01 January 2025

Where to get my books

Update 2021-12-23: Is there a next book planned?

Hope is not a plan; I hope there will be a next book, but between the Everything and my day job, I am not able to plan.  The manuscript is getting longer (if not very fast) and that's about all I know right now.

Where to get my books

There are two options; Google Play, or the Draft2Digital publication targets. Google Play isn't available globally (though they intend to be, based on how the publisher interface sets up billing regions!). So you might need to try one of the Draft2Digital targets. Kobo seems to be a good fallback choice for availability though not for avoiding DRM. Apple is a Draft2Digital target if you're in the Apple ecosystem.

Title Google Books2Read
The Human Dress on Google Play via Books2Read
The March North (Commonweal #1) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Succession of Bad Days (Commonweal #2) on Google Play via Books2Read
Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3)                  on Google Play via Books2Read
Under One Banner (Commonweal #4) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Mist of Grit and Splinters (Commonweal #5) on Google Play via Books2Read

My current best understanding of how to download the EPUB file from Google Play.

Update 2019-01-29:  Amazon changed their agreement with Draft2Digital to require a whole lot of information transfer to Amazon.  I have removed The Human Dress from sale at Amazon. Still up everywhere else it was available.  (And has been added to a bunch of library services.)

16 January 2022

Chaff in the fire

 I have to be careful with metaphors; what makes sense to me doesn't always make sense to other people, or they give me odd looks after awhile and say "how did you think of that?"

That's your caveat.

To a virus, an organism is fuel.

There is no normalcy for fuel in a fire.

The fire goes out on its own when the fuel is exhausted.  (We are not going to get into "heat, fuel, and oxidiser" because this is a metaphor; Aristotelian fire, if you will.)

If we want the pandemic to end, we have to end it.

What we've got right now (I'm in Ontario, Canada) is a government taking the view that using hoses is expensive and disruptive; you only use the hose when the fire is of a certain size and scope, and then you stop instantly when the fire is noticeably smaller.

If someone were to apply this policy to an actual house fire, it would be instantly recognised as lunacy.  You put the fire out, completely and definitively out, as quick as you can by any available means. If you can't put the fire out, you get out as fast as you can.

Since we're all in the position of being piles of dry hay while some spectral lunatic runs around with a lighter, you'd think we'd have noticed this is a problem in some politically meaningful way, but it turns out that we can't.  There's no effective opposition because the entire political system has been captured by mammonite axioms which say that the purpose of government is to guarantee the profitable conduct of business to the benefit of the incumbent rich.  Spending money to support the general prosperity or even keeping people from dying is unacceptable and wrong.

Ending the pandemic takes a bunch of things; they're all well-understood things. (A planned real shutdown for three weeks, which means everyone and everything commercial, which in turn means feeding people/paying them to stay home during; mandatory vaccination delivered to the home as a public service; enforced quarantines at borders with careful testing to exit; widespread and effective testing freely available in the population; track-and-trace with quarantine and enforcement powers; free effective masks for all; universal and continuous mask wearing outside the home; no public gatherings or non-essential human contact until extirpation.)

The critical, core, missing thing is the political will to do it, because an exercise of the civil power capable of ending the pandemic can do other things; it can decide to tax the rich, it can decide to decarbonise, it can decide to consign mammonism -- a belief we are watching unambiguously decide it's fine with killing every living human person if profits increase -- to the ash-heap of history.  Those in control prefer your death to any change in the status quo.

Many have died who need not have died.  Many have been harmed who need not have been harmed.

Our government is incompetent AND malicious.

It's past time to make an end of this.

06 January 2022

Climate consulatation

Submission to the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s public consultation on Canada’s 2030 Emission Reduction Plan: 

I'm writing to you with my response to the public consultation, and to urge the federal government to act with the speed and scale necessary to tackle the climate emergency.

Nothing on the plan is anything more than whistling past the graveyard.

The predictions Arctic Amplification Hypothesis -- that an ice-free Arctic ocean leads to very rapid warming and a loss of hydrologic stationarity for a long period of time, hundreds to thousands of years -- have so far held.

