Oh, if only this WAS a parody:
“It was worrisome that the Human League had declared him “a traitor to Galactic Man” and was offering a bounty on his head. Still, this wasn’t the first time he’d been targeted by crackpots, though, and as a technocrat, he found it hard to be Praton as a sacrifice to his furious fellow council members.”
So with the tune of ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, running in my head I descend into ‘Corrosion: The Corroding Empire Part by Johan Kalsi and/or Harry Seldon Edited by Vox Day’.
Servo is a robot working in a cocktail bar, when we meet him. Again, if only this book was a pastiche of new-romantic pop lyrics but it isn’t – I mean how would it have been to have included a cocktail bar in the story?
Instead, we get a bunch of connected not-exactly awful stories set in a technological society run by ‘algorithms’. The style is one I shall now christen ‘Puppy Clunk’. If you read some of the less appalling slated works in 2015, you’ll recognise the style. It’s not illiterate or wholly unreadable but it just sort of goes ‘clunk’ in every sentence.
This style is one I shall now christen ‘Puppy Clunk’. If you read some of the less appalling slated works in 2015, you’ll recognise the style. It’s not illiterate or wholly unreadable but it just sort of goes ‘clunk’ in every sentence.
“It had been ten months since the first time Servo made contact with the First Technocrat, and since then, things had gotten increasingly out of hand. The drone’s behavior had arguably become more erratic than the theoretical algorithmic anomalies with which he was obsessed.”
The premise is that this high-tech space-faring human civilisation is totally dependent on ‘core algorithms’. The civilisation doesn’t depart much from a bog-standard space-future (robots and vid-screens) and the importance of the ‘algorithms’ is just waved around a lot.
For reason unknown, this advanced society has apparently no understanding of boundary conditions or chaos theory or any one of the many ways humans have known that deterministic computation will depart from empirical data without regular correction. As a consequence, humanity is suffering from ‘algorithmic decay’ and only ex-surgeon turned rogue robot ‘Servo’ (no not the one from MST3K) can see the truth.
“He had been allowed enough visitors in prison to gather that the Human League were planning to do through legal means what they had failed to do illegally: assassinate him. His only chance was to win over a Technocratic Council that was not only looking for a sacrificial lamb to throw to the frightened public, but would be presided over by Harraf, his would-be successor as First Technocrat.”
Civilisation is heading for a crash!
OK, that was gratuitous. I’ll let Caden Jarris, First Technocrat infodump a summary of the dangers of algorithmic decay:
“As far as I know, there is nothing that is going to halt this mysterious, gradual corrosion of both the galactic and planetary infrastructure on its own. The trend may be slow, one might even describe it as glacial, but even so, the long-term trend is clear. If algorithmic decay is not arrested, interstellar transportation will be the first sector to fall. That will doom dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of populated planets and colonies to stasis if they are fortunate, and extinction if they are not.”
“We know all this, Caden,” the Sixth Technocrat complained.
I think we all sympathise with the Sixth Technocrat – nobody likes a gratuitous infodump. The decay is a handy wavy substitute for Hari Seldon’s prediction of galactic Empire collapse from Asimov’s seminal Foundation stories. ‘Corrosion’ is supposedly some sort of parody/pastiche/homage to Asimov but it fails to capture any of his magic. Nor does it compensate by addressing Asimov’s failings: the characters are as thinly drawn as the plot. The book is short and yet still mainly waffle. It’s a bit like eating packing material – if packing material could go ‘clunk’ (which it can’t by design).
[NOTE: starch based packing ‘peanuts’ can be digested but are not produced in conditions that are food-safe. Also, they are intentionally stripped of useful nutrients so as not to attract vermin. You can learn more about packing peanuts here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foam_peanut#Starch-based_packing_peanuts No, this isn’t the most interesting article on Wikipedia but yes, it’s less dull than reading this book]
Speaking of peanuts, after the trial of First Technocrat Caden Jaggis, we are whisked away to see more of this amazing future society. We meet a farmer, called The Farmer, sitting on his future tractor: “Ontanso-44 tractor-processor, manually correcting bad readings and attempting to factor a uniform set of correcting algorithms. ” See, this society is all based on ALGORITHMS and so the Farmer has an algorithm-tractor, possibly an algorithm-combine harvester as well and an algorithm-chicken coop.
Nah, that would be silly. Instead, he has his trusted Intrepid-Abundance Class biogenetic tractor-combinator. But things are going badly because of, you know, ALGORITHMS.
“It was that fragile moment in the growing season when blight or insectoid plagues still threatened, but the natural algorithmic defenses of the crops were not yet a full strength. Every class of every crop he mastered — polito, chomats, paradagas, corbolini, purple crone, zaim, yossa beans, and even the hardy gang roots — were going wrong. They were behind schedule, maturing poorly or in several cases, mutating inconsistently.”
