Monday, November 28, 2011

The Reagan Divergences

-or-

How We Initiated a Global Thermonuclear Armageddon Without Really Trying.

Once more, I find myself in the Best of All Possible Worlds (BOAPW) in the year 2050CE. Which means I'm 450 million light years from Earth, seated in an incredibly ergonomic buttock-caressing barstool at the bar in Sam's Pub. I'm drinking a spectacular super lager with just the right amount of hops. Not enough to be overpowering, but enough to give the beer a bite.

It's a beautiful day here in Spiral City. I know this because all the bars here are not darkened caves but open to the sky, with windows and skylights everywhere. I can see just the most achingly beautiful set of puffy clouds right above me, and the horizon holds a darkness of promise - a warm, gentle, delightful rain later this afternoon.

A quick check of the Mr. Mark's Melodies app via my nonlocally connected aqueous assistant assures me that (per the musical incantations Mark derived from his father Hugh Everett III's nearly-lost Basement Equations*), there is not a Divergence in sight for the next week. I'm worry free through next Monday. What could be better? In the BOAPW? Um, nothing.

I often am amazed at how we pulled it off. Humanity, that is. How we not only managed to survive, but became worthy of survival. How a Hobbsian race - feral, brutish, and nasty - through a miraculous serendipity, became a fairly decent and respectable species - gentle, wise, tolerant, generous, and most importantly to sparse and fragile alien life, neighborly. Still more amazing is how we spread throughout the cosmos in a mere twenty years to occupy a cubic hundred thousand billion light year volume of spacetime. A volume which, despite our teeming trillions, is still imbued with a population density barely that of a wisp of smoke. Even more amazing is how the Older Races (vast forces eons older than us) tolerate our existence, and well, honestly, even when we reach their plateau, do not view us as a threat.

Could things get any better? Again, in the BOAPW? Quite simply, no.

This past week, being the universally recognized period of thanksgiving, is just a touch ironic given the anniversaries of a huge horde of Divergences that occur.  And a disturbing majority of them are Reagan Divergences.

True, the nuclear arms race peaked in 1986, but its the years 1981 through 1985 that have more nuclear wars than the rest of the 20th century put together. Amazing. The peak of these Divergences is, not surprisingly, November 24th, 1985. You'd think it might be March 24th, 1983, the day after Reagan made his "Star Wars" speech. But no, with the Reagan administration's dismissal reinterpretation of the ABM Treaty in late October 1985, the Soviets conclude that the US is gearing up to start a nuclear war. The expected value of the contingent shit hitting the counterfactual fan jumps alarmingly several dozen times on November 24th. 

Reagan with Dr. Merkw├╝rdigliebe
The whole harrowing slew of disasters finally tapered off soon after, when Foreign Minister Anatoly Dobrynin informed President Reagan of the Soviet Doomsday Machine (officially known as System Perimeter, and unofficially as Dead Hand). The formerly belligerent Reagan, after realizing that all of his rhetoric and actions had been interpreted as an intention on the part of the United States to start a nuclear war, settled the fuck down.

Fortunately for all of us, the old asshole did settle the fuck down, and it also helped that Gorbachev stepped onto the stage. Few recognize the value of this man, but that's the reason there's a statue to him down in the central park of Spiral City.

The Good Earth, courtesy http://solarsystem.nasa.gov
And in 2050CE, I don't think you can find much that is named after Reagan anymore. Not even the National Airport in Washington DC, back on good old Earth.


* Did I not explain all this? Mark Everett, son of Hugh Everett III, found a pile of papers crammed with mathematical formulae in the basement of the family home. Mark, like most of humanity, not being instinctively statistically inclined, called three of his father's friends to see if they wanted the stuff. Fortunately for all us, the four of them were able, through an interpretation of tones and rhythms, to convert Hugh's maths into musical incantations. Those incantations opened up time, space, the forces of nature, and the universe to humanity. Proper applications of such showed us all possible contingencies to every possible situation. This allowed us to avoid the majority of catastrophes which would befall humanity for a million years up and down the arrow of Time. Catastrophes which, through avoidance, become unfortunate alternate timelines now known as Divergences. They also pointed us toward the associational coherence which, now called the Convergence, possessed us all into a one-and-only-one wonderful Now known as BOAPW.

3 comments:

  1. John, I find it funny that you are a specist!

    If hard pressed, I'd admit to being a nationalist for purely practical reasons, with all the gruesome connotations that includes I suppose. But that's of course in the MLPUO (most likely possible unpleasant outcome). And also fairly short-term, as in from 5 years up to my lifetime.

    I think more in terms of "I'll so fucking be dead who cares," at least as much as a nihilistic prudish libertarian leftist can.

    I figure most of us really are nihilists past about a 200-year time horizon, because at that point our progeny may all be spoiled fascist fucktards anyway, so why root for the humans as opposed to say, ravens?

    I guess I'd like my children and their heirs to do well, but it's pretty much emotional abstraction.

    Isn't the problem with our species our remarkable ability to emotionally project ourselves collectively into the future, while, practically speaking, we doom that to failure on a systemic level, because we are busy maximizing success on a genetic level?

    God, I love scotch.

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  2. My first impulse is to say "Dude, it's fiction". But you notice I always write about the bad things that could have happened. Any why? Because utopia is boring as hell. No thing dramatic ever happens.

    But anyway, why not be a specist? When I see a fine lady walking down the street, signalling "Follow, follow, follow me" with her spectacular backside, I say, why NOT be specist?

    Kind of like the time a philosopher friend pointed out that Hume had demolished empiricism in a skeptical explosion, and yet, at the end of the day, he was still playing billiards and drinking beers with his buddies, apparently all too ready to trust his senses. Empiricism as opposed to WHAT exactly? What alternative? My species as opposed to what better other?

    Why do ants and termites get to fuck things up, but not us?

    And what have corvids done for me lately? Besides, they've had 17 million years to do something, and what have they done?

    Anyway, crows and ravens are just pissed at us now that we don't hunt as often. Little fucking opportunists are just ungrateful for the two million years of free meat we gave 'em.

    I say, show me another species that is any less selfish, cruel, stupid and brutal than we are, and maybe I'll cheer for them.

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  3. I'm not against being specist, it's as good a demarcation as any other, maybe even better. I just can't get too worked up about the home team per se, timeline is too long for my tiny brain.

    And yes, fuck ravens, hte bastards have been destroying my garbage can for three weeks before the trashman comes, I'm sick of cleaning that shit up.

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