The Futures We Escaped

I moan a lot over the futures we wish we had. Flying cars Halfway across the world being not much more than flying to the next city in time or cost. Unlimited energy.

And I yield to no one — except maybe Jeff Greason — in my wish that we already had the space colonies Heinlein wrote about. (Though let’s be honest, he was on an extremely accelerated/non-plausible time line for the same reason the Greenies are — to keep the attention of kids for whom the future is maybe 20 years. You have to tell them something is going to happen in the next 20 years, or they’re not interested.)

However, even in Heinlein’s books there were some serious horrors leaking around the edges of history and the world set up. Like, you know, whole world government, everything centralized and of course overpopulation, food rationing, etc.

So–

The futures that seemed inevitable, until they weren’t.

1- World government.

To be fair, it seemed an absolutely sane and inescapable prediction for people who had seen the centralized nation states of the twentieth century consolidate. With faster communication, would come total union, right?

I note Heinlein stopped believing this after his world tour. In fact in Friday he has a fractured USA.

That second vision is more likely. There are too many cultures int he word and too many competing interests to have a world government. Even on the administrative side, a world government might be absolutely impossible, unless it’s a nominal government and the sub-governments do everything really.

In which case, you know what? It’s no different than what we have, except we call any war a civil war.

The only people this idea still makes sense to are people who think they can change reality by changing the words.

2- Overpopulation.

Yeah, I know what the population “counts” are, but we don’t have overpopulation. We don’t have any of the signs of overpopulation, and it’s becoming plainly obvious, country by country, locality by locality that there’s no overpopulation.

Malthus was an unpleasant fatalist. he was also wrong. Humanity doesn’t keep reproducing like mindless rabbits.

To be fair, this makes perfect sense because we’re a scavenger species. For scavenger species the population curve is the bell curve, not an exponential climb.

3- Total depletion of resources leading to the “rusty future” in a lot of eighties science fiction.

A lot of resources are in fact depleted, but we have found others This is something that the “Greens” seem unable to grasp. Humanity is a continuous depleting of resources, and discovering new resources and new ways to use them. For instance, given our population, I don’t think we have enough flint to knap for knives for all of us. It’s an obvious crisis.

In the same way, do you think it’s even possible for all of us to have a horse? Our cities would be hip-deep in horse poo.

But we are the ape that adapts. Things change. And the future will be as shiny as we want it. Unless fashion calls for dull, of course.

4- The world isn’t a communist state, or filled with communist states.

There are some yes, but the ones there are are in obvious trouble, and only the propagandized and the ignorant believe it is a way to live, or a way that brings about paradise. In fact, most of today’s communists are merely wanting to reign in hell.

They know they’d unleash hell, tehy just think they’d be king.

As bad as it is that people are still fighting for this, it’s miles ahead of the status quo till the eighties, where people actually believed planned centralized states were better.

We still have a fight ahead of us, and we might still fail, but there will never be a whole-word communism. and those of use devoted to freedom will eventually win. It just will take probably more than my life. At least on a world-scale.

5- We don’t have some sort of central authority that contols all of something: genetics; who is arrested; etc

A lot of places have crazy authorities, but not the whole world. we’re not enslaved by the Tech Lords (and what a pitiful lot those turned out to be) and the agencies trying to subjugate us are not all powerful, more along the lines of a bunch of venal chuckleheads. Annoying, with no morals and insane, but not all powerful. It could be worse.

And I’m sure my readers can think of other horribles that didn’t come to be.

It could be worse. It will get worse for a while. It is up to us to make it much, much better.

Get to it.

240 thoughts on “The Futures We Escaped

  1. For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.” – John Greenleaf Whittier

    No, sometimes those are the Very Best Words Indeed!

    Consider the nuclear war(s) averted by some quick-thinking or just plain lucky or even just plain stubborn individual.

    1. How true.

      I note that many were implausible from the get-go because they ran on plot device.

    2. I’m a late Gen-Xer, and post-apocalyptic literature was VERY big in the 80s. I mean, yeah, we have post-apocalyptic literature today, but it isn’t the same level of total claustrophobic destruction that the 80s had. (Think of Z for Zachariah, for instance, which I was assigned in 8th grade. When the novel opens, the protagonist doesn’t know if she’s the only person left in the world.)

      The only thing I’ve seen in years since to come to that feel is Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy. And I find it interesting who he taps to do “first and worse” in that scenario.

      1. Hugh Howey’s an interesting writer.

        His books are very engaging to read – the kind that you stay up till all hours of the morning to finish – but I don’t think I would ever want to re-read any of his books.

        Especially “I, Zombie”, I think was the title. The best written book that I never ever want to read again.

  2. I was just reading Tunnel in the Sky last night, and got a good chuckle out of the line saying that the Chinese breed faster than they could be counted. But to be fair, who could imagine a country stupid enough to outlaw reproduction.

  3. We could have flying cars today, in fact in some form or fashion we already do. What we lack is the sort of AI driven air traffic control that would prevent the same sort of horror we see on our roads expanded into three dimensions.
    Malthus failed horribly in at least two ways. First that the then common practice of having large families would continue. That dynamic changes once a society moves from agricultural to technology. Kids change from necessary farm help to a financial burden. And he failed utterly to predict the technical and biological advances that allow a very small agricultural base to feed orders of magnitude of other populations. Hunger in today’s world is not a matter of lack of food, rather it’s primarily due to political interference in distribution.
    Didn’t we already try an over reaching massive Communist society a while back? Wasn’t that the whole point of the USSR? And it failed by the numbers when pitted against the powers of free enterprise. Pity that politics is doing its best to throttle that same engine to make us ever more similar to the losers in that contest.
    Last time I was part of a NASA team looking into a visit to our nearest planetary neighbor the price tag was about 7 billion and 2.5 years to allow 4 to 6 people on that mission to Mars. Until we develop entirely new concepts in propulsion the colonization of our solar system will remain out of the reach of humanity.

    1. I’m sure Elon will bring it in under 5 billion and have 30 or 40 passengers on the trip. Please don’t take this wrong, but NASA has not had a good year since about 1969; always spending more to produce less, it seems. A gross oversimplification to be sure, but look at the Orion! an overgrown Apollo capsule? Huh? Where is the vision? The moon missions represented an absolute leap in technology. It takes a private citizen to make a rocket that can land and be reused. Nobody in the Government will do that because they might get blamed if it doesn’t work perfectly the very first time it is tried. It’s time to let the true innovators be unleashed.

      1. Where is the hybrid jet/rocket space plane? That’s what we need, the ground-to-orbit equivalent of a 747. Or a 737, for the first generation. A plane that can fly to low orbit in 2 hours, deliver/pick up, return to the ground, refuel and do it all again.

        88% of rocket propellant by weight is oxygen. The rocket burns 80% of its propellant while surrounded by oxygen, but hauls all of its oxygen along in (heavy!) internal tanks. How does this make sense?

        Shooting the rocket off vertically requires the engines to be huge, and heavy, to accelerate the fully-loaded rocket at greater than 1G. If a 747’s engines had to be powerful enough to shoot the plane off the ground vertically, they’d be 4 times bigger than they are. The rocket and everything in it has to withstand up to 6G of acceleration. Stronger construction requires more weight. Weight is the enemy of rocket flight, right? For that matter, strip out everything that doesn’t contribute to making orbit and getting back on the ground. It’s a spaceplane, not a space station. The crew don’t need to live in it for a week.

        Use jet engines for the early part of the flight. Get the spaceplane up to 25,000 meters and 1,000 meters per second, then switch to rockets for the final boost to orbit.

