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Sci-Fi Writers Dream Up Ideas For US Government

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the mote-in-uncle-sam's-eye dept.

Sci-Fi 123

cheezitmike writes "This week in Washington, DC, a group of Sci-Fi writers is helping the US Department of Homeland Security envision the future at the 2009 Homeland Security Science & Technology Stakeholders Conference. The agency is hoping the interaction between writers and bureaucrats helps the government 'break old habits of thought' and 'help managers think more broadly about projects and their potential reactions and unintended consequences.' And, it's at minimal expense to taxpayers, since the writers are consulting pro bono."

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123 comments

George Orwell (4, Interesting)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060255)

Seems like now that they've gone and made 1984 a reality, they need new material to work off of.

Re:George Orwell (4, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060587)

Seems like now that they've gone and made 1984 a reality, they need new material to work off of.

Really? I'd say we're closer to Brave New World these days.. Don't forget to take your soma--err, i mean Paxil.

Re:George Orwell (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065769)

I think they're trying to synergize the most dystopic concepts from both books. Politicians are nothing if not efficient... at making things worse.

Re:George Orwell (5, Funny)

RDW (41497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061169)

It could be worse. The writers might suggest world peace could be achieved by some extensive remodelling of New York City real estate triggered by the appearance of a giant squid.

Re:George Orwell (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061401)

I was totally expecting you to go somewhere else with that in the second line, like Dr Manhattan. Wasn't expecting the giant squid.

Re:George Orwell (2, Funny)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063027)

No body expects the Giant Squid!!!

Its chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and fear. Fear and surprise are two weapons. Fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency...

Re:George Orwell (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063975)

What's this giant squid? You mean the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Cthulu? Heck, for all I know maybe they're one and the same? Homer says, "Mmmmmm, meat balls...."

Re:George Orwell (1)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063969)

Come on, dude, you're making us look bad. You ended your sentence with TWO prepositions. /sigh

Noooooooo...... (4, Funny)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060267)

You're just giving them ideas! You don't want them to know how a dystopian future tyranny might maintain control!

Re:Noooooooo...... (4, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060453)

No joke. This is the last thing we should be doing. They need a crash course in understanding factual reality, not some wacky sci fi hallucination.

Re:Noooooooo...... (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060629)

They need a crash course in understanding factual reality, not some wacky sci fi hallucination.

The voters, too. Someone keeps electing these morons.

Re:Noooooooo...... (3, Insightful)

Hanyin (1301045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060953)

The voters, too. Someone keeps electing these morons.

You know, while I understand why government officials (particularly the ones higher up) are referred to as morons and the like, I think it's far more likely that they're well aware that they're dishonest with the public and serve themselves and come across as idiots because of their tangled web of lies which really doesn't matter that much once you consider how easy it is to sway public opinion with propaganda.

Of course, given that the great majority of candidates are self-serving (morons) to begin with it's not surprising that people like this get elected. Oh well, I guess I'll just find a less-restrictive place to live when things become too oppressive for me =).

Re:Noooooooo...... (2, Insightful)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061593)

When you find that place please let me know.

Re:Noooooooo...... (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065193)

Screwed-up African country + $1 million for bribes and whatever else you might need can go a long way.

Re:Noooooooo...... (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065645)

Idaho, Nevada or Texas after the Union dissolves. That's my plan. Don't think that those states are going sit on their hands if the government doesn't start reining itself in. A whole bunch of states are considering, or have even passed in at least one case, legislation to reassert their 10th Amendment rights. That's long overdue.

We are living in a time of Constituional crisis that has been building for many years. Obama is doing everything he can to push us over the edge that Clinton and Bush, etc, led us to. I for one would like to see the part of the amendment allowing for popular election of senators be repealed. It would help if some of the most powerful leaders in our country weren't elected through lowest-common-denominator elections:
"Vote for me because Candidate B eats babies" "Vote for me because Candidate A molests wombats."

Of course, for that matter, we should let the House of Representatives elect the president, too. It's not like they're some brilliant group of people, but maybe it's possible we could move beyond the long line of third-string Presidential candidates we've had for the last couple decades.

morons huh? (1, Troll)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061025)

in my experience, overly judgmental and overly critical people, such as yourself, i have often found to be the biggest morons around

Re:morons huh? (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061115)

So there!

Re:morons huh? (0, Flamebait)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061413)

Sounds like somebody's on a no-where town city council to me. You wouldn't happen to be the new mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, would you?

