Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Overanalysis: A Hypothetical Predator in Action

I came up with an idea for how a predatory version of a certain purple dinosaur could work.

First of all, Barney takes the form of a therapod dinosaur (2 legged carnivores including raptors and T-Rex), presumably a tyrannosaur himself. This implies his diet is carnivorous. This presents a problem: Walking down the street as a hungry dinosaur means he's likely to draw unwanted attention. So transformation/hibernation in a "harmless" state is a good survival tactic. That's why he turns into a stuffed animal.

Barney obviously wants to avoid adult attention. Adults, even those not knowing that they're facing, are still stronger, more experienced, and more intelligent than children are. Like other predators, Barney prefers weaker prey: children in this case. That's why he adopts the purple and green look as friendly humanoid dinosaur. He primarily transforms into this state in the absence of adults, and does little other than try to befriend children. He essentially uses a charm predator strategy, luring in and distracting prey to isolate them.

Now, Barney's humanoid form is obviously his primary hunting one. His head has jaws clearly big enough to devour children or swallow them whole, and he only takes that form when he's certain no adults are around. Barney also probably has little issue cleaning up after each victim, given he can clean himself each time he shapeshifts and has a magic bag he can easily hide or transmute any leftovers in (or perhaps souvenirs from previous victims, fetishistic totems similar to those taken by serial killers).

The lineup of children changes every few episodes, and this could be clear evidence of this tactic. It also implies that Barney convinces his victims to bring friends to replace those who have been eaten. Barney's always trying to reassure kids, hence the song and dance routine. Cult leaders, kidnappers, and creepy fellows in the back of vans often try the same tactic. He might also have some kind of supernatural hypnosis, mental suggestion, fey-styled glamor, or mind control, given he's always got a full group of "livestock." It also suggests there are limits to how many people he can control or influence at once, or he prefers smaller groups that are easier to isolate and manipulate. So, a stupid children's show just got a whole lot darker, thanks to overthinking it.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Kleptocracy Rising

As a system fails, a dedicated kleptocrat clade tends to form. In the US, this graph makes it visible. Not the large portion of veterans, largely due to service in WW2. Over time, that percentage is replaced by career politicians and lawyers. Notice how small the proportion of non-bureaucracy jobs decreases. That is how a republic dies: An invasion of lawyers who can't be bothered to obey their own laws.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Interesting Tech

Taking a moment from the socio-technical commentary to focus on some interesting technology. Human suspended animation trials are starting now, so perhaps it might be possible to 'sleep in' past a few awful periods? Likewise, human augmentation continues, without need for implants. The Aussie firefighter application seems a rather hot application for exo-robotics.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

American Tech Woes

The US tech sector is worried enough due to the death of net neutrality and NSA deliberately compromising their products (to say nothing of making it easier for Chinese or other foreign hackers). There's also the recent death of an anti-patent troll bill. This is what happens when lawyers and kleptocrats outnumber engineers, scientists, and programmers.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Defense of Poverty

The economics of certain resources are such that the cost of retrieving them is not worth what they're worth. Indeed, wishful thinking guides much of the economy. While any money spent is arguably in hopes of some type of return, some returns are more feasible than others. From fossil fuels to minerals to whale oil, history has plenty of examples of this.

It also may be applied to military history. Some regions are simply so poor, so backwards, and so remote, influencing control there is harder than it's worth. This is why rural Afghanistan was, is, and will be among the world's backwaters. Even chasing fugitives into such territory may not necessarily be worth it. Some people likewise have little worth stealing. Perhaps insuring that all are poor means that there is little left to steal.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Economics of Dungeon Crawling

Hoarding of wealth has a deflationary effect on any group's economy. Just as the dwarves after Smaug hoovered up their wealth. The ease of capturing an asset often depends upon its relative value. In fantasy roleplaying games, the amount of money stolen by a bandit gang might be a pittance compared to a warlord's battle chest, which in turn is nothing compared to a dragon's hoard. Each becomes progressively harder to loot for any would be adventurers.

