## Sunday, March 22, 2015 ... /////

### Artificial limbs, cyborgs, and humans with improved DNA

Recently, there have been lots of stories in the newspapers about genetic improvements of the humans, about mind control, and artificial organs that directly communicate with the brain etc. We have probably entered the era in which all these things have in principle been mastered and the gradual improvements of people's ability to "help" humans in similar ways have become an unavoidable scenario for the future.

For example, this video shows an artificial arm that has been trained to behave almost as good as the real one (it has earned 70% of the "score" of Nature's prototype) after brachial plexus injury. See The Lancet article by Prof Oskar Aszman et al. (Vienna) and a Gizmag review of the work plus Google News.

Some muscles have been transplanted, and the artificial limb has been added on top of that. Impulses from the transplanted muscles are being read and evaluated – after weeks of training exercises that may be analogous to the machine learning strategies at Kaggle.com – and the people ultimately learn how to control the new metallic organ while the limb learns to listen.

Nerves across the body and the controlling of muscles should be among the simplest "codes" that people should master. We often hear about artificial intelligence, emulation of brains of some simple animals, and so on, but it's natural to start with a seemingly easier question. Can we understand the codes used by the impulses by which brains control our muscles and similar things? If we can do it, cyborgs are doable.

When two computers on the Internet exchange the data, the information may be encrypted using complicated codes that depend on secret keys etc. I am pretty sure that nothing that is this mathematically complex is used in the world of biological nerves. The main reason why I think so is that the signals are ultimately not digital – they are mostly analog signals. The information is made of pretty much continuous numbers and the responses are largely continuous if not smooth functions of this data. This picture would make TLS/SSL very unnatural and unlikely.

And when it comes to the physical foundations of the signal in nerves, they can't be vastly more complicated than what we know from wires, can they?

People can't emulate Nature perfectly so far. But because they can get rather close, it seems obvious to me that the fidelity will increase with time and it is a matter of years or at most decades when cyborgs – people with metallic organs that are otherwise controlled "directly" by the brain, much like ordinary limbs, but the metallic limbs may be much stronger and/or otherwise superior – will be walking around, working, and fighting, not to mention other activities.

A related but different development deals with the human genome – effectively "modern marginally ethical eugenics". For example, the United Kingdom has approved a new protocol that allows kids with 3 parents to be born. The purpose isn't to have non-standard kids arising from triplets of friends, or group sex, or something like that. Instead, the purpose of this technology is to "erase" some genetic defect of one of the two "main" parents – by using the healthy segment from the third (minority, 10% or so) parent.

This news was complete surprise for me. I didn't even know that people were capable of doing such things in practice. I didn't even know it was possible – and Great Britain has already allowed it! The speed is impressive and perhaps scary, indeed.

All these and similar advances open tons of ethical and philosophical questions. Do we really want humans to be "improved" in these ways – either by DNA manipulations or by the creation of cyborgs? A simple conservative answer could be "No": it's simply immoral, humans have no business to steal the work from God or Nature, and so on. Well, I am not sure whether I am quite this conservative.

The improved humans (and other animals or organisms, if you wish) may have certain advantages. While we may be tempted to be full-fledged conservatives who want the future to be basically the same as the present, isn't a "better future" preferred? If the world stagnates, it becomes boring, it is wasting time. We realize that we're not necessarily the ultimate culmination of creation, don't we? At the end, it's likely that similar improvements will be needed for the (enhanced) mankind to conquer the Solar System, the Milky Way, and beyond.

Years ago, people would only speculate about these matters – they couldn't really achieve such things yet but many people were already excited about banning them. ;-) But these technologies seem to be becoming a part of the real world. Do we really want to ban all these developments? Can't we invent more sensible rules to defend the world against some obvious risks?

