Maxims, rules of thumb and other observations on human cognition and sociocultural affectations

This will be added to on an irregular basis...
  • What is said to humans directly is received with skepticism and considered with dubiousness while that which is heard in passing, especially that which most conforms to their mentality or prejudices, is readily believed.
  • Humans have a certain cognitive latency between exposure to new information or experiences and the ability to think dispassionately and intellectually about it.
  • Humans have a certain cognitive spectrum starting with the moment of exposure to new information or experiences and ending with some point at which the thing is effectively "in the past" for them.
  • This cognitive spectrum is linked to the emotional process often referred to as shock, anger, denial and acceptance.
  • The more and faster information or experiences are presented to people and the closer the quarters and the lesser the distance between people, the more their early reactions in the passionate emotional stage are reflected back to them in the manner of responses to those reactions from others in light of those responses.
  • The more outrages which are suffered without sufficient time to allow emotional bleed-off, the farther the bar for subsequent reaction and outrage are pushed, and the more further events must progress before reaction and outrage.
  • It is possible for serious detriments to eventually sit below this threshold for long enough for their damaging effects to build and multiply until their entire society undergoes some reactive convulsion.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What the fuck is going on with our Sci-Future outlook?

I will call this Sci-Fu for the time being since I can't think of anything better at the moment.

Have you seen the Science Channel, formerly known as the Discovery Science Channel? Of late, the space related shows are beyond pathetic in ways that make me want to throw a large heavy object at my television in sheer rage for the sensationalistic selling of deflated hopes and shattered dreams.

Eddie Izzard had this joke in his Dressed to Kill concert about wanting to be an astronaut and the counselor saying "you're British, so scale that back". Evidently our outlook on space exploration is not much different than that.

I remember when flying cars were going to be all the rage. Well, we have the engineering know-how. The design and drawing board antecedent to the Harrier, the Gyroptere, would easily have worked. It took a lot of engineering to make it into a militarily useful result, but as it was, it would have taken off and flown. See the section entitled "The vectored thrust story" at the above link.

The problem is that very few people have a good rational idea of what the gross goal of such a craft is beyond taking off and flying. In the military, there would be immediate questions about armament carriage capabilities, but they're regimented to think clearly and logically. In the civilian world, it is strangely not at all obvious to people that it must carry the average car's cargo of people and goods from one populated place to another and do it safely and cheaply.


I also remember when we were going to build orbital space stations at various points including LEO, HEO, and the Lagrange points, especially L4 and L5. We'd make structures out of wire and tubes which would be set spinning and we'd add on to them, eventually pressurizing and finishing their insides and finally occupying them.

Doing it is not difficult. A few nuclear reactors dedicated to electrolysis of ocean water would produce all the hydrogen and oxygen required as well as provide the extra side benefits of sellable salts and metals which are dissolved in ocean waters. Excess purified water would also of course be available to the surrounding area. If built near the equator for maximum efficiency of launch, it would most likely mean very good benefits in materials, water, and electricity for some currently needy third world nations.

It never happened of course. We were too short sighted and too wrapped up in ourselves. That goes for, especially for, the global left, which in their arrogant and egomaniacal thirst for and addiction to attention and power turned their back on the idea of global pan-human prosperity being compatible with and indeed going hand-in-hand with the betterment and stewardship of the Earth's biological environment.

So we turned off the lights in the more pleasant and optimistic areas of our dreams and went back cynically to the place we facetiously and insincerely refer to as "the real world". The world is what we make it and we set about making it dark and depressing. Those school children who came after me were treated not to talk of space travel and optimism, but how bad rich straight white Christian Republican men were making the world and if we only just lived simply, others would simply live.

The "real world" is a fiction and we all know that later on though, don't we? It has nothing to do with "reality" which is a wholly separate thing. Reality is that the statement that "no man is an island" is true on so many levels that you should not require a viewing of How It's Made to know it. It should be obvious. Like the previous bit regarding flying cars, it infuriatingly continues not to be obvious, to the people who have the least reason for oblivious ignorance.

We know very well intellectually that neither simple living is required nor should simply living be accepted. Unless you truly and seriously like living by lowered expectations, you have no obligation to. None of us do. In fact, there's plenty of room in the universe for a very prosperous and wealthy mankind where none of us goes hungry or wants for much of anything in the material sense. Do we show that we are striving for such a thing?

Not in the current crop of space exploration science shows we don't. I've been watching lately and what I see more often than anything else is a pastiche of ill thought out, depressingly limited, utterly uninformed, and completely uninspiring shit which is not and cannot be acceptable. While I have not yet had kids despite much trying, I believe that in the long temporal view you always were whatever you wanted to be, just not when you did and changing that is usually as simple as choosing. Therefore, would I be happy selling this crap to my kids?


Honesty and integrity demand that we are realistic regarding our tendencies, NOT THAT WE MUST BOW BEFORE THEM, much less portray our likely or even hoped for futures by them. There is a big difference people. A big difference. I know that reality is that if there's a way government and other human hierarchical organizations screw something up with the simplest foibles of humanity, they will try damned hard without said outcome actually being the pre-chosen mission. In other words, shit happens while you're making other plans.

This does not mean however that you should hobble your plans in accordance. If you know you will fall short, do not aim short, for you will fall even shorter. If you mean to make Mars, aim for Jupiter. If you mean to make the moon, aim for Mars. It's not a hard concept to grasp.

Instead, we do something constantly that Eddie Izzard only thought he was joking about. We scale it back.

Odex Functionoid  To the left is a picture of the Odetics Odex One. Also known as the Odex Functionoid. Care to guess when this was unveiled to the public? Try twenty-five years ago.

Have you seen the Mars rovers? Go look them up. Now go look at what kids are playing with at the park in the summer for R/C vehicles. Look familiar?

We've retreated to using vehicles worthy of being called toys and with a completely straight face we've claimed otherwise. We spent millions on these things and to beat engineering challenges almost entirely worked out more than forty years ago during the heyday of space exploration enthusiasm.

In that last sentence you see what is missing. We no longer have enthusiasm. We've become cynical and stopped believing not only that we can, but that we should try to do better. We treat marriage like a convenience, obligations like dodges, and each other as disposable. We definitely don't have warm fuzzy feelings for seeing our neighbors happy in their new home on a space colony, OR EVEN OURSELVES.

I deserve to travel to the moon, to Mars, and the stars. It is my birthright as a member of the single most intelligent species on Earth and in this star system. A species which can conceive of better places if not so easily the way to get there. A species which can overcome gigantic obstacles, even if it is to do stupid things so often. I know we can travel to space and do it en masse and in style.

I do not know that it must be so retarded in scope and grandeur. I know no such thing. I will actively seek to remain oblivious and ignorant of that. I believe in better, and I believe the time has come for us all to believe.

Astronomy Picture of the Day