Good Music Friday

Well hey.
It’s Friday and I’m actually looking forward to it — because it came right on time.
Altered my schedule a little so that I could sleep more, skipping lunch so that I could still get home at a reasonable hour.
Folks, that has made all the difference.
Still, a little sad that waking up at 05:45 feels like “sleeping in” when in the good ole days, that was a respectable bedtime.
Curse of gettin’ older, I suppose.
Anyway, as always there’s a crapload of yardwork what needs doing this weekend, plus a couple of other projects. Everyone here’s bitchin’ about the heat, but they’ll miss it when its gone.
Have a good one and get ‘em in.

If I Should Fall From Grace With God
BBC Radio Sessions
The Pogues
Broadcast Performance | 1986

The Most Important Innovation In Human History

The beginnings of personal agency.

The beginnings of personal agency.

So I’ve talked a lot about “innovation” and human industry and all that quite a bit lately. An idea I’ve been tussling around in my head for a while now is the question of what is the most important truly innovative product of human ingenuity. The list of potentials is long; the internal combustion engine? The telescope? The assembly line? The nuclear reactor?
A case can be made for every one of those, but for the breadth and depth of an innovation’s impact on the course of human civilizational development, I’m going to make a case for an invention far more humble but ubiquitous.
The small firearm.
While it’s probably not a hard sell to the readership here, it bears noting that the pistol is, hands down, the most influential innovation in human history. Without it, we likely wouldn’t have developed any semblance of the concept of individual liberty, personal agency or institutional domain over ourselves and our effects – the Magna Carta and its ensuing revisional charters really didn’t have much in the way of teeth until “free men” could arm themselves.
For thousands of years, the strong subjugated the weak through physical strength; a king’s agents tended to be the strongest warriors in the land. For a man to be “armed” meant little without both extensive training and a select set of physical attributes. You needed strength, agility, a high reflexive response and a measure of endurance to successfully wield a sword in defense from an aggressive and experienced transgressor. The physically weak and diminutive, for most of the course of human history, were always at the mercy of the physically strong to such a degree that the idea of every individual being possessed of personal agency was laughable. You did what the bigger guy with the sword commanded, or you got to watch your intestines slither out of a slice in your gut, coiling neatly onto the ground below. A weak man with a sword is simply no match for a strong man with a sword 99 times out of 100.
The pistol changes this dynamic drastically, and the proliferation of small arms coinciding with the development of institutional due process for all men – even the serfs – is inextricably linked. The tenants of the magna carta didn’t really have teeth until the pistol allowed the weak to protect themselves from the strong with no more strength than is necessary to pull a trigger. The formation of the individual will follows right along with the development of the matchlock, the flintlock, the musket and the revolver.
I’ve heard many supposedly bright people wonder why all of a sudden human civilizational development shifted from a rather static status quo suffered through for thousands of years to one that quickly developed the ideas of due process, habeaus corpus, individual property rights and self agency.
It’s because of the gun.
Without it, the past 500 years would have been a whole different story.

When The Mayans Were Almost Right

The sun wants you dead.

The sun wants you dead.

So a funny thing happened in 2012 — for all the derisive scorn and laughter directed at the long conquered and dead Mayan Empire, their “predictions” for the END OF THE WORLD may have been much closer to occurring than you’d think.
They missed it by about a week:

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.
“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

So why weren’t we toast?

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

Ah, blind stupid luck.
Okay, then.
But say the CMEs had struck us.
What then?

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid. NASA offers this sobering assessment:
Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

Well, good thing we dodged that bullet then.

Perhaps the scariest finding reported in the article is this: There is a 12 percent chance of a Carrington-type event on Earth in the next 10 years according to Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

Well fuck it then, I’ll be in the basement.
But seriously, have a Goddamn plan for when this type of thing occurs, a plan that broadly contemplates what a few months with limited or no power would look like.
In addition to food, water and the other usuals, scope out the neighborhood and note where your local electrical towers and transformers are, and where the nearby wires run. Make sure that nothing near you catches fire or poses an immediate danger if you suddenly see the sky light up like the aurora borealis. Chances are pretty high that from the outset, you will no longer have access to TV, radio, telephone or Internet. It’s just going to be you and your community almost immediately, and in something like this, help isn’t going to come from the next town over.
This is the one disaster where you’ll be mostly on your own for a good long while, and there probably won’t be anywhere else to go that offers relief.

July 23, 2014, 10:55am PDT

Night must fall even on paradise.

Night must fall even on paradise.

Just noting the exact day and time where I came across the simple mind-dribblings of an obviously simple man:

Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.

Why note the imbecility of an imbecile?
I don’t know, perhaps in 20 years we can all call this up and have ourselves a good hearty laugh, because we’ll probably need one, if the Internet even still exists and I’m not too busy distilling homemade kerosene out of rendered vasoline and coyote dung passed through a filter cobbled together from spent Salonpas pads.
He does hit on one thing correctly, and I’ll get to that in a bit.
But for now, let’s roll through this and see if we can do so with our spleens still intact.

Unlimited Energy

Where in the Hell are we going to get unlimited energy from? Even the energy emanating from that giant thermonuclear reactor streaking across the daytime sky is not possessed of “unlimited energy” so what are we talking about here? Windmills? Algae? An infinite number of hamsters turning an infinite number of hamster wheels?
I’m not being cheeky. I genuinely want to know where this “unlimited energy” is supposed to come from in a brief two decades. It won’t be any of the so-called “green” initiatives – if they held that kind of promise the Dutch would have never scrapped their windmills in the 17th century.
It also most likely won’t be hydrogen fuel, Because Boom, and it most likely won’t be cold fusion because all we can manage is hot fusion, which is right out Because Boom. Fission plants are out because they’re basically outlawed and will continue to be so, oil is going away either through dwindling supplies or market demands.
So unless there is some level of progress on heat reclamation that I’ve been hitherto unaware of, what the fuck?

