Open thread for episode #928: Russell and Don


Don talks about murderers and thugs, their place in Abrahamic religions, and what’s holding them in check.

Comments

  1. Robert, not Bob says

    The last caller is wrong (about non-literal Christians not being anything to worry about) for another reason: as long as Christianity exists, and venerates that book, it will spontaneously generate new fundamentalists.

  2. Pong Star says

    a good response to any theist who claims that gawd can do anything is to segue into a discussion of the problem of evil, and of course, the preposterously pedestrian Iron Chariots.

  3. Hippycow says

    I think the “god can do anything” idea is in direct conflict with the idea that “god has a plan.” (This is only compounded and made worse by additional characteristics like “god knows everything” and “god is all-loving,” but these aren’t necessary to create the problem). I don’t know if some philosopher has covered this topic. If so, and anyone here can point to it, I’d love to see it. My thinking is that a plan is only needed by we mere mortals who are subject to the whims of chance. A plan is a set of designs for how you will deal with contingencies. If you can just make things be as you want by dint of your will, then you need no plan, you just make it so. There is no “if this happens, then I do that” and “if this doesn’t work, try that” required.

    We puny humans, on the other hand, have to plan things. That is only because we lack omniscience and omnipotence.

    Naturally this also applies things like hopes and desires. If you can just will anything and everything into the state that you want, then there is no room for sitting around hoping and desiring that it be in that state, unless you are bored and want to play with yourself. This would seem to be the only explanation for a god who creates a universe and populates it with fickle little intelligent beings, hoping that they will believe something really implausible and stupid stuff that has no evidence to support it.

  4. Narf says

    @Hippycow
    I think you’d be better off pairing having a plan (ie. prophesy, to put it in their lingo) with free will.  Those two things just don’t work together.  Of course you’re running the risk of turning someone into a Calvinist, presuppositionalist asshole, with this argument.

    I don’t see the issue with being all-knowing and all-loving.  You have to mix in more characteristics than those two.  Maybe the god in question is just impotent to fix the problems in the world.  He really, really wants to, but …

    I could also see a theist arguing that the “plan” is just a metaphor for a being that is outside of space and time and sees the whole history of the universe all at once, as just another spacial dimension.  I would say something of the sort, if I was a theist and was irrational enough to worship and omni-max god.

  5. Pong Star says

    the whole notion of a plan which gawd has for his sheep is so nebulous as to be a worthless pile of nonsense. any potentiality falls into the spectrum of events which could have been planned. all the vicissitudes of life are eligible to be apart of his divine plan. besides, having foreknowledge or any type of plan infringes on free will.

  6. Narf says

    Hey, EL, which post was it, in which I fucked up the correlation, causation issue and the method of tentatively demonstrating causation, so badly?  I was going to go back and address that, and explain what I was going for, while pulling the entirely wrong words straight out of my ass.  If I remember correctly, I wrote that comment about 6:00 AM, before having any coffee.

    I meant to address it two weeks ago, but the last couple of weeks have been a little weird.  I can’t find the damned thing, now.  Essentially, what I meant was more or less that the theists are constructing an argument:
    If A then B.
    If B then C.
    Therefore if A then C.
    Only they demonstrate the link from A to B and just freaking assume the link from B to C, then parade around as if they’ve linked A and C, because they demonstrated (although, often they haven’t even done that) the first leg of the argument.

    Somehow, my caffeine-deprived brain seems to have spit out causality, instead.  I’m not sure what happened there.

    I was going to pull quotes and respond in the appropriate comment section, but I’m coming up with nothing.  Do you know where that was?

  7. Narf says

    Oh well.  You remember what I’m talking about, and you got the gist of my misstatement, anyway?

  8. Hippycow says

    I disagree Narf. I think having a plan is more incompatible with being omnipotent than free will is incompatible with a plan.

    An omnipotent being simply does not need plans. However, a less than omnipotent “god” (space alien, whatever) could conceivably create humanity and have a plan. That plan doesn’t eliminate free will, though it may determine results for those who exercise their free will in differing ways. So, the free will argument is okay, as long as god is not omnipotent.

    Consider for example, something like the Pak Protectors in the Ringworld stories. Their plan would account for the free will of the humans on earth as well as all the other entities (their foes, or other powerful alien friends) and all the elements of chance, asteroids, weather, etc. That is the whole idea of planning. These very powerful, yet not omnipotent beings would have better and more effective plans than we do, but they would still need to plan, since they don’t control the entire universe and everything in it by dint of will.

