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]

Samizdata futurist quote of the day

“Lots of hard problems have proven to be tractable. The planetary genome and proteome have been mapped so exhaustively that the biosciences are now focusing on the challenge of the phenome – plotting the phase-space defined by the intersection of genes and biochemical structures, understanding how extended phenotypic traits are generated and contribute to evolutionary fitness. The biosphere has become surreal: Small dragons have been sighted nesting in the Scottish highlands, and in the American Midwest, raccoons have been caught programming microwave ovens.”

Page 170 of Accelerando, by Charles Stross. (First published in 2005. )

Whatever you think of Stross’s non-fiction views, such as on libertarianism, his fiction often includes hilarious passages such as this.

7 comments to Samizdata futurist quote of the day

  • Rich Rostrom

    Bioscience remains massively intractable.

    Despite “exhaustive” mapping of the genome, the operation of most genes and the biochemical systems they specify remains mysterious. Parts of the extremely intricate web of relationships between genes have been mapped, but actual understanding of these systems is still mostly impossible.

    As Derek Lowe (In The Pipeline) has noted, new drug discovery is slowing and may stop completely in a few years.

  • Richard Thomas

    Indeed. Where’s Lord Kelvin when you need him?

  • the other rob

    I’m a huge fan of Stross’ fiction and also enjoy his blog, which frequently points up interesting insights.

    Indeed, I recently commented here with a quote from one of his “Family Trade” novels, in which he clearly outlined the current problems that the USA is facing with the two party duopoly and the resulting interchangeable oligarchs.

    All of which makes his problems with libertarianism difficult to understand. Sure, his writing suggests that he began on the political left, but that’s not uncommon. I am approximately the same age as him and was grew up not far from where he did. Everybody in that place and time started on the left.

    I can only conclude that he maintains a fundamental misunderstanding about what libertarianism actually is. Which is hard to hold against him, since most of us who call ourselves libertarians don’t agree about it either.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Rubbish, other Rob! Libertarianism is whatever I say it is! The rest of you will need to come up with your own terms. Good luck with that!

  • Gerry N.

    Racoons in the American Midwest “Caught” programming microwave ovens?

    Here in the Puget Sound area we train them to do that. So much cheaper than Mexicans.

    Gerry N.

  • What the other rob said. I struggle to understand why Stross has such a problem with libertarians and is a CAGW believer given how good his fiction is. I blogged about it here: http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2012/04/misunderstandin.html

  • Andrew Weitzman

    The key is that Stross doesn’t let his political convictions overwhelm the story in his work. The settings he creates–Singularity regulated by Weakly Godlike Intelligence, SOE remnant fighting Fractal Cthulhu–are often so off the wall that “conventional” political discussion is irrelevant.

    What might be construed as a critique of libertarianism may be the tendency for his characters to act as agents of stability in an environment of total chaos. The Laundry can be seen as darkly heroic despite its nature, due to the alternatives (CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN). The protagonists in Singularity Sky are willing to do what it takes to prevent severe excesses by nuke-wielding NGO’s and planetary dictatorships; it’s seen as necessary because of the collapse of traditional nation-state structures means those functions must be taken up by concerned individuals.