inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #51 of 250: Lisa Poskanzer (lrph) Thu 7 Jan 21 07:45
Maybe that group of executives should support legislation that
matches those words - as in campaign finance reform across the
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #52 of 250: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Thu 7 Jan 21 10:34
excellent point, Lisa.

From Malka's post #37, I found this of great interest:

>>I see this often in disaster research; the not-normalness of the
disaster, the sense of break, becomes almost talismanic. It is a
defensive response: <i>This is not real.<i> But believing in the
exceptionalism of disaster also means separating it from the long
roots that lead up to almost every one. 

>>What I learned working in disaster response is that the sooner you
can change your mentality from "normal" work to disaster mode, the
better your response will be. What I learned researching disasters
is that people try very hard to make disasters exogenous, Acts of
God or inexplicable tribalism or sudden and unprecedented or all of
the above. That's a way of hiding the causes of the crisis and
avoiding accountability.

[for non-Well readers, the >> is how quotes are generally identified
in this community when pasted in]

Outrage and surprise are useful emotions, because they inform that
something matters greatly. But the point I see being made above is
that they can also be obscuring emotions, because they disguise the
continuity between cause and effect that in this case have been
apparent since 2015, or even earlier.

Malka, I'd like to hear you speak more about effective disaster
response, and particularly about the difference between short-run
and long-term effective disaster response. We've had a four year, or
perhaps more accurately a 40 year, disaster in this country. What
might constitute an effective response is the difficult & necessary
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #53 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Thu 7 Jan 21 13:54
First, in response to Jon's #49 about CEOs, two more data points:
1/ an article in the Financial Times from yesterday (before the
assault on the capitol) by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, James Politi,
and Courtney Weaver (which I found because it was tweeted by Francis
"End of History" Fukuyama), titled "Diehard Trump Republicans on
collision course with US business", included this quote: 'Richard
Edelman, head of the eponymous public relations group, said: “CEOs
are scared. They don’t like the idea America is a banana republic.'"
2/ yesterday after or during the attack, Chevron tweeted, "We call
for the peaceful transition of the U.S. government. The violence in
Washington, D.C. tarnishes a two-century tradition of respect for
the rule of law. We look forward to engaging with President-Elect
Biden and his administration to move the nation forward."

A banana republic is, in fact, a country controlled by corporations.
These companies, their CEOs, and their poor, misguided social media
managers (the replies to the Chevron tweet are a treat if you don't
mind being reminded of all the horrible things Chevron has done),
are caught in their own contradiction. They want to control the
country to their benefit; they don't want the country to devolve
into chaos that would hurt their sales; they don't want it to be
*obvious* that they are controlling the country. They want to be on
a par with nation-states - calling for a peaceful transition in
State Department language - but they don't want the constraints of
statehood or to have to respect the rule of law themselves. 
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #54 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Thu 7 Jan 21 14:14
Jane, there is a lot to say about effective disaster response, short
and long-term. But it is difficult to talk about, because States try
very hard not to define the terms of what effective, or successful,
looks like. States usually don't want to admit disasters are
possible at all, which is part of why preparedness is so
underfunded; they definitely don't want to admit that they are
unprepared for them, ditto; and when they do happen they are
unwilling to admit that they can't help everyone adequately all at
the same time. Unfortunately, that means that they are not clear on
who will be helped first (or better) or why. Sherri Fink has
written, in the study on Katrina FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL and in
shorter pieces, about hospitals losing power and being forced to
make triaging decisions on the spot because no one had worked out
the principles beforehand - an observation with tragic resonances
now. Governments typically can't decide, or define, whether they are
trying to rebuild better or only cover exactly what was lost or
control for (spurious) moral hazard or protect assets - and usually
what they do want to do is not something that scans well in spin, so
they say something else.

