Don’t upset Vladimir Taneev

Quote from Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government out to encourage? Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their workplace? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is – a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our life’s labor, under duress, to feed rulers who do no real work.

Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past laborers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce.

In which one percent of the population owned half of the wealthy, and five percent of the population owned ninety-five percent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.

Notes: This book was published in 1996. Since then the distribution of wealth has tilted even more in favor of the 1% (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_inequality_in_the_United_States)

I did get an impression while listening to podcasts about the revolutions in Europe in 1848 (starting with https://www.revolutionspodcast.com/2017/07/701-the-volcano.html) that the transition from feudalism to capitalism was fairly seamless for the nobility who went from being the landowners of Europe to the Marxist definition of the bourgeoisie without much loss of influence or power. There’s an argument where you take feudalism, add the Industrial Revolution, shake vigorously, and wind up with modern capitalism.

I’ve read the argument before that our world contains the means necessary to properly feed, shelter, and take adequate medical care of every single human on the planet and its just our misguided priorities that prevent this from happening. I don’t disagree with it but I’d be interested in seeing data about the cost of this. But to counter the potentially high cost of this, could you imagine the potential productivity of a world where every human can focus on their work without having to worry about the costs of food, shelter, and medical care?

Quite the Story Arc

Book: Ball Lightning

Author: Cixin Liu (Translated by Joel Martinsen)

Themes:

Two of the main characters are greatly affected by events that happened to them as children. Most of the focus of their lives is around dealing with a traumatizing childhood event.

It’s impossible to make scientific or technological progress in civilian areas that won’t  become somehow weaponized for the military. On the other hand, swords can be turned back into plowshares as well.

Notes:

Just like the Three Body Problem there’s a lot of hard science.

The idea of macro electrons and macro nuclei was fascinating and it leading to the ability for macro fusion was a cool touch.

I really liked the idea that there are weapons potentially more destructive than atomic weapons but not because they’re more blatantly destructive but because they’re able to target the weaknesses of modern societies, such as going after our dependence on technology. The idea that a group could hold the world hostage by pointing  a gun at itself or its own technology was really interesting.

I really want a BrainPal

Book: The Ghost Brigades

By: John Scalzi

Themes:

(Contains spoilers)

Can’t escape Fate – Dirac ended up becoming Boutin just like he was created to do.

Can escape Fate – Dirac was able to make different choices than Boutin

Love goes beyond boundaries – Dirac loved Zoe

What makes us human?

Is humanity good or evil?

Humans do some really shitty stuff in war.

Notes:

Super fast and enjoyable read, much like Old Man’s War. It’s fun seeing more of that universe come into clarity and I enjoyed some of the characters from the previous book being present in this one.

This book gives a lot better explanation of why the Colonial Union has a focus on recruiting old people. Given that they don’t have much to lose they’re more willing to volunteer in numbers necessary to fill the ranks of the military. It also leaves the young people alive to colonize, reproduce, and work rather than die off in war.

I like reading about the various alien species and their political and cultural structures like the bug-like Eneshan and their rules of succession.