A collection of stuff, things, nonsense, rants, raves, pretties, sillies, and gee-gaws from Rev. Hugo Nebula, Ordained Minister of the Church of the SubGenius. (And boobs. Sometimes there are boobs. Just like in real life.) Thank you for reading.




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Posts tagged "charles stross"


"Yearly reminder: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go."

"Reports coming out of Russia suggest that some Chinese domestic appliances, notably kettles, come kitted out with malware—in the shape of small embedded computers that leech off the mains power to the device. The covert computational passenger hunts for unsecured wifi networks, connects to them, and joins a spam and malware pushing botnet. The theory is that a home computer user might eventually twig if their PC is a zombie, but who looks inside the base of their electric kettle, or the casing of their toaster? We tend to forget that theRaspberry Pi is as powerful as an early 90s UNIX server or a late 90s desktop; it costs £25, is the size of a credit card, and runs off a 5 watt USB power source. And there are cheaper, less competent small computers out there. Building them into kettles is a stroke of genius for a budding crime lord looking to build a covert botnet.

"But that’s not what I’m here to talk about…."

Half an hour on CPAN and in vim, and then some discreet dumpster-diving in the nether reaches of the internet, brought me three things:

  • A dodgy copy of the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft
  • The text of the King James Version of the Bible
  • And the first code I’ve written in, oh, close to two years (please go easy on me)

Yes, it’s a Markov chain generator, seeded with the King James Bible and the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft.

(via - Charlie’s Diary)

"The kid is not going to have anything remotely approaching a normal life. For one thing, under current UK law, he isn’t eligible to vote. His ultimate career path is already known and if he doesn’t want to put up with it, tough: the pressure to conform to expectations is enormous—he was born under a life sentence. When he ends up in that final occupation he won’t even be eligible for a passport (for long and complex constitutional reasons). He’s going to be the subject of paparazzi attention for the rest of his life. He’s almost certainly going to be sent to a private boarding school of some variety (probably Eton, as with his father), to ensure that he’s exposed to normal people (for "public schoolboy" values of normality); this is normal for the royal family, and it’s worked on previous generations. The usual recipe is for it to be followed by university, then officer training in one of the branches of the military, before joining the Old Firm and learning the onerous duties of public ceremonies and diplomatic receptions. The royals get a particularly brutal work-out in return for their privileges: what other family business would expect an 87 year old great-grandmother to make over 400 public appearances per year?

"But those are the traditional parameters of a crown prince’s upbringing. This prince is going to find things a little different because he’s going to be the first designated future British monarch to grow up in a hothouse panopticon, with ubiquitous surveillance and life-logging …”

"A hypothetical intelligent tapeworm might well consider itself blessed to have such a warm and comforting environment, that gives it all the food it needs and takes away anything that it excretes. And if it were of a philosophical bent, it might speculate: what is the extent of my environment? Is it infinite, or are there physical limits to it? And, eventually, are there other tapeworms out there? And finally, the brilliant polymath-level Enrico Fermi of tapeworms might ask, if there are other tapeworms, why aren’t they here?”

"So once you hit a certain threshold at which you are not hungry, cold, in debt, and short of pocket money, a weird gap opens up between that which is available, and that which we desire. Even the hyper-rich can’t have what they want unless they pour vast amounts of money — and, more importantly, time — into making it.

"So why do the rich keep trying to acquire more money, long past the point at which it can make any noticeable difference to their lifestyle?"

"We are surrounded by stuff. Physical property, objects we use. Even the poorest of us have some basic stuff: footwear, clothing. Having possessions is one of the defining characteristics of being human…

"But where do our priorities lie? I am thinking that there are at least two categories: stuff we pay too little attention to, and stuff we prize too highly. And sometimes there are types of stuff that fall to a greater or lesser extent into both sets …"

"Genre, in the ebook space, is a ball and chain. It stops you reaching new audiences who might like your work. You are an editor, presented with "Rule 34": do you choose to market it as SF, as crime/police procedural, or as mainstream literary fiction? Wouldn’t it be better to market it as all three, with different cover designs and cover blurbs and marketing pitches and reader recommendations and reviews for each bookstore category? 

On paper, that’s very expensive/hard to organize: in electronic media it is simply a matter of commissioning as many cover designs as your book design budget will stretch to, and then convincing the big retailers to associate a different cover image with the results of each search by genre category.”

"In earlier think-pieces I discussed a very normative, predictable, conservative (in the sense of unadventurous) version of the likely shape of the next century.

"Of course, it’s not going to be like that.

"Here’s my recipe for building a near-future world (in the context of writing an SF novel).."

"…what is the world going to look like in 2032? And in 2092?"

"Internet sales have already eaten about 20% of the retail market by value, and around 10% of shop units in the UK are now standing vacant. Some large retail chains went bust early in the current recession (Woolworths, notably); others are teetering on the brink (Blacks, La Senza).

"Where are we going in another decade? What is the high street environment going to look like?"

Click the link for the full post; bullet points are as follows:

  • 1. The USA is already a functional oligarchy…
  • 2. It’s impossible to be elected to high office without so much money that anyone in high office is, by definition, part of the 0.1%…
  • 3. Public austerity is a great cover for the expropriation of wealth by the rich… 
  • 4. Starving poor people with guns and nothing to lose scare the rich…
  • 5. Worse, the poor have smartphones…
  • 6. The oligarchs are therefore pre-empting the pre-revolutionary situation by militarizing the police (as guard labour)…
  • 7. Modern communications technologies (including the internet) provide people with a limitless channel for self-expression…
  • 8. So I infer that the purpose of SOPA is to close the loop, and allow the oligarchy to shut down hostile coordinating sites as and when the anticipated revolution kicks off…

"It occurs to me that there exists, today, a chunk of the future populated by exotic strangers who can afford to Live The Dream, should they so desire.

"The Occupy movement has tapped a wellspring of political discontent around the world; their slogan, “We are the 99%”, refers to the fact that 38% of the total wealth in the US is controlled by just 1% of the population.

"(They) have a minimum income of $0.5M/year if they’re working, and assets close to $2M if retired. Mostly theymake earn over a million a year: strikethrough deliberately added, because they are typically workers in the financial sector, CEOs in public corporations, or the odd lottery-winning anomaly (one of the first hundred hires at a successful IT company like Microsoft or Google or Apple).

"These folks aren’t going to go and colonize Mars…"

Okay, we’re over 280 comments on the “what do you think is the most important novel of the past 10-and-a-bit years (published since January 1st 2000)?” thread.

A couple of observations have leapt out and bit me on the nose, but I’m not going to state them explicitly yet. However, here’s a follow-on question suggested by my #1 observation:

What do you think is the most important novel of the past 10-and-a-bit years (published since January 1st 2000)? All male authors are disqualified

"Why do we feel so politically powerless? Why is the world so obviously going to hell in a handbasket? Why can’t anyone fix it?

"Here’s my (admittedly whimsical) working hypothesis …"

Author and science writer Charles Stross proposes corporations as enemy.