Science

Sisters of Perpetual Grievance: Gender Pay Gap

Pay Gap - Whitehouse.gov

Pay Gap – Whitehouse.gov

The Party of Government continually promises to fix problems that don’t exist to portray themselves as warriors for social justice. One of the most mainstream of these myths is the gender pay gap, which aggregates pay for all full-time workers to show women making about 78% of what men earn and implies that women are being paid less for the same jobs throughout the economy. Millions of diverse types of worker and employment are lumped together to come up with a simple number that is assumed to be the result of systemic discrimination.

No matter how many times this is debunked, government and partisan propaganda repeats the lie to justify more affirmative action and labor laws to raise women’s pay and reduce job requirements. When it’s pointed out the discrepancy comes largely from voluntary choices made by women — to take off years for childrearing, to work in clean and safe environments, to work with people rather than machines and physical tasks — labor partisans claim that there must be systematic discrimination holding down wages in female-dominated professions like childcare.

Ask anyone who manages people in a large corporation, and you’ll discover that whatever minor pay discrepancies exist, corporate compensation schemes only allow limited differences. Men and women at a single company with the same jobs and performance are paid pretty much the same, with the minor differences related to preferences — men push harder for higher pay (and longer hours), while women on average value social relationships and shorter, more flexible hours. Some activists seem to imply that those who work too hard are implicitly making worklife too competitive for women, and that all workers should be made to work less so that those with childcare and family responsibilities can be paid the same.

A free market in labor will always have discrepancies, with competition for and relative scarcity of experienced and driven workers in certain demanding fields winning them higher compensation than those in low-skilled, pleasant jobs. It happens that more men end up in the dirty, difficult, demanding fields and sacrifice personal lives and family to outshine competitors; changing that would mean changing culture and human nature, forcing equality of outcome on a complex system that has rewards and sacrifices more important than mere financial compensation.

The pre-feminist world, say prior to 1960, tended to block women who wished to succeed in professional fields. It’s good that this has changed — more women and more men who wanted to take roles not conforming to rigid gender stereotypes have been able to do so, and net welfare has increased as a result. Yet politicians seek to raise wishful thinking about “having it all” as a woman to a public policy goal — that labor regulation should force employers to hire set ratios of women and minorities regardless of fit and productivity, and pay the mother who works 30 hours a week the same as the driven young father who wants to rise to the top by working 60-hour weeks. This is part of the recipe for Euro-stagnation that is gradually damaging US growth, and forcing HR departments to act as the social engineering arms of the Federal EEOC and Dept. of Labor.

The EEOC intends to muscle private companies to comply, starting with their Jan. 29, 2016 announcement[1] that all companies with more than 100 employees would be required to report compensation broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity:

“Too often, pay discrimination goes undetected because of a lack of accurate information about what people are paid,” said Jenny Yang, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will publish the proposed regulation jointly with the Department of Labor. “We will be using the information that we’re collecting as one piece of information that can inform our investigations.”

…“Bridging the stubborn pay gap between men and women in the work force has proven to be very challenging,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, noting that the median wage for women amounts to 79 percent of that for men. “We have seen progress, but it isn’t enough.”

And it will never be enough, since the Party of Government actually doesn’t want their poll-tested issues to ever go away. While discrimination on a small scale still happens — individual managers and some small backwater companies still discriminate — on the whole women are given a fair shake and accommodated in today’s corporate world. Pretending that millions of woman can get big raises for their current jobs by voting in Party of Government politicians is too valuable to give up as an election issue. The problem must be kept alive forever, even when all of its real aspects have been dealt with as much as a free market in labor — and an efficient economy with freedom of choice for companies and workers — allows.

Ashe Schow, a sharp feminist writer who doesn’t buy the party line, says:

I’ve written extensively on how the gender wage gap would be more accurately referred to as the “gender earnings gap,” because the gap is due mostly to choices women make and not discrimination.

But now you don’t have to take my word for it, you can listen to Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University. Goldin spoke to Stephen Dubner, the journalist behind the popular podcast “Freakanomics,” in a segment about what really causes the gap.
As one can imagine, Goldin comes to the same conclusion that I and many others have: That the gap is due mostly to choices men and women make in their careers and not discrimination.

“Does that mean that women are receiving lower pay for equal work?” Goldin asked after listening to clips of President Obama and comedienne Sarah Silverman claim that women earn 77 cents to the dollar that men earn. “That is possibly the case in certain places, but by and large it’s not that, it’s something else.”

That “something else,” is choice — in the careers that women take, the hours they work and the time off they take. Dubner asked her about evidence that discrimination plays a role in the gap, to which Goldin responded that such a “smoking gun” no longer exists.[2]

Walter Olson of Overlawyered points out how the EEOC’s collection of data might benefit law firms who can use it to back up lawsuits, with the inevitable costly settlements enriching the law firms and further reducing corporate freedom to work with individual employees to tailor working conditions, hours, and compensation:

Aside from driving a high volume of litigation by the EEOC itself, the scheme will also greatly benefit private lawyers who sue employers, including class action lawyers. An employer might then weather the resulting litigation siege by showing that its numbers were good enough, or not. Would today’s Labor Department and EEOC policies look much different if the Obama administration frankly acknowledged that it was devising them with an eye toward maximum liability and payouts?[3]

A study[4] of recent graduates in STEM fields demonstrated how disparate pay could quickly be generated by different preferences in these supposedly logical fields:

One year after they graduate, women with Ph.D.s in science and engineering fields earn 31 percent less than do men, according to a new study using previously unavailable data.

