2015/10/26

Good must be done and SEEN to be done

I think most of us have been around someone who only does good things if other people can see that they are. I also think a lot of us baulk at the idea. It just seems wrong.

However, Machiavelli brings it up in The Prince. Whether or not The Prince was satire, the best satire does have snippets of truth of some sort or another in there. Motivationally, Machiavelli may have wanted the Medici's to be less openly contemptuous of common morals. Whatever his motivations, Machiavelli was not a moron.

I think the line "good must be done and be seen to be done" is important for organisations, at least. This is an important demarcation that a lot of people ignore, in that behaviour that an organisation engages in is not necessarily good for an individual (and visa-versa). People tend to care about their family, friends, and their immediate surroundings. Many organisations are created with a goal in mind, and don't need to eat, sleep, or pay rent.

People should not denigrate people or organisations doing what's necessary for survival. Ethically, we recognise that self-preservation is an important instinct. While we consider those who go against in heroes, we do not denigrate (mostly) those who would place their own immediate survival above others. Similarly, we should not denigrate organisations for taking actions that ensure their survival.

Recruitment and retention are for organisations as eating and breathing (and pooping, I guess) are for us singular organisms. People are literally organisation food, consumed and re-purposed to whatever tasks are deemed necessary. It's a kind of weird analogy, but makes sense if you think about it a little.

Doing highly visible "good" is important for both recruitment and retention. Internally, they provide energy and vigour. Externally, they make the organisation look good, even to those who do not even consider joining.

What "good" is in this sense is a little bit nebulous.

Many organisations have a moral imperative guiding them. The American Civil Liberties Union has ethical guidelines that are, in part, the definition of the organisation itself. Of course, not all organisations have moral goals. That is, they don't mention morality as part of their goals. Presumably there are a couple of immoral organisations out there.

The societies they operate in also have their own moral codes. This gives its own limiting factor to an organisation. An act that an organisation considers "good", if not aligned with a society's "good", has a very high risk of alienating the organisation from the general population. The Westboro Baptist Church (assume its goals are sincere for the time being) is an example of this. They might think there is some moral duty in protesting homosexual soldiers' funerals. While they might think of this as "good", they have failed to consider the society they live in.

Of course, they might have, but for an organisation to prosper it must be aware of the society it is attempting to operate in. It's all well and good (aha) to have moral ideals of how society should work, but societal changes are typically slow, and ultimately an organisation (if it believes in its moral ideals) should want to enact the change as painlessly and quickly as possible. That change typically only comes with a decent amount of the population involved.

Even for organisations that do not have a moral imperative, say a local board gaming club, it is important that good works should be done and seen to be done. Without an internal morality to clash with society's, they should have more freedom to do so. Charity, joint projects, doing things with the local amputee orphanage, that sort of thing. But it IS tremendously important that such things are advertised. Not that without that they are pointless, but rather that the effect is far more healthy for the longevity and activity of the organisation.

2015/10/16

Myth of the Monofactor

I vaguely remember a while ago, I was talking to a couple of friends about World War 2, as is the fashion for a keyboard kommando such as I. A third party butted in, and said something along the lines of
"Oh, you know why the UK won the Battle of Britain?"
...
The one reason?
"They were giving all their best pilots meth amphetamine to keep in them in air for, like, days!"
Ok.
Being several drinks in and not wanting to really kill whatever mood there was, I probably dumbly agreed and carried on the conversation. However, it highlights something I (among many others) have noticed about the way we think about why these great big events plastered all over the news happen, and how those events are presented to us.

To that guy, whoever he was, there isn't a sole reason for why the Brits won. The Germans were also giving their pilots meth, so by the same train of thought one could say that the Brits won because of the invention of the screw, which held their planes together. The primary reasons for the British success, as I'd list them, would have been:
A sophisticated and well co-ordinated RADAR system
The inherent advantages of the defender in a bombing campaign
Incompetence at the highest level of the Luftwaffe
Poor Luftwaffe target priority
A well coordinated salvage system by the British
Meth pilots, being a tool used by both sides, is probably not a reason that Britain won, and even if it was a reason it would not rank as highly as the ones I just listed.

However, in media, large issues are presented as having a single factor. Mass shootings in the US are only a gun control issue. We are going to war with ISIS because they are evil. We are going to hunt down Al Quaeda to stop terrorism. etc. Even a cursory examination of these actions will tend smear the reasons that we purportedly use. As those reasons become bunk, we'll often be presented with another story.

This is important to note, as the changing narrative with respect to a single event isn't the media covering multiple factors, but rather backing a different single factor and forgetting about the previous one. The second Iraq War has been picked apart, and the various motivations for it have been laid relatively bare, so let's start with that.

Initially, the stated reason for going to war with Iraq was to stop terrorism, more specifically to hunt down Al Quaeda, who had claimed responsibility for the attacks on the USA on September 11th 2001. This was eventually shown as being bunk as Iraq had no real connection with Al Quaeda other than a few members coming from Iraq (and none of the pilots).

After that, the reason was to get the weapons of mass destruction he was obviously hiding.

After that, the liberate the Iraqi people from the thumb of a dictator.

After that..? Stabilising the region or something?

And so on. In each of these cases, it has been shown to be rather, uh, well wrong. But it does highlight the way we think about things (and may have done in the past).

A mass shooting is just about gun control, or just about mental health care, or just about having metal detectors in schools. I'd personally err on "only about gun control" if push came to shove, but mass shootings are also partly a mental health care and cultural problems that the USA suffers from. Toxic communities also.

Maybe start a "boring news channel" which goes over major reasons for why things are happening one way or another. You could easily fill 24 hours with that. Probably not much market for it though. Maybe it already exists.

2015/10/07

Urban Combat Firearm future

I really dig the Kriss Vector's design. It's modern, practical, and looks the part. Several games have used it as a basis for futuristic SMGs. Obviously, it can't really be used for long ranged weapons as it makes them impractically long. It could have a few hypothetical improvements that may or may not be practical due to technological or marketable constraints. But here I am suggesting them for a hypothetical future firearm! This sort of stuff is generally good for artists when designing props.

Electrically fired ammunition: Less of an extreme shift than caseless ammunition, this still has a casing but uses an electric primer rather than a mechanical one. This allows the bolt to be significantly shorter, reducing the necessary size a lot more than the bolt's shortening would suggest. Note on bullpup weapons, the magazine is significantly further forward than the back of the stock; this is to accomodate the fairly long bolt moving back and forth.

Electrically fired ammunition would still benefit from the casing's ability to remove heat from the weapon, but also be safer and a lot simpler mechanically. Hypothetically, the electrical charge for the next round could be provided by the recoil energy of the previous round, but that sounds like it could be unreliable.

It is also a sort of ammunition modification that could work with existing weapons, allowing for retrofitting of previous firearms. This makes the ammunition more broadly marketable. I'd suggest the 5.7 mm as an appropriate testbed for this sort of ammunition, as it is a calibre that is popular enough, but not that widely adopted.

Ambidextrous Ejection: Less of a problem on the Vector than bullpup weapons, but I have a personal preference for forward ejecting weapons. It just seems like a neat way to have everything. Obviously, it can also be the source of jamming. This would have to be addressed by people who are actually engineers.

Under-barrel Magazine: A lot of future firearms experiment with odd magazine placement. My preference is directly below the barrel, similar to the Bizon SMG (not necessarily helical). The magazine can thus be held constantly, allowing for rapid removal as well as support. The magazine could also incorporate magnetic loading entrances, as seen on Apple products, but perhaps not.

Anyway, that's the fluff for a weapon in the setting I am writing.