Sunday, March 22, 2015

Weekend Semi-Open Thread: Pondering the End of the World at CHI-FI 2015

As is our habit and tradition, please do consider this our semi-open weekend/Sunday thread.

I spent the last few days at CHI-FI 2015. This is a nice regional convention that has a good amount of upside once they get some of the kinks worked out. I can only imagine the challenges involved in planning an event at a major hotel and having to coordinate all of the many elements necessary for it to cohere nicely.

Moreover, and it must only come with practice and experience, little things matter at a convention in terms of procuring talent, guest speakers, and the like. I am sure that the organizers of CHI-FI 2105 will improve their logistics for what will be a great event next year.

[Obvious suggestion and question for all folks planning a "con": please make sure that the chairs of the individual panels adhere to the times listed on the schedule. 

At this year's CHI-2015, the schedules allotted 30 mins more to the panels than what was detailed on the schedule. In addition. some of the panels seemed happy to end early. Perhaps this is a function of nerves by the panelists and chairs? Based on my experience of having been on quite a few panels as a guest and chair, always plan to go over time as opposed to planning to end early. This makes for a huge difference in terms of energy for the audience.]

As a "ghetto nerd"--speaking of which, much love to the folks who have said kind things about the last episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show with guest Dr. Adilifu Nama--I want to see more and better science fiction, comic book, cosplay, popular culture, and other like events as opposed to fewer of them.

CHI-FI 2015's heart is in the right place. I wish them the best going forward. I look forward to next year's con.

I had a good time at the event. Some of the standout panels I attended included the following:

1. The BDSM and kink panel featured some great sharing by the panelists. They deserved to have many more folks in attendance.

2. The panel on being an outspoken woman online was excellent too. Their insights into the bad behavior and immaturity of the sexists and misogynists who routinely harass women both online and in other spaces was very instructive. The panelists were honest, direct, and spoke with a perspective born of direct experience.

3. The panel on human augmentation was also very good. Smart folks doing smart things and talking about neuroscience in a way that is accessible to interested laypeople always earns a plus from me.

4. The "Beast Women" burlesque show was very enticing. As a man who appreciates the beauty of the female form I was transfixed, titillated, and much impressed by the skill on display. I will definitely be attending the "Beast Women" burlesque show in the future. I was so fascinated, and my attention riveted to the beautiful performers, that I was (almost) able to ignore the silly chatter of the sad souls and caricatures of lonely adult male virgin nerds who were sitting next to me. There is a reason that their beds are empty and cold at night...beautiful women are dancing in front of them, yet they would rather make stupid comments instead of figuring out how to up their game.

5. I enjoyed all of the panels I attended. However, my favorite was Science of the Apocalypse: From Armageddon to Zombies.

From my learning there, I offer the following observations and sharing for our weekend salon.

Apparently, the pharmaceutical industry is integrating nano materials into its products. This has the potential to cause no small amount of harm to the environment--and by extension humankind--as discussed by Dr. David Grainger.

There is a metric called The Torino Impact Hazard Scale. I can now quantify my worries about the end of the world and the probability of an object hitting the Earth from outer-space.

Syphilis is really bad. I knew this to be true...and not from personal experience. But after being relatively controlled for decades, antibiotic resistant syphilis is on the march across the former Soviet Union.

As reported in Science magazine, the Earth has now exceeded four of the nine limits for hospitable life. I wonder when Gaia (assuming she has not already) will decide to eliminate our intrusive and destructive species from the planet?

Any issues of public or private concern to share?

Question: if a small number of scientists or other researchers discovered that the end of the world was near, and nothing could be done to prevent it, should they share this information with the general public? Is the greater good served by silence or instead sharing this knowledge even assuming for the potential chaos that could likely ensue?

The Coventry moral dilemma is one of my favorites.


joe manning said...

I'm guessing there's a close correlation between boredom, misogyny, and racism. Like the old saw "an idle mind is the devil workshop." Good science fiction is a prelude to the sort of science fact that is intellectually stimulating and is the antidote to the general demoralization.

chauncey devega said...

Boredom is pretty personal in its definition and experience. There are lots of racists and misogynists who have great fun by actively channeling those beliefs and habits.

Gable1111 said...

If an asteroid was about to hit that would totally obliterate society and life as we know it, the chaos that would ensue would be worse than the sudden nothingness of no longer being. If there was nothing that could be done to prevent the disaster we may be better off not knowing.

joe manning said...

A person has to go to a lot of trouble to burn a cross, or to harass people on line. There's just a whole lot of better things to do. This goes to public ed. abandoning its promise to provide an educated society. And charterization is dismantling public ed. altogether. Seems like the powers would be aware that the Idiocracy that they're building will endanger themselves as well as the general public. The movie should be required viewing.

chauncey devega said...