Re:morons huh? (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061587)

in my experience, overly judgmental and overly critical people, such as yourself, i have often found to be the biggest morons around

I didn't fuck up the economics of a whole planet, thank you very much.

Re:morons huh? (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063115)

You must be a Republican.

Re:Noooooooo...... (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065205)

The voters, too. Someone keeps electing these morons.

It is hard not to when your realistic choices consist of moron A or moron B. Look at the UK at the moment: pretty much the entire parliament has been caught with their hands in the till. This clearly shows that a majority of politicians, regardless of party, are not suitable candidates for the job. We need a system where the cost to run for office is not so high so we can persuade people with normal careers to run.

Dreamer Fithp! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060299)

roll on the nuclear bomb powered space ships

Awww.. c'mon, mod parent up (1)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062859)

roll on the nuclear bomb powered space ships

There's something seriously wrong with /. when people don't get that comment.

Maybe someone needs to make it into a movie so that the kiddies can understand it. Actually, it would make a pretty *awesome* movie..

Re:Awww.. c'mon, mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28063399)

No mod points today.

Reminds me.... (2, Interesting)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060311)

... a little of the group of sci-fi writers "visiting" NORAD in Niven & Pournelle's "Footfall"

Re:Reminds me.... (1)

billybob_jcv (967047) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061991)

My first thought as well - perhaps the Fithp have arrived and the Gov't isn't telling us?

I for one... (2, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060315)

...welcome our soon to be skynet ran big brother government with laser beams on their heads.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060321)

Who would have thought that the authors of the main recreational reading material of scientists and geeks (outside of p0rn) would have any good ideas about good ideas...

Re:Really? (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065781)

read pr0n? I just thought you watched it on the media player of choice or looked at the pictures.

Testing for unintended consequences (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060361)

help managers think more broadly about projects and their potential reactions and unintended consequences

In legislative circles, do they ever run simulations? Test new laws by deploying them in MMOs first?

Re:Testing for unintended consequences (1)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061977)

You can also run simulations without actual human participants. Searching SourceForge for "game theory" turns up several toolkits and libraries that may be useful in that.

Sci Fi or Suspense Thriller (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060363)

It seems like they might have been better off using writers for a show like 24 or CSI where they have to be at-least realistic enough to seem "plausible" to the audience. On one of the comentaries for 24, they get their ideas from real life, but make things like repositioning satellites or breaking crypto go much quicker than it can in real life. They'd be better off getting those writers with engineers to say "what would it take to sdo x,y,z like we did in Season 4, Episode 2" to set more realistic short-term goals.

Sci-Fi doesn't have to overcome the "realism barrier", and being so advanced that it is at present seemingly impossible (warp travel, light sabers, etc.) is part of the appeal. The problem is that it will take so long to "get there" (think computers in 50's-60's SciFi), that technology could go in a completely different direction.

However, we're getting to the point with special effects we no longer have to do sci-fi in a way that is "easy" to produce (e.g. a computer with a futuristic GUI like Minority report is producable on screen where in the past computers always talked because it was physically easier to do). The good thing is that since Sci-Fi can produce almost anything on screen or print that it can think up, it will follow more linearly with reality rather than being as limited as to what can be generated.

Re:Sci Fi or Suspense Thriller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060685)

The whole point is to bring in creativity. I don't know about CSI, but 24 isn't very creative.

The criminal can imagine the crime but the author can imagine being caught. Likewise, the legislator can imagine the legislation but the author can imagine the loopholes, caveats, and ramifications.

Non-groupthink sources of creative brainpower are very much needed in the government, as we've seen over the past several years.

Re:Sci Fi or Suspense Thriller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061051)

You don't understand the DIFFERENCE between SciFi and Fantasy.
SciFi does have to be logical in a coherent universe even if one or two factors are skewed dramatically different from our own universe.

When I talk with uniformed military folks about future capabilities, I always ask both
(1) what do you need right now to make your job easier?
and
(2) if you had a magic wand, what SINGLE function or capability would you like the next time you deploy?

Re:Sci Fi or Suspense Thriller (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061739)

1)Better personal armor. Personal armor often hinders, it might protect but it sure doesn't make the job easier.

2)Tricorder star trek style. Having the ability to scan the area and get details on the positions/number of enemy soldiers/combatants.

Disclaimer: I am not nor have ever been in any armed force.

