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Archive for August, 2016

Heat and Hajj 2076

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — one black swan that’s almost predictable — where two timelines meet ]
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God in His wisdom has decreed that all right thinking humans should circumambulate the Kaaba in Mecca if at all possible during their human lifetimes, so proclaims Islamic orthodoxy.

A Guardian piece titled Extreme heatwaves could push Gulf climate beyond human endurance, study shows gives an approximate date by which Mecca may be impossibly hot for humans, even clothed in the brilliant white ihram of the pilgrimage:

The extreme heatwaves will affect Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and coastal cities in Iran as well as posing a deadly threat to millions of Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, when the religious festival falls in the summer. The study shows the extreme heatwaves, more intense than anything ever experienced on Earth, would kick in after 2070 and that the hottest days of today would by then be a near-daily occurrence.

After 2070.

**

Tim Furnish, describing the Boston conference at which we both participated last year, expresses his regret that the Center for Millennial Studies is no longer with us in these words:

It’s a pity that Landes’ CMS has run its course, for as the Islamic year 1500 AH (after hijrah)/2076 AD approaches, Muslim eschatological fervor — almost certainly to include jihadist leaders thinking themselves the Mahdi — will only increase

Graeme Wood in his article What ISIS’s Leader Really Wants perhaps simplifies reality a little when he writes:

David Cook, a historian at Rice University who studies Muslim apocalypticism, points out that the battles preceding the Day of Judgment will take place in modern Syria, with a final showdown in the year 1500 of the Islamic Hijra calendar, or A.D. 2076.

2076, or 1500 AH, is indeed a plausible date, but not the only possibility.

**

If there’s a second part to this post, it will express the extreme fierceness and driving passion of what Richard Landes calls “Active Cataclysmic Millennialism” — a category that includes both secular variants (Nazi, Marxist) and religious (Taiping Rebellion) — and how it ties in with the converging ecological and Mahdist timelines discussed above.

Okay, at the point of convergence:

Mecca uninhabitable, Hajj obligatory, and the arrival of the Mahdi imminent — it’s a potent brew to consider as we head towards the 2070s.

My latest fiction, aptly titled “No Clue”

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the lack of advance scheduling for black swans is a recurring theme for my futurizing self ]
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August Cole — co-author with PW Singer of Ghost Fleet — just posted my most recent fiction at the Art of the Future site:

Charles Cameron’s “No Clue” is a finalist entry in the Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security Global Trends 2035 creative contest that called for writers to explore the technologies, trends and themes that will shape the world two decades from now. He is a multiple finalist in past contests for his stories “News Enhancement In An Info Overloaded Age” and “War In Heaven.” Progenitor of the game Sembl, he can be found on Twitter @hipbonegamer and writing at Zenpundit.com.

My piece begins:

I shall lie quietly under the greensward by 2035, either oblivious, deep into my next incarnation, or something close to omniscient. Oblivion offers the near certainty of being right about the future, but lacks communications skills, so I won’t linger there. From the point of view of my next incarnation, finding myself once again a yak herder in Nepal — yaks haven’t changed much since my grandfather’s day, and his grandfather’s day before him – may I offer you a bowl of tsampa and butter tea? So that leaves us with semi- or quasi-omniscience.

Time — previously a Torah-like scroll with the far past rolled up and vanishing on the left just as the future unspools and becomes present, legible, then recent, on the right – is now laid out in all its simultaneity and glory in the Museum of Timeless Reality. Walking up and down it, noting the Art of Future Warfare challenge of 2016 and inquisitively visiting 2035 to see what unfolded over the timespan between them, I’m grateful for the tweaknology that permits me to select 2016 as my point of origin and observe in broad outline the probability tree across a 19 year spread from there.

**

August has very nicely presented my entry in the magazine-style issuu format, meaning that if you click below and bring it up to your appropriate viewing size, you can then flip through my 8 pages as though you were reading a magazine.

Kudos and thanks, August!

Enjoy!

On the foolishness of some current algorithms

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — shouting caveat lector in a crowded theater ]
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I don’t know what a wise algorithm is, whether any such algorithms exist, how they would qualify for that title, what the definitive definition of wisdom is, and so forth. Some algorithms in contemporary use, however, strike me as foolish.

Tablet DQ 600 algorithms

Sources:

  • WaPo, Three days after removing human editors, Facebook is already trending fake news
  • Fusion, Facebook recommended that this psychiatrist’s patients friend each other
  • It is in this context that we might wish to read:

  • NY Times magazine, Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine
  • .
    Readers who clicked through to the story were led to an external website, called Make America Great Today, where they were presented with a brief write-up blended almost seamlessly into a solid wall of fleshy ads. Khan, the story said — between ads for “(1) Odd Trick to ‘Kill’ Herpes Virus for Good” and “22 Tank Tops That Aren’t Covering Anything” — is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood and a “promoter of Islamic Shariah law.” His late son, the story suggests, could have been a “Muslim martyr” working as a double agent. A credit link beneath the story led to a similar-looking site called Conservative Post, from which the story’s text was pulled verbatim. Conservative Post had apparently sourced its story from a longer post on a right-wing site called Shoebat.com.

    Uh-oh!

    I wouldn’t trust Shoebat as far as I could bat a shoe. But then, how much does it matter whether we’re led by the left ear or the right ear?

