@cstross - The applicaitons for Google Glass seems to be reality annotation rather than overlay. The user wouldn't see other things as transformed, but he would see additional information (as a guy who can never remember faces, I love this idea). And while WoW and MMOs are still around, they're declining in popularity. For now at least, we don't want to immerse ourselves in cyberspace, we want devices like smartphones that give us information at a glance, and let us occupy ourselves during the moments in life when we stand around doing nothing.
Mitch: I'm not sure. Google Glass suggests there's a future for AR. And WoW is still around. What may be happening is that we're still waiting for the next level of killer app for force uptake among the rest of us. Or that smartphones have turned AR into something you do by squinting through a piece of magic glass with orientation, motion, and positioning sensors.
NelC - I didn't link back. I got it from Reddit, did not know the provenance, assumed that the person who posted it did not create it (this being Reddit), so I just uploaded a copy. Collage certainly is an art form -- but I don't think stitching two photos together qualifies as creative.
Has HALTING STATE already become obsolete, in the sense of VR and MMOs being on the decline? Second Life turned out to be just a fad -- Clay Shirky's prediction at the peak of the SL bubble was dead-on. VR is a specialized taste catering to a tiny minority, and will never become mainstream, although once a generation everybody becomes convinced it really will.
Michael: there may or may not be further books in the series. It's down to publishing deals and the time available. (Novels don't write themselves in the odd stolen half-hour. At least, they don't do so very quickly.)
I have had a surreal experience this week relating to copyright and intellectual property, illustrative of how insane the discussion has become. I found a photo on Reddit of a baby gorilla -- totally cute. It was actually two photos fusedinto one. So, I shared the photo on Google+ and other places. Only to be called dirty names by the guy who stitched the photos together. But get this -- he didn't actually take the photos of the baby gorilla. So it was like i stole something from a thief, who chewed me out for ethics violation without any acknowledgment that he was also a thief. And at the end of the day we're arguing about A PHOTO OF A BABY GORILLA. I mean, this isn't exactly CITIZEN KANE we're fighting over.
@cstross - I enjoyed the Merchant Princes series and noted that your last one stopped with an exponential increase in the available multiverses. Are you waving the white flag on where to take the plot line, or can we ardently hope for additional works along that line?
Mitch: the thematic stuff underlying those books is ... well, the effect of networking on human behaviour in the near future. Book 1 deals with gamification, VR, and MMOs in a polycentric world. Books 2 deals with "libertarian paternalism", printcrime, and the future of criminology (it's not a crime novel, it's a criminology novel). Book 3 ... identity and politics, I think. But I'm still working on it.
RT @cstross NB: My brain isn't handling the simultaneous discussions of cognitive philosophy and governance very well. | And yet, isn't this parallel computation a core challenge for debugging our emegent, infinitely chaordic, adolsescent global brain? ;-)
Somewhere in the midst of all that I've also got a gig as creative in residence at the new Centre for Creativity, Regulation, Enterprise and Technology (CREATe), an academic consortium being set up in the UK to examine copyright and new business models for IP.
I also have a re-issue of my MERCHANT PRINCES series -- re-mastered as three fat technothrillerish books rather than six chopped-about fantasies -- and then the third in the trilogy beginning with HALTING STATE and RULE 34, aka THE LAMBDA FUNCTIONARY (which I get to begin writing next month).
@shava - I grew up in your basic suburb. But I worked four years as a daily newspaper report in a small town. And that smalltown journalism and life was a great education for the Internet. Everybody's in your business all the time, unless you take active measures to draw boundaries.
I grew up as a minister's daughter in a town of 8000 in a rural state. I didn't have to have the net to understand issues of privacy and maintaining multiple identities...:) But today, it's become so acute, we need to just say, people need to be able to speak, or we're in permanent 1984. Not tolerable.