That loss of hydrologic stationarity -- climate scientist for "it rains at predictable times, in predictable amounts" -- is the loss of agriculture.  No food means no nation.  (The PRC are "hoarding" agricultural products, if you read a certain segment of the press; alternatively, they're grimly aware of these events and recognise that their legitimacy as a government rests on preventing hunger.)

The appropriate response is threefold:

1. zero fossil carbon extraction and use everywhere the writ of the Government of Canada runs, as soon as materially possible (try for 2025; it should have been no later than 2000), without exception, by any necessary means.

2. replace agriculture to guarantee food security to all Canadians; this must be done by a diversity of sufficient means, because we cannot know today what means will work.  Indigenous methods should be a significant but not sole part of this.

3. infrastructure replacement so that the residential housing stock works in the climate we're going to have, so that we have a post-fossil-carbon transportation system, so that we've got widely distributed import-replacing primary industry able to maintain communications, anaesthetised dentistry, vaccination, and the infrastructure we've built.  All of this has to be built so the rising sea does not destroy it.

Time is short.

Careful scientific enquiry from multiple teams give the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica another five to ten years, after which we may expect abrupt sea level rise measured in metres.  (You do realise that a meter of rise notionally puts salt water almost to Montreal, or that two metres floods Fredericton and cuts the highway and rail line where they go around the Bay of Fundy?  Or that the actual, complex, result of hydraulic damming in the St. Lawrence likely floods both Montreal and Toronto?)

The appropriate response is _at least_ full national mobilisation as for an early 20th century global war, because those were much smaller threats than we face as the bill comes due for the Carbon Binge.


Graydon Saunders

20 December 2021

Strategic rate errors

 There's apparently a fair bit of talk about Wilhelmine China.  It collapses into tactical neepery or remote psychoanalysis really fast.

The Great War --  millions dead, Zone Rouge aftermath, death of empires, social convulsion, mechanized warfare, the oil commitment, queuing up the next world war, all of it -- kicked off in the universal presumption that it would be, by necessity, a short war.

It would be a short war because Imperial Germany required imports of nitrates -- bird guano -- to make agricultural fertilizers and nitrocellulose propellants.  Once stocks were exhausted, the war would be over.  New stocks could not be procured because Imperial Germany did not have and could not get control of the sea.

Imperial Germany went with artificial nitrogen fixation via the newly invented Haber process. They didn't run out of propellants. Imperial Germany expected they could avoid a blockade; they'd put immense investment into a battle fleet.  Surely there would be enough time to accomplish their territorial objectives.

In the end, Imperial Germany disintegrated.  It took a lot longer than anyone thought.  The distant blockade worked; nearly all else was corpse-stacking.

This sets the pattern; wars take a long time, people will not stop trying to substitute blood for treasure, and substitution of overlords is impossible in the presence of the existing force-multipliers. (One determined person with explosives can decide there's no peace.  Couldn't do that before explosives.)

So the rule for post-1870 wars is "this takes longer, costs more, and has more lasting consequences than anyone expects".

China's experience of the 19th and early-to-mid 20th has almost nothing to do with the Great War.  It's a long struggle to establish sovereignty and reverse colonization.  It's become a rationalization for territorial ambition -- it must not be possible for that to happen again -- but the viewpoint of the PRC and any colonial power on strategic questions will split sharply between constructions of security from sovereignty and constructions of security through profit.  (Remember you're sovereign when you can shoot someone who is on your territory without your permission and the other sovereigns agree that was right and proper for you to do.)  The PRC is existentially committed to recovering the entirety of its rebellious province of Taiwan.  Until it does that, its legitimacy as unquestionably sovereign is in some sense fake.

The rule for climate change is "this is worse, sooner, than you expect".  The projections are relentlessly optimistic.

Everybody doing strategic analysis right now is caught between these two things; climate is about to prevent the possibility of action on strategic scales while all conflict is protracted.  It's impossible to tell if the window for effective action has closed.

You know that thing with prices? as soon as you know they'll go up, they do go up?

An economic resiliency contest -- even one without shooting, pure blockade by insurance regulation -- takes a long time, cause permanent unpredictable change, and (as COVID-19 has been making clear!) cannot have a clear winner. (Where the anxious traders know/Each is surety for his foe,/And none may thrive without his fellows’ grace.) All the branches of the decision tree go to strategic exchange (because the alternative is losing), and the best time to have a strategic exchange is immediately, before other causes have diminished capability.  That way you come through with the largest possible remnant capability.