Re:Sci Fi or Suspense Thriller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061423)

Yeah sure. Because when specialists in interrogations say that torture doesn't work for reliable intelligence gathering, but 24 is a show based around selling the idea that torture does work, then clearly 24 is more "plausibly" realistic than, say, Stephenson's Cryptonomicon or even The Diamond Age. For you maybe. I'll take re-reading or watching good SF over 24's torture porn any day.

Re:Sci Fi or Suspense Thriller (1)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065133)

More to the point, there is a difference between Science Fiction, and Science Fantasy. Star Drek is almost science fiction, but star wars is science fantasy ... Bloody book stores even put horror and pure fantasy in the section marked "Science Fiction".

Look up Pandora's Box (3, Informative)

feyhunde (700477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060379)

Regan had a team of science fiction advisers including Larry Niven back in the 80's to help him. In his Novel Footfall he has a good fictional account of meetings between them and the government with during a crises.

Re:Look up Pandora's Box (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061161)

I think you mean Jerry Pournelle [mondediplo.com] . He's definitely not entirely innocent of the SDI debacle.

Re:Look up Pandora's Box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061679)

I think you mean Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. They've written a couple of books together.

Re:Look up Pandora's Box (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061831)

I think you'll find that Larry Niven was NOT president of the SFWA, but Pournelle was. Also, Pournelle tends to have pretty crazy ideas about reality.

Re:Look up Pandora's Box (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062071)

No, he means Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. There is some hilarious circle jerking in Footfall; the ideas are neat, but the rest of it is pretty much something else.

Re:Look up Pandora's Box (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28065735)

"Regan had a team of science fiction advisers including Larry Niven back in the 80's to help him."

IIRC he also had an astrologer? My beef is with anti-science writers found in the opinion columns of major papers or masqurading as experts to congress [realclimate.org] .

Here's a couple wild ideas (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060383)

* Stop torturing people. It's good at terrorizing, but doesn't actually help catch bad people.

* Stop locking people into iron cages because they ate a particular kind of plant.

Here's a freebie:

* Stop making laws based on dictates of an invisible guy in the sky who burns people for eternity because they stuck their jimmy in the wrong hole. It's just a little kooky when you think about it.

Seriously, consulting sci-fi authors? How about consulting superheros like Captain Common Sense?

Re:Here's a couple wild ideas (4, Insightful)

joepa (199570) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061183)

Seriously, consulting sci-fi authors? How about consulting superheros like Captain Common Sense?

Unfortunately, there's good reason to believe that Captain Common Sense is a homophobic theist. To draw the kinds of enlightened conclusions that the parent does, it turns out that we need to override our common sense tendencies. Consulting sci-fi writers is actually quite a clever way of dealing with the limitations of common sense.

Re:Here's a couple wild ideas (-1, Troll)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063493)

Here's some more ideas:

Stop locking people in iron cages because they indirectly caused a minute explosion that propelled small piece of metal into something that's four fifths water anyway.

Also, don't listen to the demands of people who believe that our distant relatives were tadpoles, and that life sprang randomly from some big explosion.

---

Wow, I guess lesson here is that how easy it is to trivialise something is not at all an indicator of whether it's right or wrong.

Mod parent up, his lesson is useful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28065437)

Mod parent up, his lesson is useful.

Consequences? (1)

Spyware23 (1260322) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060387)

Kobayashi Maru. Lets see Homeland plan(/shoot) their way out of -that- one.

Re:Consequences? (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063047)

Just like Kirk. They'll hax the situation so they can win.

An Improvement (4, Interesting)

Maalstrom Aran (889627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060389)

Ideas, created with pure thought and imagination, that are offered to the government sounds like a much better process than those offered by politicians and lobbyists. Generational ideas are what can improve our place in life, not those created from greed of power.

Re:An Improvement (0, Troll)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060495)

"Ideas, created with pure thought and imagination, that are offered to the government" sounds like the kind of insane bullshit spouted by political and religious extremists. We don't want this. We want government to be based on a factual, informed, and insightful understanding of reality. The Evangelical Talibanization of American society and government is what we should be escaping, not promoting. I know, I know, these are sci fi writers, not Commercial Christianity preachers like the last administartion. It is a slippery slope, though.

