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]

Discussion point

Now that the idea of “herd immunity” has been attacked, even though it seems lots of scientists seem to support the idea, does that mean it now makes sense to challenge claims that “the science is settled” on a particular topic? Just thought I’d ask.

Thoughts provoked by some 3D printed miniature magnets

Beneath and beyond all the fretting we’re all now doing about The Virus, the onward march of technology continues.

I get emails from Google about advances in 3D printing, and each email contains lots of links, far more links than in any other Google emails I get on other subjects.

Links like this one, to a report about some newly contrived magnets:

Note the bit at the bottom on the right, where you learn the size of these things. They are very small.

Why are miniature magnets like this so important? And why do they have to be 3D printed? That’s what ignorami like me want to know. The anonymous writer of the report accordingly begins it thus:

Magnetic materials are an important component of mechatronic devices such as wind power stations, electric motors, sensors and magnetic switch systems. Magnets are usually produced using rare earths and conventional manufacturing methods. …

A bit later he says:

Permanent magnets are incorporated into a number of mechatronic applications. Traditional manufacturing methods such as sintering or injection moulding are not always able to cope with increasing miniaturisation and the resulting geometric requirements for magnets, and this is a trend which is sent to continue in the future. Additive manufacturing processes offer the necessary freedom of design. …

I had to look up sintering. Blog and learn.

→ Continue reading: Thoughts provoked by some 3D printed miniature magnets

An algorithmic snake brain and an algorithmic world

At my personal blog, on Friday February 28th (Friday being my day for animal kingdom related stuff, most of it very silly), I posted a link (among other links of a similar level of profundity) to a video, of a snake that had swallowed a towel having the towel extracted back through its mouth by helpful vets. Ho, ho.

The link I posted, to a tweet someone had done, no longer works, but here is the drama I’m referring to.

But now, today, AndrewZ added a comment to that posting of mine which seems to me to deserve rather wider attention than it would get if I merely left it where he first put it. He wrote this:

A snake is a simple creature driven by its instincts. It follows a set of hardwired rules which it can’t question and which can lead to dangerous errors when it encounters something outside of its normal experience, like a towel. In other words, a snake’s mind is a very limited algorithm. But the world today is saturated with algorithms, from Facebook to FinTech to facial recognition systems used by the police and ten thousand other things. The $64,000 question – perhaps, the $64 billion dollar question or the 64,000 lives question – is how many of them are still operating at the “dumb snake swallows a towel” level of sophistication.

This is not, to put it mildly, my area of expertise. But, on the other hand, this is just the kind of thing that the Samizdata commentariat enjoys chewing on, metaphorically speaking. So, ladies and gents, chew away.

No more cheap cars

In the Continental Telegraph, Tim Worstall points out that electric cars ain’t cheap. So when all cars must be electric, no cars can be cheap.

This is where “trickle down economics” is actually true. New tech is expensive, toys for the rich. It takes a number of manufacturing iterations for it to become cheap enough for the masses. The iPhone started at $700, you can buy better landfill Android now for $30. ABS was only for top end cars, a couple of decades later everyone has it. That’s just how it works.

But we’ve now got government insisting that only electric cars by 2035. Which is rather before those cheap ones are going to be available – an iteration of technology in a car is measured in years, up to a decade. So, the poor get screwed.

And this gets worse. Batteries don’t last forever. And a significant portion of car transport for the poor is provided by the £500 beater. An older car, mechanically reasonable enough, that another few tens of thousands of miles can be got out of. Battery powered cars won’t do that. Because at some point you’re going to have to replace the battery pack, something that will be a substantial portion of the cost of a new car.

The technology basically kills the £500 beater market.

A good point, though I would replace the word “technology” with “regulation”.

At which point, well, aren’t they noticing? Or is this the point? That the proles have to walk while the Comrades can use the whole road as a Zil lane?

The Independent on Naomi Seibt

I had not heard of Naomi Seibt until my phone suggested I read an article about her in the Independent.

It quotes her thus:

Science is entirely based on intellectual humility and it is important that we keep questioning the narrative that it out there instead of promoting it, and these days climate change science really isn’t science at all. […] Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology […] especially as a German, it is so rude to refer to someone as a climate denier because obviously there is a connection to the term ‘holocaust denier’, which carries a lot of weight in Germany. […] immense impact that the sun has on the climate in comparison to CO2 emissions. […] We must not make ourselves the victim of a tight tax corset…we must not deny ourselves, or the people from awfully poor third world countries access to cheap and reliable energy.” […] Rage and panic belong to our opponents […] Do not create an ideology out of something that a young girl has to say. Regardless of the political side she’s on.