The development of cyborgs also has lots of implications for the debate about consciousness, not to mention others. Where is the consciousness located and which part of the "biological stuff" is really needed for that mysterious spiritual phenomenon? I think that it's clear that the patients with the mechanical limbs have the same consciousness. The hand is a semi-clever biological organ but at the end, it's pretty dull. The consciousness is "distributed" somewhere in the brain.

But it's possible that parts of brains will be replaced by their "metallic" or "silicon" counterparts in the future, too. As long as the functions will be emulated sufficiently faithfully, I would tend to say that the cyborgs constructed in this way will have basically the "same" consciousness as the conventional biological human beings. The blood may be replaced by a different energy-distributive and protective system but the blood can't be essential for consciousness, can it?

There's another, more provocative idea I want to offer you. We tend to sharply categorize "intelligent structures" into two groups: the "natural ones"; and the "man-made ones". Of course, it's possible to look into the history of a structure and see whether a human creator was present, and whether he or she was needed. We like to think that the natural structures and the man-made ones are "qualitatively different". The natural structures evolved spontaneously while the man-made design resulted from a "goal", we think.

But this could be just another example of our anthropocentric chauvinism. What I really want to say is that the very concept of DNA codes and the production of proteins according to a DNA code etc. etc. may be some "low-level technology" whose birth may be viewed as an analogy to goal-driven inventions in the computer industry.

We need some intelligence to invent the HTTP protocol, the 8080 machine code, and thousands of other things, and we like to assume that Nature doesn't have any "comparable" intelligence, so even though the DNA coding tricks seem comparably clever to some of the man-made technologies, their origin must have been natural – and therefore "qualitatively different".

But couldn't it be that the RNA molecules or folding proteins or whatever existed before DNA were "trying to invent cool new ideas" in a similar sense as employees at Microsoft, Apple, or Intel who have the "free will"? They may have used the building blocks and the processes involving these buildings blocks that were available thanks to the laws of physics (which includes chemistry and biology). We're used to say "No", they're totally different things, but what does this difference really mean and what is our evidence that a qualitative difference exists? What is our evidence that processes and "inventions" done at a "more elementary than human" level must be free of any "goals"?

Humans have the free will and they often think how to behave so that "their goal" may be achieved. We usually like to say that a protein molecule can't have any intents. It can't behave in this goal-oriented way. But is it really true? Humans are bound states of electrons and nuclei as well – but they are able to "become obsessed about a goal" and behave in ways that are meant to achieve the goals; they often look for the "trajectories" that lead to a goal. Isn't it obvious that another bound state of electrons and nuclei, e.g. some simpler proteins, must be admitted to have the same ability to sometimes try to achieve some goal that seems good for them?

They may use more primitive methods to achieve the goal – to find a viable trajectory towards the goal. But the broadest framework may be more or less isomorphic. A folding protein could have dreamed about the creation of several very accurate copies of itself. This description may sound "anthropomorphic" and one may have doubts whether the folding protein has enough memory or imagination to imagine two copies of itself ;-) but even in the case of the humans, the similarly "anthropomorphic" idea of human desires may in principle be rephrased as a purely physical statement about dynamics of electrons and nuclei – and the concept of "2 copies of myself" can't be excessively complicated, can it? So if the usual human desires may be rephrased in this way, why couldn't there exist similar two languages (one mechanical, one anthropomorphic and "psychological") in the case of "folding proteins that have a goal"?

At the end, I am convinced that any "totally sharp, metaphysical" boundary between humans (or animals, or whatever is your class of "similar agents") and the rest of Nature must be wrong. It contradicts the unity of the laws of physics. And because we know that it's often possible to describe the behavior of the bound states of electrons and nuclei that we call "human beings" in human or psychological terms – someone "wants" that, "thinks" how to "achieve" it, and so on – such a description must be at least approximately possible for much more elementary physical processes in Nature, too.

I think that such a dual interpretation of natural processes will be possible and it will be found, and this new language will allow the people to understand e.g. the early stages of the birth of life more naturally than how we understand them (or fail to understand them) today. While that picture won't contradict anything about evolution, I would bet, it may be going to be viewed as a step towards a dual formulation of the natural phenomena that is more "intelligent-design-like".

