Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fantasy for Atheists

Atheism has really won a major victory when fantasy is being written for atheists. Witness,

The psychologically defining trait of atheism isn't the disbelief in all powerful aliens, it's the refusal to accord them any special status. What else is Humanism but the capacity to judge gods' actions by human standards and their existence by human reason.

Note that Babylon 5's Lorien functioned as a higher god to whom the mortals appealed the angels' and demons' misdeeds. B5 was incredibly medieval in its philosophy - not unexpected from an American.

Honourable mention is made to Magestic where the protagonist refuses to accept or bow down to the all powerful remorseless force of Destiny.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On The Supposed Constancy Of Human Nature

An oft repeated lie by anthropologists and other liberal arts scum is that "technology advances but human nature is a constant".

That's such a load of crap. In just the last 40 years rape has all but disappeared from the civilized world (check the stats!). And it's all thanks to pornography redirecting men's sexual energy away from actual women. Something women aren't thankful for, surprise surprise.

For comparison, in medieval times, every city woman would have been gang raped by street children at least once. And in ancient times they didn't even see anything unusual, let alone wrong, with rape - it was so common.

It works exactly the same way as violent crimes going down when violent movies are showing, and child molestations going down when child pornography is legal. As it was briefly in Sweden and Denmark when they took down obscenity laws. So we can all be thankful that the internet makes all things available to everyone now regardless of the wishes of authoritarians.

Violent movies (unlike first person shooters) don't actually train people to become better criminals, they just satisfy criminal appetites. Satisfied criminal appetites don't bloom into criminal activity. All the academics masturbating about how this "whets criminal appetites" can shove their scholastic number-of-angels-on-a-pin lying crap "arguments" up their ass.

Let's not forget these are the same psych- social- academic numbnuts that came up with the cathartic "letting out your aggression" theory without ever checking whether it works. It doesn't! All "catharsis" does is it lowers the psychological barriers to violent action.

It's funny how catharsis is supposed to be good for potential victims or "mild" aggressors (with whom it's okay to sympathize) but satisfying appetites is bad for potential perpetrators. The truth is that acting anything out is bad because it trains you, but watching it done is okay. Huh, acting and watching are different, and victim vs perpetrator doesn't matter, who could have guessed? Just about everybody with a brain.

Going on, child abuse has also declined markedly across the board to the point where spanking children is frowned upon in most of the civilized world and illegal in the most advanced countries. Similarly, homicide and suicide are down thanks to the much reduced naked obedience to authority that's the product of the 1968 revolution.

That's another thing, the 1968 revolution. Holy fucking shit. Anyone who doesn't know it and claims to know human beings or society is an idiot. The same goes for anyone who underestimates it.

So yeah, the notion of human nature remaining constant, let alone being universal, is such an appalling and unbelievable load of anti-human crap. What it's basically saying (falsely) is that we're all doomed to be Nazis forever. That is a hateful fucking lie. Hell, not even Americans could ever be Nazis. It's just not true that Americans are as psychologically backwards and primitive as the average African.

And yet, anthropologists really believe this hateful lying shit. Because of course they detest their own societies and are in love with the "noble savage". Ugh. Just one more reason to execute the anthropology departments and incinerate their accumulated "work" before starting from scratch using physicists. Even restarting with psychologists would be an enormous improvement. That's really saying something.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why Dune Can't Be Turned Into A Movie

I don't even remember how I got on a Dune kick right now. There are so many awesome lines, visuals and concepts in that movie. And yes I am talking about the movie you book snobs. What I do remember since it only happened 20 minutes ago is how I realized that Dune can never ever be turned into a movie.

I was reading about the making of the film and how David Lynch disowned the extended and narrated version of the film, the one that tried to fix the 'minor problem' of his original version being completely incomprehensible. That was when I realized of course it's incomprehensible, there's so many important new concepts in the movie!

