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Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Time Event
Malthus and Julian Simon
Part of an ongoing conversation, Necoras comments: "A growth economy, which is necessary if you are to have an increasing demographic, requires ever growing resources. This worked well as long as we were exploring into the US, and Africa, etc, etc. Eventually we'll use up the easily available resources (likely within a century for some rarer elements) and the economy will slow. There are a few options at that point.

1) Expand. There are a number of places to do this. The oceans are one, space is another. Neither is easy, but both are very very rich.

2) Recycle. This will happen soon regardless. Landfills will become more valuable as goldmines when they're the only place you can get gallium, iridium, and other elements vital to our 1st world technologies.

3) Collapse. Go read the Mote in God's Eye for the obvious end result here. War, theft of resources, etc. I'd rather not see this one.

Regardless, for a growth economy you need room and resources to grow."

My comment: 

I am not sure I agree. While these three options might be the case, they are not necessarily the case. The fourth option is that the economy continued to expand, merely not in the same direction, or using the same raw materialist, as previously.

Necoras (and Malthus) assumes that what defines "a resource" remains the same over time. History shows that assumption not true in all cases.

One small example: two centuries ago, whale oil was a resource. Demand was high. Everyone used it in their kerosine lamps. Indeed, it was a renewable resource, since whales reproduce. In those days, petroleum was not a resource: indeed, places where crude oil seeped out the ground were worth LESS than other parcels of land, because oil made land bad for farming.

Thanks to Rockefeller and Standard Oil, petroleum became the resource. After being refined, it was used, and more cheaply, than whale oil, for hearing and for lanterns et cetera. (In return for this unparalleled benefit to human civilization, Rockefeller was attacked, and his company looted by Teddy Roosevelt and various populists. One of histories small cruelties.)

Another example. Silicon, such as is used to make computer chips, used to be not a resource. It was useless to human beings. There was no significant market for it.

Another example. There is family not far from where I live who sit on top of a uranium mine. They would be millionaires, except that they are not legally allowed to take the uranium out of the ground. The environmentalist movement has successfully killed off the market for atomics in the United States, and laws prevent selling it overseas. So their uranium is not a resource.

It is human ingenuity which makes something a resource.

A relatively minor technical advance would make shale oil a resource: currently it is not. A relatively minor technical advance would made geothermal heat a resource: currently it is not. A relatively minor technical advance, or perhaps merely getting the environmentalists to shut up, would make sunlight a resource (fun fact: whenever someone tries to build a solar energy farm, the environmentalists sue them).

And so on. 

And we science fiction fans know that a major change in technology, such as a Star Trek style replicator, or a Eric Drexler style nanotechnology, would make things that are otherwise waste materials into resources. How many people could you feed if you had the technology to grow an eatable crop on the surface of the Pacific Ocean? Or turn point your atomic re-organizer machine at a lump of rock, and turn stones into bread?

Empirical Storm Troopers , Or, A View From The Slushpile
Let me direct your attention to this excellent piece by Teresa Nielsen Hayden on the woes of being a slushpile reader, combined with some sensible advice on how not to be so sensitive when receiving a rejection letter.

( hat tip to John Scalzi, who wrote an equally interesting piece on why most 'new' authors are in their 30's and 40's. His article you can read here. )

Here I quote only one segment of very quotable paragraphs from Mrs. Nielsen Hayden. Read, by all means, the whole thing here.

If you’re an author, the arrival of a rejection letter is a major event. If you’re an editor (or an associate editor, assistant editor, editorial assistant, or intern), 90% of all rejections are something you do on a quiet afternoon when you don’t have something more urgent breathing down your neck. O Yawn, you say, O Stretch, there’s that catalogue copy finished. I’ve got—hmmm, about two and a half hours left in the day. Nothing else urgent? Okay, it’s time to blight some hopes and crush some dreams. You grab a stack of slush envelopes and start going through them.

Unless you’re a senior editor with intern-like beings below you on the food chain who open and process the slush for you to look at—a splendid luxury!—a substantial fraction of your time is going to go into opening the packages, logging in the name, title, agent/no agent, genre, and date rejected, and then repackaging the rejected manuscript with a form rejection letter and a copy of the Tor Submission Guidelines.

Manuscripts are unwieldy, but the real reason for that time ratio is that most of them are a fast reject. Herewith, the rough breakdown of manuscript characteristics, from most to least obvious rejections:

1. Author is functionally illiterate.

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Karate Kid!
I recently rented KARATE KID and KARATE KID II to show to my children, as part of a father's responsibility to transmit the culture to the next generation. (I also most recently showed them a Marx Brothers movie, A DAY AT THE RACES.) 

The Karate Kid movies were just better than I remembered, and this is despite that I had fond memories of them. Rather than praise them to you, let me link to a review I found over at John Nolte's "Big Hollywood" website {"At 25 Karate Kid still Packs a Punch.") 


I tell you I was shocked to learn that the suits wanted to remove the scene were a drunk Mr. Miyagi tells of his wife's death while he served in the war. That is the best scene in the film.


Karate Kid 2 - Tea Ceremony

As a follow up to the last post, let me post one of my favorite scenes in Karate Kid 2, where the luminously beautiful Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) performs a tea ceremony for Jersey kid Daniel (Ralph Macchio). No words are needed. The moment when she lets down her hair is simply magical.
Last Airbender live action movie
I am positively giddy. I adore this cartoon, was continually astonished at the pride and care and craftsmanship that went into the writing, the animation, the voice-acting, and especially the world-building. Let us hope M. Night Shyamalan can work his old magic.

Dear Hollywood, even if this movie betrays and disappoints we few, we happy fans of AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER, the mere fact that you made it at all, means that I must forgive you for “Redacted,” “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs,” "Stop-Loss," "W," "Grace Is Gone," “In the Valley of Elah,”  "The Road to Guantanamo," and a few dozen others. (However, I will not forgive you for "V for Vendetta" until and unless you make "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and "A Horse and his Boy.") 

You see? It is not that hard to retain customer good will.

Now if someone would only make Larry Niven's RINGWORLD into a movie, perhaps starring as Megan Fox as Teela Brown, Will Smith as Louis Wu, and Russell Crowe as Speaker-to-Animals.  Jim Hensen's workshop could do the Nessus the Puppeteer.

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