But you were asking about effective response. In my experience, the
key to effective response is organization, rather than money (in
fact too much money, as I've written, can be a bad thing). The best
thing to do in a response is get everyone involved, to their
capacity; to think of the people who have special needs or are most
vulnerable and take care of them first; and to start, painfully,
adjusting to the cracked new worldview as quickly and smoothly as
possible while grieving the old. I can give some examples; the
disaster response in Japan after the tsunami was far from perfect,
but the evacuation centers - often more than a thousand people
living in close quarters for months - worked best when they
organized people into groups to take on tasks such as cleaning,
cooking, and representation. Many arranged for the limited indoor
lavatories to be assigned to the elderly or infirm while everyon
else used portapotties (I repeat, it was not perfect: I heard from
several men involved that women's needs did not occur to them until
far later than they should have, because it didn't occur to them to
ask). Contrast with the infamous situation in the Superdome.

But to rebuild after a disaster, which is I think what you mean by a
long-term disaster response, you have to have some agreement on what
you're building towards. Again to use Japan as an example, some of
the towns there spent years refilling to raise the land higher above
sea-level, during which time no one could rebuild and many people
moved away before reconstruction could happen. I don't know that
there is a satisfactory participatory redesign process; it is very
hard to compromise between the people who want their old home
(perceived or real) back, and the people who see an opportunity to
build something new. 

Not dissimilar to the situation we are facing in the U.S. now. 

We could think possibly about the Marshall Plans in Germany and
Japan as positive examples. Although at this point in the world I'm
hesitant to point at anything involving industrialization and growth
as positive.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #55 of 250: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Thu 7 Jan 21 14:55
People with PTSD can be useful in disasters. All of a sudden they're
actually in their element. 
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #56 of 250: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Thu 7 Jan 21 15:11
I will just throw in that one of my favorite works of Rebecca
Solnit's is her Paradise Built In Hell, about immediate aftermath to
disasters, and the way people will often self-organize in mutual aid
(and then the authorities come in and suppress that).

One thing that struck me about your post, Malka, was the cognitive
aspect. I read it as saying that what gets lost is a genuine
examination of causes and effects, and that you can't fix what you
don't want to examine too closely. These human tendencies to CYA are
worldwide, it seems. Yet if we don't look at how Sars COV-2 got so
widely loose before it was recognized, how do we forestall the next
pandemic? When it's a frozen O-ring on a rocket and you want to
launch another rocket, the system seems able to look things in the
face. Chernobyl, it was slow, but it does seem people came
ultimately to understand the causes for the effects. As with the
virus, the initial refusal to take a real accounting becomes part of
the problem.

In your reply, you allude to the need for consensus in rebuilding.
I'm also interested in how a society might go about building any
consensus toward seeing things as they actually are *before* the
disaster happens.

A hallmark of the 2020 (and earlier, and continuing) state of the
world was how many seem to embrace a smoke-and-mirror/assertion
worldview as actually viable.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #57 of 250: Alex Davie (icenine) Thu 7 Jan 21 15:53
<Again to use Japan as an example, some of
the towns there spent years refilling to raise the land higher above
sea-level, during which time no one could rebuild and many people
moved away before reconstruction could happen. I don't know that
there is a satisfactory participatory redesign process; it is very
hard to compromise between the people who want their old home
(perceived or real) back, and the people who see an opportunity to
build something new.>

Let’s bring this comment closer to home, to wit, North Carolina in
1999, I mobilized, in my capacity as Emergency Response Coordinator
for our Company at the time, when Hurricane Floyd inundated the
We were asked in by the State of North Carolina to deal with the
flooding since we had a long history of responding to disasters of
all types, including train derailments and chemical plant
explosions, etc.

I was there for weeks on end dealing with the flood and it’s after
effects on the poultry and hog raising facilities. But one of the
most poignant stories that came out of the experience is about a
town called Princeville, North Carolina. In my capacity, I
interacted with FEMA personnel on the ground and it is from them
that I heard this story. 

Apparently, according to FEMA, Princeville has been inundated many
times before 1999 and dutifully, FEMA literally stepped in every
time to help them rebuild. But this time according to FEMA records
and the propensity for Princeville to always flood even during
lesser rain events, FEMA brass made a decision to help everyone
re-locate permanently and let the town of Princeville die off
without any residents living there. This decision was published by
FEMA and the outrage by residents was published and what the
residents wanted was re-building of their infrastructure, once
again. FEMA's position was that town was so flood-prone that to
repair the town's infrastructure again would be an exercise in
futility and it would be best just to re-locate everybody and not
repair the town's infrastructure once again. 

