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Housekeeping Notes, 10/17/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 7 hours 18 min ago
Just a couple of brief things: 1. My phone’s hotspot was acting odd last night so I reset my phone to see if it would fix it. Not only didn’t it fix it, but the phone completely refused to turn back on. Various emergency procedures were enacted (including cursing, begging and bargaining) but to no […]

The Big Idea: Steven Erikson

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 8 hours 57 min ago
Call Steven Erikson a radical, a rebel or just someone who watches too much TV, but the fact is: Right now, a particular trope of fiction has him fed up. And he’s doing something about it, as he explains in this Big Idea for his latest, Rejoice, A Knife the Heart. STEVEN ERIKSON: I have […]

View From a Hotel Window, 10/16/18: Seattle

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 21:13
Running a little late because I got into room late! But very pretty. No parking lot, sorry. Tonight: I’m at the University Bookstore at 7pm! If you hurry you can still make it! Tomorrow: Portland, Oregon and I’m at the Clackamas Barnes & Noble! Come see me please! Bring everyone you know!

The Consuming Fire is Out and I’m On Tour!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 04:34
Today’s the day! The Consuming Fire, the second book in the Interdependency series and the sequel to the Locus Award-winning and Hugo Award-nominated The Collapsing Empire, is now out in the United States and Canada (and the US edition available in other places in the world). The UK edition will be out on Thursday. The […]

Smudge: Very Tired and a Little Bit Stoned

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 17:38
As you can see from this photo. Krissy had gotten in close to pet him, and he just plain snuggled into her arms and started to nap. It’s adorable! Why is Smudge tired and a little bit stoned? Because today he took a trip to the vet and was relieved of a couple of small […]

The New Thing I’ll Be Doing This Tour: The Element of Chance

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:41
This upcoming book tour for The Consuming Fire (here’s the link to the schedule) will be the tenth(!) book tour I’ve done, and over the course of time I’ve developed a strategy for my events: I read from an upcoming work, I read something short and funny, and then I read a piece from Whatever, usually […]

How to Get Signed Copies of The Consuming Fire: The Informational Post

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 11:29
Want a copy of The Consuming Fire signed to you? You have numerous options, all good. Here they are: 1. Come see me on tour! Which starts tomorrow in Seattle and winds through a significant portion of the United States. Aside from being able to get your book signed, you’ll also get to see me […]

The Big Idea: Ryk E. Spoor

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 10:25
The thing about trilogies is that they always have that “middle chapter” — the one that has to do its own thing while serving the arc it’s in the middle of. Writing one is always a challenge, and Ryk E. Spoor is here today to tell you how he’s managed it with Demons of the […]

It’s Woolly Bear Season

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 15:59
Woolly bear caterpillars, that is, which are apparently supposed to tell you by their pelt whether it’s supposed to be a warm or cold winter. This one suggests it will be a mildish winter, which I am perfectly fine with. However, there’s no actual scientific grounding, so, you know. Don’t blame the Woolly bear any […]

Spreading disinformation - we can fight it with wagers

Contrary Brin - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 20:06
Alas, the "Union" side in this already-ignited civil war appears to have no generals. At least none with any sense of where the battlefield really is.  

It is all about the notion of "fact" or objective reality.  The top-foremost aim of the other side -- the mafiosi who have taken Washington and who are sweeping the globe -- has been to undermine every profession that deals in evidence, proof and the testing of assertions. From science to journalism to "deep state" law and intelligence agencies and the U.S. military officer corps -- all are denounced at every rally and Fox show.

No other issue matters like this one, because almost all other matters would swing their needle hard toward sensible negotiation and resolution, if factual reality itself weren't Enemy Number One. 

Efforts to counter this calamitously clever assault do exist. The Annenberg Public Policy Center set up FactCheck.org and we all know about Snopes. There are dozens of worthy efforts and you can find many more below, under comments. But these earnest endeavors all suffer from a fatal flaw. As soon as each one starts operation, its tally of lies and misleading statements will point overwhelmingly at right wing pols and media, leading to denunciation as a "clearly biased" liberal mouthpiece or an attempt to impose a "Ministry of Truth."