        And put up Windmills. Take a long cable (really long, like 600 KM) with weights on the ends and spin it so the bottom end is moving much slower than the center. The spaceplane hooks on and gets flung into orbit. Returning, it gets decelerated, returns that kinetic energy to the Windmill and re-enters the atmosphere at a much lower speed.

        1. The original shuttle design used a carrier aircraft. But it just got too darned expensive ( or we got too cheap) and that got canceled and replaced with the nightmare mix of a giant tank and the solid fuel SRB’s. Stratolaunch has their Roc, but it has been derailed a couple times (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaled_Composites_Stratolaunch). Virgin Galactics SpaceShip 2 has its White Knight carrier, but that has done poorly. I suspect the airflow problems at launch are a big issue. I suspect making the launcher large enough to have less flow issues (Like Roc) means you’re pushing the edge of even current aviation technology. It’s looking like there might be some engines that can transition from turbojet to ram/scram jet and that MIGHT get us back the holy grail of SSTO.

        2. The oxygen needs to be high purity for the engines to work; pulling it from the atmosphere simply is not efficient enough as it is too impure (only 16% oxygen in the atmosphere, and the raw amount decreases with altitude, thus high altitude sickness) and it would not be able to be pulled in an isolated fast enough for a sustained reaction/burn.

          Indeed, the O2 for space missions is stored as liquid oxygen to have the density needed for rockets to work.

          If workable fusion is ever developed, that would enable far greater lift and versatility then current engines.

          1. Jet engines run just fine in a 21% oxygen atmosphere. The SR-71 flew 1,020 meters per second at 26,000 meters altitude 60 years ago. Then you fire up the rocket engines for the final boost to orbit, carrying only enough liquid oxygen for that part of the flight. That could reduce total propellant mass by 60% or more.

            Rocket propellant is not only fuel, it’s also reaction mass. Jet engines would use the abundant atmosphere around the spaceplane for oxidizer and reaction mass so they don’t have to carry it all internally. That’s why a 747 can fly 10,000 miles with fuel making up only 20% of its takeoff weight.

            You use the jet engines for landing, too, so you don’t have to come down dead-stick in a flying brick. Re-entry can be more gradual and less of an inferno because it’s no longer necessary to hit the runway on the one-and-only landing approach with no power for maneuvering.

            Those are the Space Shuttle’s 3 biggest flaws:

            1. Shooting it off vertically
            2. Using rockets while surrounded by air
            3. Dead-stick landing

            All of its other shortcomings derive from those three flaws.

            Why? Because NASA is a huge government bureaucracy and there was no support for any change, no matter what benefits that change could bring. I won’t say graft and patronage were involved, but — oh, wait, I just did, didn’t I?
            ———————————
            If you tried to run a business the way they run the government, you would be in jail or the poor-house within six months.

            1. The shuttle’s biggest flaw was the concept. Lifting mass to low Earth orbit is horribly expensive and the Shuttle system intentionally hauled all the mass of the vehicle into orbit just to turn around and bring it all back. The ratio of vehicle mass to useful payload mass was all wrong given the performance limitations of rocket engines.

              1. Is that really worse than throwing the whole rocket away? How far would aviation have gotten if you had to build a new airplane for every flight? If, every time you got into an airplane, you knew that it had never successfully taken off and landed before? Every flight is a test flight! Every passenger is a test dummy!

                Those were the three procedural design flaws. The Space Shuttle’s conceptual flaw was having to be the only basket for all of our space eggs. It had to do everything, including providing accommodations for up to 10 astronauts for two weeks in orbit.
                ———————————
                Susan Ivanova: “Get us the hell out of here!”
                Lennier: “Executing…” [confused look] “…getting-the-hell-out-of-here maneuver!”

                1. The primary metric for Earth to orbit systems is cost per pound of useful mass to orbit.
                  The more mass dedicated to the vehicle the less available for payload.
                  Don’t get me wrong, the Shuttle system was an incredible feat of engineering, but each of them were “hanger queens” that took immense efforts just to tweak for each and every launch. Someone once remarked that it was like taking a high end race car and marketing it to the public as a pickup truck.
                  Now most of my career at NASA was ground operations for Shuttle missions, and I would give almost anything to be able to fly just one more, but much as I love those old girls, as an engineer I have to admit to and call out their limitations.
                  All that said, I do not oppose reusable vehicles, they just need to be designed for efficient operations and overcome the flaws that troubled the NSTS for its entire life.
                  Side note, two biggest problems with NSTS: government program so politics played a heavy hand, and originally it was a joint NASA/Air Force project, so many of the features were dictated by AF requirements and remained in the design after the AF backed out of the program.

            2. The loss of 14 lives and two rather expensive spacecraft was due to fundamental design issues around the SRB’s and tank caused by the change in launch method and deciding that the shuttle would be the ONLY heavy lift system and the requirements that placed on it for military/intelligence payloads ( which ultimately it flew VERY few of, and it NEVER launched out of Vandenberg to polar orbit). It was a mass of bad compromises and engineers being overruled by administrators and it’s lucky any of that hardware made it to museums. Lest folks try to create hagiographies for the Saturn hardware, rush issues killed 3 astronauts and just missed killing the Apollo 13 folks through the heroic efforts of the ground teams to work around issues. There is a reason we reference rocket science as hard, spaceflight gives few second chances and there are no minor problems on a space craft 🙂 .

    2. Let’s also not forget the medical advances that ensure most kids actually reach the age of majority. People aren’t stupid; pregnancy is hard and if you don’t have to go through it time after time in the hopes of having ONE kid make it to adulthood, you’ll find ways around it.

      Though yes, I do know of multiple five+ kid families. Who love their kids and aren’t shorting them thereby.

      1. I initially read that as “Who love their kids and aren’t shooting them thereby.”

        😛

          1. Call 1 800 GOGYPSY and we’ll take them off your hands!!! Elder Daughter was colicky, There were days we might have just gone for it. That was made up for by the days later where she was a little red haired empathic angel.

    3. Malthus was certainly right about the law of diminishing returns, but he didn’t invent it…It had been observed by ancients and moderns….

  4. Oh, yes! How about the proposed future world where pollution has destroyed everything, and there’s nothing left but little Wall-E rummaging about the ruins? Instead, we have clean rivers, clear skies, lots of forest land, and abundant animal species. And whales, don’t forget about whales. So many whales now.

    1. To be fair to Wall-E his creators freely admit that the future the postulated was because the idea that wouldn’t let them go was a trash compactor as the last creature on earth.

    2. They’ll tell you that that is because they instituted environmental regulations, and we need ever more of it or that future could still happen. Guaranteed. Nothing is ever made better, or mitigated or averted. It must always be in crisis.

      1. All while turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the two biggest polluters on Earth, India and China.

      1. That’s been my though on recycling for a while now. If it was really value added, we would be mining landfills for the raw material.

        I’m given to understand that already happens with most demolition sites: the rebar steel and concrete rubble is valuable enough that the demolition teams sort it and sell it as raw material to companies that build stuff with it.

        I don’t recall what the concrete gets used for, but it is cheaper to make steel from rebar now than unprocessed iron ore.

        1. It’s easier and cheaper to crush old concrete into gravel than to mine similar stuff from a gravel pit. And much kinder to the environment, though some of us have had a blast playing in and around old flooded gravel pits.

          1. There’s a rock & stone sales place near me that offers to take old concrete from your renovation process. I’m quite sure they crush and reuse.