    On the other hand, a god that can create the entire universe and control every sub-atomic particle by sheer will does not need any plan. The idea of a “plan” for this entity is illogical, since it can controls everything and any state of things it wants instantly manifest.

  9. Narf says

    I disagree Narf. I think having a plan is more incompatible with being omnipotent than free will is incompatible with a plan.

    Why?  How would omnipotence even factor into it?  An omnipotent being with only a human level of perception and awareness could remake the universe, any time things went slightly astray from the ultimate plan, but the plans and goals had to be thought up first, before anything could be implemented.  Are you proposing an all-powerful being that is pure chaos and does utterly random shit, for the sheer bloody hell of it?  I don’t even understand what you’re proposing that could fit your description.

    Omniscience could include a plan of a sort, as well, although the word ‘script’ might be more appropriate in that scenario.  Even an omniscient being of limited power would almost certainly be able to be damned-near effectively all-powerful, knowing where all of the levers are and knowing exactly how to manipulate them.

    Combine the two attributes, and free will goes right out the window, as the being can’t help but know what every action it ever takes will affect, and it can never lack the power to do something it wishes, such that even its inaction becomes a conscious manipulation of reality.  If that being has any desires or goals, it can’t help but crush free will through its actions. Even if the being has decided to foil its own plans, if it’s even capable of thinking within a temporal framework, that had to be part of the plan from the beginning, because it knew it was going to decide to do that.

    An omnipotent being simply does not need plans.

    If it wanted to create a static, unchanging universe, then no, it wouldn’t.  If it wanted a dynamic universe, though, it would have a plan … or again, a script, from which it would prevent the universe from deviating.

    However, a less than omnipotent “god” (space alien, whatever) could conceivably create humanity and have a plan. That plan doesn’t eliminate free will, though it may determine results for those who exercise their free will in differing ways. So, the free will argument is okay, as long as god is not omnipotent.

    Now that we’re onto free will, I think that either of the two primary omnis will obliterate free will, yes.  In either case, you’d have a being that could subvert the free will of every one of its little toys, and its own decision not to interfere would also just be a manifestation of its own will to allow things to progress as it knows things inevitably will.  Omnipotence and a refusal act could be a bit closer to a facade of free will, but you still have, moment by moment, a decision by that being to not subvert what its play-toys are doing, and that inaction is still an infringement upon their free will, subverting their will to that of the omnipotent being.

    You’re jumping around a bit, between plans and free will.  I think you might have flipped those, a few times, accidentally.

    Consider for example, something like the Pak Protectors in the Ringworld stories. Their plan would account for the free will of the humans on earth as well as all the other entities (their foes, or other powerful alien friends) and all the elements of chance, asteroids, weather, etc. That is the whole idea of planning. These very powerful, yet not omnipotent beings would have better and more effective plans than we do, but they would still need to plan, since they don’t control the entire universe and everything in it by dint of will.

    Eh, I don’t even see how that’s applicable.  The Pak are a perfectly mortal species, with all of the limitations of humans … since, you know … they became humans.  Just because the protectors lived a damned long time and were scheming manipulators doesn’t put them in anything approaching within several hundred orders of magnitude of what we’re talking about.

    Hell, the Earth was only ever colonized by what became humans because one of the protectors fucked up rather spectacularly.

    On the other hand, a god that can create the entire universe and control every sub-atomic particle by sheer will does not need any plan. The idea of a “plan” for this entity is illogical, since it can controls everything and any state of things it wants instantly manifest.

    Only if it’s an ego-less being with no desires of any sort.  It would have to be raw chaos, not caring what it did.  So, your statement could apply to a subset of omniscient, omnipotent beings but not all of them.

    Even the most controlling, tyrannical director has a script, even if he wrote it himself.

  10. favog says

    “Plan” is one of those words that gets used in multiple senses (most words are, it seems). Some times it just means intent, like when you ask some one if they’re going to do something or other and they reply, “That’s the plan”. Some times it means “design” and the micro-manager that hippycow describes as not needing a plan has one in that sense. As Pong Star states, the Christians use the word “plan” in a nebulous way that could mean either, both, and possibly include other meanings as well.

  11. Robert Delaney says

    I downloaded this episode on iTunes (as I do every week).

    At 19:57 the show cuts midsentence from one caller to another. Does everyone here that cut? Is it something only on the iTunes download? I’m wondering what I missed.

  12. Hippycow says

    Thanks favog (#12) — I think you’ve hit upon the problem. I was getting a little frustrated with Narf’s replies, but maybe Narf is thinking of plan as “intent” while I’m thinking of “plan” as in a detailed blueprint and sequence of actions and responses for contingencies that form the model for how to accomplish something big and complex.