My own 12 part proposed Fact Act would get around this, by emphasizing fact-adjudicating methods that are inherently competitive. For example one provision would re-introduce five minutes of rebuttal per every five hours of one-sided opinion on any channel or station that takes advertising. You know who would oppose this! But the proposal does sound fair, and that is the first step to winning the war of polemic.

But we needn't wait. I have found one thing rocks our mad uncles out of their trances. One thing halts the spew of canned fox-incantations about Clintons and climate change hoaxes. One tactic always works! It is the one area where a good-old-boy still admits that facts matter. I've said it till I was blue in the face.

Wagers. Offer to find a neutral bartender or lawyer or scientist to first hold the stakes, then demand: "Put money on it!" Watch.  Most of them will flee, of course. But a certain fraction... the ones we need, to tip the balance, will blink and start backpeddling, and at minimum you'll get some amusement.

"You are so sure that climate change is a hoax (or supply side tax cuts work, or there's massive voter fraud, or Republicans are better for market enterprise...) that you're willing to stake our children's future on it, but you aren't sure enough to make a bet and take my money? Then the issue here isn't facts. It is cowardice and hypocrisy. It's weaseling and hot air!

Here I detail six surefire-killer wagers that are NAME ONE EXCEPTION challenges. For example, name one fact-centered profession, from science to the FBI, that's not under direct assault by Fox. Or: name a single factor that won us the Cold War that’s not been dismantled by the Trump-Fox-GOP. Our mighty alliances like NATO? Our peerless and admired American science? Strong and confident intelligence agencies, or a public that’s united against Kremlin scheming, or IRS auditors tracking KGB cash flows? Protection of Russian defectors, or an American tradition of adult negotiation based on evidence. Oh and climate change has given Russia twelve new seaports along a valuable, ice-free Arctic they now control.

Oh, sure, your mad uncle won’t wind up taking an actual fact-centered bet. But use that fact! The macho may never recover. 

I've discussed this elsewhere, earlier this year and other years, yet not one other public figure-centrist I know of has tried this simple gambit. It was tried, briefly, against Rick Perry by Mitt Romney, who blew it, letting it be portrayed as bullying by a rich man... one of many wriggling excuses they'll use, and that incident may have deterred others from trying. But there are a million ways around such squirms: "Let's bet 5% of your wealth (or income) against 5% of mine," or "one day of your income vs. one day of mine," or "let's pick any random five people off the street and let them choose the stakes!"
Oh, the squirming that ensues. The specific terms of the bet, who holds the stakes... and none of that is the point!  The point is to let the public see who is doing the squirming!  And if it is just you vs. your uncle?  If he is an honest person, deep inside, then he will be the one to notice that.

I'll finish this time with a recommendation for his wife... your aunt... or any other American female who feels repelled by the current madness, but helpless in the face of political mania by the man she loves.

== More ammo for wagers ==

Elsewhere I list some great wagers, like demanding your Mad Uncle (MU) go with you to the beach to personally measure ocean acidification. (Watch him squirm!) Now on to some fresh items from the news.

A recent NY Times exposé on Trump family finances is just the tip of the spear in our guts. In his new book "House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia," veteran investigative journalist Craig Unger presents a detailed and exhaustively researched account of how Donald Trump has for decades laundered billions of dollars for Russian organized crime figures and other oligarchs. This fits a larger pattern in which Trump and his inner circle have shown a great comfort with financial crimes and other forms of unethical or illegal behavior to personally enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.
The bet? That the tally of Donald Trump's foreign 'friends' is nearly all mafia states, while those he rails at the most are traditional allies and democracies.

 Study patterns! In 1930 the German Junker aristocracy and the industrial moguls threw money behind a populist-nationalist movement that they thought would prove an effective way to destroy the Social Democrats... who were the only force keeping the communists out of power. It worked. Both communists and social democrats were slaughtered by the Nazis en masse. Then - too slowly - came the "what have we done?" realization that the rabid beast the aristos had released was no longer saddled. At which point they could only hold on for dear life... and many lost their lives and everything else.
Now we see something similar, in eerily ironic ways as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is pumping tens of millions of dollars more into Republican Party coffers in an 11th-hour push to save their congressional majorities. Confront your mad uncle (MU) with this! How conservatives reversed from hating gambling as a sin/vice to the GOP being owned and operated by casino moguls like Adelson, Wynn and Trump - the one profession on Earth that absolutely requires daily mob ties.  BTW, Adelson’s most  uncannily profitable casinos are in Macau — almost certainly laundering and channeling PRC money straight into our elections.

