Orwell! Thou Shouldst Be Living At This Hour

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Pun Salad fave Bryan Caplan has been in the news, with his steadfast opposition to George Mason’s Orwellian “Just Societies” Requirement. Which refers to his university's proposal to have incoming students take two courses that fit under the anodyne "Just Societies" umbrella. Caplan uses "Orwellian" in the 1984 sense, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”. And notes that kind of Newspeak is rife within the GMU DEI bureaucracy; he expands on that theme at his substack.

RTWT, but here's his conclusion:

This is quixotic, I know, but let me try to break through the woke academic echo chamber with some harsh truths. If you promote DEI for a living, the reality is that normal, apolitical people see you as a racist, sexist, censorious fanatic. They don’t say so publicly … because they are afraid of you. They don’t tell you privately … because they are afraid of you. But when they’re speaking to people they trust, they vehemently disagree with you—and yearn to see you all fired.

Contrary to woke dogma, racism does not mean “prejudice plus power.” Yet the phrase still nicely captures what normal, apolitical people detest about DEI promoters. Namely: DEI promoters are exemplars of powerful, prejudiced people. After all, they get paid to make baseless accusations of moral failing against their co-workers—day in, day out. If you work in DEI and want to see people who need to learn about the just treatment of others, spare us another self-righteous lecture and look in the mirror.

Caplan's article is "Orwellian" too, in the sense expressed in our Eye Candy/Amazon Product du Jour: his truth-telling is a revolutionary act. Hope he's not a casualty.

Also of note:

  • Dear AARP, do you myth me yet? At the Dispatch, Brian Riedl dispels Ten Myths Sabotaging Social Security Reform. Here's an uncomfortable truth:

    Relatedly, most seniors are not too poor to absorb reforms. Seniors were undoubtedly poor when Social Security was created in the 1930s. Today—while some certainly struggle—seniors are the wealthiest age group and the wealthiest generation in American history. Seniors have the lowest poverty rate of any age group, and their average household incomes have grown four times as fast as the average worker since 1980. Millions of retiree households continue to earn incomes greater than $100,000 even after retirement, driven by (non-housing) net worths in the millions. Because most retirees are wealthier than the taxpayers financing their benefits, Social Security today largely redistributes income upward, not downward. While Social Security was meant only to supplement savings and personal retirement funds, any reforms can easily protect the remaining low-income seniors by raising the minimum benefit to 125 percent of the federal poverty line.

    As a recipient, I'm arguing against interest here. It's nice getting that bump in my bank account every month, and I (kind of) deserve something for all the money extracted from my paychecks over the years, … but, yeah, it's not keeping me out of the poorhouse by any stretch.

    And (sorry, you may be tired of hearing me say this), the longer we wait, the more painful the fix is going to be.

    Related, my 2023 post: AARP Treats Me Like I Was Already Senile.

  • Gernsback is spindizzying in his grave. D. J Butler is disgusted, but, given history, unsurprised: The Long Arm Of Chinese Censorship Comes For Science Fiction Awards.

    For the second time in 10 years, insiders of the World Science Fiction Convention (colloquially known as “Worldcon”) have bent their own rules in an attempt to police the bounds of what books and writers are to be seen as acceptable science fiction and fantasy. This time, they’ve done so on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

    Worldcon is an annual convention held in a different city every year. At each Worldcon, attendees, in addition to people who pay for non-attending memberships, vote on where the convention will be held in the future and also vote to determine who will receive the awards, most famously including the once-prestigious Hugo Awards. Despite this peripatetic nature, Worldcon has a core group of participants who return year after year. These participants often refer to themselves as “fans” and, collectively, as “fandom.”

    Fandom leans left and can be very cliquish. Many fans have been attending Worldcon for decades and see it as something like their science fiction family reunion. Since Worldcon has always been attended by industry professionals — writers, editors, and agents — as well as fans, the convention has been a useful networking event for aspiring creatives, but always within the social context of fandom.

    However, there is a clique of insiders that has unusual sway over what happens at Worldcon and the Hugo Awards. It is comprised of writers and editors associated with a small number of the largest science fiction and fantasy publishers, as well as their friends and allies who work behind the scenes organizing conventions. The insiders don’t want you to think the turf-war games they gleefully engaged in have now gone awry on them. For instance, science fiction novelist John Scalzi informed commenters on his blog post on the subject that “Attempts to re-litigate the Sad Puppy nonsense in the comments here will be Malleted.” But why would anyone connect the events of Worldcon 81 in Chengdu, China, with the Sad Puppy conflicts?

    Butler goes on to detail what that "Sad Puppy" conflict entailed, why Scalzi would prefer it not be discussed, and how that brings us to today, when the "insiders" look to bend their knees to a ruthless dictatorship.

    (Classical reference in headline is to Hugo winner James Blish's spacedrive gadget.)

  • If it weren't for double standards… Robert Graboyes notes (yet another) example of A.I. and Community (Double) Standards. Specifically, a very large difference in results he received from "Midjourney", an illustration-generating AI site when he requested:

    Donald Trump pen-and-ink caricature, drawn in the style of John Tenniel.


    Joe Biden pen-and-ink caricature, drawn in the style of John Tenniel.

    Click over to see the results. But what I really want to excerpt, continuing the sci-fi theme:

    March 8, 1968, the Star Trek episode, “The Ultimate Computer,” featured an AI device running the U.S.S. Enterprise in a test of the technology. The computer, named “M5,” begins destroying friendly vessels and generally acting as if mentally ill. Its creator, Dr. Richard Daystrom (William Marshall) tries to talk the rampaging machine down from its murderous rampage. In the process, Daystrom himself shows strong signs of mental illness. Daystrom had mentioned earlier that the computer was built to replicate the physical structures of an actual person’s memories (“engrams”). As the mental state of the computer and its inventor both deteriorate, Captain Kirk asks Daystrom:

    “Doctor Daystrom, you impressed human engrams on the M-5 circuits. Whose engrams did you use?”

    The quivering, apoplectic, visibly deranged Daystrom responds:

    “Why, my own, of course.”

    If you wonder why present-day AI programs exhibit such strange, suspicious, biased behavior, begin your investigation by watching this Star Trek episode.

    I'm beginning to understand how HAL got that way.

  • "The answer may surprise you!" And for once, that ain't clickbait.

    What is the first country you hit?

    Hint: not Canada.

    Answer (and a long explanation) here.