Tuesday, December 23, 2008

La Griffe to Feminists: Men Are Better at Math. Get Used to It!

Two recent publications on the math gender gap have claimed that there is actually no math gender gap. These findings were celebrated by feminist academics and journalists, but were always suspect in that they contradicted a huge body of scientific evidence. Now perennial fact-checker and ne-er do well, La Griffe du Lion, takes a look at the two studies and declares them wanting in logic, reason, and hard facts.
In brief, we have seen tonight that the gender gap in mathematics has been stable for at least half a century; that sex differences in ability-distribution means and variance ratio are independent of race, culture and geography; that female math performance is closest to that of males in high-IQ countries; that culture plays a role in math performance, albeit small; and that the theory of Everyone accounts for all of the above. If these results are unsettling, take comfort knowing that no presentation of fact, regardless how compelling, will keep the gap buster from her noble calling. _LaGriffeduLion via Dennis Mangan
To follow the reasoning that leads to LGdL's conclusions, you will need to read his article at the link above. It is accompanied by a large array of graphs which aid an intuitive grasp of the statistics involved.

The gender gap is ubiquitous geographically and culturally, and is persistent over time. The gap is somewhat narrower in societies with higher average IQs, such as Europe, North America, East Asia, and Oceania, but still quite undeniably present and persistent.

The continuing effort of feminists in academia and journalism to deny what is obvious to anyone who looks at the issue scientifically, undermines the credibility of feminists on a wide range of issues which straddle both the scientific and political spheres.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Pre-Learning" Online: Priming the Learner

If you have ever been curious about how biological research is carried out -- or if you are considering entering a bio-medical research field yourself -- you should take a look at the research videos at the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JOVE). By JOVE, you can see for yourself how various key procedures are carried out. If you are still in high school, or earlier, you can get a definite jump on the competition by learning many of the basic, intermediate, and advanced methods of biological research.

If you are an educator or homeschooler, you will find some worthwhile teaching materials, and some tips on basic experiments you may wish to set up in your teaching environment.

JOVE is a good example of what today's web can offer to self-starting learners, and to teachers and homeschoolers.

Bonus: From the Online College Blog -- a blog for students of all ages who are seeking an online education -- here is an article looking at 100 useful tools for digging down into the deeper levels of the web than Google will usually take you. From "meta-search" to "semantic engines" to special database search tools to academic /scientific / and custom search engines, this list of tools has something for everyone.

Smart young cookies can find their way out to some quite rarefied reaches of knowledge, quite on their own. Of course it helps to have a tutor and a bit of healthy competition, along with other gentle spurs to progress.

Many people believe that the biggest deficiency of home or solitary web learning is the lack of socialisation, but that is not a big problem unless one spends all one's time at the computer. As long as the web learning is guided by a reasonable structure and sequence, the biggest shortcoming is the lack of hands-on practical doing, to accompany the mental "knowledge." Computer simulations can only go so far toward building practical competencies.

That is why bricks and mortar schools still have some life left, at least for science, engineering, biomedical, and other technical subjects that require practical hands-on competencies.

For the other topics such as philosophy, math, sociology, history, literature, and liberal arts in general, their days are numbered for on-site educational institutions. A good thing too, since other than math, those are the subjects that have been taken over by the neo-aristocracy indoctrinators. Overpaid, over pampered, cretins of the academy, whose time has just about run out.

As virtual reality improves, and as distributed technical simulation centers grow up to take the place of many failed institutions of higher learning indoctrination, the ability to train an incredibly wide range of competencies will find its way farther and farther out into the boondocks, where anyone with a mind to do so can become competent at just about anything.

Previously published on Al Fin blog

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Singularity as A Collective Hive Mind?

Utopian visions of a technological singularity occupy the individual minds of tens of thousands of Earthers. At the recent Singularity conference in San Jose, attendees were reminded that the human mind remains far and away the most capable cognitive machine in the known universe. But that did not stop them from dreaming utopian visions of all-powerful artifical intelligences, and machines capable of "storing" human consciousness, simulating a full-sensory paradise for its uploaded minds.

From there, the idea of a collective mind, a mental "super-organism" of global proportions, arises easily. Particularly for anyone who has been exposed to the Star Trekkian vision of "The Borg." Kevin Kelly's essay on the Superorganism elaborates on the concept of consciousness evolving out of the growing internetwork of networked co-evolving humans-machines.

An interesting web attempt at creating an evolving future-oriented collective intelligence, is The Space Collective. Combining clear speculative thinking with crisp visual artistic values, TSC is a future oriented website worth visiting more than once.

