Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category
posted by Deven Desai
As I saw that Amazon is tinkering with drone delivery, I thought “How very Stephenson” and that the opening of Snow Crash tracked the idea of 30 minutes or less delivery. Of course, others thought of this connection overnight. And although Fox News hyped the idea as the Senate holding hearings on Amazon and Drones (“Senate to hold hearing to discuss Amazon package delivery drones“), the hearings were already in place as Fox reports. The Amazon glory is icing on the cake of let’s freak out about drones. And, yes, there are reasons to think about drones and what, if anything, should be done to regulate them. In this post I am more interested in the labor issues. Chris Taylor’s thoughts at Mashable get into this question. There are many limits to the tech. But as I wrote before, Amazon strikes me as well-placed to press into new ways to use this sort of technology to reduce its labor needs. Local distribution sites, same day or now maybe within an hour delivery, maybe on-demand printing of books (or 3D things), and Amazon could yet again change shopping. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case about forcing retailers to collect taxes even when they have no presence in a state. Amazon’s response of moving into states and taking on local retailers may prove to increase competition locally and in an ironic twist the idea that imposing taxes would be fair may prove to be what eats at local businesses more than expected.
posted by Aaron Saiger
This post is a nerd crowdsourcing request. As a guest blogger I don’t know my audience as well as I might, but I am heartened by the presence of “science fiction” among the options my hosts give me for categorizing my posts; and my teenager assures me that “nerd” is a compliment.
As several of my earlier posts suggest, I am interested in the impact of virtual technology upon K-12 schooling; and one thing I have been doing in my spare time is looking at literary accounts, highbrow and low, of what schooling in the future might look like. A colleague gave me Ernest Kline’s recent Ready Player One, which imagines school in a fully virtualized world that looks a lot like the school I went to, complete with hallways, bullies, and truant teachers – but the software allows the students to mute their fellows and censors student obscenity before it reaches the teachers’ interfaces. Another colleague reminded me of Asimov’s 1951 The Fun They Had, where the teacher is mechanical but the students still wiggly and apathetic. On the back of a public swapshelf, I found the Julian May 1987 Galactic Milieu series, which imagines brilliant children, all alone on faraway planets, logging on with singleminded seriousness to do their schoolwork all by their lonesomes. And my daughter gave me Orson Scott Card’s famous Ender’s Game, where the bullying is more educative than the mathematics, and scripted by the adults much more carefully.
That seems like an extensive list but really it’s not, and I was never a serious sci-fi person. If anyone is willing to post in the comments any striking literary accounts of schooling in the future, I’d be grateful.
posted by Deven Desai
Scientists have come to a “technical, not biological” problem in trying to resurrect a once extinct frog. Popular Science explains the:
gastric-brooding frog, native to tiny portions of Queensland, Australia, gave birth through its mouth, the only frog to do so (in fact, very few other animals in the entire animal kingdom do this–it’s mostly this frog and a few fish). It succumbed to extinction due to mostly non-human-related causes–parasites, loss of habitat, invasive weeds, a particular kind of fungus.
Specimens were frozen in simple deep freezers and reinserted into another frog. The embryos grew. The next step is to get them to full adulthood so they can pop out like before. Yes, these folks are talking to those interested in bringing back other species.
As for this particular animal, the process reminds me a bit too much of Alien, which still scares the heck out of me.
the gastric-brooding frog lays eggs, which are coated in a substance called prostaglandin. This substance causes the frog to stop producing gastric acid in its stomach, thus making the frog’s stomach a very nice place for eggs to be. So the frog swallows the eggs, incubates them in her gut, and when they hatch, the baby frogs crawl out her mouth.
Science. Yummy. Oh here is your law fodder. What are the ethical implications? Send in the clones! (A better title for Attack of the Clones, perhaps).
posted by Deven Desai
If remotely true this article about a technique to convert air into gasoline is wild but great. As the BBC video embedded on the link above shows the folks at Air Fuel Synthesis have not, repeat not, solved the core issue which is how much energy is needed to create the fuel. But the hope is that
The fuel is not only viable; … it will be suitable for high-performance vehicles. But the biggest benefit of the fuel is its sustainability. Since burning the fuel only releases the same carbon dioxide that was already in the air to begin with, it is carbon neutral. (That is, so long as the electricity required to make the necessary chemical conversions is sourced from renewable energy like wind or solar.)
