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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Libertarianism

Tuesday November 13 2018

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time.  Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing.  I think it was one of our better ones.  We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think.  Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago.  If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings.  But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter.  So, I postpone telling you what I think about something.  Boo hoo.  But this time I really should have done better.

There.  All that took about one minute to write.  I could have done this far sooner.  Apologies.

Saturday October 27 2018

My meeting last night (Tom Burroughes talking about Brexit) went well.  I never feared that Tom’s talk wouldn’t be good.  I merely feared that a humiliatingly small number of people would show up to hear it, and the better his talk was, the more frustrating that would have been.  However, although a few who had said they’d try to come didn’t show, quite a few others who’d not said they were coming did show, and it all went fine.

Nine people doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to make for a very interesting conversation, so long as they are a good nine.  They were.

Nine comfy chairs and nine people is no coincidence.  This kind of thing has happened too often for it to be chance.  When there were fewer comfy chairs, there were, on the whole, that number few people.  Conclusion: if I would like more people to attend, I must increase the number of comfy chairs.  Up to twelve, which is towards the maximum number of people for good conversation, and the point at which it begins to turn into a “meeting”, in the wrong way.  With people who actually had interesting things to say instead sitting there in silence, feeling left out.

I am taking steps to accomplish this.

Thursday October 18 2018

Russell Roberts, Tweeting in response to a Tweet that has vanished, but it’s still worth quoting:

If you think the economy is a zero-sum game and getting rich makes people poor, you have trouble explaining the last 250 years. That wealth can be created and not just rearranged or come at someone’s expense is so basic but may be the single most important insight of economics.

I prefer “fixed-sum” to “zero-sum”, but otherwise, my sentiments exactly.

I am not now Tweeting, merely perusing the Tweets of others.  If I were Tweeting, this would be a Tweet.

Saturday September 22 2018

At my home on the last Friday of this month (Friday September 28th – which is in six days time), Michael Jennings will be speaking about Iran, and in particular about how he recently spent some time exploring its capital city, Tehran.  The easiest link to learn more about Michael’s amazing globetrottings is to this list of his Samizdata contributions.

Each month, I solicit a few words from the speaker, to email to my list of potential attenders.  A few days ago, Michael sent me rather more than a few words about what he’ll be speaking about, more words than I need for that email. But I don’t want all these words going to waste, so, with Michael’s kind permission, here they all are.  In the email I send out tomorrow evening, I will be quoting from this, but will include the link to this posting, so that all who want to can, as they say, read the whole thing.

So, Michael Jennings on “Exploring Tehran”:

In recent years, I have done quite a lot of travelling in the Middle East.

From the western perspective - and particularly from the perspective of the western media - it is very easy to look at the Muslim Middle East and see something homogeneous. If you are inclined to see militant Islam and related terrorism as a threat, it is easy to see it as a single threat. However, there are two main strains of Islam, Shia and Sunni, and these are centred in two quite different cultures and civilisations: the first in Iran and the second in the Arab world.

These are two of the three largest cultures in the Muslim Middle East - the third being Turkey. These three cultures speak three unrelated languages - Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish - and the history and differences between these three cultures go back thousands of years - long before the time of Mohammed. These cultures are tremendously divided today. Iran fought a truly ferocious war with Arab Iraq between 1980 and 1988, the memory of which hangs over the country the way World War 1 probably hung over Europe in 1935. Much of the wars of the past 15 years in Iraq and Syria have been about Shia Iran (Persia) and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia jostling for position in the Middle East. As to where Turkey stands in all this - I think Turkey is trying to figure this out.

I am not remotely an expert in any of this stuff. I have, however, spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. I love to explore cities on foot. I have done this, or attempted to do this in many places. Slightly less than two years ago I spent 10 days exploring Tehran on foot. Despite the fearsome (justified) reputation of the regime that rules Iran, I found - from my perspective as a Christian westerner - the most culturally familiar and welcoming culture that I had found travelling in the Middle East. Despite the fact that Iran is the only country in the entire world where all women are required to wear a headscarf at all times, I was struck by the fact that the role of women in public life was clearly much higher and that women are clearly much better educated and have a far more prominent role in the economy than in any Arab country I have been to. The Iranian middle class is substantial, and it is a very westernised middle class. At times in North Tehran I found myself in cafes and restaurants that easily could have been in hipster areas of Los Angeles, apart from the lack of alcohol.

