Mail 682 Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Article about RAND that you might enjoy.
RAND was a think tank, and over time it became too intellectual for General Schriever and Air Force Systems Command. Schriever, who built the modern Air Force and who understood megamissions very well, caused the creation of the Aerospace Corporation, which was to be “practical” rather than theoretical. Schriever ordered two major studies of the future of the Air Force: Project Forecast, which dealt with winged aircraft, and Project 75, which was a study of missile systems. Both were intended to answer the megamissions question. For more on megamissions see my lecture at the war college. Colonel Francis X. Kane was the Director of Project Forecast. Project 75 was done at Aerospace with Bill Dorrance as Director; I was the Editor of the study. Both were very influential in the development of USAF weapons systems.
RAND and Aerospace Corporation worked together. RAND considered Aerospace a bit too rough and ready, too operations oriented with too little regard to matters intellectual. Aerospace people thought of RAND as too theoretical with too little regard for practical matters. The Air Force generally required RAND critiques of major Aerospace studies, and most RAND Air Force studies required similar participation from Aerospace before the final report could be written. This cross fertilization was often useful and sometimes very much so, but it could lead to considerable frustration as well.
RAND had managed to establish the principle that RAND people were always on duty thinkers, and thus should fly first class when on company business since they were expected to work during the flights. This sometimes meant that a RAND intellectual would be flying first class while the spouse sat back in steerage with the Aerospace troops when we all went to a major conference. (In those days families often went to major conferences (paying their own way while the staffer got a paid ticket.) Aerospace Corporation staff were also expected to work while on the road, but weren’t authorized first class tickets. In practice, at least in my case, we did so much travel that we got upgrades from the airlines, so the RAND first class privilege wasn’t as important as it might have been.
There were other major government owned think tanks, mostly on the East coast. MITRE and Lincoln Labs were the two I worked with.
RAND published a wide variety of documents on many important matters. Herman Kahn’s Techniques of Systems Analysis, a RAND document, was the best (indeed nearly the only) systematic introduction to systems analysis/operations research in publication for some years, and remains one of the best even today. RAND did studies on such matters as “hostile trade”, a study of Japanese economic warfare in previous centuries.
Everyone used to enjoy visiting RAND in Santa Monica, and the Indonesian rijsttafel restaurant down the street.
= = = = = = = =
Birthright Lottery on its way
Tim of Angle
Think of it as science fiction in everyday life…
= = = = = = =
The Last Shuttle
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I hope this finds you well. It may be a deficiency in my searching prowess, but I haven’t seen much recent commentary from you about the impending last shuttle flight. I’d ask that you be gentle to the old bird, oinking and inefficient flying pork-barrel that she was. For those of us who were starry-eyed kids in the seventies she was as close to the promised Flying Car as we will likely ever get in our lifetimes. In these mean and loathsome times it is difficult to imagine sitting in a cherry tree dreaming of Mars, but it was once possible. Maybe it will be again someday. Until then, the shuttle will remain our last attempt to grasp the stars. Please be kind to her memory!
In addendum, I guess I need to re-read Fallen Angels again. Great book, but of all the damnable futures to come true, why that one…?
I did a long piece on this in today’s view. Thanks. As to Fallen Angels, we tried to be logical when we wrote it.
= = = = = = = = =
U.S. Warns Terrorists Might Try to Plant Bombs Inside of People – FoxNews.com
Here come the Semtex breast implants!
No doubt the detonator could be disguised as a pacemaker.
If I were running al Qaeda, I would think of rumors to start and operations to make which would cause the United States to react by harming itself. This looks like one such. The costs of TSA are tens of billions a year and the humiliation of the American people. The costs to al Qaeda are fairly small. QED
= = = = = = = = = =
What It Costs to Resist Hackers
Very interesting story about cyber-security in the LA Times. I’ll just sample a couple of lines:
The business of protecting computers and servers from intruders has been growing nearly 10% a year since 2006, but security industry officials say 2011 may be the busiest yet. Companies are expected to spend $75.6 billion, easily surpassing last year’s record of $63 billion….
