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      CommentAuthorREL
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2012 edited
     (10574.1)
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      CommentAuthorMagnulus
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2012 edited
     (10574.2)
    By Degrasse-Tyson's elbow, why is this space stuff still up for discussion? Plenty of threads have a set structure. The structure of this thread is this: "Imagine, if you will, a future where manned space flight is too expensive and impractical and politically hard to justify. What, then, can we do to make the world a better place?"

    This is forum full of intelligent, free-thinking, creative individuals. The thread's brief should be taken as an exciting creative and intellectual challenge, not an Orwellian plot to stop you thinking about lovely space ships. We have so many opportunities to think about the colonisation of mars, the space elevator, extra-solar space travel, etc etc etc.

    I would love for manned space flight to happen. I would love for us to colonise Mars. I have a HUGE (and I mean Pavonis Mons huge) boner for Mars, and I do believe that as impractical and expensive and dangerous as it is, manned spaceflight to some place new could help inspire several generations of kids and adult and fuel a renewed interest in the sciences.

    But that's not what this thread was set up to be about. It's about this place. Earth. And what we can do about it before it goes to shit.
  1.  (10574.3)
    The 'renewed interest in the sciences' is the big thing, though.

    You go to the American people and you tell them you want to spend several hundred million dollars of tax payer money to develop a man portable filtration system that is capable of processing potable water out of anything from sea water to human faeces, with a biodegradable filter assemblage that's capable of processing a hundred odd gallons of water before the filter needs to be replaced, for the purposes of disaster relief in third world countries or for use in African villages without clean water supplies, the majority will vote against it because that ain't their problem. You tell them this is for putting a human being on Mars, you're going to get a lot more interest.

    When you break down what the technologies that you'd need to put together even a 50-75% self-sustaining manned round trip, the vast majority of them have immediate real world applications that make the world a better place. But without a tangible, sexy end goal like 'FIRST MAN ON MARS,' the political will isn't there, because the majority of people are stupid and think that we don't need shit like more efficient filtration systems, or lighter weight radiation shielding, or engineered crops that are more suited to hydroponic growth, or smaller, safer, more efficient nuclear reactors, for life here on Earth.
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      CommentAuthorFishelle
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2012
     (10574.4)
    You tell them this is for putting a human being on Mars, you're going to get a lot more interest.


    See, I don't think that necessarily true. Most of the average people I know, living in Utah and being around folks that I disagree with politically, laugh at the thought of spending all that money to go to mars or the like.

    The other thing is, the way the American government is set up, you shouldn't have to convince the American people. The idea with the way things were set up, is that you just have to convince their representatives, really. The problem becomes that people who weren't put into office still find power because of money. And the whole "corporations are now people" nonsense doesn't help with that.

    And since we mentioned filters, I'd like to bring up this really old article. I think, with a lot of the stuff that could make the world a better place, it already exists, at least partially. And we have the technology to make it everything it needs to be. The problem is getting it out into the world, when thousands of people or corporations don't want it to because it affects their bottom line. As much as I'd like electricity and clean water for the places that don't have it, I can't see the current governments in power just giving that stuff away when it doesn't help them. I think if you asked the American people if they wanted to help out those starving kids in Africa, they'd be all over that. But they don't really have a say. It's the people who have a budget to keep or their jobs are on the line that do.


    I've certainly been guilty of derailing this thread to talk about space, and I apologize. I hope we can stick with the topic at hand, because I'm really interested in what ideas you guys have to offer. I'll probably be pretty quiet, because I don't really feel like I know enough about anything to contribute anything worthwhile, but please keep talking.
  2.  (10574.5)
    The idea with the way things were set up, is that you just have to convince their representatives, really.
    Well, no. You're supposed to convince the people and they're supposed to tell their representatives. That's why they're representatives.

    Io9 had a good article about going to Mars today, and the last paragraph sums up my whole point (bolds mine):
    If we actually manage to get people to Mars and they survive the trip, that means we'll have solved "a heck of a lot of problems" that could make the world a better place in general, says Zurbuchen. We'll have figured out the answers to a lot of major questions, and probably increased the living standards of people on Earth in the process.
    And of course, it's what's next. And with that I'm done.
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      CommentAuthorallana
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2012
     (10574.6)
    KNOCK IT OFF YOU GUYS