Re:An Improvement (2, Interesting)

Maalstrom Aran (889627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060601)

It's the scope of the quality idea that matters. It's one thing to work hard to build a plant in a certain district so you can get elected again next year and quite another to plan for a society using generational ideas that span more than the length of a politicians career. We need more dreams, like the Apollo program, to drive our creation and innovation or our society will stagnate and destroy itself. Until we manage our natural desires of pride and selfishness we must rely on our natural talents like curiosity and growth to protect us. Technology is an amazing part of our lives, but it can't fix everything.

Re:An Improvement (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060777)

quite another to plan for a society using generational ideas that span more than the length of a politicians career.

You seem to be unclear on exactly what the Department of Homeland Security does for a living.

Actually, I guess that is no surprise, most people probably have no idea either since all they seem to is spend billions of tax dollars with little to no tangible benefit.

Re:An Improvement (2, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060807)

I understand your point, but it does not address my complaint. It is by no means a given that sci fi writers per se fulfill your point. Getting policy ideas from fiction writers is a dubious ploy at best, and utterly insane at worst.

Re:An Improvement (1)

Maalstrom Aran (889627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060983)

Well It's pretty clear to a lot of people that those in power are usually committed to staying in power. These people work hard to sell themselves and the ideas that they adopt so they are more popular then the other guy. Certainly these people gain skills in people/business/image management. However these skills don't necessarily prepare them to be the best at managing a society/city. Collaborative input from others with different perspectives, I believe, is essential. These writers, whether they write sci fi or science fiction, are adept at seeing a situation from a much broader perspective then the limited scope of politicians. Reality, of course, cannot be ignored and a business manager is a good first step for managing a city but if we never think of the possible big picture then we'll have a tough time changing our day to day lives. Getting policy ideas from the guy with the most money sounds utterly insane to me.

Re:An Improvement (2, Informative)

anonymousNR (1254032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060547)

At first I really freaked out then I read TFA

Andrews recruited only sci-fi writers who had conventional science or engineering chops on their resumes. Now about a third of the writers have PhDs.

Then I was ok

Re:An Improvement (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061903)

Then I was ok

Really? And how do you feel about investment bankers advising the government on economic policy?

Re:An Improvement (1)

Trahloc (842734) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063161)

Umm maybe because the scientists and engineers come from several different branches of knowledge and are trained in a measurable science that human emotion has no part in? An "investment banker" isn't a man of science he's closer to a shaman or priest who gives a guess with numbers thrown in and is reliant on humans not to get too scared or fearless otherwise it becomes useless gibberish.

Re:An Improvement (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060577)

Yeah, an improvement but only in the entertainment value.

These guys do best exactly what we don't need more of from the DHS - "movie plot threats."

"Movie plot threats" are a dime a dozen, we will bankrupt ourselves trying to defend against even a fraction of a precent of them. We need to spend money on the basics like first responders, medical facilities, emergency planning, etc that apply to any threat, man-made or acts of god.

And once that stuff is taken care of to a reasonable degree, the rest of the money needs to stay in the hands of private citizens who will make much more productive use of it - whether it is as simple as buying food and shelter for their families or running small businesses.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Re:An Improvement (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062765)

If you knew WTF you were talking about, you'd be well aware that these people understand the stupidity of movie plot threats precisely because they spend a great deal of time trying to invent plausible scenarios themselves. Many of these guys and gals have been consulting for the government long before DHS existed.

Re:An Improvement (0, Troll)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063293)

If you knew WTF you were talking about, you'd be well aware that these people understand the stupidity of movie plot threats precisely because they spend a great deal of time trying to invent plausible scenarios themselves.

I call bullshit. These people do not have an education or specialization in public policy or any other field applicable to non-movie-plot threats. Their entire careers are based on writing entertaining fiction and not the drudgery of high quality infrastructure planning.

Many of these guys and gals have been consulting for the government long before DHS existed.

Well if that's true, which I kinda doubt, then it was just as stupid to be hiring them back then as it is now.

Re:An Improvement (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063679)

If you would like to challenge their credibility, all of them have an internet presence and many of them keep blogs. I'm sure they would welcome your input, given your superior knowledge of the issues. Just make sure to post links via Slashdot so we may all learn from you as well.

Re:An Improvement (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063895)

If you would like to challenge their credibility,

I'm challenging YOUR credibility. You made an assertion, put up or shut up.

