The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A better Way

This blog will be moving soon, to be a sub-blog under Planet3.0 .

Recall that the original purpose here was to examine how scientific communication had failed and what to do about it. Planet3.0 is the result of that thinking. It's my attempt not only to do something about it, but to encourage others to do something about it as well.

Trying to be both editor and reporter at a site with at least the intent of reaching a broader audience than this one has already been revealing. The nature of a site is, to some extent, as much about what it excludes as about what it includes. The blogger just writes whatever he pleases. The editor has to consider what will build the community and what will splinter it.

What's more, for the first time ever, I have information on "background"; that is, a source really wanted to tell me something, on condition that I not explicitly tell the audience. It's hard to explain why they would do that. I find it sort of weird, really. And now there is the question of whether to betray the source and my reputation, or to tell only half the story, or to let the story drop. This changes journalism from an exercise in nonfiction writing to an exercise in politics.

The editor's temptation not to rile people is pretty palpable. I find myself suddenly inclined to "safe" stories. The key to making Planet3.0 work is to improve the quality of disagreement. So being a chickenshit won't work.

On the other hand, I see plenty to criticize on both "sides". This is also a problem! Criticizing mainstream science makes you a tool of the denial industry, and ultimately an instrument of the decline of civilization and the biosphere. Avoiding that is the whole point. Refusing to criticize it makes you a voice in a tame chorus, incapable of saying anything that isn't explicitly in the interest

The point of view of the scientist is to advance the truth. It's really hard under the circumstances when politics and science get tangled up. My guiding light will continue to be to get the maximum amount of truth visible to my intended audience. I think it may be the case that doing this will lose me more friends among my allies than it gains me respect among my enemies. This is a sign, I think, of how low we have sunk. I will have to brace myself for it.

Much as I do not want to give attention to the ridiculous obsessions of the bunkosphere, I also don't think that making Planet3.0 into another also-ran pop science site is enough.

There are basically a bunch of approaches around today:
  • tell everything that makes the future look scary, and nothing else
  • tell everything that makes the people looking scared ridiculous, and nothing else
  • tell all the above without choosing any of them
  • science and engineering fandom, repeating press releases
  • get into the thick of the policy, trivializing or ignoring science and engineering
If we're going to get anywhere, we need to close the loop. The venue we need is not afraid to draw the big picture.

In It will continue as my base for half-baked speculations about economics and for introspection about how to make public communication work. News about the move will appear shortly.

11 comments:

Rich Puchalsky said...

You know my long-term answer to this long-term question of yours: if you're not doing science or popularizing science ("also-ran pop science blog", etc.), then it makes no sense to pretend that you aren't taking a political position.

I haven't really looked at Planet 3.0 at all because I've been busy with Occupy Wall Street. You have to figure out how that kind of thing impinges on what you do. If the answer is "not at all", then yeah, I don't understand what people would find valuable about the site.

Vinny Burgoo said...

I hope that Planet 3.0 will pay a bit more attention to WG2 (IPCC WGII) stuff than OIIFTG did. WG2 is all that matters to most of the planet and the still dominant and dispiritingly widespread if-you-quibble-with-WG2-or-WG3-then-you're-a-WG1-denier tactic needs stomping on once and for all and forever. You have the cred to do that and aiming at that would give Planet 3.0 the unique niche you're looking for.

But, so far, you seem to be aiming at more of the same.

Ho hum.

Michael Tobis said...

I'm scrambling for content, Vin.

Write it yourself and see if I run it.

Dan Thompson said...

I'm sorry. I still don't understand Planet3.0 - I'm old school and still read everything from an RSS feed.

Michael Tobis said...

http://planet3.org/feed/

Vinny Burgoo said...

Write it yourself and see if I run it.

Thanks. But if, six weeks hence, I haven't reported back, don't send a rescue party. It'd get lost too. WG2 is as thicket as anything gets.

Steve Bloom said...

Michael, I'd been meaning to ask you to do a little compare/contrast with the evolution and current roles of Climate Progress and InsideClimate (the former SolveClimate -- see here. Possibly there are some others in the same general category, although I can't think of any off-hand. But given those two examples, how will Planet 3.0 be different?

notjonathon said...

I have tried to join you over there, but so far no one has responded. Do you have a secret handshake or something?
I try not to comment too often, as I find it easy to wander off into complex psychological speculation or unrelated anecdotes, but I have been a faithful reader here and at Neven's and Eli's (among others) for some time--not only that, I was born and raised (Texas term for reared) in Houston.

I, too, have multiple alternate visions for the planet (since I'm about to begin my eighth decade, I may not see most of them) that oscillate between the extremes of the collapse of civilization and and a new technological revolution. There are even times when I want to share them.

Michael Tobis said...

notjonathon, request an invitation at this link. If you have already done so, I did not receive it.

If you prefer you can send me the URL of a writing sample directly: admin@planet3.org

notjonathon said...

Thanks. I tried again. I really want to just read and react for a while before actually trying to put together a coherent essay.

manuel "moe" g said...

I am excited by Planet 3.0, and I will _never_ request an invite. I have enough self-awareness to appreciate being [at risk of being] vigorously edited and censored. ;-) Like Groucho, I would never join a movement with the poor judgement to accept me.

I hope Planet 3.0 is mainly for people who have moved past "questions of existence of climate disruption" into "questions of consequence of climate disruption". I hope Planet 3.0 is for people who use their ego to defend stated and embraced moral positions (craven maximal temporary convenience is rarely openly stated and embraced by those animated by it). I hope Planet 3.0 is not for people who use their ego to wage war to defend very specific policy points.

Repeating - It is clear the connected and shrewd are trying to play out the clock, and are most definitely not trying to replace one cohesive scientific/moral/policy shared narrative with an objectively better cohesive scientific/moral/policy shared narrative. If they can only pester by swarming like gnats, then swat them like gnats, and move on and get real work done.