This pushes any open conflict to immediate full strategic exchanges.  Everyone on the planning side knows this.  To a first approximation, no one on the political side does.  They have trouble with the domain of necessity at the best of times, which these are not.

Extremely public proxy competition by decarbonization would be a much better idea, but the US would have to go first and no one seems prepared to start shooting US senators over decarbonization just yet.

12 December 2021

Vaccination as saving throw

None of the available covid vaccines are sterilizing vaccines.  They've always been (in effect) saving throws against the worst effects of becoming infected.  If you've been vaccinated, you're less likely to die.

That's all we can say with confidence.

Omicron is less likely to kill you than Delta, we think, on present data.  What happens to an older population than the one from which the South African data is drawn from is not well understood.

That would be good news if Omicron didn't spread so fast.  Infectiousness is worse than severity because severity is linear and infectiousness is exponential.  Even if the median case is milder, many more cases give you a substantial pile of corpses.  Many more cases gets you more damaged people with curtailed agency, and there's no evidence Omicron is less damaging than other variants.  Truly many more cases, the million-infections surges that are entirely plausible in a lot of places, crash the health care system and then people die because they can't be treated for other things.

Against wild type, if there had been a fast, mandatory rollout of the mRNA vaccines, these vaccines might, stress might, have been sufficiently effective to stop spread.  This was never a possibility against Delta and (in the same conditions, presently, in Ontario) Omicron has a doubling time one tenth that of Delta.

We have no immediate prospect of a vaccine that can stop spread.  (That is, a sterilizing vaccine.)  It's not impossible; there's several lines of research that might get there by 2030.  But for planning purposes, we don't have one and won't get one.

Covid always hurts you; that's what comes out of the UK wild-type initial wave.  Maybe a small amount, maybe massively, but any covid-19 infection comes with damage.  There's a little bit of anecdata that repeat infections are worse.  The damage is poorly understood and currently untreatable. Unconstrained spread of the covid-19 clade of viruses -- which is a widespread policy position! -- means you catch it every year until something kills you.  It might not be covid, but something will and it'll be rather sooner than would otherwise have been the case.  That's the Uncommon Cold scenario, where the outcome is like that of a major plague in antiquity and the population shrinks by a quarter with dire economic consequences.

What can you do?

Get vaccinated; get boosted.  Induced immunity isn't durable -- just like the common cold! -- and it doesn't last more than six months.  It's less if you're older.  It won't keep you from getting infected and it won't keep you from getting hurt and it won't keep you from transmitting the disease, but it might keep you from dying.  (It might reduce your odds of being hurt badly; given that no one has figured out the mechanism for "long covid" yet, this one is open.)

Remember -- and this is a conscious, considered, ongoing effort kind of remembering -- that it's a virus.  This is the domain of necessity, like needing potable water and not eating arsenic.  How you feel about it, your moral stance, your loneliness, none of them have any primary meaning.  Duty requires that necessity be respected.  (There being no just way to value your convenience above the lives of others.)

Part of what duty requires is recognizing that the status quo ante pestis shall not return; it is one with Thebes the Golden.  Insist on this understanding in yourself and from politicians.

Wear a mask.  Wear the best mask you can get; N95 -- real ones -- is the minimum ante against Omicron.  Better is to be prefered.  Wear means you put it on, properly fitted, before you leave your house and it stays on, continuously properly fitted, until you return.  None of this "oh I am outside, outside is safe" nonsense. (Outside is not as risky.  Equating "not as risky" with "safe" is what is known as a mistake.)

Children are not protected by childhood innocence; children get infected, transmit, and are damaged about like adults.  Sometimes they die.  If the kid can't wear a mask, they stay in the bubble.

Act like you know you're infected.  Act like you know everyone else is infected, too.

Stop trying to negotiate with a virus.  It doesn't care if you've been virtuous.  It exists to convert the amino acid guts of your cells into more viruses.  It has no awareness of you as an organism; to a virus, you're landscape. If it helps to think of it as killer alien nano machinery, do that.  (Only "alien" is wrong.)