The pay gap dropped to 11 percent when researchers took into account that women tended to graduate with degrees in fields that generally pay less than fields in which men got their degrees.

The rest of the pay gap disappeared when the researchers controlled for whether women were married and had children.

“There’s a dramatic difference in how much early career men and women in the sciences are paid,” said Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at The Ohio State University. “We can get a sense of some of the reasons behind the pay gap, but our study can’t speak to whether any of the gap is due to discrimination. Our results do suggest some lack of family-friendliness for women in these careers.”

“Family-friendly” means less focused, less demanding work. In science and engineering, focus is critical — a worker who is obsessed by the work and spends night and day thinking about a problem undistracted by children and social responsibilities is vastly more likely to achieve a breakthrough or a rigorous, clean, innovative design before the competition. Multitasking and the interruption of concentration by family schedules and set break times reduces productivity, especially in fields like programming where long and intense focus is required for the best work product. Not all jobs in these fields require this obsessive focus and many peripheral and support jobs can allow time for family life and other interests, but these jobs tend to pay less as well. To demand to be paid the same amount for them is to cheat the hard worker who is motivated to temporarily sacrifice much of the enjoyment of a well-rounded life for the sake of the task and who may be doing so to build the record of outstanding performance needed to build the base of a long career. And it should surprise no one that far fewer women are interested in that kind of unbalanced, unsocial, driven existence, even for short periods. The report goes on to say:

The importance of helpful family policies is supported by the fact that single and childless women tended to have less of a pay gap than those who were married and those who had children. About equal percentages of men and women were married or partnered. And more men than women in the study (24 versus 19 percent) had children. But it was the married women with children who saw the lower pay.

“Our results show a larger child-gap in salary among women Ph.D.s than among men,” Weinberg said.

“We can’t tell from our data what’s going on there. There’s probably a combination of factors. Some women may consciously choose to be primary caregivers and pull back from work. But there may also be some employers putting women on a ‘mommy track’ where they get paid less.”

The researchers had data, not previously available to scientists, on 1,237 students who received Ph.D.s from four U.S. universities from 2007 to 2010 and were supported on research projects while in school.

This data included federal funding support the Ph.D. graduates received as students, the dissertations they wrote (this told researchers what scientific field they studied) and U.S. Census data on where they worked and how much they earned one year after graduation, as well as their marital and childbearing status. Names and identifying characteristics were stripped from the data before the scientists had access to it.

Results showed clear differences in what men and women studied, with women clustered in the lower-paying fields. Overall, 59 percent of women completed dissertations in biology, chemistry and health, compared to only 27 percent of men.

Meanwhile, men were more than twice as likely to complete dissertations in more financially lucrative fields like engineering (45 versus 21 percent), and were 1.5 times more likely to study computer science, math or physics (28 versus 19 percent).

….Once they graduate, the differences between men and women with Ph.D.s continue. While industry tends to pay the largest salaries, women are more likely than men to work in government and academic settings. In fact, women in the study were 13 percentage points less likely than men to work outside of academia and government.

Women tend to choose more sociable, more supportive work environments, in fields that pay somewhat less. It is likely this is in part not only their conscious preference, but a kind of luxury afforded by the remnants of traditional gender roles — while free not to follow those roles, most men and women still have them embedded in their plans and goals, and the goal of the family with a male primary earner and female caretaker and secondary earner is now the most common. In that context, a woman’s choice of lower compensation jobs and fields makes perfect sense as part of her strategy.



[1] “Obama Moves to Expand Rules Aimed at Closing Gender Pay Gap,” By Julie Hirshfeld Davis, Jan. 29, 2016 New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/us/politics/obama-moves-to-expand-rules-aimed-at-closing-gender-pay-gap.html
[2] “Harvard prof. takes down gender wage gap myth,” by Ashe Schow, 1/13/16 Washington Examiner. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/harvard-prof.-takes-down-gender-wage-gap-myth/article/2580405
[3] “EEOC pay reporting: the better to sue you with, my dear,” by Walter Olson, 2/1/2016 Overlawyered. http://overlawyered.com/2016/02/eeoc-employers-must-report-pay-numbers-to-us/
[4] “Young women in STEM fields earn up to one-third less than men: Marriage, kids and scientific fields chosen explain gap, study finds,”
by Jeff Grabmeier, May 10, 2016, Ohio State University News.
https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/05/10/stem-gap/


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

I’ll Be At Libertycon July 8-10 in Chattanooga

The Substrate Wars

Planning to attend Libertycon to see the people and hobnob with some greats. I think they’re almost sold out of tickets, but you might check. My schedule:

Scheduled Programming Events Featuring Jeb Kinnison

Day Time Name of Event
Fri 01:00PM Weaponized Artificial Intelligence
Fri 05:00PM Opening Ceremonies
Sat 01:00PM Perspectives on Military SF
Sun 10:00AM Kaffeeklatsch

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Nemo’s World

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FDA Wants More Lung Cancer

E-Cigarette - FDA Vaping Rules

E-Cigarette – FDA Vaping Rules

The post Bootleggers and Baptists touched on the corrupt bargain now bringing together a coalition to suppress vaping (close to harmless) as a substitute for cigarettes (cause of most lung cancer deaths.)