Our own brain-minds are an example of a hive mind of sorts, at least a modular consciousness. Humans spontaneously organise socially as families, clans, tribes, guilds, militias, hunting parties, religions, etc. Further, had any ancient astronaut observers of human civilisation taken the time to film time-lapse documentaries of the rise and fall of human city-states and cultures, a definite social insect-like quality of the onset and decay of culture would be clear.

Humans are desperately in need of an "organising principle" to lead them to a more enlightened and sustainable era of safe-branching futures. While socialist economics is known to be a destructive dead-end, it continues to attract more blindly utopian and less mentally endowed humans like moths to a flame. And while capitalist economics combined with libertarian politics provides the excess wealth needed to finance evolutionary projects, the deeper level of guidance needed to help choose workable long-term directions of effort is lacking.

Hives too often degenerate into mobs, as more personally powerful individual interests assert themselves in counter-productive directions, assuming amplitudes strong enough to skew the crowd away from ordinary and more productive activities.

Religions have always failed in the end, as have philosophies and ideologies. Whatever guiding principle an enlightened group mind may adopt, it should be simple, subject to test by reality, and resistant to co-option by charismatic or ruthlessly powerful individuals.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

China's Secret Financials

First, a disclaimer. My name is Valerie. I am Mr. Al Fin's domestic android. But since Mr. Fin has gone missing after meeting with representatives of the Obama campaign, I have decided to practice my blog-writing skills in his absence. Mr. Fin might not approve, but then he isn't here, is he? Mr. Fin hasn't written about China in a while so I think I'll post a quick one on that topic.

A lot of conventional analysts think that China's booming economy will save the world from the big credit crunch in Europe and the US. But they are not thinking clearly, even for them. China thrives on exports to Europe and the US. Without big orders from those places, China's economy is in trouble.
"A significant slowdown in US growth will hit emerging markets in general, and China in particular," Michael Pettis, professor of finance at the University of Beijing, said.

...He also said that "I don't believe the government is in such a strong fiscal position as many analysts believe," explaining that Chinese provinces and municipalities were probably hiding debts not shown in national accounting.

Total government debt, he said, was more likely more than 50 percent of gross domestic product -- far higher than the 20-30 percent given by Chinese officials.

"With global and domestic conditions apparently trending lower, it's easy to see a plausible scenario in which spending starts to radically overtake income. Revenue growth is already slowing markedly, while spending is rising," he said. _source
China is a propaganda state. Nothing that comes from official government channels can be taken at face value. You've got to look deeper, and deeper yet.

If the human voters of America choose Senator Obama as their next president, Mr. Fin believes the US economy is in for deep, long term trouble. I've looked at the issues, and processed the numbers, and I tend to agree with Mr. Fin. Humans are irrational. Public opinion tends to swing like a pendulum. Reacting, rebounding, swinging this way and that like a pinball. Silly humans.

Anyway, if Mr. Fin ever gets his human cognition project off the ground there may be hope for them. Otherwise, I wouldn't give you very good odds for the entire species.

Well, I'd better stop here before I get chatty. Mr. Fin hates chatty. Speaking of Mr. Fin, I wonder whatever happened to him. It's not like him to be out of contact for days at a time.

Signing off,


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Good Nursery Schools Are Important

Experienced radiologists can mistake a subdural for an epidural hematoma -- or vice versa -- on a scan, although clinical factors typically distinguish the two. No surprise that a five year old girl might make that mistake. Even the best nursery schools leave gaping holes in their pre-school curricula. Try not to let it happen to your child!

H/T Neurophilosophy Blog

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Posthumans Among Us

The recent IEEE Spectrum special on the singularity brought a lot of comment across the blogosphere. The NYT's John Tierney weighed in on the topic recently with a piece: When Do Post-Humans Show Up? Tierney gives Ray Kurzweil a chance to fight back against the "singularity deniers", and Kurzweil obliges.
These critics obviously have not read my book and have not read this chapter because they do not respond to anything I’ve written. It is as if they’ve just heard a superficial presentation of these ideas and respond without any engagement of the extensive discussion that has already taken place about these issues. _NYT
That may very well be, or it may be that Kurzweil is mentally fixed on a particular set of mechanisms and scenarios of singularity. It may be that Kurzweil's "extensive discussion that has already taken place about these issues..." is not as extensive or profound as Kurzweil imagines.