          2. What amazes me is we have what is called the Valley River Area along the east side of the Willamette Valley. Runs along the Delta Hwy from Washington/Jefferson Bridge north to Beltline. The very loud screeching about the wetlands being filled in, originally for the Valley River Mall, and the areas north and west between the remaining wetlands for commercial properties, condos, apartments, senor living apartments, the expensive home development, and private HS. Um … the wetlands? Are old shallow gravel pits … They do have inlets and outlets to the river. Are used as small natural flood control mechanisms. But still the area can do that because the area is a lot deeper than the it was originally.

            Another place I thought was cool is the (name?) Rock Quarry Golf Coarse down south in CA (don’t remember where). The water “ponds” are too deep to recover golf balls, even on the edge. Lots of them. Pretty to look at. Hubby played it with the men’s club on the way south for their annual winter away, in 2015, when I was along.

      2. Garbage is very low-grade ore, mixed with a whole lot of impurities. Used diapers, anyone? 😀

        We do have one source of extremely high-grade ore, very valuable, which we don’t mine because of government stupidity more than 50 years ago — spent nuclear fuel. It’s only ‘waste’ because we’re not allowed to reprocess it. Curse Jimmeh!
        ———————————
        The government can mandate stupidity, but they can’t make it not be stupid.

        1. Also, my understanding is that garbage dumps can have “interesting” and dangerous gas pockets develop underground. If a group started “mining” a dump, they would need to take extra actions to protect the workers from any such pockets that were breached while “mining”.

          1. Yup old dumps develop LOTS of methane as food and organic sources break down. Locally we have the old dump that got pushed into a asphalt lined pit ( or it would leak crap into the local aquifer) and sealed with asphalt and then covered over. It has many (30? 60?) large chimneys set up all over it to help vent the methane. It got covered before I moved in here in the mid 1990’s, but 30+ years later that 100+ years of garbage is still venting methane…

            1. When the local Powers That Be were dinged by the Feds about methane from the dump and the Greens were bemoaning “all that garbage! Greenhouse gas!” I suggested catching the stuff and burning it for electricity. Crickets from the Green-inclined, then topic change.

                1. The cost/benefit rises with scale. A bit. It’s more that they’re extending the life of the landfill than an actual moneymaker, if I remember the numbers right.

                  But you’re right. They can and do get a few kw/h from it.

              1. I think that was looked at as we have a local electrical company. Problem was I think the rate wasn’t enough to make much power, and as noted in another comment the methane is contaminated with other long chain hydrocarbons including thiols which have sulfur and would generate all sorts of nasty things if combusted. Methane itself is odorless it’s those other compounds that give a garbage pile its unique perfume.

              2. I love the people doing that with cow methane. I don’t even know if they’re breaking even on the energy in/energy out equation (although supposedly there’s a big dairy operation in the upper midwest that is largely cow-methane-powered), I just love that they’re proving how ecologically sound our friendly neighborhood sources of cheese and beef can be 😉

              3. I am aware of at least one landfill in Chicago that does that.
                collects and burns it to make power.

                Recycling as a whole is another boondoggle of govt involvement. Good idea and it can make sense, but the purpose and mission has crept. My understanding is that it only makes sense for clear glass and a couple of metals. Other than that the sole mission needs to be cleanliness not re usability. Unfortunately the bulk of paper and plastic is not worth any effort to recycle.

                1. It actually takes more energy, more water, and more chemicals to recycle paper than to chop down trees and make new paper. The paper is lower quality, too, because the recycled fibers are shorter and weaker.

                  But- but- we don’t have to chop down trees! Save the trees!

                  Now there’s no more Oak oppression
                  ‘Cause they passed a noble law
                  And the trees are all kept equal
                  By hatchet, axe, and saw…

                2. Paper used to have a huge per/# recycling return. As in worth using as an ongoing youth (BSA Troops) fundraiser. Troops locally had collection boxes set up at schools. Ended in the early ’00s.

        2. On earth, yes… in space.. with lots of, well, space… and that ship used (and therefore was somehow generating) how much power?

          Run the whole of through a big mass spectrometer and… Yeah, but if they fiction, I can fiction.

      1. I took my kids to the aquarium once, and made a wisecrack about humpback whales being the only whales that have time traveled. I forgot I hadn’t yet shown them Star Trek IV. This was remedied over the next few months as I showed them selected episodes of the original series and then the movies with the original cast.

  5. A lot of resources are in fact depleted, but we have found others This is something that the “Greens” seem unable to grasp

    “This is cheap and easy to get– what can we do with it?”
    :Do lots of cool stuff:
    “This is no longer quite so cheap and/or easy to get, what else can we use?”

    Good grief, this can be observed in something as stupidly simple as chicken wings.
    When I was a kid, we ate a LOT of chicken wings– because nobody wanted those worthless things. Actual chicken drumbsticks were a treat, because they cost three, four times as much.
    And then… Buffalo Wings became popular, and it’s now cheaper to get thighs or quarters because the demand for breast and thighs is so relatively high, and we don’t have spider-chickens.

    1. Bingo. Humans look at the waste product and say, “Huh. People will pay me to get this stuff out of their hands. What can you make from it?”

      Coal tar became thousands of products from mauve dye to medicines. Fly ash from coal-fired power plants became super-durable cement for curbs and gutters. Fabric scraps and worn-out clothes become quilts and rag rugs. Turns out that bamboo and salt cedar (both invasive species in the US) make magnificent fishing rods. I’m waiting for some creative Odd to start playing with wind-turbine blades and come up with something to do with them, because it’s only a matter of time.

      1. Heck, we got Gasoline because Rockafeller (IIRC) looked at the cast off from making Kerosene and went “surely we can do something with this!” and told his R&D guys to figure out what. They invented gasoline then used it to fuel making Kerosene which then dropped the price so ANYONE could afford it because the waste product was fueling the product.

        1. One of the early uses for gasoline was for laundry; it was sold to people to wash clothes in.

          Bear in mind this was for the kind of workers’ clothing that after a few days of collecting scrunge, dirt, and grease, would be labeled a ‘hazardous material’ by OSHA.

          Naptha was also used for laundry. It didn’t smell as bad, but it evaporated rapidly, making it more expensive than gasoline.

          By the 1930s some states were making ‘public service’ films asking people not to use solvents for laundry any more due to the fire hazard. There are a couple of those films on archive.org

      2. And don’t forget that gasoline was an unwanted byproduct of kerosene refining.

        Have to think a bit about wind turbine blades. Not many in our part of Oregon; either we have way too little or way too much wind for the eagle-choppers to be installed. OTOH, a use for dead solar panels could be a viable market in several years. (I’ve read that polycrystaline panels have a 20 year effective life span. I have 17 years on a trio of monocrystaline panels with no obvious degradation, though mono panels are way too expensive for what they can produce.)

      3. This happened to gizzards, in Portugal btw. We ate a ton of them in stew growing up, because they were almost free. The excuse being “For the cats.” (Yeah, we were so poor.)
        Then someone invented a super spicy sauce and started serving them in bars. They’re as expensive as breast meat now.

        1. So that’s what happened to gizzards? I loved fried gizzards and they used to be common and cheaper than fried chicken (hello superballs!) But a while back they just vanished.

          I figured someone had discovered them, but had never heard for what.

            1. Yeah the tony types love them some skirt steak (which is steer diaphragm muscle) and Brisket. I use to make Carne Asada for burritos and tacos with those, but now it costs as much as NY strip or more. Also used lots in asian dishes (it WAS cheap).

              1. Even ground chuck is expensive now, as well as pretty much every cut of chicken. Fish prices have gone through the roof as well.