Long story, short, after much back and forth, between FEMA, public
meetings, the residents and the lawyers. FEMA backed down and agreed
to repair the town's infrastructure, just like it was before and
FEMA had done so many times previously.

So I get that comment completely...just a story to illustrate the
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #58 of 250: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Thu 7 Jan 21 16:17
A tweet from Jane Mayer, this morning:

Elaine Chao's resignation, and her husband Mitch McConnell's break
with Trump bring to mind what Ruth Ben-Ghiat, authoritarian expert,
and author of "Strongmen" calls "The phenomenon of elite defection
in the end, when their personal safety is in peril."



All those CEOs heard Trump three months ago, as the rest of us did,
"I'll accept the results of the election if we win." They've watched
him agitate to overturn democratic results for the past two months.
What they say now has no credibility. There is no moral power in
stepping across to the winning side after the decision is clear.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #59 of 250: Lisa Poskanzer (lrph) Thu 7 Jan 21 16:34
>>There is no moral power in
stepping across to the winning side after the decision is clear.

inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #60 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Fri 8 Jan 21 03:15
Jane, indeed there is a large literature about people
self-organizing after disaster; one of my favorites is this one,
from 1958, about a group of people stranded at a highway rest stop
in a snowstorm:

But there are many factors that can reduce that tendency to
self-organizing. Take my example of the Superdome. It was enormous,
far larger than the Japanese evacuation centers. There were some
official representatives there, but they did not have or take a
leadership role. Communications about what was happening and what to
expect were inconsistent and unclear.

One problem we have is in the types of stories we tell and what we
see as heroic; another, intersecting one is in how we budget. We
like stories about action and solitary heroes: people gravitate
towards responding rather than preparing, working overtime and not
sharing information. Preparedness rarely gets recognized, because
often the thing being prepared for either doesn't happen, or when it
happens seems less dangerous *because* it was prepared for (think of
all the epidemic warnings over the past two decades that didn't
become full pandemics)

It's easier in most organizations to budget for things, not people,
and so we end up focusing on less effective physical things (the
number of disaster evaluations that say that if we had only had
interoperable communications it would have worked out perfectly!)
rather than the uncertain and difficult to measure tasks of hiring
and training people who can think on their feet, support others,
promote organization.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #61 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Fri 8 Jan 21 03:16
(speaking of frozen O-rings, have you read Diane Vaughan's excellent
book on the Challenger?)
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #62 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Fri 8 Jan 21 03:27
In terms of consensus, I think we need to be restrained in what we
aim for. Not only because it is a daunting task to build agreement
in the US; when I think of "shared world views" common to a lot of
people I think of propaganda and cult programming. The Lost Cause
ideology is after all a very successful shared world view, to take
one example. People will say "oh, but our shared world view is
reality-based" but reality is not such a firm concept. Also, I think
societies need opposition and contrasts and different opinions. And
to go back to the daunting part, you're never going to get every
single person to want the same thing, even if that same thing is, I
don't know, 2000 dollars to everyone! Someone is always going to be

One approach is focusing on process. If you can get people to agree,
at least most of them, on the process that is used for deciding,
then satisfying everyone with the details becomes less important.
However, the process cannot take too long. And there might need to
be some limits on the democracy of it; take the North Carolina
example from Alex, or the US Flood Insurance program. 

We do know how to brainwash the majority of the people into being
relatively content and pleased with themselves; that's what US
exceptionalism is. Building a shared consensus about how to live
ethically and without destroying the world is going to be more
challenging. We're going to need much more education and perhaps a
lot of made-for-TV movies.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #63 of 250: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 8 Jan 21 06:44
> reality is not such a firm concept.

I've been thinking a lot about this, and others have, too. There's a
natural human tendency to assume we know more than we know. Our
perceptions are more limited than we realize, naturally, because we
see what we see and hear what we hear and assume that's reality. But
our perceptions work on a "need to know" basis, where need to know
is a local decision and might miss larger forces at work, and their
implications. The human propensity for denial of the potential for
catastrophe, as with climate change, shouldn't be so surprising.