Sony has alone estimated it will lose more than $170 million from hackers breaching its PlayStation Network in April and stealing credit card information of its 70 million members. The damage includes loss of revenue and additional spending on security enhancements and legal fees.
Are these shovel ready jobs?
= = = = = = = = = = =
Laid-Back in the Lab, Maybe, but They Spurred the Weapons Race
Interesting NYT article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/science/05bomb.html?ref=technology about the competition between the very bureaucratic Los Alamos folks and those at Lawrence Livermore.
In 1952 the physicist Ernest O. Lawrence <http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1939/lawrence-bio.html> assembled a group of young scientists to design weapons that were radically different from those being designed at Los Alamos National Laboratory <http://www.lanl.gov/> in New Mexico, the nation’s original nuclear weapons <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/atomic_weapons/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> lab.
Dr. Francis researched the history of the nation’s nuclear weapons program when she was in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the mid-1990s.
In a recent telephone interview she said the photos revealed the casual approach to designing weapons that prevailed at Livermore, in a significant contrast to the more formal, bureaucratic national security culture that was characteristic of Los Alamos.
She said the rivalry between the labs played an essential role in the emergence of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which required lighter, more powerful weapons.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the competition between the labs was as significant — or even more significant — as the United States-Soviet Union competition in driving innovation in the arms race,” she said. “This led to a culture of entrepreneurialism at Livermore, a less conservative approach to weapons design and riskier endeavors.”
John Harlow, President BravePoint
= = = = = = = = = = =
“It is because we only teach the students how to memorize, and we test them and test them, and punish them if they cannot pass the tests.”
Actually, we don’t teach memorization in the sense of addition and multiplication tables, and memorizing and reciting poetry. In fact, in many cases it’s pretty hard to determine just what has been taught; many universities have concluded ‘not much’ and institute routine remedial courses for incoming freshmen.
= = = = = = = = = = = = =
Intelligence Computer Doesn’t Work
It seems even the U.S. military is not immune to poor technical
support and a lack of mastery of the cycles of innovation:
How much money does it cost to build a computer system which shares
real-time intelligence among troops fighting in both Iraq and
Afghanistan? The question is still out, but we know for sure that the
$2.7 billion the Army has spent didn’t accomplish the goal.
That’s the report from experts and analysts familiar with the system,
and which have used the system, and concluded that not only does it
not work the way it was supposed to, it is actually making
intelligence sharing more difficult.
This incident outlines lacking mastery; mastery of the cycles of
innovation is an important indicator of national power in most RAND
and CIA models. This was one area we could point to and say that
America still had an edge. China has a better Supercomputer, the
Japanese have something better than that, and our guys can’t even get
decent tech support… *sigh*
Joshua Jordan, KSC
= = = = = = = = = = = =
Indian tribes welcome much-maligned FEMA homes EarthLink – U.S. News
It’s not exactly a silk purse made from a sow’s ear, but this story says
that not all government actions are fruitless.
I am sure there is a lesson in this story, but I am not sure that you and I draw the same conclusions here.
= = = = = = = =
The state of public education in Atlanta:
Somehow I am not astonished.
= = = = = = = = = =
You wrote: “We have far too many who seem to have majored in self-esteem while in fact learning little that is estimable.”
Confidence often passes for accuracy, but the two are not synonymous.
I believe you are onto something here. People go to school and schools sell them confidence. Yes, you can pass our dumbed down tests! Yes, you can pass through our degraded program! Yes, you can pay us for the rest of your life! We used to focus on solutions, now we focus on good feelings. The whole thing is a scam. They sell confidence — it’s a con; it’s a scam!
The whole economy is the same scam. It won’t get better by being cynical about it. It won’t get better by being stoic about it.