                1. I’m well inland; any kind of fish that’s not breaded and pre-cooked costs more than steak.

            1. I never saw gizzards, but you used to be able to get fried chicken livers at KFC in the South.

        2. Heck, my mother used to fry up a plate of gizzards as a treat for herself when I was young.

      4. One thing in an old (mid 1950’s) chemistry book was “we used to consider this just a waste product… But then it was realized that it’s an almost ideal feedstock for this other process…” Problems can be solutions if looked at the right way.

      5. Once upon a time commercial kitchens and restaurants had to pay someone to carry away the used grease from their fryers. These days they have to keep the collection under lock and key because somebody figured out that with a bit of processing that grease could be transformed into usable diesel fuel.

      6. ” People will pay me to get this stuff out of their hands. ”

        You used to be able to just take bedding sand – which is the crusher fines washed out of the larger grades of gravel.

        Now, the rock pits make you pay for it. Because it’s really good for laying down in trenches.

      7. Molybdenum-99. You can make Technetium-99 from it, and that is used in something like 40million medical imaging procedures every year. You can get it from nuke reactors.

        There’s probably something about creating or saving lives made from tools (high enriched u235) that can cause so much death, but I’m too tired to word it.

      1. And now that song is running through my head.. “Spider – man ^w pig ^w chicken does whatever….”

      2. And 8 legged so that there are drumsticks to go around. Lordy what a nightmare animal.

        1. Over three quarters of a century ago I was in a Catholic boarding school in Florida where much of the food was raised on the property.

          The chicken heads in feet went into the chicken soup. I still remember finding the occasional chicken toenail in my bowl.

      1. That’s “poor people” food in most places over the centuries.

        And then, as the old joke goes, within three generations it’s what the elites (whose grandparents grew up on it, and never quit eating it) are serving at their meals.

          1. I LIKE haggis. It’s very heavy, reminded me a bit of blood sausages (also heavy) but a great breakfast food. Or as a burger. Not for those on a low-fat diet, though. licks whiskers at the memory of the flavor

            1. Haggis is a species of sausage – “great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race” and goes well with scotch.

              I thought blood sausage was mostly a carb, and needed a bit of butter. Depends on your recipe for the sausage, of course. Scottish variants seemed to have oats.

              1. The morcilla I got used to is a blood pudding with mostly blood, rice, and spices in a casing.
                Haggis is good too, I used to get taken to Burns Nights by my Dad.

                1. Local pub does Burns Night; we’ve been both years we knew about it – 2021, 2022 – and we’ll be back this year.

                  Haggis is fun; tatties and neeps are nice. But have you had Athel Brose? I bring some extra scotch to punch up the drinks. If you have to tolerate modern life, a couple servings of Athel Brose helps a lot.

                  And it does help if you like pipe music …

              1. OK WTAF? I mean mind you I am not a big fan of Haggis, but that is just frickin silly. If you’re going to eat haggis eat haggis. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan there has to be something more delectable than haggis.

                  1. Tofurkey makes immense sense compared to whats essentially an offal sausage. And honestly Tofurkey makes no frickin’ sense…

      2. $HOUSEMATE says I do not appreciate certain Southern cuisine. Doesn’t like my reply that is because it was what was eaten when they didn’t have food. Still not sure what collard is or is supposed to be, but it sure looks like the flat close-to-ground will-never-get-mowed lawn weeds to me. Yeah, moo, I know. So if I have issue with a plant… and well, I appreciate the meme “It’s National Kale Day. How about some bacon?”

        1. Does anybody know of a good way to cook okra? It’s an invasive species, so it’s a good emergency crop. But if I can find a decent recipe, it could become a very cheap staple.

          1. I’ve had okra a couple ways and the least objectionable was likely the most unhealthy and used the most other things… sliced thin and deep fried. Made it… tolerable. I tried it mainly to say that I had. Wouldn’t go out of my way for it. Better than the okra pickles, but faint praise and all that.

          2. Buy young okra, small as your little finger.

            Dust lightly with corn meal.

            Fry up in a skillet. Make sure it browns up good.

            Salt it.

          3. Aside from fried as mentioned, okra goes well in vegetable soup – darned near mandatory where I come from. Growing up, we canned a LOT of vegetable soup. It’s also good as just tomatoes and okra, stewed, on top of rice. We canned of lot of tomatoes and okra, because sometimes we ate it like that (on the rice), and as a base for vegetable soup with fresher/other vegetables.

            I’ve had some local Chinese restaurants incorporate it into various dishes to good effect. Pun intended 🙂

  6. “… and we don’t have spider-chickens.” The Reader is sure someone, somewhere is working on breeding chickens with more than 2 wings. Demand, meet supply.

    1. There’s a story that back in the 1950s a rancher donated $$$$ to Texas A&M to develop a six-legged chicken because his three children kept fighting over the drumsticks. The good news is, A&M succeeded. The bad news is, the dang thing runs so fast that no one could catch it!

    2. I’m recalling the old physics joke: Punchline: “Assume a spherical chicken.”

      Now if I could remember the setup, I’d be golden.

      1. Oh, it’s pretty much any complicated thing involving an animal. How many cows can you fit in a rail car? At what wind speed do chickens blow away? Under what conditions can a pig fly? What is the most efficient way to configure horse stalls. Will the floor collapse with this many ducks?

        It all starts with, “first assume a spherical X of uniform density”

                  1. And since the shape of chickens is chaotic at the micro level, we can’t build a model for comparison either.

        1. Ah yes and we had Mac Cat. “Assume a spherical friction-less 10 KG cat”. He was ALWAYS dubious of the various Physics professors my wife knew 🙂 , perhaps justifiably.

          1. Then again, we’ve got a cat who, in his younger days, loved to body-board along the carpet.

            He would lay down on his side, hook a claw in the rug, and just launch himself across the apartment.

          2. As it happens, OUR spherical cat is named Macavity, because he’s a ginger, and commonly called Mac. But he’s down to around 9.2 kg.

            1. Our Mac was also legalistically Macavity (though no one but me called him that). His sibling got named Tyger (as in Wm. Blakes poem) and they had been called Mac and Mire by the shelter. Tyger was renamed so as younger daughter was studying poetry in 4th grade and they’d run into Tyger, Tyger. SHe used Chicago voting techniques (Tyger Tyger Tyger Tyger thats four votes for Tyger Tyger wins Quoth the 4th grader !). Our Mac was a black and white cap and saddle cat looking a bit like a holstein cow. Middle name was Fezzik (I can’t help it if I’m the biggest I don’t even exercise 🙂 ) and was a sweet and gentle cat. Before he went to seed he was ~19 lbs in fighting trim and all muscle and fluff It was good he was gentle, it would have been like handling a bobcat if he had been spicy…

      2. Space Truckers was probably prescient with its concept of roughly cube-shaped swine that made for easy shipping.

  7. As to 2, someone oughta tell the folks at 60 Minutes because they just gave free time for Paul Ehrlich like it was still 1970 last week. The man’s been wrong about virtually every single thing and yet somehow he’s still an “expert”.

    1. Ehrlich brings to mind the quote, “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I’ve read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

      Of course, knowing my family, they’d have found entirely different justifications for their… everything awfulness, but Ehrlich was one of the main ones hammered in when I was a kid. “I had kids because I was selfish and wanted a large family, but you should never have kids, you don’t want to wreck the planet, do you?” Etc, etc., and much more far worse….

      1. Ouch. Mom did admit (when I was in my 40s or so) that I’d been born prematurely. By about 2 years. It wasn’t a problem, though as one of three boys, I contributed my fair share of chaos.