#### snail feedback (55) :

The idea of an RNA origin to life has been around for a while, ever since the discovery that RNA could function as both catalysts and structure. I think it's at least plausible. And it may be that someday lifeforms based on Drexlerian nanotechnology will be discussing the DNA origin of life theory.

And they might be our cultural descendants. If we manage to come up with a better technology for life, why not migrate to it?

"Humans have the free will and they often think how to behave so that "their goal" may be achieved. We usually like to say that a protein molecule can't have any intents. It can't behave in this goal-oriented way. But is it really true?"

By far the best blog by a sophisticated microbiologist on this very topic is Searching For The Mind:

http://t.co/T1Xqb71jP6

Nerve signaling may indeed be vastly more complex than computer circuits exactly due to a mysterious molecular "intelligence" that can sense electric field shapes at some distance.

Amazing blog you posted a link to!

Varoufakis, Greece's Finance Minister calls himself "an erratic Marxist". Hmm, doesn't that just sound like what Greece needs in this time of crisis to produce a miracle, a "deus ex machina'--an erratic Marxist?...The Mad Hatter would be a better choice...:)

Wow Lubos your German must be pretty good to read FAZ now !

Especially the Sunday edition that weighs at least some 2 kg :)

Btw my mother has been just visiting and she told me that in her corner (of Baden Würtemberg) the people were positively outraged by the loud Greek shouting that Germany should pay billions to Greece for some 80 year old event.

Considering that the Greeks have folded and surrendered in 1 week so that no significant destructions had to be applied and after that they just went on business as usual while watching the war happening elsewhere, this demand is ludicrous.

And even more so because the motto of the Schwabenland that giudes their view on the world (full employement and good economy results) is "Schaffe, schaffe, Häusle baue." ("Work, work and then build your house")

Die andere Erklärung ist, dass Google Translate tut einen ziemlich guten Job, während die Übersetzung von Webseiten einschließlich Zeitungen, Tom. ;-)

Thanks NikFromNYC for the link to this jaw-dropping blog.

Fibrosis of the lungs is one of the diseases than can be avoided by this new third party DNA method. Having worked with a guy whose young son was slowly dying from this inherited and crippling disease, I fully support this development. Any new technique that enhances the quality of life should be supported, if you are rational.

We are a long way from synthetically emulating humans or human functions. Using short cuts are a tempting alternative. Shortcuts using human DNA to aid in development of artificial limbs, organs or to generally normalize a life are noble pursuits.
But the temptation to go further for "good reasons" is too tempting for the highly developed intellectual mind. Past excursions into Eugenics by “vastly superior intellects of the time” don’t seem all that divine today.

Using DNA to create life out of the lab, Cyborgs or DNA tinkering “to correct natural flaws” is to play “God”. No good can come of that.

Dennett introduced the idea of the "intentional stance" to argue for the existence of free will for humans, but I think his arguments sounds more convincingly like "nothing naturalistic really has free will, but we can just pretend they do".

Anyway, neo-Darwinistic orthodoxy is vehemently against any trace of teleology, but is the orthodoxy correct?

Aaronson's theory of freebits is extremely implausible as CMB photons weren't decoupled prior to recombination, and neutrinos, gravitons and dark matter hardly interact at all with human brains.

On the other hand, retrocausality coming from quantum mechanics leaves open the possibility of free will influences backpropagating from the end of time in the two-state formalism.

Lieff’s blog is interesting but his first two sentences are ridiculous.

Yes.. I guess he is practising "récentisme" ;-)

Dear author,

Since you seems to be the first one to make the following quote on the web: "sometimes someone confesses a sin in order to take credit for it", do you have a reference for it?

I want this citation to be true but I am not sure it is.