The bet? Find a core element of morality that the confederacy hasn't reversed, from gambling to accepting the vastly, vastly higher divorce rate among GOP politicians than democrats, to acceptance of dozens of sexual predators and child molestors as high officials, including one who spent ten years as Speaker of the House and the nation's top Republican. Dare him to bet on that! Or on rlative rates of teen sex, teen pregnancy, STDs and so on, in Red America vs. Blue.  Oh, you'd win the bet! But watch, he will flee, rather than put up honest stakes

Is this more "fake news"? Concocted by the "deep state"? The same U.S. intelligence agencies that your Mad Uncle used to root for, when they struggled against the very same Kremlin foes, back when they wore hammer-and-sickle pins? Ask your MU to explain how the GOP swung from hating gambling to being owned by Casino moguls, slumlords and Cayman bankers. And who on Earth is more likely to have mob ties?
== And if you know one of the masters of this treason? ==

The notion that shortsighted plutocrats are actually smart is one cultivated by their sycophant flunkies and it proved catastrophic in every past oligarchy, feudal or royal or theocratic or leninist. In EXISTENCE I tried to portray what some trillionaires might do, if they truly want to stay on top, while riding a healthy civilization upward. A civilization never angry enough to turn and look closely at the aristocracy. It was a pretty good scene, if I do say so... and I see no signs that any of today's oligarchs are smart enough to know how badly they need this.
Instead, we have (1) a war on all fact-using professions... how will that go, when you've angered all the folks who know nuclear, bio, nano and every other technology? and...
(2) A riled up, know-nothing, mass-populist movement that will either swing hard to the left, when folks remember their parents' devotion to FDR... or much worse...
... that the rabid populism stirred up by Fox-Jones-Breitbart will stay fascist and turn on the oligarchy with ferocity. We are seeing the latter now, and Charles Koch would do well to prove he truly is smarter than the average billionaire. If he and a few others don't waken, they had better learn the word "tumbrels."

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

New Books and ARCs, 10/12/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 16:46
As we head into an increasingly autumn-like weekend here at the Scalzi Compound, here’s a slightly-larger-than-usual stack of new books and ARCs for you to peruse and contemplate. And if there’s anything here that rings your bell, tell us about it in the comments!

Father-Daughter Voting

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 13:50
It pleases me immensely that today I took Athena to the local board of elections office so that she could vote in her very first election ever. She was a couple of months too young to vote in 2016, so this was the first time she could do it. We both voted early because on […]

A Decade of WordPress Hosting (Or, This Year’s Annual Unsolicited Endorsement)

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 11:32
A decade ago this very week (on 10/10/08, in fact), Whatever moved from being self-hosted to being hosted on WordPress, and on its very fine VIP service. Lots of things have happened in the world and in my personal life since that switchover, but you know what hasn’t happened? Whatever being down or inaccessible for […]

The Big Idea: Jennifer Estep

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 08:13
Football, cooking smells and names — how do they all come together to be inspirations for an epic fantasy novel? Jennifer Estep knows how, and today she’s here to tell you how they combined for Kill the Queen. JENNIFER ESTEP: I tried to write epic fantasy for years—years! In fact, the very first (unpublished) book […]

The Existential Loneliness of an Empty Carnival Ride

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 14:57
Which is, puzzlingly, not the name of some 70s prog rock album. Right now is the time for the annual Pumpkin Show in my town, during which people fill the streets, eat fair food, and ride the rides set up in the small town park. This is one of them. It looks very sad without […]

October Flowers

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 15:57
I’ve been traveling today, to Michigan to sign a whole bunch of books, but saw these flowers and thought that they would be nice to share with all y’all. A little bit of color in your day, as it were. Hope you enjoy them.