Another potential benefit of the fuel is that it will be price-predictable. Gas prices won’t fluctuate because the fuel source will be stable.
Science fiction? Perhaps. But there is a market here and if someone breaks through some rather cool outcomes could be in our future. For patent folks, I saw some idea that an oil company would buy up patents just to get this one off the market. I have heard similar claims in energy before. I wonder whether anyone has an example of that in energy? And has anyone argued that a break through for energy would have to be shared a la drug needs?
posted by Deven Desai
2003. “Oxford professor Nick Bostrom suggested that we may be living in a computer simulation.” IO9 reports that now
Silas Beane and his team at the University of Bonn in Germany, [argue that] a simulation of the universe should still have constraints, no matter how powerful. These limitations, they argue, would be observed by the people within the simulation as a kind of constraint on physical processes.
So, how could we ever hope to identify these constraints? Easy: We just need build our own simulation of the universe and find out. And in fact, this is fairly close to what the physicists are actually trying to do. To that end, they’ve created an ultra-small version of the universe that’s down to the femto-scale (which is even smaller than the nano-scale).
Apparently, certain things that should behave one way will deviate and that deviation will be the clue.
OK this work seems quite wild. (study here if you like) But IO9 points out that this first step could lead to “more powerful versions in which molecules, cells, and even humans themselves might someday be generated. ” I am not sure whether these more powerful versions would be new simulated worlds or new things in the current simulation. Perhaps it is both. Ah another film nod! I rather liked the end of Men in Black when our blue marble that held a galaxy in it was part of another marble holding another galaxy and that was being thrown around when not stored in a bag. Even if we are in a simulation, as my friend John Scalzi said on a show about what happens if aliens show up here, we still have to take out the trash.
posted by Peter Swire
I just finished David Brin’s “Existence,” his biggest new novel in years. Brin, as some readers know, has won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for best science fiction writing. He also wrote the 1999 non-fiction book “The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?”. More about that in a bit.
Existence is full of big ideas. A main focus is on the Fermi Paradox, which observes that we would expect to find other forms of life out there among the hundreds of billions of suns, but we haven’t seen evidence of that life yet. If you haven’t ever thought through the Fermi Paradox, I think it is a Genuine Big Question, and well worth contemplating. Fortunately for those who like their science mixed with fiction, Brin weaves fifty or so possible answers to the Fermi Paradox into his 550-page novel. Does climate change kill off other races? Nuclear annihilation? Do aliens upload themselves into computers once they get sophisticated (the “singularity”), so we never detect them across the void? And a lot, lot more.
It took me a little while to get into the book, but I read the last few hundred pages in a rush. I’ve had the pleasure to know Brin for a bunch of years, and find him personally and intellectually engaging. I was pleased to read this, because I think it will intrigue curious minds for a long time as our telescopic views of other planets deepen our puzzlement about the Fermi Paradox.
As for privacy, my own view is that the privacy academics didn’t take his 1999 book seriously enough as an intellectual event. One way to describe Brin’s insight is to say that surveillance in public becomes cheaper and more pervasive over time. For Brin, having “control” over your face, eye blinks, location, etc., etc. becomes futile and often counter-productive once cameras and other sensors are pervasive and searchable. Brin picked up on these themes in his earlier novel, “Earth,” when elderly people used video cameras to film would-be muggers, deterring the attacks. In the new novel, the pervasive use of the 2060 version of Google Glasses means that each person is empowered to see data overlays for any person they meet. (This part is similar to the novel “Rainbow’s End” by Brin’s friend Vernor Vinge.)
Surveillance in public is a big topic these days. I’ve worked with CDT and EFF on USvJones.com, which asked law academics to propose doctrine for surveillance in public. Facial recognition and drones are two of the hot privacy topics of the year, and each are significant steps towards the pervasive sensor world that Brin contemplated in his 1999 book.
