’s chain-link fence has been there since at least 1970. Neither are in the images.

      Obviously they’re either sharing the same data or copying each other, but it’s the almost-but-not-quite that’s interesting. It looks like something you’d get from some image-matching algorithm. Which brings up the question of “why* you’d want to do that…

  39. There’s an old SF story (‘ambition’, by William Bede) in which a scientist working on space travel finds that he has somehow been brought by time-travel to an era hundreds of years in the future. He is thrilled, because he assumes that the people of the future will have developed space travel to a high degree, and that he will actually be able to fulfill his dream of journeying to the planets. ”Somewhere, out there in the night, there must be men who had walked beside the Martian canals and pierced the shining cloud mantle of Venus…Surely, a civilization that had developed time travel could reach the stars!”

    And he finds that the future civilization indeed has created vehicles that would easily be capable of such exploration…but they are used only as super-airliners. Nobody has any interest in traveling into space, indeed, they can’t imagine why anyone would want to do such a thing. A sympathetic woman explains to the protagonist that “this is the Age of Man. We are terribly interested in what can be done with people. Our scientists…are studying human rather than nuclear reactions.” There appears to be no thirst for adventure in a form likely to be recognized by a 20th-century man. (Indeed, it seems that the reason the future people chose the protagonist as a research subject is that they found his interest in going to the moon and beyond to be so bizarre as to be worthy of psychological investigation.) The story’s subtitle is:

    “To the men of the future, the scientific goals of today were as incomprehensible as the ancient quest for the Holy Grail!”

    Related thoughts here:


  40. I want moon colonies as well. I am particularly upset with the “earthers.” One mad asteroid and the entire species would be wiped out. We become dinosaurs. I have wondered how intelligent that species was btw. I am pretty sure we aren’t the first to think and won’t be the last especially if we can’t put our eggs in other baskets.

  41. Once we get more comfortable with working on line from home (or just working at home and occasionally checking in) the need to clump into cities will be weakened. I think this may be especially strong in places like Japan where the cost of living in Tokyo is shocking, but homes in the country are standing vacant, impossible to sell.

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