We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Consent and the Space Cadets

Yesterday something reminded me of the Space Cadets:

The series described itself as the most elaborate hoax perpetrated in television history. The title is a comical reference to the slang phrase, which is used to describe vacuous, gullible fools, untethered to reality (compare airhead).[citation needed] It was not clear if the contestants were aware of the show’s title, although a whiteboard in the ‘barracks’ had “Space Cadettes” [sic] written on it during one of the parties organised in the facility.

A group of twelve contestants (who answered an advert looking for “thrill seekers”) were selected to become the first British televised space tourists, including going to Russia to train as cosmonauts at the “Space Tourist Agency of Russia” (STAR) military base, with the series culminating in a group of four embarking on a five-day space mission in low Earth orbit. The show and space mission contained aspects of Reality TV, including hidden cameras, soundproofed ‘video diary’ rooms and group dormitories.

However, the show was in fact an elaborate practical joke, described by Commissioning Editor Angela Jain as “Candid Camera live in space” and claimed by Channel 4 to have cost roughly £5million. Unknown to the “space cadets”, they were not in Russia at all, but at Bentwaters Parks (formerly RAF Bentwaters, a USAF airfield from 1951 to 1993) in Suffolk staffed by costumed actors, and the “space trip” was entirely fake, complete with a wooden “shuttle” and actor “pilots”. Indeed, during the shooting of Space Cadets, smokers amongst the production crew were given Russian cigarettes to smoke in case any of the cadets discovered the butts. The production crew went so far as to replace lightswitches and electrical outlets in the barracks with Russian standard. In addition, three of the Cadets were actors, included to misdirect any suspicious cadets and to help reinforce the illusion.

At the time I talked about it a great deal, as everybody did, but I could not watch it for more than a few seconds at a time. Too close to home. On discovering that it was a hoax one of the cadets said, “I was planning my speech about achieving my childhood dreams. I’m a little bit broken-hearted.” I was a little bit broken-hearted for her. I, too, had grown up dreaming of space. The cruellest aspect of the show was that it made clear to the world that the cadets had been selected for their credulity and lack of scientific knowledge. Like many of those reading this I would have “failed” that particular test. But let us not put on airs; it is proverbial among scammers that there is good hunting to be had among educated people who think they could never be fooled by anything.

Why am I still thinking about these nine innocents sold a pup when a whole decade has gone by? Millions agree to take jobs and find them not as advertised. Billions agree to take spouses and find them not as advertised. Such is the way of the world. At least the cadets were handsomely paid. Enough, I assume, to head off any lawsuits about breach of contract – and I would imagine that those contracts were written by clever lawyers in the first place. If the cadets had been the type to read every sub-clause in a contract they would not have been chosen to be filmed larking around in a wooden replica spaceship allegedly equipped with gravity generators.

My memory was triggered (not, like, triggered triggered; just triggered) by all the talk now about consent. I am not thinking primarily about sexual consent, although that is relevant, but about the increasing sensitivity around posting any photographs and films of people without their permission. This new sensitivity isn’t just politically correct wailing. Brian Micklethwait of this parish finds it entirely consistent with his libertarian principles to take care to hide the faces of ordinary people he photographs, as he mentions here, even as he points out that the case is different for public figures. The world has changed. The internet never forgets a name. It is getting closer to never forgetting a face. When the cadets signed their contracts that wasn’t so obvious.

Dual Universe

Dual Universe is a computer game being worked on by some developers in France who are currently looking for extra funding on Kickstarter. It is a multiplayer game set in space that is attempting to have a player-driven economy, much like Eve Online, with resources in the game being bought and sold between players on markets. It goes further than Eve, though, with players able to design new items from scratch and even script them with Lua, which should allow for invention of new in-game technology, which should allow for player-driven economic growth within the game.