The FDA has announced their plan to regulate vaping (and cigars, etc.), which seems designed to drive all vaping products off the market — except those provided by Big Tobacco companies. As usual with the FDA, the process for getting approval will be lengthy and costly, when a simple filing of ingredients (and prohibition of dangerous ones) would be cheap and quick. Only the largest companies will be able to afford the approval process.

The New York Times story:

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration made final sweeping new rules that for the first time extend federal regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, popular nicotine delivery devices that have grown into a multibillion-dollar business with virtually no federal oversight or protections for American consumers.

The 499-page regulatory road map has broad implications for public health, the tobacco industry and the nation’s 40 million smokers. The new regulations would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to Americans under 18 and would require that many people buying them show photo identification to prove their age, measures already mandated in a number of states.

The long-awaited regulations shift the terms of the intense public debate over e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without the harmful tar and chemicals that cause cancer. The devices were introduced about a decade ago and have exploded in popularity. There are an estimated 9 million adult e-cigarette users in the United States.

But they have sharply divided American public health experts. The central question is whether they help people stop smoking — or whether they are a gateway to traditional cigarettes, especially for younger people. Health experts in Britain have decided they are effective in helping people quit, and have urged smokers there to switch to them. American experts have been more cautious, warning that they may eventually result in young people moving from vaping to smoking traditional cigarettes.

The answer is important because smoking is still the largest cause of preventable death, with over 480,000 tobacco-related deaths each year in the United States.

The regulations, which will take effect in 90 days, establish oversight of what has been a market free-for-all of products, including vials of liquid nicotine of varying quality and unknown provenance. Finalizing them has taken years. They stem from a major tobacco-control law Congress passed in 2009 and were first proposed in draft form in 2014….

Perhaps the biggest change is a requirement that producers of cigars and e-cigarettes register with the F.D.A., provide the agency with a detailed accounting of their products’ ingredients, and disclose their manufacturing processes and scientific data. Producers will be subject to F.D.A. inspections and will not be able to market their products as “light” or “mild,” unless the F.D.A. allowed them to. Companies will be prohibited from giving out free samples….

The American Vaping Association, a trade group for the industry, seemed to take that view, arguing in a statement on Thursday that the agency had gone too far. “This is not regulation — it is prohibition,” the group said in a statement. It said the process for submitting an application, in terms of number of hours spent, would exceed a million dollars.

But federal health officials countered that the industry will have ample time to respond to the rules. Companies with products on the market now, including vape shops that mix their own liquids, will have two years to submit an application to the F.D.A. for approval of a product. It can stay on the market for another year while the agency reviews the application.

As for the cost, officials and advocates said it was too soon to tell, but added that there was broad agreement — including in federal statute — that the industry needed to be regulated, not unlike the food industry, for example, and that these rules were a thoughtful way to accomplish that. Mr. Zeller. said that until now the industry had been the “wild, wild West.”

…The rules also impose regulations on all tobacco cigars, a tougher move than originally anticipated as the agency was pondering excluding so-called premium cigars….

“At last, the Food and Drug Administration will have basic authority to make science-based decisions that will protect our nation’s youth and the public health from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah,” Harold P. Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

The F.D.A. announcement followed a ruling by Europe’s highest court on Wednesday upholding the right of the European Union to place restrictions on the sale of electronic cigarettes. Europe’s rules are to take effect this month.

So based on so-far-unfounded speculation that vaping will induce kids to smoke regular cigarettes, regulators who purport to care about the millions of deaths due to lung cancer will, in effect, make it more difficult and expensive to quit cigarette smoking by using the much-less-harmful e-cigarettes.

I don’t vape and I suspect vaping has some minor negative health effects, but relatively speaking they’ve already been shown to be minimal. Yet the knee-jerk reaction is to clamp down on something these regulators don’t do or know much about, because it *resembles* cigarette smoking and those poor weak-minded citizens need to be protected. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that vaping threatens tax revenues and the business models of both Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, and the approvals process is designed to suit Big Tobacco while shutting out small companies.

From the Bootleggers and Baptists post:

Tobacco: Vaping equipment, or e-cigs, provide the appearance of cigarettes and a dose of the nicotine smokers crave in a delivery format (evaporated carrier with nicotine and flavoring) that is much less harmful to smoker’s lungs. Many experts recommended smokers switch to e-cigs immediately, since harm to their health would be much reduced. But e-cigs threaten both the makers of the highly-regulated and taxed legacy cigarettes and the makers of smoking cessation products like nicotine gum and patches — often the same companies! So paid “medical authorities” and lobbyists began to work hard to promote the view that the new and untested e-cigs were just as hazardous — if not more hazardous, since their long-term effects were unknown! — than traditional cigarettes. Cato’s Regulation put out a good paper on the Bootleggers-and-Baptists pattern in this new propaganda war:

Now consider the situation with electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and their incumbent competitors: tobacco companies that produce and sell traditional cigarettes and drug companies that produce nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs). The U.S. cigarette market has been regulated, one way or another, since colonial times. Along the way, federal regulation—coupled most recently with the state attorneys general Master Settlement Agreement (MSA, about which we say more later)—effectively cartelized the industry, bringing increased profits to the industry and higher cigarette prices and reduced cigarette consumption throughout the nation. Falling cigarette consumption gladdened the hearts of health advocates, who fought for the elimination of tobacco products, while higher industry profits brought joy to tobacco company owners.