    What I was saying is that an omnipotent doesn’t need a plan in the the sense of having steps for getting to the completion of the task; if you’re omnipotent, no steps are required, you just will the end result and it manifests. You don’t need to lay any foundation first, then add scaffolding, plan out the hiring of various types of workers, figure on whether there might be rain or snow, etc., etc.

    I guess when Christians say “god has a plan” they aren’t being so precise. They just mean some vague idea that god has some intent that you go to heaven (if you are one of the lucky elect 144,000) or to hell (for the other 99.9999% of souls god created).

  13. Narf says

    Thanks favog (#12) — I think you’ve hit upon the problem. I was getting a little frustrated with Narf’s replies, but maybe Narf is thinking of plan as “intent” while I’m thinking of “plan” as in a detailed blueprint and sequence of actions and responses for contingencies that form the model for how to accomplish something big and complex.

    What I’m saying fits with both uses of the word, though, if that omnipotent being wants things to happen a certain way … unless that being is going to engage in last-Thurdayism or something.

    The big problem with what you said was your statement of exclusivity.  You said that omnipotence and a plan were incompatible.  An omnipotent being wouldn’t have to have a plan, engaging in last-Thursdayism, like I said, then just drop in evidence for the fake history that the being wanted us to believe happened.

    However, if the being wanted to march its little peons through a script, it could.  The word ‘script’ works better than ’plan’, since having a plan implies some possibility of failure, usually.  Same concept, but a little different in the nuances.

    I guess when Christians say “god has a plan” they aren’t being so precise.

    They’re also working with a bunch of other, contradictory attributes.  Christian theology is an unholy mess.

  14. Conversion Tube says

    I feel like arguments like this happen because of language. What I mean is we have created words with definitions of things that are as far as we can tell Impossible.

    So the Omni’s are a physical impossibility so when you discuss them using common language using other terms and phrases that are physically possible it blurs the lines and meanings and understandings and you both discuss the definitions of NOT POSSIIBLE with definitions of POSSIBLE.

    I’m not totally sure that makes sense. Do you get it?

  15. RJ says

    Robert, not Bob brings up a historical detail that has always intrigued me. Before science started producing reliable progress, no one ever would have had cause to think of themselves as a “Fundamentalist.” We need science, specifically results-producing, powerful, modern, objective science, for Fundamentalism to even exist. Before Geology, Archaeology, and Biology opened the matter up to question, matters of origin were shrouded in the deep mystery of the past. People were perfectly comfortable seeing the Biblical origin story as legendary. They thought of it as a mystery that would simply never be known. It was just something that happened so long ago that we will never know.

    It was only with the certainty that science can and does provide that a problem emerges. The religionists knew that they could not provide a counter-framework with a similar level of certainty. They were completely expecting science to confirm the Bible, and it did not on every matter. There were preachers holding firm on aspects of the Bible that have been dispelled by Archaeology, Meteorology, Chemistry, and so on. Every field of knowledge and human endeavor ran afoul of the Bible in the nineteenth century. The forces of Reason are the polite victors of countless conflicts.

    It was only through blind, baseless assertion that they could provide that level of certainty, and that is the hand they were dealt. And that is the diminishing hand they have been playing for the last two hundred years. They have stopped battling Geology and Archaeology for some reason, and switched their focus to Biology and Cosmology. But they are losing in so many ways, and we shouldn’t forget that, or let them forget that they are on the losing side of so many things.

  16. Narf says

    @Conversion Tube
    Well, look at it this way.  At the very least, you were less incoherent than the concept of the omnis that we’ve been talking about.

  17. Kudlak says

    @RJ #17
    Fundamentalism as we know it may be a reaction to the Age of Reason, but “Fundamentalist” basically refers to strict adherence to the belief set of a particular religion, as opposed to a looser, more liberal adherence. The difference between the two has probably always existed. If you look at the ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, it’s quite evident that many people took belief in the gods either more, or less seriously than the average, just as we see in our society. They had their fundamentalists, their liberals, and even their atheists, and the same is possibly true for all the ancients.

  18. corwyn says

    a god that can create the entire universe and control every sub-atomic particle by sheer will does not need any plan.