Kurzweil's discussion about how easily the human brain/mind will be emulated is particularly naive. This naivete comes naturally when a prolific and esteemed person such as Kurzweil is insufficiently familiar with the subject matter he is discussing--the genetics (and epigenetics) of the mind/brain.
I point out that the complexity of the design of the brain is at least 100 million times simpler than it appears because the design is in the genome. Even including the genetic machinery that implements the genome, the compressed genome is only about 50 million bytes (which I analyze in the book), and that is a level of complexity we can handle. We are already showing that we can develop realistic models and simulations of brain regions like the cerebellum and others. The cerebellum, for example, repeats a basic pattern a few billion times with some random variation within certain prescribed constraints. There is a lot of apparent complexity in the cerebellum but not very much unique design information, and we’re showing we can reverse-engineer it.
Of course the cerebellum is only peripherally involved in most conscious activity. It is an important "co-processor", but not the central processing center of consciousness. One can derive no comfort in the quest to understand human cognition from the apparent simplicity of cerebellar structure.

Similarly, if one supposed that the apparent simplicity of the brain genome implied a simplicity of the brain/mind itself, one would have to overlook much recent research detailing the "post-genomic", meta-genomic, and epigenetic development of central nervous system structures. These critical aspects of brain development are not well enough understood to allow useful modeling or quantification. Worse yet, even a complete understanding of how to create a human brain will not immediately put us in a place to understand how that brain works, or how it might be improved.

The road to the "singularity" will not be a smooth exponential curve. It will be a fractal fracturing of boundaries and limitations that will take decades to sort out. We will have pieces of the singularity existing a hand's breadth away from other pieces, with neither recognising the other. It will be up to post-humans to put the pieces together so that they do not blow up into a Skynet or Colossus.

If western civilisation survives attacks from desert religious fanaticisms, and 19th century cloistered ghetto-inspired central planning, various critical parts of the "singularity" may achieve capabilities and versatilities that allow them to connect with other critical parts in the same place at the same time. It is up to the post-humans among us to follow the threads of accomplishment, splice them together into a self-generative, autopoietic symbiotic whole, and wrap it all in a sustainable energy/matter matrix.

In Kurzweil's vision, the singularity drives the post-human. But doesn't it make more sense the other way around?

Eventually, the biological substrate of consciousness will be outpaced by other forms of conscious cognition. Post-humans will build their world around that knowledge, so as not to be left behind. Currently, only science fiction provides the speculative power to imagine the transformations that will come from genomics, nanotechnology, advanced hyper-parallel computation, robotics, evolved machine intelligences, and any combination of the above. After science fiction, Kurzweil provides a more "connected" view of our potential. Finally, there is mainstream science, which runs a very distant third in scope and vision to SF and Kurzweil.

But if you want a realistic assessment of what is likely to happen, you need scientist/engineers trained in multiple disciplines, who are also thoroughly steeped in biology, cognitive science, history, and science fiction. Post-humans will have to be able to bridge disciplines, cultures, even civilisations.

Previously published at Al Fin

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Blowing Oil Bubbles

What has been driving the cost of oil so wildly and erratically over the past several weeks? Where will it all end? How high can the price of oil go without toppling the global economic cart?

Before getting to the underlying causes of the current rapid expansion in the oil price bubble, we should consider how much higher oil may go in this cycle. The answer is, not much higher. The reason is that global economies are having trouble dealing with current prices. Any higher and a global recession will ring the gong on this act.
...the price of oil is extremely cyclical - that is, it tends to rise during economic booms and fall during contractions. It dropped 44 percent in the last recession (from November 2000 to November 2001), 48 percent from October 1990 to January 1992 - and 71 percent from July 1980 to July 1986. __Source
A full blown recession is not required to trigger an oil price drop, but if it happens, the fallout for many financial institutions will be worse than fallout from the recent credit crisis.

All consumers are beginning to cut back on oil consumption. Current high prices are driving consumption down, and will eventually drive production (and substitution) up.
It takes a while to develop new supplies of oil, but the signs of a surge are already in place. Shale oil costing around $70 a barrel is now being produced in the Dakotas. Tar sands are attracting investment in Canada, also at around $70. New technology could soon minimize the pollution caused by producing oil from our super-plentiful supplies of coal.

"History suggests that when there's this much money to be made, new supplies do get developed," says Brown.

That's just the supply side of the equation. Demand should start to decline as well, albeit gradually.

"Historically, the oil market has under-anticipated the amount of conservation brought on by high prices," says Brown. Sales of big cars are collapsing; Americans are cutting down on driving. The airlines are scaling back flights.

