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You have some good links here. I will add some more grains in The Perfect Sand Storm (apologies for reworking your line): King Abdullah is 90 years old and in a hospital on a respirator. In contemporary Western science-based medicine this is known as “on his deathbed”. His successor is also old and suffering from dementia. The “deputy heir” is from a family with no substance and no allies but a lot of enemies in the royal family (the vast sea of third generation princes). This has the potential of being the biggest succession battle since the Tudors vs the Plantagenets, with a civil war a possibility. Add to that, come springtime a potential hot battle on the border against fanatic insurgent invaders, who are aided by internal sympathizers. And the House of Saud’s mortal enemies - both politically and religiously - on several borders. The Iranians have plenty of experience aiding insurgencies, but this would be a religious war of Shia vs Sunni as well as a succession war. Saudi has a minority of Shia who are excluded from most participation in society. Iraq has a majority of Shia. It is also a political war as Saudi has considerable internal friction (30% unemployment) and not much economy other than oil. As the markets see this unfold and the oil markets spike up to $150/bbl, Iran gets flush with money and the pressure is taken off their economy. If Putin sees the possibility of recovering oil prices, the Russians can easily provide covert assistance against the Saudis with no risk to themselves. (The Saudis and the Russians aren’t friends either.) The Saudis apparently have stockpiled anywhere from 6 months to 1 year of oil for this current price war, but if ISIS seizes that then all bets are off. (Literally so, for the commodities traders.) Paging Nicholas Taleb! This is a fight bigger and more complex than the Saudis two main patrons - the U.S. and Israel - can handle. And especially at a time when the President has to fight a political insurrection against the Republican Party which controls just about all the government except the executive branch, and that runs out soon. If a Saudi succession battle happens and the Ministries are paralyzed (they are run by royal family men), then nobody runs the place. If an ISIS invasion happens and the oil workers flee, the oil production stops immediately and the only receivables are for tankers already on the water. The Saudi army and air force have no credibility. Those expensive weapons (squadrons of F-15s) need many crew to keep them running, and this army and air force has never been tested in battle. The Iraqis have gone through decades of war, and ISIS has shown itself to be both capable and resilient. (I was surprised at how well they have done against the Kurds.) The merc army formerly known as Blackwater is now HQed in the ME, but they are relatively small and will have two jobs - the unlucky regiment slows down the invaders while the lucky regiment evacuates the royals - or at least the royals that survive the succession war. And the survivors go to visit their money in Switzerland. But hey, if the House of Saud goes away can they at least take the House of Bush with them? There will be huge numbers of refugees around the region. Will this stop at Saudi Arabia, or will it spread to Egypt and Jordan? But Iran and Putin get to stick around. (I don’t think Maduro will last that long, even with the Chinese currently propping him up. He is politically ineffective and weak and now unpopular, so new Chinese money just won’t help him.)
This is simply getting inside the opponent's OODA loop: before he can observe, orient, decide and act the attack has changed and he has to reset back to observe, orient...etc. The newly morphed attack doesn't have to be excellent, it simply has to be novel enough to stymie the opponent's ability to execute his loop, i.e. keep him on his heels, on the defensive, and reacting instead of taking the initiative. Imperfect attacks are fixed or abandoned before the opponent knows they are imperfect. It requires innovation and agility of thought and deed - ponderous action is not well suited to this style. It ought to work in business as well as in war.
I look forward to your review of Black Swan. I saw Taleb's presentation at Long Now and thought that was probably sufficient.
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Salon is cutting back too. But you still have books and anthologies as well.
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Thanks for the insider view and report. And (small point) in a new interview in Salon William Gibson almost says that sf is dead. Actually, I think what he says is that it's too hard for him to write something like Neuromancer again. But then, maybe he actually meant something different. Lots of words, lots of nuance, best to read the interview... I basically agree with Mr. Bigend in "Pattern Recognition" when he argues that our present has become so unutterably brief and ever-changing that we have no ground upon which we can stand and project a future historical arc as H.G. Wells and Robert Heinlein were able to. The short form of that is, none of us know what the hell is going to happen next.
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I took the test and was actually surprised that I scored high. Was more surprised that in some categories I scored really high. Odd, I don't feel alienated. ;-)
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Heh, thanks for this. I don't read the WSJ so wouldn't have seen it. I worked for Big Television network from early 1995 through mid-late 2000, the exact rise and fall of the Internet and the boom. (Hint - it was the most watched of the Big Three at that time, though now it has the least market share and reportedly the worst line up.) While I don't have much recent information, I can add a bit to the conversation. One observation that struck me was how - even at the network level - it was every man and woman for himself. It seemed like every person did their job with the goal of climbing onto the shoulders and heads of every other person around them. As if the only way for each to succeed was at the expense of others. There was teamwork when it served all their individual interests to pull in the same direction. One other exception was when favoritism or nepotism served to bring people together to help each other or to cover up for each other. I suspect that has not changed much in the business. Thinking that Fox, NBC, et al could or would cooperate in a venture they may not even understand seems so far fetched. Another observation was how little clue so many people in Big TV had about the nature of the internet. They are so steeped in the one-to-many broadcast model, and in "knowing" what to push out to people that many - at that time - simply did not have a vision of the democratization of mass communications. Many more simply thought it was a bad idea because the quality, the video quality and the metaphorical signal to noise ratio, would be so low compared to the hugely expensive efforts of Big TV. (This was about the same time that Bill Gates made his famous remark about "nobody would use the Internet" or something like that, so they were not the only ones who didn't see it coming.) I was hired in as an expert in computers that did digital video. The tools of that time were primitive in comparison to now, but still more than adequate for NTSC. But the double super-secret department I worked in was set up mainly as an experiment to determine if they could use digital video as a workaround for IATSE and NABET union engineers and contracts, and to dramatically reduce the capital overhead of expensive broadcast television editing equipment. Nothing in the mission was about making content that was better or fresher, or addressing new audiences. One anecdote remains. Keep in mind that even way back then network TV was losing viewership to cable TV, and there were early warnings about the young demographic being diverted by the Internet and video games. After a few years of running the department (and bucking senior corporate managers who didn't believe in it), the VP in charge of our department decided to leave and go into the world where it was possible to count and directly target "eyeballs". He had spent all his life in broadcast media, first as talent and later as middle management. When he told senior management that he was quitting, one commented that he was going from an audience of 50 million eyeballs to an audience of 50 thousand. So maybe the senior guy had a point. All his life Nielsen told him that he had a huge audience. Of course they measure by approximation and extrapolation. He was happy with that big number, however inaccurate it might have been. But now, ten years later, it looks like broadcast TV is struggling to retain an audience that shrinks measurably from year to year, and ages as well. And they still have no idea how to hold stop the bleeding or how to address a new world of "manycasting", where many can broadcast to many, and long tails are measurable not by their depth but by their width. Of course that's not the business model of Big TV. It has expensive gear, expensive skilled technicians, and expensive talent. Both the net and Big TV are mediums of communication, but they seem to be vastly different in every other way. Most of this is irrelevant to the point of your post though. I guess the relevant things I can think of are Doug Morriss, CEO of Universal Music, demanding and getting ransom from Microsoft for "stolen music" on each and every Zune music player, and then publicly demanding a similar ransom from Apple for their iPods. Somehow I just can't see that as a business model. Some TV is ending up on iTunes, but vastly more of it seems to be copied off and posted to web sites and torrents and p2p and the like. Why should people pay for it when it's out there already. I don't know what the answer is though. Just thought I'd toss in a few points to illustrate yours, and add a few metaphors to the mix...
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