Fluffier Than Helium

I will illustrate by comparing Dune to Star Wars. Star Wars has no background because it was never adapted from a book. This is what Star Wars boils down to:

  • a hick Farmboy
  • finds out he has Generic Psionics
  • so a Complete Stranger decides to mentor Farmboy
  • into an order of Psionic Paladins
  • meanwhile, some Captured Princess sends a message
  • to Mentor who takes his toys (robots and sword) and Protégé
  • and they escape some Mooks to go to Princess' Prison
  • where Mentor attacks Evil Paladin
  • and while Mentor disappears
  • Farmboy manages to free Princess
  • Princess has blueprints of a Superweapon
  • they attack Superweapon with air fighters launched from an ocean navy carrier
  • Farmboy uses Psionics to destroy it

That's it. That's the entire movie right there, including all characters and all plot elements. Oh I've forgotten something? Some cherished little crap detail? That's because it's irrelevant. Once you comprehend those 13 points of the movie, none of which are remotely original, you've understood the entire movie.

And don't give me any crap about how Evil Paladin was Farmboy's father or how Generic Psionics is really psi+magic (ooh, magic lightning!) because that was all retconned. Even worse with Farmboy & Princess supposedly being siblings. It didn't stop Farmboy from putting the moves on Princess by the end of the movie, did it?

Denser Than Uranium

Dune is ... different. Here are the points you need to understand before you watch the movie:

  • there's an ancient feudal space empire ruled by the Emperor
  • House Atreides, House Harkonnen are major power brokers and enemies
  • AI are forbidden as a matter of law and religious fiat
  • humans have acquired super-human mental powers through drugs and training
  • the Bene Gesserit have been running a multi-millenia breeding program to create a Physical God
  • the Bene Gesserits have (known) powers of hypnotic voice, transmutation, and genetic memory
  • Lord Atreides has a Bene Gesserit wife who is a central part of the breeding program
  • Lord Atreides has a son with his wife
  • the Spacing Guild controls all space travel
  • they require Spice to fold space to achieve instantaneous travel
  • the Spice extends Life, the Spice expands Awareness of both present and future
  • a briefcase full of Spice is worth the price of a planet
  • it can only be mined on a single planet in the Known Universe
  • the planet Dune makes Hell look safe and comfortable
  • the Emperor has decided to knock Atreides and Harkonen down a few pegs by setting them against each other

Not only are there more characters and plot elements before you can even watch Dune than there are throughout the entire Star Wars movie, but the least original of them is more original than the most original Star Wars element. Not like you need much originality to beat 'anonymous farmboy' or 'anonymous cheddar monk' or 'anonymous princess'. Hell, two of the "characters" are subservient robots. Tools!

But let's be fair, the least original elements of Dune I've listed are 'ancient feudal space empire' and 'the Emperor sets up two Houses against each other'. On the other side, the only original element of Star Wars is 'Princess has blueprints of Superweapon'. And that's only original for its time because nowadays there's nothing novel about Action Girls. In contrast, Machiavellian Emperors are a really old idea that's become novel again because few people are familiar with how monarchs reigned.

STILL Not Fully Comprehensible

The very first scene is Princess Irulan narrating. Why her? Why does she get screen time? It's because she's single, of marriagable age, and Paul Atreides marries her to legitimize his hold on power. Oh yeah, that didn't quite make it into the movie, did it? Yet you can't fully understand the first scene of the movie without knowing something they couldn't fit into the movie at all.

Why does Doctor Yueh betray Lord Atreides? Why is he even in a position to betray Lord Atreides? He's just a fucking doctor for fuck's sake! Oh it's because he's been conditioned as part of the Emperor's elite corps of incorruptibles. But it turns out he has been corrupted by the Baron Harkonnen who is holding Yueh's wife hostage. In fact, he's the first case of an incorruptible having been corrupted. None of that made it into the movie either.

And I haven't even mentioned the Sandworms. Or the Great Convention against atomics in the Landsraad. Or shields. Or lasguns' notoriously bad interaction with shields. Or Alia. Or Other Memories. Or Mentats. Or stillsuits. These are not irrelevant details. An irrelevant detail is how Lord Atreides' wife was the illegitimate daughter of Baron Harkonnen (showing the power of the Bene Gesserit to arrange this), or how the House Corrino heir was another Bene Gesserit candidate for Physical God. Those are irrelevant.

Science Fiction vs Fantasy

Dune has lots of deeply relevant intricacies because like any great science-fiction it aspires to a modicum of self-consistency and a lot of creativity. The SF stories that adapt best to movies are short stories like Total Recall and Minority Report. I'm not even counting anything remotely like Star Wars because those aren't science-fiction, they're space fantasies.