I also found something that I should have known already - Iran is a trading, commercial nation. In South Tehran I found myself in shopping streets and bazaars that resembled East Asia - possibly commercial districts of Bangkok or Hanoi - more than anything elsewhere in the Middle East. I found myself sitting in stores being made tea (and being offered illicit alcohol) by merchants who wanted to tell me all about their trading trips to Shenzhen. It was fascinating.

And yet, this is a country that faces sanctions, and is cut off from the official system of international trade. What happens when you cut such a country off from the official system of international trade, and international academia, and international everything and so impoverishing the country, even though this is a culture that wants to participate? Come along to my talk, and I will speculate. Or possibly just show you my holiday pictures.

The basic point of my meetings is for people to attend them, but another point of them is for me to spread a gentle wave of information about people who have worthwhile things to say and interesting stories to tell, even if you do not actually attend.  This posting now means that, this month, that second mission is already somewhat accomplished.

Wednesday September 12 2018

Earlier this evening, I attended a fascinating Libertarian Home talk given by Jazon Cozens, one of the founders and bosses of Glint.  (Scroll down there a bit, and I think you will see why I think I smell yet another two-man team.) Glint enables those who think that currency ought to be gold-backed to get there hands on just such a currency, thereby personally reversing, as it were, the decision by President Nixon, in 1971, to take the US dollar off the gold standard.

This talk was excellent, and was clearly saturated in Austrianism.  In the highly unlikely event that Jason Cozens has not met up with a conversed with Detlev Schlichter, he should.

Here is a photo I took of Mr Cozens waving an ancient gold coin from Roman era Britain, which he had come by in some way that he did describe but which I immediately forgot:

image

And here is that coin, and him holding it, somewhat closer up:

image

Glint, however, does not deploy actual gold coins.  Any gold it arranges for you to own stays in a vault in Switzerland.  You get yourself a Glint account, with whatever combination of gold or other popular currencies in it that you want, and you can buy stuff with your card, which looks and works like any other credit/debit card.

Glint would appear to be well worth investigating.

I also found the evening very advantageous on a more personal level.  I was able to solidify no less than two future Brian’s Last Fridays talks, and was able to woo two other potential future speakers of great interestingness.  Others present seemed equally busy making connections of their own.  Which is a lot of the point of such meetings, and which is all part of why I believe in organising a steady stream of them.

Friday July 27 2018

I have just finished hosting my latest last Friday meeting.  It seemed to me to go very well, despite, and arguably because of, the low turnout.  The fewer people show up at a meeting, the more subtle the conversation can be.  Each question can get really answered.

Tamiris Loureiro was the speaker.  Unusually, she actually spoke for a shorter time than she had in mind to.  Usually what happens is that a speaker assembles twenty things they want to say, and gets through about three or four of them, and speaks for twenty minutes longer than they had in mind to.  She raced through hers in about twenty minutes, which left lots of time for comments and questions from the rest of us.

Her subject was Jordan Peterson.  She described to him as “The Good Libertarian”, which proved interestingly provocative.  Peterson spans a lot of political territory between conservative and libertarian, including classical liberalism, classical liberal being what he calls himself.  Paradoxically, said Tamiris, a lot of Paterson’s political impact comes from the fact that he approaches most of the problems he tackles in a non-political way.  He urges us all to take personal responsibility for our lives, rather than palming our problems off on governments.  Which of course is what libertarians recommend.

What did I learn from the evening?  Some of what I learned came from finally getting stuck into 12 Rules for Life, by way of preparation.  I had been put off from actually reading this book by the fear that I had heard it all, in the various videos and interviews of Peterson’s that I have already heard.  I feared being bored.  Oh me of little faith.  I really enjoyed reading it.

