At a time when Freedom is the most discussed subject, and yet least understood. At a time when the need for medical advances is most urgent, and yet the field is most strangled. And at a time when relationships are most fragile, there could not have been a better read. What follows is my review of No Time To Die by Kira Peikoff.
What Freedom is, and what it is not? What are the consequences of having and not having freedom? And what are the prerequisites of Freedom?
Coercive regulations, too much government interference, sensation and propaganda driven mainstream media. How these cultural products slow down and stop progress in medical science? Alternatively, system where researchers, patients, venture capitalists, and their facilitators voluntarily trade. How such system leads to astonishing progress in medical science? Further, it also shows how reason can be used to overcome misunderstanding, or reach certainty in human relationships if people have an overall positive view of themselves and of other men.
1. Galileo : Very efficient in managing network that works in medical innovations. Network's recruitments and secrecy are pursued very skilfully by him. He is also very understanding and caring of people he values, and acts to help them whenever he thinks its required. He has a troubled past where he has lost his loved ones, and as a result he is conflicted and cautious in his present relationships, especially Romantic.
Purposeful action to achieve his long term, medium term, and short term goals being the defining feature of his character.
2. Natalie : Hard working, exceptionally intelligent, and very dedicated to her professional course. Very caring of her son, and of people like Zoe, Galileo, Helen, and others she gets to know and appreciate. Empathy also reflected towards small associations like her professional colleagues, and people she occasionally interacts with.
Defining characteristic being her courage to take risks after thinking about pros and cons in relation to her values, that is her work and her son.
3. Les Mahler : A bureaucrat convinced that genetic science will destroy the world, if not controlled by government. This idea leading him to vigorously pursue the network and its leader, and also contemplate killing an innocent child because of her genes. Willing to bend rules when official processes don't yield desired results, and use coercive threats and occasional bribery to get the work done by illegal means. As we later come to see, he has destructive agenda of his own, and will go to any lengths to destroy the things he does not like. At a deeper level we see that he is unwilling to take responsibility for his failures, and rationalizes his failed actions to blame someone else, mostly research scientists. And at deepest level, the hatred and paranoia comes from his inability to get over the bad childhood memories, bullies in particular.
Defining feature being his agenda to control scientific research in general, and Galileo's network in particular. Rationalization coming from the belief that he is saving earth's resources from overpopulation, virus called man etc.
4. Zoe : A girl affected by extremely rare genetic mutation, that makes her the target of medical science and political community. A passionate valuer when it comes to caring for her maternal grandfather, or for her own condition. Willing to go to any extent to fix the wrongs they are in. Develops inferiority complex because of the condition her body is in. Is naive in her initial understanding, but willing to learn about her condition in depth, about adolescence in general, genetic science, and the politics and ethics surrounding it.
Defining characteristic being her free spirit. Upholding independence of thought, values, and acting even in the face of extreme peril.
5. Granpa – Zoe's maternal grandfather : A very caring person when it comes to handling Zoe emotionally, her actions, and her relationship with parents. Has had very successful careers as athlete and physician. Has read good collection, and applies those learnings along with his experience to help Zoe. His understanding of Zoe's condition, and his willingness to help her in pursuit he thinks is right, being the defining characteristic.
6. Stephen Kincaid – Zoe's father : He comes out as very dominating figure, pushing his own flawed agenda onto his daughter. When things go out of control, and he later loses her, looks like he has realized his mistake.
7. Zoe's mother : She comes out as very noncommittal person, who does not seem to have any deep values. So ends up supporting whatever her husband says, and reacts with shallow emotions when things go wrong.
8. Theo : Son of Natalie whom she loves immensely. Very mature in handling relationships, whether its false news report related to Natalie, or handling tough situations while escaping to Network, or handling Zoe when she develops inner conflict within the campus. He has passion for computers and technology in general.
His deep understanding of relationships, and about growing up in general being the defining characteristic.
9. Julian : Physically weak but quite clever. Tactfully handles when questioned by Les and others about his links to the network.