Another feature which caught my attention is their approach to the dilemma of enabling player versus player combat while allowing for players to enjoy playing the game without being attacked at random. There is the concept of a safe zone in which an anti-violence bubble is generated by expending energy. What is more, the player who owns the machine that generates the safe zone can give out mining rights within it, and exclude other players who do not pay him a tax.

I think they should rename this game Libertarian Utopia Simulator.

Monsters from the American Id

Justin Webb writes in the Times:

Bomb is a sign of hatred in American hearts (£)

Amazing what these Americans can do just by thinking about it. Webb, or whatever sub-editor wrote that headline, has finally acknowledged the truth first revealed in dramatic form sixty years ago:

Commander John J. Adams: In return, that ultimate machine would instantaneously project solid matter to any point on the planet, In any shape or color they might imagine. For *any* purpose, Morbius! Creation by mere thought.

Dr. Edward Morbius: Why haven’t I seen this all along?

Commander John J. Adams: But like you, the Americans forgot one deadly danger – their own subconscious hate and lust for destruction.

Dr. Edward Morbius: The beast. The mindless primitive! Even the Americans must have evolved from that beginning.

Donald Trump must have an especially American id. He is always calling violence upon himself by the sinister power of his subconscious.

By the way, monsters from the Dallas branch of the id also killed Kennedy: “The city of hate had, in fact, killed the President.”

Update: Evidently Dallas is a sort of wi-fi hotspot of the id. The fabric of reality wears thin in Texas. (Oklahoma isn’t so bad, being protected by Rodgers & Hammerstein. And New Mexico votes Democrat.) Getting back to Dallas, no individual can be blamed for the recent murders of policemen there. In Texas such things are inevitable.

Brexit will make the UK like Guernsey – So says a French pol

Of all the dire threats, this from the French Economy Minister (there is one? an economy I mean) is the most chilling, since it reminds me of how far we have fallen.

Leaving the European Union would make the UK as significant as Guernsey, France’s economy minister has said

So the rate of income tax would be a standard 20% and there would be no VAT and no Capital Gains or Inheritance Tax? That’s some good deal for being insignificant.

Of course, this 20% tax rate is an anomaly in Guernsey, it was introduced as 4 shillings in the pound (20 shillings per pound/livre) in WW2. Let’s look at some of the measures the Nazis introduced in the occupied Channel Islands.

On arrival in the islands, the Germans issued proclamations imposing new laws on the resident islanders. As time progressed, additional laws restricting rights were posted and had to be obeyed. The restrictions included:

Confiscation of:

weapons (1940)
boats (1940)
radios (1940) then (1942)
motor vehicles (forced sale) (1940)
cameras (1942)

Restrictions on:

fishing (1940)
drinking spirits (1940)
exporting goods (1940)
changing prices of goods (1940)
patriotic songs and signs (1940)
more than three people meeting together (1940)
access to beaches
freedom of speech
access to medicines
some clubs and associations.

Changes to:

drive on right of roads (1941)
rations (1943, 44 & 45)
clocks to German time (1940)

Forced to accept:

curfew (1940)
exchange rate to Reichsmarks (1940)
census (1940)
identity cards (1941)
growing vegetables
food rationing (1940)
increase in income tax to 4/- (1940)
lodgers billeted
German language in schools
Cycling in single file (1941)
work from Germans

Well we have a long way to fall before that state of affairs, and cycling in double file is by no means discouraged bar some circumstances by the Highway Code, presumably in the hope of causing more accidents.

So let freedom reign, even though the sky (and tax rates) may fall.

And today, I couldn’t help noticing the timing of these sequential adverts on a hoarding in Newcastle.

and next this:

J K Rowling – echoing Voltaire

I have never read or taken an interest in Harry Potter, I only bought one such book as a requested present for a young family member, for which I apologise. However, J K Rowling, Labour donor, renowned author and Cybernat 5-minute hate subject, has gone up in my estimation as she stood up for Donald Trump’s right to visit the UK, echoing the attitude of Voltaire.