    #RedrawingTheLines

    I'm gonna take off from Argos's suggestion of border-free-ness/mobility/etc. While the idea of a border-free world isn't feasible (because I like my healthcare, dammit, and my employment insurance, and my library card, and stuff) I do really enjoy the idea of people self-organizing around common ideals and motivations. Like Cat Vincent's link a while back, about less-than-privileged English towns developing guerilla gardens and working out self-sustaining community activities. Or Detroit turning into a mecca for off-gridding urban farmers. I think that the '60s commune idea should be institutionalized, to an extent, and that actual geography should be designated as space for certain specific ideas. Why not? We have the information systems in place to research places and systems, and the affordable worldwide transit to get us there. Why can't there be a tract of land in Alaska for hermits like me (who are okay with transactions and favours, but not small-talk and melodrama), or a lush and fertile Vegans-Only county in California, or a LAN-Party-All-The-Time borough of New York, or even something serious like a Downs Syndrome And Support Workers Paradise? Physical self-segregation is something we ALWAYS do, most obviously in urban neighbourhoods, and there's no reason why we couldn't make it official (to some extent; not as the dominant political bodies, I'm sure, because someone will play the "people are stupid and racists are around and what about the Marauder-states and Baby-Eater-states and oh hey can we have nomads or what the fuck" cards and yeah, letting people isolate themselves with like-minded people can be dangerous sometimes, duh) and allow those groups to self-organize, develop biased mandates and bureaucracies, and then screen their immigrants according to ideas/aptitude/useful skills. Did I say "why not?" already?
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      CommentAuthorallana
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2012
     (10574.7)
    #seaQuestForSrs

    I mentioned this topic to my boyfriend this morning, and his first thought was "seaQuest." Does anybody have any thoughts as to deep-sea exploration, habitation, parties in the Marianas, a desperate hunt for natural resources, etc? Does the idea of our expansion into the other two-thirds of the planet help out with anyone's concerns about critical mass? What sort of ecological changes should we be concerned about? How cool is it that we're building artificial reefs out of old subway cars now? Most importantly, does anyone have any concerns about me trying to web my toes by cutting and transplanting skin from other parts of my body? Good, didn't think so.


    (Also, Jonathan Brandis: cute, or the cutest?)
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      CommentAuthorMagnulus
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2012
     (10574.8)
    Oh, here's something as well!

    #PayTheFarmers

    Pay the fucking farmers! In Norway, there's been a big hullaballoo lately about the basically terrible earning situation of farmers. They're supposed to grow and rear the food that we put inside our eat-holes and yet they don't make enough money to live like a most people without having a second job. Basically, the only people who are farmers in Norway right now are people who do it because they love farming. I mean, yay, it's great that our farmers love farming, but at LEAST make it profitable! Otherwise, all Norwegian-produced food is grown basically by hobbyists!

    Also, #TakeCareOfTeachers!
    The quickest, easiest, most sure-fire way to make sure our children grow up with an active relationship to learning is to make sure you can entice GOOD teachers to join the profession. You can't just pay them loads of money, of course, because that would attract people who go just for money, but you can give them enough money that good people wouldn't be put off by low pay.

    Another thing that would make everyone's lives less stressful is to reduce class sizes. Means you need more teachers, so it costs money, but if politicians could think ahead further than their next election, this should be a no-brainer. Smaller classes means more classes, which means you can tailor the teaching to different types of students. When not all classes are the same, different teachers with different strengths get to focus on teaching in a way that suits them, so you get back more than what you pay for as you have more efficient, less stressed-out teachers who can connect with their students more easily. (I think it should be obvious why it would make sense to have extroverted teachers teaching extroverted children. That might not be the category system we're looking for, I'm just making one example.)
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      CommentAuthorsneak046
    • CommentTimeJun 1st 2012 edited
     (10574.9)
    @Allana

    With your webbed feets, you would be welcomed as 'one of us' in the area of the UK I come from (The Fens, where incest was only defeated by the practical implementation of the bicycle).

    #RedrawingTheLines - When discussing self-organising communties, one thing to remember is that the '60s communes largely ended up failing due to intra-societal melodrama and interpersonal conflicts (possibly with exceptions, I am no expert and have no research to back this up..). The first episode of Adam Curtis' "All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace" makes the point that a lot of them were founded on Randian Objectivist ideals, with a 'heroic figure' (usually a man) at their head, and is well worth having a look at for its interviews with ex-commune members. There is also no over-riding reason for people to connect within their own communities though (as CatVincent mentioned is occuring in Todmorden) and come to their own arrangements re: bartering deals, land-use (those with available land team up with those with the skills to farm etc) etc . Some of this is already happening in Greece due to the partial failure/breakdown of the state that is happening there.

    As a commenter on Stross' blog put it, all governing systems compete for fitness and there is a reason why corporate democracy has (until very recently at least) been proven to be the most stable and effective system we have, but I am sure that evolutionary developements in our system of governance will arise, and hopefully they will be positive for the mass of the population.