The poor old farmer has a bad time of it and…well then we jump forward in time and the empire has collapsed.
Three stories in we meet another man with a vehicle Scot Farmerson who has 00198 Burneck-made truck. That’s nice. You know what Foundation lacked? Trucks and tractors. Nothing says hard sci-fi like a decent agricultural vehicle.
Any Scot dies horribly because of bad algorithms. Not even his truck could save.
Then things go a bit milSF but we are still in the same story because they have gadgets and complain about ‘algodecay’. Then we wander. Things get dull. I can’t even make Human League jokes anymore. People don’t want jokes, people love action.
Skip, skip, skip, oops I’m at the epilogue. This starts with a binary code because ROBOTS! Robots that communicate in ASCII (not Unicode? darn – no emojis). The super secret messages in binary says:
The machines have developed a sense of morality. The galaxy is ours.
Morality? Perhaps but the book still hasn’t developed a sense of humour.
Yeah, anyways, war is good, robots plotting stuff etc. You know the drill. If you read the Castalia MilSF compilation in the Hugo Packet it’s basically the same stuff.
What can I say? The opening chapters were clunky and the rest were formulaic. It is almost like output generated from some deterministic sequence of rules and operations – why, it is almost ALGORITHMIC…
A couple of significant notes of ‘meh’ today from the watchtowers looking over Puppydom.
Firstly Vox Day has announced his Rabid Puppy slate and it is a testament to just how tired the whole Rabid Puppy thing has become. There were no obvious upsides to the previous Rabid Puppy campaigns but at least there was something to talk about it. This time the brilliant strategy is to just nominate one or two things per category to defeat EPH (i.e. EPH provoking the behavioural change it was intended to provoke). Aside from that, it is the obvious hostages (Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, File 770 ), Castalia House self-promotion, some pals/hanger-on, and some people you haven’t heard of. Doesn’t seem to have bothered trying to nominate video games this year.No Chuck Tingle this year after that backfired spectacularly but there is a dodgy Tingle imitator in the mix.
YES – some things/people there might be ineligible PLEASE DON’T POINT THEM OUT. Wait until nominations close.
Will this impact nominations? Assuming the core Rabid Puppy votes stays as it has been (60 to 180 votes ) then yes, some of these nominations might make the ballot.
Link for the purposes of me finding it later http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/rabid-puppies-2017.html
Meanwhile no overt signs on the Sad side but over at Mad Genius Club, Brad Torgersen is reprising his Nutty Nuggets argument here https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/03/05/sawdust-chocolate-cake-new-coke/
It is in response to a N.K.Jemisin interview here https://www.wbez.org/shows/nerdette/the-past-present-and-future-of-sci-fi-with-nk-jemisin/3aed7a8c-4de4-4f97-8bb9-8dcd5044c450
But, as usual, there is an odd coyness about not ever really mentioning who is being talked about. It then goes off on a tangent about New Coke and rather like the Nutty Nuggets argument is betrays both misconceptions and an aspiration:
- The misconception is that SF is sufficiently a single thing to be a marketable entity in its own right.
- That some small group actual does do that (and gets it wrong in Brad’s eyes)
- The aspiration that REALLY Brad wants somebody in charge, running science fiction in the way he thinks it should be run.
Point 3 being the now obvious truism that if you scratch the paintwork of libertarian-flavoured conservatism you find the colours of frustrated authoritarianism peeking out. The revealing ‘tell’ is that rather than the much trumped ‘diversity of ideas’, Brad sees other kinds of SF that he doesn’t like as a threat to SF overall.
Brad’s theory has two basic premises:
- People would love classic SF (although Brad remains vague as to what this is, other parts of Puppydom assert this would be the age of the pulps).
- People are turned off by all this ‘new SF’ (again vague as to what counts and where).
A conservative of say 10 years ago would have an easy answer to this problem: there is no problem! Anybody can publish anything (now even more so) and so the purveyors of the right kind of SF will make money hand-over-fist as people flock away from the ‘new SF’. Not only that, but the mega-corporations that run publishing will follow their bank balances and invest in the most nutty of nuggets.
Given that reality isn’t behaving that way then, Brad needs an extra theory. New SF somehow drives away fans. Ignore, for the moment, the huge volume of available SF of any stripe, from movie and game tie-ins to classic reprints to many big name SF authors pumping out space operas, no the decline somehow must be because the books Brad doesn’t like are doing bad things.
In the comments, Brad even manages to have his cake and eat it by complaining about more ‘literary’ SF *not* having traditional SF covers (his specific example is All the Birds in the Sky) because that is a bad thing too for some reason. Yes, yes, you’d think that he would WANT non-nuggety SF to have non-nuggety covers but that would be applying far too much logical consistency to what is a fundamental objection to wrongbooks having wrongfun in the bookshop.