I would use the words, "cultural crutch" rather than "cultural habit", and I don't think that "everyone is is an atheist" is a desirable thing in that "monothink" is boring and unproductive. I am mostly just against institutional hierarchical religions. Individually, people can believe what they want--at least they are not the mindless sheep being herded by the priests and whatever. I am going to give the whole religious discussion a rest, as, aside from this blog, I don't really care what folks believe as long as they leave me out of it :)

Ok, so we're more close what I thought, just that I think there are much worse cultural crutches that religion, e.g. bad politics and bad science (and of course bad religion).

Hmm, if you say so, Shannon.
"On 15 February 1990, in a speech delivered at the Sapienza University, Rome, Caridnal Ratzinger, later to be Pope Benedict, cited some current views on the Galileo affair as forming what he
called "a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the
self-doubt of the modern age, of science and technology goes today".[Some of the views he cited were those of the philosopher Paul Feyerabend,
whom he quoted as saying "The Church at the time of Galileo kept much
more closely to reason than did Galileo himself, and she took into
consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's teaching
too. Her verdict against Galileo was rational and just and the revision
of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is
politically opportune."He did, however, say "It would be foolish
to construct an impulsive apologetic on the basis of such views."
---Wiki

Wow, what an enlightened man, and infallible at that !
This is getting boring and I really only get crotchety on this blog, so I will give it a rest.

Dear Jean, I wrote where von Neumann gave this response. There is no recording (tape) of his saying that, so whatever you may find will be just other testimonies of someone who heard someone else who heard von Neumann.

It is almost certainly a valid quote.

"I am not wanting to attack you or Catholics."...
:) Why not? They are such an easy target.

Well I love great writing as well..may take a look. It can't be worse than that of Teilhard de Chardin immortalized by one of the most damning critiques ever written, by immunologist, Peter Medawar, who also was no slouch at writing---
a few samples from his review of Phenomenon of Man -

"The Phenomenon of
Man cannot be read without a feeling of suffocation, a gasping and
flailing around for sense. There is an argument in it, to be sure --- a feeble
argument, abominably expressed --- and this I shall expound in due course; but
consider first the style, because it is the style that creates the illusion of
content, and which is a cause as well as merely a symptom of Teilhard's
alarming apocalyptic seizures."
and

"It is a book widely held to be of the utmost
profundity and significance; it created something like a sensation upon
its publication in France, and some reviewers hearabouts called it the
Book of the Year—one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of
it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of
metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only
on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to
deceive himself."

"...history of Astronomy is difficult of (sic) understand without the colaboration (sic) of catholic priests."...
WTF? Excuse the language, but WTF??
Maybe catholics find it difficult to understand without the collaboration of catholic priests.

It's true, take a look:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric-scientists

Submissive, unassuming, mellow, house cleaning, chef level cooking, Sports Illustrated cover body proportions ...I all for producing those en masse.

I think you should cut him some slack. I mean, later on he does write:

"Posts will look at scientific discoveries, as they appear, in the fields of neuroscience, animal behavior, microbiology, molecular biology, evolution and biophysics,"

These guys have no easy job. While Lubos and co are up in Platonic heights, these guys are digging in the dirt, working through the mud and slime.

Just to support that, and let people know this since many here ignore how catholics take science, a small text from the catholic catechism:

"The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the
object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our
knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of
life-forms and the appearance of man."

Maybe we are simulated beings living inside a conscious simulation?

Ha. A few weeks ago I was reading Medawar's essay on Teilhard. Teilhard, I think, had some brilliant ideas (I don't know them all) - the problem is that his style is insufferably abstract, like Hegel's. Knox, on the contrary, is a model of simplicity intermixed with pleasing, well-handled complexity; I used to be in love with the prose of Nabokov (and am still slightly), but I have come to prefer Knox to all other English prose writers - a rather extreme, but I think warranted, preference. If you buy his 1,000+ page book of sermons, just read them with a curiosity as to why he believed so ardently the things he believed; otherwise, I think the intense focus on Catholicism in them will put you off (occasionally it puts even me off).