Toward a transparent (and safer, tolerant and more free) world

Contrary Brin - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 13:46
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
In an important step toward an accountably transparent world, offshore owners of British property will be forced to reveal their true identities or face jail sentences and unlimited fines under draft laws that aim to end the UK’s reputation as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering. Overseas criminal gangs were using British property transactions to launder billions of pounds in corrupt funds. Parliament’s foreign affairs committee went further earlier this year, saying that corrupt Russian funds laundered through the UK, including via property, posed a threat to national security.

The Brits and Europeans are the ones with guts right now, peeling away layers of what amounts to open warfare against the West by wold mafias. See how Russian GRU (KGB) agents have been running amuck, committing acts or sabotage, espionage and murder with increasing impunity, while Russian agent-hackers are caught red-handed spying on the investigation into the crash of flight MH17, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

And God bless Europe for keeping a candle lit. Light is our last, best weapon. This has got to be just the beginning, or we will have that Helvetian War.
So how does this relate to China’s Social Credit system? It’s probably the largest social engineering project ever attempted, a way to control and coerce more than a billion people… Smartphone apps will also be used to collect data and monitor online behavior on a day-to-day basis… The system will be enforced by the latest in high-tech surveillance systems and facial recognition as China pushes to become the world leader in artificial intelligence.”  

Moreover, as in the chilling Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” your crucial score will be harmed if you associate with the “wrong people,” meaning anyone who dissents or even displays eccentricity.
How do I reconcile one form of coercive transparency while denouncing another? Duh? One is aimed at reinforcing the things that have kept us free, safe from coercion by topmost castes, by applying light to all elites who would exercise power. The other is a method elites can use to force obedience and conformity from the masses, from us. 
Dig it well, something like social credit is inevitable. We’ll see each other and adjust whom we want to hang or associate with. But there are two failure modes that we know how to evade, if we prove smart and wise and assertively determined.
1) If light is vigorously applied upward – thoroughly and habitually! – then these tools might hold elites accountable. More important, we can sic elites against each other, which was the great innovation set up under the U.S. Constitution. If that includes NGOs with millions of middle class members, then there’s a chance that transparency might serve and protect freedom, not crush it.
2) Okay, suppose we do that, then everything is open and democratic, right? No Big Brother. Only then what’s to stop a 51% prudish, oppressive majority from democratically and openly voting to cram conformity upon all the eccentrics and unusual folk out there? It’s happened before, and it is the style of democratic despotism portrayed in Ray Bradbury’sFahrenheit 451.  

Will a paramount Big Brother be replaced by millions of nosy, judgmental Little Brothers? See how there's great news... that the world population is now majority middle class! But that doesn't necessarily translate into pro-tolerance, diversity and eccentricity. Middle classes can be bigoted, too.

Only step back. The fact that I am asking that pointed question… and YOU are nodding with shared worry… is a clue to the answer. 

Values

Transparency will empower the majority to impose its values. But if that value system extolls diversity, tolerance and MYOB… or Mind Your Own Business… then think about the effect. Bullying others to repress their  differences will be deemed a worse crime than any harmless eccentricities they exhibit. Let me repeat that, because it is what you believe should  be our future. If bullying and conformity-oppression are among the worst social sins, then that is what gets socially punished. And light just might be our friend.

No. You still don't get it. In all my life, I've found no concept to be harder to convey. This is the fundamental wellspring of all our freedoms and individuality, yet it seems utterly counter-intuitive to most folks. So let me illustrate with an example from mass culture-media.

Picture that scene from the movie version of The Circle, in which nasty putzes use cell phone cameras to torment a shy person. Blatantly, that is the kind of thing the director wants you to hate! Only dig it, in today’s America, those bullies would likely be shot - in turn - by the cell cams of better folks, who will show the bullies' nasty behavior to their moms.
Oh, you are steaming now, I bet. Fuming that we aren’t that vigorous at defending diversity and eccentricity. And you’re ignoring the very value system that taught you to feel that way! That drives you to be unsatisfied with our partial progress toward tolerance. 

And you’re right! We’re only vastly more tolerant and diverse and eccentric than all other human societies, combined. It’s not good enough! Those values must be reinforced, before the tools of social credit sweep the world! 