Re:An Improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28065827)

How about fucking border control? Seems like keepinmg the bad guys out would be a good start. Then we can move on to finding the bad guys already here. Plus we could stop the flood of illegal beaners from coming into America to sell drugs, run prostitutes, form gangs and cause our country to head down the path of being a 3rd world shithole just like Mexico. Fucking control the borders and you cut out a lot of the need for first responders, et al. Psoted anonymously because of stupid dicksucking mexican loving faggots with mod points.

Re:An Improvement (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060775)

Ideas, created with pure thought and imagination

WTF is 'impure thought? Who gets to decide which thoughts are pure? People like you who can't write a decent sentence?

I'm confused. Power's greedy? Are you sure its not just hungry? Maybe it needs an imaginary sandwich....

And what about decent grammar? Is that a 'generational idea?'

Explains the lack of decent movies (2, Funny)

russlar (1122455) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060391)

Huh. So this explains the lack of decent, original movies lately: all the good writers are working on real life!

Re:Explains the lack of decent movies (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061779)

Real life wasn't polling well among the hardcore gaming segemnt. They have decided to bring in some new writers and reboot the franchise.

Hope it turns out of good as the latest Star Trek movie.

Writers are consulting pro bono (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060399)

We just have to get the bureaucrats to do the same and we're all set.

Pro bono? (0)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060405)

From the blurb: "the writers are consulting pro bono." Are you sure that by "pro bono" they don't mean "pro Sonny Bono", or "in favor of another copyright term extension"?

PSI OPS in 3....2....1.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060423)

The consulting is free, the "solutions" won't be.

What a waste of time (3, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060437)

It sounds like a real waste of time. The government calling on a group of science fiction writers to come up with ideas for the future? Are they out of their own ideas or something? What are they doing working in the government then? This just seems like a way to generate a fluff media piece listing cool fantasy technologies to make everyone hopeful and temporarily forget about economic problems and Democrat in-fighting.

What kind of ice cream would that be? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060455)

"Governmint"? I know it's both off topic and random, but it just entered my mind and now I would like to know... what flavors and stuff would go into an ice cream called "Governmint"?

Re:What kind of ice cream would that be? (1)

cstdenis (1118589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060739)

Ground up thousand dollar bills (and mint flavoring)

Re:What kind of ice cream would that be? (1)

Ignatius D'Lusional (1010911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063231)

Other than the obvious mint flavor, it would be comprised mostly of feces.

Old news (4, Insightful)

dosun88888 (265953) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060559)

They've been using George Orwell as inspiration for a while now.

And Tonight in the DHS channel (2, Insightful)

elnyka (803306) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060571)

Ladies and Gents, time to watch TV and make America safe!!!!(10+1)

...

At 8PM, TNA Impact "Roar of the Redneck!"

At 9PM, Shitty Monster Movie with Cheap CGI

At 11PM, Watch an Ultimate Gamer Cry Like a Fucking Emo - Life is so fucking hard man!

At 1AM, Another Fucking Infomercial - look, the Aussie guy is selling pills to get a 6-pack!

At 2AM, Highlander vs Al Quaeda.

Re:And Tonight in the DHS channel (2, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060843)

8:30 pm - Jeeziz Crast done come agin an raptured all our asses

9:30 pm - Sweet Sixteen with a rahfull - Al Qaeda Killer Chick

where is stargate? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062227)

where is stargate?

IC (1)

jman11 (248563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060575)

That explains the fear of liquid explosives.

DHS must be shut down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060603)

Anyone who works with the DHS is working against the People of America.

Too bad... (2, Interesting)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060907)

Damn. Too bad Robert Heinlein ain't around anymore.

prior art? (1)

nemsis21 (1560479) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060929)

I think Niven and Pournelle can claim "prior art" on this one since they claim to be responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union by advising Reagan to go ahead with the horribly expensive Star Wars initiative. Can't remember which of his books mentioned it in the footnotes.

Re:prior art? (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061635)

With any luck it will work about as well as when the military got movie directors to give them ideas on South Park.

Wake up! (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060977)

This is insane rubbish! Can't you see it? From TFA:

A federal research director fantasized about a cellphone that could simultaneously text and detect biochemical attacks. Multiple cellphones in a crowd would confirm and track the spread. The master of ceremonies for the week was Greg Bear, the sci-fi novelist whose book "Quantico" featured FBI agents battling a designer plague targeting specific ethnic groups.

"What if we had a black box that IDs DNA on the scene?" Bear asked a panel of firefighters and police officers. "Put a swab in the box. How long would it take us to do that? Would that be of interest to anybody here?"