The tight plot full of twists and turns is the strongest aspect of the novel. Galileo and Zoe most times, and Natalie and Les sometimes being the movers of the plot. While the actions of Galileo move in the background, the actions of Zoe and Natalie are most visible in the initial part of the novel. Zoe motivated by the desire to discover and improve her condition, and to contribute to research that can help medical condition of Granpa. Natalie's passion to develop anti-aging techniques so that she can push ahead medical science, and also raising her son well, being the motivations that drive her and the plot. Like John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, Galileo comes into forefront of plot movement as the story progresses. Whether its deft handling of escape to the Network compound, arranging resources for driving research in the network, collecting and applying timely intelligence to secure secrecy of Network, or clarifying Zoe's insecurities. In each of the key moments he emerges as the man of clear thinking, quick and accurate decision making. A man of action, actions that are thought through. While Galileo most times is the prime mover, villain Les Mahler is also the mover. Whether its probing the moles of the Network in Columbia University, trying to track Natalie and kids when they escape, or later investigating the location of Network compound. Being a villain while he is dominantly irrational and brutal, there are elements of cleverness that drive the plot, particularly his blackmailing and occasional incentivizing of a hacker on parole.
Content of the novel primarily belongs to Biotechnology in particular, and medicine in general. Explaining the technical terms and very specific processes of these lesser known fields I think is a major challenge. Use of metaphors like searching lighted weed in an ocean for finding master gene, or chromosomes and genes being like chapters and words of a book are the few examples where complex concepts are explained. Often Zoe is used as an archetype for normal reader being explained to. Also, from time to time Kira makes it a point to reveal motivations of characters for their actions. Whether its value driven actions of positive characters, or rationalization and fear driven actions of negative ones. Occasional impulses of positive characters like Zoe escaping the compound also have valid reasoning. So simplifying technical complexities, and providing motivations along with specific actions of characters forms the core of style elements in novel.
So far I have reviewed the major elements of this fiction work – theme, plot theme, characters, plot, and style. Going a step further I would now discuss the writer's “Sense of Life”. That is, what aspects of life and man she considers important.
Clearly there is lots of optimism for what science and technology can do, and validly so. Then there is appreciation of how reason can lead to understanding in human relationships, provided there is benevolent view of man, life and existence on both sides.
To elaborate on the finer aspects I would compare sensibilities to those in We The Living by Ayn Rand. Compared to We The Living, the hero is clearly much more stronger, almost approaching John Galt of Atlas Shrugged in his thoughts and actions. There is however a minor let down when it comes to heroine's view of Hero. Overall no doubt she revers his intelligence, his actions, and his style derived from these. But that makes conversation in “Chapter 21” even more painful. After cops leave Julian's house leave, Theo makes a really cheap joke. Sometime later Natalie lightly accuses Galileo of not laughing. Given the situation, I think the joke and remark could have been avoided. But at a deeper level, it seems that Kira Peikoff does not yet has a fully integrated view of Hero, especially the single minded persistence needed in the face of mortal danger. So in that sense, attitude of character Kira from We The Living towards Leo was much more reverential and consistent. From the theme perspective, the level of No Time to Die is political like We The Living. Impact of “Totalitarian State” on lives being the theme of latter. In No Time to Die however, the foundations of freedom in reason are explored to a much greater extent. Like the explanation of Galileo as to how Humans can adapt to progress like anti-aging technologies. In We The Living, while ethics of self-interest finds form in various actions, given the dark setup, scope for what reason means is limited. Further, the altruistic and irrational foundations of Les Mahler's coercive and violent actions is also explored in sufficient detail.
Another aspect I would like to explore is the view of evil, especially the fuel that drives it. In We The Living, Pavel Syerov is one of the main beneficiary of the Communist revolution. However, he didn't even participate in the main event that toppled the previous political establishment. It was misguided but honest people like Andrei who were the prime movers in that regard. Bottom line being, evil qua evil is impotent and requires “sanction of the good” consistently, to sustain itself. But actions of Les Mahler are fairly independent of good characters. That is, most of the times he can drive his tasks without any support from good characters. He does depend on Cylon the hacker a lot, but no way can he be classified as good. And Galileo, to move on is dependent on rational support of rational elements from the government that here is essentially evil. While John Galt also depended on actions of evil government bureaucrats and politicians in Atlas Shrugged. But he, Frisco, and others depended on irrational elements in the essentially corrupt system.