    This has been an addendum to Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

    Loading up for Survival, Church and State

    Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Merkel’s under attack for recommending Germans keep a two-week supply of food ]
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    Mormon faithful are exhorted by the First Presidency of their Church in a pamphlet titled All is safely gathered in “to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings.” Specific recommendations follow:

    THREE-MONTH SUPPLY

    Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage.

    DRINKING WATER

    Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted. If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pretreat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for
    juices and soda. Keep water containers away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

    FINANCIAL RESERVE

    Establish a financial reserve by saving a little money each week and gradually increasing it to a reasonable amount (see All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances guide).

    LONGER-TERM SUPPLY

    For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans. These items can last 30 years or more when properly packaged and stored in a cool, dry place. A portion of these items may be rotated in your three-month supply.

    That’s a pretty comprehensive survival plan, and while it allows for those who are just starting to prepare themselves to begin incrementally, it’s first real target is three months’ preparedness and longer-term vision extends out to thirty years.

    Note that the motivation here is to live in accordance with the divine will as it may be applicable to human circumstance.

    **

    Compare that with what the secular state of Germany is currently proposing. Deutsche Welle, under the heading What emergency supplies do you need? reports the following:

    Germany’s government is mulling a plan requiring citizens to stock up on food and supplies in case of a natural disaster or armed attack. So what should you have in your pantry? Here’s our comprehensive checklist.

    The stockpile plan outlined in the government’s “Concept for Civil Defense” paper obligates Germans to store 10 days’ worth of food and five days’ worth of drinking water. The idea is for people to have enough supplies – including cash and medicine – on hand to get them through an emergency situation before government assistance kicks in.

    The level of preparedness proposed in the paper hasn’t been seen since the end of the Cold War. The strategy was originally commissioned by a parliamentary committee in 2012, but its release now comes amid a raft of new security measures and heightened terror concerns. Still, its contents aren’t new – German authorities have long urged households to store two weeks’ worth of emergency supplies.

    The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, for example, has published a checklist online with recommended supplies for a 14-day period. The most important thing on the list is water – 28 liters per person for a fortnight, or around two liters per day. People can survive a few weeks without food, but only four days without liquid.

    The Ministry of Food even has an online “calculator” to help you work out what kind of food – and how much – to stock up on. It recommends 4.9 kilograms of cereal-based products like rice, bread and noodles per person per fortnight. It also suggests 5.6kg of veggies, 3.7kg each of milk products and fruit and nuts, and 2.1kg of fish and meat. All food should be able to last without refrigeration.

    The government also advises keeping a medicine cabinet stocked with supplies in case it’s not possible to get to a hospital. That means, among other things, a first aid kit, the necessary personal prescription drugs, cold medicine, painkillers, anti-diarrhea and nausea medicine, electrolytes, a thermometer and disinfectant.

    Here the anticipated survival time is two weeks, or fourteen days.

    **

    I don’t know what the prophets, seers, and revelators of the First Presidency have been shown, what ISIS may be plotting, what German intelligence suspects, nor what the future has in mind for us. I do know that Matthew 6.34 counsels:

    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    and that this is generally considered sufficient precaution for the lilies of the field, but that readers of John Robb may well find it insufficiently flexible — if taken literally — to survive encounters with a succession of inbound black swans. And as is often the case with scripture, preparedness too has its place, as indicated by the “kingdom” parable of the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25.1-13.

    I note here that the spiritual claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affords the First Presidency the opportunity to call for far more extensive planning than the German Chancellor can ask of her citizens without considerable brouhaha.

    Hence:

    Three months (minimally) to two weeks (suggested) is the recommended preparedness ratio between the (Mormon) Church and (German) State.

    Whence does authority derive?

    A Plethora of New(ish) Books I.

    Monday, August 29th, 2016

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Image result for goddess of the market  Image result for a gentle madness  Image result for small wars and faraway places burleigh

    Image result for warfare in antiquity delbruck    Image result for on killing  Image result for Gulag applebaum  Image result for muqqadimah   Image result for denial klehr haynes  Image result for the restoration of rome Image result for excellent sheep

    Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns
    A Gentle Madness by Nicholas A. Basbanes
    Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh
    Warfare in Antiquity by Hans Delbruck
    The Libertarian Mind by David Boaz
    On Killing by LTC. Dave Grossman
    Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
    The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun
    In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage by John Earl Hynes and Harvey Klehr
    The Restoration of Rome by Peter Heather
    Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz

    Nothing makes me happier than buying a new batch of books. So I did. In a large enough number to require two separate posts.

    A Gentle Madness intrigued me, naturally enough, when I caught it years ago on the old C-Span Booknotes program, the book jacket mirrors the look of the old, fine press, book cover. Some of the authors, Burleigh, Boaz, Haynes and Klehr have written works I have enjoyed and already have on my shelf ( I used to be on a listserv with the last authors years ago in the pre-blogging era. Careful and smart scholars they were). On Killing is widely cited and remains controversial in military academic circles and two of the other books are classics.

    I’m not reading any of these books at present. My time is currently occupied by with The Landmark Thucydides in preparation for the upcoming Thucydides Roundtable in October and also with Coming Apart by libertarian intellectual and gadfly Charles Murray (seemed appropriate given the election cycle).

    What are you reading?


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