View 751 Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I am in the middle of developing my piece on survival in the new era, but there have been a number of distractions. Apologies. The weekend was spent with LOSCON, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Convention, and the wedding of two good friends; and due to family reasons Roberta will be heading north to see her sister.
All of which is no excuse for not getting on with it, but it does explain why I am slower than I wish to be. Apologies.
Survival in a time of makers and takers makes for a theme, but it’s also simplistic. One of the examples that define injustice is treating unequal things equally, and among the “takers” there are many inequalities. One such is single mothers: they are not “just another tax taker”. Of course there are many inequalities even among that group. The ability to discriminate – to see inequalities – is one of the major requirements of correct analysis, rational debate, intelligent behavior…
In the case of single moms, the motivations are and very much should be quite different from those of many of the other ‘takers’, starting with some of the most basic of human motivations that have kept the race alive through the ages. A mother with a hungry child will do damn near anything to correct that situation – some of the great literature of both Eastern and Western civilizations operates from that premise.
There are many other categories of ‘takers’ which any feasible political scheme must provide for. Even in the darkest days of Malthusian survival in Medieval times this was well understood.
Any rational analysis must also take account of inherent differences among people. Like it or not, half the population is below average in intelligence. Fortunately below average does not mean stupid; but now divide the ‘below average’ into groups, and –
If intelligence is distributed in a bell curve – that is, if the Normal Distribution is anything like an accurate picture of the reality of the distribution of intelligence – certain hard facts fall out. As a rough cut, think of the way the military sees things. A modern army consists of persons of IQ 85 to as high as it gets. It doesn’t really have much for those under 85 to do. Moreover, in general you’ll find that non-commissioned officers will fall among the IQ 105-120, and officers about 120 and above. There are always exceptions, but comparing those numbers to the Bell Curve can be instructive: what kind of education and training do you give to new recruits? Clearly you won’t give the same to all. Training the IQ 90 recruit for officer candidate school makes no sense. On the other hand, you have to find something to train him for: something you need done, and that he/she is capable of doing.
OK for the military. Begin to apply that to the population and education in general. The outlines of an essay begin to form…
It’s dinner time. I’ll try to get a mail bag up soon. I also need to discuss something Keith Henson brought up to me at LOSCON (and which in fact I had used in some of my early stories): build a solar power satellite with chemical rockets. Now use the power from that to power a laser launch system to put the rest of a Space Solar Power Satellite power generating system into orbit. The first SSPS is bloody expensive, because of the launch costs, but once the power is essentially free the next SSPS is cheaper, and the third can begin generating power you can sell at a profit. You can be a capitalist or a government. If you are a government you can be one that speaks English or some other language like Chinese. If you speak English it may or not be US or English English. They speak English in Bombay, too.
Anyway the concept needs exploring. The technical stuff already exists. More later. I really do have to get to dinner.
And the radio is telling me they have dug up Yasser Arafat. I don’t do breaking news, but I sure want to follow that story. They are looking for cause of death. Polonium?
Had dinner with Niven and we worked on our book on – well, it’s sort of on survival. We need viewpoint characters. And it’s late and I am tirted, recovering from this flu like cold or cold like flu. More another time. What’s important it to understand that America is very rich. We are also very diverse. That diversity gives some strengths, but includes many who need well designed training to become part of a thriving economy – and not only will not all of them profit from what Gates once said all deserve, a world class university prep education, but in fact trying to provide this to all means that very few will actually receive it, while forcing everyone to be exposed to a world class university prep education will mean that many spend their time in useless activities that do not contribute to learning what they can actually do. Skilled work goes looking in vain for those who can be trained to do it, while those graduating in some of the useless arts find they know how to do nothing that anyone wants to pay for.
These matters affect the story we are working on. We have twice struck the Earth with large objects in our fiction. Both books sold well, The story of survival in disaster is an interesting and useful story. Unfortunately since the last time we worked on these things, the education system has become worse, and seeks diversity rather than excellence. This never works. The best education brings each student up to something close to a real potential. That generally takes hard work for all at all levels. No wonder it is not often done.
But the incapable cannot be allowed to control the process, to soak up resources needed to train the hone the excellent.
It’s late. The problems are difficult. They are not insoluble. There are still more good people than bad in these United States,
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.