    #SeaquestForSrs - I am a bit AC/DC about that. I can see that as the deep sea is massively under-explored the chances for scientific discovery are great, but another part of me thinks that it would easier and cheaper (though not necessarily ecologically responsible) to dredge material from undersea sand-bars and literally make new territory than it would be to have undersea habitatation on anything other than a small scale for scientific research missions.

    #PayTheFarmers - There is an issue with farmers vs. the Supermarkets in UK over prices they can raise for produce, and the easiest thing for them to do would be to join together as co-operatives and use collective bargaining to drive up the prices they can fetch for their commodities. Unfortunately for UK farmers that kind of collectivism is tantamount to (gasp) socialism...

    #TakeCareOfTeachers - YES. SMALL CLASS SIZES! Of course that relies on decision-makers actually wanting the mass of the population having anything like a rounded education, and not just a sausage-factory where the next generation of Macjob fillers are churned out as unthinking and un-questioning as possible. There is this quote from Mill:
    A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.

    and this one from William T Harris (US Commissioner of Education, 1889)
    Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life, because they're not tempted to think about any other role.

    that have always resonated with me.
  3.  (10574.10)
    Hey come on now, I was born with webbed feets. They're not all that useful
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      CommentAuthorallana
    • CommentTimeJun 1st 2012
     (10574.11)
    Pix or it didn't happen!
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      CommentAuthorallana
    • CommentTimeJun 1st 2012
     (10574.12)
    #TakeCareOfTeachers

    I think good teachers are often (not always) ones that get to specialize in a subject they love. Canadian public education has one teacher for 80% of the day for all kids under 13/14 (the other 20% being art, music, or French, generally). I have no idea if this is an efficient system for education; it seems designed more for social/behavioural monitoring and modifying. Secondary school is better, of course, but in smaller or cheaper schools a science teacher would often have to teach a computer class or something semi-related just to have a full workload. That sucks.

    Which leads me to: CORPORATE FUNDING! If we have specialized arts or science schools, we're not far off from the day that Microsoft starts sponsoring tech-heavy schools in cities, and maybe establishing extra-special private schools to funnel bright kids into (can't think of examples offhand, but I'm sure it's happening already). If the underlying mandate of public schools is to keep the majority of kids mediocre and underachieving, there will have to be a way to scope out potential bright minds and then steal them away from the general populace. It'll save public school teachers from having to style their lessons awkwardly around a huge range of learning speeds and styles, at least (but leave them playing flash cards with the dullards).

    Man I love segregation. But let's be honest, guys: we can't all grow up to be whatever we want to be. We need lots of service workers, tradespeople, and garbage collectors. Fact. We can try to make these things glamourous and attractive, and modify the salary expectations according to how miserable the workers will be, and keep intaking immigrants and trodding all over them ... But not everybody can get PhDs and tenure and live the high life. I'm not suggesting a Draconian world of aptitude tests and computerized sorting, but we have to provide a spread of talents. Figure THAT out.
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      CommentAuthoroldhat
    • CommentTimeJun 1st 2012
     (10574.13)
    Glad that it went away, but any more disrespectful bickering will be turned in to script segments from a 1920s play of my choosing.
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      CommentAuthorMagnulus
    • CommentTimeJun 1st 2012
     (10574.14)
    #Education (Yeah, I changed it. I should have changed it to start with, the topic got bigger as I wrote it)
    I doubt that in most cases those quotes hold true. I refuse to believe (Because I'm a big ol' softy) that this is the INTENT, anyway. It's certainly an unfortunate effect of a very sad view of the people and their need for intellectual stimuli. Politicians look at schools and think "they cost a lot of money as it is and people seem to be doing OK, so... Not broken, don't fix?" And it kind of isn't BROKEN, people do still seem to gain the skills they need to get the jobs that are available, etc. It's just that the most cost-effective way of doing education is the most homogenised, least value-effective way of doing it.

    Here's the problem in a Better Future: More and more unskilled labour will be done automagically. We HAVE to start educating people better, because soon enough, there will be hardly ANY unskilled labour compared to what we have now. Checkouts at the grocery store are slowly being edged out by the self-checkouts, which usually have one person looking after four or even TWELVE machines on his/her own. Lower quality of service and a more annoying shopping trip, but it helps the bottom line of the company, so it will continue to happen, especially as the machines get "smarter".

    So what will people do? We need to find ways to employ them! We need them to fix the damned machines that will keep breaking, for one thing. In short, we NEED to start stimulating our children's brains, otherwise they will be obsolete by the time they grow up! Unless we're heading for one of the far future scenarios in The Accidental Time Machine where people are basically just born into being rich idiots who do nothing because they're all taken care of by a motherly AI.