Yeah sure. Detecting biochemical attacks in crowds (what crowds?) is a constant, vexing problem. It is urgent that we get cell phones with gas chromatographs that are constantly on and working or some such crap. ID DNA "on the scene?" You realize that it would only ID DNA that is already in its database, right? Not like on Heroes wher you put DNA in a gadget and a little icon appears on a Google map showing where the person is. Dou you want everyones DNA data on such devices? Your DNA?

This is complete and utter totalitarian Roman Circus bullshit! I don't know which is more disturbing, that the government, particularly the nefarious DHS, is doing this or that so many Slashdot readers and other citizens not only believe this drivel but think it is a just dandy idea. God help us.

Fixed that for you (1)

Nux'd (1002189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061205)

"The agency is hoping the interaction between writers and bureaucrats will inspire them to fund scientific studies"

writers cheaper than experts (1)

societyofrobots (1396043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061447)

Why hire expert consultants when you have writers making up stuff for cheap?

Yeah... Great Ideas (1)

monopole (44023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061581)

Umm, Great Ideas From Sigma so far [guanabee.com] :

Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.

"free and worth every cent"

Give me Charles Stross, John Scalzi, Rudy Rucker even David Brin and we'll talk.

Re:Yeah... Great Ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28063803)

Umm, Great Ideas From Sigma so far:

Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.

"free and worth every cent"

Give me Charles Stross, John Scalzi, Rudy Rucker even David Brin and we'll talk.

Yeah, that's a great idea to help stop terrorists. (insert eye-roll here.) But yeah, Niven's a bit of a kook anyway, and worse the closer he stands to Pournelle. Of course, Niven and Pournelle are right-wing, pro-military kooks, so that's why they would get an invite.

  This government-organ-harvesting thing has been rattling around Niven's head for years, (it was the subject of his very first published short story) and he brings it up any chance he can get, the loony bastard. Plus, it annoys me that he gets incorrectly pegged as a "hard science fiction" writer all the time, when his engineering is usually full of holes which have to be fixed again with every new novel, and his biology is downright laughable.

  Still, while I'm knocking Niven here, I'd like to say he writes some pretty entertaining stories. That one he and Pournelle wrote about the danger to Our Way of Life posed by Space Mexicans from the Coalsack Nebula is pretty awesome. The subconscious strata of xenophobic fear is kinda sad, but it's a rip-snortin' good adventure yarn anyway.

Sigma??? Are you kidding me? (3, Interesting)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061953)

Andrews founded an organization of sci-fi writers to offer imaginative services in return for travel expenses only. Called Sigma, the group has about 40 writers. Over the years, members have addressed meetings organized by the Department of Energy, the Army, Air Force, NATO and other agencies they care not to name.

Hm. The last book Robert Ludlum wrote was called "The Sigma Protocol". It was published the same year he died. He was 73.

It was about a collective of creepy post-Nazi idea men commissioned by Hitler to re-envision the world. Well, after the war, these men carried on with their pursuit of Bad Science in the shadows. Central to the plot was a string of assassinations of old men who had fallen out of the club because they thought what they were about to achieve was too horrific even for a bunch of ex-Nazis. The cataclysmic ending resulted in explosions and heroic rewards, etc., but also with a young software billionaire carrying on the creepy work. . . (The book's last page makes a very deliberate jab at Bill Gates and his recent affiliation with the fucking creepy organization, Planned Parenthood.) Or maybe it wasn't deliberate. Still, an elbow in the ribs is an elbow in the ribs intended or not.

Whatever the case, I'll leave the obvious connective threads dangling because they're rather over-dramatic in the same way that the premier episode of Lone Gunmen was just too stupidly prophetic to be taken seriously. Even though it was right on the money.

Anyway. . . The real point I'd like to make is that any dick-head writer 'Heinlein' enough to work with the DHS needs a stern talking to or failing that, a good ass-kicking. Sci-Fi writers can be exceptional dorks sometimes.

I mean. . , did anybody else notice the distinctive Starship Troopers feel to J.J. Abram's Star Trek? (I'm talking about the cinematic version of ST, not the book).

And on a semi-related note. . . One interesting thing in the world of speculative fiction which totally caught me off guard was that Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season. WTF? I mean, that's cool and all, but. . , has hell frozen over?

These thoughts may all seem disconnected, but they really aren't. Don't think too hard though. It's Friday and the week has been long.