When you adapt SF novels, there's always too much material so you end up having to sacrifice something. Blade Runner sacrificed all the action - it's unrecognizable from the book, and the author considered the movie to complement the book. And Solaris sacrificed the themes - Stanislaw Lem was pretty disappointed that all his themes of Incomprehensibly Alien Aliens were pushed aside. I can't even imagine how Gateway or Foundation would have to be cut to be put in movie form.

Some people like to point out that fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have been made into movies. Isn't Dune better? Doesn't it deserve to be made a movie at least as much as that fantasy dreck? No, no it does not. Dune isn't better, it's monumentally better. Fantasy is inherently recycling of themes, characters and plot elements everyone is already familiar with. Do you think Tolkien invented elves, dwarves, dragons and evil gods? Like fuck he did. He just described landscapes and obsessed with naming everything. A name isn't an idea!

In great science-fiction there is nothing recycled. The novel Dune now more than 40 years after its first publication is still entirely original. You can't do such a novel justice with a couple of movies or even a mini-series. Even if you stuck to just the first book like the twits who made Dune (2000) failed to do, it just isn't long enough.

How To Do Dune Justice

To do Dune justice you'd need a full 13-episode series around just the first book. The battle when the Harkonnen and Sardaukar re-invade Dune, killing all the Atreides, leaving Paul and Jessica to flee into the desert? That would be 2 episodes right there, minimum.

The Atreides setting up on Dune, introducing the basic ecology & economy and Paul getting odd messages from the locals, that's at least one episode. The Emperor deciding to set up Houses Atreides and Harkonnen? That's an episode.

There would need to be one episode dedicated solely to the vital importance of the spice - maybe some smuggler tries to get off-planet with a briefcase full of the stuff. In the last scene of that episode, you'd probably see the smuggler executed and his stash confiscated only to follow it as it's re-sold through official channels until it ends up in a Space Guild Navigator's tank.

There would have to be an episode set before the movie to explain Jessica's background and to explain the Bene Gesserits. You'd need to come up with a storyline, probably involving some minor political intrigue at the Emperor's court. The episode wouldn't be about the Bene Gesserit, it would just involve them somehow, maybe only as secondary characters.

That's the thing, not only would most of the scenes in Dune end up being episodes of the series, but most of the episodes would be about things that aren't in the book, their central characters not even in the book. The book would just be the over-arching plotline of the series. So the 3 hour long movie would be stretched to 13 hours. And I repeat, minimum.

Babylon 5 achieved more starting with much sparser and poorer source material.

GDP projections: mindlessly drawing lines on a chart

In Brian Wang's latest mindless China boosting he claims that China's economic growth will continue at high tempo for at least another two decades. He doesn't base this claim, a claim on which all his projections depend, on any facts, he just assumes it to be true.

In fact, he's made clear in a previous post on the topic that he thinks losing 2 percentage points of growth over the coming decades is a worst-case scenario which he can't even imagine any reason for. This is because he is a fucking retard.

How Brian Wang Thinks (and I use the term loosely)

Nevermind that he misuses the word 'synthesis' to mean 'logical deduction' and 'collating of disparate facts', neither of which has anything at all to do with anything done by an artist, designer or philosopher.

I find that incredibly offensive but it's relevant here because it tells us where and how he got his notions from. He got them from economists, those notorious line drawers who understand fuck-all about reality, nothing about science, and less than nothing about any real-world economies.

For fuck's sake, economists think money and banking are what make up economies. And they dismiss the real-world economic behaviour of real human beings as "irrational" and "not economics". Their pretentious "economic models" are just some kludged up math equations stolen from 18th century thermodynamics. Not modern thermodynamics but strictly 18th century notions of thermodynamics which were quickly proven very wrong.

What Brian Wang's done is poll what economists (those empty-headed morons) say about China's economy and then copied their technique of mindlessly drawing lines (well "curves" because that way you can be more pretentious and mathemagical) on a graph. I'll prove it.

China's Demographics

China's GDP growth in the last 35 years has depended on uneducated peasants migrating to cities to become factory workers. This is called Urbanization. In the last 35 years, China's urban population has risen from roughly 160 million to 600 million. I say roughly since China is notorious for lying about these statistics much the way every Western government lies about unemployment figures.

So (600-160)/160 = 2.75. Over a period of 35 years, China's economy has more than doubled just from Urbanization alone. In fact, since 1.029^35 = 2.71, over 2.9 percentage points of China's economic growth over that 35 year period is attributable to urbanization alone. Assuming the uneducated peasants don't participate in the economy at all. A ridiculous assumption but hardly unprecedented in economic circles.

