Have a bundle of ideas in the making
So today I read something on Charles Stross' blog (pointed there from Making Light) for the first time in months. Then I started reading back through the prior list of posts on the front page, until I got to Designing Society for Posterity, an ideas post about the nature of society which would need to be created in order to handle Generation Ships (extremely long distance - interstellar - colonisation). Which sucked me in massively (not just the post itself, but at least the first eighty of the three-hundred something comments which followed). So, after pulling myself away from that for long enough to get the next batch of truffle mix into the fridge and chilling (prior to rolling things into balls and chilling again, then choc-dipping), I switched over to Shakesville - and promptly got pulled into another enthralling comments thread.
This has not been a good day for the housework. It's losing out in a major way to the distractions of teh intarwebs.
So today my readers get to have a mini-linkspam, along with reflections of my own.
First up - social engineering won't really be possible until we really have the tools to do the equivalent of performing maintenance on a social system while it's still running in such a way that the participants don't find such maintenance obtrusive or intrusive. At the moment, the only tools we have are fairly blunt ones, such as advertising, war, legislation and suchlike. They all have an effect, but often all they do is pass the problem on down the line for future generations to handle (to get an idea of how effective this isn't, consider that we're still dealing with fallout from a war which happened in Palestine in 69AD, and another which hit Afghanistan in roughly 325BC). So first we need to be able to fix potential problems fairly early on, before they expand outward with chaotic effects.
Second up - The issue of "who is a good guy" is one which highlights some of the current problems in our society - particularly our love of simplification and easy binaries. Humans are always going to be more complex than a mere binary axis can pinpoint, and so are human problems. This is why I always tend toward the notions of multiple solutions to a single identified problem, simply because there are always going to be underlying factors in every problem which aren't considered in an easy fix. For example, imprisoning people is the "easy" fix to the problem of crime - but it brings with it a range of different issues (such as the cost to the state as a whole of maintaining prisons and a justice system, dealing with the simple logistical issues of keeping them functional, and also coping with a society where prison culture is starting to shape a significant fraction of your population over time).
Third up - Every single time I see anything about the US political systems I wind up having at least one massive "WTF?" moment. The issue spoken about in the link is one which would be far more difficult to achieve here in Australia - mainly because the average Aussie tends to trust political parties about as far as they could heave the collected membership thereof, and therefore hasn't left anything significant in their hands. Voter data here belongs to the Commonwealth and State Governments (or in other words, to the Commonwealth and State public service) and there are some very strict rules about what can be collected, what can't be collected, what can be done with the data, who has access to it, who they can give the data to, how it can and can't be stored, and what's allowed to be done with it in the meantime.
Fourth up - Currency, cash flow and crime and the relations between all of these. One of the most basic things about money is that it devalues - this is a universal. It doesn't matter how solid the currency is, it will wind up devaluing in one way or another. To put it another way, all money is ultimately inflationary, whether legitimately acquired or illegitimately acquired. The process of resetting the value of $CURRENCY is generally nasty, since it gets started at the top of the tree, and winds up hurting everyone all the way down - those at the bottom of the heap get the worst of it. One other small reflection: I started to think the US economy had effectively gone down the tubes when Australian dollars were very near parity point with the US dollar - given the Australian economy is approximately 1/15th the size of the US economy, it's probably a pretty good indicator.
Finally - Girl Genius is still my favourite web comic. Endless fun, drama, suspense, thrills, action and, of course, Mad Science!!!