        1. Mine made me the de facto babysitter, homework helper, meal-maker, etc., for all my younger siblings. And my grades had to be perfect. And if theirs weren’t it was at least partly my fault. And put in all the hours at the store, too, retail and building circuits and… everything.

          So yes, I probably shouldn’t have children, because genetic issues and I hate kids.

          Which, yes, not rational, but there are some things I can’t shake. Drat.

          1. You are perfectly allowed to not have kids (and it’s not the first time I’ve heard “had to raise my siblings” as a reason.)

            People telling you to have kids is the same species of annoying as every other comment on childbearing, from “that’s too many” to “didn’t you want a kid of the other gender” and right on through the worst, which is saying anything on the subject to someone who wants kids but has fertility issues.

            1. Yes, that last one gets me and my wife. Due to some medical issues from both of us, we weren’t able to. A couple of times my wife got asked, “Are you trying?” (which seemed to come out as, “Are you TRYING?” She got so irritated that once she replied, “Well, we TRIED last night, but we aren’t sure if it worked, so we’ll probably TRY again tonight…”

              1. Been there. We got lucky. Once.

                Imagine getting a call from a friend/co-worker, newly married, calling to whine about his new wife of < year getting pregnant while on birth control. “They weren’t ready”. After barely walking into the house after bringing home his wife (me) from a 10 day stay in the hospital, first to try to prevent, then surgery, because of a miscarriage. This happened. We’d only been trying 4 years, then. That it was probably a false pregnancy is irrelevant.

            2. “saying anything on the subject to someone who wants kids but has fertility issues.”

              Sounds like grounds for battery to me.

            3. Friend of son’s and his sister have both informed their parents “not ever having children”. Because their mom had an in home daycare … Their dad said the only way they maybe get grandchildren is through their adopted foster son, now 11.

            4. I’m not surprised… Seriously, one of the things that decided me was being 12 and forced to change a younger brother’s diaper in the back of a moving van. Because she wouldn’t pull over for even a few minutes and she expected me to do it Right Now.

              There were pins involved. I got stabbed. It was ugly. But you see I was informed that was fine, if I’d stabbed him I’d have been done for….

              Yeah. My parents sucked.

              1. Oof. That’s the winner for abusive parental behavior.

                Dad’s mother was a control freak, once calling his boss to complain when (newly married) Dad didn’t come to see her often enough.

                That crap ended 25 years later, when Dad drove up there and read them the riot act over his mother harassing my mother. Turns out, Dad got disinherited over it. I learned this 15 years after Dad died, and his father passed.

                One of my brothers was pissed that Dad did such a thing (said brother tries to lay claim to other people’s money, so Sod Off, Swampy), but I was kind of proud that Dad did it.

              2. What the actual….. I’ve been in that situation with my daughter. Pull onto the shoulder, find a parking lot, whatever? Hell, I once changed her in the trunk of my hatchback in a parking lot.

                Yeah, your parents needed to be smacked. Hard.

                  1. Not meaning to offend, but it sounds like much of the population of your hometown is prime chipper-bait. Foot first. Slowly.

                    I… may not be rational when it comes to people who hurt kids.

                    1. I have, as the saying goes, shaken the dust from my feet. And never intend to go back.

                      …Doing something premeditated would be all too tempting.

                      Much better to just outlive them all.

                1. “Yeah, your parents needed to be smacked. Hard.”
                  ….

                  Agree. “What the heck?”. crossovercreativechaos comes across a lot younger than I am. Which put her in the age of child restraint, for both her and younger siblings, while vehicle is in movement, required and stringently enforced.

                  I’ve mentioned more than once how long it takes to drive any distance when an infant must be fed or changed during the trip. Only way to do so is to pull over and take the time. It is what you do. Boggles the mind how the parents weren’t caught and punished (fined if nothing else).

                  My sister was headed south on I-5 when her youngest (infant/toddler) dropped something, started crying. Her older daughter (old enough to undo her own restraints) said “I’ll get it!” Mom said “No!” and immediately started pulling over to a safe place (where at least the older child, age 4, could be out of the restraint safely). Sister couldn’t get the car pulled over fast enough before she had a patrol officer with lights right behind her. Sister got a ticket for having a child not properly restrained. With both children crying and screaming, the older one “please don’t take mommy to jail”. Children not properly restrained with safety devices is something that the police take seriously, as seriously as driving while impaired.

                  The flip side when sister went to court she took the kids. Despite not getting there early enough to be in the front of the line … Bailiff “Judge doesn’t like children. You’re first!” Joke became someone should offer “Going to court? Rent a child …”

                  Agree with Sarah, “Smacked hard with a shovel”.

                  1. Joke became someone should offer “Going to court? Rent a child…”


                    I can just see the business license application. 😀

                    And the advertisements. Child rentals for courtroom priority!

                  2. Child restraints? Snrk Another thing my parents weren’t into.

                    Seriously, no, two of my younger siblings (one that same brother) were unrestrained in the back of the same van some years later when it was rear-ended by a drunk driver. They were lucky to only get out of that with bruises – especially since there was, among other things, a whole roll of chicken wire also loose in the back.

                    1. Blink? What? Wow. You and your siblings must be a lot older than I thought. Because the incident I noted with my sister happened 30 years ago. Even today, with patrols (at least locally) a lot less, that is one traffic infraction that is not overlooked, on patrol or not.

                      When sisters and I were kids restraints weren’t not a thing. Seat belts did not exist in the car. Best we had was the arm fling, at a hard stop. At least until early ’70s, in either the car or the pickup (seat belts were available, my ’66 chevy impala had lap belts but no shoulder belt). The pickup we were crammed 5 (two adults, 3 kids) into single bench regular cab, or us 3 kids in the camper (at the table, not above the cab of the bed).

                    2. The only cops around in the area were the state troopers, and they weren’t around much. Besides, my father charmed them, like he did the church choir director (hence being listed as Staunch and Upright, any abuse was pure lies) the bank loan officers for more lines of credit (hence no inheritance left) and the social worker interviewing the kids during the divorce (hence my near-brush with involuntary commitment. I still despise him for that.)

                      And you could reach every household with less than 200 pieces of mail.

                      BTW he’s still out there, after his second wife divorced him and accused him of child molestation, and probably still charming other people out of their money, morals, and everything else.

                    3. That… sounds really freaking familiar. Like my father-in-law familiar. There are reasons he neither rated a wedding invite, nor knowledge of our address, nor any contact with our daughter.

                      If anything, yours sounds even worse – and I want my wife’s father impaled on a short stake.

                    4. There is only one family member I’m currently on speaking terms with. The rest can sit on it and rotate. And as soon as I could, I closed the PO Box the others knew of and left no forwarding address.

                    5. We all used to ride in the back of the pickup truck, and in wagons pulled by tractors. Nobody thought anything of it. Just don’t do Stupid Stuff.

                      ‘Progressives’ demand that we all be treated like idiots because some idiots do Stupid Stuff.

                    6. “used to ride in the back of the pickup truck”
                      ………..

                      Open pickup truck. Three adults up front, one or two (if younger uncle along, before he got married), and six kids in the back of the truck. Going down the highway, forest roads, etc. Usually filled with backpacking gear. Check. At least through summer of ’73 … (Oh. It happened summers after that, just I was off to college and my own work …)

                    7. Ok, this is probably a nosey question (and feel free to have Fast Eddie nail me with his blackjack if you object), but how the hell did your parents manage to be considered respectable with at the very least one non-hideable display of major child endangerment?

                    8. Usually?

                      It’s managed by either What A Terrible Accident, or Goodness Kids Who Can Stop Them Being Dumb, in my very limited exposure.