So, if you like thinking about Big Ideas in novel form, buy Existence. And, if you would like to retain the Fair Information Principles in a near future of surveillance in public, consider Brin more carefully when you imagine how life will and should be in the coming decades.
posted by Deven Desai
Congratulations to NASA/JPL/Caltech! The latest rover appears to have landed safely. I love this stuff in general, but I happen to have had a special connection to the rovers. A dear friend has worked on the rovers from when they were just tiny vehicles to the current Mini-sized one. Brett Kennedy, you rock.
I also happen to be re-reading Spin which has some a great Mars storyline. Despite John Carter, think of all the science fiction about Mars. What we find won’t live up to that, but the science and truth may prove more fascinating.
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published Chief Judge Alex Kozinski’s Keynote from our 2012 Symposium, The Dead Past. Chief Judge Kozinski discusses the privacy implications of our increasingly digitized world and our role as a society in shaping the law:
I must start out with a confession: When it comes to technology, I’m what you might call a troglodyte. I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad or an iPhone or a Blackberry. I don’t have an avatar or even voicemail. I don’t text.
I don’t reject technology altogether: I do have a typewriter—an electric one, with a ball. But I do think that technology can be a dangerous thing because it changes the way we do things and the way we think about things; and sometimes it changes our own perception of who we are and what we’re about. And by the time we realize it, we find we’re living in a different world with different assumptions about such fundamental things as property and privacy and dignity. And by then, it’s too late to turn back the clock.
Judges, legislators and law enforcement officials live in the real world. The opinions they write, the legislation they pass, the intrusions they dare engage in—all of these reflect an explicit or implicit judgment about the degree of privacy we can reasonably expect by living in our society. In a world where employers monitor the computer communications of their employees, law enforcement officers find it easy to demand that internet service providers give up information on the web-browsing habits of their subscribers. In a world where people post up-to-the-minute location information through Facebook Places or Foursquare, the police may feel justified in attaching a GPS to your car. In a world where people tweet about their sexual experiences and eager thousands read about them the morning after, it may well be reasonable for law enforcement, in pursuit of terrorists and criminals, to spy with high-powered binoculars through people’s bedroom windows or put concealed cameras in public restrooms. In a world where you can listen to people shouting lurid descriptions of their gall-bladder operations into their cell phones, it may well be reasonable to ask telephone companies or even doctors for access to their customer records. If we the people don’t consider our own privacy terribly valuable, we cannot count on government—with its many legitimate worries about law-breaking and security—to guard it for us.
Which is to say that the concerns that have been raised about the erosion of our right to privacy are, indeed, legitimate, but misdirected. The danger here is not Big Brother; the government, and especially Congress, have been commendably restrained, all things considered. The danger comes from a different source altogether. In the immortal words of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
April 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm Posted in: Anonymity, Blogging, Constitutional Law, Courts, Culture, Current Events, Cyberlaw, First Amendment, Google & Search Engines, Law Rev (Stanford), Politics, Privacy, Privacy (Consumer Privacy), Privacy (Electronic Surveillance), Privacy (Law Enforcement), Science Fiction, Supreme Court, Technology Print This Post 4 Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Scott J. Shackelford entitled In Search of Cyber Peace: A Response to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. In the wake of recent events with the group Anonymous and other “hacktivists,” Shackelford discusses the pressing need for improved cybersecurity and explains why the proposed Cybersecurity Act is a step in the right direction–but doesn’t go far enough:
The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which was recently introduced in the Senate Homeland Security and Governance Affairs Committee, is the latest legislative attempt to enhance the nation’s cybersecurity. If enacted, the bill would grant new powers to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to oversee U.S. government cybersecurity, set “cybersecurity performance requirements” for firms operating what DHS deems to be “critical infrastructure,” and create “exchanges” to promote information sharing. In its current form, the bill is a useful step in the right direction but falls short of what is required. Fundamentally the bill misconstrues the scale and complexity of the evolving cyber threat by defining critical infrastructure too narrowly and relying too much on voluntary incentives and risk mitigation strategies. The Act might improve on the status quo, but it will not foster genuine and lasting cybersecurity. Still, it is preferable to the softer alternative SECURE IT Act proposed by senior Republicans.
