Category Archives: Books

Let’s Kill Hitler

I recently thought of a new book idea, science fiction no less – to wit:

Many people have often talked about going back in time to the 1920s to kill Hitler – this one comes to mind.  The time traveler always goes back in time before Hitler has committed any crimes.  People see the willingness to murder an (at the time) innocent person in cold blood as a sign of virtue, or resolve, or whatever.

Say this time machine exists.  Say also that time travel results in a reboot of history at the moment of travel.

Suppose WWII never happened, but time travel did – say you have someone totally wanting to commit cold blooded murder, but wants to do it in the past to escape capture.  Say that person goes back in time, commits many murders, but does not make it back to the time machine in time and gets caught.  Say that person goes on a killing spree of historical proportions, but of course no one gets that he is a time traveler from the future.  The state executes the serial killer Adolph Hitler.  History Reboots.

Say that in the future you have some other person who wants to kill someone, evade capture, and have it be somewhat moral.  Aha!  Let’s go back in time and kill a serial killer, but before they’ve done anything (when it will be easier).  This person goes back in time to kill Hitler, starts talking to him – discovers how much they have in common and the two commit many murders together as the best of friends.  History Reboots.

Say that happens again – and again (with many reboots).  With increased numbers, what started as a lone killer, turns into a friendship, turns into a gang, which turns into a political party, which turns into a mass movement as all of the future world’s psychopaths travel to 1920s Germany.  Their deep interest in murder morphs into Naziism (as something they can all agree to).  With each new member they get stronger, and draw ever more people to come nip them in the bud.

Not really sure how it ends, probably in something pacifistic, perhaps with a paean to salesmanship.

Review of Average is Over by Tyler Cowen

Last night I finished Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over – and much like his earlier work, The Great Stagnation  – it has changed my thinking a good bit.

The root theory is that most (all?) of the coming economic advancement in the future will come from the pairing of people and smart machines, and that the future will be consumed by either making and enhancing those machines, working with the machines in new ways, or managing/motivating/services the previous two groups.    One corollary of this is that our current troubles (income inequality/political polarization, etc) are side effects of the technological shift, not of culture and not of politics (though demographics does play a role).

I either agree with, or was convinced by almost all of the arguments in the book, save the few below.

  1. Cowen has the theory that the bottom end of the income distribution (which will grow more fixed over time) will compensate for loss of income by moving to lower cost states and areas.  I.E.  a marginally employable person (i.e. high school dropout with minor criminal record say) will realize that it’s easier to move to Oklahoma or North Dakota and be marginally employed than to stay in New York and be marginally employed.  That part I agree with, but there is another force in play – namely that as income drops the social network, family, friends, etc become much more important, prompting more trade and barter.  Basically there is a trade off between the measurable wealth/income (paid in dollars) and the non-measurable income/wealth (personal and family connections, favors, barter, etc)  See the fascinating Gang Leader For a Day for more info.  A drop in measurable income might prompt a surge in investment in personal/social networks, which I imagine are more location dependent; freezing people in place (it’s hard to move everyone you know to the same state).
  2. Cowen defines technological advancement mostly in terms of machine learning, and seems to underweigh recent hardware developments.  The internet of things conceivably gets rid of  many more manual labor jobs than I think Cowen might think (go SkyNet!) – see the Adafruit blog for more examples.

Fifth Generation Warfare sighted in the wild!

Check out this interview on bloggingheads with the author of The Family, which is a book about a loose network of self dealing Christians in high placed.

From the interview (I haven’t read the book yet) it seems to match all of the definitions of 5GW (loose as they may be), and it’s been around since the 30s as well.

Thoughts from my fellow war nerds, which is to say Soob and Slog?

The weirdest thing I read last week

From Jim Thompson’s novel, Pop. 1280 after the protagonist almost get hanged by an angry mob for rape

I figure sometimes that maybe that’s why we don’t make as much progress as other parts of the nation. People lose so much time from their jobs in lynching other people, and they spend so much money on rope and kerosene and getting likkered up in advance, and other essentials, that there ain’t an awful lot of money or man-hours left for practical purposes.

The Grifters

I just finished The Grifters by Jim Thompson, one of the best hard-boiled crime dramas I’ve ever read. Told entirely in the first person, it’s the dark and evil story of crooks, marks and no innocence whatsoever. Notable in it’s absence is any objective description (well, there’s almost none). Almost no “it was raining”, “the night was cloudy”, etc. Lots of impressions, feelings and lies, but no independent reality.

Highly recommended.