Is Urbanization in China going to continue? Yes but at a much reduced rate. In the last 35 years, China's urban population nearly tripled. In the next 20 years it's projected (lines have been drawn on a graph) to increase by 50%. That's 1.02^20 = 1.485. So that's 1.029-1.020 = 0.9 percentage points knocked out right there.

If you do away with the ridiculous assumption that uneducated peasants don't participate in the economy, things don't look so bad. But you still have to account for the fact that China's population increased by more than half in the past 35 years. Those uneducated peasants have to eat you know. And China's population is only projected to increase by 10% before it peaks within 20 years. Since 1.012^35 = 1.518 and 1.005^20 = 1.105, that's 0.7 percentage points knocked out right there.

Now, I'm not going to add 0.9 and 0.7 together to get 1.6, that would be double counting. But it's obvious China will lose at least 1 percentage point from the greatly reduced population and urban worker growth rates. That's in the very best case scenario. As I said before, Brian Wang thinks this is a worst-case scenario. His worst-case scenario takes into account only demographic change and nothing else.

Beyond Demographics - now we're talking real economics

Because of course, projections of China's economic future get worse the more factors you take into account. Back in 1981, China implemented this thing called the Responsibility System which means that farmers and company managers were responsible for losses and profits of their production. As expected, this provided a massive economic boost. Is this something China is likely to be able to repeat? No it is not. It's something China will never be able to repeat.

(Except by moving to an anti-authoritarian coop workplace system, but that would cause China's authoritarian regime some rather large political problems.)

It gets worse. Because you see, for the last 10 years China has been busily assimilating any and all high technology in the world, including but not limited to semiconductors, high speed trains, nuclear power plants, supercritical coal power plants, rocketry, automobile construction, marine ship construction. In fact, China is considering building nuclear container ships and is on the verge of becoming independent in nuclear power plants. Not bad for a country that still had a steam locomotive in regular service less than 5 years ago.

Can China reproduce its past assimilation of new technologies by copying starship Jumpspace engines and asteroid mining technology from the Centauri and Vorlon empires? No because they are fucking fictional. The best that China can hope for is to roll out the technology it's already acquired more widely. By say replacing inefficient coal power plants with more efficient ones. Oh right, it's already been doing that for the last 10 years. And yes, it will keep doing that ... with progressively smaller returns on investment.

And then it gets much worse. You see, there is another country that pursued the same export-oriented labour-intensive then shift to high-tech long-term economic strategy that China is now pursuing. It's not like China invented the idea after all. It's a tried and true pattern. Well, that country is South Korea. As it happens, South Korea never managed to achieve the phenomenal growth rates China did and its long-term average in its best growth phase was at least 3 percentage points lower than China's.

Does that mean China has got some kind of special magic going? No, because I'm not the kind of dumbass that believes in magic. Nor am I a racist that believes, as Wang certainly does, that Chinese are naturally superior.

What it means is that China has been using its raw economic clout to ... um 'acquire' high technology from every other country in the world. Something South Korea never managed. Not for free anyways - South Korea paid for the technology it acquired. China just demands it as a cost of doing business. But as already noted, there isn't anymore technology left for China to hustle from other countries. It's already got everything, including things like maglev that nobody else is using.

The only other possible explanations are 1) China's economic growth going in had been suppressed in a way South Korea's hadn't been (unlikely), 2) China went into its growth phase with more educated and healthier people (it did thanks to starting growth 20 years late), 3) having a communist government really does help (yes but not when the capitalists are playing smart industrialist), 4) China is fudging its economic figures. Personally, I'm banking on #2 and #0 (health and technology) but what's interesting is that none of the explanations for higher-than-south-korea growth rates are sustainable. In fact, health-wise China isn't doing too well lately compared to South Korea.

Even the very worst of economists (supposedly) understand the difference between intensive economic growth and extensive economic growth. China is currently in an extensive economic growth phase where it's putting already-existing (labour) resources to work. And long, long before it hits Western levels of per-capita GDP it will have moved to an intensive economic growth phase. By which I mean that its economic growth will crash.