And Lisa Feldman Barrett made the case, recently, that the "brain is
not for thinking."
<> She's talking about body budgeting and stress reactions, but it's clear that the brain is primarily engaged in the mechanics of survival. What we call "thinking" uses, and often overuses, cognitive surplus. Our intellectual capacity is probably less than we think. What we consider knowledge is often less organized than we think, a hash of experience and exposure to conversation and concepts - socially and individually constructed. Science is effective because it acknowledges these limitations. Scientific discipline is a workaround.

It's important, I think, to have humility about our perceptions and
capabilities. Meditators eventually realize this: not just that we
are limited, but also that we interdependent in ways that are not
always clear to us. And any one person's perception of reality
should be taken with a block of salt. However through conversations
like this, and through culture and communication in general, our
sharing of perceptions and realities can expand our awareness and
understanding. We're better together than we are as individuals, if
we can avoid being crazy together marching over the cliff.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #64 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 07:47
The Congress promptly fled Washington and they left an emptied,
plague-contaminated Capitol for their people-of-color janitors to
mop-up, disinfect, and tidy.  So that ought to baffle the mob -- at
least for a while.  

If the online alt-right breezes through that thin-blue-line of cops
again, they will bring Kyle Rittenhouse.  That coup would not look
much like any conventional, historic well-plotted coup, but
tomorrow's self-righteous teen Kyle would hose down Congress like
any disaffected white male with any automatic rifle in any American
elementary school.   

Hopefully, a few abject hours of kneeling and praying during riot
and gunfire has wised up the US Congress to their mortally perilous
situation on both sides of the aisle, but quite possibly, that's not
so at all.  The people in Congress might be under the fatal delusion
that only black Congress members would ever get shot.  

They might even unwisely imagine that American cops who've been
dying of plague while violently clubbing their own neighbors would
never lose their tempers and just say the hell with it.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #65 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 08:10

American domestic affairs, however dramatic and intriguing, will not
dominate the world during MMXXI because (a) the USA is an
international political laughingstock and (b) the USA is seriously

So I would like to call some attention to a "weak signal" that I
think may have major near-future world significance.  That is the
tense border brawling between China and India in the Himalayas.  

During 2020, there was alarmingly brutal and bloody hand-to-hand
fighting on the Chinese/Indian "Line of Control" border, imaginary
map-lines in a frozen, barren, airless part of the world that's
literally worse than useless. I've been trying to figure out why
Beijing and New Delhi would permit or encourage such an apparently
unreasonable clash.

But I think I do get it: the Sino-Indian "border" conflict is not
about mere borderlines, but actually about roads.  Or, to make it
seem a little more complicated, it's about shipping logistics.  
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #66 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 08:12
The Chinese have been Belt-and-Roading their heads off in this
general area. Things seemed tolerable on this obscure, icy border
until the *Indians* began building roads also. 

Now, you might think this infrastructural development would be of
mutual use to both countries -- that the Chinese would smile
craftily and say, "Hey, let's link these roads up, we'll flood your
country with our cheap, efficient goods!" 

However, that was the earlier, 1990s paradigm of globalization.  A
paradigm that wanted to make the mighty Himalayas "flat" so as
compete on business-models.

Things turned sour fast, because Prime Minister Modi, head honcho of
India, has become the most attentive pupil of Xi Jinping of China. 
Modi is much impressed by Xi's autocratic success, so Modi has
become an adept China mimic: he numbers all the citizenry in the
Aadhaar databank, he turns Kashmir into Xinjiang with all kinds of
surveillance heavy-manners and Internet controls, he turns his BJP
Party into Chinese-style party cadres, he cultivates his own
Chinese-style cult-of-personality -- step by step, Modi is
constructing a Modi-centric Indian government that is "Chinese
technocracy with Indian characteristics."
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #67 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 08:15

Most Indians who I follow in social media are Indian creative types,
so naturally they don't like this dictatorial heavy-handedness at
all, and I entirely understand why they resent it so much.    Indian
creatives don't want to be anything like Chinese creatives, and for
good and sensible reasons.  The Chinese woes are fantastic.  