If we want to change the status quo, accountability and responsibility must be increased throughout the system. Government regulations are a necessary part of that process. But given political realities and the magnitude of the problem, reform must also include relying on the competitive market whenever possible to proactively foster best practices, providing market-based incentives and cyber risk mitigation techniques to firms operating [critical national infrastructure (CNI)], negotiating new international norms, and educating users to avoid becoming victims of social-engineering attacks like phishing. Cybersecurity cannot truly be enhanced without addressing the myriad governance gaps, which include incomplete regulation of CNI; technical vulnerabilities in the physical, logical, and content layers of the Internet; and legal ambiguities ranging from liability for data breaches to the applicability of international law to cyber attacks. One Act cannot accomplish all that—not even close. But being honest about the magnitude of the problems we face would help to begin a national conversation about what needs to happen next.
In 3001: The Final Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke envisions a future in which humanity had the foresight to rid the world of its worst weapons of mass destruction by placing them in a vault on the moon. A special place in this vault was reserved for the malignant computer viruses that, in Clarke’s speculative fiction, had caused untold damage to humanity over the centuries. Before new cyber attacks do untold damage to our information society, it is in our interest to educate and regulate our way to a steady state of cybersecurity. Part of this process involves broadening the definition of CNI in the Cybersecurity Act and deepening public-private partnerships through more robust information sharing. Science fiction teaches us that our future world can be either a wonderful or a dystopian place. Whether or not the future includes the security and prosperity of cyber peace is up to us—including, for better or worse, the U.S. Congress.
Read the full article, In Search of Cyber Peace: A Response to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 by Scott J. Shackelford, at the Stanford Law Review Online.
posted by Derek Bambauer
The American Bar Association is kicking off its 2012 tech show with an address by… Ben Stein. Yes, who better to celebrate the march of technological progress and innovation than a leading defender of intelligent design? Who better to celebrate rigorous intellectual discourse than a man who misquotes Darwin and fakes speeches to college audiences?
This is a pretty embarrassing misstep. The ABA is irrelevant in the IP / tech world, and this facepalm is a nice microcosm of why. (Wait, what is the ABA relevant to? Now that’s a hard question.) We geeks don’t like it when you dis science. Thanks anyway, ABA – maybe you should stick to having your judicial recommendations ignored.
Hat tip: health law expert Margo Kaplan.
Update: I found the perfect keynote speaker for ABA’s 2013 TechShow: Marshall Hall!
Cross-posted at Info/Law.
February 20, 2012 at 11:27 am Posted in: Blogging, Bright Ideas, Conferences, Culture, Current Events, Cyberlaw, Education, Humor, Innovation, Intellectual Property, Media Law, Movies & Television, Politics, Science Fiction, Technology Print This Post 8 Comments
posted by Frank Pasquale
Among the billionaires at the vanguard of global capital, Terry Gou of Hon Hai (also known as Foxconn) deserves special recognition for his honesty. “Hon Hai has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache,” said the chairman. His company has also begun building “an empire of robots” to replace a whining workforce.
N-hexane is an iPhone screen cleaner. It’s great because it evaporates a little bit faster than alcohol does, which means you can run the production line even faster and try to keep up with the quotas. The problem is that n-hexane is a potent neurotoxin, and all these people have been exposed. Their hands shake uncontrollably. Most of them can’t even pick up a glass.
I talk to people whose joints in their hands have disintegrated from working on the line, doing the same motion hundreds and hundreds of thousands of times. It’s like carpal tunnel on a scale we can scarcely imagine. And you need to know that this is eminently avoidable. If these people were rotated monthly on their jobs, this would not happen.
But that would require someone to care. That would require someone at Foxconn and the other suppliers to care. That would require someone at Apple and Dell and the other customers to care. Currently no one in the ecosystem cares enough to even enforce that. And so when you start working at 15 or 16, by the time you are 26, 27, your hands are ruined. And when they are truly ruined, once they will not do anything further, you know what we do with a defective part in a machine that makes machine. We throw it away.
When workers are already treated as machines, perhaps their replacement by robots should be a cause for celebration. But the question then becomes: what do the displaced do for a living? Is there an alternative to exploitation?