And here is just one example - out of many happening every single day - that should inspire you!
Hey… I… am… on… your… side in this. Now is not the time for complacency. If we don’t achieve miracle #1, then modern tech tools will enable some cabal of the rich and Mafiosi and demagogues and other fanatics to shut down this Periclean renaissance, possibly forever. Ferociously upward-aimed transparency is the only thing that can prevent it, and bring us miracle number one…
…but in order to achieve the second wonder - and stymie the pernicious scheme to repress diversity with things like "social credit" - it will be up to us to ensure the coming flood of light empowers our best values, encouraging a humanity whose wide stance – based on diversity and tolerance and MYOB – leaves us ready for whatever may come.   == Five Myths about Transparency ==
There is a clever "five myths" feature that appears in the Washington Post outlook section every Sunday.  For example, detailing and appraising five commonly held assumptions about recycling, or artificial intelligence or presidential pardons. I’m occasionally told I should write one of these perspectives… or ten, on different topics… but I never find the time.
Philosopher Arnold Kling has suggested especially something related to transparency. "Five myths about each new revelation of surveillance"  — or things that happen every single time the news reveals that we’re being seen, starting with the mythology that any of it is surprising. These surveillance myths are:
Myth #1.  We should be shocked by the arrival of new tools for surveillance. We should be surprised that elites (e.g. government, criminal, foreign, corporate, aristocratic or technological) will try to exploit them in secret.
Myth # 2.  That laws limiting surveillance tools have ever worked in the past, or can possibly work in the future.
Myth #3.  That such tools cannot be turned around to equalize the playing field, by letting average folk look back at power (sousveillance.)
Myth # 4.  That it even matters what elites knowabout us, instead of controlling and deterring what they can do to us.
Myth # 5.  Our culture must ban technologies rather than adapt to them.
Your feedback on rephrasing this set would be welcome.
== Can we even believe our eyes, anymore? ==
Which photos are real? We’ve all seen the recent videos, showing Barack Obama saying (harmless, so far) things he never said. It’s only a matter of time, before counterfeit “reality” floods our perceptions, the way fake news did, earlier.  San Diego startup Truepic raises $8 million to develop methods to certify the authenticity of online photos - and debunk "deep fakes.”
It’s a problem with deep roots.  In my nonfiction book The Transparent Society, I had a chapter entitled “The End of Photography as Proof of Anything At All?”  Even earlier, in my novel EARTH (1989) I discussed the likelihood we’d be dealing with this, by now.
Google's DeepMind computer vision artificial intelligence showed that it can generate an accurate three-dimensional map or graphic from a set of two-dimensional images. For many years, computer “vision” was poor and image fakery easily detected.  But that was during the Moore’s Law Era, back when hardware advanced swiftly, but software remained leaden and far behind.
In what I’ve called the “Big Flip,” we see Moore’s Law finally in its long predicted taper-off… while suddenly software has gone on a tear, accelerating in capabilities almost exponentially. And nowhere is this more apparent than in image processing.  Or “deep fakery.”
And yes, there is a solution — I talk about it, in The Transparent Society. It can work, because it is the only thing that ever worked against skilled liars. Unfortunately, it will only be done after (as Winston Churchill put it) we’ve “tried everything else.”
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Consuming Fire Contest Winner + Notes One Week Out From Release

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:39
Hey! We’re one week out from The Consuming Fire officially being released and me starting my book tour! Let’s talk about these things! 1. First, congratulations to Shatle, who for the Consuming Fire contest yesterday correctly guessed (and was the only one to correctly guess) that the city I was thinking of was Kingman, Arizona. […]

The Big Idea: Amy S. Foster

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 10:21
Why do writers write books? One reason is to figure out who our characters are, and who they need to become to be fully realized. Amy S. Foster explains the journey one of her characters makes, across a trilogy of books that ends with The Rift Coda. AMY S. FOSTER: Almost three years ago I […]

Win a Signed, Personalized Copy of The Consuming Fire

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 13:53
I got my author copies of The Consuming Fire! So now I’m going to give one away! Specifically, the one behind Smudge there. Also, I will sign it and personalize it to the winner or whomever they choose. You want it? Here’s what you have to do: I’m thinking of a city, in North America, […]
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