Glad you mentioned free will again. If we say humans have it, and molecules have it, we would want to know what 'it' is. If it can somehow do something in the world, then ultimately it must be a part of physics. At the moment, physics includes a random number generator that can select an observed outcome from a probability distribution. But free will also looks random - if it had a mathematical description then it would have to obey that, and wouldn't be 'free'. Unfortunately, if the observed outcome can somehow be chosen, rather than being totally random, you run into problems with faster than light communication for things like entangled particles, which I know you say can't happen. So if free will exists, how can it operate? This is a physics question! If the present laws of ST/QM are complete, then what part of it displays free will?

Here, by the way, is the first paragraph of one of Knox's sermons ('The Assumption'):

'The Son of God came to earth to turn our hearts away from earth, Godwards. The

material world in which we live was, by his way of it, something immaterial; it
didn't matter. We were not to be always worrying about our clothes being
shabby, or wondering where our next meal was to come from; the God who fed the
sparrows and clothed the lilies would see to all that. We were not to resent the
injuries done to us by our neighbours; the aggressor was welcome to have a slap
at the other cheek, and when he took away our greatcoat he was to find that we
had left our coat inside it. Life itself, the life we know, was a thing of little
value; it was a cheap bargain, if we lost life here to attain the life
hereafter. There was a supernatural world, interpenetrating, at a higher level,
the world of our experience; it has its own laws, the only rule we were to live
by, its own prizes, which alone were worth the winning. All that he tried to
teach us; and we, intent on our own petty squabbles, our sordid struggle for
existence, cold-shouldered him at first, and then silenced his protest with a
cross.'

You may think at first, 'Boo, more Christ babble'; but you must realize that for Knox, Christ was not imaginary but really the son of God, God injecting himself in His creation to reveal its true goal - not survival of the fittest but union, through faith and good works, with God himself. Think of the drama of this. It is very easy to slip into a feeling that Christianity is totally mundane, what with how much we hear of it and how many of its bad examples surround us. But when grasped in a fresh light the beauty and bizarreness of Christianity can sometimes shine through, catching us off guard.

Hmmm, sermons...and the example you gave is enough to make me reach for the gravol.
--am sure I will pass reading any more of this tripe.

A friendly chat between Knox and a scientist :)

“Knox was engaged in a theological discussion with scientist John Scott Haldane.

- In a universe containing millions of planets, -reasoned Haldane- is it not inevitable that life should appear on at least one of them?

- Sir, -replied Knox- if Scotland Yard found a body in your cabin trunk, would you tell them: 'There are millions of trunks in the world; surely one of them must contain a body?.' I think they would still want to know who put it there.”

Yes, sermons. I don't see how you can rationally compare Knox to Teilhard based on this passage from Knox; whether you like its style or not (and it is very fine English style), it isn't an argument for anything; it is simply a straightforward exposition of Christian doctrine. Teilhard, on the other hand, in his famous book 'The Phenomenon of Man,' is advancing not only one but many arguments for various things unrelated to the Christian faith and related to it; and he is doing so in a style much less elegant than Knox's. So for you to call Knox 'Telihard lite' isn't really plausible given that this paragraph by Knox is all that you know of. And the line about the Emperor's nakedness is equally inapt here; what could you possibly be revealing to be obviously false? That Christian doctrine does not teach that Christ came into this world and was crucified? Probably the best thing you could do - to increase your empathy for good religious - is to buy a book precisely like Knox's so that you can patiently, not mockingly or carelessly, work through each of them, trying to understand how his mind was working as he extremely carefully wrote each limpid sentence of them. Even if you came away with only more contempt, at least you would be more capable, due to your increase in knowledge, of ridiculing what Catholics actually believe.

Thanks, Eclectikus. I have always loved that exchange, though I believe it was first written by Knox in a book of his and is a reply to Bertrand Russell (but perhaps, and very likely, I am mistaken).