To someone who is not maladapted and racist as we understand it today. You are right. But even today and certainly in the not so recent past lynchings, cross burning, and other violence created a sense of community for whites and others. So yes, those deeds are "fun".

chauncey devega said...

It is a great philosophical question, thus the Coventry allusion, but with so many eyes on the sky it would impossible to keep quiet. Now the ticking time bomb scenario is a bit more plausible.

kokanee said...

The upcoming global water shortage:

Nick said...

I'd share that knowledge

chauncey devega said...


Buddy H said...

The pig James Howard Kunstler hit a new low today. I used to read him because he made some good points about ugly architecture and the waste of resources in suburbia, but little by little his ugly views bubbled to the surface. Here's his latest:

I begin to understand why the death of Ferguson, Mo, teen Michael Brown sent such shock waves through America last year. He truly symbolized our country: an overgrown, oafish, wannabe thug making one bad choice after another until his final, suicidal lurch against authority — followed by all the exculpatory lying on his behalf: the “gentle giant,” hands up, don’t shoot! This is exactly how America acts on the world stage these days. We are the Michael Brown among nations, high on exceptionalism, stoned on entitlement, swaggering moronically from one place to another grabbing what we feel like, smashing things up as we go.

Kunstler is a sick old fuck. He spent most of his life as a failed novelist, supporting himself with low-paying grunt jobs. When he finally got some success (and big speaking fee money) writing non-fiction about city planning, he put his $ into investments. When the market crashed, he lost some money. He never got over that, and now rants every week about international finance.

DanF said...

California is expected to be out of water next year in many places. How this isn't leading the evening news I have no idea...

joe manning said...

Yes, the lynching porn shows that the crowds are euphoric. They're having fun, a cathartic venting of pent up aggression on a projected scapegoat. But cognitively, when most poor whites stop and reflect they experience devastating guilt and frustration with their idiotic lives, and with Idiocracy in general, with its high level of free floating anxiety and anger. The specter is ever present that we're all victims of arrested social evolution, albeit some of us are more victimized than others; to the point of constituting a sacrificial caste. The more the antinomies are exposed the more they are popularly perceived as conflicting with morality and are thus extinguished. Public ed. has historically played a crucial role in this process of exposing iniquities and must be preserved, warts and all.

DanF said...

If time is short, I let people know. Maybe some small group can figure out a way to survive. We can say good bye to our loved ones and resolve issues for our own piece of mind. And don't under estimate the value of reflecting on how we fucked up a pretty good situation. I don't think there will be mass rioting on the streets. People aren't like that in a crisis. What good would freaking out do? Burn shit down that's about to be burned down? No - people will simply stop going to work and hunker down with their friends and family.

If time is long, say two years? Tougher call. Chaos would result as so many folks would simply stop going to work. You have to keep the food on the shelves and the toilets flushing... Ultimately I think you let people know.

And speaking of keeping people at work, here's your near-term challenge:

oldmangristle said...

Kunstler's drivel isn't worth a penny these days. He once had some interesting insights to share, but has become a pale and trembling self-parody. Not worth anybody's time anymore. I wonder what happened to him.

OldPolarBear said...

Churchill was a vile excuse for a human being. He was not only racist and white supremacist, he was an Anglo-Saxon supremacist (whatever the fk Anglo-Saxons even are). He enthusiastically endorsed the use of chemical warfare, poison gas, against "uncivilized" (read brown, Arabic) tribes. I have no idea if the Conventry conspiracy theories are true or not, but I certainly wouldn't put it past him.

I am a huge fan of apocalyptic, EOTW film and literature, disaster movies and the like. People have always asked me about it, and I used to feel kind of guilty about it. I could never quite figure it out. But I think it's because I've just generally been a misfit my entire life and pretty much hated everything about the culture. Reading ="">Derrick Jensen, among others, has helped me get over the guilt feelings.

OldPolarBear said...

This has made me sad. I used to be a huge fan of Kunstler, that is, all of his writing about the built environment and what we had done to our cities and so on. He should have just stuck with that exclusively. I always sensed a certain something, some misogyny and homophobia, lurking beneath the surface, and black people didn't seem to exist in his world at all. Still, if he had stayed on his original topics, it wouldn't have been to noticeable. Recently, though, he's begun to venture into talking about race, and the kindest thing you can say is that he hasn't really thought or read about anything in that area in the last 40 years and just has his head completely up his ass. And that's the best you can say about it; at worst, it is that he really does just have those ugly racist attitudes.