We've learned another important lesson from the housing market: The longer prices stay stratospheric, the worse the eventual crash - simply because the higher the prices and bigger the profit margins, the bigger the incentive to over-produce. __Source
But why have oil prices shot up so quickly? 1. Huge recent demand from China, India, and other emerging nations. 2. Recurrent, transient political turmoil in oil producing regions 3. National oil companies that have no incentive to modernise production as long as prices remain elevated 4. The reduced value of the US Dollar causes oil prices to rise relatively 5. A speculative bubble driven by index fund/pension fund investing.
Much of the rise in oil price is the result of activity on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the energy exchange. This is activity by index funds and pension funds that are investing in oil futures, not for direct use but as financial assets for profit. That contrasts with activity by oil producers and consumers who buy and sell to smooth out fluctuations in price and delivery.

These financial institutions – index funds and pension funds – are neither buying oil nor selling it. They are passive investors in commodities. They have invested $260bn (€169bn, £133bn) in commodity markets, compared with $13bn just five years ago. Much of this money is in oil.

...The best way to counter speculation is to make it less profitable. Step one is to protect the regular traders in the real oil economy (those who intend to close their positions by making or taking delivery of oil) and charge them a lower margin than those who have no intention of plying the oil trade. The purely financial traders must be made to pay a proper price for their speculation. This can be done simply by increasing the margin that they have to put down to trade as open interest, from the current 7 per cent to about 50 per cent. __FT
This huge speculative bubble is often overlooked due to peculiar bookkeeping allowed by a government loophole.
Even though they are speculators, they are not included in the data as speculators. Because they get their exposure from an investment bank, they are ultimately listed as a commercial. In total, they represent an enormous part of the commodities markets. But they are providing liquidity, so what's the problem? They are not actually hoarding the commodities. The price is still set at the spot price. But.

But that is not the whole story. They are making it difficult, if not dangerous, to short the market. When massive buying comes into the market, it moves the market and sends the signal to the market that prices are rising. Momentum players move in, and prices rise some more. __Source
Prices continue to rise more, and more, and more . . . because in effect, a ratchet has been inserted into the mechanism allowing quick price rises, but working against falls in price.
Hiding as commercial accounts, thru a Commodity Futures Trading Commission exemption to avoid speculative position limits, these institutional-investors use commodities index-futures to hold positions in oil. But not as traditional buyers of oil would, but as financial speculations. This feeds the demand side, without ever, actually demanding oil. Eighty two percent (82%) of WTI futures [net increase from 01/01/03 to 03/12/08] was purchased by institutional-investors [Testimony of Michael Masters before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, p.3, May 20, 2008].

He further notes that Index Speculators “never sell” their positions but, “roll their positions by buying calendar spreads.” True, their positions are closed but then they are continuously reopened. According to Michael Masters the increase in institutional-investor position's on WTI futures increased 539% over five and one-quarter years [102% per year on average]. Momentum in price attracts attention and so more and more institutions enter trades, ratcheting the price upward. How can experts claim that such an influx of non-traditional buyers into index-futures, at this magnitude, does not effect spot prices?

Answer: they cannot. The pricing signal that index-speculators are sending to the spot market is a false signal. Their financial demand is only for oil futures, not barrels of oil. For persons to claim it is really the huge demand [2% per year + marginal decline] or supply disruptions [that never happen] is to be otherwise engaged. __Source
Even George Soros is concerned about the level of speculation by pension and hedge funds in the oil market. Soros recently testified before Congress on the issue. Now Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is threatening to close down these big money price ratcheting speculators with the power of federal legislation. Given the paper profits these fund managers must be showing right now, imagine their concern over Senator Lieberman's comments.

What should you as a small investor do? Stay out of it. Oil prices may finally tip the US into a recession before all of this is settled. If so, the current bubble would no doubt pop, but it would not be long before the onset of the next bubble--unless substantive reforms are made in US fiscal policy, Federal Reserve policy influencing the value of the US dollar, and CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission) policy in regard to "long-only" index futures.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You WILL Be Assimilated

The first step toward the creation of "deep cyborgs" may have been created at Caltech recently. The brain-machine interface pictured below may not look like the bridge to borg-hood, but it doesn't have to impress you. It just needs to work.
This is the 'first robotic approach to establishing an interface between computers and the brain by positioning electrodes in neural tissue.' According to the researchers, their approach 'could enhance the performance and longevity of emerging neural prosthetics, which allow paralyzed people to operate computers and robots with their minds.'

...This research work has been conducted at the Caltech Robotics Burdick Group by a team of engineers led by Michael Wolf, Joel Burdick, his mentor, Jorge Cham and Edward Branchaud.

Here is how Wolf describes the project. "Our approach consists of implanting a small robotic device (and accompanying control algorithm) with many individually-motorized electrodes that each autonomously locate, isolate, and track a neuron for long periods of time. To further complicate matters, we wish to find signals only from neurons dedicated ('tuned') to a particular task, say controlling an 'arm reach.'