As a brief, illustrative aside, during this last Christmas of 2020,
a  Chinese computer-game mogul -- he built the "Game of Thrones"
game in China, and he made a mint from it -- was about to do the
sci-fi film of the Chinese sci-fi mega-bestseller "Three Body
Problem" for Netflix.   Then somebody fatally poisoned him.  The
murderer used "fugu" neurotoxin, or so says the rumor, but it's by
by no means a rumor that Lin Qi of Yoozoo Games is as dead as a

So much for the Chinese global soft-power charm offensive.  Netflix
was genuinely eager to promote that highly promising movie project
to the non-Chinese global masses, and it probably would have been a
big worldwide hit, too, but offshored cultural success doesn't
interest the Chinese government. The Chinese will even abduct and
lock up Fan Bingbing,  the prettiest actress in China, not because
she lacks glamorous success, but because she's got way too much of
it.  They don't like Chinese creative artists that the world might
admire.  Chinese global creativity is an internal threat.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #68 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 08:20

So one might naively imagine that the Chinese might look with some
avuncular kindness on this Indian aspiration to become a
Chinese-style one-party state.  "Oh look!  How cute!  Those South
Asians in their Subcontinent want to be just like us, they're even
building their own belts-and-roads!"  The Americans always think
it's sweet whenever other countries want to Americanize, but when
other nations want to Sinicize, the Chinese suffer aggressive

For them, it's not just "Our way or the highway," it's "Our highway,
and you don't get to build any highways."

This is problematic.  Because the Chinese have won the
Post-Internet.  In MMXXI, every nation-state wants to have a
"National Sovereign Cyberspace" just like China has, because the
archaic flat-and-neutral Internet, as the technocratic platform for
whizzy, value-free globalization, must be attacked, hacked, looted
and destroyed for the sake of the new ethnonational order.

However, the triumphant Chinese can't brook any non-Chinese
imitators or any peer-competitors.  The Chinese can't imagine that
mere foreigners might find their way of life attractive.  So the
Chinese  have violently attacked India, and they're very "Wolf
Warrior" about doing that, even though the Chinese cinema company
that produced the epic Chinese cinema megahits "Wolf Warrior 1 & 2"
is going broke in a welter of accounting scandals in MMXXI.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #69 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 08:23

The geopolitical problem is: the Chinese don't want old-fashioned
"roads."  They want fully-controlled logistic channels across the
planet that they can dominate.  They want physical "roads" that are
the analog equivalent of Chinese National Cyberspace.  That's a
novel thing to demand from the geopolitical order.  But others will
promptly make the same demands, anyhow.

In the 2020s, we're gonna see a lot of this struggle, as earlier
global transit situations, and logistical situations, and data-flow
situations, which used to be smooth, flat, easy, painless and
boring, become snarled, complicated, punitive and irrationally

The existent epidemic quarantines are disguising these brand-new
blockades and off-the-wall shoot-to-kill Checkpoint Charlies, but
when-and-if if Covid19 recedes -- as, hopefully, it does later this
year -- these red-tape blockades will become stark and naked. Look
today at the giant parking lots in Kent full of Brexit trucks. Look
today at various huge wrecking yards full of dead cruise-liners and
abandoned jumbo jets.  That's what the de-globalized 2020s must look
like tomorrow.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #70 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 8 Jan 21 08:32

Those junkyards of lost prosperity and lost cosmopolitanism are what
the ethnonational take-back-control movements have built for our
world, because they can't function otherwise.  However, as this
decade extends,  people will bang painfully into these new
post-Internet limits, which basically state: "Oh well, people with
your passport, language and skin tint cannot be allowed to access
that, admire that, or go there."

"Information wants to be free" is long over in MMXXI.  It was a
historic moment, but it was replaced by the surveillance-capital Big
Tech doctrine  "Information about you wants to be free to us."   

However, that profiteering doctrine also got old and stale, and the
contemporary problem is an identity-politics crisis.  It's about the
deeper, culture-war reality of Us not really being Us and You never
really being You; the Jekyll-and-Hyde horror of having to denounce
your own face in the mirror, while you have to batter the people who
love you best.