I think the best, most recent example of this, is All The Birds In The Sky. It’s packaged deliberately as a lit book. It desperately wants to escape the SF/F shelves and go live on the mainstream shelves where the “important” books live. (chuckle) I blame Irene Gallo, who is very much responsible for this trend at TOR. She wants the field as a whole to stop looking like it did during the high period. Because making all that amazing money with space art that actually looks like space art, and swords’n’sorcery art that actually looks like swords’n’sorcery art, was just so gauche.
Note how there is no ground for compromise here. If publisher markets SF to a less-SFie audience then for Brad this is bad, if they market the same SF to an SF audience then to Brad this is also bad. Would Brad *seriously* be happy if All the Birds in the Sky had a cover featuring space rockets (in the book), people descending from ropes from helicopters (in the book) and magical people casting spells (in the book)? Goodness no! That would be the other evil of somehow tricking the honest-SF-reader into reading a book with cooties.
We are back to the unspoken logic of much of what has consumed the right for decades. It is unspoken and avoided, an incomplete argument that would lead people to a conclusion that they would reject if spoken out loud. By not following the logic they can retain a belief that they are moderate and reasonable. However, their argument always leads to the same spot. Brad would just rather these wrong books DID NOT EXIST. He doesn’t want to ban them or burn them or imprison their authors (although how else can his wish come true?) he just wants them to magically not be there.
Fascism loves nothing more than to exploit death to spread both fear and misinformation. The recent shooting at Fort Lauderdale has proven to be just such an occasion. The Daily Beast reports: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/06/inside-the-alt-right-s-florida-airport-shooter-esteban-santiago-hoax.html?via=desktop&source=twitter
Far rightwing figureheads immediately invented an elaborate and racist conspiracy theory that CNN had lightened a photo of alleged Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago shortly after the Friday attack.
In reality, CNN had yet to air a picture of Santiago, let alone lightened a picture of him. The conspiracy also used a picture of an entirely different man named Esteban Santiago—not the alleged shooter.
Sure enough, over at Science Fictions own gloomy core of Alt-Right confusion, Vox Day is pushing the same line: http://web.archive.org/web/20170107052215/http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/5-dead-in-ft-lauderdale-shooting.html [web archive link – live link here http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/5-dead-in-ft-lauderdale-shooting.html%5D
Fake news, lies, propaganda? Not sure what the best word for it is. Malicious bullshit is probably the best description – I doubt Vox knew or cared whether the image was true.
In response to my last Voxopedia post, there has been a bit of a defensive reaction from VD and crew. At his main blog Vox has announced that the daily average page views are now rivalling his own blog. That’s a harder stat to confirm but it seems unlikely.
Meanwhile at the support blog Vox has added a hysterically funny fan mail letter: https://infogalactic.blogspot.com.au/2016/12/fan-mail.html
“Today, I did a quick internet search (Google) for “Shiva” to verify a detail or two. I clicked on the Wikipedia link. By the end of the second brief paragraph, I was already informed of “the goddess tradition of Hinduism called Shaktism” and how it considers Parvati to be “the equal complementary partner” of Shiva.
Hmm. Is Shaktism so prevalent or important that it must be introduced before we learn anything more of Shiva? Also, I can understand how Parvati may be “complementary”, but the addition of “equal” smelled too SJWish. I went to Infogalactic to see how its page differs.
On Infogalactic, the offending lines are absent, among other changes.
I am impressed. I am also encouraged. I don’t know where Infogalactic will lead or what all it will accomplish. I can only imagine what providing a more pure source of information may do, how it may affect all the minds searching for information. What if our youth become accustomed to the *lack* of SJW propaganda, and as a result become similarly skeptical when they meet it, as I did today? You are saving lives and securing the future.”
I think you can all guess the amusing twist. The ‘Shiva’ page on Voxopedia is just an old copy of the Wikipedia page from when the Voxopedia crew copied Wikipedia over. http://web.archive.org/web/20161219095859/https://infogalactic.com/w/index.php?title=Shiva&action=history It hasn’t been edited since and Voxopedia editors have made no contributions to it (as such).
I guess that is a kind of conservatism? Celebrating the more inherent rightness of a January Wikipedia page over the degenerate decadence of a December Wikipedia page.
Anyway…to cheer them up, here is a graph of their registered members:
It continues to attract members, its just that they don’t edit articles.
Oh, Voxopedia what have you been up to? To nobody’s surprise, the small cadre of editors have been obsessed a little about paedophilia in that special Alt-Right way which manages to combine self-righteous outrage with no actual commitment to child protection. Having said that their ‘Pizzagate’ article on the Alt-Right/neofascist’s campaign against a pizza restaurant that had the temerity to be mentioned in a hacked Democrat’s email *almost* helps justify the existence of something like Voxopedia. I say that because trying to make sense of that particular mess of whatever-that-was is nigh impossible from primary sources and so having the Voxopedia guys try and document what their canonical beliefs are on the matter could potentially be a useful reference.