Looks like I have to book. As I told Mitch, one of the weird things in the UK is that kids who aren't promptly claimed from day-care are sent to work in Welsh coal-mines, an outgrowth of Thatcher's plan to break the strikes in the 80s. So I've got to hustle and get the kid from the creche
@Mwagner, this is an area with a rich literature. Harford proposes moving the thing the regulation tests for as close as possible to the thing itself -- test banking complexity, tax banking complexity, get simple, transparent banks
Robb says all nations are becoming "hollow states," like Libya and North Korea. Government by gangsters. Fortunately, he says, communities can prosper if they become resilient, growing their own food, doing their own manufacturing, and trading with similar communities. This isn't survivalism at all -- he's writing about a future whre people can live comfortably.
cory, talking again about volatility - it seems like any formal voting system is bound to be static enough to be gamed. Can systems like voting or economics be engineered so that the rules inherently make them fair and/or produce good results?
If you want to keep your hands clean, live in a hermetically sealed suburb and feed on a glass teat (but never watch news). That's what people have been doing, and the world's gone to hell around them. We need to get people engaged and a little dirty. ;)
I read a blog by a very smart guy named John Robb, who writes about open source warfare and resilient communities. He writes a lot of scary apocalpytics stuff which normally Id dismiss as conspiracy theories -- except he has a history of accurately watching social trends. In the 90s, he was one of the few business analysts who understood the potential fo the Internet. He worked for a pioneering blogging company ca. 2000. And he predicted the current model for media distribuiton over the Internet.
If we look at politics as just being another kind of nonprofit volunteering, we'd be so much better off, but we look at it as being inherently taboo/dirty. Same thing with the military (and police) these days. All we need for all of it to be corrupt is for good people to opt out.
@Mary, I think the problem of representative government is often a collective action problem. We vote for the candidate we think of as "likely to win" instead of the one that we think most closely matches our views. If we agree ahead of time with your neighbours to say, "I'll vote for this fringey weird party if you all do" sometimes you get surprised. That's how the Pirate Party picked up all those German regional seats - alternative voting instead of first-past-the-post
@cstross I'm just like you -- that's why I went for state committee and managed campaigns and chair of budget and finance for Multnomah County, and designing volunteer training for integrating online/offline activism and such. (Dean campaign, mayoral race, portland, OR, ...)
The main reason we've settled so long for a professional political class and elective democracy has been that it's delivered relative prosperity to a significant population (in the west). If that is drawing to a close, everything is up for grabs.
On automation in government, yes the vast majority is, since most interactions are routine and noncontroversial. I just happen to work for an agency that deals with the small fraction that requires human intervention. We can't do without it.
@cstross - I'm politically liberal, but I find when I get in discussions -- rather than arguments -- with conservatives, we generally find we agree on the core issues. All the disagreement is around the edges. (It's possible this means I *identify* as liberal, but in fact I'm conservative. I sometimes call myself an Eisenhower Republican, just to mess with people's heads.)
Also, apropos of nothing, I am reading an advance copy of David Byrne's HOW MUSIC WORKS, which is BRILLIANT, and contains an explanation of how MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS came about. I am listening to BUSH for the first time in 10 years and TOTALLY ROCKING OUT
Mary: I'm not convinced the parties *are* trying to represent the voters' views. I think they represent the views of the deep pockets that fund them/fund their leaders' retirement. Not the same at all!
I am writing a paper for Parameters (Journal of the Army War College) comparing basic training to the traditions of military initiation mystery cults (mithraism, various warrior initiation cults in tribal cultures). I'm afraid they're going to lose the tradition to the anti-bullying crusade if they don't reify it in the public eye in a new framing RSN. But they've largely lost their own framework for it, as I found out this past year to my own boggle, when Joseph's been going through it.
well, democratic centralism was never a good fit, but we had to /make/ it fit for a long time, because the social mainstream was a reality, right? With the decay of the mainstream, our reasons for obeying the "majority" (who even are these people?) become more and more tenuous.
One thing we're seeing in the current Presidential election is a process of iteration starting with, say, the 1972 election through today. We now have two Presidential candidates with very few personal scandals to dig up, and who have masterfully finessed the ones they do have so the public doesn't care.
I don't think democracy scales well in the current situation we find ourselves in -- globalized, with populations in double to triple digit millions and a short-term news cycle. This doesn't mean democracy needs to be ditched, but we really need to re-visit how we handle representation. Certainly here in the UK *none* of the main political parties represent my personal values, and I gather the situation isn't dissimilar in the USA, where most people are on average not on the same map as the Dems/Repubs when you start assessing their desires.
shava - The U.S. military has a surprising record of welcoming challenging viewpoints. They've had Vietnam vets come in to speak who had come to oppose the war. It was a warning to the officers in traiing about how important their responbilities are, and how costly errors could be.
