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April 24, 2006



Isn't Antarctica covered by treaties in a manner that Mars isn't?


Since when has any treaty ever stopped people from settling where they desired to badly enough? Rich countries have border guards, fences and elaborate identitification systems to keep out uninvited guests, and yet they still don't succeed, so what would keep anyone really intent on settling Antarctica from doing so? It's not like there are lots of troops on the ground watching for illegal Antarctic immigrants or anything. What keeps Antarctica people-free is its sheer inhospitality, not a bunch of treaties no government would have the slightest inclination or power to enforce.

Frank McGahon

I've just been reading that Catallarchy threat. Very entertaining stuff. I particularly like the way the various reasons for not settling Antartica are listed and then breezily waved aside for Mars (to which they apply thousandsfold) because, well, *it's a different planet* dammit.

Reminds me just a little of a recent discussion there about Radical Life Extension:


Wow, you managed to unearth a discussion even more surreal than terraforming Mars: "radical life extension", eh? Paging Ponce de Leon!

It's loopy stuff like this being discussed as if it were just round the corner which gives bite to critiques like the following:

It's only natural that people should think libertarianism an ideology for fantasists, given the draw it has for terraformers, nanotechology fanatics, extropians, transhumanists, "singularity" obsessives and others who watch too much Star Trek.

Scott Wickstein

How many terraformers keep their gardens in good order?

Enquiring minds want to know.


I recollect here Ayn Rand\'s lambastment of \"libertarian hippies\" - WRT anarcho-capitalism. Rothbard\\\'s response was much like that of the fantasists - \"All we are saying,\" said he \"is that anarchism is the heighest manifestation of capitalism and vice versa\". So the responses to Frank on Catallarchy seem to be quite apropos.

Though I might add that I think what impels the fantasists is not so much escapism, as it is sheer ignorance. Consider a fellow whose narrow world exists only within the confines of the Occident: Whose experience of humanity and the earth, can be triangulated to a few spots in the Western hemisphere. To such a fellow, an experience of *all* that the Earth could possibly offer is already well represented by the vestiges of his daily life. The next rational step for our ambitious cadet? Outer space!

Unfortunately, very few of these folks who talk about radical life extension do any real science themselves (Computers dont count). Spending 5 weeks messing around with SDS-PAGE gels that refuse to run properly has a way of knocking just a little bit of sense into you.

I almost burst out laughing, in January, when I saw Ray Kurzweil promising on C-SPAN that he knew some folks in Massachussets that were going to reverse engineer the human brain a couple of years hence...then he proceeded to demonstrate a crappy, probably MSAgent driven example of voice recognition to the Oohs and Aaahs of idiotic politicians.


Kurzweil and "the Singularity" are to geeks what Tim LeHaye and "the Rapture" are to fundies: a huckster selling dreams of imminent utopia to an audience pre-primed to swallow his message whole.

In Kurzweil's imaginary universe a few more die-shrinks by AMD and Intel are all that separate us from 2001's HAL: in the world *I* live in all these chip revisions mean is that a Java/Hibernate/Tapestry MVC server app you're working on can spawn a few more threads before choking on client requests. The contrast between the mundane, often incredibly tedious working life of the typical software developer and the gee-whiz, flying-cars, "Metropolis of Tomorrow" Hugh Ferriss fantasy world elaborately painted by Kurzweil is so great you could fit the Grand Canyon in it.

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