 "I hate every evil Mexican and cuckold Canadian, except for you,
Mom and Dad." "Destroy all illegal immigrants except for the First
Lady and her son and heir."  There is no exit strategy from this.   

It's the "Globalization of Balkanization;" in order to draw the
sharp and bloody boundary between You and Me, I have to bloodily cut
my own flesj into pieces. My eye and my hand are fatally offensive
to my self-cramping identity, so I have to turn the pages of my
righteous Scripture one-handed, while I squint with my one remaining
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #71 of 250: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Fri 8 Jan 21 10:33
The Balkanization has several strange international features that
cross these identity boundaries, however. To look at the actual
Balkans, for example (or maybe we should now call it the Original
Balkans,) it's interesting to see how various nation state and
sub-national groups are coalescing around cultural touchstones that
define them in relation others. Serbia is within Russia's orbit, but
the international neo-Nazi scene also lauds Serbia for war against
the Muslim Bosniacs back in the 90s. Oddly enough, this includes
many of the same neo-Nazis who fought against Russia on the side of
Ukraine during the active Donbass conflict. (Ukraine has its own
neo-Nazi wing, and it's interesting to see how Russia and Ukraine
are jockeying for influence among the farthest-right segment of
European society.) To cite another example, Russian-backed
mercenaries and Turkish-backed mercenaries are in open conflict in
Libya...but some of these same elements have directly cooperated in
Syria to suppress ISIS. 

So the lines of identity blur in several different ways when they
intersect with existing nation-state interests. Only China seems to
remain fairly uni-polar, which makes them kind of unique in this day
and age. 
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #72 of 250: Brian Slesinsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 21 05:46
Via email from Brian Slesinsky (apologies: this was sent two days
ago and we missed it):

Jon had a disclaimer at the beginning about how almost everything we
know about the outside world comes to us via intermediaries. This
has always been true, but during the pandemic this seems especially
relevant, not only due to staying home but because we are attempting
to understand and predict the behavior of an invisible menace.

The failures of official sources to be all that authoritative have
been obvious to all. I think the Onion put best: "CDC Unveils List
Of Twitter Accounts You Can Follow To Piece Together Vaccine

But it's still easy to underestimate how much we rely on trust and
how far removed we often are from concrete evidence. I keep going
back to an essay by an anonymous author who has apparently become
very cynical while reading lots of scientific papers based on

Survey Chicken by a literal banana

> In the abstract, I think a lot of people would agree with me that
surveys are bullshit. What I don’t think is widely known is how much
“knowledge” is based on survey evidence, and what poor evidence it
makes in the contexts in which it is used. The nutrition study that
claims that eating hot chili peppers makes you live longer is based
on surveys. The twin study about the heritability of joining a gang
or carrying a gun is based on surveys of young people. The economics
study claiming that long commutes reduce happiness is based on
surveys, as are all studies of happiness, like the one that claims
that people without a college degree are much less happy than they
were in the 1970s. The study that claims that pornography is a
substitute for marriage is based on surveys. That criminology
statistic about domestic violence or sexual assault or drug use or
the association of crime with personality factors is almost
certainly based on surveys. (Violent crime studies and statistics
are particularly likely to be based on extremely cursed instruments,
especially the Conflict Tactics Scale, the Sexual Experiences
Survey, and their descendants.) [...]


> Why is it important that surveys are new? I think it is important
to remember that there is no ancestral practice equivalent to
surveys. That is to say, there is no ancient human practice or
context in which people anonymously tell the pure, innocent truth
with language, in response to questioning, with no thought for the
motives of the questioner or the effect of their answers. However,
in the new, wholly invented ethnomethod of [doing a survey], it is
imagined that subjects do tell the innocent truth, comprehending the
underlying sense of the question but not answering with any motive
or particularity of context. The anonymity of survey takers is given
as proof that they feel free to tell the truth, rather than being
perceived as a bar to asking them what they might have meant by
their responses.