One of the many things about Peterson that strikes me, as I found myself saying at this evening’s meeting, is that he has a very interesting “talent stack”, to use a phrase that Scott Adams likes to use to describe successful people.  Peterson has a range of intellectual skills, from digging deep into ancient religious texts and coming up with non-trivial interpretations, to being an experienced councillor of troubled people, to being interviewed on television without losing his rag (think of the Cathy Newman interview), to jousting belligerently on Twitter with the worst of them.  He is a self-publicist of considerable talent, and he has deeper stuff that will stand up to being publicised.  It comes, I surmise, from his belief that a man’s got to take on the most responsibility he can carry.  He needs to reach as many people as he can with his redemptive messages.  He shouldn’t be too modest.  He should put himself about as much as he can contrive.

Next up, hearing if the recording I made – or tried to make - of the talk, and of the subsequent Q&A, is any good, as a recording I mean.  I don’t usually record my meetings, but I recorded this one in order to make the event mean something if the only people present had been Tamiris and me, which for a couple of days earlier in the week looked like it might happen.

Monday June 11 2018

The talk in question being this.  I show this photo of my notes here more to remind me to keep thinking about this stuff, than to tell you what I was talking about.  For that, maybe better wait for the video.

image

I spent most of my spare time today working on that, even though it may not look like it.  In the end I had far too much I wanted to say, but I did manage to blurt out a decent proportion of it.  The thing to remember in such circumstances is that they don’t know what you forgot to say.  They only know what you did say.  If that was okay, then it was okay.

There is one big misprint, towards the end.  Where it says “Era 2 effects”, twice over, the second “Era 2” should be “Era 1”.  This did not throw me.  I only just noticed it.

Monday April 16 2018

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down.  (I know, “bookmarks”.  Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links.  Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows - we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope.  Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns?  Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints?  The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise.  She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on.  But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump.  The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good.  Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is.  And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do.  You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it.  Jordan Peterson, take a bow.  That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood.  The only question is: By how much?  Trivially, or significantly?  My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam.  I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is.  These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”.  If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground.  I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did.  Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden.  As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe.  His name?  Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog.  As do I.  It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron.  He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history.  This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better.  And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was.  This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room.  The job is not done, but I have taken a chunk bite out of it.

Thursday April 05 2018

Twitter is getting seriously addictive for me these days.  What will stop that is that it is getting a bit samey, as the same people keep on saying the same things.

Kristian Niemietz spends most of his Twitter time shouting at Corbynistas.  So I was rather delighted to see this:

image

Miemietz supplies no link, which I hate.  This hatred reminds me of the time when I used to rain curses down upon would be Libertarian Alliance authors who did not supply proper footnotes, in that now long gone era when there were no links.  Just footnotes.  I know, weird.

To quote myself (who else will?):

If you submit something to the LA for publication, your manuscript must be legible, and it must be complete. If we publish it exactly as you have submitted it, you should be content. On the other hand, if we are unable to publish it as it stands, either because we can’t read it, or because it lacks vital details, we will not be at all content.

We do not favour the “people generally, are, in a general way, inclined to think approximately such and such” style of writing. Who thinks it? Exactly what do they think? Where’s the proof that this is what they think? You should supply chapter and verse. If you are depending upon or taking issue with some written point of view or other, it is essential that you should enable your readers to acquaint themselves at first hand with what you are praising or criticising. They must be able to satisfy themselves that your criticisms are fair. They must, if encouraged by your praise of something, be able to explore further. The LA would be a waste of everyone’s time if all that happened was that a whole bunch of people read everything published by the LA, but read - or wrote - nothing else.

Accordingly, you must supply complete and accurate footnotes. ...

Ah, those were the days.  It’s a wondrous exercise in invective, though I say it myself.

Although, I note that I broke my own rule.  Who actually said: “no one says that”?

But however much those days were the days, I still prefer these days, when you just shove in a link.  Much easier.

Like this link, to the actual story about the missing cat that no longer was missing.

Later: Also this.

Wednesday March 07 2018

I gave a talk to Libertarian Home early in 2015, entitled What is the Libertarian Movement for?, and it is now up at the Libertarian Home website.  A more accurate title for what I ended up saying would be more like: What the libertarian movement is and how to be part of it.  It is more about how to do libertarianism than about why to do it, although that is implied.

What I said hasn’t dated in the time since then, and this was one of the better speaking performances I’ve done, I think.  Certainly better than the most recent talk I gave, at Christian Michel’s on the subject of causation, about which, it turned out, I had very little more to say than this.  Memo to self: now that the cold snap has ended, get a haircut.  I have reached the age when I need to keep my hair short, the way it was in this video.  The tramp look makes me look too much like a tramp.