‘I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.’
The best-selling author said that Trump’s freedom to make ‘bigoted’ remarks, ‘protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.’
She warned that attempts to repeal any of those freedoms, however well intentioned, means ‘we have set foot upon a road with only one destination.’

We know what that destination is. She goes on.

Rowling explained that if she was to back a travel ban of Trump, because of his offensive comments, then she would have ‘no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the right for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes.’
‘If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand along tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification,’ she added.

Such a pity about the working, as my maths teachers used to say, but positive sentiments in favour of liberty and openness to debate are welcome and refreshing, albeit depressingly scarce in public debate.

The Big Question: Are there too many movies featuring the Death Star?

The question as posed in the title of this entry was raised at The Federalist. What say you, Samizdata commentators?

Never has a reshuffle been so aptly named

The daft old beardy has been at it a day and a half now and the only person he’s managed to actually eject is the shadow Culture Secretary. No, wait, I’m wrong – news just coming in – Pat McFadden is also out!


Never mind. Some poor schmuck dim enough to once think a career in politics would be a good idea, sacked by a man who looks as if he would be happier if their roles were reversed. OK, Jeremy Corbyn will eventually finish reshuffling. It may happen while I am writing this post. I do hope it is soon. Much longer and he will be in danger of shuffling off this mortal coil himself. The results of the reshuffle will not rejuvenate either Mr Corbyn or the Labour party.

In one of the science fiction author Larry Niven‘s short stories it is mentioned that when teleportation booths were still very new, some naive people put the booths inside their houses. It didn’t take that many house clearances by teleporting burglars before people realised that might not be wise. I thought of that story when I first heard that Jeremy Corbyn was likely to be elected leader of the Labour party. Some have attributed his success to an imprudent decision by Ed Miliband to lower the cost of becoming a supporter of the Labour party to a paltry £3, which encouraged far-left entryists and not a few malicious Tories to vote for Corbyn. However that was only part of it – Corbyn also won among longstanding party members. The main factor in his victory was, as in Niven’s story, a technology whose consequences were not yet properly understood. That technology was social media. Facebook and Twitter were where the idea of joining the party as a supporter and voting for Corbyn, the outsider, the joke candidate, the perennial loser given a chance out of pity, went from snowball to avalanche. When the existing members saw the avalanche building they, too, were caught up in the excitement. Suddenly the quasi-revolutionary hopes of their younger days seemed possible once more.

I don’t think this conjunction of factors will ever happen again. Political parties the world over are quietly upping their membership fees, instituting probationary periods before a new member gets to vote on the leader, and deciding against open primaries. The example of the UK Labour Party has shown them the need for a wall between your house and the teleportation booth.

The Witcher 3, racism, misogyny

The Witcher 3, a much anticipated computer game from a Polish studio based on a series of Polish fantasy novels, is released next Tuesday. Reviews of it are already being published and I have been reading a lot about it, including one review on Polygon by Arthur Gies that spent a lot of words complaining about the lack of black people and the treatment of female characters in the game.

Another Polish developer, Adrian Chmielarz, whose studio made the acclaimed adventure game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, has responded. On the complaint that there are only white people in the game:

the fact that a post-modernist remix of fantasy and the Polish folklore made by Slavs does not feature non-white characters, is a non-issue.

Note that I am not sure that adding “strangers from the strange lands” to the game would solve anything for the chronically offended. Based on everything I learned about them in the last year, and I learned a lot, if you put a person or a few from any non-white race, they would be called “token characters”.

The Polygon review goes on to complain about the women in the game:

the world CD Projekt has created is oppressively misogynist. In some ways, the game deals directly with this — characters acknowledge again and again that it’s hard to be a woman there, that it’s a place of violence and terror and that women must work harder to be recognized and respected.

Then it kills them, over and over.


I get that the setting of The Witcher 3 is meant to be a dark, dirty fantasy. But in a world that so explicitly goes out of its way to build a believable, distinctive take on the genre, the inclusion of so much violence explicitly directed against women feels like a clear, disconcerting choice. It’s not just present, it’s frequently a focus.