                      Folks check themselves against others– if your fail-safes all say no, this person couldn’t possibly have done whatever, and they tell you a story that everyone else seems to accept– people tend to accept it.

                      Not sure how long back it was, but I believe Sarah told about how a guy was drunk, and ran into their car that was parked out infront of the house, and nearly persuaded both the responding cop and Mrs. Hoyt herself that SHE had hit HIM.

                      When she’s standing there in her night clothes, because the crash woke them up.

                    9. Yep. Except the neighbor had seen the whole thing, and came off his porch. I mean, if the neighbor didn’t smoke in the middle of the night…
                      As was his insurance made us wait for six months for payment on our totaled car. Which is how we ended up driving the Brown Disgrace.

                    10. Gee. We have a 5 year old, playing basketball out front with other 5 year olds (dead end road, birthday party), slip on the asphalt and get what looks like a road rash. But decide to make sure it is okay. So off to pediatric urgent care. Kid was screaming “Do not Ask Me AGAIN!” before the appointment was done. To answer “Now, how did this happen?” From the staff, nurses, doctors. I even left the room. Yes, the finger was cracked. Got a splint.

                      A few years later a classmate fell off school playground equipment, at recess, in sight of teachers. Managed to break not one, both arms (not visibly, wouldn’t grip anything). Before he got the casts off mom was ready to put him in a sandwich board, in bold and highlighted “It happened AT SCHOOL!!!!” That doesn’t count the questioning he, and his twin, went through at the urgent clinic. Never mind that his twin was teasing him about falling off, in front of medical staff.

                      OTOH we were well prepared the next two times we took our son to urgent clinic with probable broken arms (splint only so not bad). The first, inline skates and “ramp” (otherwise known as the school slide), and second, what happens when your bike suddenly stops and you hadn’t planned on it stopping physics question. (Parent “I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Ask kid.”)

                    11. They don’t manage to catch the kids who are literally starved to death while enrolled in, and attending a week or so prior to death, public school.

                      Believe me, it his my nuke buttons, too.

                    12. A theme I’ve seen is vulnerability of the parent– and the abusive thus and suches are not distracted by concern for their child.

                    13. Ever dealt with a covert narcissist teamed up with a sociopath?

                      They were really, really good at playing Innocent Victims of Circumstances. Really. Good.

                      And at the same time, at making their kids the Acceptable Targets for everyone else in town. No one cared what happened to us.

                      Seriously. When I was in third grade kids on the playground broke my arm. The teachers thought I was just crying for attention. And still thought so when my mother brought in the X-ray. At another point in middle school I was jumped by 10 older kids, all of whom said I started the fight. Everyone fell over themselves to buy it.

                      No. One. Cared. We – especially me – were the bottom of the social heap, the kids that made these perfect parents look bad. (No matter how I broke myself to get good grades – I couldn’t do the social stuff, and that was it.) Our parents could do whatever they liked, and no one would do anyone but shrug.

                      No. One. Cared.

                      ….I despise small towns. Maybe others are okay, but I loathe what I’ve met so much.

          2. I’m not fond of OTHERS children, in general. Small doses. Fine. But loved raising our one and only. Would have loved more. But those are a what if, not a reality. They didn’t happen.

            1. Same– other folks’ kids tend to have boundary issues, at best.

              My kids, OTOH, are my job– and I rather like them, even when they’re overwhelming.

      2. Grandchildren as the best!! I have hit that age, but a surprisingly large number of my friends have no grandchildren, or no hope of any. Even parents with a large number of kids…..

          1. Mom has 4 great-grands. Her parents had 9 grand, 15 great-grand, and one great-great-grand, by the time they died. Paternal grandmother OTOH had only 11 grand (and two yet unborn), and six great-grand (the six great, and youngest 5 grand grew up together, that is what happens when her youngest two were barely older than the oldest grand).

            My sisters and I? My sisters have or will have grandchildren. Me? Probably not.

          2. We married too late for kids, and I had issues dealing with dating. No surprise, I was the Odd, and shy, and had a hard time dealing with rejection. Took a couple of decades to work through that jungle, after which the kid-window had closed.

            Mom had three kids, 5 grandkids, (counts a bit) and 6 + 2 (I think) greats. The +2 are stepkids, though I’m seriously underinformed about that side of the family. Mom’s kid sister, three children and a bunch of grands. (One cousin had a bunch. Very well suited as a mom.)

          1. Location, location, location (& age & physical condition.). I look back quite fondly on my ’70s memories here in Alaska.

            Post flood rebuilding, caribou hunting on warm -20° days, dipnetting 20 or more salmon at Chitna, pipeline building frenzy/crazy, then still strong enough to walk a quarter mile through the taiga with a front quarter of a moose on my shoulder. Great times!

        1. The Reader thinks that if you remember any fun parts of the 70’s we should check what you are sniffing. He was in his 20’s and certainly doesn’t remember any fun parts.

          1. Fun parts? Pun farts…

            All I can say about the ’70s is that, while I do remember most of that unfortunate decade, I was too young to be responsible for any of it. (The ’70s…when decades attack!)

          2. Meh. The 70’s had good and bad parts for me. That was when I started out, with college, moving across country to pursue my career (with good and bad companies, ending the decade with one that I really liked), buying a house, two times (one horrible, one OK), and starting & losing relationships.

            I wasn’t paying much attention to politics (inadvertently playing a small part in Jerry [spit] Brown’s continuing presence in Cali government), but my personal life was reasonably good.

            By the ’80s, I realized that politics was interested in me, and uncovered my strong conservative streak, and I came to the conclusion that the progtards really wanted to control my life.

            ’70s music had it’s quirks. I still remember hearing the DJ playing punk-rock on the overly long commute home (no thanks to Jerry Brown and his hatred of automobiles).
            “Your love is like a nuclear waste
            They should stamp contaminated all over your face…” No idea whose song.
            I also got to see my then-favorite band, twice.
            “Just take a pebble
            And cast it to the sea…” Greg Lake when he could hit the high notes.

        2. I thought so as a high schooler/ college freshman. Though some of the latter parts are a bit vague for a variety of reasons I’d rather not list…

        3. Well, more still-living (and/or still healthy) relatives. I am told some of the music was great, but I can I didn’t really notice at the time. Of course there is sometime odd perception delay – a good many things attributed to the 1960’s were things of the 1950’s that had finally ‘wicked up’ and caught. There seems to be some lag…

          Then, many things seem to happen at only two speeds: Not nearly fast enough, and far too fast. The big problem when those happen at the same time. Like, er, now. Nobody really wants ‘The Collapse’ (whatEVER form it might take) but nearly everybody would prefer ‘getting on with it’ (peacefully, if at all sensibly[1] possible…) and putting it in the rear-view mirror.

          [1] ‘Peace’ is always possible, “just surrender.” Well, NO!!! Or: You do so!

  8. They are experts because someone will pay them to say things the $$ man wants to hear. Sorry for the early morning cynicism, but long ago I realized the experts, medicine men, and other worthies were more interested in filling the rice bowl as telling the truth. The inevitable result of government funding of research.

    1. And the whole grant writing scene can go soak its collective head. Until it gets gassy and floats from all the decomposition.

      For a layman’s lesson, look at how the FDA recommendations (and the food pyramid) have/has changed in the last fifty years.

      Then pay close attention to who paid for the research.

  9. Sarah, I’ll take your word for it on the depopulation, but I live in the Metro Atlanta area, and we’re full. No really, enough people live here. Please don’t move here. In fact please move out if you just came.

    1. Common experience throughout the South while I just read that New York, California, and I believe Illinois are experiencing six figure losses in population.