Unlimited Food

Genetically modified foods can increase yields, but unless we start farming the Moon somehow, we’re simply not going to be able to continue the 34-stage food production chain that we currently enjoy 20 years hence – and even if we could, it wouldn’t be “unlimited” unless the author here is privy to a scheme of wiping out a large swath of the current global population that he doesn’t care to make mention of.
In fact, food and energy are probably the only things that are going to be worth a damn at all in 20 years, when the iPhone is a paperweight.

Unlimited Clean Water

Tell it to California, Pointdexter.

What He Got Right

He did get one thing right, despite getting everything else wrong on the way there:

There won’t be much work for human beings. Self-driving cars will be commercially available by the end of this decade and will eventually displace human drivers—just as automobiles displaced the horse and buggy—and will eliminate the jobs of taxi, bus, and truck drivers. Drones will take the jobs of postmen and delivery people.

Robots are already replacing manufacturing workers. Industrial robots have advanced to the point at which they can do the same physical work as human beings. The operating cost of some robots is now less than the salary of an average Chinese worker. And, unlike human beings, robots don’t complain, join labor unions, or get distracted. They readily work 24 hours a day and require minimal maintenance. Robots will also take the jobs of farmers, pharmacists, and grocery clerks.

It’s true, and what my money is bet upon will be the catalyst (if such a thing is still possible) for what finally puts a spark to the longwinding fuse of the bomb that sets off The Next Big Thing.
And it won’t take anywhere near 20 years to come to pass.

Shoot For The Moon, End Up In Poughkeepsie

No worries, bro. We'll get ya home. Hold on dude, the sci-calc app keeps crashing. This may take awhile.

No worries, bro. We’ll get ya home. Hold on dude, the sci-calc app keeps crashing.

Just about 45 years ago, we landed on the Moon, or so the fashionable theory holds, and many at the time and ever after held to the fantasy that such was a stepping stone to a new era of human achievement; that humanity stood at the precipice of a century bursting with the boundlessness of a technologically fertile tomorrow.
Anything and everything would be possible once we completely stepped through the threshold.
Little did they know then or understand now that the threshold wasn’t through a doorway to a new tomorrow; rather it led us out the back door into the alley, a door that locks from the inside.
But wait a second, Huck, you say, just wait one goddamn second here. We have some pretty bitchin’ technology, computers that fit in your hand. Hell, a digital watch today has more computing power than whatever they had headin’ to the Moon. C’mon.
First, we still do have some pretty cool technology today. But little in the way of genuine innovation or fresh ideas. The same type of artificial computing power is simply getting more efficient and convenient. In sum, though, it’s still an artificial computer, the basic idea and framework of which was conceived more than a century ago.
Diddo, the rocket engine.
Second, I’d like to point out that no, in fact, a digital watch today, in 2014, does not have “more computing power” than what the Apollo Program had available back in 1969. Notice the distinction I just made in the previous point. Artificial computing power is not the only game in town, and dare I say, it’s not even the most important. Artificial computing has been and for quite a while will continue to revolve around providing computational supplementation to the only innovative force the material world has available — human cognitive capacity. Human cognition is capable of problem-solving through imagination, and in many cases, through desperation, and that capacity is on the wane, measured by just about every available metric, headin’ south in a hurry.
All of this is why I laugh derisively when talk of a manned mission to Mars seeps in from the edges, because we simply don’t have the chops anymore. I would not want to be on such a mission, not due to the dangers inherent in space exploration, but due to the diminished capabilities of our supposed best and brightest; the ones who sure know how to tap things on a touchscreen device, but couldn’t perform basic trig log functions with paper and pen if the lights suddenly went out, you know, if they could even gather the composure to write anything down amid the screams and wails produced by their psychological breaks when things go wrong.
I would not want a Mission Control stuffed with Millennials, is basically what I’m trying to get at here.
While there are numerous reasons for this decline in human cognitive capacity, part of it I attempted to illustrate in the Wheeler Experiment posts – we think we know a lot more than we actually know, so a lot of the inferences and suppositions that were put into place to make the math work have become placeholders for our own ignorance, accepted as true because what else are you going to do. This breeds complacency, which is the foundation of creative laziness. We have dwindling cognitive resources devoted to refining that which is perhaps preposterous at the expense of developing true and beneficial innovation.
This is by no means the only cause, or only one of a dozen causes, but it’s a factor, and perhaps why we’ll never step foot upon the surface of the moon again in our lifetimes.

Good Music Friday

I’m just about ready to stab this week in the face, stuff rocks into its pockets and roll it off the end of the pier.
Good lord.
But a quick look at the headlines around the world and here at home, it hasn’t been a good week for much of anyone. False flags, black flags, tattered flags, cops shooting hostages to take out bank robbers, politicians shouting to the dregs of the world that Our Doors Are Wide Open (So Come Clean Our Toilets And Pay Our Social Security!), a gigantic hole in the world that is currently swallowing up Siberia, “mass paranoia” on Wall Street, the President Emeritus blithering about himself in the third-person that “The Bear Is Loose” every time he makes a Taco Bell run, and on and on and on.
But, the sun is shining, summer is simmering, and tonight I’ll enjoy a cool beverage on a warm evening on the back deck, listen to a ball game and thumb through a book, appreciative of the things that they haven’t yet figured out how to take away from me.
Get ‘em in and enjoy your weekend.

Safe European Home
Give ‘Em Enough Rope
The Clash
CBS Records | 1978