When they’re not being murdered, women in The Witcher 3 are comically sexualized. Nudity is everywhere…

Chmielarz responds:

As we can see, The Witcher 3 apparently simply mirrors the real world (as according to Feminist Frequency).

This is a group whom the reviewer admires, and who argue that “violence against women is a serious, global epidemic”.

I have to assume that Gies understands that when compared to the actual real world, the violence is exaggerated in The Witcher 3. That it’s basically an often grim, often cruel fantasy world.

But …why is such a world a problem? Is the reviewer confusing portrayal with endorsement? Should art be propaganda for a peaceful life? Should art avoid disturbing universes?

There is a lot more; this is just a flavour of the debate. It is good to see people like Chmielarz standing up to this kind of criticism, because for a while it looked as if everything was going the way of those who would be offended by everything.

Also encouraging is that, if you read the comments on a news story about this debate at Gamezone, it appears that nobody really cares. They just want to enjoy games.

Age of Adaline

Friday night is usually my movie night out here in the desert and there was nothing in particular I really wanted to see. After perusing the options, I settled for ‘Age of Adaline‘, the story of a woman of the 1920’s who through an accident and a process explained through a bunch of made up technological gobbledygook stopped ageing at twenty-nine.

Part of the movie was fairly good, a study in the fear of being different and the pain of watching those you love grow old while you remain the same and try to stay under the radar.

There were two things I found wrong with the movie, both of which are ignorable if you just want an unusual love story. Whomever came up with the narrated ‘scientific’ explanations should be taken out and shot. They were painfully idiotic. The script writers would have been better off if they’d just said she had a genetic mutation which did not kick in until her body was put under a life threatening stress she’d never before experienced.

And second of all… Hollywood cannot deal with the idea of people living long lives. They believe that healthy extended lives must by necessity lead to boredom and emotional problems. They nearly always fall back on a plot device that anyone who has it will yearn for a return to the Mayfly life or even immediate joyful death as in “Zardoz”. This movie is not as bad as some. It hints that the accidental process which gave her long life would be discovered in 2035, with the implication that perhaps it was then used.

What I find humorous is that very wealthy A list actors, producers and directors will be among the first in line to embrace the initially very costly technologies of life extension and anti-aging technologies, perhaps right behind the techies who are already inventing it for real in labs all over this planet. They will sing a wholly different tune when it is they who face age and death as fashion options.

Personally, I long for the day when we eliminate both of the presently unavoidable scourges of humanity: death and taxes!

Sad Puppies are taking back Science Fiction

Many thanks to Rand Simberg who has been covering this ongoing battle…

The Elites fight tooth and claw and with whatever lying, cheating, libel and threats they can get away with… and the more you shine the light on them while they do so, the more they self-destruct.

I suspect the Sad Puppies have been having the time of their life giving these people all the rope they need to make total idjts of themselves. So bring out a bag of popcorn, sit back and watch the battle.

Good news from the western front of the culture war

I have been watching the ‘Sad Puppies’ campaign in the world of science fiction and fantasy writers for a while now, with mounting amusement. If you are unaware what it is, think of it as a backlash against the overt cultural Marxist ‘Social Justice Warrior’ clique who have been dominating the Hugo Awards for many years now.

Well this year it looks like some folks are aiming to blow up the SJW Death Star.

Several on the left have remarked the sudden slew of anti-authoritarian nominees has been due to an influx of GamerGate supporters. Yet as the number of votes has only increased slightly, it would appear the GamerGate people were already there, they just finally decided to stand up, form two ranks and figuratively shoulder their Martini-Henry rifles, whilst facing the podium occupied by the establishment.

Anyone who thinks the Culture War is unwinnable or not even being fought by our side is not paying attention.

The force is strong in this one!

Why? Because this is just too damn good…

Volkswagen / The Bark Side from Caviar London on Vimeo.

You are welcome.