All this seems fairly moderate. The Indy describes her thus:

gaining support from right-wing organisations, including Germany’s far-right party AfD party, and a think tank with links to The White House […] Her stance on the climate apparently caught the attention of The Heartland Institute, a US think tank based in Chicago, which has previously lobbied on behalf of tobacco firms, supports fracking and rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. […] The Heartland Institute’s support and promotion of Seibt has set alarm bells ringing. […] those remaining groups and individuals threatened by the weight of climate science appear to believe Ms Seibt is some sort of opposition figure who can inspire people through similar means […] But while Ms Thunberg is merely hammering home the science – that 97 per cent of peer-reviewed climate studies agree with the scientific consensus that manmade global warming is real – Ms Seibt appears to have more interest in ideology. […] Alongside her interest in climate denial, she has voiced concerns about immigration and feminism, and has previously spoken at events run by Germany’s far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party. She has denied being a member of the far-right group, but previous reports suggest she is or has been a member of the party’s youth wing.

Deciding whose language sounds more ideological I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Let us follow the righteous policy of Iran

Postrel’s kidney lasted Satel 10 years. By the time her immune system rejected it, aged 60, she had found another donor. Satel is now on her third right kidney and is feeling fine.

She was fortunate – twice. But as a policy expert the experience left Satel deeply dissatisfied with a system that relies on luck and the kindness of strangers. The reason so few kidneys are available for transplant, she contends, is that under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, paying for organs is illegal.

The US is not exceptional – Iran is the only country that allows such transactions and it has no kidney shortage. Satel is not advocating an Iranian-style market for body parts.

But I am.

By the way, the “Postrel” mentioned as having given Sally Satel her first donated kidney is Virginia Postrel, whose writing will be familiar to many of you.

What, if anything, should we be doing about Huawei?

There is a kerfuffle here in the UK over 5G. I can’t in all honesty say that I have the slightest idea what 5G is but I surmise that it is one better than 4G. The issue is around whether the Chinese company, Huawei, should be allowed to supply some of the equipment. Lots of people, including James Delingpole say, “no”. And very few people say, “yes”.

The first question that springs to (my) mind is, what has this got to do with the government? Which I suppose is bound up with the question of what is the threat? Assuming that there is a threat and that government should be “doing something about it”, what is that something?

About the only thing I know about China and telephony is that you should never take your phone to China.

Oh, and one other thing. Guido Fawkes observed that the real scandal is that Chinese technology should prove to be better than western technology. Is this true and is it a portent?

Name me one good thing about Brexit…

Start with this:

Article 13: UK will not implement EU copyright law

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore has said that the UK will not implement the EU Copyright Directive after the country leaves the EU.

Several companies have criticised the law, which would hold them accountable for not removing copyrighted content uploaded by users, if it is passed.

EU member states have until 7 June 2021 to implement the new reforms, but the UK will have left the EU by then.

The UK was among 19 nations that initially supported the law.

That was in its final European Council vote in April 2019.

This Samizdata post from March 2019 contains a list of links to other posts that give the background.

How dare they solve our problem!

There is a fascinating article in today’s Observer, “Out of the lab and into your frying pan: the advance of cultured meat”.

(The best comment is from “Tintenfische”: “You call that cultured meat? Pah, not even close. Last week my steak took me to the ballet and a symposium on the evolution of beat poetry as seen through the eye of the beat.”)

The author of the article, Zoë Corbyn – I’ve always liked the name Zoë – describes the background:

To a certain extent, the science of culturing meat is relatively well understood. The process begins when a cell is taken from an animal and grown up in a lab to permanently establish a culture (called a cell line). The cells can come from a range of sources: biopsies of living animals, pieces of fresh meat, cell banks and even the roots of feathers, which JUST has been experimenting with. Cell lines can either be based on primary cells – for example muscle or fat cells – or on stem cells. Stem cells have the advantage that with different nutrients, or genetic modifications, they are able to mature into any cell type. There is also no limit to how long stem-cell lines can live, so it is possible to use them indefinitely to produce a product. Once a good cell line – for example, one that grows fast and is tasty – has been selected, a sample is introduced into a bioreactor, a vat of culture medium where the cells proliferate exponentially and can be harvested. The resulting meat cell mush can be formed into a plethora of unstructured items, from patties to sausages – with or without other ingredients added for texture. Conventional meat has a variety of cell types from which it derives its flavour, including both muscle and fat, and the companies are trying to broadly replicate that.