South Korea

I want to finish this by getting back to South Korea, especially the part where I said "and then it gets much worse". South Korea isn't a line on a graph that exists only in some moron's imagination. It's a real country with a real (industrial) economy - not a fictional economy like the USA's, Ireland's, Iceland's or China's recent property bubbles. And South Korea is roughly 20 years ahead of China so what's happened in the last 20 years to South Korea is rather instructive to anyone who wants to predict China's future.

Now, South Korea's highest growth phase occurred in the 60s and 70s, back when the world economy was still booming and not in chronic depression since the likes of Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl and Gorbachev (all horrible leaders in their own unique ways). What happened to South Korea in the 2000s doesn't make things look very promising. Worse yet, South Korea is extremely urbanized, so it's not going to grow that way anymore. I suppose that's good news for China since it's going to be urbanizing well into the latter half of this century. But really it just means that China is backwards and it's going to be dealing with uneducated peasants that much longer.

There is something incredibly fishy in China's economic figures. It doesn't make any sense at all that China could sustain a higher economic growth rate than South Korea's while ending up with a poorer real-world outcome. China was about 20 years behind South Korea when they began their respective economic growth phases, and it remains more than 20 years behind South Korea today. And this despite having better demographics, better health and better access to technology. It's probably due to China's bloated foreign-exchange reserves which are 2.5 times larger than South Korea's on a GDP per capita basis. Clearly China's government has fucked over its own citizens and the world in order to acquire global financial power.

And with that last insight, maybe China can afford to prop up its economic growth rates. Assuming it's willing to lose most of its financial power.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An Open Rant To Brian Wang, the Mindless Chink Booster and Preacher

A personal response prompted by since the bastard has a habit of deleting negative responses on his blog. Yes, I took great umbrage to his "we will triumph through the power of our ignorance" stance on FTL at one point, as I think any sane person must.

Rant Begins

It's amazing how stupid you still are about space, hyping up blatantly un-feasible systems like fusion and antimatter and totally neglecting awesome, kickass and entirely practical systems like Isaac Kuo's x-ray laser drivers.

Why? Because they don't fit into your Star Trek future where you have tramp freighter captains that can ram a starship right into our planet with us having no defenses. What's your solution to that problem? Ignore it and pray to the Machine God that everything will work out okay. Meanwhile, preach resignation and futility! You're such a fucking dumbass it's incredible. Like some kind of crazy UFO / suicide cult leader.

It's amazing how stupid you are to confuse Hawking saying "not impossible in theory" with "feasible engineering-wise". You call yourself an engineer? Fucking pathetic. The Fermi Paradox proves that faster than light travel may be "possible in theory" all you want, but it can never, ever be feasible in any kind of engineering sense. Not even if FTL required as little as the power of a supernova. Because if it were so feasible then some alien civilization would have colonized this galaxy in the past 12.3 billion years. 

But when basic logic conflicts with your hype, your hype wins.

You do the same thing with Lunar Development. You claim that helium-3 is a valid reason to go to the moon. Bullshit! Mining helium-3 would cost billions a tonne. Yet the stuff is only worth 100,000$ a tonne if it's to be competitive with fission fuel. So you would be taking a loss of greater than 99% with Helium-3 or having a return on investment of -99.999%. Congrats retard.

Lunar development is one of your pet projects so you use fusion power to justify it. Fusion power is one of your pet projects so you use lunar development to justify it. Yet you're too fucking stupid to realize your logic is circular. And you're way too stupid to realize that of these two projects neither is economical. What kind of a fucking engineer are you?!

And while I'm at it, you've also never once mentioned that putting domes over cities would cut out rain which would make the cities involved filthy and increase their cleaning costs. You've reprinted that story at least three times with ever more elaboration and you've never once mentioned the obvious. Don't you have any fucking common sense?

How can you expect to be convincing when you totally fail to mention anything negative even when it's blatantly fucking obvious to absolutely everyone?! Just hope people are stupid enough to not notice it, is that it? Just hope they're not wondering and suspicious about the costs of artificially cleaning a city?

And for anyone wondering at the title, it's because Brian Wang is a Chinese racist and it shows. And just as his mindless boosterism can be aggravating when it falls afoul of common sense, fundamental physics or elemental logic, yes his racism and mindless China boosting is aggravating too. The only thing worse than boosting backwards, uneducated and psychologically un-evolved people like the Chinese is the even worse Indians. The Germans are bad enough, and they're the best there is in western Europe. China? You're talking about at least three notches lower.