Man on the Moon

It went back to the motivation of the people who built them, tested them, and flew them. It showed what can happen when people believe that the thing they are working on is the most important thing they will do in their lives, and they don’t want to be responsible for screwing it up.

Given the enormity of the challenge, and all the moving parts, how the people of the Apollo missions succeeded in putting men on the moon with relatively few errors.

Andrew Chaiken, A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts.

Truth, Truth, Truth, Fiction

In no few books and movies, the main freight of the story—beginning, middle, and part of the end—is about nothing except preparing the ground for that one Power Fiction at the end. Ninety percent of the tale is dedicated to creating a world in which such a Big Fiction could plausibly happen. Have you seen Murmur of the Heart by Louis Malle? The whole movie is a buildup to the climactic scene of a 14-year-old-boy having sex with his Mom. And it works.
How do we achieve that?
The answer is truth, truth, truth, fiction.

Steven Pressfield

The Shooter and the Farmer

Two hypotheses, both involving the fundamental nature of laws and the universe:
In the shooter hypothesis, a good marksman shoots at a  target, creating a hole every ten centimeters. Now suppose the surface of the target is inhabited by intelligent, two-dimensional creatures. Their scientists, after observing the universe, discover a great law: “There exists a hole in the universe every ten centimeters.” They have mistaken the result of the marksman’s momentary whim for an unalterable law of the universe.
The farmer hypothesis, on the other hand, has the flavor of a horror story: Every morning on a turkey farm, the farmer comes to feed the turkeys. A scientist turkey, having observed this pattern to hold without change for almost a year, makes the following discovery: “Every morning at eleven, food arrives.” On the morning of Thanksgiving, the scientist announces this law to the other turkeys. But that morning at eleven, food doesn’t arrive; instead the farmer comes and kills the entire flock.  

Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem


Human beings are the gut-flora of corporations

From Cory Doctorow's piece, Skynet Ascendant:

We humans are the inconvenient gut-flora of the corporation. They aren’t hostile to us. They aren’t sympathetic to us. Just as every human carries a hundred times more non-human cells in her gut than she has in the rest of her body, every corpora­tion is made up of many separate living creatures that it relies upon for its survival, but which are fundamentally interchangeable and disposable for its purposes. Just as you view stray gut-flora that attacks you as a pathogen and fight it off with anti­biotics, corporations attack their human adversaries with an impersonal viciousness that is all the more terrifying for its lack of any emotional heat.

Add the Matrix to Skynet. Picture a sea of office workers, albeit working from home (save money on office space, time commuting).  Wearing their oculus rifts (can be anywhere and with anyone without having to expend calories), using mind-control interfaces (once again, save calories), drinking Soylent (why waste time eating), and using a catheter (why waste time going to the bathroom). Efficiency bliss.

Intentional Blind Spots


The map had been the first form of misdirection, for what was a map but a way of emphasizing some things and making other things invisible?

 Jeff VanderMeer, Area X Trilogy


Of the eleven million data points our brains can take in at any moment, we’re conscious of only forty. But which forty? Deciding what we pay attention to can shape our entire world view. It can decide which doors are open to us and which doors we never see.
John Stepper

Critical Slowing and Spatial Resonance

Critical Slowing

A key phenomenon known for decades is so-called “critical slowing” as a threshold approaches. That is, a system’s dynamic response to external perturbations becomes more sluggish near tipping points. Mathematically, this property gives rise to increased inertia in the ups and downs of things like temperature or population numbers—we call this inertia “autocorrelation”—which in turn can result in larger swings, or more volatility. In some cases, it can even produce “flickering,” or rapid alternation from one stable state to another.

Spatial Resonance

Pulses occurring in neighboring parts of the web become synchronized. Nearby brain cells fire in unison minutes to hours prior to an epileptic seizure, for example, and global financial markets pulse together. The autocorrelation that comes from critical slowing has been shown to be a particularly good indicator of certain geologic climate-change events, such as the greenhouse-icehouse transition that occurred 34 million years ago; the inertial effect of climate-system slowing built up gradually over millions of years, suddenly ending in a rapid shift that turned a fully lush, green planet into one with polar regions blanketed in ice.


The World as Sandpile

Think of a pile of sand, with additional grains being added every second or so. Scientists say such a pile is “organized into criticality,” since at any moment it can have a little avalanche as the sides get steeper. But the system is so complex that it can’t be modeled completely and—this is important—it’s nonlinear in that it can suffer a change in state under both big blows and tiny hits, like the addition of a single new grain of sand. That’s our world: Every second it gets more complex, like a sandpile. New financial instruments, terror groups, viruses, and innovations are ceaselessly falling onto our pile, making it really complex to model and basically impossible to predict. Small things—home mortgages—can have huge impacts. Usually by surprise.

Joshua Ramo Cooper