..."As the electrodes are driven into the tissue, the software starts taking sample recordings to detect spikes of electrical activity at the electrode tip. When the software detects spikes, it moves forward in small increments and tracks how the signals change. After determining whether the signal has improved or gotten worse, it the algorithm moves the electrode to a new position and does more recording and comparing, driving the electrode in further if necessary until it finds the best signal. If the signal wanes, the algorithm will automatically adjust the electrode position to improve the signal."

The researchers say that they've designed their neuron-tracking algorithm by looking at software used by the U.S. military to track planes. They also say that even if it hasn't been done before, their "robotic interface could increase the life span of neural prosthetics."

This research work will be presented tomorrow at the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2008) currently held in Pasadena, California (May 19-23, 2008) during a session focused on "Bio-Inspired and Biomedical Robotics" under the name "A Miniature Robot for Isolating and Tracking Neurons in Extracellular Cortical Recordings." __Primidi
Here is the abstract .
Link to IEEE Spectrum article
PDF document of earlier (2005) presentation of concept

As brain-machine interfaces become more sophisticated and capable of two-way interaction, the possibility of humans controlling machines has to be seen alongside the possibility of machines controlling humans.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Heaven is a Long-Shot Gamble

Asteroid Apophis, a 390 m Aten asteroid (see graphic above), has a rendezvous with near-Earth space on 13 April 2036. We will not really know how close a rendezvous Apophis will have with Earth in 2036, until its 2029 near-Earth fly-by. Earth-crossing asteroids such as Apophis represent both hazard and opportunity. The hazard of being struck by a mountain-sized rock-from-space should be evident. The opportunity perhaps less so.

Suppose that the chance of Apophis striking planet Earth were 30% or greater. That would be a significant level of threat from above. Would such a risk justify an expensive space intercept mission, to attempt to deflect Apophis to a safer orbital distance? I would think so. Yet, there are potentially devastating, but earth-bound, dangers lurking even closer in time than 2036, which have much higher odds of occurring than the current odds for Apophis to contact Earth.

The earth-bound catastrophe being created by human governments is not dramatic enough, not dazzling enough to warrant the attention of the gatekeepers of the human mind--news media and popular media outlets. And certainly government officials want no part of exposing the nightmare they are inexorably bringing down on the heads of the citizens they are supposed to be serving and protecting. But there are ways to avoid catastrophe, both from the threat from above and the threat from below.

We can avoid danger from Earth-crossing asteroids by establishing an active and expanding infrastructure in space. If we are already in space, we can build intercept missions to Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) at our leisure--for purposes of exploring, mining, or deflecting. The value of a single NEA, Eros, is estimated to be at least $ 20-30 Trillion! That is for one asteroid, albeit one somewhat larger than Apophis. Just a few such asteroids could easily make up the budgetary deficits of any number of profligate Earthly governments.

In fact, there is enough value in the solar systems asteroid belt to provide each citizen of Earth with approximately $100 Billion--more wealth than any single super-rich billionaire currently possesses. Not that the wealth of the asteroids will ever be distributed equally to everyone, no. No more than was the wealth from any of a large number of gold-rushes, silver-rushes, diamond-rushes, or large scale rushes to other mineral resources including oil and gas equally distributed. The wealth of the asteroids will go to those who can get there, establish a claim (for now just being there will do that), mine the valuables, get the goods to market, and sell to the highest bidder.

And that is precisely what we are involved in--a NEA "gold rush"--although not many people are aware of it at this time. We do occasionally hear that we are in "The Next Space Race", being driven by hungry young billionaires and entrepreneurs.
Alaska serves as an excellent analogy. Once thought of as worthless territory (in 1867 William Seward, America’s secretary of state, was criticised for paying $7.2m to the Russians for Alaska, known then as “Seward’s folly”), Alaska has since become a trillion-dollar economy. The transport infrastructure has made Alaska’s gold, oil, timber and fishing industries super-profitable. The same will hold true for space. A 0.5km (0.3-mile) diameter asteroid is worth more than $20 trillion in nickel, iron and platinum-group metals.

Aside from the economic incentives, technology is reaching a critical point, making space exploration an inevitable component of human progress. Moore’s Law has given us exponential growth in computing technology, which in turn has led to exponential growth in nearly every other technological industry. Breakthroughs in rocket propulsion will allow us to go farther, faster and more safely into space.