This happy Bootlegger/Baptist equilibrium is now threatened by the exploding sales of e-cigs, a new technology for delivering nicotine to all who want it without simultaneously bringing the harmful combustion-induced chemicals associated with burned tobacco. Today, there are many e-cig producers and numerous small shops selling e-cigs and customized nicotine-dispensing products. It is a rapidly evolving market that has been relatively open to new entrants and innovation in product design. Given the quick growth in e-cig use (much of which comes at the expense of cigarette sales), previous political deals that stabilized tobacco industry profits are at risk. The major tobacco companies are understandably not sitting idle. They, too, have entered the e-cig marketplace and are responding in other ways to the new competition.

The major pharmaceutical companies have not been idle either. The makers of smoking cessation products, including NRTs such as the nicotine patch and nicotine gum, are major players in the politics of tobacco and nicotine. The producers of traditional nicotine delivery devices and NRTs are at work trying to stop the disruptive e-cig producers. These Bootleggers are joined by health advocates (Baptists) who raise questions about unknown potentially harmful effects that may be associated with e-cig use. Both groups—cigarette and NRT producers on the one hand, and health advocates on the other—would like to stop new e-cig producers or severely crimp their ability to compete.

Lawfare between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general was settled in 1998 with the MSA (Master Settlement Agreement), which set the payments due to the states to compensate them for the additional Medicare and Medicaid costs states would bear because of tobacco products. The agreement was carefully designed to send money to the states while protecting the incumbent manufacturers from competition, allowing them to raise prices more than required to pay the fines.

Again from Cato’s paper:

The heart of the MSA was the promised payment of $206 billion by the four participating cigarette companies to the participating states. Those payments would be tax deductible and the costs would be paid by consumers in the form of higher cigarette prices. (Because cigarette consumption is highly price inelastic, the cost of the price increase was largely borne by consumers rather than producers.) The MSA presented state legislatures with a simple choice: either accept the MSA, in which case they would be able to spend their state’s share of the billions of dollars raised from smokers, or reject the proposed statute and their states’ smokers would still pay the higher prices necessary to fund the deal but they would lose their claim on the money. Not surprisingly, every state legislature took the money.

Responsibility for the payments was allocated among the cigarette companies in proportion to their current market share, thereby reducing the incentive for the participating cigarette companies to engage in price competition to increase their respective market shares. The structure of the MSA thus provided a powerful incentive for each company to be satisfied with the status quo.

The MSA also attempted to protect the major cigarette companies from new competition. At the time of the agreement, the four participating cigarette companies accounted for about 99 percent of domestic cigarette sales. Increasing cigarette prices to pay for the settlement risked a loss of market share to marginal competitors or new entrants. Therefore the MSA provided that for every percent of market share over 2 percent lost by a participating cigarette manufacturer, the manufacturer would be allowed to reduce its payments to the states by 3 percent, unless each participating state enacted a statute to prevent price competition from non-participating manufacturers (which each state did). The statutes require nonparticipating cigarette producers to make payments equal to or greater than what they would owe had they been participants in the agreement, to eliminate any cost advantage.

The MSA also included restrictions on cigarette marketing practices agreed to by the participating producers. The advertising limits were portrayed as a public health measure because they reduced advertising that could influence young adults and teens. The limits also reinforced the anticompetitive nature of the MSA by making it more costly for new brands or entrants to secure market share through promotional efforts.

The MSA’s cartel-reinforcing provisions sufficiently suppressed competition to enable cigarette companies to take advantage of the price inelasticity of cigarette demand and obtain record profits. This made it possible for the major cigarette manufacturers to increase prices by more than was necessary to make the mandated MSA payments.

Having made a deal to get big money for states and attorneys while protecting the companies from competition and raising prices more than enough to make the addicted smokers themselves pay the full cost of the settlement, many of the states decided to grab their money immediately by selling municipal (federal tax-free) bonds backed by the MSA payments expected. California alone issued at least $16.8 billion in such bonds, proceeds being used for both immediate expenses and long-term capital improvements. Legislators appear to have forgotten that the supposed purpose of the payments was to cover smoking-related expenses of future medical care for the state’s population, and instead chose to spend the money immediately on unrelated matters while leaving the burden of those health expenses with future taxpayers.

In some cases, however, the bonds are backed by secondary pledges of state or local revenues, which creates what some see as a perverse incentive to support the tobacco industry, on whom they are now dependent for future payments against this debt.

