Filed under: Alzheimer's, Book Conservation, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Emergency, General Musings, George Orwell, Government, Heinlein, Paleo-Future, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: 1984, Alzheimer's, America, blogging, care-giving, civil liberties, Civil War, civilization, Communion of Dreams, Crazy Years, dementia, Donald Trump, election, Heinlein, Her Final Year, Hilary Clinton, jim downey, luck, Nazi, NPR, politics, predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, survival, technology, theocracy, Wikipedia, writing
The eighty-something man fumbled with the pocket knife he had carried his whole life. His hands trembled with age, rage, and fear, but if the hulking stranger refused to leave his house, well, then by God he’d force the man to leave!
The stranger easily took away the knife, and told the man to go back upstairs. Then he sat down on the mechanic’s stool next to his motorcycle and began to weep.
I was about 14, and had just witnessed age-related dementia for the first time.
The hulking stranger was my uncle, whom I had come to live with. The elderly man was his grandfather. We were at his grandparent’s home, using the garage under the house as a warm place to get a little work done on his bike. He and his grandparents were close, always had been. He had lived with them for a while when he was young.
* * *
President Trump is certain that he was cheated out of a popular election mandate due to voter fraud. Almost no one else agrees, and even members of his own party who are responsible for elections at the state and local level have said that there is virtually no evidence of actual fraud.
The President has also claimed that his inauguration had more people in attendance and watching around the world than any previous. The best evidence and estimates available from multiple sources do not support this claim.
I could go on.
* * *
I remember Martha Sr getting fixated on things which were weird, unpredictable. Fixated in such a way that no matter what we tried to say or do, she was certain that we were wrong. Or just lying to her. Or something.
It was almost always some strange idea or memory or object which would catch her attention seemingly out of the blue and often at the most inconvenient times. The idea that the strawberry seeds in her yogurt were necessary for completing a crossword puzzle, so she had to pick them out and keep them. Or that she was going on a train trip, and had to make sure to go get her tickets right now. It drove us completely nuts, and was one of the more difficult challenges of being care-givers. We’d try to distract her with other things, or explain that we already had her tickets and she didn’t need to worry. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes she’d go on and on and on about whatever it was which had captured her attention, returning to it for days on end.
* * *
In the aftermath of the presidential election, many people who had supported Secretary Clinton were shocked, stunned, at the outcome.
Some started looking for ways to challenge the results. First there was an effort to get the Electoral College to not affirm Donald Trump as the winner, on the basis that Russia had influenced the election. Then there was a hope that the House of Representatives would not confirm the results of the Electoral College vote. Then there were challenges made to whether President Trump could hold the office, since he was in violation of the Constitution.
I could go on.
* * *
It seems like the long-respected norms of civic behavior are finally starting to break down. They’ve been stressed for a very long time, like a marriage which has gone badly wrong, but is held together out of fear for what would actually happen if one partner were to confront the other over perceived slights or suspected betrayal.
But now someone has had enough, and said words which cannot be taken back.
The shouting, the screaming, the breaking of china in anger and frustration has begun.
Young children stand in the doorway to the kitchen, tears streaming down their face, unsure what this means or what will happen next.
* * *
Someone punched a neo-Nazi. Plenty of people cheered. It’s hard not to cheer when Nazis get punched.
The day after the inauguration, millions of people marched in protest of the new president and his administration. Plenty of people cheered. It’s hard not to cheer the affirmation of civil rights and political empowerment.
The day after that, a top-level presidential advisor ill-advisedly used the term “alternative facts” when disagreeing about the turnout at the inauguration. Plenty of people jeered at her for doing so. It’s hard not to mock something straight out of 1984.
The day after that saw the start of a number of Executive Orders and memoranda signed by President Trump, putting into motion the changes which he and other members of his party had promised. Plenty of people cheered to see the change they wanted starting. Plenty of people jeered both the spirit and the letter of the changes.
* * *
I’m not saying that President Trump has age-related dementia. Not even the first signs of it. I’m a bookbinder, not a doctor, and am in no way qualified to make such an assessment.
And I’m not saying that the rhetoric and actions from those who oppose the new administration are equivalent to the rhetoric and actions of those who have supported it.
I am saying that things have changed. I think that we are on the precipice of something akin to Heinlein’s “The Crazy Years”. Things have changed so much, and so quickly, that I have had to go back and make substantial revisions to St Cybi’s Well. Because what before was a challenge to the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’ has been completely superseded by our reality. It’s not the president who is showing signs of dementia — it’s our society.
And I am saying that when you accept and embrace the use of violence against a political opponent, you open yourself up to the use of violence against you by your political opponents. Because there are always justifications and rationalizations for such use, and human history is filled with the resultant wars civil and decidedly uncivil. Be very careful what you wish for.
Filed under: Brave New World, DARPA, Government, Heinlein, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: 1812, Annie Jacobsen, DARPA, Joe Haldeman, Paul F. Gorman, powered armor, Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers, The Atlantic, The Forever War
Seems like an appropriate subject for post #1,812:
Gorman sketched out an early version of the thinking in a paper he wrote for DARPA after his retirement from the Army in 1985, in which he described an “integrated-powered exoskeleton” that could transform the weakling of the battlefield into a veritable super-soldier. The “SuperTroop” exoskeleton he proposed offered protection against chemical, biological, electromagnetic, and ballistic threats, including direct fire from a .50-caliber bullet. It “incorporated audio, visual, and haptic [touch] sensors,” Gorman explained, including thermal imaging for the eyes, sound suppression for the ears, and fiber optics from the head to the fingertips. Its interior would be climate-controlled, and each soldier would have his own physiological specifications embedded on a chip within his dog tags. “When a soldier donned his ST [SuperTroop] battledress,” Gorman wrote, “he would insert one dog-tag into a slot under the chest armor, thereby loading his personal program into the battle suit’s computer,” giving the 21st-century soldier an extraordinary ability to hear, see, move, shoot, and communicate.