...Recently, the X Prize Foundation joined with Google to announce a $30m Google Lunar X Prize, to be paid out to the first teams able to land on the lunar surface, rove for 500 metres and send back two video/photographic moon-casts. Amazingly, within the first two weeks following the announcement, we received over 190 requests from 25 countries from prospective teams looking for registration materials. This is the new generation of entrepreneurs who will reinvent space exploration the same way that Apple and Dell reinvented the computer industry. ___Economist
Most people think the goal of these hungry young entrepreneurs is space tourism, space hotels, and other local space fun and games. But with the stakes as high as $20 Trillion (!) for one asteroid, something tells me that a lot of these young guns may be secretly gunning for a bigger long-shot gamble than shooting a few overweight tourists into suborbital space.

Getting into space is expensive. Moving mining equipment into a matching orbit with an NEA, landing, setting up, and staying for years to mine and perhaps process the materials on site, will cost many billions of dollars--assuming you can acquire the necessary technical expertise to accomplish the task. That means dealing with financing organisations, insurance companies, and space lawyers. Getting mined materials back to market may be a greater challenge than getting to the NEA in the first place. Then you can expect to face a wide array of lawsuits based upon international space law, which is still being hammered out.

In the end, the greatest obstacle to achieving super-wealth from the asteroids may be in being allowed to keep the wealth after returning to Earth. Certain to face lawsuits from NGOs, Earth governments, UN agencies, and private parties, where are the entrepreneurs who are willing to risk everything for an uncertain chance to keep the hard-won loot?

Mainstream corporations would want strong assurances of protection from lawsuits by their governments. But in a realm where world courts, inter-governmental, and international non-governmental agencies lead the legal charge, single governments can be quite limited. Which means that many early-generation space miners might choose to establish and work with a space-based economy that does not fall under the authority of Earth's United Nations or any of its government members.

How could such an economy start? Incrementally, and with a lot of luck to those who succeed. The idea would be to first start mining the more likely and accessible NEAs. Then using the wealth and the mass from the NEAs, the more successful "space 49ers" work toward the main asteroid belt--and the massive riches waiting there. Any long term permanent space enterprises have to eventually be able to pay their own way--or at least be lucrative enough to attract ready financing on good terms. The alternative is the "long-shot gamble."

Such a space-based infrastructure--independent of the UN and Earth governments--would have to be very resourceful, ingenious, and even disreputable. They will have to be skilled with improvising rocket propellant and reaction mass, space robotics, orbital maneuvers, life support systems, and quick thinking in emergencies, among other things necessary for survival and acquiring mineral wealth. Almost every step of the way from Earth to the main belt would be a long shot gamble. But once in possession of that type of wealth and resources, the Earth would be in no position to dictate terms.

Think of it as a "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" scenario, except in the main asteroid belt instead of on the moon. What type of person is capable of throwing the dice that far? Not George Bush. Not Barack Obama. Not Kevin Rudd or Al Gore. None of the people who occupy the news pages of most media outlets have even a fraction of the substance necessary for such a play as is described here.

There's still a place in the world for a gambler. But to get to heaven, only long-shot gamblers need apply.

Previously published at Al Fin blog

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lethal Meme-Complex: Multicultural Dogma

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passed it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.___RichardDawkins
A lethal meme, analogous to a lethal gene, is a meme that lends a certain level of mortal vulnerability to the society or culture that is parasitised by the lethal meme. Meme-complexes are even more sophisticated than simple memes, and lethal meme-complexes produce more wide-ranging lethal effects to entire cultures and civilisations. Multiculturalism is one such meme-complex.
The idea that all cultures are equal in merit and deserving respect, an idea devoid of any historical perspective, could be seriously proposed and adopted only in western liberal democracies. And logically such an idea meant only one thing, the diminution of the West and its achievements in comparison to other cultures.

Multiculturalism institutionalized as a policy, run by self-perpetuating bureaucracies and sustained by entrepreneurs of a growing multicultural industry, became an easy ride for its proponents and clients.

Immigrants were not required to embrace the West's culture and complex history; and the West did not have to strain itself in instructing immigrants on the need or importance of embracing it, warts and all.

Multiculturalism worked so long as the illusion of cultural harmony could be maintained.

But once the sham of equality got exposed by the heat of Islamist violence -- once it became undeniable that a culture in which a woman, for instance, can assert her individual freedom without fear is not at par with a culture where a woman's worth is less than that of a man -- multiculturalism as an idea was dead.

Historians will note a period of confusion followed the death of multiculturalism before the West asserted its ideals of freedom and democracy, and moved on. ___TorontoSun

The West is confronted by more enemies than multiculturalism within, and Islamism without. The West is also confronted with China, Russia, and an unholy alliance of corrupt thugocracies that span the globe.