Read the rest of this post »
posted by Frank Pasquale
Don’t worry, it’s not another prolix post from me, just commentary on Jack Goldsmith’s Seven Thoughts on Wikileaks and Lovink & Riemens’s Twelve theses on WikiLeaks. (And here’s an FAQ for those confused by the whole controversy.)
Goldsmith, who takes cybersecurity very seriously, nevertheless finds himself “agreeing with those who think Assange is being unduly vilified.” He believes that “it is not obvious what law he has violated,” and Geoff Stone today said that many Lieberman-inspired efforts to expand the Espionage Act to include Assange’s conduct would be unconstitutional. Goldsmith asks:
What if there were no wikileaks and Manning had simply given the Lady Gaga CD to the Times? Presumably the Times would eventually have published most of the same information, with a few redactions, for all the world to see. Would our reaction to that have been more subdued than our reaction now to Assange? If so, why?
Lovink & Riemens provide something of an answer:
Read the rest of this post »
December 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm Posted in: Anonymity, Current Events, Cyber Civil Rights, First Amendment, Google & Search Engines, Government Secrecy, Privacy, Privacy (Electronic Surveillance), Privacy (National Security), Science Fiction, Wiki Print This Post 2 Comments
posted by Joshua Fairfield
I have just posted a (rough) draft of my latest paper, entitled Avatar Experimentation: Human Subjects Research in Virtual Worlds to SSRN. Virtual worlds make such great research testbeds precisely because people act in a lot of ways (especially economic ways) as if the virtual world were real. But that complicates ethical research design: you can’t engage in activities that threaten the subject’s digital property or community, for example. This raises human subjects research issues that a lot of Institutional Review Boards may not immediately take into consideration. Here’s the abstract — but the important part is that this is still a work-in-progress (it’s coming out in a symposium issue of the U.C. Irvine Law Review next year), and I would love comments or suggestions.
Abstract: Researchers love virtual worlds. They are drawn to virtual worlds because of the opportunity to study real populations and real behavior in shared simulated environments. The growing number of virtual worlds and population growth within such worlds has led to a sizeable increase in the number of human subjects experiments taking place in such worlds.
Virtual world users care deeply about their avatars, their virtual property, their privacy, their relationships, their community, and their accounts. People within virtual worlds act much as they would in the physical world, because the experience of the virtual world is “real” to them. The very characteristics that make virtual worlds attractive to researchers complicate ethical and lawful research design. The same principles govern research in virtual worlds as the physical world. However, the change in context can cause researchers to lose sight of the fact that virtual world research subjects may suffer very real harm to property, reputation, or community as the result of flawed experimental design. Virtual world research methodologies that fail to consider the validity of users’ experiences risk harm to research subjects. This article argues that researchers who put subjects’ interests in danger run the risk of violating basic human subjects research principles.
Although hundreds of articles and studies examine virtual worlds, none has addressed the interplay between the law and best practices of human subjects research in those worlds. This article fills that gap.
posted by Northwestern University Law Review
In the past month, the Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy has published essays relevant to current events and debates.
Professor Zachary Kramer writes in his essay that the U.S. military should not be in the business of regulating sexual status. Rather, the military should focus on regulation of sexual conduct for both hetero- and homosexuals.
Professor John McGinnis discusses a recent major media interest, Artificial Intelligence, and what the best government response to its development should be. He argues that, rather than prohibition or heavy regulation, the government should support the development of so-called “friendly AI,” to both prevent potential threats and develop the many benefits of it.
Several legal scholars, notably Professor Adrian Vermeule, contend that the APA is replete with procedural exceptions, which generate “black holes” where federal agencies are free to act outside the constraints of legal order. Unlike Professor Vermeule, Professor Evan Criddle argues that such black holes are not institutional inevitabilities. Rather, administrative law should be reformed to promote a culture of justification, based on the principle that public officials and agencies serve as fiduciaries for the public.
Finally, in Professor Martin Redish’s new book, Wholesale Justice, he provides a thorough analysis of the constitutional implications of the class action mechanism. In his book review, Douglas Smith expands upon these ideas and discusses other ways in which Professor Redish’s theories may be applied in practice or in which the constitutional concerns he identifies may already be recognized.