    2. I think part of the long-term culture shift in my city is from CA and other people moving here. I’m still mulling over causes and effects.

  10. We aren’t uploading our dying brains into computers, and we aren’t going to.

    1. I’ve never believed that would actually work. Livings things feel. Perhaps you could synthesize that (Cough HeeChee Saga Cough) but honestly, a visceral reaction requires, well, viscera. Maybe I’m just old, but I’m not sure i’d want to live forever. Sounds boring.

      1. Rather assuming the conclusion don’t you think?

        If the position is that the consciousness is happening in a soul….. then say that. But if you aren’t bringing in magic then it is already happening in non-magical matter, and this argument falls on its face.

        1. I’m a physicalist (what they used to call a materialist, but there’s more to physics than matter) and I don’t have any truck with dualism. But I don’t think that the usual descriptions of uploading would allow survival, even if they were technologically feasible. To have survival you want to have the ship of Theseus, where you replace one plank at a time. But if you measure all the planks, and cut new ones, and peg them together alongside the original, that doesn’t give you the ship of Theseus; it gives you a COPY. Not survival, but reproduction. And if the original ship sinks, or burns to the waterline, or if you tear it apart while measuring it, it hasn’t survived either.

          1. For an interesting take on this WRT humans, see Larry Niven’s “Theory and Practice of Teleportation”, the “Theory of Mechanical Teleportation” section. Larry could come up with some of the damndest issues…

    2. I wish they would drop that idea already. It’s a great sci-fi/horror story device, but it’s really – REALLY – not going to work in actual fact. :sigh….:

      1. Yeah. For my stories I’ve ended up wandering into a world structure where mind scans can be used as templates, but they aren’t the original person.

        Basically it’s a sort of shortcut to making a mature stable AI, but they are still their own thing. The healthy ones understand that. The unhealthy ones don’t.

        Of course then you get into the problem of making thinking creatures as tools, and all the Pandora’s Box that brings.

          1. Interesting. I’ll have to take a look at those.

            My general thought is once one has created a thing that can think for itself, you really don’t know much about where it will end up, so I don’t think real industrial production of people will ever work as planned.

            People operate in really strange ways. I’m really trying to figure out how people turn into, and stop being NPCs.

            When I started trying to write a space western, I was not expecting it to try to turn into a paranormal romance, and certainly was not expecting that to then turn around and start demanding a deep dive into psychology and moral philosophy…

            Tempted to shelve it for now and do something else, but all the other characters are so realized, it just seems a shame to put it aside.

            1. once one has created a thing that can think for itself, you really don’t know much about where it will end up

              Yup. Kids never go where you thought they were heading. (Marine son, for example – who we were sure was going to be a musician.)

    3. Every cutrate horror movie where the mad scientist pops a brain into a new body and it shows signs of continuity of personality (like, oh, I don’t know, being angry at the mad scientist for killing their old body) can tell the transhumanist nerd-rapture types that this is a Bad Idea.

    4. An interesting take on that in Sword Art Online: Alicization where they could scan a person’s consciousness into a computer, but the digital versions just kept screaming “I’m not a computer copy, I’m ME!!” until they crashed.

      So they created a digital world, and populated it with AIs, hoping for the day when one of them would develop its own initiative and break the rules.

    5. A backup is NOT the original. A digital copy of a digital original is quite different… and I suspect were there sentient robots, they would have Issues with that – and they’d be right.

  11. Atlanta and Charlotte and Raleigh are stuffed to the gills with people who grew up in small towns and went to college and moved to the big city.

    And transplants.

    1. Same same for Huntsville AL sad to say. But the movers and shakers in city government are tickled to death, at least until the infrastructure finally spirals into the dumpster.

      1. Where I live is seeing that. Also, a large culture change that is partly generational and partly because of outside people who are not as aware of the city’s roots (or see them as bad and in need of removal.) Infrastructure is struggling in the older parts of town because the city has had other priorities and roads/sewers fall under “fix it when it breaks and rarely before.”

        1. “You can’t build your way out of traffic congestion.”

          Which may be true, but you can sure not-build your way into it.

      2. Fascinating , I found Huntsville, AL to be much like Nashua NH in the mid 90’s, just add some NASA, some decent barbecue and some ethnic diversity and Voila twins, oh and cut real estate prices in Nashua in 1/4. Of course that’s the better part of 30 years ago…

        1. I miss Rocket City FurMeet. I doubt it could be re-created now, for many reasons. The COVIDiocy would be part of it, as would be time passing, and just simple urban.. growth. When RCFM started, it was pretty much a guy or two who normally dealt with getting accommodations for visiting scientists asking a small-ish local hotel what their WORST (most dead) time was. “Memorial Day Weekend!”[1] “I can fill at least half your hotel that weekend, but it might look a bit strange.” And got told, that as long as strange could pay its way… and eventually RCFM filled the hotel. Then there was a sale/buyout and even before changing venues, it was felt… in a bad way. Under the old ownership, the staff were clearly having FUN too. Under the new, all was slog. Grey Goo of “hospitality.” I felt sorry for the staff.

          The next venue… had other issues. And eventually there was the issue of the TSA doing something at the same place at the same time and FREAKING OUT that some would be ‘masked’…. (Which makes the Great COVIDiocy all more head-shaking…) and well, stick a fork in it, RCFM was done.

          Time has passed, and some of the Great Instigators are “no longer with us” (pre-COVID & quaccines).

          [1] Lest anyone make bletcherously stupid claims, one of the founders was Navy and Sunday and/or Memorial Day morning (it’s been a while..) a Service was held in memoriam.

  12. In nature, most species populations follow a bell curve from initial speciation to eventual extinction. There’s no reason to suspect that humans will be any different. What does show up with each species is that population numbers fluctuate, often wildly, based on available resources. Again, there’s no reason to suspect that humans will be any different. On local and regional levels, especially in 3rd world nations, we see ‘rapid’ increases and decreases in populations, usually due to either starvation, or occasional overabundance of food. First world countries are seeing population ‘crashes’ due primarily to cultural/sociological/governmental changes, not lack of food or other resources, yet.

    The biggest limitation for 1st world countries is energy. Right now, almost all of our economic problems can be attributed to the idiocy of the ‘energy policy’ (it’s not a policy at all, it’s a crack dream hallucination by the elite ignorati of the world) of the Democrat Party/Green New Deal. Only a fool cuts off a mandatory resource before having viable alternatives in place. But then Joe Biden IS the patron puppet of fools.

      1. There’s also the affluence curves. As societies (ALL of them that I’ve studied even cursorily) grow richer, have more leisure time, don’t work themselves into early graves, they tend to have fewer kids.

        Blunt theory (mine, no one else’s I can think of yet) is that greater affluence can support greater amounts of… nuttiness. Sand in the gears, non-producing individuals, pure fluff, all the way up to out-and-out inimical interests to the society as a whole. Dissent in small group survival situations can get deadly, real fast. Dissent in big, massive group situations may just be essential for the survival of the group.

        But as we have seen with the de-woking of several tech companies (and even bloody CNN, potentially), such things are luxury goods. Expensive luxuries, no less.

        Back on topic though, the longer they live, the healthier they are (both up to a point), and the fewer kids they tend to have. When the society/group/nation/whathaveyou starts to go into the negative, they tend to import new citizens one way or another rather than have more kids. Unless there’s a sharp downturn in relative fortunes.

        Books and beer a depression industries. You know what else is? Bonking. People tend to have more kids when times are a little tougher, I think.

        1. Ah. That’s where I screwed up. I should have given all my money away. Then the women would be flocking to my bed. I should send that one to Scott Adams for his Dogbert’s dating tips thread.