Complaining about it has not helped; nobody seems to listen. But, fret not. I’ve decided I will not despair, I’ll just emigrate if it comes to that. This is not my problem. I did not create this problem. And, I will not accept this as my problem. If the people do not get their act together, I’ll move. I’m done paying for others’ idiotic choices.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
I am a bit old to run, and I don’t have too many places to go. Back in the Cold War days I had my survival company. Mel Tappan chose to go to Oregon. I could have joined him, but as I said then, the best way to survive a nuclear war is not to have one, and I could do a lot more about that in Los Angeles than I could from the Rogue River. I stayed and developed the Council I chaired, and perhaps it did some good in developing the concepts of and arguments for Strategic Defense. Through General Schriever and others we had a path to the President so our arguments did not get lost. I don’t have all those paths now. But I remind you all that despair is a sin. Sail on. And on. And on.
= = = = = = = = = = =
Asian pollution halts global warming
Isn’t this Fallen Angels in reverse?
(Actually, the physics in FA is better…)
We worked hard on that book.
= = = = = = = = = = = == = = = = = = = = = = =
Voting and citizenship
You recently mentioned Heinlein’s views on voting qualifications as
laid out in Starship Troopers.
Nevil Shute had similar ideas that he laid out in his 1950 (or so)
book “In the Wet”. The book revolves around a fever dream of some
events that take place about 50 years in the future ie; 2000. Very
prescient in many ways. He predicted the European population
implosion and one of the plot points is a sort of goofy Prince of
Wales who has no desire to succeed his mother the Queen.
In any event, a major plot point is what is called “The Seventh
Vote”. By that time voting qualifications had changed. Every adult
citizen got one vote. However, you could earn additional votes. I
seem to recall that clergy got an additional vote, military service
got one, finishing school another, raising a child who stayed out of
trouble another and so on. One could earn up to 5 additional votes or
6 total. The Queen could award the “Seventh Vote” for some sort of
meritorious service. In the novel the hero saves the queen from a
bomb and gets the seventh vote for that.
I have always thought the idea of one man/one vote was not a good way
to run a country. Seems to me that the people who contribute more
should have more say in how it is run. Maybe we need a system where
one gets extra votes for meeting certain milestones. Or perhaps base
it on taxes. 1 vote for paying up to $1,000. Another for paying
1-10,000. Another for 10-50,000 and so on.
There are many other ways that multiple votes could be awarded, all
of which have merits and demerits.
The problem is that now people can, or think they can, vote themselves rich.
As Bastiat asked in “The Law”, if it is immoral for me to use a gun
to take $100 from you, why is it moral to have someone else do it in
the name of government?
John R Henry CPP
“All progress is made by a lazy person looking for an easier way.” –
Neville Shute had a very good novel in which multiple voting schemes were used. We tend more to egalitarianism now. Of course the equality theory is absurd: it is true mystically, or religiously, in the same sense the compared to man all earthworms are equal, so compare to God all humans are equal. There is more difference between Einstein and God than between Einstein and the village idiot. In that sense they are equal, but in no other. Given multiple votes for achievements is very much against the egalitarian principle.
In classical philosophy injustice consists of treating equal things unequally, but just as important it is unjust to treat unequal things equally. That seems to be lost, along with religion, in this modern world; yet if we have lost religion, we have actually lost even the pretense of equality. C. S. Lewis understood this thoroughly. Without recognition of inequality there can be no equality.
= = = = = = = = = = = = =
LA Times does something useful?
You may have seen this a ka-jillion times already, but here it is again.
It’s a link to a blog that discusses the LA Times apparently trying to link teachers to performance! With statistics that already exist but the LA County Unified doesn’t report! This appears to be legitimate public service?! And the Teacher Union are organizing a boycott?!
Thanks again for the site; just started reading it again more (and re-upped the sub., too) after hearing you on TWiT. I hope you do more of those! Picked up “Oath of Fealty” in a used bookshop just the other day also…interesting how it in some ways presaged the “gated communities” and other items of latter-day “civilization”. The discussions on taxes and “social contract” must have seemed weird in the 80s? Funny too how wireless comms. and the “mainframe” model of computing were “missed” in that era of S.F. Next up: “The Gripping Hand”…you and Niven do rip along at a good pace you know?
Jay R. Larsen