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]

Don’t give up the day job. Try doing it instead.

Here is a confession: I wrote most of this post on January 17th, the day I read the Times article that I quote. Then something distracted me and I put it aside to finish later. It is now “later”, as in “250 days later”, and, having been reminded of the onrushing apocalypse by the reaction to Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, I have finished it up and present it to you now.

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How’s your science fiction novel getting along? Oh. Sorry. Same here, I must admit.

Maybe we would be doing better if the government were paying us to write the stuff?

“Met Office forecasts a Britain of militia war, bartering and child labour”, the Times reports:

It is 2070 and Britain as we once knew it has vanished. The government has collapsed, the police and justice system no longer exists. Militias control feudal microstates within the UK, with people accepting severe restrictions on freedom in exchange for work and protection.

This is not the beginning of a sci-fi film but a report commissioned by the Met Office into how the UK might evolve over the next century.

The “Met Office” is the Meteorological Office, the UK’s national weather forecasting service.

The weather service is behind a “ground-breaking project” to explore five different paths the nation could take up to 2100, and show how it will be easier to mitigate and adapt to climate change in some versions of the future than others.

In one scenario, researchers explore what would happen if international tensions caused the UK to increase border controls and increase military spending. Political and social tensions would initially be spearheaded by “nationalistic public attitudes” that would support populist leaders who drive a breakdown in international relations. A lack of foreign trade would push the government to lift environmental regulations to focus economic growth on domestic manufacturing and intensive farming. Food safety and animal welfare standards would also be lowered.

By 2040, in this scenario, the four UK nations have become independent of one another, with strict border controls leading to the countries making use of their own resources. By the 2050s, the railway system, the NHS and universities will have collapsed, while “child labour re-emerges in connection to a widespread return to subsistence farming and bartering systems”. By the 2070s, the government has collapsed and militias enforce laws in microstates, while controlling resources and an illegal arms trade.

The scenario is one of five different outlooks called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, a UK-version of a framework used by international climate scientists and economists to examine how societies and economies might change over this century.

The Met Office report was carried out by Cambridge Econometrics, a consultancy firm, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the universities of Edinburgh and Exeter. It was funded by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation, a government-funded body.

There are a few more pessimistic scenarios, including one in which “a rich elite has privatised the NHS and introduced military conscription to deal with criminality and social unrest” (I could go with the first half of that) and then, shining softly in the darkness like your one permitted eco-friendly lightbulb, there’s the one where…

… the UK makes a “societal shift towards more environmentally sustainable systems”, researchers believe poverty will be “eliminated”. This would also involve rejoining a “progressive and expanded EU”.

They couldn’t resist.

In this outlook, the UK will have a “fully functional circular economy” as society quickly becomes more egalitarian, “leading to healthier lifestyles, improved well-being, sustainable use of natural resources, and more stable and fair international relations”.

Decades ago the U.S. Center for Disease Control got bored of doing its day job and decided to spend its time controlling guns instead. In vain did the Republicans add a rider to the 1996 omnibus spending bill telling ’em to stick to diseases; Obama repealed it. Turned out the CDC might indeed have been better employed doing what it said on the tin.

I hate to dash the dreams of fellow aspiring science fiction writers, but I think the same advice might apply to the Meteorological Office.

Hot news

Honestly, I kind of like The Rings of Power. It’s slow, and the evident fact that there must have been an episode of ethnic cleansing in the Shire at some point between the era of TROP and that of The Hobbit is sad to contemplate. But whether the mind-wiped stranger will turn out to be Gandalf, Sauron, or someone new has caught my interest, and oooooh the fabrics. Trust the elves to develop the Jacquard loom early and then not bother with the rest of their industrial revolution.

Oh, and Liz Truss will be the next prime minister.

Samizdata quote of the day

“AI, machine learning, robotics and the power of computational science hold the potential to drive explosive economic growth and profoundly transform a diverse array of sectors, while providing humanity with countless technological improvements in medicine and healthcare, financial services, transportation, retail, agriculture, entertainment, energy, aviation, the automotive industry and many others. Indeed, these technologies are already deeply embedded in these and other industries and making a huge difference.”

“But that progress could be slowed and in many cases even halted if public policy is shaped by a precautionary-principle-based mindset that imposes heavy-handed regulation based on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, the persistent dystopianism found in science fiction portrayals of AI and robotics conditions the ground for public policy debates, while also directing attention away from some of the more real and immediate issues surrounding these technologies.”

Adam Thierer

Passing the port from left to right at the Science Fiction Writers of America dinner

“Dammit, Clive, don’t be a bloody fool. Think of your wife. And the children. And the regiment.”

It was a British thing. One passed the port from right to left. When in a moment of madness poor, doomed Clive passed the port to the right, there was only one way to atone.

Back in 1979 when that episode of Ripping Yarns came out, I expect our colonial cousins were amused at our former belief that right-to-left was fine yet left-to-right was abominable. Such absurd stress on an insignificant difference in the manner of performing an everyday action!

The Yanks of 1979 laughed at Brits of 1979 laughing at Brits of 1879. The Yanks of 2022 say, “Hold my beer.”

Jim Treacher retweeted this from “Undoomed”:

Read their statement and was like: Holy shit, what did she do? Did she drop N-bombs on stage while wearing a white hood and setting a cross on fire??

Undoomed is referring to the following statement by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) on the removal of the author Mercedes Lackey from the Nebula Conference.

Click on Undoomed’s link to find out what Mercedes Lackey actually did. Dashed bad show. Off you go, Mercedes.