Not everybody is happy that this hoary science fiction trope seems to be on the point of commercial viability. Apparently an advertisement in the Brussels metro…

…contrasts a barn of cows surrounded by greenery to a “meat lab” surrounded by transmission towers. It is the work of the European Livestock Voice campaign – set up last year by a number of European farming industry groups to stress the potential social impacts of upending the meat industry.

Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them. The would-be purveyors of a guilt-free equivalent of meat to vegetarians are also opposed from the other side:

The website Clean Meat Hoax was launched last year by an informal group of 16 animal rights scholars and activists. It rails against cultured meat on the grounds that it still suggests that meat is desirable, and that animals are a resource people can draw on. It contrasts with the more pragmatic position other animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) have taken in favour of the technology on the grounds that animals’ lives will be saved. “What is incredible to me is how uncritically this technology is being celebrated and I don’t think that’s an accident – we don’t want to consider the possibility that we can stop eating animals,” says site founder John Sanbonmatsu, a philosopher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

“Less pragmatic than PETA”: not a concept one meets often. I think the Clean Meat Hoax people have something in common with the opponents of vaping. What really distresses them is that after all their years of exhortations to make the smokers or meat eaters repent, the jammy bastards might be enabled to cease doing the bad thing just like that, with no redeeming pain.

“Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate” says one of its founders

“I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start”, Stuart Basden explains.

And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…

And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.

Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world.

This article is a year old, but someone on the UK Politics subreddit called “WhereHasCentrismGone” posted it with the comment that it made the now rescinded decision by the police to include Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-terrorism programme seem more reasonable. I think it was out of order for the police to put XR on a terrorism watch list – their stunts annoy but are not violent – but we should be grateful to Mr Basden for reminding us that XR should be avoided by anyone who seriously wants to protect either the environment or their own mental health, seeing as the organisation is an anti-scientific cult fuelled by the neurotic self-hatred of privileged dilletantes in rich countries.

Another reason why the Internet is so useful

As it appears to be fashionable these days for those in some quarters to denounce modern technology such as social media (ironically, usually doing so via social media, or the internet), let’s take some time out this holiday season to shower praise onto that platform, Youtube. It it is sometimes stated that the younger generation of adults knows little about DIY around the home, lacking the upbringing or training to do anything more challenging than change a light bulb. Sometimes factors such as the decline (in relative terms) of home ownership, or the supposed waning influence of DIY enthusiast Dads and the inadequacies of those much-maligned Millennials, are mentioned. While there is some truth in that, it is also worth noting that it has never been easier to find out ways to learn how to fix problems by firing up the internet and looking for demonstrations on how to solve an issue, such as sorting out a Kindle problem (which I did the other day and trouble-shot a problem), strip wood floors and revarninsh them (same) or clean old antique furniture with boiled linseed oil (ditto). When a gizmo goes wrong, chances are that a guy (it seems to be a man thing) has done a Youtube item about it, and shared it.

Here is an example from a person under the brand name of MrFixIt DIY.

Sometimes experts get it right!

I now lurk on Twitter, and more recently, also on Facebook. Today, on Facebook, via Matt Ridley, this:

Still don’t know the link etiquette when quoting social media discoveries on a blog, so no link.

Usually, the most remembered prophecies are the ones that were proved totally wrong. Metal ships will all sink, aeroplanes can’t fly, cars will never catch on in Europe because chauffeurs, and so on. But this prophecy was – pretty much – right. And what’s more it came from someone running the very business he is prophesying about. He didn’t get everything about the mobile phones we now have. (No explicit mention of texting.) But, as Matt Ridley says: “Pretty good.”

Somewhere on the www there are presumably collections of such successful prophecies. Links please!

Also, what’s still to come for the telephone? Brain implants? 3D virtual reality transmission? Thought control of children? (Thought control by children?)

For a more immediate prophecy, I recently read this fascinating little blog posting by Jordan Peterson, about high tech telephone conmanship. Jordan Peterson being Jordan Peterson, it’s very grim and dark and miserable, and yet another circumstance that The Individual will have to defend himself against, and go a bit mad failing to defend himself against. But still, well worth a read if you missed it.

And also, e-scooters.

And, inevitably, see what Natalie said yesterday in the previous posting, which I only just read.