Elsewhere, there has been some mild pushback on the Miles Mathis Pi=4 guy’s page, with another editor timidly suggesting that maybe pi might not actually be 4. Also Fenris (aka Vox Day) has dropped by to update the page on Vox Day (aka Fenris).
The graph is counting edits in the same way as a previous post and not all changes are included there. I think the shape may be misleading. It has a bit of an ogive/logistic curve look to it but I don’t think it is actually reaching an upper limit/asymptote there. It’s just slowing down.
New pages are plodding along in the same linear way as they were several weeks ago.
Little spurts (no, not my nickname for Voxopedia editors) of activity are when somebody makes a page and also makes some redirect pages as well with variations on the page name.
But the graph that shows best what is going on with Voxopedia is this one:
This is the same data as the first graph but the green curve is the number of edits with the top two editors removed. Yup, basically this is a two-person wiki for most intents and purposes. As with last time, one other editor is doing changes not caught by the data in the graph (‘Crew’ who manages new members) but the bulk of substantive edits are from one editor (‘Idris’).
Notice how, from mid-November, the two curves start moving in parallel? Basically, the two editors have reduced the amount of changes they make.
I don’t know if the Alt-Right has a disparaging term for people who run around doing all the work for everybody else, but I’m sure they must because they have disparaging terms for most things.
Lastly and leastly, the associated blog designed to keep Voxopedia’s massive base of users informed https://infogalactic.blogspot.com.au/ has not had a new post since October.
Speaking of the Alt-right, their house journal has been getting its knickers in a twist over global temperatures. Resident UK spreader of warming nonsense, James Delingpole got himself somewhat agitated about the fall in temperatures after the 2016 El Nino.
Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record.
But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community. You’d almost imagine that when temperatures shoot up it’s catastrophic climate change which requires dramatic headlines across the mainstream media and demands for urgent action. But that when they fall even more precipitously it’s just a case of “nothing to see here”. http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/11/30/global-temperatures-plunge-icy-silence-climate-alarmists/
As happens so frequently, Delingpole reveals the stark evidence for global warming inadvertently in his critique. According to Delingpole, we are now in a chilly El Nino. But what do the actual temperatures show?
Dr Roy Spencer is himself a climate change ‘skeptic’ and the satellite temperature data has been lauded by Delingpole in the past.So what are the satellite data showing? http://www.drroyspencer.com/2016/12/uah-global-temperature-update-for-november-2016-0-45-deg-c/
Yes, temperature anomalies have dropped since the 2016 EL Nino peak but they are still high. Indeed November 2016 is substantially higher than most of the data points in the satellite record.
Taking Delingpole’s blather seriously would imply that his chilly La Nina is HOTTER than early 1980’s El Nino’s.
Discussions on the term ‘alt-right’ both among the left and in the media have got more sophisticated in the past week. For example here is the Associated Press’s Blog discussing the term: https://blog.ap.org/behind-the-news/writing-about-the-alt-right
“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.
Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.
That is a good move but I think it is still lacking. The problem is how to discuss differences without sounding like you are minimising some aspect of neo-Nazis or the alt-right.
Brianna Wu tweeted some criticism of the AP piece that highlighted the glaring omission in the AP’s description:
Nazis were misogynistic and the Alt-right are racist BUT the roles misogyny and racism play in those movements are different. It isn’t that somehow the misogyny of the Nazis was OK or a lesser evil or that the racism of the alt-right is not deeply disturbing – both movements are appalling in either dimension. However, the misogyny of the alt-right is more key to their identity and to their behaviour.
In addition, misogyny has been the gateway for the alt-right to recruit young men into a racist movement. The current alt-right has deep and continuing connections with misogynistic ‘men’s rights’ style movements as well as with the supposed pick-up artist groups and dodgy ‘self-improvement’ and pseudo-psychology. In each case, there is a strong element of the alt-right playing on sexual insecurities of young men.
At the same time, the alt-right have tended to prefer nationalism and racism to self-define their movement. For example, Vox Day’s 16 principles of the alt-right overtly includes a white-supremacist credo as point 14 (the number chosen to highlight the source). Yet women are the most consistent personal targets of Alt-right campaigns. Anti-women viewpoints (including views that promote or legitimise sexual assault) are central to their messaging. Even their anti-immigrant propaganda is centred on sexual fears – often phrased in terms that imply women are territory or property at risk of being stolen or violated that they see as properly belonging to white men.
In short, the alt-right seeks to exploit the sexual insecurities of men to recruit and promote an overtly racist agenda while targeting women and feminism for harassment.