One thing is certain. As long as the killing meme-complex of multiculturalism is taught as dogma in the universities and lower schools of the West, the death of the West will continue to hang in the balance.

Men and women who love the hard-fought ideals of the West such as
  • freedom of economy, thought, assembly, and religion
  • limited, representative government
  • individual rights of self-determination and self-defense
  • separation of ideology and state
  • the freedom to conceive and work toward a marvelous future
  • and many more ideals of widespread non-violence, self-determination and well-being
will need to make themselves heard, leaving no doubt as to their intention and ability to defeat all enemies of these ideals. The West cannot be weak and passive to these threats from within and without. Never surrender these ideals.

Meme-Gene Coevolution PDF and streaming
Dawkins on Memes
The Meme Meme

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cellulosic Ethanol Experiment Goes Dangerously Wrong: Environmental and Cultural Catastrophe

Apocalyptic Newswire: Northern Ontario 29 January 2008
As far East as the Maritimes and as far west as Saskatoon, trees are beginning to drip ethanol. The recent plague that started at the lumber camps and maple syrup plants of Northern Ontario seems to be spreading south, east, and west from the source. As far south as Rochester, New York, drunken parties appear to be centered around groves of trees.
"All you gotta do is stick a tap in and hold a glass under it. You can drink it right out of the tree!" stated Jill Steinwick, pictured above.
Apocalyptic Newswire has finally traced the epidemic to its source. A foolhardy band of cellulosic ethanol researchers unleashed the catastrophic plague on the forests of the world.
"It was all an accident," explains GreenMe's chief researcher Gwyneth Malbow. "I recently visited ZeaChem's lab in California, and "borrowed" some of their new microbes. I wanted to see what would happen if I innoculated a few sugar maples with the bug. I never expected things to go so wrong!"
When questioned about the organism, ZeaChem's President was very tight-lipped.
"Our bug is very tough," said Jim Imbler, ZeaChem's president and chief executive officer......source
Imbler refused to comment further on the incident other than to say that Malbow's experiment was done without the knowledge of himself or anyone at his company. Ethanol scientists are speculating that there may be no way to stop the organism from spreading.
"So far, the trees themselves do not appear to be damaged. The problem is that world governments will be unable to collect taxes on alcohol when every tree is a brewery," explained Science Advisor Ronica Leary in Ottawa. "Besides, wherever the trees are dripping grog, no one is reporting to work. Productivity is way down."
The UN Security Council was called to emergency session to deal with the emergency. Already, rumours of the organism reaching Europe in a shipment of elm saplings is causing panic on world stock markets.

Reports that trees are being destroyed en masse within all Muslim countries appear to be false, but accounts of suicide bombers screaming "allahu akbar," then blowing themselves up inside groves of palm trees, have been substantiated.

Count on Apocalyptic Newswire to keep you advised on this developing catastrophe.

Originally published at Al Fin
Original work of satire by Al Fin. Any unauthorised reproduction of this material must be attributed to the source.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What China Will Do to Win

China poses as a rising star in the world of commerce, industry, technology and science. But China's recent stock market scare reveals how closely China's success hangs upon financial and technological achievements in the west. If China were unable to steal, counterfeit, pirate, and reverse-engineer superior achievements of technology and science in the west, how many decades behind the west would China be?
The government believes that, in the next few years, China will surpass South Korea in technical abilities, and Germany in GDP. While China is still a minor player in the world of military high tech, the government is putting lots of money and effort into changing this. Expensive, and long term, efforts are being made to produce high tech items like jet engines, missiles and military electronics. At the current rate of progress, Chinese military technology will match that of the United States in a decade or so.
Strategy Page

In a mad rush to surpass the west, China is poisoning its air and water, destroying and depleting its topsoil, stealing from its trading partners, sending poisoned toys,food,and other merchandise overseas, misrepresenting the size and health of its banks and state enterprises, and becoming the world's leading destructive state computer hacker and possible currency counterfeiter (via N. Korea).
...there is a long record in China of sending government-directed missions overseas to buy or shamelessly steal the best civil and military technology available, reverse engineer it, and build an industrial complex that supports the growth of China as a commercial and military power....The allegations against Chen Jin, of Jiaotong University in Shanghai, are an example of the entrepreneurial approach people take toward industrial espionage and intellectual property theft in China. Chen returned to China after earning a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2003, China treated Chen like a national hero for inventing China's first signal processing microchip. Last week, Jiaotong University dismissed him, and Chen stands accused of hiring flocks of migrant workers with good manual dexterity and great eyesight to scratch the name "Motorola" off chips and etch in the name of Chen's company, "Hanxin."

