A related trick for predicting the future; things that everyone is worried about are likely to get solved. It is the stuff that people dismiss as impossible that is scary, because when it happens everyone is caught out in the same way at the same time.
That also leads to a decent heuristic for figuring out if someone is overconfident: listening to see if they can articulate a thoughtful list of things that could go wrong. If they don't have such a list then it is likely they won't have countermeasures in place when something goes wrong and will fail for no good reason. Or worse, they won't pick up on the early signs of failure when there is still time to react and salvage the situation.
Scott Adams himself would use this to mock people who are worried about climate change.
The problem with this is that if you don’t worry about it, actually it doesn’t get solved. For example everyone was worried about the Y2K bug and nothing happened because enough people in the right position got worried enough, invested in the fix and nothing happened.
So it’s a paradox.
It’s also a common sense: If you prepare for something, you can prevent it, and if it materialises the damage inflicted would be minimised and if you were not worried about it, disaster happens.
Actually, the pandemic is an example of not worrying enough. A lot of people couldn’t got worried until corridors of hospitals become morgues. Months of news and footage were not enough to convince people to worry enough to wear a mask.
> When I was a kid, it looked as if the country was heading for an eventual race war. Today that seems impossible unless angry white guys start shooting.
It's funny how things that seem impossible one year can start to seem much more possible a few years later. Problems that you think have gone away sometimes resurface.
Y2K was a good example of something that didn't happen, and probably in large part because everyone was working to stop it from happening. But to claim that it will always work that way is to assume that there is always something significant that can be done by the people who care.
There often is, but there are a lot of forces that work against this too - collective action is always hard, and it gets harder when it has prisoners-dilemma features or wealthy opponents who are better at spreading their viewpoint. Some problems may well have solutions that are too radical or costly to be deployed in the time that we have, and the fact that we haven't seen many catastrophic problems like that so far is a form of the anthropic argument.
The other thing is that the 'problems always go away or get drastically ameliorated if they are predicted by society', is an interesting example of an argument that undercuts itself. If enough people believe it, it'll stop being true.
I worked on adjustments in cobol code for the y2k bug in accounting systems. We had to start well before, because contract with payment in the future did not work. Cobol at that time had no date type and stored the data as 3 integers, day, month and year. The job was basically to redo the calculation of terms adding 100 to year when it was greater than 00 and less than 50. (2000 to 2050). Anyway, who had a system susceptible to the bug, had no option but to make adjustments or lose their payment controls.
Edit: ading 100 to year, not 2000
When there were (almost) no issues at the begin of 2000, it was because of a lot of concentrated work correctly done before, early enough. The luck was that the problem was in the consciousness of everybody making decisions, and that those making decisions had a good motivation to do the changes (e.g. the company can charge for fixes, or the company will not be able to sell the product if it's not fixed).
The real danger is when those who make decisions (and those who directly influence them) have a good motivation (from their narrow point of view) to continue ignoring the problem.
That's how the environments described by Octavia Butler develop.
I like following the creators of the stuff I enjoys but Adams is proving to be a challenge for me. I should have stuck with the "never meet your hero" mantra.
The problem today is, I believe, ideas can travel faster than they can be challenged so we risk to have a maverick that is terribly wrong, go mainstream without being challenged and make all of us loose it all.
We can no longer have a stable equilibrium of conflicting ideas, everything would spontaneously go to one directions or another all the way, winner takse it all style.
which basically translates to "that seems impossible unless I just identified big obvious problem that makes it possible"
That said, of course it is possible to misuse the resources but I would't know about the specifics of California.
Therefore, worrying is the force making you look for the solution but it's not a solution by itself.
Now I am not saying that it wasn't waste of resources.
All I am saying is that the argument is flawed that resources are wasted because some disaster did not occur.
You could criticise the process that determined the chances of those gyms being needed faulty. But then bring arguments on how the process to determine the risk was flawed. Was the process of trying to determine risk from.another country's experience (china) flawed? If so, how should they have determined the risk?