    The laws of thermodynamics dictate that any god with a desired end (a plan if you will) *must* control every sub-atomic particle. The universe started with extremely low entropy, which means very little information. New information is continuously entering the universe through the process of random-seeming quantum events. That information can *not* have been present in the universe at an earlier time. Also, those quantum events will manifest on a larger scale, and affect the observations made by us. From this it is easy to see that any ‘creation’ must take all of time into consideration; a god can not just create a universe’s initial conditions and let it run, without giving up any hope that it will come out as desired. There are something like 10^120 bits of entropy so far, implying that many possible different outcomes to this point. Therefore, in the sense of changing things in time, a creator god who cares about the outcome must be making roughly a gogol (10^100) choices/changes/manifestings-of-information per second, forever; no seventh day to rest.

  19. says

    My omni 2c:

    Omnipotence is just silly given the logical problem that Matt D brings up: “Can an omnipotent god create a rock so large that the god can’t lift it?” Answer yes or no and your god isn’t omniscient. The “maximally omnipotent” is just saying that god isn’t really omnipotent because an omnipotent god could just violate logic (which is even more silly).

    Omniscience is also pretty silly. If god knows everything, then god isn’t really a “being” but a giant ephemeral database of info with a script that executes time with the available energy/matter/space.* That god doesn’t even need to be conscious, since knowing everything means knowing what the god is going to think or do, making god part of the database/script, not outside of it. It also directly conflicts with the theists’ ideas of free will** and the devil. Calvinists seem to understand this and think they’re just one of the threads in the script called god. It also seems to conflict with scientific things like thermodynamics and quantum uncertainty, but a theist could argue that that’s just how the god script wants us to believe that stuff works at that level.

    Combining omnipotence with omniscience has many contradictions, but I like the “Can god create free will?” question. Obviously, god is omnipotent and can by definition do it. But creating a being with free will contradicts omniscience, since by the theists’ own definition, god can’t know what a being with free will will do next. If the god does, that free will isn’t so free and suddenly that god is not so omnipotent.

    I think it is reasonable, and probably why theists drift toward deism (as I did before I really considered the god question) to consider a god that isn’t omnipotent or omniscient, but that has some ability to do things, and good idea of how things work, and that has some sort of plan. Not unlike a human being, I would add, just better. Of course, this is because this type of god is just fitting the god to the things we know. But, I think we could reasonably expect to find some evidence of this rather inept god. After all, it would take omniscience to be able to hide the fact that Mormon prayers work 27% better than the others.

    * Sorry for the analogy, I’m a computer engineer.
    ** Free will in the theistic Christian sense, where we are free of a supposed god’s own desires/wishes.

  20. Narf says

    @changerofbits
    So, why can’t the omnis be metaphors for something more complex, which our lesser, human minds can’t grasp?  This is why I say you have to combine them into a more complex latticework.

    The bottom line, for me, is always what might possibly get a theist to come around a bit.  A single attribute can always just be redefined a little; no problem.  When you put together something similar to Euthyphro, it works according to any definitions of the words that modern monotheists would be happy applying to their god, and you just have to get the theist to be honest with himself/herself.

  21. says

    @Narf

    So, why can’t the omnis be metaphors for something more complex, which our lesser, human minds can’t grasp? I say you have to combine them into a more complex latticework.

    I suspect that’s what most theists, who give this type of thing any amount of critical thought, would argue. Which, if true, why are they even trying to use their human minds to think about it? To please the Axiom of Logic personage of the Holy Quadrinity? 🙂

  22. Terry Collins says

    I really miss the old shows where theist callers were more frequent. Sure, it’s always the same old arguments, but I never tire of hearing them get shot down. Can anyone recommend any other atheist podcasts / talk shows that are dedicated to debating theists?

  23. Kudlak says

    @changerofbits
    The problem with God having a “plan” is that, in order to manipulate circumstances for one individual, he would likely have to manipulate other individuals in a way that brings free will into question. Which is why I find the typical Christian opinion that we are all “part of God’s plan” rather problematic. If there is a God who is sending people their future spouses, providing others with career opportunities, or even setting up tragedies in order to show us something he’s effectively tinkering with our free will by not allowing us to live our lives as they would naturally develop.

  24. Hippycow says

    Yeah, I’m with you Terry (#24). Those are fun. It seems like with most of the US being Christian, there would be tons of them lining up to stoutly defend their faith.

  25. says

    @Kudlak Completely agreed. The contradiction of a god with a plan, and the ability to manipulate things to see it through, does contradict free will. I think they’d have to argue that we have free will most of the time, where sometimes god intervenes to keep the plan on track*, but is otherwise just leaving our free will alone, apparently waiting around for some of that “free will praise” to refill the “god energy bar”. Of course, they can’t really give any rational way determine when it’s god playing around and just natural happenstance, other than their own opinion. In any case, discussions like this with theists at least undermine the god’s power and wisdom with respect to the problem of evil.