Tobacco revenue has fallen more quickly than projected when the securities were created, leading to technical defaults in some states. Some analysts predict that many of the bonds will default entirely. Many of the longer-term bonds have been downgraded to junk ratings. More recently, financial analysts began raising concerns that the rapid growth of the electronic cigarette market is accelerating the decline of $97 billion outstanding in tobacco bonds…. Lawmakers in several states proposed measures to tax e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco products to offset the decline in TMSA revenue. They anticipate that taxing or banning e-cigarettes would be beneficial to the sale of combustible cigarettes. — Wikipedia on “Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement”

Vested interests, including tobacco companies and the states, now actively seek to suppress e-cigs or at least tax them enough to make up for any lost revenue as they are adopted. This means they are actively working to keep smokers addicted to the most hazardous form of nicotine consumption, with its resultant cancers and other diseases. The original Baptist goal of helping smokers quit the habit to avoid cancer and early death has long since been forgotten.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegregation Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”

SexistTomorrow

The Sexist World of Tomorrow

Progressives are asserting a need to control Futurism to bring correct feminist and progressive thought into it.

My opinion: a study recently showed women go into scientific fields in roughly the proportion you’d expect, if you first take out everyone who didn’t study much qualifying mathematics. I expect there is a natural aggregate difference in how interested each sex is in planning for the future, preparing for hazards, etc., with men vigilant while women tend to be more focused on immediate needs and alleviating suffering — the Mommy vs Daddy differences. And so you would expect futurists to skew male simply because they are interested (sometimes obsessed) by the topic.

None of this means there aren’t women who are interested and good at futurism (e.g., Virginia Postrel.) But an effort to force more women into futurism means less good futurism and more feelz as guides to policy and planning. Which means a less dynamic future for everyone.

Rose Eveleth (of “Shirtstorm” fame) has an article in the Atlantic: “Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”

There are all sorts of firms and companies working to build robotic servants. Chrome butlers, chefs, and housekeepers. But the fantasy of having an indentured servant is a peculiar one to some. “That whole idea of creating robots that are in service to us has always bothered me,” says Nnedi Okorafor, a science fiction author. “I’ve always sided with the robots. That whole idea of creating these creatures that are human-like and then have them be in servitude to us, that is not my fantasy and I find it highly problematic that it would be anyone’s.”

Or take longevity, for example. The idea that people could, or even should, push to lengthen lifespans as far as possible is popular. The life-extension movement, with Aubrey de Gray as one (very bearded) spokesman, has raised millions of dollars to investigate how to extend the lifespan of humans. But this is arguably only an ideal future if you’re in as a comfortable position as his. “Living forever only works if you’re a rich vampire from an Anne Rice novel, which is to say that you have compound interest,” jokes Ashby. “It really only works if you have significant real-estate investments and fast money and slow money.” (Time travel, as the comedian Louis C.K. has pointed out, is another thing that is a distinctly white male preoccupation—going back in time, for marginalized groups, means giving up more of their rights.)

So, let’s see — she thinks we need to keep human beings indentured to jobs taking care of the helpless old, for example, rather than have robotic assistants. Of course in her mind it’s the obligation of some government to pay all those human assistants, as much as necessary to eliminate all suffering and pain. Robotic assistants are simply Not Needed in the social welfare world of the future, where we can all help each other 24×7 and someone else provides all our needs.

It’s also, apparently, desirable that we all die sooner than necessary. We should return to the golden past, where life was short and disease and hunger stalked almost everyone. 25 is old enough!

Of course it’s harder to predict what social attitudes will be in the future — and many futurists fail to imagine what’s to come on that area, while more easily projecting trends in technology. But that doesn’t mean an infusion of women will make such predictions any better.

Science fiction has become more pessimistic about the future, and people like this are a big reason:

In order to understand what those who have never really felt welcome in the field of futurism think, I called someone who writes and talks about the future, but who doesn’t call themselves a futurist: Monica Byrne. Byrne is a science-fiction author and opinion writer who often tackles questions of how we see the future, and what kinds of futures we deem preferable. But when she thinks about “futurism” as a field, she doesn’t see herself. “I think the term futurist is itself is something I see white men claiming for themselves, and isn’t something that would occur to me to call myself even though I functionally am one,” she says.

Okorafor says that she too has never really called herself a futurist, even though much of what she does is use her writing to explore what’s possible. “When you sent me your email and you mentioned futurism I think that’s really the first time I started thinking about that label for myself. And it fits. It feels comfortable.”

When Byrne thinks about the term futurists, she thinks about a power struggle. “What I see is a bid for control over what the future will look like. And it is a future that is, that to me doesn’t look much different from Asimov science fiction covers. Which is not a future I’m interested in.”

The futurism that involves glass houses and 400-year-old men doesn’t interest her. “When I think about the kind of future I want to build, it’s very soft and human, it’s very erotic, and I feel like so much of what I identify as futurism is very glossy, chrome painted science fiction covers, they’re sterile.” She laughs. “Who cares about your jetpack? How does technology enable us to keep loving each other?”