If you want an interpretation, it's that politicians like to prematurely take grandiose measures when smaller measures are more important, and for smaller measures like to make edicts when getting buy-in might be a better strategy for obtaining social compliance.
They looked at damage from planes that came back after an attack and worked on the parts that weren't damaged. The idea being that planes that got shot in these areas couldn't make it back and those were the weak points.
Not really. It's because people get used to the fear. So we need a new fear to keep the population in check. Look at HIV. It scared people for 15 years or so, but people get accustomed to it. So we moved to other viruses. The soviet fear was being eroded so we got "terror". But after a while, even terror isn't as scary so they give us new a fear - china. Once that is done, it'll be on to other fears. Fear is the fundamental way to control a population.
I've been reading Alvin Toffler's Future Shock (1970) for the first time on this its 50th anniversary, and in assessing its predictions and projections, the ones which seem most accurate typically involve side effects, interactions (often negative), an unintended consequences. Those least accurate come from advocates of a specific technology or product.
Butler's advice is excellent.
The first of those books was published in 1993. Most of the shit happening right now was already being talked about as a problem then.
Actually the good part about science fiction is that it can imagine good trajectories too. Elon Musk has mentioned many times that reading science fiction was a formative experience for him.
Read more: http://www.openculture.com/2016/07/octavia-butlers-1998-dyst...
1) Matt Taibbi on the slogan: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/donald-trump-is-am...
“Donald Trump Claims Authorship of Legendary Reagan Slogan; Has Never Heard of Google”
“Donald Trump’s new favorite slogan was invented for Nazi sympathizers”
https://www2.landesarchiv-bw.de/ofs21/bild_zoom/bild.php?dre...  (note the graphic design!)
> "Der Reichspräsident, Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg, hat uns berufen mit dem Befehl, durch unsere Einmütigkeit der Nation die Möglichkeit des Wiederaufstieges zu bringen. ... Die Regierung der nationalen Erhebung will arbeiten, und sie wird arbeiten. Sie hat nicht 14 Jahre lang die deutsche Nation zugrunde gerichtet, sondern will sie wieder nach oben führen."
President von Hindenburg has tapped us to give the country the possibility, through our unanimity, to become great again. ...
The government of national uplift intends to work, and it will work. It hasn't spent 14 years ruining germany, but instead will lead it back to greatness.
Wiederaufsteig: climbing up again, reascent
Erhebung: uplift, which can be literally, as in raising an arm, or the high point of a mountain chain, or symbolically, as in raising to nobility, or prizing above all else.
nach oben: towards the top)
See also https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24409361 (Nota Bene video of the 1933 Sportpalast speech is available at https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn1000331 and so TIL Stern editorialised out the clear anti-marxist slant of the event.)
 for those who don't read Fraktur: https://ghdi.ghi-dc.org/pdf/deu/Proclamation_Reich_1933_GER....
 Among the apparent sins of the Weimar Republic: women in business and politics, as well as reduced penalties for abortion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Nazi_Germany#Backgrou...
Edit: Sorry, made footnote 2 more accurate, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Germany#History
original text quoted by acqq below.
I was misled by Stefan Zweig's accounts of sexual morals in Berlin and among the Wandervögel to believe that, in a pre-pill age, abortion must've been more decriminalised than the actual laws on the books indicate. (then again, maybe they were just more careful, the 1920s US having been an era of petting parties, and I read something more into Zweig's edwardian shock than was occurring?) For the record, while Zweig is mostly nostalgic for the pre-WWI era, he thinks the post-WWI youth are much better off for avoiding the sexual repression of his day. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23791112
Back to the U.S. I recommend this 2020 book on that issue:
"The Power Worshippers -- Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism" by Katherine Stewart
"Stewart pulls back the curtain on the inner workings and leading personalities of a movement that has turned religion into a tool for domination. She exposes a dense network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and pastoral organizations embedded in a rapidly expanding community of international alliances and united not by any central command but by a shared, anti-democratic vision and a common will to power."