    * Exodus 9:1

  26. says

    @24 and @26

    I’m not aware of any that do that exclusively. I’m not sure the supply of “Christians actually willing to call an atheist show” is all that plentiful. In the old days, it was primarily Christians local to Austin (from the local cable access). Any minimally-savvy Christians finding the show online can see that almost all of the common “defenses of Christianity” have been torn to shreds on the show before. So, for Christians, we get:

    1. People who think they’ve got the latest version of the cosmological/ontological/teleological/design/etc argument down so pat that they can just ignore all of the problems previously raised about them and can somehow get the hosts caught in a rhetorical trap. While these calls are interesting at a philosophical level, I don’t think the average person is even interested in following the discussion. These callers are almost always men who have a distinct “bully” vibe in the way they want to control the conversation, never wanting to talk about what they believe, and are mostly either:
    a. Young, seemingly sharp, but vastly overestimating their grasp on philosophy
    b. Older and completely bought into and full of their own shit.

    2. Believers that just haven’t either listened to, or comprehended much from, the show and want to run their beliefs by these silly atheists (they’ve been told by their pastor/priests that we are fools). They are mostly unprepared to actually discuss the problems with the things they claim. They will just change the subject, somehow pulling off a conversational 180 (or “trooper”) in the matter of a split second, when the host says anything that honestly refutes their belief. These folks range from openly hostile to “if I build up a bit of nice rapport, they won’t tell me that slavery is endorsed by the bible”, sometimes representing the whole spectrum in a single call. Usually very entertaining calls, but usually not very productive, other than creating memorable clips for youtube.

    3. Believers who have listened to and comprehended much from the show. They are mostly honestly questioning their beliefs, but are still on the theist side of the fence for one reason or another. These are my favorite type of call. These callers may have a subject or two where they retreat like #2 above, but they generally want to have a conversation and are at least interested in understanding who atheists are and what we think about stuff.

    So, the above is just a generalization and not always true, just a brain dump.

  27. 34698ubaerab says

    Gents, this may seem a bit pedantic, but you’ve hit upon one of my pet hates at 17:25 on youtube vid. You say “science changes all the time”. Well, no it doesn’t, science is an unchanging process of interpreting and understanding our world. There are better definitions:
    https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=what%20is%20science
    but universally, science does not change. Now I’m sure you know that already and what you mean is our understanding of what we discover with the scientific process changes so please help me retain my remaining follicles by avoiding this mis-speak.

    This is a bit of a pet of mine because maaaaaaaaany theists looooove to be stand firmly on this particular platform and then launch themselves into things like:
    Why trust science, it’s always changing, even atheists admit to it.
    UUUUggggghh! ( 2 more greys and 3 fell out)

    Love your show by the way!

  28. Monocle Smile says

    @fist slammed into keyboard

    Yes, you’re correct, but I think that’s just shorthand for “the conclusions of scientific processes change.”
    This is still a strength, because the conclusions typically don’t change so much as become refined We asymptotically approach perfect accuracy, though only roughly, because big breakthroughs occur along the way.

  29. Narf says

    Well, no it doesn’t, science is an unchanging process of interpreting and understanding our world.

    That’s not … entirely true.  Particularly in the early days, it was a collection of guidelines and techniques to help eliminate personal bias.  Refinements were made, such as blinding protocols, and other bits.  It seems unlikely that any major overhauls will be made, after we’ve had these rather good guidelines for so long, but I could see a tweak or two being made, over the next couple hundred years.

    In general, I agree with you completely, and it can be an unfortunate shorthand to say things as they did, particularly when we’re dealing with people who want to butcher and twist scientific findings for their own dishonest reasons.  Just being a little pedantic there.  😀

  30. Narf says

    Whoops, forgot to attribute that last one.  That was @34698ubaerab, of course.

    … speaking of which, how the hell do you pronounce your name?  Do we pronounce each of the numerals individually, or do we read it as thirty-four thousand?

  31. Narf says

    Why trust science, it’s always changing, even atheists admit to it.

    This reminds me of an exchange from Terry Pratchett’s book, Small Gods, which is perfectly fitting, with a slight rephrasing:

            “What is it you fear?” he said.  “Here in your desert with your … gods?  Is it not that, deep in your souls, you know that your gods are as shifting as your sand?”
            “Oh, yes,” said the Tyrant.  “We know that.  That’s always been a point in their favor.  We know about sand.  And your God is a rock — and we know about rock.”