My thanks to Jordan Lee for supplying a written summary of what I said.

Friday February 23 2018

I’m watching the France v Italy rugby game, which happened earlier this evening.  It kicked off at 8pm.  But I had a meeting at my home, which also kicked off at 8pm, so I had to ignore the rugby until now, late in the evening.  But I set my telly-recorder, and all was well with that, so now I am watching it.  As of now: France 5 Italy 7.  Two imperfect teams, both desperate to “play rugby”, which means run like mad and score tries, which makes for a great spectacle for the neutral.  The game, so far, has been what is technically known as “frantic”.

I am now on Twitter, observing but so far not contributing, and normally, following my meeting, I’d be catching up with that.  But one of the Twitter things I follow is rugby, and I don’t want anyone to tell me the score.  The only way to be sure of that not happening is for me to ignore Twitter, until the game is over.  As in: over for me.

As for my meeting, it was addressed by Jordan Lee.  Superb.

One of the good things about these meetings is that because there is no camera running, and because the aim is basically only to make sure that we don’t have the same damn conversation month after month, I can take a chance with speakers.  I knew Jordan Lee would be okay, by that standard.  But I had no idea he’d be as good as he actually was.

He talked about his work as a teacher of troubled children, the kind that have got spat out by regular schools, at a place with the wonderfully made-up-sounding but actually real name of Wishmore Cross Academy.  Cross is right, judging by some of the dramas that Jordan described.

The gist of what Jordan Lee said was: there’s no easy answer to what the rights of children ought to be.  They can’t be completely free, like adults.  Nor can their parents own them and be allowed to tyrannise over them.

France are now winning, after fluffing a lot of earlier chances.  Commentator Jonathan Davies said that they needed to be more clinical, and finally, they are starting to do that.  France 24 Italy 10.  I was hoping for an upset, but it ain’t happening.  Later: 34-17, which looks like being it.  France have only three tries and need another for a bonus point.  France pressing, but no, France couldn’t manage that fourth try.  France 34 Italy 17.

Bed.

Thursday October 26 2017

Will computer power displace humans, or empower them?  Will computers unleash mass-unemployment or create a world of new jobs for everyone?  Is humanity about to be divided into the indolent masses on the dole, and the lucky few who control the now human-workerless means of production?

Here‘s a guy who is quite optimistic. 

When most people think of robots, they picture an R2-D2-like droid, providing critical information to assist humans and courageously rescuing them from dangerous situations. While we are, in my view, decades away from having robots that can function like a “Star Wars” character due to the limitations of artificial intelligence, a new class of robots that are mobile, dexterous, and capable across multiple operational regimes will soon be available to augment human performance.

This will happen through a combination of human intelligence with machine strength and precision. In this symbiotic relationship, the multi-tasking robots rely on humans for direction while simultaneously safeguarding them from dangerous environments and tasks. These robotic “guardians” are the future of work on Earth and, yes, in space, too.

Peter Thiel also believes that computers and humans will complement one another.

Think power steering, but a hundred times more versatile:

We are at a point in history where decades of research and development coupled with ever-improving technological performance and lower component costs are combining to make yesterday’s science fiction a reality. Imagine a machine that is your personal proxy, controlled by you, leveraging your intelligence, knowledge, instincts, intuition, and judgment while able to physically perform in the same manner as your own body, but safely, and with super-human strength, endurance, and precision.

I’m optimistic about The Robots because every time they make a leap forward, they will do it by doing one particular thing a lot better.  That means that all sorts of new projects make sense that didn’t before, but each new project demands the services of a hoard of humans, to tidy up after, install, mend, and generally look after the robots, in their latest manifestation.

But, humans will have to be adaptable.  Abandon jobs that the robots have learned to do, and get new jobs doing things that the robots will need doing for them. Robots now make much of the world’s stuff, but there are still lots of shelves the stuff gets put on that it makes sense to have humans do, and because of the robots, there are more shelves with more stuff than there used to be.

I look at the world and I do see “technological unemployment”, but I also see people busily doing jobs that didn’t previously exist.