And how does not having technology help us love each other? Fights to the death for food and resources are what love is all about! Kill off a few billion people, return to warm and loving matriarchal villages, and enjoy true humanity… there’s no reason we can’t have both higher tech, longer lifespans, and love, Ma’am. It’s only the current ease of life due to technology and specialization that allows you to believe such ridiculous things.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


For more on SJWs, modern feminism, Red Pill men, and family law:

Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Life Is Unfair! The Militant Red Pill Movement
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
Madmen, Red Pill, and Social Justice Wars
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends
Ross Douthat on Unstable Families and Culture
Ev Psych: Parental Preferences in Partners
Purge: the Feminist Grievance Bubble
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Modern Feminism: Victim-Based Special Pleading
Stereotype Inaccuracy: False Dichotomies
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Red Pill Women — Female MRAs
Why Did Black Crime Syndicates Fail to Go Legit?
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
Feminism’s Heritage: Freedom vs. Special Protections
Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)
Gaming and Science Fiction: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Social Justice Warriors: #GamerGate Explained
Emma Watson’s Message: Intelligence Trumps Sex

“Red Queen”: Science Notes

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[Appendix from Red Queen: The Substrate Wars.]

If you’re a theoretical physicist, you’ll note I am taking liberties with the science. But only a little—and the plot is very much real science. Steve Duong discovers something unexpected, creates a new hypothesis which explains his anomalous results, then confirms his hypothesis by further experimentation. I don’t personally believe we live in a universe where giant quasiparticles can talk to every other particle in the universe and ask them to attach to new partners, but it could be so. We are always just one experiment away from a revolution in understanding. And it will likely be something equally unexpected that allows us to travel to the stars.

I have the Grey Tribe communicating by using encrypted messages embedded in public web site photo streams. For a similar app available now, see Crypstagram. There are several messaging apps that are encrypted currently, for example Whatsapp. But in this future State of Emergency, standard encryption of messages and email has been outlawed, and phone companies and apps are not allowed to secure user data against surveillance. There are high officials in the US government at this writing asking that all phones be searchable for law enforcement purposes, and we can expect more efforts to outlaw encryption. “When encryption is outlawed, only outlaws will have encryption!”

On the attempts to find a cellular automaton model that explains quantum physics, this is the abstract of one interesting paper: “Quantum Field as a Quantum Cellular Automaton I: The Dirac free evolution in one dimension”:

It is shown how a quantum cellular automaton can describe very precisely the Dirac evolution, without requiring Lorentz covariance. The automaton is derived with the only assumptions of minimal dimension and parity and time-reversal invariance. The automaton extends the Dirac field theory to the Planck and ultrarelativistic scales. The Dirac equation is recovered in the usual particle physics scale of inertial mass and momenta. In this first paper the simplest case of one space dimension is analyzed. We provide a technique to derive an analytical approximation of the evolution of the automaton in terms of a momentum-dependent Schrödinger equation. Such approximation works very well in all regimes, including ultrarelativistic and Planckian, for the typical smooth quantum states of field theory with limited bandwidth in momentum. Finally we discuss some thought experiments for falsifying the existence of the automaton at the Planck scale.

Real quantum computing is still in its infancy. Efforts so far have been plagued by noise and the small number of qubits available—the current state of the art is 4! Researchers—and especially outside evaluations—find it hard to tell whether current quantum computers are actually doing quantum computation. This is an area where many discoveries are likely to clarify quantum phenomenon, and perhaps, as in this story, open up completely new vistas on how the universe is organized.

If you are already familiar with the basics of quantum phenomena and want to learn more about quantum computing, the Wikipedia articles on the field are excellent places to start.

Artificial Life is a kind of computational model of the biology of life as we know it. Starting with very simple worlds, models have become more and more sophisticated to the point where significant discoveries about emergent features are being made. Larger, faster simulations feature co-evolving organisms in ecosystems and environments that have been molded by biological processes. Wikipedia is a good place to start learning about the field.

The abstract of a current paper, “Indefinitely Scalable Computing = Artificial Life Engineering,” by David H. Ackley and Trent R. Smallon, on the state of research and ideas on applying ALife concepts to general computer architecture:

The traditional CPU/RAM computer architecture is increasingly unscalable, presenting a challenge for the industry—and is too fragile to be securable even at its current scale, presenting a challenge for society as well. This paper argues that new architectures and computational models, designed around software-based artificial life, can offer radical solutions to both problems. The challenge for the soft alife research community is to harness the dynamics of life and complexity in service of robust, scalable computations—and in many ways, we can keep doing what we are doing, if we use indefinitely scalable computational models to do so. This paper reviews the argument for robustness in scalability, delivers that challenge to the soft alife community, and summarizes recent progress in architecture and program design for indefinitely scalable computing via artificial life engineering.

The Red Queen hypothesis is one of the key concepts of modern evolutionary biology.

“Hacking the Soul” – MIT Technology Review Special Issue

The Departure, Neal Asher

The Departure, Neal Asher

Most alumni magazines are sad attempts to buff up the prestige of the institution which have suffered from low budgets and bad writing. MIT’s is quite different — it has become an excellent general science magazine. The July/August issue succeeds in being almost uniformly excellent and interesting in covering new neuroscience. Unfortunately the content is now behind a paywall, but here’s some good bits (which should make you want to subscribe to their RSS feed or the magazine itself.)