Though overall Les Mahler is a lot inferior to Galileo, but in complete scheme of things, he is not irrational enough.
Finally, I would comment on the view of invention in this novel. Natalie clearly spends most of the time, efforts, and risks in building anti-aging technology. But the primary breakthrough actually comes from Nina. So in this sense Nina is actually the main inventor, and Natalie is the one who just takes the invention to its logical conclusion, and gets the final credit. But any invention, and its basic trajectory ought to be the product of single mind. Enright House is Roark's, or Rearden metal belongs to Hank Rearden, no matter how many people are employed to build the final product. Even in real life, Macintosh, iPod, or iPhone are Steve Job's babies, given the history and trajectory of Apple. Seed idea of invention, as slightly hinted in the novel text, cannot and ought not be collective. The idea has to be an individual effort, even though final product requires multiple people.
Better approach should have been similar to the way Mark Zuckerberg discovers “Relationship Status” in the movie The Social Network. By getting Eureka moment when one of his friends is discussing relationships of their classmates.
To end this section on a personal footnote, one of my favorite line is the one which highlights the contemporary culture that blanks out genuinely heroic(read rational) actions. The line that emphasizes the point comes in Part 1, when twisted news of Natalie trying to exploit Zoe breaks out. It says that in perfectly sensational news stories, there are only victims and villains.
All in all, the plot of No Time to Die is rapidly moving, value driven, has suspense, and is therefore engaging. Characters are motivated, and therefore memorable. Style ties abstractions with corresponding concretes, and is therefore relatable. The theme and plot theme are contemporary and yet universal. This makes it an extremely relevant novel for a reader interested in adding spiritual fuel to his life. Looking forward to next novel in the series for more such fuel.
And, since the title suggests a broader overview, I'll add that being uncomfortable with nudity is silly, that nudity is not inherently sexual, that no one is harmed by the sight of nudity, and that we should all get nude a hell of a lot more often.
Well, the lyrics are poorly written in a poetic or grammatical sense, aside from evaluating their content. For example, words that would be grammatically useful in intelligent speech are left out. A skilled poet can avoid doing that.
Anyway, part of my judgment on the nature of the clip was based on the fact that I knew it came from the special features of the DVD of The Corporation, which my economic professor had us watch. That DVD is, literally, the most offensive trash I've ever seen in my life. It's a giant polemic against capitalism and corporations that doesn't contain a single valid argument and rests almost entirely on feelings the "documentarians" evoke through satire, plain making fun of people, and so forth. This kind of piece is typical of their work.
In context of the film, it is purely offensive in that it is both anti-freedom and expects you to adhere to its claims by abandoning your mind. Out of the context of the film, it could go either way, but it's just of very poor artistic quality.
1. A writer at Modern Farmer asks, "Swan, anyone?"
Once reserved for royalty -- Tudor, not Targaryen -- swans have been a taboo food for hundreds of years, thanks in large part to their perceived rarity and beauty. Over the past few decades, however, their numbers have swelled to the thousands in places like Michigan and New York, where the birds are called "destructive" and "invasive."
Various solutions have been proposed, but with one glaring exception: The legalized hunting and yes, eating, of swans. Swans are a bird, after all, no different than ducks and quite similar to a Christmas goose. We eat lambs with little cultural objection and with the
Game of Thrones TV series stirring interests in medieval cookery, it is not impossible that adventurous eaters might like to give it a try. [slight format edits]
I either didn't know or had forgotten that swan once was eaten at feasts. Nor had it occurred to me that the government might stand in the way of such a culinary experiment.