Now, the vitality of an economy is often characterized by the constant flow and transfer of wealth across several strata and several markets. Diversity is a hallmark of a healthy economy, like a healthy ecosystem. How might one get money flowing again when most politicians come directly from the plutocrat clade itself (if not serving it)? Writer Charles Stross has an idea relating to soft paternalism.

For example, ideas could include financing space colonization or fusion commercialization. The problems would be extremely costly, but also offer the greatest investments over the long term.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Asymmetric Charity

Disruption can work in both positive and negative ways. Indeed, the total effects of disruption can be seen further in the future. In an era of networked protests and open source insurgencies, new methods of construction and social collaboration also unfold. If one man can start protests that topple regimes, why can't another unleash an invention that helps millions?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Simplifying Logistics

With climate change threatening to raise sea levels and fossil fuels harder to get, the US Navy's new developments may be cause for guarded optimism. Coastal deployment of such a system (perhaps mounted on special modified cargo vessels) could provide much needed fuel and energy for some countries. Of course, with desalinization a key technology for arid countries (and there will be more of them), having this fuel to power those plants would be a literal lifesaver.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Supervillainy in Action

A certain official in Turkey has been making the supervillain rounds as of late for a number of reasons. From trying to block and hijack domains after a recorded phonecall of his own corruption leaked to use of brutal tactics against protesters against him to even talk of false flags, the election season in Turkey is likely to be full of such drama. Given the history of the region, perhaps a military coup or two may even be in the wings. Besides, it's not like the world could use another geopolitical upheaval...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Soft Power Insurgencies

A keystone of 4th generation warfare is the viability of soft power in more forms, especially when compared to conventional industrial warfare. It is a mistake to consign "protest" as the only form of soft power. From corporate PR to  political secession to bypassing the financial system, the complexity of a system allows new venues of attack. Combining these together may yield even more dramatic results.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Supervillain State

If any single nation state today has completely dropped the pretense of a social contract, North Korea counts. The fact it's a got state-sponsored organized crime syndicate or two is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Bad Ideas

Casebook example of a potential problem. Whether they can fix it by decentralizing it is up in the air.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Have-Nots vs. Would-Earns

As John Robb notes, a key issue in Ukraine and elsewhere (including Venezuela, Thailand, and perhaps Turkey again) is the easy which an open source insurgency may be started and continued. If the 20th century and earlier history had the classic dichotomy of haves vs. have-nots, than perhaps the 21st might be the haves vs. the would-earns.

In this case, the underclass is comprised of people simply yearning for an honest day's work, a chance to perform a trade or profession without much interference from the power elites. However, many of the "power elites" are individually not that powerful themselves. The system/organization that employs them restricts their ability to use their individual judgment in certain situations, perhaps compounded by group-think and institutional bias. For example, a corrupt cop shaking down bribes may be given a blind eye (if not encouraged for a cut) by his cash-strapped superiors. However, an individual still effectively set an example that sparked a series of revolts. A fruit vendor burning himself in protest started the Arab Spring.

Even with tools like sock puppet accounts, online censorship/manipulation (even if subtle rather than overt), and plain spinning are deployed (and I believe they were in many such cases), there comes a point where a situation can no longer be contained. In the developed countries, there is less desperation (for now), allowing much of the systems to continue to function. In more desperate circumstances, even a humble fruit salesman or bulldozer operator can help topple a regime. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Swiss Army Asset

A theory that's gained traction in recent decades is that of the diversified holding of assets. In a purely financial sense, even a balanced portfolio (perhaps including a variety of stocks and bonds) becomes more of a liability. As such, any would be investors or clients may start holding non-conventional assets, such as precious metals and even crypto-currencies. While crypto-currencies may be volatile and metal prices rigged, there is more than simply the financial gain in some cases.

In an unstable economy, the assets which sell are those that can be used to cut costs and allow people to become further self sufficient, or at least find alternative economies. It also brings to mind Gibson's concept that "The street finds its own uses for things." While the price of an individual Bitcoin can vary, the greatest asset for it may in fact be as a transfer system as opposed to a new currency.