From “Neuroscience’s New Toolbox” by Stephen S. Hall:

With the invention of optogenetics and other technologies, researchers can investigate the source of emotions, memory, and consciousness for the first time….

Optogenetics had its origins in 2000, in late-night chitchat at Stanford University. There, neuroscientists Karl Deisseroth and Edward Boyden began to bounce ideas back and forth about ways to identify, and ultimately manipulate, the activity of specific brain circuits. Deisseroth, who had a PhD in neuroscience from Stanford, longed to understand (and someday treat) the mental afflictions that have vexed humankind since the era of Hippocrates, notably anxiety and depression (see “Shining Light on Madness”). Boyden, who was pursuing graduate work in brain function, had an omnivorous curiosity about neurotechnology. At first they dreamed about deploying tiny magnetic beads as a way to manipulate brain function in intact, living animals. But at some point during the next five years, a different kind of light bulb went off.

Since the 1970s, microbiologists had been studying a class of light-sensitive molecules known as rhodopsins, which had been identified in simple organisms like bacteria, fungi, and algae. These proteins act like gatekeepers along the cell wall; when they detect a particular wavelength of light, they either let ions into a cell or, conversely, let ions out of it. This ebb and flow of ions mirrors the process by which a neuron fires: the electrical charge within the nerve cell builds up until the cell unleashes a spike of electrical activity flowing along the length of its fiber (or axon) to the synapses, where the message is passed on to the next cell in the pathway. Scientists speculated that if you could smuggle the gene for one of these light-sensitive proteins into a neuron and then pulse the cell with light, you might trigger it to fire. Simply put, you could turn specific neurons in a conscious animal on—or off—with a burst of light.

In 2004, Deisseroth successfully inserted the gene for a light-sensitive molecule from algae into mammalian neurons in a dish. Deisseroth and ­Boyden went on to show that blue light could induce the neurons to fire. At about the same time, a graduate student named Feng Zhang joined Deisseroth’s lab. Zhang, who had acquired a precocious expertise in the techniques of both molecular biology and gene therapy as a high school student in Des Moines, Iowa, showed that the gene for the desired protein could be introduced into neurons by means of genetically engineered viruses. Again using pulses of blue light, the Stanford team then demonstrated that it could turn electrical pulses on and off in the virus-modified mammalian nerve cells. In a landmark paper that appeared in Nature Neuroscience in 2005 (after, Boyden says, it was rejected by Science), Deisseroth, Zhang, and Boyden described the technique. (No one would call it “optogenetics” for another year.)

Neuroscientists immediately seized on the power of the technique by inserting light-sensitive genes into living animals. Researchers in Deisseroth’s own lab used it to identify new pathways that control anxiety in mice, and both ­Deisseroth’s team and his collaborators at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York used it to turn depression on and off in rats and mice. And Susumu Tonegawa’s lab at MIT recently used optogenetics to create false memories in laboratory animals.

This issue has many terrific overview articles, but I’ll just point out this interview of Antonio Damasio (whose results on the importance of emotions to decisionmaking I quoted in Bad Bayfriends) by Jason Pontin. “Q+A: Antonio Damasio”:

For decades, biologists spurned emotion and feeling as uninteresting. But Antonio Damasio demonstrated that they were central to the life-regulating processes of almost all living creatures.

Damasio’s essential insight is that feelings are “mental experiences of body states,” which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s responses to external stimuli. (The order of such events is: I am threatened, experience fear, and feel horror.) He has suggested that consciousness, whether the primitive “core consciousness” of animals or the “extended” self-conception of humans, requiring autobiographical memory, emerges from emotions and feelings.

His insight, dating back to the early 1990s, stemmed from the clinical study of brain lesions in patients unable to make good decisions because their emotions were impaired, but whose reason was otherwise unaffected–research made possible by the neuroanatomical studies of his wife and frequent coauthor, Hanna Damasio. Their work has always depended on advances in technology. More recently, tools such as functional neuroimaging, which measures the relationship between mental processes and activity in parts of the brain, have complemented the Damasios’ use of neuroanatomy.

A professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, Damasio has written four artful books that explain his research to a broader audience and relate its discoveries to the abiding concerns of philosophy. He believes that neurobiological research has a distinctly philosophical purpose: “The scientist’s voice need not be the mere record of life as it is,” he wrote in a book on ­Descartes. “If only we want it, deeper knowledge of brain and mind will help achieve … happiness.”

Antonio Damasio talked with Jason Pontin, the editor in chief of MIT Technology Review.

When you were a young scientist in the late 1970s, emotion was not thought a proper field of inquiry.

We were told very often, “Well, you’re going to be lost, because there’s absolutely nothing there of consequence.” We were pitied for our poor choice.

How so?

William James had tackled emotion richly and intelligently. But his ideas [mainly that emotions are the brain’s mapping of body states, ideas that Damasio revived and experimentally verified] had led to huge controversies in the beginning of the 20th century that ended nowhere. Somehow researchers had the sense that emotion would not, in the end, be sufficiently distinctive–because animals had emotions, too. But what animals don’t have, researchers told themselves, is language like we do, nor reason or creativity–so let’s study that, they thought. And in fact, it’s true that most creatures on the face of the earth do have something that could be called emotion, and something that could be called feeling. But that doesn’t mean we humans don’t use emotions and feelings in particular ways.