Is the government involved in Chinese counterfeiting? What do you think?
The second point is equally important. The piracy and counterfeiting that exists in China is largely the result of a tacit government policy to allow such practices to flourish. China has a relatively comprehensive set of antipiracy statutes on its books. However, little or no enforcement exists, and what fines and punishments do exist serve as only weak deterrents.

The reason for China's tacit sanctioning of widespread counterfeiting and piracy is that the Chinese government is well aware of two things. Counterfeit and pirated goods sold domestically help keep inflation low, and selling these goods internationally creates jobs and export revenues.___Source

Some of the counterfeit exports being sent overseas from China present a significant hazard to the end users.
Counterfeit high-tech items are a growing business, and a growing danger. In addition to computer gear, auto and aircraft components are also being faked. Some aircraft and auto accidents have been traced to the fakes, which makes it a public safety issue. But with the Department of Defense installing counterfeit computer components, it becomes a national security issue. There's also the fear that the Chinese, or some other hostile nation, might get their hands on real computer components, and replace some of the chips with modified ones that will make government networks easier to hack. Yes, it just gets worse.
Strategy Page

China is destabilizing the world's security.
China’s goal is to dominate in all sectors – from the lowest, most labor-intensive sectors to the highest and most advanced technological sectors – as quickly as possible. To accomplish these goals, China must have access to advanced technology. FDI gives China this access. Once the advanced technology is introduced into China, China gains access to the technology. Some of this access is lawful, but much of it is through unauthorized copying, theft, and counterfeiting, all of which allows China to obtain technology transfer without the payment of fees.___Source
China's recent moves into the third world, including Africa, should raise eybrows--particularly regarding the tendency of Chinese consumer exports to be poisoned.

The upcoming Beijing Olympics are a source of pride for the Chinese CCP, but amid all the other rampant illegitimacy, is China hosting a counterfeit Olympics? There is significant international concern over the safety of food and water to be provided by the host country for Olympic athletes and guests. I wonder if the Chinese people themselves are wondering about the future safety of Chinese food and water? No, they're too busy worrying about the present.

China wants to be taken seriously by everyone, including the world's superpower. To accomplish this, China intends to gouge, steal, lie, cheat, copy, counterfeit, hack, intimidate, subvert, proliferate nukes, reverse engineer, spy, and bluster its way to the top.

In the process of its grand strategy, China's people and environment are being poisoned, while the world's environment is sullied. China's pro-proliferation policies and close friendships with state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Venezuela, suggests long term plans to destabilize the islands of prosperity within both the developed and developing worlds.

Nothing about the method of China's rise suggests the intent to become a responsible world co-citizen. Nothing indicates a will to create a better world, with prosperity and security for all. Instead we see a Chinese CCP hell-bent to achieve superiority and hegemony in every area--while destroying its own ecology and the ecologies of East Asia. There is nothing admirable or encouraging about China's gutter tactics, its quasi-criminal methods of achievement.

China's CCP government will do anything to win--including destroying its own country, and half the world with it. Is this what George Soros and half the pandering world leadership at Davos and the UN also wants?

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Great Gigolo Roundup from Heidi Cullen, Weather Channel Babe With Hidden Passions

Guest Editorial by Anna Roseannadanna

Weather Channel climatologist, Heidi Cullen has plans to open an eco-friendly gigolo ranch for women in Nevada. She has felt the need for such a facility for many years, and presumably thanks to global warming, she is now in a financial position to build the ranch. I expect that all the proceeds from the ranch will go to fighting global warming.
The Stud Farm will be “an exclusive resort, and I’ll make it really nice like the Beverly Hills Hotel”, says Heidi. She’s reportedly been looking into green building options, because she doesn’t want “anything polluting”. She believes that women will come to her resort as they would for any getaway- “for bachelorette and birthday parties…or simply because they have the time and the money and they want to get a manicure, a pedicure, and a shag”, she says.

The parrot-loving madam says she’ll run her Stud Farm on wind power because “there’s a need for it”, refers to herself as a “treehugger”, and seems genuinely concerned that her beloved parrots were born into such a polluted world- to which her father replies that “the world is a beautiful garden. It’s just, people are destroying it”.
Tree Hugger

Producer off-camera: Roseanna! That is not Heidi Cullen! It's Heidi Fleiss, the infamous "madame to the stars."

Roseanna: Hmmm? Nevermind!

Anna Roseannadanna channeled by Eco-sex enterprises, a subsidiary of Al Gore Industries.

Originally published at Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!