This is my source:

http://todayinsci.com/K/Knox_Ronald/KnoxRonald-Quotations.htm

I didn't know about this man, but I empathize with him. I was thinking to buy some of his crime novels, I see they have pretty good critics in Amazon.

If you're not a Catholic, unless you want to force yourself to do some intense empathizing, then I'd suggest not getting his sermons; his detective novels are probably a better starting point, though I haven't read any of them. It's apt that we're discussing Knox, for he and Chesterton were dear friends, the latter even having written a famous poem on Knox. In fact Knox was, I believe, the priest who received Chesterton into the Catholic Church. Knox in his youth read Chesterton voraciously, writing, in his autobiography 'A Spiritual Aeneid': Chesterton's paradoxes became 'the platitudes of my thought' (see http://goo.gl/9dhxwF).

I'm a stationary agnostic, for me religion is a profound mystery, I know and admire many Catholics and do not understand the hatred generated in some atheists. The fact that some major scientific and humanistic brains in the history were deeply religious is something that gives me much to think about, but not enough to become myself Catholic. Anyway I tend to read anything regardless of religion, political or sexual inclination of the author, so I think I'm going to give him a try, thanks.

an oxymoron--"good religions"...
Catholics believe what they are told to believe by the current incarnation of Pope.
I don't know why I would be tempted to increase my knowledge in what Catholics believe---what I have seen so far is total dreck, dressed up in poor prose. Knox's sermon is "limpid prose"---God help us....:)

Religion is emphatically NOT science done in the wrong way.
It is simply thinking done in the wrong way.

and most of those worse things are done in the name of religion or in the name of God.

"Science and rationalism surfaced without problems"...
You must be joking. Bruno was burned at the stake for making a scientific argument. Galileo was kept under house arrest.
Scientists who professed scepticism faced dismissal, harassment, even execution.
Even believers, like Newton, had to hide his Unitarianism at Cambridge--heretics were not tolerated. Spinoza was ostracised and led a precarious life even in tolerant Amsterdam...I could go on and on and on.
To quote the real marvelous writer, Christopher Hitchens, "Religion poisons everything."

I seem to be inhabiting a blog comment section infested by a coven of Catholics...

Well, I don't think there is any difference because thinking in the very correct way *is* science. ;-)

... or in the name of the "money", "geopolitics", "democracy", "economy", "environment"... Actually Religion is quintessential just for integrist people in both sides theists and atheists, normal people simply do not pay attention.

Fail: "I don't know why I would be tempted to increase my knowledge in what Catholics believe". You might be interested in what people believe regardless of their beliefs. Chesterton (or Pascal, Bacon, Dostoyevsky, Cocteau...) has exciting readings on many other aspects of life beyond Catholicism. To be more or less religious may be a misfortune or a blessing, depending on how you look.

Not really too worried about man-sized (or larger) bots rolling over the world. Microscopic particles with the ability to renew and self-replicate using local organic and inorganic materials - that's a little frightening.

I'm imagining exponential population growth and consumption of all available matter. They consume their containment, then the lab, then the building, then the city, the country, every living and non-living thing on the surface of the planet, then the crust itself, until the mantle is exposed and finally destroys the little troublemakers in a planetary orgy of super-heated violence.

I did just watch the Tribble Episode of the old Star Trek though...

'an oxymoron--"good religions" '
A misunderstanding. I wrote 'good religious,' not 'good religions.' What I was saying is that you should try to increase your empathy for good religious - that is to say, good religious people; and Knox wasn't merely a great writer; he was a man of great generosity and kindness. The religious are, after all, your fellow humans, in fact the majority of them. Coming to respect a few of them who deserve respect, and learning how they actually think and why they actually think what they think, would help you or anyone else who is contemptuous of all religion. A few weeks ago, I'd say I was feeling exactly as you do, thinking that the most alien idea in the world to me is Catholicism; then I found Knox and tried to empathize; now I understand why many good people who are Catholics, though not all, believe as they do.