The two long-term policy options are extirpation and the Uncommon Cold.  Demand recognition of this choice from yourself and effective extirpation measures from politicians.  ("effective" does not mean "provided it continues to permit doing a mammonism"; it means "the disease is extirpated at the lowest cost in human agency, and we don't weight the agency, everybody's counts the same".)

Don't move around.  The virus can't spread if people do not come into contact.  Go home and stay home.  (If we could arrange for absolutely everyone to be able to do this for three weeks, that'd do it. It's way cheaper than the Uncommon Cold.)

Remember that the bill comes due.  The common good and the public peace and the civil order aren't free; there's a cost.  Usually that cost is remember to behave peaceably.  Sometimes that cost is higher, and this is one of those times.

Edited: s/about/above/, remove second instance of an adjectival phrase.

06 November 2021

Errors in axiomatic construction

 Charlie has this tweet, which kicks off a thread that talks about technology in a context of atrocity but which settles into an axiomatic "Nazis are the problem".

That's a mistake.

Nazis are certainly one problem (and an immediate problem), but if you poke at it, fascism generally is a manifestation of a much more general problem, and that turns out to be a manifestation of the false axiom.

Fascism -- the several fascisms, white supremacy, American exceptionalism, whatever you call the "this is all ours" structures in Australia and Canada, etc. -- is a set of rationalizations to the effect that what you want, you should have, irrespective of what it is or how it got that way so long as those things are independent of another member of the in-group. ("In group" isn't stable; populism is a protest at being excluded from the in-group.)

That in turn rests on the idea that wealth reduces your insecurity.

It doesn't, it's the problem.  There's a very long historical pattern of using wealth to create armies and then using the armies to guarantee markets -- to force people to buy from you, which has higher rates of return than any possible mechanism of taxation because taxes have to come out of surplus if you are going to avoid breaking the economy -- followed by formalization into empire followed by collapse.  Empires always collapse.  It's inherent in the form of organization.  The collapse is generally protracted and severe.

(What wealth does do is increase your status, and being band-forming primates, we all have this wetware bug which equates status and security.  You'd think an awareness of kings in antiquity needing food tasters would start to put a dent in this, but it doesn't.  You'd think an awareness that the empire is not helping you if you're not a member of the elite would stick better, too, but it doesn't, either.)

Wealth -- the idea that you should be able to have, and keep, as much as you can obtain by any means -- also acts to increase the general insecurity by simple feedback; it's going to act to reduce your agency because structurally, it's trying to guarantee returns and equally structurally, those returns are not abstractions; they reduce to your effort and thus time and thus lifespan.  "Productivity" is a term of art for someone else being able to get more return per unit of time of your lifespan.

Any effective reduction in insecurity must rest on things which actually reduce insecurity generally.  (Which seems ridiculous as a thing which needs saying, but here we are.)  That in turn means you'd want a general measure of agency to be seen to not decrease (and to be evenly distributed over the population); it would also mean effective collective solutions.  Both of those imply that really sharp limits on relative prosperity are required, and that wealth in the "keep whatever I obtain" sense cannot be permitted.

23 October 2021

It's insecurity management all the way down

 Insecurity doesn't make sense.  It's part of the reality map, the thing your brain constructs, not reality.

That means it's constructed directly bounded by (personal!) brain-constraints and only indirectly by reality.  (Which can take a long time to show up; consider society as ablative armour for the reality map. Consider the construction of power as how much of society is ablative armour for your personal reality map. (If you're Mr. Hohenzollern, the answer is "all of it".))

This makes how you feel about it inherently dangerous for any value of "it".  Your feelings might be valid, you feelings might be necessary, they are certainly yours, but they're also inherently dangerous.  Feelings produce certainty; they don't produce correctness.  There's an argument that, being your feelings, the consequences mostly happen to you, so this is a problem with its own built-in correcting feedback, but that argument's highly dubious at personal scales and it cannot be advanced at larger scales. (The internet is an extelligence; "my ignorance is infinite but google knows everything". It's also exo-feelings and exo-reality; the inevitable collective id-amplifier effect is not something from which individuals can plausibly defend themselves.)