    Then again, with stuff like DuoLingo and WolframAlpha and various online teaching aids, maybe the problem will take care of itself. Maybe more and more can be "automated" and thereby more easily customised? Perhaps the same amount of teachers is fine. Just give them the tools they need to be able to tailor their teaching to their classes and students online. I've seen some interesting things, though I can't remember specifics, as always...

    ( Is there a "reference/quote storage app" to be had or something? Basically like advanced bookmarks for people who want to quote things they've read or just remember where the hell they read it.)
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      CommentAuthorsneak046
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2012
     (10574.15)
    #Education should of course be *much more* than mere preparing people for jobs. Too much focus is put upon schools being a proving ground for work, and not enough time spent of preparing kids to be rounded adults that can reason. Why is there so little teaching of *how to think*?

    Regarding employment/job shortages due to increasing autmagification, Market Economists will quote the Luddite Fallacy when it comes to discussing shortages in employment due to technological improvements. The theory behind the luddite fallacy is that any unemployment of individuals is outweighed by the number of jobs created "fixing the damned machines" as Magnulus puts it, or in jobs created by the increase in wealth that technological improvements make (i.e Technological unemployment does not become Structural unmployment).


    I for one though am hopeful that one Possible Better Future will see the Unrestrained-Market-as-God replaced by a post-market capitalism system of value circulation.
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      CommentAuthorNygaard
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2012
     (10574.16)
    This seems like it needs to go here: Joshua Ellis revisits the Grim Meathook Future.

    The point to take away being that no matter how well you craft your better future, the whole exercise is utterly pointless if it doesn't have room for six out of seven people in the world. How do you accomplish a new better future without making a New Better Bubble (TM)?
    #Let them in
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      CommentAuthorallana
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2012
     (10574.17)
    So, wait. What? We're going to transfer unskilled or gross labour to machines, and them replace all that lost employment with machine maintenance? Does that sound farcical to anyone else? How unendingly dreary. This is that Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon, the one about code-writing machines deliberately including junk code to keep human debuggers from messing with the important stuff. What if it turns out to be not only more economically safe but also more psychologically beneficial just to use good ol' human power? I shouldn't even have to mention the physical benefits.
    We are not a species made for sedentary jobs and immobile leisure. We are a species of fierce strong hunter gatherers, and while i object to repetitive labour, I abhor ever more strongly all jobs requiring ergonomic wrist-rests and access to Windows Solitaire. We should be better than this shit.
    Education should be made benign - as in, done for one's own interest and not as wage determiner. This I fully support. But we need to make work, all work, from lowly to ivory-tower, fit ourselves, as humans and as societies. I'm an academic, but I'm also a hard labourer, and I'd be hard pressed to give up either. I need them both. A library card will not tell you how to learn, nor is a gym membership acceptable replacement for a grueling ten-hour day of back strain and inclement weather.
    We can either make manual labour attractive or we can wait for the day when it becomes an esoteric form of self-fulfillment, like monasteries for reconnecting with the sweat glands.
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      CommentAuthorapefist
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2012 edited
     (10574.18)
    The only future for the earth is a conflict between Israel/US/UK against Iran/Russia/China becoming a global conflict and erupting into WWIII. The global economy will continue to sink deeper into this depression, because that's what it really is, there's no recovery and the lost jobs won't be replaced. It's an economic system based on perpetually increasing debt, impossible to get on top of or even maintain. This depression stifles R&D, not to mention basic health and human services, and the resulting unrest and eventual furor felt by the most affected majority of the population, can go nowhere because while they were scraping just to get by after losing their jobs and homes, their 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th amendment rights have been stripped. Protesting as a group on federal, state, local, and some private property is now illegal, punishable by a 10 yr sentence in prison. And the police are militarized to respond to protests held legally on private property not protected by the law. As we plunge headlong into another world war and stagnate in a dead economy, as crucial public services are terminated, our future is giving in and eating our pets, then bugs once trucks can't transport food into bombed out regions of the country, or economic disaster areas. We've peaked as a species, and as the US Empire collapses in on itself, destroying our global allies in the process, it's back to sticks and rocks before long.
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      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2012
     (10574.19)
    ...okay, then.

    In the event that this very specific scenario does not come to pass, let's try to figure out how to keep living with a modicum of society and advancement, eh folks? To paraphrase a certain man with an eyepatch, until the world actually stops spinning, let's carry on as if it will continue.
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      CommentAuthorREL
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd 2012
     (10574.20)
    #Videogames #Education
    Would adding multiplayer to this create an increased standard of living?

    32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow

    @Allana I agree, videogames are good for your brain. It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, as most people who pay videogames refer to the standard FPS model of play (which has really evolved into a Madden-esque state of rehashing, hasn't it?) What kinds of games promote increased cognitive activity? I would say creative and mad things, like Katamari, Journey, and Chicanery and surely there are other videogames that are original and new...