  32. 34000 says

    Ha, ha, I thought I could have a brief complaint and get back to work and the AE crew would never again quote “science changes” and all theists would admit that they can’t use that platform any more and the only responses would be complete agreement yada yada yada. Hey atheists are permitted their fantasies too right :).

    First of all Narf
    You’ve highlighted my ineptness with blogs and name setting. I have no idea how to change my username. You made me work out how to update my username. I’m now using 34000 I kind of like it, alternatively, feel free to call me “Mike”.

    Second of all Narf again
    Yeah, science has changed, but not much and not for a looong time and I was shootin for brevity not to mention that I hate even admitting it even a little bit because, it’s like loading the theists gun if only a little bit. (that’s all it takes for many).

    Thirdly and also importantly, Monocle Smile
    “asymptotically” really. Sure I can kind of work out that word from it’s construction and context but until I’m sure…. I’ll just stress. (hair thinning even more) . Ha ha, just googled it. Can’t wait to use it!

    Thanks for your responses!

  33. corwyn says

    Science itself does change quite often. Using Baye’s theorem in the process is remarkably recent. Certain statistical tests are only viable when one has a computer to do it (such as monte carlo simulations). New biases that must be avoided are being discovered by neurology and psychology.

  34. 34000 says

    Nice one Corwyn,
    indeed a solid correction that I was unaware of although I’m suspicious that Monocle mighty argue that it’s more of an asymptotic refinement. than a change :p. I appreciate the education, however, in my original post, I still think that Don and Russel were referring to scientific outcomes and not the scientific process legitimising my galled disposition as theists everywhere locked another round into their apologetic clips.

  35. says

    Love the show, guys!

    In the interest of keeping our facts on religion straight, I have to offer a correction to episode #928.

    You had a caller with a “gotcha” question to ask Jehovah’s Witnesses (my ex-faith): “How can millions of you go to heaven, when you claim only 144,000 people go to heaven?”
    I appreciate the intent of the jab, but unfortunately, it misunderstands JW doctrine completely, and so fails as an argument (or even just as a witticism).

    The problem: Ask the question, and the JWs will just happily respond, “Oh, we’re not going to heaven. Our hope is for eternal life on an Earth restored to paradise conditions.” They’re serious about that 144,000 number, and they don’t expect that they (or you, should you convert) are among the heaven-bound.
    In short, it’s a “gotcha” that simply won’t work; the JWs’ math here isn’t wonky. (Lots else about their faith IS wonky, so hammer away at that!) If you have a chance next show, you might want to tell that caller to pick a different topic as a challenge for JW proselytizers.
    (If anyone wants more detail about the JWs’ 144,000 and their whole nutty paradise earth thing, I left details on a blog post: http://www.defaithed.com/clarifying-jehovahs-witnesses-beliefs-pt-2-144000-and-gotcha-question )

    Anyway, looking forward to more great shows!

  36. Narf says

    @corwyn
    True, I wasn’t even taking into account technology, since I was only thinking in terms of instruments.  The instruments don’t have an effect upon the method of examination itself, but we have things open to us with the introduction of modern computers, relative to the ones as recent as … say the mid 80’s, when the Apple IIe was standard, with a 1.023 MHz processor, 64 kilobytes of RAM, and nothing that we would call a graphics card, by today’s standards.  There were mainframes, but renting processing time on those was pretty freaking expensive.

    Software bloat is a thing, of course, but the increases in power far outpace that, and you usually make other gains, as a trade-off for the bloat, such as ease of programming … not that anything can forgive the monstrosity that Flash is, for example.

    But yeah, several methods of processor-intensive data-crunching have opened up a few new methods of examining things which weren’t even vaguely available, even a couple of decades ago.

  37. corwyn says

    @36:

    I remember getting some time on a Cray to do magnetism simulations, back in the day. Now I run similar (but much larger) simulations (heat and moisture in wall assemblies), on my laptop.

  38. Narf says

    Yup, and I remember the earlier 3D-rendered movies, which took probably at least an hour per frame, for the super-computers of the time to render. My gaming machine can do much, much better stuff, rendered in real-time.

    Hell, the latest phones can probably run circles around the cray computer that you used. The Galaxy S6 has a 2.1 GHz, 8-core processor, 3 gigs of ram, 128 gigs of built-in storage (plus whatever size micro-SD card you stick in the thing), and can record 4K-resolution video.

    Shadowrun is going to once again have to shift their technology forward a bit, if they don’t want the computers in the game, in 2075, to look less impressive than what we’ll have five years from now.