Also, from 2013, "The Not-So-Lofty Origins of the Evangelical Pro-Life Movement":
"as Randall Balmer has succinctly put it: “the religious right of the late twentieth century organized to perpetuate racial discrimination.”"
And "How Republicans Became Anti-Choice":
"in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Republicans were behind efforts to liberalize and even decriminalize abortion; theirs was the party of reproductive choice, while Democrats, with their large Catholic constituency, were the opposition."
The book I've mentioned first explains why and how the change happened and what is happening now, really fascinating.
Butler’s predictive capacity unfortunately seems quite well-developed.
Essentially, the masses of poor are left to suffer the effects of the chaos around them, while the wealthy are safe and cloistered. This hardly seems wide of the mark with regard to contemporary America, let alone if things turn for the worse.
The poorest economies are primary production — farming, fishing, mining, not fundamentally dependent on anyone else; then come industrial economies, which take the inputs from the primary sector and add value, but they are dependent on that primary sector to exist; the richest are service sector dominated, but no amount of software developers, patent lawyers, investment portfolio managers, or private tutors can make up for an absence of food (or steel, but that’s not a direct part of this, only a potential indirect if the people with the steel use the steel to get the food and deny it to the rich).
Also IIRC the US produces a lot of food so I’m not sure how on-point your breakdown of poor / rich economies is.
Plus let’s recall it’s the rich countries which have been the proximate cause of global warming :).
That said I do agree with you that rich countries are vulnerable as well.
As for second group, it is largely about flood, drought, other natural disasters. Harvest will fail, starvation, etc. It can also be second / third degree of impact, eg riot, hyperinflation, civil war, etc.
A bit paranoid, due to recent geopolitical and coronavirus situation, I have asked my parents to be plant some important crops and vegetables in our suburb land. The probability is very low, however I do not want to die of starvation in that hypothetical situation.
I do agree, and, apologize if I painted with overly broad brushstrokes.
I do think food supply issues will be a bigger issues in poorer countries. To use the coronavirus as an example again, while I haven't read in depth, I've seen various news headlines talking about starvation rising in the world right now because of covid-19; and increased hunger in the U.S. It affects everyone, but the poor the most.
But yeah I feel you; I too take my food security less for granted than I have in the past.
Not sure what else to say. Either real life imitates fantasy or she's a prophet.
I'll spend next half an hour to dig out more, before I sleep. Quite an interesting author.
Many authors wrote about many of these issues, so for one to hit a few high-notes isn't that surprising.
On the other-hand, if she is a prophet, then on the grounds of Xenogenisis, let me be the first to say: "I for one welcome our new triple-gendered overlords"
Hitting several high notes in one stroke is not an easy task. Most of us are lucky if we can even hit even one in real life. Those people in academics are called genius, while in tech world are called 10x programmers.
Thanks for the 'I for one... overlords'. Learn something new today, :-)
> Not sure what else to say
Survivorship bias. If a medium-sized asteroid hit Earth, I'm sure people would say the same thing about sci-fi authors who wrote on that.
Toshi Reagon created a musical version of The Parable of the Sower that moved me to tears - highly recommended if you can find a video of the performance.
Some people think that the abstract idea of the ego (or more generally, the illusory nature of human consciousness) plays a very big role in the pattern of follies that mankind seems to repeat across generations and cultures. Consider an idea: if you are engaged in an undertaking (say, designing a somewhat sophisticated machine) where decisions are based on measurements, and your measurements often happen to be incorrect (sometimes incredibly incorrect, to the point of being the opposite of what is true), should one be surprised when the outcome is often other than predicted? And if for some reason the idea never occurs to you that such a flaw exists in the system, or you realize there is a flaw but incorrectly consider it to be unimportant, should one be surprised that problems persists over time?