Because we have a conscious sense of self?

Yes. What’s distinctive about humans is that we make use of fundamental processes of life regulation that include things like emotion and feeling, but we connect them with intellectual processes in such a way that we create a whole new world around us.

What made you so interested in emotions as an area of study?

There was something that appealed to me because of my interest in literature and music. It was a way of combining what was important to me with what I thought was going to be important scientifically.

What have you learned?

There are certain action programs that are obviously permanently installed in our organs and in our brains so that we can survive, flourish, procreate, and, eventually, die. This is the world of life regulation–homeostasis–that I am so interested in, and it covers a wide range of body states. There is an action program of thirst that leads you to seek water when you are dehydrated, but also an action program of fear when you are threatened. Once the action program is deployed and the brain has the possibility of mapping what has happened in the body, then that leads to the emergence of the mental state. During the action program of fear, a collection of things happen in my body that change me and make me behave in a certain way whether I want to or not. As that is happening to me, I have a mental representation of that body state as much as I have a mental representation of what frightened me.

And out of that “mapping” of something happening within the body comes a feeling, which is different from an emotion?

Exactly. For me, it’s very important to separate emotion from feeling. We must separate the component that comes out of actions from the component that comes out of our perspective on those actions, which is feeling. Curiously, it’s also where the self emerges, and consciousness itself. Mind begins at the level of feeling. It’s when you have a feeling (even if you’re a very little creature) that you begin to have a mind and a self.

But that would imply that only creatures with a fully formed sense of their minds could have fully formed feelings–

No, no, no. I’m ready to give the very teeny brain of an insect—provided it has the possibility of representing its body states–the possibility of having feelings. In fact, I would be flabbergasted to discover that they don’t have feelings. Of course, what flies don’t have is all the intellect around those feelings that could make use of them: to found a religious order, or develop an art form, or write a poem. They can’t do that; but we can. In us, having feelings somehow allows us also to have creations that are responses to those feelings.

But humans are certainly conscious of being responsive.

Yes. We’re aware of our feelings and are conscious of the pleasantness or unpleasantness associated with them. Look, what are the really powerful feelings that you deal with every day? Desires, appetites, hunger, thirst, pain–those are the basic things.

How much of the structure of civilization is devoted to controlling those basic things?- ­Spinoza says that politics seeks to regulate such instincts for the common good.

We wouldn’t have music, art, religion, science, technology, economics, politics, justice, or moral philosophy without the impelling force of feelings.

Do people emote in predictable ways regardless of their culture? For instance, does everyone hear the Western minor mode in music as sad?

We now know enough to say yes to that question.

At the Brain and Creativity Institute [which Damasio directs], we have been doing cross-cultural studies of emotion. At first we thought we would find very different patterns, especially with social emotions. In fact, we don’t. Whether you are studying Chinese, Americans, or Iranians, you get very similar responses. There are lots of subtleties and lots of ways in which certain stimuli elicit different patterns of emotional response with different intensities, but the presence of sadness or joy is there with a uniformity that is strongly and beautifully human.

Could our emotions be augmented with implants or some other brain-interfacing technology?

Inasmuch as we can understand the neural processes behind any of these complex functions, once we do, the possibility of intervening is always there. Of course, we interface with brain function all the time: with diet, with alcohol, and with medications. So it’s not that surgical interventions will be any great novelty. What will be novel is to make those interventions cleanly so that they are targeted. No, the more serious issue is the moral situations that might arise.

Why?

Because it really depends on what the intervention is aimed at achieving.

Suppose the intervention is aimed at resuscitating your lost ability to move a limb, or to see or hear. Do I have any moral problem? Of course not. But what if it interferes with states of the brain that are influential in how you make your decisions? Then you are entering a realm that should be reserved for the person alone.

What has been the most useful technology for understanding the biological basis of consciousness?

Imaging technologies have made a powerful contribution. At the same time, I’m painfully aware that they are limited in what they give us.

If you could wish into existence a better technology for observing the brain, what would it be?

I would not want to go to only one level, because I don’t think the really interesting things occur at just one level. What we need are new techniques to understand the interrelation of levels. There are people who have spent a good part of their lives studying systems, which is the case with my wife and most of the people in our lab. We have done our work on neuroanatomy, and gone into cells only occasionally. But now we are actually studying the state of the functions of axons [nerve fibers in the brain], and we desperately need ways in which we can scale up from what we’ve found to higher and higher levels.

What would that technology look like?

I don’t know. It needs to be invented.

It looks like neuroscience now has the basic tools to sense and control individual neurons; the massive complexity of using all that data to detect how meaning and sensory input are coded will be daunting, but it’s likely we will eventually see direct optic nerve interfaces, “augments” (networked computers embedded in the brain itself and allowing direct communication and access to information), and perhaps the ability for human thought to be transferred to a new substrate — uploading of people into the cloud, a form of immortality.

The Departure: 1 (The Owner) by Neal Asher, is the first book in a good series featuring an EU run amuck and augmented humans as agents of change.