At the time Gorman wrote, the computing technology needed for such a device did not yet exist. By 2001, however, DARPA had unveiled two exoskeleton programs, and by 2013, in partnership with U.S. Special Operations Command, DARPA had started work on a super-soldier suit called TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) unlike anything in the history of warfare. Engineered with full-body ballistics protection; integrated heating and cooling systems; embedded sensors, antennas, and computers; 3D audio (to indicate where a fellow warfighter is by the sound of his voice); optics for vision in various light conditions; life-saving oxygen and hemorrhage controls; and more, TALOS is strikingly close to the futuristic exoskeleton that Gorman first envisioned for DARPA 25 years ago, and aims to be “fully functional” by 2018. “I am here to announce that we are building Iron Man,” President Barack Obama said of the suit during a manufacturing innovation event in 2014. When the president said, “This has been a secret project we’ve been working on for a long time,” he wasn’t kidding.
Yeah, though I’d say it was much more like the powered armor from either Starship Troopers or The Forever War than Iron Man. But then, something like military applications of a powered exoskeleton is hardly a new idea, no matter how you want to look at it. And it certainly isn’t surprising that this is something DARPA has been interested in, as I have noted in a number of previous posts.
Still, interesting to see it actually being translated into reality.
Filed under: Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, H. G. Wells, Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Mark Twain, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aberystwyth University, Aeon magazine, Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, futurism, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Iwan Rhys Morus, jim downey, Kindle, literature, movies, optimism, paleo-future, predictions, reviews, Robert A. Heinlein, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Victorian, Wales, writing
A very insightful essay into the role which speculative fiction played in the Victorian era, and how it is still echoed in our fiction today: Future perfect Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future
Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is very much worth reading:
It’s easy to pick and choose when reading this sort of future history from the privileged vantage point of now – to celebrate the predictive hits and snigger at the misses (Wells thought air travel would never catch on, for example); but what’s still striking throughout these books is Wells’s insistence that particular technologies (such as the railways) generated particular sorts of society, and that when those technologies were replaced (as railways would be by what he called the ‘motor truck’ and the ‘motor carriage’), society would need replacing also.
It makes sense to read much contemporary futurism in this way too: as a new efflorescence of this Victorian tradition. Until a few years ago, I would have said that this way of using technology to imagine the future was irrecoverably dead, since it depended on our inheritance of a Victorian optimism, expressed as faith in progress and improvement as realisable individual and collective goals. That optimism was still there in the science fiction of Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, but it fizzled out in the 1960s and ’70s. More recently, we’ve been watching the future in the deadly Terminator franchise, rather than in hopeful film such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The coupling of technological progress and social evolution that the Victorians inaugurated and took for granted no longer seemed appealing.
I think this is very much why many people find that Communion of Dreams seems to fit in so well with the style of SF from the 1950s and 60s — in spite of being set in a post-apocalyptic world, there is an … optimism … and a sense of wonder which runs through it (which was very deliberate on my part). As noted in a recent Amazon review*:
James Downey has created a novel that compares favorably with the old masters of science fiction.
Our universe would be a better place were it more like the one he has imagined and written about so eloquently.
Anyway, go read the Aeon essay by (who happens to be a professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales — no, I did not make this up).
*Oh, there’s another new review up I haven’t mentioned.
Filed under: Augmented Reality, Civil Rights, Connections, George Orwell, Government, Heinlein, Humor, movies, Predictions, Privacy, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, tech, Writing stuff | Tags: 1984, augmented reality, George Orwell, Heinlein, humor, jim downey, movies, NSA, predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Steve Jobs, surveillance, technology, writing, Zombies
I wouldn’t have the nerve to include this kind of thing in a novel … no one would believe that such an agency would have such a twisted sense of humor.
The magazine printed several slides alleged to have come from an NSA presentation referencing the film “1984,” based on George Orwell’s book set in a totalitarian surveillance state. The slides – which show stills from the film, former Apple Inc. chairman Steve Jobs holding an iPhone, and iPhone buyers celebrating their purchase – are captioned: “Who knew in 1984…that this would be big brother…and the zombies would be paying customers?”
*Referencing this, of course.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Constitution, Expert systems, Government, Heinlein, Humor, movies, Philip K. Dick, Predictions, Preparedness, Privacy, Religion, Reproduction, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: augmented reality, Heinlein, humor, jim downey, movies, NSA, Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, predictions, privacy, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, simulated reality, simulation, technology, The Matrix
Everyone is thinking about the whole “NSA Spying” thing all wrong. This isn’t about surveillance. It’s not whether there is a trade off to be made between security and privacy. It isn’t a question of how much the government is watching you or that you shouldn’t worry at all if you have nothing to hide. Nope. It’s not about any of that.
It’s about whether you want to live forever or not.
The idea that we’re living in some kind of ‘simulated reality‘ has been a mainstay of Science Fiction for just about forever, whether you want to credit it to Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, or for that matter, Genesis. One popular twist on this perhaps best seen in The Matrix where at some future time hyper-intelligent computers have re-created our reality for their own purposes, using the best records available to run simulations and better understand us.
So don’t think of it as the National Security Agency. Think of it, rather, as a records-keeping entity. One which is doing everything possible to record as much of this world, and your life, as possible so that later it can be used to make an accurate simulation. Just call it the Nascent Simulation Archive, and rejoice that our government is being so ecumenical in trying to document as much as possible about not just America, but the whole wide world. Because it means that you’ll live forever.
And you want to live forever, right?