  13. Predictions are tricky, given the ebb and flow, change is slow and insidious. Here’s what I do know:
    1) standard of living is diminishing in the western world.
    2) life expectancy is down again this year.

    John Wayne famously observed, “Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”

      1. Yes, agree, it will get worse but at some point, I agree, we will hit bedrock and then, attitudes and opinions will change for the better.

          1. Well, I don’t think we’ll lose literacy again. To much written word, and to many easy ways to make things to write with.

            Heck, some people make iron gaul ink for fun. I’m pretty sure I could track down a recipe in an afternoon.

            Probably should do that, actually, and a couple methods of making paper.

            Failing that, there are enough crayons in the US to make a lot of wax tablets, which covers a lot of short term writing.

            1. “I don’t think we’ll lose literacy again”

              Have you talked to a recent high school or college graduate? We’re well on the way.

                  1. Even more “literate” than a lot of us Oldsters. After all they short cut with emoji and phrase initials that many of us either barely read if we read it at all. Now for a generation coming up historical cursive is going to be code for a lot of them. But they aren’t losing the ability to read. (OTOH I defy anyone to read my husband’s handwriting. Son’s isn’t a whole lot easier for all that his school issued “cursive licenses” deeming his cursive handwriting “legible”. Um …. No! Granted my cursive has cratered … but I use that to hide my inability to spell …)

  14. A dear lady friend of ours was lamenting that some of the clean air laws have been rescinded, etc. (I have no idea if this is true), which means that the coal plants will suddenly be producing a whole lot more smoke, and things will get really bad again, like they used to be. Now, whether the first part is true or not, the second is most assuredly not. Once they had to install the scrubbers and such, they found that the stuff that had formerly been going up the chimney was quite useful, and thus had value. Things might get a little worse, but not nearly as bad as she was trying to make them out to be.

    1. First it’s a waste product.
      Then it’s a by-product.
      Then it’s a feedstock.

      And waste is certainly a matter of perspective. I have an oil lamp (well, a good many, but one is burning as I write…) and if I were in Florida in July, the ‘waste heat’ from it would be unwelcome. But right now I am in Minnesota in January and I tell you, “there ain’t no such thing” as ‘waste heat’ here and now.

  15. We recently visited IKEA, and like always had a good time looking around. While we went through the As-Is section at the end, there was a video playing about how they were striving to make a waste-free world. We talked a bit about how that is not only impossible, but unhealthy for society. I mentioned that the people who think it’s a good idea, probably also think John Lennon’s “Imagine” describes a Utopia.

    1. “a waste-free world”

      I am reminded of a North Korean ex-pat’s talk on what it was like to come out of that totalitarian mess, and one thing that sticks with me is she said how surprising it was to see garbage cans/piles/dumpsters. You use everything in North Korea, because there is no new stuff—the ultimate in “make it do or do without.”

      Being so poor that you don’t have garbage—yeah, that tracks with what they want.

      1. Heard similar from someone about the American occupation forces in Germany at the end of World War 2. The Americans had huge garbage dumps, which the locals would then pick through because, well, most of the “trash” could either still be used or be repurposed. And the locals had nothing.

      2. Plus, with all of our high-tech widgets being assembled by slave labor in 3rd-world hellholes, it costs far more to fix a widget than to make a new one. Remember the independent TV repair shops of the 60s and 70s? Where are the cell phone repair shops? Nowhere. You pitch it and get another one for ‘free’.

        1. Use to get one for “free”. Not so much anymore. OTOH it is less expensive to replace a cell phone than it is to repair one.

        2. If by repair you mean new screen or battery, there are several places here that do it. If you mean “put pieces back together after fell out of pocket and hit by falling cinder block” then no, new is cheaper.

          1. Mostly I mean a ‘It stopped working’ failure. Something went wrong with one of the ICs or circuit boards inside. You’d need an experienced (expensive) technician just to find the problem, and then you’d need the right replacement parts, and microsurgery on the phone’s innards…

  16. “Malthus was an unpleasant fatalist. he was also wrong. Humanity doesn’t keep reproducing like mindless rabbits.”

    I am probably a minority of one, but after reading Thomas Malthus’ On Population, and learning more about Thomas Paine and his contemporaries, I have come to the suspicion that Thomas Malthus’ On Population was a condemnation of Paine’s The Rights of Man, especially the last chapter where he presages state pensions, payments to the poor, and something of a welfare state, not from a moral or legal stance, but from an actual economic basis: it cannot work it is impossible, the only thing it will do is destroy the social conventions that keep society from destroying itself.

    Ehrlich may well not only misunderstood the the implications of his interpretation, but may have completely misunderstood the text of On Population as well.

    I am something of a Thomas Malthus fanboi and as such may be safely ignored

    1. Malthus grew up in the time before industrial farming and agriculture, and famine was a depressingly regular occurrence. His “logic” came from the same place as Marx and Engels-someone seeing a world changing and thinking that the time was always the status quo.

    2. It’s something worth checking into. But you would need to find other comments that Malthus made about what he wrote (possibly letters he wrote to others, or possible speeches that he gave), which might help shed insight into his thinking.

    3. While I have not read Malthus myself, in Herman Kahn’s The Next 200 years he notes that the typical Malthusian pessimism is based on Malthus’s earlier works and, to Malthus’s credit his later opinions are not so pessimistic about humanity’s prospects. If you haven’t read Kahn’s work, there is a free DoD report here: https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADB310563.pdf entitled “Long Term Prospects for Developments in Space” that I believe the aforementioned Next 200 Years book is based on. I highly recommend it.

  17. The truly dystopian future is the one from T. A, Bass’ The Godwhale and Half Past Human, where humanity has been bred to become the four-toed, short-lived Nebbish, incubated in jars, living jammed together in vast Hives underground because the surface is dedicated to crops to feed the Hives, and the sterile overfished seas.
    All run by the central computer programmed to seek “the greatest good to the greatest numbers” and regularly committing the older and the useless eaters to “cryo suspension until they can be supported again”

    I probably link my fascination with Malthus to stories like this

  18. I’d like for human memory and sapiency uploading and downloading, body repairs with OEM or performance parts and not salvage, biological and identity immortality as a choice, and a lot of other things.

    And at a cost where it’s on the scale of “buying a decent used car” versus “ultra-rich.”

    Having your Mom in the hospital-because she fell and is in a great deal of pain due to one of her vertebrae either cracking or generating a bone fragment-makes you very unhappy with the Great Engineer going for “good enough” with evolution.

  19. Chatter about centralized Earth governments reminds me of my first real run-in with a sci-fi setting that didn’t have that. The Jovian Chronicles RPG (published by Dream Pod 9, which is best known for Heavy Gear; but originally created as an alternative setting for Mekton, which is a mecha anime game by R. Talsorian Games, which is best known for Cyberpunk) posited the Central Earth Government and Administration (CEGA) as a large Earth government that presented itself as the face of the planet to the rest of the Solar System. And it ruled the Orbital Colonies and Lunar Colonies. On Earth, however, it probably controls about half of the Earth’s land mass, and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Even worse, CEGA itself is basically a papering over of an alliance of convenience between several states, none of whom particularly like each other (one of those groups is a radical green enviro-fascist California, btw… 😛 ). Officially, all of these states are part of the greater whole. And that’s how they present themselves to the rest of the Solar System. But behind the scenes, they all basically hate and despise each other. However, they all realize that making their disputes public will cause the rest of the Solar System to realize just how weak they are, so…

    At the time, for me it was a very different take on an Earth government in a colonized Solar System.

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