Gore probably had some natural aptitude for being charismatic, on-target, on-message, friendly,nautral, electrifying, etc, when he started. Then he ground through millions of hours' worth of missions and leveled up, gettin trained by the greatest experts and praciticng against the greatest opponents the world had to offer. He climbed to the highest level we have. I think this is probably typical of most serious US prez candidates
@cory so RoTN has already happened? (mayyyybe, a teenyweeny bit, episodically) but then what's next? finally the spreadsheets-in-space realize that @BasicIncome or Citizen's Income is vastly more economical than unwinnable wars on drugs and co-soveriegns?
My son went to military academy this past year, and has been turning the junior officers' brains inside out by telling them his philosophical anarchist upbringing prepares him especially well to act independently in fog of war situations as an effective officer. But the senior officers LOVE him. It's very validating. He's been getting a lot of recognition, and doing very well. I call him my "military monastic." Yes, real anarchism, not this oppositional nihilistic crap, can work, but it doesn't scale well, on a governmental scale. We don't raise people with a good culture for it.
@Mitch: naw, it's RPG all the way to the DC Beltway and Westminster. It even comes with cosplay and Penzic. Politicians roleplay "politician" in political contexts -- it's an identity. The good ones are scarily awesome at it. I once chaired a panel with Al Gore as a panelist. He's in the top 100 of all people who have trained to be "politician." It was astounding. Like watching Satchmo blow.
Mitch, I think we'd need to build in accountability and transparency first. Which may not be very easy to implement in a flat government. What's to stop cliques forming and dogpiling on individuals who have some limited power but who don't share their agenda?
@Charles: Qualia is a horrible term. I am just talking about sensory experiences. If you deny their existence, then mind-brain identity looks a more promising theory. Just as idealism looks promising if you get rid of the real world.
Still having a lot of trouble dissociating my identity from the concept of my current body and the spiritual concept of my soul. This is why I initially had trouble with the concept behind Second Life.
well, also...does transhumanism tend towards decentralization or centralization? Does the new technological infrastructure we've created to help us exceed our capacity give more power to the individual or the group which controls said infrastructure?
@silverton, we play with that in RoTN: the idea that government eventually becomes something between a realtime strategy game and a form of cosplay, and devolves to a clan that simply enjoys it for its own sake (similar to the MMORPG players who enjoy a "spreadsheets in space" game that is something between M&A legal RPG and HR RPG)
Another thing I'm thinking about recently: Can decentralized organizations eliminate hierarchies entirely? How flat can you get? Can you have a nation or a multinational corporation with NO hierarchy whatsoever? Where there's NOBODY in charge -- kind of like Occupy or the early days of the Tea Party?
I have a piece of fiction in draft where a president uploads a purely virtual copy to do presentations, and when he is assassinated, the copy has enough information and will to try to solve his murder and avoid deletion. But it's down the queue... I love playing with problems of identity, some of you can imagine...:)
Kim, mental events are simply high-level patterns of activity within certain cells. Like changing voltages in transistors/capacitors on an integrated circuit. Is an executing piece of software separate in any fundamental way from the processor it is executing on?
@cstross, but Tim Harford has a good stab at this in Adapt, where he describes a hard-to-game regulatory regime for banks: you stress-test them to determine how long they would take to wind down if they went into default, and set their cap reserve requirements to run the bank for that maount of time, assuming zero revenue. As a result, bankers are incentivized to structure simple, streamlined, on-short and transparent institutions -- or they have to tie up YEARS' worth of cap in reserves
Plus, the US government increasingly resembles a supertanker with a missing cable between the steering wheel and the rudder. (So, to be fair, do the governments of most of the major industrialized nations, but it's most obvious with the USA because the USA has a bigger footprint in international affairs than, say, Spain.)
@Cstross, this is a major feature in Michael Lewis's Big Short, who describes the financial world as one where all the really good quants go to work for millions at the sell-side, and all the really crappy ones end up working for the regulators, having circles run around them
Cory: I've had those data-loss moments too. One 250Mb SCSI drive went west in, um, 1996, taking a lot of stuff with it. Another stack of 3" (not 3.5"; I'm talking about Amstrad 3") floppy disks went missing circa 1987.