  39. corwyn says

    @40:

    Shadowrun is going to once again have to shift their technology forward a bit, if they don’t want the computers in the game, in 2075, to look less impressive than what we’ll have five years from now.

    While I can understand getting conceptual ideas about software wrong, how can you write a story in the near future and not at least figure out what Moore’s law says about what the hardware should be capable of? Anything written after say 1970 (Moore wrote in 1965) really has no excuse for underestimating computing speed.

  40. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    Although, fun fact: we’ve hit the limits of how small we can make a transistor. Any smaller and quantum theory will break the device. Moore’s law as a measure of number of transistors on the chip seems to be holding true, but Moore’s law is dead concerning the processing power of an individual processing core. And you should already know that writing code for a massively multi-core system is drastically different than writing code for a single core system, and some tasks are just not amenable to using the extra power of multi-core systems. And if I was really out there, like a smug lisp weenie or something, I would be promoting the actor paradigm or something as necessary for future development, but in reality I do most of my professional massively multi-core and multi-machine coding with mutexes and condition variables in Java and C++. Hadoop, Hive, Spark, Yarn, all of that good stuff.

  41. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ack, hit send too soon. I suppose the Hadoop model is itself like the actor model (maybe?), but my company’s newest product is not using map-reduce directly, but writing it themselves on top of Yarn, so it’s some weird mix of mutexes and condition variables inside of a machine, and lots of network code for inter-machine communication that IIRC is handled by Yarn. I’m still on the older product and so I don’t know much of the details.

  42. Narf says

    Part of it is the application of technology, which they just got flat-out wrong.  They didn’t properly predict the continued miniaturization of technology, into our modern phones.  For example, in the first couple versions of the game, deckers ran around with these huge, backpack-sized or larger decks, which were insanely powerful by today’s standards, sure, but still a little less portable than a modern laptop.

    They also didn’t see wireless technology coming.  There was absolutely nothing like wireless technology until the latest version of the game.

  43. corwyn says

    @42 EL:

    Sure, I am familiar. But if one is writing a story in say 1980, you either need to actually *do the math* and figure out what Moore’s law predicts, OR give a reason why it didn’t hold. Anything else is just sloppy research. Plus of course, all of that has profound impacts on the whole story. If one is writing about 2070, and assumes Moore’s law hold until then, ALL the technology should reflect that. See _Across Realtime_ for an example of this done right. The tech Vinge is writing about is at 10^17 hertz. There is no excuse for plotting a story in 1980, set in a utopian 2050, and having computers with 100 Megahertz processors.

  44. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    There is no excuse for plotting a story in 1980, set in a utopian 2050, and having computers with 100 Megahertz processors.

    Hehe.
    //nod

    Although, I would offer this correction:
    utopian dystopian.

  45. Narf says

    They’re also writing a game-able world, though, Corwyn.  They had to work it out in such a way that it will boil down to game stats that will balance the potential effect upon a mission that a decker and a street samurai have.

    Of course you’ll have imbalances anyway, like the game in which my seductress-totem shaman (not a combat-oriented totem) was more useful in a straight-up firefight or melee fight than our street samurai was … and then she had all of her bound spirits following her around a lot of the time, plus some major offensive and defensive buffing spells.  But you have to at least try for the potential of balance in a group of runners.

    And there’s an issue with predictions of this nature, anyway.  Sure, the power of computers will be hundreds of thousands of times more than they are in the present day, but what does that actually mean?  And you miss one major technological evolution, and you’re hosed, anyway.

    And they didn’t write in computers with 100 MHz prosessors.  Not that they ever specify, but we could have a kilo-core processor running at a couple dozen gigahertz, in one of those decks.  In the Shadowrun universe, a lot of the extra power seems to have been spent on immersive VR-interfaces and such … semi-A.I. programs to assist in hacking … stuff like that.

    What kind of processor and RAM does that computer have?  Uhhhhhhhhhh, it has a Response of 2, a Signal of 4, and a System of 3?

    Moore’s Law doesn’t really apply to this situation, as much as the evolutionary changes, like wireless communication and micro-computers like cell phones, do.

  46. corwyn says

    @46:
    On the contrary, I can think of a lot of reasons why it might make sense for a dystopian world might only have 100 megahertz processors in 2050.

    @47:

    What kind of processor and RAM does that computer have? Uhhhhhhhhhh, it has a Response of 2, a Signal of 4, and a System of 3?

    In which case, how can you tell it is insufficiently powerful?