-FL

Did they Invite Mr. Schneier? (3, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062185)

If they invited Bruce Schneier [wikipedia.org] to speak instead of a gaggle of Sci-Fi "movie plot" writers then they might actually learn a thing or two about homeland security AND it wouldn't be a complete waste of the taxpayer's money or the politician's time (the former being much more valuable than the later).

What? Again? (1)

deprecated (86120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062437)

The last administration already did this with results ranging from tedious to risible. Then it was the usual suspects: Larry Niven, Drake, etc, I think. I can't be bothered to read the article to see who it was this time.

Re:What? Again? (1)

deprecated (86120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062693)

Not confidence-building. If it was done casually and with fewer buzzwords and less self-congratulation all around and not under any official auspices, I would be less appalled. As it is, it makes me a little sick to my stomach.

Peace... (1)

Ezrymyrh (1554969) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062547)

How about Peace? Many SciFi movies,books have a peaceful future.

Sci-fi? You've GOT to be kidding me! (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28062703)

You have got to be kidding. Science fiction? Could we have picked a fiction genre more devoid of factual understanding? Fantasy, maybe?

There is a reason why sci-fi and fantasy are often grouped together. They're both factually delusional in many regards. One has space ships and perfect governments; the other has faeries and trolls. There is little difference, in most cases. Yes, some sci-fi has a political theme, but more often than not it takes the role of poor plot device or fantastical utopia (ala Star Trek - vs. Battlestar Gallactica, which is somewhat less idyllic).

But let's make a distinction here. BSG is entirely different than something like Star Trek. It is a political, moral, and religious commentary set in a fictional world (which is more-or-less plausible - and could be substituted for any any midevil or modern setting, more or less). BSG, and a similar but small subset of science fiction (like 1984) is first and foremost political fiction. Not "science" fiction. The 'science' part in their story is merely the backdrop - an unfamiliar but physically possible world - in which things are put into motion.

"Real" science fiction has a necessary requirement of suspended disbelief. Yes, it explores new, or different ideas. But it always starts out "Let's pretend". THAT is dangerous when we're dealing with real people with real lives, and it's terrifying that

This kind of bullshit is what makes me think that Obama's putting Kumar (of Harold and Kumar fame - Kal Penn) in the "Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Liaison" position is going to be indicative of the kind of farce we should expect from here on out. What's next, asking the ALF how to manage our forests (hint: it'll involve many, many more forest fires than we've currently got, and a complete cease to all US wood production)?

Re:Sci-fi? You've GOT to be kidding me! (1)

Trahloc (842734) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063391)

Just curious, but you have a particular reason why Kal Penn shouldn't be a Public Liaison? I have no particular feelings on his appointment but the idea of an actor as the public face for the current administration is logical to me and not horrifying at all. After all we've been lied to for years by amateur liars called lawyers, at least Obama got a professional to do it. Gives me hope they might actually use knowledgeable professionals for other departments. Like oohhh.... I dunno scientists and engineers who happen to also be highly creative and express it by writing science fiction?

Re:Sci-fi? You've GOT to be kidding me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28065207)

Fantasy, maybe?

I heard that they did consult Anne McCaffrey, and are now developing anti-dragon SAMs.

Writing is a Tough Field (1)

ChangelingJane (1042436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063131)

And, it's at minimal expense to taxpayers, since the writers are consulting pro bono.

Just goes to show, nobody wants to pay writers. Absolutely nobody.

Nobody's offering an economic rethink (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063179)

Nobody seems to be trying to re-think capitalism. I'm not talking about the current crisis. There's a more fundamental problem - increased productivity no longer results in higher real income. US per-capita real income per hour worked peaked in 1973.

Think about that for a moment. We have incredibly good production technology. 20% of the workforce makes all the real stuff. That number was 50% in 1950 and 90% in 1900. Yet workdays have been getting longer for several decades.

SF writers used to write about things like that. Harry Harrison did. Today, nobody touches it.

Why? (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 5 years ago | (#28063303)

The most successful attacks are all low tech. Even 9/11 was low tech, commander planes that practically fly themselves and point them at buildings. What they need to do is to stop thinking big and complex and start thinking big and simple. Like using truck mounted mosquito sprayers to spread salmonella infected water all over a city center. Or waiting until the dry Santa Anna Winds are just right and then creating a fire line along the highway several miles long. Think big but simple because that is what the next attack will be.

Nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28065053)

So far 1984 was good inspiration for US and EU, i'd say.

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