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Markers

Anytime I read a post in a tech blog (looking at you, /.) that talks about mining He-3 or telescopes <Vincent Price voice>on the moon</Vincent Price voice>, I know I’m dealing with an idiot and I can stop paying attention.

I was sitting on a ski lift listening to the other people talk – turned out it was one former Caltech engineering student, and two current astronomy profs, and they were going on about He-3 mining on the moon. I kept my mouth shut and skied the other way. Either some other subset of us was being polite as I was, but one and perhaps three nominally smart well-educated scientific person(s) on that quad were not immune to this humbug.

Other markers are:

  • Hyperloop
  • Hydrogen fuel-cells
  • Desalinization
  • Terraforming Mars
  • Anyone who uses the phrase “SJW” non-ironically
  • Singularity

The Venn diagram of people who believe these things is basically this: o

Not listed: Self-driving cars could be on this list, as most of the people who rant about it being the inevitable future don’t even think of the first-order problems, much less knock-on effects. It’s not on the list because I do think we’ll suffer through a few decades of a lot of bad implementations, because it serves a larger purpose of 1) taking money from the rubes, and 2) killing public transport and the infrastructure behind it. There’s a influential cabal (TINC) for whom both will be profitable and desirable. It serves both conservatives and the same people who think the gig economy is a good idea – the end result serves both their pocketbook and their philosophy. Sometimes these are the same people, but often enough the latter serve the former unwittingly.

It’s also not on the list because I still enjoy pointing out the flaws in the thinking of people who are smart-enough in other domains but somehow can’t think beyond I’ll-sit-in-the-back-and-read-an-ebook. They really, really, really want self-driving cars! And to a large extent they’re already driving Prius to save the planet. No cognitive dissonance there. ObGeorgeCarlin: the planet will be just fine without us.

What does it say that Elon Musk is behind a lot of these?