2. Cancer researchers have just succeeded in wiping out cancer from a patient by using a high dose of the measles virus.
In a proof of principle clinical trial, Mayo Clinic researchers have demonstrated that virotherapy -- destroying cancer with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells but spares normal tissues -- can be effective against the deadly cancer multiple myeloma...
The next step in evaluating this potential new regimen will be to attempt to duplicate this success in a large number of cases.
3. The rock group, Van Halen, once stipulated in contracts that they be provided with a bowl of M&Ms backstage, with all the brown candies removed. For that, they are incorrectly remembered as prima donnas. David Lee Roth sets the record straight:
The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say "Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes . . ." This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: "There will be no brown M&M's in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation."
So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error. They didn't read the contract. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.
If you read further, you will see that Roth means "literally" ... literally.
So -- assuming they came up with a new test once this one became infamous -- I'd call them clever, but not unique. Many people, knowingly or not, have their own "brown M&Ms". This is why bankers wear business suits, for example. While such a test can give a false positive or negative, it can save time and more, if used properly.
My biggest "brown M&M" is unsolicited, unsoundly-based advice.
4. If I blogged every one of Little Man's amusing diaper-changing antics, the subject would threaten to take over my blog, but I will allow myself this one...
Little Man hates diaper changes, almost always screaming through them and sometimes arching his back to the point that, between that and my holding his ankles in one hand, he does a headstand while I am changing him. (And yet I have somehow remained "Mr. Immaculate" so far.)
Yesterday, though, he outdid himself. Since he is face-down when he arches his back enough, I guess it occurred to him that, with a little more effort, he could make an escape by crawling. So he extended his arms and started crawling with the upper half of his body -- straight towards his poopy diaper, which I deftly removed, just in time, with my free hand. Oh, and at some point, he managed to pee on himself from head to chest, so he got to follow his favorite activity with his second-favorite: a clothes change.
No, I do not agree, personally. Irrational people shouldn't be given any kind of "pass," but I think the solution you offer focuses on the negative. Who cares about those people? You could spend all day getting "even," or you could let them burn out all by themselves, as they inevitably will, and focus on improving things for yourself.
Compare: the time you spend taking advantage of idiots, wasting all this time interacting with their limited value, versus the time you would have spent focusing directly on your own plans for yourself, finding and working with better people who you actually like, and using none of your limited brainpower considering irrational people.
Edwin, I totally understand your predicament. The fact is, justice is a result of the recognition of reality. I constantly ask myself, "why keep bothering with these self deluding parasites? Should I just stop trying to be culturally active? ". On your quid pro quo , "Look at how effective predatory egoist are at achieving cooperation from sheeple"..... Culturally, ridicule and "thinking shallow and talking loud" seem to be the way to advance in most environments. I just have that inescapable conscience that I cant disconnect from pride and happiness in my self. I watch other productive folks with integrity constantly be used and discarded when the tribally preferred shows up. How often have you actually seen mature thinkers change their mind?
Edit: I have a quibble with this "alpha" thing. I am what most people would call an alpha and I have the same complaints you mention otherwise.... Especially the pilfering of my ideas by secondhanded parasites who claim them as their own..
Even if the world was very rational in net, there would still be those irrational few to get in your way. There would also still be disagreements between rational men with different personal contexts, since knowledge isn't automatic. Or, consider if you were on an island all by yourself. In these scenarios, as in all scenarios, at the end of the day you can only control and only have yourself.
The truth is, even with all the irrationality around you, your life is better because there are many partially rational people being partially productive, on a huge scale, making an endless number of goods and services cheap for you. So, it's not really so bad. If your personal world seems bad to you, again, you only have yourself. Find some people you like or can at least tolerate, and start improving the things you don't like about how you live. Hate crappy code? Find a better software firm, or become an independent contractor, or even start your own business with your own employees where you can direct them to create the code you know is best.
There are many irrational people out there, but existence isn't "irrational." You may not be able to get what you want within certain systems in society because of irrationality, but you will always keep the ability to make different choices for yourself and work toward a better life.