> But in the case of surveys, even if all assumptions fail, if all
the pieces of the machine fail to function, data is still produced.
There is no collapse or apparent failure of the machinery. But the
data produced are meaningless—perhaps unbeknownst to the audience,
or even to the investigators. What follows is my attempt to identify
the moving parts of survey meaningfulness, with some attention to
how they interact. Keep in mind that all of these are based on an
underlying assumption that there is no outright fraud—that data are
gathered in the way stated, and not made up or altered, either by
the researchers or by any of their subcontractors or employees.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #73 of 250: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 21 06:19
Number 10 on the list I posted near the start of this year's SOTW:

"Governance crisis in the US and elsewhere. Emergence of autocratic
movements. Challenges to democracy. ('It always happens.' - Adam
Gopnik in The New Yorker)."

This item was one of the most obvious on the list, everybody's been
talking about it for four furious years since the election of the
45th President of the USA, and as it appeared increasingly likely
that he wanted to restore monarchy and be recognized as king. A mad
king, a narcissist who seemed more and more unhinged from ongoing
challenges to his ego. A mad king who continued to resonate with his
evolving cult of devoted, often worshipful followers. Cooler heads
prevailed, he lost the 2020 election, and as so many predicted,
refused to accept the loss. Problematic for presidential transition,
many predicted violence along the way, and sure enough that's
happened. Insurrection, a storming of the Nation's Capitol by the
cult of Donald.

Almost doesn't seem real. A crazy game.

In fact, it might be a game manifesting in ways that are all too

"... QAnon was behaving precisely like an alternate-reality game, or

"ARGs are designed to be clue-cracking, multiplatform scavenger
hunts. They're often used as a promotion, like for a movie. A studio
plants a cryptic clue in the world around us. If you notice it and
Google it, it leads to hundreds more clues that the gamemaker has
craftily embedded in various websites, online videos, maps, and even
voice message boxes. The first big ARG—called The Beast—was created
in 2001 to promote the Steven Spielberg movie A.I. Artificial
Intelligence and began with a reference to a “sentient machine
therapist” in the credits listed on the movie poster."


In an era of media saturation and devoted consumption of fictional
narrative, perhaps some percentage of the populace has lost track of
reality and fallen into a fiction, an alternate reality cultivated
and catalyzed by a game show host who became an accidental
president. Or a game show host who has been playing the part of
president as an extension of his "Apprentice" act... the members of
his administration competing for his approval, many of those fired
(and many others choosing to leave).

I can't help but wonder if the crowd storming the Capitol had any
sense of the seriousness of their actions. Did they think they were
playing a game?
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #74 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 9 Jan 21 06:20
Well, that was edifying: there's been a counter-coup that cut Trump
and his minions off at the knees.

I had it figured that a failed coup would surely be followed by some
kind of purge, but I didn't get it that it would come from a united
front of Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Youtube, Reddit, Twitch, Discord
and Shopify.

Nothing visible from Amazon, but Amazon is the Washington Post and
has long been a Trump mortal enemy.  Microsoft is making discreet
noises like they at least heard about what was up.

Somebody -- who?--  got all these tech players on the same page and
launched a simultaneous attack without a single rumor leaking

There's no way they didn't clear this beforehand with the incoming
Biden Administration, so there must have been some damned
interesting Zoom calls.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #75 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 9 Jan 21 06:21

Given that the couuntercoup maestros have created this new united
front, I don't see any reason whatever to stop this coalition. 
We're looking at a Biden New Establishment here, some kind of
semi-formalized digital technocracy.

The ethnonationals are gonna be furious, for that's their stock in
trade, but as the new reality seeps in, I think they'll be
increasingly afraid.  There aren't many traditionally-Republican
corporate sponsors who are gonna want to fund the political enemies
of Big Tech, by far the richest companies in the world.  Why would
they want to get into that fight for the sake of QAnon?

The oil majors are gonna hate this, because they went all-in on
Trump, they were literally his State Department, and they're
extremely keen on blood-for-oil skullduggery.  I don't doubt they
could overthrow the Democratic Party, but overthrowing Big Tech when
they've circled the wagons and become the Dukes of Bidenistan, that
prospect looks nasty.


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