Society is about insecurity management; "am I going to starve to death?", "will someone help me if I'm in trouble?", "how much custom and habit do we have for what kind of ganging up on problems?" and so on.

This is not amorphous; society is a bunch of sociotechnical assemblages, the active customs and habits for solving problems.  These do three things; most importantly, they decide which problems get solved at all.  Secondly, they constrain how you can solve a problem.  Thirdly, they express insecurity as logistical capability; insecurity becomes investment if you can connect the insecurity to something people believe will reduce that insecurity.

Simple example; owning your own home reduces your insecurity. (This is an axiom, rather than a fact.)  There's an awful lot of exceedingly similar residential construction because the machine, the socio-technical assemblage, consumes insecurity and delivers "a house", but it does it to benefit someone who neither lives in the house nor lives where the houses are built.

Less simple example; specifying the basis of insecurity is power.  Creating insecurity is more power.  People flail trying to explain this because there's no direct material connection; the complaint is an amorphous and statistical one about population statistics and how reality maps get constructed.

This has (at least) three consequences.

Firstly, if you have enough agency, you can decide to move the population statistics. There's been a lengthy right-wing project to this purpose, and it has obviously caused change in how people construct their insecurity for both material and axiomatic reasons.

Tabloid media and advertising are obvious examples; so is the way people recognize that they have a narrow range of choices if they want to keep on eating.  It's a control mechanism to embed people in a socio-technical assemblage where the only way they can survive is to surrender their entire cashflow.  This allows the appearance of agency; it doesn't have to be called slavery.  (It does diffuse the take across multiple owners, and you can can see this causing strain in the oligarchical class with the move to reinvent the company town.)

Secondly, if your personal construction of security relies on being obeyed because you said so—if you think you have socially constructed authority—reference to facts increases your insecurity.  Your core need for a feeling of security causes you to prefer to act to eradicate facts.

Thirdly, facts are a complex habit that addresses material security.  Facts don't come with an automatic mechanism connecting the material to the reality map, and this is difficult because the reality map works on narrative and facts are inherently statistical, distributed—it's not about what's in your head—and mutable as the best consensus understanding moves with the increase of knowledge.

In general, you have to be taught how to incorporate facts into your reality map construction; it's not easy, it takes practice, and it takes access to process models for how you do it with a particular category of facts.

So when we see people following any line of abject nonsense offered to them to avoid getting vaccinated, when people insist that there's no possible way their fossil carbon extraction socio-technical assemblage deserves to be shut down, or when people insist their personal construction of gender should control everyone else everywhere, the problem is not in the apprehension of facts.  The problem is that this happens because this course of action reduces their insecurity—they construct reality this way, and they do it this way because it's the easiest way to do it.

No amount of communicating facts will alter any of this.  (It's not just livelihood, it's self.  People do not want to increase their understanding in a way that alters their imagination of self.)

Teaching people how to incorporate facts into their reality map can have an affect on this.  It's a lot of work, and it supposes the people involved want to learn.  (One issue with educational funding involves whether or not your socio-technical assemblage has a general and effective mechanism for teaching this stuff.)

It's also really slow, generationally slow, and without any direct means of political articulation.

If you want effective, that's where the civil power comes in; public decisions are, well, public, and taken on facts.  The civil power acts to set bounds on conduct and enforces them with enough force to get people to do the work of altering their reality map to conform to the boundary.

A whole lot of people would go AIEE! at that; their reality map includes the idea that there's no licit exercise of power.  The folks with the authoritarian construction of insecurity management—reality is what I say it is, you are what I say you are, I can kill anything that upsets me to prove these things—aren't going to stop torturing trans kids to death until they're stopped.  There's a wodge of history that says the civil power—that idea that power is licit in proportion to the degree to which its exercise references no individual's insecurity—is the least expensive way to stop them.  Iterate for pandemic and endemic diseases, fossil carbon extraction driven climate collapse with attendant human extinction, and mammonism.

This is all the same problem; does an individual get to be much less insecure than the other members of society? (Of course I want to say materially insecure, but that's obviously not the actual problem, is it?)

If you want a functioning society, the answer is "no", and all that this implies.