Despite a few valiant attempts, the political machinery has largely become an incoherent mess. Can it be repaired, will something better arise, will it fail horribly, or perhaps all three? These answers are sure to be interesting as the robots advance. Perhaps the greatest asset in an unstable economy is a machine that allows one to produce almost all of what they'd need or want at once, including another such machine.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Supervillain Style

Sometimes, supervillains need more style than just financial lawsuits. In the meantime, new materials open possibilities for everything from machinery to buildings to clothes to medicine. Perhaps more importantly, they can be 3D printed.

Otherwise, there's tricks more like cartoon and comic book villains. We're also seeing the beginning of automating security. I wonder what happens when police and soldiers who once enforced the law find themselves employed?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

End of the Show

While news worldwide is constantly depressing, careers in supervillainy are poised to rise. For as systems fail, there will always be those who benefit from the chaos. From politicians advocating martial law to terrorists to criminal masterminds, there's always those who seek power. The problem is, in their rush to control the world, they may have destroyed that which they sought to preserve.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Positive Disruption

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.
 "What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." -Friedrich Nietzsche


Sometimes, systems can be disrupted or exploited in ways that may not be apparent at first, but may actually be refinements of its original purposes. Manipulating data mining algorithms may increase traffic to certain sites, or spread news stories that help/hinder business interests and advertising. Other times, a new technology or paradigm may threaten an old and corrupt order. Or perhaps simplest of all, it can be used to find love. Consider this a preemptive Valentine's Day post.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Gates of Tomorrow, Problems of Yesterday

"Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." -Friedrich Nietzsche


Sometimes, stupidity is a non-survival trait. From Darwin Awards to idiotic politicians to would be neofeudal overlords, stupidity and incompetence seem to rule the roost. This is not due to the individuals necessarily being stupid, not at all. There are very good professionals and clever people employed by governments, universities, and corporations. The problem is, the institutions they work for either ignore, misinterpret, or perform the wrong responses.

For example, climate change is reported to pose a grave threat to human civilization. The "brilliant" response? Send intelligence agencies and cops after environmental protestors, despite the fact it would make more long term strategic, economic, and political sense to encourage a shift to relocalized food, utility, and power sources. Now, such a movement would cost money, but given the titanic costs of maintaining a failing infrastructure, tax loopholes for fossil fuel exploitation, and accounting tricks to rig the stock market, it pails in comparison. Politicians expertly cater themselves to short term interests at almost a  complete and total ignorance of the long term.

This may be the tragic result of human awareness, which focuses mainly on immediate gratification. As the Boomer generation used to living beyond its means shuffles off this mortal coil, they're leaving a political, legal, economic, and environmental trainwreck behind them.

Each generation likes blaming their own youth for their own problems, but also uses every dirty trick to maintain their dominance. If immortality were made practical and cheap for the masses, one wonders if a gerontocracy run by Boomers would be a fusion of 1984's surveillance state and Brave New World's mindless hedonism. Tomorrow's problems have their roots today, all because of lacking the urge to be a good ancestor.*

*=Not necessarily an ancestor in the sense of having a family, but being an ancestor in the sense of leaving a positive contribution to the world for the future.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Crowdfunding Utilities

As existing utility companies and monopolies try to offer higher prices for worse service, there is the possibility of nonprofit organizations raising money through crowdfunding. Traditionally, taxation served this role, but due to privatization and abuse of eminent domain, today's utilities are tomorrow's failing infrastructure. (This is not solely an American issue, as Europe, the UK, and other nations are largely following the same pattern.)

As the cost of local wireless and utilities continues to drop, and existing infrastructure becomes difficult to maintain, the demand will rise for local alternatives. Crowdfunding may not raise the money that taxation does, but even larger companies may find advantage in making donations (as well as the modern equivalent of charities and philanthropy). Now, an impressive task would be to crowdfund the principle needed for a minimum income program. Of course minor updates would be needed to keep up with population growth and inflation/deflation, but overall, some things may be better in the hands of nonprofits.