For other people, they grow more like tree rings, they encompass and embrace prior selves, retaining those selves, and transcending them, but retaining connections. In buddhism, this is more of a boddhisattva path. ;)
We also need to figure out a useful way of preventing regulatory capture, i.e. the tendency of industry regulatory boards to be populated by the same people as the boards of directors of the corporations they regulate.
@Kim For those people, it's almost as though childhood was a larval form, and they've completely left it behind. They may as well be a new organism for all they remember. They have very little empathy, as well, with children, as their present adult selves. It's kind of sad.
To avoid SCSI chain errors, I keep thinking and semi trying to make my "main computing device" an Ubuntu VM. That way, my "primary computer" can just always be with me, under a fingernail, ala Kevin Warwick. ;-)
Mitch: I'd say the answer has something to do with regulation, transparency, and accountability. Also with having structures for corporate governance that don't prioritize return on investment for shareholders above everything else -- to the point that pursuit of short-term profit is the only goal. That sort of priority system turns all corporations that run according to it into sociopaths. We need large organizations, but we don't need large sociopathic organizations!
Lots of people have taken stabs at that... In The Corporation, Joel Bakan discusses the fact that limited companies are creatures of a public charter, and that charter could embody some social purpose or limits on returning shareholder value
Kim -- many cultures have initiatory traditions that speak of the death and rebirth of the self through transformative experience. These can be through transformative catastrophic experiences (initiations) or gradual experiences (growing up). I run into adults all the time who literally can not remember what it was like being a child -- no sense memory, very few real memories, only sort of peak experience memories of events.
Charlie, you've written about the problems caused by big corporations -- you've referred to them as parasitic life forms that dominate the human race. But it occurs to me that there are problems that require large bureacracies to solve. Can we make big corporations into servants rather than masters? If so, how?
It's the memento mori of a hard week during which I lost my accumulated lifetime's work due to SCSI chain errors, and painsta=king restored hundreds of text files using a hex editor and ploughing through the disks sector by sectory
Thanks guys. I am very troubled from a logical viewpoint about all this talk of discontinuous selves. It makes no sense to me that I can be discontinuous (a 15 year old me being different to a 30 year old me). Either we are talking about the same person changing, or completely different people. There can't be one, continuous but discontinuous self.
@KimDavis yeah, there's plenty of debate about continuity of perception and identity, given the ways in which our brains piece together the nearly infinite mashup of fields, signals, and influences into some semblence of subjective coherence. also see Randl Koene's carboncopies.org for those interested in this topic.
We tend to be the same (or a similar) person, because our biological brain can't usually change that much over a short time. Of course, there are exceptions. So we could say there are exceptions to continuity. Maybe machine-minds make these exceptions more common.
The Man who Folded Himself -- David Gerrold (fluff wasty science fiction but a light romp on various versions of the same person via time travel paradox, rather than uploading) Gerrold also wrote the Trouble with Tribbles episode of the original Star Trek and was an arrogant SOB in general...:) Great person to write a book about narcissistic time travel cloning.
Anyone who has considered that our consciousness, memories, personality, etc. consists of electro-chemical imprints on neurons that live and die throughout our lives will not be too bothered by the discussion here.
My issue with machine uploading is that we know so very little about how all the experience works with neurotransmitters and hormones and so on. Some of these experiences may be problematic, but some are transcendent, and I rather treasure them. I don't think we have the first clue how to simulate them. When I was a young geek in the 70s, we thought we'd nail AI in a few years. Uh. Didn't happen. We don't know how we work yet. We can't create an environment to house us either.
over coming century, incremental hardware hacks the more likely path, IMHO. printed organs and limbs, improving brain machine interface, extended cogntion prosthetics, hacks, enhancements. i'm becoming more and more obsessed with McLuhan's "future of the future is the present." How do we implement the idea and ideals expressed in Stross and Doctorow to make today's world closer to our envisioned ideals?
I can't keep up with the philosophy cited here. But clearly, if you think you can move your mind around in different carcasses etc. goes against the grain of the world's religions. I think. I mean, it violates the concept of the soul.
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