For more, go to the Colloquy archives page, and remember to check back each week for new content.
posted by Deven Desai
I spent Thanksgiving with my friend John Scalzi. His wife and he bought me a rather nice bottle of Scotch which may have influenced me when I read an advance of his latest novella, The God Engines. (In case you were wondering, the gifts were not consumed at the same time). I am a fan of John’s writing and easily recommend his Old Man’s War series. This most recent effort, however, is quite different, and in my opinion, his best work to date. It is dark, the world is well-developed, and the ideas touch on areas one may prefer to leave alone.
The book also has characters with the apparently requisite extra consonants so that one knows the world is different than ours. I teased and joked with John about this point. In books, the extra letters drive me nuts, because I have no idea how to pronounce the names in my head. Yet alien languages and names seem to be essential to science fiction. Dune, Star Wars, Star Trek, Land of the Lost (the T.V. series), and more strive to insert this type of detail. This weekend the New York Times ran an article about this behavior, and its occurrence in the new Avatar film (which by the way has some striking resemblances to Old Man’s War as far as military science fiction and blue-green creatures go). The article is a fun exploration of how fiction has drawn on linguists to create alien tongues. I am not sure, but I think that at one point there were more people who tried to speak Klingon than there were Esperanto speakers. Fandom may indeed rule culture in the end.
In any event, if you want to get a short but damn fine read for someone or yourself, I suggest John’s new novella. It is available for pre-order at Amazon or you can go to the publisher’s site and buy one of 400 limited signed editions which are leather-bound and have a different cover from the trade paperback. Which reminds me, those interested in product differentiation and price discrimination strategies for culture products may want to study the publisher of the novella, Subterranean. It serves a special part of the book buying world quite well and seems to make money too. Whether a large number of authors could plug into a house like this one and make money without having already established a name is an open question (but I doubt it). Nonetheless, the press is an interesting model.
posted by Deven Desai
For time to time, I like to remind folks that they should look up from work and take note of the world around them. Today, or rather tonight, is just such a time to do that. Yes, it is Perseid meteor shower time! I remember a particularly spectacular one around when Star Wars or Empire came out. To me it was film come to life. The best time to see the shower is hard to pin down but prognosticators have picked between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET (1-2 a.m. PT). For the truly hardy or awe-seeking, 11 pm to dawn both tonight and tomorrow is suggested. The moon and cloud cover may play havoc with the chance to see the shower (as will light pollution). And remember to take some warmer clothes. I know it is summer but sitting around in the great outdoors even in summer can require a layer and maybe a knit hat for warmth.
And if while watching this dazzling light display, the stars should go out, we may be experiencing Spin. Spinis the Hugo-award winning novel by Robert Charles Wilson. My friend Doselle Young recommend it to me, and I must say I loved it. Wilson writes beautifully. The prose and the story grabbed me and kept me reading well into the night. It turns out I was at the WorldCon when Wilson won because that was the same year John Scalzi won his Campbell Award (he also won his second Hugo but this time for Best Related Book). So I guess I’ll read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book a few years from now.
Image: WikiCommons, Public Domain
posted by Dave Hoffman
Last week, Josh Marshall at TPM had a great post about the future of books in the post-Kindle world. After a generally positive review of the gadget, Josh wrote:
[L]ast night, sitting in front of [my books], I had this dark epiphany. How much longer are these things going to be around? . . . The few hundred or so I was looking at suddenly seemed like they were taking up an awful lot of space, like the whole business could dealt with a lot more cleanly and efficiently, if at some moral loss.
Don’t get me wrong. Book books still have some clear advantages. Kindle is a disaster with pictures and maps. But I didn’t realize the book might move so rapidly into the realm of endangered modes of distributing the written word. I was thinking maybe decades more. The book is so tactile and personal and much less ephemeral than the sort of stuff we read online.
I hope it’s clear that I don’t view this as a good thing or something I welcome. When I had the realization I described above it felt like a sock in the gut, if perhaps a fillip on the interior decorating front. All the business model and joblessnes stuff aside, that’s how I feel about physical newspapers too. There’s a lot I miss about print newspapers, particularly the serendipitous magic of finding stories adjacent to the one you’re reading, articles you’re deeply interested in but never would have known you were if it weren’t plopped down in front of you to pull you in through your peripheral vision. Yet at this point I probably read a print newspaper only a handful of times a year.