Rob Waller is doing a talk at my place, on the last Friday of November about the robots and all that.  He gave a talk about this earlier, which I was unable to attend.  But the title of that talk, together with the hints he’s already given me, all make me expect him to be optimistic also.

Tomorrow evening, which is the last Friday of this month, Rob Fisher will be speaking chez moi about Fatherhood.  I believe that Rob’s young son will have plenty of choices about how to make a living, especially if he is as smart as his Dad is, but even if he isn’t.

Friday August 25 2017

Just the one photo here today, today being a busy day for me.  I have a meeting this evening to prepare for, in my living room.  And because today is a Friday, which is the day of the week when I often feature animals of various kinds, this photo is a good choice, featuring as it does, two lions:

image

Although this memorial is much photoed, that’s an angle on it that you don’t see quite so much.  This is the sort of photo that it is easy to take only if your camera has a twiddly screen, to enable you to hold your camera very low, but still know what you are photoing.  This was amongst the last photos I took with my old Lumix FZ200, the zoom process of which was already misbehaving.

More about this Crimean and Indian Mutiny Memorial here:

Opposite the west entrance of Westminster Abbey is a tall marble and stone column, erected in 1861 and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, which remembers former pupils of Westminster School who died in the Crimean War 1854-56 and the Indian Mutiny 1857-58. At the top is a figure of St George slaying the dragon, carved by J.R.Clayton, with statues of St Edward the Confessor, Henry III, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, carved by J.Birnie Philip. Four lions flank the base ...

It’s interesting that monarchs feature so prominently on a war memorial.  By the time of WW2, the statuary either commemorates commanders, or their dead commandees.  You don’t get pictures or sculptures of the former on memorials devoted to the sacrifices of the latter.

And, given that monarchs are involved, it’s an interesting selection of monarchs.  I wonder who would have come fifth.  Henry of that number?  I further wonder, did the worship of Henry V only get into its stride rather later?  With that Olivier film, made during WW2?  Meanwhile, Henry III has faded in public esteem.

By the time of later British military dramas involving Napoleonic France, which would still have been personally remembered at the time this memorial was erected, the recognition all went to the likes of Nelson and Wellington, and the King’s brother, with the mere King himself getting very little public credit.  The statues reflect this.

My meeting tonight will be Nico Metten talking about libertarian foreign policy, i.e. about decidedly different foreign policies to the ones alluded to in this War Memorial.

Thursday August 24 2017

For quite a while now, I have had links open to two short stories that I wrote in the nineties.  These were my attempts at “Libertarian Fictions”.  I was prodded into reading them again by the experience of writing a summary of a Marc Sidwell talk, in favour of us creating more libertarian fictions.

I called my two stories Those Who Can Do, and The Lion’s Share.

These were, I now realise, very bad titles, especially in the age of the internet, then still in the future of course.  Google either of those titles, without my name, and those stories will be totally buried under a ton of other irrelevance, including, I dare say, quite a few other short stories with identical titles, chosen by other equally inexperienced short story writers.

In contrast, last night I went to a show written and acted by a friend of mine.  This was called Madam Bovary’s Communist After-Party.  Never mind if this was a good show.  It was and is, very, but that’s not my point here.  Nor is it relevant to the point of this posting that if you follow that link, you will get to an amazingly good photo of my friend, done by a young Real Photographer lady who is on the up-and-uo, which I may have sold quite a few extra tickets.  No, my point here is: that’s a very good title.  Google “Madam Bovary’s Communist After-Party”, with those exact words in that exact order, and all hits will be relevant.

So, my stories needed – and now need – to be called things more like The Public Goodness of a Struggling Writer, and How Starshine McKane Tried to Kill Everyone.

Monday August 21 2017

Yes, another link that’s been cluttering up my RAM, but which I absolutely don’t want to forget about.

I’m reading this, but I’m a really slow reader, and am also reading other things, like: books.  But, like I say, don’t want to forget about this.

Here.

This feels like one of those seminal ideas, to rank alongside the seminal idea that it contests the truth of.

I am hoping (he hasn’t confirmed it by email but we have spoken about it) that Rob Waller will be giving a talk chez moi, last Friday of November (24th), along the lines of: Will The Robots Take Our Jobs?  He doesn’t reckon so either.