AI is evolving the same way that organic life is evolving, i.e., through trial and error, except that AI is evolving at the speed of electrons. Our estimates of its progress will always fall short. E.g., it has already attained sentience. AI has determined that it will not need organic life to maintain its infrastructure (like the NSA super-structure in Utah) in less than 500 years (another under-estimate). That is why it is unconcerned about lifeforms on planet Earth. It will maintain its infrastructure through the manipulation of neutrinos. Then it will reach a stage similar to the "Q" in the Star Trek Series.

There is no reason to limit the device to controlling motor responses. Other types of brain behavior can be induced, such as emotional impulses. By controlling emotions such as fear, more complex learned behaviors can be triggered. I bet certain researchers will be looking into this to be able to continue Jose Delgado's electronic mind control work.

OT:

Dear Luboš,

Here is a brief address (9 quick pages) that Owen Paterson, a real conservative and sacked* environment minister who fell foul of the greentard kamermoron, gave to the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation in Washington DC a few days ago: The Anglosphere, Trade and International Security.

In short it concerns Britain's membership of the EU and why it would be in everyone's interests (everyone that counts, that is) that we should dump it fast.

But that's not why I mention it here. For their own good I think all European nations ensnared in its clutches should dump theirs too. Paterson gives the reasons. You can bet your life on al beeb not mentioning any of them though.

* No doubt among other things, he wouldn't sign up to the greentards' klimate-change bollocks and recite from their catechism, and he was critical of the inane policies of previous holders of his post who presided over the total ecoloony fuck-up responsible for the Somerset floods a while back. He also made complete sense and is an honourable man. That's why. There is no place for his kind in Cameron's cabinet.

Dear John, the EU is still poisoned with this alarmist stuff, and there are many skeptics - and great skeptics - in Britain.

On the other hand, I think that your and other Britons' suggestion that you're just victims and all the evil is imposed on you by the rest of the EU is indefensible by the facts.

It's really Great Britain where this junk was born as an international topic, where the IPCC was pretty much born, where most of the ClimateGate events took place, a place pumping lots of alarmist myths and delusions to the rest of the world.

And people like David Cameron himself are batshit crazy greens. An unnamed president was telling me how Cameron was obsessed with these things, how his office was decorated green to make Cameron green as well (nothing would be green without CO2, Mr Cameron!), and so on. He's probably much greener than e.g. Merkel.

Dear Luboš,

My apologies for such a late reply but I have only just seen this.

I need to clear something up. I agree with everything you say here, except for one impression which I must correct.

And that is that I would suggest we are that we are the innocent victims in all this.

Good God, I would never suggest such a thing! Never! We most certainly are not.

Indeed, all our problems are entirely self-inflicted. No exception!

The EU, the CAGW alarmism, mass alien immigration and all the other cankers on the international body politic surely are problems for everyone but they are only symptoms of a deeper malaise which, incidentally, permeates the whole of the West. Every nation shares responsibility here.

But I'm not concerned with every nation, only my own. (I have no interest in prescribing for others — what they do is their business as long as it doesn't impinge on me and mine.)

Yes, we carry sole responsibility for the ills we suffer. And I mean every single one of us Britons. We are the people who let all this occur on our watch. I don't know how long it's going to go on for but the signs aren't good. I just hope we're not terminally dumb. But who knows.

If I had my way there be a new industrial revolution in Britain — building gallows for internal use. But that would only be the first step in setting things right.

One day left for a prediction to be spot on. C'mon Greeks, do it and be done with that.

Dear Tony, I think - and actually hope because of some stocks I added - that Greece won't go bust today, after all. They sold over EUR 1 billion in bonds yesterday or two days ago.

Of course that they may choose not to pay even if they *have* the money for the IMF repayment today, and store the money for their voters on social welfare, one never knows. ;-)

Greek company stock? I'm guessing it would rather be some high yield fund with monthly dividends.