I don’t have a Kindle, but I’ve been thinking about this passage over the last week. It’s certainly true that there’s something reassuring about having lots of books in a room, but I suspect Josh is right that their day is ending. And this is probably for the best. My books weigh me down: they make me less flexible about traveling, they take up space in the house, they are hugely expensive, and they are inefficient.
Consider as an illustrative example Tor Book’s decision to split the final volume of Robert Jordan’s fantasy series into three books, to be released over time, presumably in hard- and soft-covers, followed by a definitive volume reintegrating them. Tor’s stated reason is that the final book has become too big to bind. (And the author of the book, who took over when Jordan died, offers his own self-serving justification here.) But it’s obvious (to me, at least) that Tor is simply seeking to extract more rent from fans of the series, who, having waited for years for the final installment of the series, and invested the time reading the eleven books to date, are now as captive an audience as you’re likely to see. Thankfully, his kind of behavior would be much more difficult to justify in a world of digital books. Bring on the revolution.
posted by Kaimipono D. Wenger
How should the law deal with the end of the world?
a tiny black hole, which could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.”
Yikes! And so there is a lawsuit seeking to enjoin use of the accelerator, at least until an environmental impact study (!) is completed. And with that, the fate of the universe suddenly rests in the hands of lawyers and judges. It sounds like a bad script that tries to marry Armageddon with Law and Order:
“Will beautiful attorney Lisa and her trusty paralegal sidekick Jake get the papers filed in time? Will cranky judge Hornblatt grant the TRO that saves the world? Find out next Friday, right after the series premiere of Survivor: Law School Edition.”
And how exactly does the law analyze these sorts of claims, anyway? It strikes me that law is not particularly well-equipped to handle claims of infinite destruction. For instance:
-When can a party get a TRO to prevent an act that would cause the end of the universe?
Well, they’ve got to show irreparable harm. Presumably, the end of the universe is always irreparable harm.
-When does a company have to disclose the possibility of the end of the universe in its filings?
Well, if it’s future or speculative information, we apply Basic v. Levinson‘s probability/magnitude test. The probability may be small, even infinitessimal. But the magnitude of the potential harm? Infinite. I guess you always disclose it.
(10-K’s everywhere will now include the line, “There is a very, very, very small chance that something the Board does will inadvertently cause the end of the universe.”)
-And how would a court apply the Hand formula, for instance, in assessing whether a party should have taken better precautions to prevent the universe from being destroyed?
Burden = Probability x Loss.
P may be low, but L is really, really high. Does this mean that parties always have a burden to take reasonable steps to prevent the end of the universe?
But then, law typically gives damages, which are backward-looking. And if the universe has been destroyed . . . well, good luck finding a court in which to bring your claim.
Plus, all your evidence is probably destroyed.
(Image source: Wikicommons)
posted by Deven Desai
Battlestar Galactica‘s last season begins tonight. It should be a good one although it will be sad to see yet another great drama fade out. In honor of the premiere here are links to the interviews. Part I on Legal Systems, Parts II and III.
This interview was great fun and we hope to do similar ones in the future. Last another thank you to Joe Beaudoin, Jr., the project leader of the Battlestar Wiki, who transcribed the interview for us so we could edit it into a reader-friendly form.
posted by Daniel Solove
We are very pleased to be able to present a transcript of our interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, the creators, producers, and writers of the TV show Battlestar Galactica. Joe Beaudoin, Jr., the project leader of the Battlestar Wiki, transcribed the interview for us. We edited the transcript, but the bulk of the work was done by Joe. The transcript is also posted at the Battlestar Wiki, which has a ton of great information for fans of the show. In editing the transcript, we took the liberty of cleaning up grammatical errors and eliminating “ums” and other distractions in order to make it more readable.
In this interview, we explore the legal, political, economic, and social ideas raised by the show. If you prefer to hear to the interview, click here to listen to the audio files.
Below is the introduction to the interview and the transcript for Part I, which explores the legal system, morality, and torture. I couldn’t fit the entire transcript into one post, so Parts II and III are contained in another post. Part II examines politics and commerce. Part III explores the cylons.