The Matrix Preloaded

I thought that after most of a lifetime reading science fiction and alternate history I knew all the ways Hitler could have won World War II if just one little thing had turned out differently, but I had never heard of this one:

Onthisday.com for May 12th included this entry:

1941 Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin

W-w-what? Straight to Wikipedia I went. Here is the entry for the Z3:

The Z3 was completed in Berlin in 1941. It was not considered vital, so it was never put into everyday operation. Based on the work of the German aerodynamics engineer Hans Georg Küssner (known for the Küssner effect), a “Program to Compute a Complex Matrix”[b] was written and used to solve wing flutter problems. Zuse asked the German government for funding to replace the relays with fully electronic switches, but funding was denied during World War II since such development was deemed “not war-important”.

The original Z3 was destroyed on 21 December 1943 during an Allied bombardment of Berlin.

Well, good. While it is interesting to speculate on how the development of the computer might have been different, it sounds like the Lord guided the bomb-aimer’s hand on that occasion.

Anyone know, how close did they come?

The work of construction

As the author says, this is a long thread, but in these days of uncertainty when so many yearn for examples of selfless effort for the common cause, well worth your time.

I found #15… disturbing.

Edit: Hat-tip to Duncan S in the comments – the original creators of this inspiring drama were Phil Shearrer and his son Kyle Shearrer back in 2015.

To call it “Project Cassandra” was hubris

As soon as I saw it I thought of psychohistory. I was not alone, judging from the most recommended comment to this fascinating Guardian article:

‘At first I thought, this is crazy’: the real-life plan to use novels to predict the next war

An extract:

In one of his last reports to the defence ministry, towards the end of 2019, Wertheimer had drawn attention to an interesting development in the Caucasus. The culture ministry of Azerbaijan had recently supplied libraries in Georgia with books carrying explicit anti-Armenian messages, such as the works of poet Khalil Rza Uluturk. There were signs, he warned, that Azerbaijan was ramping up propaganda efforts in the brewing territorial conflict with its neighbouring former Soviet republic.

War broke out a year later: 6,000 soldiers and civilians died in a six-week battle over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the war to bolster his strongman image, hailing Armenia’s defeat in December as a “glorious victory”. Russia, traditionally allied with Armenia, successfully leveraged the conflict to consolidate its influence in the region. Germany and the EU, meanwhile, looked on and stayed silent: being able to predict the future is one thing, knowing what to do with the information is another.

I predicted this, it didn’t happen. I predicted this, it didn’t happen. I predicted this, it’s happening.

European MPs targeted by deepfake video calls imitating Russian opposition

2020 like it ought to be

Jet suit paramedic

Refelections on wealth from City 17

Sometimes you do not quite appreciate a thing until you find you can not get it. In the game Half Life: Alyx (one of the best things you can do in virtual reality right now), the Earth is oppressed by totalitarian inter-dimensional rulers and the player must roam the deserted, alien biohazard-infested quarantined streets of City 17 as part of a resistance attempting to sabotage enemy super-weapons. Needless to say luxuries are hard to come by. It is all a bit close to the bone for a game that was in development for four years and released on March 23rd.

As Alyx, controlled by the player, has to make her way down a dark, slime-soaked, head-crab-infested passageway, she asks her friend Russ to talk about the past to provide some comfort. What was life like before the coro^H^H^H^H Combine? “Alyx, have you ever heard of a club sandwich?” Er, nope, not once.

Right. To make a club sandwich, you need to start with bread. Not from a bread line. From a bakery across the street, baked that day, okay? You add tomatoes, lettuce — not vegetable paste — fresh. Then you add bacon — that’s from an animal we used to call the pig. You toast the bread, and you put all that inside it.

You guys had all that? That’s insane.

It is! And I’m not done. Then you add a second sandwich on top of the first one. You put ham in it — also from a pig — and turkey, from an animal we used to call the “turkey,” and more tomato, more lettuce, and a bunch of other things I’m forgetting. It was six inches tall and weighed a pound and had a dozen ingredients from five different continents. It was the most impossible food item you could imagine in any age before ours.

Wow. That does sound pretty amazing. I am really going to appreciate my next club sandwich.

It lets us pretend that it is us talking

Samizdata no longer needs me. Soon it will no longer need you. I took the text from the sidebar:

The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property.

and copied it into Talk To Transformer.

The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Most of them are rich white males who are probably atheists, but many are probably questioning the existence of a god as they revel in their limitless wealth. They believe that anyone who is unprotesting of their cause is a threat to their cause and a threat to their own existence. They don’t care if you are a child and a physician or an Arab and a journalist. You must conform and accept their conspiracies. This is the true face of

Comments are, as ever, welcome. Even from humans.

Spaced Out review

Found on the 8-12 shelf, Space Case by Stuart Gibbs is a science fiction adventure story set on a realistic moon base in which its twelve-year-old protagonist helps to solve a murder mystery. Its sequel, Spaced Out, is about a missing person mystery. A relatable protagonist, some science fiction with proper science, a location with opportunity for adventure and an engaging mystery: these ought to be great ingredients for a book my son could enjoy.

The first problem, however, is that the protagonist is very negative about living on the moon. It would be possible to complain a bit about the poor food and the lack of space while also being excited and in awe of the achievement of living on the moon. But no, there is no upside. Even the boredom is only relieved by terrible events, leading the protagonist to yearn for boredom once more. And he’s not an inspiring chap who faces his challenges head on, with aplomb. He mostly moans about things or is scared. Instead of being relieved to get out of the micrometeorite storm alive, after the discovery of a hole in the top layers of his suit, the author dwells on his fear and dislike of returning outside even when the threat of incoming meteorites disappears.

Minor spoiler in the next paragraph…

→ Continue reading: Spaced Out review