    Moore’s Law doesn’t really apply to this situation, as much as the evolutionary changes, like wireless communication and micro-computers like cell phones, do.

    Well, ‘small’ is part of Moore’s law. Wireless was invented in the 19th century, once you posit mobile computers, it ought to be obvious.

  47. Narf says

    On the contrary, I can think of a lot of reasons why it might make sense for a dystopian world might only have 100 megahertz processors in 2050.

    In the Fallout world or something similar, sure.  The Fallout timeline diverged from ours shortly after World War 2, and the US (and the rest of the world) entered a long period of social and technological stagnation, for over 100 years, until the great war on October 23rd, 2077, between the US and China.

    It’s kind of weird.  Desktop terminals are like an old Apple IIe, since microchips were never invented, but there are A.I. robots and such.  A lot of consumer products are primitive by modern standards, because they’re emulating the social standards of the 1950’s, in 2060 and 2070 America, but there is also fusion power, laser and plasma-based weaponry, power armor, and advanced VTOL aircraft.

    It’s sort of like if the focus of technological advancement was completely different, focusing more on military applications, because of the prolonged period of McCarthyism.  This is actually a pretty brilliant way to do science-fiction, actually.  You have things that are sufficiently futuristic, but anything that happens between the origination of the series and later games doesn’t matter, because alternate-timeline.

    This doesn’t apply to the Shadowrun world, which is supposed to be based upon this timeline.  There’s a profound amount of stuff that they just didn’t see coming, in the early 2000’s.

    What kind of processor and RAM does that computer have? Uhhhhhhhhhh, it has a Response of 2, a Signal of 4, and a System of 3?

    In which case, how can you tell it is insufficiently powerful?

    That isn’t what I’ve been saying, for this whole discussion.  I’ve said repeatedly, they completely screwed up what technology would look like, in regular usage.  The evolutionary changes are more important than the brute-force changes.

    This is a common thing in science fiction.  Science-fiction from as little as 30 years ago will often have worlds set 400 or 500 years in the future, with all of the technology looking primitive to our modern expectations of what you can do with a computer.

    Hell, anything from much before 2000 will have a major error in the ubiquity of computers, since at the time, computers were something that only a tiny portion of the population used.  In Shadowrun, only deckers and a few others made heavy use of computers, outside of a work environment.  In the latest version, almost everyone runs around with a com on their wrist.

    Well, ‘small’ is part of Moore’s law. Wireless was invented in the 19th century, once you posit mobile computers, it ought to be obvious.

    So, why did almost no one think of it as a thing, in science-fiction, until it became common in the early to mid 2000’s?  Sure, with the advance of computers, under Moore’s Law, you can assume a reduction in size of basic computers (while full-sized desktops still reign supreme and always will, for more demanding usage, like with gaming), but the reduction down to pocket-sized computers was by no means guaranteed.  It’s advances in other technologies that made that possible.  Without our modern battery technology, it wouldn’t matter how powerful the computer itself became, if you still had to find an outlet to make use of your pocket-sized device.

  48. Narf says

    Speaking of the Fallout universe, Fallout 4 is coming out soon, and it looks freaking awesome:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GE2BkLqMef4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWuwLSFmATI

    This is an interesting demonstration of the sort of thing I was talking about, earlier in the thread.  When was the last time you’ve seen a from-scratch, pre-rendered video in a video game?  That whole trailer is done completely in-engine, with the models and animation pulled directly from the game.

  49. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn and “dystopian”
    Sorry, I was offering a snark correction on the proper description of shadowrun. “Dystopian” is AFAIK far more accurate than “utopian”.

  50. Narf says

    I’m not sure if ‘dystopian’ absolutely applies, either, but there’s definitely a lot of messed up stuff going on.  Many parts of the former US and Canada are doing just fine, and life isn’t so bad.

    Hell, a lot of anarcho-capitalist nuts might consider it paradise, with the corporations running everything, privatized police forces …

  51. Narf says

    Not really, no. You can just command your dog to go do stuff for you, like you have a remote control for him.

  52. favog says

    Russell, as far as the science fiction that deals with a creator’s responsibilities to their creation, let me add Theodore Sturgeon’s story “Microcosmic God”. It should also be noted that Douglas Adams reacted to Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics as immoral in that they boiled down to a pernicious enforcement of slavery, inspiring the creation of Marvin the Paranoid Android. I myself have never read “Cyberiad”, and while you’ve kind of piqued my interest, I have to admit, my experience with Lem discourages me quite a bit. Can ya sell me on that?